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The futile search for political symmetry

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One problem with the piece, however, is that Mr. Roberts never really explains why people who pride themselves on their ability to think things through slide into lazy clichés when it comes to politics . And that’s important: Just lecturing Silicon Valley types on the need to get serious about politics won’t work if there are deeper reasons that smart people get stupid about it.

Here’s how I see it: This is all about self-image. Tech types like to imagine that they are above the fray, operating on a higher plane than the grubby political types. But if you’re serious about American politics, you realize that this is an irresponsible pose. As Mr. Roberts says, the parties are not symmetric, and wisdom does not lie somewhere between the most extreme views on both sides. In fact, the policies that the tech elites support, like the implementation of carbon taxes, are supported only by the left wing of the Democratic Party. The entire Republican Party is controlled by climate-change deniers and antiscience types more broadly. In general, the modern-day G.O.P. is against rational analysis; it’s at war not just with the welfare state, but with the Enlightenment.

But for über-nerds to acknowledge this reality would be to sound – horrors – partisan. So they refuse to go there. All their beliefs about data and careful analysis get set aside when it comes to politics, because the political data – and there’s a lot of it – tells them what they don’t want to hear.

As readers might guess, I face some personal frustration here. When it comes to economics, I try to base what I say on evidence and well-tested models. However, I often encounter people who assume that I’m just a left-wing version of the conservative economist Stephen Moore. Why do they believe that? Have they actually looked at my analysis and track record?

No, they just know that I’m much more critical of the right than of the left, and they assume that this means ipso facto that I’m biased. But what if the right is much more wrong about the issues that matter in modern America than the left is? That’s not a possibility they’re willing to contemplate.

So are efforts to change this attitude futile? I hope not.

Mr. Roberts may well have the right approach: Keep stressing the evidence of political asymmetry. Maybe, just maybe, someone will listen.
 

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