Naivete 2004

In Micha's post earlier today he mentioned how ideology can blind people to real-world events. Progressives Should Vote Edwards shows this symptom:

So, for example, Edwards wants to commit America explicitly to promoting "high road" competition--high wage, low waste, more socially accountable--and getting off the "low road" that's dragging down wages and increasing inequality. He wants to raise labor and environmental standards, invest heavily in worker training and continuing education, and build the public infrastructure--some crumbling, some never built, some bricks and more, some organizational--needed to achieve a shared prosperity.

...He wants to change trade rules to promote an upward rather than the present downward leveling in global wages, environmental standards and worker rights

Wages are getting dragged down (long-term)? Environmental standards are dropping? Worker rights are in peril? With all these problems, not to mention overpopulation, worldwide famine, resource elimination, and global warming, it's a wonder we ever get out of bed in the morning.

The extended list should indicate that we have been faced with unspeakable and insoluble problems before, and that they have turned out to be duds. Overpopulation and worldwide famine, in particular, are textbook examples of bad predictions. The U.N. is now concerned that birth rates are falling and that there is too much food. There are still dire predictions about how we're on the brink of running out of resources, but they focus mainly on oil, which is not only still in plentiful supply but also in imminent danger of obsolescence as an energy supply. In 1978 Paul Ehrlich pronounced: "Giving society cheap, abundant energy ... would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun." We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. Global warming is still a big issue, but the data against it are accumulating, and ultimately I don't see that this will be our undoing, just like all the others were not.

But it's possible that Edwards and Joel Rogers could still be right about wages, environmental standards, and worker rights. The data on economic and environmental trends actually indicate that things are getting better, not worse, unless coming from Jeremy Rifkin. The issue of worker rights is still hotly contested, but as far as I can tell there's never been a better time to be a worker, and 25 years from now will be an even better time.

Is it possible that Edwards and Rogers are gone so astray because of their philosophies? It's possible that Edwards gets most of his positions from party leadership and personal advisors (special interests aside). But they, like Rogers, generate their own ideas, and the only good explanation for how so many bright people could be so mistaken must be that ultimately they rely on "ought" rather than "is" to influence their ideas. Chalk one up for Micha.

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