Crooked Timber is hosting a seminar on Chris Mooney's book, The Republican War On Science. In the course of a guest post, D2 asks whether there could be a Democrat war on science as well. Some commentors point out the typically left-wing opposition to things like nuclear power, GM foods, childhood vaccinations, evolutionary psychology and the study of genetically mediated differences between racial groups.
In fairness the latter two are simply not issues for Democrat politicians and thus aren't really politically relevant in the same way that, say, stem cell research is. And I haven't heard any prominent Democrats railing against GM food, so I discount that one too. But that's not what I want to talk about. What's more interesting to me is the stunning omission that's being left out here. It's the one area where Democrats can unambiguously be said to have systematically ignored professional consensus in shaping policy for many decades: economics.
Consider that despite significant disagreements among serious economists on all kinds of issues, there's an accepted core of economic wisdom that has stood the test of time and has broad acceptance among virtually all economists. Off the top of my head, these items include:
- Tariffs, import quotas and other forms of protectionism reduce overall economic welfare.
- Minimum wage laws are ineffectual as a means of helping low-skilled workers.
- Marijuana prohibition fails a serious cost/benefit analysis due to irreconcilable incentive problems.
- Rent control is bad policy because it reduces both the quantity and quality of available housing.
...and I'm sure several other things I can't think of right now. My point is not that deliberate ignoring of economics is solely or even mostly a Democrat thing (far from it, much bad policy is bipartisan); merely that Democrat politicans do in fact willfully ignore empirically sound science in their political activities, and in particular that this occurs in areas with an immediate impact on human welfare. Frankly the importance of science curricula in schools or even federal funding for embryonic stem cell research pales in comparison to these issues. So why do Democrats get a pass here?