October 31st, 2009

The hubris of the incompetent: the Dunning-Kruger effect could explain quite a lot

Take a look:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is an example of cognitive bias in which “people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it”. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than actuality; by contrast the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to a perverse result where less competent people will rate their own ability higher than relatively more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. “Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.

You may mock social science research and claim it’s riddled with flaws inherent to the study of human beings, and I would agree with you. But it’s not worthless, and every now and then it comes up with something exceedingly interesting.

[NOTE: See this and this for other research of special note in the social sciences.]

42 Responses to “The hubris of the incompetent: the Dunning-Kruger effect could explain quite a lot”

  1. SteveH Says:

    Which probably explains why government is infested with people who are certain they can change the world and the human nature in it.

  2. ElMondoHummus Says:

    This also applies to 9/11 Truthers and other sorts of conspiracy myth peddlers. They really, really have no recognition of their own incompetence.

    Regarding the social science: There’s legitimate criticism of it. For example, what are the criteria against which levels of both competence and self perception of such are judged? That sort of thing is hard to measure. In spite of that, just because a science is qualitative instead of quantitative doesn’t mean it’s any less honest at attempting to make sense of data. It just means that the knowledge level is not yet high enough to apply the same sort of rigor that other sciences can benefit from. Remember, biology used to operate like the social sciences do now i.e. either simply satisfies itself with taxonomy or limits itself to description of phenomenon.

    Sometimes a field of knowledge can’t help but be soft. That doesn’t mean knowledge cannot be generated and evaluated.

  3. Foxfier Says:

    Formalizing stuff everybody knows about, but might not have a word or strict definition for. (That’s a complement, BTW….)

  4. Maddog Says:

    I have always wondered why the Dunning–Kruger effect does not seem to apply to deaths in avalanches. In this one area the number of deaths attributable to people of low experience is relatively low but the deaths to groups headed by people of high experience is high.

    It seems that in this area experience leads to a higher degree of confidence than is warranted. And the result is higher incidence of death.

    I always wondered if this was because the chance of avalanche is relatively low and this allows high experience individuals to eclipse their miscalibration of incompetence stemming from an error about the self. Or perhaps more directly, through luck and fate their confidence is greater than the chance of error.

    Each evaluation of the snow provides the individual with the chance to move incrementally out beyond their confidence of safety, and so on and so forth.

    I do not believe that either the Dunning–Kruger effect or the avalanche problem drives Obama’s foreign and domestic policy failures. His problems here are much more related to the fact that he has a vested interest in the opinions of his experts since they were hand picked by him and directly reflect on his competence. He will be willing to follow these experts far beyond any rational bounds.

    His personal Dunning–Kruger effect, drives this in that he has no ascertainable experience in anything other than education. His other life experiences are two dimensional, completely without depth. We are facing a long four years. We had better have an excellent candidate for the next election because the lifting by then will indeed be heavy. In eight years we will need an Atlas and even he might not be able to handle the burden.

  5. ghost707 Says:

    To wit:

    Peggy Noonan is not as smart as she thinks she is.

    Most small or medium sized business owners would be the the flip-side.

    Without self-awareness – you do not succeed (in the private sector).

    Whereas in academia and government, self-delusion almost seems as a prerequisite.

  6. Engineer Bob Says:

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

    ~Bertrand Russell

    I knew this was an old quote, and Google found the exact words quickly…

  7. Artfldgr Says:

    “In almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of politics or business in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.”
    -Edward L. Bernays

    “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.”
    -George Bernard Shaw

    “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”
    -Douglas Adams

    “Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.”
    -Bertrand Russell

    “You think that way as you begin to get grayer and you see pretty plainly that the game is not going to end as you planned.”
    -Loren Eiseley

  8. SteveH Says:

    The formula for competence in todays pop culture society looks something like…Looks+verbal skills+liberal conformity= competence level.

    So we get really hip looking artist who paint cinder blocks red. And we get to read 5 page interviews describing how their care and concern for the diversity of the world is what really opened their eyes to such beauty.

    I think i’ll throw up now.

  9. vanderleun Says:

    I’d comment but it would be beyond my pay-grade.

  10. expat Says:

    I’m not sure this fits under Dunning-Kruger, but I was just telling my husband about. Several years ago, I got a new washing machine and was talking with a friend about it. She said she had the same brand, but an older model. It had a terrible flaw: If you turned the setting knob counterclockwise instead of clockwise, it actually screwed up the machine, necessitating a repairman. Obviously, the designers were thinking of a machine for themselves, not one for a mother with a kid in the knob-turning stage. They seemed to have disdain for anyone who didn’t see the elegance of the design as the highest value of their new top-of-the-line product with all its programs carefully calibrated to the fiber mix and dirt level. Oh, the plebes who just want to wash towels.

  11. Andrew_M_Garland Says:

    To expat,

    I will reveal some secret knowledge about software development, and product development in general.

    If you can’t describe what the customers want, you get what the engineers want. The engineers get paid for mastering complexity, and they want to show off their stuff.

    I say this is secret knowledge, because you don’t see it used often.

  12. neo-neocon Says:

    Maddog: Here’s an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect with Obama and foreign policy. It’s a quote from Obama during the campaign:

    …[T]his is an area—foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain.

    It’s ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be Commander-in-Chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know…

    So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa–knowing the leaders is not important–what I know is the people. . . .”

    “I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college–I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . .”

    Dunning-Kruger squared. Maybe even cubed.

  13. Thomass Says:

    I think the general conservative disdain is for Sociology… which is simply a left wing opinion page and not even a legitimate social science (often, at its base is an unscientific narrative history that is pure opinion). From there it is less about social science and simply a problem that the field in question is dominated by academic leftists (i.e., much like the ABA and other non social science fields).

    Once you get over the econ, conservatives love it… and as a result econ departments tend to branch out into research that is only lightly connected to economics… as someone needs to do trustworthy human behavioral research and they seem the most qualified…

  14. logern Says:

    Hah.

    This from the NYtimes today (book review) from today.

    When Bennett Cerf, a head of Random House, begged her to cut Galt’s speech, Ayn Rand replied with what Heller calls “a comment that became publishing legend”: “Would you cut the Bible?”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/books/review/Kirsch-t.html?em

    I suppose her “disciples” will be backing her up. Pshaw!

  15. expat Says:

    Andrew,

    I guess you have described Congress more than a Dunning-Kruger personality. They like to do what they are good at(cutting deals, drawing in IOUs) no matter what the customers want.

    Neo,

    Re Obama’s foreign childhood as creds. Is it possible that because he never belonged anywhere as a child, he is trying to turn a negative into a positive if not a superior? I would love to know what he really felt about his mother and grandparents. At any rate, he thinks he knew it all at 12 and doesn’t see much value in opening himself to experiences that might challenge his precoscious certainties.

  16. Oblio Says:

    From a commercial point of view, Rand has been vindicated beyond the reproach of anyone but J.K. Rowling or perhaps Dan Brown. (Rowling could use an editor herself, and Brown’s books are truly terrible.) Of course, Atlas Shrugged is fascinatingly awful from a literary point of view. It is splendid as an economic and cultural meta-history of the 30′s. So “horribly splendid” would be how I sum it up.

    Rand herself was a basket-case who wouldn’t have stood out from the crowd if she had advocated Free Love, communism, and Eastern spiritualism.

    The obvious example of the Dunning-Kruger effect is Obama’s comment in roughly March that he turns out to be pretty good at being president.

  17. Bob from Virginia Says:

    “The difference between man and monkey is that when a monkey looks in the mirror he sees a monkey.”
    I think Isaiah Berlin said that.

  18. Gringo Says:

    Here is an example of the Dunning–Kruger effect applied to humor, a joke common to many but not all countries in South America.

    How do you make yourself rich? Buy an Argentine for what he is worth, and sell the Argentine for what he thinks he is worth.

    Disclaimer: I consume 1-2 pounds of yerba mate (dry weight) a month.

    One example of the Dunning–Kruger effect I have read about is that South Korean students score higher than American students on math achievement tests. South Korean students tend to be very critical of their math capabilities, whereas American students tend to have a high opinion of their math capabilities.

    Regarding ∅bama’s self-assessment of his foreign policy skill : as an adult I have spent much more time living overseas than he has as an adult, and as most of my experience is as a worker, I have a better grasp of how those societies function. Moreover, I have better foreign language skills than he does. I would not propose myself for Secretary of State based on that experience.

  19. JohnC Says:

    I think Neo citing the Dunning–Kruger effect helps to explain a little more about Obama and his administration. It gives her another chink to complete the picture she needs to write her book. I have a question though. After all of my education (multiple degrees) and all the experiences I’ve been through, I still don’t understand how someone can reach an age of 45 or more and not have a reasonably clear understanding of his / her abilities, meaning a reasonably objective understanding of self. How can one who reaches middle age avoid the peaks and valleys of life that lead to self knowledge? I don’t think Obama has much objective self knowledge. And if I’m right, how come I’ve been burdened most of my life with the often difficult process of gaining it while others like Obama apparently couldn’t be bothered? Is it he or is it me that is missing something inside?

  20. strcpy Says:

    It is a tough thing – where do we all stand? We all like to think we are above average – reality is we aren’t. Simply put we can’t all be above average. What “average” may be capable may very well shift over time – I think most of our current “Average” would be highly educated even a short number of years ago – yet they are simply average.

    So we then take our current political climate where high achievers are seen as causing those lesser achievers bad self esteem. Educators (or edumacators as I currently prefer to call them) also push this – take someone who truly achieves above and beyond and it is a *shameful* thing. People then focus on their faults. For reasons mostly unknown to me (I can speculate) we consider it healthful to tell our top achievers they are not that good.

    So, I’ve been told for most of my life that I can do things others can’t in the mathematical realm (or rather in my case specifically the branch of applied mathematics called “computer science”). Graduate school, post graduate school, and industry work has pretty much confirmed this – yet what do I say? Any one here really believe what I say? I wouldn’t – heard it too often from people who couldn’t tell you if a problem is equivalent to the Halting Problem (most do not even know what it is) to give much credence unless I see more.

    Further, I’m dyslexic – which means few if any have ever told me I do well with writing. Oh I have had that said in certain circumstances (and that is another long story, sufficed to say it wasn’t me that did the “writing” nor did I rely on someone else – mainly I noticed that certain styles of stream of conciseness relied on semi-random patterns and our ability to read what we want – software is good ad semi-random and we are good at reading what we want), and if given the correct environment I can produce quite decent technical documents if the target audience is other technical people, but over all not a great writer even if I type fast enough to be a prolific one.

    So I move from lots of confidence to very little and I recognize how much of it is my environment. Even in sports where someone is truly dominate we see the social impetus for them to downplay their ability to the absurd level (Oh, yes I shattered almost every record out there but I’m not that good – really I’m not).

    IMO in the long run this is also a self esteem hit to us average people – after all if they guy shattering record is “average” why am I not even able to make the cut-off? As an Archery coach for younger kids this is one my hardest issues – many simply can not see why they aren’t world class shooters. I see them move from sport to sport to sport to sport because of this (usually finally giving up and sitting on the couch when they could have been good, even if not great).

    When someone who is *truly* an achiever even starts to recognize they are our current society squashes that. That will be, and is, our biggest downfall as a world super power. Not only does it hamper the higher ends but it makes the “average” just want to give up as they can’t really compete.

  21. br549 Says:

    Concerning Obama, I would stick with Dunning-Kruger squared, Neo. Cubed would be depth by default. Obviously, no depth of experience there.

  22. waltj Says:

    “…As an Archery coach for younger kids…”

    I did this for a couple of summers as a camp counselor. Scared the bejeezus out of me a few times, like when the kid with the bow at full draw turned body (and arrow) towards me, or worse, his bunkmate, and asked, “Mr. Walt, is this how you hold it?” I still thank my lucky stars that nobody got skewered. And, no, I didn’t volunteer to run the rifle range.

    I believe I’m fortunate in having graduated from college before the self-esteem thing really got going. I was an average student, and I knew it. When I skated through a class and got a “gentleman’s C”, I was pretty sure that’s what I deserved. When I busted my butt and got As, I deserved those also. Effort=reward. That’s not a terribly complicated formula for true success. The farther you get from it, whether by giving everybody As just for showing up, or by flunking people for no good reason, the less of a measure it is of actual achievement.

    Along these lines, here are a few relevant “rules of life” by Charles J. Sykes, author of the 1996 book, “Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write Or Add”:

    http://www.snopes.com/language/document/liferule.asp

  23. Cappy Says:

    Or, they could just be @ssholes. That would make them incompetent @ssholes.

  24. br549 Says:

    The glaring result is many who are educated beyond their intelligence.

  25. Grimmy Says:

    Bureaucracy was invented to give such folk a place to go in the mornings and hang out during the day.

  26. Rich Says:

    Whether Peggy Noonan reckons herself above or below her place (ghost707 says too high) she feels the elite of America are guilty of self-overestimation: see

  27. Rich Says:

    see…

    http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez/2009/10/30/the-lordlings/

    via instapundit…

  28. Scottie Says:

    Regarding neo’s original observations, I never really thought about it in that manner, but can understand the concept after having watched people attempt to move into different positions in various firms.

    Regarding Maddog’s avalanche scenario – I don’t think it’s so much a Dunning–Kruger effect as it is simply familiarity breeding complacency.

    The same effect can be seen with people who *train/tame* lions. They have faced the danger so often and come out unscathed with nary a hiccup, so they become complacent about the very real danger they are putting themselves in.

    The inexperienced person hears and sees the avalanche and I think immediately their fight or flight response kicks in and they do their level best to boogy out of the vicinity – or not place themselves in that vicinity to begin with.

    The experienced skier/hiker has so often been in that situation that I don’t think they respond as quickly – or are more complacent about being in the situation where an avalanche can occur to begin with whereas the inexperienced person will be several mountains over avoiding the area entirely.

  29. ELC Says:

    “Oh wad some Power the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us!” (Robert Burns)

  30. John F. Opie Says:

    There is also the notion of “clever sillies” which goes hand-in-hand with the Dunning-Kruger effect: see

    http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2009/09/clever-sillies-why-high-iq-lack-common.html

    In other words, I think we’re finally getting a grasp on what makes people so purportedly smart behave so incredibly dumb…about time, too. It’s a fundamental lack of common sense, something that apparently is held in extreme disdain by a not insignificant minority of the “clever”…

  31. Artfldgr Says:

    neo,
    in your post to maddog you also reveal without realizing it another left trait.

    and thats expertise through threaded contact

    here is how it works.. i went to holiday inn for a one week vacation, and now i am a surgeon

    i went to indonesia for 4 years as a child, was abused as an outsider, didnt really learn the language, and was taken care of by stanley who was taken care of by geithners dad etc…

    from this he becomes an expert…

    i see this all the time in the elite. einstein was a great mathematical mind who was also a great thinker.. his politics sucked though. he thought that the same state that created hitler, the same kind of thing that made the bomb and used it would be the best to take care of people.

    dawkins, is an expert (not) of religion

    if they knew someone that knows someone that touched someone, they have the expertise of the doctor treating that someone (actually more, since that doctor doesnt do feng sui, cabala, and yoga at one time).

    self confidence means no one recuses themselves, they all just make up stuff so that the converstaiton is nice, flows, and they are not left out by not actually participating in life

    by the way, yesterday i bumped into a hasidic jewish man with black thumbs… does tha mean i can cut diamonds like he did? (ah, those guys amaze me. one walked up to me at fashion week with a half million dollars in diamonds and showed me a stranger on the street. with a hand shake and a nod, is all they need).

    there is a liberal left kind of special knowing.
    which is how htye know that thinking is not biological, but homosexuality is (and it smore normal that heterosexuality), that the poor are poor because they are geniuses sitting on a bench waitinf for their chance, etc.

  32. Artfldgr Says:

    I’ve been through, I still don’t understand how someone can reach an age of 45 or more and not have a reasonably clear understanding of his / her abilities, meaning a reasonably objective understanding of self.

    actually this is pretty easy to explain, and once i point to what to look for, you will know it instantly when you see it.

    your the kind of person tha does not care he makes mistakes. you see mistakes as part of the process, and you have them, learn and get past them fast. and so you not only get a measure of where you stand, but you also get an idea that your always improving. you are willing to lose, and so you are willing to win, and to compete.

    the other kind are people who are cargo cult. they are faking it to some degree. they have tons of self confidence built up by everyone gets a trophy mentality. they cant make mistakes. a mistake is a stamp as to their lack of perfection, a perfection in image maintained by their contemporaries. they do not know how capable they are, as they are mistake avoiders. they do not see errors as part of a learning process, but as the proof of their faking it, and they hide them so that no one can say “aha! you dont belong in this class/group”.

    they have a huge inability to actually build skills and they do not venture much into the new, unless the new is proven. they are the researchers that flood a new science. why? because they know its fertile territory and their mistakes will not be seen for years if ever. they are not the ones who actually open up new areas, or expand them or find things out.

    that would require having to stand apart from everyone and state your case.

    you cant get the latter to actually do something outside their comfort zone. for the second they leave it, they will make mistakes. (a percentage of them can pretend that even if they make mistakes they dont matter since they are above them and its teh fault of the situation for creating the error and not their making the error).

    this type also refuses to assess their work after the fact. they constantly have you focus on the new, the start, or the begining. they love to design, because they can paint that the design made everything, and gloss over how engineers make a crap design work. they never allow you to see their work as a series in which they should be judged.

    you can see that many of our cultural changes by the elite were designed to leave the meritocritous and capable in a sea of false performers. that if they try to tell what they actually can do, they are not believed as they sound the same as the Dunning–Kruger people.

    its like what happens when you put a sane person into a mental institution. how do they get out? if they tell the guards and docs that they dont belong there, will that work? the truth is that if they dont admit the condition that they dont have, they dont get out! that system has no method to determine an actual healthy condition (only ill ones), and so there is no way for a person in that situation to get out (and quite often their attempts will be seen as them being as quite abnormal as they get to their wits end figuratively).

    once this happens in a population the population declines and the society declines as incompetent people take up positions of competence, and they employ the games that they use to make their failure, and the situation appear ok. they will rearange departments, they will claim not enough cash, they will claim not enough resources, they will always focus on the new project, the start, and how everything is exciting. they will not talk about failures, or dropped projects, or wasted assets, etc. they love to pretend they are the big thinkers so that the little people are the ones to carry the blame (and the company they work for to carry the cost). in parenting, their delusion wraps around their children so that they can do no wrong.

    in real life they are harder to see, but they tend to be people who know a core shtick that works for them most their lives. they attack those that are outside that shtick that show them up in some way. often by trying to raise the bar in a subtle way that shifts an issue from them to you. for instance, long complicated writing that actually makes a complicated point, is beyond them. shift argument to the writer, not the reader. shift burden, from educator to educate, to entertainer and entertained. you can come up with the opposite or the other versions for other things. thought he common thread is telling someone else they have to change so that their shtick becomes more perfect without moving.

  33. rafinlay Says:

    At a more basic level, I have frequently pointed out that the more knowledgeable person is more aware of what he doesn’t know than is the more ignorant/innocent one, and therefore can be more uncertain about his knowledge. Second-year programmer/analyst disease.

  34. waltj Says:

    Artfldgr, what you’re describing are the Hollywood “high concept” people, who would sell an idea for a film or TV show without ever making any attempt to see that idea through to production. Just the bare-bones idea, no screenplay, no casting, no script, no sets, nothing. And other people were stupid enough to pay serious money for this. Nice work if you can get it.

  35. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    John F. Opie – that may be a comforting theory, but it has three large holes in it. 1) we notice and remember social incompetence or lack of common sense when we find it in a supposedly smart person. We may encounter it just as often in the less-smart, it just doesn’t stand out. Confirmation bias. 2) As things like social competence and common sense are hard to measure, there aren’t hard numbers to back up the hypothesis. Insofar as they are measured, the numbers point in the opposite direction of your hypothesis. 3) I have not seen it demonstrated that liberals actually have higher IQ’s. I would bet good money against their SATM’s being higher, for openers. There may be some verbal advantage, but even this I would view suspiciously. Acquiring the social signals of intelligence is not the same as actual intelligence.

    Terman did notice some drop off in social adaptation upwards of IQ 140, but we’re up to 99th percentile at that point, so it’s a fairly restricted data set.

  36. John F. Opie Says:

    AVI:

    Not my theory, just the one I linked to. Published in a peer-reviewed journal, no less, lots of footnotes and all that.

    Liberals believe that they are smarter than everyone else: it’s part of being a liberal nowadays.

    Again, not my theory, but that of Bruce G. Charlton, Editor of the journal “Medical Hypotheses”…

  37. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Yes, I should have seen that. I read the article, and wrongly assumed your linking implied endorsement.

  38. Thomass Says:

    John F. Opie Says:

    “There is also the notion of “clever sillies” which goes hand-in-hand with the Dunning-Kruger effect: see”

    There was another study along similar lines a year or two ago. Its conclusion was leftists lacked a certain evolved revulsion to things. The thought of eating the family dog after a disaster or walking on flag sets off a response in conservatives that is lacking in lefties. The lefty who did the study concluded lefties were the one missing something vs. the conservatives having a complex. He tried to explain this was what conservatives meant when they said ‘you just don’t get it’ to lefties about such things…

  39. Maggie's Farm Says:

    Tuesday morning links…

    Dem dirty tricks in NJ. The third party guy is splitting the anti-Corzine vote.
    Our obsolete US Constitution. Am Thinker
    Hubris of the incompetent. What’s the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
    The American: I’ve taken a look at the data, and, I’m sad to r…

  40. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Thomass, that was Jonathan Haidt’s study out of UVA. He found a way to spin it so that liberals had it right, and conservatives were adding in extra, unnecessary things to moral decisions, but the data itself was quite interesting.

    http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/articles/haidt.graham.when-morality-opposes-justice.doc

    Neo commented on it about a year ago, in the context of a NYTimes liberal reviewing the study.

    I have long maintained that liberals do not reject conservative arguments. They completely misunderstand them, and reject that reinterpretation.

  41. TED STORM Says:

    How is one to rationally explain the Democrats’ belief that the government taking over another one-sixth of the American economy is a good thing?

    The answer is religion.

    Given the huge economic failures that the left itself attributes to Medicare and Medicaid and given the economic collapse or near collapse of these systems in other countries, the left’s prescriptions can only be explained in one way: The left has made its views a form of religion.

    Most individuals on the left are not religious, but virtually all people, secular and religious, liberal and conservative, yearn to believe in dogma, i.e., absolute beliefs that transcend reason. For people on the left in Europe, the United States and elsewhere, belief in the state — the notion that the state can do a better job at helping people and making a good society — is one such dogma. This applies especially to educating the young and to health care.

    Examples of left-wing dogmas that transcend reason are as numerous as any religion’s catechism. One example is the belief that men and women, boys and girls, are basically the same, that the vast majority of characteristics we ascribe to male and female natures are in fact socially induced. This irrational dogma was virtually universally believed and taught by the left-wing faculty when I attended college, and remains so today.

    Another is the belief that manmade carbon dioxide emissions are heating the world to the point of imminent worldwide catastrophe, including island nations disappearing underwater, mass starvation, inundation of the world’s major coastal areas and much more. The fact that the world has been getting colder for the last eight years is as irrelevant to most people on the left as the absence of archaeological evidence for the biblical exodus is irrelevant to believing Jews and Christians. That includes me; I do not believe in the Hebrew exodus from Egypt because of scientific evidence, but because of faith. But unlike the left’s belief in manmade carbon emissions leading to unprecedented and calamitous heating of the planet, I admit my belief is a leap of faith. And my belief in the exodus will not ruin Western economies. In other words, my non-scientific belief in the Jews’ exodus is innocuous while the left’s non-scientific beliefs (though shrouded in scientific jargon and promulgated by scientists who put dogma over science) are forced on societies.

    One cannot understand the left if one does not appreciate the world of dogmas in which most left-wing thinkers live. What the monastery is to monks, the university and the mainstream media are to the left.

    That is the only way to explain the left’s belief that government-run health care, having the government take over so much more of society, raising taxes yet again, expanding government even more and increasing the number of people employed by the government will all be good for America.

    Dogma explains why it is useless to point out to the left how the left has economically crippled California, once the most prosperous, most adventurous, most successful “country” in the world (it has an economy that would make it about the seventh largest country in the world). Likewise, it does not matter to blacks what Democrats have done to their cities. As they watch their cities crumble, they will once again vote overwhelmingly for the party that oversaw this destruction.

    None of these facts matters because religious-like dogmas are not derived from facts.

    In addition to dogma, the left relies for its policies on “hope,” which it often substitutes for analysis. People on the left rarely vote based on reality. They vote based on “hope.” That’s why the word “hope” is so much more significant to the left than to the right. The last two Democratic presidents ran as candidates of “hope.” The right doesn’t have “hope” candidates because conservatives don’t live on hope. They live in reality, meaning that people are not born basically good; that investing men and women with great state power leads inevitably to abuse of that power; that people stop innovating if they are taxed too highly; and that a perfect health care system is understood to be impossible.

    And, finally, the left dreams. Robert F. Kennedy often cited the statement first made by George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and say ‘why?’ I dream things that never were and say ‘why not?’” The left dreams of an America in which health care will constantly improve, health insurance will be given to every American at the same price irrespective of his or her health, doctors will be fairly reimbursed, there will be no waiting lines, and there will not be a dime’s increase in the national debt for all of this.

    Frankly, I don’t yearn for what is unseen. Rather, having a realistic understanding of the limitations of human beings, I am in awe of what I already see — the unique American achievement of affluence, liberty, decency, opportunity and medical innovations.

    And I see this all being squandered for the sake of left-wing dogma, left-wing hopes and left-wing dreams

  42. TED STORM Says:

    Just one year ago, would you have believed that an unelected government official, not even a Cabinet member confirmed by the Senate but simply one of the many “czars” appointed by the President, could arbitrarily cut the pay of executives in private businesses by 50 percent or 90 percent?

    Did you think that another “czar” would be talking about restricting talk radio? That there would be plans afloat to subsidize newspapers– that is, to create a situation where some newspapers’ survival would depend on the government liking what they publish?

    Did you imagine that anyone would even be talking about having a panel of so-called “experts” deciding who could and could not get life-saving medical treatments?

    Scary as that is from a medical standpoint, it is also chilling from the standpoint of freedom. If you have a mother who needs a heart operation or a child with some dire medical condition, how free would you feel to speak out against an administration that has the power to make life and death decisions about your loved ones?

    Does any of this sound like America?

    How about a federal agency giving school children material to enlist them on the side of the president? Merely being assigned to sing his praises in class is apparently not enough.

    How much of America would be left if the federal government continued on this path? President Obama has already floated the idea of a national police force, something we have done without for more than two centuries.

    We already have local police forces all across the country and military forces for national defense, as well as the FBI for federal crimes and the National Guard for local emergencies. What would be the role of a national police force created by Barack Obama, with all its leaders appointed by him? It would seem more like the brown shirts of dictators than like anything American.

    How far the President will go depends of course on how much resistance he meets. But the direction in which he is trying to go tells us more than all his rhetoric or media spin.

    Barack Obama has not only said that he is out to “change the United States of America,” the people he has been associated with for years have expressed in words and deeds their hostility to the values, the principles and the people of this country.

    Jeremiah Wright said it with words: “God damn America!” Bill Ayers said it with bombs that he planted. Community activist goons have said it with their contempt for the rights of other people.

    Among the people appointed as czars by President Obama have been people who have praised enemy dictators like Mao, who have seen the public schools as places to promote sexual practices contrary to the values of most Americans, to a captive audience of children.

    Those who say that the Obama administration should have investigated those people more thoroughly before appointing them are missing the point completely. Why should we assume that Barack Obama didn’t know what such people were like, when he has been associating with precisely these kinds of people for decades before he reached the White House?

    Nothing is more consistent with his lifelong patterns than putting such people in government– people who reject American values, resent Americans in general and successful Americans in particular, as well as resenting America’s influence in the world.

    Any miscalculation on his part would be in not thinking that others would discover what these stealth appointees were like. Had it not been for the Fox News Channel, these stealth appointees might have remained unexposed for what they are. Fox News is now high on the administration’s enemies list.

    Nothing so epitomizes President Obama’s own contempt for American values and traditions like trying to ram two bills through Congress in his first year– each bill more than a thousand pages long– too fast for either of them to be read, much less discussed. That he succeeded only the first time says that some people are starting to wake up. Whether enough people will wake up in time to keep America from being dismantled, piece by piece, is another question– and the biggest question for this generation.
    T SOWELL

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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