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Monday, October 22, 2007

Ignorance is Bliss

For 24 glorious months the writings of America's most disappointing columnist1, Paul Krugman, were blissfully hidden behind the New York Times Select subscription wall. I hadn't realized just how much I enjoyed that interlude until I recently began encountering new flurries of poorly thought out Krugman quotes bouncing around the blogosphere now that the Times Select service has been cancelled.

A (liberal) friend emailed me some recent silliness from Krugman:
What is it about Al Gore that drives right-wingers insane? The worst thing about him, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right.
My response was as follows:
Mr. Krugman has this completely backwards. It's from the leftist point of view that Mr. Gore keeps being right. From the conservative point of view, Mr. Gore is almost always wrong.

If conservatives are driven insane by Mr. Gore, it's apparently for a different reason.
It's disappointing that Krugman doesn't understand (or wish to acknowledge) human information processing and subjective decisions under uncertainty. My friend, who apparently has the same lack of understanding as Krugman, responded by asking how could conservatives consider Gore to not be right since he won an Oscar and the Nobel Peace Prize. Here's how it works:
  1. There are numerous articles, posts, etc. (tens of thousands) both supporting and refuting the accuracy of various portions of Gore's documentary (An Inconvenient Truth) and other works available on the Internet.
  2. Every sentient being has a political agenda, even film makers, nobel prize committees, scientists, politicians, etc., so there is no choice when aggregating information but to estimate the bias of all people and the entities they create and subjectively discount the information that is generated by those sources. This applies to every topic. Gore's documentary is only one example of such a topic.
  3. For Gore's documentary, the lines are drawn pretty clearly. Liberal sources tend to support it and conservative sources tend to disagree with at least parts of it. This is caused by the subjective application of point (2) to the sources of the documentary and those debating it.
  4. Liberals tend to read and be exposed to mostly liberal sources and conservatives tend to read and be exposed to mostly conservative sources. Thus, on average, each reaches a different, but rational yet subjective conclusion regarding the "rightness" of Al Gore.
For the reasons above, conservatives are not under the impression that Gore "keeps being right" as Krugman asserts. If Krugman could only understand this logic, his columns might greatly improve.
1 I call him "America's most disappointing columnist" because his work in economics was so innovative that I simply expect far more of him in his columns and he continually disappoints me.


erp said...

Krugman -- a victim of his own success?

Bret -- the news is alarming. Is you house still okay?

Bret said...

My house is fine. If my house burns, many, many billions of dollars of property will have gone up in flame first and San Diego will no longer be inhabitable.

On the other hand, the air is pretty bad and I have a pretty good headache going and my lungs hurt. It reminds me of the air when I was in Budapest in 1984.

erp said...

Excellent news. Stay safe.

Susan's Husband said...

Send your friend this link with a very interesting quote by Gore and ask "was he right then?".

Bret said...

Unfortunately, that's a behind closed doors quote from a not provably reliable source. I'm afraid it'll be rejected out-of-hand.