A Serious Generic Criticism of Mr Obama’s Administration

In the nineteenth century in California a housing bubble popped. Californians promised themselves that never again would they come to believe that could depend on housing prices would rise indefinitely.

In the nineteenth century scientists consistently and continued to deny the possibility that rocks (so-called meteorites) could fall from the sky (via Personal Knowledge), evidence be damned.

Today we too believe ourselves immune to this failing. We insist that our epistemic armor has no chinks. We think that our understanding of man, society, and our surroundings is improving and in the main correct.

Epistemic humility, to know that we do not know, is as was noted just a few (countable number of) weeks back by that Socrates fellow that knowing the actual extent of our expertise and knowledge is the first step to wisdom.

One of the consistent features of the political left and specifically our Administration today is a distinct lack of epistemic humility. They are the “smart” ones who have the answers. They will avoid the sins and faults of other side committed because they are far more clever, because their epistemic skin has been dipped in the Styx and is invulnerable to the slings and arrows and mortal failings unlike the clueless other guys. How long will it take then for Paris, aka reality, to slide the poisoned arrow into their ankle?

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6 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    ahhh but we know so much….

    We know it’s easy to invade middle eastern countries, kill their leaders and convert them all to Christianity and markets.

    We know how to nation build.

    We know that tax cuts always generate economic growth and deficits don’t matter.

    We know that we can trust the gov’t to get nothing right but we can trust it to secretly torture people with no oversight.

    We know that the stimulus package won’t work but we knew back in November that opposing TARP was unpatriotically putting personal political popularity above the nation.

    We know that we can spend more time asking CPA’s who apply for a job helping Iraq rebuild whether they voted for Kerry or Bush and how they feel about Roe.v.Wade

    We know that we can have hacks running front line agencies whose job it is to respond to crises like a hurricane.

    We know that the reason there wasn’t another terrorist attack post 9/11 is because Bush was in office.

    We know its ok to politicize the Justice Dept. and we know nothing bad will happen as a result….such as a a corrupt Senator actually ending up the victim of prosecutorial misconduct.

    Given all those massive knowledge, why would you ever want to done the coat of the Epistemically ignorant?

    In all honestly, you don’t have a valid complaint against Obama. You have one against Bush and your party which has allowed their echo chamber to achieve amazing levels of tone deafness.

    One thing I notice about Obama is that he is quite humble when it comes down to it. The stimulus bill is the SOP in a deep recession. More often than not Obama will caution “things will probably get worse before they get better” or “I don’t want to say what the future will bring”. Don’t believe me? Well let’s see if Obama’s photographed under a “mission accomplished” banner when there’s a bit of good economic news.

  2. One of the consistent features of the political left and specifically our Administration today is a distinct lack of epistemic humility.

    Wat.

    Obama is the pragmatist’s pragmatist. Your party is having “tea parties” and insisting that Obama’s going to destroy our country and that universal health care is identical to fascism or socialism, depending on their mood. Projecting much?

  3. Seriously, I can’t think of 3 or 4 president with more “epistemic humility” than Mr. Obama. What a strange argument.

  4. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    For all your exaggeration, e.g., “We know it’s easy to invade middle eastern countries, kill their leaders and convert them all to Christianity and markets.” -> point me to the place anyone made that claim, your only point is that this criticism could be leveled at Bush. Much of your criticism is not valid but like the above a stretch.

    If the point you are making is that Bush could of used a little more epistemic humility. Yah. So what. That’s irrelevant.

    JA,
    You claim Mr Obama has “more epistemic” humility? What evidence do you have. You claim he is “the pragmatists pragmatist” whatever that means. Explain.

    I have said that there are two main problems with universal health care, that it is a big price tag for a small change and that it puts up more barriers to getting to the real solution, i.e., the problem is supply not distribution.

  5. You claim Mr Obama has “more epistemic” humility? What evidence do you have.

    Epistemic humility is his most striking (and unusual, for his position) characteristic! That’s what so ridiculous about this charge. It’s like criticizing Bill Clinton for not liking to talk.

    Epistemic humility is featured in many of his writings and speeches and actions.

    Here’s a great example, regarding gay marriage:

    It is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights. I must admit that I may have been infected with society’s prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God; that Jesus’ call to love one another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I might be seen on the wrong side of history.

    Is that not epistemic humility?

    His choices regarding the economy reveal a substantial epistemic humility. Unlike what’s left of the Republicans, he doesn’t cling to a single economic belief system, nor did he take the party line, nor did he do what would be most popular.

    His actions were bold, but boldness was necessary. The situation was dire. He took careful, pragmatic steps whenever possible. He kept Bernanke, a Republican, as Clinton kept Greenspan. Both are questionable decisions in my mind, but they reflect a desire to be practical rather than ideological.

    At no point has he claimed with certainty that his way is the right way. On the contrary, he’s been circumspect, saying this is what we think is right now — in the future we might make some changes.

    Contrast that with the right, who are certain that federal spending cannot stimulate the economy, who are certain that universal health care will be a disaster, who are sure that there is exactly one way to deal with Iran or Cuba. I’m not just saying this because I think they’re wrong on these issues, but they talk about it like you’d have to be a complete imbecile to believe what Barack Obama believes, and what approximately 60%+ of Americans believe.

    People on the right are more likely to insanely overrate their own expertise and capacity for judgment. Two-thirds of Republicans think evolution is a crock. Most think that they’re smarter than the supermajority of scientists who believe in anthropogenic global warming. It’s pure hubris.

    Obama is the opposite of all that. He can read Alinsky for lessons on organizing without turning into a rabid socialist, as you liked to imply. He can invite John McCain in for advice two weeks after the election. He can nominate three Republicans to cabinet positions. He’s already known for seeking dissenting opinions and for his thoughtfulness.

    I just don’t understand where you’re coming from on this, at all.

  6. Boonton says:

    point me to the place anyone made that claim, your only point is that this criticism could be leveled at Bush. Much of your criticism is not valid but like the above a stretch.

    Actually the phrase is cribbed from Ann Coutler but it isn’t that hard to find Bush admin. assertions around that (minus the ‘kill their leaders and convert them’ line). Take your choice of Bush admin quotes; ‘Mission Accomplished’, ‘cakewalk’, ‘we will be greeted as liberators’ etc. and evaluate.

    Second, I notice you ask for specifics but provide none yourself. I know you put forth a ‘generic criticism’ but it’s not very serious if you can’t support it.