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Ricochet is a great place to discuss all sorts of things. Guns, for example. When it comes to firearms, Ricochetti — in contrast to the left-leaning media — know what they are talking about, can cite relevant facts and figures, and discuss the issues calmly and reasonably.
Unfortunately, when it comes to macroeconomics, all too often the roles are reversed. Which is a shame, because leftist approaches to the macroeconomy are disastrous, and we need conservative policies to turn things around. It helps no one when otherwise excellent Ricochet conversation turn to economic matters and begin to resemble the fever swamps that characterize leftist discussion of firearms.
I see three problematic trends in recent Ricochet threads.
1. Ignorance. When a reporter, pundit, or politician can’t distinguish between automatic and semi-automatic weapons, we rightly consider that ignorance disqualifying. If you haven’t bothered to do your homework on basic questions, why should we trust your policy prescriptions? Similarly on economic matters: If you haven’t bothered to learn some basic mechanics of how, say, an inflation index is constructed, and the tradeoffs involved, your other claims won’t be very persuasive — even if they may be right. I’m not saying you should shut up and listen to the experts, but you should be honest — first and foremost with yourself — about the limits of what you know and be willing to learn more.
2. Non-falsifiable claims. One of the challenging things about discussing guns with a lefty is that the evidence doesn’t seem to matter. Do more guns cause less crime? Impossible — that’s counter to my intuition! And if you happen to get through on that point, you often run up against a wall: So what if it’s true — children are dying! Don’t bother me with data. A number of commenters on Ricochet have, sadly, taken such a non-falsifiable approach to macroeconomic matters, especially in support of the idea that inflation is understated by official figures. And worse, some Ricochetti will tell you that the data must not only be faulty, but indeed manufactured to produce “the government’s” desired outcome. Aside from the fact that there are thousands of individuals and dozens of agencies involved in the dissemination of the data, consider: do you trust government statistics on crime and gun ownership? After all, it’s the same government and it has as much incentive to doctor those statistics as the economic ones.
3. Ends justifying means. After the Newtown school shooting, I remarked to a liberal friend that I found it disgusting how gun control advocates were exploiting the tragedy to push unrelated measures, things that never would have prevented the tragedy in the first place. He took umbrage at that. If we don’t take advantage of the fact that people are emotional about the issue now, these measures will never get passed! These are the right things to do, so there’s nothing wrong with leveraging voter ignorance to achieve them. This kind of pandering comes from the same impulse as Dan Rather’s reliance on fraudulent documents in reporting, and the “fake but accurate” defense. That a narrative is consistent with your prejudices — or voter prejudices — doesn’t make it true. Your personal experience is true for you, but that doesn’t mean you’ve perceived it accurately, or understood it in context, or that it reflects a larger reality. Of course, to win political battles, we need to tell stories of how the economy is affecting people. Of course, to win political battles we need to tap into voter perceptions and voter experience, not rely entirely on voter reasoning. But does that mean we should craft all our stories to exploit voter ignorance? To what extent are we supposed to subordinate the evidence to the narrative? As conservatives, let’s make sure that our narratives reinforce the truth rather than contradict it — whether on gun policy, foreign policy, or economic policy. Otherwise, just as Democrats have failed to persuade voters on guns, we will fail to persuade voters on the disasters of leftist economic policy, and on the promise of conservative approaches to make things better for them and their families.Published in