More on the forum — 2/18/2012

  1. this forum is exactly what we make of it. i stand by all of my contributions to its many threads. this particular thread was established to decry the republican takeover of the u.s. house.  [the thread’s founder] has had free reign. most of my posting is not here, but over on the RBHS thread. that means considerably more to me — because RBHS is a local issue, and this is a local forum. same was true in the anti-tif days, the planning days, and further back.

    it may not be immediately apparent, but in 99 percent of the cases, i have not engaged don’s partisanship. nor have i complained about it. nor have i replied with equivalent numbers of GOP-oriented posts. because i have opportunities to discuss those issues elsewhere, i don’t do a lot of that here, and frankly i don’t intend to.

    regardless of my use or non-use of the forum on those issues, i would remind all that policy proceeds from politics and vice versa. they are not independently self-sustaining. and, frankly, contrary to the FT econ writer at Ted (God complex), i think first principles are more important today than ever before. orientations — like his — matter. claiming not to have one is — typically for me — an alarm bell that someone has one, and they are not disclosing it. as ludwig mies van der rohe famously — and actually — said, “we don’t invent a new architecture every monday morning.”

    another quick point — this phrase appears above: “I would think it entices users to be more considerate and thoughtful…” i have not a clue to whom that’s directed, but as the author of a significant number of posts dealing with a deeply troubled public institution, i would say that consideration and thoughtfulness are shown far more by accuracy over time and consistency of contribution than by any a priori agreement not to sound partisan or other notes.

    simply said — get on with it and let the solid ideas prove up and the rest will fall by the wayside. that’s what i have done with RB, and all of the “RB is perfectly OK, you are a jerk to question it…” posts and posters have melted away. not because of me, mind you, but because the arguments stacked up.

    my tiny beef with don was that we were told by admin NOT to copy articles into these threads. i defended don when he did a while back and someone called him out. then don started up again. and he has continued to do so willy-nilly. oh well, if it does not matter to admin, it’s OK w me. don’s partisanship simply does not reach me. i doubt mine reaches him.

    cheers, c

    POSTED THURSDAY FEB 16, 2012 15:23 #
  2. TomJacobs


    “orientations — like his — matter. claiming not to have one is — typically for me — an alarm bell that someone has one, and they are not disclosing it.”

    What orientation of his (English economist Tim Harford) are you referring to?

    Here is why I believe you are a victim of partisanship capture (compare with “agency capture”, a fabulous post you contributed a few years back on this forum):
    When Bob Lutz was CEO of GM, one of their goals was to reposition and re-establish Buick. Once they had a new prototype model, they conducted customer interviews in three separate groups. All groups saw the exact same new prototype version of the new Buick, with one small variant: one car displayed the Buick sign, another a Lexus sign, and the third didn’t have a sign at all ( i.e. no-name car).

    Want to guess which car customers liked most?

    No. 1: Lexus

    No 2: No-name car

    No 3: Buick

    I submit that in these hyper-partisan times, the messenger (brand) has overtaken the content of the message, and frequently prohibits the message from being evaluated on its merits. I believe the RBHS discussion was great evidence for this occurrence.

    POSTED SATURDAY FEB 18, 2012 14:27 #
  3. chrisrobling

    Um, i do not know what you mean. RB’s better today, and will be far better in the future, because folks listened and saw for themselves what was going on there. That’s the discussion in which i have been involved.

    Harford’s orientation appears about five minutes in, to paraphrase, ‘the world is vastly more complex than anyone can imagine, so bringing a preconceived approach to policy and problem-solving is anachronistic and self-defeating…’ His point boils down to, ‘any preconception is valueless, one must learn from experts, there is too much for any of us to know.’

    For one, it is self-referentially inconsistent, a nice way of saying it suffers from what philosophers call, ‘inevitable falsity.’ Since he is a smart guy (i have read him in the FT since he started his column), one has to assume he knows this and is plowing ahead, because the other alternative is he is a fool. So, knave he must be — but knave must not be liked by me. Predicating a talk on this kind of flimsyness is my world’s equivalent to you using plywood for a foundation.

    Second, his point is a bland restatement of the c1890 progressive era elevation of data over values. People have been arrogantly believing their era is more complex / demanding / unknowable / challenging than all other prior eras since Chinese traders plied the waters off east africa in 2500 b.c., iow, Harford is historicism at work once again. He would be far more significant if his talk was, “why data will help us now after a century in which people like me promised it would, but instead we ended up seeing some 100 million die from totalitarianism, much of which was predicated on data…”

    Or, if you take ‘morning star’ as ‘data source,’ as Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher wrote in 1979,
    Who said that ev’ry
    Wish would be heard and answered
    When wished on the morning star?
    Somebody thought of it,
    And somebody believed it
    Look what it’s done so far.

    Third, this approach inevitably gives weight to a status quo that i believe deserves contempt and suspicion. “Experts” are that way because they know what is. What is is less important to me than what ought to be. All actors in the public sphere are bringing about something. Are they bringing about the good? Not sure. But i am sure they are not waiting to hear from experts, they are on their way, and the status quo is merely a means to their end. Ironically, I quote Marx, a strong second-tier Hegel scholar who observed, “Philosophers have been trying for centuries to understand the world. The point is to change it.” It’s one of the few things he wrote that resonates.

    Drawing in point #3, above: What is the expert on whom Mr. Harford wants us to rely trying to accomplish? You see, it is an infinite regress: We are not supposed to have a preconception, so we rely on the expert. Has the expert a preconception? “Oh no — he mustn’t!” OK, but maybe his professor did — or the professor before — etc. Someone, somewhere, said “i think things should be this way…” Why not us ?

    Do we need data to know what is going on? Sure. For instance: Without pesticides and herbicides, we will not be able to feed the 9 billion expected on the planet by 2040. Today, with pesticides and herbicides, 950 million of us are severely malnourished. Approximately 25,000 children die every day because of it. Worst of all? There is plenty of food to feed these 950 million, and save the 25,000 kids, if the folks in charge wanted them to eat.

    Or, to bring it home, RB’s board agreed in 2008 to a five-year contract providing seven percent raises on average, after ten percent raises for three years. It did not have the money to pay for the contract. It borrowed $5 million via working cash bonds. When those funds began to run out, it proposed a referendum. When voters learned what the referendum would do, it lost almost four votes to one.

    POSTED SATURDAY FEB 18, 2012 15:50 #
Explore posts in the same categories: Current Events, Politics, Riverside and Olmsted, Riverside Brookfield High School -- Turnaround

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