Friday, March 9, 2018

Calling "stupidity" by its name

Obviously, this will be a post about Donald Trump.  Before I get there... Keith Krehbiel.  Very smart guy.  Perhaps even a genius.

I study Congress.  Parties matter.  Nearly everybody who studies Congress understands that parties are important in Congress.  You know who argues otherwise?  Keith Krehbiel.  He wrote a famous book (famous by academic standards, anyway) called Pivotal Politics.  The gist of it is that you can understand Congress without looking at parties because parties are basically just labels that get put on ideological coalitions.  Ignore the labels, focus on the ideology.  If you understand everyone's ideological locations in the left-right dimension, you understand everything you need to know, or at least so much that anything unexplained is relatively unimportant.  Parties are not that important because they are basically just byproducts of the liberal-conservative divide.

Parties don't matter.  So says Keith Krehbiel.

For those of us who study Congress, Keith Krehbiel is that obstinate, contrarian, frustrating... but annoyingly smart guy who forces the discipline forward by disagreeing in the smartest way.  In case you can't tell, I admire the guy.  He's wrong wrong wrong, but I admire the guy.  Even though he writes things that are very obviously wrong.

On the other hand, some jackass who barely pays attention to politics?  If that jackass tells you that parties are an illusion?  That jackass probably has no clue what he is talking about.

You can be wrong and still be intelligent.  You can be wrong about something obvious and still be intelligent.  You can be wrong about something that everyone else gets right, and still be intelligent.

There is a bar, though.  The real bar is the manner in which you construct your argument.  Krehbiel, while wrong, constructs his arguments in thoughtful, coherent ways.  Your drunken, jackass harasser does not.

When someone expresses an idea that has been debunked, when do you grant that person consideration?  That person very quickly needs to pass at least one hurdle:  present an idea that is new and different, and must be considered because of its novelty, or have credentials that mean you must listen further.

Donald Trump went ahead with the tariffs yesterday.  They were incoherently imposed because... he's Donald Trump.  Can he pass either test?

He loves to tell you about his degree from Wharton, but that doesn't pass scrutiny once you understand that his family had to buy his way in, and he had to transfer from Fordham.

Really, though, argument by authority is bullshit.  Ideas should stand on their own, regardless of who makes them.  Otherwise, no intellectual endeavor would ever be able to progress because we would be stuck with enshrined dogma.

This is where Trump's words do him in.  His arguments for tariffs are zero-sum, mercantilist bullshit, debunked centuries ago.

I call him "stupid" because he says things that no intelligent, educated person can say today.  If you take any modern economics and describe trade in zero-sum terms, it means you didn't learn anything.

Inability to learn.  Is there a better definition of "stupidity?"

Call it by its name.  Stupidity.

Keith Krehbiel gets to be wrong about everything regarding Congress and still be called a genius.  Donald Trump is just an idiot.

No comments:

Post a Comment