Friday, August 05, 2011

Do Miracles Still Occur? Frum on His Enemies Being Right.

David Frum is of course famous for coining the term "the axis of evil" which the Bush administration used. But recently he has expressed doubts about the wisdom of wingnuttery. He begins with a statement by Susan Sontag in 1982, about how the right was more correct about communism than the left, and then reverses it:
Those estimates make intuitive sense as we assess the real-world effect of the crisis: the jobs lost, the homes foreclosed, the retirements shattered. When people tell me that I’ve changed my mind too much about too many things over the past four years, I can only point to the devastation wrought by this crisis and wonder: How closed must your thinking be if it isn’t affected by a disaster of such magnitude? And in fact, almost all of our thinking has been somehow affected: hence the drift of so many conservatives away from what used to be the mainstream market-oriented Washington Consensus toward Austrian economics and Ron Paul style hard-money libertarianism. The ground they and I used to occupy stands increasingly empty.
If I can’t follow where most of my friends have gone, it is because I keep hearing Susan Sontag’s question in my ears. Or rather, a revised and updated version of that question:
Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Wall Street Journal editorial page between 2000 and 2011, and someone in the same period who read only the collected columns of Paul Krugman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of the current economic crisis? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

There's an additional point worth making here: Paul Krugman is not some fanatic Marxist or Maoist. If anything, he is a fairly mainstream economist, and uses actual data and models as the basis for his opinion pieces. To discount what he writes simply because he is seen as someone's enemy is short-sighted.

But then that's what much of the political debate has turned into. The emotional reaction is used as the justification for ignoring someone's arguments altogether.

This is dangerous, because people now have not just their own opinions but their own "facts." I watched Fox News last weekend. The topics covered and how they are covered are utterly different from what you might read here or on any liberal blog. Many choose to get their information from only one major source. This means that our ideas about what is going on in the world have less and less common ground. No wonder, then, that our views on what should be done will diverge more and more, too.