Rizzo on Ideology

14 March 2009 at 12:06 pm 5 comments

| Peter Klein |

Arguments about ideology are often the last refuge of the (intellectual) scoundrel. If you can’t refute someone’s scientific and technical arguments, accuse him of being an “ideologue,” thus rendering all his opinions tainted. Those of us sympathetic to markets are familiar with this rhetorical trick. “Only a free-market ideologue could oppose this government program. . . .” In other words, practical, open-minded, technocratic types all favor X, so only an irrational ideologue could favor Y. Of course, this argument cuts both ways. The point of my post on the ideology of Keynesian economists was to point out that one can just as easily say that interventionists are led by statist ideology to reject scientific and technical arguments in favor of laissez-faire.

Mario Rizzo has an excellent post on the proper use of “reasonable ideology” in framing political discussions. As Mario points out, ideology represents a set of default beliefs, beliefs that need not be irrational, but can be based on the accumulation of prior evidence. Like a Kuhnian paradigm, an ideology helps prioritize different types of evidence, helps establish ground rules for thinking about problems, and facilitates the operation of “normal science.” Like Bayesian priors, ideologies change slowly, as new information is revealed; indeed, they shouldn’t be abandoned based on one or two pieces of supposedly contrary evidence.

Reasonable ideologues of the world, you have nothing to apologize for.

Entry filed under: - Foss -.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Warren Miller  |  16 March 2009 at 12:31 am

    Count me as one of those who is suspicious of ideologues. Now, “reasonable ideologue” strikes me as a bit of an oxymoron. After all, one person’s ‘reasonable’ is another’s ‘rigidity with blinders.’ I read Rizzo’s post and found it useful and informative, as I invariably do with his work. But ideology has always conveyed, at least to me, a certain purity and consistency of belief that, unfortunately, leads those in its clutches to emit, if not assert, a certain moral and intellectual superiority that I, for one, find offensive. And I’ve never been successful arguing with one because, even after I had ’em backed into corners, they would invariably whine something like, “Well, you just don’t understand.” Yeah, well, I’m not a Kool-Aid guzzler, either.

    I’m with Waldo Emerson of the ‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines.” And, FWIW, I think ideology is a perversion of reason. I believe in coherent belief systems, but those, at least to my way of think, have room for inconsistency. Ideology, as I interpret it, does not. It also relieves the ideologue of any responsibility to consider alternate points of view. In other words, it Type I errors run amok.

  • 2. Caminadella  |  17 March 2009 at 4:18 pm

    “Arguments about ideology are often the last refuge of the (intellectual) scoundrel. If you can’t refute someone’s scientific and technical arguments, accuse him of being an “ideologue,” thus rendering all his opinions tainted” (PK).
    “I’ve long suspected that the appeal of Keynes to people like Krugman and DeLong is ultimately based on aesthetic, not scientific, grounds. Deep in their hearts, they just don’t like private property, markets, and individual choice. They don’t think ordinary people are capable of making wise decisions and think they, the elites, should be in charge. They resent the fact that most people don’t want their lives controlled by liberal intellectuals.” (PK)

  • 3. Peter Klein  |  17 March 2009 at 4:21 pm


    Actually, my Keynes post was, while heartfelt, slightly tongue-in-cheek — an attempt to turn the tables on the Keynesians, who usually argue that only “free-market ideologues” or “ethics-free Republican hacks,” in Brad Delong’s words, oppose massive increases in government spending.

  • 4. spostrel  |  18 March 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Referring to ideological interventionists as “ideological technocrats,” “knee-jerk regulators”, or “anti-market bigots” can help you fight fire with fire. The problem with that, of course, is that water or Halon usually works better.

  • 5. Charles E.  |  19 March 2009 at 5:45 am

    Jon Stewart has been building his career in a comedy channel but the encounter between him and the former hedge fund manager and financial analyst of Mad Money show Jim Cramer was not what the viewers expected to happen. It wasn’t as funny as what Stewart show has been before. But still, as Jon Stewart always gets headlines and became one of the most popular source of news headlines’ interpretations that really make him a true American icon. Jon Stewart will always be Jon Stewart.

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