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Friday, September 13, 2019

"ocracies," "archies," and "isms"

Not too long ago, AAAS' Science Magazine published an article entitled "The crisis of democracy and the science of deliberation." 
That there are more opportunities than ever for citizens to express their views may be, counterintuitively, a problem facing democracy—the sheer quantitative overabundance overloads policymakers and citizens, making it difficult to detect the signal amid the noise. This overload has been accompanied by marked decline in civility and argumentative complexity. Uncivil behavior by elites and pathological mass communication reinforce each other. How do we break this vicious cycle? Asking elites to behave better is futile so long as there is a public ripe to be polarized and exploited by demagogues and media manipulators. Thus, any response has to involve ordinary citizens; but are they up to the task? Social science on “deliberative democracy” offers reasons for optimism about citizens' capacity to avoid polarization and manipulation and to make sound decisions. The real world of democratic politics is currently far from the deliberative ideal, but empirical evidence shows that the gap can be closed...
My initial reactions were [1] "is there really a 'science' of deliberation?"* and [2] the sanguine assumption of the continuing global 1st-place socioeconomic-political preferability of "democracy" might just be a bit shaky.
* how about "The Science of Compassion?" The "Science of Success?" etc.

"ocracies," "archies," and "isms"

Think of a large, multi- (large and small) category Venn Diagram, in no particular order (and comprised of significant conceptual / semantic overlaps). e.g.,




Classic Liberalism





You get the idea. I'm sure I missed some. And, many of the foregoing obviously coexist contemporaneously. This was just off the top of my head.
Moreover, we know that many, if not most, of the foregoing terms get cavalierly tossed around as political epithets.
I am always reminded of my cite of Frase's "Four Futures." Add another "ism?"--"Exterminism."

Notwithstanding the post-Citizens United U.S. regime of "one-dollar-one-vote," count me firmly in the actual "democracy" camp (with an egalitarian bias). Count me also a believer in the proposition that science is crucial to democracy. to wit, citing my current read in progress "Why Trust Science"--
[Dr. Oreskes] provides a fascinating discussion of the difficult question—vital to the role of science in a democracy—of non-expert opinion and how scientists should respond to it. Non-scientists—from nurses and midwives to farmers and fishermen—often have information or evidence relevant to science-based decisions. Patients have vital information about their symptoms. Yet, “Just because someone is close to an issue does not mean he or she understands it; conventional notions of objectivity assume distance for just this reason.” The cases help illustrate and sharpen the distinction between reliable scientific authority and the interest and ideology-based pseudoscientific dissent we witness surrounding climate change, evolution, and vaccines. [pg 6]

Scientists are supposed to be authorities, but the concern here is that this can slide into arrogance and dogmatism. It can slide into intellectual authoritarianism; Termier’s authoritarian status could make it difficult for others to question his theory. The spirit of critical inquiry would be suppressed and scientific progress would be impeded, because no one would feel free to challenge or improve upon the idea.

The American preference for inductive methodology was thus linked by its advocates to American political ideals of pluralism, egalitarianism, open-mindedness, and democracy. They believed that Termier’s approach was typically European—that European science, like European culture, tended toward the anti-democratic. American geologists thus explicitly linked their inductive methodology to American democracy and culture, arguing that the inductive method was the appropriate one for America because it refused to grant a privileged position to any theory and therefore any theorist. Deduction was consistent with autocratic European ways of thinking and acting; induction was consistent with democratic American ways of thinking and acting. Their methodological preferences were grounded in their political ideals.
[pg 84]

[W]ith the rise of fascism in the 1930s, the international scientific community began a sustained philosophical construction of free scientific inquiry as a guarantee of healthy democracy, a uniquely pure endeavor. [pg 167]
With the current rise of Trumpism, the stakes have become rather existential.


From the always excellent Naked Capitalism:
Dude, where’s my democracy?

Democracy is unwell, so it is said. In America and other leading democracies citizens are apparently increasingly critical of the concept of liberal democracy. We argue this is a misdiagnosis; citizens are not critical of liberal democracy – it is the lack of democracy which is the problem.

Citizens are attracted to strong leaders (so-called “populists”) which are prepared to challenge the prevailing system, not because they distrust democracy, but because they perceive the prevailing system is fundamentally undemocratic.

The solution is not further to limit democracy for fear of popular leaders, but rather to increase democratic accountability, and therefore legitimacy...
Always read the comments there under the posts. Also excellent.


"The danger of science denial."

I LOL'd at this at 10:25
“We hate Big Pharma. We hate Big Government. We don’t trust The Man, and we shouldn’t. Our healthcare system sucks. It’s cruel to millions of people. It’s absolutely astonishingly cold and soul-deadening to those of us who can even afford it. So we run away from it, and where do we run? We LEAP into the arms of Big Placebo.”
Watch all of it. Time well spent.


Just bought and downloaded a new book:

Dr. Makary is an advocate for health care innovation, writing in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. He has written extensively on organizational culture, the science of measuring quality in medicine, and health care reform. Dr. Makary is principle investigator of a Robert Wood Foundation Grant to lower health care costs in the U.S. by creating physician-endorsed measures of appropriate medical care and directs the national “Improving Wisely” project to reduce waste in medicine. He speaks nationally on disruptive innovation in health care.
I'd cited his prior book "Unaccountable" back in 2012. My wife just saw him on CSPAN and alerted me to his new book.


apropos, see my prior post "Can Medicine Be Cured?"

More to come...

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