Reagan and Confirmation Bias

— I am fairly nauseated by the Reagan retrospectives, left and right. It's dispiriting to see that it apparently next-to-impossible for human beings to go beyond their ideological commitments and make a more or less objective assessment of a man's accomplishments. We see all the usual mechanisms of ideological insulation. Any good during Reagan's reign would have happened anyway. Reagan's scandals are justified by his larger visionary struggle against unfreedom. All our ills are directly traceable to Reagan's malign influence. All good is directly traceable to Reagan's forward-thinking moral clarity. It's really just too, too much. Why do we not see that there is no need to make devils or gods of men?

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

3 thoughts

  1. Will, It seems like Chait is arguing with someone other than the person who wrote your paper. Your rebuttals aren’t exactly rebuttals, they’re pointing out how he’s misinterpreting what you’re trying to say.
    “I don’t sense in Chait’s piece much of a defense of of the idea that income inequality really is important. He seems to me mostly concerned to defend the permissibility of redistribution. ”
    Yeah — I think he would really like to believe that you’re an evil right-wing free market fundamentalist who only wants to crush the poor and minimize their suffering while you’re at it. Why are you disappointing the poor guy?

  2. Frequently what I hear from liberals is that income inequality is a problem because the dirty masses might rise up. It’s like one friend said to me the other day: “I’m a liberal because I have conservative ends.” I laughed and said I’m a libertarian because I believe that is the best way to achieve liberal ends.

  3. Mr. Chait’s argument about wealth-as-virtue is his most persuasive argument yet because it rests upon one unassailable and largely documented fact: the transfer of wealth to the have’s from the have-not’s is unprecedented in our nation’s history.
    I think his point is not that liberals have a huge difficulty with captains of industry(like Rush Limbaugh) tooling around in their Maybecks and fancy cigars. Rather those who defend the prosperity of the uppermost quintiles assume their wealth doesn’t come at the expense of the lowermost quintiles, where, as most economists agree, real wages have flat-lined.

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