Everyone Rejects Inconvenient Facts

Friday, November 25, 2011


In 2010, Professor Daniel B. Klein wrote The Wall Street Journal Op-Ed about the results of a study that showed that liberals and progressives knew less than conservatives and libertarians about basic economic policy matters. A year later he did another study that revealed that conservatives and libertarians actually didn't know any more than liberals or progressives on those matters. Brooke speaks with Klein about why everyone fared so poorly. 


Brand New Heavies - Apparently Nothing

Comments [14]



I think it is time to get Ira Glass back on.

You've now done a number of segments that speak to the fact of "my side" or "confirmation bias" as a real dynamic that exists. I believe you.

So, since this "my side bias" presumably exists, would it not be a necessity then, that every news organization have a healthy (and transparent!) mix of both/all sides in its news rooms to avoid falling in that bias hole?

So, I am a conservative. Are there people on the OTM production staff that are on "my side?" And who are they at NPR?

Dec. 03 2011 06:36 PM
M Bray from Bucks County PA

Stourley, that should be "you're" stupid.

Dec. 02 2011 11:13 AM
Stourley Kracklite from White Plains

"Dumned down" shall now be my favorite retort. (To be followed with "your stupid.")

Nov. 28 2011 10:42 AM
Stourley Kracklite from Whte Plains, NY

The question of the definition of a monopoly seems clear cut. Those who answered the question incorrectly may have substituted the word "monopolistic."

Jozereko, with his anecdotal evidence and rhetorical questions gives a good impersonation of one whose mind is epistemically closed.

Nov. 28 2011 10:40 AM

Three out of the four questions I heard all had multiple interpretations because they were either ambiguously worded or had multiple interpretations. Obviously the definition of monopoly is pretty fixed, but what of these?

"[A]ccess to drugs:" I know many people who have used drugs, and they had no trouble getting them when they wanted. Prohibition seems to have had no effect on their access to drugs. On the other hand prohibition has had at least a mild deterrent effect on me, so you could say that it has limited my access to guns.

"[A]ccess to guns:" Places with strict gun control measures don't seem to be short on criminals who use them, while the normally law abiding people in those jurisdictions go without. Whose access are we concerned with?

"[M]eans more:" What does this even mean? It's obvious that a dollar would make up a higher portion of a poor person's wealth. Arguably one characteristic that can help a rich person build his wealth is a better knowledge of how he spends his money - this self-awareness helps get better control of a personal budget, for instance. Could a person reasonably believe this means that money "means more" to the rich? I think so, even if I wouldn't necessarily read the question that way.

The bulk of the test seemed to me to be a measurement of agreement with the tester. Opinions are not facts, convenient or otherwise.

Nov. 27 2011 03:20 PM
TobySaunders from outside Atlanta

It is a bogus claim that those with progressive views are equally as misinformed as those with conservative views; in the US, for example, the right wing has problems understanding evolution is a fact... they doubt the fact of global warming, they have delusions about birtherism, communist conspiracies, Christianity, abortion, taxes... the claim that the left & right of the US are equally deluded is ridiculously false. Some progressives are deluded, but there is hardly a comparison & the claim was not built on big, important questions about reality but more ambiguous policy questions. Economic libertarianism is psychopathic; Ayn Rand explicitly rejects ethics & she many, unethically, share that stance... this study was stupid & misleading.
"gee whiz, is a government better than no government, I don't know..." -what a fool.

Nov. 27 2011 11:26 AM
Rob Maranville

In consideration of the fact that the state is at its essence "organized force", I don't think it follows that the submission or acquiescence to the most recent group of conquistadores would constitute the highest form of social order, Governments, as legalized criminal gangs, most often adopt and codify pre-existing moral and social convention often in the context of prevailing cultural norms. They do not 'create' those norms. Sometimes this is attended by the illusion of participation by submitting mostly meaningless options for change to a democratic process.

The idea that libertarians want or posit some sort of world of rugged individualism or social Darwinism is a caricature with the scarcest bit of foundation in reality. While there may be a few whose view seem to imply such preposterous concepts, these are not representative of the fundamentals of libertarian thought which emphasizes order and mutuality over coercion and the elevation of one set of humans over others

"The great non sequitur committed by defenders of the State, including classical Aristotelian and Thomist philosophers, is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of the State." ~ Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty

Nov. 27 2011 07:37 AM
paul from panama city beach, fl

The biggest problem with these questions is the counterfactual and subjective nature of them.

Example, drug prohibition; without the equivalent data of a half century of nationwide statistics, how can we say leagalization would NOT make drugs less prevalent? We can't, and any assertion to the contrary is based upon it's own bias.

This says less about respondents than pollsters.

Nov. 27 2011 07:36 AM
Mike Perez from bettendorf iowa

I found the story thin because the opening example was just wrong, as Brooke noted. Conclusions about political thought, based upon such examples, are not credible. In my view, his conclusions add no value or new understanding. They just serve the common interests of people who would not simply say that the example was wrong.

Nov. 27 2011 07:28 AM
Derek Moore from La Crescent, MN

Yes, I too would like to see all the questions, if permissible by copyright. It would also be interesting for the On the Media staff to take it and see how they did--not that this is a golden standard of bias, but for a little fun.

Nov. 26 2011 08:23 PM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

I too would like to see this so-called all-telling quiz. I may lean to the Left but I knew the answer to his sample on market share v. monopoly. Somehow I doubt Paul Krugman or Robert Reich would "fail." It just seems to be another smug Libertarian game of gotcha' that they've been playing for decades. Never mind the mess in their own camp as demonstrated by their icons Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, the Kochtopus and Hayek.

Nov. 26 2011 05:40 PM
Karsten Sorensen from Beverly, MA U.S.A.

The issue of whether we need government does not depend on the issue of personal bias. Rather the question is whether we can function when each of us only seeks to optimize his own situation. Economists study this as the "Tragedy of the Commons." Once you see that if each fisherman, as similar situation, tries to catch as many fish as he can, the population of fish will decline with the result, no one will be able to fish. Somehow, we need to have some means of allocating scarce resources and that is government.
In an economy that depends of specialization, no one can simply say they don't need others to survive.

Nov. 26 2011 03:23 PM
Rick from Southport, CT

I was taken by one of Mr. Klein's questions, which brought to mind the issue of skewing answers by how questions are asked. The answer by righties to whether "a dollar means more to a poor person than it does to a rich person," (disagree), makes sense to me. Rich people are perceived, correctly or not, as caring a great deal about their dollars. I suggest that a better economics inquiry is "does a dollar have more utility to a poor person than it does to a rich person."

Nov. 26 2011 07:27 AM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

somehow the idea that a few 8 question surveys says anything, just shows how dumned down even higher education has become. were this a serious endeavor, the professor would craft a many page, many question survey where questions were asked in several fashions to try to find out exactly what the participant believes.

what the professor has done is shown us how his work product, rather that being serious at all, is instead meant to garner attention in the media.


Nov. 26 2011 07:20 AM

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