Monday, October 14, 2013

There's No Evidence of Increasing Dependency! Why Don't People Get This?!?!?!

Sorry for the long blogging silence, I was trying to juggle long hours with a full time course load while planning a wedding and looking for a house. I've now cut back so should have some time for blogging again.

I was reading a post by Rod Dreher on the Republican Party and the shutdown. He posted a summary of findings from a report on the Republican Party base. A shocking number of the bullet points had to do with something that there is no evidence for (link to the full report):
I wrote a rather lengthy page on dependency a while back. I'm not aware of any empirical evidence of this phenomenon or any strong theoretical argument for it. Yet, dependency is mentioned in three of the bullet points for right wing motivations.

It's insane. Increasing dependency is a fantasy. Opposing dependency gets you fantasy policies that can't achieve anything because it's not a problem that shows up in the data. Government benefits aren't tied to any real increases in dependency (you can make a theoretical argument for Social Security and those over 65, but employment by those over 65 is increasing not decreasing so this isn't a very strong argument).

What it appears to be is a rationalization. These folks are having trouble grappling with the social and demographic changes of the last 50 years. Rather than attributing these changes to the market and to other uncontrollable factors they seek to attribute the changes to the policy responses that seek to deal with them.

This makes it very difficult to deal with these people. They are caught up in reverse causation, the more you do to mitigate the impacts of these social pressures the more opposed they will become to any further efforts to mitigate them sense they see the response as the cause (they need to learn sequencing). Let these changes go unaddressed and the resulting problems will get them even more riled up. If they ever get their way they will also just get angry, unmitigated these problems will get vastly worse and they'll double down on their ineffectual actions.

The sad fact is that there is little that can be done but ignore these folks and seek to isolate them. They don't understand the wider social forces impacting their lives and feel powerless to act against them. They aren't, but since they are not comfortable with the policy tools or coordination necessary to deal with the problems they've identified there isn't any meaningful way to engage with them. They mistake solutions for the causes of the problems and they are focused on attacking the solution because they mistake it for the cause. It's just hopeless.

It also reminds me of the deep problem of democratic theory. How can someone opposed to democratic ideals and norms be properly represented in a democratic polity? If you don't represent them you violate the principle of representation, if you do represent them they violate the very ideals and norms you are trying to protect by representing them.

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