Home > Boneheaded stupidity > The reality wars are over. Reality won.

The reality wars are over. Reality won.

November 13th, 2012


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  1. November 13th, 2012 at 20:43 | #1

    Reality always wins, it’s just the cost it extracts from people too stupid to acknowledge that and the damage they do to those around them.

  2. Fran Barlow
    November 13th, 2012 at 20:47 | #2

    As pleasing as the claim sounds, it isn’t so.

    Nonsense is still pervasive. The underlying paradigm that government is ipso facto pernicious persists. The elite continues to assert its right to rule — the 1% remains firmly in charge. Poor people are still being bombed because they are poor. Wanting a better life and being willing to work hard and take risks to have it is still not a reason for others to pay attention, but rather, to use them to instill fear in the ruled. There’s still no serious action on climate change. More money is still spent on killing people than meeting their needs. There’s still a war on drugs. People are still persecuted because they are gay.

    None of this is likely to be overturned any time soon.

  3. November 13th, 2012 at 21:05 | #3

    Fran: If what you say is what you perceive as the reality then your perception is that reality has won?

  4. Fran Barlow
    November 13th, 2012 at 21:39 | #4

    @John D

    I imagine PrQ was using “reality” in the sense of “not dogma based on something other than evidence and ethics” He might perhaps have intended it in a narrower sense — correspondence with observable data.

    Other places where reality remains on the defensive:

    God … most people still avow faith.

    Secular dogma:

    One must give incentives to the rich, disincentives to the poor, and inflict sufficient brutality on those who come on boats to make them imagine that the brutality from which they fled is the best of all possible worlds.

    We owe our descendants no duty AND debt is evil.

    Private hospitals and schools should be publicly funded.

    Ecosystem services should be traded for opportunities to give incentives to the rich. It’s best when doing this to talk about “jobs” and the evil of latte sipping chardonnay-swilling inner city elites.

    Brutalising animals is OK because they aren’t human. (but see exception for boat people)

  5. 2 tanners
    November 13th, 2012 at 21:51 | #5


    Unfortunately, from webreading over the last week, about 99% of the population agrees with your statement. Without changing their positions.

  6. Jim Rose
    November 13th, 2012 at 22:01 | #6

    @Fran Barlow if people are still being persecuted because they are gay, you have forgot what it was like a few decades ago.

    social friction is totally different from living a secret life out of a real fear of violence and arrest.

  7. Fran Barlow
    November 13th, 2012 at 22:21 | #7

    @Jim Rose

    More murders motivated by anti-gay bias occurred last year than any year since the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs began collecting data in 1998, the national advocacy organization reported this week.

    In 2011, 30 fatally violent hate crimes were committed against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender victims, 3 more than the previous year’s total. At the same time, overall reports of anti-gay hate violence were down last year. But the authors of the report don’t think the drop in reports of violence actually reflects a drop in violence. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs collects its data through 41 member programs across the country who receive calls and reports of LGBT hate crimes in the local communities. The authors of the report said they suspected a link between the rise in murders and the drop in overall reports of violence — when more murders occur the small centers are overwhelmed and able to conduct less community outreach.

  8. Robert in UK
    November 13th, 2012 at 23:32 | #8

    If only you were right, John! We might be winning, but we haven’t won.

  9. Paul O’D
    November 14th, 2012 at 00:34 | #9

    The reality wars are far from over, just visit the blogs of Andrew Bolt or Piers Ackerman. Fran Barlow makes some great poimts about social issues but the actions of Newman and Co also show that reality is far from the minds of many.

  10. November 14th, 2012 at 04:22 | #10

    Reality won? Don’t think so:

    “US election: Unhappy Americans ask to secede from US” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-20301477

    Is there are Fort Sumter in Texas?

  11. Crispin Bennett
    November 14th, 2012 at 05:51 | #11

    Surprising to witness such Panglossianism from JQ, and ironic so close on the heels of the IEA’s latest World Energy Outlook. It’s entirely clear that the Fossil Fuel Mafia have won so comprehensively that in effect they could withdraw right now, retire to their well-supplied bunkers and watch the cash roll in while the world (left with no conceivable way to avoid 4-6deg of warming) fries.

  12. Ikonoclast
    November 14th, 2012 at 07:16 | #12

    @Crispin Bennett

    Fran’s attempt at a tight definition “correspondence with observable data” is the best place to start. Even limiting the definition to that of objective, observable reality and evidence derived from empirical observation we would have to say humanity, as a whole, has scarcely begun to get a grip on observable reality. I mean beyond the mere “biological perception” of reality which
    is common to all related animals (say mammals) with similar sets of senses.

    Most of humanity still believes implicitly in sets of religious and cultural myths. The major religious positions are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism/Agnosticism (and so called “Folk Religions”). All of the major religious/cultural myths are essentially mutually truth exclusive. If one is right then all the others are wrong. Since none represents a majority of humanity then the majority of humanity is wrong about reality even if one of the major religions is right. Science however has shown very conclusively there is no real fact or evidence basis for any of the religions. They are all inventions. They are all wrong.

    According to some sources, basic scientific literacy, even in the West, extends to only about 5% of the adult population. This is when setting a reasonable standard for the test for scientific literacy. Given this statistic, the basic scientific literacy of the entire world’s adult population must be of the order of 1% or less. A basic understanding of the deeper philosophical problems of knowledge (epistemology) and belief would not belong to more than .1% of the population. In this sense, humanity has barely begun to grapple with the problem of understanding reality.

    Given this poor scientific and philosophical understanding and the lack of ability to think critically, is it any wonder our poulation is easily manipulated by religious, cultural, political and economic propaganda? No, we have not even begun to fight the reality war properly. We are still primitives. Science is the mere plaything of consumerism and militarism. The existential crisis of climate change, species extinctions, resource depletions etc. must mature us or destroy us.

  13. m0nty
    November 14th, 2012 at 07:52 | #13

    I think, Prof Q, it would be more pertinent to say that science won, or that denialism lost.

    - the campaign allegedly hinged on Superstorm Sandy, which was the chicken of AGW coming home to roost in the face of the deniers;
    - Romney’s campaign team still believed that they were going to win right up to election night because they swallowed the Rasmussen line, which was the reason they thought visiting Pennsylvania would be a good idea to expand the map because they already had the swing states won;
    - Nate Silver’s psephological methodology has been comprehensively proven correct, in the face of Rasmussen getting every swing state three to six points wrong, and Gallup getting their national polls over seven points wrong;
    - Karl Rove still denied the election result when everyone else had called it, and had to have electoral logic explained to him live on Fox News, slack-jawed and aghast.

  14. rog
    November 14th, 2012 at 08:03 | #14

    David Petraeus has to face up to the reality of his failure in war and the US has to face up to the reality of the failure of their military.

  15. Jordan
    November 14th, 2012 at 08:04 | #15

    I hate to burst anyones bubble but
    Arizona woman runs down husband with car for not voting: police
    She claimed that she was enraged because she expects tha hardship that will come if Obama was reelected. And that fear had some reasoning behind. That is what they were told by their boss.
    Under Citizen United rulling in USA companies have the right to spend money on election campaigns and that also includes puting the employees to work campaining. There was a lot of bosses who had sent emails to their employees to vote for Romney or they can expect hardship if Obama is reelected.
    This “lady” must have taken those threats by bosses very seriously

  16. Tom
    November 14th, 2012 at 08:40 | #16

    The reality war nor the cultural war has been won strictly speaking, look around how many Religious Fundamentalist there are still, how much people still deny AGW, how much influence the Tea Party still have over the Republicans and don’t even get me started on EU’s austerity.

    There is nothing wrong about being optimistic, but this is simply too far from reality itself. I don’t see much point of this thread and the cultural war thread other than asking for trolls.

  17. JB Cairns
    November 14th, 2012 at 10:54 | #17

    Whilst I agree to some extent with M0nty ( afterall he is a cricket lover) reality has not won until those challenged by reality fess up.

    This has neither occurred in the US nor here.

    the reality challenged Catallaxy is performing as though nothing happened at all as M)nty would undoubtedly concur with.

  18. Sancho
    November 14th, 2012 at 11:20 | #18

    Perhaps the question is which reality reigns. Obviously the Democrat win didn’t suddenly change the minds of the millions who believe science is communism in disguise, but it may mean they can be safely ignored and progress can occur.

    History reminds us that the next generation of conservatives will mostly accept the science and then try to take the credit for the innovations it wrought.

  19. Katz
    November 14th, 2012 at 11:34 | #19

    No reason for leftists to educate Cataplexy or any other assemblage of fascisto-frotteurs to change their ways.

    These folks are the best weapons of the Left.

    The punters take one look at them and take to wearing garlic around their necks.

  20. Greg vP
    November 14th, 2012 at 13:18 | #20

    When junior members of your own profession seriously propose “desire modification”[1] as the answer to the economic problem, I would say that we are fighting harder than ever against reality.

    1: http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.co.nz/2012/08/desire-modification-ultimate-technology.html

  21. Sancho
    November 14th, 2012 at 14:30 | #21

    @Greg vP

    That must be one the most comprehensive misreadings of a futurism blog ever.

    Yes, that’s it, Greg. Expect the left to go full steam ahead with neuro reprogramming in response to the recession. It’ll be Labor Party policy in no time.

  22. m0nty
    November 14th, 2012 at 14:42 | #22

    @JB Cairns
    Catallaxy had an extraordinary day a couple of days after the recent US election. The whole site seemingly went crazy. There is a normal level of unreality about the place, but this was some sort of strange attractor, or singularity of non-spatial existence. It was amazing to watch. Kates’ execrable pile of filth on Quadrant about “damaged women” was merely the tip of the submerged garbage barge.

    The only way for the reality-challenged is to burrow further down the rabbit hole. At some point they’ll dig their way to China. Which, to mix a metaphor, probably means they will turn Communist. After all, Dubbya did nationalise the banks, so anything is possible from the neocons.

  23. m0nty
    November 14th, 2012 at 14:46 | #23

    I did so want Kates’ Quadrant piece on the election to blow up in the MSM. That would have been glorious. It’s only a matter of time before the seedy side of the right on the Webs comes in contact with polite society, given how the hard right of the LNP is increasingly powerful within the party, as evidenced in preselections.

    There’s an decent yarn unfolding about how the Tea Party experience is being brought to Australia, yet to be told. One wonders if any of the Canberra press gallery will get off their comfy chairs and discover it. Probably not.

  24. November 14th, 2012 at 14:50 | #24

    @Greg vP

    Oh, that’s precious. ;-)

  25. may
    November 14th, 2012 at 14:56 | #25

    JB Cairns :Whilst I agree to some extent with M0nty ( afterall he is a cricket lover) reality has not won until those challenged by reality fess up.
    This has neither occurred in the US nor here.
    the reality challenged Catallaxy is performing as though nothing happened at all as M)nty would undoubtedly concur with.

    but “fessing up” ain’t going to happen.

    isn’t there some saying along the lines of

    “science advances funeral by funeral”

    there were people who truly believed that if they were inocculated for smallpox with cowpox they would turn into cows.
    it didn’t matter that the inocculated didn’t turn into cows,those who believed it,died believing it.

    i saw a map of the world according to the flat earth believers,from the north pole naturally.
    Australia was the right width but really,really thin.which is a big surprise to the truckies on the north south run.

    so is separating education from religious indoctrination as a receiver of monies from the public purse a possibiliy?

  26. Crispin Bennett
    November 14th, 2012 at 15:08 | #26

    It’s interesting to see so many confusing ‘reality’ with what’s printed in right-wing blogs. I personally don’t give a stuff what The Australian thinks about climate change. I do give a stuff that the FFM has decided that it can, and we must, live (or die, mutatis mutandis) with 4-6 deg of warming.

    In a long-term sense, JQ’s right that reality will win, ’cause it (physics, essentially) is going to heap disaster upon us. But cognisance of reality, which I presume is what’s being talked about here, has no effect whatsoever on what’s happening to our increasingly blighted planet, and there’s not even one remotely plausible route to its doing so. Marx, it seems, was right about superstructure/substructure, after all.

  27. Tim Peterson
    November 14th, 2012 at 15:45 | #27

    Reality won, eh? Will someone please tell that to Jaques Derrida and the folks in the cultural studies department?

  28. Jim Rose
    November 14th, 2012 at 16:08 | #28

    @Fran Barlow 1998 is not a few decades ago

  29. Jim Rose
    November 14th, 2012 at 16:14 | #29

    @Fran Barlow is that american data? what is the australian data?

  30. Richard McGuire
    November 14th, 2012 at 16:47 | #30

    I would like to return to examples of home grown “bone headed stupidity,” namely the renewed calls for the privatisation state owned infrastructure, particularly electricity assets, including the distribution networks which are natural monopolies. It would appear the “zombies” are restless at the Productivity Commission and Infrastructure Australia.

    The argument goes that electricity is cheaper in Victoria simply because their electricity assets were privatised. I have a suspicion there might be a little more to it than that.
    I well remember the arguments that were put to justify the sale of Telstra. Arguments I am hearing again. I fear unless a concerted effort is made to counter the free market dogma eminating from bodies like the Productivity Commission and Infrastructure Australia ” reality” will lose out, and the public will see essential services like electricity and water in private hands.

  31. Jim Rose
    November 14th, 2012 at 16:58 | #31

    @Richard McGuire do state owned monopolies have a good tracak record in terms of price, quality and value for money?

  32. Mel
    November 14th, 2012 at 17:19 | #32

    Interesting post by Krugman. Jews and Asians have higher average incomes than whites but are more likely to vote Democrat than Hispanics. Also note how the impact of income abruptly stops at US$75K. Of course there may be some impact post US$100K not revealed by the graph.http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/identity-voters/

  33. Jim Rose
    November 14th, 2012 at 17:37 | #33

    see Expressive voting and identity: evidence from a case study of a group of U.S. voters by Arye L. Hillman free at Public Choice http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11127-011-9784-0?LI=true

    Hillman analyses Jewish voters as expressive voters: “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans” many American Jews vote contrary to their economic self-interest. This is consistent with expressive voting – voting for symbols rather than policies that work.

  34. Sancho
    November 14th, 2012 at 17:50 | #34

    @Jim Rose

    That’s one of the clearest examples of the right’s break with reality. Conservatives seem genuinely mystified by the reluctance of Jews to vote for a political party that waves the bible around while demanding racial purity, Christian supremacy, aggressive military expansion and crackdowns on ethnic minorities.

  35. Richard McGuire
    November 14th, 2012 at 19:34 | #35

    @Jim Rose. Jim I can only go by lived experience. When Telstra (a government owned monopoly) was privatised we were promised a free market utopia. What we ended up with was private telcos including Telstra saying they could only see a business case for rolling out high speed broadband in major capital cities. Hence the NBN,and taxpayers forking out eleven billion dollars to access telecommunications infrastructure they once owned. Jim I do not lay awake at night, nor I suggest do many other people, wishing they had a second or third power cable or water main running down their street. Nor is it practical. But this is the only way you get real competition. Which is why such services are referred to as natural monopolies. Which is why they should remain in public ownership. That way the buck always stops with the elected government.

  36. Mel
    November 14th, 2012 at 19:37 | #36


    “This is consistent with expressive voting – voting for symbols rather than policies that work.”

    Nope. Let me amend that sentence to make it reality based:”This is consistent with [sensible] voting – voting for [good policy] rather than policies that work to make the elites richer and screw the poor and hated minorities, for example gays.”

    You are aware aren’t you that Romney had no plan to improve the US economy and that he wanted to waste money on dopey projects like buying unneeded warships to match the number in operation during the steamboat era.

  37. Jim Rose
    November 14th, 2012 at 19:44 | #37

    @Richard McGuire John Quiggin is an inadvertent excellent critic of state ownership.

    He has devoted much to showing that governments are so incompetent an owner and so incapable of running a process free of politics that governments – mostly recently in Queensland – cannot even sell a state owned enterprise for a good price under the full glare of the media and the public. Imagine how hopeless day to day state owned enterprise decision making is much farthur from the public eye?

  38. Jim Rose
    November 14th, 2012 at 19:47 | #38

    @Mel Romney had plan to improve the US economy. you may not agree with it, but he still had a plan:
    1. making the U.S. energy independent;
    2. getting people into job training;
    3. opening more free trade with Latin America;
    4. cutting the deficit; and
    5. reducing taxes on the middle class.

  39. Richard McGuire
    November 14th, 2012 at 20:11 | #39

    @Jim Rose. Sure Jim, but tell me, would like a second or third power cable or water main running down your street ? This is how real competition works. Do you think it would be cost effective ? If your answer is no. Your solution appears to be a privately owned monopoly. Private enterprise can also stuff up you know. Have you not heard of the GFC ?

  40. Mel
    November 14th, 2012 at 20:13 | #40


    “1. making the U.S. energy independent”- No. Romney had no plan to do this, only a slogan. Besides, any such plan would constitute central planning and thus contradict everything Romney says he stands for.

    “2. getting people into job training” To do this properly costs a fortune (see the European examples) and there is no way Romney would have funded anything meaningful. Besides, anything meaningful would constitute central planning and … well .. you know the rest.

    “3. opening more free trade with Latin America” So he wants to end the Cuban embargo? Big deal. Or what else, precisely, do you mean? Can you also point to the modelled growth? Oops, did I just mention models? Sorry …

    “4. cutting the deficit” – Not likely given his plans for military expansion. Moreover, why would this be a good idea during the Great Recession?

    “5. reducing taxes on the middle class.” Right. So he actually wants to increase the deficit. Glad we got that sorted.

    As I say, Romney had no plan. He had a Pink Elephant hiding in an Oak Tree while eating Boysenberries and called it a plan, but that doesn’t make it so.

  41. Jordan
    November 14th, 2012 at 20:18 | #41

    @Jim Rose
    1. is proof that reality can not win with conservative dogma, not the way they propose with drill baby drill. Only way to make US energy independent is to cut oil subsidies and spend that for developing alternatives. all of them.
    2. job training will not produce job offerings, only more skilled unemployed.
    3. will provide some cheaper products at the expense of more unemployed,
    4. and 5. are contrary to each other even assuming that Romney proposal included only middle class as you sneakilly added.
    Reality can not win with conservatives beacuse they deal with false facts not because thay are not smart. But facts are chery picked based on anecdotal evidences.
    Or chery picking the facts from different point of view then the argument.

  42. Sancho
    November 14th, 2012 at 20:21 | #42

    “Oops, did I just mention models? Sorry …”

    Models are only unreliable when climate scientists calibrate them using transparent, publicly available values drawn from rigorous, evidence-based data.

    By contrast, we can always trust a projected economic model that relies on private companies promising that they’ll grow in size and be wildly successful with an absolute minimum of waste.

  43. Sancho
    November 14th, 2012 at 20:23 | #43


    I’m going to disagree with point #1. There’s a strong possibility that the US is sitting on massive deposits of oil that can only be extracted in the dirtiest, most environmentally damaging ways known.

  44. Jordan
    November 14th, 2012 at 20:29 | #44

    @Jim Rose
    Reality can not win with conservatives on privatizing monopolies that are in government hands.
    Market is best at picking the winners and loosers to get best results. That is what everyone agrees with.
    But there is no market at monopolies like broadband cables, power lines, water providers, education providers, police, fireman and so on. Arguing that the market is the best for things that effectively do not have markets is reality that will hardly puncture alternative reality conservatives take.

  45. Jordan
    November 14th, 2012 at 20:33 | #45

    You are correct about energy reserves in the ground, but at what price are they extractable?
    Without subsidies, at what price? Without externalities?
    At what energy usage to extract a unit of energy?

  46. Jim Rose
    November 14th, 2012 at 20:48 | #46

    Mel, from http://economistsforromney.com/
    President Obama has:
    • Relied on short-term “stimulus” programs, which provided little sustainable lift to the economy, and enacted and proposed significant tax increases for all Americans.
    • Offered no plan to reduce federal spending and stop the growth of the debt-to-GDP ratio.
    • Failed to propose Social Security reform and offered a Medicare proposal that relies on a panel of bureaucrats to set prices, quantities, and qualities of healthcare services.
    • Favored a large expansion of economic regulation across many sectors, with little regard for proper cost-benefit analysis and with a disturbing degree of favoritism toward special interests.
    • Enacted health care legislation that centralizes health care decisions and increases the power of the federal bureaucracy to impose one-size-fits-all solutions on patients and doctors, and creates greater incentives for waste.
    • Favored expansion of one-size-fits-all federal rulemaking, with an erosion of the ability of state and local governments to make decisions appropriate for their particular circumstances.

  47. Jim Rose
    November 14th, 2012 at 20:58 | #47

    @Jordan the economics of monopolies and network industries has made a lot of progress. price caps and access pricing are examples.

  48. rog
    November 14th, 2012 at 21:16 | #48

    @Jim Rose Romney tried to copy the “Economists for Obama” strategy successfully employed in 2008. Didn’t work.

  49. Jordan
    November 14th, 2012 at 21:25 | #49

    @Jim Rose
    This is a pure lie. Opposite of the truth.
    (Obama) “and enacted and proposed significant tax increases for all Americans.”

    Local governments raised fines and fees and taxes because fall in real estate based income to local gov. fell abruptly.

    “• Offered no plan to reduce federal spending and stop the growth of the debt-to-GDP ratio.”

    Can you find any negative consequence of high debt or deficit in USA? Please, i would really appreciate if you can find one, because i looked for it and could not find it. Please.
    They say it is an investors confidence that suffer from high debt of government. Since i was a businessman i can tell you that i never tought of taxes or government’s debt before i needed to hire someone. Only thing i worried was; would i have this preassure to to keepanother worker in the future from higher number of orders? Government debt is never an issue for a businessman.
    Except for those that make money on interest on government debt, never a tought and i still could not find a way it could be an issue for hiring.

    “• Failed to propose Social Security reform ”
    Can you explain to me why the SS needs reform, because i can not find one reson for it? Can you find out how much did SS contribute to the deficit?
    I know, they say it is about unfunded future liabilities. Can you tell me how much are unfunded future liabilities for defense department?
    Can you tell me how much are all future unfunded liabilities for US budget and do they matter for something or are they correct?

  50. Will
    November 14th, 2012 at 21:32 | #50

    Lies, distortions and red herrings. Obama raising taxes is complete bullshit, for example. He has actually lowered federal income tax rates and passed other cuts. Only by counting those penalty taxes associated with ACA non-compliance, and discounting all the reduction and extensions that by any definition provide net fiscal relief is that remotely true.

    The other items are equally problematic and dishonest.

    The best and only coherent economic argument for Romney was made by Chait in his epic nymag article, which was essentially that Romney’s key economic advisers understand counter-cyclical economics, and the need for monetary and fiscal expansion, and Romney is a technocrat, so beyond the campaign when he becomes responsible for economy, he would pass stimulus appropriately reframed for their creduluous base, and he would at least have a better shot at passing that through the Republican Congress than Obama.

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