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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Friday, October 29, 2021

TGIF: The Challenging Art of Persuasion

Anyone who hopes for a peaceful pro-liberty intellectual revolution is interested in the art of persuasion. But is it a practical art? Can enough people be persuaded to abandon long-held anti-liberty views for something quite different?

I'm assuming here that one wishes to persuade people of positions that one really thinks to be right and true. Demagogues may try to sell propositions they don't actually hold, but let's leave them out of the story. Of course, even wrong and bad people can believe what they say and seek to persuade others of those views. But I'm thinking only of the good-faith efforts of people of intellectual integrity to persuade others to their side.

That persuading people of the truth can be difficult is captured by popular cliches. For example, someone said, "It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled." That's often attributed to Mark Twain, but Snopes says the evidence is lacking. (This sort of thing is so often the case.) Snopes says that Twain did write in his autobiography, "How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!" That's pretty close.

Then there's this one (and its variations): "A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on." That's also commonly attributed to Twain, but we are told we have reason to doubt it. Jonathan Swift, Thomas Francklin, and others, however, referred to the respective speeds of truth and falsehood. (I guess Abraham Lincoln was right when he said you can't believe everything you read on the internet.) Another saying goes something like this: "It isn't what we don't know that hurts us. It's what we know that isn't so." Nope, again not Twain, as far as we know, but he and others came close. It's been attributed to probably a dozen authors.

My point isn't about who did or didn't say these things, of course; it's that observers have long understood that dissuading people from erroneous beliefs is no easy task. (I've tried long enough.) It can be like swimming upstream, which is understandable as well as frustrating.

Many thinkers have written about the various biases we all have and other impediments to clear thinking, such as the common logical fallacies. (Steven Pinker's Rationality would be the latest book in this genre. Bryan Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter also gets into this regarding people's solid biases regarding international trade and immigration.) It seems to me that a big reason for the difficulty in getting others to understand one's contrary position, much less embrace it, is the simple preference for the familiar that so many hold. Whether this has something to do with our descent from people who lived in and trusted only small and somewhat isolated groups, I do not know. But I'm not sure that an evolutionary explanation is necessary. The appeal of the familiar -- the safe -- seems obvious enough.

As we grow we develop a worldview, and it becomes the default position. It's what we know (or "know"). It's home. Asking that we abandon it for something else is a big deal. It's such a big deal that it's not merely a matter of examining the evidence. One would have to be convinced that examining the evidence is worthwhile. That in itself is a big barrier to surmount. I think many people commonly assume that if a newly encountered idea were true, they would have heard about it before. They haven't heard it; therefore something must be wrong with it. The inclination to doubt the new can readily find subjectively satisfying supporting grounds: the advocate of the news must have cherry-picked the data or left out conflicting theoretical considerations, and so on. Confirmation and other biases can be powerful if one is not vigilant. Nothing is easier than restoring one's inner equilibrium.

Another barrier to persuading people to embrace freedom fully is that many propositions are counterintuitive; they require thought based on at least some knowledge of a special discipline. Libertarians spend a lot of time trying to teach people that a society unguided by a central authority can be peaceful, orderly, and efficient. Unfortunately, that's not obvious. We grow up learning to plan our day, our lives. We see other people doing it. So how could society as a whole work smoothly and well without a central plan and planner?

It's not easy to explain this to people who's never encountered the idea of spontaneous order. Asking them to trust individual freedom and the market can seem like asking them to have blind faith in something alien. This is true about many economic propositions and other esoteric subjects that require training in a particular way of thinking. Fear of the strange is a powerful inducement to stick to what you "know."

On the other hand, some people are eager for the unfamiliar and go out of their way to seek it out. Who can say why in a given case? Maybe they are simply rebelling. Or maybe they've spotted intellectual and empirical problems with their original worldview that other people overlook. If you were raised in a communist society and believed what you were indoctrinated to believe, you might eventually notice that the society is no worker's paradise, with all the regimentation and deprivation. That could lead you to reject your inherited worldview. But not everyone does this. What's clear to A may be far from clear to B, even siblings who grew up in the same environment. Human beings are interesting.

Those of us who are trying to persuade people to embrace the nonaggression obligation--that is, classical liberalism, or libertarianism, may have an advantage though. Most people already believe that they shouldn't rob, hit, or kill, or otherwise aggress against others. So those of us who are merely asking that this already widely accepted principle be applied across the board -- even to people calling themselves the government -- may have an easier job than we thought.

On the other hand, freedom can be scary for some people. It obviously requires self-responsibility, which requires effort and brings the possibility of failure. Not everyone relishes that. In Monthy Python's Life of Brian, the condemned hero tells a Roman centurion that he doesn't have to follow orders to kill him -- to which the centurion responds, "I like orders."

Who can say which inclination will be stronger in enough people? The best we can do is start with the familiar; be clear; and be honest. That's our only hope.

TGIF -- The Goal Is Freedom -- appears on Fridays.

Friday, October 22, 2021

TGIF: That Bloody Government Debt

The government's attraction to borrowing is hardly a mystery. If the politicians had to extract every dollar they wanted to spend directly from the taxpayers, they might have a revolt on their hands--a bad career move for sure. Borrowing tends to make people more tolerant of bigger government than they would have been otherwise. After all, much of it looks free. They might scrutinize spending programs more closely if they paid the full price out of pocket. Thus forbidding borrowing and related central-bank inflation would put a lid on spending. That's why that program won't fly.

As Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the finance minister under Louis XIV, notoriously put it, “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.” You can see the advantage to politicians if they can cut way down on the hissing by borrowing what they'd otherwise have to obtain by plucking. This is what the admired art of governing comes down to.

Of course the government's ability to borrow depends crucially on its power to tax. Avoiding present taxes implies offsetting future taxes when interest or principal is due. (More borrowing can finance those payments, but eventually...) Who would lend to a "government" that could not tax its subjects? (No true government lacks the power to tax.) Let's face it: the state without taxation does not have a promising business plan to present to investors. But the "legitimate" power to steal changes everything; it makes for comparatively safe investments for bond buyers, one that unfairly competes with private alternatives. (Legitimate in this case means "in the eyes of most people"; it's a subjective, not an objective, feature.)

To get the data out of the way: a quick survey reveals a national debt approaching $29 trillion against a GDP of over $22.5 trillion. The government borrows to cover its annual budget shortfall, which in FY2021 came to $2.8 trillion (pretty much like the year before). The government had been expected to spend $6.8 trillion in that fiscal year. The debt of course carries interest payments, which in FY2021 came to $562 billion. That's a fairly large budget item, though it lags behind Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and the global empire.

Some people believe that what the government finances by debt is actually free. But how could that be? "We owe it to ourselves," is one answer to that question. That leaves out foreign debt holders, but that's just the beginning of the problem with that glib slogan. How can anything really be free?

In fact government borrowing creates both present and future burdens. In the present, as the George Mason University economist Donald Boudreaux points out, by borrowing money for its pet projects, the politicians channel scarce resources away from where consumers would have signaled producers to direct them. Some people clearly like those pet projects, but many or most would not willingly pay for them either because they deem them too expensive or objectionable at any cost. (The empire is a good example.)

In the unmolested marketplace, producers earn profits by satisfying consumers better than their competitors do. That is accomplished by looking for (scarce) resources that are being used less effectively in that regard than they might be. Through their buying and abstaining, consumers let the producers know if they've made good decisions. Profits signal success, and losses signal failure.

The government, as everyone surely knows, works on an entirely different principle; taxpayers aren't allowed to say no, and so as consumers they are worse off. Political accountability, such as it is, pales in comparison to market accountability.

The politicians may tell themselves that they serve everyone, but what they really do is serve themselves and their careers by distributing booty to select constituencies so they will keep those benefactors in power. The beneficiaries will be thrilled with the deal, but what about everyone else? That's the present burden.

In the future another burden falls--this time on the taxpayers who have their money taken to pay principal and interest on the debt. Funny how the advocates of government debt conveniently forget a favorite slogan they trot out in many other contexts: "Think of the children." Spending money today by creating fiscal obligations for kids too young to vote and even the unborn hardly sounds like compassion for the children. And because the government consumes rather than truly invests, future generations will be poorer than they would have been had the government left the resources to market-based decision-making. That's cruel. (We can only hope that those future generations will repudiate the debt and resist the taxes bequeathed to them.)

So government debt activates two intra-generational transfers: one now and another later. In addition, the government's debt-financed activities today make future generations poorer than they would have been. 

We don't owe the borrowed money to ourselves. That's corporate, collectivist claptrap. People are individuals with property and subjective values. If A is forced to give a dollar to B, we can't seriously believe that the A/B's collective situation is uncharged.

Friday, October 15, 2021

TGIF: Inflation Is Evil

When will Americans demand that the government denationalize money and free the market to do what it does better than anything else: serve the general welfare rather than the special interests?

It's hard to know what it would take to bring this about, but inflation talk is once again in the air, and that's bad. Worse, it's in the shops. It had to happen after years of Fed Reserve's money creation, through the banking system, in the name of stimulating this or stimulating that. Forget the printing press. All the Fed has to do is buy up oodles of bank assets (government debt and bad private assets), leaving those institutions with billions of conjured-up dollars in their computer accounts. Eventually the funny money would get out among us and do its damage. It had to happen sooner or later. Only the schedule was in doubt.

So why was the monetary system ever trusted to politicians and their bureaucratic appointees in the first place? The idea that a free society cannot provide sound money was an article of faith based on no evidence, like the idea that a free society cannot provide roads or law and order. The alleged failures of market-based money were really the result of government intervention. The "authorities" could never resist tampering whenever they saw the chance. Power is a strong drug.

Inflation is insidious. When central-bank policy robs people of their purchasing power by reducing the value of money, life gets harder. It's obviously worse for the most vulnerable: the low- and fixed-income members of society, who can least afford the rise in the cost of living. But inflation does so much more. Savings melt away for most people, wreaking havoc with their ability to plan and to take care of themselves.

Even that does not exhaust the ways that the government's central bank harms us. Prices rise, but not uniformly as though the "price level" were a real thing rather than a construct. What counts are relative prices (interest rates are prices too), which in the unmolested market reflect the relative changing of supply and demand. Market prices are indispensable for signaling that some things are being overproduced and while others are being underproduced. Since Fed-created money enters the economy at particular points in society, it changes relative prices in ways that differ from what would have taken place with market-based money. More havoc in the planning of production that would otherwise have served the general welfare.

Expectations change because of Fed policies, and those new expectations lead to employer and employee decisions that will turn out to be wrong when the inflation ends. When the Fed becomes nervous that things are getting out of hand, it will, as the saying goes, step on the brakes. Then many people will suffer anew from the recession, the great revelation of all the mistakes made under the government-distorted signals. And that's not the end: the recession will be the excuse for new government interventions, which will only introduce further distortions. Never let a crisis pass without increasing power--that's the politicians' motto.

Does this sound like fun? Of course it doesn't, but that's what the state has done to us over and over. It keeps happening because government officials gain (though not necessarily in the traditional way), and they are good at blaming others for the bad effects. Economics is not intuitive, especially monetary economics.

Can we hope that the politicians and those who profit from their interventions will let go of the power? Why would they unless they had no choice? Inflation is magic: it, along with the power to borrow, enables our rulers to keep the support of constituencies without the explicit taxes they'd have to levy if the central bank did not exist. (Borrowing might still be an option but also might be more limited without central banking.) To put it another way, inflation is taxation by stealth, embezzlement rather than armed robbery. We pay for the largess the government bestows on special others, but much of it appears from thin air. When people pay the bill at the retail counter, most of them won't know the government is to blame. That's just evil.

Imagine if the government had to fight its decades-long wars with open taxation. Would Americans stand for global intervention if every penny of the trillion-dollar military had to be paid to the Internal Revenue Service? The poor military contractors might have to find other things to produce, maybe even things that consumers really want.

We owe it to ourselves and future generations to change this madness once and for all.

Friday, October 08, 2021

TGIF: Looking for the Green New Deal

I was all set this week to plunge into the details of the Green New Deal so I could see what new impositions the climate-alarmist politicians have in store for us. Then I made a startling discovery. (Startling for me, that is. I'm behind the news curve.)

The Green New Deal isn't real. By that, I mean no bill in Congress sets out a list of specific government actions thought to be necessary to save the planet from carbon dioxide, heat waves, cold snaps, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, desertification, extinction, more rain and floods, more droughts, more trees, fewer tress, or whatever the latest existential threat de jour is. I wondered why we hear all the talk about a Green New Deal if that's the case.

According to Reuters, last April two of the usual suspects, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez again introduced "their set of aggressive climate goals intended to transform the U.S. economy. Initially introduced in 2019, the non-binding resolution seeks to eliminate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions within a decade and transition the economy away from fossil fuels."

It's not a bill at all, but two nonbinding resolutions (H.Res. 332, in the House and S.Res. 166 in the Senate. Bills get a B) that list goals. That's it.

I found confirmation from a disappointed Robinson Meyer, who wrote in the Atlantic, "With so much ballyhoo, it’s become easy to miss the central, implacable fact about the Green New Deal: It does not exist.... Three years after the idea of a Green New Deal broke into the mainstream, you can’t find an authoritative and detailed list of Green New Deal policies anywhere. There is no handbook, no draft legislation, no official report that articulates what belongs in a Green New Deal and what doesn’t."

NPR elaborated in 2019:

In very broad strokes, the Green New Deal legislation [sic] laid out by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey sets goals for some drastic measures to cut carbon emissions across the economy, from electricity generation to transportation to agriculture. In the process, it aims to create jobs and boost the economy. [Emphasis added.]

In that vein, the proposal stresses that it aims to meet its ambitious goals while paying special attention to groups like the poor, disabled and minority communities that might be disproportionately affected by massive economic transitions like those the Green New Deal calls for.

Importantly, it's a nonbinding resolution, meaning that even if it were to pass..., it wouldn't itself create any new programs. Instead, it would potentially affirm the sense of the House that these things should be done in the coming years.

In a way, that's quite a relief. If all our misrepresentatives and public self-servants promise to do issue sense-of-the-Congress resolutions about this, that, and the other, then I say, leave them to it. They can declare that the tide goes out at a particular time, for all I care as long at they don't do anything.

But the politicians see it another way. They want to do something, and while nothing they could do would actually achieve their bizarre goals, they would do irreparable harm to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the process. Even less ambitious programs, such as (arguably) President Biden's, will be all cost and no benefit. Nevertheless, Green New Deal champions like Ocasio-Cortez think Biden's "green"-infused so-called infrastructure plan is "not enough." In April, she said Biden should spend more than twice the $3 trillion-$-4 trillion he initially called for. (Because of resistance in his own party, his spending plans seem to have been revised slightly downward, but things also seem rather fluid.)

Green New Dealers particularly like Biden's January executive order calling for, among many other things, a strategy to create a Civilian Climate Corps, which echoes Franklin Roosevelt's 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps. The new CCC would "mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs. The initiative shall aim to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate."

I don't know about you, but I am nervous when I hear the government talk about mobilizing workers. I just don't like the ring of that. I am also wary about Biden's goal to "place the climate crisis at the forefront of this Nation’s foreign policy and national security planning." That sounds like the U.S. government telling the poor of the developing world to be satisfied with their lot in life. If people there aspire to an American living standard, Biden could tell them not to worry because he'll be doing his best to lower that living standard through severe restrictions on the use of hydrocarbons. That's one way to achieve global equality. Meanwhile, the American taxpayers will be forced to bribe developing-world rulers to go along with policies that will kill the people who already suffer under them.

So what are the goals of the Green New Deal? How much time do you have? It contains everything including the kitchen sink. Yes, there's the expected stuff: it sets the goals of "global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030; and net-zero global emissions by 2050." This would badly harm everyone, particularly the poorest Americans, because of the devastation it would wreak on our ability to produce goods that make our lives better. Wind and solar can't cut it. For the developing world, it would approach genocidal.

The authors are blind to the fact that fossil fuels are indispensable to human flourishing and that CO2 is plant food; indeed, it is essential for all life. And even if such a reduction were desirable and could be achieved (it couldn't be), it would reduce the average temperature by a negligible amount. Let's remember, the only way to protect against actual dangers from nature, as the human race has repeatedly demonstrated, is to get richer quickly. Innovation and adaptation require wealth and free exchange, so the government should get out of the way of wealth creation and the free-exchange system.

But the Green New Deal promises so much more than green-ness, including combatting systemic racism, reversing income inequality, providing "free" health care and college, and strengthening labor unions. There's something for everyone...well, except for most people. So-called renewable energy would doom us to costly and undependable substitutes, like wind and solar.

What's this all going to cost? The official estimate is: Who cares? (Okay, I made that part up.)

Bear in mind that the premise of the Green New Deal and Biden's version of it, as expressed in his executive order, is that "we face a climate crisis that threatens our people and communities, public health and economy, and, starkly, our ability to live on planet Earth."

It takes a herculean effort and a good set of blinders to ignore the mountains of evidence against that assertion and the voluminous demolition of the alarmists' cooked-up GIGO computer-modeled case, which has time after time proven itself to be wrong. Modern alarmists have been predicting the world's end for 60 years. Why does anyone still take them seriously?

But, then, the Green New Deal isn't really about climate at all, is it? It's just a long-standing interventionist wish list with a deceptive green tint. As Ocasio-Cortez's former chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti told the Washington Post, "The interesting thing about the Green New Deal is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all. Do you guys think of it as a climate thing? Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing."

Not that this should surprise anyone.





Friday, October 01, 2021

TGIF: Why "Science Denial"?

In a new book two professors of psychology, Gale Sinatra and Barbara Hofer, seek to explain why what they call "science denial" is rampant today and how dangerous it is. They also give their account in a strange conversation with Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic magazine, from whom we might have expected a tad more "skepticism" or at least some devil's advocacy.

The views of all three are in some ways vague and even confused, but the condescension toward the unenlightened rubes who disagree with them on certain scientific controversies--primarily climate- and COVID-19-related--couldn't have been more clear.

While Sinatra and Hofer smear a large and diverse group of people as "science deniers," they undercut their own claim when they admit that no one actually rejects science per se. So their sensational but misleading title and broad statements are designed not to inform but rather to sell books to their progressive-minded audience. The rubes they are talking about, the authors admit, go to doctors, take prescribed medicines, fly on airplanes, etc. That hardly sounds like general science denial.

So what's the problem? What the authors have in mind is doubt about or rejection of particular scientific claims. They are willing to apply the label "cafeteria deniers." But why not call them "cafeteria skeptics"? Or would that hit Shermer too close to home?

My purpose is not to defend or criticize any particular scientific claim in dispute. Some are backed by strong evidence, while others have little or no evidence behind them. Laymen ought to exercise care in (tentatively) deciding who among the contending scientists are likely to be right. Here I only want to raise a big reason for doubt that the authors and Shermer ignore.

But first, to demonstrate authors' and Shermer's sloppiness (which may be too charitable an interpretation of what they're doing), please note that early on they embrace the allegedly near-unanimous (97 percent) consensus among climate scientists on ominous manmade global warming. Their point is that anyone who would take a position contrary to such an overwhelming consensus would have to be a jerk.

In fact, that so-called consensus was cobbled together by examining just the abstracts of a selection of climate scientists' journal articles over a certain period. Only a third of those papers expressed an explicit or implicit view on whether manmade global warming was happening. Of those, 97 percent agreed on--well, something. But what? What they all apparently agreed on was that an unspecified amount of warming has occurred and that human activity has had an unspecified degree of responsibility.

Notice that no magnitudes and no net assessment of harms and benefits are implied in that sentence whatsoever. By that low bar, most if not all climate scientists and laymen in the realist-optimist camp are part of the consensus! That takes a good deal of the force out of the consensus proclamation, wouldn't you say?

Yet this "consensus" is decisive for climate alarmists Sinatra, Hofer, and Shermer. (If you think humility is a virtue in scientists, don't look for it in these writers.) Shermer says what impressed him is that all those in the 97 percent "converged" on that view (again, what view?) "independently," while the others, he says, converged on no particular theory about the climate. Has he looked into the facts? Or does he go along with whatever is called a consensus by the news media? Is this is how he decides on matters outside his specialty? They're growing a strange crop of skeptics these days.

Here is the problem: when the authors and Shermer call someone a "climate change (or just a climate) denier," they are making a slickly illegitimate move; for what's being denied is not climate change or warming between 1850 and 1998, but a looming climate catastrophe, natural or manmade. Catastrophe denial does not equal climate-change denial. No one--no one!--thinks that climate does not change. Well, actually one group does seem to think this: the alarmists who imply or say outright that except for human activity, climate would not change (or not change very much). But that of course is absurd. The concept change is baked into the concept climate. The only sense in which the climate is not changing today is that it never stops changing.

Sinatra, Hofer, and Shermer spent an hour and a half talking about "science denial," with no disagreement among them. In all the time none of them mentioned the word politicization, that is, the perverse incentives from government meddling in scientific research. They discussed lots of possible reasons for "denial"--like confirmation bias and other well-known cognitive biases--but it seems never to have occurred to any of them that some people are more inclined to distrust particular scientific claims these days than previously because they have observed that purportedly objective claims (and not just about scientific matters) are used to advance political causes. Sinatra, Hofer, and Shermer have no trouble believing that so-called deniers have hidden political and cultural agendas, but they show no sign of suspecting that those who make the claims, along with the politicians who translate them into coercive government policy, may also have political and cultural agendas--and often not so hidden.

This seems like a serious shortcoming. While Sinatra and Hofer acknowledge that scientists are human beings and subject to the same imperfections as everyone else--envy, greed, ambition, a desire for peer approval, etc.--they assure us that these faults are rooted out by an internal checks-and-balance system. Because of these, no threat to science can arise from within, but only from outside, that is, from "deniers."

That, however, isn't how it works out. Checks and balances on paper often bear little relationship to checks and balances in practice. (This is true of constitutions too.) For example, the peer-review process for academic publication and promotion has become incestuous "pal review." Paradigms are protected against challenges and patched up through ad hoc salvage operations when a paradigm's shortcomings are exposed.

Moreover, politicians are naturally inclined toward research that identifies "crises" that allegedly only government can address. As H. L. Mencken pointed out, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

In need of government grants to secure promotion and tenure at their universities, many scientists are inclined to give the politicians what they want. Those are the ones who will get the money, at any rate. An orthodoxy arises, and independent thinkers, no matter how qualified, are marginalized and smeared as, say, "science deniers." (The obvious association with the properly stigmatized term Holocaust deniers is no coincidence.) It's happened repeatedly before. It's happening now. (Again, I don't mean that every scientific claim that is criticized is necessarily wrong.)

Politicians demand research that goes in one direction, and some scientists are happy to supply it. The politicians then use the research to justify expanded power (the Green New Deal and economic shutdown in a pandemic), which stimulates further research in that direction. I'm not saying that every participant is a cynic, but it is fun to be near the action. To borrow a trope from the analysis of the military-industrial complex, it's a self-licking ice-cream cone. And all of this is further amplified by the 24/7 news media, which will always prefer reports of looming disasters to good news, and of course the social networks, which are the lookout for "misinformation."

If you want to see how politicization can create doubters, here's one case apart from scientific controversies: Russiagate. For years the American people were assured by most of the "objective" mainstream media, fed by "public-spirited" leaks and retired government spies working as dispassionate commentators, that the allegedly nonpolitical intelligence apparatus had solid evidence that Vladimir Putin had rigged the 2016 election to put his puppet Donald Trump in the White House. None of that was true, as shown by the massive FBI investigation led by a sainted special counsel. Don't you think that a good portion of the American people realize that this establishment campaign was intended to drive Trump from office or at least cripple his presidency, effectively reversing the election? (One need not be a Trump fan--I'm certainly not--to see this.) Germane to my point, if that kind of gross abuse can occur in one matter, why can't it be occurring in other matters?

A key part of the politicization of science is government finance of research, which Sinatra and Hofer predictably want more of. As I noted recently, in his 1961 farewell speech President Dwight Eisenhower warned about the emerging government-science complex, which he said was just as dangerous as the military-industrial complex.

If climate alarmists regard private support for research as tainted by self-interest, the rest of us are entitled to regard government support as similarly tainted. Sinatra, Hofer, and Shermer really should grow up and embrace what Public Choice political economist James Buchanan called "politics without romance."

Maybe if politics had not tainted institutional science, fewer people would distrust so many of its claims. Politics is the craft of winning and maintaining power by assembling self-serving coalitions in order to impose costs on everyone else. Some people have justifiably come to assume that many government-financed scientific claims are formulated for that purpose.

If I'm right, then the use of science to advance an interventionist political agenda has sown the very distrust the authors and Shermer abhor. Laymen should certainly be discriminating when they judge scientific claims, and real consensuses should be taken into account. But that does not exonerate the scientists who have actively fed policymakers' efforts to control our lives.