Also, Paul Krugman on “experts:” It’s often surprising to see the things we the people believe.
A few weeks ago, we noted this fact: We the people have little idea who is in charge of the Congress. Based upon the survey in question, we’d guess that maybe one third of the public actually knows which party controls the House and which party controls the Senate.
We the people don’t follow such matters closely. This morning, we were struck by a similar factoid in the Washington Post.
The factoid appears in a news report about a major survey. The survey found that roughly three percent of American adults identify as being gay, lesbian or bisexual.
According to reporter Sandhya Somashekhar, some gay rights activists are “distressed” about this figure. They feel the actual number is four percent, and they feel that the lower number may hurt their causes.
Meanwhile, “a number of socially conservative groups immediately seized on the” survey result, Somashekhar reports. They say the three percent figure comports with their own long-standing notions.
That fight over one percentage point ought to be depressing enough. To us, it's an example of the trench warfare which typifies our strife-ridden, tribal times.
We were more struck by a different point, concerning what we the people seem to believe about the demographics:
SOMASHEKHAR (8/2/14): The few scholarly surveys that have tried to size up the gay population typically found that the number of people who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual is about 3.5 percent to 4 percent, with about half labeling themselves bisexual. The overall proportion rises when the question is adjusted to ask not about identity but about sexual behaviors, attractions or experiences.Say what? According to Somashekhar, the actual number is something like three or four percent. But according to Gallup, a majority of us the people think the number “is closer to 25 percent.”
There are broad misconceptions about the numbers, however. Many Americans believe the proportion of U.S. gays to be 1 in 10—a false figure promoted in the 1960s, drawn from a book by sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. The polling organization Gallup has found that a majority of Americans actually believe the proportion is even higher, closer to 25 percent.
(“Closer to 25 percent” is a bit imprecise. Somashekhar links to this Gallup report in which estimates have ranged from 21.4 percent to 24.6.)
With great frequency, we the people tend to wrong, even crazily wrong, on our basic facts. We aren’t especially well-informed.
This brings us to Krugman’s “experts.”
In recent weeks, we’ve been noting the way Kurgman keeps putting the word “experts” inside quotes—scare quotes.
His did this in his July 14 column, then again on July 18. And sure enough! For the third time, he did it in yesterday’s column.
In several earlier columns, he skipped the scare quotes around the word “experts,” referring instead to our supposed experts. Here’s the passage from yesterday’s column where he used the quotes:
KRUGMAN (8/1/14): Am I saying that the professional consensus is always right? No. But when politicians pick and choose which experts—or, in many cases, “experts”—to believe, the odds are that they will choose badly. Moreover, experience shows that there is no accountability in such matters. Bear in mind that the American right is still taking its economic advice mainly from people who have spent many years wrongly predicting runaway inflation and a collapsing dollar.According to Krugman, a lot of our most famous experts are actually famous “experts.”
All of which raises a troubling question: Are we as societies even capable of taking good policy advice?
For quite some time, Krugman has noted that many alleged economic “experts” are persistently wrong in their predictions without losing their “expert” status! In recent weeks, he has started placing “experts” in quotes.
We’ve done the same thing for many years with respect to “educational experts.” Krugman is telling a story about economics which we have told, for many years, about our public school debates.
In what kind of world are the “experts” persistently wrong, or just uninformed and clueless? That would happen in a world of “manufactured consent”—a world in which powerful elites establish favored story-lines which pseudo-experts parrot for fame and cash.
“Will recite narrative for cash!” Inside the Washington beltway, Potemkin experts stand at busy street corners holding up such signs.
These pseudo-experts get hired. Within our modern public discourse, this elite dissembling interacts with the wide-ranging cluelessness of us the American people.
We the people are misinformed on a wide range of topics. They the elites are eager to fill our heads with inaccurate facts and misleading ideas.
We’ve long noted the working of this culture in the world of education (and in the world of White House campaigns). Krugman keeps describing the way this culture works in the realm of economics.
But how odd:
All the other mainstream liberals just keep ignoring what Krugman says. How weird! His repeated observation just doesn’t much seem to spread.
We’d have to say we have an idea how Krugman must feel about that. Nothing is harder than getting our many Potemkin liberals to repeat key facts and ideas.
Meanwhile, gaze on the cockeyed way our American discourse works:
According to Somashekhar, gay rights activists are “distressed” because a survey said three percent, not four.
Those activists can cool their jets. Out here in the real America, we the people think the number is more like twenty-four!