A great little post from nobel laureate Paul Krugman on his New York Times blog today asks why the pundit class are so gullible:
Looking at the House budget proposal, in all its ludicrousness, makes me wonder about an enduring puzzle: the gullibility of so much of our pundit class.
In the time I’ve been writing for the Times, I’ve watched my colleagues in the commentariat, en masse, agree that:
George Bush is a nice, moderate guy, who will work in a bipartisan way.
George Bush is a heroic leader, who has risen to the occasion.
The case for invading Iraq is overwhelming; only a fool or a Frenchman could fail to be persuaded by Colin Powell.
John McCain is an independent-thinking maverick.
Paul Ryan is an honest, deeply serious thinker who really cares about the deficit.
The tax cut deal paved the way for a new phase of bipartisanship.
The Ryan plan sets a new standard of seriousness.
In each case, any educated citizen with internet access could quickly see overwhelming evidence that these things weren’t true. And you would think that people would learn something from the repeated failure of these kinds of consensus.
LinusCharlie Brown keeps trying to kick that football, over and over again.
It wouldn’t take long to pull together a similar list for the UK:
- We are facing an unprecedented level of public debt, necessitating severe cuts in public expenditure;
- Public expenditure was allowed to run out of control in the by NuLabour and we now have to pay for Gordon Brown’s profligacy;
- Cutting people’s benefits will encourage them into work;
- Public servants are highly-paid feather-bedded wasters who can expect to move from cosy jobs-for-life into early retirement on gold-plated pensions;
- Bureaucracy is a public-sector phenomenon;
- Health and safety legislation has proliferated to the point where it is undermining the competitiveness of the British economy, and is preventing British people from enjoying their traditional pastimes;
- Mass immigration has destroyed jobs and lowered pay;
- Privatisation and competition lead to greater efficiency and productivity;
- Political correctness has gone mad;
- The Liberal Democrats are a left-of-centre party exercising a profound influence on government, protecting the vulnerable;
In all of these cases, ten minutes with Google will be enough to dispel the myths. Yet they persist – despite the fact that in many cases they directly conflict with the day-to-day realities of life. Of course, much of it has to do with a mass media that has a distinct social and ideological agenda, and in the BBC a public service broadcaster that has lost sight of its responsibilities. And it’s easy to cry “false consciousness” and to disappear up the fundament of cod Marxism, and the reality is much more subtle than that; it’s a mix of ideology and the way in which political discourse has become disengaged from daily reality.
And that detachment lies at the heart of what looks to me like a real crisis of democratic legitimacy, when political discourse loses its grounding in day-to-day reality and those with wealth and power both promote and exploit that.