In today’s Wall Street Journal, Andy Kessler writes Michael Crichton’s Rule:
Crichton observed: “Once you abandon strict adherence to what science tells us, once you start arranging the truth in a press conference, then anything is possible.” That includes children at the United Nations yelling, “How dare you.” It’s knee-jerk analysis. I call it the Crichton Conundrum: “I’m against it, so these theories must be right—even though the science is most likely bunk.” Shallow, but sadly a reality.
These arguments are often vague, even Orwellian—the expressions “net neutrality” and “climate change” conceal their shallow concepts. But they’re also Crichtonesque in the way they foreclose any argument from the other side. If you’re against food stamps or children’s health spending, you’re heartless, even though they are inefficient, ineffective and rife with fraud. And friendly sounding No Child Left Behind and Common Core? Sorry, math scores went down.
Why doesn’t anyone make the case for free markets? Because it doesn’t lend itself to easy sound bites: “What do you mean millions of people make billions of price decisions every day that efficiently allocates capital?” Michael J. Fox’s character on “Family Ties,” which ran until 1989, was the last popular free-market spokesman but was portrayed as greedy. Plenty of people still believe it’s better to have governments set prices.
Crichton would have a field day today: democratic socialism, implicit bias, medical marijuana, open curriculum, small class sizes, surveillance capitalism, HOV lanes, electric-vehicle credits, renewable-fuel standards, carbon taxes—it never ends. We’re sorely missing the other side of the argument.
Science and politics mixes as well as religion and politics. Politics puts science in a box; but science functions best best when there is no damn box. Healthy skepticism is demonized. The strength of an argument can be measured in its tolerance of and response to dissent.