Sunday, September 12, 2010

What is wrong with think tanks?

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The problem with think tanks is that they are simply lobbyists with a better rationalisation. They are not centres for collaboration of ideas, they are simply organisations with a shared agenda. What is missing from such institutions? A respect for facts, even if they claim to be evidence-based. Such organisations misuse evidence in the same way that statisticians distort numbers, by highlighting certain arguments whilst omitting others.

My target today is the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). I have extracted an excerpt from their website in order to repudiate their views:
"The IPA supports the free market of ideas, the free flow of capital, a limited and efficient government, evidence-based public policy, the rule of law, and representative democracy. Throughout human history, these ideas have proven themselves to be the most dynamic, liberating and exciting. Our researchers apply these ideas to the public policy questions which matter today".
There are a number of problems with their political position, so I will deal with each one individually.
The first few items describe the basis for a laissez-faire government, which is good and proper. The intent of course is good, but good intentions will not protect a healthy society. Efficiency is not a standard of value, it is a consequence of good standards. Limited government? Limited by what? I presume by size? But that is hardly a compelling basis upon which to define values.
The rule of law? This is an entirely ridiculous criterion if the state has you in a state of slavery. You are perfectly entitled by a moral standard to repudiate your 'slave masters' in the same way that a person is able to defend himself from armed bandits.
This is more concerning. The IPA is a supporter of representative democracy. The problem with representative democracy is that it is compatible with slavery. Representative democracy imposes upon people the 'tyranny of the majority'. The root philosophy underlying this position is that the majority is right because they outnumber you. This is not freedom. This is extortion.
The IPA would probably qualify that by suggesting that they support a senate to protect the interests of the minority. The problem is - we have a senate now, and it does not work. Why? Because reason is not the standard of value. Representative democracy or 'majoritism' is incompatible with reason. Why does anyone need to reason if they can simply attain a majority. Achieving a consensus is so much harder than a majority, why would anyone both trying?
The implication is that the IPA are exponents of slavery. They are a beacon of light for unthinking people to hope for freedom. Their convictions will never be achieved through their efforts because they don't understand the fundamental principles which need to be defended. The worst time of cancer treatment is the one which does not achieve its purported objective. Those wasted efforts could have been invested in better efforts. The IPA is thus a waste of resources by philanthropists and other supporters of freedom.

You might ask - as a defender of freedom - why do I attack an organisation dedicated to freedom? The reason is that freedom is an principle that needs to be defended by principled people. If its exponents do not possess coherent ideas, they leave themselves exposed to the threat of attack by their collectivist opponents, who will use the same 'logical' standard to repudiate them. This makes both sides look like hypocrites, and reason pays the ultimate price. The implication is that society remains in a state of moral skepticism.
Andrew Sheldon

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?