It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is Democracy Even Possible Anymore?

Steve Forbes, respectable publisher of a financial magazine, former Republican candidate for president, has come squarely out for the Svensmarxists, in an article called "Brrr".
Astonishingly, a growing body of research has found that changes in sunspot activity directly correlate with temperature changes on Earth. Solar cycles usually fluctuate every 11 years. Alas, sunspot activity has been rather quiet recently. If it doesn't pick up in a couple of years we could be in for a long-term cooling the likes of which has not been experienced since the so-called Little Ice Age more than 300 years ago.
Astonishing indeed. Yet Mr. Forbes is full of confidence. He has solved the riddle of climate, with the help of the Svensmarxists. National Academies be damned, full speed ahead:

The last big freeze came after the kind of sunspot abnormality that may be unfolding now.

In contrast, a proved correlation between temperature changes and carbon dioxide is almost nonexistent. Turns out that the sun has been quite active in the last half-century or so, hence the slight rise in global temperatures.

Other factors in temperature changes include changes in the Earth's axis, in ocean currents and in the salinity of the Arctic Ocean. Volcanoes can also have a dramatic short-term impact on temperatures. But carbon dioxide? No way.

OK, folks. Let's pack up and go home. No way. Uh-uh. Couldn't be. Nope. Nothing to read about here, then. Bye.

(Just kidding. I like it here.)

So, I just saw a movie called Idiocracy. [Warning: spoilers at link.] The flick had essentially zero theatre release but it's available on disk and at my local Bl-Buster. It's both funny and unfunny. and it kicks off some interesting thoughts. The premise is that once life gets sufficiently easy, people get stupider and their government becomes increasingly incompetent. In the movie, it takes a very long time before it bottoms out altogether. Some amusing extrapolations of our current quandary ensue.

But is the basic idea for real? Consider this for example:
"Major news outlets have written such fact-checking articles for years. But in the last two election cycles, the very notion that the facts matter seems to be under assault," said Michael X. Delli Carpini, an authority on political ads at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. "Candidates and their consultants seem to have learned that as long as you don't back down from your charges or claims, they will stick in the minds of voters regardless of their accuracy or at a minimum, what the truth is will remain murky, a matter of opinion rather than fact."
Democracy presupposes a certain intellectual capacity among the population, right? When presumably responsible people make pronouncements with negligent attention to their veracity or even their plausibility, and face no consequences, the idea of democracy itself is called into question.


Dano said...

I think we're nominally a democracy, if you can call the information control and manipulation rampant here democracy. Along with this motley crew of...ahem...leaders to choose from this November. Down at my level, democracy works much of the time, and we strive to make it work, and reg'lur folk try to make it work. At the national level, nah. Gaming the system for plunder, as a recent Thomas Frank arty in Harpers detailed.



zencarver said...

Something I didn't consider until I read Romm's (flawed, but eye-opening) Hell and High Water: it's the rhetoric, not the reality.

And I apologize for being part of the problem for so long. Examining the issue of climate change was something like a gateway drug for me, in that regard. I'm addicted to reality, with the side-effect of frequent nausea when considering the path of our society.

Thanks for the link to that Enneagram blog entry, by the way. An interesting thing to ponder. Your Google shared items are usually pretty good reading. (Except for the compsci stuff, which mostly flies over my head.)

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

Suck or not, the present US political system is what the US has. Unless you're considering blowing up stuff, you just have to work within it as best as you can...

-- bi, International Journal of Inactivism