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Jewish World Review / May 29, 1998 / 4 Sivan, 5758

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell The insulation of the Left

NATURE LOVERS MARVEL at the fact that newly hatched turtles instinctively head for the sea. But that is no more remarkable than the fact that people on the political left instinctively head for occupations in which their ideas do not have to meet the test of facts or results.

While many studies have documented the predominance of the political eft in the academic world, the exceptional areas where they do not have such predominance are precisely those areas where you cannot escape from facts and results -- the sciences, engineering, mathematics and athletics.

By contrast, no area of academia is more dominated by the left than the humanities, where there are no facts to challenge the fantasies that abound. Leftists head for similar fact-free zones outside of academia.

Philanthropy, for example, is another field in which facts take a back seat to beliefs and emotions. When you are handing out money, you call the tune. It doesn't matter if other people have the facts on their side if you have the big bucks on yours.

When the foundations put their money behind bilingual education or global warming, then all sorts of conferences, organizations and movements will emerge to carry forth their message. Leftists flock to foundations, including those set up with money donated by conservatives.

When these foundations give big bucks to finance bilingual education programs and propaganda, or bankroll "global warming" hysteria, they cannot be forced to confront facts about the counterproductive effects of bilingual education or prove that the globe has warmed by a single degree in 20 years.

Fiction and opinion are likewise dominated by the political left. If you can tell a good yarn, whether in a book or a motion picture, the only test you face is whether people will buy the book or go see the movie.

On TV talk shows, what matters is whether you can talk the talk that keeps people tuned in. You may scare the daylights out of them about fictitious dangers in apples or beef without a speck of evidence that you know what you are talking about. But, so long as it sounds good, that's all that matters.

Any engineer, businessmen or athletic coach who knew no more about what he was doing than the talking heads on TV or foundation officials have to know would be heading for disaster in no time. When your bridge collapses or your business goes bankrupt or your team gets beaten again and again, you are history.

Nowhere are half-baked ideas more safe from facts than in government. When the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission assumes that statistical "imbalances" in a company's workforce show discrimination, the only test of that assumption is whether federal judges share it.

If the EEOC and the courts share this same assumption, then you are out of luck -- perhaps to the tune of millions of dollars -- if you are an employer. Even if in fact you couldn't care less about the complexion, the nationality or the bedroom habits of your employees, that doesn't matter. What matters is what those with power choose to believe.

It doesn't matter whether factual studies show that "whole language" and "whole math" methods of teaching lead to lower test scores in these subjects. What matters is whether those with the money and the power in the Department of Education happen to like these notions -- or are willing to cater to the teachers' unions that like them.

One of the reasons why government absorbs so much money and takes on ever-increasing powers is that it is home to so many people whose beliefs could not withstand the draconian tests of science, the marketplace or a scoreboard. What we the taxpayers are ultimately paying for is their insulation from reality, as they pursue the heady pleasures of power.

As if that were not enough, the left promotes the idea that there is something wiser and nobler about having decisions made by third parties who pay no price for being wrong. That is called "public service" and it will undoubtedly be hyped in college commencement speeches this year -- as it is every year -- despite scandalous revelations in Washington or decades of economic failure and monumental human tragedies in left-wing governments around the world.

5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.