When Ideologues Rule

Posted on August 16, 2013 by


It is all too easy in a blog-filled world for terms to used in ways that are meant to be used simply as an ad hominem attack–we too easily attack the person rather than the policy.  And as Christians, we must always endeavor to speak the truth in love.  Nevertheless, we cannot avoid the use of terms when appropriate–when only those words convey the meaning we intend.  Next week I will begin my comparative economics class with a discussion between capitalism, socialism, communism and fascism.  If I ask the question “Is President Obama a socialist?”, I will inevitably have a large number of students think I’m using the term in a pejorative sense, and not for the purposes of an analytical distinction.  Yet there are important economic distinctions that my students must understand.  It will make for an interesting discussion.

In the same way, the term ideologue is commonly used in an ad hominem fashion to dismiss an opponent.  Yet what is the substance of being an ideologue?  Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines an ideologue

an often blindly partisan advocate or adherent of a particular ideology

Blind to what?  Blind to any other evidence that might contradict their ideology.  Most of us would add “willfully” in front of blind, because it is certainly true that people we disagree with are often blind in the sense that they are ignorant of certain facts.  What makes the ideologue so disdained is their unwillingness to consider other facts, not their ignorance.  Now to the substance of today’s post:  the Obama Administration is increasingly showing itself to not only be incredibly partisan, as well as coldly political (such as with the Trayvon Martin case), but they are seemingly full of ideologues.  Just a few examples from the last week.  Most notably is the almost laughable denial of “any systematic evidence” that labor hours are being shortened as a result of Obamacare.  In the face of report after report after report of employers cutting hours, and explicitly stating that they cannot afford the Affordable Care Act, White House spokesman Jay Carney says any suggestion “belies the facts” and  Mr. Obama’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jason Furman, says “there is no systematic evidence.”  Even left of center commentators seem to agree that Obamacare is likely causing problems, and the unions are scoffing at the administrations denials and are increasingly in opposition.

My former professor, Pete Boettke, always used to ask us:  What facts could convince you that your argument is wrong?  Pete’s advice is still sound, if you don’t want to be an ideologue.  I can tell you for a fact that the Affordable Care Act is changing the employment practices at my university and it is happening at college and universities as well as K-12.  This isn’t just fast food.  While the data may be anecdotal, the anecdotes keep coming in–and are all in one direction.  So what evidence would the Obama administration accept that would convince them that the Affordable Care Act is going to hurt employment from what it would have otherwise have been?

If it were only their signature legislation (ACA) one could almost understand.  After all, its pretty hard to say “Obamacare is a loser for America” if your name is Mr. Obama.  But this blind ideology seems to be extending to many other dimensions.  This week we also heard the report that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says she hopes no one working at the Dept of Interior would be a climate change denier.  At a time when the evidence on global warming seems increasingly suspect, there is no room for other points of view at the DOI.  Whatever your thoughts are on science, the essence of science is that it is never closed–it is always open for further inquiry and discovery.  That is, unless the science is political.

Over at the EPA, we see issue after issue where it doesn’t matter what the courts say, or whether Congress is going to offer legislation, they are going to unilaterally act.

Maybe they really believe that they are rulers, and not simply executives of a nation under the rule of laws?