The technocratic Left has a data problem
The president of the United States had just cited his work with approval during a Rose Garden speech announcing a major change in American policy, and MIT economist John Reilly was speaking with National Public Radio. “I’m so sorry,” said host Barbara Howard. “Yeah,” Reilly replied.
This was not a triumph but a tragedy, because the president in question was Donald Trump. And the action taken was withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate agreement.
Trump had cited Reilly’s work correctly, saying: “Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full” using Reilly’s economic projections, “. . . it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree . . . Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100.” But as Reilly explained on NPR, “All of us here believe the Paris agreement was an important step forward, so, to have our work used as an excuse to withdraw it is exactly the reverse of what we imagined hoping it would do.”
The failure of social science to produce the results that the technocratic Left “imagined hoping it would” has reached epidemic proportions. On many of our nation’s major domestic-policy issues, intense efforts to construct a rigorous scaffolding for a more assertive centralized state have yielded only piles of debris. “Evidence-based policymaking” was supposed to produce well-designed government programs with high returns on investment, justifying in turn further government engagement that would further lift the masses. Instead, it has shown how little we know, and how little our programs accomplish.