Ideas just aren’t what they used to be. Once upon a time, they could ignite fires of debate, stimulate other thoughts, incite revolutions and fundamentally change the ways we look at and think about the world.
Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa Junior recently said,
"And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party. ...They’ve got a war, they got a war with us and there’s only going to be one winner. We’re going to win that war... Let’s take these sons of bitches out ..."
There are lots of Republicans running around now saying what an awful threat this is. It is certainly "uncivil" but it is no more a threat of actual physical violence than Rick Perry's speech was.
Now, if it was Jimmy Hoffa Senior, I'd be worried that somebody was going to get whacked :)
Do you think Hoffa's threat is more, less, or just as worrisome as Perry's?
Yes, I do. Perry meant what he said to be intimidating. Maybe Perry didn't plan to personally carry out ugly threats, but he wouldn't have to. Unfortunately there are people who will use their “second amendment remedies” against politicians and political appointees they disagree with when encouraged to do so by people they consider to be their “leaders”. Unfortunately those individuals tend to be non-liberals and it is liberals that get targeted.
When asked, the Perry campaign didn't say that the statement was not an implied threat.
To those of us paying attention, there are a lot of threatening metaphors being thrown out there by politicians. “Don’t retreat. RELOAD”, “Second amendment remedies”, and they really do seem to be coming from one side. What exactly is threatening and intimidating speech supposed to convey? Something other than threats and intimidation?
There is a big issue now with death threats in science. Climate researchers receive death threats from AGW denialists, CFS researchers and virologists who found XMRV to be a contaminant receive death threats, anti-vaxers target vaccine researchers with death threats.
Do you really think Perry was making any sort of serious threat?
No, tolerance for disagreement without making ugly threats is a liberal value. Making ugly threats to those you disagree with is a non-liberal value.
If you have lots of information, but don't have big ideas to fit the information together, all you have is a blooming buzzing confusion. Perhaps we all have more big ideas, but they are largely unarticulated. They are the structure we use to make sense of the word.
Previously, people had little enough information that they needed new big ideas to make sense of new information. There was a positive demand. It is now much more common for new big ideas to have to erase previously occupied mindspace. In which case, there is generally a negative demand.
No, it is not suppression. It is big talk, without any power. I can guarantee that neither Ben Bernanke nor Paul Krugman nor any Keynesian economist go to bed worrying that anti-Keynesians are going to do something "pretty ugly" to them. I also guarantee they will not start worrying if Rick Perry is elected president.
You seem to be saying that some things you believe are so obviously true that if other people don't believe them and act on them, then your ideas are being suppressed. I think the correct word for that is "disagreement."
Tolerance for disagreement is a liberal value.
Steve, so when Rick Perry, the front runner in the GOP presidential race tells Ben Bernanke that any more quantitative easing before the 2012 election would be treasonous, that is not “suppression”?
“If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what you all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” Perry said. “Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous—or treasonous in my opinion.”
That is not a suppression of Keynesian economic ideas? Just telling the guy that if he follows them, that he would find himself facing a Presidential candidate who considers him a traitor? And if he had his druthers would treat him “pretty ugly”? And would whip up his base to act "pretty ugly"?
I think those revolutions you are talking about may well happen. It has been argued that the invention of the printing press in Europe eventually resulted in the reformation. Essentially, the power of the elites of the day, the church and the king, were greatly reduced by exposing the fallacies in their indoctrination to the average man. Apparently, printing the bible in the local language exposed the preists teachings as self-serving. Could something similiar happen with the internet? Hard to say, it is still early days.
LOL, did you just say keynesianism and Kruggeman are suppresed? Kruggeman is easily the most talked about economist in the world. And of course there is that hoary old quote from Nixon, "Were all Keynesians now."
There is nothing of consequence riding on the ideas, because nobody is hungry anymore. So people choose ideas that fit their signaling preferences, like choosing items from a cafeteria.
Once the old established elites get really good at theory, new “young turks” can better make their mark via switching to a fashion where details matter most...This is letting the young turks off the hook pretty lightly. Focusing on science in particular, what was the last big breakthrough, conceptual in nature, in any field? Major scientific advances seem to have dried up. Oh yes, we are certainly driving up Kurzweil's exponential curves, but it often seems to me that that is all we are achieving. Forty years ago, big ideas had Americans walking on the moon. Now the big news is a portable phone with a high-def screen. Great, but no General AI (for example). Is life getting too easy? Humanity past it's peak in some respects?
Alas for me that, being more a theorist, I happen to reach my peak when theory is most out of fashion.Robin, are you planning a book?
I think that the problem is that most of the "big ideas" rely on simplification. These might work for a country, or certain groups, and become hugely popular there, but with everything being connected the complexity of the world quickly overtakes them and buries them (see also: memes).
The argument of "too much information" might be related. Aren't there similar problems in science? There are so much observations (or rather, too complex, matter of study difficult to isolate, information/noise levels too low, etc...) that it becomes very difficult to formulate sensible theories that aren't immediately falsified. In many cases it is more effective to locally approximate the data (data-driven techniques) then try to come up with "general, big" theories.
What about this:
Universal Terminal Values - Platonic aesthetic values (beauty) built into universe!,
Overthrow of Bayesian Paradigm - Bayes forumla shown to be merely a special case of Categorization operating on a new kind of 'fuzzy category theory' math!
New form of Math Consciousness - Conscious awareness s of Mathematical forms reveals Ontology of Everything - mathematical relationships appear in consciousness as an 'ontology' - or 'theory of everything'. 27 universal mathematical forms/ontological categories!
My 3 best big ideas man!
Communism gave big ideas a bad name by its spectacular public failure in the early 1990s. The sexual revolution took the dangerous edge off of Freudianism. Younger people may have trouble grasping what an enormous and mainly unspoken effect the fall of communism and Freud had on intellectual life in the west. Marx and Freud and their grand overarching "big ideas" underpinned all serious thought for most of the 20th century, even that of their opponents. All thinkers had to define themselves for against Marx and Freud. For the greater part of the century, you'd constantly meet intellectuals who'd say "I'm a Marxist" the way they say "I'm a Democrat" or "Republican" today. But you had to look hard to find a Marxian or Freudian by 1999. Nothing has replaced them. This is undoubtedly a good thing.
Not as many people may buy into your favored ideas as you'd like, but that doesn't mean they're "suppressed". It's actually (and I would say INDISPUTABLY) the teaching of creationism that has been suppressed. I'm a big proponent of Darwinism and an atheist to boot, so I view "Expelled"* as a bit of a "framing a guilty man" deal. And within climate science AGW is the mainstream position and such researchers receive plenty of funding. If you're a Post-Keynesian you can take comfort in heterodoxy, but the mainstream in macroeconomics is "brackish" New Keynesianism.*Haven't actually seen the movie, but my priors are so heavily against creationism that I would dismiss evidence in favor even if it happened to be serious without closely examining.
... are big ideas actually less popular today, and if so why? This claim fits with my perception of idea fashion today vs. my memory of thirty years ago, but I have personally changed so much that I don’t trust such memory comparisons.
How would we go about verifying that big ideas are less popular today? I don't have the impression that they are, but I don't consider myself to be very plugged into the zeitgeist.What objective metrics can we use to confirm that there really is something to be explained here? One such metric is how often Deep Thinkers are guests on TV shows. If this frequency is going down, then that's a hint that something is changing in the public's taste for big ideas. What are the corroborating metrics?