George W. Bush Illustrates a Thesis of Karl Deutsch

Eugene Volokh [*] can’t see anything wrong with a President who regards his staff as a more “objective” source of information than the mass media. Can you say “cocooning”? I was sure you could.

It’s not that I have any brief for the mass media: I shot my television set in 1976 and have probably averaged an hour a month of watching since. Since I started blogging, I’m even reading less of the daily newspapers, trusting my blogroll to alert me to anything important I might otherwise miss. But I read blogs, and newspapers, with different viewpoints: different from one another, and, more importantly, different from mine.

Relying on your own staff (or, as Machiavelli calls them, “flatterers”) as your exclusive source of information is virtually guaranteed to make sure you never see trouble until it hits you behind the ear with a sock full of wet sand. Now I don’t mind if Bush gets so whacked; might knock some sense into him. But to have the guy who’s supposed to be running the country insulate himself from anything his staff decides he’d rather not know scares me silly.

As Karl Deutsch says in The Nerves of Government: (I’m paraphrasing from memory here: Learning means adapting your opinions to the world, while power is the capacity to adapt the world to your opinions. Therefore, power is the ability not to have to learn anything.

No wonder Bush is so in love with power; it protects his ignorance. He probably still believes that things are going well in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

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