The Corner

Ideological Hubris

E. J. Dionne Jr. writes:

Obama’s anti-ideological turn is also a functional one for a progressive, at least for now. Since Ronald Reagan, ideology has been the terrain of the right. Many of the programs that conservatives have pushed have been based more on faith in their worldview than on empirical tests. . . . Right now, being empirical is in the progressive interest. Note that data show that the parts of the stimulus package most congenial to liberals (increases in unemployment insurance and food stamps; fiscal aid to the states; government spending on public projects) are also the parts with the most economic bang. In other words, progressives don’t need ideology to make their case.

Dionne is overreaching when he says that the “data show” that liberals are right about what’s most economically stimulating–see Greg Mankiw for a corrective. And Dionne is on stronger ground with this claim than he would be for the point he is trying to illustrate. “The data” don’t show that we need to enact card-check legislation, or strangle school choice, or hold up trade agreements, or do a lot of other things on the “progressive” wish list.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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