The Simple v. The Complex

The great Shannon Love over at Chicago Boyz hits it out of the park, as usual, with her analysis of Sarah Palin v. Barack Obama:

Over at Hit&Run, there is a thread about how simplistic and empty Sarah Palin is compared to Obama or previous conservatives. Leaving out the fact that both Reagan and Goldwater suffered the same contempt in their time that Palin does now, it does raise the issue of whether it is important that leftists do in general produce much more complex and “sophisticated” explanations of political ideas than do conservatives.

The major reason that non-leftists’ ideas look “simplistic” compared to leftists’ ideas is that non-leftists’ ideas are usually nothing but statements about the limits of human knowledge.


By contrast, leftist arguments are statements about the possession of knowledge by some elite group of human beings. The “complex” leftists arguments are detailed elaborations of what they think they know in each particular case.

By analogy, it is like to two doctors arguing over how to treat an illness. The non-leftist doctor says, “Nobody knows what causes this particular illness, so any particular serious treatment is likely to do more harm than good.” The leftist doctor, however, claims to have a predictive theory about the cause of the disease and a course of treatment. It is immediately obvious that the leftist doctor will have to produce a complex and detailed argument for why he thinks he understands the cause and treatment for the disease.

However, the leftist doctor is not automatically right just because his argument is “complex” as compared to the non-leftist doctor’s simple statement of the lack of human knowledge about the disease. Indeed, the vast majority of novel hypotheses are wrongm so in any particular case the “complex” argument is more likely to be wrong than the “simple” argument. A treatment based on a flawed hypothesis is more likely to injure the patient than help.

Or as Ronald Reagan put it:


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