Perhaps They’re All Unconsciously Biased

by Don Boudreaux on January 9, 2014

in Hubris and humility, Man of System, Nanny State

Being a professional academic in early 21st-century American collegetopia, I’m exposed to more than the typical American’s share of politically correct inanities – nitwitted nostrums meant to do nothing more than tickle the self-centered fancies of my colleagues (at GMU, those outside of Economics and the School of Law).  ”Give Back,” “Buy Local,” “Save the Planet,” “Recycle,” “Shared Prosperity,” “Diversity,” “Social Justice,” blah, blah, blah – phrases that are seldom objectively objectionable, but each of which, in its context, carries factual and theoretical presumptions, as well as specific sets of demands for “action,” that are, at best, juvenile and, in many cases, potentially destructive of civil society.

A perennial “Progressive” nostrum is the notion that other people’s consciousness must be “raised.”  A powerful belief among “Progressives” seems to be that there are only two possible reasons why someone might disagree with “Progressives’” plans to reconstruct society with government force: either the disagreeable person has a financial stake in publicly expressing disagreement or the disagreeable person suffers a “bias” that must be “corrected” by “consciousness-raising” or “awareness” campaigns.

Case in point: The Wall Street Journal has this report on how “big businesses teach staffers how ‘unconscious bias’ impact decisions.”

I’ve some questions.  Why are the “unconscious biases” always ones that prompt their victims to behave in ways that “Progressives” disapprove of?  Isn’t it possible that “Progressives” suffer “unconscious biases” as well – say, “unconscious biases” against successful entrepreneurs?  ”Unconscious biases” against the spontaneous order of the market?  ”Unconscious biases” in favor of the simplistic notion that increased spending, or ‘demand,’ is a necessary and sufficient cure for a slumping economy?  ”Unconscious biases” in favor of stated intentions and against being conscious of the likelihood of unintended consequences?  ”Unconscious biases” in favor of silver-tongued politicians who promise, messiah-like, to transform society?  ”Unconscious biases” in favor of “consciousness raising” or “awareness” campaigns?

Why do I never hear from “Progressives” any calls for consciousness-raising sessions to rid benighted people of their “unconscious biases” against capitalism, or of their “unconscious biases” in favor of government interventions into economic affairs?

Several years ago Eric Crampton and I explored a similar (although not identical issue) in the Independent Review.

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