2022-08-26 Eric Reinhart evidence and ethics

Eric Reinhart (@_Eric_Reinhart):
I’m for evidence-based policy, but it can’t give us an ethical foundation. Evidence is a means to achieve the vision of a society in which we can live together without violence. It cannot give us the vision of that society; politics must do that. Science follows; it can’t lead./1

This is what most economists and rational-choice theorists fail to appreciate, with enormously violent consequences when we zoom out and view at scale. Mass incarceration and racist policing systems are not chiefly a matter of evidence, for example; they’re ethical travesties./2

If you can show me with the best-quality RCT evidence that locking up all Black men under the age of 30 reduces homicides, for example, I don’t really give a fuck. That’s not the basis for a world in which I can believe. /3

That’s an extreme example of this logic, but it’s moderated forms of this trash that police-adjacent criminologists have been generating for decades, lending enormous cumulative support for police and carceral violence that’s ripped apart lives and communities. /4

So miss me with the causal-inference obsessions that deliberately exclude critical ethical and political thought, which then conveniently allows scholars to imagine that they are practitioners of a “pure science” and have no political bias nor ethical responsibility to others. /5

The reality is that our interwoven policing, carceral, and economic systems in America have never been genuinely based on evidence in any case. Demanding causal evidence now to change them is part of the ideological battle to protect the unequal status quo. /6

Scholars should stop hiding behind evidence as substitute for ethical politics and political struggle. The biggest source of violence today is not ignorance; it’s simply entrenched reactionary, neoliberal ideology. Our world is shaped by ideological warfare, not evidence. /6

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