The ways people resist social science

h/t Professor Mansfield’s tribute to James Q. Wilson in today’s Journal, A truly American scholar

The will to win in sports can also be found in politics. It is not the same as the desire for gain, the economic motive that was adopted by the Yale behavioralists as the essence of politics and, again, lamentably lapped up by the profession.

The will to win might make you forgo the desire for gain. It can be dangerous and, because it cannot be removed from human nature, it needs to be controlled. Here is where character comes in.

What Wilson, after his mentor Edward Banfield, called “the progressive impulse” tried to ignore the phenomenon of human partisanship and the need for character to direct it. The progressives, with their social science, thought they could go directly to the rational, economic solution and did not take account of the ways people resist science and reason when they believe it works against them.

These ways are many and unpredictable, particularly since social science in its pompous naiveté cannot see why people resist social science. That is why progressives think they know more than they do and overestimate the ease of change.

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