The limits of water “intuition”

Joseph Heath, a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto, offers as good a theory as any to explain why Florida politics-and water policy-has become so irrational. In Enlightenment 2.0, he observes that one side of the political spectrum has overwhelmingly decided to favor their “intuition”:

Conservatives have become enamored of the idea that politics is ultimately not about plans and policies, it’s about “gut feelings” and “values.” (p. 10)

Yet what  has happened to conservatism in recent years, particularly in its the American variant, is that it has become a defense not of tradition against reason but rather of intuition against reason. (p. 99)

The core feature of “common sense” conservatism is its hostility to expertise. (p. 222)

The current environment, particularly in the media, creates a genuine dilemma for those who would like to see reason prevail over passion in politics. How do you deal with an opponent who responds to truth with truthiness, or a social environment in which no one seems to know the difference? (p. 271)

Although traditional interest groups still benefit from barely-legal financial contributions, an over-reliance on “intuition” may be a much bigger problem. When the governor announces that 49 other states have more state workers per capita than Florida, he doesn’t mean that as an occasion for self-reflection. Instead, he gives it as a reason to ignore other experienced government managers.

Complex water ideas are threatening to some viewpoints. They pose a risk of breaking through the cognitive bubble of intuitions that dominate Florida water oversight. This explains why the last statewide water management conference was held in 2006, why the state ceased holding joint meetings of WMD governing board members, why the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shut down its agency library before that, why there is no state water plan, why work on developing new state water policies has not involved any advisory commission of water experts, why the legislature is comfortable ignoring the will of the voters on Amendment 1, why Florida has no climate change plan, and why water management districts are OK with dismissing their most knowledgeable and experienced staff members.

You could buy and read the book or you could watch this half-hour interview with Heath.


The limits of water “intuition” — 5 Comments

  1. You hit the conservative aspect, how about the liberal side. Let’s use California, run by liberals - gee, a complete failure on water policies.

    • Interesting comment, Griffin. I wonder what California water policies you are pointing to as “liberal” and which other current policies there might be “conservative.”

  2. And common sense tells us that the Earth is flat (just look out the window) and that the sun goes around the Earth and that mass is always conserved and that objects should be able to go faster than the speed of light and that trickle-down economics works and that regulation hurts economic growth. But all are wrong.