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The Liberating Potential of Pragmatism

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  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    “Evidence” is not neutral. Among other things, there’s the issue of what’s chosen as evidence. And the fact that evidence can be helpful doesn’t mean that it should be the exclusive basis for decision (I recognize that you neither make nor (seriously) preclude such a strong claim in your post).

    For example, judging by your description of the Camden case, it seems that the evidence-based approach yields a result that’s consistent with a non-utilitarian ethical approach based on helping the neediest.

    A different result, though, comes from development policies that were based on the so-called “Kuznets curve,” purportedly based on evidence that inequality first increases, then peaks, and then decreases as per capita GDP rises. Aside from the question of whether evidence for this hypothesis was valid (Simon Kuznets himself clearly warned that it was mostly “wishful thinking”), it often resulted in aid going to the richest members of poor societies, on the grounds that the wealthy invest, create jobs, etc. The consequent rise in inequality was seen as a good sign of progress in development. A good review of this topic is this 2005 article by Timothy Patrick Moran (unfortunately not available for free download).