Tag Archives: Ideology

Evidence-Based Decision-Making

There are a lot of meaningless phrases that make the rounds. One of these that wannabe intelligent people pass around to make themselves seem rational is “evidence-based decision making.” This phrase is often used in politics and public policy, where one side will use it to describe the adoption of policies they like (with the implication that the other side is not using evidence-based decision making). It is also contrasted with ideological decision-making.

Now, I am not against using evidence to inform a decision; using evidence is a good thing. As a stand-alone, face-value concept it is unobjectionable, how can anybody be against evidence? But this unobjectableness is the reason for its meaninglessness.

Everybody in politics and public policy uses ‘evidence’ to make decisions. In the days of yore, the autocratic king may occasionally have indulged himself in the occasional bout of thoughtless whimsy, but in today’s bureaucratic world, no policy decision is made without rounds upon rounds of evidence, discussion, writing, revision, etc. Even the autocratic king’s bouts of whimsy were usually based on evidence and fact. “People over six feet are tall” and “an army of tall people amuses me” are both evidence-based facts that can be used to inform policy. The other may not be interpreting evidence the same way as you, they may impute differing levels of legitimacy to certain forms or instances of evidence than you, and they may be using the evidence to pursue different values than you, but they are using evidence.

Using the phrase evidence-based decision making in a modern public policy context is as meaningless as going around saying a four-sided square when discussing geometry. But meaningless phrases are commonplace, the context of the phrase reveals a more important and deep stupidity.

Any time someone uses the phrase with any intent at creating even the tiniest amount of semantic meaning, the semantic meaning is (either implicitly or explicitly) evidence-based as compared to ideological (or opinion-based, which is the same thing), where the ideological is irrational (and therefore wrong). Nobody ever points out the idiocy of this semantic meaning.

Evidence doesn’t make decisions. Evidence is neutral. Evidence is fact and fact is meaningless by itself. Is is not ought.

To make a trite example, the fact that you need to breathe oxygen or you die has absolutely no decision-making implications standing on its own. Only when you create a value system around breathing does the need to breathe factor into decision-making. The suicide and the astronaut will both make entirely different evidence-based decisions on that particular fact.

To make a decisions requires a value-system: the value system under which the decision is being made is the most important part of any decision-making. The value system will create a goal. Reason will create a plan to achieve a goal. Evidence upon which to reason is the final and least important part of a decision-making architecture.

Another word for value-system is ideology. All public-policy decisions are first and foremost ideological. Anybody who thinks they aren’t is so ideologically brainwashed that they are not even aware that they have their own ideology.

To call attention to the fact you use or favour evidence-based decision making reveals either:

1) a very weak decision-making architecture if using evidence is the best you can say about it,
2) the shallowness of your own thinking, if the facts you use are the deepest you can delve in your own decision-making architecture,
3) ideological blindness, if you can not even see that you are making decisions under a value system,

or, it might reveal something more sinister:

4) the purposeful distortion of language to fool the gullible into accepting a particular ideological as reality.

Practically speaking, the use of the phrase ‘evidence-based decision making’ as related to public policy is usually a signal you can safely ignore the surrounding verbiage as wasteful rhetoric, empty-headed stupidity, and/or attempted manipulation. Rarely will it be used in any commentary on public policy that is worth listening to.


Note: Evidence-based decision-making started out as a concept for medical research and practice. In the medical context, it is a reasonable approach and something reasonable to talk about, as the ideology of medicine is mostly firmly established and medical “conflict” (barring corruption) is based around finding the best methods of healing to input into this system.


Over at the Neckbeard Chronicles, I came across the term anarcho-monarchism. This is a very small ideology that doesn’t even have it’s own wiki page and I don’t know much about it, but it really appeals to me.

There’s no big analysis today, just some quotes on it from other sources:

The individual person has the self-evident, God-given rights of life, liberty, and property. These rights are best exercised in a capitalist-libertarian, Stateless society.  However, this does not mean that a form of government and authority is not required.  For any civilized culture, order must be maintained, and thus, authority is indispensable.  But it is essential to understand that there is a difference between the State and authority, and how authority is natural and good, whereas the State is evil and unnecessary.  Natural government and authority only has one purpose: to secure these individual rights.  Acceptable forms of a minimalist government, as laid down by such intellectual giants as Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, include traditional monarchies, aristocracies, and republics.  The plan envisioned by the Anti-Federalist Founding Fathers, in which the rule of law is bound upon a Constitutional republican confederation in which there is a strictly limited, weak, and anti-centralistic federal government alongside weakened, yet sovereign, independent states (in the colonial American sense), with respect for jury nullification, peaceful secession, and of Natural Law, is possibly the best man-made governmental system ever devised.  Regardless of the form of government, the objective of good government should be to promote the common good, individualism, liberty, order, and free markets.

This synthesis of anarcho-capitalism with respect for monarchism, Christianity, traditionalist values, and proper authority is what I call ‘Anarcho-Monarchism.’  It is an anti-collectivist, anti-democratic, anti-statist, anti-nationalist, and anti-totalitarian, conservative-libertarian Rightist movement that stresses tradition, responsibility, liberty, virtue, localism, capitalism, civil society and classical federalism, along with familial, religious, regional, and Western identity. It celebrates in the diversity that God has created among man, and believes in the maxim of ‘Universal Rights, Locally Enforced.’

Some may scoff at an attempt to reconcile these influences, but I believe it is quite logical, and indeed absolutely necessary, to synthesize cultural conservatism with radical anti-statist libertarian-anarchism.  I view the modern Nation-State as an unnatural outgrowth of conquest and modernity — not of social contract (the classical liberals were wrong in this regard)— that inevitably foments decivilization and cultural decay as a means toward perpetuating its own parasitical existence at the expense of family, locale, and transcendent spiritual values.  I categorically and fundamentally reject the modern democratic, egalitarian, and majoritarian State in favor of natural libertarian hierarchy, polycentric law, paternalistic society, and private-property anarchism.

An article from First Things:

One can at least sympathize, then, with Tolkien’s view of monarchy. There is, after all, something degrading about deferring to a politician, or going through the silly charade of pretending that “public service” is a particularly honorable occupation, or being forced to choose which band of brigands, mediocrities, wealthy lawyers, and (God spare us) idealists will control our destinies for the next few years.

But a king—a king without any real power, that is—is such an ennoblingly arbitrary, such a tender and organically human institution. It is easy to give our loyalty to someone whose only claim on it is an accident of heredity, because then it is a free gesture of spontaneous affection that requires no element of self-deception, and that does not involve the humiliation of having to ask to be ruled.

The ideal king would be rather like the king in chess: the most useless piece on the board, which occupies its square simply to prevent any other piece from doing so, but which is somehow still the whole game. There is something positively sacramental about its strategic impotence. And there is something blessedly gallant about giving one’s wholehearted allegiance to some poor inbred ditherer whose chief passions are Dresden china and the history of fly-fishing, but who nonetheless, quite ex opere operato, is also the bearer of the dignity of the nation, the anointed embodiment of the genius gentis—a kind of totem or, better, mascot.

As for Tolkien’s anarchism, I think it obvious he meant it in the classical sense: not the total absence of law and governance, but the absence of a political archetes—that is, of the leadership principle as such. In Tolkien’s case, it might be better to speak of a “radical subsidiarism,” in which authority and responsibility for the public weal are so devolved to the local and communal that every significant public decision becomes a matter of common interest and common consent. Of course, such a social vision could be dismissed as mere agrarian and village primitivism; but that would not have bothered Tolkien, what with his proto-ecologist view of modernity.

And from another site:

Philosophically speaking, anarchism has a strong anti-democratic tradition that, far from seeing anarchism as being democracy carried to its logical conclusion, is actually far closer to being instead aristocracy universalised. Monarchy can be reinvented as a concept to serve a distinctively libertarian ethos, if one can see in the monarch a symbol of sovereignty that is reflected in the absolute sovereignty of the free individual. The word ‘king’ is derived from the word ‘kin’ – so kingship denotes kinship, the king or queen being a symbolic guardian of the people’s freedom and self-determination. Thus handed down generation to generation, the monarch carries the genetic inheritance of the people in a bond of mutual co-inherence. This is beautifully and poetically proclaimed in the tradition of British mythology that refers to King Arthur and the quest for the Holy Grail, in that the concept of kingship that is envisaged in the Arthurian mythos is interpreted as one of service and humility towards the people whom one ‘rules’. A similar theme is found in the Christian Gospels where Jesus says to his disciples ‘Whoever shall be considered the greatest, let him first become the least and the servant of all.’ (And in this mythological context, Christ is the fulfilment of all archetypes such as Arthur, as well as the indigenous British and Norse mystery traditions such as druidism and Odinism in particular.) The scriptures appear to suggest that at the end of time Christ will abdicate his throne, having maintained a reign so beneficent that all humanity is brought into such a state of spiritual perfection that the need for restraints and for government vanishes (1 Cor Ch. 15 vv. 24-28) – an eschatological realisation that transcends kingship and monarchy into an enlightened theocratic anarchy.

The most contemporary proponent of anarcho-monarchy has to be the fantasy novelist J. R. R. Tolkien, whose book Lord of the Rings has become the international best-seller of the century. Concerning his political leanings Tolkien said: ‘My political opinions lean more and more to anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control, not whiskered men with bombs) – or to ‘unconstitutional monarchy’. Further on, he said some years later: ‘I am not a ‘socialist’ in any sense – being averse to ‘planning’ (as must be plain) – most of all because the ‘planners’ when they acquire power become so bad.’

‘Middle Earth’, the imaginary world Tolkien created, was based on north European mythology; it functioned as what Tolkien himself described as ‘a half-republic, half-aristocracy’ – a sort of municipal decentralised democracy (as opposed to a representative democracy) based in a holistic conception of the integrity of the local place and idiom. The emphasis in Tolkien of tendencies towards some kind of hierarchy, however libertarian, and of self-government only being consistent with kinship and loyalty to a particular place, has made Lord of the Rings popular and required reading amongst the radical-decentralist right.

Lord of the Rings is having a profound influence on the contemporary green and environmental movements in that, seen in our present historical context, it provides a coherent and inspirational critique of the modernist unholy trinity of state power, capital and technology. (For an excellent book on this very subject and more see Defending Middle-Earth – Tolkien: Myth and Modernity by Patrick Curry, Harper Collins 1998.) Tolkien, with keen prophetic insight, foresaw that at the close of this millennium the struggle for humanity and nature would be between the diversity of local distinctiveness, place, identity, and culture against the globalist unity and monoculture that turns everywhere into the same place. Also, it turns everyone into the same person with the same status as a passive ‘consumer’, where once they may have been an active citizen or ‘member of the public’.

Something to look into.