Should Politics Be Science?

And by science I mean real, empirical, data-driven science.

My instinct says that political science should live up to its name and actually become a real science. One political party should test a hypothesis, preferably on a small population. And if the hypothesis withstands that experimentation (i.e. maximizes flourishing and minimizes suffering), then everyone should agree to adopt it on a larger scale until something better can also be rigorously tested and withstand experimentation. If a hypothesis doesn’t withstand experimentation, then everyone should agree to drop it and look for another solution. This is a tried-and-true method for discovering truth in so many arenas outside of politics. It guards against bias taking over a system, and against rule by tradition. It encourages change where change is needed. I think it’s a great ideal to strive for.

But I feel the counterarguments strongly, too. Is it worth testing an idea when the testing itself could result in widespread human suffering (since some of the ideas tested will inevitably be bad ideas)? Does widespread human flourishing (the end) justify using populations of people as lab rats (the means)? Could politics-as-science ever work in a system poisoned by money from vested interests? And will society ever be rational enough to be able to admit when all or part of a cherished idea isn’t working, and move on?

But there are also rebuttals to the counterarguments. Won’t politics-as-science work just fine if we can get big money out of the system before we try it? Wouldn’t pure politics-as-science change society for the better far faster than any other approach, so that any temporary suffering it causes would be far smaller than the suffering caused by other approaches?

I don’t know the answers, but I’m tired of the endless mudslinging that our political discourse has deteriorated into, and I’m tired of blind tribalism and cults of personality, even within my own party. Especially within my own party. I’m longing for a world where politics are science.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *