The key to power, in my mind, is controlling information, and the more money you have, the easier it is to control information. See the Koch brothers spending on politics, Fox News, and the conservative talk shows. Most of what goes on there is not an honest discussion of the facts, but carefully selected facts or outright lies to obscure the truth. The point is, they don’t want any stink’in data to mess up their preceive reality.
In the economic world, Thomas Piketty points out that we depend too much on models especially complicated ones when the data may actually point out the reality and this translates to all political science, not just economics. Kind of clarifies why Republicans are pushing a bill to stop funding of social science research. From Matt Yglesias’s interview with Thomas Piketty:
Piketty does seem to attribute an almost magical power to empirical information when he tells me it’s “the lack of financial transparency” — rather than interest group politics, sincere normative disagreement, or human tribal instincts — that “makes it very difficult to have a quiet political conversation and democratic debate about these things.”
… “Math is fine. Math is very cool. But very often, they tend to push for more sophisticated math just to push off other people. It’s an easy way to have the appearance of scientificity. For a real mathematician or physicist, the math will not be terribly impressive but it’s enough to impress those economics departments that are less good at math and those social scientists who are less good at math.
I think math is useful, if you have a good ratio of facts to theory. But most of the time the economists do the opposite. There are incredibly sophisticated mathematical models with a very tiny empirical component.”
We have a real problem here, that economic inequality that is taken to extreme hurts our democracy and economy, and the data shows that is where we are heading. If you live below the 90th percentile in earnings, you see this everyday. But now we know. The question is are we going to agree to the underlying truth and have a real discussion about how to fix it, or are we going to do what conservatives do, deny the data and never address the problem, maintaining the status quo. That is what is really at stake here.