Bush fits a few molds, from the epistemology of just-plain-stupid to a priori ideological methods of so-called "leadership" (a big term again these days in the policy world - like the term "success," it's basically insipid). Bush has been called a "compassionate socialist" and a communitarian. Regardless, Bush is the "ideologue." One who has put ideology over health, over government protection, over science, over prudence in general, over the natural environment, over decency, and of course over competence. He himself sees "ideology" everywhere else but the White House (unless it's the conceptually incoherent "ideology of hope") - since the world is generally in disagreement with him, the world is ideologically constituted and must be struggled against.
"Ideology" is a term of historical complexity. Generally, it suggests false consciousness in the holder of whatever ideology, a world-view that is incorrect and damaging. It thus implies a correct world-view, a true consciousness - the true ideology-that-is-not-mere-ideology - missed by the benighted ideological soul which shows us the way the world really is. In this sense, Plato was an ideological thinker. He thought only the specially trained, the philosopher, could contemplate the realm of the pure forms of what in experience were tarnished, imperfect, changing copies. This way of dividing the world runs through the history of thought from Plato, Descartes, Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche and so on to even the language of many contemporary scientists who confuse the relation between facts and values by suggesting values have nothing to do with science.
We don't need to be clear on ideology for our purposes here, however. The point is in the pattern. Bush's style is a muddled a priori one, combined with a knack for what Charles Peirce called the "method of tenacity" in fixing belief. That is, Bush faces any problem or decision with an unquestioned set of background assumptions - perhaps based in his religious views and in neoconservative influence - that he apparently steadfastly refuses to examine, and reexamine. It's not necessarily that the background assumptions are wrong by their very nature. It's that they're shown repeatedly in practice to lead to failed policies and to severe disagreements with others in this pluralistic world. Bush's typical reaction is to push ahead anyway and then proclaim the virtues of sticking to "principle." This is a real problem when it's a failed principle, and the US and the world have suffered for it. He doesn't possess the intellectual apparatus needed to engage in self-critique and to navigate the terrain in which a priori principles come up against the contingencies and exigencies of experience.
Tenacity then kicks in like the famed ostrich with its head in the sand. As Peirce wrote, "the instinctive dislike of an undecided state of mind, exaggerated into a vague dread of doubt, makes men cling spasmodically to the views they already take. The man feels that, if he only holds to his belief without wavering, it will be entirely satisfactory." Thus is the source of the faith-based community. But this also suggests a personal sense of infallibility which, in the face of the realities of counter-evidence and different knowledge and understandings, returns us to the ideological judgment that everyone else is ideologically blinkered. Tenacity in a priori thinking amounts to the fundamentally undemocratic judgment that one is in sole possession of the truth. There is therefore no reason to listen to anyone else other than to maintain the illusion that you're listening.
Michael Kinsley suggests that Romney is essentially Taylorist, in contrast to our known ideologist. Romney said that, if elected, he will hire the consulting firm McKinsey or some other consulting firm to reorganize the government. Kinsley comments,
What exactly do management consultants do? I asked this of a McKinsey recruiter many years ago. He said, "We provide expertise." I said, "But you're thinking of hiring me, and I have no expertise." He said, "We'll train you." Nothing about that interview dissuaded me from the view that consultants spend at least as much energy and brainpower selling themselves to clients as they spend doing whatever the client pays them to do.Romney's version is a bit more sophisticated. Above, I called it "instrumental managerial rationality." It's also akin to what Peirce called the "method of authority." Instrumental rationality reduces policy questions to efficiency and production issues. The organization of social, political, and economic life around whether various configurations are efficient or not - begging the question of efficient for what - is at the core of such an approach. Efficiency and productivity, however, are characteristics of means - of instruments - by which we may do something (from fixing a car to organizing political life). Some old-timey technological determinists (Marcuse, Ellul, for example) thought that efficiency and productivity had come to constitute ends in themselves in technological society, thus transforming society into a kind of machine. We don't have to go this far, however, to understand that such values say little or nothing about the ends societies ought to try to achieve. The managerial mindset views politics as a management problem for which the answers are judged in accordance with the values of efficiency and productivity.
In the beginning, at about the turn of the last century, what management consultants offered was much clearer. It was called Taylorism, after its inventor, Frederick Winslow Taylor. Taylor called it scientific management, and it involved slicing up industrial processes into bite-size tasks and then doing detailed time-and-motion studies to determine the most efficient way to perform them. Described in hindsight as "the first big management fad," Taylorism was widely criticized--from the right as a step toward totalitarianism, from the left as soulless and alienating...
All that's left of Taylorism among management consultants today is a pretense to scientific precision in whatever it is that consultants do, which generally involves parachuting into some situation, being smarter than everybody else, coming up with a solution--or at least a PowerPoint presentation--and then leaping onto their horses and galloping away...
If big-shot CEOs are happy to hire McKinsey and then do whatever its 25-year-old hotshots recommend, why shouldn't voters do the same? If you're looking for a reason, look no further than the Times of London, Oct. 29, in which the head of McKinsey, one Ian Davis, addressed the topic of "government as a business." We "must enter the dialogue on how to help resolve" disputatious issues, he recommends. Well, isn't that the definition of politics?...
Presumably, Romney is concerned about individual and social ends. He's a religious man, after all. But by handing off political/policy problems to consulting firms (taking his statement at face value), he implicitly suggests that politics is not about a democratic give-and-take. It's about not only the efficiency of policy, but also ends articulated by the supposed authority of the managerial class. Since Romney obviously would not hand over religious questions to be decided by managerial consultants, the religious realm then becomes the sole sphere of questions of ends-values. Management of the means, on one hand; religious ends, on the other. In both cases, political society relies on authority: the consulting firm and the church. Of course, the managerial class and the church both have their own interests, which may have little to do with those of the public. This is pre-democratic modernism at its most schizophrenic.
John Edwards has recently promoted deliberative frameworks of policy decision-making (see also here for further commentary). Populists use similar language, but there's a difference between typical populism and the idea of deliberation here.
Edwards wants a more deliberative approach through which those affected by institutional changes are also involved in the formation of those institutions as well as what they are a response to. The epistemology of democratic deliberation is basically that of the public articulating its needs through the process of public reasoning. The public use of reason, ideally, is a process of learning: of the needs we collectively have as a public, of the unreasonable parts of our own beliefs (that is, unjustifiable to others), and of what institutional options we might have for solving collective action problems. Basically, as Hilary Putnam has put it in describing John Dewey's view on the matter, "without the participation of the public in the formation of such policy, it could not reflect the common needs and interests of the society because those needs and interests were known only to the public." The point is not that experts have no role in public deliberations, but that the public at least senses what it needs, and the process of deliberation as a public can give concreteness to those needs and their resolution.
While unveiling a government reform agenda in Keene, NH, former Senator Edwards said that Americans need a new voice in the policy making process. “I believe in the wisdom of the American people, and I think the more power they have in our democracy, the better our country will be,” said Edwards.
“That’s why every two years, I will ask one million citizens to come together to tackle our toughest issues in local forums across the nation. These Citizen Congresses will combine old-fashioned town halls with 21st century technology. They will give regular Americans a chance to speak to each other, and to their elected officials in Washington, without the filters of interest groups and the media.”
An evolving society needs means of political expression; a pluralistic society needs more sophisticated means of political expression. The appeal to a priori authority, whether government by The Tenacious One or by sheer managerial expertise or by the Church on questions of value were all already rejected by the Founders. Do we have to prove to ourselves again that these routes are bunk? Or do we take up the difficult task of articulating good public reasons for better public policy in democratic forums that may never come to final conclusions?
What else is democratic society for?