From Seth Roberts:
If you ignore data, the answer to every hard question is the same: the most powerful people are right. That way lies stagnation (problems build up unsolved because powerful people prefer the status quo) and collapse (when the problems become overwhelming).
Science is far more political than I had imagined before starting a career in science. Data trumps politics eventually, but it may take a long time.
2 thoughts on “The most powerful people are right”
The article you link to criticizes Sargent (and economics generally) for believing that we should rely on common sense, which the post author assumes to be naive expectations. For the record, Sargent got his Nobel Prize for showing that naive expectations about economic behavior are wrong.
A great example is the story of Ignatz Semmelweis. In 1847, he told the doctors at his hospital to start washing their hands, and sure enough, mortality rates fell dramatically. When he began to publicize his techniques, the people in power felt their authority had been undermined, and he was ridiculed, fired, and expelled from the country. Full story.