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The effect is the same.

‘Epistemic Closure’? Those Are Fighting Words


Published: April 27, 2010

….The phrase is being used as shorthand by some prominent conservatives for a kind of closed-mindedness in the movement, a development they see as debasing modern conservatism’s proud intellectual history. First used in this context by Julian Sanchez of the libertarian Cato Institute, the phrase “epistemic closure” has been ricocheting among conservative publications and blogs as a high-toned abbreviation for ideological intolerance and misinformation.

Conservative media, Mr. Sanchez wrote [….] referring to outlets like Fox News and National Review and to talk-show stars like Rush Limbaugh, Mark R. Levin and Glenn Beck – have “become worryingly untethered from reality as the impetus to satisfy the demand for red meat overtakes any motivation to report accurately….”  

As a result, he complained, many conservatives have developed a distorted sense of priorities and a tendency to engage in fantasy, like the belief that President Obama was not born in the United States or that the health care bill proposed establishing “death panels….”

This afternoon about a dozen people showed up at a Warrensburg meeting room for a constituent “listening post” conducted by a member of Representative Vicky Hartzler’s (r) district staff, Zack Brown. At around 2:00 p.m. Mr. Brown asked people seated around the table and the room if they had any questions. So started our one hour long jeremiad in congressional constituent services.

Zack Brown, of Representative Vicky Hartzler’s (r) district staff, at a constituent “listening post” in Warrensburg on August 7, 2013.

The first item brought up was a concern about prescription drug costs and insurance reimbursement for independent local pharmacies. Other issues included a discussion of corporate bill paying, on-line taxes, the flat tax, a national sales tax, abolishing the IRS, the government shutdown (they were all for it), RINO’s in Congress, Senator John McCain’s (r) recent attempts at bipartisan comity (they were against it), immigration amnesty, Obamacare, and a birth certificate.

At around fifty-one minutes:

[On the oath of office]


Voice 1: But if he’s Kenyan born [crosstalk] does it matter?

Voice 2: With little whispers in between.

Voice 3: Well he had to do it twice, didn’t he?


Voice 4: [laugh] I love whispers.

Voice 5: The oath, the oath is the oath. You know, it’s, it’s right there and it’s, it’s lay, it’s in the Constitution.

Voice 1: If he’s Kenyan born he’s not eligible at all to be president so the oath wouldn’t be valid.

Voice 5: See [crosstalk]…

Zack Brown: You’re going down a very dangerous path right now.


Voice 5: That’s not a danger, it’s, it’s a legitimate path because there is so much of his information that is not available. Everybody else has to make their information available, but not him. Now, the whole thing, and in reality, he should let this information out and be made public. And have it scrutinized because if it’s absolutely correct, as he attests that it is, then it’s done. You know, there is no question. But when he doesn’t therein lies the problem. And if he is not to the letter of the law and the Constitution, if he is not eligible, then Obamacare is gone. Whatever he signed is gone. It’s just not even in question.

Voice 6: His mom’s an American citizen, though, which makes him an American citizen.

Voice 5: Pardon.

Voice 6: His mom’s an American citizen, though, which makes him an American citizen.

Voice 1:  But he’s not an American born citizen [crosstalk].


“…Now, the whole thing, and in reality, he should let this information out and be made public…”

Birthers will never be happy. No matter what [pdf].

“…if he is not eligible, then Obamacare is gone…”

That’s a novel strategy for repealing Obamacare.

At around forty-six minutes:

[On Obamacare and universal access cell phones]


Voice 7: I don’t know anybody that wants it [crosstalk], except that woman on the phone [crosstalk], except that woman in Detroit that had a free cell phone. [laughter] She wants it. [crosstalk]

Voice 1: That’s one thing I want to ask you about. The universal charge I pay on my cell, on my cell phone. I have a cell phone. And because my husband and I had different numbers when, before we got married he has his own cell phone. We have a home phone. I’m paying that universal charge on three bills. [crosstalk]

Zack Brown:  It was actually [crosstalk]…

Voice 1: So I’m being taxed three times.

Zack Brown: Correct. The, the goal of that initially was to provide nine one one access [crosstalk] to rural areas.

Voice 1: Yeah, I know what the goal was. [crosstalk] Yeah.

Zack Brown: And it’s morphed into giving our pretty nice cell phones and, uh, minutes and text messages for [crosstalk]…

Voice 7: They call it, they call it an Obamaphone. [laughter]

Zack Brown: That’s what they’re calling it, yeah, it sure is. But, uh, so you, you get one of those that kind of sounds like a good idea when it was implemented, you let it go through a couple of different administrations and end up with a monster.


“…The, the goal of that initially was to provide nine one one access to rural areas…”

Not exactly. There wasn’t nine one one service in 1934:

Universal Service

….In 1934, telephone service was considered to be a “natural monopoly,” a service best delivered by one company rather than two or more competitors.  The U.S. government allowed AT&T, then the monopoly provider, to operate in a non-competitive environment in most areas of the country in exchange for the federal and state government regulation of price and service quality. In areas that AT&T did not serve, small companies, including cooperatives owned by residents of the local community, provided phone service. The concept of universal service evolved over the decades to mean the development of an infrastructure that provides telephone service to all consumers at a reasonable price. Funding for universal service came from a series of access charges that long distance carriers paid as intercarrier compensation (ICC) to local exchange companies for originating and terminating the long distance calls….

[emphasis added]

“…The universal charge I pay on my cell, on my cell phone. I have a cell phone. And because my husband and I had different numbers when, before we got married he has his own cell phone. We have a home phone. I’m paying that universal charge on three bills….So I’m being taxed three times…”

We would assume you don’t want to answer your husband’s calls on your cell phone, nor he on yours, so, yeah, you’re going to have different phone numbers on different phones.

Uh, you have three phones. Or did you want everyone else to carry the burden for you?

….In addition, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 directed the FCC to formalize what services a company must provide in order to receive funds. For example, an eligible telecommunications company must be able to demonstrate its ability to remain functional in emergency situations. The Act also expanded the universe of companies required to pay into the fund from only interstate long-distance carriers to include all telecommunications carriers (regardless of whether they are wireline, wireless or satellite companies)….

….The Universal Service Fund provides support through four programs:

   High-Cost Support (now known as the Connect America Fund) provides support to certain qualifying telephone companies that serve high-cost areas, thereby ensuring that the residents of these regions have access to reasonably comparable service at rates reasonably comparable to urban areas

   Low-Income Support, also called the Lifeline program, assists low-income customers by helping to pay for monthly telephone charges so that telephone service is more affordable

   Schools and Libraries Support, also known as the “E-Rate,” provides telecommunication services (e.g., local and long-distance calling, both fixed and mobile, high-speed data transmission lines), Internet access, and internal connections (the equipment that delivers these services to particular locations) to eligible schools and libraries

   Rural Health Care Support allows rural health care providers to pay rates for telecommunications services similar to those of their urban counterparts, making telehealth services affordable, and also subsidizes Internet access….

At around thirty-six minutes:

[On prescription pharmaceutical costs]


Voice 5:  Because this is, this is one of those things, really, I see that France, Germany, obviously Mexico, nations pass laws that say, all right, we’re, when it comes to the medical and the medication type thing this is the deal. And I’ve wondered, why can they buy the same medication that’s manufactured in an American manufacturing facility, why can they buy it for less than we can?

Voice 8: Because they have price controls and we let ’em get by with it.

Voice 5:What, I mean [crosstalk], what…

Voice 8: So they pass, they pass the costs on to the Americans and they’ve been doing it for years and that’s one of the things that should have been taken care of [crosstalk] in this damn health reform…

Voice 5: See, there, there, there you go.

Voice 8: …and nobody’s even brought up.

Voice 5: That, see , that’s the whole thing, I  wrote [crosstalk] a letter…

Voice 8: The Taiwanese can, can come up with all kinds of cute things but they can’t make a profit on it. They can bring it over here and sell it for a profit. [inaudible] So we’re subsidizing their [inaudible]…

Uh, it’s American pharmaceuticals or Taiwanese and we subsidize them or they price gouge us?

And, no one is forcing American pharmaceutical companies to sell to their products in price controlled foreign countries, are they? They’re still making a profit, aren’t they? Or just not as much?



….Pharmaceutical companies often justify the high drug prices that result from market growth as necessary to provide incentives for research and development efforts. However, experts maintain that the high cost of prescription drugs are due not only to research and development costs, but also to international price control issues, compensation for shareholders and executives in the pharmaceutics industry, marketing costs, and political contributions….

….United States manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs rarely, if ever, limit the distribution of their products to their domestic market. Instead, pharmaceutical manufacturers choose to export their products to foreign countries….

….For more than a decade, beginning in the early 1990s, the pharmaceutical industry has been the most profitable industry in America. In 2001, the pharmaceutical industry was more than five times as profitable as the average Fortune 500 company, with several pharmaceutical companies reporting profits of 18% of revenues. However, those same pharmaceutical companies spent an average of 27% of revenue on marketing and advertising and only 11% of revenue on research and development. Additionally, from 1996 to 2001, pharmaceutical industry shareholders received an annual rate of return of 18.4%, twice the median rate of return for Fortune 500 shareholders. Thus, critics argue that prescription drug prices are high not because of research and development spending, but because pharmaceutical executives and shareholders are greatly concerned about increased revenues and profits and spend accordingly….

[emphasis added]

Uh, yep.

Epistemic closure.

After the handful of constituents left the “listening post” location Zack Brown and I engaged in a somewhat lengthy civilized conversation.