The analysis referred to in this critique can be found at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1084585
I don't remember the day my parents informed me that there was no Santa Claus. It seems to me that, like many childhood ideas, it gradually slipped away over time with experience. Each year there was one significant piece of evidence that Santa Claus was real: a present under the tree from him. However, each year also brought new difficulties as I thought over the other aspects of the story. Was it really possible that magic reindeer could enable a sleigh to fly so fast so as to cover the whole world? Was it possible that Santa Claus could demarcate the relative goodness and badness of every child throughout the year? And why did Herr Claus's handwriting so closely match that of Mom's?
Eventually, over time and with the accretion of evidence, the former idea passed into history and I came to terms with a world devoid of Santa Claus. Later on, a similar process led me to question religious institutions. Still later, that process led to a questioning of governmental institutions and indeed, as John Searle so aptly put it, the social construction of reality itself. At every stage, however, there was no place for revelation, but rather a continual comparison study between the ideas at hand and the empirical evidence of the world.
AN EPISTEMOLOGICAL PUZZLE
Cass Sunstein, a legal scholar from the University of Chicago and Barack Obama's Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, together with Adrian Vermeule, former University of Chicago law professor and current Harvard law professor, collaborated on a paper entitled "Conspiracy Theories," in which they attempt to identify several key features of conspiracies. They specifically invoke the Santa Claus conspiracy in reference to how parents provide information to children. Parents routinely lie to their children, of course, with the justification that either they cannot understand reality or because reality is too harsh for them to experience until they are older. Sunstein-Vermeule (as I will refer to them throughout) seem to view the state in this parental mold, albeit with an additional active element in that they propose the state try to actively crush the precocious questioning of its children.
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