Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Logic, Politics, and Innovation

This article, Logic and Liberty, takes for granted that we should adopt the goal of getting more people to join our end of the political tug-o-war, rather than to disrupt the market for goods and services now provided by government.
One of the paradoxes of politics: as everyone must consume the same good, there is no way for innovators or early adopters directly to choose something new. All (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and late adopters) must engage in a tug-o-war to determine which one size shall fit all. Because persons' individual choices do not determine the actual outcome, persons will not learn from the sort of feedback present in a market (See Caplan "Myth of the Rational Voter"). Because persons' political choices do determine other factors in their lives, such as their acceptance by their peer group (See Haidt "The Righteous Mind", also Darrel Becker's "bridge of empathy" ), they will tend to base their decisions on those factors and tend to disregard the actual consequences of their favored policy.
If Haidt and Becker are right, we must have an empathic connection with someone before we have more than a tiny chance of getting her to change her mind. And who do we empathize with most easily? Those who agree with us, especially when it comes to politics.
It's not a matter of logic. A logical argument always depends on its assumptions and its correctness. If you hand me a proof that everything I know is absurd, I am not forced to believe that, I am forced to choose among: everything I know is absurd and this argument and its assumptions are correct, some of the assumptions of the argument pull a fast one, or there is a mistake somewhere. Given our collective experience with sophistry, no one can be criticized for declining to waste the time necessary to debunk inconvenient arguments, there are just too many of them and their errors and tricks can be quite subtle. At best, we might insist that someone should consider slightly increasing his estimation of the probability that the argument might be correct and that therefore he needs to re-examine his entire worldview.
That points out another difficulty caused by the one-size-fits-all nature of politics, it discourages taking ideas for a test drive. We tend to neglect the one approach ("show me") that can actually settle a question.
Given the dominant political paradigm, I don't know what to recommend. Education and argument face severe limits, but any alternative solution seems to require some degree of political participation, paradoxically. Maybe seasteading is our only hope. Or the free state project?

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