Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Vincent Harinam and Rob Henderson: "Political Moderates Are Lying"

The title doesn't capture the main points all that well IMO:
   One of the most important concepts for understanding social behavior is preference falsification. Developed by economist Timur Kuran, preference falsification occurs when an individual publicly misrepresents their private views to fit into a social group. It is conformity for the sake of social self-interest.
   And reputation matters. We falsify our preferences to maintain or improve our standing within a group. Conformity to group preferences yields approval, affection, and advancement within the group. Disobedience, however, is reputational forfeiture as we may lose our seat at the vaunted “cool table.” The punishment for nonconformity is disrespect and ostracism.
   But preference falsification raises more questions than it answers. Why do the vast majority of us, despite our supposedly moderate beliefs, adopt more partisan viewpoints? How did these viewpoints become mainstreamed? Who decides the rewards and punishments for conformity and dissent?

   In short, partisans run the show. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Skin in the Game, discussed how this works in an essay titled “The Most Intolerant Wins.” He gives a simple example: the widespread use of automatic shifting cars. Those who can drive manual shift cars can drive all automatic cars. But the reverse isn’t true. Thus, the flexible manual shift drivers adapt to the inflexible drivers who can operate only automatic shift cars.
   Taleb describes a Pareto distribution whereby a small number of highly inflexible individuals determine how a society is run. We might assume that the nature of democracy would mean the minority acquiesces to the whims of the majority. In reality, the majority’s passivity toward a policy or behavior is surpassed only by the minority’s rigidity toward it.
   Committed ideologues are unshakable in their beliefs, unlikely to move toward the middle. On the other hand, moderates, less encumbered by bias, are more open to new ideas. Moderates are more likely to move toward the extremes than partisans are to move toward the middle. Given their flexibility, moderates tend to adopt the preferences of the intransigent minority.
   But how does the moderate majority come to accept the preferences of an extreme minority? Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute provide an answer. The researchers, using mathematical modeling, found that there is a tipping point for when opinions held by a committed minority spread to the rest of the population. The tipping point is 10%. “When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10%, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas…once that number grows above 10 %, the idea spreads like a flame.”
   In short, how we behave often depends on how many people are behaving in that manner.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is extremely important to understand, and is completely lost on a lot of analysts. Conservatives often gripe about revealed preferences of liberals undermining their ideas, which is a variant of it, but the criticism never sticks (because the imperative to maintain status among the cool kids is too strong).

I think it needs to be strengthened though. Left-Liberals and the Left have lived in a symbiotic relationship at least since the 60s (this was not as true in, say, the FDR era when they were direct competitors politically, and efforts like the New Deal were partially meant to sideline the Left's appeal). The Left incubates the ideas, and the liberals launder the idea for mass appeal. For transgender, the idea in raw form is ridiculous, men becoming women on a whim. But filter it through a few liberal spin cycles, and all of a sudden it's a matter of respecting those suffering from a mental illness (not a redefinition of sex and gender), or it's conflated with genuine issues from intersex conditions.

This has been advantageous to the Left in getting their agenda hammered through in general society and to liberals because they can remain on the vanguard of social change. The problem is, the Left has been intellectually rotten at its core for quite some time now, and it was only a matter of time before something like transgender was spawned from them. Liberals should have perceived the danger, but the vanity of ushering on progress was too alluring.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Whoa, that's a super-interesting point, Anon. Thanks for it. I'm not sure I can go so far as to say that "the left has been intellectually rotten to its core for some time now"...but I'm no longer so sure that I *wouldn't* go so far...

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think that's a very mild assessment of the inheritance of Hegel, Marx, Foucalt and Derrida

12:08 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Ah...*that* left... Well, though I've been reading a bit of Hegel this summer, to my shame, I've read very little of him in my life. So I can't really speak to him so much...but the other guys...yeah...I'll agree with 'rotten' in their cases.

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definitely, and maybe my intellectual history is a bit askew, but I think they're the most influential thinkers as far as Left wing thought is concerned since the mid 19th Century. You don't include their core ideas and you're basically just a liberal.

The Social Gospel -> Students for a Democratic Society thread of the American Left strikes me more as the money launderers in the symbiosis I described. Very adept at turning Left wing ideas into terms cogent in the mainstream, ie liberal Christianity for the social gospel types, new age woo and poor hygiene for the SDS contingent during the 60s.

3:07 PM  

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