Arnold Kling  

Politics and Tribalism

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David McRaney writes one of the most insightful paragraphs I have ever read.


In a political debate you feel like the other side just doesn't get your point of view, and if they could only see things with your clarity, they would understand and fall naturally in line with what you believe. They must not understand, because if they did they wouldn't think the things they think. By contrast, you believe you totally get their point of view and you reject it. You see it in all its detail and understand it for what it is - stupid. You don't need to hear them elaborate. So, each side believes they understand the other side better than the other side understands both their opponents and themselves.

He goes on to write,

The research suggests you and rest of humanity will continue to churn into groups, banding and disbanding, and the beautiful collective species-wide macromonoculture imagined by the most Utopian of dreams might just be impossible

So, sorry Brad, but the Republicans are not going away.

In any case, read the whole thing. Pointer from Tyler Cowen.


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COMMENTS (12 to date)
Lord writes:

Liberals are open to evidence but can be easily misled by it while conservatives are fixated on ideology and discount it. Liberals view arguments as preliminary to data while conservatives view arguments as ends.

joeftansey writes:

Well, a lot of conservative arguments don't really depend on evidence. Homosexuality, flag burning, etc.

Though I'd argue that liberal arguments don't really depend on evidence either. As long as the welfare state could theoretically eliminate poverty, they'll continue to support government intervention.

David C writes:

Did you miss the part about groups disbanding?

Evan writes:

The key to creating a peaceful utopian macroculture isn't stopping people from banding into groups. It's making sure the groups they band together and identify with are relatively harmless and nonviolent. I'm sure Magic the Gathering players have different in-jokes and norms than Dungeons and Dragons players, but generally we don't see our differences as worth fighting about.

Certain group affiliations (nationality, religion, race) tend to be more harmful than others, so it's good to discourage them in favor of group affiliations that aren't as polarizing and harmful. Don't identify with people of the same nationality, identify with people who like the same books.

right flag marching writes:

>Don't identify with people of the same nationality, identify with people who like the same books.

I'll identify with whomever I darn well please.

Chris Koresko writes:

Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions is by far the most insightful book I've read on this topic. It includes a bunch of quotes from philosophers he identifies as the sources for modern conservative and liberal ideas. Reading Sowell's book, I had the disconcerting experience of finding myself agreeing with ideas on both sides, and then realizing that they contradicted each other.

Lord: Liberals view arguments as preliminary to data while conservatives view arguments as ends.

How would you account for the consistent discrepancy between liberal and conservative narratives about the Great Depression, in which liberals tend to say it ended because of high government spending in the New Deal or WWII, whereas conservatives say it ended because the New Deal ended?

joeftansey writes:

Mainstream conservatives don't really say it ended because the new deal ended. They say it ended because of wartime spending. Actually, liberals say that both the war and the new deal were both good.

Its an unholy union.

Tracy W writes:

There are two things missing from this article, firstly an explanation of why people sometimes change their minds (eg politicians can see big swings in their poll ratings over periods of time too short to be explained by the arrival and departures of voters), and why every country isn't stuck into the kind of sectarian splits seen in places like Northern Ireland.

Bill N writes:

evan writes

Certain group affiliations (nationality, religion, race) tend to be more harmful than others, so it's good to discourage them in favor of group affiliations that aren't as polarizing and harmful. Don't identify with people of the same nationality, identify with people who like the same books.

For example, Soccer teams?

Evan writes:
For example, Soccer teams?
It's probably possible to convert any group affiliation into something harmful and violent if you try hard enough (didn't the Byzantines have chariot-racing riots that dwarfed our soccer ones?). But there are certain group affiliations that seem to come more naturally, and inspire violence more naturally. It makes sense to discourage those types of affiliations, and if that isn't possible, to water them down.
sourcreamus writes:

In the Robber's Cave experiment what got the groups to be violent was competition over scarce resources. In order for one team to win a prize the other team had to lose. This is like politics where in order for the GOP to win the Democrat party has to lose and vice versa. In market interactions if one group wants something a certain way they can have it that way without forcing everyone else to make the same choice. The key to keeping peace is to find as many ways as possible to keep contests from being zero sum. That is keeping the politics out of as many decisions as possible. Limited government lowers the stakes and keeps things peaceful.

joshua writes:

Short version: so everyone thinks they can pass the Turing test but nobody really can?

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