The thing is...it's not confirmation bias because the author of the article is a liberal/progressive! A Ph.D no less! Is this a reasonable rationalization? Well...in my entry on deontological ethics vs pragmatic ethics I considered that both a "pragmatic" communist and a "fair" natural rights libertarian came to the same conclusion that I was full of BS. So, just on its own, it doesn't necessarily mean much when people from opposite sides of the political debate come to the same conclusion.
Just how self-aware am I? Is there a bell curve of self-awareness? One time an English professor criticized me for writing too self-consciously. For some self-awareness introspection check out Kent's blog entry...Are We Doomed To Be Wrong?.
Kent (see his critique of pragmatarianism) shared a link to my entry on the Blind Men and the Scope of Government...and a link to Cracked.com's list of 5 Logical Fallacies That Make You Wrong More Than You Think. Those two articles seemed to have presented a challenge to his very strong anarcho-capitalist conclusion. Was Kent fazed by these challenges? No way. Nevertheless it was still somewhat entertaining to watch him so deftly escape from the possibility of being wrong. Kent...kinda like an anarcho-capitalist Houdini.
As a pragmatic ethics kind of guy I wallow in anything that demonstrates just how wrong we are. The more cause for self-doubt the better. As Socrates said, "...it seems that I am wiser than he is to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know." And as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "to have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized man." Therefore, doubting our principles makes us wise and civilized! So with great relish I checked out Cracked.com's list of stuff that makes us wrong.
#5. We're Not Programmed to Seek "Truth," We're Programmed to "Win"
How true is this? If you love playing devil's advocate then this especially applies to you. It certainly applies to me. For example...in a recent entry I encouraged people to become the devil's advocate for public goods.
Where is the intersection between winning and truth? Is it true that history is written by the conquerors?
When I first thought of pragmatarianism I certainly did not consider it to be truth. Neither did any of my friends...so it was fun to play the devil's advocate for pragmatarianism. Several years passed with pragmatarianism being nothing more than a purely hypothetical situation. It wasn't until I genuinely considered anarcho-capitalism...and experienced a sliver of self-doubt...that I recognized the truth in acknowledging that nobody has a monopoly on truth.
#4. Our Brains Don't Understand Probability
Now take it into the realm of politics. The U.S. has spent $1.3 trillion on the war on terror so far. That was in reaction to about 14,000 total deaths from international terrorism from 1975 to 2003. That's more than $90 million spent for each person killed.
If you point out that this money would have been better spent preventing industrial accidents (which kill twice as many people per year than died in the World Trade Center) or, even better, curing cancer (the equivalent of about 200 WTC attacks each year), you'll be told, "Say that to the 9/11 victims, hippie!"People are more likely to gamble with other people's money than they are with their own. Therefore, taxpayers should be allowed to consider the opportunity costs of war. Having served in Afghanistan...and having greatly valued our efforts over there...and having lost close family members to cancer...I'd like to pretend that I'm not biased one way or the other. Forcing taxpayers to make hard decisions with their own individual taxes is the only way to guarantee the maximum benefit to society.
#3. We Think Everyone's Out to Get Us
In one study, subjects were asked to rate the likelihood that strangers would share pretend winnings with them. The subjects figured about half were trustworthy enough to share. When it came time to actually share, about 80 percent came through. The subjects thought the world was almost twice as corrupt as it actually is.
This is also where you get claims like, "Those conservatives don't really think taxes are too high, they secretly hate poor people!" or "Those liberals don't really think the poor need assistance, they're secretly communists!" It's impossible to learn anything from a conversation with someone who you think is lying to you. The more arguments you get into with those lying extremists from the other side of the aisle, the more you learn about how they lie, the faster your brain turns off after they start talking.Maybe the anarcho-capitalists are right that the free-rider problem is not that big of a problem. Or maybe anarcho-capitalists are proof positive that people have to be coerced into paying taxes. Allowing taxpayers to directly allocate their taxes would reveal which public goods, if any, the free-rider problem applies to.
#2. We're Hard-Wired to Have a Double Standard
The reality is, of course, that you were on completely different roads. The assumption that everyone's circumstances are identical is so plainly wrong as to be borderline insane, but everyone does it. Pundits and politicians alike mock the unemployed as lazy, even though their own data shows that for every five unemployed people, there is only one open job. "I don't understand, can't you all just become radio talk show hosts like me?"Right, we're all just blind men touching different parts of an elephant. The Truth can only be arrived at by integrating all our unique perspectives and values. Our true values can only be revealed by forcing us to put our money where our mouths are. Therefore, taxpayers should be allowed to directly allocate their individual taxes.
#1. Facts Don't Change Our Minds
That is why confirmation bias exists. We read a news article that supports what we believe, and we add it to the "I'm right about this" column. News articles that contradict what we believe are dismissed. We make up a reason -- maybe the source is part of the conspiracy from the other side or whatever it takes to make sure the "I'm wrong about this" column remains empty.This explains why the Ostrich Response to pragmatarianism is by far the most common response. For another perfect example check out how neither Team Hayek nor Team Keynes responded to my compromise...Opportunity Costs for Thee, But Not For Me.
Well there you have it. The 5 logical fallacies that make you wrong more often than you think also happen to make me right more often than I think. But I might be wrong.