Keeping up with the FITs, 2/24
Persuasion on platform censorship and on power; Michael Huemer on why professors lean left; Freddie deBoer rants again; Bryan Caplan moves; Joseph Paul Forgas on the psychology of populism
In Yascha Mounk’s Persuasion, Sahil Handa and Seth Moskowitz write,
Chief among the restrictors is Twitter. And while only about a quarter of Americans use the platform, dismissing it as a niche corner of the internet would be a mistake. Twitter is where breaking news spreads fastest and where much of the news cycle is made.
They point out that Twitter’s content policies are vague, and its justifications for censorship are not well supported.
Mounk interviews Moises Naim, who talks about “the revenge of power” as a reaction against what Martin Gurri (not mentioned in the interview) would call the revolt of the public.
It is a worldwide attack on checks and balances. You see it in different countries, and you see that the checks and balances that define a democracy are undermined from within.
They talk about this “revenge of power” as only coming from leaders who are in ill repute with the elites. I see it as coming from the elites themselves, with their adoption of emergency administrative powers in response to COVID as exhibit A.
People who are more strongly interested in politics tend to be more left-wing. So moderates tend to be found in non-political fields, e.g., business or engineering.
. . .The main motivation for doing a lot of reading and talking about politics is entertainment, constructing a desirable self-image, bonding with others, and stuff like that.
. . .Unfortunately, the motives for being politically engaged have little to do with finding truth or helping society, so the people who have most influence also tend to be wrong a lot. The people who are good at figuring stuff out (e.g., engineers) don’t tend to like politics.
Note that he is doing something that I caution against, which is claiming to understand the true motives of the other side better than they understand themselves. But I think there is some validity to his analysis.
Freddie deBoer does something else I caution against, which is ranting, but he does so stylishly.
Liberals cheer the FBI and CIA, call for limitless censorship, and insist on blind faith in tech giants and pharmaceutical companies. Conservatives have cast off Christianity, their north star, the orienting principle of all they believed, discarding it offhandedly like a gum wrapper.
I might add that even those conservatives who have kept Christianity have cast off fiscal responsibility. If you were to find the tag attached to “Bidenflation,” it would read “Manufactured by Trump &co.”
I have little doubt that less rational people are gradually taking over the profession. Even correcting for my own pessimistic bias, more younger economists than ever really do seem like they never learned the economic way of thinking. A shocking share of top research is mere causal inference with no economic reasoning to guide it. And most new Ph.D.s are casually woke at heart. They’re oblivious to economics’ multi-century war on Social Desirability Bias and demagoguery. Earlier generations of left-leaning economists spent a lot of energy curtailing the left’s excesses. By and large, the latest generation of left-leaning economist is now part of the left’s excesses.
Incidentally, I was the one who recommended that the Liberty Fund add Bryan to what was then “my” blog, econLog. This was when blogs in general, and multi-author blogs in particular, appeared to be taking over the information space. If only!
both left-wing and right-wing populism exploit the human need for positive identity, epistemic certainty, simplicity, moral virtue, belonging, and significance. Both ascendant and in-power populist movements from fascism, Marxism, cancel culture, the Proud Boys, Antifa, and woke-ism, all benefit from manipulating these evolutionary vulnerabilities.