Links to Consider, 1/30
Micha Goodman on Israel's political crisis; Bryan Caplan's media fantasy; Kevin Corcoran on Jeffrey Friedman's case against epistocracy; Amanda Ripley on a "dignity index" for political discourse
Micha Goodman talks with Daniel Gordis about how the absence of a Constitution in Israel threatens a Constitutional crisis.
It's a nuclear moment.
Okay, so now imagine the next day, the Supreme Court says it still has the authority to cancel illegal decisions of the Knesset. The Knesset says, no, you have no authority. Okay, so what happens the next day? The next day, let's say some human rights activists they petition to the Supreme Court and say a certain action of the military is doing towards Palestinians in the West Bank, Judea and Samaria is illegal. The Supreme Court gets together and says, “yes, it's illegal. The military cannot do that. It has to change its policies.” The government says, “no, no, the Supreme Court has no authority over you. You have to continue those policies.” Now, you are Herzi Halevi…
The new Chief of Staff of the army.
The new Chief of Staff of the army. Who do you listen to? The Supreme Court or to the government? That question was never asked before in the history of Israel.
Bryan Caplan’s fantasy is for mainstream media to shut up. He predicts that this would reduce polarization by giving people on the right less to fuel their hatred.
The media is the highest-profile segment of the left - even higher-profile than the current government. So if the mainstream media disbanded itself, what would happen? Pessimists will insist that conservatives would figure out how to keep their anger at its current level, but that’s unlikely. As Richard says in his all-time most-read post, conservatives just don’t care that much about politics. The mainstream media has to provoke conservatives day after day to keep them engaged and enraged. Conservatives’ natural state is complacency.
So the left would face less resistance to doing what it wants, but the right would be happier about it, because the news wouldn’t be in their face?
epistocrats face a difficulty over and above the difficulties faced by citizen-technocrats – the spiral of conviction. “The spiral of conviction is the hypothesis that as people become better informed – that is, roughly speaking, as they move from being citizen-technocrats towards being epistocrats – they inadvertently become dogmatic.”
…Friedman views this as different from simple confirmation bias, because that term “is often taken to mean a deliberate attempt to seek out confirmatory information. My suggestion, on the contrary, is that spirals of conviction are inadvertent and involuntary, just as are the perceptions, beliefs, interpretations, and biases that may be reinforced by a given spiral.”
I am really pleased with Corcoran’s treatment of the late Jeffrey Friedman’s work. He quotes Friedman on a likely selection bias in the search for policy advice.
political decision-makers, in attempting to identify which epistocrats can be trusted, can be expected to select those who are more dogmatic than most, even from among a group that is dogmatic on the whole—because those who are less dogmatic than most will tend to be less persuasive in advocating their points of view, even as those who are the least dogmatic of all, and thus the most likely to be judicious, will not even participate in the competition.
Pyfer is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and although she doesn’t often talk about her faith publicly, Mormons are among the most reliably conservative groups in America. Pyfer regularly donates to Utah’s Republican politicians. She supports gun rights (alongside safety reforms) and has a concealed firearm permit. But she did not support Donald Trump for President, and her husband, who is significantly to the right of her, did.
Meanwhile, their five grown children span the spectrum, aligned with five different political parties, including the Libertarian and the Independent American parties. Their once spicy dinner-table debates became existential clashes. She developed different talk tracks, depending on who was present. She found herself sharing certain memes and cartoons with her left-leaning daughter, for example — but not her libertarian son. “That wasn’t very healthy,” she says now.
Tami Pyfer organized the creation of a Dignity Index for political discourse. It has 8 levels, where 1 is low-dignity and 8 is high-dignity.
means “is feeling the other side is less than human.”
accuses the other side of “promoting evil.”
“attacks the other side’s moral character.”
“mocks and attacks the other side”
“listens to the other side’s point of view”
attempts “to work with the other side to find common ground”
wants to discuss with the other side “the deepest disagreements they have to see what breakthroughs they can find.”
“I can see myself as part of any group, I refuse to hate anyone, and I offer dignity to everyone.”
Whatever you call me, please don’t say I’m an 8. That one makes me want to cringe and pull up Tom Lehrer’s National Brotherhood Week.
Scoring could be fun, but I can’t see doing it objectively. I’ll give you a few of my opinions, off the top of my head. Paul Krugman is obviously a 2. So was Rush Limbaugh. Jordan Peterson is sometimes a 2, usually a 5, and sometimes a 7. Even though I think Obama comes across as more dignified than Trump, on this index I think they are both 4’s.
Substacks mentioned above:
Re: "The mainstream media has to provoke conservatives day after day to keep them engaged and enraged. Conservatives’ natural state is complacency." - Bryan Caplan
My intuition is that Bryan underestimates conservative demand for news about wokeness, borders, etc. One must first tune in, in order to be provoked.a
MSM is also a business; and the customer is always right.
There is a glaring problem with the dignity index that immediately jumps out: What does a proper, dignified person do when there are political disputants actively promoting evil? To say that is never the case is to simply erase the notion of evil, to imagine people never do or promote evil things. Yet at the same time, it makes calling someone out for promoting evil the lowest of low status.
Now, in general I would agree that jumping right to someone having evil motives is a questionable move, but recognizing that what they are proposing, what they openly say and not what secretly motivates them, is evil is a question of judgement.