Friday, October 16, 2015

Three sources of political bias / polarisation

It is puzzling how smart people can diverge so much on political issues. Especially when they delineate their full lines of reasoning, covering much of the disputed arguments.

How come?

Three thinking dynamics are listed below. Which together can explain much of it.

1) Starting point bias.
Assume that both arguments have merit.

The right: Incentives are crucial, lower taxes encourage investments etc. (which is inarguable, but arguments exist on how far it can go. Nobody offers zero tax...)

The left: Welfare is crucial. We need taxes to fund it. Again inarguable. Only the extent is contoversial (nobody suggests building beach side mansions for the poor.)

But where do you start from?

A leftists will start from welfare importance. Where does the money come from? this is a problem to be dealt with. etc. etc.

A rightists will start from the importance of encouraging commerce and not strangle the economy. Welfare? this is a problem to be dealt with.

You can see how, even with similar beliefs, just changing the starting point of one's thinking can have a huge effect. Especially when some issues are blurred and subjective.

2) The cumulative effect of biases.
One of the biggest secrets in stupidity is that a slight bias if multiplied 10-50 times in itself can get enormous.

If you slightly over estimate parts of a discussion. but do it over multiple parts and issues, the cumulative effect can be enormous.

Lets see how the fate of the poor can easily go X10 either way.
For gauging how much suffering of the poor there are you go in stages:
Where is the poverty line? How much are the poor themselves responsible for their fate? How effective government aid is? to which degree welfare improves (helping people stay in workforce, helping the kids of the poor staying in soceity etc.) or degrade (maybe welfare encourage not working? etc. etc.)? How effective is welfare (i.e. how much is being wasted before arriving to the poor themselves)? how much is our moral obligation? and multiple other questions.

Eventually, a rational answer to the value of welfare is the combination (kind of numerical product) of all the questions above and similar ones.

If one can err on each question in say 20% the multiplied effect over 10 questions will be 1.2^10 = 6.16

basically deviating either side about those 10 questions by a mere 20% will either turn you into an anti welfare fanatic, or into a unquestionable pro welfare fanatic. I am talking here on the rational logic, not on any emotions of moral tendencies!

3) The complexity of the involved logic and circularities
The way to decide a political question is not a pre defined one.
There are multiple issues to decide upon, and many of them are interrelated.
It is even common not to trust some sources based on other peripheral opinions we do have.
This complexity opens the door to endless bias.

This complexity and circularity will be familiar if you try to recall arguments you ever had with people on the complete opposite of the political spectrum from yourself.
You think you will be done with discussing aspect A, but it ends up being related to subject B, which is related on a bag of facts C etc. etc.

If you were stupid and persistent enough to carry on enough, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Thanks for reading. it has been exhausting