Our task and “The Law of Group Polarization”

There was an article at The Corner which gave me something to think about. The author linked to a study from 1999 by Cass Sunstein which appeared in the Harvard Law Review entitled “The Law of Group Polarization” and was later Published in the Journal of Political Philosophy, 2002. The thesis appears in the abstract and is simple:

In a striking empirical regularity, deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments. For example, people who are opposed to the minimum wage are likely, after talking to each other, to be still more opposed; people who tend to support gun control are likely, after discussion, to support gun control with considerable enthusiasm; people who believe that global warming is a serious problem are likely, after discussion, to insist on severe measures to prevent global warming. This general phenomenon — group polarization – has many implications for economic, political, and legal institutions. It helps to explain extremism, “radicalization,” cultural shifts, and the behavior of political parties and religious organizations; it is closely connected to current concerns about the consequences of the Internet; it also helps account for feuds, ethnic antagonism, and tribalism.

Near the end of the article itself we see:

One of the most important lessons is among the most general: It is desirable to create spaces for enclave deliberation without insulating enclave members from those with opposing views, and without insulating those outside of the enclave from the views of those within it.

In that light and considering the Asch conformity experiments of the ’50s, think of the general masses of people who are surrounded by all kinds of people who say that there must be a government and that our government is the best possible one despite all its faults. (if they see any faults) Since most grow up believing that the State is nessacary for civilization to exist, they then become very hard to reach by mere logic and example alone. This makes our job all the harder!

Think of the millions that Ron Paul reached in spite of the obsticles to doing so; and think of the fact that he reached the younger crowd. Perhaps the younger people are still flexible enough to look at all sides and do a little thinking. I certainly hope so.

Murray Rothbard believed that education of the masses was not enough to win the day. He believed that we would also have to work through the political process (whatever that means) in addition to all our other efforts. I suppose that the example of Ron Paul teaches us that politics can be used in self-defense. I remain conflicted on this point since how many Ron Pauls come along in a generation?

Anyway, to those who look to use the political system I say good luck. I will be staying home on election day, but I will not belittle your free-will choice whatever it may be. We need to fight for liberty and freedom in whatever way we think has the best chance.

May the gods bless all our effforts.

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