Re: Anti-Capitalism

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Mon Apr 23 2001 - 12:17:01 MDT

söndagen den 22 april 2001 09:16 Lee Corbin wrote:
> Chris Rasch writes,
> > I often wonder however, if I had been born in an
> > intellectual Jewish household in Brooklyn of 1900,
> > instead of a Mormon household in rural Idaho in the
> > 1970's, would I now be an ardent Marxist, instead
> > of an anarchocapitalist?
> You've raised the enormously interesting meta-question
> of how it is we obtain our political beliefs, which
> has fascinated me since I was a kid.
> Yet some of the very open and bright people here who
> have just owned up to be left-leaning, or at least
> liberal, such as Damien Broderick and Anders Sandberg
> will hardly shy away from such a question, and will
> undoubtedly contribute in an objective fashion.


In an ideal world, the kind that I think many mathematicians and philosophers
would like to live in, political views would of course be entirely based on
estimations of objective facts, with possibly some subjective values thrown
in. People would believe in socialism or libertarianism because they made
sense or benefitted them in some way. People would change their views
depending on new information.

We all know this picture is not true, but I wonder how untrue it is? It is
not totally untrue, since there are examples all around of people who do form
opinions based on rational interpretation of facts and people who change
their minds when they get new information. Psychological inertia (as below)
can explain a lot of the discrepancy between the philosophers' world and the
real world, but there are still plenty of human inconsistency and depth
remaining to explore.

> You are absolutely right that initial upbringing is often
> the greatest determiner. I think that what happens is
> that as each of us acquires an initial view of the world,
> we begin to selectively incorporate new data into it. Soon,
> it becomes actually much more difficult to even **remember**
> data that conflicts with it. And this process
> accelerates and hardens.

Yes. In cognitive psychology the term is that we have "schemas" of how things
work, and when we get new information we can either assimilate it (put it
into the schema, even if a bit of forcing is required) or accomodate it
(change the schema, heavy work). Striving for consistency and conserving
their mental energy, most people assimilate or even ignore contradictory
information. And the better the schemas appear to be, the less inclined we
are to change them.

We all see it in our opponents.

> By the way, remarks such as the flippant one I just made
> are important; they keep the fires of objectivity burning.

Humor is definitely a sign of health. It shows that we have mental
flexibility and energy enough to play with our concepts and ideas, even to
question them. As soon as we stop that, we no longer actively remodel our
internal landscape, and then there is no hope for objectivity. Of course,
some people might be flexible without humor, but humor is a good sign.

> What I am dying to know about: are there any personality
> correlations with political beliefs? If they exist, they
> have to be mild, but I am slowly coming to think that they
> do exist.

Me too. I think I have seen some papers on this subject in the journal
_Personality and Individual Differences_ on this, but I can't find them right

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