Re: Confidence: A Basic Politics Puzzle
Wed, 19 Feb 97 15:48:03 GMT

Robin Hanson:

>Why do people seem so damn confident of their political

There must be many factors that play a part. Here are some

1. People believe that something like Western democracy is a
good thing, perhaps because they compare it to other
political systems that have been tried in the past and found

2. Western democracy functions by means of a class of
politicians want to be elected. They are elected if they
succeede in convincing the populace that their particular
policy would be good.

3. A politician who appears to be confident about his views
tend to be more convincing than one who appears hesitant,
uncertain, and who frequently points out weak spots in his
own argument.

4. So politicians become confident, through precept as well
as though voter's selection.

5. When the public sees all the great names in politics
appearing very confident, it tend to believe that that is
the proper way to argue politics, and it immitates.

6. Moreover, many people believe that political science is
much less advanced than physics, say, so that they regard it
as more legitimate to have stong views about politics
without having studied political science than to have strong
views about controversial physical phenomena whithout having
studied physics. In any case, the academic experts typically
fail to come forth with an unanimous view on controversial
political issues.

7. People tend to associate according to political outlook
(I guess), and so their views become reinforced by an
external positive feedback loop.

8. Since the top politicians (who in the public's view are
the political authorities) are usually not selected for
their outstanding knowledge of political or social science
etc., but rather for carisma and such, the public tend to
believe that knowledge of political science is not very
relevant to politics.

9. People are encouraged to form their own political
opinions, perhaps because that is regarded as beneficial for
a democratic system. Non-voters are derided.

10. Many political disagrements are based on fundamental
value differences, and people tend to know very well what
they value, so no wonder they speak with conviction about
such issues. Often these value disagreements come down to a
bias in favour of solutions that are perceived as
benefitting the voter (egoism).

11. Political questions are often so big that to take a
stand on them has consequences for ones whole outlook on the
world and one's fellow citizens. This makes it difficult for
many to adopt a detached, objective approach to political
questions; rather many people's political views are choosen
so as to harmonise with their personal experiences (and with
the political views of the peole around them).

12. Politics might appeal to the same instincts as sport:
the feeling of belonging to a group, of combat, we/them, may
take priority over a genuine concern to find the right

Personally, I think that people with over-confident
political opinions deserve a good flogging, for intellectual
irresponsibility is the cause of an incalculable amount of
suffering and retardation of progress in the world, I

Nicholas Bostrom