Re: Are Beliefs Like Clothes?

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 18 Jul 1997 10:01:28 -0700 (PDT)

Steve Witham writes:
>... you want to agree on the topic but disagree on the opinions
>about it, to have a good argument.

Your desire to argue is also a social signal. Many people would like
nothing better than to agree with all their friends on every
conversation topic that comes up.

>In fact it's in the interest of both voters and representitives to
>make government good at producing annoyance (stuff to get angry and
>argue about) and bad at changing things (practical).

To elaborate, people want political issues which are closely aligned
with aspects of their own values that they want to signal to others,
and which do not overly threaten how things actually get done.

>Here's an example that this is happening:
>An X-Files T-shirt, with the slogan, "I Want To Believe," is:
> o an indicator that I'm an independent thinker interested in wacky
> ideas, and
> o an indicator that I'm a skeptic with some scientific training, and
> o an ironic meta-comment (maybe showing that people in general are
> becoming more aware) about the social function of belief, and
> o a damn fine practical piece of clothing.

A nice example.

>In short, a desert topping *and* a floor wax.

This phrasing gave the a serious case of the giggles. :-)

>The thing I noticed was that you put "maintain privacy"
>and "enhance our figures" in the "functional" category.

Good points.

Robin D. Hanson