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Monday
Dec092013

MAPKIA "answers" episode2: There is no meaningful cultural conflict over vaccine risks, & the tea party doesn't look very "libertarian" to me!

Okay-- "tomorrow" has arrived & it is therefore time for me to disclose the "answers" to the MAPKIA episode 2 contest.  And to figure out which of the 10^3s entrants has won by making the "correct" predictions based on "cogent" hypotheses.

Just to briefly recap, the contest involved the "interpretive communities" (IC) alternative to the "cultural worldviews" (CW) strategy for measuring risk predispositions.  Whereas the CW strategy uses cultural outlook scales to measure these these dispositions, IC "backs" the dispositons "out" of individuals' risk perceptions.  

Applying factor analysis to a bunch of risk perceptions, I identified two orthognal risk-perception dimensions, which I identified as the "public safety risk" disposition and "social deviancy risk" disposition.

Treated as scales, the two factors measure how disposed to see the individual risks that form their respective indicators as "high" or "low."  Because the factors into four "interpretive communities": ICs--IC-α (“high public-safety” concern, “low social-deviancy”);  IC-β (“high public-safety,” “low social-deviancy); IC-γ (“low public-safety,” “low public-safety”); and IC-δ (“low public-safety,” “high social-deviancy”). 

The MAPKIA questions were ... 

(1) How do IC-αs, IC-βs, IC-γs and IC-δs feel about the risks of childhood vaccinations? Which risk-perception dimension--public-safety or social-deviancy--captures variation in perception of that risk?  (2) Hey--where is the Tea Party?!  Are its members IC-αs, IC-βs, IC-γs, or IC-δs?!

Now the "answers"

1.  Neither risk-perception dimension explains a meaningful amount of variance in vaccine risk perceptions because none of the groups culturally polarized on "public safety" and "social deviancy" risks is particularly worried about vaccines!

I measured vaccine risk perceptions with 14 risk perception items (e.g., "In your opinion, how much risk does obtaining generally recommended childhood vaccinations pose to the children being vaccinated? [0-7, "no risk at all"-"Very high risk"] "Childhood vaccines are not tested enough for safety" [0-6, "strongly disagree"-"strongly agree"; "I am confindent in the judgment of the public health officials who are responsible for idenitfying generally recommended childhood vaccines" [same]).

The items formed a highly reliable (Cronbach's α = 0.94) unidimensional scale that can be viewed as measuring how risky members of the sample perceive vaccines to be.

For now I'm going to use the vaccine-risk perception scores of an N = 750 subsample, the members of which formed the "control" group in an experiment that tested how exposure to information of certain kinds of information affected vaccine risk perceptions (more--much much much more -- on that in a future post!).  Here is how the vaccine-risk perceptions of those individuals "registered" on the public safety and social deviancy scales (using locally weighted regression to observe the "raw data"):

There's a tiny bit of "action" here, sure. But it's clear that vaccine-risk perceptions are not generating nearly the sort of variation that the indicator risks for each factor are generating. Vaccine risks wouldn't come close to loading on either of the factors to a degree that warrants the inference that variance is being caused by the underlying latent disposition -- the interpretation that one can give to the relationship between the factor and its various risk-perception indicators.

But, yes, there is a bit of variance--indeed, a "statistically significant" amount being picked up by each scale.

But "statistical significance" and "practical significance" are very different things. a proposition often obsured by researchers who merely report correlations or regression coefficients along with their "p-values" without any effort to make the practical effect of those relationships comprehensible.

So I'll show you what the practical significance is of the variance in vaccine-risk perceptions "explained" by these two otherwise very potent risk predispositions.  

For purposes of illustration, I've modeled the predicted responses of typical (i.e., +1 or -1 SD as appropriate on the relevant scales) IC-αs, IC-βs, IC-γs, and IC-δs to one of the items from the vaccine-risk perception scale (I could pick any one of the items & illustrate the same thing; the covariance pattern in the responses is comparable for all of them, as reflected in the high reliability of the scale):

The "variance" that's being explained here is the difference between being 75% (+/- 5%, LC = 0.95) and 84% (+/- 3%) likely to agree that vaccine benefits outweigh the risks.  Members of any of these groups who "disagree" with this proposition are part of a decided minority.

In other words, vaccine risks do not register as a matter of contention on either of the major dimensions along which risk issues culturally polarize members of our society.

Surprised?

Well, in one sense you shouldn't be.  Cultural polarization on risk is not the norm.  Most of the time culturally diverse citizens converge on the best available scientific evidence -- here that vaccines are high benefit and low risk -- because the cues and processes orienting members of different groups with respect to what's known by science are pointing in the same direction regardless of which group they belong to.  

Conflict occurs when risks or like facts become entangled in antagonistic meanings that effectively transform positions on them into badges of membership in and loyalty to competing groups.  That's happened for climate change, for gun control, for nuclear power, for drug legalization, for teaching highschool students about birth control, etc.

But again, this hasn't happened for childhood vaccines.

Still I can understand why this might be surprising news.  It's not the impression one would get when one "reads the newspaper" -- unless one's paper of choice were the CDC's Weekly Mortality and Morbidity Reports, which every September for at least a decace have been announcing things like "Nation's Childhood Immunization Rates Remain at or Above Record Levels!, "CDC national survey finds early childhood immunization rates increasing," etc.

That's because vaccination rates for all the major childhood diseases have -- happly!-- been at or above 90% (the target level) for over a decade.

Nevertheless, the media and blogosphere are filled with hyperbolic -- just plain false, really -- assertions of a "declining vaccination ratebeing fuled by a "growing crisis of public confidence,” a “growing wave of public resentment and fear,” etc. among parents.

Also false-- at least if one defines "true" as "supported by fact": the completely evidence-free story that "vaccine hesitancy"  is meaningfully connected to any recognizable cultural or politcal style in our society.

I've posted this before, but here you go if you are looking for the answer about the correlation between concern about vaccine risks and right-left political outlooks (from the same study as the rest of the data I'm reporting here):

This isn't to say that there aren't people who are anti-vaccine or that they aren't a menace.

It's just to say that they are a decidedly small segment of the population, and whatever unites them, they are outliers within all the familiar recognizable cultural and political groups in our pluralistic society.

That's good news, right?!  

So is it good to disseminate empirically uinformed claims that predicatably cause members of the public to underestimate how high vaccination rates genuinely are and how much cultural consensus there truly is in favor of universal vaccination?

I don't think so. 

Indeed, more later on the not good things that happen to IC-αs, IC-βs, IC-γs, and IC-δs when empirically uniformed commentators insist that being "anti-vaccine" is akin to being skeptical about evolution and disbelieving climate change (I've already posted data showing that that claim is manifestly contrary to fact, too). 

2. The Tea Party-- they are terrified of social deviancy!

I guess I'm becoming obsessed with these guys. They surprise me every time I look at them!

I had come to the conclusion that they really couldn't just be viewed as merely "very conservative," "strong Republicans."

But I still don't quite get who they are.

Well, this bit of exploration convinces me that one thing they aren't is libertarian.

This scatterplot locates self-identified tea party members -- about 20% of the N = 2000 nationally representative sample -- in the "risk predisposition" space defined by the intersection of the "public safety" and "social deviancy" risk predispositions.

No surprise that tea party member score low on the "public safety" scale.

But it turns out they score quite high onthe "social deviance" one!  They are pretty worried about legalization of marijuana, legalization of prostitution, and sex ed (all of those things).  

Indeed, they are more worried (M = .51, SD = 0.85) than a typical "conservative Republican" (0.33, SD = 0.85).

These are the folks who Rand Paul is counting on? Maybe I don't know really get him either.

Actually, if being in the tea party can be consistent with being pro- Michele Bachmann & pro- Rand Paul, then clearly there's nothing "libertarian" about calling yourself a member of this movement (but if one is measuring the opinion of ordinary folk, there's probably only a tiny correlation between calling oneself "libertarian" and actually being one in any meaningful philosophical sense).

Just for the record, the tea party folks are less worried, too, about "public safety" risks than the averge "conservative Republican" (M = -0.87, SD = 0.79 vs. -0.52, SD = 0.69).

Wow.

Now, who won the contest?

Boy, this is tough.  

It's tough because both @Isabel and @FrankL had some good predictions and theories about tea-party members' risk dispositions.  Indeed, Isabel pretty much nailed it. @FrankL expected the TP members to be more "anti-deviancy" -- I guess I sort of thought that too, although mainly I'm just perplexed as to what self-identifying with the TP really means.  

But I feel that I really can't award the prize to anyone, because no one offered a theoretically cogent prediction about why no one would really be worried about vaccine risks.  I think you guys are ignoring the silent denominator! 

But both @Isabel and @FrankL deserve recognition & so will get appropriate consolation prizes in the mail!

Oh, and of course, anyone who wants to appeal the expert panel's determination can-- by filing an appropriate grievance in the comments section!

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Reader Comments (36)

"But I still don't quite get who they are."

Here's a theory: they are primarily defined by "the other" - and pretty much a singular other: Liberals (cue scary music).

So when you aggregate the data, anti-government sentiments or atheism or whatever metric you're using is going to level out - because those views are secondary to their primary identification, which is, in fact, based on who they aren't more than who they are.

Don't forget "Keep the government away from my Medicare."

And don't forget the collection of issues that they, as a collective entity, are suddenly "concerned" about that they weren't particularly concerned about not that long ago: An insurance mandate, attacks on American embassies, warrantless wiretapping, government debt, federal support for education,, etc.

But Republicans largely have the same defining motivation (a dislike of "the other"/liberals and Democrats) - so how do they differ? I think they differ in, basically, a view about the best electoral strategy, with a bit of a different sense of identity mixed in. Tea Partiers are a subset of Republicans on the basis not of ideology, but of the degree to which they think that extremist rhetoric is an acceptable strategy and an acceptable self-identification.

So where do the data show me wrong?

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Well! I certainly found the Tea Party result very surprising. Astonishing, even.

I noted the 'global warming' risk has a significant negative 'social deviancy' component to it (if I'm understanding what you're scale is doing, which I'm pretty sure I don't). Does that mean that people who score 'global warming' risk very low will get a high 'social deviancy risk' score? How much does that contribute?

And where on your graph do actual self-identified libertarians appear?

I'm not going to appeal about the competition because I wasn't playing to win. :-)

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Niv: the two dimensions are orthogonal -- or correllated no more than 0.10. But climate change risk perception, measured on industrial strength measure, is correlated with deviancy risk score -0.36 (you can see that in the factor loadings, in the first figure)

Actually, I'll post something showing how indicators for each dimension relates to the "factor" score of the other. They sort of look like vaccine risks do in the figure above relative to the indicators that the factor comprises.

I'm not sure where self-id libertarians would be. I didin't collect data on that; some "others" on party id might self-identify.

My impression is that pol scienitsts rararely asky "are you a liberataerian"; instead they ask about "social" & "economic" dimensions of conservativiesm & classify someone as "liberatarian" if he or she is low in former but high in latter. I've done that before but not w/ this data; but when I have done it, it loooks a lot like these two risk dimensions.

somoene must have tried to figure out whether self-identification as "liberatarian" maps onto the approach I've described, which uses factor analysis of various policy positions. I'll see if I can find something

December 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Hmm. This is interesting. Seems the question has been looked at before.

http://publicreligion.org/research/2013/10/2013-american-values-survey/

39% of libertarians identify with the Tea Party. 26% of the Tea Party are libertarians.

My guess would be that if a libertarian is right-leaning enough to be Republican, they're very likely to be with the Tea Party, but that the Tea Party is a broader coalition of which the libertarians are only one (but a loud) component. The Christian Right are a much bigger component at 52%. There are a lot more of them, after all. But I don't know.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Niv:

Interesting about the liberatarian/tp connection. I'm wondering whether self-identication as either has really been found to be a reliable measure of anything...

December 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Well, actually I was curious about how much the global warming 'negative deviancy' had contributed to the Tea Party result, but I can see how I wasn't clear. Never mind.

I don't know. Self-identification isn't perfect, but if a metric conflicts dramatically with self-identification, I do have to wonder if the metric is measuring what everybody assumes it is measuring. I'm a little more sceptical about them than I was. (I've already been surprised once today when I found out that the 'hierarchical' characteristic wasn't measuring what I thought it was. And I'm still curious about other forms of 'social deviancy' besides those recognised by the right.)

I think in retrospect my impression that the TP was more libertarian than it actually is comes from sampling bias. I know a fair number of US libertarians, and of those who lean right, most tend to identify with the Tea Party. I was aware that it was a somewhat broader coalition than that, but it's clear that there is a significant portion who are neither libertarian nor the Religious Right. I've no idea who they are or what they think.

I like it when I learn something that surprises me! So today was a good day. :-)

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

Well, I was less right than Isabel, so I will give my portion of the prize to her. Maybe she did not say it, but she figured correctly that the Tea Party is more conservative than I thought. Oh, wait, to put it more correctly, she figured correctly that Dan's questions would place them more in the delta quadrant than the beta quadrant:) Was identification with the Tea Party the only question that selected out the Tea Party points? If so, then the data is good, almost by definition. If not, then I am suspicious.

So now I have to ponder why I thought the Tea Party was more libertarian than it is. (From the scatter plot, it appears that about 30% are libertarian.) As a semi-libertarian, maybe I was engaging in wishful thinking (ID-protective cognition). To make up for it, maybe I can give some insight into what a liberarian mindset is like. I've known some fanatical high-numeracy libertarians and some less so, more knee-jerk libertarians, so I might even be able to give some libertarian opinions that I disagree with.

@Joshua - I take issue with "Tea Partiers are a subset of Republicans on the basis not of ideology, but of the degree to which they think that extremist rhetoric is an acceptable strategy and an acceptable self-identification." I see this as opponent-identity-protective-cognition. It is extreme - it completely discounts any sense of principled commitment on their part. It would be similar to a statement that the civil rights marchers of the '60's were "a subset of Democrats on the basis not of ideology, but of the degree to which they think that extremist rhetoric is an acceptable strategy and an acceptable self-identification." Both statements probably have an element of truth. One may disagree with the agenda, but I think that both statements really underestimate the dedication to what the subjects see as a good cause.

PS - NiV and I have been discussing the exact meaning of the heirarchical axis (http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2013/12/2/why-cultural-predispositions-matter-how-to-measure-them-a-fr.html) and Dan, we need some help there.

PPS - I would like to lobby again for a measurement technique that self-conciously assumes and then tries to minimize the bias of the questioner (impossible to do perfectly). One way to do this is to look at the scatter plots as roughly converting the amount of disagreement between two people into a geometric distance between them. Rather than interpreting answers (bias! error!) in order to calculate positions on two researcher-defined axes (bias! error!), simply ask some questions (bias!, error!) and use the number (or fraction) of disagreements between two people as the geometric distance between them and make a scatter plot. Now you can puzzle over the meaning of scatter plots that are rather specific regarding "ideological distances", but have no pre-defined axes. One source of bias and error has been removed, and the "degree of difference" between people is explicitly stressed and more accurately represented. Maybe you can see the affinity groups as clusters of points, I don't know.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

I agree with Joshua in this sense. TP seems to be the group of people vaguely conservative whom I used to refer to as 'anti's". They are defined as much as what they are against. Not necessarily the same as saying it is about rhetoric, but noting that the rhetoric has that over the top feeling because of the antagonism that the anti's bring to their public discourse.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

@John - I'm interested in the Tea Pary phenomenon, but I don't follow the Tea Party situation step by step , so I only have general impressions from reading and talking to Tea Party members. I don't see anything inherently wrong with being against something, for example racism, sexism, slavery, etc. What would be an example of this Tea Party rhetoric?

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

FrankL:

"I see this as opponent-identity-protective-cognition. "

Could be. I certainly agree that opponent-identity-proctective-cognition is very prevalent in these debates. So let's see.

It is extreme

I agree. I wonder if it is so extreme that it is over-the-top. So that's why I'm asking for contrariwise evidence.

"- it completely discounts any sense of principled commitment on their part. "

So this I don't think is true - it's just that I don't see evidence that their principled commitments are what they say they are, exactly.

Where was the principled commitment to opposing an insurance mandate before the Dems started advocating for it? Where was the principled commitment to attacking administrations for embassy attacks prior to Benghazi?

Is it a principled commitment that leads people to question Obama's citizenship, or whether he's a Manchurian candidate - a Muslim who's secretly promoting Sharia law and supporting terrorists? I just have a hard time buying those concerns as a direct reflection of principle to commitment.

But I do think that we are all driven by commitments to basically the same principles. We are all, basically, against governmental tyranny. We are all against people suffering due to poverty. We are all, basically supportive of a government that protects the public's interest (without over-reaching constitutional limitations). We are all, basically, committed to the principles of the constitution.

But the pathways leading outward from our commitments diverge into positions that are oppositional, and I believe that largely reflects a need to reinforce identity - and to do so largely by identifying "the other."

We all do it.

So, then, is there a different between tea partiers and civil rights advocates in terms of commitment to principle? A great question, and one that deserves an answer, and certainly a question that pushes my "opponent-identity-proctective-cognition," just as I would imagine my comments about the tea partiers did for you...

Need to think about it. Some thoughts

Preliminarily, I think that the question would boil down to whether the is some qualitative difference, or difference in kind, between the extent that the "other" was driving the civil rights movement as compared to the Tea Partiers. For example, I suppose that Tea Partiers see their claims of victimization (at the hands of a tyrannical Obama) as equivalent to the victimization of blacks in the 60s. But can we only evaluate the legitimacy of those views subjectively? Is there a qualitative difference between Obama's tyranny and that of Bull Conner?

Is there some way that MLK's opposition to treating blacks as subhuman might have gone from essentially non-existent to being a driving force as has the concern of Tea Partiers about an insurance mandate - coincident with the positioning of a political opponent on the subject? An unfair comparison?

Is there some objective difference - that we might agree to - between MLK's denouncement of racist whites and Michelle Bachmann's denouncement of gays who want to marry? Is that an unfair comparison?

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

FrankL:

"I don't see anything inherently wrong with being against something, for example racism, sexism, slavery, etc."

Just to clarify - that would not follow from what I said - as I think that Tea Partiers are largely defined by strong opposition to someone (a singular and/or collective someone - liberals in general or Obama singularly), and not by opposition to something - as they often state.

I should note, however, that Mitch McConnell is the one who said: "Making Obama a one-term president is my single most important political goal," and McConnell is noteworthy for being a Republican who has criticized the Tea Party for extremism - suggesting a flaw in how I'm distinguishing Tea Partiers from other Republicans.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Joshua,

Are those specifically Tea Party positions? I could be wrong, but I thought opposition to the expensively redistributionist aspect of Obamacare, abandoning the embassy staff at Benghazi (and then blaming it on a movie), or Obama's 'tyranny' (I'm guessing that's referring to making unconstitutional changes to the law for political reasons without going through congress, or maybe the IRS thing) were fairly generic conservative positions. And that the 'birthers' were just generally peculiar people.

The unifying principle that the Tea Party advocate is opposition to the policy of tax, borrow, and spend, and a desire to reduce the burden of government and welfare, which is the one thing you don't mention.

Are you talking about things said by people who happen to be with the Tea Party, or are you saying that these are all Tea Party positions, not shared by the rest of the Republicans, and I'm just missing it? (Not impossible, of course. I don't follow US politics in that much detail.)

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

NiV -

I'm not sure how to identify exactly what positions characterize the Tea Party. Tough to say....

As I said, my sense is that while there is a lot of overlap with the Republican Party, or conservatives more generally, what distinguishes them is the extremeness of their rhetoric and views on what is an effective political strategy. For example, many Republicans would certainly identify being in opposition to federal spending on social safety net programs, but Tea Partiers would take that to opposition to the level of shutting down the government or raising the debt limit, risking default. Many Republicans might argue against centralized education policies or spending federal dollars on education beyond a certain point, but Tea Patiers on average would be more likely to support defunding the department of education. Many Republicans identify "Washing funding" as a major problem, but some look at Rand Paul's budget propositions and are not supportive.

When someone like McConnell calls the Tea Party "bullies," is it because of an ideological distinction? I suspect not. I think it's because McConnell thinks that extreme ideology does not win elections, and the Tea Partiers don't agree. Is it that Tea Partiers are more committed to principle, and are not willing to bend principle for political expediency? I doubt it. I don't think that Tea Partiers are more in opposition to "tyranny" than mainstream Republicans.

"And that the 'birthers' were just generally peculiar people."

I don't know for sure, but my sense is that the prevalence of birthers is considerably higher among Tea Partiers than the Republican Party more generally. There are a lot of birthers - and I think that it is facile to just conclude that they are distinctly more "peculiar" than anyone else. I mean isn't a determination of "peculiar" just purely subjective? By what mechanism to we measure degrees of peculiarity?

Come to think of it, as I recall you once called me on the use of "extreme" as a descriptor - and I think that it is a very inadequate term here. But I'm not sure what to use, exactly. I don't think that "committed" is accurate. I don't think that "principled" is accurate." I don't think that "peculiar" is accurate. And nor is "extreme." I think that the best we can do, probably, is to find some way of using data as descriptors unto themselves - as FrankL suggests above? But even then, how do we describe the constellation of the data w/o running into problems with descriptors? How can we label the poles of the axes w/o using biased language? I couldn't really respond on topic to this series of Dan's questions because I just couldn't get past the descriptors he was using (although I am sure that part of the reason for that is the inadequacy of my intellectual abilities as opposed to the inadequacy of his descriptors).

"The unifying principle that the Tea Party advocate is opposition to the policy of tax, borrow, and spend, and a desire to reduce the burden of government and welfare, which is the one thing you don't mention."

I don't agree with that. I don't see that as a unifying principle when I look beneath the surface rhetoric. I am against a "burden of government" just as much as Joe and Jill Tea Party. The reason why we identify differently isn't because we have differing levels of acceptance of a "burden of government."

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

FrankL, In answer to your question, I do see the TP as really being against spending. It is not about tax, borrow, and spend. It is really about too many taxes and too much spending. To the TP, the borrowing is not an issue of the same ilk but rather shows just how wrong the tax and spend has become. In other words, "it is much worse." There is a moral aspect to it that I have noted. The borrow not only is worse, but we are essentially pre-taxing the unborn and saddling them with a debt that we benefited from.

But I have found there are many flavors. And I have seen this reactionary group of people in different aspects. It is that the idea of being taxed too much is the unifying principle. It also appears here in South Carolina they are trying to be more than just anti's, but the underlying principle is opposition.

So, I disagree with what Joshua states above. I don't see much below the surface that is unifying that can be expressed across the board, universally. But, I also have a similar inability wrt Republicans and Democrats.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

Ah, right.

That's more like it! :-) Shutting down the government, triggering a default on the debt, and defunding the education department I'd definitely recognise as Tea Party-type policies! (Although I'm not sure I'd consider them 'extreme' - but that's a matter of perspective, I suppose. I'm not objecting to it.)

I agree there are a lot of birthers, it's just not something I particularly associated with the Tea Party. Point taken regarding 'peculiar' - that sort of thinking is very common, although the topic varies more widely.

I agree about the problem with descriptors. I've realised I need to be a lot more careful about taking the labels and descriptors on trust, as accurate descriptions of the characteristics they're measuring. FrankL's suggestion of clustering is a good one, if the groups actually divide into clusters - I don't think they do.

Actually, if I understand what Dan is doing with his 'interpretive community' axes, he's actually already doing something very much like this. The basis of the method is to consider the scores as coordinates of individuals in a multidimensional space, treat the collection as a 'cloud' or 'blob' of points, and measure the blob's dimensions along general axes. The longest two axes are the two coordinates the algorithm picked out. (It's actually related to the PCA methods used by climate scientists for processing tree ring data - but hopefully Dan did the calculation correctly!) These axes are thus data-driven. Where I had the difficulty was when Dan looked at the characteristics being measured in those directions and called them 'public safety risk'/'social deviancy risk', which is not precisely what they're measuring, as such - only a very specific subset of them. I'm still confused as to how they arose - whether as a feature of the data or by the original choice of questions/coordinates that were input into the process.

JFP,

Yes, I thought the 'too much' bit was implicit/obvious, but you're right.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@Joshua - I think we both share some values regarding this blog. We don't want to simply engage in the usual left/right battle, but we also want to step back, go into "meta mode" and ask ourselves "what is going on here, why are two rational people disagreeing so much?" Please also understand that I am not a partisan warrior for the Tea Party. If they say A and B, I may agree with A and disagree with B. This is particularly likely since I am libertarian-minded (but not a warrior for the Libertarian party) and it turns out that some 70 percent of the Tea Party is conservative. I tend to defend the Tea Party's libertarian sentiments, not so much the conservative sentiments.

I'm not sure I understand the importance you attach to their lack of vocal opposition to the individual mandate before the Democrats began advocating for it. From a libertarian point of view its a totally predictable reaction to anyone who proposes it, left, right, whatever, and it's based on principles. Do you see it as simple mindless opposition to whatever their opponents propose, good, bad, or otherwise? Or am I missing something?

Is being a birther an integral part of the Tea Party? I don't think so, but then I am, as recently demonstrated, not an expert on Tea Party positions. For the libertarian third of the Tea party, I think the birther issue is a distraction. Also, the role of the Obama administration in fueling the birther movement must not be ignored. Why issue a fake "scan" of his birth certificate and then nervously laugh it off as a joke? Are they that desperate? Do they have the real one and are egging them on, hoping the birthers will overstep so they can nail them? I have no idea. Am I peculiar? I don't think so.

Let me be clear - do I think that a race of people who were enslaved for 300 years, objecting to the racism still existing in that society is equivalent in importance to the Tea party objecting to what they see as progress towards a tyrannical socialist society? No, hell no. That's not why I made the comparison. I made the comparison because your statements about Tea Party motives was, in my view, just as erroneous and made for the same reasons that those who declared the freedom marchers to be extremist with no real purpose other than to make trouble. It's very discomforting to believe that your opponents have a semi-coherent ideology and set of values, and this is a facile solution to that problem. But then, I have to ask myself, am I projecting my (hopefully) semi-coherent ideology and set of values onto at least the libertarian wing of the Tea Party? Maybe I am. Maybe what I should really say is that I don't know what the Tea Party libertarians are thinking, but a number of things that they advocate is, in my mind, defensible by a set of principles, and I took your dismissal of their motives as a dismissal of my own.

"Is there some objective difference - that we might agree to - between MLK's denouncement of racist whites and Michelle Bachmann's denouncement of gays who want to marry? Is that an unfair comparison?"

That is not an unfair comparison, and there is most certainly an objective difference. MLK advocated freedom, Michelle Bachmann repression. But, as I mentioned above, this was nowhere near the point I was trying to make. My point was that to see the Tea Party as tight-knit bunch of racist, sexist homophobes with no coherent ideology other than to make trouble is self-serving and wrong, or at least no less right than any analogous group on the left. Michelle Bachmann is, by my value system, a member of the toxic right. Suppose I find a member of the toxic left, and use the fact that you both oppose the Tea Party as proof that you are out of line? Not fair.

Re - Mitch McConnell - if he said that, it disgusts me, but being a politician, it doesn't surprise me. Also, I saw the same "anti" attitude on the part of the left towards Bush II - but I do not take that as proof of a lack of principles.

One thing I object to is using the wrong words to attack another person's position or affiliation. For example, the word "extreme" as in "far from the center of public opinion", or more toxically, "far from the center of my cultural affinity group". Few people have a problem with extremism when it suits their purposes, plenty of problems when it does not. Can we avoid using the word "extreme" as if it implies wrongness or evil? To do so is to avoid the real discussion, that is, why they are wrong or evil. In this sense, I completely agree, the Tea Party is extreme compared to the Republican party.


@NiV - "The unifying principle that the Tea Party advocate is opposition to the policy of tax, borrow, and spend, and a desire to reduce the burden of government and welfare, which is the one thing you don't mention."

This is just about what I have always thought the central focus of the Tea Party was, and it is based (or baseable) on a set of principles beyond mere "trouble making". But looking at the 15 non-negotiable core beliefs at http://www.teaparty.org/about-us/ I see maybe four or five I agree with, the rest are conservative positions. Looking at the core beliefs at http://www.teapartypatriots.org/about/, I see many things I agree with, this one seems to be from the libertarian wing of the Tea Party.

Regarding Dan's evaluation of the data, I got a sense that he was doing more than just defining axes and plotting points on the risk plot, by proving they were orthogonal, but I wasn't clear on the details. Where did you get this information on his procedures? Like how are the longest axes determined?

@Everybody - So, to return to the first paragraph, what is going on here? We have two sides disagreeing on the motives of the Tea Party which I think we can agree is a coalition of basically libertarians and conservatives rather than a monolith. How do we determine the truth? What evidence is there that their libertarian wing is not principled? What is the motivation of the conservative wing? Is there evidence that it is principled or unprincipled? How do we devise an unbiased measure the degree to which a group is motivated by principles, and how much it is motivated by a desire to engage in unprincipled troublemaking? How much it is willing to fly in the face of facts to protect its constituents identity? Until we answer that question, there will be no resolution.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

FrankL,

A lot of stuff about the Tea Party comes from them being a new group with an attitude that is a threat to both of the established power blocks, and they are therefore presented and portrayed in the media in a negative light. It's common with small, new, populist parties - we have the same thing going on here in the UK.

I've no idea what Michele Bachman said about gay marriage, but so far as freedom/repression goes the issue is more complicated than either side generally admits. The two aspects generally complained of are education - where parents get no choice about how to educate their children - and marriage as religious service in church - where the religion basically gets told to redefine itself by the state. In the UK we got round a lot of the religious problems by separating those aspects performed by the state (civil partnership) from the religious ceremony (marriage), but its still a fraught issue.

The problem is, in a (classically) liberal society, people have as much right to be homophobic as they have to be gay, and both have the right to speak and act on their beliefs, to the maximum extent possible without infringing on others' rights. You can't stop other people doing something that they all choose to do, but you can't force somebody else to participate if they don't want to, either. And to be fair to them, while I've seen the opponents of gay marriage express their distaste for it in fairly general terms, mostly what they've objected to about the legislative issues is being made to participate. Not entirely, but it's something.

Regarding Dan's methods, I am, to some degree, guessing, since Dan hasn't explained. (I was sort of hoping that talking about it might draw him into the conversation, and we could find out more, but he's evidently busy with other stuff.) I figured that that was what Dan was probably doing from the form of the output, like the axes being orthogonal is a consequence of the method, and from him using key phrases like 'eigenvalues' which are another output from the algorithm. PCA is pretty standard in a lot of statistics, and I can recognise its use.
Actually, I can see now he's replied on the other thread, so I'll have to go off and read what he says.

December 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNiV

@NiV - That pretty much sums up my attitude towards gay marriage. If it weren't for the monetary benefits handed out by the government based on marriage status, the problem would mostly evaporate, but neither the conservatives nor the liberals will allow that. Unfortunately, they both agree that the role of the government is to actively discriminate, choose economic winners and losers. Conservatives want gays excluded from the winner's circle, liberals want them admitted. I want the toxic game banned on principle.

December 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

FrankL:

" Please also understand that I am not a partisan warrior for the Tea Party."

I wasn't making any such assumption - only that by criticizing the Tea Party, it is likely I would run into your "opponent-identity-protective-cognition" to the extent that you think Tea Party ideology is congruent with yours.

" If they say A and B, I may agree with A and disagree with B. "

One of the intrinsic problems here is that we're trying to discuss "them" without a coherent picture of who "they" are or what "they" say. And to exacerbate the problem, whoever "they" are and whatever "they" say changes over time (the number of those who identify with the Tea Party has dropped over time) and we lack longitudinal data - which I feel is necessary to really get a picture of who someone is and what they believe.


"I'm not sure I understand the importance you attach to their lack of vocal opposition to the individual mandate before the Democrats began advocating for it. "

It is the same importance that I attach to the justices on SCOTUS having distinctly different rulings on issues related to states rights, depending on political context. It is the same importance that I attach to the different types of reaction we see from liberals on issues like drones or wireless surveillance depending on whether Bush or Obama are president. It is the same importance that I see when many people who call themselves "fiscally conservative" display a selective interest in limiting federal spending (say, for example, with that issue of the U.S. attorneys who were fired for not pursuing those weak cases of voter fraud).

You seem to think that I'm singling out Tea Partiers. I'm not. I am questioning the relationship between their political orientation and factors related to cultural cognition. I see the relationships as similar to those we see in the climate wars - say when a "skeptic" says that global temperatures is a meaningless concept and then turns around and says that "global warming" has "stopped" or "paused" because of a decrease in the warming trend shown by land surface air temps.

"Do you see it as simple mindless opposition to whatever their opponents propose, good, bad, or otherwise?"

You are attaching the "mindless" attribute there, not me. I see all kinds of political posturing all over the political map that I see as being influence by factors such as confirmation bias, identity protection, biases related to the pattern recognition attributes in how we reason. That is not the same thing, IMO, as labeling it as "mindless." For example, it is entirely "rational" when seen from within a view that cultural cognition affects us all.

"Is being a birther an integral part of the Tea Party?"

This is a mis-reading of what I am saying. In fact, it is pretty much in diametric opposition to what I've been saying, as I am saying that I don't think that any particular issue is an "integral part of the Tea Party." You are drawing a conclusion from what I'm saying that, I think, is basically a non-sequitur w/r/t what I've said.

" For the libertarian third of the Tea party, I think the birther issue is a distraction. "

I think that you are being selective here in your reasoning, and it seems to me that it is related to opponent-identity-protective-cognition . I have run across people who identify as "libertarian" for whom the birther issue is not a "distraction."

"Also, the role of the Obama administration in fueling the birther movement must not be ignored. Why issue a fake "scan" of his birth certificate and then nervously laugh it off as a joke? Are they that desperate? Do they have the real one and are egging them on, hoping the birthers will overstep so they can nail them? I have no idea. Am I peculiar? I don't think so."

Again, that is selective, and it should be obvious because you are attributing motive without evidence of such.

" I made the comparison because your statements about Tea Party motives was, in my view, just as erroneous and made for the same reasons that those who declared the freedom marchers to be extremist with no real purpose other than to make trouble."

The problem here, IMO, is that despite my response to clarify my thoughts, you didn't update your approach to the discussion to integrate what I said. That makes progress difficult, from my perspective.

"It's very discomforting to believe that your opponents have a semi-coherent ideology and set of values, and this is a facile solution to that problem."

If this is a characterization of your view of my argument, it is an example of what I said above. I am not saying that my "opponents" have an semi-coherent (or completely incoherent) ideology and set of values.

" But then, I have to ask myself, am I projecting my (hopefully) semi-coherent ideology and set of values onto at least the libertarian wing of the Tea Party? Maybe I am. "

Of course you are. That is a given. It is a product of your psychology (identity protection) and attributes in how you reason (pattern recognition). Just as is the case with me. We all have those fundamental biasing influences. That isn't to say that we can't control for them to some extent - particularly if we engage in open discussion with others who see issues differently.

"Maybe what I should really say is that I don't know what the Tea Party libertarians are thinking, but a number of things that they advocate is, in my mind, defensible by a set of principles, and I took your dismissal of their motives as a dismissal of my own."

Bingo! But again, I need to say that I am not rejecting your principles or those of anyone else.


" My point was that to see the Tea Party as tight-knit bunch of racist, sexist homophobes with no coherent ideology other than to make trouble is self-serving and wrong, "

I agree that would be both self-serving and wrong.

or at least no less right than any analogous group on the left."

Again, agreed.

" Michelle Bachmann is, by my value system, a member of the toxic right. Suppose I find a member of the toxic left, and use the fact that you both oppose the Tea Party as proof that you are out of line? Not fair."

Actually, it might be fair. But it might not be also. It would depend on whether the comparison would be parallel - contingent on an important consideration, IMO. Michelle Bachman is not an outlier w/r/t the Tea Party. She is a Tea Party leader. Of course, that does not mean that all people who identify with the Tea Party support her rhetoric - but your parallel figure from the left would have to be carefully selected to really be parallel.

"Re - Mitch McConnell - if he said that, it disgusts me, but being a politician, it doesn't surprise me."

There are quite a few people who are not even remotely politicians and who have identified as conservatives for decades who have said somewhat similar, if perhaps less hyperbolic things about the Tea Party - and in particular their demands for ideological conformity, (although McConnell is certainly not the only conservative politician who has made similar statements).

"Also, I saw the same "anti" attitude on the part of the left towards Bush II - but I do not take that as proof of a lack of principles."

Of course. That is my point. Bush derangement syndrome and Obama derangement syndrome = same, same, but different. The fact that it exists on the left does not eliminate its existence on the right. In fact, that fact that it exists on both sides should be evidence that something more fundamental is at play other than just ideological orientation.

"One thing I object to is using the wrong words to attack another person's position or affiliation. For example, the word "extreme" as in "far from the center of public opinion", or more toxically, "far from the center of my cultural affinity group". "

I think that there is a strong case to be made, in statistical terms, to quantify that the Tea Party is "extreme" in the context of the political nature of the U.S., historically. This is on the basis of distance from "the center of public opinion" as opposed to distance from "the center of my cultural affinity group."

"Few people have a problem with extremism when it suits their purposes, plenty of problems when it does not. "

Again, that is largely my point. And I think that as a society we would be less well off if there had been no "extremism." People use "extremism" as a weapon in ideological battles in a very selective manner. But then how do we describe "distance from the center or public opinion?"

" In this sense, I completely agree, the Tea Party is extreme compared to the Republican party."

So it seems we have reached agreement on that one point - but unfortunately it doesn't address the more substantive issue of disagreement, which is whether or not the Tea Party can be distinguished from the Republican Party on the basis of "principle" and/or "ideology" and/or something more in the category of cultural cognition. I would argue that maybe the distinction could be made on the basis of ideology - but that to do so would be very difficult in a solid manner - not the least given the moving target nature of trying to pin down the ideology. I reject the notion that the distinction could be made as a matter of "principle." That is the crux of my argument, and I am interested in seeing data that might disprove my rationale for rejection. I see the distinction as being one related to cultural cognition - and that is why I speak to the contradictory reasoning as reflected in the arguments I've seen from people who are supportive of the Tea Party. I see no reason to exclude Tea Partiers from the same influences that affect everyone else.

December 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

And FrankL:

One more piece - one that I think is particularly salient w/r/t your comment to me. You say:

"Maybe what I should really say is that I don't know what the Tea Party libertarians are thinking, but a number of things that they advocate is, in my mind, defensible by a set of principles, and I took your dismissal of their motives as a dismissal of my own."

I said above that I'm not dismissing your principles or those of anyone else. I should add that I am also not dismissing anyone's motives - except in the sense of "motivated reasoning." My assumption about "motives" is that we're all motivated by similar drives (which reflect very much the same values), although because of the influence of cultural cognition or other aspects of motivated reasoning, our similar goals and values translate into oppositional "positions" on any variety of issues.

A framework for examining these issues that relies on a distinction of "values" is problematic for me, and something which presents a problem for me when trying to reconcile my views with much of Dan's work.

For example - where NiV spoke of the "burden of government": I think that I share a value with, say. Jack and Jill Tea Party that government should not be burdensome. Where I differ is in how I evaluate and define what is or isn't burdensome, and who is or isn't "burdened." That does not seem to me to be a difference in values, but a difference in how we evaluate evidence, or how we define terms, or perhaps also differences in life experiences w/r/t observing who is burdened and how.

A big piece of how I get to that perspective is in observing how in Internet discussion, people have quite often reverse-engineered from my "positions" on various issues to draw fallacious conclusions about my values. For example, I am often told that I am a "statist" who seeks to advance an authoritarian societal structure. Anyone who actually knows me would find that rather laughable.

What I find particularly interesting about that phenomenon is that I have found that kind of fallacious reasoning is more likely to be employed by those who might identify with the Tea Party than by someone who might be a Republican and who is probably just as likely to oppose government regulation as Jack and Jill Tea Party, but who is less "extreme" in their confidence about identifying me as an "other" with values that are completely incompatible with their own.

That is part of the dynamic that I am trying to figure out, and part of what underlies my thinking on what distinguishes Tea Partiers from other Republicans.

Of course, an important caveat there is that I am speaking in general terms, and of course there are likely to be exceptions,.

December 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Ok, as I understand it you object the Tea Party's selective or hypocritical application of their professed principles. I don't understand why opposition to the mandate is selective or hypocritical.

Regarding the libertarians on the birther issue, I wasn't really reasoning, just observing from my experience, as you are. I wasn't being selective regarding the role of the administration, nor was I attributing motive, I think my words were "I have no idea" when it came to motive.

I think that as a society we would be less well off if there had been no "extremism."

In this specific case, maybe, maybe not. The freedom marchers were extreme, and I think society is better off, so it depends.

I reject the notion that the distinction could be made as a matter of "principle." That is the crux of my argument.

Ok, I thought you were saying they were unprincipled. I tend to agree that the Tea Party conservatives have little difference in ideology from Republican conservatives, same for the libertarians, its just that they want to elect politicians who are less prone to compromise. I think that's the nature of their "extremity".

For example - where NiV spoke of the "burden of government": I think that I share a value with, say. Jack and Jill Tea Party that government should not be burdensome. Where I differ is in how I evaluate and define what is or isn't burdensome, and who is or isn't "burdened." That does not seem to me to be a difference in values, but a difference in how we evaluate evidence, or how we define terms, or perhaps also differences in life experiences w/r/t observing who is burdened and how.

As a (semi) libertarian, the issue is not about coming to an agreement on what constitutes a burden, its about freedom to choose your burden. I'm burdened by my electric bill, but I chose that burden because I want, and receive electricity, and that's between myself and the electric company that I chose out of a field of competitors. I have no problem with the government guaranteeing that I get what I pay for, or that the electric company is reimbursed for their electricity, but if the government wants to mandate the price, mandate an amount I must buy, pick and choose who may compete in the electricity market, that is a needless burden and I object in principle.

A big piece of how I get to that perspective is in observing how in Internet discussion, people have quite often reverse-engineered from my "positions" on various issues to draw fallacious conclusions about my values.

Oh, I know that feeling. If I object to the individual mandate, I am obviously a racist, sexist homophobic moron who enjoys seeing poor people die starving in the streets. If I ever reverse-engineer, call me on it quick. Is that attitude more prevalent in the Tea Party? - I expect it is, like any group, right or left, that is more vocal and less prone to compromise than average. You experience it from the right, I experience it from the left.

December 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

I've tried to understand the "reverse engineering" practiced by certain members of the left as stemming from their axiom that "If government doesn't do it, it won't get done" followed by a corollary "If you are against government doing it, you are against it being done". This is a higher form of logic than "you have strayed from liberal orthodoxy, therefore you are a blind fanatical follower of my caricature of conservative orthodoxy". You probably experience the second type very often, with "liberal" and "conservative" reversed. From libertarians you might experience "If government does it, they will screw it up" and the corollary "if you are in favor of government doing it, you are in favor of screwing it up". I think the first part of that statement is often true, but the process by which it becomes true must be explained, in other words it is not axiomatic. The second part, the corollary, is just stupid. A religious right conservative axiom you might experience is "If a liberal government does it, it will be contrary to God's will" and "If you are in favor of a liberal government doing it, you are the spawn of the Devil." From the authoritarian statist point of view, the axiom is "shut the f**k up and sit the f**k down". So clean and simple, no annoying logic, no corollaries, very attractive to some people.

December 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

FrankL:


"I've tried to understand the "reverse engineering" practiced by certain members of the left as stemming from their axiom that "If government doesn't do it, it won't get done" followed by a corollary "If you are against government doing it, you are against it being done"."

The first part is not something that I recognize as beingcharacteristic of the views of any "lefty" I've known.

Yes, I'd say that the second part, while probably not an accurate representation of how many leftists view the world (in other words, I don't think that in the abstract they'd say that there are no valid reasons to have things done by non-governmental entities), it is probably a reasonable interpretation of facile "reverse engineering" that is not uncommon in these debates. It is that kind of ill-logic, IMO, reveals the influence of identity protection (and its follow-on of demonizing "the other") on how people reason.

"You probably experience the second type very often, with "liberal" and "conservative" reversed. From libertarians you might experience "If government does it, they will screw it up" and the corollary "if you are in favor of government doing it, you are in favor of screwing it up". "

No doubt. So then a question about the parallel you have drawn. I have seen what seems to me to be evidence that the first of the two collocated concepts there. Seems to me that I often run into libertarian-types who actually do explicitly state that "if government does it, they will screw it up." I term that to be the result of binary thinking on the part of those I encounter. Now they might also say that government has a role to play - say in national defense - but I don't recall seeing libertarians really tackle how to reconcile those two views...

But if we're extending the parallel - I said that the first of your two collocated concepts for "lefties" doesn't reflect the thinking of any lefties that I've known... so then logic would imply that you would respond similarly w/r/t the first of the two collocated concepts you offered for libertarians. Would you say that "if government does it, they will screw it up" is not an accurate representation of a belief held by many libertarians - that it is an exaggeration?

"you offer there I think the first part of that statement is often true, but the process by which it becomes true must be explained, in other words it is not axiomatic. "

hmmm. If I understand what you're saying there, it's great to see. What I find myself saying to on-line "libertarians" quite frequently is something like... "of course it is axiomatic that sometimes governments screw up. Of course it is axiomatic that sometimes there are unintended consequences to governmental actions that are negative in balance (Because there are unintended consequences to every action we take, and sometimes they will be negative in balance) But that doesn't imply that it is axiomatic that if government does something, there will be negative outcomes in balance. It also doesn't imply some axiom that the private sector is necessarily going to produce better outcomes than the public sector, or that all necessary goals will be accomplished by the private sector. The problem that I find is that I can never get a libertarian-type to engage me in that discussion. Really. Never. Like I said above, I will sometimes read them say "Yes, there is a role for government to do some things," but I have never been able to engage them in discussions around those issues because identity-protection kicks in and we wind up arguing about whose description of some demonic "other" is accurate.

"A religious right conservative axiom you might experience is "If a liberal government does it, it will be contrary to God's will" and "If you are in favor of a liberal government doing it, you are the spawn of the Devil.""

For some reason that doesn't ring a bell for me. Perhaps "If a secular government, or a government that doesn't accept the omnipotence of a Christian god, and our interpretation of God's will, and the absolute truth of our interpretation of the words of the bible, it will be contrary to God's will."

December 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

The short version of why "government always screws up" is because, essentially, the government is like a large corporation, but it only has to satisfy somewhat more than half of its customers, all of whom have no competition to run to if they are dissatisfied, and all customers are required to pay for services that the government has decided they will receive. The incentives are all wrong, the government is not incentivized to do the right thing when faced with an opportunity to assist the people who support it at the expense of those who don't. In the case of a threat to all the customers, it tends to do the right thing. Private corporations must satisfy every one of their customers or lose them to the competition. They cannot dictate what the customer will purchase nor at what price.

But if we're extending the parallel - I said that the first of your two collocated concepts for "lefties" doesn't reflect the thinking of any lefties that I've known... so then logic would imply that you would respond similarly w/r/t the first of the two collocated concepts you offered for libertarians. Would you say that "if government does it, they will screw it up" is not an accurate representation of a belief held by many libertarians - that it is an exaggeration?

I think that that mantra is an accurate view of many self-professed libertarians who see the libertarian party supporting their beliefs, and don't think much beyond that. Same is true for liberals and conservatives and their respective mantras.

We have a serious disconnect here, because I see "if government doesn't do it it won't get done" as an almost continual unexamined belief of the left. How else to explain the idea that if you are against Obamacare, you are against poor people getting insurance, you are against solving the healthcare crisis? If you are against the minimum wage, you are against the poor making a living? If you are against public education you are against the poor getting an education? If you are against affirmative action, you are a racist? If you are against certain types of abortion, you are a sexist? If you are against gun control, then you don't care enough about little kids getting killed by nut cases with guns? I'm not attributing these beliefs to you, but to the left in general. Most NY Times articles I read, for example, never examine alternatives, they always present the problem, the liberal solution (a government fix), and then demonize the Republicans for opposing it. End of story.

December 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

FrankL:

Quite frankly (pun intended), I think that we will quickly get derailed if you include in these discussions your theoretical constructs for why "government always screws up." I've read essentially similar ideas before, and I remain resolutely unimpressed - just as I'm sure you'd remain if I wrote my impressions as to why your construct is flawed. That is a perfect example of an area where, IMO, we will diverge from common values to dramatically different "positions." Better to stick to interests - which in this case would be open discussion rather than didactic explanations as you provided above.

"We have a serious disconnect here, because I see "if government doesn't do it it won't get done" as an almost continual unexamined belief of the left. How else to explain the idea that if you are against Obamacare, you are against poor people getting insurance, you are against solving the healthcare crisis? If you are against the minimum wage, you are against the poor making a living? "

The explanation is that it is non-sequitur, that doesn't follow logically from values or even theoretical beliefs. The jump to "you are against poor people getting insurance" is an example of identity protection, identification of "the other," cultural cognition, etc.

What I was saying that the idea that "if the government doesn't do it, it won't get done," is not a belief that I have found among lefties - but I realize I need to be more specific. It isn't something that I've seen as a general principle - in other words, generically that whatever it is, if the government doesn't do it, it won't get done. I have had this belief placed upon me many times even though it isn't one I hold. What I do believe is that sometimes, if it (something specific) hasn't happened in the private sector, and "it" not happening is not desirable, than there may well be a role for government helping to ensure that "it" happens. And at times, even if there isn't a track record of "it" not happening, it is reasonable to support government ensuring that "it" happens proactively, because a belief that it isn't likely that the private sector will do "it," and "it" is important.

Consider national defense. If a conservative supports a federally supported military, is that an example of that conservative believing that "if the government doesn't do it, it won't get done?" In a generic sense, no, but in the specific sense, yes.

Now of course, particularly since the government is acting proactively, there is reality of potential for unintended consequences - such as, say, what happened with the invasion of Iraq...but what is the likelihood of a conservative, who might argue strongly against governments acting proactively in some circumstances based on the "law of unintended consequences," then turning around and saying that we should have no federally supported military because of the law of unintended consequences?

I will give libertarians some credit there, as in the case of the use of military force, they do tend to be more consistent with their application of the "law of unintended consequences," but I have found that often, in other areas, they are stunningly selective in their application of that "law" (not unlike people of other ideological persuasions).

"I'm not attributing these beliefs to you, but to the left in general. "

To the extent that "the left in general," just like the "the right in general" and "libertarians in general" and "everyone else in general" manifests cultural cognition, I don't disagree with your attribution. If I believe in the fundamental influence of cultural cognition on how, basically, everyone reasons then how could I possibly argue otherwise?

December 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Oh, no, wait. I did not mean to imply that I cling to that explanation, I offer it only as the libertarian "party line" explanation that you said was lacking. It's a vast oversimplification, full of ID-protective cognition. As a semi-libertarian, I "get it", but then I try to tear it down, find out the flaws. You are no doubt better at that process than I am, coming from the left of me and aware of the problem of defective cognition, so I want to hear your objections. I absolutely refuse to get "derailed" by unreflectively flinging crap at each other.

Regarding the list of "how else to explain", again, I'm not attributing that to you, but when I examine left wing articles that are more than simple cheerleading (e.g. the American Prospect), I try really hard to analyze the "bottom line", what basic assumptions are they making that are taken as so obvious they need not be mentioned. When I do, I very often come up with the assumption that direct government action is the only viable solution worth considering in the ongoing class warfare between the rich and the poor. If I understand you, you say that when someone on the left implies that I am against poor people getting insurance because I am against Obamacare, they are wrong to do so, they are engaging in defective cognition. I attribute it to their incorrect belief in the efficacy of government solutions. If this is wrong, what does a thinking person being against Obamacare imply to a thinking person on the left? Simply saying its defective cognition is not enough. One has to explain how it is defective.

Consider national defense....Now of course, particularly since the government is acting proactively, there is reality of potential for unintended consequences - such as, say, what happened with the invasion of Iraq...but what is the likelihood of a conservative, who might argue strongly against governments acting proactively in some circumstances based on the "law of unintended consequences," then turning around and saying that we should have no federally supported military because of the law of unintended consequences?

The likelihood is close to zero. Unintended consequences are the result of not understanding how things work, or not caring. Anyone who uses "unintended consequences" as a mindless cannonball to be launched against selected targets is not being reasonable. If politicians were motivated to understand how things work and do the right thing rather than simply get reelected, there would far fewer unintended consequences. When a social problem becomes a political football, its not about doing the right thing, its about winning the political game. The fewer political footballs the better. The more power the central government has, the more that social and economic problems become political footballs. When there is a problem that adversely affects all or most of society, government tends to get it right - e.g. national defense in wartime. However, when that problem goes away, the power accrued to the government to solve it tends to not, which is bad. And so the footballs multiply.

December 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

FrankL:

Oh, no, wait. I did not mean to imply that I cling to that explanation, I offer it only as the libertarian "party line" explanation that you said was lacking.

Apologies - I consider that , but I'm so conditioned to having the benefits of competition "explained" to me that I jumped to dismissing that possibility.

"I attribute it to their incorrect belief in the efficacy of government solutions."

I'd say it is related to the efficacy of government solutions in the context of current conditions, and given a representative democracy - not by virtue of some absolute faith in some abstracted form of "government."

"f this is wrong, what does a thinking person being against Obamacare imply to a thinking person on the left?

I don't know that I'm a thinking person, but it would, obviously, depend on their reasoning - so I'd be uncomfortable generalizing.. But I could say, in a general sense, that it would say to me it would say that the bottom line would be that the person who's "against Obamacare" thinks that all things considered, we're better off without it than with it. I can see how that might be a reasonable perspective, although I don't think we're better off without it than with it. That is far from meaning that I think it is perfect or solves all the problems it is designed to address, or doesn't make some aspects worse. Only that we're better off in balance..

" If politicians were motivated to understand how things work and do the right thing rather than simply get reelected, there would far fewer unintended consequences."

I think that's a bit simplistic. No doubt, politicians are far too concerned with getting elected, and enriching themselves via the revolving door between politics and lobbying, but I think that your categorization is to categorical. But yes, no doubt, if the focus were more on policy outcomes and less on identity politics and exploitation of partisan sentiments, there would be fewer unintended outcomes.

"The more power the central government has, the more that social and economic problems become political footballs. "

This, again, I think is problematically simple. I don't think that the cause and effect are that clear cut. For example, I just had someone telling me that no doubt, we have a society with ever increasingly more centralized governmental power and as a result a society closer to tyranny -- and that the increased # laws that we have now are the proof. I countered with asking him whether 1,000 laws that effect relatively fewer people translate into more or less centralized power and tyranny than when people were banned from establishments because of race, or prevented from marrying because of gender preference. He didn't answer.

" When there is a problem that adversely affects all or most of society, government tends to get it right - e.g. national defense in wartime. However, when that problem goes away, the power accrued to the government to solve it tends to not, which is bad. ".

Again, I think too simplistic. It seems from your outline, there would be an ever increasing ramping up of centralized power with never a let up. So then the question has to be asked, do we have less centralized power now than we did when women couldn't vote?

That said.....

You might find this interesting if you can get past the fact that it's Moyers:

http://billmoyers.com/episode/encore-americas-gilded-capital/

December 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I'm a theoretical physicist and a computer programmer by nature. (which says nothing about whether I'm any good at it). My point is that it's my nature to want to know how things work and how to make things work. More than I want to protect my affinity group or political ID. The thing about libertarianism is that it offers a model of how things work. I don't believe in libertarianism any more than I believe in any other model, evolution, for example, but like many models, I see validity to it. I don't trust any model, I'm always testing it. With Newtonian mechanics, its not difficult, my identity is not threatened by the potential failure of it. With social or political questions its harder, my identity is threatened. That's why I need to understand the left, to see where my model breaks down, its hard for me to see. Its hard to get someone from the left to think like this, describe a model of how things work, counter to the libertarian model. For example, when I ask what does someone from the left think is the reason someone would oppose Obamacare, you answer:

It would say to me it would say that the bottom line would be that the person who's "against Obamacare" thinks that all things considered, we're better off without it than with it.

That's no help to me and my model, you know? The question is what motive does the left attribute to those against Obamacare? If they think that everyone knows in their heart that government solutions are best, then they would attribute an evil motive to those who oppose Obamacare, which is what I see, but you do not. What then is the motive of those against Obamacare? Good intentions but faulty analysis? Then what is the correct analysis? Since I see little of this, for example your response, I tend to discard this option. I'm left at a loss.

I countered with asking him whether 1,000 laws that effect relatively fewer people translate into more or less centralized power and tyranny than when people were banned from establishments because of race, or prevented from marrying because of gender preference.

I would answer yes, it does, for the people not excluded.

do we have less centralized power now than we did when women couldn't vote?

I would answer we do not. Including women into the voting public is not equivalent to decentralization of power. By centralization of power, I mean detailed input about each citizen to a central authority, and detailed behavioral instructions to each citizen from that central power. Whether that central power is exclusive or inclusive based on race, sex, or gender preference is not the issue.

Re the Moyers-Slotkin interview - ok, let's step back and act like scientists, here, drop our affinity group loyalty, etc., etc. and analyze what this interview is all about. It's about Slotkin advancing a theory of the psychology of people in favor of gun ownership, and how they came by it. Does he demonstrate a detachment from the subject? Is there a value system being defended?

Moyers: ... the NRA has become the armed bully of American politics,
Slotkin: And that's dangerous stupidity and nonsense.
Slotkin: ... that's the level at which it gets pernicious.
Slotkin: ... I think the man's an idiot.

I think there is a value system being defended. Is there any proposed solution to the problem? Pick through the interview and you will find no solution proposed other than regulation. Is there any attempt at symmetry, a theory of the psychology of people in favor of gun control? No. The implicit assumption is that anti-gun psychology is normative or has little to do with the gun control stance:

Moyers: Texas enacted ten new laws against sane restrictions on guns.
Slotkin: They really to just take this terrible incident and a situation which might lend itself to some sane regulation...

If I take the interview at face value, I walk away with the impression that pro-gun people have marked tendency to a culturally induced form of mental illness, and the cure is regulation, forcible restraint. Totally authoritarian mentality, and bound to be unproductive, given the voting power of those "mentally ill" people.

I am also left with an empty feeling regarding how things work, a familiar feeling when I am trying to understand the left. Is restraint a cure for this illness? No. What is a cure? What happens if there is regulation without a cure? A huge black market in guns. What's the answer to that? More power to the government interfere with that black market, raising gun prices and giving brutal clever thugs an opportunity to make big money?. Proliferation of unregistered guns. Unintended consequences, more power to combat them, etc. No problem for the authoritarian mentality advancing this theory, problem for the rest of us.

What about data - is some 30,000 deaths by guns in the US per year versus, I don't know, ten in the UK enough data to suggest that guns are the problem? The idea that it is protects the left identity, so their investigation ends. To people to the right (like me), it is not protective, so the investigation continues. How many deaths are due to drug gangs enforcing turf and transactions? How many are suicides? Should suicides be considered an illegitimate use of a gun? Do I, along with pregnant women, own my own body? How many are legitimate cases of self defense? How many unregistered guns are there in the UK? Etc., etc., until my identity is protected, so my investigation ends.

What is the solution? A "magical solution" (in other words I have no idea how to make it happen) is to work to remove the issue from the political arena. Work to make it no longer a political football in a winner-take-all game. We do this by dedicating ourselves to defect-free cognition, the quickest way being dialog between the left and right by those who are aware of the huge power of defective cognition. We gather data, we do a risk assessment in terms of numbers. We work to reduce the problem to a difference in values, not physical reality. Then, to the extent possible, we allow different value systems, different cultural groups, to create their own local solutions. Urbanites do not impose their value-laden solutions on rural people and vice versa, for example. When local solutions become untenable, let the local people change them, without affecting other localities where they are not untenable. Will this totally fix the problem? No, guns bought in rural areas can be carried to the city. But I bet it would be a damn sight better than the way things are. I doubt it can be made to happen, because there is so much power available to those who can convince 51 percent of the voting public to elect them, and for them, the more political footballs, the better.

December 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

FrankL:

Looks like you watched a different interview than the one I linked? Sorry that you spent so much time writing your reactions, but I have no interest in responding.

Here, again, is what I was suggesting you watch.

http://billmoyers.com/episode/encore-americas-gilded-capital/

"That's no help to me and my model, you know? "

You didn't give me anything to work with. How can I assess someone's opposition to Obamacare if they haven't told me the reasons why they're in opposition? They could tell me the reason they oppose it is because they saw monkeys fly out of Obama's butt - in which case I'd say that their reasons would unlikely be well thought out.

"Good intentions but faulty analysis? Then what is the correct analysis? Since I see little of this, for example your response, I tend to discard this option. I'm left at a loss."

I don't assume bad intentions. I don't know about faulty analysis, but I do know your analysis differs from mine. But I can't tell you how my analysis differs until you tell me what your analysis is. But I'm not really interested in a debate here about Obamacare. My point is, again, that for me to conclude something about your "intentions" on the basis of your position on a highly politicized and polarized issue is, IMO, facile and a reflection of motivated reasoning. I get that answer is somehow not satisfactory for you, but I'm not sure what else there really is to say about that.

"I would answer yes, it does, for the people not excluded."

That seems to me to avoid the question. Do we as a country have more centralized power if more people are empowered to vote, of more people have civil rights?

"Including women into the voting public is not equivalent to decentralization of power"

They are not precisely equivalent, but they certainly aren't mutually exclusive, and I would go much further to say that they are intrinsically related.

You think that doubling the % of people who have access to voting, and gaining direct influence on who gets into office, and who makes laws, doesn't decentralize power? You have taken power that was centralized to X% of the population and distributed that same power to 2X% of the population. How is that not decentralization of power? Let's say we have a country of 2 people, and in the initial state there are no laws and 1 of those 2 people has all the power. One day the structure is changed such that a new law is implemented and both people have equal shares of power. You have increased the # of laws by 100% and halved the centralization of power. Your argument is that changed state does not show a decentralization of power?

Now of course, there are other issues that are related to centralization/decentralization of power...but access to the voting booth in a representative democracy is a pretty important factor when considering centralization/decentralization of power.

"Whether that central power is exclusive or inclusive based on race, sex, or gender preference is not the issue. "

Well, I don't quite get where you get to determine what "the" issue is. For those who were denied the vote, or basic civil rights, I'd say that "the issue" w/r/t decentralization of power was different than what you seem to be focused on.

December 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Looks like you watched a different interview than the one I linked? Sorry that you spent so much time writing your reactions, but I have no interest in responding.

Thats ok, it was a fascinating article, and a good example of Dan's idea that polarization (on either side) is more severe in more highly analytic people. Regarding the link ("Gilded Capital"), that was much more informative. My partisan BS alarm did not go off, because each side's ox was being gored, and it was very much about how things work.

You didn't give me anything to work with. How can I assess someone's opposition to Obamacare if they haven't told me the reasons why they're in opposition?

No, I wasn't asking for your analysis of my position on Obamacare. I said I see "if govt. doesn't do it, it doesn't get done" as an unexamined axiom in many left oriented articles. You said it was not the case in most left people you know. I said I didn't know how else to interpret the idea that "if you are against Obamacare, you are against poor people getting insurance, you are against solving the healthcare crisis" which I do see in the left. Or that if I am opposed to gun control, I have a psychological problem, as in that Moyers article I bumbled into. The only way I can make sense of the demonization of opposition to a govt. solution is to say that it illustrates an unexamined belief in govt. solution. I was asking you, since you say that this is not an unexamined belief, what is wrong with my reasoning?

You think that doubling the % of people who have access to voting, and gaining direct influence on who gets into office, and who makes laws, doesn't decentralize power? You have taken power that was centralized to X% of the population and distributed that same power to 2X% of the population.

Well, I don't quite get where you get to determine what "the" issue is. For those who were denied the vote, or basic civil rights, I'd say that "the issue" w/r/t decentralization of power was different than what you seem to be focused on.

I think we have a semantic problem not a substantive one, we don't agree on the definition of the term "centralization of power". I was using my definition to make a point, you basically disagreed with the point made, based on your different definition. All we have to do is agree on definitions and that problem goes away.

Consider a flock of birds. The flocking mechanism is that each bird tries to stay in the center of its 6 or 7 nearest neighbors, unless it detects a predator. A few birds detect a predator, avoid it, and the whole flock responds. This is what I call decentralized power. If there were a democratically elected control bird at the center, who recieved signals from all other birds, processed the data, and issued instructions to all other birds, that would be what I call centralized power. If, in the centralized case, females were not allowed to vote for the control bird, yet were to respond to the control bird's instructions, or, in the decentralized case, all birds were to maintain position only with respect to male birds then, by my definition, the distinction between central and decentralized control would remain, unmodified. Including females as equal members of the flock does not affect the centralization/decentralization distinction, by my definition.

I was using my definition when I said that "The more power the central government has, the more that social and economic problems become political footballs." or " When there is a problem that adversely affects all or most of society, government tends to get it right - e.g. national defense in wartime. However, when that problem goes away, the power accrued to the government to solve it tends to not, which is bad."

I don't mean to dictate definitions, but if we are to communicate, we need to have two different terms for what you call centralization of power and what I call it. I'm adaptable, I will accept your definitions for the sake of communication.

December 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

@FrankL & @Joshua:

Yes, you must have watched different interviews. Certainly, you wouldn't be disagreeing if you saw the same thing!

December 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Dan -

Heh - although in this case we were watching different interviews, no doubt in other cases it might be as if we were watching different interviews even if we had watched the same interview.

FrankL:

"I said I didn't know how else to interpret the idea that "if you are against Obamacare, you are against poor people getting insurance, you are against solving the healthcare crisis" ... I was asking you, since you say that this is not an unexamined belief, what is wrong with my reasoning?"

It seems to me that we are going over the same ground. I don't understand how we haven't addressed what you're talking about there. I'll try again.

I don't think that "If you are against Obamacare, you are against poor people getting insurance" is based on a belief in an unexamined axiom that 'if government doesn't do it, it doesn't get done." I think that it is based on an unexamined axiom that "someone who holds a position that is different than my own, therefore has interests that are in opposition to my own." It is based on an unexamined axiom that people who disagree with me on any variety of issues have different values.

I believe that such reliance on unexamined axioms is rooted in cultural cognition and motivated reasoning. It is rooted in the pattern-recognition nature of our cognition, and the identity protection nature of our psychology.

I see reliance on unexamined axioms as underlying political orientation - and I don't see it as being any more characteristic on the left than on the right (or visa versa).

For me, a very common "tell" for motivated reasoning is when people reverse engineer from someone's stated position on any given topic to draw conclusions about that persons interests, or that persons values, or that person's character. And if someone concludes merely from your position on Obamacare that your values are X, Y, or Z (e.g., you don't value providing healthcare to poor people) or that your interests are X, Y, or Z (e.g., that your interest is to exclude poor people from having health insurance), I think that they are employing fallacious reasoning. The fact that such reasoning is ubiquitous does not make it any less fallacious.

I think that your reasoning is wrong for two basic reasons. The first is that the belief that you are assuming exists among "the left" in a very general sense is not a belief that I have found among "the left" despite a lifetime of living amongst and working people on "the left." The second is that I see you as, essentially, employing the kind of fallacious reasoning I just described. "if the government doesn't do it, it won't get done," sounds to me very much like a description of a value (and an inaccurate caricature of a value, at that. I don't know anyone who thinks that government necessarily does all things better than the private sector). Not precisely, but pretty damn close. Thus, I see you as reverse engineering from someone's "position" - a position that many on the left might hold (that if you are opposed to Obama care, you necessarily don't want poor people to have access to health insurance) - to draw a conclusion about their values. The fact that your fallacious reverse engineering is in reaction to someone else's fallacious reverse engineering does not make your reverse engineering any less fallacious.

Now I know people on the left who might say to me: "That FrankL, he has such twisted values. He obviously doesn't care if poor people have health insurance, as evidenced by his opposition to Obamacare." But none of those people have the "value" that "If government doesn't do it, it won't get done" as some general principle of how the world works.

I will certainly concur that agreeing to the definition of terminology is key in these discussions. In fact, I think that most of the differences that we see argued about with such acrimony in blog comments boil down to, largely, differences in definitions of terms that people willfully perpetuate as an outgrowth of cultural cognition and motivated reasoning.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I don't think that "If you are against Obamacare, you are against poor people getting insurance" is based on a belief in an unexamined axiom that 'if government doesn't do it, it doesn't get done." I think that it is based on an unexamined axiom that "someone who holds a position that is different than my own, therefore has interests that are in opposition to my own." It is based on an unexamined axiom that people who disagree with me on any variety of issues have different values.

Ok, thanks, that answers my question, and if I skipped over it previously, I apologize. What I was doing was not totally reverse engineering, saying that because a someone believes X and all liberals believe X and Y, therefore that person believes Y, where Y has nothing to do with X. But maybe it is, in a sense, because libertarians unreflectively favor freedom, maybe to a fault, so anybody who disagrees with them must be against freedom?

But when I hear "If you are against Obamacare, you are against poor people getting insurance", if it results simply from an unexamined axiom that "people who disagree with (that person) on any variety of issues must have different values", what then are those values? What values are that statement defending? It cannot be defending poor people, because Obamacare is not the only solution.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

FrankL:

what then are those values? What values are that statement defending? It cannot be defending poor people, because Obamacare is not the only solution.

Seems self-explanatory to me. They assume (because you are an "other") that your values do not include concern about the poor, and that the lack of caring for the poor explains your position on Obamacare. You keep seem to be expecting the reasoning to be logical. It isn't. Anymore than it is logical when a "libertarian" tells me, because of my perspective on Obamacare, that I'm just a statist who is envious of successful people, and just looking for handouts because I'm too lazy to work to achieve success on my own.

December 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

You keep seem to be expecting the reasoning to be logical. It isn't

LOL - ok, got it. Can you recommend any pro-left sources that do have a logical approach? I think the American Prospect occasionally dabbles in logic, but has little incentive to do so, preaching to the choir as they are.

December 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrankL

FrankL:

I think that there's a of logic in many "leftist" sources. But that doesn't mean that any of them are completely logical. I can't think of any sources that aren't heavily influenced by the biases I've been discussing.

While it isn't a "source," I think that the Daily Show offers solid commentary on those biases - from a left-of-center angle.

December 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

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