The Mind-Killer

September 7, 2009

“Politics is an extension of war by other means. Arguments are soldiers. Once you know which side you’re on, you must support all arguments of that side, and attack all arguments that appear to favor the enemy side”

-Eliezer Yudkowsky, Politics is the Mind-Killer

The Marginal Revolution blog is somewhat unique* for the high-quality comments to most of the posts. The posts themselves, especially Cowen’s, can be what wiktionary calls gnomic: mysterious and often incomprehensible, yet seemingly wise. Yet the comments on any sufficiently interesting issue usually contain some good discussion and insights. With one exception. Even on MR, to mention politics in any form guarantees a two-standard deviation decrease in comment quality. Check out Tyler Cowen’s posts What is Progressivism? and What is Conservatism? and weep for the minds slain by politics. The comments aren’t uniformly bad, but they are bad enough to worry me.

The main reason I am worried is because of the cult I just joined. It’s a fact that I think economically-informed, public-choice centric libertarianism is truer than other ideologies, and yet being part of a group dedicated exclusively to economically-informed, public-choice centric libertarianism is kind of unsettling. I do wonder whether being around such people all the time will give me a disincentive to seriously question whether libertarians might be wrong and progressives or even conservatives (gasp) might be right. I worry that the mere fact of having joined this program is evidence that I already am only fooling myself in believing that I take other ideologies seriously.

I don’t have any elaborate plan at this point for how I’m going to avoid succumbing to peer pressure, but for now I’ll adopt an easy rule: If, while describing a position or belief that I disagree with, I find myself bemused, I’m on a bad track.

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