Saturday, December 12, 2015

Serving the public interest

IVN published a Dissident Politics article that discusses the public interest in the context of objective politics and why the concept needs to be defined broadly. The IVN article is here.

A broad definition is necessary due to human biology
A definition broad enough to accommodate the major political ideologies or morals is necessary so that facts and logic can "roam freely" without bumping into limits that narrower political ideologies and their principles or morals will allow. Once those limits are reached, the human mind is adept at quickly but unconsciously distorting "uncomfortable" facts and logic to stay within the limits of what a narrow ideology will allow.[1] Those narrow ideologies include liberalism, conservatism, capitalism, socialism and Christianity. The point of a broad ideological conception of the public interest is two-fold. First, it puts all major competing ideologies, e.g., small government vs. expanded government, beliefs on a more or less equal footing. Second, that equal footing psychologically increases the relevance of unbiased facts and unbiased logic to sort out policy choices among the competing ideologies.

The whole point of this is to increase reason and objectivity in politics relative to the overwhelming dominance of intuition and subjectivity. For people who believe that their politics already is based on unbiased fact and logic, this will not appear to apply to themselves. Most, probably about 90-97%, of those people are wrong about that. That is what social science, not Dissident Politics, says about politics.

For true believers in any standard ideology such as hard core liberals, conservatives or libertarians, this will probably make no sense. Those people know they are fully grounded in unspun reality and rock-solid common sense. Essentially all of those people, about 99.99%, are wrong.

Politics is a matter of human cognition or biology first and political, economic, religious or philosophical theory second. If political theory does not account first and foremost for the biology of human cognition, then it is an ancient but standard, subjective brand of politics that is grounded more in fantasy and intuition-emotion than in objectivity and reason based on unbiased facts and unbiased logic.

Put another way, standard theory-based politics goes back millennia and it is based on a subjective operating system that one can reasonably be called v. 1.0.  By contrast, politics that is (i) based on what modern cognitive science knows about human cognition and (ii) consciously focused on enhancing objectivity and reducing subjectivity can reasonably be called politics v. 2.0. Again, this is a matter of objective biology, not subjective theory. 

Service to the public interest defined
For context, Dissident Politics' initial description of serving the pubic interest first posted here is this:

Governing in the public interest means governance based on identifying a rational, optimum balance between serving public, individual and commercial interests based on an objective, fact- and logic-based analysis of competing policy choices, while (1) being reasonably transparent and responsive to public opinion, (2) protecting and growing the American economy, (4) fostering individual economic and personal growth opportunity, (5) defending personal freedoms and the American standard of living, (6) protecting national security and the environment, (7) increasing transparency, competition and efficiency in commerce when possible, and (8) fostering global peace, stability and prosperity whenever reasonably possible, all of which is constrained by (i) honest, reality-based fiscal sustainability that limits the scope and size of government and regulation to no more than what is needed and (ii) genuine respect for the U.S. constitution and the rule of law with a particular concern for limiting unwarranted legal complexity and ambiguity to limit opportunities to subvert the constitution and the law.

Which ideology, narrow or broad, requires the most moral courage?
For people who hold to narrow political ideologies, e.g., liberalism or conservatism, it both inconvenient truths and inconvenient logic are routinely warped to fit personal beliefs. That does not require much or any moral courage. By contrast, facing for people who hold the three morals of objectivity, fidelity to unbiased facts and unbiased logic is service to an objectively, i.e., broadly, defined public interest. For objectivists, their moral world is big enough to accommodate facts and logic without a need for undue distortion. 

And, adopting objectivity for politics requires the moral courage to reject the two-party system and its naked emperor. Everyone, the press-media included, constantly insists that the duopoly with its little, endlessly bickering world views is the only way to see the world. That just isn't so.

Unbiased facts and unbiased logic don't care about anyone's ideology or morals. In that regard, they are truly bigger than and independent of personal belief. Being faithful to the truth and reason therefore requires an ideological box big enough to accommodate reality and reason with a minimum of unconscious distortion. That's just a matter of biology, not theory.

1. “We do moral reasoning not to reconstruct the actual reasons why we ourselves came to a judgment; we reason to find the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join us in our judgment. . . . . We make our first judgments rapidly, and we are dreadful at seeking out evidence that might disconfirm those initial judgments.” Psychologist Johnathan Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion,  pages 52, 55, Vintage Books, 2012. Making judgments based on personal morals or ideology is fast and unconscious. And, when necessary, the process involves distorting or rationalizing facts and/or logic to make them fit within the limits of personal morals or ideology. This happens even when facts and/or logic don't fit within the confines of personal belief.

“My libertarian beliefs have not always served me well. Like most people who hold strong ideological convictions, I find that, too often, my beliefs trump the scientific facts. This is called motivated reasoning, in which our brain reasons our way to supporting what we want to be true. . . . . Take gun control. I always accepted the libertarian position of minimum regulation in the sale and use of firearms because I placed guns under the beneficial rubric of minimal restrictions on individuals. . . . . Although the data to convince me that we need some gun-control measures were there all along, I had ignored them because they didn't fit my creed.” Dr. Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, commenting in Scientific American (Oct. 1, 2013) on the power of his personal political ideology to distort facts and logic. Again, fact and logic distortion is fast, easy and unconscious with a standard narrow ideology such as libertarianism.

No comments:

Post a Comment