Saturday, September 10, 2016

A fact and logic distortion-reducing political ideology

This is my most refined articulation of how social and cognitive science knowledge might be applied to mainstream politics. The point is to describe a mind set, set of morals or political ideology that might partially rationalize politics. Partially rationalized politics means, relative to existing the existing state of affairs, politics based more on (i) unbiased or real facts, and (ii) less biased common sense. The underlying assumption is that politics that is at least somewhat better grounded in reality and 'logical' reason will do better in the long run than "normal" or standard nonsense politics.

People can reject the assertion that mainstream politics is more nonsense than not. Regardless of popular belief, cognitive and social science makes it clear that most people deal more in nonsense (false facts and flawed common sense) than not. That's just how the human mind works when it comes to politics.

Current cognitive and social science of politics strongly suggests that humans generally have a very limited capacity to see unbiased reality or facts and apply unbiased common sense to the reality they think they see. The situation is complicated and multi-faceted. Evolution resulted in a human mental capacity that was at least sufficient for modern humans to survive the early days. Building existing human civilization has been based on about the same mental firepower our modern ancestors had. What evolution conferred was a mind that operates using (i) a high bandwidth unconscious mind or mental processes that can process about 11 million bits of information per second, and (ii) a very low bandwidth conscious mind that can process at most about 45-50 bits per second.

Although our conscious mind believes it is aware of a great deal and is in control of decision-making and behavior, that perception of reality is more illusion than real. Our unconscious thinking exerts much more control over decision-making and behavior than we are aware of. Our conscious mind plays into the illusion. Unconscious innate biases, personal morals, social identity and political ideology all inject distortions into our perceptions of reality or facts and our application of common sense. Conscious reason acts primarily to rationalize or defend unconscious beliefs and rationales, even when they are wrong.

False unconscious beliefs include a widespread fundamental misunderstanding of democracy. Our political thinking and behaviors are usually based on major disconnects with reality. Our unconscious mind is usually moralistic, self-righteous and intolerant. That creates a human social situation where “our righteous minds guarantee that our cooperative groups will always be cursed by moralistic strife.”

Based on that description of the human condition, it's reasonable to believe that mostly irrational human politics cannot be made demonstrably more rational. That may or may not be true. Some evidence that suggests that at least some people can operate with significantly less bias in perceiving reality and conscious reasoning. They are measurably more rational than average. The finding of superforecasters among average people and their mental traits suggests that politics might be partially rationalizable for at least some people, if not societies or nations as a whole.

Research observations on how superforecasters improve over time, i.e., predict, get feedback, revise, and then repeat, there is reason to believe that evidence-based politics could be a route to better policy. Although the effort is in its infancy, there is some real-world evidence that cognitive science-based political policy can be simple but very successful. The trick is figuring a way to how to deal with personal morals, self-interest and other unconscious distortion sources that impedes politics based on less biased reality and common sense.

If it’s possible to rationalize mainstream politics at all, accepting the reality of human cognition and behavior is necessary. There’s no point in denying reality and trying to propose false reality-based solutions. Given that, one needs to accept that (i) politics is fundamentally a matter of personal morals, ideology, and self- or group identity, and (ii) current political, economic, religious and/or philosophical moral sets or ideologies, e.g., liberalism, conservatism, capitalism, socialism, libertarianism, anarchy, etc, are fundamental to what makes people tick in terms of politics.

 One can argue that since existing ideological or moral frameworks have failed to rationalize politics beyond what it is now, and probably always has been, then a new moral or ideological framework is necessary (although maybe not sufficient). Since morals are personal and they vary significantly among people, there’s no reason to believe that a set of morals or ideological principles cannot be conceived that could temper or significantly substitute for existing morals such as the care-harm moral foundation that tends to drive liberal perceptions and beliefs, or the loyalty-betrayal and other foundations that drives conservatives.

How can one rationalize politics? Swim downstream: Why swim upstream if there’s a potential solution to be had by swimming downstream with the cognitive current? Morals or variants thereof that essentially everyone already claims to adhere to (even though science says that’s just not the case) seems like a good place to start. Most people (> 97% ?) of all political ideologies claim that they (i) work with unbiased facts, and (ii) unbiased common sense. And, most people believe that their politics and beliefs best serve the public interest (general welfare or common good). Few or no people say they rely on personally biased facts and common sense or that that’s the best way to do politics, although social science argues that that’s exactly how politics works for most people.

Three pragmatic morals:  Can it really be that simple?
If that’s the case, then a set of three already widely accepted morals or political principles that might operate to rationalize politics to some extent without being rejected out of hand. They are (i) fidelity to less biased facts, and (ii) fidelity to less biased common sense, both of which (iii) are applied in service to the public interest.

Service to the public interest: Service to 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.

As explained here, that conception of the public interest is broad. It reflects the reality that politics is a competition for influence and money among competing interests and ideologies, all of whom essentially always claim they want what’s best for the public interest. A broad conception encompasses concepts that fully engage all competing interests, morals and ideologies, e.g., (i) national security defense (a conservative moral or concern), (ii) concern for fostering peace and environmental protection (liberal) and (iii) defense of personal freedom (libertarian). Although broad, that public service conception is meaningfully constrained by the first two pragmatic morals, less biased fact and less biased common sense.

For regular “subjective” or non-pragmatic politics, neither of those are powerful constraints on most people’s perceptions of reality or facts or their conscious thinking about politics. That’s not intended as a criticism of people’s approach to or thinking about politics. It’s intended to be a non-judgmental statement of fact based on research evidence: For politics, “. . . . cherished ideas and judgments we bring to politics are stereotypes and simplifications with little room for adjustment as the facts change. . . . . the real environment is altogether too big, too complex, and too fleeting for direct acquaintance. We are not [intellectually] equipped to deal with so much subtlety, so much variety, so many permutations and combinations. Although we have to act in that environment, we have to reconstruct it on a simpler model before we can manage it.”

From existing mind sets → AN AVALANCHE OF CRITICISMS!: Many or most liberals, conservatives, libertarians and others will instantly jump all over this “political ideology” as nonsense. For example, how could such a broad conception of serving the public interest make one iota of difference in how allegedly distorted political thinking and debate works now?

That’s a good, reasonable question, the answer to which is already given in the discussion, i.e., fidelity to less biased fact and less biased common sense. The assumption is that in the long run, politics better grounded in reality and reason would make a difference for the better. Obviously, people who see a threat to their own beliefs and ideologies will reject that as nonsense. They already believe (know) that they employ unbiased fact and logic to politics, although the scientific evidence strongly argues that’s not true.
Plenty of other criticisms can be raised. Some libertarians and/or conservatives might claim that this subverts personal freedoms and that the concept pays only lip service to defense of personal freedoms. In other words, this ideology seems at best meaningless or at worst a Trojan horse of some sort, e.g., a smoke screen for socialism, fascism and/or tyranny. From a pragmatic POV, it’s easy to see, understand and anticipate that reaction from people trapped in their standard subjective political ideologies, e.g., liberals, conservatives, libertarians, socialists, etc.

What this conception does is it forces everyone and every ideology to (i) defend their policy choices on the basis of a less distorted world view and less biased common sense, and (ii) pay more than self-deluded and/or cynical lip service to serving the public interest. Everyone has to win arguments on less spun merits.

For standard ideologues, that makes this brand of “pragmatic politics” a dead on arrival nonstarter. That’s why politics based on these three political principles may be a new ideology. This won’t work for liberals, conservatives, libertarians, socialists or believers in any other existing ideology or set of morals. To accept this set of political morals, one has to move away from existing mind sets and accept this for what it is, i.e., advocacy of a cold, harsh competition in a brutal marketplace of less spun ideas and arguments based on less spun facts and realities.

Some thought has gone into this. Here are responses to a list of criticisms to this three morals-based political ideology.

No comments:

Post a Comment