Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Brennan's Archetypes of Political Actors

In "Against Democracy", Jason Brennan identifies 3 archetypes of people in relation to how they approach politics. These are hobbits, hooligans and vulcans.

"Hobbits" are uncaring about and indifferent to politics. If they do, they rarely vote.

"Hooligans" are so tightly perched to their views that political views have become an identity for them, akin to religions for a religious person.

And finally "vulcans" are dispassionate, informed and able to change their views. They are the only group who can articulate their opponents' views without being charged as being unfair to the view being articulated.

The classification is interesting because it doesn't identify people as conservative or liberal. It's supposed to be view neutral.

•Hobbits are mostly apathetic and ignorant about politics. They lack strong, fixed opinions about most political issues. Often they have no opinions at all. They have little, if any, social scientific knowledge; they are ignorant not just of current events but also of the social scientific theories and data needed to evaluate as well as understand these events. Hobbits have only a cursory knowledge of relevant world or national history. They prefer to go on with their daily lives without giving politics much thought. In the United States, the typical nonvoter is a hobbit.
•Hooligans are the rabid sports fans of politics. They have strong and largely fixed worldviews. They can present arguments for their beliefs, but they cannot explain alternative points of view in a way that people with other views would find satisfactory. Hooligans consume political information, although in a biased way. They tend to seek out information that confirms their preexisting political opinions, but ignore, evade, and reject out of hand evidence that contradicts or disconfirms their preexisting opinions. They may have some trust in the social sciences, but cherry-pick data and tend only to learn about research that supports their own views. They are overconfident in themselves and what they know. Their political opinions form part of their identity, and they are proud to be a member of their political team. For them, belonging to the Democrats or Republicans, Labor or Tories, or Social Democrats or Christian Democrats matters to their self-image in the same way being a Christian or Muslim matters to religious people’s self-image. They tend to despise people who disagree with them, holding that people with alternative worldviews are stupid, evil, selfish, or at best, deeply misguided. Most regular voters, active political participants, activists, registered party members, and politicians are hooligans. 
•Vulcans think scientifically and rationally about politics. Their opinions are strongly grounded in social science and philosophy. They are self-aware, and only as confident as the evidence allows. Vulcans can explain contrary points of view in a way that people holding those views would find satisfactory. They are interested in politics, but at the same time, dispassionate, in part because they actively try to avoid being biased and irrational. They do not think everyone who disagrees with them is stupid, evil, or selfish.
I'm also fascinated by the cynicism that entwines Brennan's thinking.

Is the problem with democracy that we don't have enough vulcans, especially in poorer nations?

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