Stupid Season

I must say I agree wholeheartedly with David Friedman:

One interesting–and irritating–feature of online argument, especially in an election year, is the routine assumption that everyone is on one side or the other and that which side you are on determines what you say. If you say something favorable about Governor Palin you must be a Republican supporter and are therefor obligated to respond to any argument offered against Senator McCain. If you say something favorable about Obama you must be a supporter of the Democrats and obliged to defend Obama against any and all arguments.


Part of the explanation of the pattern is, I think, the natural human tendency, probably hardwired, to view the world in terms of in group and out group, us and them….

There may be a second element. Most people are not very interested in political, economic, historical matters. But most people do enjoy cheering for their team. So political arguments, especially online during an election year, are populated by a lot of people who are arguing not because they are interested in the ideas but because it is a way of fighting for their side. It is natural enough for them to assume that everyone else is doing the same thing.

And that’s how an empirical conjecture about the partisan political forces behind certain norms of political participation gets construed as an argument in favor of the poll tax. Oh well. I look forward to temporary partial relief from Partisan Derangement Syndrome on November 5th.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center