Bryan Caplan: The Ideological Turing Test


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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72 Responses

  1. It’s a very interesting idea and it’d be fun to try it. I’m not sure the institutionalized dominance of Keynesian economics is proof of anything more than that, however.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      I’m not even sure that it is dominant. At the very cusp of the financial crisis, several famous neo-classical economists not only failed to correctly state Keynesian (or more accurately neo-Keynesian) arguments but claimed forthrightly that “no-one believes that stuff any more”.Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        Really? I can see how somebody might say nobody believes in it any more, but what neo-Keynesian arguments have been misstated (and who were they responding to)?Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          Republicans believe (or claim to) that tax cuts always create so much stimulus that they more than pay for themselves. What is that if not Keynsianism?Report

        • Avatar Simon K says:

          Cochrane and Fama, in response to Krugman’s saltwater/freshwater article, claimed that Keynesianism was simply a naive belief that government spending created new wealth and went on at length about how this was not so.Report

    • Avatar Koz says:

      I don’t think so. In particular, I don’t think Keynesianism has been academically dominant for 40 years or so. Certainly they weren’t at the beginning of the Obama Administration if you were following the multiplier-ish debate and the New Deal rehash at the time.

      What we do see is the cultural dominance of Left-liberalism at places like Princeton or the NYT that leads people to think Paul Krugman should be taken seriously. It’s not so much that he might not be an intelligent person in some sense, but most of what he writes is just spleen venting and should be understood that way. But because of the cultural proclivities of the Left, he cannot credibly engage outside the cocoon.

      And, it should be pretty clear that Caplan et al can.Report

  2. I have a different take. Intellectuals on both sides are pretty good at describing the other side’s position on a certain issue or even how they would react to a proposed policy. What both sides get wrong though is when they try to describe the motivating factors for the other side’s policy positions. That’s where partisanship shows up and where everyone goes off the rails.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I agree. In my experience, liberals, libertarians, and conservatives are all bad at explaining the motives of those who disagree with them in politics and economics. It can be really annoying.

      One thing that I will say, though, is that there’s been a recent trend among conservatives to first infer the motives of liberals (usually: rampant statism and/or Marxism), and then describe their policies and policy preferences from the inferred motives, rather than from actual behavior. We’ve seen it on this very blog, in the form of guest posts and comments by conservatives. That might be what Krugman was thinking of when he made his original claim.Report

      • I’m not sure what side of the aisle you are on Chris – but from the Right side I see the same thing among liberals.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          I think they all obsess on the deeper psychological issues of the people who disagree with them, which are supposed to explain those disagreements better than what those people actually say. Liberals get to do research studies on the question, while conservatives can muse about it on talk radio more often, but it’s basically the same question: What is wrong with them that they don’t believe the things I do? Libertarians, of course, speculate plenty about why people who disagree with them have a problem with human freedom. So, yeah, it’s pretty universal as far as I can see. Well, okay, it’s not such a thing up here, but pretty universal in the US anyway.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Mike, I’m sort of like a libertarian: not conservative or liberal. Except I’m also kind of like the opposite of a libertarian (not classically liberal either).

          I know that liberals, and libertarians, and hell, those who are the sorts of thing that I am, infer motives from policies and policy preferences, but I’ve only recently seen the reasoning going in the other direction (from inferred motives to policy preferences) from conservatives. I may have just missed it from liberals, though.Report

    • I think this is wise. I don’t know if it’s ever been but thus, but the rise of this dynamic is in some ways the central thesis of Nixonland.Report

  3. Avatar ppnl says:

    I think this gets into the issue of epistemic closure. Conservatives have been accused of epistemic closure but I don’t think that criticism has been leveled at libertarians.

    BTW, why is this post not showing up at the top of the blog?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Because I made it a minipost. I usually do that with posts that just say “go read this.”Report

      • Avatar ppnl says:

        Ah, ok.

        I don’t know why you guys don’t just ditch the blog software and do this as a vbulitin forum. You can have every bit as much control over who opens a thread if not more. Only things are more compact and organized.

        Many blogs aren’t really about the discussion very much and the blog comment system is good enough. But that’s not true here.Report

  4. Avatar Plinko says:

    I think Caplan’s proposed tests are the wrong idea, I think it’s highly likely the intellectual elites on all sides would do well within their areas of expertise (duh) and that Krugman would do much, much better than he thinks to fool untrained listeners (economists might do better, for obvious reasons). Also, Krugman is pitting conservatives vs. liberals, libertarians don’t figure.
    I’d be more interested in one for pundits and other major influencers on public opinion, myself.
    Mike’s point above seems to me to be the real ‘problem’. Pretty much all the ‘popular’ punditry seems to argue from the motivations attributed to the other side first, and all else derived from there. no wonder most popular political discourse rings hollow to the ‘other side’, but it sure sounds good to the true believers.Report

    • Plinko,

      The way that I approach policy is to always assume good intentions first and then analyze the policy itself. If only our politicians and talking heads could do the same.Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        “The way that I approach policy is to always assume good intentions first and then analyze the policy itself. If only our politicians and talking heads could do the same.”

        That’s a big assumption. Frankly, after watching the past decade, it’s one I’m no longer willing to make about the right.Report

        • Avatar David Cheatham says:

          It’s _usually_ a valid assumption of actual people. When normal people promote a policy, it is reasonable to assume that they, in fact, have some honest goal for it, or at least think they do.

          This doesn’t mean that their position is reasonable…just honest.

          This assumption, however, doesn’t work _at all_ for politicians.Report

  5. Avatar Katherine says:

    The post is probably correct, but so is Krugman. Liberals understand conservatism to a much greater degree than conservatives understand liberalism. But liberals (and, I would argue, non-libertarian conservatives) don’t understand libertarianism all that well because it isn’t a philosophy that’s widely espoused in US politics, or one that anyone has much exposure to; for the same reasons, neither liberals or conservatives tend to understand the Left all that well either.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Depends a lot on the conservative, and it depends on how we define liberalism or conservatism (As distinct from left and right? In the form of contemporary economic policy?). Conservatives that went to college (excluding particularly conservative ones) have gotten considerable exposure to leftward thinking. And on social policy (gay rights, to pick a big example) they get exposure in mass entertainment media.

      What is frequently lacking, however, is exposure to the nuance of public policy. How Krugman and Summers substantively differ from leftism. This is one of the reasons I think that conservatives often take a radical view of what “liberals” stands for. A lot of the exposure occurred on college campuses with kids wearing Che Guevara gear, college professors, and the like.

      On social issues, though, I think that the right does have a much keener idea of what liberals and the left stand for. They often attribute the views of the far left to the moderate left, but that’s pretty common in any event.Report

  6. Avatar RTod says:

    On an intellectual PhD level, Caplan may be correct.

    But on the other hand, I know a lot of main street conservatives that think that main street liberals hate the USA, want to change us into a fascist slave state and BECOME slaves because they are lazy (?), and want the terrorists to win; these, they assure me, are the things that motivate the everyday liberal.

    I can’t say that I see anything close in the opposite direction.Report

    • RTod,

      That makes me wonder if you were paying attention during the Bush years. Remember: We invaded Iraq so Bush could establish a Christian theocracy run by Haliburton.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

        I dunno about the Christian theocracy part (although the nut left might have nutted about that).

        The run by Haliburton part was definitely part of the common discourse.Report

      • All of this has been proven correct! Also, too — nanothermite dust.Report

      • Avatar RTod says:

        Yeah, Mike, except it seems different in this Turing example. I certainly knew a lot of liberals that thought the administration was corrupt and toyed with its followers, but most acknowledged that those that followed the administration did so because they were patriotic (or at least nationalistic), and (rightfully) freaked out by 9/11. In other words, there is a big difference between saying you think a leader of a party is corrupt and lying, and saying that you think that 50% of the country is in on some massive conspiracy to destroy your way of life, ya know?

        And to be true, my experience might just be a factor of where I live.Report

        • Avatar Simon K says:

          It was pretty common among liberals at the time to claim conservatives only supported Bush because they were stupid. The slightly more mannered version of the argument was that the middle class was voting against its economic interests because it was hypnotized by Rove’s famous cultural “wedge issues”. ie. Were stupid.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

        I’d be interested to see if the common freaks in either party could actually pass the test, though, and if so, which leaning- group would do better.

        Is the crazed left wing conspiracy nut more capable of acting like a normal rightie, or is the crazed right wing conspiracy nut more capable of acting like a normal leftie?

        Now, both of those conversations would be really interesting too. Probably not for their educational value, just on pure entertainment.Report

        • Avatar RTod says:

          I think you have to throw out the freaks on both sides, or it won’t be very interesting.

          Having someone pipe up with a “Hey! Let’s get another beer while we figure out a way to help the terrorists defeat this awful country!” or “Hey! Let’s get another beer why we figure out how to take homes away from colored people and give them to corporations!” will be pretty big give-aways.Report

          • Avatar David Cheatham says:

            This is an interesting idea, but it’s worth pointing out that computers are ‘trained’ (i.e, programmed) to simulate people…picking random liberals, even very smart liberals, and asking them to pretend to be right wing is about as inane as trying to discuss philosophy with Microsoft Excel.

            And I think Krugman is almost right. The _political rhetoric_ that comes from the right about ‘the left’ is nearly incomprehensible to those of us actually on the left. And while I probably have a biased view, I don’t see anything of that sheer insanity coming from the left.

            I’m not, however, certain that rhetoric has anything to do with what the actual intelligent people on the right think.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              Right now, the political rhetoric of Republicans is amplified by virtue of being out of power. When the Democrats were out of power, they were different than they are now. Could be that the Republicans are, on balance, worse, but it’s a hurricane talking about how bad earthquakes are.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            Except of course, the reality is, “hey, let’s falsely take homes away from everyone, get bailouts for ourself, then give money to Republicans so they can blame poor minorities for the housing crisis.”Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        And how did the WMD hunt come out? The ‘they’ll greet us as liberators’? ‘This war will pay for itself’?Report

  7. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    I will make this observation:

    Both of those conversations would be *fascinating*. They might be more useful educational tools than half of the textbooks written in economics in the last three decades.Report

  8. Avatar Will Truman says:

    I think part of the question is how one goes about defining “mainstream Republican/Democrat/conservative/liberal.” Back when I was more political and reading a more partisan set of blogs, it seemed that whenever Jesse Jackson would say something stupid, conservatives would say “See! This is how liberals perceive things!” while Democrats would say “Nobody pays attention to Jesse Jackson anymore!” and the reverse when it was Ann Coulter.

    A conservative that says that the Democrats want to make us all slaves is, to me, almost immediately consigned to the “pretty out there” category, or “unserious.” But it’s circular logic to suggest mainstream Republicans don’t think that when I immediately decide someone that does is out of the mainstream. Even so, I spent a lot of time running with the Republicans, and while I do hear some pretty unflattering and unfair motivation assignments, not that bad. It’s more the type of language I attribute to hard-core libertarians than anyone else.Report

  9. Avatar Koz says:

    Of course Caplan is right. Anybody who goes to a place where conservatives and liberals interact understands that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. In fact, to a large degree conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand liberals.

    The sensitive point is this: liberals fail to understand that it’s not necessarily their policies that are bad, their aspirations are bad too. I don’t know of a single lib who gets this, or even internalized the possibility of it.

    A typical liberal train of thought is, “I support retirement security for senior citizens (or near-universal literacy, or a more equitable distribution of wealth between rich and poor, or whatever). Retirement security is a good thing, therefore I really can’t be blamed for motive, only for policy mistakes or implementation errors.”

    But often, these things that libs want are better thought of as fantasies than plausible aspirations. There’s umpteen layers of actions that occur before we see any of these fantasies. Those actions have intent, and the intent of those actions are actual aspirations instead of fantasies.

    Libs can get angry or dismissive of conservatives who supposedly caricature libs’ motivations if they want to. But we’d all be better off if libs could really self-understand a comprehensive account of their own motives. Ie, the things that really describe their actions.Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke says:

      Ideological Turing Test = the comboxes of this blogReport

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

        Here’s an interesting thought puzzle.

        Take the League (Eric is unfortunately out as his picture is available), and dump us all together in a bar somewhere.

        We are all called to pretend that we are someone else in the commentariat. We then have four hours of conversation to figure out who everyone else is, while defending our false identity.

        Can you defend it? If so, for how long? And how long do you think it would take for you to ferret out everyone else?

        I would be doomed if I pulled Bob, since I can’t fake his lines like: “I think you’ve hypostatized the transcendent pole, and sometimes I think you’ve obliterated the transcendent”. Actually, I’m pretty sure that most of us except Bob would fail at being Bob.

        I could probably fake people out for a while if I pulled Mark, Burt, Russell, or Jason. I might even last past the first round. If I drew Jaybird, I might win outright or lose in the first three minutes, it would depend upon how the conversation went. I could probably hold up a Tom for a while, as it’s entirely possible that I’m related to him.

        Some of the other commentariat I could probably fake if I drummed up on their commentary.

        I bet I can peg most of you guys, though. Poker face reading skills.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I’m the easiest to parody, sadly.Report

          • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

            Bah. Parody is easy (and don’t kid yourself, I can name a few that would be easier to parody than you, m’friend).

            Imitation is hard. Unless you’re sort of a freakazoid bizzaro version of the other guy in the first place. Which I actually suspect may be the case for you and I.Report

    • Avatar RTod says:

      So…. If I am reading you correctly, conservatives know what drives liberals better than liberals… Because liberals are so much of a cartoon character bad guy that they don’t know they’re a cartoon character bad guy… But you do… And because of this you know what they think and they don’t…

      Did I get the basic gist?Report

      • Avatar Koz says:

        Not quite. You’re correct in that the essential problem is the lack of self-awareness among liberals. The supposed brilliant intuition of the mainstream right is less of a factor.

        But, the nature of self-delusion among liberals is not a cartoon-variety bad guy, it’s a little more subtle than that. Mostly, it’s about the inability or unwillingness to take responsibility for their aspirations in the context they actually exist in, as opposed to their own fantasies of them.

        For example, if Obama and a dozen Demo Senators agreed to repeal Obamacare, there would be a substantial outcry among the lib base, maybe even a deluge. Even though the libs in the hinterlands are widely agreed not to be particularly enthusiastic for it. It would be useful for libs to be able to unpack this is at couple levels deeper than they ususally do.Report

    • Avatar Elias says:

      Nicely done.Report

  10. Avatar trizzlor says:

    Caplan is probably right when he assumes that a fringe political movement will know more about the mainstream than vice versa, but that is not at all what Krugman is saying. A similar result would probably happen if you construct a Turing test with Dungeons & Dragons fans vs. NFL fans. His attempt to remedy this in the closing seems contradictory:

    We learn [Krugman’s] worldview as part of the curriculum. He learns ours in his spare time – if he chooses to spare it.

    You might protest that libertarianism is far less prevalent than conservatism. But that’s only true for the general population, not the world of ideas.

    Is it equally fair of me to say “You might protest that D&D players are far less prevalent than NFL fans, but that’s only true for the general population…”?Report

    • I agree that Caplan overstates this by saying “world of ideas,” but I think his point is that, to the extent the “world of ideas” is equivalent to the world inhabited by academics, libertarianism is as or more represented than conservatism. Yet liberal academics (and certainly Krugman) by and large do not seem interested in understanding those differences in their critiques of each. This may or may not be an accurate statement, by the way, but the point is not that libertarianism should be treated as the equal of conservatism merely because it exists in the “world of ideas,” but rather because within the “world of ideas,” libertarianism is as or more well-represented than conservatism. This is especially problematic if we’re looking at the specific subset of the “world of ideas” that is Economics, which is one of the few academic disciplines in which the so-called “Right” is as a whole a fairly large chunk of the profession. If the relevant “world of ideas” were, say, sociology, then it would be quite forgivable and understandable for liberal sociologists to be less than knowledgeable about conservative or libertarian sociological arguments.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I agree that Caplan overstates this by saying “world of ideas,” but I think his point is that, to the extent the “world of ideas” is equivalent to the world inhabited by academics, libertarianism is as or more represented than conservatism.

        That was my reading of it, too.Report

    • Avatar David Cheatham says:

      Yeah, I knew there was something wrong with his idea, with replacing ‘conservative’ with ‘libertarian’, and couldn’t quite pin it down. I tried to explain with ‘studying’, but that wasn’t really it. But you nailed it exactly: People can fake a mainstream positions much better non-mainstream ones. Mainstream positions are in the collective subconcious of society.

      I am not a baseball fan. I think it’s a boring game. But I’ve been to a few games, and seen more on TV, and people talk about it around me. There’s a lot of tiny details like players and stuff, but give me time to study, maybe some rules I’m not away of, and I can fake it. Hell, I can tell you right now I’m against the designated hitter rule!

      I am also not a lacrosse fan. I have literally never seen an actual game, and I’ve never heard anyone talk about it. I’ve seen a few depictions on TV, so I know it’s somewhat like soccer, you’re trying to get a ball in the net past a goalie guy, and you manipulate the ball with sticks with baskets on the end. That’s all I know.

      The fact that I could fake being a baseball fan better than a lacrosse fan does not prove that is a more intellectually demanding game. Neither does the fact that, statistically, lacrosse fans could fake being a baseball fan than vis versa.

      That just means _lacrosse isn’t very popular_.Report

      • I think this misses Caplan’s point, though. In addition to the reasons stated in my comment above yours, it’s important to keep in mind the point Caplan is trying to make here as well.

        He’s not arguing that libertarianism or conservatism are more intellectually demanding than liberalism, he’s trying to refute Krugman’s claim that he and other liberals actually listen to conservative and libertarian arguments well enough that they could pass something along the lines of a Turing test, while conservatives and libertarians as a group do not listen to liberals well enough to do so.

        So in arguing that “of course liberals are less familiar with libertarian arguments than libertarians are familiar with liberal arguments since libertarianism is a fringe ideology,” you’re effectively conceding Caplan’s whole point, which is that Krugman’s claim is demonstrably wrong.Report

        • Avatar David Cheatham says:

          Yes, but it’s only ‘wrong’ because Caplan swapped in the word ‘libertarian’ for ‘conservative’. Krugman was talking about the _conservatives_, as he repeatedly said.

          If you’re allowed to change what was actually said, you can prove any statement wrong. If we were to swap out ‘Socialist’ for ‘liberal’, it would make just as little sense in the other direction.Report

          • Avatar Alan Scott says:

            Exactly. Caplan chooses to substitute libertarians for conservatives because libertarians are much more common than libertarians in the realm of ideas, where Krugman seems to be arguing that conservatives don’t have a good understanding of ideas. Rather than refuting Krugman’s point, Caplan assumes it.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              More specifically, he talks about “conservative economists,” who are themselves a special group upon whom Krugman regularly carps. To be sure, many of them likely identify partially as libertarian, but that is incidental, and it remains Krugman’s category, which, were he to submit to this kind of test, he could populate more or less as he saw fit, since I don’t think any of us really know who he is talking about. Likely it’s a group of about a half-dozen particular nettlesome ideological opponents in his field with whom he has sparred for years if not decades. Certainly it’s not libertarians at large, a group about whom he made no assertions whatever in the post in question.

              I would also argue that all this double-blind gamesmanship is rather over the top for testing Krugman’s claim. The more fair and accurate test would be rather more simple: let whoever wishes to represent their viewpoint’s ability to fairly present the think of what they consider their opponent-side’s views on a particular question, and allow the intellectual community assess the results. What does all of this play-acting and trying to pass as members of the opposing choir get us in terms of actually assessing whether an argument is being presented fairly? Only libertarians can assess whether their arguments are being presented accurately? That’s not how arguments actually get assessed, or even read, in the real world. The real world doesn’t read views with an eye toward judging whether the person presenting it is an impostor to his ideological identification. Yeesh. By all means, Krugman claims to be able to do something that he offers no citation of his actually having done. But if “conservative economists” (and I wonder whether Mr. Caplan considers himself one) think he is wrong to say they “cannot” (and to be honest, I think what Krugman really means is that they will not) present the views of Keyensians (for example) accurately, it seem like the thing to do would be to write something or give a talk in which they demonstrate that he is wrong under their own name. Pretty simple. As to Krugman’s claims about his own and liberals’ ability to do this, is it really worth all this fuss proposing elaborate tests for claims that aren’t even rudimentarily documented in the first place? If ever there was a time to simply laugh a bit of bloggy bluster out of the intellectual conversation rather than inflating its significance, it seems like this would be that time.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …oops, sorry. To complete a thought:

                “let whoever wishes to represent…’ etc etc… let them offer their account of the views on some question of the intellectual school they oppose — freely and openly under their own name for review by the intellectual community at-large. Let the intellectual community, who after all, has access to the record of arguments made by everyone, assess who can and can’t complete the exercise successfully and accurately. Bing, bang, done. Easy.

                [Continuing on with:]
                “What does all this play-acting…” etc. etc.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                On the question of who Krugman’s claims about the inability to state the opposing view apply to, I see now i recalled incorrectly. He referenced “liberal economists,” but left the accusation about his opponents open to “coneservatives” at large, as well as “fierce anti-Keyensians,” and finally simply “the other side” to his “we” (i.e. the liberal econimists). So I guess the challenge would be open to all comers.

                I still think the more sober, mature, way to meet his challenge would simply be to say, “Here I am, Mr. So-and-So, representing Ideological Group X, and in answer to Mr. Krugman’s absurd calumny, I here represent the views of Ideological Group Y, which I comprehensively (or less comprehensively, as the case may be) reject thusly, a representation I hold to be accurate to their actual espoused views: __________________________________________________________________________.” …And, further, I maintain that the rightful assessors of the validity of that claim to fair and accurate representation of opposing views are… us, the whole world, or at least that part of it who hold them(our)selves to be good-faith participants in its intellectual affairs, rather than just the self-appointed keepers of the particular ideological flames whose flickerings the claimant(s) claim(s) to be faithfully representing.Report

            • I’m not so sure about the notion that Krugman’s going only after conservatives here. As Michael Drew points out, Krugman is talking also about “fierce anti-Keynesians” and “the other side” (a group that is seemingly defined as “economists who are not liberals”). This suggests to me that he is referring to conservatives and libertarians interchangeably, especially since all or almost all libertarian economists are presumably “fierce anti-Keynesians” (or at least anti-Keynesians), whereas I’m not at all certain this is true of all or almost all conservative economists. Indeed, some quick googling found this piece:

              And of course, we tend to forget that the 2009 stimulus package came on the heels of a smaller (but still sizable at the time) stimulus package in 2008 that was signed into law by the Bush Administration after votes in Congress of 380-34 in the House and 81-16 in the Senate. Say what you will about that package, but it pretty clearly drew on Keynesianism.

              Caplan is, it would seem to me, quite reasonably treating the attack on “anti-Keynesians” as primarily directed at libertarians. But whether or not this treatment is appropriate, his point remains: to become an economist with a degree from a top tier institution, one must have a sizable understanding of Keynesianism, while it is much less necessary to have an understanding of anti-Keynesianism (certainly one can get a degree from a top institution while completely ignoring the Austrian school, though I suspect it’s probably necessary to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the Chicago school).*

              *This should not be taken as a complaint that the Austrian school is given inappropriately short shrift by economics programs, which is something that I’m not qualified to discuss in a reasonable fashion. Also, I am more than open to a challenge of my assumption that only a rudimentary, rather than a deep, understanding of the Chicago School is necessary to obtain an economics doctorate from a top institution.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

        > Hell, I can tell you right now I’m against the
        > designated hitter rule!

        That makes you smarter than half the baseball fans.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          “Kenyan, Marxist, socialism, tax cuts, liberal media, Adam and Steve, real American values, Founding Fathers, Christian nation.”

          That might not pass the Turing test, but it’s enough to get a job at Fox or the National Review.

          Oh, and there’s a pretty grisly irony in invoking Alan Turing to bash liberals.Report

  11. Dishonest liberals tend to bullshit and obfuscate whereas dishonest conservatives tend to lie and assert.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Liberals seem more inclined to promote the idea of a false consensus that glosses over disagreement and produces the illusion of agreement, as they step back, back, and you find out that they were trying to get you to agree with something you never would have if they’d simply said that was their position up-front.

      Conservatives often go in the other direction, presenting things in a black and white and lumping your gray view in with the black, even when they actually do recognize the impurities of the situation.

      There are a lot of counterexamples in each way, but I find that those are distinct tendencies. Liberals more likely to assume that their is agreement when there is none. Conservatives more likely to assume moral clarity or blasphemy even when there actually is some agreement in the gray zone.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke says:

        Mr. Truman, in the end, it’s either gotta be this or that. Voting present or absent don’t get it done.

        I once quoted the great Yogi [Berra, by surname] that when you come to a fork in the road, take it.

        It was our own beloved Mr. Cahalan who submitted that when he comes to a fork in the road he climbs a tree and looks at the sky.

        I liked that one very much. But at some point, you gotta eat.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

          > But at some point, you gotta eat.

          Oh, sure.

          And while I’m perfectly willing to eat with my fingers (to mix two analogies), I’m cognizant of the fact that most people aren’t.

          Much as I like lookin’ at the sky, there is the practical matter that down below you half the herd is demanding you take Fork A and the other half is demanding you take Fork B.

          If you don’t cast a vote, the herd is still going to move on without you. And like it or not, you’re most likely going to be carried along with them to some extent.

          The alternative is to check yourself out of society.Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke says:

      Mr. Carr, meet Matt Yglesias: ‘Fighting dishonesty with dishonesty is sometimes the right thing for advocates to do, yes…’

      I think the “conservatives” are more self-deluded via confirmation bias than calculating as such, having steeped myself in “conservative” thought, as well as unavoidably been steeped in leftist thought, since it dominates the chattersphere.

      I actually don’t question the wisdom or truth of what Mr. Yglesias let slip here. Neither am I critical of Machiavelli for similarly telling it like it is. I do submit that your avg object of ridicule on the right—say Michelle Bachmann—is sincere and not calculating.

      In fact, of all the figures on left side of the aisle, it’s Joe Biden who is her mirror-image. I think he’s a proven fool in his political opinions, like dividing Iraq, but if there’s one guy out there I’d trust to get my back, it would be Joe Biden.

      BHO did damn good on his first executive decision, on a running mate. McCain did far worse. McCain deserved to lose based on that alone. And perhaps he did…Report