Shoo Freethinkers

Five years ago I wrote:

On average people who support odd ideas are less desirable as associates, and less discriminating in which ideas they endorse. If people only endorsed odd ideas when they had new information suggesting such ideas were promising, we should be eager to hear of such news, and eager to associate with such people. But in fact the main task faced by those with good news on odd ideas is to distinguish themselves from freethinkers who just pretend to have such news. Contrary to their self-image, undiscriminating freethinkers are our main obstacle to innovation. (more)

While giving a talk today on futarchy, I noticed how often freethinker fans are an obstacle to my innovation in particular. Mentally sloppy freethinkers tend to be attracted to radical proposals, just because such proposals are radical. They don’t focus much on the detailed arguments, but instead substitute simple arguments based on broad crude analogies, more suited to their style of thinking. And they usually make sure to insinuate that opposition to the idea is mainly from excess conformity or entrenched interests. Others hear such sloppy arguments, reject them, and then reject the idea as well.

For example, some say they like prediction markets because such things are markets, and all markets are good. This of course tempts others to reject them as based on knee-jerk free-market ideology. Some say they like prediction markets because they emphasize the wisdom of crowds, too long slighted by self-serving over-rated elite experts. Which elicits rejections from those who know just how often experts know better than crowds. Today someone even said futarchy was good because it is just like cost benefit analysis, which is obviously good.

Most big changes are bad ideas. So if a big change is a good idea, it must be because of some rather specific detailed reasons. When I make a radical proposal, I offer such specific detailed reasons in support, and those are the reasons I want skeptics to consider. For example, I argue for the information aggregation advantages of subsidized speculative markets, not for all possible advantages of all possible markets.

So when sloppy thinkers, eager to affirm their liberality by supporting radical proposals, latch on to my idea, and then substitute their own arguments based on vague analogies, they get in my way. Others see their support, and their sloppy thinking, and naturally want to distance themselves from the whole thing. Yes indeed, undiscriminating freethinkers are one of our main barriers to innovation.

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