Tyler Cowen points us to a Psychology Today article on how your personality correlates with whether you are conservative or liberal. When reading below about the correlations, resist the temptation to focus on which side is flattered the most. Instead, see these as markers of bias. Unless you have a better than average reason to think your personality type has better insight into what policies are good for society, it is a bias to let your policy beliefs be influenced by your personality. Instead try to move your beliefs to those you would have had with an average personality. Those correlations:
Quite a simplistic view of personality. Let me guess, you're a liberal. I used to be liberal, but now I'm conservative. So I must be schizo! I just got fed up with the moving moral target of the progressives. Next thing you know they'll be advocating sex with kids. Oh yes, I read lots of books, am messy, love to act and paint, and believe in God.
All of you arguing about beliefs vs actual "good" society really need to read Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions, and his Vision of the Anointed.
pdf, regarding abortion and policy vs. effect, check out this from Walter Block. If technology reached the level imagined there, I think a lot of people on opposite sides would come together.
That reminds me of a bias pointed out by Paul Graham. Parents seem to be more conservative about their children than they were with their own lives as a child. This seems to be because, as a child, you get some solid benefits by climbing that big tree, but as a parent, you get none of those benefits and have to deal with all of the problems it causes (like broken limbs).
Something similar might be going on with old age conservatism.
Chris, the changing of opinion with age might be explained by increasing info with age, so it is not clear whether to reject that change. If opinions aged due to info, then you would want to change your opinion to the opinion you expect to have when you are old.
There is more than a grain of truth in the study, I mean if you went to a poetry reading, would you not expect to find more liberals there than at the country music festival? (Now I am a libertarian and wouldn't be caught dead at either...) It reminds me of that old saw about the conservatives being repulsive but right and the left being romantic but wrong.
In terms of the task of trying not to let your personality influence your policy beliefs, I will take a pragmatic approach because, in almost all cases, policy beliefs can be treated as entertainment as the involvement of most people in changing policy is limited to voting, which has minimal impact. Only if you are the position of being able to change policy do you need to worry about this bias. Perhaps politicians should use the wisdom of crowds to make policy, taking the median position from opinion surveys, unless you have clear information that the general public are not party to.
Another bias that comes to mind that you have to deal with as a policy maker is the (commonly suggested) one of becoming more conservative as you get older - I assume you would compensate in the same way.
I'm dubious about studies (e.g., the "whiny kid" study) based on a sample size of 95 in an atypical community. The conclusion might be plausible (speaking as a reactionary crackpot, I was tempted to change my blog's name to "The Whiny Ex-Kid") but the study isn't.
pdf, my advice to move to the political opinions you would have if you had an average personality applies only to those who think their political opinions are about a common concept. If you think it is about your preferences, then my advice doesn't apply to you.
Robin, I think that even when people of different ideologies *think* they're talking about a common concept of good society, they usually have different ones in mind. So they end up having low-level discussions (about policies or politicians, for instance) that are distorted by high-level differences in values driven by their personality.
And to some degree, this is complicated by the fact that people *aren't* very pragmatic about many areas of policy. They desire certain policies in themselves, and not just for the effects. Abortion is an obvious example, and police power and sentencing rules a less obvious one. So, two people might agree on what would make a good society on the *most* abstract levels, (say, that it would provide everyone opportunities to fulfill their own happiness,) but be unwilling to change their positions on some lower-level pragmatic issue even if it were shown that the lower-level issue did not lead to the higher-level results.
So I think the distinction you're trying to make isn't really that clear.
pdf, yes of course people can have different preferences over the sort of society they would prefer. And if they admit they just have different preferences, there is nothing to disagree about. But usually when people speak about what is "good for society," they talk as if what they intend to refer to is a more common concept, about which they disagree.
Robin, I think Michael's point is that different people with different values might have different opinions on which societal *outcomes* would be good or bad, not different opinions on which policies would lead to which outcomes. Given a single, detailed, view of a hypothetical society, one person would say "this society is bad" and another "this society is good". When one asks "If my personality were different, would what is good for society be different?", it assumes that "what is good for society" is some objective thing. But it's really not. It's a subjective thing.
An example: If your current society contained two mutually antagonistic groups, with extreme animosity between them, members of each group might think that a better society would be one where the other group had been killed.
Eliezer, surely there is a continuum between blue and green, which also extends past them both. There are of course many other dimensions one could identify and focus on.
Robin, if you think there's a continuum between Blue and Green, that's buying into the "dichotomy" nearly as much as if you thought there were only two discrete points.
I don't consider myself a conservative or a liberal, but, speaking strictly as a rationalist, I find this study's results *highly* suspicious. When a group of steadfastly Republican researchers conduct a similar study and find the same results, I'll start paying attention.
Robert, social stability might be better for society than material wealth, and whether you thought so might depend on your personality, but whether stability was more good for society would not depend on your personality.
Michael Vassar said "In extreme cases I can definitely say "if I had a different personality then what is good for society would be different"."
I don't think you need to be extreme at all. Consider free trade. If trade is free then the nation is in aggregate better off - this is an uncontestable fact. However if I believed that social stability was more valueable than material wealth, and that it was not captured by a market process then I could consistently accept that while free trade might make us materially better off we would be better to restrict trade and so keep society stable. Another person might not value social stability so highly and believe that trade should be free. I think this is quite a common and regular example.
This example comes about because, as you point out, value is subjective.