People tend to (say they) believe what they expect that others around them will soon (say they) believe. Why? Two obvious theories: A) What others say they believe embodies info about reality, B) Key audiences respect us more when we agree with them
> Yet even experts in Y are also reluctant to endorse a claim made by an expert in X that differs from what MSM says about X. As the other experts in Y whose respect they seek also tend to rely on MSM for their views on X, our experts in Y want to stick with those MSM views, even if they have private info to the contrary.
> These examples suggest that, for most people, the beliefs that they are willing to endorse depend more on what they expect their key audiences to endorse, relative to their private info on belief accuracy.
The examples listed here seem like broad strokes that aren't nuanced enough to be really correct, and even if they were, they dont generalize well to the broad conclusion. There are plenty of obvious reasons why experts might not want to contradict the opinions of news networks publicly besides the fact that they like to agree with their viewers. There's also plenty of fields I can name where experts are all too happy to deride the "MSM" for their explanations and suggestions - it's practically used as a bonding mechanism in my field, cyber security. I think you are overfitting here on specific, politically charged topics as a rationalist and economist, and ending up saying something nonsensical. Do you find physicists at George Mason are keen on endorsing pop sci articles?
Certainly correct as far as it goes. But it's not surprising; Trivers' analysis states that the "conscious" information we talk about and the "subconscious" information we use to make choices is not the same, and may be disjoint. (In practice, leading to the fine art of letting the conscious mind construct socially-acceptable descriptions of why one made particular choices.) Much of the difficult work of life is maximizing one's social status, which has little to do with expounding factually accurate models of how the world works.
A fine example is Barbara Tuchman's "The March of Folly", which is a catalog of incidents where polities persistently carries out policies that were disastrous. But they all have the same pattern: The actors in question were not primarily rewarded or punished based on the long-term success of the polity, but by internal political contests within the polity. E.g. in the run-up to the American Revolution, the parliamentary leaders of the U.K. were generally disposed to strike compromises that would keep the southern American colonies within the U.K. But the backbenchers insisted that Parliament stamp out any lack of submissiveness in the colonies. There is no evidence that any backbencher lost his seat over the failure of this strategy.
The interesting evidence would be where you can distinguish (1) choices people make that affect themselves but are not socially visible from (2) choices people make in public (ideally, ones that do not affect themselves much).
It seems you are offering a more distal explanation consistent with B as a proximate explanation. Yes we might collectively use social conformity pressure to get people to coordinate in particular ways. But attributing most conformity to such social coordination seems a pretty idealistic view of conformity. Conformity really often does have darker sides.
A different plausible-to-me theory:
C) It’s easier to coordinate with other people when we all act in ways that are predictable to each other. Copying each others’ beliefs is a pretty good way to do that. As to incentives: some of the benefits of this coordination occur to either the individual directly (who is therefore incentivized to copy others’ beliefs) or the people around that individual (who are therefore incentivized to try to get the individual to copy others’ beliefs, and/or to shun them if they don’t).
Examples:* Many common devices are known to be pretty safe *if* you interface with them the way everybody else does. But we don’t have good explicit models of which parts of the standard way of interfacing with these objects is/isn’t safety relevant, so it is safer to copy folks’ usual patterns whole hog. (This is sort of like your ‘A’. But on this model, the advantage of copying how other people interface with microwaves, or police, is mostly not that other people know something about microwaves or police — it is mostly that the process that *designs* microwaves, and police, has designed it to work acceptably for (people who act like most people act).
* If I imagine a senior researcher at MIRI announcing their retirement (as in your example), I expect that it’ll be harder-to-impossible for me to coordinate with a group around that researcher’s vision. And so if I expect to be able to contribute to research-in-a-group but not to pull it off alone, I’d do better to switch my vision-uptake attempts to trying to learn from whoever will be coordinating future research. (I.e., this example is predicted on C as well as on B. And my introspective sense of the example, in myself, fits C better than B, FWIW.)
I admit that your examples about academics citing papers, and about claims that the MSM disagrees with, seem like a more natural fit for B than for C. But I think something like this can still be expected on C, insofar as there’s something useful about us all thinking we live in a common world, or building on papers that others would also trust. (See Sarah Constantin’s excellent blog post “Costs of Reliability”.)
The thing that would dissuade me here would be examples of where “useful group coordination (of the sort that e.g. produces better research projects, or other useful things)” comes apart from “being respected more”. Not sure how to generate these.
I did NOT claim that everyone always believes MSM. There are certainly communities within which there's a consensus that particular MSM claims are not true.
What about mask usage? It's open-and-shut that mask usage helps limit COVID spread, but there are still influential elected officials opposed to mandates.. It seems clear that these actions are about earning the respect of their audiences.
But at the same time, the MSM is pretty clearly in favor of mask usage. And so there's a conflict with your third fact; a substantial minority of the population will not accept the claim of mask effectiveness, even when there are no sources, MSM, expert, or otherwise, advocating for that position. If we held your premise to be true, the broad lack of support for the anti-mask position should have eroded anti-mask sentiment, and there should be few to no anti-mask holdouts remaining. Which isn't the case currently.
Thank you for your comment and of course you are right.
Although that hasn't stopped Fed officials from discussing lately social justice and climate change.
I would add however that if the Fed is supposed to "fight inflation" then property zoning is a major component of that problem. One could use the bully pulpit of the Fed chair.
Instead the Fed has chosen to "fight inflation" by keeping labor markets loose, at least until it became obvious that the Phillips curve was prone. Certain Fed branch econ staffs have written paeans to the 5% unemployment rate.
But my main point in writing this is that if a macroeconomist somewhere said, "You know inflation isn't all that important, and globalism isn't working," they would be dismissed as a heretic coming out of the gate.
The US Federal Reserve doesn't set or influence zoning policy, nor has Congress asked it to take zoning policy into account in its decisions.
The US Federal Reserve does determine the rate of inflation, and Congress had asked it to be guided in large part by the rate of inflation in its decisions.
While I strongly agree with you that property zoning is a much bigger problem than inflation, there are many reasons why we might expect the Chair of the Federal Reserve to talk more about inflation than zoning.
Yes it's hard enough to convince people of a truth when truth is their aim. When truth *isn't* their aim, it's virtually impossible.
The idea of prediction markets is of course subject to these same challenges, but since success there could reduce both of these challenges very broadly, it seems very valuable to keep pushing it as you have been doing.
I think much of what is suggested in this blog does apply to modern macroeconomics.
Practitioners seem to writing for each other, to other members of the econo-sects they belong to, or to the larger profession, when discussing a broadly accepted (and well-financed) proposition.
When first becoming Fed Chair, Janet Yellen talked a lot about inflation and free trade.
Yet inflation was not the risk, and the glories of globalism are very mixed (especially for the employee class of developed nations).
Less was said about reducing sharply property-zoning, or keeping labor markets tight.