Monday, September 3, 2012

Politics And Reason

People today are not that rational. Look at advertisers. They get paid for results. They need to change people's behaviour. How many ads make a rational argument? Very few. Most play the association game. They associate the product with something good, a beautiful woman, a catchy jingle, a popular celebrity, whatever. It works.

Most people think they are above that. That ads do not work on them. They are too rational. But that just proves the opposite. If they would think rationally they would see that such a position is ad hoc. If everyone believes they are the exception to the rule then the great majority must be wrong. Thinking you are not among them just because you are you is not rational. Still we do it. We don't want to admit we get taken.

Politics is like that. Most people think congressmen in general are crooked yet most think their own congressman is honest. He is not. You have just been watching his ads.

You listen to political debate on TV or read political websites. You rarely get a rational argument. Just a bunch of buzzwords strung together with some eloquence. It is all supported by polling and focus groups. It is what people want. It just isn't reason. We like to think we are thinkers but we don't like to think. We just close our eyes and open our mouth and swallow whatever they feed us.

There is one form of pseudo-rational debate that you see. It is applying a hyper-skeptical analysis to you opponents position. Any position can be seen as illogical if you demand absolute proof for every premise and irrefutable evidence for every inference. We don't demand this consistently. That would leave us nowhere. We could not even prove that our senses are reliable or that other minds exist. Skepticism is not practical. But it sounds pretty rational when you use it selectively. It is not logical but the logical problem is not that easy to point out. People are not that educated in philosophy and logic so they don't know the classic errors.

Real rational debate needs to learn to reject basic logic killers. One is lying. We don't really demand our politicians tell the truth. People blame the politicians. But if we really wanted honesty we would get it. We just need to vote for the honest guys. Does anyone think Mitt Romney is more honest than Ron Paul? But being at least the most honest of the group didn't help him. Why? Because we just don't value honesty that much. We say we do but we are lying to ourselves. We make every excuse when our guy is caught in a falsehood. Truth is the lifeblood of logic. If we don't value truth we cannot reason.

Another thing the electorate has to reject is ad hominem arguments. We see them all the time. They are logic killers. Yet we don't care. When we accept those kinds of attacks we are saying we don't want reason and thinking to control the direction of the country. We are making a choice for stupid government. People don't get that. Reason cannot happen where ad hominem arguments are accepted. If you want proof go visit websites where politics, religion, or whatever is debated. Those sites where rational debate happens all have one thing in common. They delete personal attacks. The sites that allow them simply have no rational debate. Sadly the national political forum is like one of those sites.

So what do we end up with? A system that is more controlled by money than by reason. A system where common sense is not common. A system where truly great men can't win. The solution? Democracy guarantees we get the government we deserve. We need to upgrade the population.

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