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How am I supposed to know?

Forums - Politics Discussion - How am I supposed to know?

Before anything, keep in mind that this is mainly something that I find to be a major problem so this is entirely personal, for the most part. At the same time, I don't think what I'm saying here cannot be applied to the vast majority of common people out there.

So, recently, I've started taking an interest in politics, or at least political theory. I've been looking through and analyzing, to the best of my ability, all political topics I can find. Looking at the issues, seeing where both sides stand morally, etc. and trying to determine exactly what I think, what I want to support and what kind of political movements I should be endorsing. In doing this, though, I've come across a problem; evidence. While theories stand here and there, what we really need to look at is raw evidence and see whether we yield better results from, say, having higher taxes or lower taxes, right? "Better", while sometimes subjective, more or less has some traits that people agree to concede. If there's more people dying, that's considered a bad thing. If there's fewer jobs, it's a bad thing. And so forth. So the problem doesn't lie there and finding the better solution should be easy. What I've learned, though, is that evidence isn't that simple. Because, most of the time, causation is all but impossible to determine. Instead, we have to work with strong correlation, i.e. if every single time you cut taxes, everyone's wealth goes up, more jobs are made and life gets better as whole, then we can argue that it's probably because of said tax cuts that things improved.

But, of course, things aren't nearly that easy. For every reason that one side might give for some tax cuts benefitting society, the other side will have counterarguments such as a) these tax cuts just happened to take place at the same time as the economic boom caused by factors xyz, b) things would have been even better without the tax cuts and c) the evidence for things becoming better is biased. At this point, the first group will respond that a) factors xyz were not the primary reason for the boom, b) conditions abc would have been worse without tax cuts and c) there is no evidence for this evidence being biased. So on and so forth. Eventually, after both sides argue on and on for a while, never exhausting their logic or evidence, they either get torn away by the police/moderators or just agree to disagree. By this point, though, we'll definitely have had at least one comment along the lines of "if you knew anything about economics, like I do, with my degree (and other qualifications), you'd know that low taxes are generally better", which is really where my main point lies.

Now, all of these things generally apply to both sides. On here, my experience has been that people pushing right-wing fiscal policies, such as low taxes, claim to know more about economics and people pushing left-wing policies like teaching evolution or allowing homosexuality, claim to know a lot about science. You see, these things are extremely difficult to argue against with anyone. I don't have an eco or bio degree and, since they have proof that they know something about this, I'm really at an inferior level where there's nothing I can do.

Thing is, though, I'm not sure why or how I'm supposed to have faith in these people's qualifications. Using a more leftist example now, liberals claim that evolution has been definitively proved by science and that it should therefore be taught in schools. Indeed, it's really not a subject of debate to see whether or not the scientific community as whole accepts evolution, because this is evidently true. But my problem is, I really can't analyze the evidence for myself. Scientists can throw a bunch of data at me about fossils and extinct species and whatnot, which demonstrate that evolution is the correct theory in the field of biology. To me, however, this data means absolutely nothing. It would require an extraordinary amount of effort on my part to learn biology to the extent of understanding this evidence, something that is simply unfeasible for me and for the general populace. Meaning that, the only part of the liberal argument that I can understand is the fact that the scientific community endorses their idea; the actual evidence is simply meaningless to me. Therefore, in asking me to accept their idea here, they're basically asking me to have faith in the scientific community. More specifically, they're asking me to have more faith in the scientific community than I do in, say, my local churchman, who tells God created the world 6000 years ago. At this point, why and how should I believe in the scientific community, when the crux of their argument - and the argument of science as a whole - the evidence, is simply unaccessible to me?

And the fact of the matter is, there'll obviously always be the odd conservative Christian scientist or leftist Communist economist who will be supporting the other side of the argument. Going by the fact that both sides claim to know with absolute certainty that they're right, one of them is bound to be lying through their teeth. Which one, though? I don't think I can possibly know.

In the end, of course, we can always have arguments on moral and philosophical bases. These things are rarely constrained by evidence so there's room for discussion, although I quickly find that people simply hold different beliefs axiomatically so there's really no room for discussion. For political issues that are important and seriously affect our lives, though, I'm not sure what those of us who aren't so well-researched are supposed to do.

tl;dr: Science, economics, etc. are too complex for me (and the average person), but necesssary for political discussion. How on earth do we discuss politics in a democracy where the average person has a say when these subjects are pretty much meaningless to the average person?



 

“These are my principles; if you don’t like them, I have others.” – Groucho Marx

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"Science, economics, etc. are too complex for me (and the average person), but necesssary for political discussion. How on earth do we discuss politics in a democracy where the average person has a say when these subjects are pretty much meaningless to the average person?"

 

Well, the thing is that politics is partially based around beliefs. If there was a 100% correct answer to which political party would benefit society the most, we wouldn't need elections. In fact, elections could be harmful since people could vote for the (then evidently) least beneficial parties. Not to mention that we all value different issues differently; When we discuss politics we compare priorities.

In other words: When discussing politics it's not solely about being factually correct/incorrect. It's also about discussing beliefs and priorities, which should not be too complex for the average person.


Sorry if I'm not making any sense. I only read the TL;DR part.



"Looking at the issues, seeing where both sides stand morally, etc. and trying to determine exactly what I think, what I want to support and what kind of political movements I should be endorsing."

First... there are more than two sides to every issue, so be careful when using "both". You go on to use the example of tax rates... well, there are numerous aspects to this issue. Do you think that tax rates should be used to maximise revenue? Or to level out incomes across an economy? Should the rich pay more, not just the generate more revenue, but as a "gesture to society"? Or, you could take my position, in that all taxes are inherently evil, and so I won't settle for any less than 0%.

In fact, not all Libertarians believe in lowering the income tax. Why? Because of the laffer curve. If lowering tax rates leads to greater revenues, some Libertarians are opposed to that... because that means the Government has more money to spend on tyranny.

Some Libertarians are weary of drug legalisation, for the same reason. If marijuana is legalised and then taxed... that may actually lead to more "evil" than if the drugs were left illegal. Because the Governments now have drug-tax money to spend on enforcing other laws... like seatbelt laws.

You also have people at the complete opposite end of the spectrum who believe that all income should be evenly distributed.

I'm making this point because, well, if you're trying to "find your feet" and grasp a political "ideology", so to speak, you now have a chance to look into things that are outside the mainstream.

You may find with certain political philosophies *cough*Anarcho Capitalism*cough* answer some of the other questions you posit (for example, Ancaps disregard economics as a science, so economic debates regarding statistics is null and void).



go on tell us who you'd vote for

but really it sounds like you doing fine to me and thinking about it anyway,i'm interested in politics but i've never joined a party or anything



                                                                                                                                        Above & Beyond

   

SamuelRSmith said:
"Looking at the issues, seeing where both sides stand morally, etc. and trying to determine exactly what I think, what I want to support and what kind of political movements I should be endorsing."

First... there are more than two sides to every issue, so be careful when using "both". You go on to use the example of tax rates... well, there are numerous aspects to this issue. Do you think that tax rates should be used to maximise revenue? Or to level out incomes across an economy? Should the rich pay more, not just the generate more revenue, but as a "gesture to society"? Or, you could take my position, in that all taxes are inherently evil, and so I won't settle for any less than 0%.

In fact, not all Libertarians believe in lowering the income tax. Why? Because of the laffer curve. If lowering tax rates leads to greater revenues, some Libertarians are opposed to that... because that means the Government has more money to spend on tyranny.

Some Libertarians are weary of drug legalisation, for the same reason. If marijuana is legalised and then taxed... that may actually lead to more "evil" than if the drugs were left illegal. Because the Governments now have drug-tax money to spend on enforcing other laws... like seatbelt laws.

You also have people at the complete opposite end of the spectrum who believe that all income should be evenly distributed.

I'm making this point because, well, if you're trying to "find your feet" and grasp a political "ideology", so to speak, you now have a chance to look into things that are outside the mainstream.

You may find with certain political philosophies *cough*Anarcho Capitalism*cough* answer some of the other questions you posit (for example, Ancaps disregard economics as a science, so economic debates regarding statistics is null and void).

Seatbelt laws, now?

Seriously?



Monster Hunter: pissing me off since 2010.

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Mr Khan said:

Seatbelt laws, now?

Seriously?


Statists gonna state, and anarchists are gonna... anarcate?

If there's a law, we're against it.



The best advice I can offer when seeking what is true, is to find something that is logically consistent. Any time something arbitrary is introduced into a system, I find myself cringing. If you have a system with arbitrary limits, who gets to decide those limits, and why is their decision worth more than that of someone else who may not agree?

I think that is something to avoid no matter your political beliefs, because something can't be right if it just depends on who you ask.

Disclaimer; I am a voluntarist/ancap.

Mr Khan; the reason that ancaps and some libertarians are against a seat belt law is because a seat belt is designed to protect the person who wears it. A seat belt law takes away the freedom to choose not to wear a seat belt without outside coercion being involved. You're not free to choose if you can't choose poorly.



SamuelRSmith said:
Mr Khan said:

Seatbelt laws, now?

Seriously?


Statists gonna state, and anarchists are gonna... anarcate?

If there's a law, we're against it.

I suppose this forum would be no fun otherwise, wouldn't it?

On topic: a little bit of education goes a long way in matters of hard-science, but soft sciences like economics or political science always entail a certain amount of belief. In the case of hard science, you're going to see little bias there and can generally trust what scientists say. For economics, politics, and ethics, your only choice is to get informed.

That's part of the reason why i feel a liberal arts education is worth it, even if it makes for poor yields in the job market (or if you're getting a "practical" degree, you should still put a good few semester-hours into philosophy, theology, politics, and economics). A well-rounded individual is better-able to confidently make these choices about what to believe in, or what horse you should back, and this enables us to live as true individuals rather than as playthings of the media or any propaganda machine.



Monster Hunter: pissing me off since 2010.

I think it is a huge problem that hardly any of Congress is scientifically literate. I hear politicians of both parties make arguments based on a limited or plain wrong understanding of the facts all the time.

To you though, I'd say go and read some popular science books. You don't have to understand the data, you just need to understand what IS and ISN'T possible in our world today. I recommend Blind Watchmaker for evolution: no science background required but you will see why evolution has great predictive and explanatory power and why it's the most likely of the alternatives.

You're not meant to have faith in science, you're meant to know that you can question it if you have better data and see your theory replace a worse one.



Economists are no better than weathermen at predicting anything.

Evolution - just do some research. The only side arguing against it hasn't been exactly reliable in terms of furthering our understanding of our World.

I think it's pretty well established that taxes during a recession is a bad idea...

The important thing is do your own research. If you want to use a fact in your argument, make sure it is accurate and not just propaganda. In my opinion, the way best to support your claim is to consider the counter-argument so you can refute it when it is presented.