Saturday, November 17, 2007

Is America failing in the pursuit of happiness?

Tyler Cowen and Will Wilkinson said no to Jeff Sachs and Betsy Stevenson's (?) yes. Sachs is the obvious heavyweight of the four, but according to the debate rules good triumphed over evil (Tyler and Will). The audience voted their view on the topic before and after the debate and there was a huge swing towards the con side. The debate was organised by The Economist and hundreds of people paid $30 to watch so I don't think it's a stretch to think that the audience was unusually smart and successful. 25% of the audience changed their opinions on the topic, that's a lot in a short period of time; what could have caused the shift?

  1. The audience was probably much more familiar with arguments claiming America sucks, so cogent counter arguments may have been unexpected. The audience then had little time to process the information and placed too much emphasis on the shiny new arguments.
  2. People consciously voted for the debaters and not their view on the topic (a MR commenter changed his vote because he thought the pro side sucked, not because he changed his mind).
  3. Tyler and Will were better debaters (better at manipulating the audience).
  4. The topic was a little vague causing both sides to talk past each other and Will and Tyler's take gelled better with the audience.
  5. Tyler and Will were more attractive, charismatic or cheerful or something (Tracy refers to Tyler as the short fat bald guy, so maybe the cheerful part).
  6. The shift is temporary and the audience has since reverted back to their original views.
  7. The audience were genuinely interested to know the truth, were aware of their ignorance and held their views lightly changing them with new evidence. Ha ha ha!! Ooh my sides!

Whatever; people enjoy believing what they do, so I'd I wouldn't expect much change at all. The shift seems really big to me. My instinct is to get all excited but my head says that's a mistake. What are some simple reasons not to read much into the shift?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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