should i listen to people who don’t agree with me?
First, congratulations to co-blogger Kieran Healy. His political philosophy group blog, Crooked Timber, was mentioned in the NY Times by Paul Krugman. Now, I want to focus on what Krugman wrote in that post after he praised Crooked Timber:
Some have asked if there aren’t conservative sites I read regularly. Well, no. I will read anything I’ve been informed about that’s either interesting or revealing; but I don’t know of any economics or politics sites on that side that regularly provide analysis or information I need to take seriously. I know we’re supposed to pretend that both sides always have a point; but the truth is that most of the time they don’t. The parties are not equally irresponsible; Rachel Maddow isn’t Glenn Beck; and a conservative blog, almost by definition, is a blog written by someone who chooses not to notice that asymmetry. And life is short …
I am agreement with Krugman’s point. I really don’t feel any need to analyze what Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh say. And sometimes being “open minded” turns you into this guy. They’re entertainers and not serious thinkers. Also, they spew garbage.
But hold on, let’s apply the economic way of thinking here. Not everyone who disagrees with me is Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. Also, I am not infallible. So it seems that the optimal amount of listening to people who disagree with me is somewhere between 0% and 100%. What’s the percentage? How do I optimize input from people who appear to be wrong?
I don’t know, but maybe it helps to provide a checklist:
- Experts. If you have spent the time mastering a topic, maybe I should listen to you.
- Truth seeking. If you seem to care about logic and evidence, maybe I should listen to you. I should not listen to you if you ignore evidence, fabricate it, or distort it to suit yourself
- Clear comminication. If you can transalte your ideas into terms I can understand, maybe I should listen.
- Novelty. If you satisfy #1-3 and you can show me a new way of looking at something, I might listen.
I should not pay attention if:
- You know almost nothing about the topic and yet pontificate.
- You engage in ad-hominem attacks.
- Your point is entertainment rather than communication.
- Repitition. If I’ve heard it before, I can tune out.
Using these rules of thumb, I can probably tune out most mass media. It clearly doesn’t exist to transmit knowledge. I can also tune out much political discourse as it repeats, it is ad-hominem, and not truth seeking. Blogs are probably out, including this one when it veers into fun topics that aren’t management or sociology. And of course, I should definitely pay attention to Kieran when he explains the subtleties of organ donation.