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December 07, 2016

Confession Is Good For The Soul [Warden]

A fellow conservative traveler told me how he spent 20 minutes today patiently explaining to a left-leaning, low information voter what the purpose of the electoral college is and how it protects the interests of the citizens from smaller states. He was pleased at how receptive his target was. What she was hearing was completely new to her.

He concluded his story with this thought: "You know, I think some people just turn off the learning switch after they graduate from high school or college and go through the rest of their lives without learning much of anything unless they absolutely have to."

I remarked that this woman should be commended, at least, to being open to new information and reconsidering her opinion. It's a rare thing in humans, generally, and even more rare when it comes to political opinions.

I started thinking about some of the positions I believe that I've been wrong about and decided to list a small sample here. I'm hoping that you guys will do the same in the comments.

Why do this? First because admitting publicly that you were wrong about something helps to keep you humble and serves as a reminder that learning is a process that never ends. If you haven't changed your mind on a few important subjects over the past decade, then chances are you're neither curious about the world around you, nor intellectually rigorous with yourself.

Secondly, because evolving from an old position to a new one usually involves a logical thought process. People who go through this process are usually good at explaining how they arrived at their new opinion because of it. I find that people who have changed their minds on some topic of relative importance usually have interesting insights pertaining to that topic.

So with that said, here's a brief list of things I've changed my mind about.


Gay Marriage

Up until about 8 years ago, I self identified as a small L libertarian. I've always been, at my heart, a live and let live kind of person. I've never cared much about what other people do. In fact, if we're not friends for family, I'm unlikely to give anything that you do much consideration at all.

This attitude is as much temperamental as it is ideological and it steered me directly into the "I don't care if gays get married, it doesn't affect me" camp.

"I'm not a busybody. I'm not a control freak. Why should I care?" I thought.

This was my attitude until just a year or so before the gay marriage push became aggressive. A married couple I was friends with objected to gay marriage based on on scripture. I said that I agreed with them, but I didn't think that was a good enough reason to ban it. Then the wife looked at me and said, "They're using marriage to normalize it. Then they'll teach it to your kids in school. Eventually they'll go after your church. If it were about wills and health insurance and things like that, then they'd be happy with some other definition--a legal union, maybe. That's not what they're after."

I thought about this and the entire history of the left baiting and switching the public on issues and conceded that she was right. I didn't want her to be, honestly. I was emotionally committed the other way. I didn't want to be lied to again.

But she had her finger on it. There's no argument that where we are now was the goal all along. And they're going to keep on pushing. I wish I'd seen it earlier.

Iraqi Liberation

This one doesn't take much courage to admit because so many other people made the same mistake that I did, but looking back on it, George W Bush's attempt to nation build in Iraq was a horrendous miscalculation.

We misunderstood human nature. We believed falsely and naively that the principles of freedom, natural rights, individualism, representative government, and the rule of law could be successfully transferred to any group of people in the world, regardless of their culture, religion and history.

We were wrong. Our Constitution came from a miraculous confluence of specific events and individuals. The result of the American Revolution is the exception, not the rule and its ideals are not transferable to a people without rare preconditions already in place.

Rational Decision Making

I stepped out of college believing the economic theory that people, as a group, make rational economic decisions. Now, granted, I was young back then, but the very idea of this makes me laugh today.

Humans are not rational about anything, not as individuals, not in the aggregate. If we were rational actors in the economic sphere, then advertising wouldn't work. Take a stroll down your supermarket medicine aisle. Do you see that bottle of Excedrin that costs more than twice as much as the store brand bottle? Look at the ingredients. They're exactly the same and in the same amount.

Now check out Tylenol. It's 500 mg of acetaminophen. Tylenol Arthritis? 150 mgs more. That's it. There's no special ingredient. Yet, we will irrationally take one or the other depending on our symptoms.

Once you realize that people are emotional, not rational creatures, then the world begins to make less sense. You also stop believing in silly myths like the scientist as a man of cold, hard reason. Bullshit. Science is practiced by humans, with all their accompanying flaws. Ego, confirmation bias, greed, fear, dishonesty, stubbornness etc...

I've gotten many, many things wrong in my life. That'll never change. Sometimes it's embarrassing to be wrong. I've found that it can also be oddly thrilling--almost like uncovering a secret.

So what about you? What have you gotten wrong and why?

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posted by Open Blogger at 07:28 PM

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