Dglgmut

Two Points of View

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At a time like this I think good communication is as valuable as ever... Getting our points across and connecting with people, rather than creating a bigger divide, is probably a better strategy than just writing people off.

So I was thinking about the difference in how the two sides see things right now. Of course there are not really two sides, but if everyone was asked to pick one, they'd at least have an idea of which one they'd be more comfortable joining. So while I would consider myself more conservative, more libertarian, I am surrounded by liberals and socialists.

Although it is 100% ignorance that leads to someone subscribing to an ideology like socialism, or God forbid, communism, I think it's valuable to try to understand the reasoning that helped them arrive at these conclusions. And without getting specific, because there's so many different people who have taken different cognitive paths, the broad answer is, and the break down of the "two sides," really comes down to top-down vs bottom-up thinking.

Principles are inherently bottom-up in nature; they are rules to guide behavior regardless of outcome. That's why capitalists ask things like, "Why is inequality necessarily a bad thing?" But for a socialist, they look at how things are and see all these problems linked to inequality... Being ignorant, they arrive at the overly simplified answer that "capitalists are evil."

Even the definitions of evil are different. Stealing from a corporation isn't seen as evil by a socialist because it doesn't seem to cause any problems when you look at it from the top-down. But you're principles are evil because they lead to some people not having healthcare.

So while I understand Rand saying that capitalism doesn't need to be defended from an economic standpoint, but rather on the basis of morality, I don't think those two things are as different as she thought. A person's idea of the economy, or society, can still be judged morally the way we judge anything else... a healthy economy is of more value than a poor economy, and a happy society is of more value than a depressed society.

It's just a matter of how people look at things and where their starting point is. So what I'm saying is that to convince someone that socialism is not the answer, as a lot of people are really hoping for that right now, I think the case has to be made from a top-down, inductive reasoning method that does not preclude morality.

 

Some thoughts...

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I was reading Rothbard's "America's Great Depression," just 10-20 minutes at a time. I thought it would be more specific to The Great Depression, but it covered the business cycle in general, and basically everything came down to letting the system work.

 

Then I watched a documentary about a couple starting a farm based on the principle allowing nature to work...

 

The way nature works is extremely analogous to how Keynesians believe the economy should/does work. And people in this realm of nutrition and food production define their own principles as bottom up.

The reason I'm posting this is because it contradicts my original idea here, and perhaps instead of adopting top-down explanations for why an unmanipulated system would work, the real task is to convince people to think in a deductive, bottom-up way, in general. Why I think this is because the outcomes are not obvious, and I suspect it is actually impossible to do any top-down analyses of a principle based system without actually implementing it. It takes faith, in many ways...

 

What do you think? Is there an element of faith in endorsing principles? Of course you experience principles working in life all the time, but what about principles that are impossible to experience, like the principles of capitalism, for instance? The argument is that a capitalist society would produce new values that any proponent of capitalism would never be able to anticipate... You have to believe that principles WORK, and a lot of people have never learned this...

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29 minutes ago, Dglgmut said:

I was reading Rothbard's "America's Great Depression," just 10-20 minutes at a time. I thought it would be more specific to The Great Depression, but it covered the business cycle in general, and basically everything came down to letting the system work.

 

Then I watched a documentary about a couple starting a farm based on the principle allowing nature to work...

 

The way nature works is extremely analogous to how Keynesians believe the economy should/does work. And people in this realm of nutrition and food production define their own principles as bottom up.

The reason I'm posting this is because it contradicts my original idea here, and perhaps instead of adopting top-down explanations for why an unmanipulated system would work, the real task is to convince people to think in a deductive, bottom-up way, in general. Why I think this is because the outcomes are not obvious, and I suspect it is actually impossible to do any top-down analyses of a principle based system without actually implementing it. It takes faith, in many ways...

 

What do you think? Is there an element of faith in endorsing principles? Of course you experience principles working in life all the time, but what about principles that are impossible to experience, like the principles of capitalism, for instance? The argument is that a capitalist society would produce new values that any proponent of capitalism would never be able to anticipate... You have to believe that principles WORK, and a lot of people have never learned this...


Sounds like Hayek's idea of  "spontaneous order" as "the product of human action but not of human design." Or like the basic ideas expressed in the Tao Te Ching.

 

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Exactly... but is this reality communicable, or does it have to be experienced?

 

I was reminded the other day of a line from Atlas Shrugged where Rearden is accused of having "rigid principles," and he says something like, "Try pouring a whatchamacallit of steel without rigid principles." It also makes me think of Joe Rogan, and how a guy who is surrounded by leftists can still argue for some more libertarian principles (or rather principles at all), and I think it is because of his life experience... not because he adopted a philosophy based on any real intellectual work.

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Top down and bottom up are not either-or.

They are mental frames for perceiving and mentally processing reality. You need both to get a clear picture.

Choosing one over the other is linear thinking, which is great for some things and not so great for others. This is why I like to use a circle as a metaphor for how both work together. If you go clockwise, that can represent top-down. If you go counter-clockwise, that can represent bottom-up.

Now select any point on the circle. Notice that it is the start of one and the end of the other, but it's the same point.

btw - Principles are not absolutes. Reality is.

Michael

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11 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

They are mental frames for perceiving and mentally processing reality. You need both to get a clear picture.

I perceive reality through HBO and Netflix. Sob. Sorry to disappoint you. Dobby, the house elf.  

“Winter is coming.” House Stark

“A Lannister always pays his debts.” House Lannister.

“Hold the door.” Hodor.

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” Lord Baelish.

“Stick ’em with the pointy end.” Jon Snow

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins.” Night’s Watch

So . . . who was the best character on “Game of Thrones”? You be the judge. Well, of course, it is someone named Peter. “Any man who must say ‘I am the King’ is no true King.” Spoken by the memorable actor Peter Dinklage or as The Game of Thrones people call him, Tyrion Lannister.

“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” Tyrion Lannister

“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.” Tyrion Lannister

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18 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Top down and bottom up are not either-or.

They are mental frames for perceiving and mentally processing reality. You need both to get a clear picture.

Choosing one over the other is linear thinking, which is great for some things and not so great for others. This is why I like to use a circle as a metaphor for how both work together. If you go clockwise, that can represent top-down. If you go counter-clockwise, that can represent bottom-up.

Now select any point on the circle. Notice that it is the start of one and the end of the other, but it's the same point.

btw - Principles are not absolutes. Reality is.

Michael

And yet in application you do make a choice... You build a house from the bottom up, and it's a linear process. I guess you'd point out how the people building it were limiting themselves??

 

In health, do you take a bottom up or top down approach? This is a real choice. In economics? Same thing...

 

My point is that most people seem incapable of even entertaining the thought of useful principles, which are bottom up style tools. And with bottom up there is an element of the unknown... Top down doesn't have that... Maybe just like you could argue that there is faith required in committing to a bottom up approach, there is an arrogance in a top down approach.

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9 hours ago, Peter said:

I perceive reality through HBO and Netflix. Sob. Sorry to disappoint you. Dobby, the house elf.  

 

“Winter is coming.” House Stark

 

“A Lannister always pays his debts.” House Lannister.

 

“Hold the door.” Hodor.

 

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” Lord Baelish.

 

“Stick ’em with the pointy end.” Jon Snow

 

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins.” Night’s Watch

 

So . . . who was the best character on “Game of Thrones”? You be the judge. Well, of course, it is someone named Peter. “Any man who must say ‘I am the King’ is no true King.” Spoken by the memorable actor Peter Dinklage or as The Game of Thrones people call him, Tyrion Lannister.

 

“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” Tyrion Lannister

 

“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge.” Tyrion Lannister

 

 I liked Arya Stark.

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3 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

And yet in application you do make a choice... You build a house from the bottom up, and it's a linear process.

D,

In other words, you don't start with a plan? No surveying the land? Nothing like that? You just start building somewhere from the bottom up and see what happens?

And in building, you don't start with brick and cement laying techniques, etc.? Those techniques are top down in the moment of application, but bottom up at the moment of laying plans.

🙂 

Think about it.

Michael

 

EDIT: There's a great story about the difference between top down and bottom up perspectives I first came across in a book called The Story Factor by Annette Simmons.

Quote

A dear friend of mine told me a good vision story. (Neither of us can remember where we first heard it.)

A man came upon a construction site where three people were working. He asked the first, “What are you doing?” and the man answered, “I am laying bricks.” He asked the second, “What are you doing?” and the man answered, “I am building a wall.” He walked up to the third man, who was humming a tune as he worked and asked, “What are you doing?” and the man stood up and smiled and said, “I am building a cathedral.”

In a sense, building cathedrals was what Howard Roark was doing all throughout The Fountainhead.

Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly

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D,

Do you know the difference between strategy and tactics?

I ask because when I first started interacting in O-Land, I found that many people did not understand this.

I learned it playing chess many moons ago. But any military command person worth their salt will be able to tell you.

Strategy is when you decide on what kind of game you are going to play--attack from one side or the other or through the middle, what groups to deploy, etc., and tactics are the specific moves and move calculations of each piece or small groups of pieces. Strategy is top down and tactics are bottom up.

In Randian terms, to use your building a house context, top down would be the architect (and government regulations to throw in the dark side), and bottom up would be the construction crew.

You need both to build.

Michael

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3 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

My point is that most people seem incapable of even entertaining the thought of useful principles, which are bottom up style tools.

D,

There is a fundamental error here.

Principles are observed patterns over time. They could be top down or bottom up.

As to "most people," be careful with that term. It's a great first step into self-deception.

Start with this. Do you say "most people" because you actually observed most people or are you just talking out of your ass? 🙂 

(Meant in a friendly way. 🙂 )

When I first became aware of this cognitive shortcoming in myself, I qualified the term to mean "most people from those I have observed within a limited context."

I forced myself to qualify it like this, and more, define such limited context, whenever I became aware of me using the term.

Man, did that bring some rip-righteous clarity to my thinking about others. And, in the beginning, it was as irritating as all hell. It wouldn't allow me to feel superior to others without earning it. 🙂 

Michael

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1 hour ago, Jules Troy said:

 I liked Arya Stark.

Maisie Williams is a good actress and she is my second favorite GoT character losing by a mere lock of hair. She may be George RR's favorite too. She was definitely the most heroic, trustworthy (though she will defend herself) and honest. 

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19 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

In other words, you don't start with a plan? No surveying the land? Nothing like that? You just start building somewhere from the bottom up and see what happens?

And in building, you don't start with brick and cement laying techniques, etc.? Those techniques are top down in the moment of application, but bottom up at the moment of laying plans.

Maybe building a house wasn't the best example, only because people have built enough houses to know what to expect. The other two, health and economics, are both too complicated to predict or communicate why a bottom up approach is better. I guess when it comes to subjects where there is not enough empirical data, and theory is what you have to go on, it becomes very hard to sell the idea of bottom up principles. For example, incentives get brought up when talking about economic issues, and yet liberals seem to ignore them completely. They always want a direct solution to a complex problem.

Here's a more specific example, take the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The bottom up principle at the crux of the issue being the right to own property and do with that property what you choose. The top down approach is obvious: people are allowed to exercise an offensive level of racism within their given rights, therefore those rights need to be slightly changed so they cannot do that anymore. How do you defend against this without sounding like you are putting theory above people?

This is why I ask if there is an element of faith in bottom up thinking... To me, I am, almost institutionally, against violating a principle like the one in this situation. I have to put mental effort in to come up with an explanation for why this principle should not be violated in this case. And when I hear someone else try to defend this principle in this case, I get a sense that they are going through the same thing. It's not obvious. Why can't you just force people not to exclude certain demographics from their business?

 

This is a perfect example for the point of this thread. My first post was me thinking, you figure out a top-down explanation for why it's wrong. My next post was me thinking, we need to encourage bottom up thinking in general, because without that a LOT of people will not even consider that there could another answer. And I think the importance of bottom up principles is likely experienced, which comes back to my example of Joe Rogan. If someone has experience doing something difficult, they likely have learned the importance of bottom up principles, as they are important in any creative activity... even kickboxing.

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19 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Principles are observed patterns over time. They could be top down or bottom up.

Are they always observed? There is a high level of abstraction if you consider individual rights an observable fact. No, I think you observe patterns in other areas of life, and that influences the way you think in general. You begin to look for principles and make connections between complex systems and microcosms of those systems (like Stefan Molyneux working in a day care and what he learned about individual rights from telling children not to hit or steal from each other).

 

Also, how could a principle be top-down? Principles work in one direction. A liberal solution to a social issue is top down, principle free.

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3 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

... why a bottom up approach is better.

D,

You are changing the goal posts. You were in either-or mode before, not better.

Either-or is a choice of category issue. Better is a measurement issue where both categories are present.

Michael

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3 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

Are they always observed? There is a high level of abstraction if you consider individual rights an observable fact. No, I think you observe patterns in other areas of life, and that influences the way you think in general. You begin to look for principles and make connections between complex systems and microcosms of those systems (like Stefan Molyneux working in a day care and what he learned about individual rights from telling children not to hit or steal from each other).

 

Also, how could a principle be top-down? Principles work in one direction. A liberal solution to a social issue is top down, principle free.

D,

You need to read "Abstracting from Abstractions" in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology and you will understand how everything boils down to observation in the end.

Since it is obvious you are not familiar with this, I suggest getting familiar with it before saying everything is all wrong.

🙂 

Michael

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Dglgmut, I think what you could be circling around, is the mental process of induction. (e.g. Rand stated that she "wouldn't have had a philosophy without it").

Both ways: bottom up and top down 'meet' or correspond (ideally). A thinker will induce from the many specific instances of extensive experience and observation, from which he builds the higher concepts, then he applies those principles to fresh instances (deduction).

The best (and only) testing ground for the principles is going up and down, continuously.

The boon of having the great intellectuals to refer to, is that you have an idea of, and can learn, the good and effective principles, in advance, with little experience. They should never take the place of the effort of your own induction.

Simply learning by rote the O'ist, Capitalist etc. principles (lazily, perhaps, and superficially) without perceiving/conceiving/evaluating the reality for oneself, is what gives rise to rationalism, prevalent in Objectivism and any philosophies.

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D,

Rather than go into your examples, since you are operating under lack of familiarity with how principles are formed and with the attitude that you are right no matter what, here is a cognitive process I use. (It sounds awful the way I just said it, but I am not judging you, just identifying what I see. My intention is friendly.)

I call the system I use the cognitive before normative process. It goes like this: Before you judge something, make sure you have correctly identified it. After all, how can you correctly judge something when you don't know what it is? And if the jargon is confusing, in this context, cognitive = identification and normative = evaluation (or judgment).

This is not the process you are using right now. You have judged something as your starting point and are in the process of trying to identify arguments and facts that support your judgment.

Our lower brains actually work this way most of the time. It's only in the neocortex where we get the chance to do the contrary by volition. However, the cognitive before normative process is how all higher knowledge is formed, so it is well worth learning how to do it at will.

Michael

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41 minutes ago, anthony said:

... the process of the induction.

Tony,

You have hit the fundamental issue squarely in the middle.

Induction is the true bottom-up process for creating principles since it relies on observation at root. (Rand calls the process of grouping observed instances into a whole "integration.")

I have seen many people here in O-Land do nothing but top-down thinking, meaning that they take a principle as a given (as reality) and try to deduce everything from there.

For example, a typical error is to start with individual rights, then deduce social structures, justice, etc., from that. Doing it this way allows them to ignore large chunks of human nature--of observable human nature. And once that happens, off they go into the la-la land of utopia and argue your ears off while going nowhere practical. 🙂 

Communists do this, too, starting with a different principle (equality of outcome) and deducing everything from it. Notice that massive bloodshed always happens. That's because fighting is part of human nature (definition-wise, it's part of the "animal "genus in "rational animal"), and ignoring this allows it run unchecked--at least by those who can get away with it--within the systems that get built from principles only. After all, if we ignore or don't correctly identify a critical issue that is out there in reality, how can make rules that work for organizing and taming it?

This is why the checks and balances system was so brilliant and works so well for keeping an ongoing government functioning. The Founding Fathers did not try to ignore quest for power as part of human nature. They accepted it as a given and made a system where power exists at the foundation, but was highly restricted by others always trying to get more than their share, which is how human nature has worked, works and will work for the foreseeable future.

I know I'm preaching to the choir when I say the following, but this is for readers, especially those who are not clear on how this stuff works. We can deduce a lot from a principle and this is a great shortcut and extension to observation for many things, but reality is primary, not the principle. When the principle does not result in correspondence with reality, the principle needs to change since reality will not.

And the only way we can find out what reality is, unfortunately for those who prefer manmade rules as their primary mental foundation 🙂, is to observe it.

Michael

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Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. page 28: The process of forming and applying concepts contains the essential pattern of two fundamental methods of cognition: induction and deduction. The process of observing the facts of reality and of integrating them into concepts is, in essence, a process of induction. The process of subsuming new instances under a known concept is, in essence, a process of deduction. end quote

Roger Bissell in his “Problems with Putnam's Externalism” originally written in 1996 for David Kelley's cyber seminar in Objectivist epistemology wrote: “. . . Rather than claiming that our minds are in the world rather than "in our heads," it seems more reasonable to me to say that our mind (as a capacity) is our "head's" (brain's) ability to cognitively grasp the world and (as an action) its act of cognitively grasping the world . . . Before we speculate about where the mind ~might~ be, it would help to clarify what category of existent the mind belongs to. Unless Putnam et al are advocating some form of substance dualism, the mind can't be an entity, other than the human organism or one of its parts (viz., the brain and nervous system). Granted, we (as organisms) -- who are the entities doing the knowing, after all -- are "in the world," but WE ARE ~WHERE~ WE ARE, not out somewhere else, where the thing is that we are knowing. And if mind is an attribute or an action, it has no location other than our organism that has the attribute or carries out the action. And if mind is a relation between our organism and the world, it must be located (if it can be said to have a location) where the causal/cognitive interaction between our organism and the world takes place. E.g., for perception, that would be in the sensory systems and the portions of the brain that integrate sensory data, which are certainly "in the head" (allowing that tactile perception is "in the body," also).” end quote

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9 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

D,

You are changing the goal posts. You were in either-or mode before, not better.

Either-or is a choice of category issue. Better is a measurement issue where both categories are present.

Michael

The context was this: a bottom-up approach to general health is better than a top down approach. With acute issues, then a top-down approach is better, But top-down is the go-to for people, so you don't have to convince anyone of a top-down solution. I wasn't saying a bottom-up approach is inherently better in all situations.

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9 hours ago, anthony said:

The best (and only) testing ground for the principles is going up and down, continuously.

This is the problem, and the point of this thread, in economics and health, as I brought up, you cannot go up and down continuously (especially in economics).

You cannot come up with sufficient evidence to convince the majority of people that capitalism works. It's a decentralized system, you can't predict what will happen.

What I was circling was narrowed in on above in the example of the Civil Rights Act. How do you argue that the right to own property is more important than someone's right to not be racially excluded from a business? Using induction???

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3 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

What I was circling was narrowed in on above in the example of the Civil Rights Act

This may seem irrelevant but we watched the first half of "Grant" with Hugh Jackman on the History Channel and it was excellent. The second half is tomorrow. General Grants family was abolitionist, Grant was in between, and his wife's family owned slaves. 

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4 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

The context was this: a bottom-up approach to general health is better than a top down approach. With acute issues, then a top-down approach is better, But top-down is the go-to for people, so you don't have to convince anyone of a top-down solution.

D,

Now that this is clear, I begin to understand your thoughts a little bit more.

But I'm still unclear about the following.

Are you talking about government or health?

If you are talking about health, I still disagree with generalizing so much. For example, I prefer someone who has studied medicine to diagnose me than a layman when I get sick. For that context, that would be top down. If I cut my finger and the wound is not too deep, I'm fine with putting a little alcohol and a bandaid on it. For that context, that would be bottom down.

So I don't get the reason to make a broad statement about all of society for most all cases and try to defend that. I do sympathize with you, though, on arguing with progressives. 🙂 I, for one, don't accept their premises and frames. When they ask me if I prefer A or B, I generally say neither and offer an alternative that is not within their authoritarian universe.

Now if you are talking about government, I really really really don't see a choice.

Don't forget, government ALWAYS involves force. And with enough force, you don't have to convince anyone. When all else is exhausted, people either obey or they get jailed or killed.

So it's not about which approach is better, top down or bottom up. It's about how much government you want to tolerate. (Apropos, I believe we will always have some government due to human nature. Ignoring that from my perspective is ignoring reality.)

If you are lucky enough to live in a country like the USA where we can do something about how much government will exist, that is your real choice, even regarding doctors, hospitals, insurance, etc. 

If you live in an authoritarian society, your choice is to follow the law and take what you get (meaning what the government allows you to have), or break the law (usually to get something better) and try to get away with it.

Note that it is possible to live in an authoritarian society with great health care. That's a crap shoot, though, not a causal outcome from opting for top down or bottom up approaches. If Fearless Leader is intelligent, manages people will, and has mostly good intentions, health care can be awesome. If Fearless Leader is an asshole, well, you take your medicine with bugs in it.

(Just to mention it, there is a third choice--you could get out of the authoritarian country and go elsewhere.)

In essentials, force is the fundamental issue here. Not efficiency.

This is observable.

Michael

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4 hours ago, Dglgmut said:

You cannot come up with sufficient evidence to convince the majority of people that capitalism works.

D,

Here is another premise to check.

Since when does evidence persuade the majority of people?

🙂 

From what I observe, the majority of people get persuaded by some really stupid things mixed with smart things--and almost always, this comes in story form.

Evidence comes later.

And even then, evidence can be misleading. See eugenics, manmade climate change, phrenology, etc., for great examples. 

Correct evidence is great, the best in rational terms, but, unless its public disclosure has been properly prepared with convincing stories in the mainstream, its power to persuade the majority of people is sloth-level sluggish, convoluted and full of detours.

Here in O-Land, there is a great example. Without The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand's philosophy to persuade on any large scale would not have stood a chance.

Even for libertarians who are not into Rand, the David vs. Goliath underdog story of Ron Paul in Congress all those years did more persuading than the actual ideas he espoused. Ditto for Bernie Sanders, for that matter.

Michael

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