Chris Dillow tries to explain the poor quality of political discourse:
Adverse selection in political discourse, by Chris Dillow: ...there is adverse selection in political debate: fanatics are given attention whilst sober, rational voices are overlooked. There are four channels through which this happens:
- Fanatics think their beliefs are so important and true that they set up lobbying groups and "thinktanks" to promote them, whilst rational people devote less time and organization to pushing their opinions. ...
- Producers want "good" TV/radio, and this means having a violent debate between people with well-defined positions who can talk in soundbites. ...
- People mistake confidence for knowledge, and so give too much credence to the irrationally overconfident.
- A tendency has emerged for people to respect strongly-held opinions... This, of course, in the opposite of what should be the case. The fact that someone believes strongly in something is a reason for us to disrespect their belief and to discount it as the product of a fevered, fanatical and irrational mind.
What I'm suggesting here is an adjunct to something Mancur Olson said in the 1960s. He pointed out that small numbers of people with large interests would organize themselves better than large numbers with smaller interests. The upshot, he said, was that politics would give too much weight to small vested interests to the detriment of aggregate well-being. ... Small groups with strongly-held beliefs are given more credence and deference than they should have.
And this, in turn, implies that the mass media can sometimes undermine rational political discourse rather than promote it.