Ideological Games of Tug-of-War
By Arnold Kling
The policy world can thought of as consisting of a few Tug-O-War “ropes” set up in this high dimensional policy space. If you want to find a comfortable place in this world, where the people around you are reassured that you are “one of them,” you need to continually and clearly telegraph your loyalty by treating each policy issue as another opportunity to find more supporting arguments for your side of the key dimensions. That is, pick a rope and pull on it.
If, however, you actually want to improve policy, if you have a secure enough position to say what you like, and if you can find a relevant audience, then prefer to pull policy ropes sideways.
Robin is saying a lot in this post (read the whole thing). First, he is saying that most people seek a political comfort zone. They join the tug-of-war game over familiar policy arguments. They signal which side they are on by giving out what I call trust cues. (I think that was one of my best essays, by the way.)
Next, he says that if one wants to add value, one stays out of tug-of-war and instead looks for issues or positions that are outside of the standard clumps. I think that his strategy is not costless. True, one encounters less resistance by “pulling sideways.” But on the other hand, having not offered trust cues to either side in the tug-of-war, one is considered a freak by both.