How Would the World Change If Everyone Shared Your Factual Beliefs?
By Bryan Caplan
If you’re reading this blog (or any blog!), you probably have some controversial factual beliefs. Suppose you managed to convince everyone that you were right on each and every controversy. How would the world change?
Initially, you might assume that whatever policies you favor would instantly become the law of the land. But think again. I only stipulated that your beliefs about the facts would be universally accepted. In the hypothetical, values remain unchanged.
So now you face the tough question: Are other people’s values so different from yours that changing their factual beliefs wouldn’t matter very much? If your values are very conventional, but your factual beliefs are controversial, then you should predict sharp changes.
But people who are contrarians about facts also tend to be contrarians about values. Take me. Leaving aside my numerous controversial views about the facts, I am also well outside the mainstream of American values. Consequences aside, I’m a staunch libertarian. I’m extremely meritocratic. I disagree with the aims, not just the methods, of egalitarianism. I look down on patriotism and piety of every kind. The list goes on.
So suppose my book led the world to reject anti-market, anti-foreign, make-work, and pessimistic bias in all their forms, with all their empty promises? How much would policy change as a result? My best guess is that policy would be a little less libertarian than Milton Friedman would have wanted. We’d still have substantial redistribution to relatively poor Americans and the American elderly – much of it funded by surtaxes on guest workers. We’d see educational vouchers, not the separation of school and state (my first choice); and those vouchers might not even be means-tested. In short, we’d have big changes, but I’d still have plenty to complain about.
That’s me. How about you? If your factual views swept the world, but values stayed the same, what do you think would happen?