Six Months of Intellectual Anthropology
By Bryan Caplan
Tyler makes a spot-on plea to meet people before you write about them:
I’d like to propose a new research convention. Anytime a writer or blogger talks about what The Right or The Left (or some subset thereof) really wants or means, I’d like them to list their personal anthropological experience with the subjects under consideration.
It is sad that anthropological research has such a low status among so many smart people. It is fashionable to open up data sets for replication. So let’s do the same for research into ideology or even just proclamations about the ideology of others, especially those you disagree with. Tell us how much field work you did, who you did it with, how much they trusted you, and what you wish you could have done but didn’t.
Since the publication of my book, I’ve been meeting a much wider range of people. I’ve talked to an elite Republican book club, a room full of vaguely Marxist academics at the New School, retirees, Cato, Heritage, a conference of largely leftist philosophers, the State Department (!), the Yale law school, DC economists, and UVA social scientists. I’ve also spoken on a wide range of radio shows and podcasts, left and right.
What have I learned? Primarily, I’m more convinced than ever that virtually everyone is sincere. The legions of people who imagine that their opponents secretly agree with them are utterly deluded. Even when you’ve got undeniable facts on your side, your opponents probably think that those facts don’t matter; you’re missing the deeper picture.
The lesson I draw: Sincerity is greatly overrated. It’s an easy and widely distributed virtue. So what is in short supply? Common-sense. Literalism. Staying calm. Listening. Sticking to the point. Accepting and working through hypotheticals.
If you’ve got these, I’d like to meet your tribe.