Debating Wing Nuts

So liberals like Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School think they have a way to humble  “wing nuts.” Wing nuts are people who, from the liberal perspective, disagree with the liberal “vision” of massive government. As he considers how to debate wing nuts, Sunstein finds a “subtle” lesson in a study by Philip Fernbach and his colleagues:

What produces an increase in humility, and hence moderation, is a request for an explanation of the causal mechanisms that underlie people’s beliefs.

Yes, it’s easy to see how the inability to explain in detail the basis for one’s beliefs might result in moderation of those beliefs, but this only shows that people can be reasonable. The question is:  did the Fernbach study include subjects who actually were wing nuts (who presumably are not rational)? If not, then the study results don’t tell us anything about how to deal with wing nuts.

For a better insight, Sunstein might consider Jonathan Haidt’s book, “The Righteous Mind.” Wing nuts seem to fall into the category of people who tend to sacralize an issue and as Haidt pointed out when describing the sanctity foundation of morality, once anything is “declared sacred, then devotees can no longer question it or think clearly about it.”

Hmm, sounds like Haidt’s sanctity foundation explains the incoherence of those who favor, for example, healthcare that is planned and controlled by a central authority despite the unassailable fact that centrally directed economies are always inferior to those based on markets and competition. Yep, it’s all a matter of faith for some people. Maybe even for Sunstein.

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