Politics, Politicians and Political Parties

From episode 126

15:01 How can a political party get away with favouring the top 1%. Why doesn’t the democratic process kick in to get rid of these guys? Why do the other 99% allow it to happen? Martin Wolf says you need 3 things. The first is intellectuals who promote the debunked trickle down effect. The second is an elite class who control the political process. The third is a divide and conquer approach to the lower classes. Identity politics is playing a key role in that third component.

From episode 121

1:12:10 We look at political donations generally, the lobbying industry and donations in the Queensland State election as well as the priorities of the One Nation Party.

1:20:06 The Qld Premier has vetoed a Federal loan to the Adani mine on the basis of a conflict of interest.

From episode 120

37:39 The Australian Federal police raid on the AWU is not a good look for our democracy. The government has already had a royal commission looking into the union movement and this looks like a government abusing its powers. The next thing we know they will be accusing Bill Shorten of sodomy.

Pauline Hanson suggested that minister Cash is a victim of a witch
hunt by the union movement and she managed to say this with a straight face.

1:23:04 Jackie Lambie and the Senate crossbenches are looking at an admirable reform in relation to lobbying. Michael West has done a study of the Australian situation regarding lobbying.

From episode 119

28:24 The Pew research centre recently looked into the grand challenges facing us in the 21st century and one of these challenges turns out to be the breakdown of trusted information sources. They went on to conduct a survey of a large number of technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and others and ask them whether they thought the problem with fake news would get better or worse over the next 10 years. 51% of the experts expected things would not improve while 49% thought they would.

Of the people who thought that things would not improve, their main reasons were that humans are selfish, tribal, gullible convenience seekers who put the most trust in that which seems familiar.

Also, there are strong incentives for the rich and powerful to disseminate false information but little incentive for the truth.

Of those who thought that things would improve, their main reason seem to be that technology would improve to provide better filtering and algorithms to weed out fake news and they also thought that ratings would become important and trusted.

Following are some quotes  from experts who felt that the situation would get worse

  • It comes down to motivation. There is no market for the truth, the public isn’t motivated to seek out verified vetted information, they are happy hearing what confirms their views and people can gain more creating fake information than they can keeping it from occurring.
  • Too many groups gain power through the proliferation of inaccurate or misleading information. When there is value in misinformation, it will rule.
  • Big political players have just learnt how to play this game. I don’t think they will put much effort into eliminating it.
  • Overall at least a part of society will value trusted information and find ways to keep a set of curated quality information resources. This will use a combination of organisational and technological tools but above all will require a sharpened sense of good judgement and access to diverse sources. Outside this, chaos will rain.
  • It is too easy to create fake facts, too labour-intensive to check and too easy to fool checking algorithms.
  • The incentives are all wrong. there are a lot of rich and unethical people, politicians, non-state actors and state actors who are strongly incentivized to get fake information out there to serve their selfish purposes.
  • Human beings are losing their capability to question and to refuse. Young people are growing into a world where those skills are not being taught.
  • A growing fraction of the population has neither the skills nor the native intelligence to master growing complexity.
  • And finally, from someone who felt more optimistic about the future “even now, if one wants to find reliable sources, one has no problem doing that so we do not lack reliable sources of news today it is that there are all these other options and people can choose to live in world where they ignore so-called reliable sources or ignore a multiplicity of sources that can be compared and focus on what they want to believe. That type of situation will continue. 5 or 10 years from now I expect there to continue to be many reliable sources of news and a multiplicity of sources. Those who want to seek out reliable sources will have no problems doing so. So the responsibility is with the person who is seeking the news and trying to get information on what is going on. We need more individuals who take responsibility for getting reliable sources.”

From episode 99

32:55 We look at Andrew Robb and the topic of political donations

From episode 94

31:29 Major discussion. The need for lobbying. We are wasting our time waging a grassroots battle. To reinstate secularism we need to focus on influencing powerful people.

Democracy for Realists

Voters are too busy to care about policies but even if we convince the grassroots, they will vote for a party based on tribal affiliations, not on policy platforms.

Lobby groups don’t waste time changing public opinion. They go out and lobby powerful people.

When people identify with a group, they will follow whatever the group leader pushes.

All we are doing is preaching to the converted.

From episode 88

Motivated reasoning.

Geoffrey Cohen, a professor of psychology at Stanford, has shown how motivated reasoning can drive even the opinions of engaged partisans. In 2003, when he was an assistant professor at Yale, Cohen asked a group of undergraduates, who had previously described their political views as either very liberal or very conservative, to participate in a test to study, they were told, their “memory of everyday current events.”

The students were shown two articles: one was a generic news story; the other described a proposed welfare policy. The first article was a decoy; it was the students’ reactions to the second that interested Cohen. He was actually testing whether party identifications influence voters when they evaluate new policies. To find out, he produced multiple versions of the welfare article. Some students read about a program that was extremely generous—more generous, in fact, than any welfare policy that has ever existed in the United States—while others were presented with a very stingy proposal. But there was a twist: some versions of the article about the generous proposal portrayed it as being endorsed by Republican Party leaders; and some versions of the article about the meagre program described it as having Democratic support. The results showed that, “for both liberal and conservative participants, the effect of reference group information overrode that of policy content. If their party endorsed it, liberals supported even a harsh welfare program, and conservatives supported even a lavish one.”

In a subsequent study involving just self-described liberal students, Cohen gave half the group news stories that had accompanying Democratic endorsements and the other half news stories that did not. The students who didn’t get the endorsements preferred a more generous program. When they did get the endorsements, they went with their party, even if this meant embracing a meaner option.


Are you a soldier or a scout? Your answer to this question, says decision-making expert Julia Galef, could determine how clearly you see the world.

Imagine for a moment you’re a soldier in the heat of battle — perhaps a Roman foot soldier, medieval archer or Zulu warrior. Regardless of your time and place, some things are probably constant. Your adrenaline is elevated, and your actions stem from your deeply ingrained reflexes, reflexes that are rooted in a need to protect yourself and your side and to defeat the enemy.

Now, try to imagine playing a very different role: the scout. The scout’s job is not to attack or defend; it’s to understand. The scout is the one going out, mapping the terrain, identifying potential obstacles. Above all, the scout wants to know what’s really out there as accurately as possible. In an actual army, both the soldier and the scout are essential.

In other words, if we really want to improve our judgment as individuals and as societies, what we need most is not more instruction in logic, rhetoric, probability or economics, even though those things are all valuable. What we most need to use those principles well is scout mindset. We need to change the way we feel — to learn how to feel proud instead of ashamed when we notice we might have been wrong about something, or to learn how to feel intrigued instead of defensive when we encounter some information that contradicts our beliefs. So the question you need to consider is: What do you most yearn for — to defend your own beliefs or to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?

1:00:03 Against Empathy by Paul Bloom.

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