Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Identifying Crazy, Stupid, or Just Plain Wrong Beliefs

Bruce Bartlett links to and presents results of a poll of Republicans. If the results are to be believed, a significant portion hold beliefs that I think could be fairly described as stupid or crazy. For example, on the fact side, fifty-eight percent either believe Barack Obama was not born in the United States, or are not sure. Fifty-seven percent either are not sure whether Obama wants the terrorists to win, or think that he does want them to win. One third think Barack Obama hates white people. On the opinion side, seventy-three percent believe openly gay men and women should not be allowed to teach in public schools, and a third believe that contraceptives should be illegal and that the birth control pill is an abortion method.

I don't think that belief in conspiracy theories runs quite as deeply through Democrats, although they surely do have some mistaken beliefs of their own. I would like to see a poll of Democrats with Yes/No/Not Sure questions such as:
  • Do you think Republicans hate poor people?
  • Do you think Republicans want to harm poor people?
  • Do you think it is wrong for a business to make a profit?
  • Are prices of goods and services set by agreements between businesses? (This question needs work--there ought to be a way to get at the question of whether prices are determined centrally by colluding firms or by decentralized market processes).
  • Does an increase in the minimum wage raise cause some workers to loser their jobs?
  • Can we clean up the environment at no cost to consumers by forcing stricter emissions standards on car producers?
  • Do you believe Freedom of Speech should protect racist speech, too?

What other questions could one ask? For that matter, what questions could one ask of libertarians? There would probably have to be questions about the Federal Reserve and fiat money, a source of much libertarian paranoia that I have never quite understood. I would like to see a question about the Non-Initiation of Force Principle, which is important to many libertarians but which has, I think, been demonstrated to be full of holes.

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