Smart Money Not So Smart

Daniel Gross wonders how the “smart money” can have gotten British opinion so wrong? He lurches into the truth:

Now, in theory, we all live in a perfect market for information. With social media, television, and the Internet, most people have the ability to be exposed to information from a variety of streams and sources. We should be able to tap into all the sentiments that are out there.

But we tend to select — to friend and follow — those with whom we are sympatico. Even those who think they are open in principle to ideas they consider disagreeable tend to avoid those ideas in practice. (It’s only natural for people to seek the company of fellow members of their respective tribes.) When we curate our own feeds, it’s easy to block the information that makes us uncomfortable and fearful, and to include, amplify, and share the information that makes us feel comfortable and secure. When you have a particular worldview, and when you are surrounded by people who share it, you dismiss evidence contrary to your outlook. That poll showing that large numbers of people aren’t comfortable with the current arrangements? It must be an outlier.

Information theory addresses this issue neatly. There is a distinction between “signal”, the news and opinion articles, the polls, etc. with which you’re deluged, and information, usable information. Your preferences and beliefs and those of the people with whom you agree may just be noise.

13 comments… add one
  • ... Link

    Haha, the reason they couldn’t see the tribalism was because of the tribalism!

  • We are all Pauline Kael now.

    To some extent we might blame this on social media vendors who “help” us screen for stuff the vendors think we will like, generally with only nominal knowledge by us that it is happening. But we mainly do it ourselves, again unconsciously, by selecting the sources of information from which we gain knowledge about the world according to the degree to which those sources please us.

    One should make a conscious effort to seek out multiple points of view, with different filters. But that’s a lot of work and often involves the unpleasant process of confronting the possibility that one’s own view and opinion might not be the only correct one, or worse than that, that one’s own opinion is not the most correct. For some people, it seems that’s a pain too great to bear.

  • One should make a conscious effort to seek out multiple points of view, with different filters. But that’s a lot of work…

    Don’t I know it! I routinely read plenty of right-leaning, libertarian, and non-ideological blogs but I’m always on the lookout for good, analytical left-of-center blogs.

    If I’m looking for a blog that will echo the party line, I can read Josh Marshall. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of blogs that look like nothing so much as a writing sample for a putative future progressive administration.

  • PD Shaw Link

    In reading a discussion of France’s rejection of the EU Constitution in 2005, I found these sentences:

    “In retrospect, the French No vote seems predictable: they had almost voted No to the Masstrichy treaty in 1992, had always been suspicious of true federalism (“One does not impose on our country that which does not please us”), and had been growing disenchanted with an expanding and liberalizing ‘Europe.'” . . . Yet if predictable, the vote was not predicted. Opinion polls indicating opposition to the Constitution were discounted. It seemed unthinkable that the French would really resist the customary appeals to national pride as historic leaders of Europe and national fear of being isolated in an unfriendly world.”

    Tombs, “That Sweet Enemy — Britain and France: The History of a Love-Hate Relationship” (Owned, but unread)

    By this account, the French want a smaller EU, and were resistant to the admission of Turkey, which it believed was a product of Anglo-Saxon multicultural liberalism. But economic anxiety was seen as the main driver, particularly among socialist, and the young were most likely to vote no.

  • Guarneri Link

    Aside from the fact that I’m correct 99.999% of the time…….

    This post makes me think about the Iraq War. I was a supporter years ago based on what I knew then. In retrospect it was really a disaster and never should have been attempted. It was a mistake. But that is simply intellectual honesty.

    I wonder how much intellectual honesty exits out there. I wonder if any Hillary supporters recognize her failed judgment wrt that conflict, Libya and Syria. I further wonder if they realize the whole Benghazi narrative was simply crass deception to preserve Obama and Clinton political status, or if they give one whit. Unfortunately, I doubt it.

  • You may or may not have noticed that I rarely post on the events at Benghazi. I have always thought that it was a shameful episode but there was nothing actionable in the Adminstration’s actions. More a sin than a crime.

  • PD:

    Is knocking down national borders liberal? It’s anarcho-capitalist but liberal?

    IMO it may or may not be liberal depending on whether eliminating the border promotes freedom or not. If you knock down the border and import a couple of million authoritarians, by what standard is that liberal?

  • PD Shaw Link

    @Dave, I believe the usage of the term here derives from the French Socialist Party, which is complaining about free-market reforms, free-trade, and a whole ills associated with Anglo-Saxonism like Thatcher and Bush.

    On expansion, the concern appears to be twofold, the French Left were embracing an identify politics of a certain type of European Europeanness, in which it has a central place, which is diminished as less European areas are incorporated, at British encouragement. And secondly as a result of these liberal policies of free movement and free markets, Polish plumbers and British bankers would be allowed to circumvent French labour laws, harming French workers and agriculture.

    The oddity here is that free movement and markets were part of the system before the EU Constitution, but the French simply did not like the look of how things were going, and saw “NO” as a means of creating a ten year pause. They also amended their Constitution to require a referendum before any further EU expansion occurs.

    The other oddity is that the French rejection, often described in Anti-English terms gives Tony Blair the luxury of cancelling a similar referendum, that he was bound to lose.

  • What some would call “neoliberalism”. Very different from liberalism.

  • ... Link

    If you knock down the border and import a couple of million authoritarians, by what standard is that liberal?

    If they’re not white, that’s very liberal.

  • steve Link

    I think this is more about the “smart money” being stupid. The polls had been hovering around 50% for a while and had temporarily favored leaving. That should have made it clear that the vote was basically a toss up and turnout was more likely to determine outcome than actual preferences.


  • Gray Shambler Link

    Guarneri; A mistake? We’ll never know. When he was asked how long an American occupation might last. Donald Rumsfeld responded, I don’t know, maybe a hundred years. That might have worked, but a direct democracy like we are doesn’t have that kind of attention span. But I’ll agree, given that Rumsfeld was aware of that weakness, Mistake.

  • Guarneri Link

    If that comment was directed at me, Dave, I concur. I don’t think there was a legal issue in Benghazi. It simply goes to the wisdom and to the character of the two.

    I questioned Obama since his affiliation with Emil Jones. It has not gotten better over the past 7 years. As for the Clinton’s. I have a friend who is from and goes back to the Arkansas days. Two dirty filthy rotten people. Channeling my inner Alex Knapp…….one of the most “execrable” people there is.

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