Conflict vs. Mistake Theorists (analysis)

Excellent post by Scott CONFLICT VS. MISTAKE. Here is the gist:

Mistake theorists treat politics as science, engineering, or medicine. The State is diseased. We’re all doctors, standing around arguing over the best diagnosis and cure. Some of us have good ideas, others have bad ideas that wouldn’t help, or that would cause too many side effects.


Conflict theorists treat politics as war. Different blocs with different interests are forever fighting to determine whether the State exists to enrich the Elites or to help the People.

Scott gives a multitude of examples. At the end, delineates between ‘easy’ and ‘hard’, for a total of four possible categories:

Consider a further distinction between easy and hard mistake theorists. Easy mistake theorists think that all our problems come from very stupid people making very simple mistakes; dumb people deny the evidence about global warming; smart people don’t. Hard mistake theorists think that the questions involved are really complicated and require more evidence than we’ve been able to collect so far – the weird morass of conflicting minimum wage studies is a good example here. Obviously some questions are easier than others, but the disposition to view questions as hard or easy in general seems to separate into different people and schools of thought.


(Maybe there’s a further distinction between easy and hard conflict theorists. Easy conflict theorists think that all our problems come from cartoon-villain caricatures wanting very evil things; bad people want to kill brown people and steal their oil, good people want world peace and tolerance. Hard conflict theorists think that our problems come from clashes between differing but comprehensible worldviews – for example, people who want to lift people out of poverty through spreading modern efficient egalitarian industrial civilization, versus people who want to preserve traditional cultures with all their thorns and prickles. Obviously some moral conflicts are more black-and-white than others, but again, some people seem more inclined than others to use one of these models.)

Going though the post, it seems, judging by the tenor, you don’t want to be a ‘conflict theorist’.

Conflict theorist (CT):

-appeal to emotion (pathos)
-think with their hindbrain
-prefer simple, reductionist explanations; good vs. evil dichotomy
-deductive reasoning (victims of confirmation bias and dunning-kruger effect)
-collectivist, paternal, gregarious, compassionate
-tribalism, ethno-nationalism

Mistake theorist (MT):

-appeal to logic (logos)
-think with their forebrain
-nuanced, circuitous explanations; reject reductionist explanations and dichotomous reasoning
-inductive reasoning (a theory is built on evidence; scientific method)
-individualistic, technocratic
-elitism, globalism

CTs could include BLM, SJWs (specifically, the type that protest campuses and block/no-platform ‘controversial’ speakers); activists (on both ‘left’ and the ‘right’); LARPers; paleocons, religious-right, and traditional-conservatives; low-information voters; normies; welfare liberals, social democrats, ‘rank and file’ socialists, and ‘labor Marxists’; normie discourse

MTs could include quants, wonks, technocrats, mathematicians, scientists and other high-IQ experts; neocons, neoliberals, classical liberals, libertarians; libertarian-leaning tech and finance executives, venture capitalists, and CEOs (such as Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen); rationalists (such as people who read Slate Star Codex), neoreactionaries; well-informed voters; SJWs (the kind that are active on Tumblr and are high-IQ and entertain the ‘out group’ rather than not being receptive to debate; such an example is Laci Green); utopian Marxists and socialists; high-IQ discourse.

But the problem is, as Scott sorts alludes to with the ‘easy’ vs. ‘hard’ categorization system, these descriptions seem motivated, particularly biased in favor of the MTs, who are portrayed as enlightened and smart, versus the CTs, who are portrayed as primitive, dull, and emotive. But also, there are many examples of CTs who are as smart IQ-wise and informed of the issued as MTs. Likewise, there are plenty of MTs who are not as smart as they let on, who parrot Black Science Man or Penn and Teller as gospel, but with an air of pretentiousness. Also, many MTs, despite the pretense of open-mindedness and tolerance and the rejection tribalism and reductionist discourse, become quite intolerant, zealous, and tribalistic about certain issues, such as vaccines, 911, or global warming. Examples include Bill Nye, who in 2016 entertained the idea of criminally prosecuting climate skeptics–an idea so repugnant that one could not help but to wonder if, in invoking Poe’s Law, it was meant to be satire. However Vox Day– who identifies with the alt-right but has IQ of over 140 and is very well-read in economics and history–is an example of CT who is smarter than better-educated than most MTs. Another example is Moldbug; there are plenty of examples ideological people who appeal to tribalism and emotion, but also appropriate elements of ‘logic and reason’ in their arguments (such as the use of stats, history, referencing old books, etc.) . Furthermore, experts can be wrong (examples include geocentrism, humorism, and the practice of blood-letting). Hence, a more comprehensive classification system is needed, but another possibility is that attempts to categorize people into convenient boxes is an ill-conceived idea to begin with, owing to the multifacetedness and complexity of where ideology, human behavior, and epistemology intersect.