Cheap Talk and Group DynamicsSubmitted by Spirit of '76 on Wed, 02/17/2010 - 09:11
Cheap Talk & Group Dynamics: How Libertarians Fail
By Paul Rosenberg
Published: 16 February 2010
[Excerpts: for full article, go to
There have been many noble, even brilliant, movements toward liberty: Good people pursuing good ideas. Yet, most of them go down in flames, and usually for the same reasons.
TALK IS CHEAP
It’s a lot easier to talk than to do.
Most libertarians want to talk – endlessly and exclusively. They seldom have any enthusiasm for taking concrete actions. They are always waiting for people in the future to listen to their gems of wisdom; then, once properly enlightened, those people will do something.
This is not only a gigantic error, but it is cowardly. If you believe in something, then act on it. And if you don’t act, how much do you really believe?
Doers look for ways to avoid fighting and to get busy making things. Talkers fight about words – over and over and over.
When talkers are in the majority, they destroy the work of the doers: This is the history of the libertarians.
MY TEAM RULES!
“My team versus your team” is a function of insecurity and a strange type of belief in magic.
In this condition, opposing opinions (or even differing opinions) become not just foreign, but threats… serious threats. After all, if you’ve spent decades tying your most basic opinions of yourself to political causes and doctrines, changing them becomes something akin to tearing off a piece of your soul.
The belief in magic I refer to goes back to Plato, and involves the belief that if everyone would hold to your pristine ideals, the world would magically heal itself. The most obvious examples of this have come in odd episodes such as the “Kite Fly For Peace,” or the “Harmonic Convergence,” but this occurs in many ways every day.
WHAT IS THE GOAL?
What is the goal of your “work for liberty”? We all say, “liberty, of course,” but there may be other things mixed in. This is a very common issue, and we should pay attention to it.
If you are for liberty, then work for liberty, and don’t let secondary differences get mixed up in the work...
THE PROBLEM WITH THE INTERNET
I think I have to be considered a wild advocate of the Internet. But, the Internet has caused some problems too, and especially as regards group dynamics and sectarianism.
... problems that arise when groups of people listen to no voices but their own. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only person thinking along these lines. There is now a considerable body of work of the subject, generally classified as Group Polarization. It works this way:
When a group of people with the same opinion remains in a single room, that opinion moves inevitably to the extreme.
...The reason for this is what psychologists call Individuation: the need to be seen as a distinct individual, not merely as another drone in the hive.
The more outgoing people in any group will always struggle to make their voices heard above the din. To be regarded, one must have something different to say. And, since everyone in the room already holds the same opinion, the logical move is to take the opinion a bit farther than it has already gone. (Taking it away from the extreme would make you appear impure, weak, compromising, or otherwise unfaithful to the group.)
People in such self-contained groups get more and more polarized, and ever-harsher toward groups that they see as their opponents.
The problem with Internet is that it allows you to surround yourself with people of a single opinion 24/7. This technology-enabled, Group Polarization effect delivers binary, us/them opinions, highly-emotional public clashes, and the demonization of outsiders.
Groups do evolve in this way, whether we like it or not. It remains up to us to acknowledge it, transcend clannish instincts and serve primary goals rather than separating into self-congratulatory cloisters. Let the unimportant slights pass – keep your eye on the prize. Accept the fact that life can be sloppy and keep moving forward.
IT’S UP TO YOU
Act and change the world, or fight about details and pretend that it will matter someday.
For full article, go to