The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Forming an Opinion... or Just Going Along?

I was wondering this morning about how we form opinions. Not just the opinions we offer to our friends but the ones we offer to pollsters. The former seem designed to "fit in" with our friends, the latter may have a slightly different dynamic involved but one which I think is related to the former.

For instance, the NY Times has an article which reveals that health care is the most important problem currently facing the country, jumping 5 percentage points since September 23rd (the last poll taken on this subject); from 8% to 13%.

Why did that happen? What made it less important 3 months ago and why is it more important today than it had been over the last 6 months? Why is it on people's minds? Could it be that it is because the news media has emphasized it over the past few months because of the problems with the Obamacare website? Could it be that the annual drive to sign up seniors for Medicare supplemental plans has had an impact? Or perhaps a combination  of the two put the subject on the front burner?

You see, I think our opinions are formed almost collectively, that a relative few of us actually form opinions independently. I think we are more reactive than proactive (to use a buzzword of some years ago). We can see it in our childhoods when our parents admonished us in response to our "But everybody is doing it (or has one)" reason for wanting (to do or to have) something. And what did your parents say? Why, they said things like "If everyone jumped off a building, would you want to do that too?"

I do not think that, while we grow up, we also mature. I think that wanting to belong is an integral part of our make-up. And that it affects our opinions about what is important. We are trained to use something called "groupthink" from the time we first leave our homes to go to school. We become part of a herd... but we call it a class or a school... and we adapt our once family group way of thinking... because even before we go to school, we are part of a group (called a "family") to which we want to be a part, to be accepted, to
... to the larger group with whom we now find ourselves.

Independent thought is both praised and denounced in our (maybe all) society(ies). Independent thinkers are either innovators or kooks. 

Which one (independent thinker or herd member) are you?

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