I’ve written previously about Bryan Caplan’s work. I’m very much in agreement with one of his latest posts, in part on meeting and talking with people about his ideas. Here’s the good stuff from Bryan:
Since the publication of my book, I’ve been meeting a much wider range of people. I’ve talked to an elite Republican book club, a room full of vaguely Marxist academics at the New School, retirees, Cato, Heritage, a conference of largely leftist philosophers, the State Department (!), the Yale law school, DC economists, and UVA social scientists. I’ve also spoken on a wide range of radio shows and podcasts, left and right.
What have I learned? Primarily, I’m more convinced than ever that virtually everyone is sincere. The legions of people who imagine that their opponents secretly agree with them are utterly deluded. Even when you’ve got undeniable facts on your side, your opponents probably think that those facts don’t matter; you’re missing the deeper picture.
The lesson I draw: Sincerity is greatly overrated. It’s an easy and widely distributed virtue. So what is in short supply? Common-sense. Literalism. Staying calm. Listening. Sticking to the point. Accepting and working through hypotheticals.
Addendum: I pulled this out of the comments section of the above blog entry, written by a fellow named Chris, and I think it makes a couple more important and useful points:
… a useful test when debating someone. Ask your opponent what statements, if true, would convince him to change his position. If no such statements exist, then the debate is over.
Similarly, I frequently ask myself the same question: what type of data and/or reasoning would convince me that my position is wrong. If I can’t think of any, then I need to take a deep breath and evaluate how I reached my opinion in the first place.