– The court of public opinion:
The court of public opinion is an alternative system of justice. It’s very different from the traditional court system: This court is based on reputation, revenge, public shaming, and the whims of the crowd. Having a good story is more important than having the law on your side. Being a sympathetic underdog is more important than being fair. Facts matter, but there are no standards of accuracy. The speed of the internet exacerbates this; a good story spreads faster than a bunch of facts.
They [i.e. the mob] are faced with choices and decisions which demand maturity, knowledge, and a range of information which they do not and cannot have. Elections are limited to the selection of individuals, which reduces the problem of participation to its simplest form. But the individual wishes to participate in other ways than just elections. He wants to be conversant with economic questions. In fact, his government asks him to be. He wants to form an opinion on foreign policy. But in reality he can’t. He is caught between his desire and his inability, which he refuses to accept.
For no citizen will believe that he is unable to have opinions. Public opinion surveys always reveal that people have opinions even on the most complicated questions, except for a small minority (usually the most informed and those who have reflected most). The majority prefers expressing stupidities to not expressing opinion: this gives them the feeling of participation. For this they need simple thoughts, elementary explanations, a “key” that will permit them to take a position, and even ready-made opinions.
As most people have the desire and at the same time the incapacity to participate, they are ready to accept a propaganda that will permit them to participate, and which hides their incapacity beneath explanations, judgments, and news, enabling them to satisfy their desire without eliminating their incompetence. The more complex, general, and accelerated political and economic phenomena become, the more individuals feel concerned, the more they want to be involved. In a certain sense this is democracy’s gain, but it also leads to more propaganda.
Oddly, “economists” don’t believe in these things with respect to immigration. On this issue, it instead appears that nations should act to promote general well-being (having somehow solved the knowledge problem) and that there’s all sorts of free stuff lying around (especially if you don’t count any of the costs!). My favorite part:
Truly open borders might prove unworkable, especially in countries with welfare states, and kill the goose laying the proverbial golden eggs; in this regard Mr. Clemens’s analysis may require some modification.