The Psychology of People Who Are Wrong – Freedom Philosophy


I was having a conversation with a group of people hostile to liberty, who suggested Canada’s banks should pay for our economic needs while we take an 18-month shutdown to combat COVID-19. I turned to the balance sheets of the banking sector in Canada and pointed out that this is mathematically impossible.

Instead of an objective analysis, they ratified one another’s beliefs and congratulated each other for their forward-thinking.

There’s a curious development in physics. 2+2=5 is becoming a motto, and they joke poorly – but only for extremely large values of 2. Physicists themselves are promoting this as a reality within the quantum realm. The entire fiasco is a result of a misunderstanding within the philosophy of physics concerning the theorem of Bell’s Inequalities. Bell wasn’t arguing for the falsehood of mathematics, he was arguing for the falsehood of an assumption that implies mathematics is false.

Nevertheless, in popular culture surrounding physics, many believe this is the case on a more fundamental realm of the universe. If this sounds unfamiliar to the reader, all I can say is that I’m not embellishing this in any way and this is not some Orwellian fiction. I’ve had a professor teach this concept to me in class. It sounded strange so I read Bell’s paper and realized I was likely overpaying for the class.

It’s not merely the case of a varying analysis coupled with different starting assumptions, it’s a case that people are willing to believe in something patently absurd. It’s a case of people believing in that which is obviously wrong. The question arises: why?

If someone answers questions surrounding the philosophy of physics incorrectly, their life isn’t going to change in meaningful ways. If we answer political questions wrong, the result is poverty, war, terrorism, higher costs of living, crime, environmental degradation, and diminishing healthcare.

Herd mentality has been known to us for millennia, but the Asch Conformity Experiments in 1951 shed some scientific light on this phenomenon. It involved a series of trials concerning objective facts, for example, participants had to identify matching lines, with some obviously shorter or longer than the correct line.

In the trials, Asch ran without additional social pressure, the correct answer was given 99% of the time. When he had actors join the trials to create a crowd opinion on something obviously incorrect, only 25% of individuals were consistently unswayed by social pressure on something objectively and easily identified as false.

Professor Jens Krause and John Dyer at Leeds University conducted a study that determined it only takes 5% of confident individuals to develop the herd mentality among the rest.

This is to say that it only takes 5% of people to stand up and say that we ought to do something about poverty, and confidently give an objectively false solution to it, to create the herd mentality that supports something economically egregious.

The issue can be seen clearly with Joe Biden. He has supporters claiming that he’s not a groper, despite there being actual video footage of him doing this. The herd mentality among his political supporters, the journalists who favour him, and the late night comedians applying their craft for his political ambitions, have conditioned people to dismiss obviously toxic behaviour as something else.

Mob mentality sets in to the extent that it clearly shows our brains aren’t wired for truth, they’re wired for survival. Acceptance and offering validation to others inculcates a herd mentality. This lends itself to social media amplifying this horror into an insurmountable echo-chamber where critical thought is lost.

This carries with it considerable implications for libertarians. An individualist philosophy is disqualified by psychology from the start. How smaller parties have had a modicum of electoral success is usually involving some issue that the herd has a deep concern for but the major political parties haven’t addressed.

If libertarians go into another election complaining about drivers’ licenses, we won’t be gaining any traction anytime soon. The mob mentality has further spoken on the economy, or war – the right believes their favoured politicians are handling the economy well, while the left does the same. The left and the right believe their side is more capable on national defense.

Our task is clear, find issues that the mob is passionate about but lacking within political discourse that the mob has not yet tapped into.

The answer to the ‘why’ question is that we countenance incorrect opinions because the mob has spoken. We have to understand this psyche and move on.

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Brandon Kirby

Brandon Kirby has a philosophy degree with the University of New Brunswick. He works for a Cayman Island hedge fund service firm, owns a real estate company, and has been in the financial industry since 2004. He is the director of Being Libertarian - Canada. He is a member of the People’s Party of Canada and the Libertarian Party of Canada.