Oct 3, 2023Liked by polimath

I fail to see how lack of vaccination can be a policy failure. Unless your policy is to erode the right of an individual to use his or her own judgement. Then there’s the little problem of the vaccine itself causing harm. How is it not a policy failure to ignore that?

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Oct 3, 2023·edited Oct 3, 2023Liked by polimath

Great post, want to start with that.

My one critique:

"The reason for focusing on partisanship in Covid results is to people moral permission to hate their neighbors"

I don't think this is the primary reason, even though it has that effect. Like, I don't picture the authors of these pieces/studies saying "we need to give people moral permission to hate their neighbors".

It's more of an example of how our base instincts lead us to the well of confirmation bias. People with partisan brain view stuff through partisan lenses, and write partisan posts for partisan audiences that get a lot of likes, and people don't push back on it because it lines up with their partisan inclinations.

This doesn't undercut what you're saying; stuff like this does give people moral permission to hate their neighbors, but I don't think it's cultivated as intentionally as your subtitle suggests.

And for me, this is why I try to cultivate a nonpartisan mindset even though I certainly have partisan opinions. Tribalism short-circuits our ability to think critically.

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One of the big reasons for focusing on partisanship is because that is the most easily available data set. We have vote spreads by county and we have Covid data by county, so that story is relatively easy to tell.

But it's also a more interesting story b/c it creates good guys and bad guys and it makes sense of the tragedy. "We could have helped these people except they were too dumb / evil to listen to us" is a deeply compelling moral narrative for a lot of people. We see it all the time on the left and the right.

What is fascinating about Silver is that he demands on looking at things this way *even while* he demonstrates that the partisan lens is, at best, a proxy for other causal factors. So why focus on the partisanship rather than those causal factors? It's b/c that narrative is comforting.

I see it in the same light as the vaccine mandates. The stated intent was not to foster distrust in more stable and reliable childhood vaccines, but everyone who understood history knew that was what was going to happen and warned them about it. The stated intend of using partisanship as our guiding light when talking about Covid deaths is not to give people moral permission to hate, but that is exactly what happened and we've been warning them about this for 3 years.

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You make a great point about the data being available. When you have the hammer, stuff looks like nails.

I didn't take a ton of time trying, but I couldn't figure out exactly what line Nate was trying to walk on Twitter in his fight with that other guy.

If you want to be the heady centrist in a wacky red and blue world, the stance in his Substack piece was perfect for that.

I think if we were viewing this in a vacuum we'd feel okay saying that partisanship, like a hundred other factors, probably had a nonzero impact; maybe Silver is expressing that, just in a proportion that I don't love and you *really* don't love. But it's not a vacuum, so...I dunno.

Regardless, I appreciate you trying to look beyond it. Covid had bipartisan/nonpartisan stuff happen within it. 80% got at least one shot! If something in America is truly partisan, you'll almost never get more than two-thirds to buy in.

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