Tuesday, November 07, 2006

John Dean, Conservatives, and Game Theory

This is going to be a bit disjointed because although I have the dots, I haven't connected them completely yet.

To begin, John Dean's most recent book Conservatives Without Conscience is predominantly based on sociological data about right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) and social dominance orientation (SDO) in individuals. Those who score high on both scales are known as double-highs (DH). The SDOs and DHs tend to be amoral who seek power at any and all cost.

The interesting correlation for me is in the use of game theory dealing with defectors and cooperators. In other words, SDOs and DHs are the defectors in game theory. Defectors can also be known as cheaters. There are also studies being done that identify punishers who punish defectors thus working to maintain the cooperative integrity of the group. Adding to this is the work of John Nash who mathematically proved that cooperation is better than competition.

An observation John Dean makes is that Republicans, especially the religious right Republicans, tend to be high RWAs with a good smattering of SDOs or DHs. Whereas, Democrats tend to be low on all counts. In other words, Democrats tend to be free thinkers and free willed. It is no wonder then that the Democratic Party tends to have a hard time working as a unit as if trying to herd cats.

Oh, and just to throw this in, Gary Hart has written a book The Courage of Our Convictions: A Manifesto for Democrats in order to identify what Democrats actually stand FOR. In his BookTV talk he said to look up the definition of liberal and so I did and it certainly fits me in terms of generosity and open-mindedness which is in direct opposition to the RWA mindset.

Now, the real work on this is to do a cross-cultural analysis between Eastern and Western thought. The cross-cultural cognitive studies of Richard Nisbett PhD at the University of Michigan forms a way to understand some of this, but at the same time, it provides a proving ground for testing Western sociological theory to check if its perspective is in fact valid. In other words, if there is no corollary in Eastern thought, then the Western perspective cannot be taken as universally true.

I'm still working on getting these dots connected but wanted to get this out before I lost the thought. If anyone can track what I'm doing with this please jump in and leave comments.