My buddy Koenfucius shared on Twitter an article which discussed a report about fake news. I sent the following email to one of the researchers… Sam Wineburg.
According to your report, “democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish.”
But why, exactly, is it so easy for disinformation to spread? On Twitter, if you want some (dis)information to spread you simply click the retweet button and/or the *heart* button. On Facebook you click the “like” button. On Youtube you click the “thumbs up” button. On Reddit you click the “upvote” button. All these sites use voting to rank information.
Therefore… “democracy is threatened by…” democracy? Eliminating online democracy will fix offline democracy? Democracy is defective at ranking information but effective at ranking politicians? Does that make any sense to you? From my perspective it’s pure nonsense.
Your report itself is fake news. It assumes that democracy is worth protecting when in reality it is the root of the problem. But it’s not like you need to take my word for it.
Here’s a list of 10 books…
- The Origin Of Species
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- A Theory of Justice
- A Tale of Two Cities
- 50 Shades of Grey
- The Bible
- War and Peace
- The Cat in the Hat
- The Wealth of Nations
Grab some students and have them vote for their favorite books on this list. Also give the students the opportunity to donate as much as they want for their favorite ones. All the money that they spend could either help pay for the experiment or be given to a literacy non-profit.
Voting and donating are very different things, so they will rank the 10 books very differently. I’m pretty sure that donating will do a much better job of ranking the books, but I might be wrong. The proof is in the pudding.
Right now the Libertarian Party is using donations to rank convention themes… https://libertarianconvention.org/2020-pay-to-play-libertarian-national-convention-theme-contest/
Would the themes be better ranked by democracy?
Right now a relatively new website is using micropayments to rank content… https://honest.cash/top?feedScope=all-time
Would the content be better ranked by democracy?
Show me that democracy ranks something, anything, better than the market does.
My main point is that the relative effectiveness of different ranking systems can be safely tested and compared. I’m sure that we both agree that science is a really good thing. We should use our agreement about science to resolve our disagreement about economics.