Nation of Beancounters

Caplan on extremism

Posted in Uncategorized by Navin Kumar on October 9, 2013

Contemporaries heavily criticized the abolitionists for scaring moderates, but abolitionism won.  The simplest explanation is that there’s a trade-off between bargaining and conversion.  Moderates are better at bargaining with people holding preferences fixed.  Abolitionists are better at changing preferences.  And when the status quo is very far from righteousness, it’s preferences that have to change to get an acceptable result.

… Yes, extremists can be very bad for a cause.  But it’s generally when they’re uncivil or worse.  Otherwise, extremists at least serve the function of making moderates look reasonable by comparison.

Bryan Caplan

He’s defending an open borders stand against an “increase immigration” stand, but the claims may apply to other debates as well.


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