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A Qualified Defense of Qualified Conformism


Given my background and views, I should be highly sympathetic to the positions laid out in economist Bryan Caplan’s new book You Will Not Stampede Me: Essays on Non-Conformism (he summarizes the main themes of the book here). I’m a fan of Bryan’s previous books on voter ignorance, immigration, and education (despite a few reservations about the latter). In addition, I’m a libertarian (a somewhat less radical one than Bryan, but more so than about 95% of Americans), an atheist (also like Bryan), author of a book on why majority views on political issues are often wrong because of systematic ignorance and bias, and an advocate of many unpopular views. People who know me well will tell you that I’m more likely than the average person to violate various social norms.

If anyone is a receptive audience for Bryan’s new book, it would be someone like me! And I do indeed agree with a lot of it. For example, he gives excellent explanations of why many commonly held views are likely to be wrong. Bryan also effectively explains how you can often get away with non-conformism while suffering few or no social or economic penalties. On many issues, most conformists are unwilling to devote great time and effort to enforcing conformity! Indeed, doing so might get them branded as annoying fanatics, which is itself a kind…

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