More about groupthink (the inverse of the wisdom in crowds) from


Rebecca Solnit describes how democracy can be captured by Tyranny of the Minority—the small group that thinks it knows best and tries to exclude the masses.

Vox has an interesting take on left-wing economics and right-wing populism in Europe and the United States: countries with the most robust social safety nets might also have the strongest far-right movements.


At the New York Times, the latest installment of what is becoming a genre: our emerging understanding of the severe limit of cognition and rationality. The key point, I think:

The key point here is not that people are irrational; it’s that this irrationality comes from a very rational place. People fail to distinguish what they know from what others know because it is often impossible to draw sharp boundaries between what knowledge resides in our heads and what resides elsewhere.

This is especially true of divisive political issues. Your mind cannot master and retain sufficiently detailed knowledge about many of them. You must rely on your community. But if you are not aware that you are piggybacking on the knowledge of others, it can lead to hubris.

Also at the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof writes about new research showing a truly precipitous decline in sperm quality and male fertility. There’s good evidence that the culprit is chemical endocrine disruptors, which are loaded up in the plastics, cosmetics, couches, pesticides and countless other products we use every day.

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  • At the New Republic, Kevin Baker has a sardonic and mostly tongue-in-cheek proposal for separating blue states from red, though he makes a few good points along the way.

    Last week, a loaded ethanol train in Iowa derailed and erupted into flame. (Ethanol behaves very much like crude oil in rail accidents.) It was perhaps a helpful reminder for the planning commission of San Luis Obispo County, which this week rejected building plans for a big oil train facility there.