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Ideology and the Direction of Causation in the Acquisition and Maintenance of Shared Belief Systems

Michael C. Munger

Kyklos, 2020, vol. 73, issue 3, 392-409

Abstract: Preferences and beliefs are more widely and systematically shared than might be predicted by a subjective, idiosyncratic view arising out of neoclassical economics. Two works were published twenty five years ago on just this question, contesting conceptions of belief acquisition: Denzau and North (1994) and Hinich and Munger (1994). Denzau and North argued that beliefs are simplified representations of reality that provide conventional means of interpreting the world around us; Hinich and Munger agreed. But Denzau and North argued that beliefs were essentially self‐perpetuating, and not subject to optimizing revision based on feedback, while Hinich and Munger followed the orthodox Downsian notion of a heuristic that economizes (in equilibrium) on the cost of becoming informed about politics. The big difference is that the Hume‐Denzau‐North conception follows the “Folk Theorem,” making no claim about the optimality of the belief systems that a society comes to share.

Date: 2020
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