Originally Posted by Joe Perez
But am I the only one? It doesn't seem probable.
I'm interested in the economics of such debates - that doesn't necessarily mean "how much is someone willing to pay for something". In cases such as this, I'm always prying, trying to figure out "Why does each side value their own argument?" - or perhaps "What value would be given up by either side in the event of a loss?"
I've found that there are two major contributing factors to the arguments which polarize them.
First, is the value of the argument. As the value of the argument (or the value of loosing the argument) grows, the support grows stronger to those supporting that side of the argument.
Second, is the volume of the argument - that is to say the quantity of participants. As the volume of the argument grows, so does the support for that argument.
In order for the argument to properly "polarize", the product of the value and the volume must be roughly equal to both sides of the argument. That is to say that:
If [Value1*Volume1=Value2*Volume2], then polarizing effect is high.
It's difficult to assign an actual number to Value or Volume of the argument, but that's the rough equation.
It would seem, then, that the vast majority of issues would not be polarizing, as generally one side of the argument has either value or volume, while the other side lacks both. In some instances, when an issue lacks value and volume from both sides of the argument, the issue is simply pidgeonholed or ignored altogether.
For an argument such as nuclear power, then, the sides can be seen roughly as:
Pro-Nuclear has volume of argument, but lacks significant value of argument.
Anti-Nuclear has value of argument, but lacks significant volume of argument.
I would postulate that the majority of Americans, when polled independently, would support nuclear power, therefore they have volume, but their rationale is generally "clean, inexpensive power", which, as I'll explain later, is an extremely flat point of value.
Those that denounce nuclear power would be far fewer, but their point of value, generally, is the stongest point of value that human psyche can comprehend.
That value is what I call "Life" - or more appropriately, the threat of death. "Life" is the ultimate "point of value" or commodity, because without it, there is nothing left. So the pro-nuclear peoples say "clean, inexpensive power, yay!" while the anti-nuclear peoples say "yeah, but you'll die". Sure, it's not quite so simple as that, they're actually valuing "security of their lives" or some other environmental BS - which is merely a facade for their arguing for security of their life, but you get the point.
So lets move on to the gun debate. In the gun debate, I would suggest that the vast majority of Americans "simply don't give a ****" one way or the other - they just want to feel better about themselves when they turn on the evening news, therefore both sides of the argument *usually* lack volume. Both sides, however, are lobbying for the same thing: Security of life. THAT is what makes the debate so polarizing. One side argues "If the bad guy can't get a gun, he can't kill you!" while the other side argues "The bad guy will find a way to kill you if he wants you dead, so having a gun can save your life!" - These are the primary arguments that each side uses, which is why each argument has such a strong value.
When a major gun crisis happens, the anti's feel two things - first, and most intensely, is the sypmathetic impact to the family members who were killed. Second, is a renewing feeling that their own lives might be threatened. This happens while the pro's are of generally mixed emotions, also sympathetic to the families of victims, but fear far less for their lives because they are able to prepare to defend themselves. With little resistance from the pro's (high value - no volume), the anti's who already had intrinsic value, now have volume (from emotional, high value people), and they have the power to initiate action issues.
Pro's are generally harmless until the Anti's mobilize on an issue. It is the action of anti's mobilizing on an issue which helps the pro's increase the volume of their high value argument. This stalls the anti's mobilization long enough for the emotional appeal to die off, which causes a drop in volume, while the pro's are able to retain volume and value much longer.
The lingering polarization that we are experiencing comes from the high values of the sides. In the current environment, where there is still high value but decreasing volume from both sides, it's generally seen as being a weak position to voice anything but the strongest support for ones own argument. It also helps to maintain volume - by claiming the other side of the argument is trying to do horrible things that will threaten security of life, each side of the argument is bolstering its own volume.
Think of it this way: the stronger and more vocal the argument, the more supporters you will maintain for your argument: The first side to fold, loses.
Early victories for the anti's were realized across the country, but almost immediately, the emotional appeal faded, and the pro's began quietly trampling legislation.