Sam W makes some cogent points about actual or feigned sincerity, but lately I wonder whether it is possible that cynicism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. To be fair to Sam, upon rereading his piece I notice that this possibility is actually allowed for in his framing:
What if your behavior in this round influences the probability that others will either be sincere or act as if there were sincere in the next round? Go ahead and get all recursive with that. Take a moment and see if you can’t land on an equilibrium where every player is privately insincere but publicly sincere. If you were a naive observer, would you be able to distinguish between that world and one where everyone was actually legit sincere?
Here are the rungs that my brain keeps stubbornly stringing together:
- Deirdre McCloskey’s argument that removing the “honor tax” on bourgeois activity resulting in mass flourishing.
- The nurse example Sam H discusses.
- What if believing true sincerity is too rare to expect actually acts like a tax on the truly sincere? What if believing that the institutional destiny of politicians and civil servants is to become scumbags and parasites regardless of who they are to begin with actually acts as an “honor tax” on those professions, ensuring that we only get scumbags and parasites?
No further thoughts to offer at this moment. Just wanted to kick this out here for anyone who might want to discuss it, as #3 has been nagging me quite a lot lately.