Will huge speaker fees from interested parties bias one’s judgment?

Suppose the members of some athletic team at your university are enrolled in your course, in which they are doing very poorly.  Suddenly you receive an invitation from the team to give a talk at a monthly meeting on, let us suppose, how to be a good student.  They are offering you a $25,000 fee.  Will accepting that fee bias your final decisions about their grades?

The answer is not as straightforward as one might wish.  In the case of a university professor, the answer is probably in the negative.  I would have thought it is probably also negative for a political candidate.

Interesting research on this question has been done in Read Montague’s labs.  (See references below.)  The ultimate target was doctors’ continued claims that favors from drug companies did not influence their prescription practices.  Using “the picture viewing paradigm”, the researchers wanted to see whether benefits can bias judgments.  Their test looked at subject’s judgments about the quality of pictures that were quite tenuously linked to payments from companies.

Subjects are told that certain companies donated various funds for the research project they are taking part in. E.g., Company A donated $50; B donated $20 and C donated $10.  A simple spatial juxtaposition of a high-paying company’s logo and a painting leads participants to prefer to the painting over those juxtaposed with low paying companies’ logos.  The subjects are unaware of any relation between money and their choice.

So if the team players pay one $25,000 for a talk or an oil company pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to a political candidate, can they expect a better grade or more permissive laws?  Will the professors or the politicians serve up what is wanted while conveniently (and genuinely) remaining totally unaware of any connection?

The research doesn’t support that conclusion at all; in fact, further research in the same lab lends some support to the opposite.  There are two factors that subvert the influence of favors without any special extra cogitating..  The first is expertise; ordinary subjects were influenced by the companies degrees of financial support, but art experts were not.  So if you have expertise in arriving at final grades or judging good legislature, nothing in the research suggests your opinion will be corrupted.  Secondly, the presence of bad consequences for your decisions may also influence you.  If you might be found out as a professor from whom grades can be bought, you will not grade them leniently.  If you could be pilloried as the purchased politician, the chances are that the legislation you support will provide no evidence for such.

(Notice:  the fact that expertise overcomes mild linkage between benefits and paintings does not show that expertise could overcome direct linkage to huge benefits.  But, given there is apparently little or no evidence that speaker fees influenced Clinton’s judgments, it seems that in some cases expertise and a common realization of what shirking one’s duty could do managed to subvert the influence.)

To be more specific:

The argument:

Premise:  Hillary Clinton received hundreds of thousands of dollars to give talks to financial companies.

Conclusion: Hillary Clinton’s decisions about these companies were corrupted.

is a bad argument invoking a factual model that does not apply.

References:

Harvey, A. K., U; Denfield, GH; Montague, PR. (2010). Monetary Favors and Their Influence on Neural Responses and Revealed Preference. JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE 30(28), 9597-9602.

Kirk, U., Harvey, A., & Montague, P. (2011). Domain expertise insulates against judgment bias by monetary favors through a modulation of ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 108(25), 10332-10336.

16 thoughts on “Will huge speaker fees from interested parties bias one’s judgment?

  1. Zipping up the asbestos…I don’t get the demonization of Wall Street (or Big Banks, Big Pharma, Big Food and other such BigBads). My pension scheme is invested in Wall Street, my checking account is with Bank of America, and I shop at a supermarket that sells Big Food products.

    There are, of course, Wall Street operatives who ignore their fiduciary responsibilities in the interests of enriching themselves and bankers who behave badly—as well as cops, dentists, plumbers and fellow-academics who behave badly. Of course businesses should be regulated to protect consumers. What I find outrageous is the reflexive BAD response to ‘Wall Street’, ‘Big Banks’ and other Bigs—including, from the right, Big Government.

    So, what are we supposed to do without these Bigs? Grow our own food and medicinal herbs? Sorry, I don’t have the time, energy or interest, and have other things to do. And as for Wall Street, what am I supposed to do: stash cash under the mattress and move in with my kids when I retire?

  2. I’m really confused by what made the author think that Neuroscience about expert judgment was a more relevant model than the oodles of Political Science and Economics literature we have about politician decision making as it relates to campaign contributions. I’m reminded of something Corey Robin recently said, about how in supporting Clinton an increasing number of people are gutting the arguments they used to make against Citizens United. So a few points here. First, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that campaign contributions correlate with politician’s voting behavior across any number of issues. So much I don’t really know where to start, but any casual search of JSTOR will pull up more than you have time to read with regards to labor law, industry regulations, subsidies, etc. Does this mean that contributors are buying politicians votes? Not so clear, in fact it does seem, as you say, that politicians have a hard time changing positions on issues they staked out a claim on during elections. On the other hand, we have a fair amount of evidence that Congress (at least Congress) represents the preferences of the higher income brackets far, far more, and that when ordinary people’s preferences are measured against the preferences of the donor class, they lose out in Congressional voting (that was the point of the fairly well covered piece by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page in the September 2014 issue of Perspectives on Politics). How to make sense of this? Elizabeth Warren gives a fairly good explanation with regards to Clinton herself (in this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12mJ-U76nfg ); politicians can’t easily reverse course on things they have pledged themselves to on the campaign trail simply because of donations, but the positions they stake out on the campaign trail are designed to attract the necessary donations to actually fund a campaign (hence the insistence of both parties that politicians spend most of their time raising funds and spending time with donors for the next election, one hell of a source of bias), and the positions they take on issues they never campaigned on can be influenced quite easily by money. The claim isn’t that someone is bribed to change their views, it’s that they fit their views to what they think is necessary to survive in their political environment, such that who can fund a campaign determines what kinds of campaigns you will see. If people worry about Clinton, and I do, it is because of who she relies on to fund her political machine and what that dependence does to her. It would be really funny if all these people kept throwing billions of dollars at politicians but there was no effect. I also find it funny that the example given above isn’t of a situation analogous to the politician, ie someone who is dependent on campaign contributions to continue to exist qua politician, but of someone who might like a bit more money. Who you depend on makes a big difference in terms of what you do, and politicians are most definitely dependent on money to run national political campaigns. I think it is very fair indeed to worry about who a politician cultivates as backers because that is in some sense who they are looking to depend on in the next election. They aren’t completely tied to those backers; they can switch to others, but this is quite hard.

  3. Great post.

    I have often thought the most plausible version of ‘Hillary Clinton is corrupted [or insert less tendentious word here] on matters of Wall Street because she gave numerous well-compensated speeches to Wall Street’ intends the ‘because’ as evidential, rather than causal. The thought is that those speeches were only possible given an existing cozy relationship (plausible given her voting record, notably the 2008 “Wall Street” bailout: http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=110&session=2&vote=00212 and http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=110&session=2&vote=00213. Probably the two claims are muddied together when lots of people invoke the speeches.)

    A related thought: I wonder whether the correlations are the same as in these studies when the financial incentives are deemed necessary to the recipient (for political or literal survivial, for instance). I take it that when people point to the corrupting influence of money in politics, part of what they are driving at is not just that money buys favours. Rather, or additionally, it doesn’t matter how much of a saint the politician is as an individual; in most cases, their need for financing election campaigns to survive, politically, represents a powerful institutional incentive to either (a) compromise their actual (or what would have been their actual) views, or (b) antecedently be the sort of person whose beliefs are aligned with a sufficiently large (set of) financial backer(s).

    Second related thought: Obama has some illuminating thoughts on soliciting campaign contributions in The Audacity of Hope. They’re here: https://books.google.com/books?id=k85pcYttpW0C&lpg=PT81&dq=%22audacity%20of%20hope%22%20%22I%20worry%20that%20there%20was%22&pg=PT81#v=onepage&q=%22audacity%20of%20hope%22%20%22I%20worry%20that%20there%20was%22&f=false

  4. Dear Readers, perhaps I should have stressed more that the above post is about one causal claim, and about one argument that the claim could support. The claim is that getting goodies from a source will bias one’s judgment. I took the surroundng discussion in the post to make it reasonably clear that we were to suppose there weren’t other factors operating.

    Of course, in fact there are other factors operating in politics, so one might ask why in the world would I want to consider this somewhat artificial question. There are two reasons:
    1. It is interesting to ask whether a possible factor has a causal role. I think Montague’s work, while not perhaps definitive, uses a clever way to get to the answer that money can in fact bias one’s judgment unless one has a firm knowledge base in the area.
    2. Bernie Sanders has claimed time and again that Hillary Clinton should not have taken those huge fees, AND that her judgment would be more trustworthy if she hadn’t. He really does seem to treat it like a clear causal factor. I think we should be skeptical of his claim.

    None of this says that there aren’t hugely important ways that money is messing up US politics. Nor does it show that somehow Clinton is morally pure.

    Also thanks to all for the interesting comments. I hadn’t thought to separate out the idea that the speaker fees were used as evidence. I do stillthink Sanders does think they have had a causal role. His use of a counterfactual suggests that to me.

    I’m with you, HEB, on being deeply dependent on some big biggies.

    There’s much more to be discussed in what I’ve said, but my time is up for now.

  5. To use a professor and athletic department speaking fees as an analogy for a politician and speaking fees from big business is a false analogy because the professor will continue to be a professor whether or not she/he takes the athletic department’s speaking fees since the position and salary are pre-existing. This is not the case for the politician. The politician does not have a pre-existing salary but is seeking such a position. That’s a big difference in terms of the question of influence of monetary contributions.

    If, instead, a professor had to finance her own position or the “hiring” into the position, then the analogy may work.

  6. There are a few points I would like to make. First, thanks to imhw; those were the points I wanted to make upon reading the initial post.
    After imhw’s post, the concern was more tightly framed as the causal link between receiving something and biasing one’s judgement. I would need to read the initial article to give my feedback on his study. But, I admit, in my role as an expert (teacher/grading), even student niceties that look nothing like a bribe, have an impact on me. This is not to say that the student gets an “A” when they deserved an “F,” or even that I am being bribed in any sense, but one can wonder, even as an expert, whether one is perhaps being slightly more lenient. I do find myself wondering at that. Judgement is not such a cut and dry thing.

    The bigger issue seems to be, and forgive me if I misunderstand the initial poster’s intent, was whether Bernie has been fair in his accusations regarding Clinton’s judgement. This can be answered a number of ways; some of the ways depend on whether there is an implicit concern regarding sexism.

    Politics is about judgment; so, making claims to the opponent’s judgment does not seem inappropriate on one level. It is why we think that political experience is important. When Sanders makes these claims, it is not just regarding her speaking fees. So, it might be unfair to take each claim of bad judgment separately, but I am willing to view it this way.

    In relationship to judgement, one might claim that one does not use good judgment when one is going to run on a democratic platform, part of which is that Citizens United is a problem, and then decides to take large speaking fees from banks. But, this is not the real concern behind Sander’s criticism. He is not concerned that it looks bad, he is claiming that it in fact ties her to wall street in a way that will impact what she does in office. Framed this way, I am not sure “judgement” is the appropriate term (Sanders might be applying it correctly in this context), but that she refuses to allow the public to see these speeches is a conern. To use the initial example regarding giving a talk to a college sports team where members are in your class, if upon accusations of bribery, you refused access to the grading, it might be a cause for concern.

    While there might not be a direct change in vote, which has not been anyone’s argument, and as was already stated above, there does seem to be some movement toward something similar (see Elizabeth youtube video above), the fact is that things with wall street have gotten worse, not better under the Obama administration. This is not to say that Obama is directly to blame or that things would have been better under Romney or McCain (I am sure they would be even worse). But, Dodd Frank was gutted to a large extent before it was passed, and it likely was never strong enough. Furthermore, I look at something such as the support of the TPP to be influenced by Obama’s (and the general tie to wall street – for a huge portion of Democrats and Republicans) ties to wall street. I think the same of his selection of Timothy Geitner on his staff, or his administration’s decision to prosecute Aaron Swartz under the charges that it did (making an example of him to defend ludicrous patent laws). All of these things can be viewed as tied to wall street influence. Are they actually tied? It is difficult to prove one way or another. But, if I suspect it to be the case, then unless I have to, I am not going to vote someone in office tied to wall street. This seems appropriate given a conclusion that would probably be impossible to prove without an actual world where the U.S. existed but where wall street didn’t have this influence. In some sense, this issue of wall street and its influence, is similar (not totally analogous) to what can be said about trying to prove sexism and racism. It is very difficult to prove it when you frame it as either intention or poor judgment we can evaluate easily. (In some cases we can – such as when someone is given a resume with identical qualifications)

    The second concern I have is whether framing the post in this way is an implicit argument that Sanders is being sexist in his claim regarding Clinton’s judgment. Once again, I am more than happy to acknowledge that much of how Clinton is judged is in part sexist, but that doesn’t make her judgement good, at least in the moral sense. I don’t think her judgment, nor do I think that Sanders is claiming, that it is bad as it relates to competence, but as it relates to morally appropriate.

    If there is an implicit sexist claim in the initial question, then I think the answer is no. Implicitly, moral judgement is the platform that Sanders is running on. Furthermore, considering how often claims of sexism go unheard, and given how often women are told they are just using the sexist card, I am frustrated when Sander’s campaign is reduced to issues of sexism. (I am not saying that the initial post did this, but I am getting frustrated with it). Do some people like Sanders and hate Clinton because she is a strong and aggressive (in a good sense) woman? Yes. Are there other reasons to dislike her? Yes. There are many many reasons to dislike her that have nothing to do with her gender and under which I would criticize the men that proceeded her and preceded her.

    One point of criticisms are her actions as secretary of state, e.g., Honduras (ignoring and supporting a coup) and Syria (creating more instability in trying to oust Assad). This is not a sexist judgement. I have been highly critical of Obama, even though I voted for him twice. If he could run a third term, I either would not vote, or would vote for a third party at this point. Like many progressives I felt betrayed by the lack of transparency, his education policy, his white house staff, not closing Guantanamo, and his persecution of the press, just to name a few. So, why do I dislike Clinton? To begin with she is not a progressive. Her ties to the Obama administration work against her. Her support of the welfare reform when her husband was in office. (Given her role and her use of that role to launch her senate career, it is fair to judge her on it. She herself claimed her own influence in the white house.) Her initial support of the TPP (which might be explained as being in Obama’s cabinet). These are all reasons to dislike her (as a candidate not a person). But, mostly, until Sanders came along, she wasn’t running on any platform that illustrated she saw the issues as I thought she should. She is no worse than Obama, Feinstein. Wasserman, Carry, Biden or many others. But, many of us think these individuals make morally bad judgements.

    The last point I wanted to make was in relationship to hbaber’s post. Division of labor is not dependent on big banking. The argument that you have made is an ad hominem. All of our pensions (those of us who teach in the U.S. system) are tied to wall street. There is no other method, at least in the U.S., and likely outside of any current free-market economy. In order to save and keep up with the rate of inflation, there is no other option but to invest. This is set-up by the economic system we find ourselves in. Moreover, even if there was a choice, even if we could have saved in some other manner, our engagement with wall street has no bearing on our arguments. If you are trying to make the claim that the same is true of Clinton, it is not analogous. She is not making an argument. We are trying to determine her character and what she will do in office. The money she takes, and what she said in those speeches, is in fact relevant because it might give us a clue to all of the things mentioned by imhw. The thing is, I suspect there is probably nothing in those speeches that could make a direct link between her and whether we can determine how she will act in office. Most of us have come to our decision about this not just in light of Clinton, but in light of years and years of politics. In some sense, her running cannot be separated from Bill Clinton’s move toward the center, which many progressives are still angry about, and her connection to Obama, who was wrongly thought to be less tied to wall street than Clinton was at the time. In fact, what would make me vote for Clinton would be her admonishment of both former presidents. But, so long as she aligns herself with them, I have no reason to think her policies will be any different. If one thinks that both former President Clinton and current President Obama made appropriate morally good judgments for the country, then voting for Secretary Clinton would be a good thing. I just don’t happen to think that they did.

  7. Seriously I dunno what to say. I have a particular narrow focus on politics—on social/economic safety nets and government seeing to it that no one has their back to the wall with no room to maneuver. In particular, seeing to it that women aren’t effectively forced to do pink-collar shit work.

    From my point of view, the Democratic party betrayed me when it set social progressivism, environmentalism and dove-not-hawk as priorities. I’m all for social progressivism—pro-choice, justice for gays, etc.—and environmentalism (I’m getting solar panels), but these aren’t priorities. As far as militarism I am a hawk. The deeper issue is my assumption that you can’t have it all but have to set priorities and make trade-offs. And my priority is seeing to it that no one is forced to choose between doing agonizingly boring work, if they can get it, or begging at the local freeway entrance—and in particular that women aren’t restricted pink-collar jobs, as most working class women currently are. I think Hillary will do a better job of addressing this concern. And I’m a bigger hawk than she is.

    I’m also a cynical utilitarian and distrust purity and idealism. I believe that, as a matter of empirical fact, the most effective way to get results is through wheeling-dealing, getting money from big-money contributors, corruption and dirty power-politics. My favorite president was Lyndon Johnson: I made a pilgrimage to Johnson City, TX and got a souvenir tee-shirt.

    I lived through the idealistic-purist campaigns of Nader and Eugene McCarthy—and the consequences. I confess I’m angry at supporters of these campaigns because they haven’t focused on the the issues I regard as priorities which, I believe, are central and essential to progressivism and because they aren’t sufficiently desperate for results. Idealism-purism is a mark of privilege—not only or primarily the privilege of wealth but the privilege of being young, beautiful and smart. Less privileged people need results, regardless of how they’re gotten and before the long run when we’re all dead.

  8. LR, the post is very specifically about huge speaker fees. There are cases of politicians who accept huge speaker fees, but aren’t dependent on them to stay in office. HRC is a case in point. It is far from clear she needs such fees to run as a candidate; I am afraid that, given the cost of running for president, the speaker fees appear to be a drop in the bucket.

    Str: You say, “After imhw’s post, the concern was more tightly framed as the causal link between receiving something and biasing one’s judgement.” I don’t see that anything in the post broadens the topic in the way imhw does. If one were asked in philosophy assignment to comment on the post, one would be expected to realize that the post had a very specific topic. I’d probably give imhw’s response a low grade, or perhaps a split grade with a good grade for content and a D or F for relevance.

    I don’t, by the way, think the charges against Clinton for the speeches are sexist, but someone might argue I am wrong.

  9. You need to give me a D and an F as well because that was the reaction that I had. I also teach philosophy; I am not sure what that says about me. Perhaps I made a mistake, or perhaps the question has no real meaning outside of the context. Are you just asking does X effect Y given Z, where X, Y and Z do not matter?

    I will be honest; I only now realized that you had presented an argument at the bottom of your blog. I will take responsibility for a sloppy reading. At the same time, I still think my response holds that minimally it is not clear how he is using the term ‘judgement’ and whether or not he is using it accurately for what he means.

    Do you really think the argument that you presented at the bottom of the page is the one he is making? I don’t think that is the case. You were not giving us a philosophy assignment, so I don’t think it is fair to blame us for reading something into it.

    I think you are taking the argument, as you present in your initial post, out of context. I get mad at Clinton every time she portrays the argument this way. It is not at the heart of my concern, and the concern of some others who don’t want to vote for Clinton. Many (I cannot say ‘most’ because I have done conducted a poll) do not view the argument as one in which one Clinton perceives the policies in a different manner because of money. Given that, I would say the study doesn’t apply to the Clinton campaign unless you spin it in a different manner.

    If Sanders is making the argument you claim that he is, not just in sloppy language, but in intent, then I agree it is a poor one. That is of course a different issue from whether or not his voters take it that way.

    As far as the sexism, there is really no way to prove it either way. I am a woman and I at least think I am aware of when sexism is occurring, but we already know that we can be wrong and blinded in our own biases. There is no doubt in my mind that a lot of backlash against Clinton is sexist, but I just don’t see this one as such a case. We wanted to see Romney’s returns and it caused a lot of problems for him when we finally found out how little he paid in taxes. Why is it unreasonable, in a political climate where inequality and Wall Street are at the forefront, to want to see these speeches?

    How can I assess sexism in this case? We cannot assess it in relationship to Republican demands because their voters are asking for something different. This is really a demand of the progressive wing of the party, or in my case now a former party member. It has nothing to do with Clinton being a woman. Jill Stein is a woman and if Sanders doesn’t win the nomination, she has my vote. She should probably have my vote anyway, but if Sanders had a chance, since my hope is only that he won’t stock his cabinet with former and current Wall Street exes, I am willing to vote for him.

    I hope that the drive for less Wall Street in politics is not one just driven by sexism against Clinton. But, even if it is, while that would disappoint me to no end, it would not change my mind on the issue. The reason that people back one position or other is important, but the position can still exist outside of the people who support it.

  10. My apologies. I really am having a bad day. I misread the last line where you said you didn’t think that they were sexist. Ignore what I wrote.

  11. I agree that Sanders is saying “Clinton should not have taken those huge fees, AND her judgment would be more trustworthy if she hadn’t,” but I don’t take it to be a claim that taking the fees is going to cause her to favor the banks. The epistemic interpretation (“this is reason to think she’s too close to banking and investment”) seems right to me, especially given the fact that he consistently brings it up alongside a demand that she release the speeches. If the problem was that accepting these fees was going to bias her future judgments, what would the speeches show?

    hbaber: That’s an incredible misrepresentation. Big Pharma and the big banks are not “demonized” just as a reflexive response to big business. These industries consistently treat people INCREDIBLY badly in the blind pursuit of profit. You don’t get the “demonization” of the industry that caused and profited from the 2008 crisis? Or an industry filled with companies that like to increase the market for their drugs by illegally convincing doctors to prescribe them off label to dementia patients that can’t protect themselves (see Johnson and Johnson, AND Lilly, AND Pfizer, AND Abbott, AND Bristol-Myers Squibb, AND AstraZeneca…)?

    These are not one-off bad eggs. At this point, bad practice is standard practice. For example, I think every US-based major pharmaceutical company has been fined in the past 15 or so years over fraudulent marketing practices. If not every one, then very close. Standard business practice within big pharma is to just do it and accept the fine when you’re caught as a cost of business. And in the pharmaceutical industry, fraudulent marketing means literally killing people. They, obviously, know that. That’s pretty bad…

    Yes, these industries should, of course, be regulated. They’re up to their elbows in the government to try to prevent it. That’s not a coincidence, it’s the whole reason people are concerned about big business: they have massive political power, and can—and clearly do—convince the government to cater to their interests.

    We wouldn’t grow our own food, eat medicinal herbs, and hide our money under our mattresses without massive business. We’d buy food from somewhat smaller farmers, be prescribed medicines made by somewhat smaller companies, and put our money in somewhat smaller banks—companies that the government could actually effectively control.

  12. about speaker fees: my former university last year paid Matthew McConaughy $150,000 for a commencement address, plus, among other things, a plane hired to fly him in and out.

    The University was motivated at least in part by the publicity it would receive. Somewhat similarly, someone like Hillary Clinton can turn an ordinary event into a starred event that the audience will remember and treasure for months or years. If you want to impress a Board, have them over to meet Hillary. And if you are a CEO getting 8 million plus per year, 225K is chump change.

    BTW, MM gave quite a fascinating talk, many thought, though apparently the sound quality of this recording is very uneven:

    Note: I am not happy about this. At the same time, I have been working with the Smithsonian to bring an Institute of Excellence (or some such) to the campus. That had zero support in the administration, though it was clearly doable. This sort of thing could drive one crazy.

  13. CP, I may have been too swift with the epistemic interpretation. Apologies to Nilshennes also.

    I do think the argument Sanders has given is meant to bear a lot of weight even when presented alone. I am quite sure you can find (via google) articles arguing that her taking the speakers’ fees by itself disqualifies her for the presidency.

  14. “I don’t see that anything in the post broadens the topic in the way imhw does… I’d probably give imhw’s response a low grade, or perhaps a split grade with a good grade for content and a D or F for relevance.” Youch! Well let me say a few things in my defense.

    Here is the passage that caught my attention:
    “The argument:
    Premise: Hillary Clinton received hundreds of thousands of dollars to give talks to financial companies.
    Conclusion: Hillary Clinton’s decisions about these companies were corrupted.
    is a bad argument invoking a factual model that does not apply.”
    Now to me it seemed like you were trying to do a few things here, and it was necessary to lean kinda heavily on conversational pragmatics to make ultimate sense of the highly terse statements. For one, I took you to be interpreting and responding to the kinds of claims and worries people have about Hillary Clinton, and the kinds they articulate. For another, I took you to be addressing the process by which “decisions” are made. That is to say, I took you to be addressing the causal link between campaign payments and politician’s actions. Claiming that I expanded your post by talking about more than bias of judgments seems a little unfair given that it was you, not I, who said this was about “decisions,” and you who took yourself to be addressing a conversational context in which the claims being made cannot fairly be limited to claims about expert bias. I tried, clearly unsuccessfully, to interpret your claims in ways that would not be trivial to those worried about Hillary Clinton and her methods of funding by seeing you as implicitly claiming: 1) that there were strong analogies between the expert bias cases and cases of politician decision making which would merit our attention; 2) that these analogies would give people reasons to cease worrying about Clinton’s decision making process, perhaps only pro tanto reasons, but reasons that addressed the kinds of worries they had and articulated; and 3) that since you hadn’t specified any more clearly than above the kinds of arguments being used against Clinton, you wanted the arguments resting on these analogies to address a broad set of the arguments against Clinton, not some hitherto unarticulated but cherry picked set of arguments against Clinton. If the claim is “when Clinton acts as an expert judge, a set of cases that are vanishingly small, there are reasons to think money does not sway her in forming an opinion,” I’d be willing to go along, but the claim is so trivial in the context of current political conversation that I’m not sure why anyone would say it, at least not by itself, and I thought it made more sense to take you to be addressing the sorts of things people are worried about in ways that they would care about.

    In any case, if perhaps I have been rude enough to merit such low grades on my own conversational performance, I will say a few other things. If I’ve been impatient or condescending in my tone, I apologize, I do take all of my interlocutors to be the sort of people who would pass courses I would offer, and generally working in good will. If I am impatient, it is that in my time working as a Political Theorist I have been shocked at how casually Philosophers I work with disregard and refuse to take an interest in the works of people in the more empirical disciplines. I take it the author of the post is not such a person, in that they care about neuroscience. With that said, it is still frustrating to see people making claims about the way politics works, claims they enshroud in professional qualifications and declarations of expertise, without even slightly acquainting themselves with the relevant political science research into the subject. Perhaps it is my skin that is worn thinner than would allow me to be a good conversation partner that when I see posts like the above I do not see highly specified claims about expert judgment formation, but yet more sweeping claims about the way the world works™, so obvious and clear that it can all be caught in a single syllogism.

  15. Iwalling: here is one example I found problematic

    Does this mean that contributors are buying politicians votes? Not so clear, in fact it does seem, as you say, that politicians have a hard time changing positions on issues they staked out a claim on during elections.

    I did not say that.

    you haven’t been the least rude, but you have taken me to address a larger scope of questions than I was. It’s a bit as though you are taking me to address a whole practice while in fact I was looking at one possible causal claim which I think a lot of people make (though I do see I could be wrong about it. I am not arguing this last point right now).

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