A couple of weeks back I posted an admittedly partial list of the disadvantages, dysfunctions, and dangers of the Big Government Mess seemingly wished upon us by so many otherwise reasonable people. A wise addition to that line of thinking is the so-called Munger Test articulated by Michael Munger of Duke University. Here, he applies the test to government involvement in social media content regulation:
“If someone says “The STATE should do X” (in this case, decide what is true and what can be published in a privately-owned space), they need to make a substitution.
Instead of “The STATE” substitute “Donald Trump,” and see if you still belief it. (Or “Nancy Pelosi”, if you want).”
If approached honestly, Munger’s test is sure to make a partisan think twice about having government “do something”, or do anything! In a another tweet, Munger elaborates on the case of Twitter, which is highly topical at the moment:
“In fact, the reporters and media moguls who are calling for the state to hammer Twitter, and censor all those other ‘liars’, naively believe that they have a 1000 Year Reich.
You don’t. 𝙔𝙤𝙪 𝙘𝙖𝙣 𝙤𝙣𝙡𝙮 𝙜𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙥𝙤𝙬𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙛𝙖𝙫𝙤𝙧 𝙜𝙞𝙫𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙨𝙩 𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙢𝙮. Deal with it.”
The second sentence in that last paragraph is an even more concise statement of the general principle behind the Munger Test, which we might dub the “Worst Enemy Test” with no disrespect to Munger. He proposed the test (immodestly named, he admits) in his 2014 article, “Unicorn Governance”, in which he offered a few other examples of its application. The article is subtitled:
“Ever argued public policy with people whose State is in fantasyland?”
The answer for me is yes, almost every time I talk to anyone about public policy! And as Munger says, that’s because:
“Everybody imagines that ‘The STATE’ is smart people who agree with them. Once MY team controls the state, order will be restored to the Force.”
So go ahead! Munger-test all your friends’ favorite policy positions the next time you talk!
But what about the case of “regulating” Twitter or somehow interfering with its approach to content moderation? More on that in my next post.