Status, as far as I can tell, has a motte-and-bailey problem.

The bailey is that status is a complex, technically defined concept, specifically involving primate hierarchies, extremely sensitive to context.

The motte is that status is exactly what it sounds like - just your standing in the eyes of other people.

(Or am I using the terms backwards? Let me know.)

You could say that I actually brush my teeth in the morning because I would lose status if I didn't due to having visibly stained teeth and bad breath, etc., and my reasons really don't have anything to do with preventing cavities and avoiding dental suffering. This is somewhere between facile and banal, depending on how you're reading "status".

At best, Hanson's work forces you to consider the social context of certain actions and policies.

I've found this Caplan post to be a pretty good example of what the world looks like in the status lens. It's not arguing that all motivations "really" boil down to status, but that when it comes to tradeoffs between status and something else, people almost always pick status (or weight it very highly).

Open thread, Apr. 18 - Apr. 24, 2016

by MrMind 1 min read18th Apr 2016176 comments


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