Thursday, June 28, 2012

Left wing right wing game

I have a game I like to play with news stories.  After reading the main article about a particular topic I try to guess what the extremist lunatics are going to say about it in the comments or on other forums and then see if I guessed correctly or not.  It turns out that you can pretty easily predict what the talking points of both left and right wing crazies are going to be for most topics; sometimes you get surprised though.  Clearly there are lots of topics where this is a pretty trivial game like anytime abortion is involved (Save the babies / Give women control over their bodies) or whenever a rich person successfully screws over the populace and makes off with a fortune (The possibility of a big score makes people work harder / wealth imbalance makes society worse for everyone).

Some topics are pretty hard to predict though.  Recently I read a bit about the debate over bicycle helmets in British Columbia which referenced European bicycle safety information and wasn't sure what to predict.  On one hand it is normally the left wing folks advocating for things like bicycle helmet laws while ring wingers want those who refuse to use helmets to suffer the natural consequences of doing so.  This time though there is a substantial wrinkle in that bicycle helmet laws are known to drastically reduce the amount of bicycling that people do; this means that in order to achieve the maximum amount of health benefits we should logically not have helmet laws.  Getting more people bicycling improves overall health and makes roads safer for all cyclists (drivers get used to dealing with cyclists if there are more of them) so the best route from a pure health optimization perspective is to let people go without helmets and just accept that some of them die from doing so.

So what do the pundits have to say?  Make your guess before you read!

It turns out that the right wingers mostly want bicycle helmet laws in place so that they won't have to pay for others' health care; if the laws are repealed they want the government to not cover head injuries during bicycling!  The radical left side wants to repeal bicycle safety advertising and education because it suggests that bicycling isn't safe; if we just get everyone riding a bike and ignore safety training and gear things we will have an environmental utopia!

The strange thing is that I find these opinions are consistent.  I often have absolutely no idea what people will say but once I start reading the same opinions crop up over and over and there seems to be almost a consensus on what crazy platform people will agree on.  I don't know if this consensus appears because people just repeat what others have already said or because there really is a predictable response and I just can't predict it.  Either way, the left wing / right wing game is a lot of fun for anyone who finds reading the opinions of crazy people on the internet fun.  I tend to think we should have mandatory helmet laws for kids and not for adults - getting a lot of people cycling is a really useful goal but children are a lot more likely to fall and are less able to judge the dangers of various situations by themselves.


  1. The clue you left out when guessing in this case is the rightwing nuts *hate* bicycles with a white hot passion and hate anyone who would use a bicycle. Not all leftwing nuts are bicycle nuts, but since they will oppose anything rightwing nuts say, they don't need a consensus on the particular issue.

    Also, nuts on both sides are not married to a particular position, just hateful of the other side. So the rightwing wants any law that imposes any restriction on bicycle riders, I'm sure they would argue in favor of knee pads, or licences or hefty registration fees for cyclists as well. Once you have gleaned one side of the debate, you automatically know what the other is, it's just a question of coming up with some justification. The argument I saw was that we should not impose bicycle helmets but instead impose a speed limit of 30 inside cities.

  2. My favourite game in university was the horoscope game. You get a newspaper from the day before, then read all of the horoscopes our loud to a friend. Have them choose which one best describes their day yesterday. Repeat, then make a pretty graph in excel:)