Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bucking Tribal Bias

King Henry VIII: It's my bounded duty to put away the Queen. And all the popes back to Peter shall not come between me and my duty. How is it that you cannot see? Everyone else does.
Sir Thomas More: Then why does your Grace need my poor support?
King Henry VIII: Because your honest. And what's more to the purpose, you're KNOWN to be honest.
--A Man for All Seasons

On the surface, attorney, law professor, and political analyst Alan Dershowitz would seem no friend of freedom. He is an avowed Democrat who endorsed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in recent presidential elections.

Over the years, however, I have found some value in Dershowitz's viewpoints. Because he is a constitutional scholar, Dershowitz's take on related issues can be interesting. Some of his arguments, such as those involving gun control and Israel, miss the mark. Many of his civil liberty opinions, on the other hand, are grounded in a libertarian-minded reading of the Constitution.

Dershowitz is also interesting because he has demonstrated that he has not afraid to break from the pack on controversial issues. As suggested by signaling theory, a message is often seen as more credible when it conflicts with the ideologies of the sender's home 'tribe.' Because the sender is not toeing the party line as expected, receivers reason, then the information may contain more truth and less 'tribal bias.'
For some time now, Dershowitz has been arguing (as indicated in the Tweet above) against the legal investigations into Donald Trump's alleged Russian collusion and associated obstruction of justice charges. His basic argument is that no credible evidence of collusion has been brought forth, and that the Constitution grants presidents broad discretionary powers in staffing his agencies.

Pushback by his home tribe has been significant, as Dershowitz notes below.
Dershowitz likely knows from experience that when you buck tribal bias, you will incur the wrath of the tribe.

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