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The question in the subject has been on my mind off and on since I saw those Hans videos [2, 3] (as I call them). I think I've boiled it down to a few causes:

1) Virtually nobody really bases their world view on empirical data and statistics, they base it with the more inaccurate method of using case studies and generalizing theories, usually with case studies brought up to justify the theories. This is a universal problem, because it's how we evolved to think, even though it's not the best way to think. People 10,000 years ago didn't have a huge sum collection of human knowledge to study, because there was no accurate record-keeping they only had what they could see with their eyes or what their witchdoctors or tribal elders told them is true, so their thinking style reflects the tribal system of myths and legends which were -- for the time -- the best way to think.

2) As our media improves (especially as it moves from a more organized corporate control to independent blogging and suchlike) things which were kept hidden before are becoming revealed, so that it appears as if more and more bad things are showing up when it's more that they always happened and just weren't reported about as much.

3) Unpleasant stories are more popular to report on because they are more likely to be repeated to others by word-of-mouth (pleasant things are the rule, not the exception, so they don't get repeated as often -- also important is that warnings are more important to know than reassurances, so we're predisposed to transmit warnings disproportionately), and that makes it so that most of what we are *told* about the world is bad, even though it doesn't accurately represent what's happening in the world, it only represents what people tend to tell others about.

Comments

cwoxviii
Dec. 20th, 2006 11:27 pm (UTC)
I would say the rest of Western Europe too. At least France.
rinku
Dec. 21st, 2006 03:22 am (UTC)
I don't know much about France, but I don't believe Germany is deteriorating, it's improving in many ways (except that it's becoming more racists as more Turks move into Berlin, but besides that it's doing okay); and Germany is usually considered part of Western Europe (or at least borderline).