So many problem and miscommunications happen because we’re maximizing for the wrong thing! In economics a lot of the time we’re maximizing for maximal welfare, sometimes determined as total surplus (CS + PS). This is a gross generalization though. One might wish to maximize for social welfare, with income inequality being a negative factor on social welfare. One might wish to maximize years or quality of schooling. Ultimately, our answers to many of society’s key problems are contained herein.

For instance, a religious conservative might wish to maximize some amalgamation of religious purity and economic growth, or low taxes. A liberal Sanders supporter might wish to minimize income inequality. A Ron Paul supporter might wish to minimize the role of the federal government in day to day life. It’s all about priorities. Sometimes, we look at what others do and we think “man that guy is just stupid.” But oftentimes they’re not stupid, so much as their priorities are very different. A friend of mine is considering Trump over Clinton, and even ceded that this was because their main criterion for who got their vote was being anti-establishment. In Trump v Clinton, if we maximize anti-establishment, we get Trump. That being said, there are many reasons why maximizing anti-establishment isn’t prudent. But simply telling a person they’re being stupid for voting Trump doesn’t get at the core of it. One must persuade someone that their priorities are wrong.

As it intuitively sounds, it’s much harder to persuade someone that their values are wrong, rather than persuade them that they’re incorrectly maximizing. If someone wants say, the most religious candidate, one can make arguments as for why one candidate is more religious. The most socialist candidate, one can have arguments on. But when someone who wants the most socialist candidate posits that someone is stupid for supporting the most religious candidate because clearly the socialist candidate is in all ways better, there is a major disconnect. Sure, he’s more socialist which in your book is better, but to them, they want a religious candidate, not a socialist one. Hence, to them, the religious candidate is better. Hence, there is a tendency for those engaged in discourse to talk right past each other.

I maximize for policy, and get Clinton in the current arena. Other aspects could come into play (I’d rather not vote Clinton, CA will be won by Clinton, perhaps I could vote third party without lowering Clinton’s chances), but ultimately I’m utility maximizing in a way that seems rational to me, but may not to others. I fully accept others may not look along my lines. As I posited previously in voting people are oftentimes maximizing for personal, not societal utility. But at this point, when engaging in discourse, try to identify whether you disagree with who you are speaking with on the basis of different parameters of maximization, or the facts. If you are both maximizing for the same thing(s) then perhaps, it’s facts. Otherwise, it may very well be you’re looking for a different person.