The issue of informational fragmentation and social coherence is an issue I'm putting on the “to do” list. Hmm, I guess I really should have a bigthink “to do” list. No doubt it is too much, and too hard, for me to do. So think of it as a bigthink assignment desk. If you're game, go for it!
- Rebut: unrestricted liberty to choose the content of one's entertainment, news, art, children's education, etc., threatens the existence of a common culture, which is necessary to maintain a viable liberal social order.
- Understand: how institutional change alters behavior by changing preferences and belief systems, and not simply by changing relative prices (i.e., get a grip on likely processes of endogenous preference change), and how to apply this rigorously and in a non-ad hoc way to policy analysis without the ability to resort to traditional notions of efficiency.
- Defend: Behavioral economics does not provide an argument for regulation or paternalism, unless we think of regulation and paternalism as the implementation of market institutions that economize on (neo-classical) “rationality.”
- Clarify: the difference between “social engineering” in the rationalistic or constructivistic sense, and institutional design in the Madisonian/Buchanan sense; how dynamic renegotiation of constitutional contract/institutional structure politically resembles “regulation,” but how, once in place, changes are robustly self-regulating, “ecologically rational.”
- Illuminate: how it is possible to distinguish between norms or social practices that have an adaptive function in preserving the main properties of a desirable social order and mere self-reinforcing equilibria, which may be opressive or illiberal, without resorting to rationalist/constructivist fallacies. The possibility of being a principled selective or progressive conservative; i.e., the inherent interdepedence of conservatism (rightly understood) and liberalism (rightly understood).
- Investigate: what, if any, are the policy implications of “happiness research”? What, if any, are the implications for implicitly or explicitly hedonist or eudaimonist theories of efficiency, or of the good?
Oh, and there's more. I'm just not thinking of it right now. Did you not drop out of grad school? Well, you know where to come for dissertation topics!