Thursday, April 15, 2004

Groupthink vs. Leviathan

A couple books that have been on my mind lately. I'm not sure most of what Bush does can be described as lying - because he believes it. Groupthink, which I haven't read since college, is a psychology text about how people in groups can act irrationally. It looks at some foreign policy disasters including the Bay of Pigs, to discover how smart people can get everything wrong. Basically, in tightly knit groups social norms take over, and the consensus interpretation of reality that takes hold can be very difficult for mere facts to shake. These guys in the White House are the most ideological bunch to hang out there in a long time. They were united in one neoconservative interpretation of the world, and this interpretation continues to guide their thinking even though past predictions based on this belief system - WMDs in Iraq, a welcoming population longing for Western style democracy, a Saddam-al Quaeda connection, the pacification of Iraq by simply removing a few "dead-enders", have proven false time and time again. It is easier to explain away the facts on the ground than to question core beliefs of the group. That's why these goons keep insisting "weapons may be found" and "it's not an uprising," etc. Admitting to a mistake would cause great psychic pain by calling core beliefs into question.

Something similar is happening among a lot of everyday Republicans. They know the Bush Administration is lost and incompetant, but they fervently believe in lower taxes and smaller government - by which they mean, they want to minimize the redistributon of income from the rich the poor through government programs and entitlements. So they keep supporting Bush no matter what he does because they got the tax cuts they wanted. What they don't understand is that in the modern industrialized world, the welfare state is part of the social contract. You pay off the people who otherwise suffer from the system to buy stability. It's like a rough approximation of Kaldor-Hicks compensation, to beat one of my favorite dead horses. In layman's terms, you pay your protection money so your throat doesn't get slit in your sleep. You really think that gated community can protect you from an angry mob? Starving people have every right to consume rich people as food. Private Charity is never going to pick up the tab. The people who offer this as a solution never seem to give much themselves. Illinois richest (and most Republican) county gives the least to charity. I keep hearing the argument that "private citizens can best decide what to do with their money," but that's crap. They will spend it all on private consumption, neglecting the common good, infrastructure, parks, etc. in hopes that someone else will pick up the tab. They call it "the tragedy of the commons." It's just the economic application of the war of all against all, and will quickly lead to the more literal kind of war. The solution is simple: Big Government now, Big Government forever. If you don't want Falls Church to look like Fallujah, shut up and fork over the cash.
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