Wisconsin Recall and System 2

Living next door to Wisconsin, I have perhaps greater than average interest in the Governor’s recall election. There are issues of great import involved: what is fair? what are the differences between rights and privileges? what leads to a prosperous society? what leads to a just society? how should we balance our short term interests against our long term interests?

Frustratingly, neither the Democrats or Republicans are expending much energy explaining and advocating anything related to these questions.

Fortunately, I am less frustrated than I might be after thinking about Kahneman’s revelations about human behavior. In a nutshell, Kahneman is saying we have two modes of thinking: intuitive and logical. Intuitive thinking mostly controls our actions; logical thinking requires a lot of time, commitment, and ability; we use logical thinking sparingly. Kahneman calls these different modes of thinking System 1 and System 2.

The important issues require logical thinking; winning elections requires harnessing intuitive thinking. Thus, political campaigns depend on sloganeering, emotional appeals, and very shallow logic. Both parties. Every election.

This isn’t new, of course. What’s new is that I have more toleration for it. For better or worse, this is who we are and how we behave. Changing our minds about the political economy requires long periods of time and thought and will, hopefully, reveal itself gradually. It won’t happen in an election. Neither the winner or loser can take much solace from election results – the consequences of clear thinking come

Wisconsin Welcome Sign

Wisconsin Welcome Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

slowly.

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