A recent article by Ezra Klein at Vox.com eloquently makes an argument that we at CivilPolitics have also done a lot of research in support of – specifically, that if you want to affect many behaviors, you cannot just appeal to individuals’ sense of reason. The article is well worth a complete read and is excerpted below, but the gist of it details a simple clear study by Dan Kahan and colleagues, showing that individuals who are good at math stop using their rational skills when the use of those skills would threaten their values.
OK, I don’t mean literal asteroids made of rock and metal. I mean big problems that polarize us and therefore paralyze us.
If you’re on the left, you probably have extremely acute vision for threats such as global warming and rising inequality. You’ve tried to draw attention to the rising levels of carbon dioxide, the rising average global surface temperature and the rising seas. You’ve also grown increasingly disturbed by the percentage of the national income taken home by the richest 1 percent. In fact, I’ll bet you spotted those two asteroids back in the 1990s, when it would have been so much easier to deflect them, and you’re angry that conservatives are still deep in denial. What’s wrong with those conservatives?
On the other hand, if you’re on the right, you’ve probably been tracking our nation’s entitlement spending and the rise of nonmarital births for a long time now. You’ve been ringing alarms about those two asteroids since the 1970s, but liberals have treated you like Chicken Little, completely unconcerned. Caring is spending, they seem to believe. All forms of family are equally good for kids, they assert in spite of the evidence. What’s wrong with those liberals? Read the whole piece online at Tallahassee.com.
Matthew Dowd today on This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
“We also must keep in mind that the Founding Fathers warned against day in and day out, including President Washington, about the power of political parties. And the power of parties to tear apart the government and create this dysfunction. We are at a point now where the political parties and people line up in these tribes and it’s very difficult. As I say, you can’t have the same rules in chess oh we’re going to be fine and all that, as you have in mixed martial arts which is where the situation is today in Washington.
“Where we are today George, where we are today is the president in 2008 and 2007 ran on the idea that he was going to bring the country together, bring Washington together. We’re going to get past the partisan gridlock. We’re going to get past the vitriol. And now we’re at a point where the rules have to change in the Senate because it’s become so polarized, so vitriolic that we can’t get it done.”
“The Air Force says it can no longer afford to scan the sky for extraterrestrial threats that could doom the planet, all because of the sequester cuts Washington forced on itself when it failed to rein in the exploding national deficit. Called the Air Force Space Surveillance System, it’s “critical” to defense, the Air Force has said. By October 1, they’ll have to pull the plug.”
Apparently the extraterrestrial threats include about 1,000 asteroids large enough to “potentially unleash global catastrophic devastation to the planet upon impact.”
Kind of a big deal, yes? From this bit of asteroid news you probably shouldn’t expect much of a reaction from our elected officials. Last spring, when one asteroid actually did hit earth and one closely missed us on the same day, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) asked NASA chief Charles Bolden what NASA would do if a large asteroid was expected to collide with earth in three weeks.
“The answer to you is, ‘if it’s coming in three weeks, pray.’ The reason I can’t do anything in the next three weeks is because for decades we have put it off.”
So break out the space suits, America, and give Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck a heads up. Looks like we’re on our own again.
Join us for a discussion of rising economic inequality in our Dinner at the Square season kickoff “American Dream Lost?” Tuesday, October 15th. Get more information HERE.
“In America nearly every man has his dream – his pet scheme – whereby he is to advance himself socially or pecuniarily. It is this all-pervading speculativeness which we tried to illustrate in “The Gilded Age.” It is a characteristic which is both bad and good for both the individual and the nation. Good, because it allows neither to stand still but drives both forever on to some point which is ahead, not behind nor to one side. Bad, because the chosen point is often badly chosen and then the individual is wrecked. The aggregation of such cases affects the nation and thus is bad for the nation. Still, it is a trait which is – of course – better for a people to have and sometimes suffer from than to be without.”
Cartoon courtesy of XKCD.com
Learn about our Asteroids Club season online HERE.
Robert Putnam, in the New York Times:
‘As successive graduating P.C.H.S. classes entered an ever worsening local economy, the social fabric of the 1950s and 1960s was gradually shredded. Juvenile-delinquency rates began to skyrocket in the 1980s and were triple the national average by 2010. Not surprisingly, given falling wages and loosening norms, single-parent households in Ottawa County doubled from 10 percent in 1970 to 20 percent in 2010, while the divorce rate more than quadrupled. In Port Clinton itself, the epicenter of the local economic collapse in the 1980s, the rate of births out of wedlock quadrupled between 1978 and 1990, topping out at about 40 percent, nearly twice the race-adjusted national average (itself rising rapidly).’
‘…The crumbling of the American dream is a purple problem, obscured by solely red or solely blue lenses. Its economic and cultural roots are entangled, a mixture of government, private sector, community and personal failings. But the deepest root is our radically shriveled sense of “we.” ‘
Read the whole article online HERE.
“Nothing struck me more forcefully than the general equality of conditions among her people.”
“Our task as citizens whether we are leaders in government or business – or spreading the word – is to spend our days with open hearts and open minds. To seek out the truth that exists in an opposing view and to find the common ground that allows for us as a nation, as a people, to take real and meaningful action. And we have to do that humbly – for no one can know the full and encompassing mind of God. And we have to do it everyday, not just at a prayer breakfast.” — President Barack Obama, at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast
• One: Seek to understand the moral positions of others.
Americans are a diverse people with fundamentally different moral foundations. Recent psychological studies show we are born with a predisposition for being conservative or liberal, and no amount of yelling at each other on a cable network will change that.
Some of us hold as sacred the care for victims of oppression; some are dedicated to preserving the institutions and traditions that sustain a moral community; others are most concerned with the protection of individual liberty. Most of us share a concern about all these values, but feel more intensely about some than others. Read all »
“People on both sides tend to believe that there is a conspiracy, that there is a stolen election because they don’t know anyone who votes for the other party. Both sides are pretty homogeneous. Democrats tend to congregate with Democrats; Republicans with Republicans. We don’t know anyone who voted for the other guy. And as a result we don’t know how this possibly could have happened.”
–Dan Cassino of Fairleigh Dickinson University, on MSNBC’s Hardball
In honor of the anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ birthday today: Remember in The Screwtape Letters , C.S. Lewis writes a fictitious letter by God’s enemy, a senior demon Screwtape, so references in the letter to “The Enemy” are references to God. References to “the patient” or “he” are to a man whose soul Screwtape is seeking. Read the entire clip of Letter #7 HERE.
“I had not forgotten my promise to consider whether we should make the patient an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them. Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the “Cause” is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal. Even when the little group exists originally for the Enemy’s own purposes, this remains true… Read all »