the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

Sunday Reading

In human behavior, politics on May 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Just one, from The Economist‘s DiA blog. Read it:

In the health-care debates [of 1994 and 2009], better-informed Democrats who believed themselves to be on the issue [were]  less likely to hold factually incorrect beliefs: that the Clinton plan would deny patients their choice of doctor, and that the health-care-reform bills in Congress at the time involved government “death panels” that could decide to withhold care from elderly patients on a cost-benefit basis. For Republicans, however, the better-informed they thought they were, the more likely they were to be wrong.

Speaking with Republican State Senators and Representatives in Harrisburg (PA) this past week, I observed a similar and equally discouraging trend: Their idea of “informed” or “factually incorrect” were so infused with an anti-expert, pro-folksy-intuition ideology that they seek to create legislation to address perceived gaps in a preformed and rigid nationalist metanarrative, not real-world situations.

It’s sort of brilliant–don’t like the truth? invent your own! And if someone calls bulls***, just question their background/American-ness/birthplace/sexuality. The evidence accumulated by health economists in support of a single-payer health system that I cited in one talk with a legislator was dismissed, almost laughably, with a “But I just know that’s not true. You can make statistics say anything.” I wanted to yell out: there are people out there who spend their entire careers preparing studies like this, and you’re going to dismiss this work because your unfailing intuition told you so?

The study referenced by the DiA bloggers tried to explain the causality/origins of Republican un-truths, and cited the insular (or, let’s be real, incestual) nature of the conservative press as an important contributor to and perpetuator of their beliefs.

But I think the FoxNews/WSJ/Limbaugh contagion is just another symptom of a gene-deep malady: Individuals, and their unique ideas, are discarded by Republicans when they don’t serve a larger Ideal—the party of personal responsibility and individual property rights only wants one type of individual, which is to say an individual without individuality, which is to say no individual at all.


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