Republican heaven

I (KP) couldn't find a cartoon satirising the absurdity of the apparently dominant American attitude to Obamacare, except this one that does so unintentionally ...

No time to write a considered post on this I’m afraid, but this article really illustrated a modern version of false consciousness for me  – built on the media advisor’s view of the world. Most Americans favour most of Obamacare, but they’re against it.

The pessimist in me says that this is entirely possible – that people kind of like posturing about their ideological views, sometimes so much that they end up with ideological views which conflict not just with their own interests (which would be a sign of principle) but also somehow with their own preferences.

In a sense it’s part of what I was getting at when I criticised the current Government for their individualist rhetoric in which government is simply a service deliverer to customers, when anyone knows that rhetoric that moves people addresses the ‘we’ not the ‘I’.

In any event there is some logic to Americans’ position on Obamacare, and as intimated above, it’s the logic of the media advisor. When you get media training one of the things you’re trained to do is never acknowledge any weaknesses in your position. You don’t say “I’m in favour of the minimum wage, because I think the good it does in increasing wages for the least well paid in the workforce outweighs the harm it does in denying people who want to work below that wage (and can’t command a higher wage) the ability to work.” But that’s regarded as bad technique and if you’re in a hostile interview, you rapidly find out why. The whole interview then turns to the downsides. “How many people are put out of work by the minimum wage?”, “So you can’t guarantee that no-one will be put out of work by your policy?” and so on.

You just stick to little set piece arguments that support your position – and your opponents introduce the downsides. In the case of Obamacare, in so far as people’s views are rational, they support the ‘good things’ in the bill – constraints on insurers kicking you or your kids off insurance, subsidies to insurance – but oppose the ‘bad things’ which is the mandate – which of course is the source of the good things (by minimising adverse selection more bad risks can be funded).

Anyway, we’ll see what the Republican majority on the Supreme Court come up with on the mandate – the result of the case is supposed to be handed down as early as next week. I’m certainly glad that we do government a whole lot better than the Americans.

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Ken Parish
11 years ago

” When you get media training one of the things you’re trained to do is never acknowledge any weaknesses in your position.”

Yes, this is one of the most exasperating not to say depressing aspects of public political discourse from my experience. It was one of the great frustrations of my time in elective politics, and the same phenomenon is equally evident in blogosphere discourse.

Almost no-one seems capable of even acknowledging, let alone arguing from the premise that just about EVERY policy prescription in every area is a trade-off. If there is such a thing as a “win-win” situation it is extremely rare.

And yet hardly anyone ever acknowledges it. Instead we howl past each other in the darkness, ramming home the strengths of our own preferred position and the weaknesses of those of our opponents, but never (God forbid) conceding that our own position involves losers/downsides and our opponents’ have advantages. To concede that is to be a wooz and condemned as such. Honesty and integrity as weakness or stupidity!

You’re right that it’s taught in political media training, but the reason for that is because it captures insights of people like Kahneman and the range of cognitive biases that afflict human thinking. Is there any way of overcoming it? If there is I haven’t stumbled on it.

Would we achieve better policy outcomes if we were able honestly to discuss and analyse the trade-off factors involved in any policy position? I suspect so but who knows? Is there any way to engineer/curate such conversations?

11 years ago

Ken, “wuss” – puss: I have not googled wooz – tho’ I suspect it has to do with alcohol.

If you don’t defend who you are by clinging to what you think you might disappear – poofff!

I prefer to to wander thoughtless ….. and thoughtful. Am doing my best on the thoughtful during the semester break, (have spent a good hour over at Castan)Still, I wonder what it matters in terms of citizenship whether I have a rationally defenceable argument regarding asylum seekers?

It matters for holding up my end over dinner and gives me a perspective in tutorials or writing essays and nutting out how the legal system works, but democratically speaking, in terms of participation, my vote is a puny thing and my opinion even less than that.

….or does every very little bit of considered opinion count? A bit like Australia and the carbon tax.

11 years ago

It is depressing and defeating; Obamacare, Juliar. Words, words, words, the spin is the thing. (Poor Hamlet)

They say the Republicans coined Obamacare to take all the negatives of the plan and strangle Obama with it. Now this has led to an absurd situation you point to where the spin is the reality and the substance of the policy is lost.

I wonder if the results would be different if the polls were limited to people who have benefited under the scheme? Or would they be swept up in the double think regardless?

Something similar has happened with the carbon tax in Australia. Under such a mountain of negativity Juliar will never get the satisfaction of saying ‘told you so’ when the economy doesn’t collapse.