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Broken brains, broken economies.

by Colman Wed Jan 16th, 2013 at 12:55:17 PM EST

Chris Dillow proposes that cognitive biases are partly responsible for the success of neoliberal ideology.

In this paper (pdf), Jon Wiseman makes an important point:

Once control of the state was in principle democratized by the ballot box, the fortunes of the elite came to depend solely upon controlling ideology.

This reminds me of Steven Lukes’ “third dimension” of power; rulers can exercise power not only by direct action or by keeping some things off the agenda, but by shaping ideology so that the oppressed come to regard their oppression as legitimate and unquestionable.

But how do the elite achieve this trick? Sometimes, the left verges towards conspiracy theory here, by believing that our rulers have the organizational skill to hoodwink people through the mass media.

This, though, needn’t be the case. There are numerous cognitive biases which dispose people towards “neoliberal ideology.”

Weve covered this ground before, in slightly different contexts. The right-wing story is easy to sell in part because it exploits the dark side of human cognition.


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These are even more basic errors than the one that suggests that the economy has to be run like a frugal household.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2013 at 12:56:20 PM EST
But those cognitive biases carry a very american flavor. So unless we are going to argue that americans are by nature more flawed in a cognitive way, I think the conclusion is that ideology creates or at least reinforces cognitive biases.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jan 16th, 2013 at 01:59:57 PM EST
Where are you seeing the American flavour? (Or flavor, as you have it ...)
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2013 at 03:18:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. The optimism bias is more 'American'.

  2. Ditto.

3.Definitely ditto

  1. The just world illusion - not sure about this one.

  2. The status quo bias applies to all

  3. As 1 - 3

  4. Like many of these biases, many of these would not feel at home in the Nordics.


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 16th, 2013 at 04:00:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is, of course, a century old, at least. In the USA Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays served on The Committee for Public Information during WW I, the purpose of which was to insure broad public support for an unpopular war. Wall Street was quick to take note of the possibilities propaganda provided. But the Crash of '29 came before they were able to use these techniques to thoroughly cement their position. It wouldn't so much be a conspiracy as a scramble by various competing factions, all of whom had interests in common as to what the proper role of government should be.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2013 at 02:07:36 PM EST
A couple of points:

One, I don't think Wiseman captures Lukes' concept of the "third face" of power well enough. Wiseman seems to imagine a self-conscious "elite" which is actively strategizing and conniving to control ideology when the third face of power is much more subtle than that. The elite, in Lukes' conception, is not active in maintaining the structural or ideological components of its power. Rather the elite, as well as the oppressed, are passive beneficiaries of the structural legacies which provided them their position and are usually merely doing what anyone would feel is common sense.  

In the case of neoliberal, or anti-government, ideology, it is also more complicated than merely an ideological manipulation by the "elite," whomever that might be.  In too many cases, government really has proven to be the problem in people's experience, whether it is the historical experience of colonial imperialism or the day-to-day experience of dealing with government bureaucracy to get something done.  The same can be said of people's experiences with out-of-control private, commercial organizations, of course, which is why there is always ammunition for left-wing discourse as well, but the point is that the message that government is the problem really does resonate with people because it is so often objectively true. That fact transcends neo-liberal ideology and will always be a factor in political discourse for use by right or left oriented elites.

by santiago on Wed Jan 16th, 2013 at 09:08:11 PM EST
santiago:
 In too many cases, government really has proven to be the problem in people's experience, whether it is the historical experience of colonial imperialism or the day-to-day experience of dealing with government bureaucracy to get something done.

so true... case in point the internet genius just driven to suicide by government abuse of power.

the ones howling the loudest how gubmint is evil in every way are the ones you wouldn't want as neighbours, they hate liberals!

on the left the government-haters take on violence alla red brigade, and we've seen see where that goes.

government bureaucracies are usually bloated with nepotism and makework, so that would have to change.

a clear understanding of how politics is just the lipstick on the presently very ugly pig of real-ekonomik seems to be the best place to start... to help see how to Do It Right.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2013 at 09:33:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So how do you explain the deliberate creation of the Chicago School, the deliberate suppression of Henry George's ideas, and the deliberate canonisation of Hayek?

Groups of rich people got together and decided these would all be excellent things to do.

I don't see any difference in principle between this kind of ideological poisoning and terrorism and plain old violent fascist union busting or out-group abuse.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jan 17th, 2013 at 04:59:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd put those examples, along with bribing and threat of force, in the straight-up, Weberian "first face" of power -- direct behavior modification.
by santiago on Thu Jan 17th, 2013 at 05:29:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it's not just broken brains, it's broken hearts, groken trust, broken faith, broken being.
the societies that are surest they are models of sanity are in reality the most depraved, degenerated, corrupted, arrogant and morally blind, and our own conceit effectively blinds us to the enormity of it. many good men have become broken just trying to take on mental board the staggering epidemic of wrong living, wrong 'axioms', wrong credos, wrong attitudes, wrong beliefs all wound in the gauze of opportunistic wishful thinking that we are the acme of humanity's progress, even though we see the ruins of other older civilizations that beggar belief, with respect to their technology and relative mastery of their environment.
clues abound, but no wants to connect the dots, it's too damn painful...
we are approaching a tipping point where reality will not brook further mass denial, because deep down we actually want it this way no matter the short-term price, as instinctively it becomes evident that we will not be able to use the usual tools to extricate ourselves from the existential quandary we have let ourselves get sucked into like quicksand.
as in the ones that got us into this mess!
i don't know how it will work, but i trust that we will find a way. i have to, to even fake being mildly sane as each day stretches the credibility ceiling of how self-destructive we have learned to be, yet reparative... not so much. we are brilliant though, and may still have a chance at survival notwithstanding.
hard not to hear the fat lady warming up backstage, if you're not selectively deaf.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2013 at 09:16:43 PM EST
The right-wing story is easy to sell in part because it exploits the dark side of human cognition.

Back to Yoda (on the dark side of the Force):
"Quicker, easier, more seductive."

Seems to be a lot of overlap between the seven points.


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sapere aude

by Number 6 on Thu Jan 17th, 2013 at 10:35:19 AM EST


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