Political psychology comes to television

It’s amazing that such a nice 20-minute discussion of political psychology appears on cable TV.

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It’s nice to see cognitive and social psychology receive twenty minutes of intelligent discussion on TV. I don’t agree with everything said here–especially Jonathan Haidt’s rather self-satisfied embrace of centrism. The discussion still seems important and interesting. Our psychological lives and group affiliations alter our ability to process new information. That’s obvious at some 50,000 foot level. Yet the resulting implications are often ignored. Moreover, economics dominates the other social sciences in policy discourse. it’s nice to see other disciplines getting some equal time. It’s even nicer to see an extended discussion, with a minimum of schtick, with no one spouting simplistic slogans. It’s amazing to think this appears on cable TV.

One point that went unmentioned. In my view, mainstream Republicans have retreated from an essential kind of technocratic policy discourse during the Obama years. There is no high-quality, avowedly conservative counterpart to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, for example. Republican policy experts often move away from market-based proposals to solve social problems once liberals show interest. Cap-and-trade approaches to regulate carbon emissions are one obvious example. Otherwise respectable conservatives such as George Will even express skepticism regarding global climate change.

This consequence of ideological polarization and internal GOP politics reduces the quality of policy discourse on both sides of the aisle. It hinders efforts by liberals to question our own assumptions and the quality of our own arguments. We need a more respectable and reasoned opposition, so we can actually learn from each other across the ideological divide. And on some issues, such as public employee pensions, we need a respectable and reasoned set of interlocutors to find reasonable bipartisan compromises neither side could accomplish on its own.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

14 thoughts on “Political psychology comes to television”

  1. Yes, having jumped in to join the GOP to project american power throughout the world, no matter what the price….now we must join them to destroy public unions and impoverish public workers so they can be just like their private sector brethren..i.e., impoverished. That’ll show ’em!!! And when somebody has the impudent temerity to suggest this is a convergence toward a deplorable political outcome and a totally unsatisfactory society…we are called “f*cking morons”.

    P.S.: Inciddental Economist needs to read a little Dean Baker about the so-called public employee pension “problem” and get a clue. The spiel sounds like the same centerist pablum advocating deep cuts to social programs to show “fiscal seriousness”….a deeply unserious approach.

    1. I wish you would respond with a substantive argument. I hardly think pre-funding cash balance pensions would destroy public unions.

      1. Frankly, I think large public pensions are going to turn into a disaster for liberals. Their prominence is the result of a classic principal/agent problem. It’s been an easy way to increase compensation to public employees without having to pony up the cash while the relevant negotiators are still in office.

        We’d have been much better off if city and state governments had negotiated with the public unions for higher wages at the time, rather than leaving us with this time bomb. The large pension overhang is going to fuel anti-government forces for the forseeable future as a consequence of taxpayers having to pay double now for services that were rendered in the past.

        So we’re stuck with an albatross. We can’t in good conscience renege on the pensions that have been accrued, but paying them is going to squeeze budgets in a big way. We can, and should, fight to just increase taxes to pay for services, but even if we do, you’re going to have to be prepared to watch services decline as the pensions get paid off. And if we can’t persuade the electorate to raise the taxes, it’s going to be a catastrophe.

        But, we also need to go into negotiations with the public sector unions with the intent of not having such generous pensions and, as I said, giving them a much higher percentage of their compensation up front. If we don’t, we’re *never* going to be able to get past this and state and local governments will be crippled for good.

        1. Are US household savings high enough to make private pension provision a serious option for median workers? Social Security is SFIK designed as an anti-poverty floor, not a pension that approximates the pre-retirement standard of living. Equalising firemen’s pensions with those of Walmart employees isn’t my idea of social justice.

          1. It’s not my idea of social justice, either, but neither is watching local governments get paralyzed by pension claims.

        2. Yes, there needs to be more honest discussions about the pensions time bomb. The demographics for these are pretty awful. Someone can be retired and draw a pension for more years than they ever worked. It will be a common occurrence in a few years.

  2. George Will is a respectable conservative? Is wearing a bow tie necessary or merely sufficient for that honor?

    1. George is a respectable conservative because he’s only batsh*t crazy on alternate Tuesdays.

      The bowtie is gravy.

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