Tag Archives: persuasion

The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

coverExcellent book forum hosted by the Cato Institute:

Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler have written a book about the hidden motives in all of us: quite often, our brains get up to activities that we know little or nothing about. This isn’t just a question of regulating hormone levels or involuntary reflexes. Many of these involuntary behaviors are social signals, such as laughter or tears. Involuntary motives appear to underlie many forms of human sociability, including family formation, art, religion, and recreation. What are the implications for public policy? How can we understand politics and governance better in light of our hidden motives? Our discussion of The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life will focus on just these questions.

Source: The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life | Cato Institute

See also Robin Hanson’s TedX talk on this book.


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Filed under economics, politics, psychology, public policy

What FDR knew about welfare: “Continued dependence upon relief … a subtle destroyer of the human spirit”

In the Wall Street Journal, Independent Institute research fellow James L. Payne writes that FDR understood that welfare recipients need to be productive and build skills and a work ethic. Payne writes:

Franklin D. Roosevelt was clear as well. “Continued dependence upon relief,” he said in 1935, “induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.” Yet government programs, being shallow and impersonal, tend to drift into handouts. They are like the superficial giver who drops a dollar into the beggar’s cup and walks on, feeling self-satisfied.

Source: What FDR Knew About Welfare (WSJ site). Full text here if WSJ link does not display it.

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Questioning your “compassionate” politics

My <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-t-schwartz/questioning-your-compassi_b_574030.html”>first article/post for the Huffington Post appeared today. It begins:

“You oppose Medicaid and government-run schools? You’re heartless and lack compassion.”  If you have ever made this accusation, even tacitly, I invite you to reconsider the government policies you support.

Why does being compassionate mean supporting government-run schools and health plans? This makes little sense if you view these programs as government-run charities. Would you agree to perpetually donate a portion of your monthly income to the same charity –  regardless of its effectiveness?  If the charity is doing a lousy job, wouldn’t you want the freedom to find a better one?

Read the whole article: <a id="title_permalink" title="Permalink" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-t-schwartz/questioning-your-compassi_b_574030.html”>Questioning Your “Compassionate” Politics. (Update, the Denver Daily News also published the article.)

Thanks to Ari Armstrong, Paul Hsieh, Dave Kopel, and my wife for their comments. Thanks to Jessica Corry for putting me in touch with HuffPo.  I acknowledge many others in links within the article.  One person I did not link was Michael Cloud, whose book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion was quite helpful, especially for this sentence, which is basically his:

If you support mandatory charity, what do you authorize government to do to those who peacefully refuse to cooperate?

I also recommend Cloud’s CDs on this topic. Great material, and not much overlap with the book.

Peter Saint Andre also inspired some of my ideas for this article. Many years ago I read his essay, On the Road to Voluntary Government Financing.

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Filed under politics, published

Refuting arguments and then correcting them

Steven at Black Belt Bayesian writes:

If you’re interested in being on the right side of disputes, you will refute your opponents’ arguments.  But if you’re interested in producing truth, you will fix your opponents’ arguments for them.  To win, you must fight not only the creature you encounter; you must fight the most horrible thing that can be constructed from its corpse.

A very good insight.  I should get to the Paul Graham essay he refers to.

(via OvercomingBias)

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