Does Irrationality Doom America?

Paul Rosenberg explains pervasive illogic in US pundit conversation. Since Gingrich we've substituted cognitive tricks for problem solving. Using the fallacy of equivocation, a form of fallacious reasoning, we use one word, such as "serious" with two different meanings, switching inappropriately. By insisting that a political solution to a problem isn't serious unless it could pass, where an irrational majority controls a legislature, we rule out all proposals with an actual chance of solving the problem. This is a form of suicide.

Does Irrationality Doom America?

How rational problem-solving has ceased to be "serious" among US elites.

The United States is on the verge of committing suicide. Slow suicide, perhaps, which may take decades to fully play out, but suicide nonetheless. The proximate event is the sequester...

Republicans are obstinantly demanding deep budget cuts that will inevitably slow, if not cripple the already weak economy - as well as debilitating or destroying vital government functions in the long run.

This comes at a time when there's actually a staggering need to vastly expand the scope of government action to deal with multiple looming threats of environmental catastrophe ...

Slates's Matthew Yglesias has recently captured the essenial cognitive trick...

[S]eriousness can refer both to the merits of an initiative or to its political viability.

Once you embrace the Principle of Seriousness,... If the parties fail to agree because one party is being unreasonable and the other party is failing to cater to their unreasonable demands, then the apparently reasonable party is in fact failing to be serious. After all, a serious proposal is one that stands a chance of passing. Reasonable proposals will not pass a Congress in which one party is being unreasonable, ...

... he's described is a form of fallacious reasoning, specifically, the fallacy of equivocation, in which one word is used with two different meanings. In its most basic form, one meaning is replaced by another: "Feathers are light; black is dark; therefore no feathers are black". Or "Nothing is better than eternal salvation. A ham sandwich is better than nothing. Therefore, a ham sandwich is better than eternal salvation".

But what Yglesias is describing is a less patently ridiculous form, in which the two different meanings are essentially welded together - without, of course, acknowledging what has been done.

The realm of conceivable alternatives is heavily skewed to the unreasonable side, for at least two main reasons identifiable as distinct forms of bias. First off, there's an enormous gap between what sounds reasonable initially and what can actually work - as any inventor, engineer, or even songsmith knows. If there's no workability test, then the fantasy-based side can crank out alternatives far faster and more easily than the reality-based side can ever dream of. Secondly, because of the bias against "politically unviable" ideas, there is a prohibitive bias against reasonable alternatives ...thus exert[ing] pressure on them to respond, change, or even yield.

So why is the discussion dominated by a non-solution while a real solution can't even be discussed? It's because the "politically viable" sense of serious totally dominates over the "pragmatically effective" sense of the word, and because what is politically viable is circularly defined: extremist Republican non-solutions are politically viable because Republicans adamantly insist that they are, no matter how laughable they may be... [emphasis mine]

 

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Replies to This Discussion

Oh Yes! Paul Rosenberg states the problem so clearly! He hits so many points that ring true for me.

Rational problem-solving has ceased to be "serious", fallacious reasoning, a gap between what sounds reasonable initially and what can actually work, bias against "politically unviable" ideas, a prohibitive bias against reasonable alternatives, the discussion dominated by a non-solution while a real solution can't even be discussed.

Original thinkers, good problem solvers, effective conflict resolvers have tools that cannot be used by those who base their reasoning on some sort of dogma, whether political, religious, economic or ethical. 

Thanks for sharing, Ruth. I am reposting on Twitter. 

Political discourse and its deceitful uses:

Before the pessimists among us compile a modern-day Lamentations, keep in mind that the verbal violence employed by today's ruling classes replaces some of the physical violence employed by the ruling classes in the Middle Ages and earlier.

Why do I say that?

Back when I was considering a career in the law, an attorney told me he does the work once delegated by monarchs to their knights: do away with opponents:

We know the term "hired gun". An attorney might see her/himself as a hired writ.

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