lunedì 4 gennaio 2016

Enlightenment 2.0. di Joseph Heath - terzi Tabarrock

Enlightenment 2.0. di Joseph Heath - terzi Tabarrock
  • Reason has come under attack in the past century from both the left—who deride it as phallocentric and imperialist—and from the right, who deride it as being for pointy-headed nerds who pale beside gutsy “deciders.” At the same time, psychologists such as Dan Ariely and Jonathan Haidt tell us that we aren’t very rational anyway, we are predictably irrational and a slave to our passions, while writers like David Brooks and Malcolm Gladwell valorize intuition and the power of the unconscious. The problem with all this, as Heath writes, is that: the world that we live in today is both unnatural and highly unintuitive
  • Enlightenment 2.0 is split into three parts. In Part One, Heath contrasts the heuristics and biases of the intuitive mind with the reasoning mind. Much of this material will be familiar from books such as Daniel Kahneman’s
  • Part Two, Heath argues that reason faces attack not only from ideological opponents but also from commercial. Heath gives us an interesting analysis of the classic underground movie, Idiocracy
  • Nevertheless, by focusing on advertising, Heath sees only one facet of the relationship between markets and rationality. Markets may want and sometimes even generate irrational consumers but markets also want and sometimes even generate rational producers.  Work is where rationality is most evident in our lives and, by and large, markets reward education, IQ and reasoning ability
  • I share Heath’s concern but think it important to emphasize that on balance, capitalism and its demand for efficiency, productivity and growth is one of our strongest defenses against the irrational.
  • Heath also thinks that, on balance, reason supports the left, which is one motivating factor in his attack on conservatism and the irrationality of appeals to religion and intuition. Thus it’s a problem for Heath that the most prominent exponent of both reason and capitalism in the twentieth century was novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand.
  • It’s also worth noting that of the three political groupings in America today—conservatives, liberals and libertarians—it’s the libertarians who are the most rational
  • Heath is also too sanguine about the role of politics. Irrationality in politics is more severe than in markets because of two problems, rational ignorance and rational irrationality.
  • If the tools of propaganda are the same in markets and politics, why are the results so different? Expanding waistlines in the former, and death and destruction in the latter? Most importantly, firms may try to trick us by appeal to the bugs and heuristics of our unreasoning mind but politics has access to the ultimate override of reason, force
  • Part Three, Heath turns towards solutions. It’s the most disappointing section of the book because Heath offers only minor proposals. If Heath’s proposals are the best we can do, then we may really be in trouble. 
  • In markets, Heath offers as his paradigmatic example of a solution….New York City’s ban on selling soda in cups larger than 16 ounces.
  • Occorrono soluzioni più radicali. Partisan bias greatly diminishes when voters are told that they will be paid if they answer correctly. Betting is a more reliable guarantor of objectivity than voting. Or, as I once wrote, “A bet is a tax on bullshit.
  • Heath’s conservatism leads him to think that people can’t become more rational than they are now. But if we look around the world today we see people being burned alive for their beliefs.