[Paleopsych] short term thinking

Michael Christopher anonymous_animus at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 5 19:12:40 UTC 2004

>>Spending less on bombs or on personal consumption
frees up money for other pressing uses, but only if
 everyone does it.<<

--This seems to be the type of problem that
characterizes the transition into this century. When
everyone is doing something that makes sense in purely
selfish terms but undermines the safety of the whole,
how do people decide where to put their energy? When
"everyone's doing it", what enables someone to do what
everyone SHOULD be doing, rather than what everyone IS

We all know that shopping at WalMart takes money away
from people who have more personal investment in their
community, people who work hard to live the American
dream but lack the power of a mega-store. But we shop
there anyway (I've been there twice, after swearing
I'd never go, because they're cheap and big). SUVs eat
gas and make it very hard for people in smaller cars
to see around corners and to feel safe in traffic...
we buy them even when we know the money goes to the
Saudis. Why? Not because we like the consequences, but
because we compartmentalize the consequences, and we
play a game in which selfish choices are rationalized
as "making no difference because to change would
require everyone to change at once." 

Is there a point where everyone DOES change at once?
Or will a society march into the abyss, making small
selfish choices out of the belief that nobody else
will cooperate in changing the game?

>>What, exactly, is the incentive problem that leads
nations to spend too much on armaments?<<

--Fear, guilt and status insecurity. Fear is
self-explanatory, guilt often leads to more of the
behavior which triggers it (mastering an emotion by
deliberately invoking it) and insecurity leads to
behavior which may make no rational sense but makes
sense on the level of symbolism and display. We drive
SUVs because they make us feel secure, even if they
make us less secure in real terms. We take the guilt
and displace it toward a scapegoat. "No
environmentalist sissy is going to tell ME what to
drive!" Making it possible to keep passing the buck
until consequences become intolerable.

Whenever there is a disconnect between short term and
long term rationalizing, there is inevitably a point
where compartmentalized realities clash. That point
can cause a lot of strange behavior.


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