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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

 

A Dunning-Kruger party

by Tom Sullivan

We discussed the Dunning-Kruger effect here before we had a Dunning-Kruger presidency. It is "a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is." Simply put, they are too ignorant to know how ignorant they are. Like the American tourist who was glad they'd put Stonehenge close to the road so the stones weren't a long walk from the parking. That person is now president. Donald Trump and his family are proving the Dunning-Kruger effect is not limited to individuals with limited education. (See Andrew Jackson.)

But this threshold effect has observable corollaries. People so developmentally immature they cannot see just how immature their behavior appears to those around them. People so amoral, they cannot grasp how amoral they are.

Case in point, one Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama and member of the Freedom Caucus, commenting on placing people with preexisting conditions into high-risk pools in the revised Trumpcare bill. Citing "states' rights," Brooks says he is a yes vote for the retooled legislation [timestamp 2:01]

Brooks tells CNN's Jack Tapper:

“It will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

Jonathan Chait observes that this "idea that morality dictates healthy people pay less, and sick people more" is not new. He quotes Whole Food's libertarian owner John Mackey's criticism of Obamacare for not requiring more personal responsibility, responding:

Of course, you can’t pay your own way if you’re too poor or sick to afford your own projected medical costs. Indeed, sometimes people who are healthy at the moment find one day they are not, or they have a sick child, or maybe they simply want to have a baby. (The cost of bearing children is another one Republicans want to be borne entirely by those doing it.) The Republican plan expresses one of the core beliefs shared by movement conservatives, and utterly alien to people across the globe, right and left: that people who can’t afford the cost of their own medical care have nobody to blame but themselves.
The sentiment harkens back to Peter Marin's October 1975 article in Harper's, "The New Narcissism." Marin examines the human potential movement where people are taught the joys of self love and that with right thinking they are the masters of their fate. At California's Easlen Institute:
... I listen for two hours in a graduate seminar to two women therapists explaining to me how we are all entirely responsible for our destinies, and how the Jews must have wanted to be burned by the Germans, and that those who starve in the Sahel must want it to happen, and when I ask them whether there is anything we owe to others, say, to a child starving in the desert, one of them snaps at me angrily: "What can I do if a child is determined to starve?"

That, precisely, is what I am talking about here: the growing solipsism and desperation of a beleaguered class, the world view emerging among us centered solely on the self and with individual survival as its sole good. It is a world view present not only in everything we say and do, but as an ambience, a feeling in the air, a general cast of perception and attitude: a retreat from the worlds of morality and history, an unembarrassed denial of human reciprocity and community.
That was over 40 years ago. And here we are. I wrote at my first blog in 2008:
It's the same disdain for the fate of others perceived as not as "responsible" as ourselves that is reflected in much of what I hear from conservative colleagues. It's dog whistle politics, code-speak for saying these Irresponsibles have made choices that place them outside the velvet ropes of middle-class convention, including - and rarely mentioned aloud - poor choice of parents, national origin, religion and skin color.
"They should just die" is a sentiment I've heard from Trump supporters on the ground about those they consider lessers, completely unaware how cold and amoral they appear. But within the echo chamber, from within a culture focused on me, my family, my job, my friends, my church, etc., that sentiment gets reinforced as normal. It is hard today to know whether New Agers picked up this thinking from conservatives or the other way around. How would Brooks the Freedom Caucus Alabaman respond to knowing his sentiments may have roots in California?

Update:

Jimmy Kimmel's son was born last week with congenital heart failure. He had this to say about it last night:
“I want to say one other thing. President Trump, last month, proposed a $6 billion cut in funding to the NIH. And thank God our Congressmen made a deal last night to not go along with that. They actually increased funding by $2 billion, and I applaud them for doing that. Because more than 40% of the people who would have been affected by those cuts at the National Institute of Health are children, and it would have a major impact on a lot of great places, including Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Which is so unbelievably sad to me. We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to healthcare at all.

Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a pre-existing condition. And if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition. If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it should matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right? I mean, we do.

Whatever your party, whatever you believe, whoever you support, we need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us, the people who are meeting about this right now in Washington, understand that very clearly. Let’s stop with the nonsense. This isn’t football. There are no teams. We are the team. It’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants. We need to take care of each other. I saw a lot of families there and no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here. So. Anyway. Thank you for listening. I promise I’m not going to cry for the rest of the show.”