January 17, 2006
In Tech Central Station (via Instapundit), Arnold Kling has begun a series of essays aimed at reaching out to liberals, most of whom are prone to put down conservatives without seriously considering the merits of the argument. He brings up a problem known as "confirmation bias," the common human tendency to pay more attention to things that reinforce our ingrained beliefs, and vice versa. He discusses the recent passage by the Maryland legislature (overriding the veto of Gov. Bob Ehrlich) of a law requiring Wal-Mart to pay higher health benefits to its workers. The law did not specify Wal-Mart by name, but its criteria were obviously aimed at that company and no one else. Kling applies cool logic to show why this measure will almost certainly backfire, reducing take-home pay and/or job opportunities for low-skill people. That outcome seems not to matter to folks who derive pleasure from sticking it to the evil big corporations, however. Is there any way to get through to people who base policy preferences on crude emotion?
Ultimately, I think, Kling's patient, earnest approach will yield better results than the strident, tit-for-tat rhetoric of those such as Ann Coulter, author of How to Talk to a Liberal (see amazon.com).
New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin is veering dangerously close to the "unmentionable wacko" category I established last week. He took the occasion of Martin Luther King's birthday to say that last year's hurricanes showed that "God is mad at America." Then he promised to keep New Orleans a "chocolate" city. How would people react if a white mayor in a similar situation pledged to keep whites a majority in his city? Obviously, we as a people are far from living up to King's dream of a society that is blind with respect to skin color. See Yahoo news (via Phil Faranda).