Gov. Scott Walker
Charles Auer, Waukesha Freeman/AP
If Wisconsin's Walker is not recalled
- Article by: ELLEN HOERLE
- June 4, 2012 - 9:27 PM
In Friday's newspaper, Kurt Bauer, president of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, was quoted as saying, "If we recall Governor Walker for doing something that was difficult but necessary -- it's a bad omen for the rest of the nation." ("The right finds its champion," June 1.)
Sadly, I believe just the opposite is true. If Wisconsin voters fail to recognize that Gov. Scott Walker's actions were neither difficult nor necessary, it will only further embolden other Republicans to continue to promote agendas that appeal to deep-seated prejudices among the electorate but fail to solve any significant public policy problem whatsoever.
In addition, if Walker survives today's recall election, too much credit will be given to the large amounts of money that have been spent -- $62 million and counting -- but I believe that the amount of money being spent on political campaigns could be made irrelevant if voters decided to do just one thing -- check their answer.
Reading the book "Thinking, Fast and Slow," by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate, has helped me gain remarkable insights as to how we make decisions. Kahneman develops two conceptual constructs of the mind: System 1, intuitive and emotional (Fast), and System 2, deliberative and logical (Slow), then uses these artificial constructs to explain which part of the mind is working at different times in the decisionmaking process.
He notes how the answer to a simple puzzle, included in a questionnaire given to thousands of college students, demonstrates how unreliable our intuitive thinking can be:
A bat and ball cost $1.10.
The bat costs one dollar more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?
For most, the first answer that comes to mind is 10 cents -- an answer, Kahneman explains, "that is intuitive, appealing, and wrong." A simple quick calculation proves the point: If the ball costs 10 cents, the bat costs $1.10 and the total is $1.20. Kahneman notes that more than 50 percent of students at Harvard, MIT and Princeton give the intuitive -- incorrect -- answer, and at less-selective universities, the rate of incorrect answers is in excess of 80 percent.
In other words, too many presumably bright students fail to check their answer.
They fail to engage System 2, the deliberative and logical part of the mind, and allow the answer their System 1 has quickly and intuitively provided to stand unquestioned.
Kahneman summarizes his recurrent theme: "Many people are overconfident, prone to place too much faith in their intuitions" and "find cognitive effort ... mildly unpleasant and avoid it as much as possible."
I theorize then that if Walker wins the recall election, it is because the majority of Wisconsinites failed to do what was difficult but necessary -- check their answer.
It takes no cognitive effort whatsoever to believe that Walker's stated agenda -- to save taxpayer money -- goes hand-in-hand and is inseparable from the need to weaken or destroy union power.
That's because general public sentiment concerning unions is that they promote inefficiency, protect incompetent workers, and provide no value to the business or government entities where they exist that justifies their higher wage and benefit costs.
In other words, Walker has exploited the intuitive nature of our decisionmaking to easily convince some that it is necessary to weaken union power in order to save taxpayer money.
But if voters have "checked" their initial perception, they realize these two ideas are separate. The savings to Wisconsin taxpayers from Act 10 is because public union members must now contribute 6 percent of their salaries to their pensions and pay 12 percent of their health insurance premiums.
The other two significant parts of Act 10 -- removing collective bargaining rights and removing automatic union due collection -- were not necessary to force the unions to accept the money saving "concessions."
More likely, it was union members' desire to save jobs that made them more willing to accept the effective wage and benefit cut.
If we as voters can be led astray so easily, though, our votes will be used to justify the pursuit of unnecessary and corrupting agendas that enrage us to distraction but serve no useful public policy function.
Ellen Hoerle is a writer in Eden Prairie. She blogs at www.yesiampayingattention.com.
© 2013 Star Tribune