19 February 2017

Low-effort Thinkers

Senator Tom Cotten, a Republican from Arkansas, recently took to the Senate floor to denounce the border adjustment tax Paul Ryan has been promoting. While Cotten, along with others, made some good points about the effect of the tax, Cotten also said something very telling. He said “some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could believe them.”

A few years ago, Cotten's home state University of Arkansas conducted a study to determine the approaches conservatives and liberals take toward analyzing public policy proposals. They tested self-described conservatives and liberals by asking them to consider public issues under various stages of stress. They found, as stress levels increased, the opinions of the liberals became more like those of the conservatives. In other words, as thinking about the issues became harder, liberals became more conservative. While none of the researchers said so, the clear implication of the work was that conservatives are low-effort thinkers. They want public policies that are easy to believe not hard to understand. Tom Cotten's statement, that “some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could believe them” clearly reflects that phenomenon. He seems to believe an idea intellectuals prefer is "stupid."

I'd like to think that our legislators don't think that way but after what we've seen coming from the Republicans I think they do. They want to give their supporters public policies that are easy to believe because low-effort thinkers can't handle anything that's hard to understand.