Coyne v. Wells on the ‘alleged outbreak of civility’ in Parliament

“I’ll take substance with nastiness over civil emptiness, anytime…”

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Coyne v. Wells on the ‘alleged outbreak of civility’ in Parliament

  1. The fly-by-nighter who did the rudeness study is Alex Sevigny.

  2. Humans are difficult to understand, maybe it is human behaviour that makes pols act the way they do.

    Civility might be impossible because uncivil are winning elections and civil losers are sitting on sidelines talking about fairness and incivility. 

    Behaving like jackasses probably gets pols elected!

    Science Daily, May 20, 2011

    When people have power, they act the part. Powerful people smile less, interrupt others, and speak in a louder voice. When people do not respect the basic rules of social behavior, they lead others to believe that they have power, according to a study in the current Social Psychological and Personality Science.

    People with power have a very different experience of the world than people without it. The powerful have fewer rules to follow, and they live in environments of money, knowledge and support. People without power live with threats of punishment and firm limits according to the research team lead by Gerben Van Kleef of the University of Amsterdam. 

    Because the powerful are freer to break the rules — does breaking the rules seem more powerful?

    People read about a visitor to an office who took a cup of employee coffee without asking or about a bookkeeper that bent accounting rules. The rule breakers were seen as more in control, and powerful compared to people who didn’t steal the coffee, or didn’t break bookkeeping rules.

    • It’s a pretty depressing result. I agree that trying to change the system so that ‘nice guys’ end up in politics is somewhat futile.

  3. Coyne: Interesting that you mentioned Free Trade towards end and how we don’t talk about it because it seems normal now. Reading Postrel book at moment and she writes about 1970′s and how conservatives have won economic argument since that decade, thank god!

    Free trade not controversial because many people are aware of alternatives to free market. 

    Conservatives won economic debate and now we have to go after social policy and that’s why there is incivility across the land. Economic issues decided, battle for social policy now. 

    —————-
    One Best Way:

    “To see how dramatically attitudes have changed, consider the following 1974 news report on the Nixon administration’s plans to deal with energy shortages:

    What happens when spring’s heavy driving begins depends on when word can be passed to U.S. refineries to start cutting back on production of heating oil and increasing output of gasoline. That decision, which could come at any time, is up to Federal Energy Office chief William E. Simon. 

    One of his aides says:”It’s absolutely critical. If we decide to trigger the switch to gasoline and a long cold wave hits, heating-oil stocks might not last to spring. Heaven help us if we’re wrong.”

    Meanwhile Simon and his staff are putting final touches on the Administration’s gasoline-rationing plan….

    The number of gallons a driver would be allotted is to depend on where he lives. Those in rural areas, or in urban communities of less than 100,000 people, would get the most. Drivers in large cities with good mass transit would get the least.

    Present estimates by the Federal Energy Office show a gasoline shortage of 1.2 million barrels a day, or about 20 per cent below normal demand. At that rate, officials say the maximum ration per driver would be 41 gallons a month. Residents of cities with fair mass-transit facilities would get 37 gallons, while those in areas with good mass transit would get 33 gallons.”

    As a description of the U.S. government at work—under a Republican administration, no less—this perfectly routine news story reads like science fiction.

    Only a quarter-century ago, however, it was an obvious truth that central bureaucrats could efficiently decide when refineries should switch from heating oil to gasoline and could wisely allocate gasoline supplies, carefully differentiating between drivers who needed thirty-seven gallons a month and those who required forty-one. Such technocratic manipulations were not limited to Soviet-style planning.

    “The enemies of the market are…not the socialists,” wrote the economist John Kenneth Galbraith in his influential 1967 book, The New Industrial State.

    • I think the real problem is that conservatives (not Conservatives) own economic theory. It’s bizarre. Liberals should not be suspicious of economics–it’s a tool to help us achieve our social goals. It’s like thinking physics is conservative and liberals being suspicious of it.

      There are plenty of important lessons we can take from economics. One I wish we would take is that subsidies are almost always a bad idea. Another is that taxes should be as efficient as possible: social goals can be achieved by transfers to poor people.

      If both sides embraced economics, free trade would be thoroughly uncontroversial. We could agree that unilaterally eliminating trade barriers is in our interests, regardless of what other countries do. 

      For that matter, conservatives should be able to agree that a fiscally-neutral carbon tax would not be a disaster. If the revenues of a carbon tax were used to reduce inefficient taxes like corporate and personal income taxes, a carbon tax could well have a positive economic impact over the medium term. And none of this requires a judgement on whether or not carbon dioxide emissions are a problem. A carbon tax is a lot like a consumption tax.

      • “Another is that taxes should be as efficient as possible: social goals can be achieved by transfers to poor people.”

        No social goals, please. Whatever they are, I can guarantee I don’t want to participate. 

        Instead of constantly trying to manipulate people into doing things they are not inclined to do, why not a flat tax and guaranteed minimum income and we eliminate all other social programs. Treat people above age 18 as adults, and not children who need to be parented, and this will make people happier. 

        How do we make taxes efficient when we don’t understand people? 

        Correlations/causations are not going to be very good when we don’t understand how genetics make people behave.

        • You might be surprised to hear that I support a GAI, but not necessarily a flat tax. I also tend to agree with being fairly hands off except in a few areas where people often make poor decisions that have negative consequences for others or society as a whole. Say, not saving enough for retirement to ensure they are not then a burden on society (putting us in the ethical quandary of letting them rot on the streets or giving them other people’s money). In that situation, the CPP is entirely justified.

          By social goals, I meant something more generic like ‘low absolute poverty’, and ‘moderate inequality’ and not prescribing what kind of toothpaste people use.

          ‘How do we make taxes efficient when we don’t understand people?’

          We have a very good understanding of the economic efficiency of taxes in that strict definition of the term (as I intended it). In this case, it refers to the size of the deadweight loss associated with the tax, which is the economic drag that is not accounted for in government revenues. It’s essentially ‘waste’.

          We don’t understand particle physics. It doesn’t stop us from doing engineering. You don’t need to know precisely how humans work, even if that were an attainable goal, to use validated models of how they behave.

          • Why need CPP if we have guaranteed income? Leave people alone, we don’t have all the answers.

            going out to dinner, talk again another time.

  4. Jack Layton wasn’t the only party leader to vow to have their entire caucus behave more civilly…

  5. If the upcoming parliament is actually more civil – I do hope so – I’ll be disappointed if the major reason is the majority status:  this implies that folks can only be civil when it is easy, and that during the more challenging minority governments MPS just don’t have “what it takes” to be civil.

    • Hate to tell you, but it will be because of the majority. :(

  6. There are MPs who behave badly.  They make false accusations at the drop of a hat and then expect civil replies.   Two of the more outrageous offenders were re-elected (Wayne Easter and Pat Martin).  Why do many members of the media encourage their nonsense rather than shaming them?

  7. If there’s anyone I would listen to talk politics for six hours, it’s you two.

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