I think it’s fair to say Jonathan Gruber will not be offered the role of Pinocchio. Although intelligence agencies, in search of the truth serum, might have an interest in the ingredients of what he drinks.
Please put away the pitchforks. Gruber deserves credit for honesty and bipartisanship. Plus a complete rejection of Disneyland economics. If you’re looking for transparency, the other face of honesty, Gruber is ground zero.
‘Stupidity’, though, was an unfortunate choice of noun. And inaccurate. Gruber should have said ‘rational ignorance’ or ‘boundless optimism in technocracy,’ which describes most voters in any democracy.
‘Rational ignorance’ sounds smart. The cognoscenti know what you’re trying to get at. And the rationally ignorant, well they’re rationally ignorant. The term means something we do all the time: that is we can’t be bothered to seek information whether something is factually correct or not. It’s an information heuristic (mental short cut).
Imagine the information overload if we were presented itemized bills for everything we consumed in a restaurant. We’d know the costs of transporting that fine rack of lamb to the city, of its slaughter, of cleaning the abattoir after the slaughter. But to what avail is this information?
Unless you’re a payer hunting for pseudofraud, granularity is a nuisance. So that to avoid long term anhedonia from figuring CBO’s myriad calculations from magical Keynesian models we watch the Kardashians instead.
When you’re rationally ignorant you can be duped. Or rationally duped. But here is the key point: we choose what we allow ourselves to be duped about. No one can fool us twice without our consent.
I love a certain technology: MRI of the heart. It pays my electricity bills. Show me a study that shows this technology is beneficial and I’ll gloss over the methodology. Show me a study that casts an aspersion on its efficacy and I’ll become a pit bull terrier of methodology and conclude: a) the study was underpowered for the effect size and b) more research is needed.
My rational ignorance is not equal. There is a value component to it. I am rationally ignorant about statements that are egosyntonic with my utopia.
To those who believe that ACA will somehow cut costs whilst expanding coverage and access you can’t say ‘if you believe that you’ll believe anything.’ Because they won’t believe anything. They’re not stupid. They’re rationally ignorant.
People who couldn’t see the indifference between a mandate and a tax, and many still couldn’t see it when Justice Roberts pointed the obvious, aren’t so gullible that you can sell snake oil. They’re rationally ignorant.
People who marched against the ACA with that priceless placard ‘Government, hands off my Medicare,’ aren’t script writers for Monty Python. They’re rationally ignorant.
The problem isn’t that we’re rationally ignorant. The problem is how selective and predictable our rational ignorance has become. The problem is the ease with which we can access echo chambers which endorse this selectivity. The problem is the moral certitude with which we deny our rational ignorance.
Gruber, on the other hand, knows his biases, acknowledges them, and says ‘yes the ends justify the means.’ This is intellectual honesty 101. You may not like his means but how can you not muster a tincture of admiration for this man AND claim a desire for transparency?
Rational ignorance, I suppose.