THCB

Gruber’s Voters: Rational Ignorance

flying cadeuciiI 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.

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TalosStevearchon41Joel Hassman, MDAurthur Recent comment authors
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Talos
Guest
Talos

For me, it highlights the difference between business and government. In business, if the CEO gave what what was called the “lie of the year” and CFO publically stated “we deliberately wrote it so the auditors could not score it”, the SEC would be arresting them and the shareholder attorneys would be lining up to file lawsuits. With government, its okay to lie “for the greater good” and no one is arrested.

As Mel Brooks once said “It’s good to be the King.”

Steve
Guest
Steve

you started out describing rational ignorance–a choice not to learn–but ended up with lots of examples of willful ignorance–actively ignoring new information that you don’t like. People who want the government to keep their hands off Medicare are eventually going be told it is q government program but will willfully ignore this information.

lawyerdoctor
Guest

BTW, why are we all arguing about how the ACA got passed, or why it got passed, or if people like the fact that it got passed??

After all, we don’t need no stinkin Congress. We have Barry, with his pen and his phone. He can fix anything. Just ask him.

If he has the legal authority to wave his magic scepter and grant “amnesty” to 5 million lawbreakers, then why in the world did he waste his time trying to get a bill passed into law (even when Democrats controlled BOTH House and Senate)???

archon41
Guest
archon41

The polls seem to show that about 75% of those insured through the exchanges are tickled pink with their coverage. It is also said that some 80% of them are being subsidized. The fate of the ACA would now seem to rest with the millions who, aware that they are deemed unworthy of subsidy (that would be, by way of example, couples earning over $62,000 a year, pretax), fear being herded into the exchanges. They now know that the costs of insuring the previously uninsurable aren’t going to be magically funded by the insurers. No, that cost is to be… Read more »

Don Levit
Guest

Joel
Well said
The only correction I suggest is that passive indifference is a tautology
Can indifference ever be active?
Well on second thought I guess people can willfully actively and enthusiastically choose to be indifferent
That is scary
Don Levit

Joel Hassman, MD
Guest
Joel Hassman, MD

Comes down, per the author of this post for this thread, to arrogance and ignorance. So what is better for most Americans, active decit, or passive indifference?

And then you have the pontificators here who just want to distract with semantics, deflect with obtuse rhetoric, or minize with flimsy evidence.

But, everyone with a stake in keeping this farce of a law all deny oh so well.

Ignorance and arrogance, both depend on immature and irresponsible defenses. Hmm, just like the leaders they elect regularly. I guess America has the representation it deserves…

Paul Slobodian
Guest

I agree with Janna and BarrySanders20. It is very weird to extol the honesty of a guy who bragged to his group of insiders how he and his buddies pulled the wool over the electorate by lies, subterfuge and deception.

Janna
Guest
Janna

How is Obamacare not a fraud? 6M people have lost their insurance, despite the oft-repeated “if you like you plan you can keep your plan.” Not enough? “It’s not a tax, it’s a FEE” (c) Oops, turned out to be a tax after all.

How is Gruber honest? A guy who cheers the fact that “smart people in MA” have “ripped off the Feds” for $400M/year for Romneycare, and the “lack of transparency” that was instrumental in passing Obamacare is NOT my definition of an honest person, sorry.

Jeff Goldsmith
Guest
Jeff Goldsmith

Just as Leona Helmsley was sent to prison not for tax evasion but for her remark about how “only the little people pay taxes”, Gruber is being pilloried for his arrogance and suggesting that Americans are stupid, a pair of traits I expect are shared by many of his academic colleagues. The reality is that the Clinton reforms were killed by Congressional Budget Office scoring that scared off moderate Democratic votes. Obama’s staff worked overtime to reframe the ACA until it got the “right” CBO scores: ones that made it appear to reduce the deficit. The CBO played along. It… Read more »

Allan
Guest
Allan

It was simply excluding the variables that would make the ACA look bad. One might argue that doing so isn’t lying, but it certainly isn’t telling the truth making people rightfully suspicious of their government.

Saurabh Jha
Guest
Saurabh Jha

Thanks for reading!

I want to emphasize a few points.

First, I do think Gruber should be credited for his honesty. He is not a politician and has not behaved as one. I’m quite surprised by the vitriol against him. It’s as if we love honesty, but it must be within certain parameters!

This is neither a lie nor fraud, but politics. But healthcare cannot be reformed by pandering to politics.

I don’t think either side is entirely honest with regards to the ACA.

lawyerdoctor
Guest

I actually agree with your article about Gruber. He is guilty only of being an arrogant ivory tower type, which I believe he actually has admitted to previously. People should not be vilifying him, they should instead be marching toward Washington DC with torches and pitchforks. This is not just “politics,” however, anymore than Watergate was about “plumbers.” This is about LYING. The American people know they are not bright. They know they depend on the smart folks like Gruber to help make policy. But we elect people who are supposed to have the common sense, and the sense of… Read more »

BarrySanders20
Guest
BarrySanders20

Dr Jha has a strange definition of honesty. Gruber was caught bragging about deceiving people too dumb to understand the law he helped create. That apparently includes most of the idiots in Congress — all Democrats — who voted for the law. 26 of those D’s who voted in favor are no longer around in the Senate. Now THAT’s politics. Dr Jha also approves of Machiavellian tactics. The means are unimportant to Jha if the goal — “reforming healthcare”, whatever that means — is achieved. That’s good to know about someone advocating for public policy. As Nancy Pelosi famously said… Read more »

@BobbyGvegas
Guest

“As Nancy Pelosi famously said about the ACA, “We have to pass it to find out what’s in it.” __ The by-now totemic mis-quote. I knew what was in it when it was still H.R. 3200 in the House in 2009. __ “It may just turn out that Gruber was also speaking the truth when he said the subsidies are not available to those who buy through the federal exchange.” Also not true. The Section 1311(d)(1) “controversy” is a red herring, one whose transparent purpose is to try to flip Justice Roberts. 1321 supersedes 1311. SCOTUS long ago spoke to… Read more »

BarrySanders20
Guest
BarrySanders20

Talk about red herrings. Jha is lauding Gruber’s honesty. Years ago, Gruber said the law was written to encourage states to make the right choice when deciding to establish an exchange. Do it, and get subsidies for your state residents; don’t do it and suffer the consequences. Do you deny Gruber took this position in recorded statements? Or do you claim that Gruber — the Boy Genius, the Architect — was simply wrong when he said this (multiple times)? Jha wants to credit Gruber for his honesty about stupid voters. Why deny Gruber credit for his honesty about the way… Read more »

@BobbyGvegas
Guest

I really don’t care about the arrogant weaselwonk Gruber — a latter-day Ira Magaziner without the “charm.” When SCOTUS decides King v Burwell, it will be on the basis of Congressional Intent w/respect to federal HIX subsidy authority as set forth in the text, not Jonathan Gruber’s or the IRS’s intent — or any other tangential speculations. Both the language of PPACA Section 1321 and the written NFIB v Sebelius decision are rather clear.

Aurthur
Guest
Aurthur

“The problem is the moral certitude with which we deny our rational ignorance.”

Or, the problem is the absence of any morality on the left.

William Hersh, MD
Guest

Waivers and bribes, I wonder if the elderly Tea Party types feel that way about their Medicare?

@BobbyGvegas
Guest

I wrote and recorded a song about that very thing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR-w9LLpieM

Allan
Guest
Allan

I note William that you can’t make an argument that waivers and bribes aren’t true, but you can change the subject and blame someone else.

William Hersh, MD
Guest

Please explain how Obamacare is a FRAUD. Yes it is imperfect, but it has been the first program to seriously dent uninsurance in decades. People no longer have to worry about insurers canceling their policy when they get sick. Read Paul Krugman’s NYT op-ed today. Obamacare is a SUCCESS!

Allan
Guest
Allan

Waivers, bribes, etc. Basic totalitarian stuff.

Perry
Guest
Perry

Krugman’s always been a cheerleader for the ACA. He’d be on the Titanic going down saying “She’s unsinkable!”.

Janna
Guest
Janna

You guys are missing the point – it’s not a “policy disagreement” issue; it’s an issue of a massive FRAUD perpetrated on the American people. The guy admitted that the administration willfully lied to the CBO, let alone to the public. Does the end really justify such means to you, even if we assume the Republicans did not have any alternative solution? (Which is not true, BTW – there have been tons of alternatives proposed, but all shut down by the Dem-controlled Senate). “Come up with a better plan, or accept fraud” – a raw deal if I ever saw… Read more »

lawyerdoctor
Guest

finally someone who gets it.

The same people who SCREAMED for Bush’s head about the war in Iraq, are now perfectly willing to defend the govt lying to us all?

Lies are lies, and fraud is fraud, no matter who is the perpetrator. If I commit fraud, I’m pretty sure Obama’s DOJ will send me to prison. Why isn’t he in prison?

@BobbyGvegas
Guest

Uh, oh… we’re fixin’ to go all World Net Daily here…

William Hersh, MD
Guest

Blame Obama, blame Harry Reid. I will take Republican criticisms of Obamacare seriously when I see real plans come of the out House where they are in charge. Until then, they have no credibility and the imperfect Obamacare rules the day.

Allan
Guest
Allan

Repeal Obamacare and start anew.

“Obamacare rules the day.”…And how is that working out? Unaffordable deductibles, unaffordable copays, a debt that has reached the GDP. ‘Stupid’ Americans can only remain stupid for so long.

William Hersh, MD
Guest

Sorry folks. You can have policy disagreements with Obamacare, but please spare us that the ACA is some sort of secret plan to foist death panels, socialism, Ebola, etc. on America. If you have a better plan for fixing our broken healthcare system, please have your Republicans put it through the legislative process, since they have only offered “repeal” and not “replace.”

Allan
Guest
Allan

Many plans for the healthcare sector have been suggested for years, but that is impossible when ’stupidity’ reigns. It means nothing will pass the House or Senate. Just look at all the bills held up by Reid and not brought up to the Senate. In the end things must be bipartisan with strong majorities as whatever is suggested will be vetoed. A healthcare plan covers an entire nation and involves intimate personal decisions so it should not be passed in a dictatorial fashion like so many ‘stupidly’ believe is a fashionable method. It should be passed with a wide majority… Read more »

@BobbyGvegas
Guest

Love it. In Dr. Cochran’s new book “The Doctor Crisis,” he makes note of the material difference separating “cynics” from “dissenters.” THCB comments tend to be overpopulated with the former — most of them hiding behind untraceable screen names.

“If you have a better plan for fixing our broken healthcare system”

Read Jack Cochran’s book. I’ve just reviewed it on my blog.

Don Levit
Guest

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Don Levit,CLU,ChFC

lawyerdoctor
Guest

Ok, tell you what:

I (as a fiscal conservative and libertarian) will GLADLY admit that I do not feel that the ACA was devised to secretly “foist death panels and ebola” on us.

IF YOU, as a non-transparent dogmatic defender of Obama, will admit that the ACA is actually based on lies and affirmative deceit. Should you also feel that “the ends justify the means” (i.e., a President and Congress knowingly lying to the American people is ok), then I have just a couple of words for you: “Iraq war.”

@BobbyGvegas
Guest

If you’re referring to me, I was no big fan of the PPACA, which I’ve dubbed “AHIPcare.” That’s on the record.

http://bgladd.blogspot.com/2009/08/public-optional.html

Moreover, Obama was not my 1st choice for Prez. I worried about his “thin file.”

lawyerdoctor
Guest

Sorry BobbyG, my reply was intended for Dr. Hersh.