Psychology, Philosophy, and Policy

In 1 on January 25, 2010 at 8:28 am

I was watching the Sunday News programs today and heard an interesting comment from one of the talking heads.  They were “judging” Obama’s record so far, especially the stimulus, and they, of course were having a balanced conversation because there were people representing both sides.  One of them commented that in FDR’s first month, the economy grew despite the fact that no policy had been implemented yet.  The guy on the other side said that, therefore, FDR should not get credit for that.  One said it was psychology and the other guy claimed psychology is not policy.

Really?  Psychology is not policy?  Alan Greenspan said that it never occurred to him that companies would not act in their own best interest which is what led to his policies over the years.  He  also said years before that if he could predict fear and exuberance, he would not need any economic model to predict the economy.

Psychology is policy and it is the refusal of people to accept this that causes so many problems.  The science is clear that in each of us are conflicting interests fighting for control.  No matter how much we want to believe we can overcome this with intellect, history tells us we are, if not slaves, then at least puppets to the inner conflicts.  And when we create laws or policies, we are simply acting out our psychology.  Why?  Because our psychology fools us and it is often the hardwiring of childhood experiences.

Over the last year, I have been involved in turning around a building full of people who worked there and the people who paid to be members.  It is pretty clear to me that we needed a very simple policy to turn things around.  That policy?  To have fun.  We turned the numbers around in only a few months.  And while we, of course, paid attention to the numbers, they were simply the result of people once again having fun.

Until our leaders understand that psychology is, in fact, policy we will be sold “ideas” that are nothing more than ideology born out of the hardwiring of the past.  Until we remember that philosophy is simply the love of wisdom, we will forget that policy, that ideas, demand that we actually know something.

Worst of all for a capitalist society, we will never know how to act in our own best interest.  That is a pillar of capitalism that we somehow let the politicians and financiers steal from us.

Thomas Paine wrote that society is how we fulfill our wants while government is meant to protect us from our vices.  What could be more about psychology?  And Newt Gingrich often talks about how the Founding Fathers were brilliant because they started with human beings in mind when they wrote the Constitution.  Coach K from the Duke basketball team once said:

You have a chance for everyone to have ownership.  That’s the ultimate goal.  Where a team is owned by everyone on that team.  It’s always we. Psychology is the most important factor.  What happens in sport a lot and it happens in business as well, people try to learn the business or they learn the sport, the X’s and O’s and all that.  The amount of time they spend on that is so disproportional to the time they spend learning about people.  Yet these are the people who make the X’s and O’s work.

So don’t tell me psychology is not policy.  It is the mother and father of policy.


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