Glenn Harlan Reynolds Kicks It Up A Notch: Unpatriotic Voters Elect Unpatriotic Leaders

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Glenn Harlan Reynolds writes: Last week, Rudy Giuliani mused about whether President Obama loves America, musings that produced immediate media backlash as beyond the pale. Some thought this was proof of Republican racism. (Never mind that Obama had accused President Bush of being “unpatriotic” back in 2008). Others gloated that Giuliani had “trolled” the media into spending five days debating Obama’s patriotism.

My own take: Of course Obama loves America. After all, you always hurt the one you love.

But, seriously, why do we care? That is, why do we spend time looking at presidents — and others — based on irrational emotional attachments that are hard to assess, rather than looking at things like credentials that are easy to assess, and arguably more directly related to the job, than things like patriotism, or loyalty, or honesty? Why can’t we just be rational about these things?

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“Of course Obama loves America. After all, you always hurt the one you love.”

Maybe because, as Robert Frank suggested in an underappreciated book some years ago, Passions Within Reason: The Strategic Role Of The Emotions, we don’t want to be totally rational about things because, ironically, it’s not rational to be too rational.

Imagine that you’re thinking of getting married. Would you want a spouse who sticks with you for purely rational reasons, or one who forms an irrational attachment — let’s call it “love” — that doesn’t depend on rational factors? 4831728106_obama_snob_xlarge

Most people would say the latter. A purely rational attachment is nice, but if things change — say, if you become sick, or unattractive, or broke — a rationally attached person might rationally choose to leave. A person who loves you, on the other hand, might stick around anyway, because being parted from you, even if some of your charms have vanished, would cause emotional pain, while helping you feels good.

Likewise, you’d like to hire an honest employee, one who will feel guilty about stealing from you. A rational employee won’t steal if there’s a danger of being caught, but an honest one won’t steal even when he can get away with it, because if he does he will feel guilty, while if he resists temptation he will feel virtuous.

A person who is perfectly rational about costs and benefits, with no irrational constraints like loyalty or honesty (or patriotism), is a person who will lie, cheat and steal whenever he or she can get away with it. A sociopath, basically.

Since we can’t keep an eye on everyone we deal with all of the time, we look for other traits, boiling down, essentially, to a conscience, that will ensure that they are more likely to act properly even when nobody’s watching. And if that’s important in a spouse or employee, it’s also pretty important in people, like political leaders, who….(read more)

USAToday

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself.

 

 


One Comment on “Glenn Harlan Reynolds Kicks It Up A Notch: Unpatriotic Voters Elect Unpatriotic Leaders”

  1. Paul H. Lemmen says:

    Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.


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