This is probably one of the most prevalent Public Irrationalities out there, so it behooves me to get it out of the way.
(Am I the only one who loves finding an excuse to say "it behooves me"? ;)
When it comes to articulating it simply, this particular irrationality has probably been pointed out the most, but inexplicably that hasn’t prevented its ridiculously continuous use as a "good reason" for various (bad) public policies. But since one of the people to point this one out loud and clear was Albert Einstein, we’ll show some deference by using his quote:
"Insanity [is] doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
…In practice, this translates into the irrational assumption that IF WHAT WE’RE DOING ISN’T WORKING, WE NEED TO DO MORE OF IT.
How often do your public policy-makers ask you to be insane, by Einstein’s definition? How often have you heard, We’ve had this war on drugs for decades and the drug problem is worse than ever. Obviously we need a BIGGER war on drugs!? Or another good one you hear a lot in the US of A, "We imprison more of our citizens than almost any other country, third-world included, and yet our crime rates keep going up! Quick! Build more prisons!"
Why, just this morning I heard the Federal government insisting that, since the military invasion tactics began in 2004 as a response to terrorism in the Middle East, the terrorism problem has grown worse, including an overall strengthening of Al Qaeda, the terrorist network that it was supposedly our goal to destroy.
Their answer to this conundrum? MORE MILITARY ACTION! We mustn’t change strategies NOW!
Not when it’s obviously…not working…at all…
It’s a bit early to say this, but this might be the Irrationality that I would give the most to have go away. It’s mind-bogglingly stupid, and people are WAY too smart to be falling for it as regularly as they do. The only reason it persists, I think, is because it’s an easy way to trick an audience that isn’t listening into thinking that A follows from B, even though the exact opposite is true. Basically you just say, "A therefore B!" in a big enough voice enough times, and eventually the Sheep take up the chorus…Two legs bad! Four legs good!…no matter how completely nonsensical the message actually is.
In short, this problem would go away completely, if people would just listen to the words they’re being told. I don’t think it’s an issue of stupidity or ignorance. A child of eight could show you why this Irrationality makes bad policy. The problem is simply that people aren’t listening, so they aren’t hearing how ridiculous the conclusions they’re being asked to draw are.
At least, that’s how I’m going to choose to see it. I would freak out if I thought people were really that dumb, but honesly, I don’t. I think it’s just too easy to get busy with other things and stop paying attention.
But whatever the reason, I bet that, at least for the foreseeable future, the Drug War continues, and the military action in the Middle East gains more support, not less, due to the report out today regarding how poorly it’s working. Bad habits die harder than a heavily-armored American soldier in a humvee in the Green Zone. Unfortunately.