May 14, 2012

Americans. even #teaparty, want to be #Sweden

Just don't call it Sweden if it is.

Americans, by a good margin, say they want the same relatively low level of economic inequality as Sweden has today.  But, to  riff on an old conservative pot-boiler, “None dare call it Sweden.”

Behavioral psychologist Dan Ariely takes a close look at the cognitive dissonance and disconnects behind this. 

And, how bad is the disconnect? This bad ... even Tea Partiers must want to live in Sweden, given overall percentages:
In Dan Ariely’s study (with Michael Norton of the Harvard Business School), 92 percent of us Americans want to live Swedish-style instead. Women (93 percent in favor of the Swedish model) are a ever so slightly more egalitarian than men (90 percent for Sweden). But the results come out very nearly the same — Republicans and Democrats, richer and poorer, NPR listeners and readers of Forbes Magazine.
There it is. But, in today's Tea Party-toxic America, “None dare call it Sweden.”
He also takes close look at the huge ignorance of many Americans, who don’t know that not only are we not the most economically equal country in the world, but we’re not even close; we’re near Tunisia, in fact, a country that had a revolution based in part on that.

Ariely doesn’t speculate on the cause of that, but I will — American exceptionalism. We can’t be that unequal, especially if God has shed his grace on we, to boot.

Ariely does, though, speculate on how long it will take such attitudes to change in America, though. And his answer is sobering at best, horrifically sad at worst. He says, riffing on Moses and Israel in the desert, that it’s going to take a full generation, and for the same reason as in that legend — we need a bunch of people to die before these economic exceptionalism myths also die.

Part of me that is both skeptical and cynical is thinking that Ariely's estimate is generous: a generation might not be long enough, instead of the 40 years taken literally. 

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