Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's nice to be liked but it's better by far to get paid

The psychology research discussed in this article is quite interesting. It addresses the urge to punish, and how such an urge might have evolutionary advantages.

The urge to take revenge or punish cheaters,” said Michael McCullough, a professor of psychology at the University of Miami and author of the book “Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct,” “is not a disease or toxin or sign that something has gone wrong. From the point of view of evolution, it’s not a problem but a solution.

It also suggests that forgiveness might ultimately outweigh punishment as the basic human response to misbehavior.

“The forgiveness instinct is every bit as wired in as the revenge instinct,” he said. “It seems that our minds work very hard to get away from resentment, if we can.”

That's swell. My problem with the article, though, is that it purportedly is explaining why many Americans opposed the economic bailout (I'm sorry, I mean "rescue") plan.

The public urge for punishment that helped delay the passage of Washington’s economic rescue plan is more than a simple case of Wall Street loathing

There are two big flaws with this reasoning. The first is this: Many people, myself included, opposed the bailout (rescue) for reasons unrelated to punishment but instead related to basic economic principles. Basically, I feel a free market economic system works better than a government run system (unlike many with similar beliefs, I do not feel the government is malicious. I just feel it generally incompetent). The second flaw is more bizarre, and deals with the meaning of the word punishment. If failure to give somebody money is punishment, then I am constantly punishing people. Not only did I try to punish "Wall Street" last week by not giving them money, I also punished my nephew Joey, for I also failed to give him money. And unless you (whoever the hell you are) gave me money, you, by this reasoning, also punished me (you vindictive son of a bitch!). But that is ridiculous. "Giving money" is a reward. "Not giving money" is failure to reward. But it is not punishment. "Punishment" and "not rewarding" are not the same thing.

Title reference here.

1 comment:

Bud said...

sadly, we agree on both points. one of us must change.