Irrational People Cannot be Persuaded

I once worked for a brilliant man who ran a successful company.  He was frugal, took prudent risks, and was generous to his employees, whom he credited with his success.  I learned much from him.

But, every once in a while, this man would make a decision that was so unsound that it baffled me and my coworkers.  At first, I mistakenly thought that the seemingly foolish action was a stroke of genius.  I thought that he would later be vindicated, and that I would, yet once again, be amazed by his acumen.

It was otherwise.  However superior his intellect was to mine, no amount of genius can outsmart common sense.  When this man was wrong, he was very wrong, and no amount of discussion could persuade him otherwise.

He once stopped doing business with a particular vendor, (Vendor A) because the vendor charged extra for same-day delivery.  That made sense, but not when the vendor (Vendor B) he replaced him with charged even more.  I asked him why Vendor B was a better choice, and the reply was, Vendor A charges too much.  Yes sir, I said, but Vendor B charges even more.  The boss got into a bit of huff, and retorted, but Vendor A charges too much.  It was a blind spot, which led to circular arguments that I could soon see were futile.

So it is with the American electorate.  Some people for whom I care very deeply oppose Republican allies of Donald Trump, even though they express strong agreement with Trump’s policies.  My friends want lower taxes, but will vote for politicians who promise to raise taxes.  When this dissonance is brought to their attention, their response always begins with, “Yes, but . . .”  The rest is always bafflingly irrelevant.

It took me many years to settle in to this fact of life.  Good people who mean well can pave the road to Hell.  What can we do?

I simply let them know that I disagree, but not to press the issue to the point of severing the relationship.  If all I can do is to keep the door open, that is better than burning the bridges forever.  There is always time for that later.

In rare cases, I have seen such friends gradually change their mind.  They always seemed to do it on their own, giving me no credit for having influenced them -- which is well and fine with me.  It does not happen often enough, but even the rare event is encouraging.

But in most cases, the irrationality is baked in, and short of a grand epiphany, will never resolve into common sense.

Then there is the very troubling circumstance of people who favor policies that are outright evil.  Some of them actually believe that Kermit Gosnell, the notorious murderer of born-alive babies in his abortion clinic, should have been acquitted.  Some will vote for politicians they admit they know to be corrupt.  Others assert that MS13 gangsters are benign.  Some are so filled with hate and rage that their only political argument is to scream, “Nazi!” at anyone who in the slightest measure does not toe their party line -- a phenomenon which is among the most under-reported events among the news media.

Such people pose a real danger to the nation, as much so as did the Nazi brownshirts in 1930s Germany.  There is a certain point beyond which their growing numbers can overwhelm those who practice common sense.

Because of irrational voters, we now face the fait accompli of an impending Democrat takeover of the House of Representatives.  This might well turn out to be disastrous, unless a degree of common sense is adopted by the least radical of the Democrats.  That is very unlikely among the more radical leftists.  However, there is a glimmer of hope, albeit a small one, that the newly elected Democrat representatives from the so-called “Trump” districts, will recognize that they won their seats by posing as moderates, and will keep them only by governing as such.  If they can be persuaded to resist the worst tendencies of the Maxine Waters brigade, they might just -- improbably -- vote against their elders on a few key issues.

Freedom is fragile, but free people are resilient. 

I once worked for a brilliant man who ran a successful company.  He was frugal, took prudent risks, and was generous to his employees, whom he credited with his success.  I learned much from him.

But, every once in a while, this man would make a decision that was so unsound that it baffled me and my coworkers.  At first, I mistakenly thought that the seemingly foolish action was a stroke of genius.  I thought that he would later be vindicated, and that I would, yet once again, be amazed by his acumen.

It was otherwise.  However superior his intellect was to mine, no amount of genius can outsmart common sense.  When this man was wrong, he was very wrong, and no amount of discussion could persuade him otherwise.

He once stopped doing business with a particular vendor, (Vendor A) because the vendor charged extra for same-day delivery.  That made sense, but not when the vendor (Vendor B) he replaced him with charged even more.  I asked him why Vendor B was a better choice, and the reply was, Vendor A charges too much.  Yes sir, I said, but Vendor B charges even more.  The boss got into a bit of huff, and retorted, but Vendor A charges too much.  It was a blind spot, which led to circular arguments that I could soon see were futile.

So it is with the American electorate.  Some people for whom I care very deeply oppose Republican allies of Donald Trump, even though they express strong agreement with Trump’s policies.  My friends want lower taxes, but will vote for politicians who promise to raise taxes.  When this dissonance is brought to their attention, their response always begins with, “Yes, but . . .”  The rest is always bafflingly irrelevant.

It took me many years to settle in to this fact of life.  Good people who mean well can pave the road to Hell.  What can we do?

I simply let them know that I disagree, but not to press the issue to the point of severing the relationship.  If all I can do is to keep the door open, that is better than burning the bridges forever.  There is always time for that later.

In rare cases, I have seen such friends gradually change their mind.  They always seemed to do it on their own, giving me no credit for having influenced them -- which is well and fine with me.  It does not happen often enough, but even the rare event is encouraging.

But in most cases, the irrationality is baked in, and short of a grand epiphany, will never resolve into common sense.

Then there is the very troubling circumstance of people who favor policies that are outright evil.  Some of them actually believe that Kermit Gosnell, the notorious murderer of born-alive babies in his abortion clinic, should have been acquitted.  Some will vote for politicians they admit they know to be corrupt.  Others assert that MS13 gangsters are benign.  Some are so filled with hate and rage that their only political argument is to scream, “Nazi!” at anyone who in the slightest measure does not toe their party line -- a phenomenon which is among the most under-reported events among the news media.

Such people pose a real danger to the nation, as much so as did the Nazi brownshirts in 1930s Germany.  There is a certain point beyond which their growing numbers can overwhelm those who practice common sense.

Because of irrational voters, we now face the fait accompli of an impending Democrat takeover of the House of Representatives.  This might well turn out to be disastrous, unless a degree of common sense is adopted by the least radical of the Democrats.  That is very unlikely among the more radical leftists.  However, there is a glimmer of hope, albeit a small one, that the newly elected Democrat representatives from the so-called “Trump” districts, will recognize that they won their seats by posing as moderates, and will keep them only by governing as such.  If they can be persuaded to resist the worst tendencies of the Maxine Waters brigade, they might just -- improbably -- vote against their elders on a few key issues.

Freedom is fragile, but free people are resilient.