The Faith Trap
By Arnold Kling
It seems we hope a stronger and more benevolent God or State will protect us when feel less able to protect ourselves.
He is reporting on a paper in a psychology journal by Aaron C. Kay with lots of co-authors. A snippet of the abstract:
a cross-national data set demonstrated that lower levels of personal control are associated with higher support for governmental control
Tyler Cowen adds a little bit.
Bryan Caplan once posited an “idea trap,” in which bad policy ideas caused bad outcomes, causing people to support worse policy ideas, leading to worse outcomes.
Maybe part of this is a “faith trap.” The stock market crashes, people feel a loss of personal control, they turn to government, government tries bad New Deal ideas, people lose more personal control, develop more faith in Roosevelt, and so forth.
The fact that so many people remember Roosevelt so fondly in spite of the poor objective performance of the New Deal is consistent with this. He led people to believe that he was in control, and that’s what people wanted, regardless of whether his policies did any good.
Which says that when I wrote in my depressive realism essay,
Adapting to the reality of higher energy costs and an excess housing stock requires myriad complex adjustments, some of which may be obvious but many of which are subtle. Chances are, it will take several years to complete the transition. Meanwhile, there is little, if anything, that policymakers can do to hasten that process.
I may or may not have the economics right, but I surely have the politics wrong. If people feel that they are losing control because of rising oil prices, falling home prices, and other things, they want someone who will promise to take charge, regardless of what the person can actually do.