This morning, I came across this press release from Carnegie Mellon University, thanks to One Good Move. It pretty much states the obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs restating.
"The emotional responses that guide much of human behavior have a tremendous impact on public policy and international affairs, prompting government officials to make decisions in response to a crisis--such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks--with little regard to the long-term consequences, according to a study by scholars at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
The paper, which appears in the Chicago-Kent Law Review, was written by Jules Lobel, a Pitt professor of law, and George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon.
Intense emotions can undermine a person's capacity for rational decision-making, even when the individual is aware of the need to make careful decisions. With regard to public policy, when people are angry, afraid or in other elevated emotional states, they tend to favor symbolic, viscerally satisfying solutions to problems over more substantive, complex, but ultimately more effective policies.
Over the past 40 years, this has led the United States into two costly and controversial wars, in Vietnam and Iraq, when members of Congress gave the president broad powers in response to a perceived crisis that did not leave sufficient time for deliberation.
"War is the quintessential issue where immediate emotions and passions hold sway, often at the expense of an evaluation of long-term consequences," Lobel said.
This means that the situations that most require a careful, well-reasoned response are those in which our emotions are most likely to sabotage our long-term interests. America's founding fathers understood that passion could trump principle and therefore vested Congress, a deliberative body in which power is dispersed among dozens of members, with the power to make war, rather than with the president.
But that constitutional safeguard began to erode in the 20th century because of the sense of perpetual crisis that emerged during the Cold War and escalated as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The calamitous nature of those attacks gave Americans a distorted sense of the true risk of being killed in a terrorist attack--which is quite low--and policy makers responded with an expansion of federal law enforcement powers, cumbersome security measures and a new war that may ultimately be self-defeating.
"Human psychology hasn't changed much, but politicians and marketers have become ever more sophisticated when it comes to manipulating people by manipulating their emotions.
One of the functions of law should be to keep deliberative control in the picture, especially at times of high emotion when it is needed the most," Loewenstein said."
And emotions are beginning to run high as the special prosecutor opens his own web site.
To see how it is affecting the talking heads, go to Crooks and Liars and watch how nervous Dick Morris is,
and then watch David Gergen talk about the "wheels coming off".
While you are on the site, watch Gary Hart slam Hannity.
Speaking of emotions, Jon Stewart plays them well on the humor side.
Here is his take on the guys with the cameras.
And here is your favorite congressman getting booked.
There may be more before the week is up.
But keep your head.
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