So we’ve all been assisting to the political circus in D.C. over the last few days. Which prompted me to write a brief piece about how I think politics works. My hope is that shedding some light on the dynamics governing the politician-electorate relationship can help raise the bar for the political construct which seems to have sunk quite low as of late.
So here it goes. A politician starts with a number of facts based in reality that don’t however comprehensively frame the problem at hand. He or she then proceeds to weave an argument in favor of a position relying on a truncated description of reality. So how does an intelligent electorate accept an incomplete argument? Simply: the politician appeals to the emotional brain, which proceeds to fudge the logical connections (or even override logic!) as necessary to complete the argument. And so, without our emotional support, politicians would not get very far indeed. But they do, because we are emotional beings. So what can we do to improve the quality of our politics? The first step is to become more aware of our emotions and how they interfere in our decision making. The goal is not to remove them or ignore them, they are what makes us human! But self-awareness when it comes to our emotions mingling with logic would help in demanding a higher argumentative standard of our politicians, which would spell in my opinion significant progress.
I believe Chris Argyris’ pioneering double-loop learning work synthesized in this Financial Times article by Roger Martin applies to politics as much as to economics.