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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The American “Preference Cascade”

This has been a popular post.  It's worth bringing to the top again because the polls are currently designed to make you believe that you are in a minority, that The One is vastly more popular than he is and to increase your feeling of isolation.  Don't let it happen.

What’s a “preference cascade?” It’s people who believed they were alone in their beliefs who suddenly find out that they are part of a much larger group. It’s human nature to not want to be an oddball. It’s human nature not to want to be a one-man revolution. It’s when you find out that most of the people around you share your views that revolutions are made.

It’s perfectly illustrated by a post by Glenn Reynolds explaining how revolutions seem to appear out of nowhere.

“This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related issues). Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers – or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they’re also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference.”

It also illustrates why the Tea Party movement occurred when it did. Certainly, trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see had something to do with it. Certainly collapsing home prices had something to do with it. Certainly ObamaCare with its government take-over of health care had something to do with it. Certainly staggering unemployment unchecked by those trillions the government wasted had something to do with it. Certainly promises of tax hikes had something to do with it. But this “perfect storm” was accompanied by the internet revolution which did away with the MSM as the gatekeeper of news and opinion. The internet enable Americans to realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime.

For the first time, people were not dependent on the MSM’s control of the narrative; they were able to create their own “people’s narrative” even as the NY Times, Washington Post, the alphabet networks and the local dailies still shilled for the Obama regime. And like the people in Cairo and Damascus, they found that their ideas were not solitary ones. They found that their friends and neighbors thought exactly the same thing that they did and they turned out in the streets for the first time ever – a Conservative street demonstration. It was unheard of ....revolutionary.

The establishment did what it could to quench the fires. They called those who opposed the regime racists … bigots … used slurs that branded them as sexual deviates, calling them "tea baggers." Today, as gas prices rise toward $5 per gallon, we are being told that Obama can’t do anything about it, even as oil exploration in the US is being blocked by the Obama administration. Whether he can or not is the subject for another essay, but that’s not what you heard when George Bush was President.

Now that Obama's president, the link between the president and oil prices is severed.  Rising Gas Prices Linked to Obama Drilling Ban in Just 1% of Evening News Stories.
- Gas prices have risen almost $1-a-gallon since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, yet President Obama's drilling moratorium and other anti-oil policies have barely been mentioned by the networks in that time span.

- Only 1 percent (3 out of 280) of oil price stories since the spill has made any connection between the administration's anti-oil actions and the jump in gasoline prices.

As food prices take a huge bite out of people’s paychecks, the establishment tells the people who are hurting to “get a better job.” We’re being told that inflation is near zero because food and gas are not part of the inflation calculation, just as people are taking out loans to fill their gas tank. Meanwhile Obama’s answer is to buy a new car.

The “preference cascade” is not limited to despotic regimes in the Middle East. I can happen anywhere where people suddenly find out that they’re not alone. Once people can talk amongst themselves they find that the people who are in control of the news - the narrative - have been lying to them all their lives. That their views have been overlooked and their concerns have been belittled by people whose claim to the media megaphone is a degree in English from CCBSU (Close Cover Before Striking University) and a moral certainty that their Liberalism is the only acceptable viewpoint.

Part of that revolution occurred last November. The second phase of America’s peaceful revolution takes place in November 2012.



Anonymous said...

> the establishment tells the people who are hurting
> to “get a better job.”

But isn't "get a better job" what Republicans and Libertarians and Ayn Randians and other social Darwinists have always told people?

Why is it bad when it comes from the left-wing?

Anonymous said...

The left doesn't want people to have better jobs.

The left wants all American on the food stamp line with the 50+ percent who now pay no taxes.

Firehand said...

Assuming you actually mean that as a serious question:
Conservative & libertarian types think people SHOULD work toward a better job for themselves.
They do NOT try to dismiss serious questions and comment on real problems by saying "Get a better job and shut up." Which is what the administrations buttmonkeys are doing.

Tim (Random Observations) said...

The "preference cascade" is probably real, but very tiny. A few reasonable people self-identify as suckers, but Obama's approval ratings are still absurdly high ... 41% think he's doing a great job? Oy veh! That's not enough to beat him -- many among those 59% who think otherwise will say he's not doing a good job, but still find voting for an (evil!) Republican unthinkable. Much of that is, quite frankly, "He's not far left enough! Where's our revolution?"

Anonymous said...

The preference cascade is much bigger than you imagine. Remember those approval polls are also run by the zombie fraud media.

Anonymous said...

Comrade Firehand,

Your response was doubleplusgood!

Moneyrunner said...

Thanks for commenting. To Anon at 8:43, please click on the link. The “get a better job” snark was directed to people who are hurting financially because of the rapid rise in gas and food prices. And if you think that getting a better job in Obama’s economy is simple, I have news for you.
To Tim: I don’t agree that that preference cascade in the US is tiny. The internet is omnipresent and pretty much out of the control of the traditional gatekeepers in the MSM. And where did you get the Obama approval rating of 41%? Rasmussen reports that (and I quote): 22% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty percent (40%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -18. You may still be part of the population that get their “facts” from the MSM and feel isolated. Either that, or you may be part of the effort to stop the preference cascade. Take your pick.

Anonymous said...

I don't think preference cascades are as important in countries like the US with secret ballots.

You can say what ever you need to, to get along. Then you can vote for whom ever you want and lie about it.

This is why exit polls are so unreliable.

Anonymous said...

Cogent, interesting. Thanks for writing it. I am a little jealous of your ability to synthesize all of that about the Tea Party's roots.

Moneyrunner said...

Preference cascades and peer pressure have a lot in common. When the MSM sets the terms of acceptable debate they influence a lot of people who don’t look at facts for themselves. Examples abound. Just for one, Bush was blamed for high gas prices by the media while the same media are telling us that the president can’t do much. That’s simply not true. The president can open up areas for oil exploration, which is what Bush did in 2008 when oil hit about $145 per barrel. By Election Day the price was down to $30 per barrel. A similar case can be made of Global Warming which was pronounced “settled science” and people who didn’t buy into it were denounced as Holocaust deniers. The decisions made in the voting booth are heavily influenced by what people believe. And what people believe is influenced by what they read and hear. That’s why the internet is such a powerful tool against state control, even in a democracy.

Moneyrunner said...


But wait. I can already hear the cries of, “Uh uh! The price dropped becase demand fell off! Haven’tcha ever heard of the Great Recession?”

Problem is, all of that happened months prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of the financial crisis on September 15, 2008 (price of crude: $95.52). Oil prices actually spiked at the outset of the economic mess, peaking at just over $100/barrel on September 30 before falling again. They reached a bottom price of $30.28 on December 23, a jaw-dropping 80% off the July peak, less than a month before Barack Obama took office.

Speaking of which: Obama had been president-elect for all of five days when he announced his intention to rescind Bush’s order. Oil prices started going up again in January of 2009 and steadily increasing ever since. Obama Energy Secretary Ken Salazar announced a highly restrictive offshore leasing policy last December, and the Bush executive order was officially reversed on February 8, 2011.

The price of crude that day was $85.85. By April 19, it had risen to $107.18, with no end in sight.

Anonymous said...

Tim (Random Observations): you should check the crosstabs and internals of those polls which cite 41% approval for Teh Messiah. I've noticed that many of the recent polls supportive of the left (a) poll adults -- not even registered voters, nor 'likely voters'. This tilts the results profoundly leftwards. Also, (b) their partisan breakdowns are ridiculous. One poll I read used a breakdown in which they were assuming an 11% shift toward Democrats from the 2008 election. I don't remember the numbers, but say the exit polls showed in 2008 that the electorate was 34D, 27R, and 39I: that's a 7 point D advantage. The poll weighted their sample so that it had an 18 point D advantage (e.g. 40D, 22R, 38I).

Uh huh. Riiiiight. That's believable. After the 2010 elections, the rise of the Tea Party, Obama's Med takeover, trillion dollar ineffective "stimulus"...people are running to the D label even more than they did during the Messiah's hope-n-change campaign?

It's obvious nonsense -- but nobody reads past the top-line number: "41% still say Obama is the second coming of Jesus".

David N. Narr said...

From Angelo M. Codevilla, "The Character of Nations" 2nd ed., 2009:

"the most economically profitable thing you can do, whether in Europe or Argentina, or China or Chicago, is to worry less about producing than about building a profitable relationship with the regime. Because exchanging economic privilege for political support is the essence of modern government, access to economic opportunities and enjoyment of the fruits of one's labor depends increasingly on what part you play in holding up the regime."

And as Boeing has just learned, it's a fascist regime. Unfortunately for the regime, they haven't found a way to control communications on the internet. I'm sure they're working on it, though.

Anonymous said...

Lack of oil exploration and a general negative environment towards oil suppliers by way of Global Warming has some part to play in current oil prices. The change with the largest effect on oil in the United States is the declining value of the dollar. The decline of the dollar may be part of a normal economic cycle or it may be the result of massive debt fueled spending. If it’s the later, the President deserves much of the blame.

Anonymous said...


I'm not disputing that the "buy a new car" and "get a better job" comments from the Obamunists is callous and insensitive.

It's just that those remarks are also sentiments of those whose socio-economic philosophies are based on social Darwinism: conservatives, libertarians, Ayn Randians, etc. I think these people have some major soul-searching to do if they're only now being outraged by such thoughts, simply because 0bama is president. I'd tell the left-wingers to do some soul-searching too for different-reasons, but it's a known scientific fact that liberals don't have souls.

As that wise sage, Fred Reed wrote a few months ago:

Conservatives think in terms of merciless abstractions and liberals insist that everyone is equal. Not even close. Further, people with barely a high-school education and low-voltage minds regard any intellectual task with utter discouragement.
Some commentators urge letting people invest their Social Security taxes in the stock market. To them it is a question of abstract freedom and probably the Federalist papers. The commentators are smart enough to invest money. I’ll guess that at least half the population isn’t. Go into the tit bar (does it still exist) in Waldorf, Maryland, and ask the dump-truck drivers and nail-pounders what NASDAQ is.
Liberal commentators want everyone to go to college, when about a fifth of people have the brains. Conservatives think that people can rise by hard work and sacrifice as certainly many people have. Thing is, most people can’t. Commentators only see those who made it.
The tendency of the Beltway 99th to live in an imaginary world, of conservatives to think that everybody can be a Horatio Alger, of liberals to believe that inequality arises from discrimination, guarantees wretched policy. Those who can do almost anything need to recognize the existence of those who can do almost nothing. Few of the latter are parasites. The waitress has worked all her life, as has the truck driver. They ended up with nothing.
Which is easy to do.

Personally, I think the current outrage can be better explained by addiction to self-righteous indignation than any high-minded principle or concernt for those suffering in the current economy:

While there are many drawbacks, self-righteousness can also be heady, seductive, and even... well... addictive. Any truly honest person will admit that the state feels good. The pleasure of knowing, with subjective certainty, that you are right and your opponents are deeply, despicably wrong.
Sanctimony, or a sense of righteous outrage, can feel so intense and delicious that many people actively seek to return to it, again and again. Moreover, as Westin have found, this trait crosses all boundaries of ideology.

Moneyrunner said...

Anon 8:21, thanks for your thoughts but I have to disagree. First of all, you confuse Libertarians with Conservatives. Conservatives don’t think in abstractions. We are grounded in tradition with is the furthest thing from abstractions. If you want to find people who live in theory-land you have to either look at Libertarians or Leftists of all descriptions from socialist through fascist all the way to communist. Randians are simply a variant of libertarian, but please don’t even think of applying that label to conservatives, many of whom anchor their morality in Christianity, a religion that Rand despised and which most of her followers also despise. Conservatives, as Christians, are the farthest away from the dog-eat-dog philosophy that you ascribe to us.

Regarding Fred Reed, I read him a long time ago. As your reference to him illustrates perfectly, he’s an elitist affecting the pose of an everyman. For Reed, every Joe Lunch Bucket goes to titty bars rather than to church and dies in squalid poverty if he’s fortunate enough to die of old age. The majority of people in this country is middle class and never falls into poverty nor do they achieve wealth. That’s the human condition, nothing more and nothing less. America is fortunate that most people here are middle class. In many less developed societies the middle class is small while the largest class is poverty stricken. No matter what their economic status, most American live moral lives and die surrounded by their loved ones. If the waitress and the truck driver don’t leave a financial legacy, that’s OK. They probably leave kids who are more grounded than the scions of wealth or the underclass.

One thing that conservatism and Christianity both teach is humility and human fallibility. I pray each day that I may do God’s will, not my own, and at the end of the day I know that I am a sinner. But what I hope to know is the difference between right and wrong and pray that given the choice, I will try to do what’s right even if I sometimes do wrong.

Bottom line, the person who reacted to the comment that poor people are being hurt by rising food and gas prices by telling them that they need to get a better job is a jerk. That’s my judgment based on my understanding the difference between right and wrong. Please understand that there is a fairly vast gulf between Libertarians and Conservatives and the marriage of convenience that they find themselves in is often because to both groups, Liberals are the common enemy.