The Concorde was a supersonic passenger plane. It shuttled people between New York and Paris very quickly.
When commercial Concorde flights began in 1976, the novelty and excitement of flying at twice the speed of sound led people to line up to take the flights. But after 27 years and several safety mishaps, the Concorde’s popularity waned. Flights were often less than half full, so British Airways, the operator, was losing money. Bigly.
In 2002, the company that operated the service announced the Concorde’s last flight would be in 2003.
Every flight sold out immediately. The impending death of the Concorde made the flight more popular than ever. Why?
There’s no rational explanation for this surge in popularity. If you didn’t need to get to Paris in an hour before the announcement, you didn’t need to after the announcement.
So why did the failing jet service become popular?
It’s called the scarcity heuristic. People value things that are rare, hard to get, or about to expire. My persuasion hero, Robert Cialdini, names scarcity as one of just six principles of persuasion. According to Behavioral Economics:
When an object or resource is less readily available (e.g, due to limited quantity or time), we tend to perceive it as more valuable (Cialdini, 2008). Scarcity appeals are often used in marketing to induce purchases. An experiment (Lee & Seidle, 2012) that used wristwatch advertisements as stimuli exposed participants to one of two different product descriptions “Exclusive limited edition. Hurry, limited stocks” or “New edition. Many items in stock”. They then had to indicate how much they would be willing to pay for the product. The average consumer was willing to pay an additional 50% if the watch was advertised as scarce.
We’re seeing the scarcity heuristic benefit Obamacare’s popularity right now. Fox News reports that support for Obamacare is surging just as Republicans prepare to kill it:
According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll, there is an even split betweenregistered voters who support the law and those who oppose it. Currently, 45 percent approve of the legislation compared to a poll back in January—before President Trump took office—that showed 41 percent of voters approved of the bill.
This surge in popularity frightens a lot of our weak Republican members of Congress. It shouldn’t.
The only reason for the surge is scarcity. Were President Trump and Paul Ryan to announce that they’re leaving Obamacare alone, support for the program would wane because people don’t value what’s abundant.
Urge your lawmakers to ignore the scarcity-driven polls and kill Obamacare because it’s the right thing to do.
Hate John McCain if you want. Call McCain a traitor, even.
I look at John McCain and marvel at his strength. Many do.
Everyone knows about McCain being shot down over Vietnam and spending 5 years in a POW camp. But most people don’t know about the deep emotional scar McCain brought home with him. And that emotional scar undoubtedly drives him to his fits of anger and telling lies about people he doesn’t like.
When you hear the reason for McCain’s anti-social behavior, you might not hate him so much. Maybe you’ll feel sorry for him.
Senator McCain has a long reputation as a petty, bitter, and vindictive man. He is prone to act out of envy and jealousy. By accusation and by his own admission, Senator McCain was a reckless Navy pilot. He tells people he crashed “six or eight” planes in a short period of time. After years of denial, Senator McCain finally admitted that, as a POW, he voluntarily recorded a propaganda broadcast for his North Vietnamese captors. By accusation and by his own admission, Lt. Cdr. McCain accepted favors from his captors in exchange for his cooperation in violation of the Armed Forces Code of Conduct for prisoners of war. But before accepting those favors, McCain rejected an offer to be released from POW camp. So let’s not exaggerate his cooperation.
Imagine how guilty you’d feel if you had made a propaganda recording for the enemy. I would feel very guilty. And I know that when I’m feeling guilty, I often find fault in others. Sometimes I find faults that don’t really exist. But finding petty faults with others makes me feel better about myself when I’m feeling guilty.
So maybe McCain handles his guilt a lot like I handle mine. (Not that I ever did anything as serious as recording a propaganda recording for the enemy during war.) When McCain goes to Europe to badmouth his President, he’s acting out of guilt. When he goes on Sunday talk shows and falsely accuses his President of stifling the press, he’s probably doing so under the duress of extreme guilt. Think about this: his Silver Star medal was awarded for resisting enemy offers. He must have felt very guilty when President Nixon pinned that medal on his chest, knowing about that recording.
When he volunteered to make that recording, he probably thought he was actually helping our side. It seems reasonable that McCain thought soldiers battling in the jungle would find comfort knowing the North Vietnamese would care for their wounds if they were captured.
It’s harder to explain why McCain called himself a war criminal, but maybe he accidently bombed friendly villages before he was shot down. Bombing the wrong target would probably create a lot of guilt. It’s possible that McCain’s reference to wounding and killing Vietnamese people was his way of apologizing for errant bombs. As we’ve heard, he wasn’t a particularly good pilot by is own admission. It makes sense that he’d want to get that off his chest right away.
And there’s always the possibility that McCain agreed to make the recording to help his fellow POWs. Maybe the North Vietnamese offered his comrades relief from torture in exchange for McCain’s cooperation. Anyone might violate the Code of Conduct to protect their friends.
If you’re wondering why I would mention John McCain’s propaganda recording at all, I’ll explain. Senator McCain is now calling our President a dictator and accusing the President of stifling the press. McCain’s accusations are laughably false, but the leftist press is eating them up. A lot of my friends seem to hate John McCain now, but they might not be considering the incredible guilt McCain lives with every day.
While I condemn John McCain’s despicable conduct, I also feel bad for him and his copious guilt. I think calling McCain a traitor is a bridge too far, too. I see John McCain as someone who did his best under horrible conditions. And it seems that his best, in his own eyes, was less than necessary. That creates tremendous guilt which he tries to assuage by finding even worse shortcomings in other people.
Remember that McCain wasn’t the only one to crack in a POW camp. Others did worse in Vietnam and other wars. I accept that. And I’m glad I never had to live through his experience. I don’t know if I would have conducted myself any better. And if one of my kids made a similar recording as a POW, I’d still consider him a hero. But I’d also understand how, later in life, his feelings of guilt might cloud his judgment and lead to reckless behavior.
I think it’s best to just ignore Senator McCain as he works through with his guilt.
You can imagine what it’s like be in a bad mood, can’t you? People go through periods of deep funk when nothing seems bright or cheerful, don’t they?
And when you’re in those moods, what’s the worst thing? That’s right, it’s being around a bunch of happy people having fun.
And that’s exactly how the left feels when they see Trump at a press conference: miserable amid the fun.
Leftists are pessimists by training. They see the dark cloud but never the silver lining. They live to find out what’s wrong with every picture. They see the world as a fixed pie and they demand their slices.
People of the Right tend to be optimists. We see the value of rain, the beauty in works of art, and the growing of the pie. We see the future as better than the recent past. Maybe we have to go through hell to reach that shiny future, but we believe it can be done and we can do it.
The right believes in shared sacrifice and shared happiness. The left believes in equal distribution of misery. It’s a subtle difference, but it makes all the difference in the world.
Understanding that, you can imagine how miserable the whole left world was yesterday. Donald Trump was so damn happy at his press conference. He was having a ball! Trump Nation stopped to share in our President’s joy. Here are some texts I sent and received during the presser:
Greatest presidential press conference in history. This is pure governance gold. One for the ages.
BEST PRESSER EVER!!!!!!! Wow!!!!!!!!!
This is awesome. I’m listening on headphones at work laughing like an idiot.
He called Schumer a lightweight!
I just stood in front of a tv in a McDonald’s for the entire presser. Truly epic.
These were real-time, live reactions to what we were seeing and hearing. These were not planned, staged reactions edited for effect. They were heartfelt responses to a moment of shared joy among friends.
Now, if you’re prone to melancholy and you see the world as a terrible place full unfairness, you hated it. You hated Trump’s joy. You hate him, not for his policies or anything he’s said in the past. You hate him because he enjoys life.
he became more fiery and animated — joyful, even — when he began to banter and joust with the assembled reporters.
Remember that quote. It’s important. To the left, joy is a sin. And Trump’s joy even caught the attention of fake-news purveyor, Politico:
But he did so with a kind of gleeful abandon, even a sly playfulness at times (“Now, that’s what I call a nice question,” he said when someone asked a softball about his wife, Melania) that suggested he himself was in on the act. The sheer concentration of the performance not only probably played well with his core supporters, but seemed just another iteration of the new normal that is Trump’s Washington.
And no one was more depressed or angrier than CNN’s Jake Tapper. His reaction to Trump’s joyful presser was almost a suicide note caught on video. Trapper saw nothing but dark clouds.
If you are a soldier in harm’s way right now, if you are a hungry child in Appalachia or the inner city, if you are an unemployed worker in a hollow shell of a steel town, that’s not a president who seemed rather focused on your particular needs and wants,That’s a president focused on his bad press.”
A lot of Americans are going to watch that press conference and think, ‘That guy is not focused on me. I don’t even know what he’s focused on.’
Tapper proved my point about leftists perfectly. Trapper is trapped in fixed-pie thinking. And fixed-pie thinking leads to war and violence because fairness demands that we take what others have.
And we’ve been here before.
Most Republican presidents, though they embody some degree of joy, present themselves as serious, concerned, and even a little dour. Or maybe it’s my age. Maybe my psyche holds the residue of Richard Nixon as the quintessential Republican. He was the first Republican president in my life.
Ronald Reagan, though, was anything but dour. His sunny optimism and his faith in America and her people carried the nation. The left hated Reagan, not so much for his policies, as for his joy. Those cotton-headed Millennials don’t know it, but the left portrayed Reagan as an anti-women, anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Jew fascist bent on blowing up the world.
The left hated Reagan, and Reagan’s unconstrained joy only made them hate him worse. They lied about him and his cabinet. They vilified Reagan’s friends.
The leftist press has always been dishonest and vengeful. But sometimes even the leftist press comes around.
Perhaps, above all, it was his great optimism about America and Americans and the way he carried himself through his eight years that mark his greatness. When Reagan walked into a room, he was unfailingly polite and friendly without any good ol’ boy posturing. You knew you were in the presence of the president of the United States.
Trump’s demeanor and temperament are very different from Reagan’s, of course. Trump expresses his optimism differently. Trump’s version of friendliness reflects his Queens upbringing while Reagan’s reflected Dixon, Illinois.
But Reagan and Trump share an optimism and faith in America that well from the same spring. Pessimists don’t wear ball caps emblazoned with the rallying cry “Make America Great Again.” Leftists, we have learned, believe America never was great and never will be. Leftists like Tapper suffer from a pervasive pessimism that borders on the pathological. That’s why Trump’s joyful presser only increased Jake Tapper’s feelings of depression and hopelessness.
I hope Tapper got a good night’s sleep and came to his senses. America could experience a lot of joy during the Trump administration. I’d hate for all that joy to ruin Jake’s life.
But I won’t let Tapper’s psychosis get me down because it’s going to be okay.
Imagine Michael Jordan’s best game ever. Or Tiger Woods. That’s what it was like watching President Trump today. Amazing.
The President looked poised, cheerful, and humorous. He volleyed with Jim Acosta of CNN. He rated each question “good” or “bad.” He explained why he doesn’t want a nuclear war with Russia because the press seems to think nuclear war is a good thing. He mocked those in the press who want him to bomb that Russian intel ship off Virginia.
His maturity and gravitas made the press look like coked-up chimpanzees by contrast. He destroyed them. I bet a lot of White House correspondents are blowing 0.23 on breathalyzers tonight. They were ruined. They’re narrative, months in the making, erased. Trump took a powerful magnet to their biased hard drives. And Jim Acosta is now to Trump what Sam Donaldson was to Reagan: his straight man.
Trump is the guy calling them out. I’ve never seen anything like this today. I have never seen it. We have wanted Republican presidents all of my life to deal with these people this way, and the only thing we ever got was Spiro Agnew. We’ve not seen anything like this, and Trump did it with an air of confidence and self-assuredness. He was not nervous at all. He was having fun with them. He was toying with them. It’s like if you got a cat. You know how you get these little laser pointers and you have a little kitten or a cat and the cat goes nuts chasing the light? It will run into a wall.
That’s what I was watching here today. It was just… It was fantastic, and the American people are gonna eat this up. . . . He accused Obama of running the shadow government. He accused Hillary Clinton and George Soros of being the people paying for people to show up and protest things. He held nothing back! He ridiculed Hillary Clinton for being in part of a deal that gave up 20% of our uranium supply and for having that cheap little red reset button when she became secretary of state. And each time he mentions Obama. He mentions… He didn’t say “shadow government” but he said, “Our opponents are doing what they can.”
He called all of this fake news. He was on spot with all this. You know, it’s hard to say. You get caught up in the moment. But this was one of the most effective press conferences I’ve ever seen.
I was listening on earbuds and I couldn’t stop laughing. People probably thought I’d lost my mind. Trump delivered all my angry tweets from last night with humor and good cheer! As if showing me how it’s done. It was absolutely the greatest political press conference in history.
Expect to see a lot of reporters’ heads explode in the next 48 hours. He destroyed the crooked media. He destroyed Obama’s shadow government. He destroyed the criminal intel leakers. He destroyed his critics like no one has done before. He did with a smile. Even the corrupt Washington Post noted “he became more fiery and animated — joyful, even —when he began to banter and joust with the assembled reporters.”
And he did it all by being himself. For 78 minutes, he showed the country what it missed if it missed his campaign.
Soon thereafter, this great gate is sealed by the Crisis resolution, when victors are rewarded and enemies punished; when empires or nations are forged or destroyed; when treaties are signed and boundaries redrawn; and when peace is accepted, troops repatriated, and life begun anew. One large chapter of history ends, and another starts.
In a very real sense, one society dies— and another is born.
—*The Fourth Turning*
This post should be fun because it involves games.
You’ve probably heard of the game called Chicken. And maybe you’ve heard of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Just in case you don’t know these games, I’ll give you quick overview.
Two rivals get into cars at opposite ends of a long straightaway. On a signal, they accelerate toward each other. The winner is the one who doesn’t chicken out by swerving out of the path of the other car. If neither player chickens out, it’s a draw.
Two people are arrested for a crime. Call these suspects A and B. Police separate them into different interview rooms where they have no way to communicate with each other. A detective tells A that if he cooperates and confesses, the DA will recommend a short prison sentence of 1 year. If he doesn’t cooperate and is found guilty, he’s looking at 20 years. Oh, and by the way, B already confessed to his minor role and implicated A as the mastermind.
A must decide whether to cooperate or keep his mouth shut. If he cooperates, he’ll get 1 year. If he keeps his mouth shut and the detective lied about B’s confession, both men could walk. But if B really confessed and A doesn’t cooperate, A will be in prison until he’s old.
Meet Ben Hunt, PhD
Ben Hunt is that genius financial planner I quote often. Dr. Hunt is no fan of Donald Trump, but his latest blog post illustrates our present situation rather well. He points out in his latest post that in normal times, life is a series of repeated cooperative games like Prisoner’s Dilemma. But now we’re playing repeated games of Chicken.
That first bit — the nature of repeated-play competitive games — is a mouthful. All it really means, though, is that our real-life social interactions, whether in politics or markets or everyday life with our family and friends, are never a single, solitary game. We play the same core game over and over and over, each single interaction setting the stage for the next, and what we really should be concerned about is the overall pattern of the entire set of interactions. That’s real life, as opposed to some 2×2 matrix of Cooperate/Defect like you’d see in a game theory textbook.
In Hunt’s view, Trump has transformed America’s repeated game—from a cooperation game to competitive game. Chicken is winner-take-all.
Trump, on the other hand … I think he breaks us. Maybe he already has. He breaks us because he transforms every game we play as a country — from our domestic social games to our international security games — from a Coordination Game to a Competition Game.
Well … first off I’m going to suggest that we should all prepare for impact. The evolution of competition and the success of “mean” strategies in games like Chicken is at least as robust as the evolution of cooperation and the success of “nice” strategies in games like Prisoner’s Dilemma. Once you introduce, say, mustard gas into the trench warfare game, it doesn’t just un-introduce itself on its own. These bells are really hard to un-ring, and it typically takes a lot of car crashes on both sides before you get a peace treaty and a chance to rebuild a cooperative game structure. That’s at least four mixed metaphors, but you get what I mean. And unfortunately, all of these metaphors apply just as aptly to a social structure of family and friends as to a social structure of a political party or an entire nation. The evolution of competition is a powerfully contagious virus, and it hops easily from a big tribe like a nation to a small tribe like a family.
So, the question is: Is Dr. Hunt right?
Good Diagnosis, Erroneous Causality
If you’ve read my previous posts in the #PeopleWantYouDead series, you know that I agree with Dr. Hunt’s diagnosis of the American condition. We are playing repeated competitive games of Chicken. On that, he’s absolutely right.
I also agree that Donald Trump is a master of the game of Chicken.
But I strongly disagree with Hunt on a key point: Donald Trump is a symptom of the competitive game, not the cause.
Long before Trump decided to run for President, we abandoned, as a nation, those coordination games for competitive games. I’m not smart enough to give you the exact cause or the exact date, but we in the center-right were still playing Prisoner’s Dilemma and getting our asses kicked by the side playing Chicken. I knew the game had changed when SEIU thugs beat up Ken Gladney at a town hall in 2009. I knew the game had changed when President Obama talked about our stupidity for bringing a knife to a gunfight. I knew the game had changed when the president of the AFL-CIO told his members to punch us.
Dr. Hunt probably wasn’t paying much attention to our little Tea Party movement back then. His Epsilon Theory blog wasn’t around at the time. Or maybe politics wasn’t his thing then. He is an economist, after all, not a political scientist. I don’t expect him to pay attention to obscure political events—events made more obscure by a national press that ignores events that are potentially damaging to the American left.
Had he been in the trenches with us in 2009, he would probably agree that the game changed long before Trump. He might also agree that someone else changed it. He might conclude that the game was changed by the same people who exercised the “nuclear option” in the US Senate. And I know Dr. Hunt agrees that it’s important for us to know which kind of game the other side is playing. He said so:
the most important thing in that interaction is to figure out the meaning of cooperation for yourself and whoever you’re dealing with. Otherwise you’re going to find yourself playing a different game from the other person, and that never ends well. This is a tough piece of advice to follow (myself included!) because we assume that whatever our “identity weighting” might be for a given issue, the person or group we’re interacting with attaches that same meaning.
Dr. Hunt also points out an important aspect of competitive games like Chicken. In Chicken, the player who swerves is a coward and he’s scorned or ostracized by his tribe. In Prisoner’s Dilemma, it’s different:
If you cooperate in a game of Chicken — i.e., you’re driving your tractor straight on at Kevin Bacon’s pick-up truck and you veer off from the looming crash, or you and James Dean are racing towards a cliff and you put on your brakes first — you are the LOSER. You are the COWARD. That becomes your identity and your reputation, which means that others will now treat you like a loser and a coward in the games that they play with you in the future. Compare that to the meaning of cooperation in a game of Prisoner’s Dilemma, where cooperation — i.e., you refuse to rat out your partner and cut a deal for yourself at his expense — means that you are STRONG and LOYAL. The words and the examples used to illustrate bloodless, mathematical game theoretic matrices are not accidental! If we believe that our identity is at risk in a repeated-play competitive game, we behave very differently than if it’s not. More to the point, we should behave differently if our identity is at stake. It’s the rational thing to do.
So I am confident that Dr. Hunt would agree that we on the right should be playing Chicken because the left most certainly is. Plus, the left has been playing Chicken for years. It took us longer to recognize that the nature of the game had changed. Which means we’ve already lost a few rounds. Worse, many on the right—Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, etc.—they’re still stuck playing Prisoner’s Dilemma. They still think cooperation is a sign of strength and loyalty. That’s why the Tea Party went after them so hard and continues to. Their reputations are as cowards and losers.
We Chose Trump
When we recognized that the game had changed and that our Republican leaders refused to recognize this shift, we looked around for someone with clearer vision. And along came Trump.
Donald Trump might have always been a Chicken-player, but we didn’t need one when the other side was playing a coordination game. Once the left dropped coordination for a competitive death match, he had to change our game or die.
You might even conclude that Hillary Clinton failed to inspire the left because she, like Ryan and McConnell, is a Prisoner’s Dilemma politician, too. The left changed the game and she ignored the shift. She was wrong for the time, even for Democrats.
Where To Next?
All of this fits the Fourth Turning prophesy. In the 1770s, the Crown changed the game from coordination to competition and the colonists responded by declaring our independence. In 1861, the South changed the game by seceding from the union and attacking Fort Sumter which triggered the North’s response and the bloodiest war in US history. In the 1930s, Hitler changed the game from coordination to competition, and, after Neville Chamberlain gave away a chunk of Europe in a desperate attempt to keep the coordination game alive, the Allies recognized the new game and put down the tyrant.
So here we are in the fourth turning of the fourth cycle of American history. The previous three cycles ended in total war, and two of the three were fought primarily on our soil. These cycle-ending wars are brutal and rare, occurring once about every 80 years, at the end of the fourth turning.
Not many people recognize these historical cycles. Most people see history as a straight line. Most people expect the future to be a linear progression of the recent past. But that linear view fails the test again and again. No one expected British colonists to break away from the crown. No one expected the South to sever ties with the United States. No one expected Germany to take over Europe and Africa. No one even saw the Great Depression coming.
No one, I should say, saw those climaxes coming except those few of us who see history as a circle instead of a line.
In the White House, sitting at the right hand of President Trump, is Steve Bannon. You know him as the Honey Badger who took Breitbart.com to a new level after Andrew’s early death. You might not know that Mr. Bannon is at least as impressed with the Fourth Turning view of history as I am. Chances are, Mr. Bannon’s views are similar to mine in many ways: the nature of the game we’re playing, the left’s commitment to our death or enslavement, and the need to understand the real threat this domestic enemy poses.
Mr. Bannon likely agrees with me that our growing understanding of his cyclical history gives us a chance—but only a chance—at avoiding the kind of bloodshed that ended the previous three cycles. We both know that pretending the other side wants to coordinate with us is the surest way to end up in a full-scale civil war. It’s why we both supported Donald Trump. It’s why we warn our friends of the diabolical nature of today’s political left. It’s why we prepare for the worst-case scenario, because preparing for that horror is the best way to avoid it.
As Howe and Strauss wrote in 1997, a society will die and a new one will be born. Either our side will give birth to that new society, or their’s will. This is no time for coordination except among ourselves. But there’s good news.
The Gray Champion is coming if we earn his return. And we’ll explore what it means to Earn It in a future post.
Overcoming and defeating The Resistance, Pressfield tells us, is the key to living the good life. I agree, even if I don’t agree on some of his enemies. The Resistance must be defeated. On that, we definitely agree completely.
The Resistance hates virtuous actions. Here are the virtues that Pressfield says conjure up The Resistance in all its diabolical powers. These are the things The Resistance hates:
1) The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.
2) The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.
3) Any diet or health regimen.
4) Any program of spiritual advancement.
5) Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.
6) Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.
7) Education of every kind.
8) Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves.
9) The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavor whose aim is to help others.
10) Any act that entails commitment of the heart. The decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.
11) The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity. In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.
Oh, Mr. Pressfield, you know The Resistance so well. So well.
The book then lists The Resistance’s nature:
Plays for Keeps
Fueled by Fear
Only Opposes in One Direction (this short topic alone makes the book worth buying or borrowing)
Is Most Powerful at the Finish Line (like the Boston Marathon Bombers)
Finally, (well, not finally for the book, but finally for this post), Pressfield reminds us that The Resistance can be beaten:
If Resistance couldn’t be beaten, there would be no Fifth Symphony, no Romeo and Juliet, no Golden Gate Bridge. Defeating Resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without, for fifty million years.