How ObamaCare Benefits from the Scarcity Heuristic

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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.


Also published on Medium.


One Comments

  • Conservative Ken

    February 25, 2017

    I’m glad you put a name to it. This is precisly why people need to be reminded of how Obamacare passed in the first place.

    The Whitehouse fishy email hotline, designed to flag critical websites.

    Speaker Pelosi confining all Dem Reps in Washington. Designed to keep Reps away from their base, where she knew political minefield would be waiting.

    Sweetheart bribes exchanged for votes. Payed for by taxpayers.

    Too good to be true Presidential promises. Proved to be false when people really did lose coverage.

    Much can be verified from two links, one from the official whitehouse blog

    Facts Are Stubborn Things | whitehouse.gov https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2009/08/04/facts-are-stubborn-things

    The list of payoffs that got Reid his cloture vote – Hot Air http://hotair.com/archives/2009/12/22/the-list-of-payoffs-that-got-reid-his-cloture-vote/

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