A Nation Of Magical Thinkers

Kim-Reynolds-shrug

go to work, maybe die. Don’t go to work, lose your unemployment. 

An editorial in the Detroit Free Press last week really nailed what is going on particularly in Republican led governments across the nation including our national leaders and those here in Iowa.

The article is written by Len Niehoff, a Professor from Practice at the University of Michigan Law School. In his editorial Professor Niehoff discusses the role of evidence not just in law, but also its use in our daily lives. He points out that we should all be using to make decisions daily.

Professor Niehoff goes on to discuss how evidence may work in a courtroom to lead to good decisions. He then discusses how the US, as a society has in the case of Covid-19 seems to have put the the use of evidence aside:

“COVID-19 has revealed our societal failure to understand what evidence is and to respect how it works. National and local political leaders have made decisions that ignored the evidence. Members of the general public have proved slow to accept the evidence. Measures adopted to help flatten the curve have been met with virulent protests, despite the evidence that they are working.”

COVID-19 has no monopoly here. We’ve done little to address global warming, despite the evidence. We pretend the wild escalation of the national debt has no consequences, despite the evidence. And so on.

We have become a nation of magical thinkers, making decisions based on what we hope is the case and whom we want to believe. (bolding mine- ed) When confronted with opposing evidence, we do not engage with it. We dismiss it and stick a label on it: “fake,” “phony,” “biased,” etc. And then we mistake that label for evidence.”

Just a couple of minutes thought show that Professor Niehoff’s words nail a real problem in our society. We have leaders who seem to believe that claiming a problem isn’t a problem will make it go away. Or simply ignoring a problem will make it go away.

Here in Iowa our Governor set up criteria for reopening businesses based on scientific data- evidence if you will. When the evidence – continually rising infection and death rates – got in the way of her desire to do something such as keeping meat packing plants open or reopening bars and restaurants, she started on her journey of “magical thinking.” Instead of being guided by the science – by the evidence – suddenly the evidence was explained away as not being real.

We are but a few days into her experiment with magical thinking, but so far it is really looking like following the evidence would have been a much better move for Iowa’s citizens. The Governor opened 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties last week. Suddenly there are unexpected outbreaks of coronavirus infections in some of those 77 counties.

Evidence be damned, Governor Reynolds is now moving to reopen the the 22 counties this weekend. Iowa has among the the highest rates of infection per 1000 people in the country. When asked about this in her Thursday news conference, Reynolds became visibly irritated. The problem was that we were doing more tests. More magical thinking.

Apparently looking at evidence as a guide for public policy in a national or state emergency now takes a back seat to how a leader is feeling about the situation or a desire to please Donald Trump. We do have examples of governors following evidence with great results during the coronavirus outbreak. Cuomo in New York, Newsom in California and Inslee in Washington have all seen huge outbreaks begin to come under some control by following the science and using evidence.

Sorry to tell you fellow Iowans, but Reynolds magic thinking has us going the other way. Unfortunately, there is no way to remove her for nearly 3 years.

So without our elected officials doing what they are supposed to be doing – working for the greater good of all – we must step in and take care of ourselves. And your government just made it harder by opening everything up. Just because things are open doesn’t mean that the threat to life or long term problems is gone. It just means that Kim Reynolds doesn’t want to deal with them as she should.

So stay home when you can. If you must go out, protect yourselves with mask and gloves. Be careful not to touch eyes, nose or mouth until you have a chance to clean your hands with soap and water or a hand sanitizer.

If we can’t get rid of a governor who believes in magical thinking, we can out some folks in the legislature who do not believe in magical thinking. That would be Democrats. They can serve as a counter balance to a governor who doesn’t have our interests at heart.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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