By Matthew Flinders. This was originally published on the Oxford University Press blog.
Politics is a worldly art. It is a profession that is founded on the ability to instill hope, convince doubters and unite the disunited – to find simple and pain free solutions to what are in fact complex and painful social challenges. In recent months a small seam of scholarship has emerged that explores public attitudes to politics and politicians through the lens of Daniel Kahneman’s work on behavioral economics and psychology. ‘Think fast’ and the public’s responses are generally aggressive, negative and hopeless; ‘think slow’ and the public’s responses are far more positive, understanding and hopeful. Such findings resonate with my own personal experience and particularly when I founded a “Be Kind to Politicians Party” as part of a project for the BBC and it was amazing how many people I was able to recruit in a fairly short time.
The aim of telling this tale is not to make the reader feel sorry for politicians, or really to defend them or their profession. The ‘aim’ – if there really is one – is to promote the public understanding of political life and to steer it away from over-simplistic representations of sleaze, scandal and self-interest. (P.J. O’Rourke’s Don’t Vote for the Bastards – It Just Encourages Them! suddenly springs to mind.) Continue reading