Hold me back before I kill the M***R F**R! [re: Behavioral economics and Gaza]

January 26, 2009 at 5:51 am Leave a comment

I have seen a few of those typical middle east street scenes, with two men fighting in a market or a bar, and a crowed of people is around them. One of those dodos will typicaly scream “Hold me back.. hold me back before I kill the mother fucker” Well – why don’t you hold yourself back you always ask ? Because he cant. He is in the midst of it.

Obama’s appointment of Sunstein made me go back to my readings re behavioral economics, and how introduction of better understanding of human psychology transforms our understanding and analysis of economic theory.

 Wikipedia summarizes the foundations of B.E as follows:

Two of the main themes in behavioral finance and economics:[9]

§  Heuristics: People often make decisions based on approximate rules of thumb, not strictly rational analysis. See also cognitive biases and bounded rationality.

§  Framing: The way a problem or decision is presented to the decision maker will affect his action.

So what happens when we apply the same three themes to political science and especially to democracy ? How do we expect democracies to function if people make decisions not based on strictly rational analysis? The Framing (i.e. media) of a problem effects people actions and people are making? How will the democracy function during a survival crisis when emotions are high and rationality goes out of the window ?

The best example is sadly the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. For almost every outsider, the solution – dividing the land to two – is easy to recognize. But for a solution to be implemented, we need the insiders – the individuals in both countries to be able to recognize the solution, and we further need the political system on both side to be able to recognize, act and negotiate such a solution simultaneously.


Not surprisingly, for a deeply emotional topic – where almost every individual on either sides have strong personal pain points connecting them to the conflict, getting the individuals to recognize a solution is close to impossible. And we have not even discussed the political system on either sides, neither of them capable of electing or supporting a leader in making such decisions.

 In some other places on the globe, what was required was long period of ceasefire – allowing the pains to heal, rationality to come back and the right leaders to emerge on both sides to solve the conflict. But in such close quarters as the Israel, it seems like as time goes by, both sides are nose diving into each other, increasing the flames and the conflict over the years rather than calming it down.

 Which leads me toward thining that the only way forward will be if the international community – led by the US and the moderate Arab countries, both “gently impose” a solution on both parties.   And we might be surprised in how the leaders and the people on both sides will be releived to have such a solution imposed on them. It will have to be a delicate balance: Not imposing as in somebody holding a gun to your head an telling you what to do, but more like a parent holding his shy / histeric kid and walking him into a classroom… 


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

“I am not Bush” What McCain wanted to say but didnt…

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