Give them what they want

Case 1: A company cafeteria

The company had a cafeteria that served nutritious food. Lunch might consist of a salad with grilled fish on top, with a side of whole wheat bread. All washed down with a glass of water.

Then the dining area was opened up to competition. The cafeteria was replaced with a vast food court, where multiple vendors competed to attract workers to their business. They gave the workers the food they actually wanted. Now workers dined on yummy foods, such a juicy steaks, potatoes soaked in butter, burgers with bacon on top. For dessert there was cherry pie, ice cream, and chocolate cake. All washed down with bottles of wine, mugs of beer, and shots of whiskey.

And they lived happily ever after.

Case 2: The news media

TV stations offer three bland news shows—CBS, NBC and ABC. Each provided a half hour of exactly the same sort of news, at precisely 6:30 in the evening.

Then cable came along and opened the news media to competition. Then the internet arrived, and there was even more competition. They gave the public the news they actually wanted. The public wanted to believe that they were virtuous and those on the other side were evil. They wanted to believe that their goals were being thwarted by nefarious conspiracies organized by powerful interests. They stopped dating people with different political views. They stopped speaking with family members who disagreed with them. They stopped hiring people that supported the other candidate. They stopped using the medicine used by people on the other side.

And they lived happily ever after.



17 Responses to “Give them what they want”

  1. Gravatar of Sarah Sarah
    26. February 2022 at 17:43

    “They stopped using the medicine used by people on the other side.”

    In a previous post, you also imply that conservatives don’t take the vaccine for political reasons.

    Do where is the evidence?

    The conservatives who I speak to, usually site one of the four reasons for not taking the vaccine:

    1. They’re worried about long term effects of mRNA.
    2. They’re worried about the lack of transparency (not all data has been released to the public).
    3. They side with scientists like Robert Malone, and others, who raise some important issues, as opposed to siding with scientists like Fauci.
    4. Young and Healthy & feel the risk of taking the vaccine exceeds the risk of getting the virus.

    The Conservatives I speak to tend not to care whether somebody gets the vaccine or not. They mostly believe that it’s a choice between doctor and patient. Some (perhaps many) conservative doctors don’t recommend it due to the aforementioned.

    So far, I’ve yet to hear any conservative cite “politics” as a reason for rejecting the vaccine.

  2. Gravatar of Matthias Matthias
    26. February 2022 at 18:12

    Sarah, to formulate it more neutrally:

    The gap in vaccination uptake between the American political camps is a matter of politics.

    Some or all of your four points might be entirely reasonable (or not). But clearly it seems that whether a particular person is convinced by any of those points seems to be predicted by their general political leanings much more than by more factual concerns.

    Or to formulate it less neutrally, but in the other direction:

    Liberals take the vaccines (more than conservatives do) for political reasons.

  3. Gravatar of Sarah Sarah
    26. February 2022 at 19:41

    That is interesting point, but I don’t think it’s true. I’ve never spoken to a democrat that has taken the vaccine for “political reasons”. There is a disparity that exists between the two parties, but that disparity seems to be related to the types of news people consume, not their political idealogy.

    For example, people who generally watch CNN or CNBC, are more likely to take the vaccines because those stations mostly share opinions that are pro-vaccine. For instance they will invite Fauci as their opinionated contributor as opposed to Malone.

    I’m not interested in the Fauci/Malone debate, but I’m willing to bet that if Fox, CNN, and MSNBC, had a debate between Malone and Fauci, both political parties would have the same uptake — that is, some in the democratic party might not take the vaccine, whereas some in the conservative party may take the vaccine. The numbers would be about equal here.

    In other words, people are making rational decisions based on what they hear from scientists presented on their preferred network, not for political purposes.

  4. Gravatar of mkg mkg
    26. February 2022 at 20:57

    what happens if you extend the metaphor to competition in choice of political leadership (e.g. democracy vs. oligarchy)…?

  5. Gravatar of Aaron W Aaron W
    26. February 2022 at 23:07

    Sarah, I don’t think this is just about the vaccine. What about ivermectin or hydroxychlorquine?

    And I think the point Scott is trying to make is that you might think you’re being “rational” but that “rationality” is a selling point of whatever media you watch/read. You don’t think liberal media sources make any claims about the “rationality” of their viewpoints?The whole enterprise is about rationalizing (not reasoning) existing viewpoints.

  6. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    26. February 2022 at 23:18

    No doubt this is all over my head, but why is the food at the cafeteria, originally, “nutritious” and not “bland” like the news?

    I would have thought that the bland nightly newscasts, obviously back in the day of very middling “nutritional” or informational value, compared very well to bland cafeteria food of middling nutritional value. But instead we get this NFL training-table style cafeteria with grilled fish and salads, and apparently nothing but water! Not even coffee, I’m guessing. (Or maybe you could have black coffee, just no sugar or cream).

  7. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    27. February 2022 at 00:43

    Pray tell, what company is it that you have in mind? Wasn’t where I ever worked. Or ate if I could help it. Microsoft had pretty ok food in its day, the few times I visited. It was pretty much your second model. The population BMI didn’t look impressive. But it didn’t look impressive at competing companies either.

    After we do “Medicare For All,” maybe we’ll do “School Lunch For All.” You can eat anything you want…after 5pm. Tell Sen. Warren she owes me a cabinet position for this idea.

    As for media, I’d strongly encourage you to read Andrey Mir’s Postjournalism, which updates McCluhan and Chomsky models of the news business to the new economics of news, where the money comes from subscribers not advertisers, who pay not for the news but for validation (and not for invalidation) of their view of the news. No longer manufacturing consent, media manufacture polarization, for purely economic reasons.

  8. Gravatar of Sarah Sarah
    27. February 2022 at 02:17

    “Sarah, I don’t think this is just about the vaccine. What about ivermectin or hydroxychlorquine?”

    Well, Robert Malone supports using ivermectin and hydroxychlorquine. He’s obviously not the only scientist who supports it, but he’s probably the most notable. So that is a scientific opinion, not a conservative opinion.

    I don’t think very many people wake up and say “I’m going to take X drug, or advocate for X because I hate democrats or I hate republicans”. I don’t think it’s political at all. People simply view the information presented, analyze it, and make a choice.

  9. Gravatar of Sarah Sarah
    27. February 2022 at 02:52

    “And I think the point Scott is trying to make is that you might think you’re being “rational” but that “rationality” is a selling point of whatever media you watch/read.”

    Sorry, I forgot to respond to this one. I’m not really sure what you mean by “might think you’re being rational”. In my view, rational means the logical process of reason. People are provided with information, and they try their best to make sense of it(reason). The laymen has no idea if Malone is correct or not. But the layman can listen, look at the evidence he cites, then decide, and that process is a rational one. One may not agree with the conclusion, but that is irrelevent. Democracy functions best when their is open debate, not when people are silenced. Btw, I noticed my message on the other post was already deleted. Perhaps one is not allowed to question the bombings in Donbas on this blog? I must have committed a speech crime already.

  10. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    27. February 2022 at 04:07

    Rothschild & Co easily has the best food of any business I’ve ever eaten at. Very good wine, too, naturally.

  11. Gravatar of steve steve
    27. February 2022 at 11:25

    “So far, I’ve yet to hear any conservative cite “politics” as a reason for rejecting the vaccine.”

    I have. I am active in our church and in some local veterans groups so some people assume I am conservative. I have administrative responsibility for about a dozen ICUs. When we have had trouble with anti-mask, anti-tax pts in the ICU I have been asked several times to go talk with those people. I also talk with other pts. I have heard it so it is real but I am more likely to hear the 4 things you mention. There is good literature on all 4 and they literature strongly shows the vaccine is safe and is an advantage even for young people. Yes, there is Malone and a few others but then we also had doctors and scientists supporting tobacco and ones that think they cause autism. It is politics that leads people to choose people who would be seen as obvious charlatans absent our political divide.


  12. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    27. February 2022 at 12:33

    Sarah, I’ve seen people cite political factors when asked why they weren’t vaccinated. Not specifically “I’m a Republican”, but their political reasons are correlated with being a Republican. (Resentment against mandates, etc.)

    And most of the heterodox anti-vax info is presented at right wing media sites.

    mkg, Oligarchy is kind of a wild card. Could be good, could be really bad (as in Burma).

    Aaron, Yeah, I was thinking of those two drugs, in addition to vaccines.

    Anon/portly, I suppose in both cases I had in mind what experts would view as “good for you” both bland and nutritious.

    I just wrote this post to amuse myself; don’t really have any point I’m trying to make.

    Dzhaughn, You said:

    “Pray tell, what company is it that you have in mind?”

    LOL, it’s fiction!

  13. Gravatar of Sarah Sarah
    27. February 2022 at 12:38

    “There is good literature on all 4 and they literature strongly shows the vaccine is safe and is an advantage even for young people.”

    — First of all, thank you for your thoughtful response. Duly noted about your personal experiences with patients, but can you cite studies that are not funded by Pharmacueticals and the CDC?

    Quite a few independent studies (smaller scale, but not beholden to special interests) are producing results contrary to the view of the medical establishment.

    In regards to a minority of doctors and scientists supporting Tobacco, this is a good point and I agree. But these studies were funded by Tobacco, and typically those who went along with it were paid handsomely! In Malone and McCulloughs case, they’ve both lost money, and their reputations, along with everyone else who sides with them! There is no benefit to these people, other than personal conviction. I think you will agree that Ivermectin is not a “get rich quick” drug. It’s a brand name that costs less than five cents to produce.

    I also don’t think your majority opinion argument (majority literature) is a good argument. We’ve lived through ages where the majority of scientists studied alchelmy and physiognomy. Galileo and Copernicus were outcasts for not going along with the “convential view”.

    Sumner has always been outside the “conventional view”, yet slowly he’s winning support. In the 90’s, he was considered a bit of a quack. Sorry, Scott.

  14. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    27. February 2022 at 13:23

    Good try! But to write like Scott Alexander you have to have talent or try very hard.

  15. Gravatar of Yohan Yohan
    27. February 2022 at 15:34

    I agree with Scott that people include politics when making health choices, but I think it’s crazy to call Malone a quack doctor. Here is a Lancet study published just five days ago:

    “Reported cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children aged 12–20 years in the USA who received a COVID-19 vaccine, December, 2020, through August, 2021: a surveillance investigation”

  16. Gravatar of steve steve
    27. February 2022 at 16:05

    Can I cite studies not funded by the CDC or Pharma companies? I hope this doesnt sound snotty but I am actually shocked that anyone who claims to have an interest or read widely on the issue would ask this. There is a lot of literature being published outside of the US so the CDC would not be involved. The huge majority of papers looking at vaccine safety have not been published by pharma or with their money. I have linked below to one of the many with this one out of Israel. More are easily found. What are you interested in?

    (I do have to ask you about your data analytic skills, especially since you stated a preference for smaller studies. Smaller studies run into power issues and are more prone to error. Are you comfortable with basic statistical measures like p value, NNT, Confidence intervals and why controls are important? Comfortable at looking at study designs looking for error? )

    You realize that Copernicus and Galileo were mostly outcasts because they opposed the religious based consensus that the earth is the center of the world, not that of science (which largely did not exist back then). In the modern era where we practice what most of us would really consider science, the last 100-200 years, it is really hard to find the rogue go it alone scientist who ended up being correct when everyone else was wrong. This is especially true because we have access to so much literature. One only need publish ones results and there is no shortage fo places to do that. So to be clear, I dont think we should base decisions upon whether more people support it but rather when does the bulk of the evidence and literature show, including laboratory data.

    ” I think you will agree that Ivermectin is not a “get rich quick” drug. It’s a brand name that costs less than five cents to produce.”

    Would actually disagree since I follow medical news. Pretty good evidences that some docs are making a lot of money and that some of those are ethically challenged docs who have been under investigation for years, preceding covid.


  17. Gravatar of bb bb
    28. February 2022 at 17:22

    “In my view, rational means the logical process of reason. People are provided with information, and they try their best to make sense of it(reason).”
    Research tells us that is not how are brains work. Human brains are very good at convincing themselves that they are acting on reason when in fact they are being driven by emotion. It’s entirely possible that I am not being rational, but I seem to have most of the medical community on my side when I say that support for Ivermectin and Hydroxi… is irrational. You should really consider the possibility that the impulse to question the medical communities views on all covid related topics is driven by something other than reason. And politics seems like a pretty good candidate.
    BTW: I really do miss cafeterias that cooked food that looked like home cooked meals using ingredients.

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