The Washington Post had two interesting articles yesterday about the
recent disaster changed public opinion, on happiness and on trust.
On happiness, when asked last weekend to rate the overall quality of
their lives on a seven point scale, more than 44% picked the highest
rating. In June that was 30%, and in December 1999 it was 31%. This
seems to me to be an enormous problem for those who want to measure
economic policies by how much they increase reported happiness. Was
this disaster good for the nation because it made people happier?!
On trust, when asked Sept 25-27, 64% of Americans now trust the
federal government nearly always or most of the time to do what is
right, more than double the percentage who said so in April 2000, and
the highest it has been for three decades. If we interpret this to
be a factual estimate by those questioned, rather than a statement
of values, this seems very hard to square with rationality. What
evidence of federal behavior in the last two weeks could possibly
be the basis for this huge change in opinion? The big info has to
be that the disaster was allowed to occur, and most federal action
since then has been a promises to do useful things, rather than
doing anything demonstrably useful. This seems to me a clear case
of wishful thinking, where people believe what they want to be true.
Robin Hanson firstname.lastname@example.org http://hanson.gmu.edu
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323