1 January 2017   Leave a comment

We are often confronted with people who are reluctant to change their minds even when given information that contradicts their conclusions.  It is a difficult situation, made more difficult because such recalcitrance suggests that discussion is a futile activity.  Researchers have studied this phenomenon and have documented its persistence over a very wide variety of topics.  They have a list of responses when confronted with people who refuse to change their minds that I believe are very appropriate and effective:

“If corrective facts only make matters worse, what can we do to convince people of the error of their beliefs? From my experience, 1. keep emotions out of the exchange, 2. discuss, don’t attack (no ad hominem and no ad Hitlerum), 3. listen carefully and try to articulate the other position accurately, 4. show respect, 5. acknowledge that you understand why someone might hold that opinion, and 6. try to show how changing facts does not necessarily mean changing worldviews. These strategies may not always work to change people’s minds, but now that the nation has just been put through a political fact-check wringer, they may help reduce unnecessary divisiveness.”

I think the key point is always to depersonalize disagreements.


A systematic problem in measuring the validity of the “trickle-down” assumptions of wealth redistributions in market capitalism is that we very rarely have access to multi-generational studies of the process.  Generally, we have access to two generations (parents and their children) which is really too short to determine whether over time society as a whole benefits from the trickle-down process: inheritance is so common that it cannot be legitimately be used as a criticism of trickle-down (although there are often measures taken through estate taxes to redistribute such wealth). Guglielmo Barone and Sauro Mocetti wrote an article last year entitled “Intergenerational mobility in the very long run: Florence 1427-2011” to test the process over a very long period of time. They are quite sensitive to the variables that make such an exercise highly problematic and try to compensate for those difficulties, and it is appropriate to regard their findings as speculative.  But, within those severe constraints, their analysis came to some startling conclusions:

“Almost all of the theoretical and empirical studies on intergenerational mobility have focused on the correlation in socioeconomic status between two successive generations – parents and their children – and have shared a common view that the economic advantages and disadvantages of ancestors vanish in a few generations.  In this paper, we question this view and empirically document the persistence of socioeconomic status across generations that are six centuries apart. This result is even more surprising: the huge political, demographic and economic upheavals that have occurred in the city across the centuries were not able to untie the Gordian knot of socioeconomic inheritance.”

Whether these conclusions can be extrapolated in a more general way remains to be seen, but the findings are inconsistent with the prevalent defenses of the trickle-down model.


The economic crisis in Greece has been intense for over six years.  The austerity programs imposed on Greece by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF to address the debt crisis have diverted much of the resources of Greece away from human services in order to pay down the debt.  The costs on the Greek people have been significant, and no where is this more apparent than in the Greek health system which has lost almost a third of its funding over the years. According to The Guardian:

“Since 2009, per capita spending on public health has been cut by nearly a third – more than €5bn (£4.3bn) – according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. By 2014, public expenditure had fallen to 4.7% of GDP, from a pre-crisis high of 9.9%. More than 25,000 staff have been laid off, with supplies so scarce that hospitals often run out of medicines, gloves, gauze and sheets.”

Most of this money has been siphoned off in order to pay debts to other European banks.

Image result for Greek economy

Posted January 2, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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