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07/10/2009

The Political Psychology of Stimulus

David Hirschleifer writes:

Regardless of who's right on the economics, clearly the ‘stimulus' language captures the pro side perfectly, and the con side not at all. Indeed, the term immunizes the mind to opposing evidence. After a cup of stimulus from Starbucks, if I'm still drowsy, by definition I need another jolt.

....Opponents have lots of metaphors they could choose from. Instead of the image of rousing activity, there could be the economic ‘suppression plan,' ‘deadweight package,' or ‘growth-retardant system.' For alliteration, there's ‘prosperity Propofol.' To honor the frugality of government, how about ‘resource-flush scheme,' ‘wealth dump,' or ‘porkapalooza'? As for mechanical metaphors, there's ‘recovery off switch,' ‘opportunity crusher,' and ‘investment choke button.' For the computer savvy, how about ‘stagnation drag and-drop-down device,' or ‘system freezer'.

In recognition of our gleaming new infrastructure, there's the ‘road-to-Hell-paving project'. And to celebrate the new Star Trek film, how about economic ‘stasis-field mechanism', ‘enterprise eliminator,' 'job vaporizer,' or just plain ‘black hole'?

So, here's a political psychology question. Why did opponents gullibly swallow the stimulus terminology, and thereby defeat? Any ideas?


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