Mental models vs. Mount Doom

Winningreen Discourse       

Mental models vs. Mount Doom: Why liberal Democrats can’t see the freight train

By Tom Randall

Date: July 5, 2011

In his book, Deep Survival, Laurence Gonzales discusses the unfortunate fate of a British member of Parliament from Liverpool, William Huskisson, in 1830.

Mr. Huskisson was attending the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester railway.  He had a lot on his mind that day and was in the process of crossing the tracks for what promised to be a somewhat uncomfortable meeting with the Duke of Wellington.  Huskisson looked at the railroad engine, saw it coming, stepped across the tracks and SPLAT!

Mr. Huskisson became the first casualty of the first railroad...combined with a mental model that did not fit a changed world.

Various parts of the brain get together all the time to create mental models of our world or parts of it.  They can often be very useful because they can help us make semi-conscious decisions quickly without going through the process of perceiving numerous of bits of information and running them through the cognitive process to form a rational conclusion.  Particularly handy when the cerebral cortex is busy with other matters.

Unfortunately for Mr. Huskisson, his mental model was of a world that no longer existed, one of which the fastest vehicles were horse or oxen-powered wagons and carriages — not speeding (relatively so) locomotives.  The model told him he had plenty of time to cross the tracks.  Thus, the SPLAT!

Now, look at this sort of human cognition — or lack thereof — among today’s liberal Democrats.  A quick survey of the Congressional directory reveals that only 15 to 20 percent have any kind of work background that would enable them to create an accurate mental model of how real-world economics or business works.  Many have never had any experience outside public office. 

The Democrats’ mental model of the world consists of passing and expanding entitlements as a natural order of things.  Cutting entitlements is something that has never existed in their model (except for modest welfare reform, which Republicans had to pass three times before President Bill Clinton signed it).   Taxing the “rich” or producers, of the country has, for them, always been an acceptable and effective way of increasing revenues.  A booming economy has always kicked in at the right time to pay the bills, à la the Clinton years, while energy, the major economic driver, has been affordable, or returned to affordable levels after brief interruptions.  Entrepreneurs and investors, the major economic engineers, operated in relative governmental and regulatory certainty.  Democrats never had to concern themselves with how the economy and business work.

It is a mental model that is diametrically opposed to today’s world.  The economy today looks like Mount Doom but they can’t picture it.  The train is rolling.  The SPLAT! is coming.

Until liberal Democrats’ mental model is changed, or set aside in favor of cognition, progress will not be made.

Contact: Tom Randall
Winningreen LLC
Chicago, IL
Phone: 773-857-5086
e-mail: trandall@winningreen.com