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Climate Hustle

Research shows that certain facts can still change conservatives’ minds

Posted on 14 December 2017 by dana1981

There’s a debate between social scientists about whether climate change facts can change peoples’ minds or just polarize them further. For example, conservatives who are more scientifically literate are less worried about global warming. In essence, education arms them with the tools to more easily reject evidence and information that conflicts with their ideological beliefs. This has been called the “smart idiot” effect and it isn’t limited to climate change; it’s also something we’re seeing with the Republican tax plan.

However, other research has shown that conservatives with higher climate-specific knowledge are more likely to accept climate change – a result that holds in many different countries. For example, when people understand how the greenhouse effect works, across the political spectrum they’re more likely to accept human-caused global warming.

Social scientists have also debated whether communicating the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming moves the needle in a positive or negative direction. Previous research led by Stephan Lewandowsky has shown that informing people about the expert consensus increases acceptance of human-caused global warming. However, Yale social scientist Dan Kahan has remained unconvinced and continues to argue that 97% consensus messaging is polarizing and therefore counter-productive.

New research: consensus messaging works on conservatives

To test which side is correct, social scientists Sander van der Linden, Anthony Leiserowitz, and Edward Maibach conducted a survey of over 6,000 nationally-representative Americans, of which 934 were conservatives with at least a college degree. This is the group for which facts should hypothetically be most polarizing, because they have the tools to most easily find ways to reject those facts and an ideological bias against accepting climate science.

On Monday the authors published their first paper using this data in Nature Human Behavior. In that study, they specifically examined whether informing these high-education conservatives (and liberals) that “97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused global warming is happening” would increase their perception of the consensus, or if it would backfire, causing polarization and further rejection of the consensus among conservatives. 

In the control group, college-educated conservatives thought the expert consensus was about 64%, and college-educated liberals put the number at 78% (a 14% partisan gap). After being informed about the actual 97% consensus, the conservative answer increased to 83% while the liberal response rose to around 90% (a 7% partisan gap).

Fig 1

Perceptions of the expert consensus on human-caused global warming among high-education (HE) conservatives (red) and liberals (blue) before and after being informed about the 97% consensus. Illustration: van der Linden et al. (2017), Nature Human Behavior

Notably, not only did highly-educated conservatives respond positively by generally accepting the facts and adjusting their views accordingly, but the ideological gap on this question shrunk in half. It’s a clear example that facts aren’t necessarily polarizing.

In response to this study, Kahan pointed out that it only addressed perceived consensus and not acceptance of human-caused global warming or support for climate policy.

However, the authors have just published a second paper in the Journal of Science Communication that responds to Kahan’s critiques by including the data addressing those questions. It shows that consensus messaging increased acceptance of human-caused global warming by about 5%, both for the participants as a whole and specifically for college-educated conservatives. Similarly, support for climate policy rose by about 2% across the political spectrum.

FIg 1

Changes in participant perceptions of the listed questions in a control group and a group informed about the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming, from another survey done in 2015. Illustration: van der Linden et al. (2017), Journal of Science Communication

Public opinion isn’t the policy bottleneck

These numbers might sound small, but on their 7-point scale (4 being neutral), support for climate policy rose from 5.48 to 5.59 on average, and from 4.89 to 4.99 among college-educated conservatives. In other words, though it may not be considered a high priority, support for climate policy is already there, and informing people about the 97% expert consensus moved the needle a bit further in the positive direction. And as Kahan said in 2003,

Individual opinions influence political outcomes through aggregation. Even a modest amount of variation in opinion across individuals will profoundly influence collective deliberations

Indeed public awareness of the expert consensus and reality of human-caused global warming has been on the rise, as research by Larry Hamilton has shown.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments

Comments 1 to 17:

  1. Interesting research, but not surprising. Scepticism is natural (dont take that comment the wrong way) and is a mechanism that has evolved to help us evaluate new ideas and whether they are true or false and a threat to us or just new information of value . We need more information to decide whether the theory is acceptable.

    Of course the nature of the sceptical response seems to differ between liberals and conservatives, but theres some element of scepticim underneath with both groups.

    Given scepticism appears to be the "default" position it can only be changed by facts, whether its science facts, consensus facts, or facts that show a particular ideology may be flawed. You cannot possibly change someones mind by saying nothing.

    The hardest scepticism to change is politically motivated sceptism discussed in this article here. IMO the reason is people are filtering the climate issue through a series of political beliefs including adherence to free market fundamentalism and small government and proving this ideology correct or incorrect is very difficult, so until that changes its hard to eliminate the climate scepticism. Europe has more or less reached a consensus that the mixed economy philosophy is best, ( a bit of market and a bit of government) but views are much more divided in America.

    Because America has such an emphasis on small government and freedom and liberty ( and dont get me wrong, these are not bad values as such, its a question of where to strike the best balance) but the problem is the extremism in America means any limits on lobby groups and election funding are seen as ideologically unacceptable. And so politicians become controlled by special interest groups that wield disproportionate power. This situation is causing real problems and is senseless. Its a sort of "catch 22" situation to quote the Jospeh Heller novel.

    However only public recognition of these problems, and public pressure on politicians is going to change this scenario, both in terms of promoting legislation reducing the power of lobby groups, and convincing individual politicians to take climate change more seriously. The battle will be one by chipping away at the issues on many fronts.

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  2. Just to be clear, the scepticism we see from the climate denialist people is clearly politically motivated at least in part, and is also crazy irrational scepticism, probably because it's politically motivated.

    It is also similar to the poor quality scepticism of people who think we didn't land on the moon based on alleged anomalies in various photos (at first glance they are odd anomalies). These have been totally explained by NASA, yet their scepticism persists, leading me to believe there is some sort of anti government libertarianism and  conspiracy theory ideation in their thinking. It's so similar in style to the climate issue.

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  3. Interesting. As a conservative, I am wondering what it would take to change my mind? After all I am both a conservative and an advocate of changing our current neoluddite industrial systems to modern sustainable systems. AGW mitigation is tops on the list.

    I honestly doubt any of your so called "facts" would ever change my mind at all.

    You are welcome to try though.

    I am an organic farmer. I am not afraid of change. I am the change!

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  4. The current New York Times website includes an article by Nadja Popovich and Livia Albeck-Ripka, “How Republicans Think About Climate Change — in Maps”. It is based on “The spatial distribution of Republican and Democratic climate opinions at state and local scales” by Matto Mildenberger, Jennifer R. Marlon, Peter D. Howe and Anthony Leiserowitz published in the journal Climatic Change.

    That study exposes a lack of understanding of many Republicans, and that there are regional pockets of more severe lack of awareness or mis-understanding. The level of awareness that climate change is greater than the acceptance that the only scientifically supported understanding is human impact, particularly the burning of fossil fuels. That disconnect can lead to mis-understanding what policy actions are required to address the problem tey are aware of. And though the NYT report does not mention it, the regions of less understanding have a stronger developed desire to benefit from the global burning of fossil fuels.

    That is consistent with this article's reporting that many 'better educated' people may be more aware of climate matters, but are motivated to resist better understanding of the cause of the observed results. Some of them may change their mind simply by becoming aware that the climate science consensus regarding human impacts is 97%. Others may change their mind when they actually honestly investigate the matter to better understand it. But some will dig into denial rather than accept the rational better understanding/explanation. Some understand what they have to give up if they accept the better understanding. Nobody can actually sensibly argue against the science, they can either learn or get angrier when it is brought to their attention. The angry ones need the most help, and need to be kept from having any influence until they are helped to understand that they need to change their minds.

    On a related point. I am reading “Seven Bad Ideas - How mainstream economists have America and the World” by Jeff Madrick. It is a detailed and well researched challenge of Economists, particularly the ones that resist better understanding that 'people freer to believe what they want and do as they please' does not develop sustainable improvements of the economic activity of humanity.

    Many economists appear to accept that human self-interest can be damaging. But they believe that free market competition is a cure for that problem.

    Economists deny or dismiss the fact that less acceptable behaviour has a competitive advantage, especially with today's manipulative marketing science. And they further deny that allowing less acceptable behaviour to compete for profit and popularity actually develops even less acceptable behaviour. They have to deny it to justify their faith in “No Rules Are the Best Rules Economically”.

    Ultimately the problem is a lack of an ethical Good Objective. The undeniable Public Interest Good Objective is developing a sustainable better future for all of humaity. That includes sustainable improvements of the economy - which requires all economic activity to be sustainable - which requires the correction of any developed unsustainable and harmful activity.

    Private Interests that are impediments to that Public Interest have a lot to lose if they accept what is undeniably required to support/protect the Public Interest. And some will try to claim that Private Interests competing freely will produce the required Good Result, which can easily be understood to be a fairy tale, yet is passionately believed by many supposedly well educated economists, a concensus of them believing nonsense.

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  5. Correction in my comment.

    The book title is "“Seven Bad Ideas - How mainstream economists have damaged America and the World”

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  6. Red Baron, you are not the typical conservative given your embrace of quite substantial change! Is this your nature do you think, or ability to step back and be analytical?

    And what would change a conservatives mind on the climate issue, if not facts?

    When agw climate change was first proposed as a simple idea, you presumably did not say "this must be true" but at least wanted an explanation? What is this if not responding to facts?

    PS: the more I look at smaller scale regenerative farming, the more I think its the way of the future, or at least part of the future food production system. Society has to become sustainable longer term, so probably consume less in some areas where we have the problems, better controls on polluting activity, more recycling eventually, and smaller population. Only this combination makes sense.

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  7. OPOF @4 all correct, except that economists do in fact accept a need for regulation in some areas.  They  accept the need for rules in areas where markets don't self regulate well, and environmental impacts is one of the main cases of market failure, the whole tragedy of the commons thing. They also accept a need for safety laws and basic labour laws.  I read the economist journal every week. Economists simply say don't over regulate in areas like labour laws, trying to fix prices, and where an activity is someones private business, with little affect on anyone else.

    It is politicians who make an illogical mess of legislation. It is politicians that dislike business regulation of any kind. They do this by taking economists advice to not over regulate, and twist this into a case to regulate nothing! Politicians are captured by business lobbies, and thier own personal self interest. Of course it doesn't stop the same politicians over regulating some elements of life that are none of their business, or anyone elses business.

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  8. nigelj,

    Jeff Madrick presents some pretty compelling case examples when the majority of economists did not (and still do not) admit to the unacceptable reality of what is going on. Often they blame regional governments for bad management of 'their' economy, usually based on the ideology that less Public Intervention is better because the free action of markets can be trusted to develop improvements for the future of humanity (problems for any region could not develop from the unhelpful dogma based actions because such actions could never rationally develop, and only survive briefly if they did).

    Actually, I seldom see an economist base any of their evaluations on the Goal of achieving sustainable improvements of human activity, in spite of the glaring case of climate science and what has economically happened in response to the establishment and strengthening of global understanding of the unacceptability of increased or prolonged burning of fossil fuels that started globally back in the 1960s (and has led to the development of the Sustainable Development Goals which include the urgent need for significant climate action).

    Economic Leaders have failed to responsibly respond to that clear understanding. In fact, many economists continue to argue for balancing 'what would have to be given up by a portion of current day humanity to reduce the future harm to others' with 'the increased harm being done to everyone in the future'. They seriously believe it is OK to harm/challenge the future generations as long as the cost to the current generation of not harming the Others is considered to be Higher than the harm they think is being caused, and therefore is a net-benefit if there is no reduction of the amount of harm being done (as if the nation suffering future consequence can be considered to be a person evaluating a net-benefit for themselves). That the argument is only popular because the future generations have no power to Get Even or set things Right.

    The current generations addicted to false unsustainable perceptions of prosperity and opportunity should be furious with the loss they face today because of the irresponsible actions of their recent predecessors. A new generation of makers-of-more-trouble should not be popular anywhere. And the economist faith in teh power of rational leadership in the economy would mean that the vast majority of wealthy and powerful people would be diligently trying to make the entire population more aware and better understanding of what needs to change (and refuse to deal with the trouble-makers). But economists, a consensus of them, still commonly claim that people Freer to believe what they want and do as they please will produce that Good Result, just be patient and stop getting in the way of the infallable belief in efficient markets - Good People will Win the Game.

    Critical Thinking based Skepticism measuring success as 'sustainably improving the future for all of humanity' is conspicuously Missing in Action when it comes to Economics (and many other easily politicized matters).

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  9. OPOF @8, thanks for the tip on the book, I may order it.

    I certainly accept some economists have those views.There are different schools of thought, and different countries also have different views. It also depends whether one is talking academic economists, or ones captured by the financial sector ( have a read of the book Other Peoples Money). 

    I still think a big problem is politicians and think tanks like the Heartland Institute.  They missrepresnt what people like Adam Smith really promoted, and take it to extremes. He would turn in his grave.

    The generational costs can be quantified or at least estimated. I haven't read much about what economists think about that aspect or how they discount it but its more of a political decision ultimately. Economics is a peculiar thing that is part science part planning, but decisions on how to weigh future impacts are ultimately personal, corporate and political. Economists can only provide cost estimates.

    We are rightly worried about climate change and its getting urgent. Just looking beyond this at sustainability, environment and economics generally it all looks grim and problematic at the moment, but it takes time for attitudes to change and I can sense younger people and some corporates accepting things must change. Its evolutionary, I'm taking positive view here. However the problems are getting very serious and urgent with climate change, with possibility of nasty tipping points and things becoming irreversible. The public have to demand better of politicians, it all starts with public getting smarter and more forward thinking.

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  10. Nigelj, I loved your post.  I do completely agree with your statements at least to the understanding of the 'whys'.  I am not college educated, just to start off with.  What I am is just a average housewife whom keeps a eye on many different subjects...Not only do they interest me but I have children whom I home schooled up until 2 years ago when they went back to public schools...I started to realize that there is a lot to try to teach our children.  Not only mathematics or language, but the amount of information to research is beyond the capability of 5th graders.  In essence, when I was in middle school in 80's we were taught that our blood inside our body is blue but oxygen makes it red when it leaves the body.  I know this sounds ridiculous now, however that was what the public schools taught in health class.  The problem in our society (in my poinion) is connected to what I just explained.  When you learn something from a respected teacher and then find out later it was wrong....well, it causes a lack of trust.  Science changes.  When science is taught, does not say, "this may change with further study."  This causes scepticism in what we learn.  The realization that you may have much more information stored incorrectly from our teaching is embarrassing to say the least when a child informs you what color your blood is really and why.  Imagine the test you took that caused you to score a A in health class was all a false assumption.  How many more?  Now in 21st century we have google.  Research at the tips of our fingers.  (I love goodwill book store too) but my point is...now based on 'who do we believe' we have to reason...  Even if the information is acceptable, doesn't mean anyone will act on it...  The main problem is lifestyle.  When you tell your child that if he/her has unprotected sex they will be taking chances of pregnancy and disease.  This information is backed by scientific study.  However it is most likely your child will take the chance this once..or twice... It's lifestyle...  The money to afford the condoms, the "It don't feel as good" or just plain "I don't care, we could all die tomorrow."

    Put climate change into the scenario above and you have the societies majority reasoning.  1] Doubt that it would happen.  2] I can't afford to filter my well water, it's cheaper to buy bottle water. 3] I love this color paint, even though I know what it does to the environment to make it. 4] I know cancer is most likely caused by radio active waves and is increasingly rising in communities; however; it won't happen to me.

    All these things are what the average person will think but not say out loud to a climate change scientist.

    Just like your child would not tell you he may have or had unprotected sex until he is caught and has no choice but to tell you.

     

    Why?  What can they do?  Everyone wants google..even NASA. Wants AI from Google to see beyond our solar system.  Everyone wants to buy the cage free chicken eggs or eggs from a farm down the road but the cost difference could mean I can't make it to next payday if I include milk, meat, and vegetables bought from a natural farm...

    Just last week Walmart offered milk at 95 cents and 38 cent dozen eggs because a health store opened in the area.  This at Christmas time is hard to resist...

    I am guilty...I bought 8 gallons of milk and chocolate syrup and cereal and muffin mix...my kids have loved the menu this week...

    So from a average Joe  (Jolene) ;) the climate won't have the effect the scientist want from society because there is no plan to solving it...to fix this problem would mean more than no plastics or no caged chicken eggs.  It would mean returning to a world before Benjamin Franklin.  Or Jefferson Bell.  Maybe before Einstein.  JMO...and thoughts.  I don't think even the scientist want to give up that much...especially the doctors.  Not many people even know how to grow their own garden or even how to rest the land...

    Again...no solution that is acceptable.

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  11. Kay @10, fair comments on the education system. However obviously we don't have perfect knowledge about everything yet, so some things taught at school are going to prove to be wrong. I have some degree of faith that most children are smart enough to realse this, and realise it's not an excuse to dismiss the education system and become too cynical. Some do of course, and I have seen this, but they tend to be the dim witted no hopers anyway. 

    Looking back, most of what I was taught at school is still valid. All the maths still holds true, because we have total proof of this subject. Most of the science has held true, but not all, for example the advice on intake of saturated fats and salt has changed now. But the big scientific issues have stood the test of time well like newtons laws, evolution, dangers of smoking tobacco, etc.

    Of course the internet has changed everything by giving people quick access to vast information, including peer reviewed research and also millions of pages of complete nonsense for example laughable websites like ice age now.com. We have to be teaching children how to differentitate good information from bad, and a lot of this involves evaluating the credibility of websites, finding the qualifications of their authors, and identifying logical fallacies and trickerty in peoples claims. This will happen with time. Things take time to settle down and evolve.

    Climate change is a lifestyle issue to some extent. People are of course naturally reluctant to make sacrifices and electric cars have been expensive, although this is changing fast. Anyway this is why its important to have things like carbon tax and dividend schemes, and subsidies on electric cars to help push peoples behaviour along in the right way, and bring electric cars that little bit closer to affordability. Ideally people would just make better environmental choices in a voluntary way, and take some personal responsibility, but we know we sometimes need things like carbon taxes to help change behaviour. We also need leadership because humans are followers. Once you get all these things, change is often rapid.

    We dont have to give up nearly as much as you think. Not even close. The costs of completely changing to to renewable energy are put at 1%  of a countries gdp (total economic output or wealth). This is an easy maths exercise you could do yourself because all the information on costs is easily accessed.  This cost is easy to cope with, and in simple terms it approximately equals less than 1% of peoples income. Costs of electric cars are very close to an average middle size petrol driven hatchback. There are other issues, like reducing industrial emissions but none of this requires huge reduction in lifestyle or vast costs.

    Of course some sacrifices are required, but certainly not the sort your imagine that takes anyone back a century in time. You are right we need a better articulated plan and good politicians would spell that out sort of plan out like a mission statement. Half the problem is politicians are captured by business and fossil fuel lobby groups and campaign donors, and the other half of the problem is their simplstic belief in some cases that free markets will solve every problem as pointed out by OPOF. I don't have magic answers, but perhaps only the public can change this, by making good voting choices, and contacting their local politicians and putting pressure on their local politicians, and of course changing their own lifestyles staring this very minute, even if they start with small things.

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  12. Facts may help change conservatives minds, but right now The White House is doing much that is hidden by the Russia scandal and sexual scandals. We are talking executive orders and legal appointments that are shaping America as a land of ultra conservatism,  ultra high and economic inequality, and self serving total removal of as many environmental laws as possible, as fast as possible.

    Its going to need a lot of "facts" to change this nightmare.

    www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/15/trump-changing-america-president-tweets-russia

    www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/15/america-un-extreme-poverty-trump-republicans

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  13. nigelj,

    The "Seven Bad Ideas" book by Jeff Mandrick includes the following gem in the chapter about the 7th Bad Idea, the claim that “Economics is a Science”:

    ““So will toppling Reinhart-Rogoff <developers of the debunked claim that historically, a national debt reaching 90% of GDP results in a sharp drop in the rate of growth of GDP>, from its pedestal change anything?” asked Paul Krugman in the New York Times. “I'd like to think so. But I predict that the usual suspects will just find another dubious piece of economic analysis to canonize, and the depression will go on and on.” Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, put it in terms all too familiar: “Why wouldn't we expect a reaction from policymakers? Because they're using research findings the way a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not for illumination. If the R&R lamppost turns out to be wobbly, the austerions <a term for austerity advocates - people who demand drastic cuts to spending on social programs to reduce debt> (or climate-change deniers, or supply-siders) will find another one. In this town [Washington, D.C.), I'm sorry to say, you can pretty much go think-tank shopping to buy the result you seek.””

    The Drunk and Lamppost portrayal is soooo perfect.

    And many economists seem to be as drunk as the politcal policy makers - because many economists are ideological/political in a Bad Way, not critical thinkers skeptical of existing claims and pursuing increased awareness and better understanding to sustainable improve the future for all of humanity.

    You may read many articles by economists that create the impression there is a strong level of criticism of unjustified dogma. But in reality many economists just ignore or dismiss the valid criticism, seeking new lampposts to lean on.

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  14. OPOF @13, yes good examples. Too much austerity is mean spirited, and just  bad economics but they seem to find excuses. In fact we have another perfect example. Trumps rather dubious tax cuts are apparently going to be paid for by slash and burn entitlement cuts. It's just mind boggling.

    I think microeconomics is a legitimate science with solid laws.

    I think macroeconomis is closer to self serving voodo, with a terriblly bad predictive record. The problem might be that economists have  vested interests in policy options, and macroeconomics isn't very good at taking human psychology into account.

    Here's a good small article on self serving finance economics: The parable of the ox.

    www.ft.com/content/bfb7e6b8-d57b-11e1-af40-00144feabdc0

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  15. Sorry, the link is now paywalled for some reason. Try this one for the parable of the ox, or just google it:

    www.reddit.com/r/investing/comments/169o9j/the_parable_of_the_ox/

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  16. nigelj,

    I have been considering the parable of the ox.

    It is a reasonable presentation of the steps of departure of commodity trading from reality, into irrational gambling.

    But it does not quite capture the real world problem of irresponsible gamblers in the game. Those irresponsible gamblers will not support truly sustainable improvements for all of humanity because they see a quicker bigger buck can be made by pushing over-development in a wrong direction. Their often irrational pursuits create bubbles that have to burst, like the massive bubbles of unsustainable perceptions of prosperity and opportunity that have developed due to the pursuit of benefit from burning fossil fuels.

    The parable does allude to the competitive advantage obtained by being willing to behave less acceptably than others in the competition. But it does not properly highlight the powerful role of misleading marketing in drumming up unsustainable regional or tribal popular support for profitable activity that is understandably damaging and ultimately unsustainable.

    And the story completely misses the power of misleading marketing in politics that can result in elected representatives deliberately participating in the misleading marketing scams even when those scams are fooling less than half of the population. A politician can win by playing the game of carefully target marketing appeals about many single issues that individually are understandably unacceptable and have less than majority support. Collecting enough unacceptable single issue voters and having them understand the power they can have if they vote for each other's unacceptable Private Interests is understandably the Power Game played by the Uniters of the Right.

    A better ending of the Ox parable would be to have the gamblers betting on getting a share of the Winnings of the most successful farmer, with the most successful farmers being the ones who have low costs because they produce something that looks like an Ox but is very low in nutrients for the consumer, and maybe even be harmful to the consumer.

    That would be like those profitable Bady Food Powder producers who added melamine to the powder because it was cheap and would be counted as protein by the testing that was done. And the nation that that happened in is less important than understanding that the nation had low monitoring of what was done so it was not able to stop the problem before it became a real serious problem.

    That 'let trouble develop then see it anything gets done about it' type of system is what the likes of the Republicans push for in the USA. They 'Promote the Belief' that the threat of legal consequences will keep people from behaving less acceptably. It is undeniable how that turns out (As a Canadian Professional Engineer, I saw how some States let anyone claim to be an Engineer with legal consequences for not properly doing something being the only threat they faced - and I saw how popular with executives it was to hire that cheaper person who claimed to be an Engineer). A real serious problem always has to occur/develop before any serious attempt is made to deal with it. The result is often a Lack of Any Corrective Action. And even when corrective action occurs it is Always Too Late, And Always Too Little Done to Correct the Problem, or the general population pays to fix it.

    The climate change challenge is a big one because the non-USA people and all of the future generations suffer the consequences but have no real legal recourse against the 'greedy Private Interests focused people' who gamble on getting away with behaving unacceptably.

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  17. OPOF @16, actually you raise a couple of good points there. Almost didn't notice anyone had added a comment to this page, glad I did. 

    The ox parable is of course pretty old now and more a parable of the pasasitical finance industry that exists mainly to serve itself. I liked the punch line at the end, where the ox died, in reference to the "real economy" being neglected among all the financial betting, wheeling and dealing.

    The melamine scare implicated a company in my country, but it was a subsidiary of their's in China that operated largely independently. The NZ company has a good safety record on the whole, and was immediately cleared of blame. But it just amazes me how anyone could actually put such poison in baby formula, just at a moral level. Even if one is desperate for money for some reason, how could they do that?  Of course it was partly due to slack oversight and so on.

    The republican view in America is almost libertarian: Corporates should be allowed to do precisely anything they like with no consequences, but we will grudgingly accept they can be sued in civil court, but no more than that. They don't want any imposed state regulations, standards,  fines, and inspections and so on, and see this as the work of the devil.

    The trouble with civil court is only the lawyers win, and the small guys can't afford to take court action. Only huge problems that can bring class actions makes the courts. And even then,  out of court settlements  dominate, that mean valuable knowledge on what caused the problem is never made public, so nobody learns anything.

    Sometimes cases make criminal court. Now of course sometimes thats sometimes 100% appropriate for serious situations,  but if you threaten companies with such dire consequences for general routine safety breaches it can backfire and make them too cautious.

    And I have noticed that governments and courts in NZ are very reluctant to even bring any criminal charges, even in serious cases, so people walk free. We have had two disasters, a mining tragedy and building collapse, and no charges were bought against anyone, much to the publics disgust, even although there was a good case against specific individuals, however the law is now being changed to make it easier to hold people and companies to account.

    In some cases its better to have simple codes of practice, an inspection system, and fines / penalties,  and for serious breaches a method of firing the negligent people involved. Fines are often not enough alone, because such costs can be passed onto the customer. Firing people hurts, especially if its made public with some humiliation. 

    The bottom line is safety and environmental breaches and negligence must have immediate punative consequnces of some sort. I agree the public should not be paying, ever. Responsibility has to be sheeted home to companies and individuals, of course proportionately to the problem we don't want to destroy people over minor things. But I'm tired of seeing a lack of accountability.

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