Sunday, December 4, 2011

…T.rex and blame

By kay.e.strong

Ask a four-year old what happened to T.rex.  Without a moment’s hesitation the word extinction rolls smoothly off his tongue as he stands before you, eyes beaming in delight. Probe a bit about the reason for the extinction, and a likely response will hint at any number of changes in the environment to which T.rex was unable to adapt.  

Ask a politician what’s happened to the U.S, and like the four-year old, some accusation of blame rolls smoothly off his/her tongue as (s)he stands before you, eyes beaming in delight.  Probe a bit for an explanation and some well-rehearsed, but ludicrous one-liner will pop-out. 

Gingrich blames Child Labor Laws for Rising Income Inequality in U.S. (21 Nov 2011)

Romney Blames Obama for Expected Failure of Super Committee (20 Nov 2011)

Cain blames Perry for fueling sexual harassment allegations (3 Nov 2011)

GOP Candidates Blame 30 Years of Rising Income Inequality on Barack Obama and Single Moms (12 Oct 2011)

Bachman blames Obama for Arab Spring (30 Sep 2011)

Seriously, has blame-finding become the national pastime or is it an indicator of something much deeper?

Psychologists suggest that we invoke the tactic of blame to deflect attention from ourselves.  Politicians thrive on being in the limelight, so why would a politician ever want to deflect attention away?  Blame is a heuristic, a mental shortcut, that “shorten[s] decision-making time and allow people to function without constantly stopping to think …” In essence, blame functions as political-speakese for “I’m clueless.  Enough said. Can we move on?”  

Blame reveals the obsolete nature of the speaker’s knowledge.  It’s a reminder that the speaker belongs to the world of single cause. A world that began unraveling before the signatures dried on the Brent Woods Agreement (1944).  A world made even more extinct by the emergence and growth of the World Wide Web (1991). 

Authors David Hale and Lyric Hale of What’s Next (2011) remind us that “[a]n event always has more than one cause, all of which are intertwine in a web of complex interrelationships." (287) Multiple causes, interdependent relationships, overabundant information…what’s a politician to do? Blame!

Better yet, educate yourself. Be curious. Explore new ideas through reading. As a primer consider The Age of the Unthinkable by Joshua Ramo (2009).  Ramo cracks opens the door on the world in its complex context where stability is only a passing phase, a pause, if you will, in a system of unmapable dynamism.  He exposes the harm caused when decision-makers premise policy action on an image of the world that is grossly misaligned with reality.

Blame destroys the fragile threads of social trust which binds us together as a nation. We strengthen those threads every time we reject a blame-claim.  We strengthen our nation's ability to survive whenever we humbly acknowledge there is no one-way to solve complex problems, yet demand a serious public conversation in spite of it.  

Let mighty T.rex remind us of what happens if we don’t get beyond the futility of the blame game.

Kay Strong, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University, M.T., University of Houston, M.A., Ohio University; Associate Professor at Baldwin-Wallace College; Areas of expertise: international economics, contemporary social-economic issues, complexity and futures-based perspectives in economics. E-mail:

1 comment:

  1. Andy Stanley addresses this very issue in his Podcast series entitled "Recovery Road". I highly recommend looking it up on Itunes and lending him an ear. Its very relevant to what Dr. Strong is communicating in this blog.


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This blog lives under the auspices of the Department of Economics whose mission has been to hold high the lantern beaming an "economic way of thinking" onto the world. Selfishness, rationality and equilibrium have been central to the teaching of an economic way of thinking rooted in the Renaissance. And, in this regard, the department has faithfully stayed the course. The intent of this blog, thinking out loud..., however, is to entertain exchanges which may challenge the centrality of economics as we teach it.