31.7.17

APPEALING TO THE INNER ELEPHANT.

Trainers of circus animals fully understand that a successful animal act is all about encouraging the big cats, or the pachyderms, or the dogs and ponies, to do on cue that which they will do at some time anyway.

That might be something to keep in mind in policy analysis.
The idea of the rider and the elephant is not that we're powerless, but that, in order for our logic to be followed, it needs to appeal to our base instincts. The rider can try to convince the elephant where to go, but if the elephant is not in agreement, it will go where it wants. In a battle of head versus heart, the heart has an easier task.

And to take it a step further, when we try to persuade someone else to change their mind, we won't get far trying to persuade their rider. We actually need to appeal to their elephant, to their intuitive sense of how they see the world.
That's relevant, for instance, to the tax inducements Wisconn Valley includes.
I understand that the proponents of this deal are going to argue that it will have all kinds of spinoff effects, the so-called multiplier. I'm not going to argue that the multiplier effect is bogus, but I will argue that it's also not some bit of economic magic that would, let's say, reduce an investment with an overly optimistic 55-year break-even point to something more like a generation (which is still absurd). Sure, all of these employees will need homes and appliances and hair cuts and restaurants, but they will also need highways and schools and police protection and health care. If you have a structural deficit now, adding more people to the current system is not going to change that.
Political theater it might be.  Ultimately, though, it's about working out governmental arrangements that are symbiotic with commerce.  In Illinois, government has become parasitic on commerce.  The Foxconn deal might well be water for elephants, er, rents for rent-seekers.  And where public expenditures are concerned, pay-back periods can be long.  What is the value of winning World War II, for instance, or handing out land grants to the Pacific Railroad?

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