State Hate 2: Marshmallow Test, Cognitive Risk of Investment= Tea Party

I like both the story of the Stanford "Marshmallow Test" and this follow up (Cognition, as covered by Maggie Steverns in Slate). In the 1972 experiment, a treat was put in front of kids, and the kids were told that if they didn't eat it, and waited 15 minutes, they'd get another one. The kids who waited grew up to be very successful, those who ate the marshmallow did not tend to do well. I believe that, for sure. What this follow up points out is that kids who don't wait, who eat the marshmallow rather than wait 15 minutes, tend to come from backgrounds or societies where marshmallow-givers (authorities, adults) are liars.

I observed this in Africa. When a government or business management is corrupt, the cynicism "trickles down" and undermines saving and achievement throughout society. The people not involved directly in the corruption still develop unsuccessful habits.

Yesterday's post was obnoxiously cross-referential (pedantic obfuscation is tautologous).   Today, marshmallow analogies.

"State hate" issues pan the political spectrum.   Anti-war protests, or anti-environmental-regulation...  Those who believe in active government (to either curb abortion, or to provide it) may dislike the current office holder immensely. But perhaps they don't actually hate the "state" itself. 

What if you invested, really sacrificed, stayed late moving TVs until 2AM, without pay, risking your family's savings, risking your good name (that you would do what you said you would do with the material), and someone in the government ate your @#$ing marshmallow?  That's where tea parties and anarchists find followers.

You now know what it's like participating in a system that is a lot like the system in "LDCs" ("lesser developed countries", the 1980s replacement for the 1970s "third world" descriptive label).   You would see how the Chicas Bravas felt when they did all the work to get the building in Fronteras to work in, and a mean mayor tried to take it away.  You would see how the Cantonese (Southern Chinese) felt when the Han (northern Chinese) made it illegal to refurbishe displays which the northern Chinese factories were competing for.  You'd see how the Egyptian medical company felt when it's tested working CRT monitors were seized by the dictatorship as "e-waste", with an accusation they were going to dump the monitors they paid $21 apiece for on the ground so some USA company could "externalize its environmental costs".   You'd identify with the women-owned electronics repair shop in Lima Peru whose goods were held by customs officials, racking up thousands of dollars in demurrage (late rental of sea container) until she paid a "customs fee" in cash to the officials.   You'd get a whiff of what the Ghana Tech goes through when he gambles that each sea container of tested goods will be released for him to resell, rather than he'll have his goods seized and be investigated by Interpol and publicly called a polluter.

windowless view of Vermont foliage
In each of the examples above, someone in the government had the authority to take away a marshmallow.

What we have found out in Vermont this year is that the United States are not necessarily different.   
We had a court system which found strong likelihood the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources had erred in its procurement, and reporters found documentation of backdated contracts and refused FOIA requests.  But the Vermont Attorney General, Bill Sorrell, his own office participated in sending the appeal to an impossibly lengthy environmental court system.   And I don't have money for both payroll and legal costs.  I have to choose whether to fight through the appeals, or pay my employees to do work on the floor.

The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.   - Alexis de Tocqueville

What makes me tick isn't money.  It's Alexis de Tocqueville.  He lived to the age of 52... and left plenty of work behind him.  It wasn't the boat repairs, or printing shops, or law offices, or log cabins, or any of the individual Americans he chronicled.  It was his ability to see a great truth in a small example.

In reacting to the loss of my marshmallows at Good Point Recycling, I'm seeing what makes "red state" cynicism its traction.   In Part III, I'll look more into the specifics of how #VT picks winners and losers and divies up marshmallows as if Vermont is the Mom who bought them in the first place.

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