2018 and the electoral “psyconomy”

Simón Levy-Dabbah

The roots of incongruencies explain the effects of how we act. This isn’t new: if reality can’t be explained with arguments, then it must be understood by means of emotions.

Since Thompson´s “moral economy” in 1979, the road to modern “psyconomy” gained strength. Kotler´s emotional marketing, and the most highlighted ways to combine psychology, moral, culture with the economy, up to the behavioral theory that explains the trend by which the relationship between psychology and economy has been awarded the Nobel prize in repeated occasions by the Swedish Royal Academy. For example, to Daniel Kahneman for his work on the psychology of judgement and decision making, on how to take rational decisions afore uncertainty. In 2013 Robert Schiller and his study on how psychology influences economic decisions. And even if he didn´t receive an award, Dan Ariely, behavioral economics scholar and creator of “The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty”, is a strong forerunner of this trend.

The insistence on recognizing the emotions of people as an argument of economic decisions strikes me particularly. Maybe this has been a subliminal manner of recognizing the failure of orthodox neo-liberalism, and the great reasons for the economic crises that remain unexplained amongst the traditional economy and the lack of economic growth akin to quality of life.
The fear of losing that which has never been ours can be the cause of great personal crises, such as fear of getting the correct thing by losing what we wish (Whaaat?). This, in the imaginary, guides us to taking collective decisions that provoke unthinkable political trends.

Avoiding the transformation of an economic system and a political regime cruises through the understanding of emotions and feelings that reside in the cavity between obtaining the worthwhile and losing the correct. Conservatism doesn´t seek to increase privileges but to avoid losing them.

The great social and military movements in history are due to errors in the interpretation of rulers and the real factors of power, they are about the “rational inflections” of those governed when they believe they can take control of their actions or decisions. In other words, transformations don´t proceed from the will for changes, but from the accumulated arrogance, through which the power of a logical supposition loses all control in the face of an illogical reaction, since that which one is willing to lose is worth much less than thought. Thus, emotions become decisions.

The Nobel Prize in economics for 2017, Richard Thaler and his trilogy of theories can help us understand the election results for 2018: The “theory of mental accounting”, which explains how immediate feelings of security create decisions that, far from solving long term problems, amplify them.

The “Nudge theory” explains a preference for choosing that which is incorrect over what is adequate, centering on the ease of the first over the second.

It is worth then to understand the relationship between these theories and the 2018 election scenarios: he who prompts more discontent than relief to the markets will win. The next president of Mexico won´t be one that sells an image, but one that manages to impose a feeling of congruency. Curiously, it will not be the image but the need to trust in someone who achieves what is declared and who fulfills what is done, no matter what we lose as long as we obtain what we wish for.

The largest sentiment of the Mexican society resides in the emotion of distrust. There lie most of the answers.

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Simón Levy