August 21, 2015

WHEREAS, THE POINT IS WHAT WE STAND TO GAIN:

What Behavioral Science Reveals About the Iran Debate (Cass R. Sunstein, 8/20/15, Bloomberg View)

Of all the findings in behavioral science, the most significant may be "loss aversion," the idea that people dislike losses a lot more than they like equivalent gains. Loss aversion can create big trouble for businesses and investors. And it can badly confuse political debate -- as it seems to be doing in the current discussions of the nuclear deal with Iran. [...]

In the case of the Iran agreement, both supporters and critics are appealing to people's loss aversion. But they use radically different reference points to warn about radically different losses. 

For supporters, the reference point is what the world would look like without the deal. If Congress rejects it, they say, multinational sanctions against Iran will unravel, allowing the country to advance its nuclear capabilities. 

More concretely, President Barack Obama argues that "our closest allies in Europe, or in Asia -- much less China or Russia -- certainly are not going to agree to enforce existing sanctions for another five, 10, 15 years according to the dictates of the U.S. Congress." If it forbids the deal, he says, "Congress would not merely pave Iran's pathway to a bomb, it would accelerate it."

For the deal's critics, on the other hand, the reference point is the status quo -- a world in which Iran lives under crippling sanctions and has no nuclear weapon. The deal, then, by offering sanctions relief, would eventually make Iran "stronger financially and better able to advance a robust nuclear program," according to Senator Charles Schumer, an opponent of the agreement. 

Sure, partisans in Iran, Israel and America stand to lose a bogeyman, but America stands to gain an ally against Salafism; further relief from oil prices and a trade partner.

Posted by at August 21, 2015 12:01 PM
  

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