Equilibriums and Limits: A Better Way to Talk Politics - The Atlantic

11 bookmarks. First posted by farley13 february 2018.

Americans would be less alienated from one another and solve problems more easily if they recognized one little-noticed distinction in policy debates. We sometimes think of political issues in binary terms.
february 2018 by mayrav
On abortion and scores of other political issues, there are people who tend to focus on equilibriums, other people who tend to focus on limits, and still others who vary in their focus. A single question put to the public cannot reveal the majority position of the polity on such issues, because there are at least two different majority coalitions: One forms around the position that a majority holds on the best equilibrium; the other forms around the position a majority holds on the appropriate limit. The winning coalition turns in part on what frame is more prominent at any particular moment.
february 2018 by altoii
America’s two-party system frequently forces binary choices on voters, and locating oneself on a left-right political spectrum can be a useful exercise. But I’d like to see more political analysis that recognizes the difference between equilibriums and limits and examines the coalitions that form around them. Seeing those frameworks more clearly would reveal instances when differences between Americans are not as sharp as they might seem, and enable marginal improvements to policy on issues where slippery slopes are unlikely and the main obstacle holding back reform is the fear of a limit that almost no one wants to cross.
february 2018 by jbenton
An exceptionally great piece. - We sometimes think of political issues in binary terms. Is someone pro-life or pro-choice? But most individuals hold views that are more complicated than a binary can capture. An alternative is to describe a given position on a spectrum. On abortion, an outright ban sits at one extreme; at the other is the elimination of all restrictions on the procedure. In between are a staggering array of coherently distinguishable positions. Politicians seeking to win votes express their stances either in terms of a binary or as a spot on a spectrum, depending on where they see the greatest advantage. Though their beliefs don’t change, how they frame them makes a political difference. * * * There’s a different set of frames, though, that are as relevant as binaries and spectrums, though they are less familiar and less discussed: equilibriums and limits. Most political stances can be understood in terms of an equilibrium. For instance, some people might believe that access to abortion in a conservative state is too restricted under the status quo, and favor relaxing the rules regulating abortion clinics. That is, they might favor shifting the equilibrium in a “pro-choice” direction.
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february 2018 by shaunkoh
Rather, Democrats are reluctant to articulate limits on immigration that they regard as sensible, because doing so is taboo in their coalition; and Republicans are reluctant to articulate limits on deportation that they regard as sensible, because doing so is presently taboo in their coalition as well.
february 2018 by vanadium
Suggests that whether issues are framed in terms of equilibria or limits can shift debates in useful ways.
politics  framing  communication 
february 2018 by johnmfrench