How Scope Insensitivity Enables the “Reset”

Al Gore, High Priest of the Climate Fundamentalists, once said Americans are addicted to “short term thinking.” He is correct. Even in America’s business world, which is presumably rational, timelines often stretch no further than the next quarter’s earnings reports. To think ahead by spans of generations or more is not very common.

Sadly, however, Al Gore fails to emphasize – for reasons either cynical or simply because he suffers from the same affliction as most everyone else – that Americans are also victims of “scope insensitivity.” That is a big phrase – “scope insensitivity” – but understanding the meaning of this phrase is key to understanding many of the policy failures of America, especially in recent decades.

Scope insensitivity is the inability of a person, or voting bloc, or nation, to understand simple quantitative proportions, which if understood, would cast a policy issue in an entirely different light. Simply put, because of scope insensitivity, the logical conclusions one might rationally find obvious are eclipsed by emotional arguments.

If you suffer from scope insensitivity, the relative importance of variables affecting a policy choice become incomprehensible. When a population suffers from scope insensitivity, policies are decided based on whoever has the most money and the most compelling emotional appeal. Here are three interrelated examples:

How Scope Insensitivity Enables Flawed Policies:

Global Warming:

Let’s assume all of these catastrophic projections are actually true; that we have to immediately stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and this is something under our control. In pursuit of […] Read More