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Indifferent to Consequences

  • Michael J. Mazarr
Chapter

Abstract

In March 1965, Lyndon Johnson agonized over a request for Marine battalions to defend US missile and aircraft sites in Vietnam. In a March 6 telephone call with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, captured on the White House recording system, Johnson worried that the Marines would end up “fighting with the Vietcong and really starting a land war.” He summed up the discussion with what must be one of the most tragic remarks ever uttered by an American president: “My answer is yes,” he told McNamara. “But my judgment is no.”1

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Johnson quoted in Michael Beschloss, ed., Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson’s Secret White House Tapes, 1964–1965 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001), 214–215.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho, “Keynes on Probability, Uncertainty, and Decision Making,” Journal of Post-Keynesian Economics, Vol. XI, No. 1 (Fall 1988), 68–69. Eldar Shafir and Amos Tversky write that “Most conceptions of decision-making under uncertainty … are consequentialist in the sense that decisions are determined by an assessment of the potential consequences and their perceived likelihood.”Google Scholar
  3. See Eldar Shafir and Amos Tversky, “Thinking through Uncertainty: Nonconsequential Reasoning and Choice,” Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 24 (1992), 450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Raanan Lipshitz, “The Road to Desert Storm,” Organization Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2 (1995), 243–244. James G. March writes that “Rational choice involves two kinds of guesses: guesses about future consequences of current actions and guesses about future preferences for those consequences”;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. see James G. March, “Bounded Rationality, Ambiguity, and the Engineering of Choice,” The Bell Journal of Economics, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Autumn 1978), 589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    See, for example, Robert Dallek, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961–1973 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 340, 343, 350, and 379.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gordon M. Goldstein, Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam (New York: Times Books, 2008), 160.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Such a preference has been termed procedural utility. See Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer, “Beyond Outcomes: Measuring Procedural Utility,” Oxford Economic Papers, Vol. 57 (2005), 90–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 10.
    See, for example, Paul Slovic, “Choice Between Equally Valued Alternatives,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Vol. 1, No. 3 (1975), 280–287;Google Scholar
  10. Paul Slovic, “The Construction of Preference,” American Psychologist, Vol. 50, No. 5 (1995), 364–371;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Amos Tversky, Shmuel Sattath, and Paul Slovic, “Contingent Weighting in Judgment and Choice,” Psychological Review, Vol. 95, No. 3 (July 1988), 371–384; Joseph P. Simmons and Leif D. Nelson, “Intuitive Confidence and the Prominence Effect: When Consumer Choices Are Sensitive to Matching Prices,” unpublished paper, n.d., available at http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~lnelson0/Simmons%20%20Nelson%20JMR%20Submission.pdf; andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gregory W. Fischer, Ziv Carmon, Dan Ariely, and Gal Zauberman, “Goal-based Construction of Preferences: Task Goals and the Prominence Effect,” Management Science, Vol. 45, No. 8 (August 1999), 1057–1075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 12.
    Paul Slovic, Melissa L. Finucane, Ellen Peters, and Donald G. MacGregor, “Risk as Analysis and Risk as Feelings: Some Thoughts about Affect, Reason, Risk, and Rationality,” Risk Analysis, Vol. 24, No. 2 (2004), 311–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. See also George F. Loewenstein, Elke U. Webber, Christopher K. Hsee, and Ned Welch, “Risk as Feelings,” Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 127, No. 2 (2001), 267–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 13.
    See, for example, George Loewenstein, “Out of Control: Visceral Influences on Behavior,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 65, No. 3 (March 1996), 272–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 14.
    Shane Frederick, George Loewenstein, and Ted O’Donoghue, “Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review,” in George Loewenstein, Daniel Read, and Roy F. Baumeister, eds., Time and Decision: Economic and Psychological Perspectives on Intertemporal Choice (New York: Sage Foundation, 2003), 372.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Shane Frederick, George Loewenstein, and Ted O’Donoghue, “Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review,” Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 40, No. 2 (June 2002), 353–354. See also the chapters in Loewenstein, Read, and Baumeister, Time and Decision.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 19.
    Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk,” Econometrica, Vol. 47, No. 2 (March 1979), 265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 20.
    A very good analysis is Jonathan Baron, “Nonconsequentialist Decisions,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol. 17, No. 1 (1994), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 21.
    This is similar to the concept of “procedural utility,” in which decision-makers pay more attention to aspects of the process by which the decision emerges (for example, how democratic it is) than to outcomes; see, for example, Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer, “Beyond Outcomes: Measuring Procedural Utility,” Oxford Economic Papers, Vol. 57, No. 1 (January 2005), 90–111. Interestingly, one could argue that the US political system favors procedural over outcome utility: The system is judged not by the quality of its choices but by its ability to rationalize various social interests in the process of making them. It can also be seen as a form of “rule utilitarianism,” in which the adherence to a strict rule is viewed as providing the greatest good.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 22.
    Jonathan Baron and Mark Spranca, “Protected Values,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 70, No. 1 (April 1997), 3. Baron takes care to distinguish protected values from heuristics, which are general simplifying rules whose application can be somewhat flexible.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 23.
    Philip Tetlock, “Thinking the Unthinkable: Sacred Values and Taboo Cognitions,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Vol. 7, No. 7 (July 2003), 320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 25.
    Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 429, 449–450, 519.Google Scholar
  24. 28.
    Imperative-driven thinking can be a function of naturalistic approaches. In naturalistic models of decision-making, decision-makers quickly choose “a ‘promising’ alternative” rather than the optimal one, and then often engage in the “restructuring of preferences and beliefs to accentuate its superiority over other alternatives.” Such a process, which involves a relatively quick, and often highly intuitive, endorsement of the first reasonable alternative, imperatives can play a dominant role, shaping the choice of what that alternative should be. See Raanan Lipshitz, “The Road to Desert Storm,” Organization Studies, Vol. 16, No. 2 (1995), 243–244, 247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 29.
    This example was famously used by Gerd Gigerenzer to illustrate the advantages of intuition. See Gerd Gigerenzer, Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious (New York: Penguin Books, 2008).Google Scholar
  26. 31.
    Michael Lewis, “The Man Who Crashed the World,” in Graydon Carter, ed., The Great Hangover (New York: Harper Perennial, 2010), 106, 116.Google Scholar
  27. 34.
    Andrew Ross Sorkin, Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves (New York: Penguin, 2010), 14, 88, 125–126, 146–147.Google Scholar
  28. 35.
    Roger Lowenstein, When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management (New York: Random House, 2000), 84.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Mazarr
    • 1
  1. 1.RAND CorporationArlingtonUSA

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