The Anatomy Of Foolish Choices. When Common Sense Took A Holiday

Nov 16, 2016 · 7 min read

The recent election has incited me to comment on the various ways humans find to make and justify foolish decisions.

The human mind is an odd thing. If Star Trek’s Mr. Spock had really existed I think that he would have blown his brains out after living around humans for three or four years, or he would have gotten heavily into recreational drugs. One or the other.

Every day large numbers of people make decisions that give the lie to the myth that humans generally act in their rational, enlightened, and intelligent self interest.

Now, to be very clear, I’m not talking about all the people who voted for Donald Trump. Given their beliefs, for a great number of people The Donald was the correct and intelligent choice.

No, I’m talking about people who voted for Mr. Trump because they believed that he would:

  • Adopt policies that would raise the income level of the bottom 25% of U.S. households
  • Materially increase the number of good-paying unskilled and semiskilled jobs
  • Broaden the availability of low cost health care for the middle and lower classes
  • Increase free and/or low-cost education and job training programs for workers and students
  • Adopt policies and legislation that would expand and enrich the middle class and improve the lives of members of the working class.
  • Restrain the abusive conduct of banks, insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry and other large business interests

And other stuff like that.

So, I thought I would list some of the flawed thought processes that the above group of people who voted for Mr. Trump illustrated in the recent election.

Different Is Not Necessarily Better


Your neighbors are always pestering you. They’re out of milk. They can’t find their scissors. They want you to let the cable guy in while they’re at the beach. They are really pissing you off. Things need to change, God dammit!

You know that they have an illegal cat so you turn them in to the landlord. You insist that he get rid of them even though you know that he has a policy of taking the first new tenants who show up. Screw it, you want change.

So, a few days later four Hell’s Angels move into the one-bedroom apartment next door to you. Yes, that certainly is change.

Here’s a basic human rule that you really, really need to understand:

Different Is Not Necessarily Better. Different Is Often Worse.

Change is just as likely to be worse as it is to be better.

Things Aren’t True Just Because You Want Them To Be True


Your doctor told you that you have advanced cancer. You search the Internet and discover that there’s a new clinic in Mexico run by a Dr. von Nauchel whose Internet page promises that he can cure all forms of cancer.

You do some research and learn that Dr. V’s real name is Ralph Fleeger. He got a mail-order degree from the unaccredited New Age School of Homeopathy in Lagos, Nigeria, and he served three years in prison in Ohio for mail fraud.

You call Dr. von Nauchel/Fleeger and he promises that he can cure your cancer.

You know what the word “lie” means. You know that people lie in order to get stuff. You know that Dr. V has zero medical training.

You know that everything about Fleeger indicates that he is a liar and a fraud and that he will not cure your cancer.

But you want his promise of a cancer cure to be true so badly that you fly down to Mexico and give him all your money.

The billionaire standard bearer for the right-wing, Republican party has promised working people that if they vote for him his government will work for them instead of continuing to protect the interests of millionaires and huge corporations.

The life rule that you’re ignoring is:

How true something is, is not proportional to how badly you want it to be true.

Put differently:

Really, Really Wanting Something To Be True Won’t Make It True

Making A Decision Based On A Small Thing Instead Of The Big Thing


You’ve narrowed your search for a new car down to two possibilities — a bright red 2008 Cadillac DTS with a hundred thousand miles on the clock, and a brown, 2013 Toyota Camry with 30,000 miles and a dent in the rear bumper.

You know that the Cadillac has the trouble-prone Northstar engine and a problematic four speed transmission. You know that the Cadillac has over three times as many miles on it as the Toyota. You know that the Cadillac requires premium gas and gets half the Camry’s miles per gallon. You know that the Cadillac is going to be more difficult to maneuver and park in the crowded city that you have to drive in every day.

But all you think about is how shiny and red the Cadillac is and how brown and dented the Camry is. So, you buy the Cadillac.

People are suckers for picking shiny, pretty things that have huge defects instead of the going with the plain, boring things that don’t. We do it when we pick spouses, food, clothing, vehicles, homes and sometimes political candidates.

For example, you ask someone:

Are you pro-choice?


Do you want to repeal Obamacare?


Do you want to deport millions of people?


Who are you voting for?



Because Hillary Clinton is too friendly with Saudi Arabia.

Wait, what?

If you answered most of those questions about abortion or taxes and the like the opposite way then yes, of course you should vote for Trump, but you didn’t.

You ignored The Donald’s position on all those other big issues because you thought Clinton was likely to be more friendly to Saudi Arabia than Trump would?

So, you’re buying the Cadillac.

If a gunman breaks into your house, you shouldn’t be wasting your time worrying about how much it’s going to cost to fix the shattered door. That’s not your real problem.

In other words:

Focus On The Big Stuff Instead Of Being Distracted By The Small Stuff

Being A Really Convincing Liar Is Not The Same As Being A Really Good Negotiator


A good negotiator extracts the best possible promises from the other side in exchange for the least expensive promises from his side. Once the mutual promises are made the deal is set, the negotiations are over, and it’s time for both sides to do what they agreed.

Being such a good liar that you succeed in convincing the other side that they will end up getting what you promised them when your real plan is to breach the deal once you’ve gotten what you wanted from them does not make you a good negotiator. It makes you a good liar.

Big difference.

From Wikipedia:

In September of 1938 Hitler promised Neville Chamberlain that if Britain would allow Germany to annex the Sudetenland then Germany would hold no further territorial claims upon Czechoslovakia and would enter into a collective agreement to guarantee the borders of Germany and Czechoslovakia.

Hitler was very convincing. Chamberlain believed him.

The Munich Agreement gave Germany the Sudetenland starting October 10, 1938.

On March 15, 1939 Germany implemented “Operation Southeast,” the takeover of all of Czechoslovakia.

On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland.

Donald Trump is now gazing into the camera and solemnly assuring America that he isn’t really going to begin mass deportations, try to put Hillary Clinton in prison, take away medical insurance from over twenty million people, turn the corporations lose to do anything they want, break Planned Parenthood, criminalize abortions, leave NATO, pick judges who don’t have suspect Muslim or Hispanic heritages, bar Muslims from the country, and so forth.

“Relax,” he’s saying. “I’m not really going to do all that stuff. Don’t worry.”

The guy with the hoodie and black leather gloves drags the girl into his windowless van.

“Don’t make any noise and I won’t hurt you,” he promises. “All I want is sex. If you don’t fight me, then when I’m done I’ll let you go.”

It sounds like a negotiation, a promise for a promise — “Don’t struggle and in a little while I’ll let you go.”

But it’s not a negotiation. It’s a lie.

People Who Promise You Things Don’t Necessarily Want To Help You


The Greeks want to give you this big, wooden horse.

The nice man in the car with the tinted windows has a puppy you can pet in the back seat.

“I’ve got eleven million dollars for you in Nigeria but first I need you to give me four thousand dollars to cover the processing fees.”

“Heroin is great stuff. Here, take a free sample.”

“I’m a billionaire who’s gone bankrupt four times. I’m a party to seventy-five law suits. I didn’t pay lots of people who worked for me because I could get away with not paying them. I’m opposed to government-subsidized medical insurance for poor people. I want to the lower taxes on rich people and wealthy corporations.

“Elect me because the main goal of the Republican Party is making life better for working-class people.”

Farmer Brown enters the turkey pen with a big bag of feed.

“Here you go, guys,” he tells them. “I’m giving you double rations. Eat all you want.”

“Oh boy, that’s great, but why are you doing that, Farmer Brown?” the turkeys ask.

“Because of Thanksgiving,” he tells them. “And in honor of Thanksgiving I’m also going to clean out the pen and give you fresh water and lots of super vitamins to make you all big and strong.”

“Wow,” the turkeys say. “Three cheers for Thanksgiving!”

Farmer Brown leaves, whistling a happy little tune.

Working-class and middle-class people voting for Donald Trump are like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving.

He’s Going To Give The Right Wing Everything It Wants

People are telling themselves that maybe Trump won’t really be that bad, that he’s not as mean, dishonest, uncaring, selfish, greedy, and right wing as his words and actions over the last ten years of his life have shown him to be.

They’re just whistling in the graveyard.

Right now Donald Trump is whispering soothing promises while he drags Lady Liberty into his black panel van, but make no mistake.

He has absolutely no intention of ever releasing her unharmed.

–David Grace (

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Written by

Graduate of Stanford University & U.C. Berkeley Law School. Author of 17 novels and over 200 Medium columns on Economics, Politics, Law, Humor & Satire.

Donald Trump Columns By David Grace

All my columns related to Donald Trump collected in one place.

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