Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Monday, April 19, 2004
On Wanting to Have Been Right

Mark Kleiman is working on an aphorism whose current version is:

Nothing in human affairs is more destructive than the desire to have been right. Neither greed nor hatred can compete with a man's attachment to his old opinions.

It strikes me that this is a part of the advantage of political incumbency. For Kerry to win, in addition to getting new voters on his side, and hoping old Bush voters stay home, he has to convince some number of people that they were wrong last time; under this theory, that's going to be a tough sell. At least it's not a flat-out rematch, which is a rare event, the last one being Ike/Stevenson in 1956. Oh, and look who won that one.

But there's another way around this problem, which is to get people to revise their memory of their old opinions; as in the legend that by 1975 you couldn't find anyone in America who had voted for Nixon. This suggests that the anti-Bush movement could usefully turn their efforts towards something like this: "All of you who were in favor of the war were in fact in favor of a war that would be run like x, y, and z, and a post-war policy of this, that and the other; since that's not what happened, you were right all along, too. Come join us."

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