ARE YOU ANGRY?

ARE YOU ANGRY?

ANGRY MAN!

If you’re angry about the political feud (Trump v Dems) that drove the federal government to partially shut down, or about a golden parachute for a CEO who ran a business into the ground (Kraft Heinz), you aren’t alone—but you probably won’t do much about it. Folks usually respond to two types of injustices: when bad things happen to good people, and when good things happen to bad people. Human beings are reliably motivated to help when a bad thing happens to a good person, such as a hurricane devastating a town—, but only in a nominal way. When a hurricane happens, we want to help, so we give $10 to disaster relief or the RED CROSS, but we don’t try to build new houses. Even a small amount can help us feel that justice is restored.

But the converse is not necessarily true: When the universe rewards bad people despite their rotten behavior, people are usually reluctant to do anything about it, even when they’re angry at the unfairness of the situation. The forces at play in creating an unfair situation are often beyond our control or would be too costly to make the effort worthwhile. So, we stay angry, but often we settle for the hope that karma will eventually catch up.

On the rare occasions when someone does decide to act, they go for broke, spending all their resources and energy—not just a token amount—in an effort to deprive a bad dude of everything he gained unfairly. The desire to completely wipe out a bad dude’s ill-gotten gains is driven by a sense that justice will not be served until the bad dude is effectively deterred from future bad behavior, which is unlikely to be the case if the punishment is a slap on the wrist. But given the difficulty and expense associated with this response, many Americans stew in anger and hope for the best.

So, when ordinary people see bad things happening to good people, pitching in a few dollars feels good enough. Pitching in a few dollars to punish a bad person who has been unjustly rewarded, however, doesn’t cut it.  Only when people feel that their actions are guaranteed to send an effective signal to the bad person will they feel compelled to act. Since that sort of guarantee is hard to come by, most people will just stand by and wait.

The United States is an angry country.

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