Perverse Incentives: Donald Trump on show. The Wild Bear and his Zipper


I decided to take my seat at the front row last night. At three o’clock I had my comfortable couch to relax, and a glass of water next to me to keep it cool. I forgot to touch it, unlike The Other Guy on my screen, who really looked like a frightened wild bear on the loose somewhere in Hydepark, waiting for that first shot. This Donald Bear, I counted the the number of remarks that had some relationship to politics. Some, I wanted to be more than fair in my judgement, benevolent in a way. I counted 22, at most. Oneliners, shortliners.

Remarkable, all of them, yes, All of Them, were shouted from the stage many times before. Nothing new there. About 14 of them were classified by the Lie Detection Research Groups as Falsifications. Not that the other ones were Thruths, they were not put to the test by any of the four Universities that were involved in this analysis. Again, I was surprised that there were two American Universities labeled by CNN as pro-Trump, and two as pro-Clinton. CNN had taken a great effort to secure a profile of impartiality.

As a retired full professor in Political and Socio-Cultural Sciences I know my way a little bit in this world. In my time, and that is more than 16 years ago, it was unthinkable to decribe any of these four research departments as politically biassed, an at that time we were not particularly naive. Neither me, nor my American colleagues.

Something has happened over there in the past decade. Something that made these top level Universities yesterday not keen at all to ring publicly the alarm bells. So now, 80 million viewers know that you can go out shopping for a truth thats fit you best. Perverse incentives?

One of my colleagues from over there mailed me: “No, don’t  expect another Donald next time, or at any time. This Donald was as presidential as you can get.”
There’s not a big zipper in his bear suit, where some day, stripping, all of a sudden some other animal will show up.

So we have two lessons to remember: one, here we have a an obsessive liar, and two, here we have someone who is incapable of learning from his mistakes, he is what he is, and he is unadaptable, inflexible, suspicious. He has an advisory group of experts, operating in the background, but he is unable and unwilling to listen and learn. There is no wisdom outside his personal wisdom. The perfect example of somebody drifting away in a private air bubble: Listen: The people love me, the blacks love me, the latino’s, even women: read my lips!

I have met over the years several persons, mostly male, with exactly the same profile. In our system of national health care, they are identified as patients, not necessarily dangerous. But you have to keep an eye on them.

There are however some social environments that you should prevent them to get exposed to. They provide an overdosis of the perverse incentives that trigger the lies, the stereotypes, the continuous replication of the same one liners, well, all of those behaviors that we can observe when Donald the Bear is on show. On show. That is precisely the environment that is dangerous for your health, in paricular if you are a man like Donald. It is this behavior that he already showed ten years ago, when he was an achor man in his own show business.

My observation, if it is a correct one, would imply that the American election system nowadays is capable of bringing mentally disturbed people to the forefront of national politics.

I cannot avoid to add a second observation, that I wrote down last night, after one and a half hour of exposure to this perversed Trump figure.

I immediately recognize people who have been struck in the past by some brain damage, due to a blood clot moving up to the brain and preventing a part of it from absorbing oxygen. If that condition occurs for more than four hours, that part of the brain is ‘dead’, and that person loses part of his memory. Most of the time this is the short term memory.

It does not help Trump to listen to his advisors, half an hour later, he will have forgotten what they said. It will not help Trump to tell him that he is repeating himself all the time. Ten minutes later he will have forgotten that he has already said this twice in the same show, an twenty times in the shows before that.

Donald the bear is an intelligent man. But he is seriously handicapped. He has very good reasons not to show his health records to the public. They could be even more devastating than his tax records.

He has perhaps also good reasons to behave like that angry young man, who lost some of the capacities that he thought he was entiteled to own forever.

I’ts not only that perverse incentive in the outside world. There’s probably also that troubling loss somewhere inside, that he has to carry with him for the rest of his life.

We should not worry too much about that red button, in the unlikely case that he would win the race from Councillor Clinton. He would not be able to remember where he has left the key to open the box, and what numbers to press to set the world in flames.