Critical race theorists and left-leaning behavioral economists (is there any other kind?) have been telling us for years that you cannot use rational actor theory to analyze discrimination. Examples:
Our commonsense narratives about racism and guns--centered on a conception of humans as autonomous, self-transparent, rational actors--are outdated and strongly contradicted by recent evidence from the mind sciences.
Advances in implicit social cognition reveal that most people carry biases against racial minorities beyond their conscious awareness. These biases affect critical behavior, including the actions of individuals performing shooting tasks. In simulations, Americans are faster and more accurate when firing on armed blacks than when firing on armed whites, and faster and more accurate in electing to hold their fire when confronting unarmed whites than when confronting unarmed blacks.
As both critical race theory and behavioral economics would suggest, Posner's hypothesis about subprime borrowers fails, because consumers operate according to various cognitive biases--not purely according to rationality.
In contrast to law and economics, critical race theory has concerned itself with how race is constructed through unconscious bias and institutional structures. Race scholars do not presume that rational choice is the sine qua non of human behavior. Instead, they try to unpack the reflexive habits and hidden assumptions that guide racial judgments.
Jerry Kang, Race.net Neutrality, 6 J. Telecomm. & High Tech. L. 1, 15-16 (2007)
Apparently, however, President Obama has not gotten the message. To the contrary, he seems to have imbibed a very strong version of the Chicago School rational choice model, which he is now applying to his nuclear deal with Iran:... no one makes the unqualified claim that individuals always, without exception, behave rationally. And no one suggests that markets are perfect disciplinarians. So, the real debate is about how often and in what contexts do individuals and markets behave “rationally” in contexts where race matters. My only point here is that we have good reasons to be cautious of any robust rationality assumption.
... in his interview, Goldberg asked about an even more basic point of contention. A nuclear deal will be signed with an Iranian regime that promotes an intensely anti-Western and, as Obama readily admits, anti-Semitic state ideology. Goldberg wondered how Obama could believe that anti-Semitism was inherently irrational, while also believing that the Tehran regime was itself rational. ...
"Well the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival," Obama said. "It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that [Iran's] supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations."
This may be true enough, but it discounts how anti-Semitism could inform the regime's strategic and economic considerations. After all, in spreading anti-Semitism and supporting terrorism against Jewish and Israeli targets, the regime invited sanctions and a general isolation that's all but locked the country out of valuable consumer markets — a clear case of anti-Semitism precluding Tehran from "being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat."Obama believes that the Iranian government's anti-Semitism is subject to the same rational cost-benefit calculus as any other aspects of a nation's behavior, even if anti-Semitism is itself irrational.
- What possible evidence could Obama cite for the proposition that the Iranian leadership consists of rational actors who make rational choices?
- If Obama really believes that Iran's leaders are guided by rational choice, why doesn't he embrace Chicago School economics more generally and its accompanying critique of regulation? What is his basis for picking and choosing when to apply rational choice theory?
- Will CRS and behavioral economist folks take Obama to task for embracing a rational choice model of raging anti-semites?