Beyond our parochialism

Originally published in Behavioural Public Policy

Parochialism, by which we mean in-group preferences and out-group prejudice, has the potential to influence public policy. In-group preferences and out-group prejudice can lead individuals to evaluate a policy based on how that policy affects the groups they belong to rather than on the basis of their ideological priors or the impact of that policy on society at large. Unchecked, parochialism likely leads to problematic policies and perverse social outcomes. While the evidence suggests that this bias can be mitigated if issues are framed in ways that encourage reflection as opposed to unreflective immediate responses, policy makers face incentives to leverage parochialism rather than combat it. The solution may instead require limiting policy makers and our ability to make decisions for others and promoting an institutional environment that encourages our interacting with diverse others rather than insularity. Stated another way, limited government and open society may be the path beyond our parochialism.

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