Astrology for Smart People - Barry Johnson

Way back in the black cap days when the penalty for murder was hanging, we nationalised many strategic industries. I don’t think these two things were related.


The reason for the nationalisation was obvious - it was called The Second World War. The decision for nationalisation was, therefore, easy to make and totally rational: to ensure the resources for war and a sound emotional context, to protect people. Railways, shipbuilding, gas, health, electricity, air transport, etc. were then all under the control of politicians and civil servants. Post the war, what happened? These industries became inefficient, bureaucratic, highly unionised, loss making, overstaffed, etc. The government decided to privatise them. You may remember or know about the outcry and battles. The quantities of tax money pumped into them each year to keep them afloat in the national interest was enormous. Now many of these now privatised industries consist of highly profitable companies pumping tax money into the exchequer and contributing to the balance of payments. Competition was the key to recovery. Some, of course, were nationalised for too long with inefficient work practices, such as shipbuilding, and the overseas competition that had advanced and modernised took the markets. Steel was a classic case. Privatised in 1952 (logical reasons) it failed to respond and take control of its own destiny, it didn’t know how, and it clung to old management practices and out of date equipment. Re-nationalised (emotional decision) in 1967 by a government whose main aim was employment in depressed regions damaged further the loss-making industry. In the 1980s, it was again privatised (logical reasons). It cut the overblown workforce rapidly reorganised, invested heavily and started to make its way in the world marketplace but, too late. Now the rump of a once great industry is foreign owned. Decisions in that industry were made on both logical and emotional grounds, in both cases to the detriment of the industry.

Decisions are about logic and emotion or in other terms, thinking and feeling. I would just say some industries are still nationalised. A crucial one is the NHS that costs the government; that is you and I, c£140bn a year twice the cost of ten years ago at 2013 prices. Is it a logical or emotional decision not to privatise the NHS? Well, perhaps both. The emotional blast from the public versus the result in the ballot box for the party in power at privatise time. Decisions always have two sides, and sometimes the effects of one have an effect on the other side and, either way, the logical arguments apply, and the emotional effects felt.

I just wanted to make the point that in every decision, there are external factors that influence the logical thinking and there are related emotional factors. What Neuroscience has shown is the brain’s internal interactions involve the rational and emotional functions. Very simply the rational will work out the logic of the right decision but requires the emotion to make a decision. Let us briefly explore that. There’s a long tradition of believing reason and emotion are in opposition to one another. Is it true? One might imagine that successful decision-making depends on the rational frontal lobes controlling the instincts arising from emotional brain regions that evolved earlier (including the limbic system, found deeper in the brain). But the truth is quite different—effective decision-making is not possible without the motivation and meaning provided by emotional input. If it were true Mr Spock and Data from Star Trek, both devoid of emotion, would be able to conduct the rational analysis and state the options but could not make a decision, any decision, because that requires emotion.

How might this analysis relate to the Myers-Briggs thinking and feeling dichotomy? There is no doubt that different people think and feel differently about situations they might chance to meet, or do they?

One person, a thinker, may in general terms say something like when I make a decision I like to find the basic truth or principle to be applied, regardless of the specific situation involved. I like to analyse pros and cons, and then be consistent and logical in deciding. I try to be impersonal so that I won't let my personal wishes--or other people's wishes--influence me.

Another person, a feeler, may express the way they see the world in terms such as I believe I can make the best decisions by weighing what people care about and the points-of-view of persons involved in a situation. I am concerned with values and what is the best for the people involved. I like to do whatever will establish or maintain harmony. In my relationships, I appear caring, warm and tactful.

Hang about a bit. If the first person likes to find the basic truth or principle to apply and analyse the pros and cons and is logical in deciding, is not what people think part of that analysis? Are we saying that thinkers fail to consider parts of the evidence? Does the same argument apply to the feelers who state that they are concerned with values and what is the best for the people involved? Can they do that without considering the reality of the situation that may have a considerable impact on people? It seems the decisions made by the governments in the cases above did not take both sides of the equation into the analysis.

No, all we are saying is that people do have a bias in their thinking and feeling, and this may result in them doing an incomplete but for them a reasonable and sensible process to reach a decision. The T and F dichotomy just tells us about their self-imposed limitations.

I think I will have to hire a bodyguard to protect me from both thinkers and feelers.