Saturday, June 2, 2012

An understandable misunderstanding, explained by sociologist Gabriel Rossman:
In 1981, [Mitt] Romney was arrested for launching a boat after a police officer warned him that his boat's license number was inadequately displayed and he faced a $50 fine. Romney launched the boat anyway and the cop arrested him. What seems to have gone on is a conflict in how to understand the interaction up [to] that point. The cop seems to have seen himself as giving an order which was then disobeyed. That is, a violation of an authority relationship which requires the lower party to show deference. Conversely, Romney described the situation as "I was willing to pay the fine. But if he had said don't launch the boat and not mentioned the fine, I would not have done it." That is he was operating under the understanding that, as Gneezy and Rustichini later put it, "a fine is a price." . . . Romney's understanding was that . . . if he was willing to pay the price this would fully settle the matter. In other words, it was a matter of market pricing. In contrast the police officer did not seem to be worried that Romney would skip out on the fine but that, as Eric Cartman would say, he had failed to "respect my authorité" ranking.
(Via, I think, Glenn Reynolds.)