NPR had a great segment yesterday on flip-flopping by politicians – why people hate it, how your view of it is affected by your political leanings, and what the consequences of it are. The whole thing is worth a listen or a read.
They interview my main-man Philip Tetlock and use the Fox/Hedgehog metaphor extensively:
Tetlock applies this analogy to politics. The hedgehog has one goal: It doesn’t want to get eaten. Foxes, on the other hand, are crafty. They have lots of strategies to catch a hedgehog.
Tetlock thinks consistent leaders simplify a complex world into a few big ideas. That’s why he thinks they’re like hedgehogs.
“There are many different types of hedgehogs,” Tetlock says. “You could be on the left or the right. You could be a free-market hedgehog, or you could be a Keynesian hedgehog or even a socialist or Marxist hedgehog.”
By contrast, leaders who are foxes don’t have a single agenda. They have lots of contradictory goals. They support government spending in one case; oppose it in another. They compromise.
“Foxes, on average, are more likely to be neither extreme boomsters nor extreme doomsters,” says Tetlock. “They are less likely to be on the extreme left or the extreme right.”