Offended By Bets

U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently offered a $10,000 bet to competing candidate Rick Perry, regarding what Romney said in his book. Pundits say this hurt Romney’s image:

The $10,000 bet … reinforces a narrative already swirling in the political world: that his wealth makes him out of touch with the economic concerns of average folks. …

No matter what the Romney people say, offering a $10,000 bet is, at best, somewhat odd. (You generally either bet someone $1 or $1 million dollars; anywhere in between seems weird and raises eyebrows.) …

“It seems pretty outrageous and out of touch. People around here don’t have that kind of money.” … Critics attacked Romney — a multimillionaire venture capitalist — for tossing out the $10,000 figure like Monopoly money. … “When I talk to my neighbor and want to make a bet, it’s 10 bucks.” (more; HT Maxim Lott)

The idea that a presidential candidate couldn’t afford a $10,000 bet is crazy, as is the idea that ordinary folks don’t know this fact. Candidates pay for TV commercials, which cost lots more than $10,000, and they fly all around the nation in planes, which gets expensive.

So clearly we have moved high up into belief meta-levels here. “Yes, most people know Romney can afford $10,000, but some aren’t sure that most others know this, and so this shows that Romney doesn’t know about such folks.” Or “It is rude to point out that you are rich, even when everyone knows you are rich. Yes wearing nice suits shows he’s rich, but not wearing suits is socially unacceptable. Offering smaller bets is acceptable, however, so offering a big bet could be interpreted as bragging about wealth. Not that I’d interpret it that way, but someone might, and this shows Romney doesn’t realize that.”

Geez it must be a pain to be a presidential candidate. This all shows how much we care about social savvy and signaling in such folks. We don’t much care if they understand supply and demand, but they damn well better know who might try hard to be offended by what.

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