Power, Principles and Processes
Edited by James K. Beggan and Scott T. Allison
Chapter 9: “Stupid is as stupid does” or good Bayesian? A sympathetic and contrarian analysis of Bill Clinton’s decision to have an affair with Monica Lewinsky
The Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair is viewed as an instance of poor decision making on the part of Clinton both because he put his career at risk by engaging in marital infidelity and because his behavior could be viewed as a coercive abuse of power. In this analysis, I adopt an alternative perspective that uses subjective expected utility theory as the basis for understanding his choice. I suggest that because of the low base rates for publicly revealed affairs among high-level politicians, as well as his own prior successes engaging in discreet affairs, Bill Clinton would have expected it was unlikely he would have been discovered. Given this low likelihood of being caught, as well as the high level of value he might have placed on sexual stimulation, his choice can be understood as an attempt to maximize subjective expected utility.
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