Saturday, January 3, 2015

Dividing and Conquering the Left & Right

Editor's Note: Many times I have questioned why people always vote against their own best economic interests — and how our politicians have always divided and conquered us (here, and here, and here, and here and here). Now we have a new study. Below is from the New York Times: The Paradox of the Free-Market Liberal.

Recently published research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests that the personality characteristics that make someone culturally conservative will often tend to promote left-wing economic views, favoring redistributive economic intervention by the government.

Most of the core disagreements between the left and right concern economic matters, and there are often decisive forces compelling those with a conservative personality to be economically left wing.

People with a conservative personality did indeed tend to adopt culturally conservative attitudes on matters like abortion, homosexuality and immigration. On this count, the rigidity of the right model seems to be valid ... But when it came to economic matters related to social welfare policy and economic intervention — the central feature of the left-right divide in much of the world — the results were far different. People with a conservative personality tended to lean slightly to the left.

A conservative personality might actually pull people in two directions with respect to their economic attitudes. Prioritizing order and stability will lead to a yearning for the security that left-wing economic policies aim to provide — but having such a conservative personality will also lead to cultural conservatism, which, if a person is politically attentive, might indirectly lead to favoring economically conservative policy as well.

Why? Political messaging.

Political messages often promote the view that right-wing economic preferences naturally fit with right-wing cultural preferences under a broad “conservative” banner. These messages define what constitutes an ideologically consistent package of preferences, and make people more likely to adopt a consistent ideological bundle: “If I am culturally conservative, I should also be economically conservative.”

Over all, having a conservative personality made people lean to the left economically — with an important exception. Among people who were both highly attentive to politics and from countries in which left-right ideological conflict was prominent, like the United States, having a conservative personality was associated with holding right-wing economic views.

What does all of this mean for ideological conflict in the United States? For one thing, we must be cautious about accepting claims that a broad ideological conflict, pitting culturally traditional and free-market conservatives against culturally progressive and redistributive liberals, is a natural consequence of personality differences. There’s nothing natural about it: Such a conflict has more to do with the political messages that Americans receive about the nature of politicians’ ideological conflict.

Decades of research in political science have shown that the dominant packages of political attitudes often do change, as a result of messages from political elites. While such insight will not soften our hostile partisan climate, it might be helpful to keep in mind as we experience the highest levels of political polarization that the nation has seen in decades.

Final Note: Keep in mind that our Supreme Court enabled all this "political messaging" (or what I would call "political propaganda") by allowing rich people to carry much bigger and louder megaphones than the rest of us (and most of us don't even own a megaphone, because we can't afford one — not even a little one). Unlimited political spending has rigged dramatically influenced election results. Congress is bought and paid for by those that contribute the most to their campaigns — so Congress only listens to them when it comes to what type of government spending and taxation we prefer.

Speaking of which...

From the New York Times: A Republican Ruse to Make Tax Cuts Look Good: "Federal deficits are on an unsustainable path (as it happens, because of undertaxation, not excessive spending)."

After reading this article, and many others that are similar to this (regarding taxation and spending), I often wonder if we might instead "reverse engineer" the debt/budget/tax debate by first coming to a consensus about how much tax revenue is needed to fund all the stuff we need or want with government spending (e.g. defense, Social Security, infrastructure, etc.). And only then have the debate as to where the tax revenues should come from based on one's ability to pay as it applies to individuals and corporations — rather than just arbitrarily cut spending and tax rates across the board, as the GOP has always been willing to do.

But I digress...Congress only listens to the rich people when it comes to what type of government spending and taxation we prefer — and whether or not we want more "free trade agreements" and the continued offshoring of jobs. I strongly suspect that both the far-left-wing loons and the radical far-right-wing nuts are ALL in total agreement on these economic issues.


  1. The Atlantic: The Rise of the New Global Elite

    "The U.S.-based CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds told me that his firm’s investment committee often discusses the question of who wins and who loses in today’s economy. In a recent internal debate, he said, one of his senior colleagues had argued that the hollowing-out of the American middle class didn’t really matter. “His point was that if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade,” the CEO recalled.

  2. Conservative is a many headed animal. Being fiscally conservative and yet economically liberal isn’t so out of step, but when the GOP pumps the social conservative meme then those who buy that nonsense will vote against their own economic well being. Guns, gays and God take precedence over income justice, progressive tax rates and the social safety net. It has worked that way for Republicans for the past 35 years. It’s a mind game played against the mindless.....

    1. For years I've been tangling with folk who think that because I'm pro-family, anti-feminism, pro-Church, pro-gun, anti-gay marriage, anti-New World Order.....that I am also a believer in the austrian economics of von Hayek and von Mises.