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Some thoughts on voting and on thinking

James Taranto quotes Thomas Edsall, saying (among other things) this, about the kinds of votes that Democrats are now trying to get, and other votes that they are no longer bothering to try to get:

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment – professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists -

Edsall goes on to say that the whereas the Dems have now given up on the white workers, they are still eager to get all the non-white workers to vote for them.

One of the ways to understand the libertarian movement, it seems to me, is that it is an attempt to convert from their present foolishness all those “professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists” whom Edsall so takes for granted. It gives them the “social libertarianism” that they are so wedded to (even if they often don’t get what this actually means), but it insists on the necessity of at least some – and in the current circumstances of economic crisis – a lot more – libertarianism in economic matters. Okay, libertarianism will never conquer these groups completely, but it threatens to at least divide them, into quite a few libertarians or libertarian-inclined folks and not quite so many idiots.

Also, demography is not destiny, when it comes to voting. People’s “interests” are not necessarily what many party political strategists assume them to be.

The thing is, it is entirely rational to vote for more government jobs and more government hand-outs (a) if you are at the front of the queue for such things, and (b) if the supply of such things is potentially abundant, or not, depending on how you and everyone else votes. But, if the world changes, and you find yourself at the top of the list to have your job or your hand-outs taken away from you, in a world which is going to take these things away from a lot of people no matter how anybody votes, it makes sense to ask yourself different questions, and to consider voting for entirely different things. Like: lots of government cuts, so that you aren’t the only one who suffers them, and so that the economy has a chance of getting back into shape in the future, soon enough for you to enjoy it.

The far side of the Laffer Curve is a rather strange place. Different rules apply.

Quite a lot of unemployed British people voted for Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, because they reckoned that Thatcher was a better bet to create the kind of country that might give them – and their children and their grandchildren – jobs in the future and a better life generally. (Whether or not they were right to vote for Thatcher is a different argument. My point is, this is what they did, and they were not being irrational.)

There is also the fact that how you vote in such circumstances of national and global crisis will be influenced, far more than in kinder and gentler times, by how you think. For a start, how bad do you think that the national or global crisis actually is? If you think it’s bad, what policies do you think will get that economy back motoring again, in a way which has a decent chance of lasting? How you vote depends on how you think the world works. And how you think can change.

8 comments to Some thoughts on voting and on thinking

  • [An extraterrestrial robot and spaceship has just landed on earth. The robot steps out of the spaceship…]

    “I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”

    Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur and watched the nonstop frenetic news reports on television, none of which had anything to say other than to record that the thing had done this amount of damage which was valued at that amount of billions of pounds and had killed this totally other number of people, and then say it again, because the robot was doing nothing more than standing there, swaying very slightly, and emitting short incomprehensible error messages.

    “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

    “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

    “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

    “I did,” said ford. “It is.”

    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

    “What?”

    “I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”

    “I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”

    Ford shrugged again.

    “Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

  • It gives them the “social libertarianism” that they are so wedded to (even if they often don’t get what this actually means), but it insists on the necessity of at least some – and in the current circumstances of economic crisis – a lot more – libertarianism in economic matters.

    So what your saying is give the educated middle class the liberty to sleep with whomever they like whenever they like, ingest, inject or otherwise imbibe whatever substances they want and to work, or not work, at any job, profession, trade or calling that they want, but, and this is the big bit, to take responsibility for their choices.

    Hmm.

  • “professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists”

    What, no engineers? I guess they’re all to busy raping Gaia for Halliburton or something.

  • Dale Amon

    No, you see we engineers couldn’t get the bureaucrats to leave the planet, so we did… ;-)

  • PeterT

    This is why efforts to reform public services are invariably doomed to failure. Witness the bungled NHS reforms. It is better to side-line the existing institutions and their supporters. For example, in the NHS case, if the government had made a law that forced employers to provide private health care insurance (as many already do) but this was slightly more comprehensive than plans usually are at present (at present you need a GP referal to a specialist for the insurance to apply), then within a few years, boom, you have created a large group of people that benefit from the new arrangements. This will make it much more easy politically to then wind down the existing state health service. The problem with this approach is of course that it is expensive; you do have a period where you are paying twice. We also see this in countries such as Sweden that are phasing out their pay as you go pension system in favour of a defined contribution (401K for the Americans) system. But it is probably worth it in the end.

    In summary, if you attempt to achieve political change, it needs to be done gradually, with each step creating more support than resistance.

  • Richard Thomas

    Peter, employer provided health insurance is pretty nasty overall. The way it’s done in the US, it ends up making many employees virtual indentured servants to their employers and is, in my opinion, part of the reason the Obamacare plan was able to gain any traction at all.

    Not that the US way is the only way to do it I’m sure. Something where it was an inidvidual plan but compensated by the employer might work (hence the employee could take their plan with them in case of a change of employment status). Just be careful what you wish for.

  • Paul Marks

    The jobs the Dem tactical man likes have something in common – they are filled by college graduates.

    The left have controlled most universities for decades – so he is only being logical.

    Target the people who have already been (at least partly) brainwashed.

    But there is another factor (that Nick points out) – some college graduates will not do, the people trained in the “hard stuff” for the productive world.

    We here at Samizdata are mostly liberal arts graduates (I am myself), but this should not blind us to the truth.

    Most of our fellow humanities and social sciences graduates accepted (sometimes without even knowingi it) a lot of leftist stuff at college.

    This makes them a better target for a leftist pitch than say the “mid western gas station attendent” seered at by Brian Barry and other collectivist academics.

    Still less a skilled factory worker.

    “But the nonwhite thing Paul”.

    Standard cultural Marxism (the Political Correctness movement) going back to the Frankfurt School.

    Target people on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation (and so on).

  • PeterT

    Richard, all I had in mind was a voucher with which health care insurance could be purchased. And health care was just an example. I think you get the wider message about how one must think hard about how one can make more friends with the policy than enemies.

    Operationally it would be easier to do it through employers since in the UK many of them offer supplementary private health care so basically the infrastructure is already there and it could be implemented swiftly. It is cheaper to buy it through employers rather than individually since there is an element of risk pooling at the company level. Basically it covers specialist treatments. From personal experience I can say it is pretty good, and it made a change being treated with a bit of respect by a doctor for a change.

    The US system is deeply flawed and is absolutely not an example of a how a private health care system should work. This doesn’t stop UK leftists pointing the finger to the US system when they want to decry privatised health care.

    Anyway this is a bit off topic now.