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Why Do So Many People Vote Against Self Interest?

©Joel Pett

Really? Why do so many ordinary people support policies that primarily benefit corporations and financiers? How do proponents of Ayn Rand‘s philosophy of rational selfishness convince middle class people that the virtue of selfishness does not apply to their self interest in health care, taxes and job security? Isn’t good governance a matter of self interest for us all?

And, who is the lady in the cartoon?
– Iron Filing



  1. Jeff wrote:

    The solution I’ve come up with is that people are willing to vote against their own interests when the person they vote for strongly advocates for other interests. The conservative base is comprised of two groups: dirt poor blue-collars who are socially conservative, and filthy rich white-collars who are economically conservative. The modern conservative party panders more to the wealthy, but maintain strong socially conservative views to get the vote from the poor. The poor then vote for them, even though the economic policies will make it harder for them to make a living.

    Those conservative poor have been voting themselves into poverty for years, all in the name of pro-life, pro-war, anti-government sentiment. They don’t seem to be bothered by the fact that those same people are passing laws and adopting platforms that further limit them economically. I think that, to the blue-collars, they are more turned off by democrats on principle than conservatives who will give their money away to private business owners.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink
  2. Jake wrote:

    Selfishness will only get you so far. I think a lot of people vote against their best interests out of principle. Even though it may not benefit them directly, perhaps even harm them, they do it for the perceived moral benefits. I think its the same reason why someone wouldn’t cheat in a game, even if their is no chance of being caught. It’s not in their best interest, but its what they think is “right”.

    For a completely out-of-proportion example, if you were walking down the road, and someone pulled a gun on a random stranger and told him to give you $100, would you take it? Assuming there are no legal repercussions, it’s in your financial best interest to do so, but I’d bet most people wouldn’t take it. I think that is the viewpoint a lot of conservatives hold when they vote against their best interests.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink
  3. Kshoe wrote:

    I don’t remember where I heard it, but “A blue collar worker who supports the modern Republican part is like a chicken who support Colonel Sanders.” They’re just grist for the mill.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink
  4. Arthanyel wrote:

    The news today is that the Republicans are willing to accept a small tax increase as part of the deficit deal, and half the Republicans are screaming betrayal while the other half are applauding their flexibility. The problem is that their deal is a CON JOB.

    The Republican “offer” is ridiculous and drastically limits tax revenues in the future, raising 300B in new revenue over 10 years (30B per year) while solidifying tax CUTS to the 1%. Note that if millionaires and above paid the same tax rate they did under Clinton (with all current deductions in place AND capital gains taxes still way below income tax rates) that would generate 700B over 10 years – or more than TWICE as much as the “tax increase offer” of the Republicans. The Bush tax cuts for everyone (which got us in this hole) represent more than 400B PER YEAR. Offering to raise current taxes by 7% of that while making the Bush cuts permanent and adding MORE tax cuts to the richest 1% is ludicrous

    This ludicrous “offer” shows how far the Republicans have fallen. When I was a Republican (1978 to 1998) if someone had proposed letting tax rates go back to where Reagan had CUT them to (50%) in return for $2 or $3 in “entitlement” cuts for every dollar of “increases”, we would have signed before they realized what a mistake they were making.

    Look at reality: During the greatest economic boom of the last 30 years (Clinton era) tax rates were higher. The Republicans drastically CUT them TEMPORARILY under Bush, and are now saying that letting the temporary cuts expire is a “tax increase” – and they are extorting the Democrats to gut Medicare and Social Security in return for letting them KEEP MORE THAN 90% THE TEMPORARY CUTS PERMANENTLY.

    So the Republican “offer” is a sham. As always. They are continuing to execute the Grover Norquist “starve the beast” plan (look it up) to dismantle Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the social safety net programs they don’t like, while in the background planning to DODGE the automatic budget cuts to the Defense budget that THEY AGREED TO.

    All this means the automatic cuts will be triggered, our credit rating will be lowered by more agencies because the US can’t come up with a credible plan to reduce the deficit and debt (which REQUIRES tax increases) and everyone knows who is stopping it. The vast majority of Americans (even the majority of Republicans) think we should increase taxes on the wealthy, and the Congressional Republicans refuse to listen.

    What a joke. Norquist and the Tea Party have hijacked Republican common sense. And here is what will happen as a result – instead of getting REAL reforms to “entitlements”, instead of making a REAL cut in the size of government, they are forcing everyone to hunker down and they will get NOTHING in return unless they are swept to complete power – which will never happen either.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  5. Raul Sanchez wrote:

    @Arthanyel: But the democrats cave in. That is the problem. That is why Republicans are so damned intransigent. They got used to getting every one of their outrageous demands, each more draconian than the one before. I despair, when will the Democrats realize that giving them any thing only whets their appetite, never sates it?

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink
  6. Way out here wrote:

    BECAUSE, WE DON’T WANT A DIME IF WE AIN’T EARNED IT, WHEN IT COMES TO WEIGHT, BROTHER WE PULL OUR OWN. IF IT’S OUR BACKWOODS WAY OF LIVING YOUR CONCERNED WITH, YOU CAN LEAVE US ALONE. We take pride in making our own way. We do not need your help. Anything from the government comes with strings attached. Your naany state thinking is why you are all wimps.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink
  7. Arthanyel wrote:

    @Raul: I agree the Democrats have been too willing to cave in the past, which has incentivized Republicans to be unmoving – but it doesn’t change the fact that the Repulicans don’t care about the country as a whole, because if they did they wouldn’t give up the chance to make real change.

    @WayOutHere: Conservative propaganda, 100% fact free. Nothing in the debt committee negotiations are about expanding government handouts – its about making real changes to balance the budget. And since every economist other than the Fox News ones will tell you raising taxes is NECESSARY to balance the budget, there is no excuse for the Republican behaviour other then their plan to destroy the social safety net and raise taxes on the middle class and the poor to give the rich more tax cuts.

    Ad if you defend that, you are part of the problem not the solution.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 1:24 am | Permalink
  8. Don wrote:

    I’m glad to see that Way Out There is at least interested enough in us lost sheep to share some of his or her insights with us. Of course, if WOT doesn’t need any help and uses nothing the gubmint touches, I’m curious how he was able to both read and comment on this site. Perhaps WOT will honor us with an explanation about using the publicly subsidized power grid. The gubmint researched and developed internet (anybody heard of DARPA?).

    I live in a county where there are a lot of us that pull our own. At the same time, there is no one that can be a functional member of American society without having some contact with gubmints and taxes. Driven anywhere lately WOT?

    Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink