Instead, he identifies four biases that prompt voters systematically to demand policies that make them worse off. First, people do not understand how the pursuit of private profits often yields public benefits: they have an anti-market bias. Second, they underestimate the benefits of interactions with foreigners: they have an anti-foreign bias. Third, they equate prosperity with employment rather than production: Mr Caplan calls this the “make-work bias”. Finally, they tend to think economic conditions are worse than they are, a bias towards pessimism.
The thing about economics is that to a remarkable degree almost any prognostications will have some nugget of truth in it and there is a tendency to say that C happened because we did B. Correlations are frequently mistaken for cause and effect.The article doesn’t say how Caplan arrived at his conclusions, whether there was some kind of polling or sample population study.
* Maybe I’m giving people too much credit, but I think people understand that earning a living and producing profits generally contributes to a better society. People sometimes vote against better economic policies because they get side tracked by social issues – see – What’s the Matter with Kansas?
Frank describes the rise of conservatism and the so-called “far right” in the social and political landscape of Kansas. He finds extraordinary irony in working-class Kansans’ overwhelming support for Republican politicians, despite the fact that, in his view, the laissez faire economic policies of the Republican party are wreaking havoc on their communities and livelihoods for the benefit of the “extremely wealthy”. Meanwhile, he says, the party fails to deliver on the “moral” issues (such as abortion and gay rights) which brought the support of cultural conservatives in the first place — deepening a cycle of frustration aimed at cultural liberalism.
Also while hard to see in the age of super profits and salaries, but many Americans view the blind pursuit of money as greed ( decadence is still a vice to average Americans, while corporate America has embraced it) That pursuing money just for the sake of having more stuff isn’t a virtue. When you have the chairman of Exxon getting a 400 million dollar parachute working class Americans know on some level that no human being on this planet actually earns that kind of compensation.
* Interactions with foreigners. Probably true for working class Americans, but not so for middle-management on up. This is part of why the Right is so split on immigration. Vineyard owners, restaurant owners, landscapers, etc see the benefit of plentiful cheap labor. While many working class Americans see them as both an economic and existential threat.
* Confusing employment, prosperity and production. They draw something of a straight line between doing work in the most productive way and general prosperity. This is where economists get their ivory tower reputation. It is all too easy to look at a graph of productivity and general prosperity coordinates and say this is the way it should be. If you’re one of the let’s say loggers that was laid off because a new truck with a crew of four can do the work that used to take twelve then its not so easy to say let’s always opt for the greater productivity. Do politicians exploit that situation, Sure, but that doesn’t make the hardship any less real. This new productivity-employment gap is not something that our economy and culture excels at.
* Bias towards pessimism. Again there is a disconnect between professional market watchers, numbers on spread sheets and workers. When you have noticed the three decades long trend of manufacturing jobs going to Asia and then your white collar college educated programmer or chemical engineer neighbor loses their job to outsourcing you tend to think things aren’t going well because you fell that you might be next. So even though you still have a salary and health insurance you fell some pessimism. U.S. Losing Its Middle-Class Neighborhoods
Overall do voters vote for the wrong people and for policies that hurt them. They have for over two centuries. One would think that with all the media and information available that voters would get up to speed on issues faster and make better decisions. My personal theory is that much of what people see, read, and hear about politics has because like white noise always present in the background and many people just tune it out. They feel a certain amount of overload.
Liberal Values has their own take on Dimwit Voters and Their Biases
Free Market Bias: Republicans claimed to be the defenders of the free market while pursuing efforts contrary to true capitalism, including corporate welfare, collusion between businesses and regulators, and the K Street Project.
Speaking of Republicans and free markets, Help with home buying revealed in guilty plea
The housing transactions were part of a bribery scheme involving military contractors Mitchell Wade of Washington, D.C., and Brent Wilkes of Poway, according to Cunningham’s guilty plea and other court documents.
In return for numerous favors – including the purchase of Cunningham’s Del Mar house at an inflated price, the financing of his Rancho Santa Fe home and gifts of Persian rugs, antique furniture, a Rolls-Royce and free vacations – the two contractors received millions of dollars in contracts through the House Appropriations Committee, where Cunningham sat, according to federal prosecutors.
Wade has pleaded guilty in the case but has not yet been sentenced.
A Republican senator blocked a vote in the Judiciary Committee on whether to authorize subpoenas to the Justice Department to obtain secret legal opinions and other documents related to the National Security Agency’s program of domestic eavesdropping. The action by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona will block the vote for a week. After the vote next Thursday, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the committee, can decide whether to issue the subpoenas or use them as leverage in negotiations with the Bush administration over access to the documents.
Kyl (R-AZ) had a simple choice, stand up for the president’s wrong doing or stand up for the Constitution and American values. Like almost all modern Republicans he put partisan ideology before country. Kyl would have fit perfectly in the old Soviet Politburo.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” – Mahatma Gandhi