Sunday, November 20, 2011

Self-interest & Politics

The concept of self-interest is the strongest motive affecting economic choice.  It is not the only criteria for choice.  Parents often select children's toys to help the learning process.  Many gift choices for children are made out of love.  Obviously, this is the case for many purchases made for all the special people in our lives.  This type of choice is the opposite of self-interest.  Nevertheless, many choices are made out of self-interest and especially choices around preservation of self.

The purpose of politics is to provide protection.  So obviously, it is an arena where self-interest is the name of the game.  Consequently, selection of a political party is done primarily to protect one's self.  The components that a person feels most vulnerable to losing are the same components that will guide their choice of political party.  A job for most people is a vulnerable necessity in maintaining their lifestyle.  Likewise, wealth is a vulnerable element in the lives of many wealthy people.  For many poor people the social services they receive are critical to their ability to survive.  Many elderly people are in a similar situation.  Consequently, people in these groups will support a political party that will protect these needs.

Much of the electorate is not choosing a candidate based on political philosophy, but rather based on their commitment to maintain critical services that provide protection of the voter.  For the elderly it is retirement funding.  For the poor it is social services.  For the wealthy is police protection and stability of financial markets.  For the middle class it is employment at a high level. 

For some people it is not their self-interest that concerns them, but the self-interest of vulnerable segments of the population.  For many wealthy people this involves helping the poor or elderly.  They use their money and voter influence to sway segments of the population to causes they embrace.  Similarly, anti-abortion groups often abandon their personal self-interest to protect the unborn.  Pro-abortion groups have the opposite view since their concern is for the mother's life.  It is just a slight change in perspective that puts these groups at odds.

Ironically, although we all start on a path of shared self-interest we quickly diverge on our own particular trail seeking specific protections for what we deem is "most" important.  It is that word "most" that trips us up.  What is "most" important is our own protection.  If protection of every one's interests proceeded our own self-interest than political choice would be much simpler.

No comments:

Post a Comment