Laura B (majortom_thecat) wrote in talk_politics,
Laura B

Why do people vote against their own interests?

I was reading this blog post about how a Gallup poll found that Americans seem to prioritize the abolition of the estate tax over unemployment benefits.  The author breaks it down like this:

Right now there are 14.2 million Americans looking for work and less than 3 million total job openings. So we've got more than 10 million people for whom there are no jobs -- for whom there exist no jobs. The unemployment rate is 9.6 percent....

The estate tax affects 0.24 percent of American estates.

There is a pretty good chance, at any time, that any given American might suddenly find himself or herself among that 9.6 percent without a job.

There is almost no chance, at any time, than any given American not already belonging to the privileged classes with estates large enough to owe estate taxes will ever even get close to joining that 0.24 percent.

And yet, according to Gallup, the abolition of the estate tax is widely viewed as a higher priority than the survival of more than 10 million people for whom jobs do not exist.
Estate tax vs. unemployment benefits is not the topic that I want to discuss.  It's fine if you do, but just so you know, you'll be off-topic. :)

Do people really think that they are more likely to end up in that .24 percent than unemployed?  Are people really that optimistic?  It sounds crazy, but I really wonder if that's part of the picture. 

I was raised on the belief that good Christian Americans have every right and reason to expect abundance, wealth, prosperity, the blessings of Abraham, all of that.  I stopped taking it seriously by the time I was eleven.  My parents are very conservative, big believers, unfailingly loyal to the Republican Party.  I recently tried to get to the bottom of the difference between my dad's an my political perspectives, and that's what it came down to.  He believes that Christian Americans should have it all; I think we should be fair to the rest of the world.  I realize that makes him sound like kind of a bigot, but he's really a very nice person.  He's worked extremely hard all his life, raised seven kids, is well known in his small fishing community for being honest, helpful and pious.  I've tried to point out that when we have it all there's not enough to go around for everybody, but he just doesn't think in finite terms.

So anyway, my dad gives his loyal support to that .24 percent because he believes that they are being rewarded by God and that the benefits they enjoy are his birthright.  Is that weird, or is it common for religious people to hold those beliefs? 

I'm not a history buff, but somebody pointed out to me that the pious usually are loyal to the ruling class.  Is that so?  I looked up some guy my dad's been quoting lately, Alexis de Tocqueville, and he turns out to have been a politician of France's Second Republic who shrewdly argued for universal suffrage because he knew he could count on rural support for the aristocracy.

Or maybe it's just that my family is weird.  I'm curious to hear what you think of this and other reasons people have for voting against their own interests.


Thanks everyone for discussing this with me! It's been interesting to read all of your insights.  In conclusion, I think that some (not all of course!) conservatives believe that life is overall pretty fair and justice prevails.  Some religious faiths seem to encourage this mindset (but of course not all religous people share it!).  This mindset probably becomes political when people feel that those who believe that life is too unfair and try to level the playing field are playing God.  That's my tentative theory anyway, and it probably only applies to a small minority of conservatives.

malasadas  directed me to his own post on the topic, which is better than mine.

I apologize for ignoring those of you who talked about actual economics.  You made valid points and illustrated that there is no one root cause of conservatism, and it all makes sense if you look at it from enough angles.
Tags: conservatism, labor, religion, story, taxes
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