Acting Against Interest
February 28, 2012
I was reading a piece by a certain liberal columnist recently, and it struck me that the author, and other liberals I’ve heard, have two very different ways of thinking about voters’ acting against their (presumed, by liberalism) self-interest:
- If they’re poor or middle-class, and they support lower taxes and less spending on “entitlement” programs (i.e., they want to seize less of the property of the wealthy for themselves), it’s treated as some kind of bizarre anomaly that cries out for explanation (possibly involving staggering stupidity), even a moral failing (e.g., by Paul Krugman or blog commenter Snoodickle).
- If they’re rich, and they support higher taxes, they’re treated as having some kind of special authority to determine policy for the rest of us (including the rest of voters in their own income bracket), even moral virtue (e.g., by Paul Krugman and Snoodickle, and Snoodickle again).
I think the fact that liberals do not only one or the other but both gives the game away: They’re not really adding anything epistemologically useful in either case by bringing in whether an actor is acting in his interest or against it. Their position is for bigger government either way and regardless.
They might reply that my position is for smaller government either way and regardless. That’s true; I favor liberty. The difference is that I don’t try to play this game with argument from action against interest and try to have it both ways.