How rational are the decisions voters make? Are they really based on accurate information on the candidates’ positions and competency to lead in the direction voters want to go? Ned Resnikoff states in his blog, “…weigh the opportunity cost of driving all the way to a polling place and standing in line to vote against the infinitesimally small impact made by a single ballot. The conclusion: voting is irrational. And if that’s the case, imagine how much more irrational it is to do a ton of research beforehand to make sure you make a well-informed decision in the voting booth. For most people, it’s actually more rational to vote irrationally.”
Further reinforcing this democratic dilemma, a study titled Are Voters Irrational? by Andrew J. Healy at Loyola Marymount University, looks at voting in earlier times when moderate drought sometimes affected income substantially in certain rural areas. The study showed that incumbents, no matter what their party affiliation, were at a disadvantage in holding onto office if there had been financially significant years of moderate droughts during their administrations. The study further showed that this was most evident among those with one or both of two characteristics: a high school education or less and a strongly partisan political orientation.
Statistics say nothing about individuals, of course, since there are always those who are exceptions to the rule. Long ago I read that the average U.S. family had two and a half children, but I have never seen such a family. The major take-away from this is that while nothing could be more irrelevant to the job performance of a politician than the weather, there are those who let such clearly unrelated factors irrationally influence their voting preferences. We can be sure that this is not confined to a few farmers in rural areas with low education and strong partisan views. This study was just a scientifically convenient way to show that such tendencies exist in human populations and what kinds of personal parameters generally tend to correlate with them. We can also be certain that there is everything in between, from very rational to this kind of totally irrational influence.
But before we buy these issues as the whole explanation for political dysfunction, let’s look at a few other issues that affect who wins elections and among whom we get to choose. In reference to my articles Practical Reality Check I and II, the first proposes that we live in an increasingly extractive economy. My other articles and my comments on them as well as on articles by others have also indicated that we are far more extractive in our foreign policies, especially with regard to less developed countries, than we are domestically.
Let us add to this that a substantial contributor to the quality of life we as U.S. citizens enjoy has been the unfair extraction of wealth and valuable natural resources from weaker sovereign powers. This has been of little to no benefit to their general population, but of great personal benefit to the corrupt leadership in these countries as well as both the international and U.S. corporate interests that exploit them. These weaker countries effectively operate as neo-colonies. Essentially without our knowledge, historically the U.S. government has strongly supported this status quo and continues to do so. An international corporate elite with a massive U.S. component and help from our allies accomplishes this with political, economic, and military interventions.
Hiding this from us is relatively easy, since any major magazine publisher knows very well that a cover story that is international instead of domestic will dump their sales way down unless the subject is war. Add behind-the-scenes diplomatic and economic pressure, backroom deals, black ops, and classified information and the picture is more complete. To fully flesh out the picture, just add that any news medium reporting on these darker deeds is easily marginalized as politically radical by politicians, the principal news outlets, and conservative talk show hosts.
Nevertheless, even “respected”major publications sometimes publish such articles on page Z-13 near the bottom right so they can technically claim “balanced” reporting. Despite the current flowing against public awareness of these issues, these realities are a matter of public record for anyone who sincerely wishes to understand the truth of what is and has been going on globally for a long time. Of significant importance also, the Internet has provided some very highly respected journalists with an alternative outlet for the truth they would otherwise have to swallow because of their inability to get certain articles published in the medium for which they work.
Those who do not wish to understand will naturally fail to, and so will remain in a stubborn denial posing falsely as patriotism, blind to reality, and therefore impotent to correct the corruption within. Most of these certainly believe our government has been corrupted, but with no understanding of how long this has been true. They ironically remain blindly guided by information sources serving the very corrupt elite responsible for our misdeeds. They therefore completely misdirect their disgust and fervor to politically play into the hands of the corrupt.
Many of us, however, have become keenly aware of the reality. This intense political polarity has resulted in this extractive machinery turning on our own U.S. population with a large minority of gravely misinformed zealots as unwitting allies in ours and their own economic destruction and the destruction of our freedoms. In brief, these ultra-conservative zealots have it all exactly backwards.
Those who accuse us of promoting leftist ideas simply because we expose the truth ignore something crucially important. These revelations are either true or not. That has absolutely no relevance to any association with political ideologies of any kind that the minds of our accusers invent. Our accusers base their labeling as leftist, socialist, or Marxist propaganda strictly on a blind, knee-jerk association conditioned in them by the natural and quite predictable inclusion historically of the nasty side of the truth in leftist propaganda. Even so, there is no more intrinsic relationship between these facts of political life and leftist politics than there is between ringing bells and salivation in Pavlov’s dogs. The powerful financial elite, nonetheless, take full advantage of this easy sell with the red scare tactics that abound in their own propaganda machine.
Our government, in cooperation with a corporate elite, acts in our name without informing us or worse, by misinforming us, and so acts without any accountability to us. We as a people need to admit to ourselves that communist and strongly left-leaning regimes in other countries, including Russia, China, the former Soviet Union, and our other political enemies around the world have had absolutely no reason to refrain from telling the truth about these misdeeds. On the contrary, our enemies have obvious political motivations to reveal them, mixing in lies with the truth, of course. They naturally cover up their own misdeeds just as those responsible for ours also have every reason to cover them up as effectively as possible. Nevertheless, this does nothing to subtract from what is true, but only its credibility in the eyes of the uninformed and the sadly misinformed.
The second article, Practical Reality Check II, cites an unprecedented, only recently possible Swiss study titled The Network of Global Corporate Control by Stefania Vitali, James B. Glattfelder, and Stefano Battiston involving complex network theory and advanced supercomputer technology working with a new international database to expose who the real power brokers are. A tight nexus emerges from this study that controls most of the wealth of the world and that consists of relatively few players. Practical Reality Check II proposes this as a modern equivalent of the “Great Pirates” in R. Buckminster Fuller’s theory of history.
This modern version of the “Great Pirates” dictates policy in the entire western world, including western-like countries such as Australia as well as those less developed countries that operate essentially as their neo-colonies. Quite a few of the corporations most central to this nexus of power are the very global financial entities identified by the same household names associated with the financial collapse of 2008. Some of them profited enormously from the same economic phenomenon that took others’ jobs away and made still others homeless.
Now we come to a crucial question. If all this is really so, how has the greatest and apparently most successful democracy within the scope of historical memory come to such a sad state of affairs? Economist Bryan Caplan puts it succinctly, “…political genius is nothing other than the masterful manipulation of voter irrationality.” This is a brilliant summary of political reality, perfectly clear and right on target!
However, in all fairness and in the interest of full disclosure, Caplan is a conservative economist whose work completely ignores the international financial cartel this article discusses. He argues, quite probably correctly, that people are more rational in the marketplace than in the voting booth. He therefore proposes less government and more market economics as a solution to what he views as the voter irrationality intrinsic to and inevitable in any democracy. He supports this hypothesis with arguments based on economic theory.
But Caplan’s view is highly problematic simply because it wrongly assumes market forces and small government exist free from the influence of the international financial cartel under discussion. This is indeed also currently the case with most other modern conservatives and liberals, too, for that matter. Very few across the entire political spectrum really understand the global reality. Worse, some of those who do are liberals who propose cures that are full of Marxist idealism and consequently much worse than impractical.
What Caplan misses is that this global cartel renders the whole idea of free market forces relevant only in relatively local economic scenarios. By the same token, it remains essentially irrelevant in the global scenario. Put another way, current reality demotes the natural market forces Caplan idealistically assumes to a strictly microeconomic consideration that is relatively moot in the macroeconomics of global markets and the broader impact that has even on local markets. This results in the subversion of our democracy and fundamental elements of our economic system, most notably energy and the impact of human-caused global warming on related policy. (See my articles Hedging Our Climate Change Bets and Take Heart! (New Energy & Climate).)
Another of my articles, Humankind's Ancient and Eternal Political Tendencies, discusses certain human tendencies universally manifest in a large portion of the population in any political system. It makes no difference whether the ideology is left or right, communist, capitalist, or fascist, there is always a large subpopulation that exhibits a strong tendency toward conformity and a desire to maintain the status quo within that political context. A set of specific psychological traits correlate with this tendency in those who manifest it, once again independent of political philosophy. This set of traits forms a generalized definition of conservatism applicable to all political systems and social ideologies. For example, those in Russia who long to return to life as it was in the former Soviet Union are by this definition conservative despite their communist ideology and how differently we would define them here in the United States…certainly as anything but conservative.
Interestingly, U.S. conservatives commenting on that article invariably took great offense at the traits that form this generalized definition of conservatism, with which they clearly identified of their own accord. They seem to have completely missed that the article was not referring to them unless they fit the definition. Somewhat amusingly, they demonstrated in their comments, glaringly and apparently unwittingly, precisely those traits that define this more generalized notion of conservatism. They strongly confirmed Caplan in practical form when he said, quoting once again, “…political genius is nothing other than the masterful manipulation of voter irrationality.”
Copyright September 2013 © Robert P. Wendell
Redistribution freely permitted contingent on the unmodified inclusion of this copyright notice.