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Sunday, October 31, 2010


So would you change your vote?

In class a couple of weeks ago Dr. Eubanks asked the class a question... "knowing what you know now, would it change your vote"? I didn't feel as though I was able to answer this completely so for this month I thought I'd provide some insight into my answer.

I feel that modern day politics, unfortunately, impacts two major aspects of our lives, social and economic. Socially speaking politics has determined which class of people have what sort of rights and at times crosses over with the economic side giving certain groups of people with various economic and tax benefits. Married couples, racial and gender bias, sexual orientation discrimination. Past examples of major political movements that have resulted in social victories have been the abolishment of slavery, the right of women to vote and so forth. And despite all of our social progress there are still socially straited groups that are not given the same rights as their counterparts. The social change that political policy can affect is powerful and important.

On the economic side they take and redistribute wealth, they affect our income, trade, work and do all sorts of economic maleficence. They license and legislate often with seemingly reckless abandon. As we have discussed in class the way the legislature is configured rent-seeking and the ability to control rent-seeking is a way of life, it is the way incentives are aligned for those who are elected to office and we shouldn't be surprised that they react to those incentives. The economic impact of the legislation that's passed today will, in aggregate as Olson mentions slowly erode away our potential.

With this in mind I find it interesting that out of the two major political parties we have the one that is economically conservative is socially liberal and vice versa. That the party that boasts small government is the first to impose restrictions on a women's right to her body and decides who can and can't marry. This for me is my main quandary, and knowing that despite all good intentions the incentives of being in office aren't going to change, and that the elected officials are going to provide rent-seeking, each in their own respective way and that the incentives of being in the legislature aren't going to change I will side with the party I feel is most likely to affect social change for the groups that still don't' have the same rights as the rest of the citizenry. So as soon as that happens I will change my vote. As soon as I stop hearing religious rhetoric find it's way into political positioning I will change my vote. If we can come closer to social equality then I'll feel more comfortable in changing my vote. So until the parties can keep their nose and their campaigns out of people's personal lives my vote is going to stay the same.

I have a couple thoughts about your reference to slavery and political policy. And, I think my observation may relate to at least some of the other issues you touch on.

As I read history, the political movement to abolish slavery was greatly motivated by "religious fervor." Perhaps this could be expected, once we consider the logic of collective action. The abolition movement might have been more than small group activity, and perhaps this movement is one illustration of how an ethical commitment can sometimes seem to be counter to the logic.

You might also recall Olson's logic in Rise and Decline with respect to various choices toward prejudice. I think it is the case that discrimination and prejudice will tend to be removed over time by the competitive forces of a free economy, and thus when I think I recognize discrimination and prejudice as "widespread" I suspect government's force is involved in some fashion.

And, this is the second point related to slavery. As I understand history, after the end of slavery black Americans in the south (and elsewhere) continued to fact significant prejudice and discrimination. The civil rights movement was the response. Here again, there seems to me to have been significant religious commitment involved in this movement, e.g., Martin Luther King. The civil rights movement was perhaps a bit counter to the logic as well. This movement quite directly was "fighting" against bad and unjust state and local governments. Without the force of government in various ways behind prejudice and discrimination, i.e., that interrupted free exchange, the civil rights movement might never has arisen because over time it would not have been needed.

My key point is that I may be possible that some of your conclusions could be re-examined considering the possibility that it is government's use of force behind the issues you are concerned about. Perhaps it is a question of the right use of government force.

And, this leads finally to the following consideration. It seems to me that with the right kind of government we have prosperity for the masses of people, even for those who in earlier times faced discrimination and prejudice. Perhaps the "battles" you see on both sides of the political isle today are just versions of rent seeking. Perhaps it would make sense to take your informed analysis of the logic of power to your politics by looking for prosperity first and foremost?
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