Talk about begging the question.
Interesting piece that has a rather good explanation for why the pre-Nixon Democratic bulwark, white working class voters, is so far adrift from what would seems to be their pre-eminent interests, economic ones.
The best section, which I think Frank was trying to get at and was lost in the blizzard of anecdotes (italics mine):Looking at the data from 1992 to 2004, Shellenberger and Nordhaus found a country whose citizens are increasingly authoritarian while at the same time feeling evermore adrift, isolated, and nihilistic. They found a society at once more libertine and more puritanical than in the past, a society where solidarity among citizens was deteriorating, and, most worrisomely to them, a progressive clock that seemed to be unwinding backward on broad questions of social equity. Between 1992 and 2004, for example, the percentage of people who said they agree that “the father of the family must be the master in his own house” increased ten points, from 42 to 52 percent, in the 2,500-person Environics survey. The percentage agreeing that “men are naturally superior to women” increased from 30 percent to 40 percent. Meanwhile, the fraction that said they discussed local problems with people they knew plummeted from 66 percent to 39 percent. Survey respondents were also increasingly accepting of the value that “violence is a normal part of life” -- and that figure had doubled even before the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.
The growing conflation of the economic and the cultural in the minds of voters has been a cause of great perplexity for thinkers who have long seen the two realms as distinct, and the cultural realm as the secondary concern of unserious men who don’t know where their self-interest lies. Thomas Frank, in his 2005 What’s the Matter with Kansas?, sketched a portrait of lower- and middle-income voters who, socially at odds with a liberal elite they accuse of moral dissipation, have forged an alliance with a conservative fiscal elite whose economic policies, paradoxically, do little to support their worldview or shore up families. Yet the broader social reality suggests that the focus of these middle-income voters on cultural traditionalism is not entirely separate from their economic aspirations. Social solidarity and even simple familial stability have become part of the package of private privileges available to the well-to-do. Behavioral surveys consistently show that, regardless of their political leanings, the better-off and better-educated live more traditional personal lives: They are more likely to marry, far less likely to divorce, less likely to have children outside of marriage, and more likely to remarry when they do divorce than their less accomplished peers. In addition, their kids are more likely to be academically successful and go to college, repeating the cycle.The new Puritanism and cultural conservatism Frank described can also been seen as symptoms of how, in today’s society, traditional values have become aspirational. Lower-income individuals simply live in a much more disrupted society, with higher divorce rates, more single moms, more abortions, and more interpersonal and interfamily strife, than do the middle- and upper-middle class people they want to be like. It should come as no surprise that the politics of reaction is strongest where there is most to react to. People in states like Massachusetts, for example, which has very high per capita incomes and the lowest divorce rate in the country, are relatively unconcerned about gay marriage, while those in Southern states with much higher poverty, divorce, and single-parenthood rates feel the family to be threatened because family life is, in fact, much less stable in their communities. In such environments, where there are few paths to social solidarity and a great deal of social disruption, the church frequently steps into the breach, further exacerbating the fight.
Talk about begging the question.
One part I found interesting was when they went over the economic breakdown of people in their prime (e.g. not young or old) and discovered that on the whole they're both a) more well off (with an average income around 60k/year) and b) more isolated than Democrats previously believed.
I have wondered often, as an abstract question, why democracy would ever favor the wealthy if there are fewer wealthy people than non-wealthy people.
Education would be my guess. People who don't understand (or care) about greater issues will vote for tax cuts. They won't even verify that those same cuts even apply to them.Originally Posted by Gordon Cameron
At least, that's what it seems to me.
So is the ultimate message from the article, then, that these folks are voting on the basis of "value stability leads to affluence" instead of the converse (which is at least stated to be the case, I'm not about to read the whole thing in an attempt to vet their statistics)?
That's an easy one. People buy into the dream of capitalism. They look at the rich and say to themselves "Someday that could be me." So they continue to prop up a system which allows for people to become very rich.Originally Posted by Gordon Cameron
Same reason people buy lottery tickets when statistically lotteries have about the same ROI as setting money on fire.
What's the ROI for buying computer games these days?Originally Posted by Nick Walter
I think we can find a clear correlation between buying games and being relatively well-to-do.Originally Posted by Mike Jamieson
Yes, exactly my point. People have lots of motivations that escape capture in an economic analysis or a balance sheet or a statement of cash flows. This is why they buy computer games, prop up systems which might not be to their economic advantage, etc.Originally Posted by Mike Jamieson
I read the article as basically "the market is grinding people's lives apart in a cycle of increasing poverty and family instability if they're already not well-off, and gets everyone defensive about what they have left." It fits nicely with the history of US populism and religious movements coming out of the woodwork at times of major economic upheaval. It also provides a good explanation of "the farther down the income ladder you go the more upset people get about seemingly meaningless cultural things like homosexuality" that doesn't rely on shrugging your shoulders in disbelief at some point.
It seems as if real life is starting to mirror the Internet? Sounds like people are reaping the benefits of anonymity. Association with (income) classes that aren't your own, carrying the banners of unpopular causes, etc.
Simple answer to simple question:
Q. Why do people vote themselves poor?
A. Most People Are Dicks.
Average (mean) income is not a good measure of prosperity in this context; median income is much more convincing-- and it's median income that has been stagnating/declining since Bush II has been in office, while average income has been going up.Originally Posted by jeffd
I noticed that when David Brooks wrote (approvingly) about this article, he forgot to mention the increasingly authoritarian and anti-egalitarian bent found in the survey.