Voters’ self-interest matters most
September 11, 2008
Do voters actually believe it when candidates promise them health, happiness, vacations, clean air and all those other goodies while also demanding they stop being selfish, stop joining special interest groups and dedicate themselves only to the public good?
I doubt it very much.
This sort of pitch seems to put most reasonable voters on guard. Something is up, a ruse is afoot, for no one can deliver on these promises. (Or are voters like all those gamblers flocking to Las Vegas who think they will come away big winners?) So a great many people stay away from the voting booth, and it’s all left in the hands of dreamers.
I am not sure if candidates have actually given this a try, but I would count on a different strategy. How about promising voters just one thing: a competent defense against the violence of those of their fellows who are inclined to be violent, against those who wreak crime and war. And then urge them not to stop being selfish but to be intelligently self-interested.
That would be thinking of some broad benefits that we all should strive for, such as freedom, the security of our rights, peace and justice. These are benefits all voters would gain from big time! So they are objectives that are quite reasonably considered self-interested, for everyone.
But such self-interested benefits need some education to be effectively appealing to voters. Too many people shun being thought of as selfish because they associate selfishness with trivial pursuits. Yet, genuine, serious, big-time selfishness is about broad, lasting values such as justice and peace.
In that famous movie, “Casablanca,” Rick, the character played by Humphrey Bogart, turns to Ilsa, the character of Ingrid Bergman, near the end of the film and delivers a little speech that goes something like this: “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble. But it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now ...