Move on — this isn’t true here

I have a simple model of how some people — but by no means all — process political issues.  Occasionally the real force behind a political ideology is the subconsciously held desire that a certain group of people should not be allowed to rise in relative status.

Take the so-called "right wing."  I believe that some people on the right do not like those they perceive as "whiners."  They do not want these whiners to rise in relative status.  That means they must argue against the whining and also they must argue against the presuppositions behind the whining.

If the whiners say that times are bad, the rebuttal is that times are pretty good or times will become better again.  But if the whiners want to increase government benefits (perhaps there is a victim to whine about), we hear about the need to tighten our belts and all the talk about good times is, at least temporarily, muted.  Fiscal discipline is now in order.

Take the so-called "left wing."  Some of these people favor a kind of meritocracy.  They feel it is unfair that money so determines access in capitalist society and they do not want the monied class to rise in relative status, certainly not above the status of the smart people and the virtuous people.  It is important to fight for the principle that the desires of this monied class have a relatively low priority in the social ranking.  Egalitarianism is the rhetoric of the day, and readjusting the status of other Americans to the status of this monied class often receives more attention than elevating the very poorest in the world to a higher absolute level.

So when happiness research indicates that money brings more happiness only up to a point, this is a popular result.  That perspective lowers the status of this monied class by showing they really aren’t that happy.  When happiness research indicates that conservatives are relatively happy, however, or that many redistributions don’t make the beneficiaries much happier (in some accounts the money-happiness relationships flattens out at a pretty low level), suddenly happiness research isn’t talked up so much.  Inequalities which do not raise the status of this monied class, such as inequalities in the sphere of beauty or teenage sex, don’t come under so much criticism.

Some on the right wing will stress "individual responsibility" as a value when it lowers the status of the whiners (why whine when it was the victim’s own fault?).  Some on the left wing will stress "individual responsibility" when it is time to punish corporate wrongdoers and thus lower their status.  Not everyone applies (or rejects) this value consistently.

Given this difference in rhetoric, the right wing will be identified with the monied class, even when the left often has more money.  And the left wing will be identified as the whiners, even though the right at times whines as much or more.  You might say that both sides are monied, high human capital whiners, on the whole.  And if you compare them to Burmese rice farmers, the two sides seem somewhat alike.

For the people caught up in these intellectual traps, it all boils down to which groups of whiners they find most objectionable.  And once they choose sides, the wisdom of that choice becomes increasingly clear with time.

Fortunately not everyone has these subconscious motivations.  But even if more people did, it’s not something I would want to whine about.


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