Mike Kueber's Blog

December 27, 2013

Voting against your interests

Filed under: Economics,Philosophy,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:16 pm
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An extremely liberal friend from Ohio, Terry Bradford, posted something on Facebook yesterday about the irony that nine of the ten poorest states in America consistently voted for conservatives – “If conservatism is so great, why are the ten poorest states all red states?!?.”    I responded, “Duh?  Because conservatism equates to opportunity.”  A little later in the thread, I inserted “An American’s Creed” by Dean Alfange:

  • I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon. I seek opportunity to develop whatever talents God gave me – not security. I do not choose to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for the dole. I prefer the challenge of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the state calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any earthly master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid; to think and act myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say – ‘This, with God’s help, I have done.’ All this is what it means to be an American.”

This is not the first time that liberals have complained to me about poor (dumb) conservatives who reject the liberal lure of free benefits.  Or as Alexis de Tocqueville said, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

Why don’t poor conservatives vote consistent with their selfish interests?  But the same thing could be asked of rich liberals – i.e., why are rich liberals wanting to tax themselves more so that government can give more to the poor?

There are numerous psychological studies assuring us that, although people may talk altruistically, they are fundamentally directed by their DNA toward selfish impulses.  But those studies also concede that an individual’s brain, when allowed time to reflect, can override their survivalist DNA.

I suspect a person’s political philosophy (and voting behavior) is one of those things that is not entirely selfish.  Of course, to my way of thinking,
conservatism is better not only philosophically, but also economically.



  1. No, I think it actually has to do with the fact that large segments of the poorest states vote according to social, not economic issues. And since these areas tend to be rural, social issues (like abortion) drive their political agenda.

    But on the other hand, you make an incongruous assertion. You say that the poorest states vote conservative because conservatism allows for more opportunity. However, by that very example, a poor state presents less chances for opportunity. Not to mention the fact that if these states have consistently been poor and conservative for a while then wouldn’t that suggest “conservative” policies don’t actually improve their economies? If people have been voting conservative for decades, and the same conservative policies have been kept in place, yet the place hasn’t gotten “wealthier” then maybe the policies are to blame.

    Also, the poorest states tend to also be the least educated. If you look at the poorest states in the United States (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_income) (minus Nevada), they also match up with the least educated (http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/10/15/americas-best-and-worst-educated-states), and are all conservative (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Red_state,_blue_state.svg). Ain’t that a coincidence?

    So it’s odd, literally the least educated folks in the United States are the poorest, and are conservative. That’s not to say conservatives are dumb, there are very bright conservatives out there, but you surmise a bunch of stuff without actually backing it up. You have some explaining to do.

    Comment by George — January 10, 2014 @ 11:54 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for your comment, George. I admit that my blog post neglected to back-up my Facebook assertion that poor people vote conservative because of their desire for opportunity. Instead I merely pointed out that liberals, too, vote against their financial interest and that poor people might vote against their financial interest in favor of the best interest of our country. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” I agree with your point that some poor people vote Republican because the GOP defends conservative social positions, but I suspect there are a plethora of reasons why some poor people are conservative. And I don’t know if, as you suggest, most poor people are conservative. I suspect Obama carried the poor vote.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — January 12, 2014 @ 4:58 am | Reply

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