Over the last few years I have developed my personal philosophy on the nature of life and human behavior which is more or less based on evolutionary psychology which states most of human behavior has its roots in evolved behavior designed to keep us from dying in the wild. Also I have developed some fairly left wing economic and social viewpoints.
So, in the spirit of critical thinking, why should I change my mind? What is wrong with evolutionary psychology (the concept that our behavior individually and en masse is mostly driven by a desire not to die), left wing economics or egalitarian social policy?
As far as economics (as an example), the argument I’ve heard is that if you raise taxes on corporations they will not hire. If you let them become profitable they will hire new people. However my counterpoint to that is that under Bush corporate profits went from $500 billion in 2001 to almost 1.4 billion in 2007. And hiring stagnated. So that can’t be the only factor.
I think a big part of my view on left wing economics is my feeling that right wing economics is mostly driven in a top down fashion. Ie, my view is that wealthy, powerful individuals fund think tanks like Heritage, Cato, Frank Luntz etc. who use psychology and good communication skills to try to convince the working class that economic policy designed to benefit the wealthy actually benefits the working class too. So these organizations, when they get the concepts written up, give them to politicians and media outlets who eventually give them to the public. The end result is millions of middle class voting citizens who consistently support economics designed to directly benefit the wealthy because they’ve been packaged to appeal to the middle class’s interests (anger at loafers/cheaters, fear of outsiders and threats, indirect benefits, etc).
I feel like with economics, many of the conservatives I know believe anything designed to directly benefit the middle class will do more harm than good. But anything designed to benefit the wealthy will do more good than harm.
So things which directly benefit the working and middle class like labor unions, environmental regulations, universal health care paid for in part with employer taxes, a high minimum wage, tax funded renewable energy investments etc will all directly benefit most people, but they feel these will indirectly harm them by creating an environment unfriendly to business.
However on issues which directly benefit wealthy individuals and powerful corporations like reducing regulations, lowering labor/environmental standards or lowering the dividend, estate, corporate & capital gains taxes; will indirectly benefit the middle class by encouraging hiring and economic growth.
My knee jerk reaction when I hear conservative economics is to just assume that the people promoting them have had their opinions bought and sold by the wealthy to turn them into useful voters at the polls. But I know there has to be more to the story than that, and there are far more valid criticisms of left wing economics than that. In fact, one of the signs that you are in a cult is when there are no valid reasons to disagree with the leader. If you disagree, it is because you have some sort of flaw (you are ignorant, possessed, being tested). So reaching a point where you do not have an open mind to the concept that you could be wrong on a core level is generally a bad thing.
For one thing, I do think higher wages via labor unions can make a company less competitive with its non-unionized competition. But what about the positive trade offs from having a union? The lower turnover and higher consumer spending (our economy is about 70% consumer drive) should be good for our economy.
Not only that, but labor is just one part of the cost of running a business. A unionized workforce in a nation with cheap energy, great transportation, an educated workforce and good communication technology should out compete a business that pays lower wages but has to pay more for energy & transport and which has access to a lower quality workforce.
But again, I know there are far too many variables in the real world to simply say X = Y. But I do look at the corporate profit rates under Bush and think, if increasing corporate profits results in hiring, where were the jobs? The Bush years were great for the well off, where was the trickle down effect? The Clinton years, despite far lower corporate profits, saw far more hiring. I’m not saying it is 100% Bush or Clinton’s fault, I’m saying the trickle down effect doesn’t seem valid. I’m not asking that to create a strawman argument to knock down so I can feel I am right, I’m asking because I don’t get it.
The cash for clunkers program is an example of a failed government policy IMO. From what I know of it, about 80% of cars that were bought would’ve been bought anyway. So it actually cost closer to 20k for every car sold. Plus the used cars were destroyed, which drove up prices in the used car market, which hurt people already financially strapped who can’t/won’t buy new cars. Plus most of the new cars bought barely got better MPG than the ones traded in. I think the average gain was from 16mpg to 25mpg.
These issues are far too complex to ever truly understand on more than a superficial level. Which sucks. But what can you do.