Bryan Caplan writes:
Many people believe that voters' positions are determined by their objective self-interest. I call this the SIVH - the Self-Interested Voter Hypothesis.
A massive body of evidence shows that the SIVH is just plain wrong.
Self-interest has no more than sporadic marginal effects on political
Successful politicians usually seem well-aware of the weakness of the SIVH. To win support, they appeal to the public interest and ideology, not self-interest. ...
If you haven't read his The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, it is one of the better books I've read in recent years on poltical behavior. Concerning Romeny's released comments about writing off the bottom 47% as prospective voters because they will all vote their self-interests to keep getting goodies, Caplan writes:
... Wrong, wrong, wrong. The 47% won't vote for Obama "no matter what." Almost half
of voters who earn less than the median income vote Republican in the
typical election. A person doesn't support the nanny state because he
wants government to take care of him; a person supports the nanny state because he wants government to take care of us. I say this even though I'm far more opposed to the nanny state than Romney has ever been.
So will false belief in the SIVH destroy Romney's candicacy? Probably not. Given his successful political career, I doubt he sincerely believes the SIVH. Why would he say it? Because he was preaching to the faithful - and the faithful love to hear that their opponents are driven by nothing more than base self-interest.
Bingo! Sounds to me like Romney was reinforcing a narrative that people in the room with open checkbooks would be wanting to hear. I think David Brooks gets it right at the end of his Thurston Howell Romney piece:
Personally, I think he’s [Romney] a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign. Mr. Romney, your entitlement reform ideas are essential, but when will the incompetence stop?
I suspect the "47%" comment might become for liberals what the "You didn't build that" comment has become for conservatives. Both comments neatly dovetail with a sinister narrative each side has about the other. Meanwhile, the national debt has passed the $16 trillion mark and what concrete plan do we have from either candidate on what to do about it? (cue chirping crickets)