The Hypothesized Corrosive Influence Of Money On Politics

Saturday’s thought experiment: Thinking about the hypothesized corrosive influence of money on politics. Let’s take as a given that income inequality is high and rising. Most people have less money than some people (99/1 or 90/10 or something). Let’s also take as a given that the mechanism of money corroding politics equals campaign donations or advertising, mainly TV commercials.

The presumption is that rich people donate money to candidates who run TV commercials to persuade poor people to vote against their own interests. This despite the fact that poor people outnumber rich people and each person can only vote once. Poor people numerically dominate voting. We assume TV ads funded by campaign money from rich people actually convince poor people to vote against their own interests. But do they?

How do we tell the difference between poor people getting fooled into voting against their own interests versus poor people voting how they want? To believe money has corrosive influence on politics through this mechanism, must we believe that poor people are stupid?

Alternate explanation: Poor people vote how they want, other people don’t approve of their choices, and rich people are wasting their money? How can we tell? Short of assuming that our judgment of how poor people should vote versus how they do vote is prima facie correct?

Meanwhile, how do we feel about people who make top-down judgments about poor people in other political and economic contexts? If one believes poor people are too stupid to vote in their own best interests, in what other areas must they also be judged as stupid?

In case it’s not obvious: I think poor people (and middle-class people) are smarter than many observers and activists think. I say that having grown up in the rural lower-middle-class myself. Poor and middle-class people are frequently patronized.

I think in many areas of policy we have concluded that poor people need to be protected from themselves; I think this is dangerous.

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15