FLORIDA, May 6, 2013 — As humans, we are inclined to pursue our own interests. Nonetheless, when politics enter the equation, people often oppose what is most beneficial for them. How can this paradox be explained?
Do most voters care about objective facts, or our voting habits more defined by emotionalism? Can most political motivations can be explained on a rational basis? What about cognitive factors? Do they typically lead people to select a candidate who shares their social values as opposed to their economic interests?
Over the last several years, the American left-wing has become considerably more hardline. Might there be a specific reason for this?
In this first part of our discussion, veteran forensic psychiatrist Lyle Rossiter, author of The Liberal Mind, an eminently controversial book that strives to analyze the mindset behind left-leaning politics, explains.
Joseph F. Cotto: As humans, we are inclined to pursue our own interests. Nonetheless, when politics enter the equation, people often oppose what is most beneficial for them. How do you explain this paradox?
Dr. Lyle Rossiter: Out of ignorance or immaturity, people misconstrue their own interests. They typically don’t understand what is beneficial for them in a political sense. People often seek (and vote for) short term satisfaction rather than long-term satisfaction.
For example, people will vote for benefits such as “free” education and healthcare, whose costs are not apparent or are deliberately hidden. Moreover, most citizens are ignorant of basic principles of economics. They do not understand the dynamics of supply, demand, price and scarcity, and they do not understand the long-term negative consequences of government deficits and debt, excessive taxation and regulation, or undue expansion of the money supply.
Many citizens do not understand the economic, social, political, ethical, moral, or legal basis of a free society, nor do they understand the critical role of individual responsibility in sustaining such a society. They do not understand that all government welfare programs undermine the voluntary social cooperation critical to the pursuit of happiness. They mistakenly believe they can trade freedom for welfare security without destroying both.
Many citizens fail to understand that personal responsibility and charitable concern are among the prices that must be paid for freedom. Dependency on government welfare programs corrupts the character of the people and eventually destroys the foundations of a rational society.
Cotto: In your experience, do most voters care about objective facts, or our voting habits more defined by emotionalism?
Dr. Rossiter: Some voters care about objective facts, but many voters are heavily influenced by neurotic needs and emotions, such as the “need” for a politician to care about them, or the appeal of a “cool” politician. Voters neglect the historical evidence in favor of limited government, free markets, the rule of law, and a stable currency, among other things, for the pursuit of happiness.
Cotto: Do you believe that most political motivations can be explained on a rational basis?
Dr. Rossiter: Some political motivations, especially those based on the principles just listed, can be explained and justified rationally; that is, by appeal to facts and logic. But many political motivations are based on irrational pursuits of power, wealth, status and superiority by politicians and others compensating for their own personality defects.
Cotto: Judging from your research, do cognitive factors typically lead people to select a candidate who shares their social values as opposed to their economic interests?
Dr. Rossiter: People select candidates for many reasons, including those listed so far in this interview, many of which are “social” and indifferent to rational economic interests.
Cotto: Over the last several years, the American left-wing has become considerably more hardline. Do you suppose there may be a specific reason for this?
Dr. Rossiter: The radical liberal aggressively pursues a collectivist utopia to sooth his paranoid fears of individual liberty. The conditions of liberty arouse primitive fears in the radical liberal mind, to which he responds by seeking control over others and over basic social institutions.
Control through power seeking is reassuring to him, but his exercise of it destroys both freedom and authentic security for the larger society. The radical liberal doesn’t care about that. He says he does, but he doesn’t. His ultimate goal is control because that is the only thing that makes him feel safe.
Far-left? Far-right? Get real: Read more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto
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