Are Economic Conservatives Just a Bunch of Angry People?

By Hunter Lewis | November 9, 2017 | 3:46pm EST

Apparently economic conservatives are simply just angry people. This is what a new study by University of Cincinnati professor Anthony Salerno and University of Manitoba professor Keri Kettle appears to claim. Stirring up anger makes people more conservative. Conversely,  according to Salerno, when people were "reminded of a time they were grateful, they actually became more likely to support policy that would promote income redistribution.”

This does not mean that “conservatives” are just angrier in general. Salerno and Kettle say they expected that to be the case when they started the project, but then concluded that just having a bad traffic day, if it makes us angry, would also make us more “conservative.” In addition, Salerno concludes that angry, conservative people are more “competitive” and more focused on “acquiring resources.”

Please note how “conservative” appears to be defined here. It refers to a competitive, acquisitive person who resists government “redistribution” programs. Never mind that most government funds are “redistributed” to powerful corporations and the rich, less to the middle class, with only crumbs for the poor.

Although it is hard to get reliable statistics on this from the government, it appears that less than half of the money budgeted to help the poor actually reaches them. And if the poor earn a little more, they often lose what few benefits they get. In effect, their efforts to earn a little more on their own are taxed at rates as high as 500% (as when you earn $2,000 more but then lose $10,000 in Obamacare or other subsidies). Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Monetary policies that “redistribute” hundreds of billions from would-be middle class savers to big corporations and rich speculators are completely ignored.

Yes, there are some angry voters, on both left and right. What these voters share in common is a belief that the system is rigged against the poor and middle class in favor of powerful special interests. Populists from both sides of the spectrum protesting against crony capitalist corruption cannot really be faulted for being angry, and let’s hope their anger is aimed where it belongs – the progressive establishment, which more and more seems only interested in preserving its own salaries and fancy homes and nice cars, not in actually helping those in need.

It is easy to be confused by this. Who, one wonders, is really running today’s massive economic establishment comprised of all the “Bigs” (Big Business, Big Finance, Big Labor, Big Law, and Big Government) working together in partnership? Is government taking more control of private interests? Are private interests taking more control of government?  In truth, it seems that both are happening simultaneously.

None of this, unfortunately, can be characterized as a new phenomenon. Today’s crony capitalist system has clear roots in the “national socialism” developed by Mussolini for Italy, which was in turn copied by Hitler for Germany, and also adopted with modifications by the Communists in Russia. These systems in turn borrowed many techniques from the earlier monarchies of Europe and Asia. Indeed, it may be argued that cronyism is as old as recorded human history and has always been the dominant system. The resulting corruption explains why the human race has never been able to lift itself out of poverty.

It is true, of course, that the anger commonly expressed in today’s politics is not just about economics and cronyism. Much of it is centered on race, gender, class, or on related issues such as Confederate monuments. One has to wonder: is it a coincidence that when we are fighting about Confederate monuments, which relate to events of almost two hundred years ago, we are not thinking about what our present economic system is doing to the poor and the middle class? Could this be precisely what the crony capitalists want?

Hunter Lewis is co-founder and former CEO of global investment firm Cambridge Associates LLC and author of the new book Economics in Three Lessons and One Hundred Economic Laws.


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