Left-wingers do whinge about voters not understanding; about how if only the voters understood better their arguments than they do now. The Left thinks voters just keep getting it wrong.
They do not know how lucky they are. Rational ignorance and rational irrationality are a rich harvest for the policies of Labour and the Greens.
Most of the policies of Labour and the Greens are premised on cultivating the rational irrationalities of voters. These lead to Bryan Caplan’s pessimism bias, an anti-market bias, an anti-foreign bias and make-work bias:
The evidence—most notably, the results of the 1996 Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy—shows that the general public’s views on economics not only are different from those of professional economists but are less accurate, and in predictable ways.
The public really does generally hold, for starters, that prices are not governed by supply and demand, that protectionism helps the economy, that saving labour is a bad idea, and that living standards are falling.
Politicians mindful of re-election must pander to these four biases.
Fortunately, for the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, voters have no rational reason to correct these four biases. Voters are rationally irrational. As each individual counts so little, why spend any time correcting biased political beliefs?
Anti-market bias: The tendency to underestimate the benefits of the market mechanism. The typical voter equates market phenomena such as profitability and interest as examples of unbridled monetary confiscations by ‘greedy’ businesses. This biased against the market, despite all its successes, is a rich field to till for both Labour and the Greens
Anti-foreign bias: The tendency to underestimate the economic benefits of interaction with foreigners. This antagonism towards such trends as outsourcing employment overseas, or selling raw materials to faraway traders, is reminiscent of the mercantilism Adam Smith so brilliantly demolished but it still lives on today in the hearts of the voting citizenry. Labour and the Greens play to that bias shamelessly.
Make-work bias: The tendency to underestimate the economic benefits from conserving labour. Those who look to the visible face of job losses overlook the job gains (often by those who lost their jobs) to be made tomorrow in emerging industries. The Greens and Labour are sure-fire enemies of creative destruction.
Pessimistic bias: The tendency to overestimate the severity of economic problems, and to underestimate the recent past, present and future performance of the economy. In The Progress Paradox (2003), Gregg Easterbrook ridicules abundance denial:
Our forebears, who worked and sacrificed tirelessly in the hopes their descendants would someday be free, comfortable, healthy, and educated, might be dismayed to observe how acidly we deny we now are these things.
Many average voters seem to feel that Malthus was correct in diagnosing the allegedly poor prospects for the market economy.
Where would the voting base of the Greens be without a pessimism bias? They are professional pessimists and doomsday prophets from their earliest days. Labour assumes working class Tories are dupes of what is left of fading media barons such as Rupert Murdoch.
Millennial politics is simple, really. Young people support big government, unless it costs any more money. They’re for smaller government, unless budget cuts scratch a program they’ve heard of. They’d like Washington to fix everything, just so long as it doesn’t run anything.
Young people lean way left on issues like gay marriage, pot, and immigration. On abortion and gun control, they swim closer to the rest of the electorate.
But on economics, they’re all over the map. You get the sense, reading the Reason Foundation and Pew studies, that a savvy pollster could trick a young person into supporting basically any economic policy in the world with the right combination of triggers. Conservative and liberal partisans can cherry-pick this survey to paint Millennials as whatever ideology they want.
Conservatives can say: 65 percent of Millennials would like to cut spending.
Liberals can say: 62 percent would like to spend more on infrastructure and jobs.
Conservatives can say: 58 percent of Millennials want to cut taxes overall.
Liberals can say: 66 percent want to raise taxes on the wealthy.
On government’s role in our lives:
Conservatives can say: 66 percent of Millennials say that “when something is funded by the government, it is usually inefficient and wasteful.”
Liberals can say: More than two-thirds think the government should guarantee food, shelter, and a living wage.
On government size:
Conservatives can say: 57 percent want smaller government with fewer services (if you mention the magic word “taxes”).
Liberals can say: 54 percent want larger government with more services (if you don’t mention “taxes”).