Do People vote their self-interest?

George Mason's Bryan Caplan has a provocative piece in this last Sunday's Washington Post. His first point is:

1. People vote their self-interest.

In fact, there is only the tiniest correlation between income and party. The country is not divided into two camps: the poor, who vote Democrat, and the rich, who vote Republican. If you consider your own experiences, this is hardly surprising: Are your rich friends really Republicans and your poor friends Democrats?

Self-interest is also a bad predictor of views about specific issues. Yes, the elderly heavily support Social Security and Medicare, but so does almost everyone else. The old bumper sticker says, "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament," but men are actually slightly more pro-choice than women. And so on. Pollsters have found a few exceptions where self-interest really matters, such as smoking restrictions, which smokers obviously tend to oppose. But overall, where voters stand has little to do with where they sit.

I guess that I have a simple explanation for this claim regarding abortion based upon my own research. Single men support abortion because it makes it more likely that women are willing to engage in pre-marital sex. This op-ed is based upon Bryan's book "The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies." His point on "Voters' errors balance out" is very similar even to some research that I have done in the past.

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Relatives running for office a consequence of campaign finance laws?

The United States, however, considers itself to be a more mature democracy. Grover Norquist, one of America’s most influential Republican activists, aims to turn the question of dynasty into a campaign issue.

“It will be ridiculous to have Mr President and Madam President in the White House,” he said. “We’re the United States of America. How can we say to President Mubarak [of Egypt], ‘You can’t hand off the presidency to your son, it’s got to be your wife’ or, ‘Hey Syria and North Korea, you’ve got to knock this stuff off and be like us’.”

Norquist has commissioned lawyers to draw up a constitutional amendment that would ban family members from succeeding one another to elected and appointed office. If passed, it would not apply to the Clintons as a Bush was elected in between them. But Norquist believes that it will alert voters to the perils of dynasty. “Americans don’t like to go back,” he said. . . . .

The notion of relatives holding the same office doesn't bother me by itself, but I think that the problem is related to campaign finance regulations. Just as campaign finance regulations benefit incumbents, they also benefit someone such as Hillary Clinton or George W. Bush because of the publicity that they get from their spouse or father are in office (though this particularly applies to Hillary) as well as the benefits that they have from having the well known name. In my book, Freedomnomics, I discuss how it is that the children of politicians are so likely to follow their parents into politics compared to children in other professions. Here is just a brief part of that discussion:

Because a politician’s reputation can’t be transferred outside his family, a politician’s child who doesn’t go into politics simply loses the benefits of this reputation. It’s not like inheriting a family business, where a son or daughter could sell it off and use the proceeds toward some other line of business. Since going into politics is the only way a politician’s child can exploit his parent’s political reputation, it should come as no surprise that politicians’ children follow their parent’s careers at higher rates than most other professions: about 30 percent of politician’s children follow their parent’s profession, second only to the children of farmers. By contrast, about 15 percent of sons of fathers from all self-employed licensed occupations follow that path themselves.

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What "civility and bipartisanship" means


Senator Larry Craig Arrested for disorderly conduct in June

Larry Craig has probably been the most important single Senator on the gun issue. This seems like very bad news. It appears as if he pleaded guilty to the charges. If this is true and it is truly very sad, it appears that Craig should resign from the Senate.

Sen. Larry Craig was arrested in June in Minnesota and paid $575 in fines and fees for a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, FOX News learned Monday.

A Hennepin County (Minn.) District Court spokesperson said Craig's case was put off and could be dismissed after one year of unsupervised probation. A 10-day prison sentence was stayed. . . . .

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Congress is in need of some parental supervision

John Fund goes through the details:

The House of Representatives almost turned into the Fight Club Thursday night, when Democrats ruled that a GOP motion had failed even though, when the gavel fell, the electronic score board showed it winning 215-213 along with the word FINAL. The presiding officer, Rep. Mike McNulty (D., N.Y.), actually spoke over the clerk who was trying to announce the result.

In the ensuing confusion several members changed their votes and the GOP measure to deny illegal aliens benefits such as food stamps then trailed 212-216. Boiling-mad Republicans stormed off the floor. The next day, their fury increased when they learned electronic records of the vote had disappeared from the House's voting system. . . . .

Mr. Foley also made a very prescient warning. . . . . should [Democrats] win back control that November . . . "Democrats [should] clearly and intensely [promise] that if they take the majority back again, they will not go back and try to pay back, so to speak, what they felt were the excesses and even the outrages of this period, but will promise minority rights in reaching those majority decisions."

Clearly, his fellow Democrats in the House haven't been following his advice. . . . .


Fund raising with a blast


Insights from John Fund at Political Diary

On Senator Patrick Leahy recent comments on Justice Roberts:

. . . . "I think in his actions and the actions in which he has joined, he has made the court an arm of the Republican Party," Mr. Leahy said. "They (the Republicans) say they don't want an activist Supreme Court, but this is the most activist Supreme Court we have ever seen, running roughshod over the Constitution, like Plessy v. Ferguson did."

Those are fighting words. In the infamous Plessy case, the Supreme Court in 1896 declared that states could practice racial segregation under the "separate but equal" doctrine. The decision was finally overturned in 1954 in the famous Brown v. Board of Education decision that led to the desegregation of many of the nation's schools.

Mr. Leahy is comparing that history with a five-to-four decision that Mr. Roberts joined in last month which declared that it was impermissible for governments to use race in the assignment of children to public schools. Many legal scholars believed the Roberts court was acting in the finest tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., who declared in his 1963 "March on Washington" speech that he longed for the day when people would be "judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin." While Mr. Roberts didn't quote King, he clearly shared those sentiments when he wrote: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Rather than at least grant Mr. Roberts has an honest disagreement, Mr. Leahy has chosen to smear him. As for President Bush, the Vermont Democrat was openly contemptuous of his court choices. "I am not sure the president realizes what he has done with the court. He was told by Dick Cheney and others, 'This is what you are going to do.'" . . .

On the "ethics reform" legislation before the Senate

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has brokered an ethics reform bill that is a travesty when it comes to shining light on earmarks, the pork barrel projects members slip into bills without any real scrutiny. Mr. Reid, for instance, made sure that he retained the right to decide what qualifies as an earmark instead of giving that responsibility to the nonpartisan Senate parliamentarian. . . . .



Political Theater: Disappearing votes in the US Senate

Well I guess that it never happened.

WASHINGTON — A brawl over presidential pardons punctured the normally courtly ambiance of the Senate on Thursday night, but Republicans and Democrats agreed to bury the hatchet and erase the evidence before the sun rose Friday. . . .

Democrats retaliated with their own partisan salvo, the Libby pardon resolution.

"Regrettably, if you are going to shoot this way, we have to shoot that way," Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said as he brought up the "sense of the Senate" measure.

What followed was a scene more commonly witnessed on the other side of the Capitol in the more raucous House. As senators hooted and brayed amid calls of "Regular order!", Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. pointedly noted that it's against Senate rules to call an amendment politically motivated.

After Salazar's amendment failed, Republicans took their turn, offering a nonbinding resolution deploring the actions of Bill Clinton for issuing pardons to the likes of his half brother Roger, and clemency for members of a Puerto Rican nationalist group blamed for bombings in the 1970s and 1980s.

"If the Senate has decided to go into debating the appropriateness of future pardons, there is plenty of material to go around on past pardons," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader.

Before that could happen, though, the two leaders cut a deal to defuse the tension. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. said his side would take back their Libby amendment — including zapping the vote from the record — if McConnell took back his Clinton swipe. . . . .



I hope that this doesn't give American Politicians ideas


Extreme political correctness in teaching

Apparently, teachers in the UK are dropping discussion of the Holocaust because of fear of offending Muslim students. It is not clear to me why Muslim's should be offended by this fact.

Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Government backed study has revealed. It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial. . . .

From Fox News:

Teachers are dropping controversial subjects such as the Holocaust and the Crusades from history lessons because they do not want to offend children from certain races or religions, a report claims. . . .

From Daily Telegraph:

Some teachers dropped the Holocaust completely from lessons because of fears that Muslim pupils might express anti-semitic reactions. One school avoided teaching the Crusades because its "balanced" handling of the topic would directly contradict what was taught in local mosques. . . .

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Murtha threatens military budget over leak that Pelosi wants a Boeing 757 for flying across country


John Fund: So much for the Democrats getting rid of earmarks

But the claim of "earmark" purity doesn't stand up to scrutiny. New House rules stipulate that a bill can be said to have "no earmarks" if the committee chairman under whose jurisdiction the bill falls simply declares there are no earmarks in it. As Humpty Dumpty said in "Alice in Wonderland": "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

The "no earmarks" loophole was big enough to allow a convoy of earmarks into the final bill, including $185 million for agricultural research projects and $50 million to build an experimental rain forest in Iowa. "I can give you a list of projects in my district that are gone from the bill, but they're certainly not gone in West Virginia and Nevada," Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole told me yesterday. He didn't have to elaborate that those two states are the homes of Senate appropriations committee chairman Robert Byrd and Majority Leader Harry Reid.