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May 06, 2013


Luis Enrique

Many of these things may be helpful to capitalists, and protect them, but I think you are stretching things to call them manifestations of their power

Adam Bell

If we accept that preferences can be irrational, this does not mean they do not carry moral weight. A power structure that generates self-sustaining irrational preferences is not morally suspect unless it can be demonstrated that it also precludes the possibility of rational preferences. One can always rationally prefer irrationality. This is why alcohol exists.


Missing from the list is potentially the most important of all the reasons for the left's lack of success: wild overestimates as to how far to the left the status quo in one's own society is already right now. Here's one very interesting piece of survey research done in the United States in 2005 (PDF):


Respondents were asked to choose either the actual wealth distribution of the US or a perfectly equal wealth distribution, i.e. a Gini coefficient of zero. Just 23 % said they'd prefer to have the former in their own society, while 77 % opted for the latter. So when the question is put this way, more than three fourths of Americans are to the left of even Marx! ("From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" - and even this more moderate principle Marx did not endorse, but instead banished it in the Critique of the Gotha Programme to a vague, as yet unseen future.)

When the competing choices were the actual wealth distributions of the US and of the more mildly egalitarian (but stereotypically social-democratic) Sweden, the already small minority of 23 % preferring the former shrank even further, to just 8 %.

BUT if the same respondents had instead been asked whether they believe the US to be a better country to live in than Sweden, without giving them the quantitative data on their actual respective income distributions, many would start spouting bromides about the US being the greatest country in the world and about Sweden being a godless socialist hell-hole.

In other words, many of those who vote for the right do so only because they mistakenly believe the particular right they vote for to be far, far more to the left than it is; while there are no corresponding right-wing voters (or only an insignificantly tiny number) who mistakenly vote for the left because they overestimate how far to the right it is.

It would be interesting to see similar research from the UK.


"preferences for the existing order "...is their another "order" to turn to?....seems the preferences have set preferences for the ones that have no other set up preference to turn to...


I think you may be anthropomorphising the effect.

Rain is not an expression of the earth's power, it is an effect of the operation of the system.

Not many (if any) capitalists takes an action with the intention of preserving inequality - I may be wrong, but I think they would say they are just following the dictates of the market.

To be fair, you do tread around the concept - using the word endogenous, but personalising it and then labeling the group behavior as 'endogenous and not fully rational' only takes you so far.

I can think of 3 reasons

1 - Under non-capitalist systems, inequality is actually greater

2 - Under non-capitalist systems, the individual may have a lower standard of living.

3 - You do not trust those who say they wish to make this change for you.

Not saying these are true or not, just that if you believed them - and there is no evidence to the contrary presented to you - your preference is rational.


Voting behavior is basically always irrational, even when all voters are individually perfectly rational. This is the Arrow Impossibility Theorem. One implication of the theorem is that a polity's revealed preferences can be manipulated by altering the voting system--pooled elections generate different preferences than run-off elections. Multi-party systems generate different preferences than two-party systems. Single-member districts generate different preferences than proportional representation. That is, whoever designs the election system also decides the outcome of the election (within reason--optimal voting strategies will rule out extreme candidates).

This also applies within the legislature. Consider for example efforts to amend Obamacare in the US so that it no longer included the insurance mandate. Voting rules in congress let committee chairs hold votes on the bill as a whole without voting separately on each line of the bill. Had the mandate portion of the bill been held to a vote separately, it would clearly have failed to pass, and without that provision, the Obamacare bill as a whole would have failed to pass as well. But since the voting system was designed to exclude the possibility of voting on the mandate separately from the bill, it passed.

So the simple answer is that polities support capitalism because capitalists designed the voting rules.

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