The Patronage Explanation
April 29, 2009, 11:45 am
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In any political debate, close your eyes and pretend that every person involved is motivated by only one thing when deciding which position to favor:

Setting up jobs, cashflows, sinecures, and/or high status for themselves – and for their friends & people they see as similar to them – using other peoples’ money.

Then open your eyes and look around and observe peoples’ actual positions. You’ll be surprised how seldom the result changes, how seldom there is any difference between peoples’ actual positions and what they would be if they were purely motivated by the above (i.e. by patronage).

Whether that’s what actually motivates people is open to dispute. What I am saying here is simply that most people behave as if that’s what motivates them. If it weren’t what motivated them, they wouldn’t be acting any different or adopt different opinions.

How you interpret that fact probably depends on how cynical you are.

I’m feeling damn cynical recently.

5 Comments so far
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Well, let’s see. I’m a salesman and a bit of an entrepreneur. And, I tend to be more Conservative fiscally.

So yeah, I’m lined up at the feeding trough just like all the other little piggies.

Comment by Pastorius

No. There is a huge difference between salesmen (and especially entrepreneurs) and patronage-seekers. The latter want government to take from others by force, and give to them. Salesmen are typically trying to convince people to buy stuff from them voluntarily, with no government involved. Night and day. Exceptions would be salesmen of, say, “green” technology, who seek to sell *to* government (or at least *use* government to *force* their product onto market) – but those exceptions are precisely who I had in mind.

That said, it’s true that ‘conservatives’ are not shy about seeking patronage. It’s focused on different things (typical conservatives probably support the mortgage interest deduction, for example). They may tend to seek patronage on a more local level (think school bonds in wealthy areas – ‘hey everyone, you should take on debt to buy computers for my kid’s high school!’). But overall it’s also a far smaller list of things, which has a lot to do with why I mostly lean conservative.

I see politics nowadays as mostly being about other people trying to take from me, inconvenience me, harm me, backtrack on implied promises to me, and generally screw me, in order to benefit them and theirs, whether financially or just to boost their own egos.

But true salesmen and entrepreneurs do not fit that description. Such people are trying to give me a service or good. And I can turn them down if I don’t want it. One way to describe the modern problem, I think, is that too many salesmen have crossed the line to become mostly patronage-seekers. This includes much of Wall Street.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

I didn’t make my point clearly, though I don’t know that a clearer point would much change the discussion. But, just for the sake of accuracy, when I say I am a salesman and an entrepreneur, what that means (to me) is that I’m a guy who is self-motivated, and that I work best in a meritocratic situation.

Therefore, my feeding trough is I want the government to give tax breaks to businesses, and I want them to pretty much stay out of my life.

An example, I have been unfairly unemployed twice in my lifetime. One time I was accused of stealing (when I did not do so). Another time, my company simply stopped paying me, promising to make good on checks, and ultimately not coming through, until I quit.

I never once thought about collecting unemployment, or any kind of government handout. The thought makes me sick.

On the other hand, I do believe in government funded education. In fact, unlike most Conservatives, I am vehemently against School Vouchers, because I think such a program would create a tower of Babel situation in our country.

But, I digress. I understand your point, and I agree with it, but my point is that I want the government to do what I want them to do because it fits my lifestyle.


Comment by Pastorius

Needless to say, I see a huge difference between (1) wanting the government to tax others more to fit your lifestyle, and (2) wanting the government to tax you less to fit your lifestyle (because they’ve been doing (1) to you up till that point).

But then again, I would see a difference there, wouldn’t I? ;-)

Comment by Sonic Charmer

Yeah, it serves you.

By the way, if my family was desperate, in other words, if we were without food, then I would take assistance, though it is likely I would turn to a Christian organization first.

I really do abhor the idea of taking government handouts.

By the way, though I am in my 40’s, my parents grew up in the thick of the Depression, so I guess I inherited their Depression-era values.

Comment by Pastorius

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