An irony so good you want to savor it for as long as possible, amusement being the only compensation for a turn of events so ultimately destructive for so many affected souls (irony, again) the segment of the population that embraces selfishness as an unmitigated economic good, especially Republicans under the sway of zany swami Ayn Rand, with her elevation of selfishness to a moral virtue is a segment massively inept at construing self interest.
This manifestly self-debilitating ineptness has taken several forms in several areas of American life, altogether some combination of demographics, economics and politics. One particularly glaring oversight by the Republican Party, one largely mathematical in this case is that the Republican Party ever more vigorously advocates for an ever shrinking political constituency, a constituency it seems intent on actively shrinking itself. This is an ideological peculiarity I would take a look at if I were them.
I wouldn’t want to underestimate the role irrepressible base malice plays in Republican political behavior, though I would point out that in the political realm it can be strongly antithetical to self-interest, and in which regard I would note that scorching rhetoric about immigration which gratuitously antagonizes the nation’s fastest growing demographic, efforts to restrict voting by minorities, which are becoming a larger segment of the voting public, and by college students and the young in general, who of course are going to be around awhile, and by seniors, of which there are increasing numbers as the baby boomers age seems to reverse all previously understood maxims regarding self-interest in the realm of politics. True self-interest, meaning thinking in terms of many election cycles to follow rather than only the next, might indicate that pulling back in the numerous states where Republicans have undertaken conspicuously restrictive voter measures on the basis of manifestly fictional voter fraud would be the wiser course, or to put it more appropriately more in Republicans’ self-interest.
But the worst failure of understanding of self-interest by the glorifiers of self-interest is in the area of economics. The inept caricature of liberals by the right is that liberals care only about or excessively about other people, to the point of antagonism to their own self interest. In actuality, liberals understand the fortification of public schools, public universities, transportation infrastructure, the safety net and government programs all redound eventually to their own self-interest and the nation’s prosperity. The degree to which creating and sustaining broad consumer demand and spreading the tools required to become an economically empowered consumer in an economy seventy percent dependent upon consumer spending would seem to be Self-Interest 101 for the spiritual devotees of self-interest. Yet Republicans flunk it time and time again.
There seems to be some sort of blind spot, perhaps congenital in the Republican world view preventing them from comprehending that sometimes what initially seems to be only in the economic interest of others, what exacts a cost in the beginning has a direct causality in terms of self-interested benefit later on. There are many things about capitalism and the theoretical father of capitalism Adam Smith the right perpetually fails to understand, particularly that immaculately misunderstanding boob Ayn Rand, but in fact, the Invisible Hand of self interest purportedly valuable to society overall, was not seen as the rapacious plundering of an empowered financial or corporate or feudal class, but that of the broadest spectrum of ordinary workers…in other words, the middle class.
Representing a shrunken segment of America’s earners, and vigorous in directing a guaranteed bulk of GDP reward toward that more and more exclusive minority Republicans, who on the practical level now advocate policies exclusively on behalf of perhaps the top half of the top one percent run into another severe math problem. It is true that representing this constituency may be a wise exercise in sycophancy in the short run, reaping advantage by dancing for those wielding (with the help of Republican elected officials) enormous financial power and influential clout. But in operating contrary to the interests of such large numbers of actual voters, and doing so increasingly overtly, this is likely another case of blundering in pursuit of selfishness. At least that is the case if one believes as I do that the feudalist model the right is pursuing will not work in the longer run in our particular democracy, no matter how bastardized, bought and rigged temporarily that democracy may become.
Indeed, as anyone who still can read history and economic tables without an ideological astigmatism understands, by so breezily and brusquely brushing aside the models for national prosperity so unprecedentedly successful in the post-war era, the misguided and misunderstanding Republican avatars of self-interest are killing the goose that laid the golden egg…the goose being a thriving middle class.
Again, in the short term one may argue it doesn’t even matter, since the primary constituency represented by these Republicans is no longer principally American either in allegiance or identification. The corporatists and financiers no longer rely upon an American workforce nor sell principally to an American consumer market, so what do they care about an American middle class? Recent reviews of the Steve Coll history of Exxon Mobil, Private Empire contain the following quote from former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond: “I’m not a U.S. company, and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.”
Frankly, with the increasing blatancy of this attitude it seems inevitable that more and more Americans will achieve a complete comprehension of how low a priority America is for the Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chases and Exxons of this world. And that means the Republicans who front for this constituency will be held accountable along with them for their level of hauteur, narrow interest and detachment. At that point the protectors of the one percent will have as much use for self-interest as any other recent suicide.