Bryan Caplan  

The Ahistoricity of the SIVH

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Super-FP2P... Brad DeLong's Dangerous Modeli...
The Self-Interested Voter Hypothesis (SIVH) is a poor predictor of political views in the modern U.S.  In his interview in FP2P, Joel Mokyr claims that the SIVH has been a flop for centuries:
My forthcoming book is called The Enlightened Economy, and it will be a long discussion of the economic history of Britain between 1700 and 1850...  I vastly expand my argument that we have deeply underrated and underestimated the ideological roots of economic change... [A] lot of people believed with Karl Marx that what people believe, what their ideology and ideas are, is essentially determined by economic infrastructure - the means of production, technology, population, things like that. And it's not just the Marxists; there are a lot of fans of neoclassical economics who essentially say that people believe in their pocketbooks, right?  Workers will believe in socialism, and the upper class will believe in capitalism, and that's the way the world is.  Except that that's not the way the world is. Over most of history people have not voted their pocketbooks - Marxists included.  The Marxists came from the bourgeois class.
This reminds me of one of Ed Glaeser's best papers...

Update: You can now download the aforementioned paper - Glaeser and Ward's "Myth and Realities of American Political Geography" here.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Doc Merlin writes:

I would actually argue that workers voting for capitalism and bourgeois/intelligencia voting for Marxism ARE voting in their own rational self interests.

agnostic writes:

But most workers are not free marketeers and most bourgeois are not Marxists.

The SIVH takes class as given and says political views follow from that. (You're taking political views first and then asking about what class they came from, which isn't the same thing.)

So the SIVH predicts the average worker should be pretty free-market since that's what's raised the bottom during industrialization, and the average bourgeois should have planner views since they would be the planners, there wouldn't be creative destruction to threaten them and their offspring, etc.

But it's more like the other way around, where working class people favor shoot-themselves-in-the-foot policies (which they fortunately don't vote on), while bourgeois people favor policies that don't protect them from competition, that encourage downward as well as upward mobility, etc.

John Alcorn writes:

Bryan, The embedded link to Ed Glaeser's paper doesn't work. Would you please post the paper's full bibliographical reference (or at least title)? Thanks!

Hi, John.

Excellent observation that the original Glaeser link from 2006 is now broken.

The full title, plus a link--though the link is to a gated version:

"Myths and Realities of American Political Geography," by Edward L. Glaeser and Bryce Adam Ward. Harvard Institute of Economic Research, Research Paper Series, January 2006. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=874977

HT: Brad DeLong, "Origins of Blue State Culture," May 4, 2006.

Kurbla writes:

Marx was economic determinist, but he didn't believed that people are simply able to recognize the system that suits their economic interests. He was aware that majority of the workers of his time are not communists - that is why he believed that communists are avant-guard. He believed that "ruling ideas are ideas of ruling class" and that is why actual collapse of the economic system - not bare economic interest of the working class - is necessary for revolution in his scheme.

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