Why are the BC Liberals likely to lose in the next election?
If I may advance a slightly unusual theory, I'll say it's because they believe that economics is a real science.
We all know that it was the HST that unleashed all the fury and anger against the party after 10 years of electoral dominance. The BC Liberals sprung the HST on an unsuspecting public, immediately after an election in which they mentioned it not at all.
But the Liberals figured they could salvage this situation. After all, the HST would be better for people economically, right? The average British Columbian, that creature as mythical as Bigfoot, would have more money in his/her pocket with the HST than with the PST/GST combo.
A majority of British Columbians did not see it that way.
Thus the sputtering denials from now expremier Gordon Campbell that his government could have done a better job of communicating the benefits of the tax. And they kept trying to "communicate" with us, while their poll numbers dipped so low the barometric pressure changed.
I think the problem was that Campbell and other senior Liberals - a collection of technocratic economics wonks - were trying to talk not to the "average British Columbian." They were trying to talk to Homo economicus.
This is a fictional creature created by economists to try and explain human behaviour.
Why do people do things, say economists. They want stuff. Mostly money, apparently, as that can buy all sorts of stuff, including status.
The idea that people are primarily motivated by their desire to gain advantage, and that this is most keenly demonstrated through economic interactions, is particularly popular in the "free market is always right" strain of thought that runs from Friedrich Hayek through Ayn Rand and former US Fed chair Alan Greenspan.
The problem is, Homo economicus does not exist. Never has. Many experiments, by psychologists and even (gasp!) economists have proven that people will repeatedly, and happily, do things that are against their financial self-interest. Sometimes they do these things unconsciously, and at other times, they do it with eyes wide open.
So what happened when the Liberals tried to educate us all about the HST? Some of us (like me) looked at the evidence, and decided that the HST wasn't that bad. The good may have, indeed, outweighed the bad.
And then we voted against it in the referendum anyway. Because we wanted to punish the Liberals for their behaviour, and that was a handy stick with which to smack them.
People have repeatedly shown in experiments that if, say, someone steals $5 from them, they are willing to lose $10 to punish the offender. People who violate norms of fairness, who are seen to be deceitful and lying, should be punished, says something deep in our ape brains. We want justice, and we are willing to give up more than we have already lost to get it.
In the old Soviet Union, there was this idea that a collective lifestyle and goverment-run economy would create something called the New Soviet Man. He would not be motivated by gain, but only by idealism, and a desire to help his fellow human beings.
I don't need to tell you how badly the grinding, paranoid, badly planned, and corrupt Soviet system failed to create anything like a New Man.
Our current leaders are trying to force Homo economicus into existence, and with just as much success.
@ Copyright 2013