This is the 2nd in a series. Part 1 is here.
Historian Corey Robin and his critics reject “false consciousness” as an explanation for working class support of anti-labor legislators. Nevertheless, it seems clear that it is a thing. False consciousness theory posits that voters may support a politician who pursues policies that objectively harm them. A Pew Research poll released this past January on the Trans Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) exemplifies this phenomenon.
If the TPP is anything at all, it is a “free trade” deal. If enacted, it will eliminate as nearly as possible the transaction costs of trade among its various nation partners. According to Pew, a small minority of Americans – 20% – believe that international trade leads to more jobs here. An even smaller minority – 17% – see international trade as positively impacting on wages. Democratic voters are slightly more pessimistic about the ramifications of free trade than Republicans.
Nevertheless, 71% of Democrats say trade is good for America and 59% say the TPP specifically is a good thing. For all Americans the numbers are 68% and 55% respectively. The vast majority of Americans recognize that the TPP will neither create jobs nor lead to higher wages and yet we support it. Somehow, we have been deluded into backing a policy and the politicians who champion it that we know full well is likely to undermine our own economic security. We are victims of a false consciousness.