Public Service Signaling
Messrs. Obama and McCain are telling us Americans that our normal lives are not good enough, that pursuing our own happiness is “self-indulgence,” that building a business is “chasing after our money culture,” that working to provide a better life for our families is a “narrow concern.”
The ideal of public service fits very well with Robin Hanson’s notion of the widespread prevalence of signaling. It is very important to signal that you are a benevolent person with a collectivist mentality, even if the reality often conflicts with the signal. As Boaz points out,
Mr. Obama, who made $4.2 million last year and lives in a $1.65 million house bought with the help of the indicted Tony Rezko – and whose “elegant suits” and “impeccable ties” made him one of Esquire’s Best-Dressed Men in the World – disdains college students who might want to “chase after the big house and the nice suits.” Mr. McCain, who with his wife earned more than $6 million last year and who owns at least seven homes, ridicules Mr. Romney for having built businesses.
The way I see it, in November I will have a choice between two Spitzers.