A lot of people I know complain about how difficult it is to change the minds of people who disagree with them, and they can get bogged down in logical arguments, the meaning of truth, moral debates, and what-not.

What I have noticed particularly among Republicans and conservatives is that they tend to forget that there is something much more powerful than any opinion, any logic, any principle (whether moral, legal, or religious), and that is simply economic self interest. To put it bluntly, when people are bought, opinions are irrelevant, and arguments are a total waste of time.

Mitt Romney is now in trouble with the left — nah, that’s an awkward way of putting it, for he is by definition in a constant state of trouble with the left no matter what he does. Nothing unusual or remarkable about it. So what I should say is that the latest reason the left is giving for their anti-Romney rage is a simple observation he made at a fund-raiser in May. The following is the text as edited by Mother Jones:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

[…]

[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Here (from the supplied so-called “secret” video) is the unedited text of Romney’s remarks:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49… he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. So he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich.

I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about these people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the five to ten percent in the center that are independents.

Whether it was smart for Romney to say that or not, he was simply remarking the obvious, which is that there is no arguing with people who vote their pocketbook. The tax-eaters can never persuade the taxpayers, and vice versa. Even the Thatcher argument that “eventually you run out of other people’s money” — that is only heard by an ever-dwindling base of the “other people” whose money it is.

The argument is somewhat complicated by the fact that in addition to the non-taxpayers, there are some taxpayers who don’t mind being the “other people” whose taxes fund the near-bankrupt system of entitlements, and they are the various government employees, plus employees who work in government-dependent companies. I don’t just mean the federal government; I also include school teachers, state government workers, public university employees, and an emerging class called home health care workers. Here in Ann Arbor where I live, a large number of people are professors, assistant professors, administrative support staff, custodial workers, etc. They, too, vote their pocketbook, and they are of course going to vote against whoever is perceived as wanting to reduce the amount of money they receive. They might not like higher taxes, but they are a lot more worried by people who want to cut the size of government than people who want to increase it, and if that means maybe raising their taxes, they’re totally OK with that. They are more willing to “give back” some of what they got than the small business types who went out and created their wealth through their own initiative. Even if they do the same work. A small private plumber or electrician is likely to feel very differently about his taxes than a guy who works as a salaried plumber or electrician for the University of Michigan. Hell, I see them on the road and they even drive differently; the private contractors jam on their way to work, while the guys who drive University trucks take their sweet-assed time, and now I’m ranting, and of course I should be made to apologize for what I just said.

Anyway, people just vote what is in their own economic interest, and you can’t get through to them. Don’t expect them to admit it, though. Fortunately for them, there’s a whole host of prepackaged issues they can say they care deeply about, and they’ll even argue over them. But spare me the arguments. Most people are simply out for themselves.

Libertarians like me just want to be left alone. And what could be more selfish than that?

UPDATE: It turns out that the Mother Jones “secret video” (which David Corn described as “complete”) is actually incomplete. One to two minutes of video are missing.

Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds,

Do not trust content from Mother Jones.