But I'd prefer to change the wording about "the politics of self-esteem" to the politics of honor versus shame. I'll return to this terminology momentarily.
According to Samuelson's way of thinking, Amos and Isaiah were practicing the politics of self-esteem. You bet they were. If you were in their audience, Mr. Samuelson, you would probably have felt cut deeply. Amos and Isaiah did not suffer fools like you gladly, Mr. Samuelson.
If all we were ever to do were to be to look out for our own personal self-interest, we would be mental and moral midgets. Unfortunately, the self-styled liberal Thomas Frank endorses the limited view of voting on the basis of one's own economic interests in his book WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS? HOW CONSERVATIVES WON THE HEART OF AMERICA (2004). (Disclosure: Like Frank, I grew up in Kansas specifically in Kansas City, Kansas.)
Inasmuch as businesses narrowly look out only for their business interests in economic terms, business-people are mental and moral midgets. But many businesses have learned to take other considerations into account, such as environmental impact.
Inasmuch as our legislative actions take into account only the economic interests of the wealthiest among us, then we as a people are mental and moral midgets contemptible people, as distinct from honorable people.