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Getting High On Your Own Supply

There’s a lot of debate over what Hillary did wrong in her campaign, and how the Democrats can change before 2018 or 2020.

Some of this revolves around policy positions. For example, should she have supported expanding Medicare to everyone? Should she have been tougher on immigration to preempt some of Trump’s support? These are tough questions, made tougher by the need to balance what’s right against what’s electable.

But other parts of the debate revolve more around her vision and way of looking at the world. Some common points here:

1. She focused too much on identity politics and ignored the white working class
2. She tried to reason with people (eg her performance in the debates) rather than appeal to their emotions
3. She proposed complicated wonkish policy schemes instead of simple things normal people understood like “tax the rich” or “build a wall”
4. She talked too much about managerial competence and not enough about her Soaring Vision
5. She was too “we’re all in this together” and not enough “us vs. them”, where the “them” is some combination of billionaires, political elites, and Republicans.

Advocates of these points usually end with some plea for Democrats to change their ways and approach these matters differently.

Consider two possible ways that Democrats might act on the first point (and for now we’ll ignore the part where “the Democratic Party” is not a single monolithic entity that can take direct action).

They might act superficially by eg telling the campaign worker in charge of TV commercials to make more commercials about the white working class, and fewer commercials about identity politics.

Or they might act deeply by changing the entire culture of the Democratic Party, so that Democrats think about identity politics less, identity politics activists are marginalized within party circles, white working class activists are promoted within party circles, party-aligned media sources focus more space on the plight of the white working class, et cetera.

Likewise regarding point 2, the Democrats could fire their old speechwriters and hire new ones who are better at writing emotional appeals. Or they could change the epistemic culture of the party, so that discussions of how to amend Section 421B of the tax code to be 2.4% more fair were met with eye-rolling everywhere from local meetings to DNC headquarters, but rousing speeches about Taking Back The Country were universally met with applause.

And the point I want to make is that the epistemic culture that makes you sound electable isn’t necessarily the epistemic culture that makes you competent.

It might be that appealing to the white working class really is the most important way to win elections, but that in the real world “identity politics” surrounding minority groups are a more important or more tractable issue, where government interventions can help far more people.

Or it might be that raving about your Grand Vision is the best way to get elected, but that most of the low-hanging fruit for helping people right now does involve wonkish tinkering around with very complicated parts of health care regulation.

Let me give an example of what I mean. The Republicans have an electoral strategy based on a Grand Vision talking about how the elites in Washington have become corrupt and sold out the country to Big Government. This has been very successful for them; no Republican can complain that they don’t win enough elections. But it’s also completely screwed up their party’s ability to govern. Their trouble repealing Obamacare seems like the most glaring example – there just wasn’t enough overlap between reality-based policies that made political sense, and policies that legislators could support without worrying about getting primaried by Tea Party types accusing them of selling out.

And this is just a rare (though increasing) example of a time when Republican dysfunction hurt the Republican Party. Most of the time it just hurts the country. Only time will tell exactly who the GOP’s dysfunctional presidential primary and subsequent nomination of Trump hurts, but I doubt Republicans will be happy with the results.

Of course, remaining epistemically pure and never winning anything isn’t much fun either, so whatever. I guess my only advice for the Democrats is: don’t get high on your own supply.

What do I mean by that? A while back, I discussed the recent trend in articles – mostly on the Left – explaining how using facts and reason don’t work and so we should switch to making emotion-based appeals. There was an article like this on Financial Times, and another one in Current Affairs.

So what I’m wondering is: are Financial Times and Current Affairs taking their own advice? That is, when I read one of their articles, am I reading somebody trying to rationally present their argument for my evaluation? Or am I reading an emotional appeal written by someone who thinks facts don’t matter? When a writer at one of these publications tries to decide which side of an issue to support, are they, within their own head, trying to obtain facts and reason about them? Or are they making emotional appeals to themselves?

The media – especially intellectual partisan media like National Review or Jacobin – are ideologies talking to themselves, processing information, and settling on opinions. The way they report is the way that their respective ideologies think. If a news source decides to report via emotional appeals rather than facts, their ideology’s thinking is taking place through emotional calculations and not factual ones.

Or to put this another way – a lot of the conversation assumes a divide between two natural categories – elites and the public. Elites are unmoved movers, who set strategies and policies based on their own omniscient knowledge of the political calculation. The public is unmoving movees, receiving information from the elites and voting based on which set of elites sounds more convincing.

But reality is more of a spectrum, down from party committee members reading internal bulletins, to party elites reading National Review, to informed people reading The New York Times, to random yahoos watching reality TV and catching campaign ads in the commercial breaks. Everybody is influenced by the prevailing media environment and helps influence it in turn.

If you optimize for the epistemic culture that’s best for getting elected, but that culture isn’t also the best for running a party or governing a nation, then the fact that your culture affects your elites as well becomes a really big problem. If focus groups tell you that your campaign ads need to be more emotional, more zero-sum, more simplistic, and more oriented to the white working class, it’s pretty scary if you don’t reflect before making your whole ideology’s culture more emotional, zero-sum, simplistic, and oriented to the white working class.

Luckily this has an easy solution. From the same Tim Harford article I cited earlier:

Last year, three researchers — Seth Flaxman, Sharad Goel and Justin Rao — published a study of how people read news online. The study was, on the face of it, an inquiry into the polarisation of news sources. The researchers began with data from 1.2 million internet users but ended up examining only 50,000. Why? Because only 4 per cent of the sample read enough serious news to be worth including in such a study. (The hurdle was 10 articles and two opinion pieces over three months.) Many commentators worry that we’re segregating ourselves in ideological bubbles, exposed only to the views of those who think the same way we do. There’s something in that concern. But for 96 per cent of these web surfers the bubble that mattered wasn’t liberal or conservative, it was: “Don’t bother with the news.”

If you’re online, your audience isn’t “the public”. Although I don’t have hard statistics on this, my guess is that if you’re writing for a magazine, or speaking at a conference, your audience isn’t “the public” either. You might as well say what you believe to be true, in the manner you think is most productive, and promote the epistemic culture you think is healthiest for the party and the country. And if you write an argument saying not to use facts and reason, maybe append something like “but our publication will continue to be factual and rational, and you should keep being factual and rational in anything with consequences other than public relations.”

If you’re a speechwriter, campaign commercial director, or TV producer, I assume everything you do is already tested via ten million polls and focus groups and meetings. You can keep doing that, except apparently you’re terrible at it and you should probably get much much better.

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772 Responses to Getting High On Your Own Supply

  1. Incurian says:

    I guess democracy has some toxic incentives.

    • Freet0 says:

      This whole thing is reminding me of Unqualified Reservations

      • Yaleocon says:

        Never go full Moldbug. On the other hand, never go full John Dewey either–I’m not sure I’ve ever seen something wronger than

        “The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy”

        How about, instead, “democracy has flaws, because the popular isn’t always the good; therefore there need to be people occasionally willing to fight for the unpopular in the name of good.”

        • dansimonicouldbewrong says:

          Everyone is willing to fight for the unpopular in the name of good–it’s just that their notion of “good” tends to be awfully subjective, and remarkably coincident with “what’s happens to be very good for them, or for people like them or politically allied with them, or at least very bad for people they don’t like or aren’t allied with them”. (You’re the exception, of course. I’m sure your notion of “good” is 100% spot-on.)

          That’s why we give everyone a vote–not because they all have such an objective, selfless notion of “good”, but rather because so incredibly few of them do, and because those few are so incredibly unlikely to gain power in any realistic political system.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            In high school I ran for senior class treasurer with the slogan “I’m For Things That Are Good, and Against Things That Are Bad.” I won.

          • albertborrow says:

            @Conrad, I think the real story here is that you were the only one running for treasurer, instead of president…

          • baconbacon says:

            Abortions for some, tiny American flags for others.

          • waltonmath says:

            During my high school elections one year, the candidate treasurer’s entire speech was “I am not a crook”.

      • Null42 says:

        Moldbug’s an interesting example of the case where the critique is better than the solution. He raised a couple of problems with democracy and then proposed a bizarre mixture of corporatism and fascism which would almost certainly turn into a standard-issue dictatorship.

        Ironically, given his peripheral connections with the alt-right (who excommunicated him for having parentheses if I recall right), who were such huge Trump fans, I’d argue the election of Trump is actually one of the best illustrations of his critique.

        • cassander says:

          voldemort wasn’t excommunicated. He had a kid, got distracted by urbit, and more or less dropped out. He never had the personality to be a movement leader.

          That said, while the critique that his his diagnosis was better than his prescription isn’t exactly wrong, it isn’t exactly fair, either. His prescriptions were usually couched in the language of thought experiment, and were often focused on figuring out what characteristics a well functioning state would need, not working out how to build an institution that has them all. I think he’d readily admit that he doesn’t really have a good solution.

          • Anon. says:

            Can’t link to it because the spam filter swallows it, but I’d say Patchwork: A Positive Vision does work out how to build an institution that has them all.

          • Null42 says:

            Ah, thanks for the correction. I do remember his ancestry becoming a problem at one point, but maybe that wasn’t the reason he quit.

            He’s probably earned himself a few paragraphs in any history of early-twenty-first-century conservatism at this point. You’re right–he was never really claiming to come up with the ultimate solution. I used to read him quite regularly–there was nothing quite like it around and the whole not-yet-alt-right scene (at least the part of it I followed) was more about raising taboo questions than hardcore racial/gender/etc. hatred back then. He was actually a really interesting thinker, at least in my philosophically-naive opinion– I just thought he raised some good objections and then went totally off the deep end with the solutions.

          • cassander says:

            @Null42

            Yeah, I think it’s a shame he doesn’t write much anymore (the bigger shame was that he didn’t have a good editor, but still). I found unqualified reservations back when he was still mixing it up in the comments, and it was something special.

        • po8crg says:

          Marx’s critque of capitalism was dead-on, too.

          It’s worth pointing out that Marx never did really come up with a solution in the sense of a fully-worked-through political programme. There’s a fair amount of “a revolution happens and *waves hand* there’s a classless society”, even in Kapital.

          Of course, Marx was writing before redistributive taxation or labor unions, and in an era when even limited liability corporations were a novelty. Marxians (as distinct from Marxists) generally acknowledge that capitalism proved to be patchable.

          It’s worth asking whether there will be Moldbuggians who can find patches to the problems he identified with democracy, as well as Moldbuggists who insist that he was right to suggest getting rid of it.

          • cassander says:

            Marx’s critque of capitalism was dead-on, too.

            No it wasn’t. Capitalism does not lead to progressive emiseration. Maybe you can get alienation, but at best that’s debatable.

            >Of course, Marx was writing before redistributive taxation or labor unions, and in an era when even limited liability corporations were a novelty.

            Not exactly for re-distributive taxation and definitely not for labor unions. both were clearly established when marx was writing, and and marx wrote against both as permanent solutions

        • Progressive Reformation says:

          I think Moldbug’s ideas would be generally sound but for a small assumption he makes which brings the whole thing crashing down: that the residents of a sovcorp are necessarily its ‘customers’. I find this ridiculous from a logical perspective – are pigs the customers of their farm? – but there are also counterexamples for humans, e.g. Leopold II’s Congo (Scott already pointed to Congo as a counterexample on the Anti-Reactionary FAQ, but I don’t think he traced the error to this assumption).

          Leopold II is an eerie match to Fnargl (the gold-obsessed alien): they are both invulnerable to the residents of their realms, their rule is absolute, and their only concern is profit. And the results were, of course, absolutely disastrous – the Congo Free State was the worst government in recent history (only the Khmer Rouge can compete). Congo was clearly a business and had well-defined customers, but they were Europeans who wanted rubber, not the Congolese. As a result the most profitable way to run it was as a gigantic slave plantation, and so it was. As Moldbug might say, Oops!

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      In other news, water is wet.

    • Nebfocus says:

      No doubt. My example is Chicago (which is broke, but PR, France, Greece all a work): Any politician recommending actual reforms to get the budget/economy out of dire straights will be shunned. People want a magician to fix all the problems, but there are no magic tricks to the debts these places face. Tax increases will chase away taxpayers (in States/municipalities), benefit cuts will cause a revolt from pensioners and public workers.
      I fear the only solution is bankruptcy for municipalities (see PR). For states and countries?

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        The solution for Chicago is simple but unthinkable – effective law enforcement. If productive people could move into “dangerous” neighborhoods (“dangerous” in quotes because those areas aren’t infested with quicksand or natural disasters but by human predators so, strictly speaking, there aren’t dangerous “areas”) and know that they wouldn’t be assaulted for fun, robbed, raped, and murdered then they’d price out the old inhabitants and the city would be raking in the money from property taxes and commercial taxes.

        The problem with this solution is that the “dangerous” neighborhoods are actually vote banks. What’s the point in (ahem) making Chicago great again if the people who did it don’t get to benefit? Better to skim what you can off of a place that keeps afloat than to skim nothing from a place that massively prospers.

        • grendelkhan says:

          What exactly do you mean by “effective law enforcement”? Do you mean brutality in a “we intimidate those who intimidate others” sort of way? Because when the LAPD tried that, it didn’t help. Do you mean asserting dominance by routinely hassling people, shaking them down, making sure they know who’s boss? Because when the St. Louis cops did that, all they managed to do was to alienate and enrage the people living there.

          You say that your coyly implied ideas–more brutality, more punishment–would help if only we’d try them. We do try them, regularly, and they don’t help. Brutality and repression aren’t exactly bold new ideas in policing.

          It seems a bit more parsimonious to imagine that good police work is hard and counterintuitive, and the drug war has made it nearly impossible, than that the cops are in the pocket of liberal politicians who want poor people’s votes. (Yet competence is hard, and I notice that I am confused.)

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            Your posts in your link describe the exact problem –

            quoting you

            If we know anything, especially about people who are stupid and impulsive–criminals, that is–it’s that certainty of punishment matters more than severity. It looks like the guy was given a combination of excuses, second chances and incompetent supervision that made all the state’s threats of ‘you can’t do that’ worthless. Of course he was surprised when the cops and judges suddenly cared when he bit one of them (and broke into a woman’s home and robbed her).

            He also told Pitt that he must not commit any more crimes.
            “Mr. Pitt, I’m going to release you in this matter on your personal promise to return to court,” the judge told him.
            Pitt was not refitted with a new GPS bracelet before he was ushered back into the community.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            reasoned argumentation,

            You’re arguing past grendelkhan’s point. Part of what happens with abusive policing is *both* that innocent people get abused *and* that guilty people aren’t treated worse than innocent people.

            I’ve wondered whether random abusive policing is worse than no policing.

          • You raise the entirely legitimate question of how to reduce crime. One possibility, that you are skeptical of (perhaps correctly), is more policing or more severe punishment.

            Another possibility is that what normally keeps down crime is not mainly policing but mainly social pressure from those around you. If people know you are a burglar, landlords don’t want to rent to you, parents don’t want you dating their daughter, people in general think poorly of you and act accordingly.

            So one possible explanation of the high crime rates in the inner city is that that system has broken down, for a variety of reasons. In which case the question becomes how to bring it back.

          • sourcreamus says:

            No where in his comment does he either state or imply that effective law enforcement has to be brutal.

            Both NYC and LA saw significant crime reductions under the changes in the policing undertaken by William Bratton. His prescription is not more brutality but accountability of the brass, data driven policing, and an emphasis on quality of life offenses.

          • psmith says:

            Because when the LAPD tried that, it didn’t help.

            I don’t know, didn’t it?

            Because when the St. Louis cops did that, all they managed to do was to alienate and enrage the people living there.

            I don’t know, is it?

            I’ve heard of Rampart, I’ve heard of Ferguson, and I’ll even throw in stop-and-frisk and broken windows policing in New York, and it seems to me that causal inference here as everywhere else in the social sciences is a tricky business and merely pointing to bad things that happened under the status quo (or, e.g., saying “stop-and-frisk was declared unconstitutional in 2013 and murders hit an all-time low, what now Rudy Giuliani?”) is insufficient. The Ferguson case in particular strikes me as ambivalent at best; I could just as well point to the spike in murder rates post-2014 and say that this is what happens when Ferguson PD doesn’t constantly hassle residents.

            Both NYC and LA saw significant crime reductions under the changes in the policing undertaken by William Bratton

            See above. Glib causal inference is difficult. I’m also inclined to suspect that insofar as changes in police strategy had a causal effect, it had very little to do with priming (“broken windows”, etc.) and a lot to do with the fact that the propensity to jump subway turnstiles and urinate in public is correlated with the propensity to commit more serious crimes. Consistently arrest and hassle the jumpers, you pick up a number of muggers and scare or drive out of town a number of future muggers.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Hi, if you have high uncertainty about causes, maybe don’t run interference for asshole behavior by the police?

            High uncertainty cuts both ways, and cannot be used as an excuse. The default should be “don’t be an asshole.”

          • grendelkhan says:

            People in high-crime areas don’t like the high crime either, you know, since they’re the primary victims of it and all.

            Do you actually have an interest in effective policing? Because the people who live there sure do! And as Robert Peel would have told you almost two hundred years ago, if the police have a generally adversarial relationship with the people they serve and protect, they’re going to be bad at their jobs!

            If the modal interaction between people in the community and the cops is a shakedown, that’s not going to help matters. And if the emphasis is on racking up arrests, which the drug war makes very easy, you’re going to have cops suppressing people not based on how dangerous or violent they are, but on how successful they are at their work. I’ve lost the link, but I’ve seen some good results reported by arresting and charging drug dealers only when they’re violent or when they deal in unapproved places (i.e., around ‘civilians’), providing much better incentives.

            I liked this review of policy levers against crime; they’re things like making punishment swift and certain rather than severe, or raising excise taxes on alcohol.

            This looks much, much more like twisted incentives and lost purposes where the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing than some kind of wacky conspiracy for votes. Which makes sense–problems that have really nice-feeling solutions (e.g., “get tough!”) are few and far between.

          • psmith says:

            People in high-crime areas don’t like the high crime either, you know

            I certainly do, and I tend to think this militates (not necessarily decisively, mind) in favor of increased police presence, increased surveillance and harassment of known no-goodniks, increased drug enforcement, increased arrests of taggers and fare jumpers and public urinators. For instance. In this connection, Jill Leovy’s excellent Ghettoside points out that it is quite often impossible to make a murder rap stick, because of witness intimidation, but relatively easy to put the same man away for a spell on a charge of possession with intent. cf the work of the Congressional Black Caucus in lobbying for stricter drug laws.

            If the modal interaction between people in the community and the cops is a shakedown, that’s not going to help matters.

            Yes, of course, that’s one mechanism.

            making punishment swift and certain rather than severe

            Yes. I suspect that this also militates in favor of increased police presence, surveillance, arrests of turnstile jumpers etc. etc., though probably not (for instance) mandatory minimum sentencing or three-strikes laws.

            Hi, if you have high uncertainty about causes, maybe don’t run interference for asshole behavior by the police?

            Hi, maybe I’ll keep doing what I want? Regardless of smarmy uptalk from strangers on the Internet?

            The default should be “don’t be an asshole.”

            I figure anybody who would be open to convincing anyway can see why this is useless as a guide to action.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Baltimore police shot a 12 year old kid in the leg 2 blocks from my house once. Sure, the kid took off running, but I mean, I would also in his shoes.

            That cop who shot a guy in the back with a video contradicting his testimony isn’t getting a murder charge.

            That cop who sodomized a guy with a screwdriver in Chicago isn’t even charged, to my knowledge.

            How about the guy who died in police custody because he was kept without water for a few days.

            How about a guy who was sent to a scalding hot shower room and died there?

            I can keep going, this is not a small list.

            Don’t run interference for asshole behavior by police. I am going to make all saving throws re: appeals to how causal inference is hard. The hardness of causal inference is a complete red herring here.

            The police need to be a lot more afraid of consequences of bad behavior than they are. Most of these examples I listed are not controversial — the cops responsible need to be in prison or on death row. The fact that they aren’t is a serious problem.

            The fact that police have so much latitude and a monopoly on the use of force means we have to hold them to a higher, not a lower, standard than regular people.

          • grendelkhan says:

            psmith: I tend to think this militates (not necessarily decisively, mind) in favor of increased police presence, increased surveillance and harassment of known no-goodniks, increased drug enforcement, increased arrests of taggers and fare jumpers and public urinators.

            That’s interesting, because I wonder to what extent that hurts rather than helps. From (the work of) Robert Peel:

            The power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

            To secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

            The extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

            The impression I got from “The House I Live In” was that a lot of people buy and sell drugs in poor places, because that’s the work that’s available–it’s not exactly the same as people being violent criminals.

            You know that libertarian “Three Felonies a Day” thing? People in poor places live it, and while cracking down on those felonies will give you some stellar arrest metrics, when everyone is a criminal in some way or another, it really undermines the concept that one should care about breaking the law and that the cops are on the side of the right and the good.

            it is quite often impossible to make a murder rap stick, because of witness intimidation, but relatively easy to put the same man away for a spell on a charge of possession with intent. cf the work of the Congressional Black Caucus in lobbying for stricter drug laws.

            Oh, that’s nasty. So community leaders see that because the cops aren’t respected, it’s hard to arrest bad guys, so they make it easier to arrest people, which no doubt makes the cops even less respected.

          • psmith says:

            The impression I got from “The House I Live In” was that a lot of people buy and sell drugs in poor places, because that’s the work that’s available

            It may be that it’s one thing if dope is a new scourge sweeping the neighborhood and bringing degradation and petty crime with it but quite another if it’s become part of the fabric of neighborhood life. Though it seems to me that this is a pretty harsh indictment of the past’s failure to keep the drugs out in the first place, if it’s true.

            when everyone is a criminal in some way or another, it really undermines the concept that one should care about breaking the law and that the cops are on the side of the right and the good.

            I certainly agree with this from a philosophical standpoint. Empirically, I don’t know that it’s obvious. It may be that the only relevant options are “secure exploitative rule by one armed gang in blue” and “insecure exploitative rule by multiple armed gangs in various colors”, and that the first option is measurably better than the second–though if this is true, again, somebody somewhere screwed up pretty badly by letting it come to this. Or Hobbes was right.

            which no doubt makes the cops even less respected.

            Well, that’s one mechanism. Another mechanism is that this is a way for the police to enforce laws against murder without requiring witnesses to risk their own lives and the lives of their families by testifying. Some crime victims might have very good reason to be thankful for this. Some victims of police, as you say, might have very good reason to hate it.

            Of course, the fact that witnesses would be risking their lives by testifying suggests that places like Jill Leovy’s old beat are already places where the state has failed; “the war on crime is over, and crime won.” So how do you bring law to a lawless place? Little bit by little bit, all at once with overwhelming force, …?

            The police need to be a lot more afraid of consequences of bad behavior than they are.

            Anybody who believes this should offer an explanation of recent increases in murder rates in Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and Dallas, among others.

            Don’t run interference for asshole behavior by police.

            I’ll keep doing what I want. You can keep complaining about it.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I live in Baltimore. I will tell you what happened in Baltimore.

            Some cops took a guy for a ride and broke his spine, and then threw an epic temper tantrum and stopped doing their jobs entirely after they got some heat from folks (and the Justice Department) who were understandably upset.

            Naturally, the “heroin industry” in Baltimore took this as an opportunity to settle some scores, with the predictable consequence of an enormous increase in murder rates.

            Cops in Baltimore seem to think there is a false dichotomy where either they do their job, but also on occasion just kill people in cold blood for no good reason, or they just stop doing their job.

            No, actually. They should _both_ do their job, _and_ not murder people (and then cover up murders later). There is a nice semi-documentary show about how awful Baltimore cops are. You may have heard of it.

            As far as “doing what you want,” hey if you want to defend screwdriver sodomy, that’s on you. All that does is help other folks here figure out how seriously to take you. I notice you aren’t signing your real name, by the way.

          • grendelkhan says:

            psmith: It may be that it’s one thing if dope is a new scourge sweeping the neighborhood and bringing degradation and petty crime with it but quite another if it’s become part of the fabric of neighborhood life. Though it seems to me that this is a pretty harsh indictment of the past’s failure to keep the drugs out in the first place, if it’s true.

            I think we have very different views of the role of drugs in poor places; I read yours as an external force bringing violence and destruction, and mine as more like an adaptation–when the formal economy has collapsed and nearly everyone is doing their Three Felonies a Day, the drug business is pretty good work–room for advancement, plenty of entry-level positions available, excellent pay if you do manage to rise in the organization–of course it’ll spring up wherever the formal economy collapses, be it moonshining during Prohibition or meth cooking in the Rust Belt.

            I think you see getting drugs back out of the community as a solution, where I think of the drugs as a symptom whose harm can be reduced by separating the trade from the violence. (Though fully decriminalizing drugs would probably just move the dealers’ jobs into the formal economy and leave them to do something worse.)

            “the war on crime is over, and crime won.” So how do you bring law to a lawless place? Little bit by little bit, all at once with overwhelming force, …?

            This is a really important question, and one we should know something about–there are places that were once impassable dens of doom, and aren’t today; how did that happen? I’ve heard anecdotes like “we called a meeting of all the dealers, because we know who they are, and told them that they’d stop dealing in the playground by this weekend, because we’d arrest and heavily charge anyone we found dealing after that point”, though I can’t recall the source.

            When I think about endemic corruption, I have the same reaction–you used to have to grease palms and bribe everyone you met, and now you don’t, so how did that change?

            Ilya Shpitser: I notice you aren’t signing your real name, by the way.

            Most people, including our host, aren’t. My hat’s off to you for your bravery (also, whoa, you studied under Judea Pearl? cool! I should add a photo to his Wikipedia page…), but there’s a place for semi-persistent nyms, and that place is the internet.

            (Also, you’re referring to The Wire, right?)

          • psmith says:

            You see it as an external force bringing violence and destruction, but I see it as more like an adaptation

            I’d also say it can start out as the first but end up as the second. Though I’d also point out that this:

            the drug business is pretty good work–room for advancement, plenty of entry-level positions available, excellent pay if you do manage to rise in the organization

            is not the whole story. Remember, street-corner guys were asking Venkatesh if he could get them jobs as janitors. And the earnings data that he gathered (or maybe that was Levitt?) tell the same story. Expected monetary value is pretty terrible, and these guys know it. Dealing may be the best of a bad lot even so, but I’m mildly skeptical.

            fully decriminalizing drugs would probably just move the dealers’ jobs into the formal economy and leave them to do something worse

            Yep.

            there are places that were once impassable dens of doom, and aren’t today; how did that happen?

            Most of the salient cases like this that I can think of, it happened because the high-crime populations got moved out (gentrification plus mass incarceration) or aged out of their high-crime years (the leaded gas generations, maybe.). Which ain’t all that helpful.

            I notice you aren’t signing your real name, by the way.

            Yes. It makes it much harder for people who don’t want to or can’t argue to use social pressure to stop me from expressing locally unpopular opinions.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Ilya Shpitser:
            That’s not the impression I got from The Wire. The impression I got was a lot more depressing, actually. Yes, there are some cops who just want to maim and kill people, but they’re not in the majority. The majority — and especially the leadership — just want to earn their paycheck and promotions by using the minimum amount of effort possible. Any attempts to actually keep the peace are counterproductive towards this goal.
            Meanwhile, on the opposite side, civilian communities are built entirely around the drug trade. It is not the case that a few criminal individuals are spoiling the life for the rest of honest citizens; rather, it is the case that the entire economy of the region is based on drugs, because there’s nothing else. Thus, fighting the “War on Drugs” is pointless; it’d be like fighting the “War on Oxygen”.

        • Christopher Hazell says:

          they’d price out the old inhabitants

          Who would go where, exactly?

          Don’t be fooled into thinking I’m asking that for just bleeding heart reasons. My city, Portland, OR, has extremely high rents, and, also, an extremely large homeless problem. I work in a nice restaurant across from a building where you pay $1700 a month for a 576 square foot studio apartment, and we have a problem with homeless people camping in our garage and with people using it to deal and smoke crack.

          The city spent a lot of money sweeping people out of the Springwater Trail area, and as far as I can tell all that did was move the garbage strewn tent communities downtown and into the area between I84 and the city.

          Don’t just throw the criminals over the fence and make them some other city’s problem, for crying out loud.

          Or, on the other hand, if “effective law enforcement” involves effectively reducing recidivism, then I’m not sure what benefit is gained by pricing reformed criminals out of their homes; it seems like it would only make them more likely to revert to bad behavior.

          • psmith says:

            Don’t just throw the criminals over the fence and make them some other city’s problem, for crying out loud.

            Chicago made some effort to do more or less exactly this when they demolished Cabrini-Green. See also, from Memphis.

        • Naclador says:

          What gets crime rates down?

          – more Police on the streets, but much less Police violence (US have come a long way towards a Gestapo state already)
          – effective and unbiased courts
          – moderate but consequent punishments
          – more equality, less or better no poverty
          – sufficent job supply, or places where the umemployed can do or learn something useful in their plentiful spare time

          Now go ahead and call me a damn red commy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’d be nice if this were true, but brutal policing seems to work as well as reasonable policing, provided of course you don’t count crimes committed by police. The second two, I’m not sure there is any experience of within living memory. And both poverty and unemployment co-exist with a wide variety of crime rates (compare, for instance, Union City and Irvington in NJ)

      • Bankrupt municipalities are one of those insoluble problems that only occur in the US. The answer, in short , is redistribution. (The slightly longer answer is to take teach-a-man-to-fish type action when a region seems starting a slide rustbeltwards, rather than waiting for a full crisis).

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          If bankrupt municipalities only happen in the US, there’s got to be some organizational reason. Anyone know what it is?

          • It doesn’t appear to strike anyone to even try redistribution.

          • John Schilling says:

            I believe that the United States is the only major nation whose bankruptcy code allows municipalities to declare bankruptcy.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Of course it strikes people to try redistribution. It’s kind of a tough sell.

            “I can’t manage my own finances, so I need to take a chunk of your money! Also, I will be back for more when I unexpectedly burn through that, too!”

          • Salem says:

            Most countries don’t allow such municipalities to borrow money like that in the first place. Only the central government can borrow*, because otherwise local groups will borrow money, then expect the central government to bail them out.

            It’s a reflection of US federalism.

            * and sometimes other entities, e.g. a pretend-private-but-not-really Post Office, but crucially they are all under control of the central government.

          • Public borriwing by municipalities outside the US isn’t blanket banned, it’s allowed but tightly controlled.

            Crisis followed by bailout is not the main method of redistribution, steady state redistribution is intended to avoid crises ITFP.

        • publiusvarinius says:

          Bankrupt municipalities are one of those insoluble problems that only occur in the US.

          False. This is a serious problem and common occurrence all across Europe (off the top of my head: recently Cádiz, Spain; a couple years back Csepreg, Hungary). I don’t know if redistribution is a good solution, but it’s certainly not the usual solution, which is selling municipality real estate, rescheduling debt repayment, and the municipality getting a state-appointed financial guardian to manage its expenditures for a while.

          • Aapje says:

            It’s also pretty common in the Netherlands and we deal with it by placing the municipality under federal supervision, where they get extra federal funds, but have to give up some autonomy.

          • John Schilling says:

            (off the top of my head: recently Cádiz, Spain; a couple years back Csepreg, Hungary)

            Do you have any references for these? Google isn’t coming up with anything useful under any of the obvious search terms.

            Also, are you talking strictly about bankruptcy (a legal status in which a person or organization is absolved of its responsibility for debts it cannot pay), or are you using “bankruptcy” in the colloquial sense of “insolvent” or “has run out of money and can’t pay its bills”?

          • publiusvarinius says:

            @John: Yes, I mean the legal status, declared by a court at the request of the debtor that results in an immediate moratorium on creditors taking action, potentially followed by settlement negotiation with said creditors, and court proceedings (which may result in bankruptcy restrictions, appointment of a financial guardian, or in the case of companies, liquidation).

            Turns out Csepreg declared bankruptcy freaking 17 years ago – it must have been on the news when my family and I moved to Hungary, which explains why it was salient in my mind. But it’s generally hard to find anything written in English about such events – they are not important enough to be global news.

      • Brad says:

        I fear the only solution is bankruptcy for municipalities (see PR). For states and countries?

        Sovereigns can default on their debts. It makes it harder to borrow in the future but far from impossible. Just look at Argentina.

      • Quixote says:

        This explains why Jerry Brown who fixed California’s budget with a bunch of dollars and sense math is so unpopular and why its economy is so stagnant with fewer start ups than comparable states and is not the HQ for any major high market cap companies.

        Although, to be fair to your original point, I don’t actually believe the same would work in PR. But I think you are over generalizing from that case and failing to take into account strong counterexamples.

    • Mary says:

      I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

      — John Adams

    • Mary says:

      From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
      — James Madison

      • engleberg says:

        Brougham’s representative democracy was designed to get around that- the Brougham carriage guy, Australian Ballots and all that. Designed to dodge the Athenian democracy bullet; we’ve had okay luck with it for two centuries.

  2. reasoned argumentation says:

    If you optimize for the epistemic culture that’s best for getting elected, but that culture isn’t also the best for running a party or governing a nation, then the fact that your culture affects your elites as well becomes a really big problem. If focus groups tell you that your campaign ads need to be more emotional, more zero-sum, more simplistic, and more oriented to the white working class, it’s pretty scary if you don’t reflect before making your whole ideology’s culture more emotional, zero-sum, simplistic, and oriented to the white working class.

    I have no idea where you get the idea that either party has ever had an epistemic culture that’s selected for governing as opposed to attracting support.

    Literally the entire structure of modern American government is set up around this fact. Parties write bills (or lobbyists do it – either way) that contain some kind of vague hand-waving statements about some kind of “problem” that was talked about by the media when they re-wrote press releases from “policy advocates”. Then the laws get “implemented” by the bureaucracy – which means they write detailed regulations that are hundreds of times the length of the bill and don’t legally have to have too much of a relationship with the underlying bill (administrative discretion).

    No one involved in the process has any responsibility for the outcome and as a result no one anywhere has any incentive to develop any kind of set of practices that result in beneficial outcomes – especially since bad outcomes are just more reason to do other things that will also be expensive and allow people to funnel money and power to their cronies and ideological allies.

    • Yaleocon says:

      This is depressingly fatalist. This isn’t to disagree, necessarily, with the characterization as it applies to the past; Lord knows I’m no optimist. I’m more wondering, in your opinion, is there nothing that can be done about this? Abolish Chevron deference, abolish direct election of senators, establish watchdog institutions of some kind, reorganize to something more parliamentary, some combination, anything at all? Or is this just the attendant disease of democracy, the coordination problem which inevitably drags it into the abyss?

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        I’m more wondering, in your opinion, is there nothing that can be done about this? Abolish Chevron deference, abolish direct election of senators, establish watchdog institutions of some kind, reorganize to something more parliamentary, some combination, anything at all? Or is this just the attendant disease of democracy, the coordination problem which inevitably drags it into the abyss?

        In my opinion? I think it’s an attendant disease of democracy – the fundamental problem is the division between power and responsibility and you can’t have responsibility without personal authority – democracy doesn’t do personal authority.

        • Yaleocon says:

          Mene, mene, tekel, uparsin.

          How about removing Chevron deference and “gutting the administrative state” (whatever that means)? Would solve that particular problem, and put power back in the hands of the democratically accountable.

          Personally I think it’d be even worse than the status quo; we have the bureaucracy for a reason, even if it’s horribly inefficient. But I’m interested whether you agree, and based on what reasons.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            Personally I think it’d be even worse than the status quo; we have the bureaucracy for a reason, even if it’s horribly inefficient. But I’m interested whether you agree, and based on what reasons.

            The modern bureaucratic state is an evolved response – it mitigates the damage from having a form of government where official power is vested in people who have the skills for winning elections. Ripping out an evolved system without solving the underlying problem that the evolved system is keeping in check is a very bad idea in my opinion.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            Mene, mene, tekel, uparsin.

            Yes, the current problem is that the problems have gotten so large that the bureaucratic state has lost the mandate of heaven.

          • Yaleocon says:

            Agreed on all counts, I think. One last question before I go to sleep: what does the end look like?

            I want to say, in 20 years, sovereign external default led by a brave leftist populist, then printing money to support entitlements, inevitable inflation leading to those outlays being devalued and the social order they propped up collapsing from there.

            On the other hand, futurism is hard and typically fruitless, so I’ll cease speculating.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            Agreed on all counts, I think. One last question before I go to sleep: what does the end look like?

            Difficult question. I’m not sure if we avoid civil war.

            That being said, I’ve got some thoughts on it but I don’t think our host would like it if I shared them here.

          • Tuna-Fish says:

            > Agreed on all counts, I think. One last question before I go to sleep: what does the end look like?

            It never ends. The system is not capable of much improvement, but it is capable of shambling forwards at it’s current state pretty much indefinitely. That is basically the one thing it’s actually good at.

            Note that this is not the worst thing in the world — western democracy is far from ideal, but it’s current state is far from the worst cases of many other forms of social organization.

            Popular protest candidates do not work in the US because popular protest reliably gets channeled into the presidential elections (regardless of where that popular protest originates), where it has practically no effect. In order for popular protest to actually change something they would have to elect 220 congressmen, and the way the US electoral system is set up I just don’t see this happening, ever. Even the Tea Party at it’s height was short by three quarters.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @reasoned argumentation

            I’ve got some thoughts on it but I don’t think our host would like it if I shared them here.

            Is there someplace else you would be willing to share them?

          • ChetC3 says:

            The modern bureaucratic state is an evolved response – it mitigates the damage from having a form of government where official power is vested in people who have the skills for winning elections.

            Except the modern bureaucratic state began to develop under monarchies of various types, so it can hardly be a response to the shortcomings of democracy.

          • MoebiusStreet says:

            @Tuna-fish

            In order for popular protest to actually change something they would have to elect 220 congressmen, and the way the US electoral system is set up I just don’t see this happening, ever.

            I partly agree, but there are certainly steps we could take to improve the outlook.

            First on the list should be to get rid of gerrymandering. This feature of our system prevents candidates from needing to appeal to a spectrum of voters, and thus entrenches polarization.

            Second, but probably less effective, is to dump the 17th Amendment (direct election of Senators). With their appointment back in the hands of states, it would be possible for party elites to exert more control. I know it’s distasteful to advocate for that, but the alternative of populism seems worse.

          • herbert herberson says:

            @MoebiusStreet: Are you familiar with the account of the 17th that says its passage was motivated in large part by the fact that appointment of senators by state legislatures caused state legislative races to be nothing more or less than proxy Federal senate races, with people being no more concerned with the individuals they were voting for than we contemporary voters are with the individuals who participate in the Electoral College?

            I don’t actually know how true it is, but it is at the least a hypothetical failure mode, and one that would be even more likely now than it would have been in the late 19th and early 20th century.

          • BBA says:

            The main argument for the 17th, as I recall, is that state legislatures were corrupt as all hell and literally sold senate seats to the highest bidder. Would that happen today? Well, I can name a few states where the political spectrum isn’t liberal vs conservative, it’s indicted vs convicted.

            If you want to represent state governments at the federal level, I would look towards the German Bundesrat as a model, where the governor-equivalents of each of the German states are members of the upper house of the federal legislature. Of course, Germany and its states are parliamentary, and I dunno how you’d translate that to a presidential system like we have.

          • keranih says:

            @ MobeousStreet –

            re: gerrymandering

            A tough nut to crack, but not impossible. We’d only have to go back to state-wide election of congressmen (so that each citizen could vote for or against all congresscritters for their state) and the whole topic of gerrymandering would go away.

            (On a state level, likewise, that the number of state senators/reps/whatever be apportioned out among the counties.)

            Of course, this would end the idea of “minority districts” – and effectively, the urban sinks like Chicago and Atlanta would likely run the federal policy for that state. So I don’t expect either side to go for it with any dispatch.

          • BBA says:

            Or, y’know, proportional representation via the D’Hondt method? But that’s an icky foreign idea, and probably un-American.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @BBA

            But that’s an icky foreign idea, and probably un-American.

            Not exactly. From Wiki’s article on the method:

            The Jefferson method or D’Hondt method is a highest averages method for allocating seats, and is thus a type of party-list proportional representation. The method described is named in United States after Thomas Jefferson, who introduced the method for proportional allocation of seats in the United States House of Representatives in 1791, and in Europe after Belgian mathematician Victor D’Hondt, who described it in 1878 for proportional allocation of parliamentary seats to the parties.

            (That said, it also wouldn’t address the “urban domination” problem Keranih posed. And I’m not sure how it would affect “minority” representation, as wouldn’t that depend on the slate of parties?)

          • herbert herberson says:

            A tough nut to crack, but not impossible. We’d only have to go back to state-wide election of congressmen (so that each citizen could vote for or against all congresscritters for their state) and the whole topic of gerrymandering would go away.

            Or we could go back to Congressional districts with 30,000 people. Gerrymand your heart away, won’t matter so much if a seat is misleadingly representative when it belongs to one person in an assembly the size of medium-sized town.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @herbert herberson

            Or we could go back to Congressional districts with 30,000 people.

            And how would a House with over 10,000 Representatives work (besides “very poorly”)? Note that the current largest legislative “chamber” in the world, China’s unicameral National People’s Congress, has only 2,987. The next largest is the British House of Lords at 780.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Most likely, it’d be a shitshow; plus it’ll never, ever happen. I just find it fun to think about.

          • You use the same solution I’ve proposed for a system in which each voter can allocate his vote to any representative he likes. You have (say) 500 seats in the House and 10,000 representatives. To get temporary occupancy of one seat you need a group of twenty representatives, represented by one of their members who casts all twenty votes. The membership of such groups can continually shift.

            There is going to be a vote on the farm program. I find nineteen other representatives who share my view on the subject, we agree to temporarily join, agree on which of us can best speak for the group. He gets the seat, the rest of us can watch by closed circuit TV. He casts our votes. Another issue comes up and the groups reform.

        • So why are the US’s problems so much worse than other democracies’?

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            Worse or bigger?

          • Kevin C. says:

            Sheer scale, and diversity (not just racial, but cultural, including but not limited to the “Albion’s Seed” divisions)? Aren’t most other “better” democracies smaller and more homogenous?

          • Anon. says:

            They aren’t, the US is still doing great. If US incomes plummeted to German levels tomorrow, there would be a revolution.

          • No one involved in the process has any responsibility for the outcome

            Taking responsibility to mean personal responsibility. Of course, people are quite capable of holding parties-in-government responsible, and do so the the extent that they will still keep blaming them after a change of leadership.

          • Sheer scale, and diversity

            That’s *an* answer. My *an* answer would be contempt for government itself, coupled with low expectations. (“from my standpoint, the answer is obvious. Things government does will generally be done badly,” –DF)

          • Kevin C. says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            My *an* answer would be contempt for government itself, coupled with low expectations.

            Except the question then is how and why did us Americans become more contemptuous of government, as compared to the people of other democracies — or have we always been this way due to (cultural) descent from folks fleeing Europe for one reason or another — and how did our expectations become so low?

          • I would have though the question is how you fix it … other than by pretending an unnecessarily bad situation is actually unavoidable.

          • Quixote says:

            I’m not sure it is that much worse. US is top 20 on most meaningful metrics and is number one on several key ones (for example best per capita GDP of any real country).

            I think more layers of government and more gatekeepers make the US a bit more vulnerable to corporate regulatory capture. But they provide some corresponding benefits so even if its not a wash tis less abd than it sounds.

          • The particular problem is the ability of government to push through legislation that actually improves things

          • joncb says:

            how and why did us Americans become more contemptuous of government

            I am quite probably wrong but my bubble argues that the problem is that Americans aren’t contemptuous enough of government. Specifically, not contemptuous of the roughly 50% of government that pretends to align to their prejudices.

          • Null42 says:

            Are they?

            I’d argue given our size and small welfare state we have problems others don’t in terms of corruption and pure human misery of the lower classes (we’re the only rich country without a national healthcare plan, and I don’t know how many tens of thousands of Americans that kills a year), but our size means it’s hard to completely knock out our economy (if Texas gets a cold New York can drag them up and vice versa), and a small welfare state means immigrants have to get jobs, which helps with assimilation.

            We’re not as well-run as Scandinavia, but we’re better off than Italy or Greece, and having our own currency gives us a lot of options less affluent European countries don’t have. We’re not in a downward demographic spiral like Japan.

            Finally, if you’re a free-speech enthusiast, for all Scott’s quite reasonable worries about his liberal colleagues torpedoing his career he’s not going to go to jail if some bureaucrat decides he’s not PC enough.

            Is America better than Europe, East Asia, or Australia? Depends who you ask.

      • I’m more wondering, in your opinion, is there nothing that can be done about this?

        From my standpoint, the answer is obvious. Things government does will generally be done badly, so don’t support government doing anything unless you are confident that even doing it badly is worse than not doing it.

        • reasoned argumentation says:

          That’s not “incentive compatible” though. No one is going to just leave money and power on the table if the costs are borne by the public treasury.

        • 1soru1 says:

          > From my standpoint, the answer is obvious.

          Every problem has a simple, obvious and wrong answer.

          If the government turns out to bad at doing something, and the free market can do better, then by definition the market can out-compete it. So in that case, there is no need for political change beyond ‘allowing private businesses of that type to exist’. Which may be relevant politics in Cuba or Venezuala, but not so much the US of A.

          Asymmetric competition, between entities that are not alike, have different skills, goals and assumptions will explore a lot more of the state space of possibilities than a set of competing clones. If there are several businesses in competition, but they are all following the same accounting rules, answering to the same investors, with CEOs go to the same parties, then they are all going to make the same mistakes and miss the same opportunities.

          • Anon. says:

            If the government turns out to bad at doing something, and the free market can do better, then by definition the market can out-compete it. So in that case, there is no need for political change beyond ‘allowing private businesses of that type to exist’. Which may be relevant politics in Cuba or Venezuala, but not so much the US of A.

            I think your understanding of government regulations in the US does not correspond to reality. Just look at what kind of businesses are allowed to exist in healthcare or insurance for example. Can’t open a hospital without a CON. Can’t sell catastrophic health insurance to people over the age of 30. The list of restrictions is as absurd as it is long.

            And of course there’s a huge area in which competing with the government is simply forbidden.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Except the government often does regulate those companies effectively out of existence, and/or subsidizes its own operations.

          • 1soru1 says:

            If those companies are not capable of competing with the government in an actually-existing environment, which contains regulations, transfer payments, etc, they are not clearly better than it. Instead, it’s all contextual and complicated. Maybe they are better for some and worse for others, maybe a different set of regulations would allow them to be competitive. Maybe they just need bigger subsidies.

            If any of that is true, you probably want some organizing principle for your politics that is more strongly supported than ‘you can’t absolutely prove that there doesn’t exist a possible world in which what I say is true’.

          • If the government turns out to bad at doing something, and the free market can do better, then by definition the market can out-compete it.

            Not if competing with the government in doing that is illegal, as it quite often is. Private post offices have been illegal since the 19th century, due to the Private Express Statutes. UPS and FedEx do outcompete the government in those parts of the market that they are allowed to play in.

            Do you have some implicit theory in which government only does something if doing it makes the world better? If so, what is the mechanism that produces that result?

          • Mary says:

            If those companies are not capable of competing with the government in an actually-existing environment, which contains regulations, transfer payments, etc, they are not clearly better than it.

            That’s like saying that if one team can’t beat another when the other team’s coaches were also the umpires, it can’t be better than the other. the use of force and fraud to maintain superiority is the thing governments have the duty to protect us against, not a claim of superiority.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            @Mary, except major corporations do the same thing as government. Without government you don’t get fair competition, you get a different set of umpires.

          • Mary says:

            And this has what to do with the ability of companies to do stuff when the government deliberately makes it impossible?

            That’s an argument for getting the government out of fielding teams.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            You are missing the point spectacularly. If there is no government the corporations act in an identical role.

          • If there is no government the corporations act in an identical role.

            You have asserted this. Why do you believe it?

            In a market economy without government regulation, a corporation that wants to sell you something still has to get you to buy it. The government does not have that constraint.

            In a market system with a reasonably large population, monopoly is the exception, not the rule. In our society, the biggest source of monopoly is the government–consider the history of regulation of rail, air, and trucking, in each case with the government providing enforcement for a cartel. And as long as there is competition, a firm that wants to sell you something not only has to charge a price lower than the value of that something to you, it has to charge a price at least as low as anyone else is willing to charge, which tends to drive prices down to cost of production.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Without government there is no check on corporations. What do mentally and physically disabled people do without government? What about poor people? The libertarian ideal REQUIRES that participants have some sort of bargaining power. These people don’t. You certainly can’t have anything like a union without the government, although I know libertarians despise unions. There will be no wealth redistribution without government. So the pace of wealth inequality is going to massively accelerate. We wouldn’t have public schools. And if corporations created schools, which would be them taking on the function of government which you insist they won’t, there would be no incentive for them to educate special needs students. Although I can see many libertarians I know and especially other corporate worshiping groups being happy about that.

          • @Axioms:

            Your term was “identical role.” You are now saying that without government, some people will not get things that with government they might get, which is surely true. But “fail to feed the hungry if they have nothing anyone wants to offer in exchange” is a wholly different role than “make other people do and pay for what it decides they should do.”

            If that isn’t obvious, consider the the low end of both systems. Without government redistribution, a few very poor and unfortunate people starve to death because they have nothing to offer and nobody is generous enough to feed them. With government redistribution, tens of millions of people starve to death because the people in power don’t like them and so redistribute all the food away from them.

            The government downside has happened multiple times in the past century, although only once with a large enough population to come to tens of millions: Ukraine famine, Khmer Rouge, Great Leap Forward. People literally starving in a relatively laissez-faire society, England or the U.S. in the 19th century, was very rare.

            I’m not arguing that nothing bad can ever happen without government doing it. I am pointing out that the two alternatives not only don’t involve your “identical role,” they are entirely different, and your preferred one has the potential to be orders of magnitude worse.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            The identical role is deciding who gets what after the shackles on wealth accumulation are taken off. The corporations decide if you get a job, and therefore food and other basic needs in a capitalist society, and you have no bargaining power. Its not a few thousand who starve. Government has always been there reducing starvation. The number of people who are considered worthless by corporations is massive. The government shields them from calamity.

            Sure Stalin killed millions during the Holodomor but not all governments devolve to Stalin.

            We’ve never seen the failures of corporations possible in the modern age because they’ve never been free. We’ve seen what they’ve done even under constraint though. CEOs are no more inherently moral than government officials.

          • Anon. says:

            and you have no bargaining power

            Why do corporations pay people anything at all, since they have no bargaining power?

          • Mary says:

            The corporations decide if you get a job, and therefore food and other basic needs in a capitalist society, and you have no bargaining power. Its not a few thousand who starve.

            Can not possibly occur without their having the authority to shut down competitors, in which case the government is involved.

          • If that isn’t obvious, consider the the low end of both systems. Without government redistribution, a few very poor and unfortunate people starve to death because they have nothing to offer and nobody is generous enough to feed them. With government redistribution, tens of millions of people starve to death because the people in power don’t like them and so redistribute all the food away from them.

            What happens when the East India Company is performing the role of government?

          • DM says:

            ‘People literally starving in a relatively laissez-faire society, England or the U.S. in the 19th century, was very rare.’

            Multiple nasty famines on the British watch in the 19th century:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_(Ireland)
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_of_1876%E2%80%9378 (‘ Sensitive to any renewed accusations of excess in 1876, Temple, who was now Famine Commissioner for the Government of India,[1] insisted not only on a policy of laissez faire with respect to the trade in grain,[7] but also on stricter standards of qualification for relief and on more meager relief rations.’)
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_famine_of_1899%E2%80%931900
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_famine_of_1896%E2%80%9397

            Unclear whether India and Ireland count as societies run on ‘laissez faire’, but the British economists who backed policies that failed to deal with the Irish famine and the 1876 Indian famine certainly said they were acting in the name of laissez faire.

          • John Schilling says:

            Unclear whether India and Ireland count as societies run on ‘laissez faire’,

            If you start by having a colonial administration concentrate most of the productive capital in the hands of a class of absentee landlords and leave the rest with about what they need to be subsistence farmers, then telling the absentee landlord capitalists to trade freely amongst themselves and with the proles doesn’t really count as “laissez faire”. The British did this better than most any other batch of colonialist administrators, but they only really did laissez-faire amongst themselves(*).

            And, as David Friedman notes, the British didn’t starve.

            * See also Navigation Acts, Iron Act, Molasses Act, Sugar Act…

      • BBA says:

        abolish direct election of senators

        What the hell has that got to do with anything? Oh, sure, theoretically a senate chosen by state legislators would be more likely to object to ceding state-level powers to the federal government. In practice, the states are perfectly fine with ceding power. It’s a much easier job to complain about the feds than to have to do things.

        And, hello, your main interaction with your state government is probably at the DMV. You really think those guys are any better than the feds?

        (Pet peeve. It just annoys me when anyone thinks MOAR FEDERALISM is the answer to everything.)

        • Dabbler says:

          BBA- If that’s the case, why does the federal government eagerly take responsibility? By your logic, shouldn’t they want the states controlling as much as possible?

          • BBA says:

            The dynamics are different. The federal government gets more attention and accountability, from the press and otherwise, than the states. But there’s a similar dynamic behind Congressional cession of power to the President. E.g., the War Powers Resolution is a dead letter, because nobody in Congress cares enough to enforce it.

        • onyomi says:

          I don’t have a strong opinion about election of senators, but I am one of those MOAR FEDERALISM people and will say this in its defense: the bigger a polity, or the bigger the level at which you attempt to administer something, the more politicians have to focus on coalition building through grand, emotional narratives rather than specific proposals to deal with specific problems.

          A common criticism of the Tea Party is that they made “compromise” into a dirty word; but I think compromise should be a dirty word when compromise isn’t necessary. For example, if you have a group of 20 people, 10 of whose first choice is to eat tacos and 10 of whose first choice is to eat pizza, but whose modal second choice is curry, it doesn’t make sense to force 20 people to eat curry, assuming tacos and pizza are both available.

          The only reason it would make sense to order 20 curries in this example is if there is some good reason why a consistent choice is much superior to two different choices. This still implies that MOAR FEDERALISM should be the default wherever possible, and more centralization the go-to only in cases where federalism presents obvious problems.

          Related to Scott’s case, the bigger the level we’re talking about (in the case of POTUS elections, the national level, of course), you not only have to focus more on coalition building, arguably you have to engage in more emotional appeals precisely because more people do vote who aren’t actually paying close attention.

          In the local election for dog catcher, most people don’t vote at all. If they do, they probably care about the dog catcher issue and will vote for whom they expect to actually be best at catching dogs. They also care less about whether their dog catcher has an (R) or (D) next to his name.

          • herbert herberson says:

            A common criticism of the Tea Party is that they made “compromise” into a dirty word; but I think compromise should be a dirty word when compromise isn’t necessary. For example, if you have a group of 20 people, 10 of whose first choice is to eat tacos and 10 of whose first choice is to eat pizza, but whose modal second choice is curry, it doesn’t make sense to force 20 people to eat curry, assuming tacos and pizza are both available.

            The only reason it would make sense to order 20 curries in this example is if there is some good reason why a consistent choice is much superior to two different choices. This still implies that MOAR FEDERALISM should be the default wherever possible, and more centralization the go-to only in cases where federalism presents obvious problems.

            Only if people with taco and pizza preferences are geographically distributed along the lines where federalism is applies; unfortunately it’s largely the opposite. I can get behind federalism as a concept, but I think to be applied intelligently to America it would need a restructuring of the state lines, or of the relationship between states and major cities, or a complete reconceptualization of federalism as referring to something other that geographical sub-polities.

          • cassander says:

            @Herbert

            Only if people with taco and pizza preferences are geographically distributed along the lines where federalism is applies; unfortunately it’s largely the opposite. I can get behind federalism as a concept, but I think to be applied intelligently to America it would need a restructuring of the state lines, or of the relationship between states and major cities, or a complete reconceptualization of federalism as referring to something other that geographical sub-polities.

            Geographic distribution is far from perfect, but it’s better than no dispersion. you’re letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

          • herbert herberson says:

            “Geographic distribution is far from perfect, but it’s better than no dispersion.”

            I disagree. The geographic distribution isn’t just imperfect, it’s basically the worst conceivable set-up: a series of states with a Blue Tribe major urban area and a Red Tribe hinterland, with whichever one of those has a slight majority imposing its unadulterated will on the other. To continue with onyomi’s analogy, we’ve mostly got places where 45 percent of the people hate tacos are only offered tacos, and places where 45 percent of the people hate pizza are only offered pizza. We’d all be better off eating curry.

          • @herbert herberson:

            Would the solution be to make secession easier at the state level? If downstate is dominating Illinois, Chicago secedes? There are obvious complications due to the Senate rules–perhaps if the new polity has more than a third of the population of the old it gets one of the two seats?

            You might end up with non-contiguous states, as New York and Philadelphia, having lost their hinterlands by secession, agree to join.

            Fun.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Yeah, it wouldn’t be all that hard to draw up maps that avoid this sort of de-facto gerrymandering kind of problem, or to imagine a system that would create it organically like that.

            But actually implementing such a fundemental reform, I think, would be very, very, very, very hard.

          • bbeck310 says:

            Would the solution be to make secession easier at the state level? If downstate is dominating Illinois, Chicago secedes? There are obvious complications due to the Senate rules–perhaps if the new polity has more than a third of the population of the old it gets one of the two seats?

            Actually, it’s the other way around in Illinois–in 2014, it took a Republican winning ever single county other than Cook (including Chicago suburban counties like Lake, Kane, and DuPage), plus two wards within Cook for the first time ever, to become Governor; which has largely resulted in gridlock because Chicago Democrats still have a lock on the General Assembly.

            You’d need ad hoc compromises comparable to the Missouri Compromise to make anything like that work. Maybe something like “Puerto Rico becomes a state, and Illinois and Chicago separate into two states, so each party ends up with two fairly safe new Senate seats.” But there aren’t a whole lot of Democratic cities shut out of Republican state government big enough to make a plausible state to play around with. Certainly nothing quite as dysfunctional as the Chicago/Illinois, New York/NYC, and California/(LA+Bay Area) divides.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I don’t understand. If curry-for-everyone is an option at the (inhomogeneous) national level, why can’t it also be tried at the state level where you’ve got an inhomogeneity problem, without having to impose it on those states which don’t?

          • herbert herberson says:

            At the least, you have a sort of opportunity cost.

            Also, even an idealized federalism causes problems. Tax havens, sports teams and businesses obtaining corporate welfare by threatening moves, costs to national organizations imposed by needing to comply with multiple sets of laws and regulation, brain drains, etc, etc. All of this would probably be worth it if it meant a lot more people were living under governments that more properly reflected their preferences and philosophies. But if 90% of people are living in places where they’re going to have to labor under the same kind of compromise-politics an unfederalized system would, then it doesn’t really look like it’s worth the trouble.

          • cassander says:

            @herbert

            I disagree. The geographic distribution isn’t just imperfect, it’s basically the worst conceivable set-up: a series of states with a Blue Tribe major urban area and a Red Tribe hinterland, with whichever one of those has a slight majority imposing its unadulterated will on the other.

            How is them doing that at the local level worse than them doing that on the national level, which is the only alternative? If blue tribe has to conquer state by state, at least some red tribe enclaves will remain. The worst case is that all it does is replicate the status quo.

            Also, even an idealized federalism causes problems. Tax havens, sports teams and businesses obtaining corporate welfare by threatening moves, costs to national organizations imposed by needing to comply with multiple sets of laws and regulation, brain drains, etc,

            You describe those as problems. I call them competition. Idealized federalism also has advantages that have nothing to do with ideology.

          • JDG1980 says:

            The problem with federalism is that state governments are about the worst level there is in America. They have neither the public exposure and visibility of the federal government, nor the small jurisdictions that make local (city/county) governments genuinely responsive. States are too big to be locally accountable to high-information activists, and too small to command attention from low-information voters.

          • John Schilling says:

            Since American states tend to be about the same size as European nations, can I assume that the European democracies, the smaller ones in particular, are hopelessly corrupt?

            You are correct that most Americans don’t pay as much attention to their State government as they do the Federal, but there’s a cause/effect problem to untangle there. Were we forced to draw power away from the corrupt State governments to the Federal level because people stopped paying attention, or did people stop paying attention because the States didn’t have as much power to change their lives?

          • cassander says:

            @JDG1980 says:

            The problem with federalism is that state governments are about the worst level there is in America. They have neither the public exposure and visibility of the federal government, nor the small jurisdictions that make local (city/county) governments genuinely responsive. States are too big to be locally accountable to high-information activists, and too small to command attention from low-information voters.

            I’d argue the opposite. State governors are the single most accountable actors in the US political system. people pay more attention to them than any other person in the system besides the president, and rise of fall solely on domestic questions.

          • herbert herberson says:

            The median state in terms of population is 4,625,470. That’s on par with a couple of the Nordic countries, but otherwise a list of the countries roughly that size (about 100-140 here) is not exactly a compendium of good governance.

            You describe those as problems. I call them competition.

            Well, then let’s just say that for the people who want those things, federalism accordingly looks better, and for those who do not, it counts as a strike against.

          • onyomi says:

            The median state in terms of population is 4,625,470. That’s on par with a couple of the Nordic countries, but otherwise a list of the countries roughly that size (about 100-140 here) is not exactly a compendium of good governance.

            This seems a pretty bad case of “lack of pirates causes global warming.”

            When you look at the countries in that list which are in any way similar to US states culturally and developmentally you find they’re doing pretty darn well. Increase your window a little and you get places like Singapore, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, all well-run and known for low corruption.

          • The median state in terms of population is 4,625,470. That’s on par with a couple of the Nordic countries, but otherwise a list of the countries roughly that size (about 100-140 here) is not exactly a compendium of good governance.

            Running down a list of European countries with populations below that level I get:

            Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia. Ireland is just above the line. Iceland is much smaller, but goes in your Nordic category.

            For developed countries outside Europe, New Zealand.

            Not an obvious pattern for good or evil. Of the very large countries, the U.S. is probably the least bad.

          • herbert herberson says:

            This seems a pretty bad case of “lack of pirates causes global warming.”

            Agreed, but so was the argument to which it responded.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I disagree about the lobbyists, at least. In many if not most cases, they want some very specific things: reduced taxes on their industry, more government contracts for their corporation, relaxation of regulations on their business, etc. They don’t care about electability at all, they just want to maximize profits as much as possible.

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        Well yeah, the lobbyists are there to make money.

        Funnily enough the same type of principal agent problem exists between the lobbyists and their clients and the lobbyists themselves need to worry about keeping various people happy and have the ability to screw their clients for their own benefit (by not getting the best deal possible on any particular issue to keep beneficial relationships going – relationships that benefit the lobbyist and not the particular client).

      • Mary says:

        More regulations for their industry to hamper the newcomers and the smaller businesses with things the large and old can manage.

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      In theory, governing well is supposed to be the means whereby long-term support can be built. Govern well, and people will like you more.

      In practice, I’m more inclined towards your view. It seems clear to me that oftentimes, Democrats project a ‘wonky’ vibe to appeal to their ‘intellectual’ base (and appeal to their own self-identification as ‘intellectuals’), who derive validation for their ‘intellectual’ identities from supporting a candidate who is ‘qualified’, e.g. exactly what Hillary supposedly was.

      [Of course, this is not to say that they (always) do this as a cynical ploy for support – Hillary seems to sincerely believe in her own ability to navigate complex policy waters – but that the candidates who do this often draw support from the influential intellectual/academic wing of the Party, regardless of whether their supposed ‘expertise’ leads to better policies.]

      I did find it rather odd that Hillary was “the most qualified candidate in history”, when her record of actual achievements was, um, spotty. She was SecState when the Middle East burned down, with much the damage traceable to the actions of her department, which didn’t elicit much confidence from me – regardless of how ‘detailed’ her knowledge was.

      • pdbarnlsey says:

        “She was SecState when the Middle East burned down, with much the damage traceable to the actions of her department”

        That’s going to be a hard sell, particularly without some kind of clear counterfactual. Intervene in Libya, resulting in a fractured state and low level civil war. Don’t (really) intervene in Syria, resulting in a fractured state and high level civil war.

        Even “just do the opposite of what you did in each case and everything would have been better” feels like cherry-picking and ignores improvements in, say, Tunisia, post Arab spring.

        • Progressive Reformation says:

          The United States encouraged protests against Bashar Al-Assad, and provided material support (at first, just nonlethal supplies, but later escalating into arms shipments) and diplomatic aid to the rebels. We also tacitly encouraged Turkey and Qatar’s involvement. Whether you call that “intervention” or not, we helped build up the rebels, leading to a more destructive civil war. It’s even conceivable that without US involvement, Assad might have stamped out the rebellion with only a few thousands of casualties – before it had a chance to grow. After all, if the rebels see they have no chance, they very well may back off – but if they think that they have the support of the United States, of course they will go for it.

          In Libya, we toppled Gaddafi and the result is chaos and an ongoing civil war. I think it’s quite likely that Libya was and would have been better off with Gaddafi still around, weirdo, autocrat and terrorist that he was.

          Even in Tunisia, it is debatable whether the fall of Ben Ali was an improvement. Time will tell, of course, but the situation is extremely fragile at best.

          http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/28/tunisia-and-the-fall-after-the-arab-spring

          What I don’t think is debatable is that the overall effect of the Arab Spring has been a catastrophe. Every affected country except for Tunisia is worse off: three (Yemen, Libya, Syria) have become warzones, and Egypt is a worse and more fragile autocracy than when it started. And the State Dept’s encouragement of the revolutions makes it partially responsible for this outcome.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            What I don’t think is debatable is that the overall effect of the Arab Spring has been a catastrophe.

            I think that’s true, but pretty harmful to your overall argument. Wildly different levels of state department intervention lead to a range of bad outcomes, almost as if the situation was inherently bad. “Not have Arab spring” is not a policy proposal.

            So you can have “intervention in Libya makes State Department partially responsible for current outcome” but I’m not letting you treat “tacitly encouraged Turkey and Qatar” or “diplomatic aid to the rebels” as an intervention in Syria.

            So we have a pretty good idea of how Assad would do against a rebellion unsupported by the state department would look, because we’re living it now.

            They’re not holding on in Aleppo because someone gave them some walkie talkies years after their children started returning from the police station with their genitals cut off.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            Regarding our actions in Syria:

            1. The prospect of American support can have a huge effect on how a rebellion plays out, regardless of material support. A rebellion with no prospect of outside support would have a much harder time getting off the ground. I don’t know how the scale of this effect can be reliably measured, but I think it ought to be considered, since the US gave signals in the form of official sanctions against Assad and his ministers and through public statements.

            2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American-led_intervention_in_Syria#Arming_and_training_the_Syrian_opposition
            Note the money quote: “[In 2013], at the direction of U.S. President Barack Obama, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was put in charge of the operations, worth about $1 billion annually, to arm anti-government forces in Syria.” That ain’t exactly peanuts. And since then we’ve been providing arms, cash, supplies, and intel to these groups. If you don’t think that’s prolonged or deepened the war, I don’t know what to tell you.

            Another nice quote: “Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that in December 2015 the U.S. shipped 994 tonnes of weapons and ammunition (including packaging and container weight), generally of Soviet-type from Eastern Europe, to Syrian rebel groups under operation Timber Sycamore.” Timber Sycamore is a joint program between the United States, United Kingdom, and several Arab nations (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar).

            This article is also revealing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_involvement_in_the_Syrian_Civil_War#United_States

            American direct involvement did not start in 2013. “In June 2012, the CIA was reported to be involved in covert operations along the Turkish-Syrian border, where agents investigated rebel groups, recommending arms providers which groups to give aid to. Agents also helped opposition forces develop supply routes, and provided them with communications training. CIA operatives distributed assault rifles, anti-tank rocket launchers and other ammunition to Syrian opposition. The State Department has reportedly allocated $15 million for civilian opposition groups in Syria.”

            Sometimes, admittedly, the aid did not reach the rebel groups they were intended for – but of course that begs the question of who got it? (hint: very likely the Islamists). And this is just some of the stuff we know about! I think this is enough to conclude that American actions significantly prolonged the war by strengthening the rebels.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            You need to carefully excise anything which post-dates Hillary time in state, which leaves you with:

            “In June 2012, the CIA was reported to be involved in covert operations along the Turkish-Syrian border, where agents investigated rebel groups, recommending arms providers which groups to give aid to. Agents also helped opposition forces develop supply routes, and provided them with communications training. CIA operatives distributed assault rifles, anti-tank rocket launchers and other ammunition to Syrian opposition. The State Department has reportedly allocated $15 million for civilian opposition groups in Syria”

            Which, two years into a nationwide rebellion, isn’t nothing, but is pretty close to it.

            And “diplomatic support”, which basically just means telling Assad to knock it off with the killing and torturing of peaceful protesters early in the rebellion. I think we can agree that a policy of diplomatically rebuking the killing and torturing of peaceful protesters might have had some flow-on benefits outside Syria, including in the nations which did not collapse into serious violence.

            So, look, I’ll accept that an even more supine state department might have very slightly accelerated Assad’s total victory, but I suspect we’re talking tens of casualties saved, rather than tens of thousands, and with unpredictable consequences for the next nation to rise up against a dictator.

            We’d have seen a lot more use of chemical weapons against soft targets, for example, and Assad having a much freer hand to punish his enemies than he’ll likely have in the endgame in the current reality.

            Certainly, there’s not enough there to justify your initial claim, and plenty that should make you reconsider how Libya would look today if State had done less there.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            You need to carefully excise anything which post-dates Hillary time in state.

            I don’t think so. The general stance of the State Department did not change after she left, and neither did most of the policy-making staff. The post-2013 State Department was in effect the same, and Hillary’s stamp on US foreign policy remained. Given what I know about Hillary and Kerry, it seems quite likely that if anything Hillary’s policies would have been more militaristic or interventionist – leading to an even worse outcome. So I think it’s reasonable to point to the State Department’s handling of Syria – even post-2013 – as reflecting on Hillary’s leadership style (particularly given that she led the State Department since 2009, and had basically re-staffed it to her own liking at the time). And it doesn’t reflect well.

            And “diplomatic support”, which basically just means telling Assad to knock it off with the killing and torturing of peaceful protesters early in the rebellion. I think we can agree that a policy of diplomatically rebuking the killing and torturing of peaceful protesters might have had some flow-on benefits outside Syria, including in the nations which did not collapse into serious violence.

            This is a much broader debate, but people generally don’t begin serious rebellions when they don’t think they have any chance of winning. The prospect of assistance from the United States can’t be neglected as a factor in the decision to begin the rebellion. And given the nature of Syria as a nation (not to mention our experiences in Iraq), it was predictable that Syria would become a contest of Assad versus Islamists. Hence, the American “liberal interventionist” stance was likely more destructive than a total commitment to non-intervention.

            Consider the following thought experiment, where a mysterious force-field envelopes Syria a few months into the Arab Spring. In this case, Assad simply crushes the rebellion as his father did in Hama. The would-be rebels see they will not get any outside aid and have no chance of winning, and the rebellion fizzles. Awful, yes, but incomparably better than what actually happened.

            [At some point during the thread, you wrote: So we have a pretty good idea of how Assad would do against a rebellion unsupported by the state department would look, because we’re living it now. Well, I forgot to reply at the time, but the Syrian Civil War is what a rebellion supported by the US looks like. What a rebellion unsupported by the US looks like is Hama – simply crushed at the outset.]

            And whatever “flow-on” benefits it had, I don’t think those benefits are nearly enough to offset the damage done to Syria. And I’d like to point out that you seem happy to invoke supposed benefits of the American diplomatic stance – without at all describing the mechanism which causes the benefits, I might add – but refuse to accept that it may have seriously exacerbated the revolution in its early stages (despite the evidence of Hama, i.e. that lack of potential US intervention results in a quick victory for the government).

          • 1soru1 says:

            > In this case, Assad simply crushes the rebellion as his father did in Hama.

            Actually no, Assad hangs from a lamp post due to lack of oil sales to pay his troops, Iranian and Russian military support, etc.

            To get to what you want, you need the US to not only actively support Assad to at least the same level it does the Saudis, but for that support to be a solid bipartisan consensus that won’t be reversed a the next election.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Progressive,

            We’ve wandered pretty far from your original claim, and are now talking about how Hillary established a culture of doing bad things, so let’s blame her for things that weren’t done while she was there, but were done after she left. Again, I think this blanket criticism undermines your claim, because it makes clear that there just weren’t many good, realistic policy options on the table for Syria.

            Hillary’s state department did, more or less, nothing for more than two years and, over that period, protests degenerated into war. So your initial narrative, that, in the absence of intervention, Assad just crushes the protesters and everything goes back to normal, just doesn’t hold up.

            I think the best relevant material you’ve got here is that Hillary’s slight assistance to an active rebel army, engaged in a civil war, with other nations providing much more significant assistance, slightly postponed the ultimate victory of the eventual victor. That’s an imperfect intervention, but perfection is a lot to ask in the middle east. She tried your thing for north of two years, and it wasn’t great either.

            And then we have what you rightly note is a broader debate, about shaping the beliefs of the protesters and Assad about the possibility of an intervention which did not eventuate might have influenced the path of this and other insurrections. You have an argument here, but I think you need to do a lot more work setting it up and considering the wider strategic consequences (which I acknowledge is a lot to ask in a comment thread).

            Three things from me:

            1. Give these protesters, and protesters generally, some more credit for a willingness to stand up to despots even when it’s not individually rational. When your 12 year old son comes back from the police station castrated and dead, your ongoing opposition to that government isn’t going to depend all that heavily on state department policy.

            2. A policy of “we renounce all future military interventions other than those in our direct national interests, and, please, knock yourselves out with the killing and torture of peaceful protesters” which is what you would need to remove the possibility of aid in the minds of the protesters, is, regardless of it’s desirability, not within the overton window of US foreign policy, now or then. If the most isolationist candidate in recent history can’t stick to it for 100 days, you simply can’t expect any kind of credible long term commitment to “torture now A-ok”.

            3. A policy of “we renounce all future military interventions other than those in our direct national interests, and knock yourselves out with the killing and torture of peaceful protesters” is super terrible, because it would lead to more of the things the US currently condemns diplomatically and occasionally intervenes to prevent, whenever a group rises up despite it being an objectively bad idea (see point 1, above).

            By way of evidence, note that the state department’s “hey, knock it off with the chemical weapons!” lead to not very many chemical weapons attacks over quite a long period. At the margin, this stuff influences the decisions of despots in a positive direction. And, sometimes, the protests work and you end up with a (slightly) better political status quo.

          • cassander says:

            @pdbarnlsey says:

            Hillary’s state department did, more or less, nothing for more than two years and, over that period, protests degenerated into war. So your initial narrative, that, in the absence of intervention, Assad just crushes the protesters and everything goes back to normal, just doesn’t hold up.

            This is not correct. Her state department ran around for 2 years actively encouraging every protester they could find. They deposed the leadership of Egypt, bombed libya, and actively aided syrian rebels come protesters.

            I think the best relevant material you’ve got here is that Hillary’s slight assistance to an active rebel army, engaged in a civil war, with other nations providing much more significant assistance,

            I’m not sure if you’re talking about libya or syria here, but I think syria. In which case, US assistance was not slight. We gave them billions of dollars of weapons, and encouraged our allies in the region to give more.

            slightly postponed the ultimate victory of the eventual victor. That’s an imperfect intervention, but perfection is a lot to ask in the middle east. She tried your thing for north of two years, and it wasn’t great either.

            We’re going on 6 years, no victor in sight. that is more than a “slight postponement” of victory. As for this being an “imperfect” outcome, do you think the iraq invasion was an ” “imperfect” outcome” too? Because syria today is exactly what people were afraid iraq was going to become in 2006.

            1. Give these protesters, and protesters generally, some more credit for a willingness to stand up to despots even when it’s not individually rational.

            foreign policy is not about attaboys. I give people credit when they accomplish good things, not when they mean well.

            2. A policy of “we renounce all future military interventions other than those in our direct national interests, and, please, knock yourselves out with the killing and torture of peaceful protesters” which is what you would need to remove the possibility of aid in the minds of the protesters, is, regardless of it’s desirability, not within the overton window of US foreign policy, now or then.

            You don’t need to communicate this AT ALL. all you have to communicate is “Syrians, we’re not going to help YOU.”

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Cassander, you’ve made a royal mess of the relevant counterfactual and time periods throughout your response, which is frustrating, since it’s laid out in quite a bit of detail above.

            I think you also lack a good grasp of what State Department action looks like. They didn’t “depose” anyone in Egypt, and all this “they encouraged the protesters, they encouraged our allies to intervene” stuff is pretty small fig leaf covering “they didn’t really do anything”. As you note, foreign policy is not about attaboys and nor does it turn much on “encouragement”

            Also, that specific “encouragement” you note, which is really just the Saudis doing stuff they wanted to do anyway, occurred after Hillary left state. You’ve come into this one late and a bit confused.

            We’re going on 6 years, no victor in sight. that is more than a “slight postponement” of victory.

            This is in specific reference to the minimal aid offered to rebels by Hillary’s State after several years of war. You might choose to believe this aid, specifically, turned the tide in favour of the rebels, but that feels like motivated reasoning on your part. Honestly, most of this stuff does.

            You don’t need to communicate this AT ALL. all you have to communicate is “Syrians, we’re not going to help
            YOU.”

            I don’t think that can be a credible commitment from the US. Not just because you’re willing to label anything short of outright support for the regime’s tactics as “encouraging the protesters”, but because a general strategy of encouragement and occasional intervention with a promised Syria-shaped carve out looks like an unstable equilibrium. Look how much other state department critics here are leaning on the intervention in Libya as the foundation of rebel expectations in Syria.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            When your 12 year old son comes back from the police station castrated and dead, your ongoing opposition to that government isn’t going to depend all that heavily on state department policy.

            You keep saying this, and while I get the notion, it doesn’t fit the facts at all. If this was true, why did the rebellion wait until 2011 – coincidentally timed with rebellions in other Arab states – to start? Hell, why doesn’t North Korea rise up, given how much worse that country is? Surely a lot of people in that country have personal reasons to hate the regime.

            The fact is that while many people had gripes about the Assad regime, not that many had that you-killed-my-father-prepare-to-die mentality. Syria before the Arab Spring had an estimated 1000-1500 political prisoners in 2000 – not that many compared to other police states, and not that many compared to the total population. I have a friend who spent a year in Damascus (2009-2010), and it seemed a relatively normal place to him at the time. In such an environment, rebellion needs some sort of spark to start, and a chance at winning. The other rebellions gave that spark, and encouragement from the United States helped the protests coalesce. The Libyan intervention gave a clear signal as well – that the United States was willing to use military force to back rebels in the region.

            You also say we are “talking about how Hillary established a culture of doing bad things, so let’s blame her for things that weren’t done while she was there, but were done after she left. Again, I think this blanket criticism undermines your claim, because it makes clear that there just weren’t many good, realistic policy options on the table for Syria.

            I suppose we will just have to disagree, but the State Department was changed dramatically following the disaster that was the Bush the Younger presidency. Hillary presided over this rebuilding and set the policy direction and priorities. She initiated the US response to Syria and has made statements since then confirming that she would have taken a very hawkish stance on it. Whether or not we ‘blame’ her, I think it’s quite reasonable to infer that she would handle similar situations in a similar way – that is, quite badly.

            I also think you’re wrong about the US Overton Window. I think it would have been well within the Overton Window to not arm the Syrian Opposition. You seem to think I demand a ‘perfect’ foreign policy. Non-intervention is not ‘perfect’, but it’s very easy to do and is a hell of a lot better than what happened.

            Finally, again, you seem to have a doublethink view on the effectiveness of the State Department’s ‘stances’ (which include a lot of behind-the-scenes actions, incidentally). When that stance is “we will likely assist your rebellion”, apparently there is minimal effect (even when accompanied by actual assistance), but when that stance is “we oppose your use of chemical weapons” you are happy to infer a large effect.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            If this was true, why did the rebellion wait until 2011 – coincidentally timed with rebellions in other Arab states – to start? Hell, why doesn’t North Korea rise up, given how much worse that country is? Surely a lot of people in that country have personal reasons to hate the regime.

            My point is not that a Syrian uprising was inevitable, it is that, given that an uprising had occurred, Assad’s immediate response created a lot of grievances which were liable to curdle into actual war. I think you continue to elide the initial protest phase (which was not meaningfully the result of state department policy) with the civil war phase.

            To repeat, “not have Arab spring” is not a policy response.

            The Libyan intervention gave a clear signal as well – that the United States was willing to use military force to back rebels in the region

            I’ve discussed this a bit downthread. From a Syrian perspective it sends two signals. One is, as you say, that the US is willing to use force in Libya, so perhaps also Syria. The other is that the US is willing to use force in Libya, but seemingly not Syria. I see the argument, but I don’t think this counts as a strong signal in favour of war, relative to all the other factors pushing the rebels towards it.

            Whether or not we ‘blame’ her, I think it’s quite reasonable to infer that she would handle similar situations in a similar way – that is, quite badly.

            I think inferring Hillary is bad at middle east policy from her statements, actions and cultural impact at State is different from saying “a lot of things went badly in the middle east during her tenure and many were her fault”. I’m not sure I strongly disagree with the first, but I do with the second. You initially made the second claim.

            I think it would have been well within the Overton Window to not arm the Syrian Opposition.

            This is confusing the response to the protests with the response to the war, again. You’ve claimed that both arming the rebels (a little, much later in the war) and “encouraging the protesters” lead to war. Your definition of “encouraging the protesters” seems broad enough that successfully not doing it calls for a level of accommodation with Assad outside the bounds of political debate. You are correct that not later arming the rebels does not.

            When that stance is “we will likely assist your rebellion”, apparently there is minimal effect

            No, I reject that characterisation of State’s stance, at the relevant point in time. I don’t think State signalled that it would meaningfully assist the rebellion during the protests, instead it just went with the standard form “please do not murder your citizens” stuff. And indeed, from the point of view of the rebels, it did not, in fact, meaningfully assist them. That’s why they are about to loose.

            So, I think a narrowly tailored message can have concrete effects. “Please surrender your power” is not one, and neither is “Turkey, why not assist the Syrian rebels?” but “please don’t use chemical weapons/torture peaceful protesters” can sometimes be.

            Obviously messaging like this can have effects on would-be protesters too, I’m just arguing you’re underrating the first set of effects, and overrating the second.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            My point is not that a Syrian uprising was inevitable, it is that, given that an uprising had occurred, Assad’s immediate response created a lot of grievances which were liable to curdle into actual war. I think you continue to elide the initial protest phase (which was not meaningfully the result of state department policy) with the civil war phase.

            To repeat, “not have Arab spring” is not a policy response.

            Hafez basically razed Hama, and quashed the rebellion right away. At the time, Syria was a Soviet protectorate, and therefore basically immune from the threat of American intervention. Bashar’s mistake was to not move forcefully enough, i.e. he did not follow Machiavelli’s advice on this sort of thing – largely, I suspect, for fear of direct US intervention.

            If you don’t believe the State Department could and did have a significant effect on the protests, fine, but I think you’re clearly wrong.

            Finally, “not have an Arab Spring” is not a possible response, but “don’t actively encourage unrest” is very much possible.

            From a Syrian perspective [the Libyan intervention] sends two signals. One is, as you say, that the US is willing to use force in Libya, so perhaps also Syria. The other is that the US is willing to use force in Libya, but seemingly not Syria. I see the argument, but I don’t think this counts as a strong signal in favour of war, relative to all the other factors pushing the rebels towards it.

            I don’t understand the second possible ‘signal’ you describe. The US attacked Libya, which is in many ways very much like Syria (a Russian ally, led by a secular-ish authoritarian strongman). How does this send a message that it won’t attack Syria? It seems pretty clear to me that it only increases the chance that the US will attack Syria, even if it’s not proof of anything.

            Second, all the other things pushing the protesters towards war are only factors if they really believe they can win. This is only possible if the US and its regional allies are prepared to assist. Hence the importance of the American stance.

            Regarding the Overton Window, we are perfectly happy to let any number of awful things happen in any number of other countries. I don’t see why signalling that we will not intervene in Syria is an exception.

            I also remain unconvinced on which stances have an effect and which don’t. I especially remain unconvinced that a stance accompanied by active support should be dismissed as having “minimal effect”.

            Finally: I think inferring Hillary is bad at middle east policy from her statements, actions and cultural impact at State is different from saying “a lot of things went badly in the middle east during her tenure and many were her fault”. I’m not sure I strongly disagree with the first, but I do with the second. You initially made the second claim.

            Did I though? I did not limit my analysis only to things that happened “during her tenure”, just that the actions of “her department” (that is, the State Department she built up and led, and was staffed by her people) led to significant damage. Some of these actions occurred when she led it, and others happened after she left (but her policy outlines remained). I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assign her some responsibility for the way Foggy Bottom behaved from 2013 up until now. So while Libya is the most clear-cut example of Hillary’s problematic past, Syria applies too for the reasons I gave above.

            So, yes, I stand by the statement that “she was SecState when the Middle East burned down, with much the damage traceable to the actions of her department”. The fires that consumed the Middle East did indeed start and spread under her direct watch. If you want to split hairs by saying only the kitchen was on fire when she left, and the rest of the house only burned down since then (on the watch of her successors, at the helm of essentially the same organization with the same policies), go ahead but I don’t know what your point is in that case. Certainly it strays from the point you seemed to argue in your initial reply (that the US really didn’t do anything in Syria).

          • cassander says:

            @pdbarnlsey says:

            I think you also lack a good grasp of what State Department action looks like. They didn’t “depose” anyone in Egyptand all this “they encouraged the protesters, they encouraged our allies to intervene” stuff is pretty small fig leaf covering “they didn’t really do anything”. As you note, foreign policy is not about attaboys and nor does it turn much on “encouragement”

            This is wrong. We told the military, which runs the country and which we largely fund, that Mubarak “has to go”. Our deposing him had little to do with the protesters and everything to do with the pressure, implicit or explicit, that we put on the Egyptian military to get rid of him.

            Also, that specific “encouragement” you note, which is really just the Saudis doing stuff they wanted to do anyway, occurred after Hillary left state.

            again, we egged the Saudis on. Maybe they’d have done it without us, maybe not. Maybe we could have stopped them if we’d tried, maybe not. The point is we didn’t try to stop them and blatantly encouraged them so that Obama he could tell people he was doing something.

            You’ve come into this one late and a bit confused.

            You’ve repeatedly made demonstrably false statements about what’s happened, don’t accuse me of being confused.

            This is in specific reference to the minimal aid offered to rebels by Hillary’s State after several years of war. You might choose to believe this aid, specifically, turned the tide in favour of the rebels, but that feels like motivated reasoning on your part. Honestly, most of this stuff does.

            First, we did not wait several years, we aided the rebels right away. Second, one is claiming we “turned the tide”. what we are claiming is that we helped prevent the rebels from losing. And unless you think billions of dollars in arms isn’t helpful, it’s hard to see how you could possibly disagree with that statement.

            I don’t think that can be a credible commitment from the US. Not just because you’re willing to label anything short of outright support for the regime’s tactics as “encouraging the protesters”,

            Again you try to dress up billions of dollars of aid as verbal encouragement. But it’s simple to communicate that message. In public, you say nothing. In private, you tell people you want nothing to do with it. If absolutely pressed, you give an anodyne statement like “the US hopes for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. No further comment.”

            This is not easy, but it is very simple.

            If you want to continue take it to the open thread.

        • Enkidum says:

          “…feels like cherry-picking and ignores improvements in, say, Tunisia, post Arab spring”

          This is cherry-picking. Tunisia is the only country in which the Arab Spring led to anything positive. It is also, not coincidentally, the first of the countries involved, and therefore the only one with almost no outside involvement.

        • John Schilling says:

          Intervene in Libya, resulting in a fractured state and low level civil war. Don’t (really) intervene in Syria, resulting in a fractured state and high level civil war.

          If the civil war is the result of nonintervention, what is it you are imagining we might have intervened in? Are you suggesting that the recipe for a happy ending in Syria was to “intervene” in then-peaceful protests?

          And, timeline please: The initial Syrian manifestation of the Arab spring did consist of generally peaceful protests, with the usual stone-throwing and minor arson but not much beyond that. And not much chance of bringing down the Assad regime or bringing about major reforms.

          In late March of 2011, France initiates a military intervention in Libya, quickly overshadowed by the vastly larger scope of US military intervention. By May, the siege of Misrata had been broken and Libyan rebels who had been on the brink of defeat in March were advancing on all fronts.

          In June of 2011, Syrian rebels begin irregular military actions against the Syrian government. In July of 2011, the Free Syrian Army is formed to organize this effort. Requests for foreign assistance follow promptly.

          It is reasonable to suspect that in the alternate history where Libya’s unsupported rebels are crushed in April of 2011, protests in Syria fizzle out in the same way they historically did in e.g. Bahrain, and there is no civil war.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            John,
            I’m simply responding to the claim that State Department policy is responsible for many of the observed harms of the Arab spring. As I noted, you need, at a minimum, a specific counterfactual for that.

            It looks like yours is “don’t intervene in Libya and the Syrian protesters loose hope”.

            That’s not impossible, but it sure looks like the Syrian’s have soldiered on long past the point where it should have been obvious that any serious foreign intervention was going to be on the other side.

            Perhaps that’s escalating commitment based on what happened post-Libya, or perhaps they really don’t like living under a guy who responds to peaceful protests by torturing and murdering their children and the die was cast much earlier.

            So you’re welcome to your “Libyan intervention caused the Syrian war theory” – it’s not unreasonable – but it’s a slender reed from which to hang an affirmative criticism of State Department policy which, recall, included not intervening in Syria. Perhaps non-intervention Libya looks more like non-intervention Syria, because of persistent beliefs about the possibility of intervention.

            That’s where I came in.

          • cassander says:

            That’s not impossible, but it sure looks like the Syrian’s have soldiered on long past the point where it should have been obvious that any serious foreign intervention was going to be on the other side.

            First, that’s far from obvious at all. Second, once you’ve started fighting, your options are (A) win, (B) die fighting, (C) surrender and be hung for traitors. At that point, you might as well keep fighting.

            So you’re welcome to your “Libyan intervention caused the Syrian war theory” – it’s not unreasonable – but it’s a slender reed from which to hang an affirmative criticism of State Department policy which, recall, included not intervening in Syria. Perhaps non-intervention Libya looks more like non-intervention Syria, because of persistent beliefs about the possibility of intervention.

            Libyan intervention didn’t cause the syrian war. it did, however, make it worse in direct, concrete ways. That’s not a theory, that’s literally what happened.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            more than 30 Libyan fighters have made their way into Syria to support the Free Syrian Army rebels in their war against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime

            What proportion of total combatants in Syria does “more than 30” constitute, would you say, Cassander?

            It’s fair enough to point out actual spillovers from Libya (though note that’s not the argument I was responding to), but try to keep them in perspective. Otherwise we’ll be laying the real blame for Syria at Belgium’s door, and Hillary will be off the hook. I feel like that’s not the outcome you’re going for.

            once you’ve started fighting, your options are (A) win, (B) die fighting, (C) surrender and be hung for traitors. At that point, you might as well keep fighting.

            Cool, so once a rebellion has begun, there is no way for it to end without the deaths of the rebels. Fighting began prior to material state department support. Therefore, state department support has in no way prolonged the rebellion. Nice doing business with you.

            Since all of this stuff appears to simple in the face of your seasoned analysis, perhaps you should consider a job in State – or just send them a short email explaining all the obvious things they’re getting wrong.
            Warn them about the “more than 30” Libyan fighters, while you’re at it.

          • John Schilling says:

            “don’t intervene in Libya and the Syrian protesters loose hope”

            You are confusing the Syrian protesters with the Free Syrian Army. I am not.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            John,

            I don’t think those two groups are quite as clearly delineated as you imagine, which makes your pride in your ability to completely distinguish between them more understandable, I suppose.

            Before they were the Free Syrian Army, they were protesters. Had the Free Syrian Army, alone, given up home, comparable protesters might well have imitated them, forming a body with a different name but with comparable goals.

            So I don’t think that’s the knock down argument you seem to believe it is. I’m not even sure how it’s relevant to how I’ve characterised your broader claim, that the Libyan intervention inspired, if not the Syrian rebellion, certainly the Syrian war.

          • engleberg says:

            “the Syrians have soldiered on long past the point where it’s obvious the only foreign intervention was going to come from the other side.’

            Russia sent a flotilla to its base in Syria carrying support stuff for Assad. Russia likes having a base on the other side of the straits from the Black Sea. That is a long-term Russian interest. I would not bet long odds against the Russian base in Syria having nukes. Maybe big nukes. I would bet long odds against anyone running the Russians out of their base easily, without a shooting war with Russia, or at all. (A half century to turtle up in there, mostly in the Cold War so they are liable to be tunneled deep enough to withstand nuke strikes.)

          • cassander says:

            It’s fair enough to point out actual spillovers from Libya (though note that’s not the argument I was responding to), but try to keep them in perspective. Otherwise we’ll be laying the real blame for Syria at Belgium’s door, and Hillary will be off the hook. I feel like that’s not the outcome you’re going for.

            I cited one article to show it was happening. total number range from hundreds to thousands, which is far from an insignificant number.

            Cool, so once a rebellion has begun, there is no way for it to end without the deaths of the rebels. Fighting began prior to material state department support. Therefore, state department support has in no way prolonged the rebellion. Nice doing business with you.

            what now? That doesn’t follow at all. without support, the rebels would have been killed early on. with it they were able to keep fighting, and recruit more rebels while doing so.

            Since all of this stuff appears to simple in the face of your seasoned analysis,

            only one of us has sourced are claims in this thread, and it’s not you.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think those two groups are quite as clearly delineated as you imagine, which makes your pride in your ability to completely distinguish between them more understandable, I suppose.

            There is some overlap, but they aren’t the same thing.

            Before they were the Free Syrian Army, they were protesters.

            This is simply not the case. The Free Syrian Army was formed by dissident officers of the Regular Syrian Army. These were not the people who were marching in the streets waving signs and chanting against Assad; these were the people in charge of busting the heads of the people waving signs and chanting, who decided they didn’t want to do that any more.

            When you describe the people who have been waging war the past six years as “the protesters”, I think you completely misunderstand what happened. “The protesters”, in Syria and in a dozen other Arab nations, are a bunch of people who saw on television that if they marched and chanted and waved placards, the dictator they hated would resign and a democracy would emerge, so they went and did that. And everywhere other than Tunisia and Libya, they got their heads busted and nothing changed.

            Probably everywhere other than Tunisia, Libya, and Syria, some of the professional head-busters said “we’d rather not be doing this”, but did the math and realized that their options were limited to busting heads or being shot for desertion and treason because the regime would inherit the organization and logistics and heavy weapons even if half the army defected.

            In Syria and only in Syria, a bunch of professional Syrian head-busters decided that they could prevail against the regime and proceeded to wage war against the regime. These people were never “protesters”, except to the extent that e.g. the men at Lexington and Concord were protesters.

            And I do not believe it is a coincidence that they made that calculation, unlike their counterparts in every other Arab nation where the decision point had come at a less opportune moment, just a month or so after the United States had provided decisively effective air support to a bunch of amateur revolutionaries facing off against a hated Arab dictator.

            Yes, some of the protesters whose heads hadn’t been too badly busted and who were up for an actual civil war, went and joined the soldiers fighting the civil war. But a civil war is not a protest movement writ large. More to the point, as cassander notes, you absolutely can’t turn a civil war back into a protest movement. At this point, I suspect almost everybody in Syria would rather live under the Assad regime of 2010 than what they have now, but having rolled the dice on civil war the ones actually fighting it are pretty much stuck with it unless they want to spend the next few years living in a concentration camp of some sort.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @John,

            In Syria and only in Syria, a bunch of professional Syrian head-busters decided that they could prevail against the regime and proceeded to wage war against the regime.

            They were also doing pretty well, weren’t they, up until the formation of ISIL and (later) the Russian intervention? Seems to me their confidence wasn’t entirely unfounded. Or am I misremembering?

        • cassander says:

          That’s going to be a hard sell, particularly without some kind of clear counterfactual. Intervene in Libya, resulting in a fractured state and low level civil war. Don’t (really) intervene in Syria, resulting in a fractured state and high level civil war.

          The civil war in Libya is not low level, the casualties are just as high as syria, in percentage terms.

          And the quasi-intervention in Syria unquestionably prolonged the war there. Progressive Reformation is right, the arab spring was almost universally a garbage fire, and US policy under Clinton was to run around pouring gasoline on anything it could see.

          • 1soru1 says:

            > The civil war in Libya is not low level, the casualties are just as high as syria, in percentage terms.

            Unfortunately, not remotely true. The population of Syria has actually dropped visibly on a graph; that’s a catastrophe unprecedented since the 1970s. Life expectancy has dropped from 70 to 55.

            Official UN estimates of Syrian casualties are completely unrealistic; it is far too dangerous for anyone to go there and compile them, and in no ones political interest to do so.

            If the commonly-quoted ‘1 million deaths’ figure found in surveys of Iraq is remotely accurate, then Syria will be proportionately higher, corresponding to the scale and duration of the fighting.

          • Randy M says:

            Well, fortunately for Libya, at least.

          • cassander says:

            Syria has seen about half a million deaths. Libya about a fifth of that. It has about a fourth Syria’s pre war population. The drop in Syrian population looks larger because Syria is, compared to Libya, small and densely populated. People in Libya are fleeing, but there’s a lot more room to flee in Libya.

      • JDG1980 says:

        In practice, I’m more inclined towards your view. It seems clear to me that oftentimes, Democrats project a ‘wonky’ vibe to appeal to their ‘intellectual’ base (and appeal to their own self-identification as ‘intellectuals’), who derive validation for their ‘intellectual’ identities from supporting a candidate who is ‘qualified’, e.g. exactly what Hillary supposedly was.

        There have been people like this in the Democratic Party for some time. Consider Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s. On one occasion, one of his supporters commented that Stevenson had all the smart people on his side, and he retorted “Yes, but that’s not enough; we need a majority”. He and his supporters considered him to be smarter and more intellectual than his opponent, Dwight Eisenhower; in retrospect it’s not at all clear that this was the case (Ike surely had greater real-world achievements).

        Note that Stevenson lost the Presidential election twice. This kind of attitude doesn’t play well with the general electorate, but a subsection of the Democratic elite keeps coming back to it anyway.

        • Progressive Reformation says:

          That’s a great point! One of my friends is a politically active Democrat – traveled to NH to campaign for Hillary, etc. – and he is extremely fond of exactly that quote. I’m rather shocked that it never occurred to me that this was a clear example of the condescending and smarter-than-thou attitude of the Democrats’ academic wing.

          I’ll add that not only does this quote indicate that “[Stevenson] and his supporters considered him to be smarter and more intellectual than his opponent, Dwight Eisenhower”, but it also carries the far more serious implication that this wing of the Party considers Republicans to not be “thinking Americans” (in contrast to themselves). As you said, this is toxic to the general electorate, who are not stupid at all and can easily sense this attitude (e.g. it clearly comes across on The Daily Show and other intellectual-Democratic mainstays).

    • Nebfocus says:

      No one involved in the process has any responsibility for the outcome and as a result no one anywhere has any incentive to develop any kind of set of practices that result in beneficial outcomes – especially since bad outcomes are just more reason to do other things that will also be expensive and allow people to funnel money and power to their cronies and ideological allies.

      Agreed, as I wrote similarly above.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you have a blog or something?

    • grendelkhan says:

      How do things get done, given all that? We built the interstate and the internet, got lead out of our environment, got rid of polio and smallpox, eliminated absolute poverty and went to the goddamned moon. It looks like you’ve written an airtight argument that everything is terrible, and yet everything is, so far as I can tell, generally not terrible.

  3. Yaleocon says:

    I don’t think it’s that easy. There’s probably a hierarchy, with the online content producers serving as thought leaders for lower tiers of the “news”. Maybe your average backwoods Republican doesn’t regularly read the Wall Street Journal, or National Review, or Breitbart, but you can bet Rush Limbaugh is reading them (or has his writers reading them for him), and the masses listen to him. So long as people at the Breitbart/WSJ/NYT/WaPo/HuffPo etc. serve as “thought leaders” for other media sources, they will set the culture of their (Red/Blue) Tribe.

    With that said, the ethical response is probably still “speak and act honestly before speaking in order to win popularity.” But we should expect a hit to popularity for anyone who really abides by such standards. And we should expect that effect to be present on each level in the hierarchy of information, working in unfortunate and saddening ways.

  4. Yosarian2 says:

    It’s think you can look at this from the other side too. As citizens and consumers of media and voters we should be able to demand more “epistemically pure” content from both media and from politicians, and if we can increase the demand for that that should change the elite behavior over time.

  5. Redland Jack says:

    Most of the five reasons have the sound of people who haven’t really come to grips with why they lost. They sound like they’re saying, “We were just too good and intelligent for the evil boneheads of this country. Man, it’s tough being so incredibly noble like us.”

    • ItsGiusto says:

      Agreed. Also, I don’t remember Hillary being too big on number 5. Maybe she wasn’t as “us vs them” as Trump, but I would have never said she’s a strong proponent of a “we’re in this together” kind of attitude or message. The “basket of deplorables” incident is just the first thing that comes to mind.

      • pdbarnlsey says:

        “Very roughly speaking, half of my opponent’s supporters are good people who have just been mislead, while the rest are a mix of some pretty unpleasant types of people, including those ones who keep posting racist frogs and putting people’s names in brackets for some reason”

        A more careful version of this kind of outreach would have significantly tweaked those proportions, which is something she admitted immediately afterwards, and that fact that she didn’t manage that out of the gate is further evidence that she’s not really great at this; but that’s an attempt at outreach, not condemnation.

        Also, maybe look at her policies towards the rural white working poor. No plans to cut their healthcare, for example.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Yeah, but a more careful version of this kind of outreach would leave a very tiny base of “deplorables” indeed. Frogposters and wielders of the echo are a tiny fraction of the american populace; Hillary ended up insulting about 12.5% of the adult american populace. And it’s an obvious conclusion that she said this because she believes it.

          No plans to cut their healthcare, for example.

          Yeah, pretty sure Obamacare was a disaster for the rural white working poor. Actually, I hear it increased their death rate altogether, by allowing them to get their hands on lots more prescription drugs. Might be why they voted for a man who promised to repeal Obamacare, huh?

          • Iain says:

            Yeah, pretty sure Obamacare was a disaster for the rural white working poor. Actually, I hear it increased their death rate altogether, by allowing them to get their hands on lots more prescription drugs. Might be why they voted for a man who promised to repeal Obamacare, huh?

            Source?

            Among other problems with this narrative, Obamacare did a lot to make addiction treatment more broadly available. Obamacare added drug addiction treatment to the list of essential health benefits, meaning that insurance plans have to cover it. This spreads the cost around, which is arguably bad for non-addicts (until you take the subsidies into account) but certainly makes treatment more accessible for opioid addicts.

            More broadly, a huge chunk of the people who gained coverage as a result of Obamacare were members of the white working class. If the current version of the AHCA passes, semi-repealing Obamacare, the CBO estimates (table 4 in the PDF) that a 64-year old man making $26,500/year would see his premiums in the non-group market go up by $13,000 — that is to say, health insurance premiums would cost more than half of his annual income.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Yeah, even if you think that prescription opioids were the primary cause of the heroin epidemic (personally I think it has at least as much to do with the War in Afghanistan), there’s no correlation with the ACA, just a steady increase starting in at the begining of the millenium and leveling off around 2011, when the ACA’s actual implementation had barely begun.

            Or was there just a joking analogy we’re not getting?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Well

            http://time.com/4292290/how-obamacare-is-fueling-americas-opioid-epidemic/

            Like I said, I heard it, so I’m willing to acknowledge that I might have heard wrong. Worth noting that, though Time isn’t the strongest source, the writer doesn’t appear to be biased, or at least I could find no evidence of him being right-wing. So there’s at least a motive established.

            In regards to statistics: there might be a leveling nationwide and a significant Obamacare-related boost. In this Vox article:

            https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/23/15032348/obamacare-opioid-epidemic-cause

            which actually argues that Obamacare didn’t cause the opioid epidemic, there are statistics given (notably, unlike Herbert’s links, these go farther than 2012), showing that “non-methadone synthetic opioids” saw a large increase in overdoses post-2013 (which is apparently when Obamacare went into effect, putting a hole in the argument that a 2011 plateau means much). Heroin saw a similar numeric increase and other opioids still plateaud, but as a percentage the rise in the specific type of opioids is fairly large.

            More broadly, a huge chunk of the people who gained coverage as a result of Obamacare were members of the white working class.

            Yes, and the older ones will be screwed by AHCA. But not the younger ones. Because that’s sort of the point of AHCA – we can’t really afford to pay for the elderly’s care, because it is very expensive.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            AnonYEmous,

            The “non-methadone synthetic opiods” category is principally fentanyl, which is a prescription drug replacement manufactured illegally or shipped in from Mexico. Heroin Epidemic Is Yielding to a Deadlier Cousin: Fentanyl

            This whole thing looks like a series of attempts to change the subject while trying to smear a policy which has actually aimed at improving the lot of Trump’s notional core constituency:

            Make some narrow assertion about some small subset of healthcare.

            When asked for evidence, link to an article showing the opposite and then claim that an unexplained subset of opiates proves you right.

            Consistently ignore the comparison I made with Trump’s policies in relation to healthcare generally and opiate addiction specifically.

            Perhaps you’d like to come back and assert that one particularly type of fentinyl proves you right about Trump’s healthcare policy – since that seems like the logical progression at this point.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Perhaps you’d like to come back and assert that one particularly type of fentinyl proves you right about Trump’s healthcare policy – since that seems like the logical progression at this point.

            Like I said, I heard it, so I’m willing to acknowledge that I might have heard wrong.

            I’d continue the conversation, but your attitude makes that an unappealing option. Have a good 1.

        • I think “good people who have just been misled” doesn’t quite get the tone. It feels more like people who are desperate and a little stupid. No suggestion that anyone in the opposition might be a reasonable person who is merely mistaken.

          • Iain says:

            Here’s the actual text of Clinton’s remarks. I think your reading is rather uncharitable: in particular, there is a significant effort here to explain why reasonable people might find Trump appealing.

            …that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Next you’ll be telling me that Obama’s “bitter-clingers” remark was him stating that the Rust Belt was absolutely correct to feel failed and betrayed by the last several administrations (of both parties) and that this failure of mainstream politics accordingly made a turn to populism entirely understandable.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I call this the left’s “One Drop Rule of Nazism.” If there’s one nazi, anywhere, everyone around that nazi is a nazi. Trump got about 60 million votes. There are not 30 million alt-righters. When Hillary started talking about nazi frogs she sounded insane to the normal people who don’t know anything about internet memes.

          It’s like saying antifa represents “Democrats” or “Hillary voters.”

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            I think “deplorable” is a bit broader than “nazi”, Conrad. I know plenty of non-Nazi deplorables. It’s sufficient, but not necessary.

            So your comment feels like an example of the exact think it purports to be decrying – trying to make everything all about the Nazis all the time in order to distract from the broader point.

      • grendelkhan says:

        I would have never said she’s a strong proponent of a “we’re in this together” kind of attitude or message

        Here’s Hillary Clinton on coal miners:

        So for example, I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?

        And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.

        Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.

        That reads to me as excruciatingly charitable. But it got rounded off to “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners out of work”, the other guy pandered hard, said he “digs coal”, promised to put everyone back to work (which is flatly ridiculous for a host of reasons), and they ate it up.

        I’m skeptical that being more charitable would have solved that.

        • Aapje says:

          The issue is that sane people don’t believe the type of promises that go: I’ll do something specific that will hurt you and then I promise to do something that I can’t tell you about yet to undo the hurt.

          If Clinton actually had a solid plan to get these people new jobs, she could have told them. That she didn’t is pretty solid evidence that she doesn’t have a plan or that her plan has major downsides that she doesn’t want to be known.

          Not having a plan to undo the damage strongly indicates that she cares much less about fixing the damage to miners than achieving her environmental goals. If she isn’t willing to expend political capital to make hard promises to the miners in a situation where she hasn’t yet achieved her main goal, it makes no sense to assume that she will be willing to spend that political capital when her main goal has already been achieved.

          The smart money is on her moving on to another main goal once the mines have been closed, while leaving the miners as collateral damage.

          • Iain says:

            If Clinton actually had a solid plan to get these people new jobs, she could have told them.

            Like, say, this?

          • grendelkhan says:

            If Clinton actually had a solid plan to get these people new jobs, she could have told them. That she didn’t is pretty solid evidence that she doesn’t have a plan or that her plan has major downsides that she doesn’t want to be known.

            She did. She really did. Here’s a summary with pointers to her campaign website. Only one of the candidates relied solely on aspirational sound bites and implications of vague corruptness in their opponent, and it wasn’t Clinton.

            And in general, this was a problem with Clinton. People felt like she didn’t have any policy on the opioid epidemic, or any credibility on climate change, and because the election was feels-over-reals, here we are.

            (And on top of all that, the mines weren’t closing because of environmentalism; the mines were closing because of automation (and fracking). The power plants would be closing because of environmentalism (and fracking).)

          • Aapje says:

            Like, say, this?

            Firstly, none of that is in her town hall answer. Do you think that miners are the kind of people that like reading fact sheets? So we have a failure to communicate in a way that matches her audience, for starters.

            Secondly, nowhere in her plan is there a specific link to the miners and new jobs for them. What are suitable new jobs for those miners (probably not programmers, who she wants to facilitate with better broadband). Pretty much all of the plan is generic: I’m going to improve the Appalachia region.

            The plan is really a Gish Gallop, to hide that there are no specific measures taken to help miners get new jobs.

            If she had promised to make a law to force road work and construction companies who work in that region to hire a certain number of ex-miners, there would have been something that spoke to miners. Then she could made that single promise in her town hall meeting, in a clear way that spoke to her audience.

            You have to keep in mind that manual labor workers who have worked in one industry for ages have little faith in their ability to grasp new opportunities, probably not unrealistically. Promising new opportunities is just not going to appeal to them, as they perceive that these opportunities will just be grasped by others, while they are left behind (perhaps quite realistically).

            In general, I see this as a major disconnect between the globalists and the other half of society. The former generally believe in their ability to take advantage of opportunities, while the latter often don’t.

            If you can’t speak to that (which is hard), you fail with them. Clinton failed.

            PS. These fact sheets are written in IQ 100+ language, for example: “holistic public health and economic development strategies.” Your average miner will probably just feel like a fool if you point to them this.

          • Iain says:

            I am impressed at how seamlessly you’ve pivoted from “Clinton obviously didn’t have a real plan for coal country” to “Clinton’s plan for coal country used too many big words for the dumb hick miners to understand, and didn’t promise to solve all of their problems immediately”.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            How real is a plan you can’t communicate and which therefore your audience could never verify that you implemented? Not only is the writing targeted at high IQ people but its also full of shitty buzzwords. Plus you have the whole issue of “one opinion in public and one in private.”

            The nebulous nature of the promises negates them.

          • Iain says:

            1. Miners aren’t idiots, incapable of understanding the written word. The presentation of Clinton’s platform may not be the most effective way of getting her message across, but it’s not like a miner won’t be able to tell whether or not they’ve been able to get medical care for their black lung because the word “empower” is on a webpage somewhere.

            2. There is a big difference between “not having a real policy to help coal country” and “not doing a good job of selling that policy”. Aapje was making the first claim, which is indisputably false. You might think that an appropriate response to learning that would be to reflect on how you came to believe something false, but apparently Aapje decided to pivot to a different claim instead.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            OK, you got me. I should have said that she didn’t present an actual plan when asked for it during a round table discussion with at least one coal worker, not that she doesn’t have a plan in general.

            However, grendelkhan presented this as Clinton reaching out to coal workers in a significant way. It’s not really fair that you attack me for pivoting, when you pivoted away from the claim that grendelkhan made about that event. I responded to grendelkhan’s claim in one way (where I admittedly was a bit sloppy) and I responded to your different claim in another way.

            I stand by my claim that if you think that either the event or the plan addresses the concerns of the coal workers in a way that they ought to find acceptable, you:
            – Lack understanding of how this tribe thinks (again: it is significantly different from the globalist tribe that most SSC readers are part of)
            – Are way too trusting of politicians, who do actually manipulate by various means. It’s rational to be aware of and be very cynical about statements that frequently turn out to be hollow, especially if a politician demonstrates that she lacks empathy with your tribe.

            PS. If you think that providing help for black lungs addresses their concerns about losing their jobs, you demonstrate that you don’t understand the tribe. One of their highest terminal values is the idea that a man should take care of himself and not be taking handouts.

          • Iain says:

            Look, my father worked at a potash mine for thirty years. I spent two summers working there myself, albeit mostly in an office. I do not need you to explain the psyche of miners to me, thank you.

            Getting broadband internet to rural areas is a longstanding demand from rural politicians. Losing your healthcare and your pension is a real concern for miners. There are a bunch of things in Clinton’s platform that address serious issues facing coal country.

            I do not deny that Trump did a better job of selling himself as a friend of coal than Clinton did. First off, Trump is a natural-born salesman — I think it’s his one real skill — and Clinton is decidedly not. Second, it is a lot easier to sell your platform when you give up on keeping it tethered to reality. No, she didn’t promise to wave a magic wand and bring all the coal jobs back. That’s because it simply isn’t going to happen. As grendelkhan says: it’s not environmentalism that is eliminating coal jobs; it’s automation. Clinton took that problem seriously and came up with a platform designed to ameliorate it as much as possible. Trump just promised to make coal great again.

            (Also: “especially if a politician demonstrates that she lacks empathy with your tribe”? Would you care to point to said demonstration?)

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            Getting broadband internet to rural areas is a longstanding demand from rural politicians. Losing your healthcare and your pension is a real concern for miners. There are a bunch of things in Clinton’s platform that address serious issues facing coal country.

            Imagine these two scenarios:

            1. You come by and give me $100.

            2. You cause $1000 worth of damage to my property. You come by and give me $100

            In scenario 1, your gift makes me happy. In scenario 2, your gift makes me angry.

            Clinton favors closing the mines and other policies that are perceived by the miners as costing them jobs. My argument is that the miners value their jobs really, really highly and that Clinton was very bad at convincing them that her plan was going to result in most/all of them having new jobs. Heck, it’s bad at convincing me and I can actually understand it, unlike many miners. Furthermore, they value those other things you named less than their jobs and many of them probably don’t have much trust those promises anyway, due to being lied to about those things in the past.

            Now, I’m not claiming that it is easy to convince these people or that I could do it, but Clinton was not even able to do a poor job. My assessment is that this is because she lacks empathy with low IQ people and with people who feel unprepared for a new job. I believe that a person with more empathy would have done a better job in that round table discussion and would have done better with her plan.

            Trump just promised to make coal great again.

            And what the miners heard was: you can keep your jobs. That’s what they wanted to hear.

            If you want to sell people on something that they don’t already believe or want, you have a much harder task. Clinton believes the same as I, that coal should be on the way out. If you want to sell that to miners, you need grade A persuasion. Clinton couldn’t bring it.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            The whole IQ thing should be left out of it. Most miners could probably grok her platform, though they’d still disagree, if they had appropriate education in vocabulary.

          • John Schilling says:

            Getting broadband internet to rural areas is a longstanding demand from rural politicians.

            Is it a longstanding demand from rural unemployed coal miners?

            The uncharitable reading of Hillary’s platform is, “I’m going to bring in some high-tech industry to take over for the mines, and the people who can’t learn to be coders or clean-room technicians will be wards of the state until they age out and die”. It is entirely possible that rural politicians would much rather preside over Silicon Valley in Appalachian miniature than a standard-issue mining town, and see this as a positive thing even as the unemployed miners don’t.

            The charitable reading is that Hillary wants to help the actual unemployed coal miners of Appalachia and is expressing herself poorly. The help they want most is jobs they can reasonably aspire to do that pay well (yes, including health insurance) and aren’t busywork. Trump probably isn’t going to deliver those kinds of jobs, but he says quite clearly that he wants to and intends to. Hillary, whatever her actual intentions or likely results, didn’t.

          • Aapje says:

            @axiomsofdominion

            Most miners could probably grok her platform, though they’d still disagree, if they had appropriate education in vocabulary.

            They could, but they won’t. And no one is going to explain to them what “holistic public health and economic development strategies” are if the Clinton campaign doesn’t do that. And I don’t think they did.

            Manual labor workers are for the most part not people who enjoy studying anyway.

            A pretty large percentage of voters are low information voters. You need a short, simplistic message to appeal to these people. Then you need a more complex, nuanced message for the high information voters.

    • Dabbler says:

      If you don’t mind me asking Redland Jack, why do you think the Democrats lost? What would be a fairer summary of their mistakes?

      • Redland Jack says:

        Ah, sorry, I hope I didn’t make it seem like I thought I was some kind of expert. The election was reasonably close. It may just have been that people wanted a change (it’s gone Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, so maybe it’s just people are sick of the party in (Executive) power and want to try the other side (once the incumbency effect is gone)).

        I don’t really have a good sense of whether it was strategy, tactics, bad luck (maybe things would have been different +/- one month?), or if it was truly the content of the message.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I’m not Jack, but I’ll give it a shot. I think that the Democrats lost for several reasons:

        * Underestimating the appeal of Trump. This has nothing to do with any kind of moral or ethical failings, but is rather due to a failure in their polling methods.
        * Sidelining their own populist candidate (Bernie) who had a decent chance to, if not defeat Trump outright, at least fragment his base to the point where he can win on the margins.
        * Poor security practices, which led to them getting hacked, which led to the release of all the information above. Next time someone asks you, “why should I worry about buffer overflows and SQL injections, surely none of this stuff will ever come up”, you can say, “this is why”.
        * Playing into Tump’s hands by framing the election as “it’s elite politicians vs. populist demagogues, and we’re the elites”. Yeah, that was Trump’s entire message, too.
        * As their victory grew less and less certain, embracing identity politics to the exclusion of everything else. If at any point you find yourself declaring war on a cartoon frog, you should probably just concede.

        I fully expect them to continue using these same tactics in 2020, BTW. I don’t think the Democratic party can recover at this point.

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          Bugmaster, the testimony from intelligence agencies suggests that both parties were hacked in much the same way, it’s just that only one of them had the support of a foreign power.

          So your point three holds in an absolute sense, but not a comparative one.

          I think there’s a tension between your forth point (“Trump’s identity politics was very effective”) and your fifth (“identity politics undermined HRC’s appeal”). Maybe it’s more “do a good job of identity politics”, which is fair, but kind of facile.

          • Bugmaster says:

            So your point three holds in an absolute sense, but not a comparative one.

            Agreed, that’s the way I meant it. Democrats had every opportunity to be better than their opponents, but most of the time they settled for being just as good (or failed outright).

            I think there’s a tension between your forth point (“Trump’s identity politics was very effective”) and your fifth (“identity politics undermined HRC’s appeal”).

            I disagree, although perhaps I am confusing some terms. As I’d said in another comment, by “identity politics” I meant, “curry favor with a specific group by demonizing their outgroup”, not merely “appeal to a specific group”. Weirdly enough, Trump ran a mostly positive campaign; sure, he attacked Clinton personally, but he didn’t really go after her supporters the way she went after his.

          • falstaffAZ says:

            the testimony from intelligence agencies suggests that both parties were hacked in much the same way, it’s just that only one of them had the support of a foreign power

            Where can I read this?

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Falstaffaz,

            It’s here, FBI’s Comey: Republicans also hacked by Russia
            for example, though obviously we have better evidence where we can also look at what was released, not merely what was penetrated.

          • mvd1959 says:

            From your article…

            Comey said there was no sign “that the Trump campaign or the current RNC was successfully hacked.”

            Doesn’t seem to support the argument that since the Russians didn’t leak Trump emails they were supporting him.

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            there was “penetration on the Republican side of the aisle and old Republican National Committee domains” no longer in use

            It doesn’t sound like comparable to getting dump of Podesta’s full email. It looks like getting access to old webserver which has nothing but old campaign platforms. No wonder there was nothing to publish.

            there was evidence of hacking directed at state-level organizations, state-level campaigns, and the RNC, but old domains of the RNC, meaning old emails they weren’t using.

            In other words, again, nothing to publish. Calling it “hacked the same way”, when on DNC side it was email of Podesta, and on RNC side it was a bunch of defunct mailboxes, it misleading at best.

            Comey said there was no sign “that the Trump campaign or the current RNC was successfully hacked.”

            I think this pretty much closes the question.

          • Deiseach says:

            It doesn’t sound like comparable to getting dump of Podesta’s full email. It looks like getting access to old webserver which has nothing but old campaign platforms. No wonder there was nothing to publish.

            So the RNC’s blushes were spared by virtue of them being a bunch of technological dinosaurs who weren’t as plugged-in to the world of Big Data and constant connectivity and slick, everything done online and on mobile platforms as the DNC? Chalk one up for us old dinosaurs and Luddites! 🙂

        • abc says:

          * Sidelining their own populist candidate (Bernie) who had a decent chance to, if not defeat Trump outright, at least fragment his base to the point where he can win on the margins.

          I think Trump would have beaten Bernie as well. Granted he would have done it with a slightly different coalition, but likely with an even bigger margin.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Yeah, I suspect so. Bernie had a lot of stuff in his political past even more damning than email server management.

            The real question is whether his flaws would have been treated more gently by the media elite than Hillary was. Hillary had the unique disadvantage of being perceived as part of the elite by everyone and as “not really our kind of people” by the media elite themselves. That’s tough to come back from.

          • John Colanduoni says:

            What do you think the coalition would have looked like? And how would he have attracted them?

          • even more damning than email server management.

            Nooooo!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What do you think the coalition would have looked like? And how would he have attracted them?

            I would not be shocked if fewer black voters decided to turn out for an atheist Jew.

          • abc says:

            What do you think the coalition would have looked like? And how would he have attracted them?

            A lot of the “respectable business/wall street types” would probably have been just as or even more scared by Bernie’s socialism as they were by Trump’s protectionism. Hence, they likely would have done some combination of voting for Trump/voting for a third party/not voting.

        • John Schilling says:

          why should I worry about buffer overflows and SQL injections,

          Unless you’re a coder, you should never worry about buffer overflows and SQL injections. Just understand that the people who are coders (for commercial software at least) will, predictably, always, fuck it up and leave in vulnerabilities that will be hacked.

          So keep your high-level strategizing in a smoke-filled room, where it belongs. Yes, it’s more convenient if you can work by iPhone from your favorite coffee shop. It also guarantees that you’ll lose everything that really matters to someone who doesn’t demand that convenience.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yes, it’s more convenient if you can work by iPhone from your favorite coffee shop. It also guarantees that you’ll lose everything that really matters to someone who doesn’t demand that convenience.

            Insert favorite quote about “commitment to victory” here

          • Mary says:

            If you do anything in a public location, YOUR technology is the least of your problems.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The Democratic Party can recover if it can stop becoming the host body to the Clinton parasite, which removed all other power players from the party for its own selfish desires, making a calculated gamble that “choose Clinton or the abyss” would cause everyone to go with Clinton.

          I thought this was a given, but if you see the news there are repeated attempts to reattach the parasite.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I’ve seen lots of portentous explanations for why Hillary lost, but it seems clear to me it was just dumb miscalculation and hubris. She was convinced that she was the winner, thanks to the Blue Wall of Democratic midwestern states, but she was worried that she while she had a lock on the College she might not take the popular vote. So she spent all her resources trying to run up her popular vote in states like California, to make sure her victory could be claimed as a solid mandate. Further evidence of this is how quickly the machine started the line that Trump’s victory didn’t constitute a mandate.

        Those who attribute Trump’s victory to a fundamental change in the electorate are unfortunately kidding themselves. It might cause such a change, but the actual election was a squeaker.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          What resources did Clinton spend in California? Maybe she did fundraising there, but she didn’t campaign there.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          As the recent “Shattered” book says, part of the reason Clinton didn’t campaign much in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania was that she did not have a good message there.

          She’s a globalist and 2016, for better or worse, was an anti-globalist year. When the tide is against you, you work more on preventing losses than making gains, and you do this by keeping your head down and not talking much.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Except that she did campaign a lot there. Pennsylvania was behind only Florida.

            You make two extremely common mistakes: (1) trying to explain the facts without nailing down what the facts are; (2) valuing secrets over public data.

            Added: Contrary to Doctor Mist, she knew where she was vulnerable and campaigned in the correct states. But within PA and the midwest, she targeted only urban areas, particularly blacks. Yes, the book says that she hunkered down, fearing that campaigning to rural whites would be unproductive. It is a lot harder to second-guess such a calculation.

          • Iain says:

            …part of the reason Clinton didn’t campaign much in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania

            Clinton spent a ton of time campaigning in Pennsylvania. Here are just five examples from the first page of a Google search for “clinton pennsylvania campaigning”.

            This is the big gaping hole in the claim that the Clinton campaign lost because they didn’t put enough resources into the Rust Belt states that Trump won. Sure, Clinton basically ignored Wisconsin — but given how much time and effort her campaign poured into Pennsylvania only to lose it anyway, it is unclear that more campaigning in the Rust Belt would have made a difference.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Yes, I was thinking “Michigan” but expanded it to three states in my head for some reason.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Clinton did campaign a lot in Michigan. She campaigned in exactly the same places as Trump. MI was tied for #5 with NV, behind FL, PA, NC, OH. Probably she should have cut her losses in OH and campaigned more MI and WI, but overall she had the right strategy.

      • Quixote says:

        Democrats underinvested in state elections in 2008,2009, and 2010 leaving them in a poor position to take advantage of the opportunity to gerrymander following the 2010 census.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Gerrymandering has no impact on the Presidency, Senate, or Governor races.

          • Brad says:

            Control of state government does have an effect and gerrymandering effects control of state government. There’s a reason NC cut back on early voting and it wasn’t to save money.

          • Quixote says:

            No direct effect. But choosing voting hours, number of machines per district, etc. does determine results in close elections.

          • keranih says:

            The R control of local legislature started back under Clinton – it was the 2000 election that was decisive, there.

            But you’re right, putting a thumb on the scale is bad. Wouldn’t it have been great if there had been a policy of nonpartisan neutrality in drawing voting district lines, and an adherence to traditional standards of proof of residency & voting integrity, while the Dems controlled the legislatures of those States?

            That would have given the R’s a proper example of how to act, once they got the legislative majority.

            OTOH, there’s reason to think that it was the pushing of the boundaries in registration permissiveness that helped fuel the negative perceptions of D control of cities, counties, and state. Looked too much like stacking the deck.

        • Mary says:

          Democrats suffer from the little problem that they tend to pack* and crack** themselves by choosing where to live. This means, people have found, that randomly drawn districts tend to favor Republicans.

          *jam themselves into areas that are 70%, 80%, 90% Democrat — far more than the margin need to win

          ** spread themselves over other regions so they are less than 50%

      • sourcreamus says:

        All the policy talk misses the point. Americans love two kinds of politicians, incumbents and charismatic outsiders. George Bush is the only modern president elected who did not fit either category.
        If Clinton wanted to win her only chance was to pull a Nixon. She should have fake retired and then let her self be talked into running as a reluctant savior. Instead she decided to run as the ultimate insider.

        • Deiseach says:

          She should have fake retired and then let her self be talked into running as a reluctant savior.

          The problem with that is that it depends on others talking you into running. Waiting beside a phone that never rings is a bad risk, and it looks like Hillary thought that nobody would pick up that phone to plead with her to come save the nation, so she went for the “ultimate insider” option instead.

          Does anyone remember if there was an Obama-approved candidate in all this Democrat selection process? Was Hillary’s worry that if she did fake-retire, it would turn all too quickly into real retirement as Obama’s side of the party anointed the successor to the Favoured One?

          • Brad says:

            Joe Biden was the obvious choice, but unfortunately his son died just about the time he would have had to start pushing hard.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t think Joe was all that obvious. He was still “say-it-ain’t-so Joe” who gaffes every time he opens his mouth — although I can see that selling in a year when people are big into “outsiders who say rude truths.” (A gaffe being when a politician accidentally tells the truth, after all.)

            But the reason we were here was that the Clintons has deliberately sucked all the oxygen from the room to make sure there was no other choice except Hillary, who did not want to repeat 2008. The Democratic bench was weak to start with, but anyone who went up against the Clintons was going to risk having their career destroyed. Hence the only real competition came from someone who wasn’t even technically a Democrat and had nothing to lose by being blackballed for opposing her.

            Even if Hillary was destined to win, the party still should have had a real primary season, because it would have given the party’s B-team a chance to show off their chops on the national stage. Even if they got knocked around a bit, it would have been excellent practice and the experience they need to actually win a nomination next time.

            But the Clintons made sure there was No Other Choice. Now we have to rebuild the party.

    • Amos says:

      I agree. It’s not because Hillery sounded wonkish or not wonkish it’s because she was pro-open borders ,pro-abortion at anytime and put nebulous environmental concerns above peoples jobs . If she had been more like trump in language and temperament but still pro-open borders, pro-abortion and pro-environment-before-jobs, she would not have got more votes, she would have got less. The white working class just don’t like these policy and if you try to be friendly to them while keeping them you a just going to demonstrate the contrast between what you say and what they want. You’ll sound incoherent and schizophrenic.

      Given that she supported these policies trying to hide to behind a smokescreen of “”I’m super-competent and he’s not and my policies are good for you in ways that are to complicated to explain” was probably her best bet.

      • pro-open borders

        Literally? As in let anyone in?

        • reasoned argumentation says:

          My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders,

          from her speech to Banco Itau which was found in the wikileaks dump.

          • rlms says:

            Hence her enormous support from the libertarians here.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            For whatever it’s worth, as a Libertarian(ish person, though not from America), I much preferred Hillary to Trump, and most other Democrats, for that matter.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Don Boudreaux at CafeHayek – one of the most outspoken libertarian economists I’ve seen – also stated multiple times that he preferred Clinton over Trump, and immigration policy was one reason why.

          • Hence her enormous support from the libertarians here.

            I wouldn’t describe it as enormous support, but what I posted on my blog on election night was:

            I have been saying for some time that the least bad outcome there is any reasonable chance of getting from this unfortunate election is Hilary Clinton in the White House but both houses of congress held by the Republicans.

        • JDG1980 says:

          Here is what Hillary said in the fourth Democratic Primary presidential debate:

          But if you are asking about everyone who is already here, undocumented immigrants, the 11-12 million who are living here, my priorities are to deport violent criminals, terrorists, and anyone who threatens our safety. So I do not have the same policy as the current administration does. I think it’s important that we move to our comprehensive immigration reform, but at the same time, stop the raids, stop the round-ups, stop the deporting of people who are living here doing their lives, doing their jobs, and that’s my priority.

          So anyone who isn’t a “violent criminal” or “terrorist” gets to stay, even if they came illegally. If that isn’t exactly “open borders” then it’s very close.

      • Deiseach says:

        she was …pro-abortion at anytime

        That was a misstep that surprised me. I’m fairly sure she was pragmatic about abortion and didn’t want to mess around with existing law and certainly had no intention of trying to put any restrictions in the way of abortion availability, and she played nice with Planned Parenthood which was sound strategic sense, given their endorsement of her and mobilisation of support in her favour.

        But she had also, up until her last-minute speech, managed to keep the religious element on-side by making good use of her background as a liberal Methodist and the “wrestling with my conscience, it’s a tough decision, reluctantly accepting the existing situation” argument she used for the mainline white Protestants (I have no idea how it went over with the black churches but it probably didn’t hurt her chances, anyway). So for voters in that demographic who were ambivalent about this but probably would consider voting for her otherwise, there was reassurance that no, she wasn’t as stridently pro-abortion as her opponents were making out.

        And then she comes out at the gala and does the rah-rah for Planned Parenthood, and I didn’t understand what she was trying to do. She blew up her support amongst the mainline religious who were, God love them, all “but… but… why didn’t she mention her moral struggles about abortion?”

        She even quoted The Handmaid’s Tale, allegedly, which you have to admit is not looking very nuanced with regards to the role of religious views in the discussion:

        Clinton closed her speech with a quote from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian novel in which women lose their rights under a totalitarian theocratic government, warning women to keep on fighting:

        In ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ women’s rights are gradually, slowly stripped away. As one character says, ‘We didn’t look up from our phones until it was too late.’ It is not too late for us, but we have to encourage the millions of women and men who support Planned Parenthood’s mission to keep fighting. To paraphrase Margaret Atwood, we can never let them grind us down.

        So why on earth did she do this? She already had Planned Parenthood’s nomination and support, did she think this was going to win her the mythical “Millennial young women’s vote” or what? Because she probably would have had it anyway, and I have no idea why she made this speech unless some sub-group of her campaign had showed her the results of data-crunching that said “in this poll of first time young women voters, the number one concern is abortion rights, appeal to them and you have X million votes in the bag”.

        I think it was a mistake that didn’t get her the votes as promised and did cost her support and votes elsewhere.

    • Viliam says:

      This was my impression, too. “Hillary lost because she was too good for this sinful world.” Keep telling yourself that, and you’ll have Trump 2020, too.

      I am sure this is “concern trolling” by many people’s definition, but I think that the left is losing their essence, which used to be… caring for poor and oppressed people.

      Identity politics seems (and perhaps was originally intended) like focusing your care better, finding the most oppressed people, and spending your help optimally. In theory, seems like a good idea.

      But what it achieves in practice, is that most poor and oppressed people are dismissed as not being poor and oppressed enough, and therefore not worthy of help, or even basic human compassion.

      Now instead of Mr. Scrooge who would kick a beggar because he despises poor people, we have Mx. Identity who would kick the same beggar because that specific beggar happens to be male, or white, or cis, or have some other intersectionally unforgivable trait.

      From the beggar’s point of view, Mr. Scrooge and Mx. Identity seem the same.

      • Aapje says:

        But what it achieves in practice, is that most poor and oppressed people are dismissed as not being poor and oppressed enough, and therefore not worthy of help, or even basic human compassion.

        It’s even worse. Those policies that are set up based on identity politics are accessible to the rich and powerful of groups who are on average worse off. Those people are way better at taking advantage. So the actually poor black person is getting less help than the rich ones, while the rich white people find a way to avoid getting harmed.

        So in practice even the poor of the identity groups get screwed over.

        • Viliam says:

          So, “one of my friends is black” actually works as an excuse for the 1%?

          • Aapje says:

            13% of their friends has to be black. Then it’s completely different, you see.

  6. AnonYEmous says:

    Their trouble repeal Obamacare seems like the most glaring example – there just wasn’t enough overlap between reality-based policies that made political sense, and policies that legislators could support without worrying about getting primaried by Tea Party types accusing them of selling out.

    I don’t buy that this is fundamentally separate from government not wanting to repeal any handout, because of the obvious incentives they have not to do this.

    Maybe I’ll go monarchist, if this keeps up. If the party specifically put into power to take care of the problem abjectly refuses, what’s the point of democracy at all? Especially when you consider that Obamacare was already a suicide tactic; Democrats lost big afterwards, but they took the fall. Now Republicans aren’t?

    It might be that appealing to the white working class really is the most important way to win elections, but that in the real world “identity politics” surrounding minority groups are a more important or more tractable issue, where government interventions can help far more people.

    This statement explicitly doesn’t argue that this is true, or false, so I won’t aim this at you

    just like to say that I don’t think it is true though. At this point most minority problems seem to be beyond government control, beyond simply things like “welfare” that white people can get just as easily

    • , because of the obvious incentives they have not to do this.

      On the other hand there is always an incentive to control taxation.

    • Kevin C. says:

      Maybe I’ll go monarchist, if this keeps up. If the party specifically put into power to take care of the problem abjectly refuses, what’s the point of democracy at all?

      Are the Repubs “abjectly refusing” to “take care of the problem”, or are they unable to do so?

      • Doctor Mist says:

        The Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House. In what sense could they be unable? Is the problem literally unfixable, in a logical sense?

        The best interpretation I can come up is that the Republicans are so fractured that they can’t agree on what action to take. But then the issue is less whether they will or can take care of the problem, and more that the label “Republicans” no longer corresponds to a unitary agent — a potential problem with any group, of course. Is that what you meant?

        • Kevin C. says:

          No that’s not what I meant. You say:

          The Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House.

          And I say, so what? That and a few bucks will get you a cup of coffee. Congress and POTUS are vestigial; whatever you learned in school about how things work on paper, their function in practice is to rubber-stamp what the real, permanent, unelected government decides. The Republican party’s sole job is to maintain the kayfabe, to be the Outer Party to the Democrats’ Inner Party, the Washington Generals to their Harlem Globetrotters. It’s to put on a show of “fighting” good enough to trick most of us Red Tribe sorts into thinking that “Progress” can be meaningfully opposed by voting for whoever has an “R” after their name (protip: it can’t). And when they fail to do that job, punisments ensue. There’s a difference between taking office and taking power; elected Republican officials do the former, but not the latter. Look at Trump’s executive orders, and the “judges in revolt” against him. Look at “government shut-downs” that don’t actually shut down the government. You don’t “drain the swamp”, the swamp drains you.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Ah, ok, I see what you mean and am not unsympathetic to that point of view. If they are unable to change things because the deep state is who is truly in charge, one might argue that this doesn’t prevent them from at least voting to repeal, which would mollify their voting base and let them stay on the gravy train. But I’m guessing your reply would be that the Republicans are well aware of how powerless Congress and POTUS are, and therefore will never do anything that shines a bright light on that powerlessness, for fear of losing their phony-baloney jobs to the next round of folks willing to claim they can rein in the deep state?

            This would certainly go a fair ways toward explaining how inneffectual our elected officials have seemed for the last few decades, and how much politics has seemed like Kabuki.

            When I am feeling less pessimistic, it strikes me that the real Deep State is the electorate, which seems to have a collective intelligence roughly equal to a dog’s. No collection even of smart, well-intentioned elected officials could ever make serious and intelligent reforms because the electorate as a body is not smart enough to understand the case for doing so, and just says, “Ooh, no, it might hurt,” — even if large numbers of individual voters actually are smart enough, the corporate entity is a dumbhead.

            That’s not a lot less depressing, of course.

        • mdet says:

          I’m a liberal, so my media consumption might be very different from yours, but at least on my end: Yes. Infighting + actually difficult problem are the reasons why Republicans have been unable to meaningfully repeal / replace Obamacare.

          As I understand it, health insurance is largely a zero-sum game. If you want to expand coverage for one group of people, you necessarily have to increase costs for another group in order to pay for it. Obamacare expanded coverage for poor & ill people, which increased costs for more well-off people. Some of those well-off people couldn’t afford the increase and dropped out, which raised costs for those who remained, which caused more dropouts, which raised costs—you get the picture. Obamacare was deeply flawed because despite aiming to expand coverage, it ended up causing many people to lose coverage as it began to “death spiral”.

          The best solution Republicans came up with was “Cut coverage for poor & ill people in order to cut costs for more well-off people”. This approach A) is a hard sell politically, given how inherently unfair it sounds, B) solves the problem of people losing / getting priced out of their insurance by having even MORE people lose / get priced out of their insurance, and C) doesn’t actually address the fundamental flaw with Obamacare, just shifts the losses around.

          In addition, Republicans have split into two groups: One side says “Universal healthcare coverage is a good idea, it’s just that Obamacare was a terrible policy. Let’s aim for the same goal but Conservative-style (ie, tax credits, health savings accounts, some deregulation, etc)”. The other is “If the free market can’t guarantee everyone insurance, then nothing can, and bringing the government in will only make it worse”. These two views are not really reconcilable.

          Among the moderate liberal / moderate conservative sources that I follow, this seems to be the consensus explanation for Republicans current healthcare woes.

          • engleberg says:

            ‘Some of those well-off people couldn’t afford the increase’- huh. Do you think there’s a giant pool of rich prudent people who can’t afford insurance?

          • mdet says:

            (New commenter, not sure why I can’t reply directly to engleberg)

            When I said “well-off” I didn’t just mean “very rich people”. To be specific, one group of people who were largely dropping out / refusing to buy health insurance was young people. Young people are generally the healthiest segment of the population (“well-off” in that sense), but don’t necessarily have a lot of money on hand, so many young people decided that just going without insurance would be much cheaper than paying for insurance that they hardly use. Also middle-income people, who make enough money that they don’t qualify for Medicaid or Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies, but still not enough money to consider health insurance “cheap”.

            I guess you can imagine some kind of algorithm or formula where:
            —Wealth == High, you can afford insurance no problem
            —Wealth ≠ High, but Health == High, you can voluntarily drop out
            —(Wealth && Health) == Low, you get government assistance
            —(Wealth && Health) == Medium, you involuntarily get priced out

            My information here is based a lot on Megan McArdle’s reporting on Obamacare. Samples:
            https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-01-18/the-once-and-future-obamacare-death-spiral

            https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-05-05/problems-the-republican-health-plan-doesn-t-solve

          • Aapje says:

            I agree with mdet.

            Insurance is almost guaranteed to have a perceived wealth transfer element to it, as people usually make a different assessment of their risk than the insurer (and usually more accurate).

            So you have two main groups:
            – Those who feel that they get a good deal, as they think that their premium is set too low, given their risk.
            – Those who feel that they get a bad deal, as they think that their premium is set too high, given their risk.

            That second group obviously has a tendency to cancel their insurance, if they perceive the deal to be very bad. If those people are indeed correct most of the time, when they cancel, the premiums have to go up for the rest. This just pushes a new group into perceiving that they get a bad deal, so they tend to leave -> death spiral.

          • The Nybbler says:

            What it appears people want from health insurance is coverage that covers everything for everyone with no restrictions, and nobody pays full price but “the rich” to whom the price is a pittance. This is simply not achievable and it’s no surprise everyone has failed at it.

            @engleberg

            Everything happens on the margins. It’s not “rich prudent people” who couldn’t afford the increase. It’s people who could barely afford the coverage they had. Obamacare made them choose between more comprehensive but more expensive coverage and nothing at all. This also holds for people who could, technically, afford the coverage but chose not to. Health insurance where the premium doesn’t depend much on the likelyhood of needing health care is a recipe for adverse selection.

          • Insurance is almost guaranteed to have a perceived wealth transfer element to it, as people usually make a different assessment of their risk than the insurer (and usually more accurate).

            That doesn’t give you a wealth transfer, since the insurance companies are allowing for it in their pricing–they have to cover their costs, after all. The wealth transfer happens if the insurance company consistently overestimates the risk for one group, underestimates it for another. In an ordinary market, that isn’t likely to happen, because if the groups are well enough defined so their members know if they are winners or losers, the health company statisticians will know too.

            What happened with Obama care was that it became illegal for health insurance companies to price based on risk–they had to overcharge the young and healthy, subsidize the old and unhealthy. The people who were being overcharged and knew they were naturally wanted out.

            The penalty for not being insured was supposed to prevent that, but, presumably for political reasons, it wasn’t set high enough to actually do the job.

          • engleberg says:

            @mdet- okay, by ‘well-off’ you meant young and healthy, not wealthy. On rereading, you said that the first time. Makes sense.

            I know a couple friends of friends who have to pay the Obamacare penalty for not having insurance. They aren’t well-off in either sense- not rich, not young and healthy. The fines won’t be paid quickly or completely. Maybe they get a suspended sentence, maybe just a crappier credit rating, maybe low wages get garnished. Won’t improve their health.

            These aren’t politically connected people either, so no real push to quit hosing them from D or R.

  7. meh says:

    Does the opposite of identity politics have to be white working class?

    • Yaleocon says:

      More pointedly, how is anything which appeals to a group characterizable as [race]+[class] not just another form of identity politics?

      Identity politics = democratic politics; any time anyone calls it a “numbers game” or analyzes differential turnout between groups, that’s what they’re doing. No escaping it.

      • Bugmaster says:

        When I say “identity politics”, I mean something like, “appealing to one demographic group by demonizing their outgroup”, not just “tailoring your message to a specific demographic group”. This is why identity politics is a dangerous game: today you appeal to Christians by demonizing gays, tomorrow public opinion turns against you, and now you are forever known as “that one crazy guy who hates gays so no one votes for him”.

        • John Colanduoni says:

          But Trump did demonize the outgroup of his supporters. He just mostly went after a small group of elites in their outgroup (the media, the Washington swamp) and illegal immigrants/certain nationalities. This has the advantage of being relatively precise, and not like firing a submachine gun in a crowd filled with voters like the “deplorables” comment.

          • owentt says:

            If you’re trying to win an election, setting foreigners and elites that hate their own people as your despised outgroups is a smart choice.

            Picking the single largest demographic in the country, like working class white people, is less clever.

      • ChetC3 says:

        Appealing to my preferred identity isn’t politics, it’s sound governance.

    • cassander says:

      The opposte of identity politics is refusing to talk about racial categories as relevant.

    • shenanigans24 says:

      Because the white working class doesn’t vote as a single block like other ethnic groups.

      • Mary says:

        Didn’t.

        Still doesn’t, to some extent. But there’s signs of change.

        • Kevin C. says:

          Still doesn’t, to some extent. But there’s signs of change.

          But enough change to counter the shrinking demographic share? Will we manage to become a “voting block” before we’re too small a fraction of the population to have much power no matter how uniformly we vote?

  8. meh says:

    > “am I reading somebody trying to rationally present their argument for my evaluation? Or am I reading an emotional appeal written by someone who thinks facts don’t matter?”

    Same with Scott Adams.

    • herbert herberson says:

      With Scott Adams you’re reading the rhetorical equivalent of one of those guys who does a magic show where he reveals how all the tricks were done, but in this case the guy in question has nonetheless convinced himself that Magic Is Real.

      • engleberg says:

        That’s really good. And what’s more, I think Scott Adams would agree.

      • aeneasrex says:

        It’s even worse. He not only knows how thr magic is done, he advocates for its use to cynically bambooze people, and then has spontaneous amnesia whenever the reality of magic bebefits his case.

      • jimmy says:

        but in this case the guy in question has nonetheless convinced himself that Magic Is Real.

        It’s not so much “magic is real” as it is “there is nothing else”.

        • engleberg says:

          Maybe if you lose ‘nonetheless’ Scott Adams would agree more strongly. (Not him, no mind reader, not sure).

  9. The psychology of politics is such that losing candidates are always personally blamed, especially by supporters. You lost, but another candidate, someone better than you, might have won. The outcome turned on your mistakes. Whatever positive, attractive qualities you had are completely forgotten, and your faults are writ large.

    Think back to Romney, McCain, Kerry, Gore, Dole, Dukakis, Mondale, McGovern (leaving out the ones who lost as incumbents). Each of them was vilified and ridiculed for losing the election, as if they hadn’t tried their best to be successful. Now Hillary Clinton has joined that club.

    I don’t claim to be immune to this. This morning, at a panel discussion in front of an audience, in the course of answering a question about the election, I cited her personal qualities as one factor in the outcome. Another member of the panel pointed to mistakes made by her campaign.

    But this was all well known before the election. Hillary Clinton is not a natural politician like her husband. And all her campaign organizations have been notably low bang-for-the-buck, substituting money for enthusiasm whenever possible.

    All that being said, it is extremely difficult to keep the White House in the same partisan hands for the third consecutive term. The presidency is the balance wheel of American politics. The president is blamed for everything and gets credit for nothing. and whichever party has the presidency tends to lose everything else, while the opposition steadily gains issues and potential candidates.

    Meanwhile, Trump rode the crest of an-idea-whose-time-has-come.

    Considering all that, Hillary did remarkably well.

    • Dabbler says:

      Larry Kestenbaum- I’ve heard people say that Hillary Clinton’s skill and success was mostly in coalition-building amongst various groups and people that were politically involved, and that she screwed up everything else. What do you think of that?

      • I’ve heard people say that Hillary Clinton’s skill and success was mostly in coalition-building amongst various groups and people that were politically involved, and that she screwed up everything else. What do you think of that?

        That sounds like a pretty fair statement.

      • cassander says:

        When did she do that? Not as a senator. Not as First lady.

      • keranih says:

        I’m with Cass on this – I’ve never heard that she was good in bringing people together. Served as a granter of favors when she had the power to do so, which brought the self-serving to the table that she sat at – yes, I’ve heard that.

        Convinced people without a pre-existing incentive to do so to work with her, NSM. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      I can’t say I really agree with this. Maybe it speaks to Obama being an exceptional candidate rather than Hillary a weak one (or both), but I get the definite impression that Obama would have wiped the floor with Trump. Furthermore, Obama is not leaving office the way Bush the Younger did, i.e. despised by the great majority of the country. Obama was an asset to Clinton’s campaign, while Bush the Younger was a millstone around McCain’s neck – recall the effort McCain made to distance himself from the Presidency he would have inherited.

      Nor do I think Rubio, Cruz, Jeb!, etc. would have won against Hillary, because they (unlike Trump) were not aboard (as you put it) the idea-whose-time-has-come. My estimate is that the Democrats, armed with a reasonably popular outgoing President, were poised to remain in the White House – and they screwed it up. Bernie’s insurgent campaign and decision to fight on; the DNC’s awful inner workings; Hillary’s unlikeable persona; and serious campaign and messaging blunders – all of it contributed to the disastrous campaign.

      • I can’t say I really agree with this. Maybe it speaks to Obama being an exceptional candidate rather than Hillary a weak one (or both), but I get the definite impression that Obama would have wiped the floor with Trump.

        Yes, Obama is exceptional, and yes, he would have won. But that’s a little different scenario. An incumbent president personally running for re-election has a lot of inherent strength that isn’t transferable to the proxy. Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bill Clinton could all have won third terms, too. The two-term limit is part of the clockwork that forces each party to become vulnerable to the other.

        Nor do I think Rubio, Cruz, Jeb!, etc. would have won against Hillary, because they (unlike Trump) were not aboard (as you put it) the idea-whose-time-has-come.

        I’m dubious about that. I mean, Cruz had his own special problems, but I think Rubio, Cruz, or Kasich would all have been favored to win versus Hillary.

        • Progressive Reformation says:

          Fair point on Obama, though I was trying to contrast him with Bush the Younger, who definitely would not have won reelection in 2008.

          On your “presidents who could have won re-election”: for Eisenhower, I think the 1950s are such a different era it doesn’t tell us much; for Reagan, note that the Republican candidate, Bush the Elder, did win at the end of Reagan’s 2nd term; and for Clinton, note that Gore came within inches of winning and would have handily won had (a) an unusually popular Green candidate not run that year, and (b) the Florida ballot been designed properly.

          In short, I think the small amount of available evidence backs up my position, that a popular outgoing President is an advantage, not a disadvantage. Of course, it is possible that keeping the Presidency after 2 terms is difficult if outgoing Presidents tend to not be popular, but this doesn’t have any bearing on whether Hillary could have been expected to lose, as you claim.

          [I am curious – given that you claim that Hillary “did remarkably well”, did you already expect her to lose before the election?]

          Finally, I don’t think there is any way to test who is right on the issue of establishment-Repub-vs.-Hillary, but here is my reasoning. All the Republican candidates you list – Rubio, Jeb! [I presume, given the first part of your sentence, that you meant him and not Cruz], and Kasich – carried the same cozy-with-the-bankers vibe that I think did so much to hurt Hillary. The Democrats carry a demographic advantage on the federal level, and so doing a mirror-matchup (Liberal Interventionist Globalist vs. Conservative Interventionist Globalist) would have had a very poor chance of success. Maybe, maybe, Kasich would have been different, though his electability is questionable too.

          • Brad says:

            and for Clinton, note that Gore came within inches of winning and would have handily won had (a) an unusually popular Green candidate not run that year, and (b) the Florida ballot been designed properly.

            Although we’ll never see another election like 2000, it’s worth keeping in mind that by any other standard this was an extraordinarily close election. Just flipping Jill Stein’s votes in PA, MI, & WI would have been enough to put Clinton over the top.

            Which is my biggest objection to the whole let’s totally revamp the Democratic Party idea. We know what a national collapse looks like. 2016 wasn’t it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            Except the 2016 election exposed some deep structural problems in the Democratic party. Super delegates, collusion/corruption, progressive stack order disputes (illegals vs blacks, muslims vs gays).

            The Democratic party is leftist ideologues plus a coalition of minority grievance groups who aren’t really ideological leftists. I don’t know how easily the cracks in the coalition can be patched up.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Just flipping Jill Stein’s votes in PA, MI, & WI would have been enough to put Clinton over the top.

            Sounds like a good cue to plug for RCV/Instant Runoffs

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I don’t think your analysis is correct. It appears to blow things way out of proportion. The coalition looks fine to me going forward.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad
            Right now they’re united in their hatred for Trump, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens in 2020. Especially when 2018 is unlikely to go well for Democrats, at least in the senate. That class came in on Obama’s coattails in 2012, so if you take away the safe red and safe blue seats, you’ve got I want to say 9 purple seats up for grabs, and it’s 1 republican and 8 democrats. So in the actually contested seats in 2018 the dems have to win 9 races to pick up 1 seat. So, they’ll be going into 2020 without any big wins to pull everybody together. It’ll be interesting and we’ll see what happens.

        • owentt says:

          There’s no plausible map for Rubio to win against Hillary. He’s very unpopular in VA suburbs and has no appeal to white working class voters in the Midwest states.

          Some suggest the SW was a possible place to Rubio to win some states, but Mexican-Americans have no cultural affinity for upper crust Cubans at all and NV and CO were ruined in advance by Rubio’s strong promise to end legal marijuana which is an extremely powerful issue in the west.

          Kasich, Cruz, and Jeb! would have been even less likely to win against Hillary. Trump was the only Republican available in 2016 that stood a chance.

          And with continued demographic drift due to mass immigration, Democrats will be even stronger in 2020. Also their candidate will be much better. We’re going to have a lot of blue presidents from now on.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Rubio, Cruz, or Kasich would all have been favored to win versus Hillary.

          I don’t see the white working class breaking the blue wall for Rubio, Cruz, or Kasich. They were not populists riding a populist wave. Trump was.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Obama may be personally liked, but look at the state of his party after 8 years of him. This is pretty much the least power they’ve ever held, all the more damning when you consider how much they had at the start of his term. Obama definitely shoulders a lot of the blame for that.

      • Nyx says:

        Obama was an exceptional candidate. Hillary Clinton’s vote total as a share of the electorate was actually well in line with previous presidential candidates… excepting Obama who is clearly visible as a peak on the chart (and Reagan if you go further back). Maybe you can chalk that up to “Democrats and Republicans alike tend to field terrible candidates”, but if the normal is “terrible”, then yes, Hillary Clinton is a terrible, normal candidate.

        • engleberg says:

          Obama was the first black president. First black president in 2008 wasn’t any too soon. Black voters noticed ‘first black president in 2008 wasn’t any too soon’. So’d most voters- I voted for him in 2008. He was an okay candidate, but ‘first black president in 2008 wasn’t any too soon’ is a big deal. Ross Perot was clean-cut and confident, big ears too, and you notice you never see Ross Perot and a bottle of shoe polish in the same room with Obama, but ‘first black president in 2008 wasn’t any too soon’ is a big deal.

          • keranih says:

            Right. But he was “first black president OMG!” his first day in office. With three years and 364 days still to go.

            I could have waited another twenty years for “first black president OMG” if it had come bundled into a person who could actually do the job. Now we’re stuck with “an ok guy who wouldn’t have gotten elected if he wasn’t black” as our “first black president OMG”, and we’re never getting those eight years back.

            And we have Trump. At least to some degree because “first black president OMG” over-rode the majority of voters’ thinking circuits.

            Here’s hoping we dump this identity stuff –
            including WWC identity – and go back to only electing “old white men” so that there’s at least the pretense of voting on the issues.

          • engleberg says:

            Trump, Obama, Hillary- all rich bloviators. We haven’t had a president who was obviously prequalified to be president since Eisenhower; we have no candidates. I like that Trump is willing to float a lot of trial balloons, he’s good with punchy five-sentence paragraphs, anyone who spends a half century in NY real estate has political experience, and he’s run big organizations before, but it’s not like he won D-Day.

            Obama wasn’t a bad president, just a bad administrator. And ‘first black president in 2008 wasn’t any too soon’ is still a big deal, OMG for very sooth.

          • cassander says:

            @engleberg

            . We haven’t had a president who was obviously prequalified to be president since Eisenhower

            Hard to argue that about Bush the Elder. I’m actually not a fan of his presidency, but he had a hell of a good resume. Navy pilot in ww2, congressman, successful oilman, UN ambassador, RNC chair, china ambassador, CIA head, and VP.

            Obama wasn’t a bad president, just a bad administrator.

            Could you elaborate on this? Being a passable administrator seems to me a basic requirement for being a good president. that or extreme luck.

          • Incurian says:

            he’s good with punchy five-sentence paragraphs, anyone who spends a half century in NY real estate has political experience, and he’s run big organizations before, but it’s not like he won D-Day.

            A tangent: holy crap the operations order for D Day was short. 5 pages, 14 with appendices. You couldn’t plan a picnic in the park these days without twice that.

          • engleberg says:

            @’Hard to argue that about Bush the Elder’
            Long resume, and he’s closer than Obama or JFK, but he never ran the Allied Army in Europe or any big huge internationally important organization before election.

            @’Being a passable administrator seems to me necessary to be a good president.’
            Yes, and Obama wasn’t a good president, but he wasn’t bad either. Good instincts in a fight, kept us out of war, oversaw the killing of Bin Laden, dignified, could deliver a set speech, not openly corrupt in office (I’m still mad the Clintons took a half-billion dollar bribe from Microsoft’s enemies to sic the Justice Department on Microsoft). Obamaphones worked, Obamacare fails.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Somewhat OT, but one thing that has always puzzled me was why, approximately eight years ago, nobody seemed willing to admit that President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded because he was the first black President. I remember phrases like “the not being George Bush prize” and other dancing around the subject.

            Am I mistaken that this was the reason? Am I mistaken that nobody said so? If I’m not mistaken about either of these, is there another explanation?

          • cassander says:

            @engleberg says:

            Allied Army in Europe or any big huge internationally important organization before election.

            I’m not sure what counts as “big huge internationally important organization”, but surely multiple tours as an ambassador counts for something there. Andy while I wouldn’t say military command is a bad thing, it also is very different from a US style political executive. I’d rank a successful state governorship above military command.

            Yes, and Obama wasn’t a good president, but he wasn’t bad either. Good instincts in a fight, kept us out of war,

            He started, by my count, 3 wars. 4 if you count the afghan surge and 5 if you count going back into iraq. All of which are still going, mind you, in substantial part because while his instinct was to stay out, he wasn’t willing to take the political hits that required and so instead just committed half heartedly, which is the worst possible way to fight a war.

            oversaw the killing of Bin Laden

            Something that would have happened under any president besides joe biden.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Am I mistaken that this was the reason? Am I mistaken that nobody said so?

            I don’t recall hearing anyone saying so either, though I’m sure someone did. As I recall, George W. Bush was roundly hated by the European elites, so the “Not George Bush” prize made perfect sense. (That Obama then proceeded to become George Bush in terms of foreign policy was cosmic irony)

          • Protagoras says:

            Honestly, it’s almost as if there’s a rule that at least a quarter of Nobel peace prizes must be somewhere on a spectrum from ironic to absurd, and they’ve been trying to catch up in the past few decades for not quite meeting that quota in the early years.

          • cassander says:

            The way I put it is that if you want to win a nobel peace prize as an american president, you need to screw someone over really badly. Teddy Roosevelt got it for screwing the Japanese, Woodrow Wilson got it for screwing the Germans, and Obama got it for screwing John Mccain.

          • hlynkacg says:

            …not to mention most of the Middle East and north Africa.

          • John Schilling says:

            nobody seemed willing to admit that President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded because he was the first black President. I remember phrases like “the not being George Bush prize” and other dancing around the subject.

            Am I mistaken that this was the reason?

            I believe that you are. Paul Krugman isn’t black, and won a Nobel for essentially repudiating Bush/GOP economic policies, so we know the Nobel committee was handing out anti-Bush Nobels independent of race. And the bit where white guilt leads to people handing out special favors to black people, to the extent that it is a thing at all, is more of an American thing than a Swedish thing.

            So, I believe that Obama did in fact get one of the “We hate George W. Bush” Nobel prizes, not a hypothetical “First Black US President” prize.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            It would hardly be a “special favour”, though. At least, it seems like a genuine achievement to me. (I’m also kind of skeptical of the assertion that Paul Krugman’s prize was politically motivated. Not that I’d be able to tell, you understand, I’m just generically skeptical.)

          • Aapje says:

            It seems to me that the Nobel peace prize is basically a ‘you go, girl’ by intellectual & globalist Norwegians. Because they want to improve the world by giving the prize, the prize is often given hot on the heels of some development or even prematurely, to boost a side in a conflict or such.

            So Kissinger got the prize for pulling out of Vietnam, despite his actions most likely having enabled the Khmer Rouge to gain power and murder 2 million people. The EU got the prize in 2012 because of the rise of euro-skepticism. Santos got the most recent prize just before his people nixed the FARC peace deal in a referendum (oops). He managed to salvage it by revising it slightly and not holding a new referendum.

            This sensitivity to hype and partisanship is in stark contrast to the other Nobels, which are given very, very conservatively, many years after the work was done, to ensure that the work holds up.

        • engleberg says:

          @’nobody seemed willing to admit Obama’s Nobel was for being first black president.’

          We’re ashamed. I was kind of relieved they papered it over with ‘please screw Israel, here’s a prize in advance’.

          @’I’m not sure what counts as ‘big huge internationally important organization’
          Me neither, but winning D-Day and conquering Germany about does it. I liked Ted Nugent saying he didn’t want anyone who’d run the CIA to run America. Still voted for B the Elder, personally.

          @ ‘He started, by my count, three wars’
          By my count he mostly just surged some troops into hot spots. Dead Americans for nothing, more foreigners who hate us more than they fear us, but no new wars.

          @’the killing of bin laden would have happened under any president, except-‘
          Obama did good. He didn’t micromanage. He gave a direct declarative yes when they asked if they should go into Pakistan. He Presided. (Doesn’t make him Eisenhower, who would have phoned it in playing golf as a routine call, which it would have been, for Eisenhower even after his stroke.) Squad level stuff is random and risky, and Obama got lucky, but he did good. Bay of Pigs, Mayaguez, Jimmy Carter- this stuff is risky.

          That said, by ‘good instincts in a fight’ I mostly meant a general ‘he’s comfortable with confrontation’. Not that gay ‘I’m good at killing’.

    • JDG1980 says:

      Think back to Romney, McCain, Kerry, Gore, Dole, Dukakis, Mondale, McGovern (leaving out the ones who lost as incumbents). Each of them was vilified and ridiculed for losing the election, as if they hadn’t tried their best to be successful. Now Hillary Clinton has joined that club.

      Is that true? I think most reasonable people would agree that at least some of these candidates could have won under more favorable circumstances. To determine if a candidate is good or bad you have to come up with a hypothetical “average” candidate for that party for that year and compare them to that person. By this metric, for example, McGovern still underperforms even though a generic Democrat would likely have lost anyway due to strong fundamentals on the economy. McCain lost but he probably did a bit better than a generic Republican would have done in 2008, thanks to his war-hero status and credibility as a moderate. Hillary lost when a generic Democrat would almost certainly have won.

  10. The conclusion seems to be that you should be honest in your published work, which will be read mostly by members of your team, demagogic in your advertising, targeted at everyone else.

    One risk to this policy is that the other side will read your publications and quote them as part of their advertising. I’m thinking of the case of Jonathan Gruber who, speaking to a presumably sophisticated and friendly audience, openly admitted that Obamacare had been presented in a deliberately dishonest fashion in order to get it passed.

    The speech was recorded. And used by the opposition.

    • Dabbler says:

      David Friedman- What about simply trying to present things in the manner of rational argument, completely avoid emotion, and self-censoring anything which sounds like the opposition could use it against you? That seems to work a lot better.

      • Jacob says:

        That’s impossible. Censoring “anything the opposition could use” means removing a substantial amount of information on any topic. Only by a very limited (and useless) definition could that be considered a rational argument. Plus then you get accused of censorship (rightfully in this case) which people don’t like either.

      • That might be the least bad approach, but the censoring part is hard. How do you make honest arguments, within the movement, for your position when one of the important arguments is one that is, or can be portrayed as, politically unacceptable to some significant block of voters? It’s not as if every public intellectual and every involved politician has a censor filtering everything he says or writes.

        • 1soru1 says:

          The Chinese Communist party apparently does a reasonable job of this. Unlike virtual every other non-democracy, the party cadres do actually get to discuss and examine alternatives. But those discussions rarely leak.

          Doing the same in a party without access to the death penalty as a political sanction may be a bit tricky.

      • lycotic says:

        @Dabbler

        “seems to work”? How? Game theory says that’s unstable.

    • onyomi says:

      Voters don’t like candidates who run on serious, detailed policy proposals. Voters don’t like incumbents who govern on the basis of vague emotional appeals and grand visions. They also don’t like people who say one thing and do another, or have a “public stance” and a “private stance.”

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        For an average voter, it is useless to consider detailed policy proposals, unless that particular voter happens to be an expert in the thing that is being proposed and has access to all relevant data (and time to process it all). For all others, it would be relatively easy to create a proposal that would look plausible (or even awesome – like “free stuff for all!”) but would end up in an utter disaster when implemented. And for an average voter, it is very hard to know one from another, if the proposal is not obviously idiotic (not that there’s not a plenty of those – some people can’t be bothered to even diligently try to fool the voters). We used to have people that we could rely on to honestly figure out such things for us and publish the results, or at least I heard rumors such people existed, and for a small sum of money you could buy a piece of paper where such results are printed. Now what we’re getting is mostly propaganda sprinkled with confirmation bias with a bunch of cherry-picked facts on top (unless you read scientific peer-reviewed press, which virtually nobody among average voters does, or could adequately make sense of it if they wanted to). There are “left” economists and “right” economists – doesn’t this say everything you need to know? When a scientific pursuit gets a political adjective, it’s time to get out, or at least drop pretense it’s about science anymore. Unless of course you can make sense of it under your own steam, which maybe Scott can, but vast majority of voters can’t.

        So what the voter does? The voter votes for a person that appears most likely to a) have preferences aligned with this voter’s preferences and b) be able to hire people that can implement those preferences. To know that, one needs no detailed proposals at all.

        They also don’t like people who say one thing and do another, or have a “public stance” and a “private stance.”

        Of course, see above, because that subverts the obvious strategy for detecting preferences. If you can’t figure out what are true preferences of the candidate, you keep out.

      • Deiseach says:

        Yes, but what voters expect is that on the stump you have the charismatic candidate with the grand unifying vision for what they hope to achieve in office, and the details of the policy will be worked out by the backroom staff who dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Voters also – or should, in my opinion – have a slightly cynical view of campaign promises as nothing more than sprats to catch a mackerel and that when in power, there will be an adjustment to the “chicken in every pot” promising.

        It’s a tricky balance between having an airy, all sizzle and no substance campaign message that the voters can see through as having no substance and having a dense, detailed, wonkish message that turns them off and bores them silly. But it can be done. Heck, even the vapid sloganeering can get you elected, as we see with Obama’s first campaign on “Hope and Change”. There’s nothing you could call a concrete policy initiative to get your teeth into there, and while a section of the media lost the run of themselves in dizzy paroxysms of delight and tingles down their legs, to be fair nobody wanted to kick the tyres because they wanted so hard to believe it could be so.

        If you take Obama’s nomination victory speech literally, he sounds like a fruitcake: his selection is what is going to make the sea levels stop rising? But if you take it as the kind of Great Message that is involved in campaign sloganeering, it works:

        Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.

        So you send out your candidate with the soaring rhetoric, and you get the bright lads and lasses working on the nitty-gritty of the policy details, and you distill down those details into a digestible bullet-point list for the candidate to reel off in the TV debates.

        It’s not rocket science but it does take some fine-tuning. But it can be done, and it is being done. And if Hillary’s campaign couldn’t manage to do it, then they did fail not because of “it was the Russians, it was Comey, it was misogyny and sexism, it was the dog ate my homework”, it was their own failure.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t think it’s correct to “modulate” your message so much that it seems deceptive. If I wonkishly debate policy in some magazine, but yell about the rich on TV, it’s hard for someone to quote that in order to establish I’m lying.

      • How can you seriously discuss health care policy without conceding that there will always be some version of death panels, some mechanism that allocates a limited supply of medical resources with the result that some people die whose lives could have been saved with a different allocation?

        And once you have conceded that, in print or in front of a video recorder, how do you use death panel demagoguery to tar your opponent’s health care proposal? But he, never having conceded that, can use it to tar yours.

        Perhaps the solution is to divide your team in half. You have a bunch of intellectual types who openly and honestly debate all the issues and a bunch of politicians who pretend that the intellectuals in their team have no connection to them, so they can’t be held responsible for what those intellectuals say.

        • Spookykou says:

          It doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult to discuss almost every important aspect of health care/health care reform(in articles and magazines and behind closed doors etc) without speaking directly to death panels in a quotable way. I don’t think they are terrible important to the entire edifice of health care. All politicians give evasive answers, so you certainly don’t need to avoid them completely, have an evasive answer for death panels in the event that someone tries to call you out on it, and you are set.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “How do you decide what procedures are and are not covered?” is not a tiny little detail about a health care system.

          • Spookykou says:

            I just assumed, maybe in error, that the fact in and of itself that we have to have a system to determine what procedures are and are not covered would not generate juicy soundbites about death panels. I also assumed the context in question was, ‘article about healthcare reform’ in which I would not think that the meaty details of exactly which old people we are going to let die needed to be included.

            Obviously the laws themselves would have to include damning details, but by the time drafts of bills are being torn apart, the election in question would already be over/by the time you are looking at drafts of bills, the playing field is leveled again, because both sides will have to include some version of your quoted bit.

          • Aapje says:

            @Edward

            And yet it is a question that smart politicians refuse to answer (as in: BS their way out of), because it only causes lost votes by people who are upset that they won’t get what they want, but no one who gets what they want will thank them for it.

          • Spookykou says:

            Agreed, I don’t think anyone should spend a lot of/any time speaking to it directly, I just didn’t think it would be that hard to ‘wonkishly debate policy in some magazine’, without speaking directly to it. I could be wrong on how pervasive it is in the system, or how hard it is to avoid speaking about it, I have no first hand knowledge of the issues in question here.

          • keranih says:

            @ Spookykou –

            (A note – you are once again showing why you are such a good addition to this space.)

            I would not think that the meaty details of exactly which old people we are going to let die needed to be included.

            “Exactly” which old people, no.

            But the whole reason we need to have this debate/why some people think we need da gubmit to fix the problem is to keep as many old people from dying as are currently doing so.

            It’s not to save kids, nor to keep working age people healthy. Those are not – not in any developed country – the primary drivers of health care cost. The primary cost is non-ER care of very aged people.

            Plus, the values of the USA being what they are, for any system, we’re going to take care of the kids and the workers first. So when we start cutting costs, it’s going to start with old people. Which ones will we let die while we decline to provide more care?

            (Note that we do let some die now – mostly homeless or solitary drunks with mental issues. These might be the same ones that would die under other systems, and they might not.)

            This is a choice that will have to be made. I don’t think we need to pre-commit to *exactly* which ones get let die, but we do need to a) acknowledge that the choice will be made and b) agree on who gets to make that choice.

            Right now, families with money can feel pretty sure that they won’t have Grannie’s care denied if the family is willing to foot the bill. Those families want assurances that the “free” health care doesn’t come with fine print that says someone else can decide to not foot the bill.

            And families with money are more likely to vote, call their rep, and scream at hospital administrators than people without money.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @keranih,

            Right now, families with money can feel pretty sure that they won’t have Grannie’s care denied if the family is willing to foot the bill. Those families want assurances that the “free” health care doesn’t come with fine print that says someone else can decide to not foot the bill.

            I don’t understand. How could that possibly be an issue? Surely nobody is proposing that private health care be criminalized?

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Surely nobody is proposing that private health care be criminalized?

            You mean, like it is in Canada?

          • Yes. No one is proposing that private healthcare be criminalised like it is in two Canadian provinces, and like it isn’t under every other public Healthcare system.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I gather that the laws in question are being challenged, too. Nevertheless, the presence of such a law in a neighbouring country, no matter how much of a bizarre anomaly it is, nicely explains why it is an issue; I think the rationalist term is “availability heuristic”? Thanks.

          • keranih says:

            @ Harry –

            You seem to be under the impression that we can provide more healthcare to more people for less money than is currently being spent.

            In other words, you assume that moderately wealthy family Smith – who is currently paying a non-trivial amount to insure Grannie – will have more spare change laying around, after the taxes go into effect to pay for Whatevercare, than they do now, so they will be able to afford “extra” insurance to cover Grannie Smith for what medical care the state refuses to cover.

            Firstly, they won’t have extra money, they’ll have less. Secondly, they have figured out how to make the system work for them now, and Whatevercare will mean they’ll have to learn a new system.

            Thirdly, no one expects to love a government system in the USA. We know what government service looks like, when it’s provided by government workers who can’t be fired, who themselves have no authority to fire their under-performing workers, and who have to waste extraordinary amounts of time adhering to every regulation in the books, and we overwhelmingly prefer any sort of market alternative.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @keranih, well, you should in principle be able to gain some efficiency overall by cutting the bulk of the insurance company’s profits out of the picture. Building at least some public hospitals rather than just subsidizing privately run ones might also help, for the same reason.

            However, I don’t pretend to know whether the numbers could be made to work, even if the political issues could magically be resolved. My question wasn’t premised on this idea. It was just a question.

            So, your first point is relevant, in that it helps to clarify what you actually meant, as opposed to what you seemed to me to be saying. Thank you. As for your second and third points, they are interesting, but not relevant to my question.

            … to put it another way, I think that you think my question was a rhetorical one. For the record, it wasn’t.

            (I do have to wonder why nobody, President Trump included, seems to want to do anything about the last problem you mention. It isn’t a fact of nature that government workers can’t be fired, after all.)

            … yes, OK, that question was a little bit rhetorical. 🙂

          • @Keranih

            You have a great theoretical argument , but, empirically, public healthcare systems can deliver more for less.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You have a great theoretical argument , but, empirically, public healthcare systems can deliver more for less.

            “. . . because the US a private health care system, and the rest of the world uses public health care systems.”

            Which isn’t true, of course. It’s like fans of public systems haven’t even taken 5 minutes to read Ezra Klein’s “What Liberals Don’t Get About Single Payer.”

            Really, I wouldn’t mind one of those European systems. But when they are sold to the American public as “more for less, it’s gonna be great, everyone’s gonna love it,” we are failing to realize the serious trade-offs that are involved, and trying to implement one of those systems without the trade-offs means disaster.

          • Brad says:

            There are some trade-offs from the patient point of view, though some are in areas where preferences are irrational (e.g. a preference for counterproductive treatment).

            However, there are also trade-offs that simply redistribute from providers to patients. There the patients just come out ahead. Perhaps there are long term recruiting issues, but the evidence from other countries suggest otherwise. It appears that much excess physician income, for example, is just deadweight loss to rent.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If 80% of doctors and 80% of nurses line up against your proposed regulation to stop them from earning so much money so you get better coverage, how do you think the politics play out? Especially because you haven’t prepared people ahead of time by saying “by the way, doctors suck.”

            Nor are those “patient doesn’t understand outcomes” situations easily glossed over. Most Americans consider “it’s between you and your doctor” to be a terminal value. If the doctor says it could save your life but the government/insurance won’t pay for it, what next?

          • Brad says:

            I’ve been doing my part in saying doctors suck, or more accurately that doctors should be thought of the same way one thinks of a car mechanic.

          • Really, I wouldn’t mind one of those European systems. But when they are sold to the American public as “more for less, it’s gonna be great, everyone’s gonna love it,” we are failing to realize the serious trade-offs that are involved, and trying to implement one of those systems without the trade-offs means disaster.

            How about saying what they are?

            If 80% of doctors and 80% of nurses line up against your proposed regulation to stop them from earning so much money so you get better coverage, how do you think the politics play out? Especially because you haven’t prepared people ahead of time by saying “by the way, doctors suck.”

            How do you think that problem was solved when the NHS was implemented? Because there certainly was opposition in the profession at the time.

          • I gather that the laws in question are being challenged, too. Nevertheless, the presence of such a law in a neighbouring country, no matter how much of a bizarre anomaly it is, nicely explains why it is an issue; I think the rationalist term is “availability heuristic”? Thanks.

            The availability heuristic would explain why many people take the Canadian arrangement to be the norm, although there is still a puzzle about why so many supposedly smart and rational people do as well.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            How about saying what [the tradeoffs] are?

            I don’t want this to come across as “it’s not my job to educate you” or something like that, because those tradeoffs are important to talk about, but this sounds like you think there are no tradeoffs. Do you really think that?

            How do you think that problem was solved when the NHS was implemented? Because there certainly was opposition in the profession at the time.

            NHS was implemented nearly 70 years ago. Medical costs have been rising in the US for a long time. Had someone bent the cost curve 70 years ago, things would be different now, but trying to suddenly snap one system into the place of the other is going to have incredible pushback.

            GPs make 160K (USD) in the US and 100K (USD) in Canada. How much did the implementation of NHS cut doctors’ wages between 1946 and 1948?

            It may have kept wages from rising fast, and that is something useful the US could copy. But it’s a bait-and-switch, among dozens of other bait-and-switches, where we are sold “this will help us save a bunch of money right off the bat” and actually buying “duh, you idiot, everybody knew that we weren’t talking about cutting costs today, this was about cutting costs in 40 years.”

        • Incurian says:

          You have a bunch of intellectual types who openly and honestly debate all the issues and a bunch of politicians who pretend that the intellectuals in their team have no connection to them, so they can’t be held responsible for what those intellectuals say.

          Is this team motte and bailey not the status quo?

  11. The Element of Surprise says:

    As far as I experienced it from across the pond, there seemed to have been lots of emotional campaigning from the Democrats as well? Remember “deplorables”, Trump-is-an-Antisemite, “alt-right” everywhere etc. Is this an article about how Hillary just happened to be a less charismatic candidate than Trump (which almost didn’t matter), or do Democrats actually use less appeal to emotion when campaigning for positions in lower levels of government?

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      I don’t know that “my opponent’s campaign manager is one of the key members of a borderline-Nazi movement” is, strictly speaking, an emotional appeal. It kind of goes to policy as well. You might expect an alt-right-influenced regime to have particular attitudes to even legal immigration, for example, or towards commemorating the holocaust.

      • Progressive Reformation says:

        Categorizing Bannon as anything even approaching a Nazi is absurd. Ergo, total emotional appeal.

        Now, alt-right is a valid label for Bannon, and you might rightly (see what I did? … I’ll see myself out) expect certain things regarding immigration. As for commemorating the Holocaust, (a) I don’t think the US government’s commemoration of it is a serious issue, and (b) given that Trump has Jewish grandchildren, I don’t see why there is any reason to worry regardless.

        • Null42 says:

          I agree American Jews are probably going to be OK at least through the end of the Trump administration (unless WW3 starts, in which case they will be blown up with everyone else). Even Bannon’s antisemitism is basically based on a report in a divorce trial, where both parties can be expected to make the other look as awful as possible.

          The thing IMHO is that (a) Jews are pretty nervous about another Holocaust given that a previously benign government suddenly snapped and killed 6 million of them–think about what that does to your risk-benefit calculus (b) Trump isn’t a Nazi, but a small, loud minority of his supporters like to alternate between saying the Holocaust never happened but it was a great thing that it did, and sending prominent Jews death threats and pictures of them and their children photoshopped into death camps (c) there’s a general feeling if you read the left-leaning Jewish periodicals like the Forward, Tikkun, etc. that a general rise in racism against other groups will also lead to antisemitism which seems to be somewhat borne out by the rise in incidents even after you subtract hoaxes like that Israeli guy making computer-generated bomb threats.

          Bannon ironically isn’t considered true alt-right because he hasn’t openly argued for a racialized politics–you may remember his plans involved getting 30-40% of the minority vote. (His lack of overt antisemitism also annoys those guys.) He’s more into clash of civilizations and being against Islam and globalization.

          • abc says:

            but a small, loud minority of his supporters like to alternate between saying the Holocaust never happened but it was a great thing that it did,

            A significantly larger minority of Democratic supporters also do this, but they tend to be Muslims so pointing this out is “Islamophobic”.

            there’s a general feeling if you read the left-leaning Jewish periodicals like the Forward, Tikkun, etc. that a general rise in racism against other groups will also lead to antisemitism

            Except the other groups in question tend to themselves be much much more anti-semitic than whites while not suffering from white-guilt.

            which seems to be somewhat borne out by the rise in incidents even after you subtract hoaxes like that Israeli guy making computer-generated bomb threats.

            Except most of the actual bomb threats tend to be made by people who are some combination of liberal, black, and/or Muslim.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            @ Null42

            You’re right that many Jews are worried about another Holocaust, though your point about a “previously benign government” puzzles me. The Nazis were quite open about their anti-semitism, obviously, and I don’t think you can count the pre-1932 Weimar government as “the same government”. The NSDAP took over the government, not the other way around.

            I’m half-Jewish, and I’m personally also afraid. But it is neither Trump nor Bannon that scares me, it’s the so-called Social Justice movement. If that sounds weird, let me explain: (a) the SJ movement, while it claims to be anti-racist, is obviously willing to be extremely racist as long as its targets are considered “privileged”; (b) according to the SJ theory-of-the-world, if one group does better than another it can only be due to some sort of oppressive force exerted by the former onto the latter; (c) it is really hard to not notice the insanely high proportion of Jews in finance, the media, Hollywood, higher education, government, etc. There seems to be a concerted effort to divert attention from this extremely obvious fact, which is understandable but very counterproductive in my view as it reinforces the “conspiracy” angle of the whole thing.

            Put (a), (b), and (c) together run them through the computer. Add in things like the Nation of Islam and its links to many Social-Justice / Civil Rights icons (e.g. Jesse Jackson), or the Crown Heights Riot. The results aren’t pretty.

            Also, abc is right insofar as most so-called antisemitic incidents post-Trump have been hoaxes or misunderstandings (like how this guy was actually trying to make an anti-Trump statement).

          • Brad says:

            I’m half-Jewish, and I’m personally also afraid [of a second holocaust]. But it is neither Trump nor Bannon that scares me, it’s the so-called Social Justice movement. If that sounds weird, let me explain:

            Anywhere else it would be weird and require some reasonable explanation. Here it is entirely expected.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            Just a quick clarification @ Brad: I’m not afraid of “a second Holocaust” per se, but of pogrom-style antisemitic violence. I don’t think America, as a State, will ever reach the necessary levels of organized antisemitism to create a new Holocaust. But it seems plausible that less-successful communities (not even minority communities, necessarily) might blame the Jews for their problems and vent their resentment in violent outbreaks (bolstered by the quasi-Fanonian elements of the theory of Social Justice, which can absolve violence). The Crown Heights Riot is the clearest example of this dynamic at work (against Jews, at least) in the US.

            PS. Also, I’m not quite sure if you mean that in a good way or bad way. Care to clarify?

          • Aapje says:

            He means it in a bad way.

            Anti-SJ voices are common here. Brad disapproves (at least to how the objections are expressed).

          • Brad says:

            But it seems plausible that less-successful communities (not even minority communities, necessarily) might blame the Jews for their problems and vent their resentment in violent outbreaks (bolstered by the quasi-Fanonian elements of the theory of Social Justice, which can absolve violence). The Crown Heights Riot is the clearest example of this dynamic at work (against Jews, at least) in the US.

            I was living in NY during the Crown Heights Riots and am very familiar with them. They had nothing at all to do with the social justice boogieman, if for no other reason than because it hadn’t yet been invented in 1991.

            They were the result of very local issues. Not Jews more generally or any kind of larger antisemitism but specifically as a result of tensions between the insular Lubuvich community that had (and has) a lot of political muscle in Brooklyn politics and the other residents of the neighborhood.

            Getting from there to:

            I’m half-Jewish, and I’m personally also afraid. But it is neither Trump nor Bannon that scares me, it’s the so-called Social Justice movement.

            is only possible via motivated or otherwise broken reasoning. Which as I mentioned is unfortunately common around here when it comes to the hated enemy.

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            @Brad Do regular attacks on Jewish students on campuses under the guise of “struggle for Palestinian rights” or whatever (most of these attackers btw have no idea what are those “Palestinian rights” anyway) be legitimate cause of concern? Would be regular occurrence of Jewish students being questioned of double loyalty and considered unfit for various student government positions on account of being Jewish? Would be the regular and recurring theme on Israel-bashing on completely unrelated events such as BLM or student-administration conflict on some campus be a cause of concern?

            It seems that for the left, Israel-bashing has become sign of general virtue, and since they usually have no Israelis to attack in general vicinity, they attack the Jews they can access, so it’s usually just Jew-bashing.

            See e.g. http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/anti-semitism-is-the-new-social-justice/ or https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/04/24/the-hotbed-of-anti-semitism-isnt-a-foreign-country-but-u-s-college-campuses-report-says/ or http://david-collier.com/psc-riddled-antisemitism/

            So as a Jewish person, I am not afraid of Bannon who publicly denies he is an antisemite, or Trump, who never showed any antisemitic behavior. I am afraid of people who publicly insult, shun, shame and sometimes plain beat up Jews, publicly and consistently deny the right of my state to exist, publicly proclaim their desire to destroy it and who are completely accepted by their political peers. I think this reasoning makes a lot of sense.

          • abc says:

            They had nothing at all to do with the social justice boogieman, if for no other reason than because it hadn’t yet been invented in 1991.

            The term wasn’t in use that way back then, but the underlying movement has roots going back at least a century. Heck Alinsky published his Rules for Radicals in 1971, and he was already part of a long established movement.

          • Brad says:

            I am afraid of people who publicly insult, shun, shame and sometimes plain beat up Jews, publicly and consistently deny the right of my state to exist, publicly proclaim their desire to destroy it and who are completely accepted by their political peers.

            You and your country ought to be ashamed of yourself for constantly conflating Israel and the Jewish people. You are in a bootleggers and baptists coalition with American and European antisemites who like to do the same thing. Israel isn’t the Jewish people. The Jewish people are not Israel. Being Jewish does not mean being a supporter of Israel (and in particular its current government) and being a supporter of Israel does not mean being Jewish.

            We American Jews are more than capable of taking care of ourselves and don’t need you to be afraid on our behalf. After all American college kids aren’t going to travel to travel to Israel to beat you up.

            Maybe you should instead redirect that empathy towards the people you are disenfranchising and subjecting to military law.

            The term wasn’t in use that way back then, but the underlying movement has roots going back at least a century. Heck Alinsky published his Rules for Radicals in 1971, and he was already part of a long established movement.

            I hear it all goes back to the Knights Templar by way of the Masons.

          • Null42 says:

            There seems to be at least in part some disagreement over whether there is more genuine threat to American Jews from the left or right. Historically I would have guessed right. The alt-right crowd seems to be keeping the tradition up. But with the rise of what I’m going to call genuine anti-white prejudice (and anyone is invited to disagree with me) on the SJ left, I am not so sure anymore.

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          Progressive,

          I spent the trip to work wishing I’d written “borderline-fascist” rather than “borderline-nazi”, so please accept that substitution, for what it’s worth. I’ll happily defend the former.

          The way I had chosen to do that is to cleverly pick policies which Bannon has actually already influenced since coming to power, since that’s a powerful validation of policy-based concerns that he might do these kinds of things if he came to power.

          So Trump’s Jewish grandchildren did not, in fact, prevent the Trump/Bannon white house from deleting all reference to Jews from their holocaust commemoration and then repeatedly standing by that decision.

          He also apparently personally pushed for the inclusion of permanent residents and green card holders in the first iteration of the muslim travel ban. Also, the muslim travel ban.

          You can support those policies, but “whiff of fascism” seems like a reasonable characterisation of them, particularly with their coming in the first 30 days of the Trump/Bannon administration.

          So anyone worried about Bannon on policies grounds looks to have been justified, provided you’ve been paying attention to the things he’s already done

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            Ok, I will accept the substitution. I still think you’re wrong.

            Fascism is a very particular system, combining the following: nationalism; a reverence for traditional values; a fascination with highly centralized leadership by strongmen; placing all aspects of life in service to the state; and an aggressive imperialist / revanchist foreign policy. Bannon has the first two but not the last three, as he favors an isolationist foreign policy (going so far as to gut the entire State Department) and the deconstruction of the “administrative state”.

            Bannon is unquestionably a “nationalist”, and so was Mussolini. But Elizabeth Warren is a “socialist”, and so was Lenin.

            PS. Regarding the administration “deleting all reference to Jews from their holocaust commemoration and then repeatedly standing by that decision“, I’m Jewish and I honestly didn’t care (not that my opinion is necessarily typical). This doesn’t strike me as particularly Fascist either.

          • Aapje says:

            @pdbarnley

            So Trump’s Jewish grandchildren did not, in fact, prevent the Trump/Bannon white house from deleting all reference to Jews from their holocaust commemoration and then repeatedly standing by that decision.

            Isn’t this a matter of starting with a narrative and then interpreting facts in that light?

            Imagine that Obama would have done that. Then the interpretation would have been that he’s open-minded and inclusive to gays, Roma, Sinti, etc.

          • Null42 says:

            Motivated reasoning is very hard to avoid. As I recall (and I am 125% sure there are people here better versed in this than me), we evolved to argue points as social animals to further our interests, not to seek truth, so it’s kind of a rational irrational behavior. 😉

  12. spork says:

    I think that Democrats feel like we aren’t able to ditch identity politics when these are electorally inconvenient, because our long-game strategy is to ride these into a permanent majority – eventually. The party leaders added up the numbers and concluded that the party of the white people is demographically doomed, so that territory wasn’t really contested. I absolutely hate this strategy, but it is the strategy, and it was deployed so openly and cynically that it actually made many white people rally together. And to be fair, despite the loss, the strategy might – eventually – work, but it is a position that shouldn’t define a governing party in any country. It’s so fucking tribal and gross and devoid of principle.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Right, but then the Democrats didn’t follow out their logic by nominating a black like Sen. Booker or Kamala Harris, they nominated … Hillary.

      So, black men didn’t bother to show up and vote Democratic.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        If Booker had a black wife and a black baby, he’d be a strong candidate. He still has time by 2020.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Obama ditched his smart girlfriend, Sheila Miyoshi Yager, now professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin, because he had to have an African-American wife to get blacks to vote for him.

          Is it too much to ask Senator Booker to take one for the Party and marry an attractive black lady and sire at least one black child?

          • Obama ditched his smart girlfriend, Sheila Miyoshi Yager, now professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin, because he had to have an African-American wife to get blacks to vote for him.

            On the other hand … who kniws the secrets of a man’s heart?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Did he? What I’ve read (very little) indicates that she ditched him.

            “In the winter of ‘86, when we visited my parents, he asked me to marry him,” she told Garrow. Her parents were opposed, less for any racial reasons (Barack came across to them like “a white, middle-class kid,” a close family friend said) than for concern about Obama’s professional prospects, and because her mother thought Sheila, two years Obama’s junior, was too young. “Not yet,” Sheila told Barack. But they stayed together.

            Just before he left for Harvard Law School, Obama proposed to Jager once more. She declined, as she was heading to Seoul for a study program, and he seemed upset that she wouldn’t put her ambitions on hold for his.

            She’s got to be kicking herself now.

          • Enkidum says:

            Look, you’re a smart enough guy, but saying shit like this just makes you look like Alex Jones. Stop it.

          • He’s oddly variable.

          • pipsterate says:

            Is Sheila necessarily smarter than Michelle? I’m not sure about that. My impression is that it probably takes a higher IQ to be a lawyer than an anthropologist.

            Also, I’m not sure how accurate it is to say that Obama “ditched” Sheila, considering that he asked her to marry him, twice.

            I think this is a more complex situation than you make it out to be.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @pipsterate

            A side note, but why do you think lawyers would tend to be smarter than anthropology professors? A bit of Googling doesn’t suggest they are. I imagine average IQ would vary by legal specialty. ;

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Well this took an ugly turn.

          • pipsterate says:

            @ dndnrsn

            It just seems to me that law is more rigorous than most fields of anthropology and attracts more intelligent students.

            It’s certainly possible that I’m overestimating lawyers, or underestimating anthropologists, though.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well this took an ugly turn.

            Yep, he’s not hiding it nearly as much here lately.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @pipsterate:

            My experience was that a lot of law students are there by default – “oh shit, I have a BA, what do I do with this” and law seems like the best choice. Law school is not as hard as law students like to pretend it is. If being a lawyer was as hard as lawyers say it is, there would be a lot fewer lawyers. I would guess the two groups are probably similar in median intelligence.

          • abc says:

            Look, you’re a smart enough guy, but saying shit like this just makes you look like Alex Jones. Stop it.

            Stuff like what. Are you saying politicians’ families never influence voters’ choices?

            Or is making these kinds of nonsense comments your way of trolling?

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            oh dear abc, is:

            politicians’ families …influence voters’ choices

            really a paraphrase of

            Obama ditched his smart girlfriend, Sheila Miyoshi Yager, now professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin, because he had to have an African-American wife to get blacks to vote for him

            you’re willing to stand behind?

          • abc says:

            politicians’ families …influence voters’ choices

            really a paraphrase of

            Obama ditched his smart girlfriend, Sheila Miyoshi Yager, now professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin, because he had to have an African-American wife to get blacks to vote for him

            you’re willing to stand behind?

            Ok, so you’re willing to admit that politicians’ families …influence voters’ choices. Now are you going to argue that a politician would never choose who to marry based on a desire to be more electable? Or do you have no coherent reason for your objection beyond it making “your guy” look slightly bad?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            oh god

            people are actually unironically pretending like Obama wasn’t aware of racial politics?

            I never get this. He’s a politician. It’s at least reasonable to suspect that he is aware of political factors, such that some of his personal decisions are calculated. And yes, I’m willing to stand behind that generalization, no matter how racially charged the particulars are.

            I understand how some people feel about that, because it’s an accusation of deep cynicism. But deep cynicism is sometimes a quality of politicians; I’d say often, in fact.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Obama [was] aware of racial politics?

            I think this paraphrase is even worse, abc, so you’re off the hook for now I guess.

            One more time for the people in the cheap, ugly, seats:

            Obama ditched his smart girlfriend, Sheila Miyoshi Yager, now professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin, because he had to have an African-American wife to get blacks to vote for him

            And this

            a politician [might sometimes] choose who to marry based on a desire to be more electable?

            is probably the best of the three, so it feels like we’re moving in the right direction. It’s still terrible though. Maybe try again?

            Obama ditched his smart girlfriend, Sheila Miyoshi Yager, now professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin, because he had to have an African-American wife to get blacks to vote for him

            Now:

            Or do you have no coherent reason for your objection beyond it making “your guy” look slightly bad?

            You are too awful at this to warrant this level of impoliteness.

          • Progressive Reformation says:

            @ Steve Sailer, pdbarnsley, abc, anonYEmous

            Ok, I’m going to have to take pdbarnsley’s side here.

            Yes, Obama is a consummate politician, and yes he is perfectly aware of racial politics. But he didn’t “ditch” Yager, he twice asked her to marry him. So, when she went to Korea, he found a new girlfriend, because obviously he did. I have no idea whether “electability” crossed his mind or even if marrying a black person was the most “electable” choice (I’d argue the opposite – he’s already black himself, why does he need a black wife to appeal to black people?).

            In short, Ockham’s Razor suggests the best explanation is just that he left Yager when she refused to marry him and went to Korea, and then met Michelle Robinson and married her instead.

          • If anyone is having trouble following this, the issue is how the hell Sailer would know Obama’s real reasons’ for doing things.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I think this paraphrase is even worse, abc, so you’re off the hook for now I guess.

            …Not really, dude. There are plenty of black people that can be found to complain if a prominent black person marries a white person. I don’t doubt that this transfers to asian people as well, and I don’t doubt that this could’ve changed voting patterns; maybe not enough, granted, but it’s not like he knew ahead of time how many votes he was getting. (Sorry if that’s an uncomfortable racial truth!)

            As to the other, I’m willing to admit that it might be wrong on the facts. But pre-facts, it is a plausible theory and I don’t think anyone should be offended. If you don’t like it, blame reality.

          • Brad says:

            If anyone is having trouble following this, the issue is how the hell Sailer would know Obama’s real reasons’ for doing things.

            Bizarre spins on deservedly obscure facts is kind of his thing.

          • abc says:

            You are too awful at this to warrant this level of impoliteness.

            Enkidum objected to Steve’s theory without giving any reason in an extemely rude manner without giving any explanation, you are now attempting to defend his position still without giving any reason. Near as I can tell, your method of arguing appears to be based on the idea that if one repeats a non sequitor loudly enough, eventually it’ll become a valid logical inference.

            If you actually have an argument, I’d love to hear it. However, the fact that you have gone 2-3 comments without presenting one isn’t encouraging.

          • he’s already black himself, why does he need a black wife to appeal to black people?

            That was actually the question that occurred to me reading the thread, and I’m not sure of the answer. On the one hand one might claim that a white wife would make him more acceptable to white voters. On the other hand, I could imagine it having the opposite effect–there is a cultural story about black men being sexually attractive, thus beating out white men in the competition for white women, and I suspect it still has some, possibly unacknowledged, bite to it.

            Looking on the other side, I can imagine some blacks seeing a successful black man marrying a white woman as a sort of treason.

            So I don’t know if the political argument works or not. Quite aside from whether it makes any sense as an explanation of Obama’s motives.

          • The reason is obvious: it was a baseless claim with obvious political motivations.

          • abc says:

            The reason is obvious: it was a baseless claim with obvious political motivations.

            Steve provided evidence for his claim, which is more than any of the people objecting to it have done.

          • Sailer is claiming to know Obama’s real reasons for doing something. What would evidence for that even look like?

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Huh, until today I didn’t realize Cory Booker was black. I need to watch more TV, or at least read articles with pictures in them.

      • Null42 says:

        True. You also have to admit the Republicans have started playing the same game. I think some golf course architecture blogger suggested it back in the early 2000s.

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      I agree. If either party is promoting racial division at this point, it’s the Democrats. But I don’t think the Republicans can be absolved either, given the enthusiasm with which they embraced their role as the “party of white people”. It’s also worth noting that when these roles were getting defined at first, the Republican position (anti-Civil-Rights, anti-integration) was the position of tribal identity politics.

      • cassander says:

        I’ll call the Republicans enthusiastically embracing the party of while people when they start advocating affirmative action for West Virginians. Until then, no. And your history is wrong, it was democrats who led the campaign against de-segregation. The dems have always had a racial component to their party, they just have switched which races.

      • bbartlog says:

        It was Nixon who managed to rearrange the tribal politics landscape with his Southern Strategy. Arguably things have been somewhat static since then. You could argue that Democrats were complicit in making the arrangement stable when they decided to favor the interests of hispanic immigrants over those of the native labor unions. Anyway, various roles existed before that and the southern Democrats were no stranger to tribal identity politics.

        • cassander says:

          The southern strategy is largely a myth. Nixon didn’t win the votes of southerners, he lost them in 68 to a Dixiecrat who did have a southern strategy. In 72, he won everywhere. The South continued voting Democrat until the 90s. That’s when the south shifted.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You say this BS every time the Southern Strategy is brought up, and it’s still just as wrong.

            The South stopped voting D for president in 64, after the CRA passed, and that has been consistent. They either voted R or for the one open white segregation candidate ( Wallace).

            Your wave election point that you always bring up likeways makes no sense, as the loss of the South to the Rs is what made those wave elections.

          • The South stopped voting D for president in 64, after the CRA passed, and that has been consistent. They either voted R or for the one open white segregation candidate ( Wallace).

            Here is an electoral map of the 1976 election. The South is solidly democratic, with Virginia the sole exception.

            1980 was a Republican landslide, but Georgia was one of the few states carried by the Democrats. Also West Virginia, if you count that as southern.

            In 1984 the Democrats carried Minnesota.

            1988 was another Republican landslide, with W. Virginia the one somewhat southern state the Democrats carried.

            In 1992 the South splits, but the Republicans get more electoral votes than the Democrats.

            If you are going to claim that someone else’s post is BS, you might want to check the facts first. Through 1992, the only elections in which the Republicans carry almost all of the South are ones in which they carry almost all of the country, which is consistent with what Cassander claimed, inconsistent with what you claimed.

          • cassander says:

            @David and HBC

            It also shows up in the level of state results. 72 nixon does do well in the south, which averages 68% for him, but he gets 60 in the rest of the country. In 76, the southern states vote 43 % for ford compared to 51 in the rest of the country. In 80, reagan gets 49% of the southern vote, the rest of the country gives him 53. in 84, 61/61. 88, there’s a slight republican advantage in the south, 57 to 54.

            92 and 6 are a bit weird because of perot. the south votes both more republican and more democratic than the rest of the country in 92, 43 to 40 republican and 42 to 37 democratic. In 96, it’s just as democratic (47%), and slightly more republican, 44:41.

            It’s not until 2000 when bush gets 54% in the south and 49% elsewhere that a republican pulls a majority of southern support without getting a majority in the rest of the country too.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Friedman:
            Yea, Carter is the last gasp of the old map. Cassander and I have been through this a time or two.

            If you want to deny the existence for the “Solid South” you are welcome to delude yourself and claim my “facts are wrong”.

            My point about wave elections is the following:

            The difference between 1952 and 1984 is the South. You can’t explain away the shift away from southern democratic presidential state wins by simply referencing a “wave”. The wave couldn’t happen for Republicans before precisely because of the South. The South had never voted en bloc for anyone but Democrats since the end of reconstruction.

            Get your facts rights.

          • Your claim, to which I responded, was:

            The South stopped voting D for president in 64, after the CRA passed, and that has been consistent. They either voted R or for the one open white segregation candidate ( Wallace).

            Do you agree that that in 1976, the Democrats carried every southern state but Virginia. Do you agree that 1976 is after 1964? If you agree to both, does it not follow that what I just quoted from you was false?

            You don’t convert a false statement to a true statement by offering one reason it was false, which is what your “Carter is the last gasp of the old map” does.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:

            The southern strategy is largely a myth

            That is what I am responding to. It’s an argument that cassander and I have had frequently. I have expounded on it at length in the past.

            I contend that this claim is malarkey.

            Do you think that claim holds water?

            I have, in those long expositions made the point to him before that 64, 68, and 72 are complete departures from the Southern voting patterns since the end of reconstruction, and that Carter, as Southern evangelical, Washington outsider, resurrected that map for one last time. Reagan cements the new voting pattern by consciously aligning with evangelicals and with conscious overtures to the old segregationist Southern Democrats.

            The state and local politics turned over much more slowly, as should be expected.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            I have, in those long expositions made the point to him before that 64, 68, and 72 are complete departures from the Southern voting patterns since the end of reconstruction, and that Carter, as Southern evangelical, Washington outsider, resurrected that map for one last time. Reagan cements the new voting pattern by consciously aligning with evangelicals and with conscious overtures to the old segregationist Southern Democrats.

            You can exposite all you want, just so stories are not data. I have shown, with data, that the south remained consistently less republican in presidential races than the rest of the country until, at the earliest, 88 Your “one last time” repeated itself in 80 and 84. It’s right there in the vote totals. It’s 64 and 72 that are the exceptions, not the rule. And 68 isn’t an exception to anything, democrats and dixiecrats crush nixon in the south. The most you can claim for them is that they started the end of the democratic south, you cannot claim they finished it.

            The state and local politics turned over much more slowly, as should be expected.

            I don’t think that’s to be expected at all.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Do you know what a Yellow Dog Democrat was?

            The South was essentially one party rule. There was no Republican Party presence. That doesn’t pop up overnight. It has to be built.

          • The southern strategy is largely a myth

            That is what I am responding to. It’s an argument that cassander and I have had frequently. I have expounded on it at length in the past.

            I contend that this claim is malarkey.

            Do you think that claim holds water?

            I don’t know. I would have to look into your and his arguments more carefully to form an opinion.

            I was responding to something you said which was demonstrably false. You first said it, then defended it fiercely (“Get your facts rights”) after I pointed out that it was false, and now want to shift to a weaker claim without first conceding that the claim I disputed was false.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            No.

            You popped into a long running argument I have had with cassander (a point which I referenced) and accused me of not having my facts right without bothering to spend one minute evaluating the claim I was responding to.

            That the Southern Dems changed voting pattern in 64 is clearly the core of my statement in response to a claim you don’t care to defend. That’s the heart of the argument.

            If you wanted to point out a factual error in my statement, without challenging my response to his claim, you had that option available to you. It’s not the route you chose to go.

          • keranih says:

            @ HBC –

            You keep saying that the South “stopped” voting for D for president after 1964. And then when people point out that, well, actually, the South did vote for D, you say “well, except for those times they stopped.”

            If you want to point out that the shift gained serious momentum after 1964, sure, that’s great. But the older voters that I spoke with in the 1980’s sure as heck gave me the impression that there was a mismatch between the local/state Democrat priorities and the national level Democrat priorities dating back decades prior to 1964.

            So IMO your error is not so much your choice of inflection point as it is making that inflection point decisive vs part of a long standing shift in attitudes. The socialism of the union workers of the industrial north was not what the small businessmen and farmers of the South wanted.

            (Granted, it might have been the (long-time-coming) acceptance of the African-American worker into the union world that broke the camel’s back for the Southern Democrat, but the conflict was there for quite some time.)

            It’s the same lesson that all parties eventually learn – get too far out from the center of gravity, and you shed voters. Part of the trick is shifting the center to where you want it to be, part of it is shifting your party to the center.

          • You popped into a long running argument I have had with cassander (a point which I referenced) and accused me of not having my facts right without bothering to spend one minute evaluating the claim I was responding to.

            Because a fact you asserted in giving your side of the argument was false, as I was able to determine with a few minutes of googling. You could have responded by conceding that you had overstated your claim and replacing it with a more modest version, but you didn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            No. I immediately conceded that point, as I have already pointed this out multiple times to cassander, that the Carter map is the last time that map works for the Dems.

            That wasn’t enough, you had to claim that I was falling back to a weaker claim. But you seem to be unclear on the meaning of the word “consistent”, which does not mean always.

            Either go off and form an opinion on whether the CRA led Nixon to engage in a consequential “Southern Strategy” or bow out. The fact that you don’t already have an opinion on this (or won’t admit to one) should tell you something.

            I am really tired of your “gotcha” arguments where you think some minor misstatement invalidates an entire argument.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @kerinah:
            You are welcome to look at the EC maps for yourself.

            You can show that that the split begins earlier than 1964, that Storm Thurmond’s state wins as a Dixiecrat in 48 and the electors who would not cast their votes for Kennedy in 60 presage the breakup of the Democratic coalition.

            But you can’t argue that the break for Republicans doesn’t start in 64, nor can you argue that the 1972 map is merely a wave election. I invite you to look at all of the maps from the end of Reconstruction forward.

            And the idea that nothing really happens until the 90s doesn’t make any sense.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            No. I immediately conceded that point, as I have already pointed this out multiple times to cassander, that the Carter map is the last time that map works for the Dems.

            And, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, pointing this out proves nothing. Especially when you combine it with the fact that while reagan won 44 states and 49, he did as well or worse in the south than the rest of the country.

            You can show that that the split begins earlier than 1964, that Storm Thurmond’s state wins as a Dixiecrat in 48 and the electors who would not cast their votes for Kennedy in 60 presage the breakup of the Democratic coalition.

            That something “presages the breakup” means it is not the breakup, and intra-democratic party squabbling certainly is not proof of the existence of a republican campaign strategy.

            But you can’t argue that the break for Republicans doesn’t start in 64, nor can you argue that the 1972 map is merely a wave election. I invite you to look at all of the maps from the end of Reconstruction forward.

            Yes, you can, if you bother to look at the actual numbers. Between 1952 and 88, the south is less republican than the rest of the county in all but 2 elections. In 92 and 96 they’re slightly more republican, but also more democratic, and since 2000, to today, they’re more republican in EVERY election. there absolutely was a shift, but the shift took place long after nixon was gone.

            If you don’t believe me, do the math. Just looking at the electoral map is useless because republicans did so well everywhere between 68 and 88, but that’s not a southern strategy, that’s a whole country strategy.

          • Skivverus says:

            @cassander, HeelBearCub

            It seems entirely possible for you both to be correct: HeelBearCub when comparing R-vote percentages within the same state (or districts) over time, cassander when comparing R-vote percentages between states. (Warning: haven’t actually looked at the data myself)
            Simplified example: two states, A and B, three elections at times T1, T2, T3.
            A votes 40% R at T1, 55% R at T2, 51% R at T3.
            B votes 20% R at T1, 51% R at T2, 44% R at T3.
            A clearly prefers R more than B does in all three elections; there’s a big jump in R’s favor between T1 and T2 in B, though.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cassander:
            How many times did Republicans win “Solid South” states after the end of reconstruction and 1964? How many time after? Out of how many chances?

            The strongest portion of the argument looks at 6 states. AR, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC had a grand total of one Republican EC win (LA in ’56) in those 21 elections. That is 1 out of 126.

            5 of 6 of them vote R in 1964. They all vote Wallace (the outright segregationist) or R (SC) in 1968. They all vote Republican in ’68. That is 12 out of 18, plus 5 more for the man who ran on the “segregation now, segregation forever” platform.

            That is a shift that cannot be any clearer. It is not vague or muddy. It is as plain as day.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Skivverus:
            I strongly encourage you to actually look at those maps and the other links I have provided. It should also be noted that vote total only matter in the EC if they are close enough to allow the state to “swing”. Those 6 Southern States were demonstrably not “swing” states (in terms of being winnable by Republicans) before 1964.

            The other 8 states in the “Solid South” also demonstrably switch post CRA, but it’s not as clear cut.

          • cassander says:

            @Skivverus ,

            It seems entirely possible for you both to be correct: HeelBearCub when comparing R-vote percentages within the same state (or districts) over time, cassander when comparing R-vote percentages between states.

            This is true as far as it goes, but my claim is that looking at just the southern states overtime is misleading, because it ignores the fact that basically the whole country was voting R for president in this period. between 68 and 88, republicans average more than 40 states per election. if there was some southern strategy that got the southern states to vote republican, it worked on the rest of the country too, and thus can’t be called a southern strategy.

            HBC’s argument only holds up if you ignore most of the country and how it was voting much more republican than the south was in the same period. The republicans won in the south because they won almost literally everywhere.

            @HBC

            That is a shift that cannot be any clearer. It is not vague or muddy. It is as plain as day.

            In other words, if you cherry pick and ignore 2/3s of the data you can totally make my argument look bad!

            If, however, you look at the whole picture, you’ll notice that the south remained less republican than the rest of the country until, at the earliest, 88. Or you would, if you didn’t have an ideological axe to grind.

          • Skivverus says:

            @HeelBearCub
            Had a look, and agreed that Democrats have those states quite solidly from 1876 until the 1960s; pinning the shift there on Nixon specifically seems slightly backwards to me, but comparably so to other claims of politicians shifting voter sentiments.
            Makes more sense in my mind to say politicians tend to find adjacent positions to shift to that voters already hold.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            How about (Republican percentage in the 11 ex-Confederate states) – (Republican percentage nationwide) as a metric?

            1952: -7.1%
            1956: -8.5%
            1960: -3.6%
            1964: +10.2%
            1968: -8.8%
            1972: +8.9%
            1976: -3.3%
            1980: +0.7%
            1984: +3.6%
            1988: +4.9%
            1992: +5.2%
            1996: +5.4%
            2000: +6.4%
            2004: +7.2%
            2008: +6.9%
            2012: +6.4%
            2016: +6.1%

          • @David Friedman:
            No. I immediately conceded that point, as I have already pointed this out multiple times to cassander, that the Carter map is the last time that map works for the Dems.

            Your response to my pointing out that your assertion, which I quoted, was false, was:

            Yea, Carter is the last gasp of the old map. Cassander and I have been through this a time or two.

            …[Stuff about how the South stopped being solidly Democratic]

            Get your facts rights.

            Nowhere in there do I see “what I wrote was an overstatement, but …”

            You could hardly deny that Carter carried the South, given that Virginia was the only southern state that didn’t vote for him. But I don’t count the sequence:

            (you)

            A and B are true

            (me)

            A is false

            (you)

            A is false, as I have told someone else in the past, B is true, get your facts right

            As conceding any error at all.

          • Aapje says:

            @Paul Zrimsek

            So it seems that the permanent Republican bias started around the time of Reagan. Didn’t Reagan change the Republican party and make it the ‘small government’ party?

            My provisional conclusion is that this change aligned the Republican party more with the values of the south.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Z:
            Note that in 68 those votes did not return to the Dems, they went to Wallace, the pro-segregation candidate.

            @Friedman:
            I said “get your facts right” merely to echo what you said to me. It seems uncharitable to object to it now. I made clear this a long running conversation over many threads. You seem to think I must recapitulate the entire argument each time I respond to him.

            Again, the fact that you want to pick this one nit, and are resistant to engaging your faculties on the actual question, should tell you something.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Skiverrus:

            pinning the shift there on Nixon specifically seems slightly backwards to me,

            I am not pinning the shift on Nixon. If that was your impression, it’s probably merely because we are arguing more about when the shift happened (as a proxy for why).

            The Southern Strategy was what you described, Nixon modulating his message to attempt to appeal to Southern voters.

            No, the cause of shift was the desire of the Southern Democrats to remain segregated. The Dixiecrat party, which won several of those states in ’48, ran on a platform of a commitment to segregation. The South was increasingly uncomfortable with the progressiveness of the Democratic coalition on civil rights. When the Civil Rights act passed in 1964, and is signed by a Democratic president, this catalyzes their presidential voting actions.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            That data a) doesn’t go back far enough as you really need to see these vote differentials back to 1880, and b) doesn’t show what you are thinking it shows.

            In 1960 a number of Southern electors refused to cast their votes for Kennedy. That -3.6 isn’t a baseline number but reflects the already ongoing split (and the fact that Kennedy is the first Catholic president).

            In 1964 the South goes Republican and votes for Goldwater when the entire rest of the country votes Johnson. They had not voted Republican before, as I already showed (1 out of 126).

          • Iain says:

            @Aapje: By drawing the line in 1980 instead of 1964, you leave out:
            a) Jimmy Carter, Georgian peanut farmer;
            b) an election where most of the South was won by an independent candidate; and
            c) the two strongest showings for the Republican party in the history of the South (by Paul’s metric).

            It is unclear why a) and b) should outweigh c), particularly given that the independent candidate in question in b) was a segregationist, campaigning on exactly the issues that HBC is claiming were behind the Southern shift. Jimmy Carter is an outlier, sure, but it seems wilfully blind to look at Paul’s numbers between 1952 and 1972 and say “well, looks like the big changes all started in 1980”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            By drawing the line in 1980 instead of 1964, you leave out:
            a) Jimmy Carter, Georgian peanut farmer;
            b) an election where most of the South was won by an independent candidate; and
            c) the two strongest showings for the Republican party in the history of the South (by Paul’s metric).

            Are A and B not evidence against the southern strategy being hugely important? Clearly that strategy wasn’t a very strong tactic by Republicans if it got defeated by a guy with the right accent and guy who was more racist than the Republicans. The latter is especially damning for the accusation that Republicans got a lot of support due to a racist platform and catered strongly to racist defectors from the Democrats, since George Wallace clearly didn’t consider the Republicans racist enough and a lot of voters with him.

            What I see in the data is the south leaning Democrat until ~1964. Then it starts going all over the place for about two decades. This pattern makes it look like the Democrats lost support in the south, but that the Republicans were only able to consistently capitalize on this from Reagan on.

            Now, in a two-party system, there are always a whole bunch of topics where one party is slightly more X and the other party a little less. Politicians typically like to cater to various groups by appealing to their biases. So it’s certainly not surprising if politicians try to appeal to racists as well, not even necessarily by being explicitly racist, but by appealing to their core concerns (like law-and-order). But when using that tactic, you are appealing to a much larger group than just racists.

            For me, it looks like tarnishing a huge block of people when the assumption is made that the voters who respond to statements that are liked by racists, are all racists.

            For example, take the Wiki page on the southern strategy. It says:

            Reagan’s campaigns used racially coded rhetoric, making attacks on the “welfare state” and leveraging resentment towards affirmative action.

            So here, favoring small government and pure meritocracy are called racist. This is bad logic. I’m sure that it is true that racists oppose the welfare state and AA more than non-racists. However, there are plenty of non-racist reasons to oppose these.

            If you are going to play this game, then you also need to do it the other way around. For example, communists surely are more in favor of the welfare state than non-communists. So by ‘dog-whistle’ logic, the Democrats were catering to communists and their electoral successes in the north were because they catered to a large number of American communists.

            If you agree that this is bad logic and that, while the welfare state is favored by communists, it is also favored by a far larger group of moderates; then you also have to concede that the right wing ‘dog whistles’ may similarly just appeal to a lot of people who simply feel more strongly about self-sufficiency and the like.

            So I don’t see how you can declare with certainty that appealing to racists earned the Republicans so many votes that it can be declared as the primary reason for the eventual solid ‘redness’ of the south.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            You might want to read about what comprised the Southern Strategy.

            Nixon’s advisers recognized that they could not appeal directly to voters on issues of white supremacy or racism. White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman noted that Nixon “emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognized this while not appearing to.”

            The consequential thing is the embrace of civil rights, and the signing of the Civil Rights Act. In 1972, Nixon is not creating the conditions that split the Democratic coalition, he is simply recognizing and exploiting it.

            For 1976 one has to consider that fact that Nixon resigned in order not to be the only president ever impeached (and likely convicted and removed from office anyway). Ford pardons Nixon which is highly controversial. He hadn’t even been on the ticket in 1972 and was appointed VP because Agnew resigned for tax-evasion. So many things were working against Ford in ’76.

          • Iain says:

            @Aapje:

            1964: +10.2%
            1968: -8.8%
            1972: +8.9%

            In the three elections following the Civil Rights Act, the South was dramatically Republican, then dramatically racist, then dramatically Republican again. The success of George Wallace is a good indication that, at that point of the 60s, race relations were the dominant issue in Southern politics. The Republican success before and after George Wallace is a good indication that they were capturing the same crowd. George Wallace didn’t run in 1964 or 1972, but it’s not a giant leap to conclude that the swing towards Wallace and the swing towards the Republicans might be related, particularly if, as HBC says, you stop looking at numbers and start looking at the things that people were actually saying at the time.

            In any case, it is crystal clear that something was happening in the South in the 60s and 70s. Jimmy Carter is an outlier, sure, but the existence of one outlier doesn’t mean that you can throw away all previous data points. Republican control of the South does not originate with Reagan.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            You could make a case that we would get a better view by looking at the relative Democratic vote shares than the Republican. I chose to go with the latter because the OP attributed it all to Republican machinations, so it made sense to look specifically at how the changes benefit them. 1968 is a case in point, since moving votes from Humphrey to Wallace didn’t do much of anything for the GOP: had the election been closer in the rest of the country, the winner would have been chosen by the Democrat-controlled House.

            We should all be able to agree, based on the data, that if we insist on treating the entire time series as the working of a single process then Nixon didn’t have much of anything to do with it. It’s also clearly false to say that the South was solid for the Democrats until the 1990s, or even the 1980s– though that still leaves room to argue (as I would, and Aapje appears to be doing) that today’s Republican dominance in the South is the result of a separate process, one that began with Reagan, and doesn’t necessarily have anything in particular to do with race. (Any attempt to explain away Southern willingness to vote for the peanut farmer from Georgia has to be compatible with their later unwillingness to do the same for the glad-hander from Arkansas.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Zrimsek:
            You are starting your data series after the start of the process. The President’s Committee on Civil Rights in 1946 is the beginning. You would need to look at Southern Democratic vote shares from 1880 through 1948 to get a real sense of what is going on.

            Can you tell me where you got/generated that data?

            ETA:

            I chose to go with the latter because the OP attributed it all to Republican machinations

            As I have explained already, I did not do this. I make no such claim. I claim that the Republican consciously targeted the votes of disgruntled Southern segregationists, not that they caused them to be disgruntled.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I was not arguing that Nixon didn’t use this strategy. My argument is that the evidence is weak that this caused most or all of the shift to the Republicans, especially post-Reagan.

            I’m not even arguing that it isn’t true. I’m saying that the evidence presented so far is quite weak.

            It really feels like a convenient simplification to avoid responsibility: ‘we couldn’t help losing the southern vote, they are just degenerates who can’t be reasoned with.’

            It’s the same reasoning we saw around the most recent election about Trump supporters.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I got the numbers by taking the vote totals for each election from Wikipedia and running them through a spreadsheet. At the time I got them, 1952 was the earliest election mentioned in this subthread. It could be done for earlier years, but I don’t know what that would tell us that we don’t already know. I haven’t seen anyone denying that the giant spike in 1964 was a reaction to the CRA, unless you count the guy who’s bizarrely denying that it happened at all.

            The OP I was referring to was ‘Progressive Reformation’, who brought the matter up in the first place.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            It really feels like a convenient simplification to avoid responsibility: ‘we couldn’t help losing the southern vote, they are just degenerates who can’t be reasoned with.’

            Look, I never, at any time, used those words. Nor will I.

            But you now force me to ask this question:
            Do you accept that the reason for the shift was the move towards civil rights and, ultimately, the elimination of legal segregation?

          • @Friedman:
            I said “get your facts right” merely to echo what you said to me.

            After you had asserted a fact that was demonstrably false and I had responded with a collection of facts that were true. You don’t have to recapitulate your argument with someone else every time the topic comes up. But it would be nice if you avoided making false statements in support of that argument.

            The South stopped voting D for president in 64, after the CRA passed, and that has been consistent. They either voted R or for the one open white segregation candidate ( Wallace).

            was a false statement, since in an election after 64 the South went for the Democratic candidate. “Consistent” was your word.

          • Iain says:

            @Aapje:

            I’m not even arguing that it isn’t true. I’m saying that the evidence presented so far is quite weak.

            Perhaps, then, you should take a moment to go look up evidence on your own?

            The concept of the Southern Strategy is not HBC’s quixotic crusade. It is a generally accepted phenomenon among historians / political scientists, with some quibbling around the edges about the best way to characterize it. There are a multitude of corroborating statements from contemporary Republicans. Take, for example, this 1970 quote from Nixon’s political strategist Kevin Phillips:

            From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that…but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats

            This is not difficult information to find.

            @David Friedman:
            Everybody who is reading this conversation is well aware that Carter is an exception to the pattern. HBC has, in other contexts, explicitly pointed out Carter as an exception to the overall trend, but failed to do so in this case. He has acknowledged this fact several times. Everybody is clear on this point. You win. The horse is dead. You can stop beating it.

            Now, would you care to stop picking nits and comment on the broader question?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Z:
            Where did you get regional totals? I can’t seem to google fu my way to that information.

            unless you count the guy who’s bizarrely denying that it happened at all.

            Do you mean cassander? Because this whole conversation is essentially about his contention.So your point seems weird given that we don’t seem to have any sort of blanket agreement that cassander is wrong.

            ETA:
            As to Progressive Reformation’s point, if the Republican party had chosen to shun the segregationists, rather than embrace them, we might have seen very different voting patterns going forward. The conscious decision to court these segregationist voters is well documented, the fact that they also then got these votes would seem to be a point in favor of the idea that the Nixon, Reagan, et. al. succeeded in their aim.

          • Now, would you care to stop picking nits and comment on the broader question?

            No. I’m not interested in the broader question.

            I object to people making statements that are not true. I object more when the response to my pointing it out is not “oops, I was wrong about that, but …” but instead “Yes, fact X isn’t true, get your facts right.”

            To see the conversation from my side, imagine that it was about a clearer and less political issue:

            Cassander: “All odd numbers are prime.”

            HBC: “That’s nonsense, as I have pointed out before. There are lots of odd numbers that are not prime, such as seven and nine.

            Me: “What you wrote isn’t true. Seven is prime.”

            HBC: “Seven is prime, as I have mentioned in past exchanges with Cassander. But nine isn’t. Get your facts right.”

            The difference between “after 1964 the South consistently voted Republican” and “in 1972 all but one southern state went for the Democratic candidate” is not a nit.

            Concern with whether what people say is true isn’t nit picking.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The difference between “after 1964 the South consistently voted Republican” and “in 1972 all but one southern state went for the Democratic candidate” is not a nit.

            Ahem.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Where did you get regional totals? I can’t seem to google fu my way to that information.

            I couldn’t either. I ended up pasting the entire Wiki state-by-state tables into Excel, deleting the lines for the non-southern states, and then having it figure the percentages. You begin to see why I didn’t want to go all the way back to 1880!

            While what Cassander is saying is literally false, I think there’s an important truth buried in it, which is that Republican domination in the South today owes almost nothing to the civil rights battles, and almost everything to the white-on-white Culture Wars of the 1980s and later. It appears to be eroding now– hard to explain, on the racial model, why this should have begun to happen in 2008, of all years.

          • Iain says:

            @David Friedman:

            From the outside, the conversation looks a lot more like this:

            HBC: Prime numbers are all odd. Therefore, the Sieve of Sundaram is an effective way to find prime numbers.
            David Friedman: But 2 is prime! Get your facts right!
            HBC: Yes, there is a single exception, which has to be handled separately. The Sieve of Sundaram is still a valid mechanism for finding prime numbers. Get your facts right!
            David Friedman: I am not interested in whether the Sieve of Sundaram works. You claimed that all prime numbers are odd.
            HBC: Yes, and that was careless of me, but it doesn’t diminish my actual point, which was about the Sieve of Sundaram. I am arguing that the Sieve of Sundaram is capable of finding all prime numbers other than 2, up to a given integer. Do you disagree? If not, why do you keep pestering me about this?
            David Friedman: Because 2 is prime!
            HBC: Yes, and I immediately conceded that point. I have mentioned it several times in the past, too. My argument about the Sieve of Sundaram does not rely on 2 being composite. Do you have anything useful to say about the Sieve of Sundaram?
            David Friedman: You keep dismissing my objection. Why won’t you say that 2 is prime?
            Iain: EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT 2 IS PRIME.
            David Friedman: The difference between all prime numbers being odd and 2 being an even prime number is not a nit.

            You have correctly pointed out that one thing HBC said was false. HBC has conceded as much. However, you have repeatedly declined to comment on whether that falsehood is materially relevant to his broader claims about the Southern Strategy. Whether or not something counts as nit-picking depends on the context of the conversation. If you are not willing to engage with the rest of the conversation, then — like it or not — you’re nit-picking.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You have correctly pointed out that one thing HBC said was false.

            It’s even worse. I said “The South stopped voting D for president in 64 … and that has been consistent.”

            That isn’t even false.

            If I say “AZ has consistently voted Republican since 1952”, that wouldn’t be false, despite Clinton in 1996, it would just be incomplete.

            ETA:
            I’m still waiting to see whether Friedman corrects the statement he made that is false.

          • cassander says:

            @Paul Zrimsek

            How about (Republican percentage in the 11 ex-Confederate states) – (Republican percentage nationwide) as a metric?

            you need to look at the average percentage in the non-southern sates, not the country as a whole. and those numbers i discuss above. You also have to account for the Dixiecrats who are manifestly not republicans.

            @HBC

            The consequential thing is the embrace of civil rights, and the signing of the Civil Rights Act. In 1972, Nixon is not creating the conditions that split the Democratic coalition, he is simply recognizing and exploiting it.

            He’s exploiting it…..by signing a civil rights act? that’s the opposite of how you’d exploit it.

            So many things were working against Ford in ’76.

            Funny how they worked against him so much better in the south than anywhere else in the country, but that data is clearly irrelevant.

            @ian

            In any case, it is crystal clear that something was happening in the South in the 60s and 70s. Jimmy Carter is an outlier, sure, but the existence of one outlier doesn’t mean that you can throw away all previous data points. Republican control of the South does not originate with Reagan.

            The whole point is Carter ISN’T an outlier. you can’t just call data you don’t like an outlier. Carter fits in perfectly with the pre-64 trend. The south is more democratic/dicxiecratic than the rest of the country in all but 2 elections from 1948 to 1988. It’s more republican in every election from 2000 onward. in 92 and 96, it’s both more republican and more democratic. There is clearly a shift, but it takes place in the 90s, not the 60s. the 60s are, at the absolute most, the first inklings of a future shift, it is not the end of the story

            @Paul

            It’s also clearly false to say that the South was solid for the Democrats until the 1990s, or even the 1980s– though that still leaves room to argue

            I didn’t say “solid”, I said “more democratic than republican”, which is inarguable.

            While what Cassander is saying is literally false

            ,

            What you’re saying I’m saying is false. But it’s not what I actually said.

            If you want to continue this, bring it to the open thread.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The following data is from this google sheet pointed to by this article:

            The column I have as Nat. Diff is, if I am interpreting correctly, the difference in the Southern vote (all 14 states) vs. the national vote in terms of Dem vs. Republican.

            | Year | --D- | --R- | Othr | Nat. Diff |
            | 2016 | 42.5 | 53.1 | 02.7 | R+ | 07.0 |
            | 2012 | 44.3 | 54.4 | 00.0 | R+ | 07.0 |
            | 2008 | 45.7 | 53.2 | 00.0 | R+ | 08.0 |
            | 2004 | 42.0 | 57.2 | 00.0 | R+ | 06.0 |
            | 2000 | 43.2 | 54.5 | 01.3 | R+ | 06.0 |
            | 1996 | 46.0 | 45.9 | 07.3 | R+ | 05.0 |
            | 1992 | 41.2 | 42.4 | 16.0 | R+ | 04.0 |
            | 1988 | 41.3 | 57.9 | 00.0 | R+ | 04.0 |
            | 1984 | 37.2 | 62.3 | 00.0 | R+ | 03.0 |
            | 1980 | 44.4 | 51.6 | 03.0 | D+ | 02.0 |
            | 1976 | 53.9 | 44.9 | 00.0 | D+ | 03.0 |
            | 1972 | 29.3 | 69.2 | 00.0 | R+ | 08.0 |
            | 1968 | 32.2 | 36.1 | 31.5 | R+ | 02.0 |
            | 1964 | 51.9 | 46.6 | 00.0 | R+ | 09.0 |
            | 1960 | 49.6 | 47.6 | 02.8 | D+ | 01.0 |
            | 1956 | 47.2 | 50.2 | 02.6 | D+ | 06.0 |
            | 1952 | 51.1 | 48.8 | 00.0 | D+ | 07.0 |
            | 1948 | 53.0 | 30.8 | 16.1 | D+ | 11.0 |
            | 1944 | 66.2 | 31.6 | 00.0 | D+ | 14.0 |
            | 1940 | 70.8 | 29.1 | 00.0 | D+ | 16.0 |
            | 1936 | 73.5 | 26.0 | 00.0 | D+ | 11.0 |
            | 1932 | 73.3 | 26.0 | 00.5 | D+ | 15.0 |
            | 1928 | 47.1 | 52.5 | 00.0 | D+ | 06.0 |
            | 1924 | 58.0 | 36.3 | 05.4 | D+ | 27.0 |
            | 1920 | 54.7 | 42.0 | 01.4 | D+ | 20.0 |
            | 1916 | 63.4 | 31.9 | 03.2 | D+ | 15.0 |
            | 1912 | 59.0 | 18.1 | 22.1 | D+ | 12.0 |
            | 1908 | 57.9 | 38.1 | 02.1 | D+ | 15.0 |
            | 1904 | 59.9 | 35.9 | 00.8 | D+ | 23.0 |
            | 1900 | 58.0 | 39.5 | 00.0 | D+ | 13.0 |
            | 1896 | 59.5 | 38.6 | 00.0 | D+ | 13.0 |
            | 1892 | 56.6 | 28.6 | 13.7 | D+ | 15.0 |
            | 1888 | 58.9 | 38.5 | 00.0 | D+ | 10.0 |
            | 1884 | 58.2 | 40.9 | 00.0 | D+ | 08.0 |
            | 1880 | 58.7 | 37.9 | 03.2 | D+ | 11.0 |

          • HeelBearCub says:

            A couple of things to note about the table above:
            – There is no point before 1964 where Republicans outpace their national performance in the South.
            – There are only two times after (Carter in ’76 and ’80) where they do not, but these are small (2 and 3 points) compared to the double digits common before 1948.
            – The two smallest Dem tilts before Carter are 1960 and 1928, when a Catholic is on top of the Democratic ticket.

          • @Iain:

            Yes, and that was careless of me

            I do not believe that HBC made any statement equivalent to that in the thread, certainly not in his initial response.

            @HBC:

            con·sist·ent
            kənˈsistənt/
            adjective
            adjective: consistent

            acting or done in the same way over time, especially so as to be fair or accurate.
            “the parents are being consistent and firm in their reactions”
            unchanging in nature, standard, or effect over time.

            Further, you wrote:

            They either voted R or for the one open white segregation candidate ( Wallace).

            Not “they usually voted for.”

            You conceded that Carter carried the South. You did not concede that you had written something that was not true–as you have just demonstrated by arguing that what you wrote was consistent with Carter carrying the South.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Carter also won GA in 1980. Clinton won multiple states in the South and the Deep South in 1992 and 1996. Obama won NC once and VA, FL twice. HRC won VA.

            None of which makes my original statement incorrect, merely incomplete. Compare the EC results of Dems to Republicans in the South before 1964 and after and you will see a demonstrable and remarkable shift. If you look at vote margins and 3rd party results, you can see the slide beginning in 1948.

            I have now provided a great deal of data, but seemingly you are refusing to look at it and evaluate it.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You’re (A) leaving out the dixiecrats from the democrat total, (B) counting the southern average against the national average, not the average in the non-southern states. You are, in effect, double counting southern votes, and since the rest of the country was more republican than the south in the period in question, artificially lowering how republican it looks. You’re also counting oklahoma as a southern state, for some reason.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander: That kind of double counting doesn’t matter as we are concerned about change over time. The Dem advantage before 1964 would look even bigger, and the 1964 result would look even more stark in comparison.

            The Strom Thurmond vote, like the William Wallace vote, is confirmation of the theory that segregation is what drove the split, not a repudiation of it.

            I agree that it’s slightly weird that the Kos spreadsheet includes Oklahoma as part of the South. But then again the Census Bureau classifies it as such.

            Removing it would generally make things look worse for you as they voted R from 52 forward, except in 1964, when they voted D. It’s going to slightly accentuate the 1964 result. Carter’s Dem results would look slightly better though. I’d be surprised if it made any appreciable difference though, as OK is too small to really move the needle on its own.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            From the outside, the conversation looks a lot more like this:

            From the point of view of this outsider, the conversation looks like HBC making a false statement, getting called out on it, and then doubling down and throwing a load of needless belligerence at anyone who disagreed with him.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            I’ve been belligerent towards Friedman, as I am returning in kind what he offered to me.

            I called cassander’s statement BS because it is (and because he keeps repeating it).

          • baconbacon says:

            @ Ian,

            That seems hyperbolic. The number of presidential elections post WW2 is far fewer than then number of primes. Considering that the counter argument is that the split occurred in the 90s you basically have 1/5 elected presidents bucking the trend, with a couple of others being inconclusive since they won with such broad representation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’ve been belligerent towards Friedman, as I am returning in kind what he offered to me.

            None of David Friedman’s comments on this subthread have been in any way belligerent. You, on the other hand, are coming across very strongly as an ideologue who can’t accept disagreement on his pet theory.

            I called cassander’s statement BS because it is (and because he keeps repeating it).

            Cassander’s statement is less obviously BS than your claim that the South consistently voted Republican after 1964.

    • Null42 says:

      Tribalism works in politics. The Republicans do it too. It hijacks the reptile brain pretty effectively. Long-term, practicing it will destroy a diverse country like ours.

  13. The Nybbler says:

    Really, I think running some mainstream Democrat (i.e. not Bernie) other than Hillary was the Democrats winning move. Hillary was among the worst candidates they could have picked. But it was her turn. That said, she lost by so little there are probably any number of things she could have done differently to win.

    • Acedia says:

      Really, I think running some mainstream Democrat (i.e. not Bernie) other than Hillary was the Democrats winning move.

      Yeah, Biden would definitely have won. People who think the Clintons are great just can’t accept how disliked they are even by many people who don’t consider themselves to be on the right.

      • herbert herberson says:

        In fairness, it’s hard to understand. I strongly dislike a ton of things both Clintons have done, their entire politics is designed to shut the likes of me out, I think HRC has buckets of blood on her hand, but I still find myself puzzled by just how much people across the political spectrum truly hate her. To me, she just seems so bog-standard, barely distinguishable from a million other warmongering neoliberal New Democrat faux-technocrats; I can’t understand or explain why so many people are so uniquely triggered by her (at least without reaching for the obvious, very uncharitable, assumptions).

        • Kevin C. says:

          “I can’t understand or explain why so many people are so uniquely triggered by her”

          I’d say part of it is a matter of affect and demeanor. If I must try to sum it up in one word, I suppose it would be “schoolmarmish”. That is, she comes across as kind of cold, stiff, and not merely “lecturing” or “talking down”, but hectoring, berating. Obama’s “bitter clingers” may have come off as arrogant and condescending to plenty of us, but it wasn’t as openly hostile as “basket of deplorables”. She has neither the affable charm of her husband, nor the professorial polish that I’ll admit Obama could display. Plus, there’s always that perception expressed by some people, on both sides of the aisle, of her putting off a sense of entitlement, as if she was “owed” the office.

          Just one man’s opinion, though.

        • cassander says:

          > To me, she just seems so bog-standard, barely distinguishable from a million other warmongering neoliberal New Democrat faux-technocrats;

          Incompetence can be excused if you’re honest, corruption can be excused if you’re competent. Clinton is incompetent and corrupt, and had the gall to run on a platform of vote for me, i’m super competent and my opponent is corrupt!

        • Deiseach says:

          I can’t understand or explain why so many people are so uniquely triggered by her

          Charisma deficit, which is a flaw in a politician. Hillary can be a very competent civil servant – she did okay as Secretary of State under Obama, give or take a few little things like Libya and the email server – but when she’s not parachuted in to a safe seat (like the New York senator’s gig) and has to go out and hustle for the votes of the grubby masses, this shows up in a glaring way. Like fire, she’s a good servant but a bad master.

          She just does not have Bill’s charm and magnetism (which isn’t her fault, very few do) but even Obama was able to turn on the performance from ‘wonkish law professor to icon of Hope and Change’ and she can’t do that. She can talk detailed policy until the cows come home, but she can’t manage the attractive, makes-you-feel-good-by-association, uplifting thing when campaigning.

          Again, that’s not her fault but for a position like the American presidency which has a lot of power and influence globally as well as nationally, people want a statesmanlike figure who seems to have star power, not a dull bureaucrat who can be trusted to have the filing in perfect order. I think she’s aware of this, and that lies behind the things like the string of campaign slogans to find one that will stick and things like the claim about coming under sniper fire in Bosnia; she tries on personae to find one that will have mass and maximum appeal, but since she can never convincingly adopt one, everyone can tell it’s a mask and that simply makes her look false and shallow.

          As for the dislikeability, it’s the naked ambition on show (yes, all politicians have it, but the successful can plaster over it with a coat of ‘public service and the good of the people is why I’m seeking high office’; ‘I deserve it is why’ peeks through the coat of whitewash with Hillary) and the impression she gives (I don’t know if it’s true in reality, but she does give it) that she holds grudges and will remember if you ever crossed her, even if that’s only in her opinion that you crossed her, and you will be made to pay for it – that extract from Shattered about how after the failed campaign against Obama, she went on a loyalty purge, demanding access to the emails of her staff so she could read through them and find out who had ‘plotted’ against her, and then spent time afterwards sabotaging the disloyal. I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems plausible, it seems credible in terms of her character that she’d make and keep a little list and cross off names as she got payback against them, and that’s not really a good impression.

          • Reading your description of Hilary, it occurs to me that she is somewhat like Nixon. My view of him was that he had a high IQ and low Charisma, was not a natural demagogue and so had to do it with his head instead of his heart. A lot of people hated him, and I don’t have the impression that his supporters loved him.

          • Deiseach says:

            Reading your description of Hilary, it occurs to me that she is somewhat like Nixon.

            I was but a small child when Watergate broke and I had very little idea of what was going on, save that the American president was in big trouble. And it didn’t surprise me because I thought he looked shifty. I don’t think I picked up this attitude from my parents, it was a result of seeing his face on the news: he looked untrustworthy in some manner.

            Now, the man probably couldn’t help his face, but if Hillary triggers the same kind of “nope, she looks crooked” instinctual reaction in people, that could explain some of the intense dislike of her. Even if Nixon and Hillary are both as smart as they think they are, they have a very high handicap to get over in that regard, even if Nixon goes to China and makes an important diplomatic breakthrough in relations. And I don’t think anybody is going to take it as a compliment to be compared to Nixon 🙂

            But I think the comparison is apt: intelligent, ambitious, hard-working but not naturally “people persons” and with a definite aura of “the bastards are out to get me, but I’m going to get them first!” about them.

          • cassander says:

            I think Hilary thinks she’s like Nixon, but she isn’t. Part of Clinton’s lack of appeal is she seems to think she’s smarter than she is. Everyone knows the kid whose IQ is 110 but acts at if it’s 130. That’s Hillary to a T.

            And to call her a dull bureaucrat is to mistake effort for achievement. Hillary was very popular at state. By all accounts she did her homework. but in 4 years she did almost nothing besides that homework. She left no mark on the department and no mark on policy outside of Libya and Syria, both of which were disasters. Those are not the results of a serious wonk who just can’t get people to like her. They’re the results of someone who thinks she’s a serious wonk because she can tell you the names of all the species of trees. And that’s exactly the trouble she had with healthcare 25 years ago. She learned nothing and forgot nothing.

          • Deiseach says:

            And to call her a dull bureaucrat is to mistake effort for achievement. Hillary was very popular at state. By all accounts she did her homework. but in 4 years she did almost nothing besides that homework.

            Well, that is what I meant by “dull bureaucrat” – someone who efficiently and competently carries out the instructions they’re given, but whose performance depends on being given instructions by someone more capable for setting policy than acting on their own initiative*. That’s what we’re arguing about with Hillary’s campaign and lack of a Soaring Vision – “four more years of the same old” very much depends on what the “same old” was, and it was the case that the “same old” was “doing what Obama wants done”.

            When it came to “doing what I want done”, there was no real indicator there as to exactly what it was she wanted done: plenty of detail on how the fabric for the invisible clothing is going to be sourced, woven, cut and tailored, but no actual “and this is the suit of clothes the Emperor will wear once it’s all done!” pictures.

            *Not to be mean to dull bureaucrats, this is exactly the type of minor minion I am – tell me what you want done then go away and let me do it without micromanaging, I thrive. Give me free rein to make all the decisions and nothing more concrete to go on than “It’d be nice if something unspecified vaguely happened” and I flail and panic**. The notion that without Obama (or Bill) to tell her what to do, Hillary would flail and panic – or worse, that electing her meant that in effect it was a third term for President Bill who would be the one really making the decisions – could have been behind some of the lack of enthusiasm for her candidacy.

            **(a) “I’m going to lunch now, write a nice letter for Susan Jones wishing her well as she leaves for her new job and leave it on my desk for me to sign when I get back” – no problem, I will do a nice mixture of generic soppiness and personalised touches extracted from her personnel file couched in an informal manner that blends warm fuzzies with boss-to-employee type positive assessment of her service here.

            (b) “I’m going to lunch now, do up a letter for Susan for when I come back, okay?” – wait, which Susan, we’ve got three working here! And what kind of a letter – is she getting fired, getting promoted, she contracted Purple Plague, what? And is it formal “Dear Ms Jones” or “Dear Susie” you want? Waaaaaah!!!!!

          • That’s where the unlikeable comes form: where does the evil come from?

        • LCL says:

          I had this same impression, with the twist that I thought the status quo was pretty good and therefore looked favorably on a seemingly bog-standard neoliberal establishment politician.

          But I’m a reader and barely ever watch TV. After I did tune in to a couple of the debates, it started to make more sense. I was struck by how fake she seemed. Fake and mechanical – she wasn’t inhabiting the role well at all. You don’t have to be a great actor to be a politician but it helps not to be a terrible one.

          Trump on the other hand was very authentically churlish, inarticulate, and instantly bored of any subject other than himself. Which is an awful personality for a president, but oddly gives you a kind of warm fuzzy feeling towards him. The very inappropriateness of his behavior, for a presidential candidate, acts as reassurance of his authenticity. He’s not only not faking, but patently incapable of behaving any other way.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Good answer, and very possible that the same thing is going on with me.

            Also comports with the Nixon comparisons people are making in other parts of this thread.

    • Deiseach says:

      That said, she lost by so little there are probably any number of things she could have done differently to win.

      (1) If it’s true that her campaign tried to help nudge the selection of Trump as the Republican candidate because they thought he was the most easily beatable of the selection on offer, then they deserve the loss because that was monumentally stupid.

      (2) Taking the minority demographic vote for granted. African-Americans turned out for Obama because first black president. They were not going to turn out for rich white woman in the same numbers, and assuming that they would because “she’s the Democrat” was counting your chickens before they’re hatched.

      I do think they were the two worst errors. The whole emails imbroglio didn’t help, but it would have died down if not for Anthony Weiner and the investigation into his sexting a minor and the finding of work-related emails on the shared family laptop kicked it all off again (honestly, somebody should have him neutered, or at least make sure he never again comes within fifty miles of anybody associated with the Clintons, but apparently Huma is taking him back for one more chance and she remains one of Hillary’s closest friends and advisers, so the Democrats are not learning their lessons there, because Wandering Willy will lead him – and by association, the Democratic Party – into yet another scandal one of these days!)

      • Null42 says:

        I rather enjoyed the Breitbart suggestion that Weiner and Willy were going to go out to, ah, seek the company of the opposite sex together if Hillary won. At the very least there’s a good recurring sketch gag in there.

        • Along with Bill’s friend Donald, perhaps?

          • goddamnjohnjay says:

            I was honestly a little surprised that at no point Donald produced a tape of him and Bill laughing about Bill’s affairs.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oh dear, this is one of those “two nations separated by a common language” thing 🙂

          By Wandering Willy, I did not mean Bill Clinton – the thought never occurred to me, though in hindsight I can see how the confusion arose.

          I meant Anthony’s Little Tony, the head that seems to do all his thinking for him, is going to get him in trouble again one of these days (going by past performance: if Huma is willing to take him back after everything, and once again everything, and yet again everything, why on earth would he ever change his behaviour?). Willy in this sense (which is why, when trailers for the movie “Free Willy” were shown in cinemas in the British Isles, they unintentionally caused a lot of laughter).

          • Null42 says:

            We have that too, but Clinton was known for a while (particularly among his detractors) as ‘Slick Willy’ so it kind of overwrites it. Not that weren’t many jokes about Willy and his willy.

            David: No, because this was Breitbart, but that is a really great idea. (Or at least would have been if Hillary had won…remember the conspiracy theories that the Clintons paid him to get in the race to make the GOP lose? I can totally see him pocketing the money and inviting Bill up to Trump Tower for drinks and…company to celebrate.)

  14. falstaffAZ says:

    Some of my pet hypotheses:

    1. The polls and the press and the prevailing wisdom said that Clinton would win easily. No need to show up to the polls if you prefer her to Trump, but don’t really like her and maybe don’t care that much about politics anyway.

    2. Bernie might have been helpful to the Democrats in recruiting young voters who wouldn’t otherwise have been as enthused about Clinton as, say, their slightly older peers were about Obama. What he also ended up doing was serving as a foil to Clinton, whose belated opposition to TPP, etc. was nakedly, characteristically cynical and opportunistic. When Trump became the more credible anti-globalization candidate of the two plausible contenders (and the first in generations at the top of the ticket), the white working-class in the decisive states (WI, MI, OH, and PA) were willing to cross party lines/show up to the polls in greater numbers than they would have for generic D vs. generic R.

    3. As others have suggested, the White House has swung between the two parties with almost perfect regularity since WWII: two years Democratic, two years Republican — the lone exception being Carter/Reagan in 1980. Clinton had this pendulum working against her from the start, and although I expected Trump to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, he succeeded in ways that Republicans I would have supported would not have done. (I’m not sure whether Rubio’s or Kasich’s unfavorables would have been as much a handicap as Clinton’s or Trump’s in the general election, but before November 8 I would have rated Cruz as likelier to win than Trump, and in hindsight, I think I was wrong about that.)

    4. Scalia’s seat motivated some significant number of temperamentally #NeverTrump conservatives to plug their noses and cast their ballots. Short of nominating Eugene Volokh or one of his co-conspirators, I don’t know that any of the other Republicans could have improved on Gorsuch in rewarding this gamble.

    • Enkidum says:

      You forgot about Clinton vs Bush as the other exception. Otherwise I think you’re mostly right.

    • bbeck310 says:

      #4 is incredibly important in figuring out why Trump’s unpopularity with conservatives in the primary didn’t hurt him more in the general. I was a hardcore Cruz/NeverTrumper in the primary, to the point that living in non-swing Illinois, I voted for McMullin in the general–but had I lived in a swing state, I still probably would have held my nose and voted for Trump. And if Trump’s presidency ends up being essentially “Change nothing of substance, and put Gorsuch, Diane Sykes, and another equivalent on the Supreme Court to replace Scalia, Kennedy, and probably Ginsburg,” I’d be a very happy conservative.

      • falstaffAZ says:

        @Enkidum

        This might be misplaced optimism, but I just didn’t see Jeb surviving the primaries, with or without Trump. One other significant factor to which I haven’t seen enough credit given is the segment of Trump’s supporters who were pro-Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012. There was an untapped reservoir of conservative voters with no time at all for another Bush, by any name (i.e., fairly or not, Rubio). Furthermore, I think there are enough Republicans who, if they don’t quite share the popular estimation of Bush II as Worst President Ever™, do nonetheless understand that enough people do feel that way that Bush III would have been DOA against Clinton II, or virtually anyone else.
        He did raise an awful lot of money, though…

        @bbeck310

        We’re on the same page. I was anti-Trump, pro-Cruz as well, and ended up voting Johnson in November. If I was in a traditional swing state — or if I’d have known that AZ would be quite so swingy (which I ought to have, given that one reason I thought Trump was a surefire disaster was how much I expected him to outdo any other Republican in galvanizing Latino voters to show up for the Democrats) — I would likely have held my nose and dropped my pebble in the Trump bucket, too.

        • Enkidum says:

          No, I meant Bush Sr was a 1-term president (and succeeded a Republican, for that matter), so an exception to the clockwork regularity of 8 years between the parties.

          • falstaffAZ says:

            Ah, I see. The idea (which I’ve stolen from elsewhere, I should add) is that Bush Sr. was filling out the second of the two regularly scheduled Republican terms, whereas Reagan’s first term was “supposed to be” the Democrats’ second.

  15. jhertzlinger says:

    Please note that Clinton ran ahead of her party. Please also note that the boring Republicans in Congress ran ahead of Trump.

    Also, Point 1 sounds like “She focused too much on identity politics and ignored identity politics.”

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      Really? In Missouri Trump won by 21 and Kander lost by 5. So he was running 16% ahead of Clinton.

      • Iain says:

        Clinton won the popular vote for president, 48.2%-46.1%. The Republicans won the popular vote in the House, 49.1%-48%. So Clinton edged the House Democrats by 0.2% of the total (and by more than 3% in the margin of victory), whereas House Republicans beat Trump by a solid 3%.

        (The Democrats won the popular vote in the Senate, but that’s harder to compare fairly, since only a third of senators are up for election at any one time.)

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          but that’s based on massive population centers. so yeah she won by 4.6mil or something in cali, which makes the rest of the nation irrelevant.

          • Iain says:

            Uh, what?

            California also voted on House Democrats. Winning California by a significant margin doesn’t put Clinton ahead of the House Democrats unless her margin was even bigger than theirs. That’s what it means to run ahead of your party.

  16. userfriendlyyy says:

    There are SO few people that have spent any time thinking about political ideology at all, I’m not at all surprised by that 4% figure. They couldn’t give you much past a few boilerplate partisan positions and almost never give you a reason why either party has landed at a particular stance. Jonathan Chait just pointed out in NYMag that not only is trump not ideological, he barely understands what the difference is between different ideologies. Trump recently called Bannon a Libertarian…. sigh.
    Trump Isn’t a Pragmatist. He Doesn’t Understand Ideology.

    Many Americans share Trump’s lack of ideological sophistication. High-information voters tend to clump at the ends of the political spectrum. They may not have sophisticated beliefs, but their identification with one of the party coalitions is a tool they use to make sense of individual issues. Low-information voters tend to have a weak understanding of what the political parties stand for and how those positions relate to each other. These voters can be roughly categorized as “centrist” because they don’t line up neatly with one party platform or the other. But, rather than a consistently moderate outlook, they share a mishmash of extreme and frequently uninformed beliefs. Because they don’t understand the philosophical basis for disagreements, they assume the two parties ought to naturally cooperate, and tend to see partisan bickering as a failure and an indication of personal fault by politicians.

    Trump thinks about politics like a low-information voter, which enabled him to speak their language naturally. His stated belief during the campaign that he could expertly craft a series of popular deals — “it’s going to be so easy” — appealed to low-information voters because it earnestly described the political world as they see it. Trump’s experience as a developer and professional celebrity have put a narcissistic gloss on Trump’s low-information worldview. He sees politics as a variation of real estate or reality television — a field where the players are sorted not so much as combatants on opposing teams (though they may compete at times) but on a hierarchy of success, with the big stars at the top sharing interests in common. His vague boasts that his presidency would create terrific things that everybody loves and is winning again is a version of how he truly sees the world.

    I think that has a lot of truth to it. People have seen no wage growth since the dawn of neoliberalism in the 80’s. They have had to go further and further into debt just to keep their head above water. When 2/3rds of the country couldn’t meet a $1000 emergency, we are living in a very unstable and angry time.

    Most of them know it is Wall Street’s fault but they are only starting to realize just how much Obama is to blame by punishing the greatest financial disaster since the great recession with a blank check and a get out of jail free card.

    People are ready to blame anyone and anything too close to Wall Street. Clinton managed to force the Media to use it’s last ounce of credibility to trash Sanders as unelectable and a sexist in the primary, because they all knew that she is a very petty woman and holds a grudge and they wanted access to her administration.

    There is a reason Drain the Swamp was a popular rally cry. YouGov has a thing where you can write an opinion on something and people from all sides get to vote on how much they agree or disagree with it. The anger is still palpable and Trump making the rich richer is not doing the GOP any favors. Here is something I posted the other day.

    The people making the decisions for both parties are completely detached from the devastating consequences of their decisions. There is a whole parasitic consultant class that is self serving and has thrown the middle class under the bus. We are closer to neofeudalism via debt bondage than a Democracy. But that’s what you get when Wall Street owns both parties and they always win and the American People always lose. I’ll be shocked if this country still exists in 20 years. Socialism would help.
    http://imgur.com/a/y7MSb

    Republicans just lost themselves the house in 2018 with that AHCA vote that will never make it past the Senate. If it did they would lose that chamber too. If Trump can’t stick it to Wall Street, and hard, or at lease give some gains to someone besides the ultra rich I see a Sanders presidency in 2020.

    • reasoned argumentation says:

      Most of them know it is Wall Street’s fault but they are only starting to realize just how much Obama is to blame by punishing the greatest financial disaster since the great recession with a blank check and a get out of jail free card.

      This doesn’t really get at the heart of it though.

      Yeah, Wall Street built up a giant pile of debt and derivatives on that debt and they all held the same assets as capital so that when there was a dip and someone was forced to sell to maintain capital ratios it would depress the prices leading to more banks having to sell to maintain capital ratios in a downward spiral. However, what did you expect to happen when the government mandated that “home ownership is for everyone” and winked at every bank that bought up bundles of mortgages without looking too closely at the contents? Looking too closely was racist because of something something traditionally under-served borrowers and diversity is our greatest strength and George W Bush really wanted to get 40% of the Latino vote, etc.

      So the mortgages were pushed by the government, rated AAA by the rating agencies (who were paid by the banks – because the photocopier made the old business model where the bond buyer paid the rating agencies obsolete so they changed over to having the underwriter pay the rating agency – when the last generation was still in charge the obvious conflict of interest never amounted to anything because that generation learned the business under the old model but by ’08 they were all gone), bought by all the banks because AAA and gotta get competitive returns, then when any shock happened the whole thing came crashing down.

      Who on Wall Street should go to jail for that? If you questioned any of it in an email the USG goes after your firm for questioning diversity.

      • poipoipoi says:

        Oh, it’s even better then that.

        The low-income housing markets were *lagging* indicators. They didn’t collapse until late 2008 or 2009. Because there was a major credit shift away from low-income borrowers that was 10 or 20 times the size of the credit shift towards them during the bubble.

        Don’t get the Fed raising interest rates in the face of an inverted yield curve from 2005 to 2008, and don’t get the credit shift starting in 2005 and continuing to today, and those “predatory” loans are good. And compared to 2017 rents… they’re not predatory at all.

      • userfriendlyyy says:

        Sigh, I guess there are still some people that will swallow the bank propaganda no matter what. Ther CRA wasn’t even mentioned as an explanation for the explosion in subprime lending until 3/07. If these angels on Wall Street were so concerned about being forced to make these risky loans it sure is odd that they wait for it to start exploding before they decided to say anything. It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that they were raking in money by repackaging as many subprime loans as they could get their hands on with other mortgages for Credit Default Swaps. They came up with fun nicknames like NINJA (no income no jobs or assets) despite totally expecting those people to be able to repay, which is why they went ahead and bundled and sold those off too. Just ignore the fact that a whole lot of the sub prime market was not minorities, and not in urban centers…

        Ambitious lenders such as Seattle-based Washington Mutual’s Long Beach Mortgage, which between 2004 and 2006 made $48 billion in high-rate loans, used armies of outside brokers to push subprime loans into the suburbs. (A company slogan: “The Power of Yes.”) The result was a mortgage bonanza that reached every racial and ethnic group, income level and geographic area.

        By 2005, a list of subprime lending specialists compiled by the Department of Housing and Urban Development had grown to 210 lenders, from 141 in 1996. Their combined loan volume grew tenfold during the same period.

        “Old industrial cities like Philadelphia have a poverty problem, and that’s why people had to use subprime loans,” says Kevin Gillen, a research fellow at the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania. But in pricey areas such as Miami, where the high-rate market share jumped 25 percentage points from 2004 to 2006, subprime loans didn’t have a downscale reputation. They were seen as the answer to sky-high housing costs. “They are different groups, but subprime served both of them,” Mr. Gillen says.

        It used to be that high-rate borrowers weren’t allowed to stretch as much as conventional borrowers on loan amounts, a reflection of their higher credit risk. But as home prices rose throughout the U.S. in the early 2000s, lenders grew more willing to let high-rate borrowers get bigger loans as measured against their annual incomes. In 2005, borrowers who got high-rate mortgages to buy one-to-four-family homes were loaned 2.1 times their reported annual income, on average, according to the data. That was 4% higher than regular borrowers.

        Lenders also extended more “second-lien” mortgages — many of them “piggyback” second loans that borrowers used to cover down payments. Such second-lien loans climbed to 22% of all mortgages last year, up from 12% in 2004. Piggybacks are considered far more likely to default than a standard mortgage.

        Lenders did little to discourage speculation by real-estate investors, which contributed to rising home prices. Last year, 13% of all high-rate home loans were for properties not occupied by owners, up from about 9% in 2004, the data show. Experts say such properties are higher foreclosure risks than homes lived in by their owners….

        About 63% of high-rate mortgages originated in 2004 were sold that same year, compared to 68% of all home loans, the data indicate. Last year, about 73% of new high-rate loans were sold, compared to 67% rate of all home loans. Last year, the average high-rate loan carried an interest rate that was 5.6 percentage points higher than a Treasury security of comparable maturity — up from 5.3 points in 2005 and 4.8 points in 2004.

        Just admit it. We live in a corrupt country where the incentives are all off and it’s Wall Street’s Fault.

        • reasoned argumentation says:

          You don’t even know the difference between the major banks and the mortgage originators – NINJA was term coined by the originators.

          The major banks bought the packaged mortgages in the thousands and never looked too closely at the details – again, because that would have been racist.

          Here’s the incentive structure – no matter what the Wall Street banks put their funds into they’re all at systemic risk of collapse because competition drives them to the highest rate of return that’s still AAA rated which is going to be the same asset class for all of the banks. No matter what they need to be backstopped by the Fed because that’s what maturity transformation does – it guarantees eventual collapse.

          The whole thing works out quite nicely because the Wall Street firms get to make huge bets, collect the profits when they pay off, and when the crash comes they get bailed out. The USG loves this because it means every bank has to be paid up with the political favor bank or they go the way of Lehman – which was stupid enough to make their political favor payments to Jeb! and John Kasich (yep – both of them pulled down a few million as employees of Lehman Brothers) instead of to the Clinton machine. Instead the Wall Street firms all want to be like GS – who “never took a dollar of TARP money” – but got a massive backdoor bailout through AIG.

          So when the time comes and the USG wants mortgages to strawberry pickers, the USG gets mortgages to strawberry pickers. Wall Street makes a ton of money too – but that’s because they’re actually needed. You think our political class has the math skills necessary to run a financial industry? They can barely interpret poll data.

          • bobbingandweaving says:

            I think the answer is neither racism nor subprime mortgages. I think the biggest answer lies in: a) doom loop (Haldane), b) excessive competition post deregulation in the 80s leading to innovation in finance c) repeal of Glass Steagal and replacement with GBL in 98 led to mergers and universal banks d) tax code encouraging leveraging e) limited liability laws instated in the 19th century? e) Basel’s inadequacy and ease of circumvention f) innovation leading to the same mechanisms (leveraging, bust, deleveraging) being far more dangerous simply because of the interconnectivity the financial instruments allow g) regulatory and academic capture to represent wall street’s interests.

            Most of these factors originated pre Clinton’s homeownership policies so I doubt it was that. The reason it was so deadly and wasn’t contained to the vulnerable reasons was because of the nature of CDOs, instruments allowing for complexity and financial deepening like never before.

          • cassander says:

            @bobbingandweaving

            c) repeal of Glass Steagal and replacement with GBL in 98 led to mergers and universal banks

            Except this didn’t happen.

            And on philosophical level, GS did nothing to reduce risk. It didn’t say commercial banks couldn’t make risky bets, all it did was require them to hire an outside Ibank to do certain kinds of business instead of doing it in house. GS made banking less safe, not more, by artificially insulating certain kinds of business from others,which meant when an unusual event happened, it would hit a lot harder in certain places than others.

            This theory was born out by how the financial crisis actually happened. The banks that got in trouble weren’t unified investment/commercial banks, they were banks like bear sterns that were pure ibanks operating the same as they did before glass steagall. unified banks were SAFER, not less safe, precisely because they had more varied holdings. On top of that, the acute phase of the crisis was ended by having the ibanks merge with commercial banks to shore up their finances. The empirical evidence is the exact opposite of what you claim in this case.

            In sum, saying “the repeal of GS led to the financial crisis” is, while popular, utterly wrong and totally at odds with both theory and history. It’s a red flag th at the person talking is either A, selling you a bill of goods, or B, doesn’t know much about finance.

          • bobbingandweaving says:

            @cassander

            The use of SPVs existed before glass Steagal. What glass Steagals repeal did do was give banks the green light to go ahead and merge and cross subsidise their inherently risky trading activities with revenues and profits gained from the core business of making loans and mortgages to ordinary folks. And regarding universal banks being safer, that’s contentious – economies of scale vs. administrative bloat and principal agent write large, what we do know is that universal banks have a definite green light from the state that they will be supported and receive capital injections if need be because of how tied up their are to the retail side of the banking system which is essential for consumption smoothing that keeps business cycles muted. This obviously gives other banks a huge incentive to deal with them because they know they will defacto fall under the universal banks safety net if shit hits the fan. I also disagree with your point that by insulating risky activities it makes us more vulnerable, that’s not necessarily true. If a bomb goes of in the desert no one is hurt. If it goes off in the city, people die. Breeding a banks trading books with its retail books is like placing a huge nuke in the city. There has to be a demarcation, what’s more the people who deposit in these institutions would have a serious problem with their money being used to buy CDOs.

            Also regarding your point about varied holdings, I’m not so sure it composes well, most of the banks that suffered had varied holdings, the problem was is that they all varied in exactly the same way so ones failure implied failure of them all.

            Regarding your claim about what banks got in trouble: there were universal banks, especially in Germany, they didn’t get into the sorta trouble that Bear Stearns did because they had implicit state guarantees and often received bailouts, hell even Goldman Sachs became a universal bank overnight just to file for state relief.

            To be honest, there is no unanmity in beliefs of the causes of the FC, except for maybe the governmental ones beginning in the late 19th century. Also, I’m very tired so sorry if my comment is somewhat incoherent.

          • cassander says:

            >The use of SPVs existed before glass Steagal. What glass Steagals repeal did do was give banks the green light to go ahead and merge and cross subsidise their inherently risky trading activities with revenues and profits gained from the core business of making loans and mortgages to ordinary folks.

            This obviously gives other banks a huge incentive to deal with them because they know they will defacto fall under the universal banks safety net if shit hits the fan.

            Which is why, in 2008, these banks fell first……

            Oh wait, no. literally the opposite of what happened in the crisis. Pure Ibanks got in trouble, not combined banks, and combined banks bailed them out. This theory is a good one, it’s just 180 degrees at odds with reality.

            There has to be a demarcation, what’s more the people who deposit in these institutions would have a serious problem with their money being used to buy CDOs.

            No country on earth besides the US seperates commercial and I banking. They are not all smoking financial craters, because the distinction is entirely arbitrary.

            To be honest, there is no unanmity in beliefs of the causes of the FC, except for maybe the governmental ones beginning in the late 19th century. Also, I’m very tired so sorry if my comment is somewhat incoherent.

            There are a great many theories about the FC, but one that is absolutely certainly wrong is that the repeal of glass steagall had anything to do with it.

    • engleberg says:

      ” I see a Sanders presidency in 2020.@

      I saw a Sanders win in the 2016 primary stolen by establishment D party for Clinton. Would you call that a Russian conspiracy theory?

      • Dabbler says:

        That doesn’t mean Sanders can’t win now. Sure his faction is losing, but it’s in a stronger position than before and Clinton’s out of the way. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say he’s at a disadvantage but not write him out for winning the Democratic Party yet?

        • engleberg says:

          ‘I won last time but they stole it, and they got caught’ is a great resume builder. I’d hate to be the establishment D party guy running against Sanders on anything now- the default assumption would be that I’m a cheater, and even if I’m not, I deserve to be punished for the 2016 theft.

    • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

      The people making the decisions for both parties are completely detached from the devastating consequences of their decisions. There is a whole parasitic consultant class that is self serving

      That’s what you get when you do big government. There’s no way to have a government of a country as vast as the USA to have a finger in every pie and a nose in every pot and not grow to enormous class which specializes on doing that. It’s just impossible to do any other way. And once they exist, first thing they’d do is ensure whatever happens, it’s no threat to them. And who’s going to prevent them from doing so, when they are literally “l’etat c’est moi”?
      And of course it would be completely detached – how can you attach one centralized body to hundreds of millions of people and billions of endeavors they are occupied with? It’s not possible, the more centralized it is, the more detached it is, it’s inevitable.

      Socialism would help

      As a person who lived under actual socialism, please allow me to assure it won’t. You’d get the same issue, only multiplied by 1000, and with no nice things to keep you warm, healthy, fed and entertained. You may think those are things cunningly produced to distract workers from struggle for their rights, but try living without them, and I assure you, the workers would be distracted much more by such questions as where to get some meat and toilet paper (somehow socialism and toilet paper are hardly compatible, it’s a mystery – once socialism develops somewhere, within years there are problems with toilet paper…) and where to buy shoes and pants that do not look like they were made by reptilians for reptilians and don’t fall apart after a week. And I’m not even touching how it works when you try to go to a dentist or call a plumber… No, if you don’t like self-serving parasitic classes having total control and ignoring needs of actual people, while themselves living well above common man and isolated from all responsibility, you’d hate socialism.

    • cassander says:

      I think that has a lot of truth to it. People have seen no wage growth since the dawn of neoliberalism in the 80’s. They have had to go further and further into debt just to keep their head above water. When 2/3rds of the country couldn’t meet a $1000 emergency, we are living in a very unstable and angry time.

      In a world where cheap , unsecured credit is mailed to everyone ever day, why on earth would you need to be able to put your hands on 1000 dollars? Don’t get me wrong, having that much money is definite good practice, but it’s only needed if you CAN’T borrow money easily and cheaply, and today everyone can. those people who don’t have a grand aren’t going to die because they don’t have it, if they need it, they’ll borrow it.

      • Protagoras says:

        You know, there are people with credit ratings low enough that the cheap, unsecured credit is not available to them, as well as people with their credit cards maxed out who similarly can’t get any more credit (and probably shouldn’t). While 2/3 of the country is surely an exaggeration for how many such people there are, it may be as high as 1/4. Still a lot of people, anyway.

        • cassander says:

          If that’s the case, it’s because they’ve already borrowed a lot and torched their credit by not paying it back. your credit score doesn’t start out bad.

          • Protagoras says:

            I was pointing out the existence of people for whom your proposed solution is not available. How they got that way is not relevant to the question of whether they exist.

          • cassander says:

            How they got that way certainly matters. Pretend there was a government program, once in everyone’s life, they can get a 1000 dollars, no questions asked, courtesy of Uncle Sam. Call it the freedom bonus. And let’s suppose the entire country is filled with thrifty people who only take out that money in an emergency. IF you want to tell me “1/4 of people don’t have 1000 dollars to their name for emergencies!” Then my first question is going to be “what percentage of them can still get their bonus?”

            Now, credit cards are not nearly as good a deal as the freedom bonus, but they’re a lot easier than saving. I am sure lots of people have bad credit. But whatever the percentage of people is with no savings, you need to subtract those without bad credit. And probably also those with a serious financial setback in recent years, like bankruptcy. THe context matters.

          • Protagoras says:

            If the percentage of them that can get their freedom bonus is less than 100%, then there are some people for whom the suggestion “they could just get their freedom bonus!” is worthless. If it’s a lot less than 100% (which seems to be the real world case), there are a lot of people for whom the suggestion is worthless.

            BTW, how much do you actually know about what credit is available to lower income people? The methods of calculating credit ratings are less than fully transparent (trade secrets and all). I know that college students can get credit cards with no credit history, but I would be shocked if the banks were actually treating all people without a history of borrowing as equal; the credit reporting agencies have more info about people than just what they’ve borrowed and how they’ve been repaying it. And I honestly don’t know how easy it is for someone who is not a college student, who is perhaps older and so for whom it might look suspicious to the banks that they don’t already have a credit history, to get unsecured credit. I think you may be making unjustified assumptions about how things would work for such people.

          • cassander says:

            >BTW, how much do you actually know about what credit is available to lower income people? The methods of calculating credit ratings are less than fully transparent (trade secrets and all). I know that college students can get credit cards with no credit history, but I would be shocked if the banks were actually treating all people without a history of borrowing as equal

            Nope, but I was a college dropout for a while with little income, and I kept getting them. Heck, I even got them when I was living in mexico getting paid cash, though I was a graduate by that point.

            I think you may be making unjustified assumptions about how things would work for such people.

            It’s very possible.

      • userfriendlyyy says:

        Wow, you have never met a poor person have you? 7% of US Households are unbanked. An additional 20% are underbanked (they have a checking or savings account but do most of their banking outside the banking system). With over a quarter of the population not being able to afford to maintain a checking account you think they are going to get a $1k line of credit at anything short the most ridiculous rate imaginable? How do you suppose they will be able to afford to pay back that $1k when they are barely making enough to live right now? This country is awful for poor people. Like it’s a wonder any of them survive with the complete lack of a safety net we have in this country. It’s a wonder they don’t want to go around killing rich people for making their lives practically unlivable. We are well on our way to neofeudalism, and I’m not being hyperbolic.

        • cassander says:

          >Wow, you have never met a poor person have you? 7% of US Households are unbanked.

          alright, So what? Are they choosing not to bank or are they unable to bank? Because if it’s the former, I don’t care. If circumstances change and they need a bank, they can get one. If you have numbers on those who can’t bank, for some reason, then we have something to talk about.

          >An additional 20% are underbanked

          A completely meaningless statistic.

          >With over a quarter of the population not being able to afford to maintain a checking account you think they are going to get a $1k line of credit at anything short the most ridiculous rate imaginable?

          there is no interest rate that costs more than having to save up the money before you spend it. People are switching to debt rather than savings because debt is easier. If saving was easier, they’d do that.

          >This country is awful for poor people. Like it’s a wonder any of them survive with the complete lack of a safety net we have in this country.

          The US has a very generous safety net…..for the elderly. But it’s not my fault the left decided to build a welfare state that transfers money from the young (and relatively poor) to the old (and relatively rich). I want to change that, but I suspect you don’t.

          • keranih says:

            Re: unbanked –

            People do have to apply to get a bank account. A bad credit score – specifically, repeatedly bouncing checks or having a rental or utility lien against you – can and does result in a bank declining to open an account for you.

            Likewise, if one is trying to avoid paying child support, one might want to avoid having a bank account which could be seized.

            As for why people don’t save up, Megan McArdle had an insightful talk about social capital.

            Most poor people in the USA do okay. Not great, but okay. Most of them would do better if they drank less, smoked less, and hung out less with unemployed people, but that’s all of us, really.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Likewise, if one is trying to avoid paying child support, one might want to avoid having a bank account which could be seized.

            But making people who owe child support miserable is an explicit goal of the system, so shouldn’t those cases just be stamped “Working As Designed”?

  17. Steve Sailer says:

    I think this is the single most important key to understanding Hillary’s performance in 2016:

    https://youtu.be/OhELEj-J8GU?t=19s

    From the New York Times on 2/13/16:

    “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow,” Mrs. Clinton asked the audience of black, white and Hispanic union members, “would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the L.G.B.T. community?,” she said, using an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. “Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”

    • reasoned argumentation says:

      “Look you dolts – the banks are on our side and are the ones making the ‘mortgages for immigrants’ work, on top of that the finance economy getting it’s fingers in every pie means every company that has to keep finance happy so they can keep funding their operations is now vulnerable to activist pressure – yes, LGBTQ, NAACP, various women’s groups – all of them have more power over corporate America because finance is utterly dependent on the USG backstopping their bets – so shut the hell up about the banks you dopes!”

      {muttering to herself} “it’s like these people think the kickbacks they get fall from the sky…”

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        I think Sanders popularity points out that people are getting on this game. The sad part is that this game is inevitable – no sane Democratic candidate would seriously consider building true bolshevik-style socialism, and big-government corporate welfare capitalism they will consider maintaining and expanding involves tight cooperation with Big Business. Yes, also tight control, but Big Business learns how to work the controllers very quickly, and inevitable regulatory capture ensures the relationship is far from adversary, even if it made look like so in the electoral ads. That relationship would be one of codependency.
        The scary part is that after being disappointed in that game, people might vote for some nutter who genuinely may want the government to do whatever they want without listening what those capitalists say. And that would be a real disaster, because capitalists usually know much better how things work than nutty social engineers with grand ideas. One presidency probably won’t turn the US into Venezuela, but can wreak a lot of havoc.

        • userfriendlyyy says:

          Yeah, because FDR destroyed prosperity and the middle class for generations… oh wait, that was Reagan.

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            Yes he did, and no that wasn’t. Also FDR is known for SC packing and Japanese internment. If we’re talking about fascist tendencies among socialists, I’m not sure I’d recommend you FDR as the best counter-example.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            “If we’re talking about fascist tendencies among socialists, I’m not sure I’d recommend you FDR as the best counter-example.”

            …because he wasn’t a socialist?

          • FDR presided over the worst depression in U.S. history, and his policies were an expansion of the policies followed by his predecessor. Why does he get credit for ending it?

            The Great Depression that appeared to start in 1921 ended in 1923, having been treated with roughly the opposite policies.

            We don’t get controlled experiments in economics, since each situation is different, but that history ought to make one at least a little skeptical of the assumption that without FDR things would have been even worse.

          • Also FDR is known for SC packing

            He threatened to pack it, and that threat may have been the reason the court changed its position, but he didn’t actually pack it. So far as I know, the only president to have expanded the number of Justices in order to shift the balance in his direction was Lincoln.

          • Evan Þ says:

            How much of Lincoln’s Court expansion was to shift its positions, and how much was a rebalancing of the circuits? At the time, each circuit court had one Supreme Court justice assigned to ride circuit on it, so when California got a new circuit, it meant there was a tenth Supreme Court justice.

          • @Evan:

            The account I read of Lincoln putting Field on the court was that Field was a pro-war Democrat and Lincoln wanted to make sure none of his wartime measures got overruled. Whether that is correct I don’t know.

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            He threatened to pack it, and that threat may have been the reason the court changed its position, but he didn’t actually pack it.

            True. IIRC that story is also known under the name “The switch in time that saved nine”, isn’t it? OK, so maybe the more precise formulation would be “successfully bullied SC into submission by threatening to pack it”.

      • Deiseach says:

        If she’d put that argument – “the banks owe the government big time, not the other way round, so we can get our social policies pushed through by making support for and implementation of those policies the price they have to pay for us backing them up, which means your daughter, Lashonda, and your son, Héctor, are going to get good white collar jobs via diversity hiring practices” – then she’d have had more appeal.

        That excerpt, however, sounds more like “Look, I naturally like the rich and the bosses more than I do you horny-handed sons of toil because they’re the ones who pony up the huge speaking fees I charge, so shut up about asking me to meddle with them and getting them all upset so they won’t book me on the after-dinner speaking circuit any more”. She’s right in essence that “bring down the fat cats” is not the simple magic cure for ending discrimination and prejudice, but once again she has that tone-deaf way of impatiently lecturing the dim students who can’t keep up with her that gets people’s backs up.

  18. MostlyCredibleHulk says:

    It is kind of funny (in a sad way) to read all that analysis of Clinton campaign that does not even consider Clinton herself. If you’re worried about how facts are disregarded, why not consider some facts about Clinton as an actual candidate? Like Clinton Foundation thing, the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars speeches thing, the Beghazi thing, the secret email server thing, the “bimbo eruptions” thing, the “vast right wing conspiracy”, or her investment genius leading to 100x investment appreciation in 10 months, Whitewater thing, etc. etc. No ideas about having a candidate that maybe doesn’t do such things? Maybe not nominating a terrible candidate because “it’s her turn now, it’s inevitable” worth a try? Or is it sounding too unrealistic to find such a unicorn of a candidate, and giving up on facts and reason is now the only hope for Democrats? Well, we’ll see in 2020 if they can out-Trump Trump.

    • cassander says:

      Seconded. As I said elsewhere, incompetence can be excused if you’re sufficiently honest, corruption can be excused if you’re sufficiently competent. Clinton is incompetent and corrupt, and had the gall to run on a platform of “Vote for me, I’m super competent and my opponent is corrupt.”

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        I don’t think even plain “corrupt” describes Clintons adequately. There are a lot of plain corrupt politicians. If you dig enough, there’s probably some quid-pro-quo or shady deal or skeleton in the closet of one sort or another for certain number of major players. It’s not good, it is sad, but it’s relatively common. Clintons, in my opinion, represents whole other kind of it, where corruption stops being a personal phenomenon, and raises to systemic levels found in Russia and such. It reminds me an old joke, when a person is brought to a judge, and judge tells him “well, I see here in the arrest records it says you peed in a swimming pool” and the defendant says “well, yeah, but what’s the big deal, a lot of people do it, I’ve read a study where it says 20% people admit to doing it one time and another…” and the judge exclaims “well, they didn’t do it from the top of the diving tower!” That’s what Clinton-type corruption looks like.

        • Deiseach says:

          I wonder if the idea of corruption isn’t so much that they are very much more corrupt than the general run of politicians (as you say, it’s hard to find one without some kind of skeleton in the closet and most parties are beholden to big donors in one way or another), but that it’s more clearly visible with them about how they set about leveraging their position and influence to their advantage.

          Bill genuinely comes from a hardscrabble background and Hillary (ironically enough) reminds me of Maggie Thatcher; lots of ambition, respectable but lower-middle class background, aspirations to rise out of her class into the next highest one. There were always stories about how the Tory party high-and-mighty rather looked down on Mrs T as being a touch common, or how she supposedly ditched her family Methodism (again, something else in common with Hillary) for Anglicanism as a strategy in moving up the social ladder, etc.

          The “we left the White House broke and in debt and we had to work hard to pay it all off” story may be somewhat exaggerated but I think it’s true that they didn’t have the family background of resources like others, so they had to make hay while the sun shone. Hence, things like the amazing success in trading cattle futures, and the murkiness about the Clinton Foundation and were the donations really “cash for access” and so on.

          So it’s just more obvious with them that they’ve moved from “less well off to very well off” and since that all depended on connections and influence and the after-dinner speech circuit and charging huge lecture fees etc. it’s both visible and looks more corrupt than similar dealings that others may have had, but can cover better? Something like Tony Blair and how he’s hoovering up positions on international bodies and consultancy work etc?

          A lot of politicians do it, as you say; in England it seems the traditional way is for an ex-minister or cabinet official to discreetly take on a raft of non-executive directorships as well as becoming a board member of Company Whatever and doing a lot of consultancy work on the side (gamekeeper turned poacher, in a sense, as they advise on how best to lobby their old department). But because it’s all done smoothly and discreetly and not blatantly, it doesn’t attract as much public attention, even though it’s every bit as much trading on connections made with business interests while in political office.

        • Why no convictions, then?

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            Well, Comey just told us again, that apparently when it comes to Clinton and top Clinton aides (in this case, Huma Abedin), “she did what is technically a crime by law, but she didn’t really mean it” is an absolute defense against prosecution or even further investigation – as soon as it’s clear “she didn’t mean it”, the investigation is closed. And the FBI has 100% sure capability of determining “she didn’t mean it” which absolves one of any crime, but unfortunately, this technology is only developed enough to work on top politicians and thus sadly unavailable to regular citizens, who still can be shot with impunity because a cop didn’t like what they said.

          • So Clinton is guilty of corruption, but got off,…no! wait,,,you’re talking about emails.

            So Clinton has not been convicted of corruption, whereas trump has been found to be running Trump U fraudulently. Which can only mean Clinton in guilty and Trump is innocent.

  19. Steve Sailer says:

    The Democrats’ strategy has been:

    – to import more ringers from abroad to vote Democratic,
    – to unite the Billionaires with the Coalition of the Fringes, and
    – keep the Fringes unified by ginning up hate hoaxes to get them to hate Haven Monahan and all the other evil cishet white males even more than they hate each other.

    It’s a great strategy … as long as you control the media and can continue to shame the opposition into not mentioning what you are obviously up to.

    Trump, on the other hand, is shameless, and the media can’t take its lenses off him.

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      …if I burglarized my way to the Democrats’ main campaign office, Watergate style, and found a binder marked DEMOCRATS’ GRAND STRATEGY, would it contain those three exact points?

      • Jordan D. says:

        No, you need to go for the secret file titled “DEMOCRATS’ ULTIMATE DARK PLAN”. The GRAND STRATEGY file is just where they keep their notes on how to get ahead in Crusader Kings II.

        • Tatu Ahponen says:

          With a specific section for GINNING UP HATE HOAXES, of course. It’s probably Hillary herself who goes around drawing those swastikas on those bathroom walls.

      • Null42 says:

        That’s a bit of a strawman (and I know you are joking). What he’s actually arguing is that the Dems are increasing or preserving immigration of groups likely to vote Dem (ie anyone with sufficiently low epidermal RGB values), avoiding any significant redistribution while supporting identity politics for groups that are or feel marginalized, and supporting hate hoaxes.

        It’s only the last one I would argue is untrue–there’s no evidence hate hoaxes are a part of Democratic party strategy, it’s just sort of something that happens in a conducive environment. But the first part at least was argued in The Emerging Democratic Majority.

  20. benquo says:

    2. She tried to reason with people (eg her performance in the debates) rather than appeal to their emotions
    3. She proposed complicated wonkish policy schemes instead of simple things normal people understood like “tax the rich” or “build a wall”

    It’s worth pointing out that this is simply not true. She referred to the idea that she had expertise and credible policy proposals with reasons, but in the debates, and in her campaign commercials, she didn’t really bother to explain what she wanted to do or why it would be good. Most of it was about showing how Donald Trump was a bad man, while Hillary Clinton was a woman.

    Sure, her campaign had policy papers, and so did Trump’s (sorta), but that’s not what most voters saw. I heard that her campaign speeches were more policy-heavy, though I never saw any clear examples.

  21. dansimonicouldbewrong says:

    The underlying fallacy in this post is the assertion that there’s an objective notion of governmental “competence”–identified with thoughtful, well-reasoned policy, and independent of political interests and preferences–and that politically popular politicians tend to lack this objective property of “competence” because they’re too focused on getting and maintaining popularity. It’s a bit like claiming that there’s an objective notion of “tasty” for soft drinks, and that popular soft drinks taste terrible because their manufacturers are too focused on making them popular.

    The whole point of democracy is to get a government that satisfies the interests and preferences of the majority of voters better than the available alternatives, just as the whole point of soft drink manufacture is to satisfy the tastes of the majority of customers better than the available alternatives. Those who argue that popular politicians are incompetent or that popular soft drinks taste awful, without conceding that their evaluation is personal, subjective and biased, are simply playing a rhetorical trick by trying to disguise their subjective preferences as objective criteria.

    Michael Dukakis famously claimed that the election in which he ran for president was not about ideology, but about competence. Unsurprisingly, he fooled no one–voters recognized his ideology, and because most happened not to favor it at that time, they voted against him, his claims of hyper-competence notwithstanding. Likewise, the current president is dismissed as incompetent by people who strongly dislike him for any number of reasons, both personal and political, and wish to make their distaste for him seem objective and rational rather than subjective. (For the record, I also dislike him, for many reasons, and did not vote for him.) But his “competence” will ultimately be determined by the November 2020 election, not by analyzing his skill at drafting well-reasoned, persuasive executive orders or policy pronouncements.

    • Progressive Reformation says:

      This seems all wrong. It can never be completely objective but that doesn’t mean that whatever is popular is always the best. Cry Godwin’s Law all you want, but I think it’s appropriate to simply note that Hitler was popular, as was Stalin and Jim Crow (yes, I know Hitler and Stalin didn’t preside over democracies – except for Hitler’s early years – but the point is that popular does not equal good, unless you’re prepared to defend Hitler). Democracies have the same problem, that popular policies can often be detrimental in the long run – and, popular as they are, it is hard to define these policies as “competent government”.

      Furthermore, your soft-drink comparison is actually quite revealing, because consuming tasty soft drinks might be pleasant in the short run, but has adverse health affects in the long run. So we can run the analogy with [taste = popularity] and [health effects = governance quality], and reach the opposite conclusion. I personally think this government-as-soft-drink metaphor is more accurate than yours. But of course analogies or metaphors cannot ever prove anything.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I would say the error is more “those opposed to my political goals are incompetent.” In fact, one can be competent and yet not share your goals and values.

      • The soft drink comparison is interesting for a different reason. If I make a mistake in choosing which soft drink will taste better, I am the one who bears the cost, so I have a private incentive to pay attention to the taste. Further, since multiple brands are out there competing, I get to compare Coke to Dr. Pepper and decide which I like best.

        If I vote for a candidate, that has almost no effect on whether he wins, so I have no incentive to figure out which candidate will do a better job. And even if I tried, I can’t compare the Obama administration of the past four years to the Romney administration of the past four years, so any comparison depends on methods much less direct than “how well did each of them do at the same job.”

        There are good reason to expect that the successful soft drinks will taste good. There are not good reason to expect that the successful politicians will be the ones who actually produce the outcomes the voters want.

        • dansimonicouldbewrong says:

          If voters actually believed that their unlikelihood of affecting an election’s outcome with their vote removes any incentive to select the better candidate, then they’d also believe that it removes their incentive to vote altogether, and moreover removes it more completely in the case of national elections, where their chance of affecting the outcome of an election is truly astronomically tiny, than in the case of local ones, where the likelihood of one voter changing an election’s result is many multiples larger. But in fact national elections consistently get very respectable turnouts, whereas local ones often don’t.

          This shouldn’t be very surprising, as people in general are known to be very poor at estimating and reasoning about extremely tiny probabilities. And in fact their political behavior, in the aggregate, suggests that a large fraction of the voting public is convinced (however incorrectly) that the risk of the wrong candidate winning as a result of their failure to vote is too dangerous to accept.

          • then they’d also believe that it removes their incentive to vote altogether

            An interesting point.

            People enjoy partisanship. That’s why sports teams tend to be linked to universities or cities–it provides a preformed group of partisans. The reason to go to a football game isn’t just to watch athletes performing, it’s also to cheer for your team.

            Every four years a game is played out across the U.S. with the future of the world at stake. You not only get to cheer for your team, you get to play on it, even if in a very minor role. And all it costs you is half an hour filling out a ballot.

          • John Schilling says:

            If voters actually believed that their unlikelihood of affecting an election’s outcome with their vote removes any incentive to select the better candidate, then they’d also believe that it removes their incentive to vote altogether

            It removes one possible incentive to vote. Just not the one that actually matters to most people.

            Note that, e.g., people still stand for the national anthem, and sing it if they think their voices are up to the task. And not just in the United States. Presumably none of these people truly believe that their singing the anthem will materially affect the well-being of the nation, yet they still do it. Why do you think they do that?

            Or, as David notes, cheer for their favorite sports team.

          • dansimonicouldbewrong says:

            I’ve seen the “sports fan” analogy before, and there’s no doubt that political partisanship shares certain tribalist characteristics with sports fandom. As a critique of democracy, though, it’s unpersuasive. Typical sports fans motivated enough to, say, fill out an all-star ballot not only don’t randomly pick a team to support, but have most likely been a fan of the same team most or all their lives, and quite possibly inherited their preferences from parents or grandparents. Moreover, they tend to care very deeply about their team’s successes and failures, and many of them study their teams’ moves very closely, developing very strong and carefully considered opinions (of uncertain reliability, to be sure) about what their teams should or shouldn’t do to achieve and maintain success. In short, they couldn’t be further from the anti-democratic libertarian’s model of a capricious voter choosing arbitrarily among candidates purely for entertainment, without any interest in the outcome.

            Of course, they’re also very far away from the idealistic model of the civic-minded voter selflessly voting for the sake of the better public good, irrespective of personal interests. But that model is in any event doomed by game theory, since it allows any small cohort of voters to massively increase their power at everyone else’s expense by organizing to vote strategically in their own interest. Sports fans most resemble the majority who are committed partisan voters: they are loyal to their team/party out of deep and long-lived conviction and solidarity, and with strong opinions about how their team/party should increase their odds at winning and holding the lead over opponents.

          • John Schilling says:

            Typical sports fans […] not only don’t randomly pick a team to support, but have most likely been a fan of the same team most or all their lives, and quite possibly inherited their preferences from parents or grandparents.

            So, just like most people’s political preferences?

            In short, they couldn’t be further from the anti-democratic libertarian’s model of a capricious voter choosing arbitrarily among candidates purely for entertainment,

            Pretty sure that’s not the average anti-democratic model of voter behavior, or the average libertarian model of voter behavior.

      • dansimonicouldbewrong says:

        I certainly wasn’t arguing that we are all obligated to love and endorse every opinion or every politician that is popular or wins elections. In case it’s not obvious, for example, I happen to be of the opinion that Hitler’s government was very, very bad.

        However, the only sense in which my opinion on that subject is even remotely related to objectivity is in that it reflects a near consensus view–that is, that any openly Nazi politician in the US is invariably extremely unpopular. If that were not the case–if pro-Nazi voters were a majority, or even a sizeable minority, of the electorate–then it would be obvious that my anti-Nazi sentiments (which would certainly persist, even in such an environment) are just that, and not objective claims, no matter how unanimously and enthusiastically others on this particular forum would agree with them.

        It is a common argument against democracy that electorates in democracies occasionally elect terrible leaders or support terrible policies. And I personally concur that at least some democratically elected politicians and democratically supported policies in history have been truly terrible. But I don’t actually expect democracy to produce governments and policies that are never, ever terrible by my standards–only to produce terrible governments and policies much less frequently than any non-democratic system. And that is something it unquestionably succeeds in doing.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        didn’t preside over democracies – except for Hitler’s early years

        Hitler never presided over a democracy for “years”. The democracy ended in mere months after Hitler came to power. Technically, there was a short period – between Hitler being appointed chancellor on 30 January 1933 and and Reichstag Fire Decree on 28 February 1933 and Enabling Act on 24 March 1933, where Hitler technically presided over a democracy, but that was a democracy only in name and no democratic mechanism was working properly already.

    • gettin_schwifty says:

      I feel like you’re using the term “competence” too broadly. Trump getting elected in 2020 demonstrates only his competence at getting elected (being a politician), not his competence at Presidenting.
      Also, making competence equal to getting elected makes all two-termers equal, thus placing Lincoln and Reagan side-by-side beneath FDR and above JFK.

    • Kevin C. says:

      The whole point of democracy is to get a government that satisfies the interests and preferences of the majority of voters better than the available alternatives, just as the whole point of soft drink manufacture is to satisfy the tastes of the majority of customers better than the available alternatives.

      Except that while soft drinks are pretty much down to taste, leaving “better” and “worse” purely subjective, it’s not entirely the same with government. After all, a country can be wealthy and prosperous, static and stagnant, laden with corruption, in decline, wracked by civil war, or being invaded by its neighbors. While “prosperity” may be somewhat subjective, it’s not entirely so, and there’s plenty of outcomes that pretty much everyone would agree are to be avoided (such as the “foreign conquest” outcome). It’s not all down to personal “taste.” And that’s where the problem comes in: what if “the preferences of the majority of voters” are likely to more likely to lead to that sort of failure over the alternative? What if they vote for Venezuelan socialism? In short, what if the ignorant masses really don’t know what’s good for them?

    • There are objectives measures of competence, such as GDP, inflation and debt.

      • ThaadCastle says:

        I think there are two measures of presidential ‘competence’ ‘partisan’ success and ‘global’ success.

        Partisan success would mean succeeding in accomplishing something that your party/ideologues would like but your opponents would not (i.e. defunding planned parenthood or enacting additional gun control bills). This is a success, but one that will likely upset a significant portion of the opposition.

        Global success is things like overseeing a growing economy, low unemployment, and not being invaded by Canada. The president often has very little control over many of these (especially the economy), but they are things that, republican or democrat, people will appreciate. If Trump oversaw an economy that grew at 10% a year and unemployement was at 4% then you can almost guarantee he will get reelected. Even if these (absurd) numbers are only because someone had invented fusion power or the second coming of the internet (which the president has nothing to do with).

        • The Nybbler says:

          Even if these (absurd) numbers are only because someone had invented fusion power or the second coming of the internet (which the president has nothing to do with).

          Of course not, that’s the vice-president’s job.

          And I think that IS Trump’s re-election strategy: Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        How do you quantify things like “I have a comfortable society in which others share my customs and values?”

      • JDG1980 says:

        There are objectives measures of competence, such as GDP, inflation and debt.

        Not really. GDP only benefits the average citizen if it’s widely shared; increased GDP concentrated too heavily at the top can actually be harmful because it screws up the investment markets (too many dollars chasing too few good business prospects) and drives up the price of positional goods. Inflation? As long as it’s not accelerating, a wide variety of inflation rates can work OK. Debt? Depends what it’s for. Debt for infrastructure investment, paying for valuable employment training for citizens, or something else that will pay dividends in the future is worth incurring. Debt for operating expenses is usually bad, but it can work well from a Keynesian perspective if it happens during a recession and is paid back during the next boom.

        None of this is simple or straightforward.

  22. MostlyCredibleHulk says:

    Interesting how I say socialism would help and you automatically assume I mean going full USSR.

    Nothing interesting here, there’s no other socialism. There’s only one, and it works the same everywhere, the difference is only a matter of degree. There’s no “true socialism” that “wasn’t tried yet”. The one that you see is the only one you’d get.
    Of course, you don’t have to go 100% all the way, so if you go half way, it gets half bad (well, it’s not actually linear, but you get the point – the further you go, the worse it becomes). But if you think socialism helps, what would prevent you from going 100%? If capitalism is bad and socialism is good, why not have 100% socialism and no capitalism? If I think socialism is terrible (I do) and capitalism is great (I do) I certainly would advocate for 100% capitalism. Why won’t you support your own preferred model?

    It seams like every country that tried to have a mixed economy did rather well

    That’s like saying “every person who drunk alcohol and smoked and snorted cocaine did rather well” and deriving from that alcohol and smoking and cocaine are beneficial. No, they are not, but they won’t kill you immediately in some doses, and with doses low enough you can very well survive for a very long time, and even outlive many people with worse luck in genetic lottery. If they country is rich enough, it can afford a lot of socialism, just as a healthy and genetically advantaged person can indulge in a lot on unhealthy pursuits and still live a long and enjoyable life.

    Thatcher and Reagan decided they wanted to make every citizen in their own country have the most miserable life possible

    I am sorry, this is utter baloney and I am not going to address this. If you want to speak in factual or even conjectural terms, sure, but if you want to propagandize me about evil conspiracy among conservatives – it’s not my cup of tea, I bow out of this. This is not going to lead in any sane direction. I am going to address the point about Hayek and socialism-fascism connection though.

    For trying to convince me that people that said capitalism works better are idiot-savants who are ignorant about real world – I say I saw both, and I’ve read Hayek, and what Hayek says matches my experience much more than what Hudson says. I wonder how much experience Hudson has seeing actual fully developed socialist society in action. I mean not taking a party-sponsored tour and playing Duranty to some or other Stalin, but actually experiencing it. We’re seeing socialism developing into fascism right now in Venezuela, and we’ve seen it happen many times before where socialism produced horrible totalitarian regimes, though of course one can produce one without socialism too – totalitarian regimes predate socialism, and there are examples of non-socialist totalitarian societies of course. Including Chile at the past. So Hudson is right that socialism does not have exclusive claim on suppressing freedom. He is wrong that socialism is possible without suppressing freedom. It isn’t.

    • I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to get on the socialist merry-go-round again. But let’s be clear about where that leaves humanity. From a game-theory perspective, I see three centers of gravity towards which humanity might trend:

      1. Capitalism mixed with neoliberalism and political aristocracy.

      A. What do I mean by “neoliberalism” here? I mean, as a worker, business, or country, having to actively court capital. If you are going to play the game, it is better to play it well and be the winner rather than play it badly and be the loser. Here is where I would agree with Reagan, Thatcher, etc. Within capitalism, the healthiest thing for capitalism is high profits. More profits means more jobs, more accumulation, more investment, and more of an ability to attract capital. Therefore, the best thing to do in this case is to cut wages, cut regulations, cut taxes, and win the battle for courting capital. I see no way for “social-democracy” to be a stable equilibrium because it will get out-competed in the game of courting capital by the more neoliberal countries. I don’t see “welfare capitalism” or “socially-conscious capitalism” being a stable equilibrium because those businesses that pursue those policies will be out-competed by those who don’t. I don’t see labor unions being a stable equilibrium because those workers who insist on higher wages will be out-competed by those who don’t. (But, there is one potential exception to all of this—see option #2 below).

      B. What do I mean by “political aristocracy? I mean, one dollar, one vote. I see no way for political equality to be maintained if there is economic inequality. Politics is not some watertight sphere of society that can be screened off from the base of material incentives in society. For those who think that “campaign finance reform” or other laws can prevent economic power from being translated into political power, I would ask how can these laws be implemented in the first place? What Archimedean lever is there outside of society that could make these changes before itself being changed and “corrupted” in the first place? Besides, we return to the question of, “what is good for capital?” Regardless of whether a system is formally democratic, if it must respond to the needs of capital or else face capital flight or other material punishments, then in what sense is such a system able to distinguish itself from a formal aristocracy? Even if the populace is formally in charge, they will inevitably be “persuaded,” for instrumental reasons, to serve the needs of capital (for that will be the only condition under which they will be able to pursue their own interest in not starving). By the way, insofar as capitalism has seemed to display an affinity for political equality, I would argue that this has been an historical aberration (partially due to the need for capitalists to make compromises with workers to get workers on their side in times of war or revolution against old ruling classes). I agree with Slavoj Zizek that “Capitalism with Asian Values” appears to be a natural fit and a harbinger for what the rest of the world has in store for it, in that it appears to offer a superior deal to capitalists and will steadily out-compete any kindler, gentler, more equal versions of capitalism.

      2. Capitalism held on a leash by “One Big Union.” “One Big Union” is the only leash big enough to wrangle modern, border-hopping, globalized capitalism. Nation-states and their national taxes and minimum wages and regulations can’t do it anymore. The only way I see for how political democracy, high wages, and high re-distributive taxes could be maintained along with capitalism would be for all workers around the world to form into “one big union” a la the ideals of the IWW and insist on a common set of demands regarding wages, regulations, tax redistribution, political democracy, etc. In that (far-fetched) case, this would be “the only game in town” for capital no matter where it went in the world, and it would not be able to exercise the whip of capital flight to get its way. However, getting all workers to coordinate on this rather than defect is highly unlikely.

      3. Socialism—or to be more specific, “socially-planned production of goods and services as use-values for administered, socially-determined use” rather than “private production of goods and services as commodities for private exchange.”

      All other alternatives (for example, “liberal-democratic capitalism, or social-democracy absent the context of the “one big union,”) appear to me to be unsustainable and destined for the historical dustbin.

      I understand that people have an aversion to #3 (personally, #3 is my favorite). But I also think that most people (especially Trump voters) will be dissatisfied with #1. So maybe they should have a serious look at #2 and figure out if there is a way to fix that immense coordination problem?

    • bbartlog says:

      But just to take one example: there are European countries with mixed economies that apparently have substantially more efficient health care systems than we do. True, they don’t have Silicon Valley and they have lower median household incomes, so it’s not all gravy, but it’s not at all clear to me that their socialism-in-the-realm-of-medicine has made them worse off.

      • Civilis says:

        The general rule seems to be that the more intervention in a sector of the economy, the more inefficiently it performs, and the larger and more complex the system, the more inefficiency intervention generates. Inefficiency can manifest in a number of ways, some of which can be masked by sufficient application of government spending.

        The US health care system is not free of government intervention; on the contrary, health care is one of the most regulated sectors of the US economy. The US health care system is also much larger and more complex than health care systems in the European countries with ‘mixed economies’, meaning that intervention has more effect in reducing the efficiency. Finally, many of the often-cited European ‘mixed economies’ are as economically free as the US, meaning they can afford the inefficiency in one sector.

        • bbartlog says:

          Yes, of course the US healthcare system is not free of government interference. But I would expect that if freedom from government were something that improved healthcare in general, and not just in the peculiar case of the USA, we should be able to find a country somewhere that has a (more) libertarian healthcare system that outperforms even those of Europe – and so far as I know no such country exists.
          Broadly speaking I think the main issue I have with the original argument (of MostlyCredibleHulk) is that there really is more than one kind of socialism, at least as people use the word. I don’t think it makes sense to treat Finland as having just a lesser degree of the same kind of governance that Venezuela has, simply because a public sector exists. And in particular, calling redistribution of wealth ‘socialism’, when the real concern seems to be with business inefficiencies brought about by regulation, is really mixing up two very different problems.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            we should be able to find a country somewhere that has a (more) libertarian healthcare system that outperforms even those of Europe – and so far as I know no such country exists.

            Maybe Singapore? You might “no true libertarianism” it, because they have compulsory medical savings accounts, and some government-run services, but with nothing free they have a lot of people paying attention to costs everywhere. Prices are public information. (Try calling up a doctor in the US and asking how much things cost.)

            is that there really is more than one kind of socialism

            This also applies to health care. The US is very like Switzerland in terms of health care. Switzerland is more like the US than it’s like Germany, with for-profit insurance companies every where.

            Everyone keeps on thinking that the kind of health care system matters a lot, because there’s this silly meme that the US is the one outlier running a crazy private system while everyone else is running a sane government system. The US system costs more, but the reason is “because everything” instead of “because [my party’s pet issue].”

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Maybe Singapore?

            Dunno why everyone picks that. Like most Commonwealth countries, Singapore has a state-run health care system that is a first cousin of the British NHS.

            Calling the tax that pays for it all ‘mandatory contributions to a medical savings account’ doesn’t change anything about what money goes where, and under who’s control.

          • keranih says:

            But I would expect that if freedom from government were something that improved healthcare in general, and not just in the peculiar case of the USA, we should be able to find a country somewhere that has a (more) libertarian healthcare system that outperforms even those of Europe – and so far as I know no such country exists.

            Why does the existence of a better way fail when no other country does it? If there is some rule that means countries are required to do rational sense-making things, I completely missed this.

          • Incurian says:

            I’ve seen two competing claims about how healthcare in Singapore works, does anyone have the One True Answer? Whether the consumer is in charge of their [mandatory] health savings account makes a big difference.

      • shenanigans24 says:

        I would like to know what people actually pay and what they actually get in the US. I hear a lot of talk about Americans spend x dollars annually which isn’t very informative. More informative would be how much they have to pay, not the average of what a wealthy person pays for cutting edge healthcare combined with an average person.

        If I said Americans spend on average more money per year on cars than Poland one would probably think, “of course they do because Americans have more money and buy better cars.” This is almost certainly a true statement. Healthcare is harder to measure than car performance but I see no reason to think it’s governed by different economics.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        apparently have substantially more efficient health care systems than we do

        How do you define “more efficient”? US healthcare system is built on a principle that R&D is financed by setting high prices on some drugs and procedures. You can use different system, of course, e.g. government financing R&D directly from tax revenues, but why do you think it’s more efficient?
        Plus, of course, US healthcare has ton of regulations – US healthcare industry is one of the most regulated industries in the nation, you literally need to spend billions to have the government to just allow you to sell the product on this market, and there are volumes of regulations describing how one can behave on this market. Can this behemoth of regulation be made more efficient? You bet. However, when comparing it to entirely different behemoth – one has to ask how exactly the comparison is performed.

        it’s not at all clear to me that their socialism-in-the-realm-of-medicine has made them worse off

        How you define “worse off”? If you define “better off” as in “having access to a socialized healthcare system financed through taxes” then of course countries with socialized healthcare systems financed through taxes are “better off” by definition.

    • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

      But if you think socialism helps, what would prevent you from going 100%?

      The same reason that thinking that eating some fruit is good for you doesn’t mean you think you should eat nothing *but* fruit? As a general rule, there are very few real-world situations in which taking an extreme option is a good idea, no matter which of the various extreme options you might choose.

      • shenanigans24 says:

        If socialism is helpful then scarce resources are better managed by a central authority than by individuals. If this is only true of certain resources than it certainly requires an explanation of how those resources are different and why one method stopped working.

        Personally I think it’s on its face incorrect to claim that resource allocation can not be left to individuals. Value is itself subjective.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Well my value is not leaving resource allocation to individuals. And that’s equally as valuable as any other value, so.

          • shenanigans24 says:

            Only if you have all the resources. Otherwise you need some guns to enact the plan. Morally speaking, the opposite plan doesn’t require them. I see that as an additional bonus.

        • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

          @shenanigans24, there are several fairly obvious ways in which “healthcare” (treated as a resource) is different from, say, “food”. I don’t think we necessarily need a just-so story to pretend to explain exactly why those differences justify treating them differently, given that doing so has been empirically proven to work reasonably well. (Although I’m sure that any number of such stories have been told. Some might even be useful.)

          But more importantly, I think you’re making the same mistake as the parent poster, of going to extremes. It isn’t necessary for a resource to be either entirely centrally managed or entirely managed by individuals. It can be a bit of both. You can have both public and private healthcare, for example.

          (A year or two back, dealing with a difficult-to-identify condition, I needed to see both an ENT specialist and a Respiratory specialist. I went with a private ENT specialist, but waited my turn to see one of the Respiratory specialists at the public hospital. It was my choice as an individual how to allocate my resources, but I would not have had that choice in the absence of a partially socialized healthcare system.)

          • John Schilling says:

            there are several fairly obvious ways in which “healthcare” (treated as a resource) is different from, say, “food”.

            Except that there are segments of the health care market that work very much like the food market, e.g. birth control pills. Regular, predictable requirement, modest cost, range of options, etc. Yet the same people who tell me that health care has to be handled by the Almighty State because market failure not like food yada yada, seem to be the ones telling me that asking women to pay for their own birth control pills is a crime against humanity.

            There are some segments of the health care market that are sufficiently un-food-like that market solutions might not be the best idea. But pretty much everybody who might be qualified to assess that issue and propose alternatives, has laid their credibility on the altar of political ideology.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            John, I think that goes back to my original point, that you don’t have to take everything to extremes. New Zealand does in fact subsidize some forms of contraception, but that’s because we made the decision to do so, not because we felt obliged to take an all or nothing approach to healthcare.

            My pet crank theory is that it is having a written constitution focused on “rights” that makes so many Americans seemingly inclined to take a black-and-white view to all legal and political questions. 🙂

          • shenanigans24 says:

            If the idea is so good then why not advocate a parallel public system for attracting people instead of a mandatory one?

            Currently, and probably forever the amount of healcare resources are scarce. None of the plans dreamed up lower the cost of doctors, hospitals, or medical supplies. None of them add those things. So despite any rhetoric we will still have fewer resources than people. Except instead of “can you pay” as a method of allocation, it will instead be a board of officials deciding cost benefit for others.

          • Anon. says:

            Healthcare is different from food in ways that suggest government should heavily penalize its use. See eg Hanson’s Showing That You Care: The Evolution of Health Altruism.

          • Whos advocating for a mandatory system, again?

          • Brad says:

            None of the plans dreamed up lower the cost of doctors, hospitals, or medical supplies.

            Sure they do. No country in the world pays as much as the US for these things.

          • Civilis says:

            Sure they do. No country in the world pays as much as the US for these things.

            Most (but not all) of the plans change who pays, not how much gets paid. The cost isn’t lowered, just passed on to someone else, either healthy people or the taxpayers in general.

            Attempts to lower the cost of healthcare (by reducing reimbursement for Medicare, for example) have led to reductions in the supply.

          • Brad says:

            Doctors don’t make as much money in other countries. Drugs don’t cost as much. Hospitals have fewer, lower paid, employees.

            There’s a reduction in the number of interventions, but not a reduction in outcomes. Would you measure the value added of the car repair sector by the total number of repairs?

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @shenanigans24,

            If the idea is so good then why not advocate a parallel public system for attracting people instead of a mandatory one?

            Unless I’ve misunderstood you, that’s exactly what I’m advocating, to the limited extent that I’m advocating anything at all. New Zealand has a mix of taxpayer-funded, taxpayer-subsidized, and completely private healthcare, and in my opinion it works reasonably well.

            (It may have been a mistake to choose healthcare as an example, since it is such a topical issue in the US at the moment. For the record, I have no strong opinions on Obamacare vs. whatever you had before that vs. whatever Trump is trying to do, none of those bear very much resemblance to anything I’m familiar with.)

          • Incurian says:

            My pet crank theory is that it is having a written constitution focused on “rights” that makes so many Americans seemingly inclined to take a black-and-white view to all legal and political questions.

            Pfff, I wish.

        • cassander says:

          I don’t think we necessarily need a just-so story to pretend to explain exactly why those differences justify treating them differently, given that doing so has been empirically proven to work reasonably well. (Although I’m sure that any number of such stories have been told. Some might even be useful.)

          Proven to work reasonably well? Is there a single developed country not sitting on top of a mass of oil that doesn’t have a looming pension crisis largely caused by healthcare costs? A cocaine addiction works fine for a while too, that doesn’t make it advisable.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            There are certainly concerns about the rising cost of superannuation payouts in New Zealand and I think many other developed countries. Whether you’d call it a “looming crisis” I don’t know. But in any case that’s not because of healthcare costs, since they’re budgeted separately.

          • cassander says:

            >There are certainly concerns about the rising cost of superannuation payouts in New Zealand and I think many other developed countries. Whether you’d call it a “looming crisis” I don’t know. But in any case that’s not because of healthcare costs, since they’re budgeted separately.

            Budgeting things separately doesn’t eliminate their cost. That said….

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Certainly both healthcare and superannuation are costs that need to be kept under control. I was just puzzled at the suggestion that the one caused the other.

            I will also note that the article you link to explicitly quotes the head of the department that produced the report as saying “there is no crisis”. 🙂

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        Eating fruit does not contradict eating meat, you can eat both at the same time in the same meal. Having socialism contradicts having capitalism – more you have of one, less you have of the other. It’s not complimentary things, it’s diametrically opposing directions of action. If you believe going north is great and going south is deadly, it doesn’t make sense to advocate going 5 steps north and 5 steps south. If you think having no private property and having the economy centrally planned is superior, there’s no reason to stop halfway and say “we’d allow central planning, but only of making shoes and not pants, and only set prices for cars but not for plane tickets”. “Hybrid” systems usually come to be not because people believe half-way is the best, but because half people believe one extremum is the best and half people believe other is the best. Having it inside one person is usually sign of inconsistency.

        As a general rule, there are very few real-world situations in which taking an extreme option is a good idea

        This sounds like a meaningless platitude. Of course there are lots of such situations. For example, you are offered a cup of a deadly poison. Your options are to drink all of it, to drink half of it or not to drink at all. The sane option is the extreme one – not to drink it at all. If you say this situation is not real, there are tons of household liquids which could be deadly if drunk. Somehow a conundrum of taking extreme position of not drinking any of them poses absolutely no problem to anyone.

        • Aapje says:

          If you think having no private property and having the economy centrally planned is superior, there’s no reason to stop halfway

          This is not the claim. The claim is that:
          – For some issues, central planning works better
          – That unrestricted capitalism is unstable and devolves into monopolies. Monopolies are central planning as well, just not central planning by a democratic government.

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            For some issues, central planning works better

            “Some” is very vague. In any socialist country I know of, “some” is rather “most issues that matter”, but if you want to perform and old routine of inventing “true socialism” unlike all false ones tried for the last 100 years, be my guest – point out what “some” means.

            Monopolies are central planning as well, just not central planning by a democratic government.

            There’s one key difference. Monopoly indeed can emerge in some area. But private monopoly can not use violence to prevent somebody else to undermine their monopoly. If I am, say, a monopoly taxi cartel, and there is somebody who owns rides for money outside of my cartel, I can’t stop him, at least not lawfully (and if I try to do it unlawfully, the state should step in and jail me). However, if my cartel is a state cartel, I can jail the competitor instead, or at least put them out of business.

            Private monopoly is inherently unstable, and while it can control some marked for a while, it can be – and usually rather soon is – disrupted and dethroned by competition. The only way for it not to happen is to employ either legal or illegal violence in protection of that monopoly.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            “Some” is very vague. In any socialist country I know of, “some” is rather “most issues that matter”

            “Issues that matter” is also pretty vague, but have you ever visited, say, England? New Zealand? Canada? Pretty much anywhere in western Europe? I really don’t think they conform to your theories.

          • Aapje says:

            @MostlyCredibleHulk

            But private monopoly can not use violence to prevent somebody else to undermine their monopoly.

            In the absence of centrally planned law-making and policing to prevent this, they can.

            and if I try to do it unlawfully, the state should step in and jail me

            So…you are agreeing with me that central planning is necessary to some extent.

          • But private monopoly can not use violence to prevent somebody else to undermine their monopoly.

            In the absence of centrally planned law-making and policing to prevent this, they can.

            That’s a pretty strong claim. Why do you assume that law-making has to be centrally planned and enforced? I can offer multiple examples of societies where it wasn’t.

            Or is your assumption that there is a reason why centrally planned systems prevent firms from using force to maintain monopolies and decentralized ones don’t? I can’t offer much evidence on the second half of that, but we have lots of examples of centrally planned legal systems that provided monopoly firms with force to maintain their monopolies.

            On the more general issue, I think you are arguing with me, not the poster you responded to. Most people who are against socialism don’t consider government law enforcement to be an example–indeed, most don’t even think of the public school system as an example of socialism. The conventional, non-anarchist, version of laissez-faire has a government enforcing property rights, contracts, and the like, and defending against foreign aggression, but not doing much else.

            Are you agreeing with that position and disagreeing only with the Anarcho-capitalist version? Only with my variant of that version? In Rothbard’s there is a single set of laws, although enforcement is decentralized.

        • You can have both by having unregulated markets coupled with a strong welfare state.

          • Very roughly speaking the current Scandinavian model. I’m pretty sure at least some of the Scandinavian countries rate near the top on the economic freedom index.

        • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

          If you believe going north is great and going south is deadly,

          The operative word there is “if”. If you believe that to the south is a sheer drop, and to the north is a raging river, you’re probably better off staying where you are. And if you’ve escaped from the river by going south, that doesn’t mean that you should keep going south indefinitely, right off the cliff face.

          For example, you are offered a cup of a deadly poison.

          I said “real-world situations”. But … have you never heard the expression “the dose makes the poison”? Refusing to eat or drink anything that could be poisonous if you had too much of it is not a sensible approach to life. (For a start, you’d die of thirst, because drinking too much water can kill you, and if that’s true then obviously you shouldn’t drink any water at all.)

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says: