THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

My California Ballot

These are my preliminary choices for California elected positions and ballot initiatives. Some of them are based on Ozy’s recommendations and the Berkeley EA and rationalist community’s recommendations. I agree with the latter’s note that because California ballot propositions are weird superlaws that permanently overrule the legislature unless repealed by voters, in general we should be very cautious about them (though some of them were recommended by the legislature itself, since for complicated reasons it needs voter support to do certain things).

I’m giving first-level justifications for my votes (ie “I support this person because she wants higher taxes”) but not always second-level justifications (“here’s why higher taxes are good”). You can usually find discussion of these on other blog posts.

Governor of California is the big one. Democrat Gavin Newsom is a former successful businessman, mayor of San Francisco, and lieutenant governor of California (also second cousin of musician Joanna Newsom). He has stated that if elected, he will let people call him “the Gavinator”. Republican John Cox is a former successful businessman, best known for sponsoring a ballot initiative to make legislators wear the logos of their top 10 donors on the State Assembly floor, “much like NASCAR drivers”. He also has a fascinating plan to reform politics from the ground up with a 12,000 (!) member legislature. I don’t really like Newsom – he led a movement called “Care Not Cash” to restrict giving money to the homeless, and supposedly opposed anti-gay Proposition 8 so incompetently that his statements may have increased support for the measure. He also had an affair with his campaign manager’s wife in a scandal that seemed unusually scummy even for a politician. I like John Cox as a person, but he doesn’t seem to have any relevant governing experience. And he was anti-Trump until Trump became popular among Republicans, then about-faced and decided Trump was his new best friend, and now he’s basically just a Trumpist. I am going with Newsom; God help me, God help California.

The Lieutenant Governor is a sinecure interesting only insofar as its holders often become governors themselves, kind of like the US Vice President. Democrat Ed Hernandez is a optometrist who is very involved in health policy. He makes a big deal about Fighting Pharma Companies, and a somewhat less big deal about having taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharma companies and hundreds of thousands more from insurance. His opponent Eleni Kounalakis is also a Democrat, because California, and was previously Obama’s ambassador to Hungary. I am not sure exactly what an ambassador does, but if part of her job was to keep a watch on Hungary I feel like this is a strike against her. On the other hand, she has been exposed to superior Habsburg institutions. And she and her husband fund Hellenic Studies at state universities, raising the prospect that maybe she will transform California into some kind of Hellenic-Habsburg fusion superstate. More seriously, Hernandez has done some really good work in health care, including better drug transparency and easier prior auths (non-doctors will not understand this term; doctors will hear it and rush to vote for him immediately). But he seems anti-Medicare-for-all, and kind of in the pocket of insurance companies. He also has been a big proponent of race-based admissions in California colleges. Kounalakis is pro-Medicare-for-all, has Obama’s endorsement, and is really strong on housing policy. Advantage Kounalakis.

The State Controller was an important position back in the time of Mustapha Mond, but nowadays it just audits finances. Betty Yee is the incumbent, and California’s finances have been doing surprisingly well lately, and she sounds very smart and says the right things about preparing for inevitable downturns and promoting fiscal responsibility. Konstantinos Roditis is running mostly on fighting the gas tax and defunding high-speed rail. While high-speed rail will inevitably be a boondoggle that we gnash our teeth over for decades to come, I’m concerned about his obsession with cutting taxes, the gas tax seems like a particularly bad tax to make a stand over, and I’m concerned about replacing a highly competent person who’s kept us solvent with a random low-tax crusader. Advantage Yee.

The State Board of Equalization was an important position back in the time of Harrison Bergeron, but nowadays it just assesses certain taxes. Democrat Malia Cohen boasts that she is strong on climate change, which is relevant because the Board handles gas taxes; she also boasts that she is strong on LGBTQ and abortion rights, which is relevant because California. Republican Mark Burns is centering his whole campaign around strengthening Prop 13, one of the worst laws in California. Both candidates’ names sound like minor Unsong characters, but I choose Malia, no contest.

The Secretary of State handles elections and voter registration. Republican candidate Mark Meuser takes the typical Republican position that we need to tighten standards to fight voter fraud. Democratic candidate Alex Padilla takes the typical Democratic position that there is no such thing as voter fraud and worrying about it is discriminatory. Mark Meuser protests that there is absolutely voter fraud, and highlights how a California man successfully registered his dog to vote. Alex Padilla says that not wanting dogs to vote is discriminatory, and he will order all poll workers to accept wet, slightly-chewed-up ballots. Mark Meuser protests that the man who registered his dog to vote had registered his other dog to vote twenty years earlier and still nobody has taken any action. Alex Padilla boasts of endorsements from some of California’s top politicians, like Mayor Max of Idyllwild. I respect Mr. Meuser’s strong anti-dog stance, but I am concerned, based on his name, that he may secretly be a cat. Advantage Padilla.

The State Treasurer helps manage investments and finances. Republican Greg Conlon is a former accountant who is running on a platform of pointing out that the pension crisis is a giant ticking time bomb that is about to explode and consume us all. Democrat Fiona Ma is running on a platform of investing in shiny popular causes that make us feel good about ourselves, and covering the time-bomb with a pile of leaves so its ominous ticking noises don’t keep us up at night. Advantage Conlon

The Attorney General leads a vast army of attorneys into battle against the attorneys of foreign lands. Democrat Xavier Becerra is the incumbent, and has an unblemished record of taking the most liberal possible position on everything. Republican Steven Bailey is a judge who is Strong On Crime and Very Tough, and so serious that he can call the lawsuit over Trump’s wall “borderline frivolous” without adding even so much as a “pun not intended”. While neither candidate really talks much about mass incarceration, it’s pretty clear that Bailey gets an erection every time he thinks about it, and Becerra plans to ignore it while demonstrating conspicuous outrage about Trump’s latest tweet. Advantage Becerra, I guess.

Reason calls the Insurance Commissioner race The Most Important Election You’ve Never Heard About. Apparently California has a system where a Commissioner has to approve all new insurance products. The Commissioner sometimes uses this power in weird ways – for example, one official refused to approve insurances’ plans unless they divested from investments in coal. Steve Poizner is a Bay Area tech entrepreneur and used to be a Republican but has since switched to being an independent – if he wins, he will be the first independent elected to a major position. Ricardo Lara is “one of the [state] Senate’s most liberal members” and running as a Democrat. I don’t have the background to judge the technicalities of insurance policy. But Poizer is a former incumbent who by all accounts did pretty well, and I think it’s great that a non-partisan person might win a major position. Advantage Poizner.

Everyone dislikes Dianne Feinstein for a different reason. Some people dislike her support for the Iraq War and the Drug War. Other people dislike her attempted constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. Other people dislike her support for the PATRIOT Act, mass surveillance, prosecuting Edward Snowden, and banning strong encryption. Other people dislike her opposition to single-payer healthcare. Other people dislike her support of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Other people dislike her consistently bad positions on free speech, from supporting universities turning away conservative speakers, to supporting universities’ right to expel students who criticize Israel, to sponsoring an act that classifies various nonviolent forms of animal activism as potential ecoterrorism. I hear some people are Republicans, and have an entirely different set of reasons to dislike her. In these divided times, there isn’t much that can make people step across the aisle and shake hands with people on the other side of hot-button issues – but all of us – rich and poor, white and black, urban and rural – can get behind disliking Dianne Feinstein. I have no real opinion on the other Democrat, Kevin De Leon, so I’m voting for him.

For House of Representatives, it’s the Democratic candidate vs. the Green Party candidate, because California. The Green Party candidate, Laura Wells, looks pretty great – she seems like a smart person who helped institute Instant Runoff Voting in Oakland, giving the city one of the few sane voting systems in the US. Barbara Lee is not nearly as awesome, but she did cast the only vote against authorizing military force in the War on Terror in Congress. This is a sufficiently impressive act that I will vote for her anyway even though I think she is worse on a lot of other things; I would rather reward Congresspeople for taking high-variance unpopular stands that turn out to be right than get someone who will be a 5% better technocrat. Sorry, Laura. If you run for something else later I will support you for that.

There’s also a race for “15th District”, which sounds like one of those groups that sends people to the Hunger Games. This is Buffy Wicks vs. Jovanka Beckles. Beckles is a socialist who is running on the presumption that restricting housing supply will make it more affordable, and on accusing everyone else of being corporate profit establishment capitalist shills. Wicks is endorsed by Barack Obama and East Bay for All, and supports building more housing. I also support her vampire-slaying work (I’m not just going off her name – she even looks similar). Advantage Wicks.

There are ten judges up for re-election. Most sources recommend that people vote ‘yes’ for all of them to preserve judicial independence, so I did that.

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction runs the education system. For an enforced non-partisan office, this race is pretty heated. It has $50 million in spending, and when I Google either candidate’s name I get attack ads trying to tell me why not to vote for him. Both candidates support increased funding and universal pre-K, because California. Marshall Tuck seems a little more pro-charter school, and is against a move where money that was earmarked for high-needs students was instead used to raise teachers’ salaries. Thurmond has the support of teachers’ unions, which I guess makes sense considering. I am usually pro-charter-school and pro-supporting-high-needs-students, but Thurmond supports later start times for middle and high school, and this is pretty important to me. But Tuck has more experience and the support of Obama’s education secretary, so I guess I’ll go with him.

Proposition 1 authorizes bonds to fund affordable housing. The California legislature requested this, newspapers unanimously support it, and affordable housing seems good. Yes.

Proposition 2 authorizes redirecting money earmarked for mental health care to housing mentally ill people. The legislature supports it, housing the mentally ill is probably better for them than whatever else this money was going to do, and I generally support giving the government more flexibility on how to spend its money. Yes.

Proposition 3 authorizes bonds to fund water supply projects. The legislature did not request this. Environmental groups are skeptical. It is sponsored by companies that would benefit from it. Newspapers are unanimously opposed. No.

Proposition 4 authorizes bonds to build children’s hospitals. The legislature did not request this. There are always propositions to fund children’s hospitals and it seems kind of unfair since you’re not allowed to be against healthy children. There is no real evidence of a children’s health crisis. No.

Proposition 5 expands a previous proposition that says people’s taxes on their house cannot increase too quickly while they live in it. This created a problem: imagine that you are a 70 year old whose children have moved away and whose spouse has died. You live in the big five-bedroom house you raised your family in forty years ago, but you want to move somewhere smaller and closer to caregivers and more accessible given whatever health problems you might have. Since buying a new house resets your property taxes, instead of having your taxes pegged to what your current house cost forty years ago, you would have to pay the value of your new house today. This would mean order-of-magnitude-increases in taxes. So you just never move, and keep occupying a five-bedroom house as a single person, whether you like the house or not. To solve this problem, the 1980s measure Proposition 60 allowed elderly homeowners move once, to a smaller house, in the same county, and keep their previous property tax assessment. The current Proposition 5 would say they can move as many times as they want, to any sized house, in any county, and keep their tax assessment. It also extends this to disabled homeowners, who might also need a one-story house or house with more accommodations after they become disabled, and who might also be financially unable to manage the move if it would raise their property taxes. Overall I agree with the idea that taxes should not distort the market and force you to live in a house that is too big for you or doesn’t accommodate your disability; given that there is a housing crisis, forcing people to live in houses that are too big for them seems especially stupid. The California Chamber of Commerce also agrees and says this would free up 100,000 additional houses a year to help ease the housing crisis. However, all my friends, including the ones who are supposedly YIMBY, are very angry about this. I am having difficulty figuring out why in between all the use of “I’ve got mine” and “this is about hating poor people”, but I think it has something to do with anger at the idea that some people can keep their property taxes low forever. I agree this is bad, but it is the existing system; this new proposition just stops favoring people who keep their current home over people who, for reasons of age or disability, have to move houses. I understand anger about low property taxes, but making it harder for older or disabled people to move into houses that meet their needs feels like a particularly cold-hearted way of expressing that. It sounds like the main area of disagreement is whether, if this proposition fails, elderly and disabled people will move anyway but pay higher taxes, or whether they will just stay around to avoid the tax increase. Studies suggest that the lock-in effect from Proposition 13 is real, but don’t let me compare it to anything else or say how much of it has stuck around after Proposition 60. Since this is a matter of comparing coefficients, and I don’t know the coefficients, I am tempted to just look at endorsements. Bloomberg seems in favor, Reason seems ambivalent, and YIMBY Action says no. I think the amount of time it would take for me to feel comfortable with my opinion on this is higher than any possible benefit of getting it right, so I will abstain.

Proposition 6 repeals the gas tax. The gas tax is a reasonable way to internalize the cost of road infrastructure to drivers. It also helps fight climate change and raises much-needed funds for the state. While it is regressive compared to an optimal tax policy, it’s probably better than whatever else would replace it. No.

Proposition 7 allows the legislature to change Daylight Savings Time in ways consistent with federal law. It’s necessary because there was a previous ballot proposition about Daylight Savings Time, and now the legislature can’t change it without another ballot proposition. There is actually some evidence that Daylight Savings Time transitions cause car accidents and interfere with circadian rhythms. There’s also the status quo bias – if we didn’t already have a rule that we switched time by an hour in the spring and autumn, would anyone be proposing it? I’m open to arguments that Daylight Savings transitions might be useful somehow, but I don’t want them as a superlaw that the legislature can never change. Yes.

Proposition 8 says dialysis companies can only charge 115% of the cost of treatment (the extra 15% would presumably be split among administrative expenses and profits). I tend to err on the side of not increasing the massive overregulation of health care. Even if I didn’t, I would like the California legislature to be able to decide whether to regulate health care or not, rather than pass it as a superlaw that can never be repealed no matter how badly it goes. No.

There is no Proposition 9, because California.

Proposition 10 repeals an existing statewide law saying that cities cannot institute rent control. I am tempted to oppose this measure, since in the IGM weighted poll, 95% of economists believe rent control is bad for the poor and reduces affordable housing, compared to only 1% who say it is good. And if rent control were legal, I have no doubt cities would try to decree that no house can ever cost more than $1, declare victory over evil greedy capitalists, and then get all confused a year later when the state had became an uninhabitable wasteland, because California. On the other hand, I also don’t like state governments telling city governments what to do, and the legislature saying “no community can institute this law which many of you want but we don’t like” seems like a violation of Archipelago principles and the idea of “laboratories of democracy”. I worry that standing up for this principle will end up costing the poor, but if you don’t have principles when those principles lead to something bad, then you just don’t have principles. On the other hand, is it really in keeping with localism for the California electorate to pass a ballot proposition repealing a law of the California legislature? Are we past the point where any principles can make sense of this at all?

This is another one where I don’t feel like I can do anything other than abstain.

Proposition 11 retroactively makes it legal to require ambulance operators to stay on-call during breaks. It is sponsored by an ambulance company who was sued for illegally requiring ambulance operators stay on-call during breaks. Instead of just paying damages like a normal company, they decided to put a proposition on the California ballot saying they were retroactively right all along. Their argument is that ambulance workers already get “breaks” in the sense of there being a lot of downtime when there are no emergencies, so normal break law requiring additional breaks shouldn’t apply to them. Also, it’s really hard to come up with a call schedule for emergency services at the best of times and regulations make that even more difficult. The mistake theorist in me is happy to admit that some of these are good points. But the conflict theorist in me would be much more comfortable with this argument coming from anybody other than an ambulance company who was already being sued for denying workers breaks. The correct sequence is “pass law saying you can do something, then do it”. Also, if the California legislature wants to give ambulance companies an exemption from normal break law, it can do that without a superlaw that can never be repealed. No.

Proposition 12 amends a previous proposition to clarify standards for factory farms in California. It mandates cage-free confinement for some animals, and increases minimum cage sizes for others. This is a very simple measure to prevent a tiny bit of preventable animal cruelty and make factory farming a little less bad. It is strongly supported by everyone in the effective altruist movement and most animal rights groups. It is opposed by PETA (who believe that animals should not be farmed at all) and by economists who point out that raising the minimum cage destroys jobs for low-cage workers. That part about the economists was a joke. There is no good reason to oppose this measure. Strong yes. If you only take my advice on one measure on the California ballot, let it be supporting this one.

Also, there was an old socialist talking point that all the promises of reform within capitalism only amount to “bigger cages, longer chains”. If Proposition 12 passes, capitalist reformers will have fulfilled half of their promises. How many other systems can say the same?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

405 Responses to My California Ballot

  1. ReaperReader says:

    Proof positive that a sufficiently clever writer can find humour in *anything*.

  2. Bugmaster says:

    For whatever reason, I’ve received truly incredible amounts of cellphone spam in favor of Propositions 6 and 8. We’re talking multiple robocalls and text messages per day, sometimes starting around 7am. Blocking them by phone number doesn’t seem to help, since they’re apparently running some kind of a phone-based DDoS equivalent. In light of this, I’m voting No on 6 and 8, because screw those guys.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree with the way you think.

      • melolontha says:

        Is this sarcasm? That voting strategy isn’t just orthogonal to good policy, it’s also exploitable.

        • Uribe says:

          Nah, the current wisdom among campaigns is that lots of harassing spam in favor of their candidate is a good thing. I don’t think all these pro-Beto texts I keep getting are coming from the Ted Cruz camp. (I don’t get any pro-Cruz texts because my zip-code profiles me as a Democrat).

          I know a few people who have volunteered for the Beto campaign, and know for a fact that a focus is on sending text spam to likely Democrats to get them out to the polls. (From what I understand, every text must be “hand-sent” to be legal. I’ve responded to a few with questions and received immediate replies which passed the Turing test.)

          Now if campaigns discover that pro-X spam turn out to lead to anti-X votes, they will change their strategy, sure. But nobody can keep a secret and the word will leak that that is what’s going on. Informed people will then figure out who the spam is really coming from and get angry at the appropriate campaign.

          So it would be very hard to exploit. It’s like finding something that seems obviously predictive in the stock market: the moment you see that apparent inefficiency, everyone else does to, and you’re just as likely to end up on the wrong side of the trade as the right.

          • Uribe says:

            Or maybe the messages are hand-sent because the campaign fears that robo-spam would have a negative impact.

        • Galle says:

          Sure, but on the other hand, if nobody pursues that voting strategy, then there’s no reason to not run truly incredible amounts of cellphone spam for your preferred policy – some non-zero number of people will be persuaded to support the policy by them, and there will be no negative consequences.

          It’s necessary to have some people following this strategy to keep political campaigners honest.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      “In light of this, I’m voting No on 6 and 8, because screw those guys.”

      Maybe that was the goal all along.

      • j.28724 says:

        I suspect this too. This is a common tactic of internet hackers and manipulators (e.g. using vote bots to upvote reddit posts positive towards a competitor, to make the community think the competitor is guilty of karma fraud).

        Ignore the spam from both sides entirely and vote based on the actual issues. (But I’d also vote No on those regardless, if I lived in California.)

        • Bugmaster says:

          I have no strong opinions about the issues. I weakly lean “no”, but not enough to actually discourage me from simply abstaining — under normal circumstances. But this quasi-DDoS pushed me over that edge.

          I do agree with you regarding Reddit karma fraud false flags, but AFAIK rigging a phone/SMS campaign like this is more difficult, and significantly more expensive, so I doubt it’s fake.

          • joncb says:

            SMS isn’t really that expensive and this is California where the people who do these things for a living are. For less than US$400k, via Twilio (i.e. i haven’t gone searching for the cheapest price), you can send 5 SMSes to every registered voter in California.

            Opposed on Prop 6 raised US$44 Million.
            Opposed on Prop 8 raised US$110 Million.

            The money is there. The expertise is quite literally in every silicon valley start-up.

            (Note: i’m not saying this is definitely a false flag… i’m just saying that if your only reasons for discounting this is cost and effort, neither of these reasons is a good one)

          • Watchman says:

            A question based on ignorance here. In the UK this sort of false-flag operation would almost certainly be fraud and would also likely break election laws. Is such a distinctly undemocratic activity actually legal in California?

          • Anthony says:

            @watchman – no, it absolutely is not illegal in the U.S.

            And you overestimate the intelligence of voters – this sort of campaign might actually *work* on a significant segment of voters.

          • Salem says:

            Watchman – the rules around political speech are completely different in the UK than the US. It’s illegal for me to put a political advert on TV at any time. It’s illegal to spend more than a tiny amount in a constituency. And so on. In the US, if you want to speak on a political matter, you can.

            In theory, we have free speech:

            Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

            The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

            In practice, the second paragraph swallows the first.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Genuine question: How would this not be illegal under US election law? You need to truthfully identify the source of political ads, don’t you?

          • Anthony says:

            @edward scissorhands –

            There’s no law against setting up “The Committee For A Better California” or some other uninformative name (in case that one is already taken), and funneling your money through that to obscure the actual source of support. If the contributions are made by individuals not already known in politics, there’s no way to figure out if it’s fraud, or real but over-enthusiastic.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Personally, I think that identifying the source of the ad should be required — as long as we even allow DDoS-esque robocalls in the first place, which IMO we shouldn’t. Currently, a lot of these bots are following a blatantly dishonest script, which says: “Hello ! Do not hang up; this is not a sales call. Have you received any information regarding your request to buy our product/vote for our politics/insert other spam here ?”. That’s blatant fraud, as I see it.

          • Subb4k says:

            Watchman: another non-US example: in France in 2012 ago Marine Le Pen (far-right politician, you might have heard of her from presidential elections) was convicted of fraud in a congressional race where she put out a fake tract for her opponent Jean-Luc Mélenchon (communist politician, you might have heard of him from presidential elections) in Arabic (to scare racist voters into opposing him).

            (BTW if you’re wondering how two politics heavyweights, one a borderline neaonazi and the other a communist ended up in the same constituency, JLM chose to battle MLP on her turf for narrative reasons. He didn’t even make the run-off, being obviously non-local.)

          • Watchman says:

            Thanks for the explanations. I’ve got a horrible feeling this could be summarised as freedom of speech trumps (no pun intended) effective democracy. But then both are worthwhile values so I guess there’s going to be friction between the two in any system.

          • I was actually part of something distantly related to this back in 1964, when I was volunteering for the Goldwater campaign. We had a handout which was an article from the CPUSA (communist party) attacking Goldwater. It was a real article, and I think somewhere on the sheet there was something making it clear that it wasn’t the CPUSA distributing it, although I’m not certain. But a casual recipient–we were putting it on windshields in a parking garage–would probably assume that it was being distributed by the CPUSA.

            We were spotted by someone I’m pretty sure was a reporter (this is all filtered through 50+ years of memory) who clearly did assume we were communists distributing anti-Goldwater literature and approved, was not going to report us for our courageous acts (my interpretation, again filtered through memory–we probably were not supposed to be in the parking garage putting literature on people’s windshields).

            This would have been in Cambridge or Boston.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      It’s bizarre that, as people, we often end up voting against things because some of the proponents are such dicks.

      I do it, too. Scott has covered this before http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/04/ethnic-tension-and-meaningless-arguments/ section VI. It probably doesn’t make sense, but I can’t deny a certain feeling of happiness at punishing someone being a jerk.

      • Galle says:

        You can at least kinda-sorta justify it game theoretically by appealing to meta-politics. There are dickish things that you can do to promote your political views, and if your desire to promote your political views is stronger than your desire to not be a dick, then you’ll do those things unless they have some kind of negative consequence. Since our society has collectively decided that not being a dick is more important than promoting the correct political views*, it’s to our benefit to discourage those practices.

        * This is an exaggeration, but the overall point stands.

    • Plumber says:

      @Bugmaster

      “…. We’re talking multiple robocalls and text messages per day, sometimes starting around 7am. Blocking them by phone number doesn’t seem to help, since they’re apparently running some kind of a phone-based DDoS equivalent. In light of this, I’m voting No…”

      Most of my “robo-calls” are in a language that I don’t understand (I’m guessing Mandarin) and I disabled “Text” years ago, but I employ much the same reasoning when it comes to other political ads, so if my wife and my union haven’t told me how to vote on something I just go by whatever the ads on the radio and television are most telling me to do and vote the other way on the theory that whatever has the most money behind it is probably bad.

      My ballot is much the same as our host’s and onn the issues and candidates that I’ve bothered researching it’s extremely rare that just counting the ads and voting the opposite doesn’t get the same results.

      I suppose I could just try to find how much money is spent in support of each initiative and vote for whatever has less money.

    • naj says:

      I was planning on voting No on 8; don’t add even more rules to healthcare, but then started seeing so many ads with sad people who said they would die if it passed. Since these ads are all supported by the for-profit dialysis companies, I was tempted to vote Yes just for spite. On the other hand, it did not apply to payments made by government entities. Almost all payments are made by the government. I’m not sure who spent money to get this on the ballot and why it would hurt the dialysis companies if it passed?

      Little known fact. Back in the Nixon era they passed a law saying the Feds would pay for everyones dialysis. At this point that spending is about as much as twice as much as the NASA budget and growing fast. Use that fact the next time some person says we should stop spending money on space and spend it here at home.

  3. User_Riottt says:

    Ugh Buffy Wicks? seriously?

  4. melboiko says:

    For the record, some notable socialists (like Chomsky) are “this but unironically” about the bigger cages proposal. I tend to be on this camp. The basic idea is that the most urgent problem of humankind right now is that of managing the commons (atmospheric pollution, soil crisis, water crisis, mass extinction, overfishing, wealth concentration, IP monopolies, weaponized disinformation, language and culture loss, rich countries ruining poor countries through global warming, etc. etc.); but so far there’s no decent project on how to replace in practice the current, profit- and growth-oriented system. And it’s kind of a negative feedback loop, because capitalism keeps the greater part of humankind busy with bullshit jobs and irrational market whims, precluding their mind- and labour power from being allocated to work on these deadly urgent problems.

    if we get more space in the cages (more worker protections, progressive taxation, UBI etc.), we’ll free more humanpower to work on building a globally sustainable, conservation-oriented social system. This seems safer than trying to implement such a system right now, without a detailed plan on how to keep it functional and free of corruption (i.e. from reversing back to capitalism) long-term.

    • Bugmaster says:

      but so far there’s no decent project on how to replace in practice the current, profit- and growth-oriented system.

      Maybe that’s because the system works perfectly well in many (though admittedly, not all) cases ? You say:

      because capitalism keeps the greater part of humankind busy with bullshit jobs and irrational market whims, precluding their mind- and labour power from being allocated to work on these deadly urgent problems.

      But a dedicated free-market capitalist (which isn’t me, BTW) would say that, if people are willing to pay lots of money for “bullshit jobs and irrational market whims”; and if no one is willing to pay for all those “deadly urgent problems”; then maybe those problems aren’t as deadly or as urgent as you make them out to be. I sympathize with your viewpoint, but when you say “we must abolish capitalism in order to focus all of our efforts on X, because I said so”, this doesn’t exactly paint your proposal in a favorable light.

      • Watchman says:

        This is a little unfair, as the tradegy of the commons is a known issue with market systems, especially capitalism as commons are really hard to invest in. The appropriate criticism is that socialism has yet to serve the commons better than capitalism, as poverty is the major cause of despolation of common resources, and socialism seems to have a fixation on production that produces pollution.

        Preserving the commons is a reason for government to exist, so it seems valid to suggest a socialist solution to the problem if capitalism isn’t solving it. The discussion should therefore be whether this solution would work (I doubt it but hey, what do I know?) and indeed whether any solution beyond existing measures (e.g. to show I’ve been reading, the gas tax as a way of protecting air quality) is required anyway.

        As you say though, the issue is not important to people as expressed through their voting and consumption behavior.

        • Bugmaster says:

          This is a little unfair, as the tradegy of the commons is a known issue with market systems, especially capitalism as commons are really hard to invest in.

          Agreed; this is part of what I alluded to when I said “not all cases”. Monopolies are another problem that cannot be solved by pure capitalism, IMO.

          As you say though, the issue is not important to people as expressed through their voting and consumption behavior.

          Right, which is why I think that, in the long run, these problems have no viable solutions. You can’t force people to do something they are vehemently opposed to doing. I mean, ok, obviously you can, but not without causing a lot worse problems than those you’re trying to solve.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Monopolies are another problem that cannot be solved by pure capitalism, IMO.

            Have you read David Friedman’s section on monopoly in The Machinery of Freedom? If so, what was your reaction to it?

          • Bugmaster says:

            I have not read it; can you provide a link to the relevant section ?

          • sentientbeings says:

            @Bugmaster

            The second edition pdf is available here.

            I assume Paul Brinkley is referring to the Part I chapters titled:
            MONOPOLY I: HOW TO LOSE YOUR SHIRT
            MONOPOLY II: STATE MONOPOLY FOR FUN AND PROFIT

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Here you go.

            Not sure how to link directly to the section, but the links in the table of contents are clickable.

            Monopoly starts on page 19.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @sentientbeings, Chevalier Mal Fet, Paul Brinkley:
            Thanks for the links.

            I’ve read the section on natural/artificial monopolies, but wasn’t impressed (I’ve still got to read the section on state monopolies). Firstly, Friedman seems to assume that the only power monopolies possess is to raise prices. In reality, monopolies can also lower their quality of service, as well as buy out supply/distribution chains. I suppose you could argue that lowering quality of service is equivalent to raising a price; but the supply chain problem cannot be so easily transposed, AFAIK.

            In Friedman’s steel mill scenario, the steel monopoly wouldn’t be limited to only lowering their price until their small competitor went out of business. Note that this strategy would also likely succeed, because large monopolies have massive reserves of cash while startups do not (and Microsoft employed that exact strategy on several occasions). But in addition, the monopoly could go to all their coal suppliers, delivery truck drivers, recruitment firms, etc., and tell them, “you know that massive contract that you’ve got with us ? The one that’s great for everyone due to economies of scale ? Well, deal with SteelStartupCo, and we will alter our deal. Pray we do not alter it any further”.

            In fact, a really big monopoly (or cartel) wouldn’t have to go anywhere or talk to anyone, because they would already own all the coal mines, truck companies, paperclip vendors, and whomever else they’d need to run their business. I’m sure you can think of some modern-day examples.

            I understand that, in a free-market system, competition would swiftly take care of any company that was running an inefficient operation. However, a market where one company controls 99.9% of the space is no longer free, because potential competitors can never get off the ground. This is actually not just a problem with monopolies (steel or otherwise), but with anarcho-libertarianism in general (though that’s probably a separate topic).

          • sentientbeings says:

            @Bugmaster

            I think that you would benefit from learning about the business strategy of Dow Chemical Company in the early 1900s, especially with regard to bromine.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @sentientbeings:
            Can you explain what you mean ? I’ve read the article, and it describes one case where price-fixing apparently failed. However, my point wasn’t that price-fixing is infallibe; additionally, I specifically stated that price-fixing was wasn’t the only tool in a monopoly’s toolbox (and, arguably, not even the best tool).

            For some modern examples, you can look at the telecom monopolies, early Microsoft (as a general software vendor), online payment systems, later Microsoft (as a hardware vendor), Google, Luxotica, etc. For some older examples, you can look at “company towns” back in the good old days, oil companies (a great example of vertical monopolies), Hollywood (ditto), or De Beers (until recently).

          • cassander says:

            @Bugmaster

            >For some modern examples, you can look at the telecom monopolies,

            Were almost invariable creatures of the state.

            >early Microsoft (as a general software vendor),

            early microsoft wasn’t a monopoly in any meaningful sense of the word.

            >Google, Luxotica, etc.

            Google literally gives away its product for free. that’s the best possible world for consumers.

            >For some older examples, you can look at “company towns” back in the good old days, oil companies (a great example of vertical monopolies),

            Let’s take standard oil as an example. At its peak in 1880, standard oil owned something like 90% of the US refining capacity. By your logic, it should have been able to crush all the competition, right? Well, when the government broke it up 30 years later, it controlled 60%, and was rapidly declining. Almost all the big monopoly companies you’re thinking of weren’t actually monopolies, they were just the first companies to employ modern business methods and mass production in their industries, and boomed enormously by massively lowering prices, only to be imitated on an equally massive scale.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @Bugmaster

            You’re abusing the term monopoly. There is a very important difference between a monopoly and a company with a very large market share.

            The reason I linked to the article is that if you look into companies with large market shares that try to engage in a lot of the “bad” behaviors associated with monopolies, what you find is that they usually suffer for it. They might not go out of business, but they don’t have the power to freely engage in all the anti-consumer actions you mentioned. Luxotica is probably the most compelling modern example, IMO, of a company that holds a very large amount of the market share in few related goods (and definitely takes advantage of it in their pricing). It was never a monopoly, and their market share has been supported by barriers to entry placed by government and is in the process of collapsing anyway.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @cassander:

            Were almost invariable creatures of the state.

            Say what ? The state was the one who broke up Ma Bell into individual pieces. There was actually some decent competition in the market for a while, until the pieces started merging together, like some sort of financial T-1000.

            early microsoft wasn’t a monopoly in any meaningful sense of the word.

            Agreed, that was poorly worded. I meant Microsoft circa Windows 3.11 all the way to Win XP or so, before they made a serious push into hardware (a successful one, that is; Windows Phone should go hang its head in shame).

            Google literally gives away its product for free. that’s the best possible world for consumers.

            Google has a near monopoly on search; to the extent that the word “google” had come to mean “search”. They give away most of their products in exchange for collecting obscene amounts of information about their users; information that many users would prefer to remain private. Their users are not their customers, though; they are the product.

            Your next point overlaps that of @sentientbeings:

            You’re abusing the term monopoly. There is a very important difference between a monopoly and a company with a very large market share.

            I would say that I’m using the term, not abusing it 🙂 The problem with companies with very large market shares is that they become disengaged from customer feedback. In most cases, their customers have no choice but to buy their product (consider: are you willing to drop your Internet connection completely just because you really hate your ISP ?). Furthermore, the occasional loss of any individual customer doesn’t have any measurable impact on their bottom line (this is why most large corporations have such terrible customer support). You say:

            They might not go out of business, but they don’t have the power to freely engage in all the anti-consumer actions you mentioned.

            The behaviour I mentioned above (as well as vertical integration or price-fixing) is not some sort of an outlier. It’s a perfectly rational strategy for maximizing profits. The monopoly could only lose the freedom to engage in it for three reasons: either their entire market disappears due to some disruptive invention (e.g. Blockbuster Video); or a competitor breaks through the incredibly high barrier to entry (which is highly unlikely, but could happen if the monopoly makes a critical mistake, or the competitor is a state actor or some other massive organization); or the government comes along and takes those freedoms away.

          • m.alex.matt says:

            Say what ? The state was the one who broke up Ma Bell into individual pieces. There was actually some decent competition in the market for a while, until the pieces started merging together, like some sort of financial T-1000.

            Ma Bell was also a creation of the state. It comes from the era of Teddy Roosevelt, the first run of Big Government liberalism where they threatened big companies with trust busting unless they accommodated themselves to regulation, then coddled and carefully grew those companies until they were the great, regulated monopolies of the middle of the century.

            AT&T was actually declining in market share when telephones were brought under the purview of the ICC in 1910.

          • mdet says:

            Monopolies are another problem that cannot be solved by pure capitalism, IMO.

            “Capitalism” seems like one of those vague concepts that everyone has a different definition and understanding of, but I was under the impression that the whole premise of capitalism was “Monopolies suck, therefore we should want all economic activity to have low barriers to entry & exit and high rewards for growth & innovation to facilitate market competition”. As I understand it, breaking up monopolies is theoretically compatible with “pure capitalism”, even if minarchist / anarchist capitalists think that kind of govt intervention rarely works out in practice.

            How are we defining capitalism if monopolies are an overlooked bug, rather than the problem statement itself? What is the purpose of capitalism if not “combat monopolies”?

          • sentientbeings says:

            @mdet

            “Capitalism” seems like one of those vague concepts that everyone has a different definition and understanding of, but I was under the impression that the whole premise of capitalism was “Monopolies suck, therefore we should want all economic activity to have low barriers to entry & exit and high rewards for growth & innovation to facilitate market competition”. As I understand it, breaking up monopolies is theoretically compatible with “pure capitalism”, even if minarchist / anarchist capitalists think that kind of govt intervention rarely works out in practice.

            How are we defining capitalism if monopolies are an overlooked bug, rather than the problem statement itself? What is the purpose of capitalism if not “combat monopolies”?

            Capitalism isn’t really a vague concept, though unfortunately, the word “capitalism” intersects with an a big pile of ambiguous misunderstanding that ruins discussions.

            One of the reasons that “capitalism” has trouble as a word is that people are inclined to think they understand the word and concept when they do not. That is not so much a problem with the word itself as it is with people’s tendencies, but it does relate to the word in practice.

            Another reason, perhaps the most significant reason, that the word encounters trouble is that it is a basically a geuzennaam. It was adopted by its supporters from its detractors. There is the complicating factor that the detractors were incorrectly describing what they perceived to be their opponents’ preferred system, and that some of those opponents adopted the word while still in the process of figuring out something that was substantially different from what was incorrectly described in the first place.

            In the 20th century, a shorthand description – one I don’t particularly like but that is not awful – that was used for capitalism was “private ownership of the means of production” (with socialism being “public ownership of the means of production”). I am frequently confused by how wildly divergent others’ definitions are, and if they bear no semblance to these than it’s probably an indication those people aren’t very well informed.

            I think you phrased your statement about monopolies backwards – people that endorse capitalism don’t want low barriers and the like due to monopolies being bad; we think monopolies could be bad due to their effects on those things, plus other efficiency issues like deadweight loss.

            Strong advocates of markets tend to say that people overstate the threat of monopolies, in part because of the body of evidence. It is very easily shown that trivial, ephemeral monopolies exist – someone who invents a totally novel product has a monopoly before anyone else can copy it, and a particular entertainer has a monopoly on her own live performances. It should be obvious there are imperfect but reasonable substitutes for many of those sorts of things, which itself diminishes the worry about the “power” of the monopoly. Long-lasting monopolies are basically non-existent baring explicit government edicts; one of the closest historical examples is Alcoa, and notably they served their customers pretty well and aren’t a (near-) monopoly anymore. You will have trouble finding (non-state-supported, and therefore outside “pure capitalism”) examples.

            So monopolies aren’t an overlooked bug – they just aren’t particularly worrisome, and the historical evidence shows that states are pretty good at causing monopolies and near monopolies themselves.

          • mdet says:

            That was helpful, thanks.

            I consider myself a supporter of “capitalism”, but in my view, promoting market competition was the core goal, and private ownership of the means of production was just a means to an end — in order for my burger shop to compete against yours, there has to actually BE a “my shop” and a “your shop”

        • baconbits9 says:

          This is a little unfair, as the tradegy of the commons is a known issue with market systems, especially capitalism as commons are really hard to invest in.

          No, the tragedy of the commons is a known issue with systems that have commons. Socialism, communism, social democracy etc create MORE commons without demonstrating an increased ability to solve the tragedy portion. ToC isn’t unique to capitalistic systems and is most frequently observed in non capitalistic systems.

          • I use “market failure” as the general label for situations where individual rationality does not lead to group rationality, with tragedy of the commons and prisoner’s dilemma examples. You can find a discussion of the problem and a more detailed version of baconbits’ point here.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @DavidFriedman:
            You say that “a market failure is a situation where individual rationality does not lead to group rationality”; but I don’t believe this adequately describes the tragedy of the commons. In many cases, destroying the commons is, in fact, the most rational action to take; for the individual as well as the group.

            Consider the standard overfishing example. If there are 10 fishermen on a lake, they can all agree to extract no more than 100 tons of fish per year each, because that’s the maximum amount of fishing that the lake could sustain. They can also agree to collectively punish any individual defectors. However, alternatively, they could also agree to extract as much fish as possible, get super-rich, and retire (or move on to the next lake). This is a win-win situation for everyone involved — except for the non-fishermen who rely on the lake staying intact, but they don’t directly participate in the fishing market, so they don’t count.

            Additionally, I’m not sure that I understand your section on “Market Failure as an Argument Against Government”. You seem to be saying that government doesn’t solve tragedies of the commons perfectly, or even all that well. This point is certainly debatable; however, as I see it, the requirement is not that the government should be perfect; only that its solutions should be better than those of totally unregulated free markets. But like I said, I’m not sure if I’ve understood your point correctly.

          • benwave says:

            “they don’t directly participate in the fishing market, so they don’t count.” is a pretty typical statement of why the left tend to object to capitalism.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t see why exactly the privatization schemes always want to freeze in place the status quo. I could start fishing next year off the coast. That’s a valuable right that I have that would be taken away if the government decided to “solve” the tragedy of the commons problem by forever giving away the right to fish off the coast to the people that happen to have fished off the coast in 2018.

          • cassander says:

            @benwave

            “they don’t directly participate in the fishing market, so they don’t count.” is a pretty typical statement of why the left tend to object to capitalism.

            Just as “what right do these outsiders with no skin in the game have to mess with my life.” is a pretty typical statement of why the right tends to object to socialism.

          • acymetric says:

            @cassander

            Would you consider that maybe those people are not, in fact, outsiders and actually do have skin in the game?

          • cassander says:

            @acymetric

            That would depend largely on who you’re talking about. I’m not trying to be snarky, I mean that sincerely. the guy who runs the tackle shop the fishermen buy their bait from and someone who lives 4 states over and is really passionate about the endangered species act are both, in some sense, outsiders, but they don’t have equal amounts of skin in the game.

          • If my overfishing means that the combined benefit for all concerned, including the people who would like to fish next year, is less than if everyone fished less and so maintained the fish population, then the individually rational overfishing is collectively irrational.

            The simplest cases are the ones where everyone is worse off, as is the case if we have a fixed number of fishermen and they plan to keep fishing, but the argument applies to more complicated cases.

            The point about government isn’t that it doesn’t do a perfect job of solving the problem. It’s that the circumstances that create the problem are the normal state of the political market, the exception on the private market. With very rare exceptions, an actor on the political market, such as a voter, a politician, or a judge, bears only a trivial share of the costs and receives only a trivial share of the benefits of the decisions he makes. Hence it is only by chance that the actions in his private interest will be the ones in the general interest.

            On the private market, the ordinary actor has to pay the suppliers of his inputs a price they are willing to accept, gets paid by the buyers of his outputs a price representing what they are worth to them, hence is bearing most of the cost of his actions, receiving most of the benefits. Hence it is normally the case that the choice that maximizes his net benefit also maximizes our net benefit. Exceptions exist in situations, such as air pollution, where he is free to impose some of the costs on others.

            That’s the short version, you already read a longer version.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            If my overfishing means that the combined benefit for all concerned, including the people who would like to fish next year, is less than if everyone fished less and so maintained the fish population, then the individually rational overfishing is collectively irrational.

            In my example, I specifically posited that no fisherman wants to fish next year (well, next decade most likely). They all want to extract as much value from the lake as possible, then move on. I agree with cassander that, if you look strictly at the fishing industry, then overfishing is perfectly rational in such a scenario. The problem is that by focusing solely on one industry you are bound to miss several negative externalities. For example, the denizens of the town next to the lake might want to keep their tourism/irrigation/grocery/whatever businesses (which would all disappear once all the fish are gone and the lake is covered in algae); they might be very vocal about it; and in fact the sum total of their long-term revenue might be quite significant. But, under a perfectly free-market system, they have no way to influence the behaviour of the fishermen (short of acts of violence, I guess); and thus, their long-term economic value is lost in favor of short-term gains.

            With very rare exceptions, an actor on the political market, such as a voter, a politician, or a judge, bears only a trivial share of the costs and receives only a trivial share of the benefits of the decisions he makes.

            This is exactly the case for a customer of a monopoly, especially if the monopoly is providing some essential good or service. But, under a reasonably functional democracy, mechanisms do exist that allow individual citizens to pool their resources together in order to influence politicians. The costs/benefits to the politicians are obvious: if he pisses off the voter, he doesn’t get to keep his job.

            Of course, you might very well argue that our current government does not qualify as “reasonably functional”; but that’s a separate story…

            On the private market, the ordinary actor has to pay the suppliers of his inputs a price they are willing to accept

            Vertical integration helps quite a lot with this issue.

            gets paid by the buyers of his outputs a price representing what they are worth to them

            True, but if the monopoly is providing some essential good or service, they have quite a lot of leeway in their pricing. For example, consider the (extremely successful) efforts that Epson or Apple are putting into maintaining vendor lock-in on their devices.

          • berk says:

            @Bugmaster

            I specifically posited that no fisherman wants to fish next year

            For example, the denizens of the town next to the lake might want to keep their tourism/irrigation/grocery/whatever businesses (which would all disappear once all the fish are gone and the lake is covered in algae);

            If the tourists cease to come once the fish are gone, then the tourists are fishermen who want to fish next year. If they just like the fish eating the algae so they can bathe, they are essentially fishermen who benefit from having fish next year.

            So if you prefer, @DavidFriedman wrote:

            If my overfishing means that the combined benefit for all concerned, including the people who would like to fish next year, is less than if everyone fished less and so maintained the fish population, then the individually rational overfishing is collectively irrational.

            Could just as easily be:

            If my overfishing means that the combined benefit for all concerned, including the people who would like to fish next year

            or who benefit from the mere existence of the fish,

            is less than if everyone fished less and so maintained the fish population, then the individually rational overfishing is collectively irrational.

          • acymetric says:

            @cassander

            Agreed, and I am not overly sympathetic to the environmentalist 4 states away (I am in favor of preserving rare/endangered species in most cases or at least attempting to, but the value of preserving that species is not so incredibly high that nothing can possibly outweigh it).

            I think where we run into problems is how to handle people who have some skin in the game, but less than others. It seems like the disagreement comes down to disagreements on who actually has skin in the game, what threshold of skin you must have to “have a say” about the relevant issue, and how to weight the preferences of people with different levels of stake in a given issue.

            The fishermen believe they have the largest stake in the lake according to their perspective (which may be broadly true, but may not), and as such believe what to do with the lake is their business. Non-fishermen will disagree, of course, and pure capitalism without any regulation or concept of commons is a bad arbiter for that dispute. Governments (of any level) are not going to be perfect arbiters either, but they will be better than a market-based solution.

          • I wrote:

            With very rare exceptions, an actor on the political market, such as a voter, a politician, or a judge, bears only a trivial share of the costs and receives only a trivial share of the benefits of the decisions he makes.

            You replied:

            This is exactly the case for a customer of a monopoly, especially if the monopoly is providing some essential good or service.

            Not at all. The customer receives all of the benefit of consuming the good or service he buys. He pays at least the cost of producing it. If the price is much above cost the monopoly is likely to lose customers to new entrants. It isn’t a perfect match, but compare that to a voter who pays all of the cost of gathering information on the issues, receives (in the U.S.) one three hundred millionth of the benefit of electing the better president or congressman.

            But, under a reasonably functional democracy, mechanisms do exist that allow individual citizens to pool their resources together in order to influence politicians.

            Doing that faces a massive public good problem. Consider an auto tariff. It benefits the auto companies and their workers, represented by a union. It harms all purchasers of autos and all producers of export goods.

            Lobbying for the tariff is a public good for the beneficiaries, which consist of perhaps half a dozen organizations. If their benefit is a billion dollars they well be able to coordinate well enough to raise a few hundred million to lobby for the tariff.

            Lobbying against the tariff is a public good for the losers, who consist of about a hundred million individuals and firms. Coordinating an enormous public to produce a public good is almost impossible–we’re back with the tragedy of the commons/market failure problem. If their loss is ten billion, they are unlikely to raise ten million to lobby against. In practice, the only substantial lobbying against will be by foreign car dealers. They are a relatively small group–but they bear only a tiny fraction of the cost of the tariff.

            As I said earlier, the facts that cause market failure are the exception on the private market, the normal situation on the political market.

        • cassander says:

          This is a little unfair, as the tradegy of the commons is a known issue with market systems, especially capitalism as commons are really hard to invest in.

          No. Commons problems are a known problem with non-market systems, not market systems. Commons are explicitly areas where markets DON’T exist, the field everyone in the village is allowed to use but no one owns.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It is plausible that some systems can’t function as markets absent government intervention, meaning that markets wouldn’t be able to solve ToCs issues in those areas.

          • MoebiusStreet says:

            I’d take this even a step farther: the tragedy of the commons is NOT a bug in capitalism itself. Rather, it’s a bug due to an incomplete implementation of private property rights. If the right to ALL sorts of private property were fully allocated, then capitalism would handle it properly.

            I understand that for many things (e.g., the atmosphere) it’s clearly nuts to pretend that this could be done practically. But you can do a thought experiment on a closed system – say, a space station – and that problem can be managed.

          • acymetric says:

            @MoebiusStreet

            That is the problem isn’t it? This seems like a pretty great argument for regulated capitalism and/or hybrid capitalism/socialism in order to manage the cases where capitalism isn’t practical, right?

            Also, I think capitalism in a closed system (i.e. a space station) would run into problems fairly quickly due to the hard limit on resources. The only reason capitalism is viable on our planet is the abundance of resources available to be exploited relative to the people attempting to exploit them (but some of those resources we cannot afford to have exploited, thus pure capitalism is not doable in practice). In a system like a space station with significantly fewer “available” resources, capitalism would fall apart extremely quickly.

          • cassander says:

            @acymetric

            That is the problem isn’t it? This seems like a pretty great argument for regulated capitalism and/or hybrid capitalism/socialism in order to manage the cases where capitalism isn’t practical, right?

            Why are you assuming government is a solution? Admitting that a hammer is a less than ideal tool for jacking up a car doesn’t imply that a hacksaw is a better one. government itself is a huge commons problem, and one that fails in very regular and predictable ways. the number and type of problems it can be trusted to “solve” is very limited.

            (but some of those resources we cannot afford to have exploited, thus pure capitalism is not doable in practice).

            Such as? There are few resources more essential than food and that market seems to work pretty well.

          • acymetric says:

            @cassander

            Sure, but there are certainly some cases where a hacksaw is a better tool than a hammer (and vice versa). Do you have a different mechanism for dealing with issues that are not well solved by markets or governments (i.e., is there an actual car jack anywhere in this analogy or have we not invented that tool yet)?

          • cassander says:

            @acymetric

            A few, but not many. governments do a barely tolerable job as monopoly providers of violence. They don’t do it well, for reasons I’ll get to, but I’ve never seen anyone else do it better.

            With everything else, as with other large and bureaucratic institutions, they do best when given very clear, measurable objectives with very few tradeoffs to consider. Get a man to the moon and back by the end of the decade and damn the cost, mail everyone over 65 a check for $1,200 once a month, build me a gigantic pyramid. They do very poorly with objectives like achieve the pareto optimal balance between environmental cleanliness and the costs it imposes, make housing more affordable using only methods that sound good to voters and don’t offend key interest groups, or anything else that requires complex tradeoffs between incompatible objectives or where success is difficult to ascertain. One of my first SSC posts was actually about this and why NASA of the 60s did so much better than NASA of the 70s, precisely because it had very clear, measurable goals.

            Most of what the left (and, frankly, not a small share of the right) proposes these days is that second sort of problem, a complex, multifaceted problems of the sort that governments almost always screw up worse than doing nothing, and half the time it’s just piling more screw-up onto something they already broke (quick, we need a stimulus packaged to fix the recession that came about from the collapse of the housing bubble we created!)

          • This seems like a pretty great argument for regulated capitalism and/or hybrid capitalism/socialism in order to manage the cases where capitalism isn’t practical, right?

            Your complaint is that in such situations capitalism doesn’t make the right decision. But you are assuming that the alternative, having the decision made through political mechanisms, will produce the right decision. Why? What makes it in the interest of political actors to regulate firms in the way that best serves the public, or the managers of socialist firms to manage them in the way that best serves the public?

          • The only reason capitalism is viable on our planet is the abundance of resources available to be exploited relative to the people attempting to exploit them

            I don’t follow that. Fewer resources would makes us worse off. But the standard definition of economics (not my preferred one) is the science of allocating scarce resources to diverse ends. That’s what markets do.

          • MoebiusStreet says:

            @acymetric

            The only reason capitalism is viable on our planet is the abundance of resources available to be exploited relative to the people attempting to exploit them

            If I understand you, this is just repeating the old Malthusian argument. Capitalism doesn’t survive simply by using up resources. Capitalism survives by providing appropriate incentives to discover alternatives to resources.

          • acymetric says:

            @MoebiusStreet

            If I understand you, this is just repeating the old Malthusian argument. Capitalism doesn’t survive simply by using up resources. Capitalism survives by providing appropriate incentives to discover alternatives to resources.

            Well, sort of. In a closed system (space station) that is truly closed (no supply shipments coming from outside, no stopping to collect resources from comets/astroids/planets/etc) then I suppose that is what I am arguing…there is going to be a limit to the value that can be extracted from that closed system and some major problems from privatizing i.e. the air coming from the life support system.

            It does not apply to Earth (and thus I don’t subscribe to Malthusian arguments about Earth) because the “closed system” (planet) and available resources therein are so large that it can be reasonably modeled as infinite. Of course that isn’t necessarily true for a specific resource (especially in a specific location), but on a global scale it is true for the types of resources we need and our ability to find ways to access, use, or create new resources as necessary (so I guess I am in full agreement with David here).

            So I guess my point is that yes, I agree with you about how markets work, but disagree that they work well for all problems. Full-steam ahead resource allocation works in a closed-system with limited resources (space station), except that capitalism will lead to some really problematic results in such a system. Capitalism works well in our “open” system (Earth) because of the abundance of many key (life-sustaining) resources, but something other than markets is necessary to manage those. If anyone has a suggestion other than governments for that role, I’m all ears but I think anything described will start looking an awful lot like a government.

            If the suggestion is that governments are the correct solution but that our governments are doing a bad job I don’t think you’ll find much opposition (the opposition will come, in that case, from what should be done to improve it).

          • sentientbeings says:

            @acymetric

            It does not apply to Earth (and thus I don’t subscribe to Malthusian arguments about Earth) because the “closed system” (planet) and available resources therein are so large that it can be reasonably modeled as infinite. Of course that isn’t necessarily true for a specific resource (especially in a specific location), but on a global scale it is true for the types of resources we need and our ability to find ways to access, use, or create new resources as necessary (so I guess I am in full agreement with David here).

            You have partially correctly identified an important point, partially whiffed big time.

            The big whiff is that resources on the Earth can’t generally be modeled as infinite. The very point that they are scarce drives the development of property rights and the study of economics. Market systems with private property allocate scarce resources more efficiently than other systems, for a variety of reasons. That efficiency is more important in the context of scarcer resources; indeed, when reviewing the anthropological record we find that once-abundant resources treated as unowned even in societies with property are brought under private property institutions once greater scarcity exists.

            The part you got right, related to your space-station example, has less to do with resource constraint per se than it does with scale. The cost of erecting market systems when the actions are only between a few people are high relative to the benefits.

      • melolontha says:

        The ‘capitalism = revealed preferences = good’ position needs just as much justification as any ‘imposing these particular policies = good’ position, though. I don’t think it makes sense to treat it as the default, and impose higher standards on people arguing against than on those arguing in favour (or assuming without argument). Both links in the chain (capitalism = revealed preferences, and revealed preferences = good) have glaringly obvious flaws, and also some subtle ones.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Things that actually happen seems like a better default than “things I say will happen”.

          • Guy in TN says:

            There are more positions than the dichotomy of “What a person does, that’s their revealed preference” and “What a person says, that’s their preference”.

            My position is that the more power you have in a given situation, the closer the first comes to revealing utility. But the more your power is constrained (for example, by property law under capitalism), the more the second explanation becomes accurate.

          • baconbits9 says:

            There are more positions than the dichotomy of “What a person does, that’s their revealed preference” and “What a person says, that’s their preference”.

            Maybe, but none of those appear to be better as a default than “what a person actually does”.

            My position is that the more power you have in a given situation, the closer the first comes to revealing utility. But the more your power is constrained (for example, by property law under capitalism), the more the second explanation becomes accurate.

            I don’t know how this clarifies things, revealed preferences are what you do under conditions X, Y and Z. Given property laws I behave in manner X, without property laws my preferences would be different doesn’t address preferences, it shifts the hypothetical. That would be like saying “I prefer to sleep around, and if my wife was fine with it I would” is my true preference and the fact that my wife isn’t fine with it is preventing that true preference from being demonstrated.

          • skybrian says:

            There are many ways to design a game and “revealed preference” doesn’t let you know what people would do with a different game design.

            For example, let’s say you have a limited number of concert tickets to give away. Here are two possible ways to do it: you could hold an auction, or you could make people stand in line.

            It seems like “willingness to stand in line” is just as much a revealed preference as “willingness to spend money”.

            But both of these methods depend on stuff that’s not part of the game. Waiting in line depends on how much stamina and free time people have, which is not equally distributed. And the auction depends on how much money people have, which is also not equally distributed. As a result, they don’t really measure “desire to go to the concert,” but rather a combination of that and a lot of other facts about the world.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But both of these methods depend on stuff that’s not part of the game. Waiting in line depends on how much stamina and free time people have, which is not equally distributed. And the auction depends on how much money people have, which is also not equally distributed.

            Is there a mechanism that prevents people with money from buying tickets from those who stood in line?

          • John Schilling says:

            Is there a mechanism that prevents people with money from buying tickets from those who stood in line?

            There certainly can be – just make the person at the front of the line present a drivers’ license or other photo ID, print their name on the ticket, and demand that the ticket-holder present a matching photo ID when they try to get in to the event. Alternately, there is no ticket or it is just a meaningless souvenier/token, it’s the database entry matching the ID that matters.

            I’m not sure how common this sort of thing is, but it’s far from unheard of.

          • acymetric says:

            @baconbits9

            Maybe, but none of those appear to be better as a default than “what a person actually does”.

            Is it possible that having a “default” assumption is unhelpful for this kind of analysis? It seems like most situations are complex enough that assuming either method of determining preferences is more likely right off the bat is going to lead to more bad conclusions than good ones.

          • It seems like “willingness to stand in line” is just as much a revealed preference as “willingness to spend money”.

            The difference, in that case, is that standing in line is a net cost–nobody else gets the time you are losing. Paying money is only a transfer.

            That said, your general argument seems to misunderstand what revealed preference is. My actions only reveal my preferences between the alternatives I have. The fact that I am going to grow old and die reveals that I prefer that to killing myself and dying younger, but it doesn’t reveal that I prefer that to living another healthy century–because that isn’t one of the options I can choose among.

            My willingness to stand in line for an hour to get a ticket reveals that I prefer the ticket to spending the hour doing something else. My willingness to spend ten dollars for a ticket reveals that I prefer the ticket to whatever else I would buy with the ten dollars. Those are both revealed preferences, and in no way inconsistent with each other.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @baconbits9

            Given property laws I behave in manner X, without property laws my preferences would be different doesn’t address preferences, it shifts the hypothetical.

            My argument isn’t “their preferences would be different”, because as you say, that is shifting the hypothetical.

            My argument is that under a limited-power scenario, the accuracy of using actions as a proxy for preferences decreases.

            Consider a person in jail: He reveals that he is in jail. Do you now assume being in jail is his preference, as opposed to being out of jail?

        • benwave says:

          Yeah, I’ve had a problem with this for a long time now, though the balance between that and the good of not interfering in peoples’ lives and what role a government should have in that is very murky waters to me

          But even when one assumes that that revealed preferences are good on an individual level, optimising the market as a whole on making money only holds true when everyone on earth has the same amount of money. Growing inequality means that that proposition is getting less true every day.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But even when one assumes that that revealed preferences are good on an individual level, optimising the market as a whole on making money only holds true when everyone on earth has the same amount of money. Growing inequality means that that proposition is getting less true every day

            If this reply leads to culture war in the slightest way I promise to stop replying, as while I don’t think it is CW I could see it veering into it.

            I don’t think that growing inequality is a fact of human existence right now. The fastest growing economies in the world are among the poorest per capita economies with China and multiple African countries leading the way, and world wide levels of poverty are decreasing at perhaps the fastest rates in the history of the world.

            Further many people demonstrate their preferences for poorer people having better standards of living by donating to charities, it is non obvious what the final balance between selfishness and concern for the well being of others will ultimately be if we continue to get richer as a species.

          • benwave says:

            I won’t argue that total world inequality hasn’t been drastically improved, I think you’re right about that. I do definitely see greater concentration of wealth at the high end though, and increases in inequality within countries, and that is cause for concern to me. Global warming aside, I think that as a planet we’re still doing mostly okay at distributing and deploying our resources for now. (Though I acknowledge that’s a pretty big aside).

            I think there will come a point at which we won’t be doing mostly okay, and then I hope we aren’t blinded by an assumption that “capitalism = revealed preferences = good”

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If this reply leads to culture war in the slightest way I promise to stop replying, as while I don’t think it is CW I could see it veering into it.

            I feel I should remind you that this isn’t an OT, and AFAIK there is no formal CW restriction here. But I also strongly approve of you wanting to avoid a CW even so. (I did see Scott call for no CW, but much later, in a comment, so now I dunno. Whatever. I choose to interpret this comment as sportsmanlike.)

            I think there’s more inequality than ever, technically speaking. The richest person in the world right now has more net worth than the richest person did about 15 years ago, probably both in terms of dollars and in terms of PPP (how many Big Macs they could buy with their net worth). Same if you go with the 500 richest, 10k richest, top 10%, top quintile, etc.

            At the same time, I think this isn’t as important as is claimed by people who lament it, for a few reasons.

            One, I estimate that wealth naturally grows exponentially from investment, and the wealthiest people have the most % of their overall wealth to invest, so if overall wealth is increasing, it’s naturally going to appear more concentrated at the top in terms of percentage of total wealth. (This does make me interested in whether wealth might be concentrating super-exponentially, but I’m not sure how I would chart it.) This tells me we need to make sure people are investing all that they can.

            Second, inequality of wealth means inequality of quality of life, but not to the same extent that wealth is inequal. Nowhere near. Bezos’ wealth is several thousand times mine, but he’s not driving several thousand cars, living in several thousand homes, or watching a cut of Avengers: Infinity War that’s several thousand times better than the one I saw. I’m sure he’s got a much better QoL, and so do the next million richest, but it’s genuinely hard for me to try to peg this to overall wealth concentration, primarily because it’s impossible for me to imagine more than very slight improvements. In other words, past a certain point, increases in wealth inequality simply don’t bother me, and it’s hard for me to imagine anyone else bothered, either, if they thought about it that way.

            Third is a sort of half-argument, half-agreement. As implied above, most of that extra wealth is going into investment, not consumption. I see investment as a tool for increasing wealth generation, while consumption is straight up destruction of wealth, so this tells me we should want more, not less, wealth in the hands of a few. It’s probably better to have all that investment dispersed, provided it’s all still invested, but I also want that wealth invested by the people who are best at it, so we’re back to concentrating it. And yet, there’s an argument that good investment is often a function of luck, so we’re not exactly rewarding good choices, and also, people like to give their wealth to their families, and family members aren’t necessarily good investors. Yet again, people move a lot between wealth quintiles, as Thomas Sowell so often reminds us, so on the whole, maybe justice is happening in the wealth world and we’re not paying enough attention to it?

            In the other direction, of course, it’s easy for me to see some pretty bleak lives. And I don’t like how bleak they are and I would love to see them less bleak, but to me, the solution is equalizing wealth generation, not wealth itself, and very few people seem to know how to do that, and not everyone seems to want to learn, and I genuinely don’t know how to get people to learn when they’re not already self-motivated.

            So I feel like the thing to do is to find people who are good at teaching other people how to successfully increase their own wealth generation rate, and give those teachers a lot of funding and maybe better cuts of Infinity War.

          • benwave says:

            It seems weird to me to consider consumption primarily as the destruction of wealth. Consumption (with the caveats I’ve noted upthread) is the satisfaction of human wants and needs. There’s no point in the generation of wealth unless it leads to consumption, in fact wealth is really nothing more than a future claim on consumption – its destiny was always to ‘be destroyed’, thus fulfilling its promise. Yes, it does make sense to invest a certain amount of wealth in accelerating the rate of want-need satisfaction, let’s not lose sight of the real target. I hope I’m not coming across as pedantic, but I feel language does influence how we think, so it can be dangerous to use language that obscures reality (in Marxist parlance, fetishism).

            (I guess to be specific, I am talking about consumption of money. Consumption of limited resources such as fuels, minerals, fresh air/water/other environmental resources of course needs to be carefully managed)

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Nah; I think the pedantry is warranted here.

            And I think we’re pretty much on the same page about what consumption is, and what it’s meant for. (While we’re being pedantic, I’ll say I don’t think of money as being consumed; it’s traded for goods and services, which are consumed. But I think that makes no difference to your point.)

            Our only disagreement here, I think, is where to draw the line between consumption and investment. Suppose we have 1000 ducats; I think you want to put, say, 500 ducats into consumption, and 500 into investment. Whereas I’d rather put only 250 into consumption and 750 into investment. If we further suppose the return on investment is uniform, my plan would result in more ducats next year for both, so I think my plan is better. For example, what if the rate of return is 100%? Your plan results in 1000 ducats available every year, meaning you could sustain 500 in consumption indefinitely. Not bad. But with my plan, we get 1500 next year, and if we keep to a 1-3 ratio, then we’re getting more and more for consumption – 375, then 562.5, then 843, etc. This has all sorts of additional benefits, such as giving us a buffer in case of bad years, or increasing the types of things we can invest in, further increasing how much we can consume without running out. Even if the RoI isn’t uniform, it makes sense to save as much as we can while still being reasonably comfortable.

            “Reasonably comfortable” is doing work, of course. As you say: the point of all this wealth is ultimately to use it on QoL. I pretty much agree with that.

            The typical conservative argument is that we should save as much as we can, so as to limit the amount by which adverse effects affect our consumption rate – the more you have saved up, the less likely that a bad year forces you to give up burgers to live on beans instead. And this is especially important for people whose production rate is close to their consumption rate, i.e. the poor; the obvious solution is to widen that gap, by raising production, lowering consumption, or both. I think the typical liberal argument is the same; the disagreement is mainly over when it’s okay to let the consumption rate rise again. I think conservatives argue for waiting longer than liberals. Liberals argue that the current rate is already uncomfortable for some people, and we need to let it go up for them. (This also spawns sub-debates, such as about what’s “comfortable”.)

            As far as wealth inequality goes, my reasoning is that consumption is close enough to production, for enough people, that it makes sense to emphasize production by default, and keep that gap wide for as many people as possible; only then can we afford “comfortable” consumption for the people who genuinely can’t widen it (or even have their gap backwards). This seems to suggest cranking up investment, even if it’s in relatively few hands, because that investment will eventually need to be in other people anyway.

    • Watchman says:

      Although what this position seems to miss is that the system which allows this is capitalism, not socialism. The proof of this is perhaps the growth of environmental protests against development in China, as the population become richer and more leisured and so have more time and energy to adrss issues other than survival.

      Another wonderful example of a different political system achieving the goal sought by a competitor system. Which in context of Scott’s post is something to note – endorsements from politicians who have ideals you support is a very poor proxy for assuming the endorsed candidate will bring about the change you seek. From an external observer’s point of view I’d question whether the Obama administration achieved that much compared to what it intended, so why would an endorsement from a member of that administration have value other than as a kind of virtue signal?

      In fact, I’d put melbokio’s reference to Chomsky in this same category: who values Chomsky’s political thoughts other than people with the same core beliefs. It’s not as if he’s got a history of being proven right to the satisfaction of the majority of the body politic [1], so reference to him in a point you support is more likely in-group signalling, albeit in this case justifiable in that it’s identifying an in-group position.

      [1] From a very free-market position, whilst writing this I realised my experiences of people approvingly citing Chomsky is such that I instinctively take it as a sign of a poor argument. Not really very healthy but it is probably a result of the fact he seems to be used by writers who assume a certain degree of socialist reasoning to be undisputed truth.

  5. niohiki says:

    Scott says that

    since for complicated reasons it needs voter support to do certain things.

    From what (admittedly not much, thanks Wikipedia) I’ve understood about the California initiative/referendum system, it seems that only constitutional changes require a confirmation by popular vote. Are there any other circumstances where a new law has to be put to vote, or are all of these propositions affecting constitutional law?

    (Or are the representatives willing to legislate-via-ballot to intentionally create superlaws that cannot be later repealed by future houses of a different political sign? And if so, is this used often?)

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      He mentioned another type of case that requires a referendum – changes to previous referendums.

    • Anthony says:

      Anything passed by initiative or repealed by referendum may not be changed by the legislature.

      The legislature may place constitutional amendments and ordinary statutes on the ballot. (They must do so in the case of amendments, tax increases, bonds, and possibly some others.)

      The voters may also place those things on the ballot, by collecting enough signatures of registered voters. The requirement is higher for amendments.

      Any state ballot measure, including Constitutional amendments, requires a simple majority to pass. (Some local ones, including taxes, have supermajority requirements.)

    • Nornagest says:

      From what (admittedly not much, thanks Wikipedia) I’ve understood about the California initiative/referendum system, it seems that only constitutional changes require a confirmation by popular vote.

      There’s nothing saying that a referendum needs to be a constitutional amendment, but if a regular initiative needs a majority at referendum to be passed, and a (state) constitutional amendment needs a majority at referendum to be passed, then there’s no real reason not to make one an amendment if you think you can collect the signatures. And ballot initiatives can’t be overridden by the legislature, so this is an attractive way to make policy if you’re worried that someone who actually knows what they’re doing might think it’s a bad idea.

    • cassander says:

      (Or are the representatives willing to legislate-via-ballot to intentionally create superlaws that cannot be later repealed by future houses of a different political sign? And if so, is this used often?)

      Yes and yes.

    • niohiki says:

      @Mr. Doolittle
      Sure, that much is clear (the whole “super”law thing). It was mostly about the ones like Proposition 1 – it did not seem to me there would have been a previous initiative specifically to pre-emptively ban such bonds, or that it would have been originally forbidden in the constitution.

      Then again, from what @Nornagest and @cassander say, I was probably mistaken, if there is a tendency to just stick specific things onto the Constitution because “come on it’s free! And the outgroup will not easily change it!”.

      And ballot initiatives can’t be overridden by the legislature, so this is an attractive way to make policy if you’re worried that someone who actually knows what they’re doing might think it’s a bad idea.

      Yes and yes.

      Basically this. Well, I guess it is not so different from Brexit(*) or de Gaulle’s referendums. Most of the coverage of US politics over here focuses on presidential affairs, and reading this post gave an impression of a certain democratic sanity in California.

      (*) Although the commons could overrule Brexit, I am going to say they (understandably) will not.

  6. mdv1959 says:

    You’re voting rationale is surprisingly similar to mine and the explanations accorded the proceedings the reverence they deserve. The Republican party is nearly extinct in California so soon we can look forward to radically left politicians battling it out with real socialist to prove who has the best interest of the populous at heart.

    I’ve lived here for close to 60 years and used to think the ballot initiatives were a good idea because it kept the electorate engaged and gave “citizens” a more direct voice in legislation. Now I think they’re generally a disaster and prevent the state legislature from doing their job. (i.e. trying to legislate with some fiscal responsibility) The cherry on top is the California “Bullet” train which is wildly over budget and would have been of questionable value even if it had been completed on time and on budget.

    It’s too bad, growing up here in the 60’s-70’s it felt like we lived in the best state and the best country in the world. Now it feels more like a slow moving train wreck that will end in some real financial pain.

    • grendelkhan says:

      I blame a combination of cost disease and Prop 13, which led to the housing crisis, which is at the root of most of the state’s problems.

      The Republican party is nearly extinct in California so soon we can look forward to radically left politicians battling it out with real socialist to prove who has the best interest of the populous at heart.

      I’d like to think we’ll see neoliberal technocrats like Scott Wiener battling it out with DSA radicals. Given how badly the right has been sucking at actual policy, I see this as an improvement.

      • cassander says:

        Prop 13 is problematic, but the idea that it caused the housing crisis is inaccurate, and the idea that people don’t want their houses to go up in value as much as possible is preposterous.

        I’d like to think we’ll see neoliberal technocrats like Scott Wiener battling it out with DSA radicals.

        I’d say that the chance of this happening is zero. You’ll get a battle alright, but between equally batty solutions that claim to promise everything to everyone and cost no one anything.

        • grendelkhan says:

          I don’t think that Prop 13 is the only cause of the housing crisis–a powerful environmental movement, limited buildable land, and a desirable area all tilt the scales toward scarcity–but it certainly helps, doesn’t it?

          I maintain that people don’t want their houses to go up in value so much that they’re priced out by the property taxes. That being told your house is now worth two million dollars is mixed news in a non-Prop 13 area. (People really do have trouble with that kind of thing.)

          You’ll get a battle alright, but between equally batty solutions that claim to promise everything to everyone and cost no one anything.

          I-732 in Washington State (2016) and SB 827 in California (earlier this year) were both exactly the kind of technocrat-versus-activist thing I was talking about.

          • cassander says:

            >but it certainly helps, doesn’t it?

            I don’t think it does at all. It doesn’t change any one’s incentives. homeowners will always want the value of their property to go up prop 13 or no.

            I-732 in Washington State (2016) and SB 827 in California (earlier this year) were both exactly the kind of technocrat-versus-activist thing I was talking about.

            I don’t know about I-732, but SB 827 went down to ignominious defeat without even getting to the floor. It wasn’t a battle, it was a slaughter.

          • I don’t think that Prop 13 is the only cause of the housing crisis … but it certainly helps, doesn’t it?

            I think the effect is ambiguous. On the one hand, it results in a less efficient allocation of housing, since it makes homeowners less willing to move. On the other hand, it lowers the long term cost of housing, taxes included, which should result in more housing being built.

            I think the main cause is restrictions, largely by local governments, on land use.

          • Plumber says:

            @cassander

            “…homeowners will always want the value of their property to go up prop 13 or no”

            Not this homeowner, speak for yourself.

            I live in my house, I don’t use it as an ATM, and I want home values to go down, not up.

            Home values going up only helps me if I sell and move from The City to “There be Dragons”, which I don’t want to do.

            What I want is for my sons to be able to afford to live near with their kids, and for the neighborhood to look much the same as it does now without anymore newcomers tearing down bungalows and building mansions on too small lots.

            I support aggressively progressive income taxes, cutting the salaries of UC professors, and pelting “tech” people to achieve this.

          • Anthony says:

            People being unable to afford their property taxes when their assessments went up is one of the forces that drove support for Prop 13 in the first place.

            For perspective – at the time of Prop 13, property taxes averaged about 2% – 3% of the assessed value of the property; afterwards, they were 1%, with the assessed value not increasing as fast as the market price, but resetting with each sale.

            In Texas, property tax is generally 1.5% right now.

            Property taxes in “high-tax” Canada seem to range from about 0.4% to 1.4%

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If property taxes are too high to afford, then vote to lower them. If lower taxes do not allow budgets to be balanced, cut spending. If you cannot cut spending, then you live with the higher taxes.

            This is a challenge, but living in a budget is a challenge for everyone, everywhere, everytime.

            When your eyes are bigger than your stomach, you need to fix that, either by living with higher taxes or living with lower spending. Trying to cheat around this doesn’t work.

          • cassander says:

            @Plumber says:

            Home values going up only helps me if I sell and move from The City to “There be Dragons”, which I don’t want to do.

            Your house will be sold eventually, even if it’s after your death, and I assume you’d rather sell it for more than less.

            What I want is for my sons to be able to afford to live near with their kids, and for the neighborhood to look much the same as it does now without anymore newcomers tearing down bungalows and building mansions on too small lots.

            You can borrow against your increased value to help pay for their houses. The aesthetics of your neighborhood, I grant you, are outside of your control.

            I support aggressively progressive income taxes, cutting the salaries of UC professors, and pelting “tech” people to achieve this.

            None of those things will achieve your goal, nor change the fact that you live in one of the most desirable places on earth. Believe me, I know, I grew up around there, and it’s great.

            @Anthony says:

            People being unable to afford their property taxes when their assessments went up is one of the forces that drove support for Prop 13 in the first place.

            I am quite skeptical that this ever actually happened to a meaningfully sized number of people. I suspect that a lot of people got annoyed with their higher property taxes.

            For perspective – at the time of Prop 13, property taxes averaged about 2% – 3% of the assessed value of the property; afterwards, they were 1%, with the assessed value not increasing as fast as the market price, but resetting with each sale.

            And the solution was lowering the property tax rate, not creating a crazy scheme that rewards people for not moving.

  7. joncb says:

    Based on your descriptions, I feel that California should consolidate some governmental positions whose description maps trivially to “use to be important but now regulates X”. If only to save on the 6 or 7 figure annual salaries.

    I mean this post can be legitimately describes as the libertarian manifesto in the guise of a how-to-vote card. Good post overall though.

    My only other comment i had was regarding Prop 12 which, although i fundamentally support it (hell anything that is opposed by PETA is at least worth consideration… ), I wonder if the “pass it as a superlaw that can never be repealed” argument could possibly be extended as a weak negative argument to it. I mean maybe we have all the evidence necessary to say that this is the absolutely correct size for a cage to be, but somehow i doubt it.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      I think Scott’s argument is more along the line of “factory farming is terrible, anything that makes it slightly less terrible is obviously good.” i.e. that the correct cage size is “nonexistent”.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think there was a previous proposition that regulated this area, but in a loophole-filled way that factory farms immediately got around. This is closing some of those loopholes, and it has to be a proposition in order to change the last proposition.

  8. Salem says:

    A markedly different guide to the same ballot from a former commenter here.

  9. Szemeredi says:

    What’s the Correct Position on Prop C?

  10. Murphy says:

    I can see why people object to Proposition 5.

    it’s a little bit like those cases in code where it’s tempting to put a wee little ugly hack in to deal with this existing situation…. but that will just make it harder to deal with the rotten root cause.

    The elderly are already the richest part of the population. The elderly wealthy enough to have never needed to move even more so.

    More thoroughly locking-in even more extensive versions of the existing tax discounts they get probably isn’t ideal.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      My default is to vote for lower taxes, but a system that gives lower taxes only to certain people gets complete opposition from me. Either give it to everyone or give it to no one.

      So I would tend to vote against this, because of the second reason above. Stop trying to fix the problem with a new problem.

      • Any reduction or repeal of a particular tax gives the reduction only to certain people–the people who pay that tax. If it was right to tax certain people, why is it always wrong to stop taxing certain people?

        • gbdub says:

          The number of people who pay property tax is large. This takes an existing special tax reduction for a subpopulation of that tax base (“certain people” i.e. old people and people who inherit houses from old people) and extends it even further.

          “If it was right to tax certain people, why is it always wrong to stop taxing certain people?”

          Because the second “certain people” is a small subset of the first “certain people”? I kind of feel like you’re being deliberately obtuse here?

    • gbdub says:

      I kind of feel the same way. On the one hand, Prop 5 corrects an actual problem with Prop 13, and is probably positive utility on net.

      On the other hand, Prop 13 was/is a disaster for CA and Prop 5 does nothing to address the overall issues. If anything it will further entrench the problem by giving the “beneficiaries” of Prop 13 one less reason to turn against it. Kill it with fire.

      • Why do you view Prop 13 as a disaster for CA? As I think I pointed out some time back, per capita real state spending in the years after Prop 13 never fell below what it had been in the year before Prop 13.

        • cassander says:

          You’re right that Prop 13 hasn’t resulted in lower taxes for California, but it has resulted in massively distorted taxes and a huge shift away from efficient, stable property taxes to less efficient and stable income and sales taxes. I’m pretty militant on the notion that taxes are way too high, but I still think prop 13 is terrible.

          • gbdub says:

            Okay, disaster is a strong word, but +1 to what cassander said. It distorts the tax base and the housing market in ways not necessarily reflected in the overall bottom line.

    • Galle says:

      Yeah, that or something like it seems like the reasoning.

      I think that in more detail, it’s something like, “We should not have this law at all, because it has negative consequence A, which affects person X, and negative consequence B, which affects person Y. This proposition would get rid of negative consequence A, but it would leave negative consequence B, which is much worse, while simultaneously breaking up any possibility of a strategic alliance between person X and person Y.”

      Basically, there’s a line of philosophical reasoning that people support bad policies because they personally do not suffer the negative consequences of those policies, and therefore bad policies should never have any of their negative consequences blunted, otherwise we’ll never get rid of them.

  11. Deiseach says:

    I know I’m an outsider, but politics has long been the most popular blood sport in Ireland and it’s even more fun watching someone else’s elections when it’s not going to affect you (very much). So I’ll be keenly interested in Tuesday’s elections, and since these California ones include housing, I have a vaguely informed opinion there from my time working in social housing provision.

    I’ll be jumping around all over the place, so warning for incoherence in advance.

    However, all my friends, including the ones who are supposedly YIMBY, are very angry about this. I am having difficulty figuring out why in between all the use of “I’ve got mine” and “this is about hating poor people”, but I think it has something to do with anger at the idea that some people can keep their property taxes low forever.

    With all due respect, your friends are wrong. Firstly, poor people also own houses that they’d like to sell and move elsewhere but the property tax in the new area would kill them! Second, it’s not going to be forever – if we’re talking about the elderly and especially the sick/disabled elderly, they’re going to die and then the new purchasers of the property will be paying full whack. Thirdly, families with disabled children would maybe also like to be able to move to a larger house/one nearer the hospital or other centre where the kids are getting treatment, and would be particularly sensitive to expenses like property taxes because costs of disability are high.

    Could this measure, if passed, be abused by rich old farts who want to live in newer, nicer houses in swankier locations but pay less property tax than other people living there? Sure it could! That’s why you have regulations to try and cut down as much abuse as possible! But sticking with things as they are, where people are stuck in houses too big for them/not suitable for their current needs because they can’t afford to move to somewhere better due to higher taxes is equally not helping the poor, the rich old farts will still find some way around taxes, and I have to say it sounds like your friends have little to no first-hand experience of poor/disabled people but are thinking more of their own parents who are in reasonably good health, have good incomes, and can easily afford to pay such taxes (they don’t think their own parents are going to game the system, but their model of “elderly homeowner” is along those lines).

    Proposition 2 authorizes redirecting money earmarked for mental health care to housing mentally ill people. The legislature supports it, housing the mentally ill is probably better for them than whatever else this money was going to do

    That would be a qualified yes from me. Housing the mentally ill is better than leaving them on the streets, but without support to back it up and help them with independent living, pretty soon they’ll be living in their houses in the same state as if they were living on the streets and that’s not much better for them. (Remember my paranoid schizophrenic lady who used to go off her meds, then come in to the housing section to demand her locks be changed as her neighbours were breaking in to her house to smear things on the walls, and besides we were putting cameras up through the sewerage pipes into her toilet to spy on her on behalf of the government?)

    Random comments:

    (1) If Dianne Feinstein is so awful, why isn’t she a Republican? Is the only reason she’s a Democrat that “yes she’s a hawk, yes she’s pro-the rich, yes she’s anti-free speech, yes she’s pro-selling weapons to regimes dodgy on human rights, but hey at least she is sound on the abortion’n’LGBT question, and that’s what counts!”

    (I’ll forgive you the snarking about a Republican’s sexual kink being prison porn fantasies as I’ll be snarking about the Democrats fetish for abortion later).

    (2)

    Proposition 8 says dialysis companies can only charge 115% of the cost of treatment

    Whenever I think the Irish health system is fucked, I see things like this about America and realise no, it could be even worse. Maybe our local hospital wasn’t the greatest when providing dialysis to my late father, but at least it was free and the renal consultant was capable, professional and not an arsehole when dealing with patients and their families. Thank God for the medical card!

    (3)

    But Tuck has more experience and the support of Obama’s education secretary, so I guess I’ll go with him.

    Yeah, and if he is perceived as anti-union and if the teachers’ unions are anything like they were in Ireland (the government finally got serious about standing up to them during the crash after the boom and the imposed days of austerity; before then – and I used to work in a school – they were the most powerful unions in Ireland and got away with murder), then they’ll be very powerful and they will make his tenure hell if he gets the job. Expect lots of protests from the unions and refusal to comply with new regulations and so on. If they want to, they can gum up the works.

    (4)

    Democrat Malia Cohen boasts that she is strong on climate change, which is relevant because the Board handles gas taxes; she also boasts that she is strong on LGBTQ and abortion rights, which is relevant because California

    Democrat Xavier Becerra is the incumbent, and has an unblemished record of taking the most liberal possible position on everything.

    I have to admit, I’m amused at the notion that “qualifications for the job” rest on “I’m the most liberal! How liberal am I? Even in a liberal administration of a liberal state, I am noted for being the most liberal!”

    On the other hand, I fail to see what the hell her views on abortion have to do with being able to set taxes that won’t destroy the state economy or being capable at her job, but as you said “California” and as I said “fetish for abortion”.

    (Semi) Serious questions:

    (1) If the New Puritanism exhibited by the left (“left” in its broadest meaning) means Trump is undesirable and the Republicans should never have voted a known and admitted adulterer into office, why then vote for Newsom who is also a known and admitted adulterer? I’ve seen condemnation from Democrat-supporters that “Trump had affairs! With a porn star, even!” and if that moral failing means he is unworthy, then surely Mr Newsom is also tainted with sin?

    (2) If Cox switching horses in mid-stream and going with Trump when he saw that was the way the wind was blowing is sign of poor moral fibre, then what about Poizner abandoning the Republicans? I don’t see anything in what you’ve said about Cox that he’s turned his coat out of conviction, merely expediency, so why isn’t Poizner’s change also expediency? Seeing as how it’s not worth the Republicans’ while to run candidates because California, can’t it be argued Poizner saw that having R after his name made him unelectable, so he emulated Cox and went with what was popular?

    Enjoy voting!

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      On the “New Puritanism” thing, the left does not in my experience generally think adultery per se is disqualifyingly immoral for politicians; the relevant moral criteria are your expressed and demonstrated attitude toward women and your respect for their consent boundaries. Trump is bad not because he is an adulterer but because he is a misogynist and probable serial assaulter of women. Also, having a tryst with a porn star is skeezy and unsympathetic in a way that falling for your secretary is not– and paying hush money to cover it up definitely amps up the skeeze factor.

      • Randy M says:

        having a tryst with a porn star is skeezy and unsympathetic in a way that falling for your secretary is not

        Not sure how that works out–assuming “falling for” is a euphemism for “having sex with”.

        In favor of the secretary: going by the numbers, secretary is less likely to have STD that you will pass on to your wife; sex with secretary is more likely to be due to an emotional connection.

        In favor of porn star: probably was checked for stds recently; rich man having an affair was probably not seeking an emotional connection anyway; porn star probably doesn’t have a husband that objects to her having sex with other men; no (or rather, only an explicit) power differential in the porn star relationship, whereas the secretary is likely to be under some measure of coercion (at least under current year progressive reckoning); porn star is unlikely to be under any delusions about the temporary nature of the tryst.

        • John Schilling says:

          Porn star is someone who explicitly signed up for the have-sex-for-money trade, and typically works as an independent contractor who can walk away from any deal at little or no cost. Secretary is someone who probably thought she was signing up for a job that doesn’t involve her paycheck vanishing if she doesn’t have sex on demand, but who will face substantial transaction costs and possibly reputational penalties if she says “no” when her boss alters the deal. And yet having sex with the actual sex worker is the skeezy bit.

          Because, yeah, social camouflage matters. So many people want so much to believe that only skeezy losers deal in the sex trade, which means anyone who wants to e.g. win an election needs to camouflage that behind something that allows for maybe-they’re-really-in-love plausible deniability. Even as we occasionally romanticize the bit where prostitutes and their clients fall in love, and even though the camouflage can just as easily hide harassment and exploitation of people who just wanted to work as secretaries, interns, etc.

          • Randy M says:

            Ah, got it. We aren’t judging him on the morality of the action, but rather that he is a loser for having to go that route.
            But, I’m not sure how that meshes with current progressive sexual ethics?
            Are some people really fooled by the camouflage?
            I feel like I’m more than one sexual revolution behind, by not granting sanction even if there is synchronous lust true love involved. Maybe with enough revolutions I’ll end up ahead of the curve.

          • Nicholas Weininger says:

            Agreed that there are substantial reasons to question people’s instinctive skeeziness hierarchy here; should’ve made it clearer I was being descriptive, not prescriptive. To put the issue another way, the vast majority of “ordinary decent” people of all political persuasions can more easily imagine themselves falling for a co-worker than having a tryst with a porn star.

            Another differentiating factor, btw, is that Newsom admitted everything and was shamefacedly repentant, which Trump has basically never been about anything ever.

          • John Schilling says:

            Are some people really fooled by the camouflage?

            I’m not sure anybody is really fooled, but I’m also not sure it matters. As with almost anything else involving the phrase, “plausible deniability”, what mostly matters is that the denied truth isn’t strictly common knowledge so that everybody can exist in the quantum superposition of naively not noticing the illicit nookie going on and cynically not caring – one of those will be right and virtuous to any observer, and we all agree not to ask the next question.

        • Protagoras says:

          You note one of the reasons in your “in favor of porn star” question, but for some reason nonetheless include an error in our “in favor of the secretary” section; the secretary is in fact much more likely to have an STD that you will pass on to your wife.

          • Randy M says:

            It looks contradictory because I don’t know the statistics (I should have said going by the odds, rather than going by the numbers); porn star presumably has many more sexual partners than secretary, so one would assume greater odds at std, but if she works at a serious company, presumably they screen for that regularly.

            Similarly, I think one might naively assume the executive has some emotional attachment to his secretary, but I walked that back as I think it’s probably just lust in many or most cases.

          • Protagoras says:

            Odds of STDs are counter-intuitive. For the general population, they tend to go down with number of partners (presumably because more promiscuous people are much more reliable about using condoms). Porn actors specifically usually don’t use condoms while working, but at least in the US they test nearly constantly. Among the tens of thousands who have worked in adult film over the past few decades (since HIV became a big deal), the number who have contracted anything from a fellow performer during a shoot seems to be countable on one’s fingers.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      (1) If Dianne Feinstein is so awful, why isn’t she a Republican? Is the only reason she’s a Democrat that “yes she’s a hawk, yes she’s pro-the rich, yes she’s anti-free speech, yes she’s pro-selling weapons to regimes dodgy on human rights, but hey at least she is sound on the abortion’n’LGBT question, and that’s what counts!”

      She’s a California representative and an incumbent. Her party affiliation keeps her from being automatically disqualified, and seniority/incumbency keeps a representative relatively secure in their seat.

    • Anthony says:

      Dianne Feinstein is consistently anti-gun, is generally for tax-and-spend, is pro-abortion, is anti-free-speech, and attempts last-minute smears against her opponents (most lately Kavanaugh), all of which make her a pretty good Democrat.

      The property tax assessment that an old person gets to keep when they move (once now, multiple times if Prop 5 passes) is also heritable, and can be passed to children or grandchildren on the property owned at death.

      California’s teacher’s unions aren’t as powerful as, say, Wisconsin’s – California’s don’t force school districts to buy a health plan the union controls which costs twice what outside plans do, and never have.

      • bass says:

        It’s hard to imagine this is being offered in good faith although you know what they say about not underestimating the stupidity of the general public.

        attempts last-minute smears against her opponents (most lately Kavanaugh), all of which make her a pretty good Democrat

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        The property tax assessment that an old person gets to keep when they move (once now, multiple times if Prop 5 passes) is also heritable, and can be passed to children or grandchildren on the property owned at death.

        This crap should fall under the “Titles of Nobility” clause. Cause heritable tax perks were particular to nobility back in the day.

    • grendelkhan says:

      Second, it’s not going to be forever – if we’re talking about the elderly and especially the sick/disabled elderly, they’re going to die and then the new purchasers of the property will be paying full whack.

      Prop 13 assessments can be handed down to children (Prop 58, 1986) and grandchildren (Prop 193, 1996). This creates a sort of landed gentry, a kind of rent control for homeowners, where those who got here earlier form a different class with different privileges. The LA Times recently had an article about it, focusing on some hilariously egregious cases.

      People living in Prop 13-privileged homes can’t move because of the scarcity and high prices that they’ve been insulated from. The answer, I think, is not to heap even more special privileges on our new aristocrats.

      • Deiseach says:

        Thanks for the explanation there, yes, if the lower rates of property taxes are heritable, that would be much more prone to abuse (though even there I can see an exemption for low-income people inheriting the family home).

        Re: Democrats and “it’s only immoral if Republicans do it because Republicans are supposed to be the family values set”, that’s not really any good, is it? Democrats in general are supposed not to share Republican values since those are Bad (what with all the moustache-twirling grinding the faces of the poor and all), and I did sorta kinda remember some rejection of “family values” as such on the grounds that they were traditional values that were repressive and didn’t recognise the new kinds of family structures in these our modern days, where people were forming all kinds of families not based on blood, or were same-sex, or were blended, or adopting, or not the usual “two married parents of opposite sexes and genders, with two kids and a dog and the suburban house”.

        I can’t see any strength in the “oh my goodness, he’s an adulterer!” outrage (which I have seen online, and not just by your random commenter on a social media site either) since, if the Democrats have no problems with adultery as such or adulterous politicians, why are they bothered by this? The whole “but these are supposed to be your values which you are failing to live up to!” thing is overdone, and is particularly ridiculous when the values being invoked are ones that the party quoting them do not want to be held or carried out any more anyway.

        It reminds me all too much of the people who go on about the badness of Christianity as a religion that holds specific beliefs and makes specific demands and all its faults, then turn around and go “but you’re not living by Jesus’ message of love and acceptance!” to their ideological opponents. Yeah, first off that shows you know nothing about Christianity because it’s not about ‘let’s all be lovey-dovey’, it’s about salvation and that also means things like sin and secondly you only just got done explaining how the very notion of sin was terribad and backwards and harmful by inducing shame and guilt, so why are you now wanting good old-fashioned “you’re a sinner!” talk?

    • Simulated Knave says:

      The issue is not Trump having cheated on his wife. It’s him having clearly done it (serially), transparently denying it, and being supported by a party which claims cheating makes you a bad person.

      Democrats voting for adulterers isn’t hypocritical. Republicans, the party of family values and the religious right, doing it? While lambasting the Clintons for Bill’s adultery? Oh yeah.

      • Deiseach says:

        It may not be hypocritical, but they don’t get to impose those burdens on others then. It would be like objecting to someone eating strawberry ice cream instead of good old traditional vanilla, even though they themselves saw nothing wrong with having a choice of flavours and indeed often had strawberry ice cream themselves, and moreover were agitating for the removal of the “good old traditional” notion as being too restrictive on people’s choice.

        If you’re happy voting for an adulterous politician because he’ll get the policies you like implemented, you can’t object to the other side doing the same. If you don’t hold the same beliefs, you may be able to say of the other side “they’re hypocrites” but you can’t, nor do you have any right to, tell them what way they should be implementing those beliefs.

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach,

          California Democrat here who sent in my ballot yesterday, and no I didn’t vote for Cox the Republican (no way was I going to vote for a businessman!), but I didn’t vote for Newsom the Democrat either (I think he’s loathsome).

          I cast my ballot for other Democrats who were candidates for other positions (Senator, State Treasurer, et cetera) but I left the spot for Governor blank.

          If Brown ran again I’d have voted for him, but Newsom? Never (and I feel the same way about Trump, I find both odious).

      • Civilis says:

        And this is where sitting down and finding out what your opponent believes would actually be helpful.

        Hypocrisy is the “contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, especially with respect to religious and moral beliefs”. The places where we tend to find hypocrisy tend to be in people that put themselves forward as exemplars of Christian behavior, and this is why hypocrisy is an exceptionally powerful indictment of, say, most mega-church televangelists or even the Catholic church as a whole.

        Adultery is certainly a flaw, but it in and of itself isn’t hypocrisy. On the other hand, it’s really hard to find a flawless politician. Given that, we need to either find the one least offensive to our values or ditch values entirely and vote on policies. Voting for a flawed candidate isn’t hypocrisy. Having flawed candidates in your party isn’t hypocrisy. Nobody (outside the Lizardman quotient) thinks Bill Clinton or Donald Trump are avatars of virtue or goodness. On the other hand, portraying yourself as arbiter of how other people should be expressing their values leaves one wide open to charges of hypocrisy unless one is frank about your own flaws and failures to live up to your own values.

        [Edited to add:] if you could prove Pence had committed adultery during his political career, you would definitely be able to get him for hypocrisy, as he’s made it a point to stress his protection from that particular vice, however, it still wouldn’t make the rest of us hypocrites for voting for him.

      • gbdub says:

        “While lambasting the Clintons for Bill’s adultery?”

        Uhh, Bill was accused of a lot more than adultery…

    • Galle says:

      (1) If the New Puritanism exhibited by the left (“left” in its broadest meaning) means Trump is undesirable and the Republicans should never have voted a known and admitted adulterer into office, why then vote for Newsom who is also a known and admitted adulterer? I’ve seen condemnation from Democrat-supporters that “Trump had affairs! With a porn star, even!” and if that moral failing means he is unworthy, then surely Mr Newsom is also tainted with sin?

      I think “New Puritanism” here isn’t quite a valid category. It seems like it would conflate two arguments the Blue Tribe makes against Trump:

      1. Nobody should support Trump, because he committed sexual assault, and sexual assault is evil.
      2. Christian Evangelicals should not support Trump, because he is an adulterer, and Christian Evangelicals oppose adultery.

      The first forces liberals to take a hardline stance against sexual assault – if they’re caught voting for a politician who confessed to sexual assault, then they’re hypocrites. It’s opposing Trump because he violated a value they actually hold sacred.

      The second does not force liberals to take a hardline stance against adultery. It’s not about attacking Trump on the grounds that he’s an adulterer, it’s about attacking Evangelical Trump supporters on the grounds that they are hypocrites. Exposing someone as a hypocrite does not require someone to agree with their hypocritical claims.

      When talking about how sexual ethics affects American politics, it’s very important to pay attention to the difference between “we think this is evil” and “you should think this is evil, if you want to be consistent with your stated values”.

      (2) If Cox switching horses in mid-stream and going with Trump when he saw that was the way the wind was blowing is sign of poor moral fibre, then what about Poizner abandoning the Republicans? I don’t see anything in what you’ve said about Cox that he’s turned his coat out of conviction, merely expediency, so why isn’t Poizner’s change also expediency? Seeing as how it’s not worth the Republicans’ while to run candidates because California, can’t it be argued Poizner saw that having R after his name made him unelectable, so he emulated Cox and went with what was popular?

      It sounds entirely plausible that Poizner left the Republican Party for reasons of expediency. But “becoming a Trumpist” and “leaving the Republican Party” are not comparable actions. The former requires that you change what actual policies you support, while the latter merely requires that you change what letter you put next to your name on the ballot.

      Furthermore, Cox is running for a political office, while Poizner is running for a bureaucratic one. A tendency towards political expediency is undesirable in a politician, because it makes them worse at providing leadership, but it’s desirable in a bureaucrat, because it allows them to keep politics from getting in the way of doing their job.

      • Deiseach says:

        it’s very important to pay attention to the difference between “we think this is evil” and “you should think this is evil, if you want to be consistent with your stated values”.

        Which doesn’t get us very far if the first party have long contended that the second party’s stated values are evil, bad, unfair, etc. etc. etc. Christian Evangelicals oppose a lot of things besides adultery, and Democrats have no problem saying that being consistent on those (abortion, LGBT issues) is bad and awful and shouldn’t be done. If they don’t have an “adultery is wrong because it’s immoral” objection themselves, they certainly don’t get to tell others “you should act on what you think is immoral”. If I voted because I thought abortion was immoral, as you can see from Scott’s list I’d have a rake of Californian politicians tripping over themselves to say they didn’t hold such opinions and people like me should not try to impose their morality on others by using their votes.

        • acymetric says:

          I think you are badly misrepresenting a position on the left that more accurately boils down to “stop trying to legislate your morals on the entire country (specifically, on people who do not share them)”. When that is the argument, it seems fair to point out that the group trying to do the legislating doesn’t seem all that interested in enforcing the moral code among themselves. In otherwise, if you are trying to legislate a set of religious morals, beyond the obvious argument that not everyone should be required to follow them, the argument that the group is selectively enforcing those morals is a fair one to make.

          It would probably also be helpful to remember that the left isn’t some atheist collective intent on destroying Christianity or making Christians look bad…Democrats are majority religious just like Republicans and the country as a whole. The liberal Christians just take a different stance on whether their beliefs should be enshrined in legal code (or at least prioritize that less than other issues where they find common ground with the left).

          • cassander says:

            One could say the same of the left and their moral rules, don’t discriminate against people on the basis of race, except for asians when it comes to college admissions! Believe all women, especially Hillary Clinton when she says her husband did nothing wrong! We have to do whatever it takes to save the world from global warming, but not use nuclear power!

            I think the feeling that the outgroup isn’t living up to their own code and is trying to selectively enforce it on the ingroup is fairly universal.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I think the point of pointing out hypocrisy is to refute the argument that the alleged hypocrite is to be trusted as an authority on decision making.

            So, the right points out that we shouldn’t trust people who call for believing all women’s charges of sexual assault or shifting to solar and wind power. The left, likewise, points out that we shouldn’t trust people who say adultery and same sex marriage are bad.

            All these claims could still be true, knowing nothing else; it’s just that “trust us” isn’t sufficient proof.

      • Civilis says:

        When talking about how sexual ethics affects American politics, it’s very important to pay attention to the difference between “we think this is evil” and “you should think this is evil, if you want to be consistent with your stated values”.

        The issue comes with what exactly the stated values are. I can think something is evil and still end up falling victim to it on occasion. For hypocrisy to be proven, I think you need two things: I publicly make a big point about how something is wrong and nobody should ever do it, and I do it in private. If I find a homeless alcoholic in the gutter, surrounded by empty bottles of Chateau Ripple, and he warns me about the dangers of alcohol in an attempt to discourage me from ending up like him, he’s not a hypocrite, because he’s not hiding that he’s affected by the vice. On the other hand, if the head of the local MADD chapter that’s going around pushing ‘zero tolerance’ for drunk driving blows a .15 BAL after wrecking their car, then they’re vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy.

        Another question that needs to be asked is ‘at what point does tolerance for wrong behavior cross into enabling that behavior?’ I can abhor smoking and still be friends with a smoker and not be a hypocrite. On the other hand, if I abhor smoking and buy my friends cigarettes on the sly, I’ve gone into enabling that behavior, and probably classify as a hypocrite, if not for smoking, then for the assumed correlation ‘if you think smoking is wrong, you should also think enabling others smoking habits is wrong’. If I think gay sex (to a Catholic, as a form of sex not open to procreation) is wrong, the right thing to do might [in fact, is] not be to shun the sinner, but to engage with them.

        Adultery isn’t illegal, and the circumstances in which it occurs can be maddeningly complex, from ‘open marriage’ to ‘outright fraud’. Saying ‘you think adultery is evil, therefore you should shun every adulterer’ doesn’t work, and there’s no way we can agree on a threshold for what deserves to be the cut-off. Further, as adultery to conservatives is fundamentally a breach of trust, anyone who claims to value honesty risks the charge of hypocrisy as well.

        • At a slight tangent …

          All of these arguments seem to assume that voting for someone means you approve of him. That makes sense if you think of voting as an expressive activity, like cheering for a football team.

          It doesn’t make sense if the reason you vote is to change electoral outcomes. From that point of view the question is not “is this a bad person” but “how good a job will he do if elected?” The two are not entirely unrelated, since some forms of badness result in doing a worse job. But some may result in doing a better job–it’s not clear whether you are better off with diplomats who are honest or ones who are dishonest but skilled con men. I view Clinton as a pretty poor example of a human being, but one of the less bad of recent presidents.

          As it happens, I view voting as an expressive activity, since in the elections I have an opportunity to vote in the chance that my vote will change the outcome is vanishingly small. So I share Plumber’s prejudice against voting for someone who had an affair with the wife of his best friend. But a lot of people claim not to view it that way.

        • Galle says:

          This is a valid point, but the fact that there is room for making judgment calls also means that there’s more room for self-serving bias, and therefore for hypocrisy. To give just two data points, religious conservatives generally condemn Bill Clinton’s adultery, but forgive Donald Trump’s. Bill Clinton is a liberal, while Donald Trump is a conservative. It’s possible that there may be a principled reason for this distinction, but we at least have to take the theory that religious conservatives forgive Trump because he’s conservative seriously.

          • Civilis says:

            As someone said upthread, “Uhh, Bill was accused of a lot more than adultery…“.

            The fact that conservatives were fine with Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House of Representatives during Bill Clinton’s term in office should indicate that you’re not understanding why conservatives condemned Clinton’s behavior, or for that matter, what behavior they were condemning. Yes, we don’t like adultery, but it hasn’t been a deal-breaker in a comparatively long time. Clinton’s adultery was a big deal because it provided evidence of much greater flaws in the Clintons, as well as an actual illegal act.

            This feeds into a meta debate. Why, when we’ve already dealt with this issue with Gingrich, do we have to deal with the same arguments about Trump? Why is ‘Trump is an adulterer’ still an argument that people that oppose Trump throw out as if it means anything?

            What I’m left with is that it’s all part of the meta argument over hypocrisy itself, namely, ‘which side is more hypocritical?’. Its trivially easily take your arguments and turn your question around. “To give two data points, the American left generally condemn the religious conservative hypocrisy on adultery, but forgive the hypocrisy on their own side on sexual harassment. It’s possible that there’s a principled reason for this, but we at least have to take the theory that it’s because the American left will say anything to win elections.” And you can keep reversing it and pulling out further layers of hypocrisy over hypocrisy until you are blue in the face.

            Ultimately, the best conclusion that I can come to is that just about everyone with an opinion (probably including me) is a hypocrite in their treatment of hypocrisy. You want to accuse your opponent of it, because it’s something that is easy to prove. Whoever can point and shout ‘Hypocrisy!’ loudly enough that the people not paying attention believe it wins. I wish I could see a way to change that. Trying to get people to take a look at what their opponents actually believe is the only place I can start.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Conservatives don’t have to believe Trump is conservative. They just have to believe he’ll try harder to enact conservative policies than any other viable candidate.

            If the GOP had somehow pulled a major upset and nominated Bernie Sanders, conservatives might very well have voted for Clinton (or stayed home).

      • gbdub says:

        If you think that X is immoral, is it better to vote for someone who:
        1) pays lipservice to not doing X, but does it in private (and maybe gets caught)
        2) doesn’t think X is immoral at all

        This seems like a legitimately hard question. 1) is a hypocrite, which is an additional flaw, but is less likely to normalize behavior X. Then again appearing to tolerate their hypocrisy might weaken your moral authority to assert X as immoral in the first place. Overall, presuming that you disagree with 2) on a bunch of other points anyway, it’s not a huge stretch of realpolitik to hold your nose and vote 1).

  12. onyomi says:

    Everyone anywhere who gets a chance please vote to end daylight savings time. It causes needless confusion and sleep deprivation and most of the world does just fine without it. Living in Asia, it’s already impossible for my friends and relatives in the US to remember what time it is where I am. That the US makes it even harder by changing that relationship twice a year just seems cruel.

  13. Froolow says:

    Not a Californian so not going to affect the vote, but I can’t figure out if Scott’s Secretary of State position is an obvious joke that every Californian will get or if I’m missing something. The argument seems to run:

    Meuser – Tighten standards (as per GOP talking points)
    Padilla – Don’t tighten standards (as per Dem talking points)
    Meuser – Here is some evidence standards should be tightened, insofar as dogs voting is likely to be a bad thing and this isn’t a one-off incident
    Scott – Therefore vote Padilla

    It seems like the preamble should lead to you supporting the guy putting forward evidence (Meuser), because you don’t give Padilla’s response to close off the argument and otherwise indicate they are pretty interchangeable (except for the absolutely delightful endorsements). As your reason for rejecting Meuser is obviously not a serious reason for rejecting him, I don’t properly understand how you reached the conclusion. Is Meuser well known for being awful in other ways, so well known that you are confident every Californian will get the sarcasm? Or is ksbw.com like the Onion and Meuser fell for it (content isn’t available in the UK), meaning that he never actually put forward a serious argument in the first place?

    Voter registration isn’t really partisan in the UK (getting to be a little bit of a fringe-right issue in areas with a lot of middle-eastern immigration), so I’m probably missing a boatload of background assumptions your Californian readers aren’t.

    • Garrett says:

      The most compelling argument is voter registration fraud is rampant, but that actual voting fraud doesn’t happen. I have no idea how true these statements are, and any attempt to get solid answers seem to be quickly shut down by both major parties.

      • Anthony says:

        There is most definitely a large number of people improperly registered. I suspect a majority is accidental, and at least some is due to failures of the various Registrars of Voters, at least in California.

        There are some number of non-citizens registered to vote; this got worse with motor-votor. Many of these are not deliberate, but some are.

        There are many people who don’t re-register when they move. Some are just flaky, some deliberately want to stay voting in their old area.

        If you move across county lines, re-register, and don’t note your previous address, your previous county will not be notified that you’ve moved, and you’ll stay on the rolls there as well as being registered at your new address. Even if you do note that you’ve moved, your former county of residence may not actually remove you, because RoV offices are busy.

        There’s a possibility that even moving within the same county will cause you to end up registered at both old address and new address. If you note your former address, the likelihood of this is pretty low, but mistakes do happen. If you’ve changed your name, it’s more likely.

        Most of the people improperly registered are not intentionally fraudulent.

        The case of a former landlord of mine, who remained registered at the house I was renting, is fraud, but he did not register at his current address, so he was at least not trying to vote twice.

        But there are some number of people who are deliberately registered while ineligible, or in multiple locations, or under multiple names. How many, I have no idea.

      • grendelkhan says:

        There was a five-year investigation under the Bush administration, which netted, at the time of publication, eighty-six convictions, ranging from felons who didn’t understand the rules, to people who accidentally filled out more than one registration form, and about thirty involved in “small vote-buying schemes in which candidates generally in sheriff’s or judge’s races paid voters for their support”. (They put a woman in jail for a year for voting while on probation, so there’s that.)

        Voter fraud happens; it just happens rarely. There’s a symmetry between the parties, trying to work the refs–Republicans fear voter fraud, and so push restrictive requirements; Democrats fear voter suppression, and so try to make registration easier (motor voter, same-day registration etc.). But it really looks like voter fraud isn’t a significant issue, whereas voter suppression is.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          There isn’t really symmetry in detecting fraud though. Voting is an intentionally anonymous process. I’d guess you’d have to have 15%+ of the population being misrepresented under absentee fraud to even notice in a small local race. In larger races the threshold has to be at least 1000. That is why registration fraud is such a problem. Registration fraud leads to undetectable absentee voter fraud.

          • I was thinking about this. My first feeling was that voter fraud would only make sense in a very local election, since you couldn’t do a mass production version without a high chance of being caught.

            But then I thought about absentee ballots. Someone in the thread described ways in which you could get the names of lots of people who probably wouldn’t vote. So you obtain a thousand ballots, and with a handful of trusted people fill them out and mail them in. Unless one of your team betrays you, you should be safe.

            Of course, some of them will be detected, since some of the people will vote. So those get thrown out. You still have 950 extra votes for your side.

            I have no idea if there is evidence that it happens on anything like that scale, but what would keep it from happening?

            How much are campaigns willing to spend per vote in advertising and the like? If it’s more than a couple of dollars, this should be cheaper.

            One problem that occurs to me is that if all the ballots you send in are the same and a few of them are detected it becomes obvious which side is doing it. So you may have to vary them a bit. If you are really clever, you fill out ten or twenty for the other side in the names of people you expect to vote.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That still gets you caught, when 50 people try and submit multiple absentee ballots, the elections office will most likely notice. The matter will get referred to the investigations team. The SBI May then be involved.

            And, as the margin of victory of most elections (depending on how large you mean by not-small) is very rarely less than a 1000, you still will have barely changed your chance of victory.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            I mean that person could have been me. You can just look at voter rolls and see who doesn’t vote and then stuff the ballots.

            An recent West Virginia case was even less well thought out where in a local election Thomas Ramey, Jerry Bowman, Donald Whitten and some associates went around collecting absentee ballots to “help out people” that they then completed. In a fairly small county (~21k people) over 300 ballots were falsified. They were caught because people complained about being harassed into casting absentee and an ensuing court case made it obvious.

            In places with mail in ballot systems like Oregon, there is no reason to think anyone will ever be caught.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I would be happy just with being able to detect this kind of fraud if it happens. If we have detection systems in place and they detect little fraud, then we do not need to do much more but keep those detection systems in place.

            On absentee ballots: I was out of town for election day, and my state offered to send me an absentee ballot. This varies by state, but here at least getting absentee ballots required them to mail me a ballot to my mailing address. Obviously this varies by state, but if this is the only way that absentee ballots are sent out and they are compared against those sent out when collected, it makes someone doing mass fraud via absentee ballot hard to pull off.

            (I worry about being able to buy or coerce votes with absentee ballots. Universal absentee ballots are a bad idea.)

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          @ grendelkhan

          But it really looks like voter fraud isn’t a significant issue, whereas voter suppression is.

          I know a lot of accusations flying around about this, but do you have anything more concrete (like your linked report) about the second part of this statement?

          Genuinely curious. My understanding is that there’s a lot of fear that it might happen, and a number of plausible stories of attempts, but I haven’t heard about an actual reduction in voting due to such efforts (whether truly intended to reduce voting or not). I’ve actually heard (somewhere recently on SSC) that “voter suppression drives” tend to result in more minorities voting. The typical assumption appears to be that the attempt to suppress the vote causes people to mobilize and get registered.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            More minorities may vote, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t also many whose votes are surpressed.

            Montana, in a recent change for this election, is preventing anyone who does not have street address from voting. That means huge chunks of the Native American population will not be able to vote because they do not have street addresses. It’s possible the overall Native vote may go up as a result, but those disenfranchised will still have lost their right to cast a ballot.

          • grendelkhan says:

            There’s some resources here from the Brennan Center. A variety of investigators, both scholarly and legal, have really tried to look.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            @HeelBearCub

            That sounds like a very odd approach for a partisan Republican. If you were correct, then they would be reducing their effectiveness at the polls for…what reason, exactly? If the purpose of voter suppression is partisan advantage, then they are, at best, very bad at their jobs.

            I don’t think you are suggesting racism as the cause, and even that runs into the same problem – by attempting to actively reduce the minority vote, they are actually increasing it.

            I can see a couple of scenarios where what you say is still true. One, Republicans are not yet aware that they are increasing voter turnout among minorities. If true, then they will soon realize this and then stop pushing voter ID. Two, Republicans are not actually concerned about voter turnout, but are actually concerned about fraud in voting.

            That second scenario is hard to measure when it comes to Republican leadership. Rank-and-file Republicans seem quite concerned about it, though, at least among my very Republican extended family on Facebook.

            Edit: Is this a CW-free area? I didn’t see that before, but Scott is saying so elsewhere. If so, I’ll drop this.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Mr Doolittle,

            It makes sense if consider it a long term investment. Sure, you may tick people off and increase turnout among the affected population that one time, but that sort of anger and mobilization is hard to maintain, and they’ll likely revert to their “natural” rate in a cycle or two. But your law will still be on the books, and the cohort you disadvantaged will still be disadvantaged.

            It’s chess, not checkers.

        • John Schilling says:

          There was a five-year investigation under the Bush administration, which netted, at the time of publication, eighty-six convictions…

          Voter fraud happens; it just happens rarely.

          Do you even understand the difference between voter fraud happening, and voter fraud resulting in a conviction?

          I tried to make an analogy regarding rape here, but could not easily find a number for rape convictions in the United States. Seems like nobody bothers to report that number, because everybody recognizes that it is completely worthless for the purpose of quantifying the nation’s rape problem. And that’s for rape, which in almost every case leaves a seriously aggrieved victim who knows the perpetrator’s face and very likely their name.

          And you think that voter fraud, once investigated, results in a conviction every time? Or every tenth time, or every hundredth or thousandth? The process is as anonymous as we can make it, we deliberately don’t require the sort of verification or keep the sort of records that would make it possible to convict any but the stupidest fraudulent voters, and yet you somehow think the number of convictions tells us something.

          I get that your intuition is that the problem probably isn’t much bigger than the eighty-six reported convictions. Fine. Go measure it, with something other than intuition.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            We can find many examples of rape.

            We find very few examples of voter fraud, and literally almost no in-person voter fraud.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            We know of many historical examples of in person fraud. We know of few contemporary examples. Which do you think is more plausible, that elections have become much more honest in the last few decades or that the people who organize such fraud usually have the motive and means to conceal it?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Do you mean machine politics?

          • cassander says:

            Not just machine politics. It’s paying 5 literally handing out 5 bucks a vote at the plaza hotel.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Vote buying (which is traditionally part of machine politics, I believe) and vote fraud are different.

            Much like Capone, everyone knew what was going on, the hard part was mustering up the political will to go about ending it.

            If you say now is analagous to then… well then I’m sure you are amenable to the idea that people are being illegally disenfranchised because of high racial animus and a non-secret desire to maintain white supremacy.

          • cassander says:

            HeelBearCub says:

            Vote buying (which is traditionally part of machine politics, I believe) and vote fraud are different.

            I fail to see how.

            Much like Capone, everyone knew what was going on, the hard part was mustering up the political will to go about ending it.

            Everyone involved knew it was happening, and denied doing it publically, and I know for a fact I can dig up learned reports like the ones quoted above from back then exonerating people we now know were guilty of it.

            If you say now is analagous to then… well then I’m sure you are amenable to the idea that people are being illegally disenfranchised because of high racial animus and a non-secret desire to maintain white supremacy.

            Believe it or not, HBC, there are reasons to disagree with you that have nothing to do with racism!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            I’m simply saying that because it happened in the past is not sufficient reason to say it is happening now. Fairly obvious.

            And if you don’t wish to distinguish between vote buying, voter fraud, ballot fraud, and ballot stuffing, I don’t know what to say. Embezzlement, blackmail and bank robbery are different crimes. Trying to stop embezzlement by looking for men wearing ski masks carrying weapons is not likely to work.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub says:

            I’m simply saying that because it happened in the past is not sufficient reason to say it is happening now. Fairly obvious.

            And I’m saying that because it happened in the past is certainly sufficient reason to say it’s possible happening now. Fairly obvious.

            And if you don’t wish to distinguish between vote buying, voter fraud, ballot fraud, and ballot stuffing, I don’t know what to say.

            Don’t shift goal posts, I am distinguishing between those things. We’re talking about people going to polls and voting illegally, for whatever reason. Not ballot stuffing, not ballot fraud. Whether or not they are part of a machine strikes me as irrelevant.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And I’m saying that because it happened in the past is certainly sufficient reason to say it’s possible happening now.

            And I gave you the reason why that argument is malarkey.

            It it the possibility space? Sure. So is Russel’s teapot. The conditions that gave rise to successful mass vote buying, ballot box stuffing and machine politics voter fraud don’t exist anymore.

            The Republicans have been trying, with the might of the state, to come up with some modicum of evidence for years. They have failed.

            In that same way, we don’t have poll taxes, literacy tests and terrorizing black citizens who attempt to vote.

            We do have attempts to make it much harder to execute the franchise. We also have massive efforts at mobilizing voters. These are both out in the public eye, easily available, without having to posit some “potential” something somewhere.

            There is as much evidence for Republicans committing voter fraud these days as Democrats, but this is not something Democrats are particularly concerned about. And that is because modern election policy and technology makes these kinds of things too risky and difficult to attempt unless you are an idiot.

            Otherwise we would be finding some moderately non-idiotic schemes being brought to light.

          • beleester says:

            @John Schilling: Seeing as your argument is basically “It seems to me that it would be easy to commit fraud,” how about you go and measure the problem, with something other than your intuition, before you start demanding laws to fix it?

            But fine, here’s something to measure: Did the investigation, perhaps, make a lot of accusations where it failed to make the charges stick? That would fit the narrative that, like rape accusations, it’s easy to tell that something suspicious happened, but hard to prove it in court. But it doesn’t seem like that’s happened – only 120 people charged in total.

            Or you could look at the nature of the cases charged – if there’s some sort of large-scale scheme running thousands of cases of fraud, big enough to swing a state in one direction, you’d expect that most of the fraud we found would be part of that scheme. After all, the biggest schemes have the most people and the greatest chance of being caught. But instead, we caught people trying to swing local elections and people who made mistakes. It’s one thing to say that there’s a lot of unreported rape happening, it’s another thing to say that there’s a single gang responsible for all of it!

            But really, the Republicans had to have thought of all of these and more, since they had five years and I spent like half an hour on this post. If they can’t even get the data to say “we suspect thousands of voter fraud cases we can’t prove” and they’re still waving around the cases where one guy got his dog registered, I suspect they truly don’t have anything better.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @ beleester

            Why should John go out and do it when New York City already did?

            https://www.wsj.com/articles/voter-fraud-a-myth-thats-not-what-new-york-investigators-found-1485994200

            Ninety-seven percent of the barely disguised phony voters were allowed to vote unimpeded, and none was referred for criminal charges or officially reported to the Board of Elections.

          • Slicer says:

            These statements by poll workers show that there is, in fact, serious voter fraud.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veE5-O6wACw

            (attacking the source in 3… 2…)

          • John Schilling says:

            @John Schilling: Seeing as your argument is basically “It seems to me that it would be easy to commit fraud,” how about you go and measure the problem, with something other than your intuition, before you start demanding laws to fix it?

            I have not said that it is easy to commit fraud. I have also not demanded laws to fix it. And your reading comprehension is seriously compromised by your motivated reasoning – or at least motivated perception.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I saw that Veritas video from conservative sources yesterday. Even with Veritas editing it as hard as they could, they have to keep on trying and cajoling someone to get them to accept their premise.

            The first worker they film says “if he insists he’s registered, and not a citizen, honey, he’s not registered to vote. He’s lying to you, girlfriend.”

            It’s not poll-workers job to play detective and decide who is a citizen or not. If a non-citizen has been registered to vote in a national election, the problem has already happened at the registration stage.

            Furthermore, there are local elections where non-citizens are absolutely allowed to vote. I don’t live in those cities so I don’t really care about their policies.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          If I were a Russian, looked up people who hadn’t voted in the last two midterms, and went from polling place to polling place saying I was one of those people and voting each time (and with early voting I could do this all over the state), the chances of me ever being discovered are small, especially if I have two different names in my head and can read the poll worker’s book upside down to see if either has broken out of their pattern and voted. The chance of being punished are nil.

          “Voter fraud” means a lot of different things. Some media treat it as “Joe Smith says he is Joe Smith at two different places and votes twice, and this is vanishingly rare,” which is obvious because the system can detect that easily and only idiots try it. But without some attempt at auditing identity, we can’t even *see* the fraud I described earlier. Saying it doesn’t exist because we can’t see it is silly.

          (I don’t like “no ID, no vote” but I described elsewhere what to do about people with no ID.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            When the person does come to vote behind you and is denied for “having already voted”, that causes a stink. If it only happens a small amount, it may not be caught. If it happens enough to reliably make a difference in an election, you will see noticeable complaints about it.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Which is why, as I already said, you pick from the large number of people who, say, consistently do not vote in midterms.

            This data is publicly available. Some nerds who need to learn to mind their own business have created apps to scold people for not voting, so the same data would surely be available to any Russians seeking to submit a bunch of fake votes. They could get Cambridge Analytica to datamine and verify those identities where this would be most likely to not be noticed.

            Like I already said, if you show up without an ID, you still get to vote. But the minimum I want is for the elections board to follow up with a statistically significant subset of people who could not present ID after-the-fact. “Hey, Jose Smith? Did you vote at the firehouse on Beacon Street on Saturday around 3pm? You did! Excellent. Thank you for your time.”

            Just a standard part of auditing the vote to be added to the already auditing of the vote we sensibly do today.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            consistently

            You need more than just a block of voters that only have a 10% chance of showing up. Because that 10% is going bite your scheme in the ass. Either you aren’t trying to do this for many votes, or you have a huge number of complainants.

    • Vorkon says:

      I’m pretty sure this isn’t so much an attempt to make an actual argument as it is the buildup to the joke about him secretly being a cat. (A “shaggy dog” story, if you will… >_> )

    • bbqturtle says:

      I think his humor/decision here, is that the research around voter fraud states the following:

      1. Voter Fraud is very low, about 1/1000 votes MAXIMUM if not 1/100,000 in the USA.
      2. Barriers put in place to help prevent voter fraud (IE, require state ID in addition to voter ID, making registering to vote slightly more challenging, drug testing at polls) tend to cause a large number of left-leaning poorer people to not vote. Around 50/1000.
      2a. Because it’s left-leaning people, this issue is super partisian which confounds all arguments. Helping more people vote would make the vote lean further left. Preventing people from voting helps the vote lean right.

      This is relatively common knowledge among educated liberals in my area, so my guess is that it’s somewhat a running joke in california. So, the whole “dog” argument, while humorous, is not enough to overwhelm the common knowledge that is “Voter fraud mostly doesn’t exist, and clamping down on it is a republican voter-suppression strategy, so please stop being sneaky”.

    • John Schilling says:

      I’m perfectly willing to believe that the level of voter fraud is negligibly small, if that’s what the evidence shows, but I would like to actually see that evidence. But pretty much every time the question comes up, the “response” from the left is that since nobody has measured a significant level of voter fraud, we must thus presume the level of voter fraud is insignificant and that anyone insisting that we measure it is a racist or something. Meanwhile, the right is all to willing to settle for proof-by-anecdote, possibly because that is the best they can get in the current political climate, possibly because it is all they need.

      I think California is pretty safe in terms of safeguards against a rogue secretary of state being able to go about and actually disenfranchise people on a partisan whim, so I’d kind of like to see Meuser given the tools to study the problem properly. Maybe he’ll botch the job, really, he’ll probably botch the job, but I don’t think Padilla will even try.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I would support and demand Voter ID as long as there was an exception for people who forgot or don’t have their IDs with them, in which case the elections board, at the very least, follows up after the fact with a statistical sample of them to verify that they really did vote at the time and place someone claiming to be them voted. Then we could at least detect problems this way. Right now if we ask if there are problems the response is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        Too often I’ve seen the election workers have a big book of voters in front of them, and you give them your name, and then they cross the name off the list, so if I can read upside down I can vote as anyone I want. If I were a Russian trying to stuff the ballot box, I would get a bunch of people to go from place to place voting as the people who don’t show up to the polls. If we care about Russian hacking, that is.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          It’s not a bad idea, especially if in the case of a close election you can always go back and re-verify potentially decisive non-ID votes and determine whether fraud can actually swing an election.

          But the argument being made is that any form of ID is discriminatory against a particular party’s voting demographics. Not that ‘certain people might forget to bring their ID’

          As a personal account; in my home state if you change counties between elections you need to provide a valid form of ID and provide the addresses of your current and previous residence. This cost me the use of my drivers license [which I carry with me in my wallet at all times anyway] and about an extra 15m of filing out a form [15m max]

          For something like this to be ‘discriminatory’ is incredibly patronizing; it presupposes rather pitiful levels of agency. But I don’t think they’re necessarily wrong. [using the current-year definition of discriminate]

          • Anthony says:

            I figure as long as there is a state-issued ID which can be used for voting purposes which is free (because Amendment XXIV), excluding people who can’t get their shit together enough to obtain such an ID will exclude at least a small part of the least-informed part of the electorate, which would be a definite, if small, benefit.

        • idontknow131647093 says:

          Why would you go to the polls to do that? Voter rolls are public. You can simply compare the registration list to the list of people who have voted recently, and find a large sample of people who are registered and have not voted in 4+ years, or even 8+ years depending on your voter registration purges.

          Best bet is to go to a college town. Find a list of people under 30 who registered and didn’t vote. Proceed to cast absentee ballots in their names.

      • grendelkhan says:

        Here’s the results of a five-year investigation from the Bush administration; here’s a variety of studies from the Brennan Center finding that voter fraud, especially voter impersonation fraud (the kind that IDs would prevent) is extremely rare, and hasn’t determined the outcome of an election in the last thirty years.

        People have really looked. There’s an asymmetry here; the left is pointing to something that really happens, and the right is pointing to intuitively compelling fears not backed by any real data.

        • gbdub says:

          How do you accurately count voter impersonation fraud without ID? Isn’t the ID the thing you really need to prove that the fraud occurred?

          • bbqturtle says:

            “I see no evidence for this hard-to-detect thing”

            “The evidence doesn’t show anything. I reserve my judgement until I do see evidence”

            “I have some very weak evidence here. I think we should clamp down/prepare as if it does exist, even if it hurts people.”

            Are you a religious person?

          • gbdub says:

            You are responding with snark to what was an honest question. The lack of ID would seem to make fraud tautologically hard to detect (and even harder to prove), so it is not surprising that detections would be low. Surveys or secondary means of detecting fraud are going to have much higher error bars.

        • John Schilling says:

          Here’s the results of a five-year investigation from the Bush administration;

          If you’re going to make the same bad argument in multiple threads, I’m going to call you out on it in multiple threads. The number of people convicted of voting fraud, is basically worthless as a measure of how much fraud is going on.

          • False says:

            I’m not sure I understand your argument here. First of all, convictions isn’t the only heuristic that was measured in the report; it measures how many different charges of voter fraud there were (126), the content of those charges (many of them mistakes or misunderstandings of voting law) and also comments on a lack of evidence (despite actively searching for it) of other conspiracy-style voting fraud, i.e. that most claims of voter fraud ended up unsubstantiated.

            What sort of evidence would you need to convince you that voter fraud is a negligible problem? Your argument seems to be that no one has studied this issue, which is why no evidence of voter fraud exists, but the reality seems to be that many people have studied it and can’t find more than a minimal level of evidence of voter fraud even when considered from multiple perspectives, which is what we should expect to find if voter fraud is truly insignificant. Are you saying that we don’t have a proper way of measuring voter fraud, so it makes sense that people’s claims of voter fraud turn out to be unsubstantiated and/or turn up no evidence?

      • gbdub says:

        Would the Dems / GOP accept a grand bargain: national voter ID in exchange for making election day a national holiday?

        • Mark Atwood says:

          I would take that deal.

          I see no downsides at all, and am deeply suspicious of anyone who does.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Aside from both parts being arguably unconstitutional…

          • Watchman says:

            So make it an amendment. If both parties support it it would likely pass (I have the impression that the US electorate would not oppose an extra holiday anyway).

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Seems like a frivolous reason for an amendment.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “We can’t do this, it’s unconstitutional!” + “This is too frivolous to change the Constitution over” = “I think this policy is frivolous”. Which, sure, you have every right to consider it such. But it’s rather misleading to hide behind legalistic excuses.

            Additionally, more than half of the post-Bill-of-Rights amendments are election related (counting term adjustments), so it’s not even out of place.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Yesterday I considered it a silly amendment, but reading the arguments here and letting it sit in my brain, I’ve now moved to lukewarm support for such an amendment. It wouldn’t look out of place in our Constitution at all.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            Additionally, more than half of the post-Bill-of-Rights amendments are election related (counting term adjustments), so it’s not even out of place.

            Yes, and most of them are not very good amendments.

            12th: President/VP change. I think this is a net zero or slight negative.
            15th: No racist voting. Good.
            17th: Election of Senators. Incredibly bad.
            19th: Women can vote. Good.
            20th: Date Change for induction. Zero.
            22nd: Term limits for President. A zero for me.
            23rd: DC gets electors. Slight negative.
            24th: No poll tax. Zero or slightly negative.
            26th: Vote at 18 guaranteed. Negative.

          • acymetric says:

            @idontknow131647093

            It seems like you are neutral or near-neutral on most of those except the 17th amendment…could you expand on why you are so opposed to it? I can imagine some reasons why, but it would probably be more useful to actually hear your reasons.

          • idontknow131647093 says:

            @ acymetric

            Because democracy is a means rather than a value. The value is preserving ordered liberty and freedom. The purpose of the Senate in the system we have is as an antidemocratic institution. It serves this in basically only one way in the current incarnation: 6 year terms rotating means only 1/3 can theoretically be replaced per election. In the previous version it also served many other interests. One is localism. Current senators are much more beholden to national parties and the Senate leadership, under the old system they ultimately answered to their state legislature. In our current system there are many federal-state co-ops, such as Medicaid. Medicaid would never exist in its current form if legislatures elected senators because Medicaid is murderous on state finances. Thus, its a national policy that no state can really opt out of (otherwise your citizens lose money straight up), but also state legislators get a lot of blame for because it means those people have to raise taxes.

            Other things like Prohibition of alcohol (and now marijuana) strike me as things that would have been less likely to receive senate support, and would be more quickly repealed if Senators would more attuned to the needs of the coffers of their home states.

          • acymetric says:

            I kind of see the Senate as being the only legislative body in the country immune to Gerrymandering as a fairly big positive (although there are issues with vastly disproportionate per capita representation, of course that is intentional).

            If the Senate were still selected by state legislators, that positive would disappear and in addition to the disproportionate representation favoring less populous states we would see the effects of Gerrymandering at every legislative level. No thanks.

            I would be open to having Senate districts (two districts per state, with each selecting one of the Senators) but I imagine there are a ton of problems there that I haven’t considered yet.

        • Evan Þ says:

          What does “national holiday” mean? AFAIK, the United States doesn’t have such a thing beyond “federal employees have the day off and maybe there’s a tradition of other companies closing too,” so we’d need to figure out how to implement it, and I can see some ways to do it wrong. For instance, do ICU nurses get the day off? What about bus drivers (since people need to get to the polls)? What about people doing other jobs I didn’t think of right now but are just as necessary? On the flip side, what about hourly workers who really want the hours, voted in the morning, and want to work in the afternoon?

          If these problems are solved, I would love such a bargain.

          • gbdub says:

            All states have some form of early voting, and in most you don’t even need a reason. Most states have mandatory voting leave, at least if the polls aren’t open for at least 3 hours outside your shift (although this tends to pack the polls in rush hour). The arguments that “time to vote” is causing tons of suppression are already fairly weak. Like voter ID, it would be a largely symbolic effort that would make a lot of people more confident in the election system, so it seems like a fair trade.

            You could mandate it for federal employees and after that, implementation might be tough but I think most large employers would go along for non-emergency employees.

          • AG says:

            The arguments that “time to vote” is causing tons of suppression are already fairly weak.

            Counterfactuals already exist in the form of nations with weekend voting days having higher turnout.

        • DocKaon says:

          The devil is going to be in the details. There are versions of a National Voter ID which Democrats would probably welcome and there are versions where no voting holiday would induce them to accept. For example liberal pundit Kevin Drum proposed a national ID card for voting a few days ago.

          A Universal National Voter ID which is given to everyone on turning 18 with an easy way of notifying change of residence would be seen as a positive by Democrats. A National Voter ID which has a lot of restrictions and is difficult to obtain, on the other hand, would swamp any benefit they would see from an Election Day holiday.

          Of course, I doubt there would ever be this sort of grand bargain because the optics of what the Republicans would be negotiating for (fewer people voting) wouldn’t look very good. Far better for them to stake out an absolutist stance of any level of voter fraud is unacceptable and publicly ignore the impact on poor and minority voting.

  14. Brad says:

    Proposition 1 authorizes bonds to fund affordable housing. The California legislature requested this, newspapers unanimously support it, and affordable housing seems good. Yes.

    Affordable housing is good. But I’m not sure “affordable housing” is good. It ends up being a windfall to–if you’re lucky, a random lottery winner and if you’re unlucky the politically connected. If you have $100,000 to spend on poor people and 1000 poor people, is it good public policy to give $50,000 to two people and nothing to the other 998?

    Re: Proposition 5
    I don’t see why either the elderly or the disabled should be a special category. If they wanted to means test it (income and assets) that might be a different story, but this just looks like a naked giveaway to politically popular groups. If flexibility and space efficiency were the real concern, then why not apply it to everyone?

    • gbdub says:

      I tend to agree, although this particular case seems more like “here’s a pool of money that we all agreed should go to help mentally ill people. But it turns out we’re not allowed to spend that on the stuff mentally ill people really need. Let’s pass a law to let us do that”.

      I generally favor giving agencies big pools of money and letting them figure out how to divvy it. Overly restrictive authorizations are often a recipe for “use it or lose it” waste.

      • Brad says:

        I was thinking more in the property tax referendum then the mental ill referendum. In terms of the latter, I guess I’m okay with increased flexibility but to your last point one could easily imagine far more flexibility. I’m not sure why these details need to be put to voters.

        • gbdub says:

          Whoops, prop 1 and 2 ran together for me for some reason.

          Is prop 1 necessary due to some CA requirement for bond authorizations to go to voters? It sounds like the programs are already law but what’s going before the voters is the proposal to fund them. Since the proposal came from the legislature (and needed a 2/3 vote to do so), “we’re putting it to the voters because we have to” seems like the only explanation?

  15. NoRandomWalk says:

    Question about the minimum cage size proposition:
    If pro-animal welfare states raise the cruelty restrictions too high, I would imagine the chicken production would move to a nearby state, similar to how banning certain plastics resulted in more net pollution because now we just import from China whose production processes are absurdly worse for the environment.

    Is this a reasonable concern? What heuristics should I use if I don’t want to spend a lot of time researching the costs of transporting chickens vs. producing them in larger cages (where they due to lack of claustrophobic stress don’t lay as many eggs, etc)

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      That was what happened last time. Prop 12 bans selling low-welfare eggs in California. Since California is a huge egg market, producers around the country will have an incentive to switch to higher-welfare cage systems.

  16. TK-421 says:

    I would really like to see a site that has short summaries of the major candidates in elections similar to this article, but for other areas of the country as well (in my case in particular, Connecticut). Does anyone know if such a thing exists already?

    • Brad says:

      The league of woman voters does a decent job for my area. YMMV

      • Evan Þ says:

        The local independent far-left newspaper does a decent job for my area and (a different also-far-left newspaper) for my old area. I emphatically disagree with a lot of their policy positions, but they explain themselves well enough that I can often make my own decision from their research.

        Again, YMMV.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        +1 to LWV. Some candidates cannot be arsed to even reply to them, which tells me what I need to know.

        It doesn’t help with Proposition questions, where there is no official “no” side to be quoted, but still really useful for comparing candidates’ words, which often is enough.

  17. Doctor Mist says:

    Your analysis of Prop 11 seems sound. Does anybody know why nobody managed to muster a negative argument in the voter’s guide?

    • cakoluchiam says:

      I would also really like to know this. I’ve heard anecdotally that it has to do with private EMTs not being unionized, but there are definitely non-EMT groups in opposition (including former EMTs, friends, etc.) and this seems like a pretty important issue.

      I’ve tried to find what the requirements are to get a statement in the voter guide, since that’s the next obvious potential culprit, but I’ve found that information difficult to find as well.

  18. baconbits9 says:

    The correct sequence is “pass law saying you can do something, then do it”.

    Is it? You wouldn’t agree on the extremes, that people opposed to slavery and the fugitive slave laws ought to only fight for legal changes and not help or encourage escaped slaves. Why would you generally take the position that good things have first to be encoded into law before a person can do them?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      All heuristics break down in extremes. It’s okay to lie about there being Jews in your basement. That doesn’t mean the heuristics aren’t useful.

      Is there evidence that the ambulance companies were engaging in this kind of civil disobedience? Or were they just stupid about labor laws and sad they got caught?

      I find the argument that emergency service people should be exempt from having breaks very persuasive, and you might even be able to persuade me that California, being a land of hippies, has labor laws that are just too complicated for any mortal to understand so there was no way out for the ambulance companies. (Coyote Blog used to run businesses in California but left because of the insanity of the laws.) I’d still want to see evidence of that, though, rather than passing a superlaw.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I’d still want to see evidence of that, though, rather than passing a superlaw.

        Does it matter if the original laws were passed with evidence? This response and the original statement read like status quo bias, a presumption of “we should follow the law unless we have good evidence against it” is frequently self defeating, following the law prevents a lot of the potential evidence that could come out against the law. This is a consistent issue with outcome based rules, you end up with a huge status quo bias and eventual stagnation in innovation as all attempts end up being measured against the rules which are now functionally the outcomes.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Sure, I definitely have a status quo bias. Guilty as charged. Chesterson’s Fence is real.

          This isn’t a normal law being proposed, it’s a superlaw from California’s uniquely stupid ballot proposal mess being proposed.

          My comment made me re-skim Coyote Blog’s archives about horrible California law. You want to nuke California’s labor laws from orbit? My body is ready. But the onus is still on the the person proposing the superlaw to show their work.

      • Sebastian_H says:

        I know it’s all over, but pretty much this is because the application of the law changed. For years it worked the way the ambulance owners talked about, and then FEHA changed the interpretation that allowed it. A similar thing happened with salon owners renting a booth to a hairstylist as an independent contractor. The salon owner doesn’t control when they work (or even if so long as they lay the rent) so u til this year it was fine for them to be independent contractors. But now in the tech company independent contractor crackdown (and to be fair there was lots of abuse in that area) the interpretations have changed and the salon owners and independent hairstylists get screwed.

    • Yaleocon says:

      As a proposed general heuristic: at any time, you can do that which you have a genuine natural right to do, and aid those similarly exercising their human rights. YMMV on what exactly people have natural rights to do—I’m not advocating libertarianism or whatever—but I think most people would agree that people have a genuine right to “not being enslaved”, but would be less confident about, say, companies having some fundamental right to set certain break schedules in violation of existing law.

  19. Squirrel of Doom says:

    Note: The campaign manager whose wife Newsom slept with was also his best friend¹!!

    I know politicians are sleazy on average, and I should measure them by the work they do, not how saintly they are, but… I just can’t with this guy. It’s too much.

    ¹ At the time

  20. orthonormal says:

    The problem with Prop 5 isn’t about the people who are in genuine need of moving a second time (or first time if disabled). It’s that it creates a straightforward exploit for *anyone* to dodge the vast majority of their property tax forever.

    Step 1: Either turn 55 or get yourself declared disabled (you know this isn’t difficult).
    Step 2: Buy the cheapest crappy cottage in the middle of nowhere valuable.
    Step 3: Do the bare minimum to get California to recognize that as your home for the purposes of Prop 5. You probably don’t have to live in the crappy cottage for a single day, if you “sell” your real house to a confederate and they “rent” it to you for a nominal price for the year… as your *secondary* residence. Etc.
    Step 4: “Buy” your old house back, or buy the home of your dreams, and live there while paying property taxes on the assessed value of the crappy cottage (you can find them for under $50k, I bet; if not now, there will soon be a cottage industry in them).

    Proposition 5 would further gut the tax base in the most regressive fashion, and further make housing the most attractive investment, causing the price spiral to accelerate even more. KILL IT WITH FIRE.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Oh man, that is really bad. I thought it would have just locked in a rate somehow.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think Prop 5 contains a rule that your taxes are adjusted for the difference in value between your new and old houses. That is, if you’re only paying half the going tax rate on your old cottage, and then you buy a mansion, you will pay half the going tax rate on your mansion, but not literally the same as the cottage.

      Are you thinking of something different than this?

      • Mr. Doolittle says:

        Half of $100 is much smaller than half of $1,000, but maintaining the rate of decrease is surely a worthwhile benefit encouraging the behavior above.

      • orthonormal says:

        I misunderstood how it was calculated, and I take back my “KILL IT WITH FIRE” level of opposition. I still oppose Prop 5, because it does mean that people can take their owned-for-30-years rate and move up to a mansion while paying a tiny fraction of the property taxes they ought to, but I was just wrong about the intermediary exploit. Thanks everyone who caught it.

        • cakoluchiam says:

          Move-ups don’t carry the owned-for-30-years rate, they just carry the absolute dollar value discount you’re currently benefiting from. Moving from a $400k house you bought for $1 to a $50M mansion, you’ll still be paying taxes on $49.6M+$1 of it.

      • cakoluchiam says:

        The analysis in the voter guide has a nice pair of charts showing how the tax base changes under current law vs under Prop 5.

        If your $600k-market-value house has a tax base of $200 and you upgrade to a house worth $700k, current law resets the tax base to $700k, but under Prop 5 it just adds the $100k difference in market value so the tax base is now $300k.

        In other words, under Prop 5, if your current house’s tax base is $400k less than its market value, your new house’s tax base will also be $400k less than its market value. Your property taxes only go up by the amount they would if your tax base were the same as the current market value of your house.

        If instead you downgrade to a $450k house, under current law your tax base stays the same ($200k), whereas under Prop 5 it gets reduced proportionally (75% of $200k = $150k). Your taxes are reduced by less in absolute dollars than if your tax base were current market value, but you were paying less in absolute dollars to begin with and using proportional reduction here means nobody gets to pay negative property taxes.

        So, Prop 5 removes a disincentive to upgrade and adds an incentive to downgrade. As such, it makes it more attractive to move out, whether you’re upgrading or downgrading.

        It also makes it easier to do so by removing the restriction of having to stay in the same county to take advantage of the program, and by letting you carry the tax base through multiple moves. It seems on its face like a reasonable system if your goal is to be nice to the particular demographic eligible for the program.

        That said, the demographic isn’t “frail elderly and disabled”—it’s anyone over 55, which includes a tonne of people who are perfectly healthy and will be quite likely to be able to exploit it for profit. I voted against it for this reason, as well as the reasons outlined in the Berkeley REACH discussion doc.

        • cakoluchiam says:

          After thinking about it for more than 5 minutes and scrawling out some calculations on note paper, I’m not so sure it’s possible to exploit it for profit, and am less confident in my (already cast) No vote.

          From the perspective of the State, yes there would be “lost” revenues relative to current law, but only insofar as taxable property values don’t go up as fast as they would—they’re still not going to go down.

          There’s a trade-off listed in the analysis regarding state-vs-local spending for schools which I’d need to research more to wrap my head around, but seems like it might be pretty bad (analysis pegs it at ~$1B)

          The only actual cost (as opposed to decelerated revenue increases and whatever the heck that school spending thing is) appears to be that under Prop 5 there would need to be a system for assessing and assigning artificial tax bases every time someone over 55 moves, as opposed to just for downgrades, and the tax bases would need to be recalculated for every move, as opposed to just carrying the original tax base.

    • caethan says:

      I modeled this scheme and it doesn’t work. Under any possible values for the market/taxable value of your current house and the market values of the intermediary and final house, your taxable value is higher when running through an intermediary transaction rather than just buying the final house outright.

      From the state: http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/propositions/5/analysis.htm
      * If you buy a more expensive home, your taxable value is the current taxable value of your home plus the difference between the market values of the new and old houses.
      * If you buy a less expensive home, your taxable value is the current taxable value of your home times the ratio of the market values of the new and old houses.

      Let M1 be the market value of your original home, M2 the market value of your final desired home, and M’ the market value of the proposed intermediate home. Similarly for T1, T2, and T’ being the taxable values of those homes.

      In all cases, T1 is less than or equal to M1 and so on. We’ll assume based on the scheme that M2 is greater than or equal to M1 (you want to eventually move into a more expensive house) and that M’ is less than min(M1, M2) (you’re using a cheap intermediate home).

      If you go the simple way of not using an intermediate, your final taxable value is:
      T2simple = T1 + (M2 – M1)

      If you go the complicated way, you get:
      T’ = T1 * (M’ / M1)
      T2complex = T’ + (M2 – M’)
      T2complex = T1 * (M’ / M1) + (M2 – M’)

      Your savings S is the difference between the two methods:
      S = T2simple – T2complex
      S = T1 + M2 – M1 – T1 * (M’ / M1) – M2 + M’
      S = T1 – T1 * (M’ / M1) – M1 + M’
      S = T1 * ((M1 – M’)/M1) – (M1 – M’)
      S = (M1 – M’) * ((T1 / M1) – 1)

      M1 is bigger than M’ by assumption, so the first term is positive. T1 is less than M1, so the second term is negative. Hence, S is less than zero and this scheme always loses you money.

      You can do the same modeling where M2 is less than M1 (you want to eventually move into a less expensive house) and there
      S = (M2 – M’) * ((T1 / M1) – 1)
      and the same analysis applies: this scheme loses money.

    • SSuke says:

      I checked. You can’t game this proposition. It’s a rational fix to a broken problem.

      1) It only applies to your primary residence. You can only have 1 at a time and must have your address registered to it.

      2) The tax benefit is already adjusted based on the difference in value between the old and new home. If you buy a new house that cost 10x the value of the old one, you’re barely going to see any benefit from Prop 5.

  21. Paul Zrimsek says:

    You were wise to build such a wide buffer zone of text between your support for Prop 1 and your pro-localism argument against Prop 10: they’d be exchanging gunfire if they were right next to each other. If the laboratories of democracy are going to be free to create housing shortages, let them pay for their own alleviation measures.

    Is there really no good reason at all to be opposed to more expensive food?

  22. decodyng says:

    I think you typo-ed Kounalakis to Koulakis the last two times you used it in that paragraph.

  23. Nicholas Weininger says:

    On prop 10 and similar it is useful to ask yourself “what would futarchy do?” And in this case it is quite clear that the futarch investors would be against rent control and a fortiori against looser restrictions on rent control, *unless* the value the voters voted for was basically “preserve existing residents’ ability to remain in their existing dwellings, screw everyone else’s liberty and economic opportunity.” Same goes for prop 13 btw. They’re just counterproductive policy wrt any other objective.

    And I find that value so discreditable that I am willing to make an exception for it and have larger scale and/or more epistocratic bodies override the will of local voters, much as for racial segregation, voter suppression, and the like. Now my meta-belief here is surely weird and different from yours, esp. since for example I voted no on 12 since I think human liberty is lexically superior to animal welfare. But still: come on, Scott, you know the locals are just wrong about this.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I feel like this could allow any authoritarian policy at all. The evangelical says “Well, if liberals were aware that homosexuality would destroy traditional marriage and lead to a wasteland of valuelessness, they would be against it. So let’s not allow any community to permit gay marriage.” The nanny-stater says “Well, if people realized how bad soda was for them, they wouldn’t want it, so let’s not allow any community to have soda.”

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        Only if we don’t take into account facts of the matter about whether a given policy actually will achieve its intended objective. Your evangelicals argue in the face of pretty much all the actual evidence; rent-control opponents have the evidence overwhelmingly on their side. Not everything is subjective preference and political argument-for-the-sake-of-argument.

        Moreover, it is hard to call it “authoritarian” when one level of government refuses to let another level of government impose forcible restrictions on the liberty of property owners. Is it authoritarian when the feds prohibit states and localities from imposing poll taxes or literacy tests for voting, or from taking property outright without compensation?

  24. eqdw says:

    Many of your positions and lines of reasoning are surprising to me, and this suggests to me that recently I’ve been in a much bigger filter bubble than I thought I was. That is all

  25. Anthony says:

    Prop 11 – Every other ambulance company and Fire department manages to figure out coverage during breaks by negotiating with their union. The ambulance company involved can do its own damn negotiating.

    Prop 6 – I’m a pretty libertarian anti-tax Republican, and I think this is a bad idea. The only way this could be a good idea would be if the funds were replaced by taking ALL of High-Speed Rail’s money. The proponents argue that we should have the right to vote on tax increases. Vote no to vote for the tax increase.

    Prop 7 – this removes a legal obstacle to implementing year-round Daylight Saving Time. If we do, sunrise in late December will be around 0800, which is right when school starts. Do you really want your kids walking to school in the dark? Or their drivers (parents or bus drivers) driving when the sun is *right on the horizon*? If your job actually starts at 8, do you want to be driving to work right when the sun will be in your eyes?

    • Evan Þ says:

      Prop 7 – If that’s such an obviously bad thing which will provoke so great an outcry, can’t the legislature just avoid doing it? I have little faith in politicians, but I think we can trust them to avoid that without having an initiative forbidding it.

      • Anthony says:

        There are lots of people who inexplicably hold the opinion that DST is such a good thing that we should have it year-round, even though this is obviously false.

        (DST may be a scissor issue.)

        So, no, the legislature can’t be trusted to avoid imposing year-round DST on us.

        • gbdub says:

          In Arizona, we stay on Standard Time, which I much prefer to flipping. But I’d rather we move to permanent DST. It gets light (and hot) too early in the summer, and dark too early in the winter.

        • Plumber says:

          Standard Time is GLORIOUS!!!

          Today I walked to my car in the morning to get to work without using a flashlight for the first time in months!

          Once there was a golden age when Standard Time was at least half of the year, but now Daylight Savings Crime is March to November!

          Sweet Lord I want Standard Time all year!

          Stop taking my hour!

          • Evan Þ says:

            And here I am about to leave work, grumbling that I’ll need to use my headlights on my way home for the first time in months. It depends on when people are commuting.

          • acymetric says:

            I wonder if there is any correlation between people who prefer standard time vs. daylight savings based on your location within your timezone (east-west). I suspect opinions will vary quite a bit between those on the far west side of a time zone compared to those on the far east side.

          • Plumber says:

            @Evan Þ

            “And here I am about to leave work, grumbling that I’ll need to use my headlights on my way home for the first time in months. It depends on when people are commuting”

            Well then a just and obvious solution comes to mind; which I would so decree as King of California:

            Any time worked before two hours after sunrise and after two hours before sunset shall be double regular pay, furthermore, any time worked between sunset and sunrise shall be triple pay, and in areas with high housing prices (like San Francisco), pay shall be multiplied an additional 1.5 x’s so that a night shift is 4.5 x’s regular pay in San Francisco, fines to be combined with bosses being beaten with sticks if they say “Just this once”, “Please as a favor”, “It”s an emergency”, and “Traffic is lighter”.

            Bah!

            Down with flashlights and headlights!

            No man shall work more than four hours on December 21st and 22nd unless they’re paid a princely sum.

            Repeat wage theft bosses are to be pelted with rocks.

            Make it so!

        • Brad says:

          Where I live (NYC) there were 10.25 hours between sunrise and sunset today. Ideally I would have liked that to be from 7:45 AM to 6:00 PM. That would have mean seeing some sunlight on the way to work and on the way home. Instead the period of sunrise to sunset was from 6:30 AM – 4:45 PM, which meant light on the way to work, but dark on the way home. If we hadn’t changed the clocks it would have been the much closer to optimal 7:30 AM-5:45 PM. I wish we hadn’t changed them.

    • herculesorion says:

      The issue with Prop 11 is that it’s not a matter of negotiating with the union, it’s a matter of California law (backed up by numerous wage-theft lawsuits) that if someone works over their break it’s a tort and there MUST be a judgement entered against the company. Like, it doesn’t matter how many forms the employee signed, it doesn’t matter what they said at the time, it doesn’t matter if they’re responsible for pushing a button every 947 seconds or else the world ends, if they worked over their break it’s a crime and the company is guilty. Even if they got paid, even if they got paid overtime, that doesn’t matter; it’s NOT LEGAL for people to work when state law mandates that they be on break.

      The assumption being that if this law weren’t in place then evil bastard employers would work their poor slaves until they dropped without even allowing them a bathroom break; and if the employer claims the employee asked, well, of course the evil bastard employer would say that; and if the *employee* claims they asked, well, of course their evil bastard employer would threaten to fire them unless they said it. (These assumptions aren’t entirely wrong, of course.)

      So that leaves ambulance companies in a situation where they have to have exactly 30 minutes a day, for each EMT, where they are not allowed to get on the ambulance. If a call comes in during that time then they are NOT ALLOWED, BY CALIFORNIA LAW, to get on the ambulance. If someone falls over dead in front of them then they are NOT ALLOWED, BY CALIFORNIA LAW to do CPR, because that counts as work and working on your break is illegal. “Well that’s stupid, it shouldn’t be that way” yeah, that’s what Prop 11 is supposed to fix. It’s really *not* about “refusing to pay”.

      • Anthony says:

        It’s my understanding that Federal law allows agreements between employers and unions to override most “worker protection” laws, including those about overtime and breaks.

        • herculesorion says:

          Your understanding is not correct when it comes to California.

          • Anthony says:

            Odd, considering I’ve worked places where 4×10 schedules were allowed under union contract, back when California mandated overtime for more than 8 hours of work in any day. But that had to be a negotiated agreement – an employer could not impose it.

    • Nornagest says:

      Do you really want your kids walking to school in the dark? Or their drivers (parents or bus drivers) driving when the sun is *right on the horizon*?

      If Californian schools are so dysfunctional that it’s easier to change the epoch for the entire state than to change their start times, then that entire system needs to be burned down and replaced. Jumping through hoops for them is the last thing you want to do.

      • Deiseach says:

        My understanding is that schools start so early because now that it’s the usual thing for both parents to be working, they have to leave early to get to work and they don’t want to leave young kids (or teenagers) alone at home before they go to school, so the parents drop them off (or the school bus comes and collects them) while the parents are on the way to work.

        Since working hours seem to be getting earlier and earlier, this means school opening hours get earlier too, else you’d have (as I’ve seen in my own town) parents dropping kids off at half-seven in the morning before they have to get to work at eight, classes don’t officially start until nine so the school doesn’t open until half-eight, so the kids (twelve and upwards) were wandering around the town for an hour before school.

        If you want later school opening times, you’ll need later adult working hours starting, and good luck with “but we need our shift workers to start at six/seven/eight on the dot!”

        • Gobbobobble says:

          This always struck me as a weak argument given that schools inevitably let out much earlier than any fulltime job (including teaching!). Typically between 2-4pm IME.

          The only real difference I can see is that unsupervised time before school (vs after) could possibly lead to ditching or arriving late. Which I can see happening accidentally for spazzy primary schoolers but if it happens with teenagers then you already have bigger problems.

        • littskad says:

          I’m pretty sure high schools start so early so that there’s enough time for football practice in the afternoon.

    • Basil Elton says:

      Regarding prop 7 – wow, if I read you correctly it seems like you’re the first person I encounter in my entire life who thinks that switching time is preferable to non-switching. What about the fact that in most places in higher altitudes with bigger seasonal variations in a day length sunset is at 8-00 or later for some periods of the year, and that doesn’t seem to be a big deal?

      (Heck to think about it, there’re cities out there where the sun can hang just above the horizon or stay below it for many days straight, but of course those are not very hospitable places to live)

  26. aphyer says:

    What is this? A political post?? I must derail it with a vicious partisan attack on the most controversial part of it…by which I mean, of course, the part saying that later school starting times are obviously good.

    Yes, I’m familiar with the arguments in favor. Teenagers need more sleep and dont get enough sleep, so when they want to sleep late we should let them. But this seems wilfully naive. Sleep time is governed by this complex equation, derived by Einstein in one of his less-known research papers:

    Amount of sleep = Wakeup time – Bedtime

    From consulting this equation, we can see that a later wakeup time leads to more sleep holding bedtime constant. But this doesnt actually tell us what the effect of later wakeup times will be in reality. To work that out, we need to know what the effect on bedtimes is.

    And it seems blatantly obvious that the effect of ‘letting teenagers sleep two hours later’ will be ‘teenagers stay up two hours later, get same amount of sleep, plus annoy parents with their increasingly abnormal sleep schedule.’

    I mean, school start times do not keep you from getting to sleep. If you have to wake up at 7, going to bed at 9 will get you 10 hours of sleep!

    Q: But teenagers don’t want to go to bed at 9!

    A: Why not? Is it because they’re not tired then, and go to bed when they’re tired? If so, moving their wakeup times 2 hours later will just shift their sleep cycle more, and make them stay up until 2AM instead of midnight. Is it because their social circle is all out after school doing things until midnight? If so, moving their wakeup times 2 hours later will just shift their social cycle more, and make them stay up until 2AM instead of midnight.

    This seems obviously true to me, which makes it puzzling when people seem not to even consider it while arguing in favor of later school start times

  27. secondcityscientist says:

    I’m mostly interested in the CA governor’s race, from half a country away, to see just how important the actual governor himself is. My (perhaps mistaken) impression of Governor Brown is that he’s a mostly competent guy who understood that this would be his last political job and focused strongly on doing as good of a job as he could. My (also perhaps mistaken) impression of Newsom is that he’s a self-promoting stuffed suit who wants to be President.

    • Anthony says:

      I’m pretty sure you’re not mistaken about either. Though Brown is a little more complex, and has been serioulsy referred to as California’s Philosopher-King.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      The Newsom pick is probably the most controversial. Your description is the nicest version of what I find him to be:

      he’s a self-promoting stuffed suit who wants to be President.

      • sourcreamus says:

        The Newsom pick seems inexplicable to an outsider. California has the worst housing crisis in the country, the worst homelessness problem, an outbreak of typhus, some of the worst traffic in the country, an awful education system, and a looming pension crisis. The answer does not seem to be the same policies implemented by a middle age sociopath instead of a weird old guy.

  28. Anthony says:

    Proposition 10 – Right now, there is a state law (Costa-Hawkins) which forbids cities from controlling rents on single-family units (houses or condos), and on any kind of units built after 1995, and on vacant units. Prop 10 repeals this.

    Many cities with rent control have laws written in a way which would automatically bring single-family units under rent control, and a few may have rent controls written in a way which keeps the existing limit when tenants move out. (Most have cut-off dates after which new units are not subject to controls, and most of those dates are before 1995.)

    Before Costa-Hawkins, Berkeley was one of the only place with vacancy control, and it was so bad that people would get together with friends to buy 4-plexes as Tenants-in-Common, which is a particularly bad way to own property (and a good way to screw up a friendship).

    The outcome of Prop 10 passing will be to encourage landlords to sell single-family rentals to owner-occupiers, making it harder to rent a single-family home. In cities which restore or implement vacancy rent control, two-to-four unit buildings will end up being sold as TICs, which will reduce the availability of smaller buildings to renters.

    Stronger rent controls will also discourage housing development, especially if there’s no guarantee that a city can’t change the rules to bring previously exempt units under rent control.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Before Costa-Hawkins, Berkeley was one of the only place with vacancy control, and it was so bad that people would get together with friends to buy 4-plexes as Tenants-in-Common, which is a particularly bad way to own property (and a good way to screw up a friendship).”

      Man, imagine living in those days. I can’t even imagine what it would be like.

      (the joke is that I live in a house I bought together with three of my friends)

      • Anthony says:

        What happens when one of your friends can’t pay the mortgage? You’re on the hook for their share if they don’t pay. (With TICs the likelihood is higher, because quite often the buyers were mere acquaintances, or a team put together by a realtor, so there’s less social pressure to defect.) At least with condos, it’s only your HOA fees that go up.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          A combination of “we all like and trust each other and are willing to support each other if necessary”, plus an agreement that if we can’t pay in money, we will pay by transferring part of our existing stake in the house to another tenant/owner who can pay in money. Just from the down payment, everyone has enough stake in the house as measured in months of rent that this would last them a couple of years of not paying their share of the mortgage.

          Stake in the house is useful if we ever sell, plus I think there are some other rules in the contract I don’t remember about how you can leave under certain situations and the other tenant/owners will come up with a plan to eventually get you your stake back.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            A combination of “we all like and trust each other and are willing to support each other if necessary”, plus an agreement that if we can’t pay in money, we will pay by transferring part of our existing stake in the house to another tenant/owner who can pay in money.

            I think what Anthony is pointing out is that this or something like it is how every tenancy-in-common begins…and a huge fraction end with you not liking each other at all. Social pressure is all well and good until someone finds that he has to choose between your friendship and actually factually paying hundreds of thousands of dollars he wishes not to for ~reason, and discovers it’s not as easy to signal anymore. This (and other similar instances that, after fungibility, reduce to “friends lending each other huge sums of money”) are famously some of the best ways to end friendships permanently.

            You might get lucky and I hope you do, really. When it works it’s obviously a great outcome. But I don’t think Anthony is wrong to point out that as a general practice this can and often does go sideways fast.

          • Anthony says:

            “another tenant/owner who can pay in money”

            This seems another weak link in the process. Perhaps in your situation, there are other owners who can handle increasing their mortgage payment between one-third and doubling, but I suspect most owners aren’t in that situation.

            While in an period of generally increasing house prices, it’s not hard to get an equity loan to tide you over through a short period of no income, I’m not sure how easy it is to get an equity line against a share in a TIC.

  29. HeelBearCub says:

    Cynical idealist playing as rational pragmatist is “how we got Trump.” Signal boosting cynicism about politics is the kind of mistake that leads to no one doing things about the things you think are important, like AGW.

    In other words, coordination problems are hard. Mock attempts at coordinating at everyone’s peril.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Oh, lighten up. It’s not that cynical.

    • gbdub says:

      Treating political centrists as if they are Hitler reincarnate and acting like every race has everyone’s freedom/lives at stake is also how we got Trump, so a little cynicism is healthy.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m confused; what do you think I’m doing that’s mocking coordination?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Politics are coordination problems incarnate, Scott. Politics is messy and difficult and full of compromises of principle.

        It’s nearly always fashionable to cast a jaundiced on politics and view the process as vaguely unclean, to be tolerated but not respected. This is a mistake. To the extent that you encourage this attitude, it mocks those who do put time, effort, emotional investment into moving the large system forward. It also discourages those who may have been moved by the efforts of others.

        The perfect is the enemy of the good here. The good may be the enemy of the better.

        Politics isn’t about absolutes, but always incremental.

        • cassander says:

          Politics are coordination problems incarnate, Scott. Politics is messy and difficult and full of compromises of principle.

          Which is precisely why we should rely on it as a mechanism for problem solving as little as possible.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Didn’t take you for a death eater…

          • cassander says:

            There’s nothing particularly death-eatery about that statement. David Friedman would endorse it wholeheartedly, as would almost any brand of libertarian. Heck, anyone who’s ever said “government is the problem, not the solution” is endorsing a weak, or at least local, version of it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You think libertarianism dispenses with politics? I think the experience we see in internet communities across the spectrum shows that politics is present whenever two or more gather.

          • cassander says:

            Anarchism dispenses with politics, or at least attempts to. I agree that you can’t ever really eliminate it. Libertarianism is an effort to minimize politics, to keep it fenced off from day to day life as much as possible and to keep the stakes relatively low. That’s a goal I can get behind.

            Of course, you’d still have office politics, family, politics, etc, but that sort of small scale politics rarely produces death, war, or mass social chaos, so they’re really a different sort of animal.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I didn’t take you for an anarchist either…

          • cassander says:

            the anarchists are right on moral grounds. In practice, their philosophy tends to work out badly. We need a state, and that state should be kept extremely limited.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I’m still not sure what specific thing you’re criticizing. Me saying that some races (like governor) are bad vs. worse? Me treating the subject humorously in general?

          I feel like I’m voting, encouraging other people to vote, and explaining why some candidates and policies are better than others, sometimes much better. That seems like a pretty non-ironic cooperative way to engage in politics. What do you suggest I do differently?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s not merely humor. I perceive you to project an air of cynicism about the whole affair of voting, and politics in general.

            It seems to me from the body of your writing that you perceive yourself as essentially an outsider (and, likely unconsciously, superior) to the body politic. This piece seems to fit in with that. It is an attitude many have adopted, but it always seems to me to be highly irrational.

          • LesHapablap says:

            You find it “irrational” for Scott to feel like an outsider who is superior? He is an outsider, and he is superior, at least in the ways that matter when reading this blog.

            Did you want to say you find it “arrogant” or “off-putting” but didn’t want to be the pot calling the kettle black by making a value judgement? Or did you think calling Scott “irrational” is the most effective insult for robots like him?

          • Baeraad says:

            he is superior, at least in the ways that matter when reading this blog.

            As an egalitarian, I feel compelled to say… “citation needed.” :p

            But that said, if you hold any opinion that isn’t the majority opinion, you are implicitly saying that you know better than most people. That’s a certainly bold statement to make… but the only way to avoid making it is to be some kind of human weathervane that just goes along with whatever other people say because you’re too humble to contradict them. And aside from everything else, I don’t think a human weathervane would be able to write a particularly interesting blog. This one is worth reading precisely because Scott is unabashed about having his own perspective on things.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            It seems to me from the body of your writing that you perceive yourself as essentially an outsider (and, likely unconsciously, superior) to the body politic.

            It’s a cognitive bias of a particular personality type common to the rationalist community.

            And yes, as are all cognitive biases, it’s irrational (or, at least, separate from rational given that it’s a basis and not a conclusion).

            We all got our biases. It’s important to have them pointed out occasionally so that we know to watch out for them, and others know to discount them, but we’re still going to use them.

          • And yes, as are all cognitive biases, it’s irrational (or, at least, separate from rational given that it’s a basis and not a conclusion).

            How do you know? Isn’t SSC pretty strong evidence that Scott is an outsider who is superior? How can you tell whether his superiority was a bias going in or a reasoned conclusion?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            How do you know? Isn’t SSC pretty strong evidence that Scott is an outsider who is superior? How can you tell whether his superiority was a bias going in or a reasoned conclusion?

            I can answer this!

            To your first point: The mere act of commenting on what other people are doing, which is separate from what you’re doing, doesn’t make one an outsider. It merely makes one an active voyeur who is yelling catcalls (and therefore ‘doing’ things within that realm that they are supposedly an outsider toward).

            A true outsider doesn’t interact. A true outsider doesn’t even pay enough attention to respond. Because the act of responding allows that which you are responding to to change yourself. And if you’ve given the thing power to change yourself, then you certainly aren’t an outsider.

            To your second point: Even though I was originally only calling his presumed “outsider status” a cognitive bias, I am willing to claim that superiority is a cognitive bias of a hierarchical (social) mindset. A non-hierarchical mindset could focus on similarities and differences without value judgements as to superiority and inferiority, but only to overt and covert preferences, and the likelihood of those preferences being met by a particular choice.

          • LesHapablap says:

            To your second point: Even though I was originally only calling his presumed “outsider status” a cognitive bias, I am willing to claim that superiority is a cognitive bias of a hierarchical (social) mindset. A non-hierarchical mindset could focus on similarities and differences without value judgements as to superiority and inferiority, but only to overt and covert preferences, and the likelihood of those preferences being met by a particular choice.

            What’s the difference between the bolded and a value judgement? It seems to me the only difference would be prefacing any judgement with the words “I feel” or “to me,” as in:

            value judgement: “Peaches are more delicious than lumps of coal”
            non-hierarchical statement of preference: “To me, I feel that peaches are more delicious than lumps of coal”

            To me it seems you are implying that it is superior to have a non-hierarchical mindset, but I am skeptical that it actually means anything except either an unwillingness to say anything with conviction, or a way to present yourself as enlightened and superior.

    • BBA says:

      After the last few years, I’m finding it hard not to be nihilistic about politics. Roe and the ACA are on their last legs, we’re on the verge of invading Mexico to own the libs stop a few hundred migrants from applying for asylum, and I’m supposed to care which of two craven empty suits gets to sleep in the governor’s mansion?

      Rational fact-based policymaking processes fail to accomplish anything, again and again. Idiotic horseshit that can never work wins elections, again and again. Everything is broken. Nothing can be fixed.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be voting a straight Democratic slate tomorrow, because otherwise the wrong lizards might get in.

      • cassander says:

        If after 6 more years of trump, Mexico hasn’t been invaded, abortion is still legal, and government spending on healthcare has only gone up, how will you update your priors? Because I’d bet an awful lot that’s what happens.

      • BBA says:

        (This was late-night hyperbole and I don’t actually expect an invasion of Mexico. But at this point, since national policy is defined by whatever sounds good at a campaign rally, I don’t expect us not to invade Mexico either. Think about it: if the base likes sending troops to the border, they’re going to love sending troops across the border, amirite?)

  30. geist says:

    There is no Proposition 9, because California.

    But if it had passed, there would be no California, because Proposition 9

  31. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    Can we use this thread as a general prediction thread for tomorrow’s elections? I think it would be cool to see what SSCers predict.

  32. gbdub says:

    But Poizer is a former incumbent who by all accounts did pretty well, and I think it’s great that a non-partisan person might win a major position. Advantage Poizner.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a good (let alone great) thing that CA has gone so reflexively Blue that the only way for a “by all accounts” pretty good former Republican incumbent to have a snowball’s chance of election is to pretend to be an independent. Especially at a position that frankly ought to be nonpartisan.

    I think the concern there is that Lara, as “one of the state Senate’s most liberal members” would use the position to grandstand for universal healthcare and other pet liberal projects, impact on the state insurance market be damned. It’s okay for a Senator to do that, but the executive of the Insurance Commission might be able to cause a lot more mischief.

    This seems to be a problem of deep blue (and deep red) states – the out-of-power party is so neutered that quality centrist candidates don’t bother running, and ideological extremists and cranks (12,000 seat legislature!) end up being the sacrificial lambs. Which of course just further entrenches the in-power party (look at those wackos on the other side!).

    Compared to more purple states, where the out-of-power party figures it’s worth a shot to run a moderate and the in-power party tries to avoid being too extreme as well, with a net result closer to the middle of the state’s electorate.

    I have no idea how to explain my reddish-purple state of Arizona, where McSally vs. Sinema is a nasty race that’s going to replace one of the swingiest centrists in the Senate (the nominatively determined Jeff Flake from Snowflake, AZ) with either an all-in for Trump female combat pilot or a bisexual atheist socialist who was active with Code Pink (who to be fair has been more centrist in actual office, but still).

    • shakeddown says:

      Jeff flake has a Trump score of 84 (for context, this makes him less moderate than Ted Cruz). Sinema may have been radical as a teenager but has been fairly right-leaning in office (TS 62)

      https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-trump-score/
      https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-trump-score/kyrsten-sinema/

      • gbdub says:

        Huh? Flake’s score of 84 makes him the 6th most moderate Republican, and he’s been a highly visible never-Trumper. He and Collins were largely considered the key swing votes on Kavanaugh.

        Cruz got a 91 and is basically in the middle of the GOP pack.

        Sinema is indeed one of the most moderate Dems by votes. Hard to tell if her hard turn to the center is sincere or just playing to her district (then again isn’t that what a Rep is supposed to do?). I’m bugged a bit by her comments about AZ to fellow Dems (makes the turn to center seem less sincere). That said I’d favor her easily over McSally if the incumbent were Democrat but really don’t want the Senate to flip and get us into “all impeachment, all the time” for the next two years.

        • but really don’t want the Senate to flip and get us into “all impeachment, all the time” for the next two years.

          Impeachment is done by the House. Conviction is done by the Senate but requires a two-thirds majority.

          • gbdub says:

            Fair, I did take high school civics. I was taking it as a given that the House probably flips, and with both houses in Dem hands they are much more likely to try it or at least agitate for it even if a conviction is extremely unlikely.

          • gbdub says:

            Also I tend to prefer conservative judges.

    • Aaron Sofaer says:

      Poizner isn’t just some random “by all accounts” guy, though. He took a very hard turn to the extreme right when running for Governor, and the opposition to him getting his former office back is largely being run on the basis of that. (His immigrant-baiting and opposition to LGBTQ rights was staunchly against public opinion in California, and well, he lost. Badly.)

      • gbdub says:

        Do you think he’d be doing better with an (R) after his name? Do you think hypothetical Poizner who didn’t have the “immigrant-baiting and opposition to LGBTQ rights” baggage but was running as an (R) would be doing better than the actual Poizner running as an independent?

        If not, I think my point stands.

        • Aaron Sofaer says:

          Your point emphatically does not “still stand”. Affiliation with a political party and the effects of your previous actions on vote outcomes are properly separate, and no amount of whinging-by-implication about how people don’t want to elect Republicans changes that.

          The (I) Poizner who didn’t run on gay marriage being wrong, immigrant-bashing, and climate change “skepticism” would be winning this in a landslide. If he weren’t a *former* Republican, he wouldn’t be because Republican identity is an endorsement of today’s Republican Party, and this being factored into peoples’ decisions is perfectly proper.

  33. Conor Flynn says:

    Does anyone know of a similar (rational, reasoned, sometimes hilarious) summary of other state ballots? I live in AZ and there are a number of Propositions that seem far more impactful than CA’s, but the state of civic discourse makes it almost impossible to find good information about them. Because I am also generally skeptical of ballot propositions, I am leaning against most of these.

    High Impact Propositions in AZ:
    Prop 126: Prohibits any government from increasing taxes on services in the future
    Prop 127: Requires 50 percent of energy to come from renewable resources by 2030 (up from current standard of 15% by 2025)
    Prop 305: expands Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (school vouchers) program
    Prop 306: gives state control over how candidates spend clean election account money

    • gbdub says:

      The election guide the state sends out is actually pretty good for propositions I think. At least gives a flavor of what the pro- and against- side are using as their main argument.

      My votes:
      126: NO. I don’t really want to increase taxes but our sales taxes are already high and I’d rather services pull their weight there. And anyway this proposition is placing an unnecessary, hard to remove restriction on the legislature, which doesn’t have any immediate plans to tax services anyway.

      127: NO. This is a dumb way to achieve increased renewables. You can’t legislate engineering. Specifically does not include nuclear. My electric bill is already nuts with A/C use and this just makes it worse. Side note: really annoyed by the for/against articles on this, which are mostly just accusing the for side of being a pet project of a California billionaire and the against side of being in the pocket of APS.

      305: Soft NO. This expands an existing program for special needs kids into a statewide school voucher. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I’m generally in favor of school choice and vouchers. On the other, AZ already has a ton of charter schools etc. that provide strong school choice, meanwhile public funding for schools lags. 305 might be a step too far toward pulling too much money out of the public schools. Would be better if it were means tested, or maybe if it capped tuition at schools receiving money from the program.

      306: NO. I’m persuaded by the argument that the “don’t let public money go to political parties!” is a red herring attempt to scare people into letting a partisan council exert authority over the generally pretty good Citizens Clean Election Commission. Even on the red herring – why shouldn’t publically funded candidates be able to coordinate with parties? If the goal is to make publicly funded candidates viable, coordination with the parties is essential.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Curious situation with Question 1 in Massachusetts, a measure to micromanage nurse staffing in hospitals: I’ve been seeing yard signs, in roughly equal numbers, assuring me that Nurses Say YES ON 1 and Nurses Say NO ON 1. What’s curious isn’t so much the disagreement, as that both sides expect me to vote as instructed by obviously interested parties.

  34. CheshireCat says:

    Like a good rationalist, I will automatically vote down this ballot without thinking twice.

    But seriously, I appreciate the breakdown. I haven’t had the time to research all the races this cycle and it’s good not only to have an accessible writeup like this, but also one that matches my perspective so closely.

  35. Slocum says:

    As an outsider, I tend to think Californians should vote to make their state as California as possible (because laboratories of democracy need clear test cases). Also, this might increase the minuscule odds of those of us here in Michigan getting Scott back so we could have him riff on (our admittedly less entertaining) politicians and ballot proposals.

  36. ech says:

    Prop 2:

    Because it is a bond, doesn’t this mean we end up spending less money overall on services?

    “housing the mentally ill is probably better for them than whatever else this money was going to do” – But is it 2x better?

  37. spinystellate says:

    This kind of post is badly needed for every state. Arizona is way simpler but I still could have used a post like this, and in future elections would be willing to spend 2x the amount of time researching the candidates and propositions if it would save others 10x the amount of time doing their own research (and vice versa when someone else writes it).

  38. benwave says:

    Well, that sure is a baffling number of choices to make in a single election! I had no idea there were so many elected positions in the USA, not to mention what I assume are a form of referenda?

    • BBA says:

      America is very much an outlier in having lots of both, and there’s a bundle more local elected officials that Scott didn’t list.

      In most states the officials in charge of elections (Secretary of State, County Clerk) are themselves elected, which always struck me as a massive conflict of interest. In Georgia, the incumbent Secretary of State is both the Republican candidate for governor and the ultimate vote-counter in the race, which has a lot of Democrats crying foul over alleged irregularities. Not being from Georgia, I’ll refrain from commenting on the specifics, but I hate to see this become a partisan issue when I just thought it was common sense.

    • Michael Handy says:

      Makes the Australian Senate Ballot look positively simple

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      There’s probably at least 100 contests in Cook County, Illinois, at least if you are including all the judges you can vote for.

      It really is quite complicated, especially since there are a lot of institutions that are hard to understand. Political reporting isn’t particularly great outside of the national level.

      A lot of places also have aditional elections for local offices on really off-cycles. They might get elected at what are normally primary elections, or in an odd-number year.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        There’s probably at least 100 contests in Cook County, Illinois, at least if you are including all the judges you can vote for.

        It really is quite complicated, especially since there are a lot of institutions that are hard to understand. Political reporting isn’t particularly great outside of the national level.

        Yeah, my ballot had Governor (apparently unlike CA, Lt is a running mate), Federal Rep, State Rep, a half-dozen referenda, and 2 1/2 pages of shit that should just be appointed (ETA: the local positions that matter aren’t until next year). Including a water board because apparently we’re Dutch?

        The citizenry need to have a way to get garbage officials sacked but 40+ “Keep Judge $NAME? Y/N” items is gish galloping the voters.

  39. Forge the Sky says:

    Anyone want to talk about Michigan propositions/issues? I get the ‘legalize marijuana already, idiots’ one, but the one about making a new way to allocate districts is out of my wheelhouse – I’m not sure what it’s going to replace or if something similar has been tried elsewhere. The voting rights ones sounds good, but I wouldn’t mind seeing some data – if it exists – about how these sorts of measures impact voting and voting fraud.

    • Forge the Sky says:

      Alright, in case anyone else finds this of use; I think all three proposals are a good idea.

      Prop. 1: this will legalize marijuana for recreational use for anyone over the age of 21. Pros: enforcing prohibition is expensive, mass incarceration destroys lives for something which (in my opinion) doesn’t merit such, there will be some tax revenue from legal weed sales, and evidence indicates that legal marijuana tends to replace more dangerous drugs to some degree, such as opioids. Cons: forming a regulatory framework will be an up-front cost, some fear driving while high will increase greatly (I’m skeptical; driving while high will still be illegal), and the usual fears about increases in lazy potheads without any motivation.

      Prop. 2: This will make congressional districts in the state be determined by an independent commission, rather than by the legislature. The commission will be appointed semi-randomly from the population, cannot include anyone in or close to the political establishment, and must contain a set number of democrats, republicans, and independents.

      The problem with the current system is gerrymandering – the political party in power uses their power to make the districts shaped however best benefits them, making it hard for voters to change who is in power. Taking this power and giving it to a few random voters (you need to apply for the position, after which the process is semi-random, so this won’t be foisted upon the unwilling) will hopefully make things much more fair. This proposition sounded good on the surface, but I wondered if it had been tried elsewhere/if there were any serious cons to the thing I wasn’t seeing. The point in its favor that makes me say ‘yes’ on it is that they tried it in Californiaand it (so far) seems to be turning out really well. From the wiki article:

      While the long-term results will bear out over time, independent studies by the Public Policy Institute of California, the National Journal, and Ballotpedia have shown that California now has some of the most competitive districts in the nation, creating opportunities for new elected officials.[12][13][14] For example, the uncertainty caused by the new districts combined with California’s “top two” primary system has resulted in half a dozen resignations of incumbent Congressional representatives on both sides of the aisle, a major shake-up of California’s Capitol Hill delegation.[15][16] In addition, it has forced a number of intra-party races, most notably a showdown between two of the state’s most powerful House Democrats, Representatives Howard Berman and Brad Sherman.[15][17][18] In the previous 10 years, incumbents were so safe that only one Congressional seat changed party control in 255 elections,[15] due to bi-partisan gerrymandering after the redistricting following the 2000 Census.[19][20][21] It is predicted that some of the newly elected politicians will be particularly well-suited for national politics since they will be forced to find positions that please moderate and independent voters to remain in office.

      Prop 3: this one makes it easier for people to vote by 1) automatically registering you whenever you go to the SoS office, unless you decline; 2) letting you get an absentee ballot without having to give a reason; and 3) letting you register to vote even up to voting day.

      Obviously removing undue obstacles to voting is better. Might make voting fraud a bit easier, though the measure also promises to try and counteract this by introducing a ballot audit system to watch for fraud; I place very low confidence upon this system. Still, in the measure of things I think this is worth it.

      It should be noted that 2 and 3 will likely, at least at present, hurt the reds and help the blues in the state. Though I tend to incline red, I incline even more to fair play in our democracy. Yes across the board.

      • Nornagest says:

        the usual fears about increases in lazy potheads without any motivation.

        There’s almost certainly going to be an increase in marijuana use. Remove a legal barrier to using something and you get more use of it; that’s all but guaranteed. Make something cheaper, likewise, and people will use it more. Whether this implies an increase in marijuana abuse is harder to say — that’s more of a cultural question, and it’s still up in the air what legalization’s going to do to pot culture.

        That all being said, legalization making abuse less likely wouldn’t be the way I’d bet. But I still think it’s a good idea, partly for ideological reasons and partly to make life harder for some of the very bad people that’re behind a lot of the illegal pot trade (but whose comparative advantage would evaporate if it was legalized).

        • Anthony says:

          The problem isn’t lazy potheads, or even driving while high. It’s that potheads will take a few years to understand that no-smoking rules apply to them, too.

        • Forge the Sky says:

          Yeah, I was perhaps being a bit too dismissive there. I don’t think frequent marijuana use is at all recommended. I know people who started smoking regularly and definitely lost the ability to be meaningfully interested/engaged in non-high parts of life. It’s always been the biggest downside of pot.

          Still, in the balance of things I think it should be legal and becoming a pothead should be discouraged by culture rather than men with guns.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Prop. 2: This will make congressional districts in the state be determined by an independent commission, rather than by the legislature. The commission will be appointed semi-randomly from the population, cannot include anyone in or close to the political establishment, and must contain a set number of democrats, republicans, and independents.

        At least you even have the option to vote on it!

        (Two years ago? No, I’m not bitter, why do you ask?)

      • Jake says:

        Just for the sake of debate, a big chunk of the opposition to Prop 2 is that it creates the redistricting commission in the state constitution, instead of going through more normal channels, and places the redistricting power in the hands of a semi-random selection of voters who may not have any clue what they are doing (and thus even more susceptible to manipulation than the current process). I still think the benefits outweigh the potential negatives, but I definitely plan to apply to be on that commission.

        As for Prop 3, I’m a huge fan of expanding voter rights, but I think the straight-ticket voting provision makes this one a no-go for me. We don’t need more people blindly voting along party lines, and this will make it even easier. Though I guess the ruling against straight-ticket voting was only passed in 2015 and still hasn’t really been implemented due to pending court cases yet.

        • Forge the Sky says:

          Well, the methodology is a bit weird to be sure. But I don’t see this sort of thing really gaining ground in the legislature anytime soon, since the establishment’s incentive is pretty plainly to keep its districting power. And I don’t see anything that’s bad weird about it.

          Incompetency was my main concern, but I suppose I’d rather have some chucklehead carve a community in half because they didn’t know better rather than for a specific political gain. At least it would be arbitrary.

          Prop 3 – as a dude whose ticket is diverse enough for a college pamphlet photo, I hear ya. But the amount of people who don’t vote, and the immense number of voters that de facto vote straight ticket even without a simple option to, makes me kinda just shrug and think we can make a bigger difference to the former problem than the latter.

  40. Rebecca Friedman says:

    Thank you very much for doing this, Scott. I’ve just finished my own research today, and of the various lists I found to feed into it, this was the best by a significant margin – and that’s including my own political party’s.

    … That said, anyone have opinions on San Jose’s Measure S? By what I can tell, it frees up the California bureaucracy to choose construction contractors on principles other than “who has the lowest bid” – they are currently allowed to account for very low levels of “will they actually get the contract done” but not, by what they were saying, “will it get done well and/or within a reasonable amount of time and/or not over budget.” On the one hand, this makes me think of Deiseach’s civil service horror stories; on the other hand, the current law is pretty clearly there to keep contracts from ending up with whoever has friends in high places. If I’m right, it’s a pretty costly anti-bribery protection, but I’m not sure I know how good our other protections are and hence how much bribery we’ll get if we remove it. Anyone have a better analysis?

    • Thomas Jørgensen says:

      Lowest bid laws are a blight. They preferentially hand contracts to people who are either willing to lie to the governments face or are too afflicted by Dunning-Kruger to accurately price a given project, which ends up causing massive problems because they are also not good at actually executing the project.

      Looking at it internationally, the places which get shit built on time and on budget the most often are the places where the authority to grant contracts is very clearly allocated to an specific office holder, who you can then both watch for bribery and count on to evaluate if bids have merit. Spain, for example, does remarkably well at this.

  41. Aaron Sofaer says:

    On the subject of Prop 11, it’s worth noting that not only do all of your other criticisms apply, there is already a law in the drafting process (I believe it’s currently stuck in a subcommittee while waiting to see what happens with the Proposition) that solves the problems without the retroactive immunity. Link is here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB263

  42. BBA says:

    Here in Lower Manhattan tomorrow looks like a yawner. Here it’s so deep blue that there are no Republican incumbents at any level of government, and since there are no term limits a Democrat can hold office for life if there isn’t a massive scandal. (Bye, Eric Schneiderman, please do let the door hit you on the way out. Tish James, the machine’s designated successor, might as well be an incumbent.) There might be a surprise in the state senate race since my district’s senator has a rather unfortunate name, but I doubt this matters too much.

    There are three proposed city charter amendments on the back of the ballot, and the city government has placed ads reminding voters that the ballot is two-sided, a delightful break from the mudslinging NJ senate ads. #1 is a tweak to the campaign finance system that doesn’t look like it’ll change much of anything. #2 would create a “Civic Engagement Commission,” which sounds at best harmless and at worst wouldn’t even make the top 100 wastes of taxpayer money in the city. I’m leaning no on both, but wouldn’t lose any sleep if either passed.

    #3 is the one I’ve taken interest in – it imposes term limits on the city’s community boards. These boards don’t have any hard power to enact anything, but they hold hearings on every proposed zoning amendment and liquor license and make recommendations to the agencies that rule on them. I see term limits as a double-edged sword: they’d force out talented, experienced administrators like Nancy Pelosi but would also dislodge entrenched crooks like Sheldon Silver. (For the Republican equivalent, replace those names with Mitch McConnell and, um, Mitch McConnell.) With the community boards, which are dominated by old, out-of-touch NIMBYs and BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody) I think term limits are an unalloyed good. The rent is too damn high, as local crackpot Jimmy McMillan put it, and continuing to constrain supply is not going to bring prices down. An 8-year maximum, as proposed, would get some fresh voices on the boards.

    But the NYT has come out against #3, which means it’ll probably fail. Sigh.

    • Brad says:

      Too bad the proposal isn’t to abolish community boards. Not that the voters would do it. These are the same voters that voted against a constitutional convention at the behest of special interests bearing the argument that the convention would be dominated by special interests and thus too dangerous.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      they’d force out talented, experienced administrators like Nancy Pelosi

      If you’re so talented, get a promotion. 5-10 years local position, 10 years State, 10 years in the US House, 12 in the Senate (could be persuaded to 18), and a term or two as a cabinet minister (or even the big chair) and badaboom you’ve gone from high school grad to eligible for Social Security. At which point you should gracefully retire and go groom a successor.

  43. gbdub says:

    On a lighter note:

    Arizona has a guy running for Clerk of the Court (i.e. the guy that would authenticate judgements against you) named Jeff Fine.

    And a guy running for state Senate named Frank Schmuck.

    The US Senate candidate for the Green party is named Green.

  44. “And he was anti-Trump until Trump became popular among Republicans, then about-faced and decided Trump was his new best friend, and now he’s basically just a Trumpist. I am going with Newsom; God help me, God help California.”

    That’s a perfect description of voting in Illinois’ governor election. Swap in “Rauner” for Cox and “Pritzker” for Newsom.

  45. mgoodfel says:

    I really wish we’d gotten the chance to break up California. Right now, a single incompetent government is hoarding all the nice weather.

    • johan_larson says:

      A government under which two premier industries — Hollywood and Silicon Valley — germinate, grow and continue to thrive is probably not incompetent.

      In any case, if you want nice weather, there’s plenty of it up in Oregon, parts of the south-west, and parts of the south, such as Virginia and Florida.

      • mgoodfel says:

        Which part of Oregon has nice weather? I lived in Portland one November, and it rained every single day, except the day it snowed.

        • johan_larson says:

          I think of the Wilamette valley as having nice weather. “Cool-summer Mediterranean” is a good climate zone. Rarely any snow, and none that lasts. Plenty of rain in the winters though. But it’s either rain or California-style water politics, so pick your poison.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvallis,_Oregon#Climate

          • mgoodfel says:

            I don’t actually understand California water politics. I know there are these ancient water rights that farmers have, but it’s just money. Let them sell their rights to the cities, which is probably more profitable than farming. Cities only use 10% of California’s water, so the farmers wouldn’t even be put out of business by selling some of their water.

            I know the industry brings in a lot of money — something like $60 billion a year. But Apple, a single company, brings in $200 billion a year. Plus all the population is in the cities now. So I really don’t understand where the farmers get the political clout to make the cities conserve, and make the state build large water projects.

            Make them pay for their own water projects, and if they can’t make money farming, sell the water. If they can’t even make money doing that, then move to some other part of the country. Where it rains.

            As for nurturing high tech and movie industries, I don’t really think California was doing much of either when those industries got started. I seem to remember reading history that the movie industry was held in contempt when it started. Silicon Valley got started from Stanford and HP. It was all orchards before that, and I don’t think there was much state involvement.

            Both are cash cows for the state now, and I don’t know how much longer that will last. Housing prices are making everyone look around for another place to live and do business.

          • Nornagest says:

            You’ve got a bad model of who’s making whom conserve and why. Almost all the water in California goes either to environmental uses (keeping rivers flowing and wetlands wet) or to agriculture. Farmers feud with Sacramento over the environmental stuff all the time — drive down I-5 and you’ll see dozens of billboards about it — but they don’t really care about the cities’ water use. They don’t have a reason to; cities in California physically can’t conserve enough water to make much of a difference in either of these applications. (On the other hand, some of the most elaborate water projects in California are to supply the cities — mainly because agricultural land tends to be on floodplains already, but many of the cities are in deserts.)

            The political push for water conservation in the cities is driven by Sacramento, and it’s more about keeping water issues on people’s minds and building political will for the restrictions that matter (viz. on farming) than about actually saving meaningful amounts of water.

      • Anthony says:

        Silicon Valley is successful *because* CA government is generally incompetent. They keep inventing things that the State can’t figure out how to regulate, and by the time the State does, they’ve figured out something else. This would probably be true whereever Silicon Valley was located. There are two main factors for it being in the Santa Clara Valley, and only one of those is because of the state. One, California makes non-competes for employees basically illegal, and two, Stanford let its professors and grad students take out patents on things they developed while at Stanford.

    • Anthony says:

      Though we’d end up with two incompetent governments hoarding all the nice weather. And one possibly competent one getting a little of the nice weather (OC and San Diego coast, and maybe a little of the Sierras), and a lot of shitty weather (Bakersfield. Mojave.)

  46. hnau says:

    I think the amount of time it would take for me to feel comfortable with my opinion on this is higher than any possible benefit of getting it right, so I will abstain.

    If you only vote when the effort required isn’t “higher than any possible benefit of getting it right,” the right thing to do is not to vote at all.

    • Nornagest says:

      That doesn’t clearly follow to me. Can you expand?

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        The expected benefit of your vote, even assuming it’s always 100% correct, is so very close to zero as to venture into quantum physics territory. Because your votes will never ever be the deciding vote in a California election.

        At least if you’re a regular one vote voter. If you’re Scott and publish your votes on an influential blog, perhaps you change 100 or 1000 votes, and the math becomes different.

        • Plumber says:

          @Squirrel of Doom

          “….If you’re Scott and publish your votes on an influential blog, perhaps you change 100 or 1000 votes, and the math becomes different”

          Too late for me, our host didn’t post his choices until after the envelope for my absentee ballot waa sealed.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Arguments that voting is silly and irrational are 1. valid, 2. expressive, 3. probably in poor form on election day on a post encouraging people to vote.

        It’s a decent argument but there are other days to make it.

        • hnau says:

          Actually I was arguing against the antecedent, not the consequent. Voting can be justified as a duty (and I do vote), just not as a utility calculation. Sorry if that didn’t come through.

          • Voting can be justified as a duty (and I do vote), just not as a utility calculation.

            I can only see two rational arguments for voting. One is as an expressive activity you enjoy, like cheering for your football team. The other is if you are sufficiently altruistic so that even a tiny chance of changing the outcome becomes significant because of the enormous number of people affected.

            The latter doesn’t work in California for a presidential election, but it does work in lots of other contexts.

            I vote for the first reason.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            @David

            There are other reasons to vote as well. One reason I like to vote is to get out of any artificial bubble I may be in and see who is voting, and how much. 2016 saw a really big surge in voting in my small town community. I wouldn’t have noticed how popular Trump was locally if I did not get out to vote and see for myself. It also helped me to better understand the type of people who would enthusiastically vote for Trump, and that they were pretty normal people.

            You can also vote to encourage others to vote. A single vote may be statistically meaningless, but even small groups can make a difference. Presidential elections are rarely swung by such moves, but plenty of local offices and even national reps can be moved that way.

          • sentientbeings says:

            Another potential argument for voting is as signaling. There are the obvious examples, e.g. a politician would generally look bad if he didn’t participate, or signaling virtue in a community that thinks it’s important as a duty. I’m not a fan of that one.

            There are more subtle signaling examples, though. For libertarians, most electoral success has happened at a small enough scale that many people involved (electorate/candidates) know each other personally. Participating in the “cheering” through the act of voting is likely to be well received just as a willingness to contribute, even if the community doesn’t have a particular high opinion of voting overall. Admittedly that’s still mostly cheering, but it’s cheering that might have a perceivable effect on relationships within a small community, followed by a secondary effect on the quality of non-election activities.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Just understand that not voting makes you a free rider.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Just understand that not voting makes you a free rider

            That does not follow as a general case. A free rider is someone who receives the benefit without paying the cost. Preferences are subjective; you don’t get to the determine the benefit for someone else. It’s true that you might estimate it given a certain set of assumptions, but in the context of politics there are definitely people who see the governments’ actions, and voting, as a net negative to possible alternatives. They suffer negative externalities.

        • Arguments that voting is silly and irrational are … 3. probably in poor form on election day on a post encouraging people to vote.

          It’s a decent argument but there are other days to make it.

          On the contrary. If Scott makes an argument I think is incorrect, the right day to reply is when he makes it.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            If Scott makes an argument I think is incorrect, the right day to reply is when he makes it.

            We might disagree on everything else, but at least we can agree on this 🙂

  47. Plumber says:

    At lunch today a co-worker mused on election day:

    “In the Soviet Union the polls closed at ten, but they’d keep them upon until 12 and they’d come to your house and bring you in to vote, there was only one canidate, but it didn’t matter they just wanted it on the paper that everyone voted”

    upon hearing this another co-worker who also grew up in the Soviet Union but, unlike the first (who left in 1979) didn’t leave until after the fall, said:

    “Don’t listen to him, at the polls they had cheap beer, food, and nice woman. It was holiday!…

    …still no choice, only one canidate”

Leave a Reply