Morning Ed: Government {2016.08.11.Th}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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263 Responses

  1. Road Scholar says:

    Jason Brennan advocates for what he calls “epistocracy”, essentially rule by the knowledgeable. Now NdGT proposes Rationalia, a requirement that policy proposals be rooted in evidence. Basically, they’re both rooted in the idea that government does dumb stuff because… you know, people.

    I wonder how many chin-strokers would embrace the former because libertarian Jason (yay!) versus liberal NdGT (boo!) and vice versa.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Road Scholar says:

      The problem with the idea of rule by the knowledgeable and rule by the rational is determining who is knowledgeable and who is rationally. Any brief session on this blog will reveal that there are many people who consider themselves knowledgeable or rational who completely disagree with each other. We have firm believers in the welfare state and economic regulation clash with ultra-free marketers and both sides claimed themselves to be knowledgeable and rational. Neo-reactionaries believe they are the sole rational ones and so do the remaining unreconstructed Trotskyites. The best solution is to let everybody have a go at politics even if the results are sub-optimal at times.Report

    • InMD in reply to Road Scholar says:

      I think the problem with either approach is that they rely on the idea that you can completely separate policy from values.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to InMD says:

        This, this, a thousand times this.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to InMD says:

        The actual fucking problem with this approach is that we have people with severely questionable values.

        I wouldn’t mind a decent debate on charter schools, if it wasn’t a stalking horse for defunding American Education entirely.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Kimmi says:

          The actual fucking problem with this approach is that we have people with severely questionable values.

          The *actual* problem is that we have people with severely questionable values *that they know no one agrees with so think it’s reasonable to just lie about everything*.

          You want a magical spell to fix politics? Don’t make everyone ‘rational’ or ‘reasonable’ or ‘fair minded’…make a magical spell that makes everyone *actually state what the results of their policies are intended to be*.

          That’s it. They don’t have to have good policies, they don’t even have to be honest in general. Just make them state ‘I wish to close some DMVs for budgetary reasons *magic spell takes over* THAT IS A LIE. I ALSO WISH TO CLOSE THEM SO IT IS HARDER FOR POOR PEOPLE TO GET ID TO VOTE.’.

          Granted, there’s no way to actually do this.

          I wouldn’t mind a decent debate on charter schools, if it wasn’t a stalking horse for defunding American Education entirely.

          Exactly. (Although I have to argue that’s not the *only* stalking horse. Defunding teacher unions, for example, and the sucking of large amount of money from the system, for another.)

          The problem isn’t ‘really’ their values…the problem is they’re completely misrepresenting them, because if they just stated them outright, no one would go along with it.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to DavidTC says:

            “I think we should require ID to vote, because voter fraud undermines peoples’ confidence in the outcome of an election.”

            “Okay, magic spell’s gonna kick in any second now…any second now…”

            “I’m sorry? You’re expecting something to happen?”

            “Dammit, you’re supposed to be saying that you’re actually a racist who wants to keep black people from voting! I guess the spell doesn’t work on people who are too disgustingly evil.”Report

            • DavidTC in reply to DensityDuck says:

              You’ll notice I *didn’t* use requiring ID to vote, because it is perfectly possible people have completely reasonable-sounding justifications for that. They’re *idiotic* reasons, not based in facts, but a magical spell that told people all the relevant facts about things would basically be God.

              That said, here is how I would respond:

              “I think we should require ID to vote, because voter fraud undermines peoples’ confidence in the outcome of an election.”

              “The way *you* said, it deals entirely with people’s *perceptions* of the election…perceptions you, indeed, are the ones causing them to have. You didn’t say it would solve an actual problem, just that it would solve a *perception* of a problem. To restate in a way that doesn’t let you hedge out of it, would you please state that we need this law to stop *actual*, *currently-existing* voter fraud, to the level of altering elections, that will happen without it? ”

              “I believe that is what you should get from my statement.”

              “Say it where it trips the spell.”

              “I think we should require ID to vote, to stop currently-existing voter fraud that will happen without it and will alter elections. THAT IS A LIE. I DO NOT BELIEVE THERE IS ANY VOTER FRAUD HAPPENING THAT ALTERS ELECTIONS THAT CAN BE STOPPED BY VOTER ID.”

              Of course, this concept does require a minimum level of actual knowledge about the world. And also magic.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

                Of course, a *better* way to deal with that would be proposing a phase in period and help getting people IDs and offering them at courthouses and stuff. And then ask why *that* amendment to the bill is rejected.

                And as I’ve said before, I don’t mind IDs to vote.

                And people should be able to basically call the government up and say ‘Give me my ID, I want to vote’, and it’s the job of the *government* to do all the work. Show up at your door, take your picture there, see if you’ve got a birth certificate to show them, or some other idea. If you don’t have that, ask your neighbors and parents and stuff.

                Same with proving your address. Hey, government, you dispute my address? Well…you know where I live. Show up at a random time, I’ll probably be there. I will show you my office and my bed. Hey, look, I *do* live here.

                We should not be reading struggles that an old lady took to get a government issued ID. We should be reading struggles how the government kept coming back to that old lady and asking for different possible proofs that it wasn’t able to track down, until one *finally* qualified and they were *able* to issue her the ID.

                The government does, indeed, have the right to demand people officially ‘be someone’ in the government’s eyes to use their right to vote. But it’s the job of the government *to figure that out*. All the effort is *on them*. We shouldn’t have to prove *jack shit* to get that ID. (Although obviously if we *do* have documentation, we should hand it over.)

                It’s not ‘a person vs. the government’, it’s ‘the government moves mountains so finally, officially, they can document this person is who they say they are, so that person can vote’.

                Oh, and if we did this, I have a feeling we’d *suddenly* get government issued IDs in high school, and have courthouses issue IDs, and have mobile ID stations roaming around.Report

              • Francis in reply to DavidTC says:

                Dear DavidTC:

                please, oh please, oh please

                CUT DOWN ON THE ASTERISKS.

                it makes your comments hard to read. and the emphasis comes through just fine in your writing. you really don’t need themReport

            • Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:

              You really don’t get that racism is a fucking stalking horse too????Report

            • Troublesome Frog in reply to DensityDuck says:

              I think the fraudulent nature of the voter ID argument is pretty clear without even appealing to racism per se. I have no doubt that if poor racial minorities voted Republican 95% of the time, the same Democrats would be pushing for voter ID laws and the same Republicans would be standing up to protect their franchise.

              But that doesn’t mean it’s not just a fake problem designed to confuse people into passing policies that affect voter turnout.Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to DavidTC says:

            This sounds terrible. Currently, the problems of politicians dishonesty and voter ignorance balance out. Voters vote for politicians who promise stupid shit, but it’s okay because they’re lying, and aside from giving voters enough token stupid shit to get re-elected, they mostly avoid running the country into the ground.

            Force politicians to be honest without educating voters, and now the only people who can get elected are true believers in stupid shit, like Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Kimmi says:

          The richest school district in Colorado (a county-wide district in a safely Republican county) has an apparently endless appetite for spending taxpayer money on attempts to phrase its charter school rules such that they can get around this language in the state constitution:

          Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything… to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever;

          IIRC, they’ve been to the state supreme court twice, and have a third version working its way through the courts now.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Road Scholar says:

      Probably all of themReport

    • Jaybird in reply to Road Scholar says:

      I’d be down with tying any given proposal to a measurable outcome (if appropriate). Maybe make a new category of laws that automatically sunset if they fail.

      Such as “We will pass the following law, which will cost the following amount of money, and will give us the outcome of X+N% (and we’ve now measured that we only have X% right now) and this will happen within Y years.”

      Then, after Y years pass, check to see whether we have X+N% using the same yardstick that we used to measure X.

      If it didn’t, then repeal the law because it’s not doing what it said it would do and it got passed because it promised a particular, measurable, outcome.

      My favorite example is the Satanic Daylight Saving Time Extension Act (or SDSTEA) passed by George W. Bush. They promised it would save energy, it instead resulted in more energy being expended, IT IS STILL ON THE BOOKS.

      While something like “Rule By The Knowledgeable” automatically makes people know that they’re in for a fight over definitions, I think that having something like “Rule By The Measurable/Testable” is theoretically possible without automatically invoking Culture War Forever.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

        Sunset clauses are somewhat more common at the state level. One area that they aren’t used even there is criminal statutes. If sunset reviews had been applied to marijuana possession laws, the evidence was/is overwhelming that the penalty levels that legislatures can get away with setting are not sufficient to (statistically) deter possession and use. And despite decades of steep penalties for possession and sale of heroin, a much more harmful drug, we now have heroin “epidemics” in places all across the country.

        One of the reasons for retaining the criminal drug laws that dare not be said in public (very often) is that law enforcement budgets have become dependent on the revenue from fines and property seizures. If Colorado’s experience is indicative, legalization and taxation will generate far more revenue with much less effort. But it’s a tough sell in the legislature that money raised that way ought to replace the fines/seizure revenue of the police rather than being spent on education or transportation.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

          I can see the argument for not tying this sort of thing to criminal law… but a lot of those arguments have somewhere at their base a sense of moral sentiment similar to that that argued that small utility flophouse-type apartments for hopelessly addicted homeless would improve their lot.

          I mean, if you could reduce burglary by purchasing PS4s for every household with adolescent teenagers, should you? (I’m sure that the downtick in burglary would even be measurable.)

          So let’s just make a new category. “Here’s a law/regulation that will improve our lot by this much, it will only cost this much.”

          Then watch. If the new law does not, in fact, increase reading scores by 3% among elementary students but instead makes reading scores go *DOWN* by 4%, you no longer get to say “WE NEED MORE FUNDING” but instead have to put up with “we’re going back to the old way that we used to do it”.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Michael Cain says:

          heh. I’m amused by the idea of a Daylight Savings Time extension that has a sunset clause…Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Jaybird says:

        There’s still a problem with that one – the law can increase benefit X by N% as intended, but also have the unforeseen harm of decreasing benefit Y by M%. You can list the benefit it should produce in your sunset clause, but you can’t exhaustively list all the harms it should not produce.Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

          And, for that matter, what achieved effects even count as benefits, and which count as harms? Rationality can’t tell you that, it can only tell you what effects are being achieved.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to dragonfrog says:

            Well, let’s give some examples from recently.

            George W. Bush’s “Let’s Extend Daylight Saving Time Like Hitler Did Act” (or LEDSTLHDA), was said to give a number of benefits that included “we’ll use less power”.

            I think we can pretty easily say that “using less power” is a benefit and “using more power” is a cost (or “harm”, as you put it). We’ve even got only one axis. More power vs. Less power.

            We passed the law. Ran the numbers. It turns out that people used *MORE* power instead of less power.

            I suppose we could make the argument “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE POWER COMPANIES?!?!?” which would, of course, allow for a second opportunity to pass the law.

            “We would like to pass the Great Leap Spring Forward Act that will extend Daylight Saving Time Again and will increase the revenues of power companies by 2% during the extended times!”

            Then let the politicians vote on it.

            Then, if the power companies have their revenues increase by 2% during those times, hurray! We can keep the law!Report

            • dragonfrog in reply to Jaybird says:

              Sure, the More Instead Of Less Idiotic Clock Tomfoolery Act (MIOLICTA) missed its target of saving energy.

              But what about its effect on the increase in traffic accidents that happens on the first day of DST? Did it worsen that or mitigate it? What about the cloud of smugness emanating from Saskatchewan? And if that cloud both increases early rainfall to the benefit of Manitoba farmers and also interferes with bird migration to the detriment of sparrows (but advantage of some of their predators)?

              What about all the IT folks who had to do completely pointless reconfiguring and patching and testing of devices to make sure their clocks stayed synced up? They expended effort for no gain (bad?) They earned lots of overtime (good?) Their employers had to pay them lots of overtime (goodbad?)Report

              • veronica d in reply to dragonfrog says:

                @dragonfrog — This principle certainly will not establish some utilitarian paradise. But say you pass the law with sunset provision X. Say it fails to meet X. Thus the law is nullified. However, what if in the practice of the law, we discover some amazing second-order effect that was not evident during its passage, but that is sufficiently great that we’d like to keep the law?

                Easy peasy. Make the argument. Vote to maintain the law.

                Of course, the legislature can only consider the evidence brought before them. That is a given.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to dragonfrog says:

                It didn’t *MISS* its target of saving energy. It didn’t promise 5% but only got 4.3%.

                It promised that it’d go *DOWN* and, instead, it went *UP*.

                As for all of those other measurements you mentioned, why not just tack those to the law?

                “We want to pass this law in order to make employers pay their employees more.”

                Then put it up to a vote. Who votes for it? Who votes against it?

                I mean, if that’s what they’re hoping to achieve, that’s *MEASURABLE*.

                Then, if passing the law fails to do that, we can sunset the law.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to dragonfrog says:

            In addition to what Jaybird said, an approach like this could be used to encourage the identification of adverse effects, and to apply similar thresholds (e.g. if adverse effect A rises above a given threshold, this policy has failed, regardless of benefits achieved).Report

        • Jaybird in reply to dragonfrog says:

          Absolutely. But we have that problem now.

          While it won’t be alleviated by this, I don’t see how that problem will be exacerbated by something like this. I think that that particular problem is completely orthogonal to the problem of legislation not doing what it was supposed to do (let alone the problem of making what it was supposed to do even worse).Report

      • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’d be down with tying any given proposal to a measurable outcome (if appropriate). Maybe make a new category of laws that automatically sunset if they fail.

        Karl Popper (rather unsurprisingly) once suggested precisely this. (If I recall correctly. I couldn’t possibly cite where.)

        It makes sense. “We promise this law will achieve X. Here are the standards by which we measure X. If we fail to meet X, this law was crap and it is nullifed.”

        I mean, there would still be huge after-the-fact fights over whether we’ve really measured X entirely according to the standards set to measure X. For example, imagine the current situation in the social sciences elevated from not mere talking points, but to actual bureaucratic triggers.

        That said, I still like the idea, even if it would likely fail horribly in practice.

        Of course, we could try it out and stop doing it if it failed to meet is own easily measured goals (she says with a smirk).Report

        • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

          The other examples that I thought of involve stuff like common core or whatever.

          We have the following 3rd/6th/9th Grade Reading Scores today using the following testing methods. Blah Blah Blah.

          We are going to move from this reading training to that reading training. It will cost only $X per child and improve scores by Y%.

          Now we can argue about whether $X/kid is worth Y%.

          There’s room for passion or dispassion in there. Who knows what could happen?

          But we ought to be able to say that if scores instead go down instead of going up, that we need to stop flushing this money down the toilet and end this program RIGHT NOW rather than argue about whether we need to spend a couple more years and spend more money and it’ll work it’s just that we have to spend $X+N and whether people just oppose the idea of children reading at all.

          Hell, maybe we can add stipulations that if the gains aren’t as good as advertised (but still exist) then that merely puts the law up for debate rather than sunset it automatically. We can ask whether it’s worth $X/kid to merely get Z% of an improvement. (Because maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.)

          But we ought to have a mechanism where we don’t debate whether we should revert back to something better after we’ve changed for the worse on something measurable.

          Hell, limit the category of law to only apply to things that only “reasonable” people agree are good (children reading, saving energy, clean water, that sort of crap).Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

        “…after Y years pass, check to see whether we have X+N% using the same yardstick that we used to measure X. If it didn’t, then repeal the law because it’s not doing what it said it would do and it got passed because it promised a particular, measurable, outcome.”

        Problem is, though, that people in that less-than-N% will have been measurably helped by the law, which you now plan to take away.

        And if they said “well we probably shouldn’t start using those benefits because they might be taken away”, then maybe that’s the reason why N% improvement was not achieved.

        Like, you’ll pay for my college–but the sunset provision means that unless everyone else who got their college paid for gets a job, you’ll stop paying for my college after two years. I don’t think I’d sign up to be assisted by your college program if that were the case.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

          So what is the law that you’re talking about here?

          What law would we have passed? “We will pay for free college and this will increase (what) by 3%!”? Something like that?

          I do think that it’s important to make two things plain:

          1. The policy will improve good thing/reduce bad thing by measurable amount
          2. The policy will cost dollar amount

          This way, we can say something like “do we really want to spend $200,000,000,000 on a program that will only improve things 1.3%?” prior to passing the law.

          So, for your example, “let’s spend (however much money) to pay for free college tuition and we’ll improve (thing we’re measuring) by (percent)”.

          What are we putting in the variables there?Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

            I’m not even talking about the numbers.

            I’m talking about the single mother who enrolled in the “free day care because that improves student reading ability” program, but the percentage of students who graduated reading at grade level only increased by 10% instead of 11.5% and so day care is no longer free.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

              If only we lived in a world where we were debating only a 10% instead of a 11.5% increase!

              Instead we’re debating over whether we should add even more money to a new program that has a 5% decrease compared to the previous program.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’ve been following this conversation and you and DD”s embrace of techoncrats making decisions based on evidence is positive to me.

                To add a complication about looking at data and tied in with your high collaboration theme. If we are to look at data a question that will be asked is how well was the program implemented. This is standard in any assessment of a social service program i’ve ever been involved in. But what if the proponents say that the opponents have been sabotaging the program or purposly excuting it poorly so that it looks bad. Is taht possible; well how many states didn’t take an ACA expansion or medicaid lowering the number of people who get HI. I’ve seen conservatives note that not as many people got insurance as was claimed they would w/o nothing conservatives have resisted expanding it, tried to vote it out 50 or so times and have tried to hurt it with other changes.

                Or more simply, this is a bit more complicated then you are presenting and opens up worm cans of how opponents of program might act in directly low collaboration mode.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

                I’ve been following this conversation and you and DD”s embrace of techoncrats making decisions based on evidence is positive to me.

                I agree with the technocrats who I agree with, and disagree with those that I don’t.

                Whew! I feel better for having said that!

                Alsotoo, technocrats determining policy runs crosswise to democracy. For better or worse. (Worse for those I don’t agree with, that’s for sure.)Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                Greg, I agree with the basic idea of technocrats making decisions based on evidence.

                I disagree with the actuality of technocrats making decisions based on ideology and blaming outcomes not in line with evidence as being based on hoarders, wreckers, limiters, and so on.

                I love technocracy.
                I disapprove of your technocrats.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                We should come up with some way to elect people based on ideology to hire techocrats to do the stuff they know how to do. We could even have public hearings to review the data to make further choices.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

                My technocrats are busy creating automated robots that know how to shoot deer on sight.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Road Scholar says:

      For what it is worth, I am by the standards of American politics on Team Liberal, and I mostly find NdGT annoying.Report

      • Glad to hear it’s not just me.Report

      • There was a time when – at least if you weren’t on Team Liberal – suggesting that NdT was obnoxious, meant that you were a science-hating knuckledragger (in part because it was a POV most often advanced by same).

        Fortunately, that time has long past. Everybody can hate him together.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to Will Truman says:

          There is a useful distinction to be made between finding him annoying because he pushes that sciency “evolution” and “climate change” stuff, and finding him annoying because he is annoying, even when he is right.Report

          • Can I just hate him because he took a Masterpiece of beautiful images, philosophical reflections, and love of science, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (*), and turned it into a dumbed down mishmash of very bad CGI and silly cartoons, while he mansplained middle school science?

            I’m sorry if a lot of people need their middle school classes mansplained again to them, but (a) that’s what Sesame St is for; and (b) don’t soil the memory of Cosmos while doing it.

            I know, elitist me.

            (*) My mother, a very cultured woman born in the roaring twenties, would cry watching Cosmos. She still says it changed her understanding of the worldReport

            • Kimmi in reply to J_A says:

              This is like hating Al Gore for getting an Oscar for freaking powerpoint slides.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kimmi says:

                i.e. perfectly justified.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yes! (As I know someone, who when Gore came to him about the movie he was making, said “can you take the info in powerpoint?”, I do rather feel justified in saying “powerpoint does not deserve an oscar” — as it is NOT FILMMAKING. Said person has actually done some video forgery for television, so he does actually know what he’s talking about).

                [Props to anyone who can figure out where video forgery might actually be useful in television].Report

              • J_A in reply to Kimmi says:

                My mother, a very cultured woman in her eighties that reads several newspapers in her tablet every morning, and is enjoying the Olympics very much, thank you, loved the Al Gore movie. She saw it in theaters twice when it came out.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to J_A says:

                I’m not making a comment on it’s likeability, really. (Or on Gore getting a Nobel, for that matter). I’m just saying that Oscars are for cinematic achievements, and powerpoint is not a cinematic achievement.

                There had to be a better documentary that year.

                (Magic Camp made a better documentary, if smaller focus. Jesus Camp made a better documentary. Hell, Women’s Private Parts made a better documentary — and that was really just people talking at the camera plus pointlessly racy sex scene).Report

          • That was how the criticisms were consistently characterized. That’s not what the criticisms always were.

            People hated on his critics even in cases – such as the Bush quote – where they were demonstrably, 100% right. It was still an example of how ridiculous his critics were (for being persistent in making the argument) and how classy Tyson was (for, after running out of options, finally admitted error).

            Which brings us to my objection to him… he’s dreadfully obnoxious in quite the same manner whether he’s right or he’s wrong. And he is, in a way that’s hard to describe, representative of something rather unpleasant.

            And not because of his views on climate change or evolution.Report

    • For what it’s worth, I retweeted this yesterday:


  2. LeeEsq says:

    That Kevin Williams piece made me want to hit my head against my desk. Liberals have been pointing this out for decades but the American right has been opposing even the most market friendly forms of welfare for an equally long time. Its why we get these apocryphal horror stories about Canadians coming down to the United States for healthcare every time single payer comes into discussion without a shred of evidence. The only reason why Williams is distinguishing between Venezuela and the Nordic countries now is because it gives him a convenient cudgel to bash liberals with at the moment.

    Distracted drivers: I always fond it odd that America is an extraordinarily car oriented country when it comes to transportation but so many Americans seem to be incredibly bad drivers. I’m a bad driver but I’m aware of it. Its why I don’t do anything that might distract me like drink or text on the rare occasions I’m behind a wheel. Lots of Americans seem to believe they are good drivers when they aren’t and do dumb things that lead to accidents but I guess that is freedom baby.Report

    • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

      … but the American right has been opposing even the most market friendly forms of welfare for an equally long time.


      I guess that statement is kind of true, except for this:

      or this:


      … :

      How many links do I get before this goes to spam?Report

      • Aaron David in reply to j r says:

        Six, I believe.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        Yet, the American right has also spent decades opposing really effective forms of welfare like different forms of universal healthcare, free school lunches, food stamps, universal day care, adequate public housing, drug rehabilitation rather than incarceration, and universal pre-K.Report

      • pillsy in reply to j r says:

        The right has been pretty damned hostile to the EITC since it actually passed. Mitt Romney (at least implicitly) ran against it in 2012, and there’s been a lot of complaints from the right against how the poor don’t pay enough in federal taxes and against the basic idea of progressive taxation.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to pillsy says:

          Bush made it so that people paid zero percent income tax on stocks. So tell me again about how the right doesn’t ever do fucking anything for the poor.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to j r says:

        That…is a very telling list, if that’s the actual stuff you came up with.

        The EITC is currently opposed by Republicans.

        School vouchers are not any form of welfare. We already have utter and complete ‘welfare’ for grade school education in this country, because we have free public schools. School vouchers, in fact, are a way to *privatize* that, which as many people have pointed out, is a threat to the entire system. (By basically letting the cheapest and highest performing opt out of the system.)

        The faith-based charity stuff was started under Clinton. Bush expanded it moderately, and Obama expanded it slightly less. I mean, okay, yes, you found a form of welfare that isn’t opposed by Republicans…except, wait, it’s *not* a form of welfare. It is a setup making faith-based organizations *eligible* for federal funding and grants…the exact same funding and grants that Republicans like to *reduce*.

        Saying ‘More people are eligible to compete to hand out *less* funding’ is not any sort of welfare support.

        The ‘American Dream Downpayment Assistance Act’ is, hilariously, actually an example. A perfect Republican example of how they do welfare. It literally helps poor people who cannot afford the down payment or closing costs pay those.

        This is, quite possibly, the dumbest form of charity that has ever been passed in recent history. The entire *point* of a down payment is the fact that if someone cannot pay it, they are unlikely to be able to keep up their house payments. In fact, we occasionally make it *illegal* to loan people money to cover their down payment, and banks certainly don’t like it even if it is legal.

        And the Bush administration runs around saying ‘Sure, go ahead, buy a house that you can’t cover the down payment of! What’s the worse that could happen?’

        To be clear, I am not saying the ADDAA *caused* the economic collapse by causing everyone to default on their mortgage. It didn’t do anywhere near enough to *cause* it. It was, at best, a slight nudge. I am merely pointing out that Republicans decided the best form of ‘welfare’ was to help poor people get houses that they really couldn’t afford. (Also, not claiming it’s just Republicans that dumbly pushed poor people into unaffordable houses…but Democrats at least do *other* forms of welfare.)Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:

        @leeesq, @pillsy , and @davidtc

        Y’all are familiar with the term “moving the goalposts?”

        This is what Lee said, “but the American right has been opposing even the most market friendly forms of welfare for an equally long time.” And that is to what I was responding.

        We can take it to the next step and have a conversation about the relative merit of various models of poverty alleviation. But if we’re going to do that, then let’s actually talk about poverty and not just use it as a proxy battle over ideology.

        Put another way, if I really care about poverty alleviation, why would I constrain myself to only using the set of means approved by one side? When people do that, it tells me that they are not actually interested in poverty alleviation, but interested in thinking of themselves or being seen as the kind of person who cares about the poor.

        Here’s the other thing. If you want to stick up for progressive anti-poverty interventions, that’s fine. But if you want to be honest about the topic, then you’re going to have to address the historically reality, which is when you look at where we as a society fail the poor, the interventions, the institutions, the geographic locations, you find that most of those interventions, institutions and geographic locations were inspired by, implemented by, and are administered by the political left.

        It all comes back to the same question: are you more interested in looking at what’s wrong and being willing to take from wherever to fix it or are you more interested in defending an ideological point of view?Report

        • J_A in reply to j r says:


          I don’t disagree with you in the abstract, but I’m concerned with poverty alleviation and welfare proposals where the alleviation is a second order result, like:

          1. Let’s bring the tax marginal rates down by 10%, and also bring corporate taxes the zero
          2. This will unleash such economic growth that poverty will drop like a rock,


          1. Let’s allow selling health insurance across state lines and get rid of malpractice and tort lawsuits.
          2. This will drop insurance prices do much that health insurance will be affordable for all.


          1. Let’s give subsidies and tax holidays and free new infrastructure to sport franchise owners that want a new stadium
          2- The new stadium visitors will go to restaurants and stores and will revitalize that blighted part of the city. Fans will definitely not jump into their cars and go home immediately after the game is over.

          I always wonder if the first step is not the real goal, and the claims about the second order effects are just window dressing. That’s why I prefer my welfare clear and direct.Report

          • DavidTC in reply to J_A says:

            The selling insurance across state lines isn’t even an actual policy position. By that I mean, a lot of time, Republicans are clearly acting as corporate shills, but not there.

            In this case, the lobbies *for* health insurance companies are not pushing this. Why?

            Because no insurance will ever be sold across state lines, period, ever.(1) That would require a) insurance companies strangely putting doctors in one state on *another* state’s insurance network, and b) doctors in that state now having to deal with *two* insurance regulatory networks.

            I am in a state (Georgia) that allows plans from other states to be sold here. Two of our largest insurance companies operate in other states, and are in fact *based* in other states. And the last is Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which is a network of non-profits that operate in every state.

            And yet, they all only sell *Georgia* plans here. No one has bothered to come in and sell other plans.

            No one actually wants this law. No insurance company will *do* this!

            Now, the thing is, the people who oppose the law seem to realize this, and the reason Democrats are fighting the law is that there is a theory there will be a race to the bottom as all insurance companies move to the least regulated state.

            But according to the ACA, and probably even the laxest state law, plans have to actually *have some local-ish doctors in them*. Insurance companies cannot sell you a plan that the nearest doctor is 400 miles away.

            So everyone couldn’t ‘relocate’ their plans to Texas or whatever while still have the same network of doctors. Their plans would have no Texas doctors and thus cannot, by law, be sold to anyone in Texas…which means they aren’t actually authorized Texas plans, and thus can’t be sold in states that allow ‘plans authorized and sold in other states’! Doh. The entire thing makes no sense.

            So why on earth are Republicans pushing it if it literally would accomplish nothing, because insurance companies will not bother to do this?

            Because it *sounds like a plan*. It exists purely as a ‘Republican alternative’, something that they complain that Democrats are blocking.

            Democrats should just call their bluff.

            1) There is some sort of vague hypothetical situation for people very close to borders. I.e., if you live in Kansas City, Kansas, perhaps you might want to buy a Missouri plan so you can cross the river into Kansas City, Missouri and get health care there…OTOH, I suspect that there are plenty of *Kansas* plans that have Missouri doctors in their network. I suspect that some of the companies that only sell on one side will start selling on the other, but this isn’t going to be any reduction in cost.Report

        • pillsy in reply to j r says:

          j r: This is what Lee said, “but the American right has been opposing even the most market friendly forms of welfare for an equally long time.” And that is to what I was responding.

          And that’s the problem. Because what @leeesq said is true. The right sometimes talks a good game, but they routinely start fighting the very programs they advocated once people actually try to implement them.

          The EITC is, by most accounts, one of the most market-friendly anti-poverty interventions out there, and (AIUI) actually originated on the right. Nonetheless, now that it’s an actual part of our welfare state, it’s… increasingly a target of Republican politicians who are upset that people making less than the median income aren’t paying more taxes.

          There’s been a similar reaction to the ACA, where large components (including the healthcare mandate) of it originated as a conservative alternative to earlier reform efforts. Once it was implemented at the national level, conservatives turned around and declared, based on not very much, that the mandate was not only bad, but unconstitutional.

          When people do that, it tells me that they are not actually interested in poverty alleviation, but interested in thinking of themselves or being seen as the kind of person who cares about the poor.

          That seems to be a remarkably apt description of how the American right sees the cause of alleviating poverty, given the way they propose welfare state reforms that become anathema after people try to implement them.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to j r says:

          Put another way, if I really care about poverty alleviation, why would I constrain myself to only using the set of means approved by one side? When people do that, it tells me that they are not actually interested in poverty alleviation, but interested in thinking of themselves or being seen as the kind of person who cares about the poor.

          No, *that* is moving the goalposts.

          The original goalposts were, as you stated, ‘the American right has been opposing even the most market friendly forms of welfare for an equally long time.’

          You listed four examples to counter that, and, as I pointed out that only two of those are actually forms of welfare (The others are, at best, moving already-existing welfare money around, assuming public education counts as welfare…and it’s already existing money that Republicans still like to cut.), and of the two forms of welfare, only one of those is supported by the right…and it’s the hilariously stupid ‘Help people who can’t afford a down payment to buy a house’ welfare, which anyone who supported should be rather ashamed of after the housing crash, as it’s right up there with government loans to help buy tulip bulbs.

          Now, if you want to redirect the conversation into what *we* think could be done to *reduce poverty*, including ideas from the right, fine, but that’s not anything like how the conversation started.

          Also, minor quibble, welfare is not a general term meaning to ‘alleviate poverty’, it’s providing a minimum level of things to poor people. Welfare is intended to provide a *floor*, below which people cannot slide, no matter how poor. That is merely one aspect of alleviating poverty. I agree that the entire *process* should be considered, I’m just saying, if you want us to do that, you aren’t talking about just ‘welfare’.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

      @leeesq ,

      I agree about distracted driving. I’m such a bad driver that I’ve practically given up driving. (I’m also scared of hurting someone.)Report

  3. j r says:

    Tyson’s case would be much stronger if he would spend some time sketching out the present reality of policy making as a baseline scenario and then start listing exactly what he would change to bring us closer to Rationalia. Doing that would accomplish two things: one, it would make it apparent that we already do most of this, it just doesn’t always bring the intended results; and two, it would perhaps highlight a few areas where policymaking could be improved.

    In the absence of that, this is just cheerleading.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to j r says:

      You think spending American Tax Dollars on remote turret robots that will shoot deer is a good idea?
      … and that’s one of those “based in rational thinking” ideas the government does.Report

  4. From the de Grasse Tyson article:

    Examples of Policy would be a government’s choice to invest in R&D, and if so, by how much. Or whether a government should help the poor, and if so, in what ways. Or how much a municipality should support equal access to education. Or whether or not tariffs should be levied on goods and services from one country or another. Or what tax rate should be established, and on what kinds of income. Often these policies stall between political factions arguing loudly that they are right and their opponent is wrong. [bold added by me]

    One problem is that it’s possible for each faction to be right and wrong, depending on the priorities one starts with.

    Which reminds me of the mostly-true adage, “if an argument lasts longer than five minutes then both sides are wrong.”

    It’s a good thing he said “mostly,” because that’s the type of jibe that is used among a certain type of “anti-science” populist. (Ad hominem me culpa.)

    Unlike what typically occurs between adversarial politicians, in scientific discourse, when we disagree with one another there’s an underlying premise: Either I’m wrong and you’re right; you’re wrong and I’m right; or we’re both wrong. The unfolding argument actually shapes the quest for more and better data to resolve the differences so that we can agree and move on to the next unresolved problem.

    Not that he’s necessarily wrong, but there’s also career-ism, peer-review bias, and perverse incentives to how science gets funding that favor “discovering something new” over verifying older discoveries. As in,

    Rationalia would lead the world in discovery, because discovery would be built into the DNA of how the government operates, and how its citizens think.

    He does suggest that under that one-sentence constitution, verifying claims would assume a great importance,

    Because their [sciences that study human behavior] subjects involve humans, these fields are particularly susceptible to social & cultural bias. So the verifiability of evidence will be of highest concern.

    Fair cop, as far as it goes, and at least he recognizes that social and cultural bias exists. But how will it work in a world where funders will put a lot of pressure on scientists to enhance “discovery”? Maybe that constitution needs an amendment or a qualifier. At any rate, another problem, in addition to bias, with subjects that involve humans is that there’s strong incentive to study subjects against their will and without their consent. Perhaps yet another amendment is needed. [To be clear, he later does seem to acknowledge “evidence-based” amendments will be necessary.]

    since weight of evidence is built into the Constitution, everyone would be trained from an early age how to obtain and analyze evidence, and how to draw conclusions from it.

    That’s a reasonable ideal, I guess. But two people can look at the same evidence and come to different, yet equally plausible conclusions, at least sometimes.

    you would have complete freedom to be irrational. You just don’t have the freedom to base policy on your ideas if the weight of evidence does not support it. For this reason, Rationalia might just be the freest country in the world

    What if a rigorous, evidence-based study demonstrates that some irrational behavior is harmful and that banning it would curtail the harmfulness? One’s freedom to be irrational will be curtailed. That’s how it is outside of Rationalia, too. A lot of very awful crimes can be described as “irrational.” But “complete” freedom to be irrational would permit them. Yes, I’m reading “complete” as “complete” when he probably meanst “almost complete,” but still…..

    for example, if you want to introduce capital punishment you’d need to propose a reason for it. If the reason is to deter murder, then an entire research machine would be put into place (if it did not already exist) to see whether, in fact, capital punishment deters murder. If it does not, then your proposed policy fails, and we move on to other proposals.

    That study will not only have to show that it deters murder, but that it deters “enough” murders. How much is “enough”? That’s not an evidence-based question. It’s a question of values and priorities. Evidence can help answer them, but it doesn’t take us all the way there. And what if the reason for capital punishment is different, say, “certain crimes deserve death”?

    if you want to fund art in schools, you simply propose a reason why. Does it increase creativity in the citizenry? Is creativity good for culture and society at large? Is creativity good for everyone no matter your chosen profession? These are testable questions. They just require verifiable research to establish answers. And then, the debate ends quickly in the face of evidence, and we move on to other questions.

    Again, “good,” like “enough,” is a question of values and priorities, as is the question of whether the “good” one gets is worth the resources one expends to obtain it.

    citizens would pity newscasters for presenting their opinions as facts. Everyone would have a heightened capacity to spot bullshit wherever and whenever it arose.

    I might “pity” a certain science-popularizer for presenting his opinions as facts, too. It is to be hoped, however, that if I lived in Rationalia, my capacity to call those opinions what they are will be enhanced.

    research in psychology and neuroscience would establish what level risks we are all willing to take, and how much freedom we might need to forfeit, in exchange for comfort, health, wealth and security.

    Again, values and priorities creep in.

    you could create an Office of Morality, where moral codes are proposed and debated. What moral codes would the citizens of Rationalia embrace? That is, itself, a research project. Countries don’t always get it right, of course. And neither will Rationalia. Is slavery moral? The USA’s Constitution thought so for 76 years. Should women vote? The USA’s Constitution said no for 131 years.

    So….one wouldn’t have “complete” freedom to be irrational? And Rationalia won’t always get it right, but even something that shocks the conscience will have to remain policy until evidence is amassed to overturn it. Even if it takes only a day to get the evidence that slavery is wrong, we will have had one day of slavery, which is one day too many. And of course, I’d wager the slave owners will have their own evidence-based arguments for slavery. What good is evidence that slavery debases human dignity when all the economic benefits and “evidence” of racial inferiority are neatly elucidated?

    And to quibble: the USA’s Constitution never said slavery was “moral.” (And recall that he said earlier in his piece, that “[t]he last I reviewed the US Bill of Rights, there was no discussion of morals there either.” The B of R isn’t the whole constitution, but still….) And the USA’s constitution never said that women couldn’t vote. It didn’t forbid states to extend the franchise to women. And many states did so extend it.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      Yes, most research done on humans is done without their consent or knowledge. Likewise, most research is done outside of academia (there’s more data available to the military and commercial interests — and fewer scruples). Even the work done within academia is often premised on “shit the irb would die if they ever heard about.”

      Also, for the love of God, don’t feed the trolls.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:


  5. Damon says:

    Broadband: Wanna increase penetration? Get rid of the local monopolies. Get rid of regulations / limits on wireless spectrum.

    Venezuela: Nailed it.

    Distracted Driving. Same goes with cell phone usage. Many states have a no hand held phone law. It’s not the hand in the phone that’s the distraction, it’s the talking on it. (excluding hand held cell phone use while driving a stick) But for the state, it’s a nice combo of more revenue and nanny-ism because “safety”

    Dumpster Pools: Curses! Why don’t folks just do it anyway. When the cops show up…riot. Cops aren’t stupid, they’ll be left alone.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to Damon says:

      On Broadband we have lots of little different broadband issues; cities, suburbs, ex-urbs and ruralia have different challenges.

      Where I live we have a last mile problem. All the competition in the world won’t solve that; ironically what would would be monopoly negotiations that allows for the cartel in exchange for the investment. Instead we have neither… rather we have a de facto monopoly (theoretically anyone can sell us broadband, but practically only one provider can) and no investment in the infrastructure.

      I’m hopeful that wireless broadband breaks through the technology barrier (or at a minimum figures out how to work in a world where trees also exist) to solve some of those problems, but from what I’m reading its not strictly a spectrum regulation issue (though perhaps some).

      I recognize last mile is a net loser in the short term… but I have electricity wires and phone wires and can call both companies to connect a new house anywhere in the county… but not cable nor is the phone company providing DSL required to upgrade their infrastructure to support broadband to their customers. So yeah, woe is me… but having chewed on this for 10-years (and ironically living right next to Fiber backbone infrastructure on one side of my property and large commerical enterprises supported by fiber on the other), it’s not a matter of access or even money, its a matter of will. That’s frustrating.Report

      • …but I have electricity wires and phone wires and can call both companies to connect a new house anywhere in the county…

        Here in Colorado, where it is possible to build a new house that is really isolated, the electric and phone companies generally have to serve you but are allowed to charge for the construction of dedicated plant over a certain length (typically in the tens of thousands of dollars per mile). In extreme circumstances — say, the house is isolated by federal land where construction is not allowed — they may not be required to provide service at all.

        The FCC made a mistake 20+ years ago (IMO, at least) when they decided to classify data service as an “information” service rather than a “communications” service. That took regulation out of the hands of the state/local agencies that had an interest in universal availability at uniform rates. Last year they started to reverse that, but in order to have a fighting chance at surviving the court challenges, had to create what is effectively a new category of service, “communications” but universal availability and uniform rate rules aren’t allowed.Report

        • J_A in reply to Michael Cain says:

          In the metric world I mostly deal with, utilities only have to extend their lines for 100 mts. After that, it’s on your dime (though normally as an add-on in your utility bill, including interest).

          Now, once you move 100 mts to reach one house, the next house down the road can ask you for service as long as its less than 100 mts from the first. And so on and so on, you can creep a lot if you are a cunning developer with a lot of time

          In the USA I would be surprised if its anything beyond 1,000 ft. Perhaps only 300 ft, which is 90 mts.Report

          • Marchmaine in reply to J_A says:

            @michael-cain and @j_a Understood… in both cases. Extreme isolation is one thing, and paying to extend the connection is another. We had to pay for both Electricity and Phone… but Cable won’t even discuss adding service because the contract they’ve negotiated (which gives them the aforementioned de facto monopoly) doesn’t require them to entertain us as a potential customer – for any price. Alternately, the Phone line where we do get DSL has been 1.5Mbs for 10-years (@ $60/mo(!!))… every time I call to see if I can pay them for faster service they tell me not at the moment, but they are always improving their network, so maybe next time. We’re not “rural” in the wide open spaces of the west nor the great plains… we just live in a large county outside of the town, and outside a sub-division… the cables for both run past our property or along the major road a mile away – or stop at the railroad tracks next to our property. (I’m tempted to just hack the backbone directly… {anyone know a guy…} i’d have like 100Gbs speeds). I’m surrounded by broadband without a way to get it.

            I go into some detail hoping that someone else reading has a clever idea… but yeah, internet access has moved from nice to have to a necessity for us, at least.Report

            • (I’m tempted to just hack the backbone directly… {anyone know a guy…} i’d have like 100Gbs speeds)

              For DOCSIS-based fiber/cable systems, forget about tapping. If you’re higher up in the network than the last-mile coax, you’ll screw things up in ways that routine maintenance will catch. You might find an aerial or ground based tap box with an unused port that would avoid those problems, but contemporary DOCSIS headends will ignore cable modems that aren’t in the provisioning database.

              There are internet service providers that specialize in wireless links to situations like yours (close enough to some infrastructure, too far for the infrastructure owner to be interested). Might be kind of pricey for a single household, but a small group (also linked wirelessly and sharing a single backhaul channel — it’s a standard arrangement) may be available. Four households sharing a 20 Mbps channel isn’t all that fast, but it’s a whole lot better than the DSL you say you have now.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Michael Cain says:

                So y’er sayin 200 foot of co-ax, a cable splitter, and some electric tape won’t let me freebase 100Gbs torrents? Michael Cain, killer of dreams.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Michael Cain says:

                and p.s. yes, would love a WISP connection, but when they came out, they explained that it has to be perfect LOS… trees (even in winter) will prevent a connection. I seems we have trees.

                We’re spending a lot on Verizon 4G for work and key items… we get 5-7Mbs just fine… but the data caps prevent it from being anything other than a workaround.Report

              • Life is full of little disappointments :^) The WISP situation may change in a couple years due to the FCC’s recovery of some low-band VHF spectrum, which is not nearly as sensitive to trees and such.Report

      • Damon in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Yah, I know. I used to live just outside DSL and was stuck with cable. But I’d much rather have the last mile regulated and have three providers providing services than 1 that’s required to do it all.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Damon says:

          Yeah, I’d be on board with that, at least. Even just making the local provider give us a price to connect would be welcome. But having gone so far as to read the contracts negotiated by our County, it clear they gave away the last mile for anyone but a developer.Report

          • J_A in reply to Marchmaine says:

            That’s why national regulators tend to work better that local ones:

            1- Visibility. It’s more difficult to capture a national regulator than a local one, because if a regulation impacts 50 million households negatively, there is nowhere to hide. If you are impacting 1,000 households in central TX who gives a damn

            2- Cost and efficient use of resources. Proper regulations affecting 50 million households take the same effort to design well (let’s table what is a well designed regulation for a second) as one affecting 1,000 households. But a small sized TX county doesn’t have the resources to pay for a competent set of regulators. On the other side, the combined salaries of all regulators in the USA would probably allow us to hire the whole staff of Google or Facebook, CEO bonuses included.

            3- Avoid unnecessary duplication (or thousandfication). There is no TX way of doing electricity or phones or water distribution and a CA way of doing it. Hence talking about “here in Walker Co., TX we don’t like when the Federal Gov. tells us we need to put chlorine in our water. Cholera is a liberal lie” is dumb.

            Regulations are either technically and commercially good (and thus very similar to one another), or stupid. Flint is a perfect case of regulators and regulators of regulators having no idea about what they were regulating. A well staffed national regulator is much better than almost any other combination.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to J_A says:

              For physical systems, this is generally true, because physics doesn’t care about your northeastern sensibilities or southern pride. There are, of course, exceptions (FL needs building codes relating to hurricanes, ID – not so much), but I think your general point stands.

              For political/social systems, on the other hand…Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to J_A says:

              There is no TX way of doing electricity or phones or water distribution and a CA way of doing it.

              There are, though, or at least were, different regulatory needs for each of RF spectrum and phones and cable television. What we are struggling with today in high-speed data is the problem of dealing with something new that is being delivered over existing infrastructure that is regulated in three different ways. Compounded by the fact that when regulation of data service started, the only business model that had been successful was the Compuserve walled-garden approach — suggesting that what was important was content, not transport. I was inside the only giant US telecom that did both telephony and cable infrastructure when that debate happened, and it was damned lonely arguing that getting the transport regulation right was really, really critical.

              So today we have people who can’t get access, asymmetric transport arrangements, lack of permanent addressing schemes, the whole net neutrality debate, one of the world’s lowest-speed definitions of broadband, etc, etc, etc.Report

            • Marchmaine in reply to J_A says:

              Yeah, having seen how our County is completely out-negotiated by the providers, I’m moving into the camp of regulating it as a utility. Two real-estate developers, a lawyer, a retired farmer, and a music teacher are not the foundation of a negotiation team against the full wiles of Comcast, er, sorry, Netfinity.Report

        • Morat20 in reply to Damon says:

          Then regulate broadband as a utility. Because I have a massive number of choices for my electricity provider, but no matter who I pick they use the same wires.

          And wireless isn’t the solution, because nothing will make plopping down an entire wireless infrastructure cheaper than using the massive data pipes already connected to your house.Report

          • Damon in reply to Morat20 says:

            A massive number of providers? My state deregulated power and all we have is like 2 and the a renewable one.Report

            • J_A in reply to Damon says:

              Let’s clarify something (or a lot)

              You don’t have scores of providers. You don’t have two providers. You have one.

              What you have is two or scores (Texas has more than I can count) of entities trading and speculating on power prices, and having you as a backstop. All these people are skimming profits that definitely do not go to your pocket.

              In theory, it might be that sometimes your “provider” loses and you get a lower price than you would have had you just bought at the weighted average of all the generators connected in the grid. But just like casinos are designed so that in the long-term the house never loses, these trading houses offer you a price that, in the life of the contract, is higher than the expected cost of the system.

              Plus, all these entities are very thinly capitalized. If they get it wrong they wont be there to honor their contract with you.

              Every domestic customer would be better if they just bought at the weighted average cost of the system. Instead, in TX I have to pay a middleman a fee so they can use my money to play in the market.

              What do we want? National Regulators
              When do we want them? NowReport

    • LeeEsq in reply to Damon says:

      Freedom and recklessness are not synonyms even though there are lots of people who like to pretend that they are. People drive badly and tens of thousands of people die a year because of that and countless more suffer grave and sometimes permanent debilitating injuries. Than somebody else is left to clean up the mess created by the reckless driver trying to be cool.

      Yesterday there was a thread on LGM on the lack of regulation of amusement parks in Kansas and how death and serious injury occur frequently. One of the things I’ve noted that there is a certain type of person that really makes a strong association between freedom and risk and chance. Sometimes this manifests as an attraction to extreme sports and sometimes to heaving drinking, drugs, and the wilder forms of sex. These are people who place too great a premium on toughness and want to be the meanest and baddest people out there even if others get harmed as a result. I say to hell with them. Nobody has any right to put the life and limb of others at risk because they hate the idea of safety and want to look cool.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to LeeEsq says:

        When I was reading the comments on that LGM thread, they somehow brought to mind of one of the scenes in the novel Dream Park. In that version of Disney’s Haunted Mansion concept, part of the mood-setting is the announcement:

        “You’ll go back to your friends and tell them that you’ve had the best that we can offer and, why, it wasn’t so bad after all . . .” The voice changed suddenly, all friendliness gone from it. “Well, it’s not going to be like that. One thing you people forget is that we are allowed a certain number of . . . accidents per year.”

        I was wondering if amusement park rides have to put up hazardous warnings along the lines of “injuries are possible, up to and including death”. Hell, the release I sign when I donate blood says that.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Michael Cain says:

          From the thread and the different links in the thread, it does seem that the more extreme amusement park rides do have safety instructions and last minute chances to drop out. My guess is that even if the law doesn’t require this, the amusement park’s legal department and insurance companies do. Most of the amusement park owners seem to take these warnings half-heartedly though out of a combination that safety costs money and that safety is boring while risk is fun.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

            The issue with the kid in Kansas wasn’t (necessarily) that the ride itself was too inherently dangerous, but that the harness may not have been appropriately applied.

            Which is kind of hard to figure out how to handle. Because so many people go through on those rides that it’s impossible to imagine an inspection failure rate of 0. You can ban rides where a failure-to-fasten and/or failure-to-inspect doesn’t have such dire consequences, but that’s going to be outlawing a lot for comparatively few deaths.

            They delayed the opening of that ride multiple times due to safety concerns. Which can be taken a couple of ways. Either that they were indeed concerned about safety, or that they had sufficient warning that they were dealing with something inherently unsafe.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

              If your delaying opening a ride repeatedly because of safety concerns than the logical think to do is not open the ride until you are very sure you have it right.

              I’m also not sure that the problem was with the harness because apparently duct tape was used for repairing the ride.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Details will come forth, but when a kid flies out of a seat, the harness is the first place I’d look. The only contra-indicator is that others had minor scrapes, but that can easily be caused by a kid bouncing around.

                The ride was opened two years ago. It’s entirely possible that it was safe when it opened. Maintenance could be an issue if they let things slide. Or somebody might have screwed up.

                I’m really surprised that “velcro” was apparently a major part of the apparatus.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Will Truman says:

                Velcro? Really? Jeez. That sounds like a serious engineering problem. Velcro can be super strong, and I’m sure a system can be engineered with excellent safety margins with it. That’s not its problem. It’s problem is that there’s no obvious visual difference between securely attached Velcro and two pieces of Velcro just sitting up against each other.

                It’s like a seatbelt with no “click” response. It’s probably connected, right? I’m sure a sixteen year old who closes hundreds of them per shift will never miss one.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Will Truman says:

                State regulations also required the ride to be inspected at least once a year by someone certified by the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials. The ride was last inspected in June.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to PD Shaw says:

                But it doesn’t require the report to be filed with the state. This means that the private inspection is prone to cash under the table treatment and similar behavior.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Now this strikes me as problematic and something that might be a place for new rules, if it means the inspection reports are not public record.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Details matter – what was the duct tape used to repair? Was it to patch a hole in the seat – that’s fine. Was it to fix a safety harness – that’s a different story.

                Just saying duct tape was used in a repair is insufficient.

                Also, I back what Will said. What I read is that the delay was largely due to the raft recovery system not working properly.Report

              • notme in reply to LeeEsq says:

                not open the ride until you are very sure you have it right.

                You seem to expect a 0 failure rate and that isn’t possible or realistic.Report

        • You might recall that in Nightfall there was a thrill ride through the dark that had to be shut down. Not because a few people died of fright, which only made it more exciting, but because many people became permanently claustrophobic afterwards.

          By the way, I recently read Banks’s Inversions (a Culture novel) and was amused to see that he subtly sets it on the same planet as Nightfall, except that they handle eclipses better.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

        on the lack of regulation of amusement parks in Kansas and how death and serious injury occur frequently.

        I read something like this and I wonder A) define frequently, because that’s a weasel term – I want numbers and I want them compared to other related numbers; and B) is it regulation that is needed, or just the removal of some manner of legal protection – is there some reason these places aren’t being sued into oblivion if this is such a problem?

        Expanding on B – I’m not saying it’s never a situation that calls for regulation, but until I understand the nature of the problem more clearly, I’m loathe to reach for regulation.

        For instance, take the police, I don’t think we necessarily need some better regulation of police, I just think individual officers enjoy too much immunity, it’s too hard to strip away immunity, even when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing. (I also think that sworn officers should never be allowed to investigate their own departments, or other departments that they have close working relationships with.)

        A counter would be the auto industry, which has a history of deciding that legal settlements are more affordable than redesigns and wide ranging recalls – in a case like that, where civil suits just can’t do enough damage to alter behavior, then regulation is called for.Report

        • is there some reason these places aren’t being sued into oblivion if this is such a problem?

          How does the goal of replacing regulation with liability jibe with “tort reform”?Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Depends on what a person means by tort reform. I’m not concerned necessarily by the volume of tort actions, as such. I’m concerned by the volume of tort actions that have no chance of winning, but that are filed specifically because answering them can be financially damaging. It’s why I like the idea of Loser Pays. I’d even settle for a Loser Pays light, where it only kicks in for cases that are dismissed before trial because of groundless claims, etc.

            Basically, Anti-SLAPP, but applied much more broadly.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Loser pays will just rob most people of the protection of the courts when they are screwed over by the wealthy. It will give the wealthy incentives to litigate to death because they can afford to more than anybody else.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                A frequent claim that can be easily addressed by the loser asking the court for relief, which, as Saul notes, people can already do, but in the opposite direction. Just flip the assumption, instead of the victor asking for costs & fees to be awarded, the loser has to ask for them to waived. Your regular citizen who honestly thought they had a case would likely get them waived, while a vexatious litigant will probably only get away with that once or twice (especially if the defense can show that the plaintiff does this a lot and is not in a business where filing such suits is to be expected).Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Terrible idea. It gives a judge the ability to financially ruin someone.

                The idea being “loser pays” seems to arise from those evergreen “ridiculous lawsuit” news stories. Even apart from the question of whether these lawsuits are actually ridiculous or merely spun that why by the reporter out of ignorance or bias (and “bias” need not be political: it can be for the more lurid story), it creates the impression that ridiculous lawsuits are common and easily identifiable. Worse, there is an impression that losing implies that the lawsuit was ridiculous.

                Here is a straightforward scenario: You are driving down the road. You enter an intersection with a green light, when some guy on the cross street blows through the red light and hits you, injuring you. There are no other witnesses, and no red light camera. Should you sue, it is your word against his.

                It is still worth suing under the current regime, because most people are lousy liars. They have the central lie clear in their mind, but not the ancillary lies to build up a consistent counterfactual world. A good lawyer can bring this out on cross-examination. But what if this guy is a good liar? They do exist. The plaintiff has the burden of proof. Judges and juries can and do conclude that the evidence is equally balanced between the two parties: and that is a win for the defense. You lose.

                Nothing about the plaintiff’s case in this scenario is anything like ridiculous. Quite the contrary, given the fact set, the case is righteous. But righteousness and winning are two different things.

                Next the practicalities of ‘loser pays’ in this scenario. If you, the plaintiff, win, then the defendant will pay your attorney’s fee, which typically is one third or so of the judgment. By “loser” here we really mean the defendant’s insurance company, who also is paying for the defendant’s lawyer. So the insurance company ends up paying a somewhat higher judgment, which won’t make it happy but which is a drop in the ocean to it. But in our scenario you, the plaintiff, lost. Who is going to pay that? (Hint: not your lawyer. He wouldn’t take the case on those terms.) You are. Can you afford thousands (for a small case) or tens or hundreds of thousands (for a big case) if you lose? Maybe you can, but I can’t.

                Ah, but you can appeal to the judge to waive the charge. Lovely! Unless the judge doesn’t give it to you. How confident are you of that?

                A final note on ridiculous lawsuits. With rare exceptions, only rich people bring them. Non-rich people can’t afford to pay a lawyer for this, and a competent lawyer won’t take it on a contingency fee basis for obvious reasons. So generally speaking, ridiculous lawsuits are either a hobby interest or an intimidation tactic by rich people or corporations. Yes, there are exceptions: jailhouse lawyering is a classic example, and you occasionally see ridiculous lawsuits from lawyers who have gone crazy. But these are marginal cases. It seems disproportionate to deal with these marginal cases by effectively excluding all but rich people from recourse through the courts. Hence the suspicion that said exclusion is really the idea behind the proposal.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                Terrible idea. It gives a judge the ability to financially ruin someone.

                How is this not the case currently?

                Take your excellent example. Keep everything the same. What is to stop the defendant, if you lose, from asking the judge for fees and the judge granting them? I mean, if a judge is inclined to be such an ass, and the mechanism is there, what is the disincentive to do so?Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The current system doesn’t allow for “loser pays” for a trial that goes all the way to verdict. It is for cases that never get past the “even if every fact you assert is true, you still don’t have a case” stage. There also is the matter of defaults. Even for cases that don’t get past the “even if every fact…” stage, the default is that everyone pays their own bills. The defendant has to ask for it, and the judge has to affirmatively agree that this was a ridiculous case from the start. In your “lower pays by default” system the judge has to affirmatively act on the plaintiff’s behalf. Yes, these logically are the same. But it turns out that judges are people, not logic machines.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Richard Hershberger says:


                But these are marginal cases. It seems disproportionate to deal with these marginal cases by effectively excluding all but rich people from recourse through the courts.

                Normally, this is sufficient to sway me, as I dislike legislating and regulating to address marginal cases. However, the system appears to lack and effective way to identify and deal with vexatious and serial litigants (if Popehat is to be believed), so if loser pays, even if only in a braod, Anti-SLAPP approach, is a bad idea, how do you deal with it such that people are not financially destroyed by such cases when they do occur?Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I am a fan of anti-SLAPP laws. If you want to discuss specific ways in which the same idea might productively be expanded, I up for that discussion. I’ll even buy the first round. It is when I see discussions of making ‘loser pays’ the default for every sort of civil case–or even the default by default, and we’ll talk later about carving out exceptions–that I get nervous. And by “nervous” I mean I feel I should place my hand firmly on my wallet and back out of the room.

                Here is another way of looking at it. The problem with SLAPP suits is that they are rich people or corporations abusing the legal system to intimidate less rich people. They are one way rich people and corporations punch down. Currently, less-rich people can use the courts, albeit in severely constrained ways, to punch up against rich people and corporations who are trying to screw them over. “Loser pays” takes that away. This seems a perverse way to solve the problem..Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                I think the only way to make “loser pays” work is to give everybody a freebie or two. Very few people get involved in lawsuit after lawsuit, so if “loser pays” kicks in for you after you’ve lost, say, X lawsuits in Y years, it might become a reasonable option.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                I’d apply that standard for vexatious litigants, if they file against the same party/related parties without being able to make it to trial.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                Note I did say, way up there:

                Basically, Anti-SLAPP, but applied much more broadly.

                If a case gets to trial, a case gets to trial and everything operates as normal.

                I want to work against lawsuits as an intimidation tactic.Report

              • Gaelen in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I think the Anti-SLAPP statute is instructive. The key is to identify areas of the law in which the problems you identify occur, like baseless defamation claims, then tailor remedies to those issues. The problems, weight of resources, and incentives are very different in different areas of civil law.Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Gaelen says:

                The problems, weight of resources, and incentives are very different in different areas of civil law.

                This. Note also that lawyers tend to be specialized. Talk to any given lawyer and you are getting one particular viewpoint. Generalizing from that one viewpoint can very easily lead to wackiness.

                Second note: lots of lawyers are lousy, when entering these discussions, about making clear what their viewpoint is. I often see discussions couched as if encompassing broad verities when they actually are talking about their own corner of the legal world.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Gaelen says:

                The key is to identify areas of the law in which the problems you identify occur, like baseless defamation claims, then tailor remedies to those issues

                I’ve always thought that there are probably a few identifiable types of claims that indicate a high chance of *no harm having occurred at all*.

                Defamation, for an obvious one.

                Tortious interference, that’s one. (No, telling someone *true things* that cause them to decide not to enter into a contract with someone is *not* tortious interference!)

                Copyright infringement, for another. (People tend to seriously underestimate how often copyright infringement is used against critics if the thing being criticized is copywritten.)

                You can basically make almost any action *sound like* one of those things enough to put it in a lawsuit.

                I think it might be worthwhile for case that *only* have those specific claims to have to go through some sort of filter to determine if the alleged actions can even *be* an actionable claim.

                I dunno how the courts work, maybe that already is there, but if something fails *that* stage, loser-pays seems reasonable.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


              We already have that loser pays lite. If a defendant wins at Summary Judgment or Summary Adjudication, they can move for costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. You can also do this if you win at trial.

              My general experience as a civil litigator is that bias strongly comes in. Defense lawyers are strongly inclined to think that no plaintiff has a legitimate claim. Plaintiff lawyers can get biased and think too many claims are legitimate.

              The best lawyers look at a case and realize that the other side might have some points. I’ve researched cases for plaintiff’s and come to the conclusion that they don’t have a claim or their claim is so marginal that it would be hard to prove and the damages limited.

              Though this is all relative possibly. What if I turned down a case as marginal and someone else turned it into a settlement for two million dollars (of which they received a 1/3 contingency)? Who was right? It is the lawyer equivalent of being the publisher that rejected Harry Potter.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:


                Thanks for the explanation, I appreciate it. As I explain to Lee, I don’t see the harm in flipping the direction of making a claim for relief.

                What if I turned down a case as marginal and someone else turned it into a settlement for two million dollars (of which they received a 1/3 contingency)? Who was right? It is the lawyer equivalent of being the publisher that rejected Harry Potter.

                This strikes me as part of the risk and reward that all lawyers must face, and I am disinclined to continue to structure the legal system in such a way as to mitigate that risk.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                I agree. I was just using it as an example of why it might be hard to determine what is and is not a “baseless” claim from a “trial lawyer.”

                Everyone seems to think it is a rather easy affair to tell a valid claim/case from an invalid one.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:


                I suspect there are quite a few cases that are borderline, where putting it in front of a judge is perfectly valid, even if it gets dismissed. But I also suspect there are a lot of cases that are beyond the pale, but where pro se litigants, or unscrupulous attorneys, will file anyway because they want to force a settlement, or they are just hoping to get lucky.Report

              • Another reform would be to require all attorneys to take cases only on contingency, because then they’d reject obvious losers. The funny thing is that tort-reformers more often want to clamp down on contingency. There was a ballot proposition in California a while ago to cap the percentage a contingency lawyer can take. It was hilarious hearing all the “free-marketers” explain why it was necessary to prevent unscrupulous lawyers from taking advantage of the public.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Yeah, I’d find that funny as well. I’m fine with contingency fees as it allows a lawyer to price their risk in taking a case. Now if there was a situation where a bunch of law firms were all colluding in setting contingency rates in some fashion that made it impossible to realistically shop a case around, that might be an issue.Report

              • I’m fine with contingency except on large-volume class-action suits. (John Grisham made a really, really good case on this subject in King of Torts.)Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Will Truman says:

                Yeah, class-action strikes me as a place where contingency would be problematic.Report

              • Francis in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Class action cases have to be taken on contingency. That’s pretty much the whole point. Do you really think that a class member is just going to start paying the attorney his proportionate share?

                Hypothetical: A certified letter arrives from some attorney you’ve never heard from. The letter states that some person thinks that your 401K manager is imposing unauthorized fees (ie, stealing) and has sued, hiring the lawyer who sent you the letter. The judge has looked at the evidence and certified a class. The letter goes on to state that you owe the attorney $14.32, being your proportionate fees to date. But if you don’t pay you will be automatically dismissed from the class and you will need to hire your own counsel.

                Nice position for the financial institution, isn’t it? Steal a small amount each from a lot of people and dare them to sue you.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Francis says:

                I’m not saying no contingency at all. I don’t know what the solution is, really, but that the system as it seems to exist seems troublesome. So there I am sympathetic to the criticisms in a way I’m not with contingency arrangements generally.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Contingency fee cases can be unscrupulous as well. There was an attorney in my state who entered into a legal representation agreement to identify, liquidate and consolidate all of the clients investments for him, in exchange for a percentage of their worth. (I don’t remember, the percentage, might have been 10%, might have been 1/3rd) It turns out there were several millions of dollars collected, mostly in CDs that really just required a couple of phone calls. The attorney licensing body took the attorney to court and got the contingency agreement nullified on grounds of professional misconduct, but did not claim the client lacked capacity to enter into the agreement, just that the agreement failed to qualify as a reasonable fee arrangement. (See, Virginia, there is such a thing as an unreasonable fee)Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to PD Shaw says:


                Contingency Fees can be abused. Anything can be abused.

                I don’t think anyone would deny this but as Mike and Francis point out, contingency fees are pretty much one of the only ways that normal people can get legal representation.

                Say you purchased a product from Acme Corp. You use said product in its intended way for its intended purpose. However, the product had a manufacturing defect and caused you a severe injury.

                Manufacturing defects are considered strict liability in tort. The case will still cost tens of thousands if not a hundred thousand to prove. You need to conduct discovery, review documents, take and defend depositions, hire experts, etc.

                The only way most people can afford this is on a contingency fee because the lawyer pays the costs upfront and then deducts them from a successful settlement/jury verdict (if any).

                The same is true for civil rights and employment discrimination and housing discrimination cases.

                So “tort reform” is often an attack on access to justice and a free pass for corporations.

                The State of California does limit the kind of cases that can be brought under contingency fees.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I don’t have a problem w/ contingency fee cases. I may have overread the initial proposal as requiring all cases to be contingency fee cases. They really don’t make much sense outside of torts where the lawyer’s fee is essentially paid out from non-pecuniary damages.

                If I owe Mike Schilling $12,000 for this sweet baseball jersey I bought from him and keep putting him off until he has to hire a lawyer to write a dunning letter. He won’t find this to be a just system if he gets $8,000 for the jersey and his lawyer gets $4,000.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to PD Shaw says:

                If markets actually work, the rate on a dunning letter is going to be way under 33%.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to PD Shaw says:

                There was an attorney in my state who entered into a legal representation agreement to identify, liquidate and consolidate all of the clients investments for him, in exchange for a percentage of their worth. (I don’t remember, the percentage, might have been 10%, might have been 1/3rd) It turns out there were several millions of dollars collected, mostly in CDs that really just required a couple of phone calls.

                While I am usually not on the side of obvious scams, that seems like a *really* strange thing for a client to do.

                ‘I’ve got a couple of million of dollars worth of assets, you can take a chunk of them if you will round them up for me?’

                I mean, why would someone even use a lawyer for that? Hire an accountant, not a lawyer!

                If you are going to use a lawyer, why would you set up a contingency agreement? That’s not even a *legal case*, how does contingency even work?

                Either the client was conned into signing up for a contingency setup when he didn’t think it applied, or that client is really really stupid.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                There are some types of work where working on a contingency fee doesn’t really translate. Things like family law or criminal defense cases. Anybody representing a defendant in suit can’t work on contingency basis because your trying to prevent your client from having to pay for whatever.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          They aren’t getting sued into oblivion in many states because tort reform made suing the parks for their negligence not worth it or endurable for the parks themselves.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Nobody who has been to any Schlitterbahn wants it sued into oblivion.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

            In other words, a protection. Still, if it’s happening frequently, you’d expect even capped damages to be impacting the bottom line enough to change behavior (or is this one of those parks that makes money hand over fist?), which makes me think it’s not actually happening that frequently as a percentage of annual attendance numbers, or in relation to other similar parks.

            as an aside, I struggle with damage caps. I can see the logic in them, because juries are awarding massive settlements based on highly emotional appeals, which can mean that the defendant is being potentially robbed of the justice they deserve*, but I also see the harm, in that legislatures can easily set the limits to be so low (in the name of making the state “friendly” to business) as to fully remove the pain such awards should incur so as to adjust behavior.

            If I was Emperor for a day, I’d set a damage floor, and then max out the damages as a painful percentage (10% or so) of corporate revenue averaged over the past 5 years**, so a small company can’t pay less than the floor (so they better have good insurance), but a large company can still feel the pinch if a jury decides to max it out.

            *IIRC both parties are supposed to have an expectation of a just result. Emotional decisions regarding damages are unlikely to result in anything approaching a just result.

            **spitballing hereReport

            • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Your confusing torts and contract theory of damages. Damages for breach of contract are supposed to compensate the wrong party by putting them in the position they would have been had the contract been performed or had it never existed in the first place and prevent unjust enrichment. Tort damages are supposed to punish because they are meant to prevent the defendant from engaging in same conduct in the future.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Where did I say something that implies breach of contract?Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Tort damages are supposed to punish because they are meant to prevent the defendant from engaging in same conduct in the future.

                Say what? That’s not how I learned it. Tort damages are supposed to make the plaintiff whole. Prevention of future wrongdoing is the realm of punitive damages.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                Well, maybe in theory but in actual practice there all sorts of formulas for calculating contract damages but tort damages have the potential for bigger recovery beyond the harm actually suffered even without taking punitive damages into account.Report

      • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I don’t know who these people are that consider freedom and recklessness synonymous. I’ve never met one.

        I read about the amusement park incident on Slate today. It was all “there must be federal regulation”. Really? If a state has bad regulation and some kid dies, why does the federal gov’t have to get involved? It sounds more like a state issue. Oh, “the local gov’t is captured by the industry”. Like that doesn’t happen at the national level.

        As to your other comments, I’ve met and dated more freaky women who are liberal/leftist (I like in an area populated by that political bent) so I’ve never seen a correlation like your observation. Regardless, I don’t care. I want “freedom and responsibility”. It’a a groovy concept baby! I just don’t want responsibility for anyone else. Let them take care of their own.Report

    • Morat20 in reply to Damon says:

      Get rid of the local monopolies

      Magic Market Pixie Dust will make the last mile problem go away.Report

  6. Saul Degraw says:

    Broadband: Seems like standard libertarian/conservative talking points. Chattanooga’s public broadband is about ten times faster than anything else the rest of the nation has. The Right-wing merely wants to enact protective barriers for their friends in the communications and cable industries.

    Williamson: Lee is right here. He is being a smarmy little shit. I wonder if Trumpifucation is causing the right to embrace some welfare state policies though.

    Driving: Lee is also on the right track here. We have a lot of bad drivers for a car oriented nation. I have seen and heard a lot of people do amazingly dumb things like trying to catch Pokemon while driving or trying to take a selfie while riding a bike down the bike path of the Golden Gate bridge.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Broadband: Yup: I got as far as “taking money from businesses and consumers who were using it to produce wealth and value and putting that money into something that people are otherwise unwilling to pay for” and tuned out. As a fun exercise, replace “broadband” with “streets.” I have noticed that your hardcore anarchocapitalist types respond to the “what about streets?” query by rolling their eyes, sighing wearily, muttering about “that again?” followed by changing subject.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        I tried to explain Net Neutrality to my father. I went with “It’s the way it’s always been, but it had to be codified in laws — as “net neutrality” because certain lengthy agreements were lapsing and also lawsuits” and ended up explaining the NON net-neutrality setup as a protection racket.

        As in your broadband provider saying “hey google, nice website you have there. It’d be a real shame if it took 20 minutes to load”. (Which still required explaining that, like everyone else, Google pays for it’s bandwidth).Report

  7. North says:

    Williamson’s article should be a cause for celebration for liberals. Once the right begins frantically and sweatily trying to wrap their mantle around the policies of countries like Canada and the Nordics the way Williamson is then you know the tide is turning. Coopting the other sides accomplishments and policies is not a sign of your side winning; it’s the opposite. Victory isn’t destroying your opponents; it’s making them agree that you were right in the first place. Williamson’s article is an indication of surrender.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to North says:

      This is somewhat more self-congratulatory than is warranted by the facts. He’s just pointing out that while moderate redistribution may be a drag on growth, it isn’t actually socialism, and doesn’t have the utterly ruinous consequences that actual socialism has. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of redistribution.Report

      • North in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Considering the GOP/Mainstream conservatism’s head-desk-bangingly idiotic (and hypocritical) assertions that everything is socialism for the past 20 or so years this is an enormous climb down so I feel justified in a certain level of smugness.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

          It is much too little, much too late and they still need their faces punched.Report

          • Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq says:

            How smug are you about the Democratic governance of the City of Baltimore?Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Kolohe says:

              Because liberals ignore police abuses when it is done in cities controlled by the Democratic Party. Oh wait, we do not.Report

              • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                No, they just screw up the prosecution….Report

              • Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq says:

                The USDOJ under a Democratic administration didn’t do anything about it until the 7th year of the administration, and then only after someone died followed by riots.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Kolohe says:

                ‘Cuz we libs hate black folks and don’t want them off our plantation.

                Shhhh…Mums the word.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kolohe says:

                Blaming Obama for Bush having decimated certain parts of the DoJ is still not cool. (unsure if this is actually part of the dept. that was decimated, though).

                The USDOJ under Obama prosecutes people for “well, you could have done that” even without fucking proof.

                Unsure whether this is better or worse than Bush’s policy of not prosecuting anyone for anything ever.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe says:

              I’ve been thinking about the police brutality issue and it seems like we make a mistake of blaming it on the police. The police are us. The problem is us.

              Vigilante Justice seems strongly hardwired into the human brain and attempts to get rid of it still meet massive resistance in the 21st century. I just saw Hanley comment on a post on FB.

              There is a clickbait story about a guy who was arrested for using sex offender registries to track down people and beat them up.

              A few people were pointing out the general wrongness of vigilante justice and that sex offender registries don’t differentiate between people who commit truly horrible acts and say drunks who urinate in public.

              Most people were stating that we should fund the defendant’s legal defense.

              So if you want better cops, you need better people.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                As I’ve said before, we used police — and police brutality — to enforce social order. And a lot of that social order was telling minorities to know their place.

                And now we’re all “Oh my god, where did the police get the idea that was okay?”

                That’d be the century plus we’ve been relying on police boots and batons to make sure uppity folks knew not to bother their betters.Report

              • Damon in reply to Morat20 says:


              • Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

                I think he means “People who support Police Unions”.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

                I mean “American society”.

                Police unions have jack-all to do with it. This crap was happening to the Irish, the Chinese, and whatever immigrant group of the day was blacklisted well before a police union was even a concept.Report

              • Damon in reply to Morat20 says:

                “I mean “American society”.”

                Oh, so no one in particular but everyone…..Report

              • notme in reply to Damon says:

                “American society” is usually liberal code for white folks. Cuz everything it the fault of white folks.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Damon says:

                So you’re denying Jim Crow, for instance?

                While I’m a bit young to remember it, my parents DO remember when the city next to still had a sign that indicated darker skin folks weren’t welcome after sundown. And the police enforced it. (And no, no law was on the books for that. It was post CRA, after all).

                My point stands — one of the unspoken roles of the police has always been to show social disapproval to minorities and to keep them in their place. Whether said minorities were blacks, Chinese, Irish, Jews, Native Americans….

                Doesn’t matter. Part of the job was to put the boot in so they didn’t get ideas.

                Even a semi-casual glance at American history reveals this.

                I’d think you, Damon, wouldn’t have a problem grasping how the state could be manipulated by the majority against the minority, even unofficially. That you seem to struggle with it in this case is…odd.Report

              • Damon in reply to Morat20 says:

                I’m not disputing that it happened. I’m not disputing that it was wrong. I’m simply saying when you use “we” it’s a general assignment of fault to everyone (or maybe just all white folk). I wasn’t part of the jim crow south. I didn’t participate in it. I wasn’t alive when it was happening. Therefore I accept no blame or responsibility for it. I’m responsible for my actions only. You’d have a point if I’d supported it, but since I didn’t and couldn’t, I’m not part of that “we” you used.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Damon says:

                You can’t undo the negative effects of hundreds of years of persecution by simply reversing the persecutory laws and policies and saying “My bad. We okay?”. African-Americans have much less wealth and opportunities to obtain wealth because of those policies among other problems.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

                There’s also the fact that cops are behaving as we’ve encouraged them to behave for centuries isn’t something you can change instantly.

                Heck, we can’t get rid of sexual harassment in the work force and woman have been in the workforce for a lot shorter time than America’s been having their cops kick the “wrong sort” around until they learn their place.Report

              • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I’m not suggesting that. Did you read my post to Morat?Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Damon says:

                You don’t think you benefited as a white person from America’s centuries of racism? You don’t think you have any responsibility?Report

              • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                “We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended.”Report

              • notme in reply to LeeEsq says:


                No and no.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                When Republicans are in charge, Republicans suck. When Democrats are in charge, we suck.Report

              • notme in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I’d be happy to see liberals go into law enforcement. I just don’t think it will happen.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to North says:

          everything is socialism for the past 20

          Just a pedantic history note:it was 42 years ago that a minor actor made a name for himself in conservative circles by cutting a spot warning America that if Medicare was passed, “We are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”

          Good times.

          ETA: He just never envisioned that the lecture would be delivered by a geezer in a free Medicare Hoverround.Report

          • North in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Yeah I was mostly sticking to my own political lifetime.Report

          • notme in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            And now we’ve lived to see the gov’t forcing us to buy gov’t healthcare. He wasn’t that far off.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to notme says:

              Maybe there should be an international campaign to recognize the cruel injustice and oppression of America’s downtrodden masses who are no longer allowed to free ride without insurance and coerced into free medical care when they reach 65.

              I’m thinking maybe a benefit concert by Ted Nugent or something, or a documentary directed by Dinesh D’Souza.

              The final scene could be so stirring, where a proud Real American rises to his feet and throws away his Medicare oxygen bottle and gasps, “Free at last! Free at last…”Report

    • Joe Sal in reply to North says:

      It is no coincidence that social constructs and social policy bend toward socialism. That doesn’t neccessarily mean socialism is a sustainable construct.Report

      • North in reply to Joe Sal says:

        From Bismarck on the pragmatic paradigm has been a combination; capitalism to encourage growth, efficiency and innovation leavened with enough intervention/socialism(whatever you wanna call it) to keep the buy in of the masses. Because dangling from a lamp post while the resentment fuelled mob burns it all down is also not a sustainable construct.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to North says:

          At least your up front with the fact that if you don’t get your way politically, there will be violent repercussions. Trump is somewhat more coy about it.Report

          • North in reply to Kolohe says:

            Oh hogwash, that’s more like a God of Copybook headings observation than a threat. If the masses don’t see the benefit of the system for themselves then they won’t support it. That’s as basic as it comes.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to North says:

              Like with large-scale immigration?Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

                Yes. The problem with large immigration is that a lot of people like the goods and services provided by free trade but don’t realize that free movement of people is necessary for free trade. The Left fallacy is that they think we can have free movement of people without free trade.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

                The question, though, is whether we should keep in mind public response as we allow people in.

                Or whether we shouldn’t because a lot of the objectors are bigots and they’re all wrong.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

                Its a combination of A and B. Most of the upper middle class people who are enthusiastic about immigration aren’t really facing the downsides of it and tend to be too dismissive of those that do. At the same time people experiencing the downsides of immigration tend to combine legitimate criticism with a lot of ugly bigotry and its really hard to untangle the two.

                Its like crime. A lot of center left parties experienced friction over crime during the late 1960s to the 1980s because the working class members had a more law and order approach to crime than the middle class progressives. We now know the dangers of mass incarceration but middle class progressives don’t have to live in dangerous environments.Report

              • North in reply to Will Truman says:

                Slightly complicated in that the policy is also the masses so to speak but sure. Now one might observe that a significant number of the things the masses are blaming on mass immigration have very little to do with mass immigration but I suppose that brings us back to blaming the barking deranged right wing policy makers and usual suspects again.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

          Exactly. The real wisdom of Bismarck and Disraeli was that they realized that European aristocrats and wealthy people could no longer simply expect the masses to be happy with what they had and do as they were told simply because that was the natural order of things. You needed to offer them something to get them to identify with the nation-state rather than their class and flock to the Communists, which was and is a more realistic out come than universal adaptation of radical individualism.

          In a less cynical manner, this was the strategy adopted by American liberals and European social democratic politicians. Basically you have a market economy with private ownership of the means of production, government regulation to prevent the worst instincts of business people from being put into action, and certain amount of wealth redistribution through welfare programs to provide security to most people rather than leaving them at the vagaries of the market and life. Developed countries still basically follow this pattern even though details might vary from country to country and time to time.

          As I mentioned to Damon above, there is a certain sort of person that really associates freedom and risk very strongly. To them the part about having enough intervention/welfare/socialism to buy in the masses does not make any sense because a free life has to be filled with chance and your not really free unless there is a possibility of losing big as well as winning big. These types to see toughness as a very big virtue and security and civilization as a veneer over the savagery of reality.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Joe Sal says:

        Your ideas about every person provisioning for themselves are just as antithetical to capitalism as anything that sprouted from the mind of Karl Marx. The entire point of capitalism besides enlightened self-interest is that it is literally impossible for everybody to provision for themselves and any attempt to do so will only lead to poverty. Rather, people and countries should do what they are good at and get what they can’t do for themselves from other people.

        Adam Smith and Frederick Hayek also recognized the need for some form of social insurance even if their acolytes did not.Report

        • Joe Sal in reply to LeeEsq says:

          There are two points there.

          My original comment I think you are referencing was a response to your quote of FDR “necessitous man is not a free man.” of which it was somewhat considered that there needed to be “economic security” provided I assume by the state or some other social construct that led me to push back with the statement:

          “The problem in the ‘desperate actions case’ in a liberal context pivots around control. On the left that action comes from social control of enforcement or forced social provisioning. Because man cannot provide for his necessities we should be coupled to the ’cause’. A pact of altruism.

          My position is that each man is reponsible for provisioning for himself, and is free to do so outside of ‘desperate acts’ or altruism debts to society at large.”

          So my ‘antithetical’ idea that you were placing square against capitalism was in reallity push back against forced social provisioning. Even outside that context, society doesn’t really know the preferences of an individual well enough to do a acceptable job of it. They tried in several socialist countries and it was to be polite, dreadful.

          I don’t think the final chapter on capitalism is written. I’m not sure what capitalism is supposed to represent in the forest of social constructs around it and growing on its back. Best I can tell there is a reach to produce a socialistic capitalism. I don’t hold hope that it will do well in the long run no matter how popular the idea is.Report

  8. Chris says:

    Related to the traffic courts issue, work by a very good friend of mine:

  9. Saul Degraw says:

    According to LGM, Clinton and Trump are essentially tied in South Carolina. Trump is 41, Clinton is 39, Johnson is 5, Stein gets 2 percent of the vote. 13 percent are undecided. If you look at voters under 65, it becomes 41 for Clinton and 36 for Trump. So the GOP is the party of the aging.Report

  10. Will Truman says:

    It will be interesting – and heartening – if Trump’s racism ends up breaking the Republican lock on the South. The Southern GOP has succeeded in large part because of an alliance between suburban pocketbook whites and working class social conservatives. Trump may be blowing that up.

    No Democrat has won South Carolina since Matthew Santos.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Will Truman says:

      Their sample has over twice the percentage points of people with an post grad /professional degree (17%) as the 2010 census has for over 25 year Olds (8.4%)

      (It also has 13% undecided who in the end will either vote for Trump or not show up)Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Kolohe says:

        Post-graduate/professional is in-line with previous voting. In 2008, 18% of the South Carolina electorate was so degreed.

        The high number of undecideds is definitely an x-factor. I have South Carolina in the second last group to fall in the event of a landslide. Polling in SC and MS can often appear to be close due to the high proportion of black voters, but they’re also very sticky electorates. It’s hard for Democrats to get to 51%. But they both do have educated voters and women who have historically voted Republican that seem pretty hesitant this time around.Report

      • North in reply to Kolohe says:

        I’m with Kolohe, Clinton is not going to win South Carolina. I would love it if she did but she isn’t going to.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

      The issue is why are people abandoning Trump.

      The Times had a story about GOP women abandoning Trump. That could be because of his sexism and national security and economic scariness over his racist comments.

      In today’s Trump insanity, Trump claims Obama founded ISIS and means it in the most Alex Jones sense possible.Report

      • I’ve long said the sexism is much more of a vulnerability than the racism. Both matter to some degree. As does the simple vulgarity. Which leaves me concerned about his less vulgar (but similarly dangerous) successor.

        The flipside is that we don’t know what precisely got him where he is, and whether a similarly racist but smoother Tom Cotton (or whomever) would have as much success or as much resistance.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

          I have the same concern.

          There was an interesting article about Trump on Wonkette. The article theorized that the basic part of Trump’s persona is that he is a class clown. He is always looking for a situation to joke and make a gag. Trump’s problem is that he receives less pushback than normal joker for his offensive jokes (or at least did.)

          I have often held my tongue on jokes because I am unsure about whether people would laugh or be really upset especially in the workplace. Since Trump is the wealthy guy in charge, people either laugh to toady up or they just deal with his humor.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Will Truman says:

          Maybe, but i don’t think so. Sexism as you all see it here is a tip of the iceberg phenomenon for this side of the aisle. We’re way past people at the tip that would care about sexism. I’d put my money on trust issues. Trump is just demonstrating he’s genuinely unstable and untrustworthy.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Will Truman says:

          I’ve long said the sexism is much more of a vulnerability than the racism.

          Only because black people *already* gave up on the Republicans, and the Hispanics were already halfway gone. The Republicans are only vulnerable to sexism because there are still a lot of women *in* the party.

          With the way Trump is going, soon the Republican party won’t have any vulnerabilities at all.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

            The only way to fix the minority problem is with white women.
            The only way to fix the women problem is with minority men.

            One of these is more difficult than the other. Not just because lots of women do vote Republican already, but because minorities are a minority and women are the majority of voters. Also, while minorities tend to be clustered in a handful of already solid-color states, women live everywhere. Everywhere! In every single state, a lot of the voters are women.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        They have literally not abandoned Trump, because they were never with him to begin with. They have, though, abandoned the GOP at the top of ticket. (The big question remains: will they show up at all to vote the rest of the ticket?)Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to Will Truman says:

      It will be interesting – and heartening – if Trump’s racism ends up breaking the Republican lock on the South.

      I think I’d have to see the data to support the idea that it’s Trump’s racism doing it rather the fact that his carefully crafted image of “not a narcissistic buffoon/con man” is coming apart at the seams.

      Things I’ve observed during this political season combined with a recent visit by the youngest generation of a branch of my family from Texas have lead me to conclude that racism isn’t the political loser I thought it was and probably won’t be for at least another generation in a lot of places.Report

      • I don’t think it’s the racism specifically, but in conjunction with other factors. I do think a lot of educated Republicans are starting to lose patience, though. You can see it in the flag debates. If they do bolt, the Republican coalition in the South is in a lot of trouble. As is Trumpism writ large.

        As someone who believes that Trumpism can win (eventually) in competent hands, this is the first positive sign I’ve seen in a while that I could be wrong and Trump is poisoning the waters of his own movement, beyond repair. Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to Will Truman says:

          From what I’ve seen, a more politically competent Trump (someone with the belligerence and skill at playing to anger and prejudices but without the obvious sexism and personality issues) would have a very good chance at winning a general election. Unless we’re defining “Trumpism” as necessarily including his general tackiness and transparent conman sleaze, it seems to me like it’s much more of a winning formula than I would have thought a year ago.

          As it stands, I’d guess that the next Republican primary will probably be won by another Romney-style party man (assuming they amend their rules to include something like superdelegates as soon as nobody is looking). But if it’s not, I expect it to be won by somebody from the Donald Trump mold but with more polish and a better filter. And that person may well have been a Romney style party man a few years ago–just one who knows how to change his sales pitch to give people what they want.Report

          • For the record, based on conversations with Trump supporters I’ve talked to, I define Trumpism as anti-globalism, anti-corporate, anti-immigration, pro-police, anti-“PC”.

            That last one is tricky because it does tie into Trump’s trevails. But I think it’s a needle that can be thread if they lay off women and use more targeted strikes. But since Trump’s collapse I’m a little less confident than I was.

            I haven’t the slightest clue what happens in 2020. I can draft some credible scenarios either way. To quote myself (and extrapolate a bit):

            In the former case, I actually point to 2014 as a blueprint for success. Not that they won the general election, but that they successfully controlled the Senate/House primary process that they lost in 2012. If you will recall, almost everybody was saying that the threat of being primaried was going to be perpetual and lead to shutdown after shutdown after shutdown. Instead, they were ready for the Akins in 2014 in a way they weren’t in 2012, and there was only one pretty upset in a race that nobody was watching. There is an argument that among the reasons 2016 happened is that nobody in a position to act expected it to until it was too late. It’s also the case that Trump in particular is going to be hard to reproduce (the platform is easy to replicate, the “charming” crudeness a bit harder, but the celebrity is harder and that was pretty critical).

            On the other hand, the anti-Trump people are resigning from the party. The Trump/RNC meld is going to give Trumpers the inside track as far as internal politics goes. And the primary voters are what they are. I can also see the anti-Trump faction trying too hard and getting swept up in further blowback (analogous to how Gang of Eight backfired in a big way). There are party institutions that have been waiting their whole lives for Trumpism and aren’t going to give it up without a fight. And we’re dealing with three factions who all hate one another and that creates a lot of uncertainty.Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:


              For the record, based on conversations with Trump supporters I’ve talked to, I define Trumpism as anti-globalism, anti-corporate, anti-immigration, pro-police, anti-“PC”.

              There’s at least some data suggesting otherwise.

              The academics I spoke with last month were tracking female Trump voters, not all Trump voters, but they their results were pretty clear that the economic issues don’t really show up on their radars. In fact, those voters track really centrist on things like trade, taxation, etc.

              More anecdotal, but I spoke with a lot of Trump supporters at Trump rallies — both male and female — and of the hundred or so I talked to, only one said anything remotely related to economic issues (“jobs”), and even for that person it was the last of about 6 things she listed.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                As mentioned below, I inexplicably left “white ethnocentrism” off the list (was implicitly included in immigration and police and anti-PC, but I think the term on its own should be included since it’s evident). On the others… different reports from different folks.

                The data suggests that they are not themselves economically struggling, but come from areas that are. Both of which are relevant. This NBC rundown is a pretty good look at the non-racial side.

                Chris Arnade has talked a lot about both the racial and economic aspects and how they intersect. I find neither “It’s all about race” or “No, it’s really about economics” to be especially satisfying.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:

                I don’t think it’s all about race, and I think that economics are indeed very wrapped up in it.

                I think I would suggest that the over-arching drive is fear — of Other, of change, of being left behind, of losing something precious. I think that plays into things about such as race, and I think it is certainly fueled by economic anxiety.

                But I don’t think it attaches itself to anything as concrete as “trade policy.”Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I think trade matters in a meta way.

                It’s like this: a lot of exit polls suggest that Trump voters are not actually that enthusiastic about mass deportation. But they flocked to the guy who was talking about it because they believe the guy talking about mass deportation is a guy they can trust on immigration issues, even if their position is kind of moderate.

                Being against trade is a way of signifying interest in the American Worker, even if their own position on trade is actually pretty wobbly.

                There was (maybe is) a phenomenon in polling that people were very open to legalizing drugs, but very skeptical of any politician advancing that position. Presumably because they feared that if they were moderate on that issue on which they agree, they were likely moderate on issues where they took a harder line.


                Now, maybe even in the abstract The American Worker is not of concern, as your experience suggests. Maybe it’s double-meta for both the worker and “The American Way of Life.” Or it’s something lurking in the background that they talk less about? Don’t know.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                In fact, if I’m ranking the aggregate concerns of people I talked with, and limiting those concerns to things at least 1a dozen people mentioned, I’d say the things those Trump supporters who go to Trump rallies are concerned with are, in order of times they were expressed:

                1. (TIE) Foreign-born Islamic terrorists. (universal response)

                1. (TIE) HRC becoming POTUS (universal response)

                2. Government imposing Sharia law

                3. BLM

                4. Erosion of rights of white people

                5. Illegal aliens

                6. Erosion of rights of Christians

                7. Needing to stop liberal media

                8. Influence of Jews one their lives/UN takeover (listing as single item, as its was connected more often than not)

                9. Erosion of men’s rights

                10. Generic concerns about “PC culture” (where not associated with any of the above)Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                BLM as in Black Lives Matter, or BLM as in Bureau of Land Management? The former is probably more common, but I would not be surprised if there were parts of the rural West where it’s the latter. Two for the price of one!Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Sorry, meant Black Lives Matter.

                There’s a ton of real estate between people at Trump rallies and militia folk.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Thanks for the rundown! Quite helpful.Report

              • Relatedly, start asking them who they backed in the primaries of 2000 and 2008 (if anyone).Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Will Truman says:

          As someone who believes that Trumpism can win (eventually) in competent hands, this is the first positive sign I’ve seen in a while that I could be wrong and Trump is poisoning the waters of his own movement, beyond repair.

          Yes, Trump is oddly giving me hope, too.

          Trumpism in the hands of, I dunno, Newt Gringrich could have worked.

          With *very slight* changes in what he said and how, making his statements slightly more ambiguous and immediately ‘clarifying’ them where people who find them too far can rationalize them, while his other supporters know what he really meant, someone with Trump’s positions could have won. We had no idea we were susceptible to this.

          And Trump has a) forever tainted the movement, and b) going to lead a bunch of proto-Trumps down a garden path with his (apparent) TV station (Probably actually a web site, I bet), and c) turned a bunch of people away from it.

          My current theory: We’re living in an alternate reality where someone came back in time from 2032, where the Republicans lost in 2016 with Ted Cruz, and then imploded by 2024, and then, a decade later, out of the ashes of the Republican Party arose slightly-more polite Trumpism, funded by an aged Donald Trump but running some charismatic Nehemiah Scudder character from outside politics that we’ve never heard of, resulting in fascism…and some time traveler says ‘Hey, wait, what if I got Donald Trump himself to run in 2016, inoculating the US against this entire thing? He is such an asshole he’ll inevitably piss everyone off. Maybe I can just slip some lines about him in Obama’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech..’.Report

          • Marchmaine in reply to DavidTC says:

            The problem is calling those issues “Trumpism” … unless we want to simply poison the well for any sort of:

            1. Reviewing America’s Trade Policies
            2. Reviewing America’s Foreign Policies
            3. Reviewing America’s Immigration Policies

            That’s the disappointing thing about Trump… not that he had any idea what he was doing, but that he glommed on the some of the things that really need reviewing. In an alternate world where HRC hadn’t stolen the Democrat’s collective soul, at least #1 and #2 would be on the table.

            I think Noah Millman’s article today is a pretty good summary of Trump is bad for America not for what he might do, but for what others won’t do for his having been there.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Marchmaine says:

              Moronic advocates poisoning the well for conservative issues has been a long-standing thing.

              A while back I said to some border hawks on the immigration issue “Look, Republicans can hold the line on immigration and probably not necessarily even crater with the Hispanic vote. What they can’t is relentlessly scapegoat Hispanics and immigrants as a threat to the American way of life.”

              I was not successful, as they became early advocates of Trump.

              I don’t know how much damage Trump has done on the trade issue. There is enough support for it from other quarters. Immigration is hosed because it’s more tied to racism than ever. Foreign policy review also probably hosed until it is no longer associated with Trump (though, before Trump, it was kind of associated with Ron Paul so it was already kind of hosed).Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Will Truman says:

                Well, moronic advocates pretty much poison any well, don’t they?

                I’m suggesting you save the well by poisoning the Moron, not give up on the well.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

                All I know is if I attend a Leaguefest, I’m being very careful about my drinks.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Bowler and fedora hats are proof against Leaguefest poison.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Marchmaine says:

                As long as Trump is the nominee and/or its bundled with the other aspects of Trumpism, all I can do is more or less oppose. I am in favor of trying to address (and co-opt) the concerns more reasonably once the fire is out. But I don’t know when, and if, that might happen.

                And we’re also left not knowing precisely how to allocate his appeal. The ugly stuff might matter more than the actual policy positions that can be addressed. Or we might be able to cut down on the ugly by addressing the policy concerns. I am left in between two conflicting positions:

                1) If responsible people don’t sufficiently address public concerns, it will be left to the irresponsible.
                2) Rewarding ugliness begets more ugliness, and as it pertains to Trump in particular ugliness was a part of the package and a necessary one. Other candidates promised to crack down on immigration, too. They believed Trump precisely because he was ugly about it.

                And therein the tension lies…Report

              • pillsy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I have to say, I’ve never been sympathetic to border hawks, but I don’t see how they and their cause isn’t actually completely discredited by the extent to which they flocked to Trump.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to pillsy says:

                Discredited how? And to whom?Report

              • pillsy in reply to Will Truman says:

                As in, why should I believe that they have any interest in the issue that doesn’t boil down to xenophobia? Unlike the other issues Millman outlined–international trade and opposition to interventionist policy–I’ve never seen much evidence that border hawks are interested in solving any problem I care about even in principle.

                But just because I didn’t see evidence before didn’t mean it didn’t exist.

                On the other hand, the fact that they think, by al availablel evidence, overwhelmingly support Trump, suggests to me that they are, on the whole, way too disconnected from reality and way too comfortable with outright racism to be given any benefit of the doubt at all.Report

            • greginak in reply to Marchmaine says:

              All three of those areas have been and still are actively argued. We are reviewing them. They haven’t been hidden or kept secret. They have been major topics of every recent election. Trumpy is just incoherent and factually challenged.Report

            • DavidTC in reply to Marchmaine says:

              1. Reviewing America’s Trade Policies

              Except we *already* have the Democrats doing that. Thanks to Sanders, the Democrats have now been forced to admit many of those are not good things.

              2. Reviewing America’s Foreign Policies

              If by that you mean his *war* policies, no: Trump appears to be in favor of ‘reviewing’ whatever the American people currently agree has failed in the past, while proposing to do exactly the same stuff, or moreso.

              His ‘foreign policy’ ideas are utter nonsense. I know some people tried to paint him as a dove, and he sometimes was, except when he was proposing to bomb everywhere.

              It’s basically Obama’s foreign policy position, except completely incoherent.

              The only interesting and new thing about it is that he was willing to blame Republicans for some of it.

              Of course, Trump is additionally proposing we review a lot of foreign policies we *absolutely should not change*, like whether or not we support NATO.

              3. Reviewing America’s Immigration Policies

              Trump has not proposed any sort of ‘review’ of that. He’s proposed ludicrous alterations in that. Calling it a review is like calling a mad bomber a redecorator.

              More to the point, the need to review our immigration policy has been a *constant* assertion by both the right and the left. It’s not something we’ve just ignored.

              These efforts have, continually, been derailed by nonsensical far-right Republicans demanding we ‘secure our borders’ to whatever level *they* think is good enough (Spoiler alert: No level will ever be.) before we do anything at all.

              Trump is making a complete mockery of *that* position. If he manages to completely discredit it, *reasonable* people from both parties might actually be able to move forward.

              I.e., Trump is actually being helpful here.

              In an alternate world where HRC hadn’t stolen the Democrat’s collective soul, at least #1 and #2 would be on the table.

              Clinton wasn’t previously supporting the TPP and wars because *Trump* disliked those things. (How would that even work?) She was supporting the TPP and wars because the Democrats faced almost no pressure from their left, because those people could be completely dismissed.

              Trump sorta showed they couldn’t be, in two ways. First, it showed that *average* people sorta had a problem with that, and second it sorta gave people who felt that way an alternative, creating a risk that left-leaning independents might defect.(1)

              I don’t want to take too much credit from Sanders, who was the thing that really did force Clinton to the left…but Trump doesn’t appear to have *hurt* that movement, and might even have helped it slightly.

              1) Or, at least, the perceptions, at the *start*, that they might. It’s pretty clear they won’t actually.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to DavidTC says:

                @davidtc Hi David, I appreciate the response, but I think you’ve fundamentally misread my intent. I’m neither a Trump apologist nor even a partisan for either party. “Review” was a decidedly neutral term, and in this context only really applies to the Republican party vis-a-vis Trump and the distinction between what various ideas get collected as “Trumpism.”

                If you think Sanders has moved the Democratic party to reconsider these issues, good for you; personally I think he has been safely put away back in his box, and will judge Clinton II by her approaches… which I expect to be exactly as Neo-Liberal and Neo-Con as they were before Sanders. Maybe I’m wrong… but I expect we’ll find out.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Hi David, I appreciate the response, but I think you’ve fundamentally misread my intent. I’m neither a Trump apologist nor even a partisan for either party.

                Oh, I didn’t think that.

                “Review” was a decidedly neutral term, and in this context only really applies to the Republican party vis-a-vis Trump and the distinction between what various ideas get collected as “Trumpism.”

                When I say ‘Trumpism’ (And I think @will-truman also means?) is basically Neo-No-Knowing-ism. A bunch of incoherent anger of the white middle-class and nonsensical solutions.

                Some of this anger is, as I keep trying to point out to others on the left, *actually justified*. I mean, it’s sorta the anger that others have had forever, and when it’s *aimed* is idiotic, but it’s real anger based on real societal problems.

                Trump might, in theory, make it harder for left to address some of these problems…but what I’m actually seeing is that what it *actually* doing is mainstreaming those problems, and the left has actually started understanding it’s not just ignorable hippies and minorities who would like some actual income equality and social mobility.

                The actual problems that Trump has been pointing out aren’t going away. But Trump didn’t really bring them to the surface (At best, he brought them to the surface in the Republican party.) to start with.

                If you think Sanders has moved the Democratic party to reconsider these issues, good for you; personally I think he has been safely put away back in his box, and will judge Clinton II by her approaches… which I expect to be exactly as Neo-Liberal and Neo-Con as they were before Sanders. Maybe I’m wrong… but I expect we’ll find out.

                I think Sanders has forced Clinton to make some promises that she would not have otherwise made, which means, *at minimum*, she is going to have to spend her political capital breaking those promises, and even if she does that, she will be forced to compromise to her left in *other* ways to break even.

                E.g., without Sanders, she hypothetically is fine with the TPP as is, and her and the media get to ignore complaints about it as dumbass hippies. With Sanders making her oppose it, if she’s going to *still* sign it, she at least has to offer *something* to placate everyone, like some sort of jobs bill or stricter rules about H2 visas or something.

                And that is what the situation would be without Trump. Trump makes things worse, because suddenly the *other* party is clearly to the left of her also.

                That said, I actually don’t think this is how it works, because I am, strangely, more cynical about Clinton than you. I think Clinton goes *exactly* where she thinks the voters want her. Her family is done with politics after this and her family is already really wealthy, so she doesn’t need to care about the legalized bribery that is campaign contributions once elected.

                Oh, and she doesn’t give a goddamn about playing nice with Republicans. In the *slightest*.

                People seem to remember Bill Clinton’s policy positions in the 90s, and forget he was *exactly where the Democratic voters wanted him*. I think it is entirely possible that Hillary Clinton will be in the same place of *exactly where the Democratic voters want her*.

                I think it’s possible that Clinton, despite not actually *being* that liberal, will just shrug and say ‘If the Democrats want anti-war…I’ll be anti-war. If the Democrats want anti-TPP, sure. Higher min wage? Sure, why not.’Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to DavidTC says:

                I cede to no man my cycnicism for… well, no, you are right, you might be more cynical on HRC than I.

                The Clinton triangulation is, of course, famous… but I always took that to be a little bit more about the positions it doesn’t cost them anything to take. On matters relating to what we might generously call the Pax Americana , I think they are true believers.

                On Global Trade… I’m just not sure I can muster your confidence… I don’t even think we know what we mean when we say we want good things for global workers. I don’t think she has to spend any political capital to not defend the things we don’t know how to value… she just lets the TPP go the way of other trade deals.

                I’ve quoted Clinton I on the signing of NAFTA in 1993 – here’s Obama on the signing of the TPP:

                Right now, the rules of global trade too often undermine our values and put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. TPP will change that. It eliminates more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on Made in America products. It promotes a free and open Internet and prevents unfair laws that restrict the free flow of data and information. It inces the strongest labor standards and environmental commitments in history – and, unlike in past agreements, these standards are fully enforceable. TPP allows America – and not countries like China – to write the rules of the road in the 21st century…

                Glass half-full you could read that as well, NAFTA was a bit of a cluster f*, but *this* time we’ve got it nailed. {Not that anyone is going to own the previous trade agreements we’re sort’a throwing under the bus}

                Glass half-empty you could read it as, hey, remember all that stuff we said we’d do with all our other Global Agreements, yeah, we’re gonna do that again.Report

              • pillsy in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I think this isn’t really the standard to judge by. Bernie Sanders isn’t a conventional candidate who lost fairly decisively–he’s an insurgent outsider that did extremely well by that standard. If you compare him to previous, unexpectedly successful insurgent candidates, like Pat Buchanan for the GOP or Jesse Jackson on the left [1], he did amazingly well. And both Buchanan and Jackson, I would argue, had lasting effects on their respective parties. Or maybe they were just bellwethers of where the parties were going to go.

                Either way, in ten or fifteen years, I expect that the Democratic Party will look like a Sandernista party, not a Clintonian party.

                [1] And I really appreciate Tod Kelly’s article for pointing out the Jackson comparison.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to pillsy says:

                One thing worth noting when we talk about the future of the parties.

                Trump’s support from within his party was strongest among older party members. Sanders’ faction within his party was from its younger. I don’t know that this is determinative, but it seems relevant. I was initially skeptical of Democrats as a Sandersian party, and I do think some of the idealism of a lot of younger Sanders supporters will become more girded. But it’s out there as a very distinct possibility.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Will Truman says:

                I also wonder what enthusiasm for Sanders might have looked like in a field not suppressed by the Clinton team. Or another way to put it, is once all Democrats are allowed to put their hat in the ring, we might see what the next generation of Democrats will really look like.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I also wonder what enthusiasm for Sanders might have looked like in a field not suppressed by the Clinton team.

                Yeah, me too, tho I think Sanders benefited from the DNC/DWS suppression shenanigans in a pretty specific way: they constituted a highly visible entry point to a set of complaints which otherwise might not have resonated so well with so many voters.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Will Truman says:

                I wanna see at least one more cycle before I get on the “Sanders is the wave of the future Democratic party” bandwagon. Because I’ve seen insurgent Democrats with a populist agenda in 2004 and 2008 as well. (was there one in 2000? I wanna say yes, but that’s a bit fuzzier).

                Sanders did really, really well by those standards. What stops be from saying “This time something has changed” is that Sanders was, effectively and very early on, the only other Democratic choice. (The other candidates being utter non-entities in an already small field).

                I’m not sure how much impact that variable had, but I can see cases from “very little” to “a whole heck of a lot” and I’m really hesitant to say “Sanders caught the early edges of the future” when you can just as believably said “It was a two person race, and in the end not terribly close”.

                In the end, it’s just as possible that small, populist wave that’s existed in every Democratic primary (other than 2012, for obvious reasons) brought Sanders into the lime-light, and then he was…the only other candidate (and lacking any really big downsides to turn it into a one-person race).Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

                The thing is, “only one other candidate” doesn’t get you to 43%. Ask Bill Bradley! Or John Edwards, when he got the race down to two. McCain is the only comparable case and he ran out of steam long before Sanders did. At least one of the following two things is true:

                1) Hillary Clinton was a historically weak (primary) candidate.
                2) Bernie Sanders tapped into something significant.

                I can go either way, and actually believe it’s a combination of the two. I don’t think O’Malley would have done as well, despite being considerably more mainstream. Or because of that. Biden or Brown might have, but they’re both formidable candidates in a way that Sanders wasn’t supposed to be.

                So at this point, I’d say it’s TBD.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Will Truman says:

                You’re also missing a third possibility — the changes to the Democratic primary schedule over the last 20 years has made it possible for candidates to stay in the race longer, and win more, than before.

                2000 had a Super Tuesday that was 80% of the Democrat delegates. 2004 had one that was worth 50%. 2016? A third, I believe. (And two weeks later, another 20% in ST 2).

                The delegate math gets a little…fuzzier. I mean, in all honesty, Sanders lost by the second Super Tuesday. The math wasn’t there for him anymore. But there were so many delegates left up for grabs, and so many states that could be “won” or “lost” that it was…easily denied.

                There wasn’t a bandwagon effect, despite the proportional math throwing up a giant roadblock. (As supporters would say, he’s still winning lots of states!).

                And honestly, while it’s a bit painful to watch, I prefer the more drawn out primaries. It lets candidates have more time to connect, refine their messages, and affect the race. But I suspect in 2004, Sanders would have been crushed at the same time Edwards was.

                One of the reasons Obama DID beat Clinton in 2008 (and for a ‘weak’ candidate, she sure fought him to what was basically a draw) was that his team had grasped the changes to the primary schedule — the lessening of the impact of Super Tuesday and the way that altered the landscape. She ran like it was 2000 or 2004. He didn’t. It was enough to squeak out a win.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

                I sort of control for duration by only looking at competitive races. How did Bill Bradley do when he was running? Not as well. how did John Edwards do in between Clark dropping out and dropping out himself?

                Controlling for region, Sanders’s performance was pretty consistent until the very end when the bottom finally fell out. I could exclude that last part and Sanders would actually look better.

                Sanders won 4 Super Tuesday contests (of 11), compared to Edwards who won 0 (of 10). (Bradley also won 0.) The closest point of comparison remains McCain in 2000 (who got a lower vote-share, but maybe only because he dropped out, I haven’t run the numbers).Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

                Eh, @will-truman, part of the reason why Bernie got so high percentage is he never left the race.

                For instance, in a late primary in 2012, Ron Paul got nearly 40% of the vote. Why, because he was the only guy still running against Romney. The proof in this is the fact Bernie won voters in the primaries who wanted less liberal policies in the next President.

                I’m not saying it was fully that, but when you’re the only opponent and have the money to keep on campaigning, you can rack up a decent number.

                In all reality, in a crowded 2016 field without Hillary, but 8 or 9 other candidates, Bernie gets 10 or 15% of the vote and probably bows out after Super TuesdayReport

              • I accounted for that by only comparing results in contested races. Basically, a race that ought to have looked like Gore/Bradley (at least until Bradley dropped out) looked more like Bush/McCain (until McCain dropped out).

                I don’t know what that means, whether it says something about HRC or Bernie or both, but it seems to say something.Report

              • pillsy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I think it says a lot about Bernie and a little about Hillary.

                I don’t think Hillary was a particularly weak primary candidate [1], but she had a specific weakness that Sanders was well-positions to exploit [2], but there have also been enough changes in the Democratic Party and the country as a whole that an explicitly leftist candidate was able to get a lot of traction. And he built on that further by going out of his way to focus on appealing to young voters and their specific concerns.

                [1] On the contrary, I think she was an unusually strong primary candidate, which is why she drew so few challengers.

                [2] Fair or not, people think the Clintons are shady.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to DavidTC says:

                I defined Trumpism above (anti-globalism, anti-corporate, anti-immigration, pro-police, anti-“PC”), though I inexplicably left off “white ethnocentrism.”Report

            • Damon in reply to Marchmaine says:

              I agree with this but no republican has ever said or done anything about immigration other than cave to amnesty. What makes you think anyone non Trump from the former lineup would be any different?Report

  11. PD Shaw says:

    re: traffic fines. The most disappointing thing in that story is the reminder that cities that cannot afford to maintain a police department without excessive reliance on traffic fines must be allowed to dissolve their PD into a larger unit of government. Ferguson is prohibited from doing so under the federal order, which requires it to give officers raises and benefits, while slashing revenues.

    St. Louis is possibly unique in that it deliberately stopped growing in 1877 when it seceded from the county, leaving a number of small inner-ring communities that would be part of the central city in about any other comparable Midwestern city. As Ferguson has gotten poorer, and without the resources available to St. Louis, it relied upon the one advantage it had — its roads lie between downtown and the airport / suburbs.

    I’ve not seen any analysis of how well Ferguson was able to extract resources from wealthier suburbs or business travelers. The articles I’ve read seem to assume that residents of Ferguson pay all of the traffic citations issues in Ferguson, or that residents of Ferguson pay no traffic fines to any of the other 100 or so municipalities in St. Louis county that are trying to play the same game.Report

  12. Will Truman says:

    So… reading between the lines I think we may need to ask:

    Would a Russian invasion of Ukraine within the next 90 days be more likely to help Clinton or Trump?

    I have no idea.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to Will Truman says:

      I think it helps Clinton. It lets her off the hook for the non-Reset, and Trump looks worse for either backing the aggression or over-reacting to the aggression; there’s no scenario in which he threads the needle on it.Report

    • North in reply to Will Truman says:

      Me neither. To determine:
      The only think I know for sure is check what Trump does reaction wise, he could potentially explode it in his own face. Clinton wins then.

      That said I’d be utterly astonished if Putin actually invaded again. I assume it’s tactical saber rattling.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:

      Clinton. No question.

      A lot of these thought experiments have been turned upside down on their head by the Trump campaign. Earlier, I think the prevailing wisdom was that a large, jarring even such as a terror attack would hugely benefit Trump — because he’s the one who painted himself as the Law & Order/Tough on Our Enemies candidate, and those types tend to do better when man-made, caused-by-an-enemy disasters occur. But those things have happened, and he hasn’t really benefitted because a). he can’t seem to keep from responding in terrible tone-deaf ways, and b). his campaign is rudderless and unable to capitalize on… well, on anything, really.

      So I assume Russia invading the Ukraine is the same as the terror attack in Orlando or Brexit: one more chance for either Trump or one of his spokespeople — or both — to dominate the headlines for saying something dumb/crass/ignorant/needlessly preening. (Unless, of course, you still believe in the unicorn that he’s going to change into a completely different human being any day now.)Report

      • CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        It’s reached the point where you need to pause before answering whether ending the Trump campaign wouldn’t benefit the Trump campaign more than continuing it – unless the question is whether actually having a campaign would be of greater or lesser benefit to the Trump campaign.Report

      • greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Also the D’s are not all that dovish and soft on crime, unless you are an inhabitant of the right wing fever swamps. So plenty of people trust them to respond to an attack with force when needed or stand up to our enemies.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        The theory was Trump would be better on these matters. Unforthnately for Trump, we had “natural experiments” that disproved the theory.

        Proving that Trump was better in theory than in actuality.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        That was my initial thought. Then I realized that HRC is constrained by being at least somewhat responsible, and public opinion may break heavily against that.

        I don’t know what we do if it happens. Does anyone? Nor do I know what the public demands.

        I do suspect, though, That Trump may have no problem going against our course of action, no matter how many military policy people agree that it’s the only course, if there is an opening. (Even if it means going against his buddy Putin, maybe.)

        So while I think you’re probably right, I’m not sure.Report