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Blue Islands and GDP

In a recent post about the future of the Republican Party, one of the comment threads wandered off into thoughts about the possibility of a “civil war”. I pointed out that, using the Obama vs. Romney county-level voting patterns as a surrogate for the geographic lines of conflict between the two sides most common in such discussions, separation was extraordinarily difficult: the blue (Obama/liberal) parts are largely islands and archipelagos surrounded by a red (Romney/conservative) sea. For the most part, this is true for both blue and red states. My version of such a county-level map is shown below. A rectangular grid is imposed on top of the map rather than county outlines for a reason explained later. If WordPress hasn’t messed me up, you should be able to “View Image” and get a larger version of all of these.


Such maps are often accompanied by a discussion about population distribution, and that many of those blue islands have a lot of people crowded in. Regular commenter J_A raised the point, using Texas as an example, that those islands are also responsible for an outsized share of national GDP, and suggested someone could do a map that reflected that. The next image is just such a map, where counties are represented by prisms whose volume corresponds to each county’s share of national GDP [1]. As J_A suggested, there are lots of blue spikes representing counties with high GDP production. Tall red counties are relatively few and far between; Orange County, CA sticks out amoung those. There is considerable correlation with population, of course; lots of people tend to produce lots of stuff.


Humans are generally quite poor at judging volume by eye. An alternative way to represent the information here is to distort the area of each county to reflect its GDP share, rather than its actual geographic area – a cartogram, like the one shown below. The degree of distortion shows just how uneven GDP distribution is. Even with the distorted state outlines provided (in white), picking out individual states is quite difficult. County sizes vary a lot as you go from east to west; the use of a regular grid rather than county outlines makes it possible to compare different parts of the country. The New York City metropolitan area clearly – well, sort of clearly – outproduces Chicago or Dallas or the area around San Francisco Bay. The Great Plains and Mountain West are compressed down to dark smears outside of the few metro areas in those regions.


Humans (at least the one writing this) aren’t real good at judging area, either. The GDP split is almost exactly 60% for blue counties, 40% for red. Did you guess anywhere close to that? That’s significantly greater than the population split of 55% for these blue counties, 45% for red.

The hardest part of generating this type of map, now that I have some software in hand, is pulling together the data. My sources for these maps are listed in [2]. With another election looming, which variables will be important? I need to start collecting things. Will there be more blue islands or fewer? Do the individual islands get bigger or smaller? (And I know, purple. Which turns out to be a surprisingly hard problem to solve properly.)

[1] I use volume rather than height to represent the added variable. It’s a trade off and California illustrates it well. Riverside County covers an enormous area; if the added variable is represented by height, Riverside looks like it dominates Southern California. San Francisco County is tiny by comparison; if the added variable is represented by volume, San Francisco becomes an enormously tall spike. In this map, the height of those spikes is arbitrarily limited. Without that limit, San Francisco and a couple of counties in the Northeast would be much taller.

[2] County area and 2010 population from Gwillim Law’s Statoids.com site. The site also provides a comprehensive list of changes to county identification (eg, when South Dakota changed the name of Shannon County to Oglala Lakota County in 2015 and the US government assigned it a different numeric identification code). County-level 2012 presidential results were downloaded from The Urban Nomad (not a primary source, but it’s always nice if someone else has done some of the heavy lifting).  Some post-processing was necessary. County-level GDP estimates from Metrocosm (again not a primary source, same reasoning).

Image credit: All images by the author.

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Michael is a systems analyst, with a taste for obscure applied math. He's interested in energy supplies, the urban/rural divide, regional political differences in the US, and map-like things. Bicycling, and fencing (with swords, that is) act as stress relief. ...more →

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84 thoughts on “Blue Islands and GDP

  1. Riverside County covers an enormous area; if the added variable is represented by height, Riverside looks like it dominates Southern California.

    While Riverside County is indeed of substantial size, I wonder if you don’t mean San Bernardino County, which is considerably larger (in fact larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined).


      • I benefit from having lived in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Well, some would say that living in either doesn’t constitute a benefit, but that is a different discussion. In any case, I have no trouble keeping them straight in my mind.

        I also have lived in Coconino County, which is the second largest county after San Bernardino. What can I say? Size matters.


  2. Interesting. Some thoughts

    1. If California were an independent nation, it would be a G10 nation. I think it would be G6. Most of this probably comes from the blue sections, yes.

    2. I recall hearing that the NYC-Metro and Greater LA areas alone are responsible for 1/3 of the GDP in the United States.

    3. One of the long standing tensions and debates in politics in the United States (or possibly world politics) is the divide between the rural and the urban and how much they need each other. William Jennings Bryan in his famous Cross of Gold speech stated that if you got rid of the farms, the cities would die but if the cities were to disappear tomorrow, the farms would allow them to rise back up. Rural America has always feared its irrelevancy and I think to a certain extent, they probably resent needing to be economically dependent on cities. Yes cities need farms for food but increased technological advancement is still destroying the rural farm. With the exception of a few crops like Saffron, Vanilla, Berries, and some others, we can produce more food with fewer people than ever before. Saffron and Vanilla are exceptions to the rule.

    4. The GDP explains partially why politics are so bitter and the GOP tries to hold on to power by all means necessary. They would probably be truly irrelevant if political power was properly based on geographic populations/proportions.


    • The GDP explains partially why politics are so bitter and the GOP tries to hold on to power by all means necessary. They would probably be truly irrelevant if political power was properly based on geographic populations/proportions.

      In the sense that they would not have the Senate and might not have the House, perhaps.

      They’d still be strong at the state level in a lot of places. And they’d still be nationally competitive, if presently a couple steps behind.


    • Neil Freeman has a map of 50 hypothetical states with approximately equal population. The three labeled “Salt Lake”, “Ogallala” and “Shiprock” cover about 25% of the contiguous US area. Shiprock spans three time zones. Ogallala would have the same problem that Colorado has with the rural eastern plains part of the state today — the plains folks pissed off at the Front Range economic dynamo — only on a larger scale.


    • The spike is Denver. Here’s a Colorado-only map, from a somewhat different angle. Ideally, you want to be able to “fly” around and through a map like this. Straightforward, just takes lots of cycles. Absent that, picking the right place to put the “camera” is an art. Colorado Springs suffers from the volume/height thing — El Paso County covers a lot of ground, most of it’s empty, but doing things at a county level spreads the Springs’ output over a the area. Using height for the county GDP would make El Paso almost as high as Denver, but because of the area it would look much bigger. The shape files to split out the Colorado Spring urbanized area are easy; collecting data for votes and GDP would be… challenging.


        • Short answer: Probably.

          Longer answer: Putting together a bit of code to loop through a list of states and subset the data wouldn’t be much work. The existing software does all of its work based on the data fed to it. The problem is getting the camera in the right place for the prism maps so that tall counties don’t obscure too many short ones, etc. Some state maps look better when I tweak the transparency a bit. All of that stuff takes time.


      • Thank you! Man, I completely misread the country-sized one.

        I wonder how many more counties suffer from the volume/height thing. Based on nothing more than eyeballing the middle map, it seems like there are a LOT of big red zones out there that would mask what we’re measuring.

        Something something Utgard-Loki’s drinking horn something something.


        • Despite all of its flaws, the cartogram suggests that’s not the case. What you’re describing would show up in the cartogram as substantial areas where the mesh is not very distorted. If you can pick it out, West Virginia fits into that category. Not many other places. There’s not much of that of either color. I would assert that’s not surprising. IIRC, >75% of US population is now urban/suburban, and those metro areas really dominate GDP.


  3. Interesting stuff. Is there any value in looking at how “strongly” blue or red these areas are?

    Further, even the red-blue divide offer doesn’t really help us understand how a civil war would go.

    Conservative areas of NY and CT are very different than conservative areas of the deep south or bible belt. Conversely, Texas Dems along the Mexican border have some very important differences than Manhattan or LA liberals.


    • It seems to me what might be more helpful here is to look at margins rather than number of votes.

      The Red Sea county map can be misleading because it doesn’t account for population. But other maps can also be misleading because they make it look like Harris County is all blue, when in fact the vote tally in 2012 was .1% of the vote.

      The truth is, though, that all maps can be misleading without the proper context, and all sorts of maps (including the Red Sea) are useful in different contexts.

      It all depends on what you’re looking for.


      • But other maps can also be misleading because they make it look like Harris County is all blue, when in fact the vote tally in 2012 was .1% of the vote.

        Yeah, that’s what I call “the purple problem”. Harris County ought to be a color halfway between red and blue. Because of how human vision works, just defining “halfway” is tricky — and mapping the range of purples onto a particular scale is a nonlinear problem.


          • You have to remember that the original discussion was whether you could avoid a civil war by peacefully diving the USA into two or more more culturally homogenous nations. My argument was that is not possible because the small blue islands in the Red Sea represent The larger part of the Red a States economy

            Secesion is a common Texas trope, in which team secede seems to always forget that Harris county is, for instance, 41% Hispanic and only 31% Anglo, and that Bouston thrice voted in a lesbian major (alas, term limited). Likewise, Bexar (San Antonio) is 60% Hispanic and 30% Anglo. These are not communities that will take lightly a Friday Night Lights Fantasia of a country, and have the population and economic muscle yo impose themselves over hyper Red, very empty, East or West Texas.


            • They also forget that only about a quarter of Texans support it.

              That said, if 60% supported it, it would become a distinct possibility. Houston wouldn’t be able to stop Texas any more than London could stop the UK.

              Washington DC could stop it, though, of course. And in the case of Texas (as opposed to Hawaii or Maine) probably would.


    • Talk is cheap. There is not going to be a Civil War in terms of 16th Century England or our greatchildren learning about Shiloh 2 and the Battle for San Francisco.

      Unless we are stretching civil war to mean more distrust and bad feelings between political opposites.


      • Putting together a plausible secession/partition scenario is hard. The way I see it, you have to have more than marginal majorities in 38 states that believe it’s a winning proposition: they’ll be better off, or at least not worse off, after the partition than before. That doesn’t require that there be a single issue. Maybe it splits 12-13-25, where the first group wants to be on their own for one reason, the second group for a different reason, and 13 of the other 25 think they’ll be better without those yahoos anyway. Need a variety of contributing factors as well, eg, the US as a whole giving up on the idea of being the world’s enforcer is probably a prerequisite.


        • To an extent, it requires a sense of identity. My view is that anyone who sits there and looks at whether the states they might be going with vote Republican or Democrat are doing it wrong and not really very serious. You don’t gerrymander a country. The same applies, to a lesser extent, if you’re looking at donor/beneficiary status. Not that it wouldn’t be a factor, but if it’s a big factor, then it’s not going to work.

          Obviously, you do need to look at the likely political landscape of the proposed new country. And you definitely need to look at the financial prospects. But mostly as a question of solidarity and solvency respectively.

          Your WSA has some pretty natural boundaries. If someone were talking about a WSA but planning to exclude Idaho out of the gate, I’d probably not take their ideas as seriously as I take yours.


        • Your first sentence is why I think it is unlikely along with Will’s identity observation. During the Civil War, it seems that a lot or enough of the country found that they identified more as Southerners or as part of their states than as part of the Union. Lincoln famously wanted Lee to be his General but Lee decided he was more of a Virginian than an American.

          Is this true anymore? I am not sure.

          The civil war stuff seems like a fun mental exercise.


          • Start with the state level political class. Do the state legislators think of themselves as Idahoans, or Westerners, or Americans? Do they think of the federal government as helpful, or a hindrance? I am told, for one example, that the subset of the Western Governors Association for the 11 states from the Rockies to the Pacific is much more of a “thing” than other regional associations in terms of helping each other figure out how to deal with the feds, studying/planning infrastructure across state lines, etc. Where will they be in 30-50 years, given various trends?


  4. I’m not sure why the area in southern Arizona is blue. It MAY have more population than other areas of Az, but certainly not compared to Phoenix, nor should it have more GPD. The only thing in that part of AZ is the Fort in Sierra Vista, Tombstone, and Bisby. The last are tourist areas, and the other is a military base. I’d believe the color from a political perspective but not economic. I don’t see how transfer payments for a military base count more than the entire Phoenix area.


    • I mean it’s marked blue because it voted for Obama, obviously. Probably a combination of Hispanics plus I think there’s a decent sized Indian reservation there with no countervailing red rural area since most of the military population likely votes absentee for their home state.


        • @jesse-ewiak

          Yeah, I could buy the politics of it, but I thought the map was “where counties are represented by prisms whose volume corresponds to each county’s share of national GDP [1]. As J_A suggested, there are lots of blue spikes representing counties with high GDP production. ” Sure the fort and Tuscon, but MORE than Phoenix? And I’d consider Phoenix fairly liberal as well. Do I not understand the map?


          • By my eye, Maricopa (Phoenix) has a lot more volume than Pima (Tucson). Hang on a minute… yes, an Arizona only version makes it clear. Per a comment I made above, to be really useful you need to be able to zoom in and out and fly around a map like this.


  5. I’d be interested to see a similar map describing inequality distribution. Maybe some numerical value showing the ratio of highest to lowest income? Or a ratio of “average property value” to “median income”.


  6. Dude, you are a hero of our times

    You took a half baked idea of mine and run out these maps in a couple of hours

    All hail Michael Cain, mapmaker of the Gods!


    • …and run out these maps in a couple of hours

      Oh, don’t I wish. Find the data; massage the data; perform basic sanity checks on the data; combine the data into the form my software wants. For the prism map, look at a dozen or two versions with different “camera” placements (and then finally decide on the default shot, looking north along the center line, just to to match the other two maps). Plus previously invested time putting together software starting… let me check my notes… November 2012. What a doofus — I could have dug ditches and made enough to buy a commercial package in less time.

      If the alternative yesterday afternoon hadn’t been hot, sweaty, outdoor work, the maps wouldn’t have happened.


  7. You mention the GDP vs. population share in these counties in the text, but would it be possible to make a similar map with GDP per capita? It sounds like you’re using separate sources for GDP and population, so that might not be an entirely perfect comparison. However, I think it would better approximate the average economic value generated per person.


    • Originally I was thinking “that wouldn’t be much different”, but then I thought that it might answer a question about economic production vs. political power. The idea being to answer the oft-raised complaint about “I do all the work but are outnumbered by hordes of poor people who vote for demagogues that offer free stuff that I pay for”.

      Since political power in the US is pretty closely correlated to population, a map showing “GDP per capita” would show spikes in areas that had higher GDP but lower population–which would indeed be places that had more taxes and less representation.


      • You are not applying GDP correctly. Private spending, be it a yatch paid for with funds produced by the worthwhile efforts of hard working makers, or steaks and lobsters bought by food stamps freely given by crass liberal politicians to lazy takers, count the same. Likewise, the government paying for a road is the same as the factory buying a metal lathe

        More formally:

        Gross domestic product (GDP) is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period. GDP includes all private and public consumption, government outlays, investments and exports minus imports that occur within a defined territory.

        Gross domestic product can be calculated using the following formula:

        GDP = C + G + I + NX


        C is equal to all private consumption of final goods, or consumer spending, in a nation’s economy, G is the sum of government spending in final goods, like weapons, but does not include subsidies or welfare payments such as social security, I is the sum of all the country’s investment, including businesses capital expenditures, but not including purchases of intermediate of raw materials that go into finished good, and NX is the nation’s total net exports, calculated as total exports minus total imports (NX = Exports – Imports).

        As Keynes explained, giving money to people to dig and then cover a ditch grows the economy, since this person now buys food from the grocer who bought it from the farmer who bought seeds, etc.


      • In addition, GDP per capita would be higher in population poor states that receive a lot of transfers from the Federal government (Montana, Alaska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Maine, fit this profile)

        Also states with large concentrations of military personnel have a significant boost to their economies and GDP through the tax funded local consumption of this personnel and their families (South Carolina is the most egregious example)

        States with lots of retirees (Florida) also receive a significant contribution from the makers’ taxes. Likewise really poor states (Mississipi, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia).

        It’s a complicated world


        • Then doesn’t that mean M. Cain’s OP doesn’t tell us much either? If GDP just reports straight-up “transfer of money” then all a GDP-per-area map does is indicate how much economic activity takes place in a given area. And, as M. Cain points out, that tracks pretty closely with population distribution.

          So maybe what *I’m* asking for is *taxes* per-capita, plotted on that same unit-area grid.


              • Paraphrasing one of Colorado’s rural legislators, near the end of my stint on the legislative staff: “Constantly criticizing the urban and suburban legislators from along the Front Range for their lack of proper ‘values’ was probably a tactical mistake, given that we’re about to ask them for a big subsidy to keep rural ambulance service going.”


                • Is rural ambulance service actually saving all that many lives?
                  (Am familiar with stats on strokes/heart attacks about seconds/minutes count — how many lives are saved if it’s 30 minutes reaction time? 2 hours?)

                  [This is not to say that we shouldn’t do it even if it won’t save lives. But if it won’t save lives, I want to be clear on that fact]


          • GDP goes up with population, yes, but GDP per capita reflects how much money is spent (by individuals, corporations, and the government).

            Places with a lot of economic industrial activity (let’s say the Houston Shipping Channel area in Harris, where the refineries sit) or services activities (let’s say Orlando, FL) have a higher GDP per capita than places where there isn’t much going around (let’s say Birmigham, AL)

            What Michael Cain’s graph tries to show is two things simultaneously :

            1- Many more people live in blue areas than what the Red Sea Map would make you think (flyover country might be big, but it’s also empty; the opinions of the people in the coasts do matter.

            2- Many more blue areas have economic activity higher than the median -even per capita- than red areas. Higher economic activity makes them important in the real world, even if we think that that is unfair.

            And why your obsession with taxes? Heavily taxed Luxembourg beats the USA handsomely in GDP per capita (#7 vs #15)


            • “And why your obsession with taxes? ”

              Answered in my earlier post. It is a common argument that someone is paying taxes for services used elsewhere. Plotting “taxes per capita” and comparing it to a plot of population density could investigate that claim; residents of areas with high taxes-per-capita but low population could indeed claim that their money was being taken and spent in other places.


    • Actually for Texas at least the Texas almanac provides that data and you see that the gdp per capita in rural counties is between 2/3 and 1/2 the number in Dallas, Harris (Houston), and Bexar (San Antonio). I suspect this is because Ag does not really pay that well (of course housing and the like are cheaper in the boonies) It should be recalled that lots of Tx and NM counties are really fit the 19th century definition of frontier in particular if you exclude the county seat.(2 people per square mile)


  8. This map helps to compensate for a lot of factors, but fails to compensate for percentage support of candidates within each county. That’s important. No county is red or blue. Most of the country is slushy purple. And the contrast is even further diluted when you look at split-ticket voting.


    • Plenty of counties are red or blue–just because many of them are purple doesn’t mean the red and blue ones don’t exist. And pointedly, several of the biggest spikes on that GDP map are blue, not purple counties.

      Here’s the colors of the five highest gdp counties, using data from the last four presidential elections. (method: higher party’s color set at 100%, lower party’s color percentage set so that the ratio between red and blue matches the average ratio between the party’s votes over those for elections)

      Los Angeles County, CA:

      Harris County, TX:

      Cook County, IL:

      Orange County, CA:

      New York County, NY:

      Chicago and Manhattan are blue. A purplish blue, technically, but blue.

      And other counties are equally red. For example, here’s the five lowest counties in the GDP list. Kennedy and Harding are magenta, but the rest are solid red.

      Loving County, TX:

      Kennedy County, TX:

      King County, TX:

      Arthur County, NE:

      Harding County, NM:


      • Somewhat to this point, here’s a version of the map where red means Romney won by at least 10 percentage points [1], blue means Obama won by at least 10 percentage points, and everything else is yellow. 555 of 3108 counties (or county equivalents) are yellow. (I was surprised it was that few. Big Sort fans will be happy.) It thins the set of blue spikes somewhat, but not as much as I would have guessed.

        [1] The calculation is Romney percentage minus Obama percentage, and if the difference is greater than or equal to 10.0.


  9. I like this post too.

    Since I’m the one who brought up ‘Civil War’ in that thread, I’ll elaborate on my specific contention – the election of Donald Trump.

    First of all, it’s because that possibility seems so unlikely right now, there would be a psychological tendency among a great many people to see his election as illegitimate. And really, it’s hard to see any path to his victory that doesn’t involve some unprecedented shennanigans.

    But say, for the sake of argument, that the people speak and he gets elected in some way that can objectively deemed credible (including getting through the failsafe of the Electoral College*)

    I would then expect, sooner than later, for Trump to give an executive order that violates both the Constitution and the conscience. The people that defy the order will be met with a force that insists on following the order, and that’s where the civil war takes off from. Because also, any scenario that gets Trump in the White House gets Republicans to hold on in both the House and Senate, and they won’t impeach – not when they got (or kept) their jobs on Trump’s coattails.

    *I would expect a sufficient number of Electors to have the Profile in Courage to take the consequences of being a so called faithless elector, even if involves a brief stint in jail


    • See, what’s weird for me is that I think that Trump kicks the can down the road a ways and Clinton is the true accelerationist candidate. If Trump gets elected, he’ll not want the job. Pence will do most of the real stuff and Trump will play golf and host dinners and make speeches and make the (very) occasional deal and sign stuff with great ceremony and, otherwise, you won’t really notice him. ‘Cause he won’t do anything.

      Clinton, however, will want to improve the world and this will involve sending boots on the ground into some quagmire somewhere and the AUMF will not even come close to covering what she wants to do and it will result in a Constitutional Crisis of some sort when Congress refuses to pass a new and improved AUMF. And *THEN* we’ll have the executive order you’re talking about.

      Additionally, with regards to the electorate, the Trumpenproletariat will have their thirst sated by a culture war victory and they’ll go back to doze for a while. A(nother) culture war loss will Make Things Worse.


      • Whose culture war is it, now? The alt right won’t be satiated by Trump, they’ll be further emboldened. The success that Trump has had so far has already drawn them from the Taki/Vdare/Sailer corners of the internet to the main body. Pat Buchanan’s pitchfork brigade is now an entire division.

        Again if Congress didn’t push the issue on the lack of authorization on Odyssey Dawn, they’re not going to care when and if Clinton does something similar on her own watch as head honcho. And she very well might follow Bush’s model of getting Congressional approval. Nobody involved in the American political process, neither politicians nor the vast majority of the voting pulbic, hates war – they only hate Americans (and only Americans) dying, continuously over a prolonged duration.

        You also can never be sure when Trump will take a personal interest in something. Plus, I don’t trust some of Trump’s henchpersons that he’d have as white house aids to run their own stuff seperate from Pence by flying the boss’s flag – to the extent they will make Ollie North look like a conscientious public servant.


        • The alt right won’t be satiated by Trump, but the majority of the bandwagon jumpers will be.

          The alt right, as far as I can tell, is saying “if we’re going to ratchet things, let’s ratchet them in our favor instead of in someone else’s”. If Trump wins this election, it’ll be due to the sheer number of people who are arguing against the direction that “the left” (and, by extension, Clinton) is arguing we should ratchet things in.

          The second that there’s a consensus that we don’t ratchet things in that direction, Trumpenproles go back to sleep. The alt right probably won’t go away, but they won’t go away under a Clinton presidency either. They will, however, have a bunch of Trumpenproles who haven’t gone back to sleep somewhere in their vicinity, though.


      • If Trump gets elected, he’ll not want the job. Pence will do most of the real stuff and Trump will play golf and host dinners and make speeches and make the (very) occasional deal and sign stuff with great ceremony and, otherwise, you won’t really notice him. ‘Cause he won’t do anything.

        This was my prediction about the George W. Bush Presidency. And it was more or less accurate until 9/11.


        • Pence seems a lot less malevolent than Cheney. Cheney had worse charisma than Romney, and Romney had negative charisma (you met him, and you were less sympathetic towards him) [Nixon, otoh, was a real charmer in person — with a sort of homespun charm that’s about the opposite of Bill Clinton. Because Nixon had to work to be charming, and Bill never did]


  10. The other thing I’d like to say that addresses the topic of this post more directly is that in a truly apocalyptic scenario where the poltical and social fabric of the US is strained to the breaking point, GDP calculations go out the window.

    In a modern industrial nation with a sizable service sectpr (i.e.any of the G7), GDP is very much dependent on a fairly well ordered society. The wealth of the urban areas of the US is based on them being a nexus of regional (and for certain industries, national) economic activity – but those nexii only exist to the extent that everything ‘works’. That is, all your basic Maslow needs are filled, so the high value GDP drivers are able to operate on this foundation.

    If people start to get concerned where their next meal is coming from, the high end tech and law work is going on the back burner.

    (Mr Robot spoiler- that’s the only big objection I had to the end on season 1 (haven’t seen any of season 2 yet). If there was a serious credit crunch in the US, where credit cards were no good and ATMs were all depleted, NYC would run out of food in about 3 days. It’s exactly what scared Bernanke when that one fund broke the buck and it looked like the short term credit market was about to grind to a halt)


  11. Any actual Civil War would last as long as the 1st month Social Security checks don’t go out to the rebelling states. That’s why I’m not worried about it.

    We’re nowhere close to the political violence of the 60’s. Even the political violence we have is insanely low and non-organized as even say, the 70’s and 80’s in Europe. I mean, Italy regularly had Communist’s kidnapping politicians and bombing cars. And even then, Italy continued along as a nation with a growing economy. So, let’s not confuse real life with TV.

    I also find it amusing that centrist neoliberal hawk Hillary Clinton is going to start the next civil war because she’ll sign a few EO’s saying transgender people can use bathrooms or the legal children of illegal immigrants aren’t going to be deported.

    The truth is, the core of the alt right can be terrible to people online, but in real life, they’re largely nebbish lonely men who turn to charismatic folks they see online (ie. Milo or Trump) who tells them they’re the real victims.

    Also, I don’t really trust the House Republican’s, but the truth is, most of them are going to run ahead of Trump in their districts if Trump somehow does win, so if Trump somehow does win and institute some obviously illegal Executive Order, it wouldn’t be difficult to find the 100 or so House Republican’s it would take to link up with the 200-odd House Democrat’s who will be happy to help out at that point.


      • And the real life Argentinians (and Chileans) did not kill each other in the name of bathroom access.

        Actually, the Dirty War (Guerra Sucia) was not a civil war. It was mostly a government enforced imprisonment and murder program against those that were opposed to the military regime (for now ignoring the real or alleged deficiencies of the elected governments the military toppled), and the once in a while efforts of the persecuted to try (and fail) to level the playfield.

        The Dirty War ended because the military simultaneously botched the economy AND the Falkland War, losing any credibility they could have ever had) and could only sustain themselves in power if they ratchet up the political oppression several notches.

        If all you know about the Argentina of 35 years ago is what one of your very informed friends told you, you don’t understand Argentina.


    • Any actual Civil War would last as long as the 1st month Social Security checks don’t go out to the rebelling states. That’s why I’m not worried about it.

      Indeed. For a peaceful partition, OTOH, it’s mostly a matter of accounting (and replicating some computer systems). That’s discounting the problem of the elderly Pennsylvanian living in Arizona who doesn’t trust a Western States of America government to keep its SS program intact going forward (eg, “Damned Californians will screw it up somehow.”). Which is probably not a legitimate worry — any likely WSA would have the world’s third largest national GDP, behind China and the rump US, but just ahead of Japan.

      “Who gets the nukes?” is a more difficult political question. I expect that both parts would. But that’s because I expect that over the next 30 years the US will pull back enough from its role as the world’s enforcer that at least Japan will decide to withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty and build a handful of its own — so adding another modest nuclear power to the world won’t be that big a deal.


        • An excellent point. Also Medicare is in even worse shape, traditional Medicaid is slowly crushing the states’ budgets, and the whole budget deficit/debt thing. My argument is that SS, Medicare and Medicaid will all come to a head sooner than the 25-30 years out when I think partition talk begins to be taken seriously. Deficit/debt may be a driver, if different regions want to take significantly different directions to the solution. Eg, some parts want to cut defense spending, some want to cut human services spending, some parts want to raise taxes, some parts want to print money and inflate away the cost of the debt (Free Silver and its inflationary monetary policy was very much a regional thing), some parts want to default.


  12. Not (directly) to do with GDP, but the southwestern Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa area is one of (one of!) the more significant major blue rural areas in the country. That’s right in my native wheelhouse, but I’m realizing I have little sense of why that’s the case there. And I think it’s pretty long been the case. Is it the prominence of people of Scandinavian extraction?

    It’s weird; right at Madison going east it (famously!) turns real red in Wisconsin in the I-90/94 & I-43 corridors. Is that due to German Catholics and Lutherans being more numerous in those parts (magnified now by ideological and meta-ideological (i.e. ideological via other conscious factors such as profession, income, etc.) sorting)? Or does national origin have little to do with it?


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