Anti-Freedom Conservatives and Anti-Liberty Conservatives

by John Holbo on July 10, 2014

Ben Smith has a good suggestion, but I think I can improve it. The conservatives he wants to call ‘liberty conservatives’ should be called ‘anti-freedom conservatives’ (to signal that they are opposed to the people Smith calls ‘freedom conservatives’.) The conservatives he wants to call ‘freedom conservatives’ should be called ‘anti-liberty conservatives’ (to signal that they are opposed to the people Smith calls ‘liberty conservatives’).

This is superior to what Smith is proposing insofar as it is just a notational variant, but appealing to liberals, insofar as it nods at their correct perceptions that both sides, on the other side, are awful. Sauron or Saruman. Kodos or Kang. (I mean: what decent person opposes either liberty or freedom?)

Seriously. The semi-interesting thing that is going on here is this: the sort of typology one is going to need, for analytic purposes, is never going to align with the typology one is going to get, for self-identification purposes. Analytically, we want to know the distinguishing characteristics of each group or sub-group or sub-sub-group. Since most Americans aren’t conservatives, and most conservatives aren’t any particular flavor of conservative, we should expect an accurate thumbnail label of each faction to make it sound like not the sort of club most decent Americans would want to join. There is no such thing as the freedom sub-faction or the liberty sub-faction or the mom splinter cell or the apple pie rebel insurgency. If there were, each of these would already have transcended faction status and set itself up, comfortably, as the ruling party or coalition. But, for advertising purposes, every party is, aspirationally, the freedom party and the liberty party; the scrappy, mom-loving rebels, circulating apple pie recipes in samizdat form. This isn’t lying, exactly. Although it is advertisement. Every group wants to make the case that the good things will come from what they propose.

Getting back to Smith:

“I propose replacing the messy old terminology with a simple new vocabulary, one that has evolved organically, which has deep and consistent intellectual roots, no pejorative implications, and which political leaders use effortlessly and without reflecting.”

This is a perfect storm of incompatible and inadvisable goals, due to Smith’s desire to combine analysis and marketing considerations. For marketing purposes, conservatives need a way to sound like they are opposed to other conservatives, for deep, principled reasons, while preserving a sense that all conservatives are, in principle, always right. You need that pivot for electoral reasons, even though it’s analytic doom. You also need a way for conservatives to come across as deep and consistent and intellectual while actually being rather … uneffortful and unreflective in the thought department – because, hey, politics ain’t political theory. Analytically, if your characterization of each group, or sub-group, doesn’t sound a bit pejorative, you aren’t doing the analysis right. Because any correct analysis is going to make any political faction sound philosophically half-baked and unlikely to appeal to most voters. Whatever the distinguishing characteristic of a given faction may be, it’s certainly not going to be ‘love of freedom’ or ‘love of liberty’.

And of course the same goes for Democrats. Fair is fair. You should no more expect to be able to carve up the partisan terrain, analytically, and have that match the lines drawn in the sand by partisans, than you should expect that a serious analysis can be constructed by stringing together press flak talking points. Partisan self-descriptions are one species of partisan talking point, after all.

{ 74 comments }

1

P O'Neill 07.10.14 at 5:30 pm

Smith should have known he was in trouble when Michael Goldfarb was embracing his term. [Recent Goldfarb antics].

2

Mark Field 07.10.14 at 6:48 pm

I think ante works just as well as anti, viz., ante-bellum conservatives, ante-Enlightenment conservatives, etc.

3

b9n10nt 07.10.14 at 6:53 pm

Thank you for this, Professor Holbo.

Please advise all readers to enjoy a pairing of this OP with a recent Vox piece on the moderate voter myth.

The two articlestogether are producing a zesty intellectual frisson.

Makes me contemplate…something about the abiding internal organizational logic of social institutions in relation to a chimeric self: one who interacts with individual and meta-individual behavioral impulses….

What a world.

4

JW Mason 07.10.14 at 7:11 pm

As usual, Beavis and Butt-Head said it best:

Interviewer: Butt-Head, I have a question for you. I noticed that you often say, “I like stuff that’s cool.” But isn’t that circular logic? I mean, what is the definition of “cool,” other than an adjective denoting something the speaker likes?

Butt-Head: Huh-huh. Uh, did you, like, go to college?

I: You don’t have to go to college to know the definition of “redundant.” What I’m saying is that essentially what you’re saying is “I like stuff that I like.”

Beavis : Yeah. Huh-huh. Me, too.

BH: Also, I don’t like stuff that sucks, either.

I: But nobody likes stuff that sucks!

BH: Then why does so much stuff suck?

5

Thornton Hall 07.10.14 at 7:15 pm

I think this is a perfect example of how the post war professional media model is incompatible with truth. Why is Smith drawn to “a perfect storm of incompatible and unadvisible goals”? Because he is a trained journalist.

If you imagine that he started with a proper analysis and then ran it thru a “objective journalism must be fair to both sides” machine, you get his result.

6

musical mountaineer 07.10.14 at 9:04 pm

A waggish fellow is sitting at the bar and he says to the bartender “Hey, I just heard this great joke about Progressive weenies who discomprehend everything! Wanna hear it?”

The bartender gives him the cold eye. “It just so happens that I am Progressive. I would like very much to hear your joke, and so would my sons.” The bartender then calls his four sons, great hulking men, and the four sons surround the patron on his barstool. “Now, let us hear this joke.”

“Nah,” replies the waggish patron. “I don’t feel like it, now.”

“Why?” asks the bartender with an air of innocence. “Are you afraid of us?”

“No,” the wag replies. “I just don’t want to spend the rest of the night trying to explain the punch line.”

7

Plume 07.10.14 at 9:18 pm

The real problem here, of course, is the silliness of the right’s belief that “freedom and liberty” are self-evidently a win/win thing. As if, when you point the arrow in favor of a boss, you don’t point it against his or her workers.

They seem not to recognize the existence of conflicting interests and claims, or differences in power dynamics, which obviously mean the key is always going to be “whose liberty?” and “whose freedom?”

That conversation becomes even more frustrating when the discussant is a propertarian (right-libertarian). They simply refuse to acknowledge the possibility of built-in conflicts, especially of the economic kind.

8

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 07.10.14 at 10:46 pm

What a knee-slapper, musical mountaineer. I haven’t laughed that hard since Elliott Abrams told the one about nun-raping!
~

9

Jerry Vinokurov 07.10.14 at 10:53 pm

Fascinating. It has all the superficial form of a joke, but none of the humorous content.

10

mjfgates 07.10.14 at 11:22 pm

I had too much trouble understanding where the distinction *is* to say much. Was dismantling the Voting Rights Act supposed to enhance my liberty, or my freedom? Does forcing a woman to get an unnecessary vaginal ultrasound make her more free, or more liberated? And what about invading Iraq?…

11

J Thomas 07.10.14 at 11:47 pm

#6

Somehow other times I’ve heard the same joke it was a lot funnier.

Like:

Joker: I’ve got this great Norwegian joke. Ah, you aren’t Norwegian, are you?
Norwegian: [after a long pause] Yes. … Yes. … … I am Norwegian.
Joker: OK, then, I’ll tell it reeealll sloooowwww.

Or there was this one I heard at a science fiction convention:

Costumed fan #1: Hey, you wanna hear something about humans?
Costumed fan #2: OK, sure.
CF1: Well they started figuring out physics, nothing special, but when they started to work out about electricity and light they decided that space contracts and time dilates!
CF2: What? [laughs] Really?
CF1: They still say it a hundred years later! And then there’s economics. They have pretty normal economic systems, nothing special, but they got this idea that economic systems optimize something! They think there’s something in particular that gets optimized!
CF2: [laughs] How could they believe such a thing! It sounds like something you’d expect from people who had religions.
CF1: Oh, religion. Let me tell you….
Me: Hey, space contraction? What do you believe instead?
CF1: Are you human? Oh dear. I’m so embarrassed. [walks away]

12

Ronan(rf) 07.11.14 at 12:05 am

Man walks in to a bar, he’d been drinking all day.

13

Thornton Hall 07.11.14 at 12:40 am

I noticed this about the Liberty Republicans: for some reason they ignore the condemnation of King George’s anti-immigration stance in the Declaration of Independence:
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

14

Main Street Muse 07.11.14 at 1:49 am

From the linked article: freedom Republicans “see a role for a strong government abroad, and they are, in some senses, the heirs to George W. Bush: Pragmatic about domestic policy, deeply concerned about America’s place in the world. Their backers include Wall Street financiers and defense contractors.”

Is this for real? Bush years showed pragmatic approach to domestic policy? Concern for America’s place in the world resulting in a pre-emptive strike to rid the world of weapons Iraq didn’t have? The freedom wing is backed by bankers and defense contractors?

W.T.F.!!!!!

The GOP advocate for neither liberty nor freedom. They have become anti-American whack jobs whose sole goal is to shut down any policy solutions and scream loud negatives about anything Obama does.

Boehner’s suit against Obama for not implementing Obamacare fast enough – is that a “freedom” Republican or a “liberty” Republican?

Rick Perry’s determined effort to rid Texas of the UT/Austin president – is that freedom or liberty?

Sarah and Bristol Palin’s #HobbyLobbyLove – which faction?

I can’t stand it when the media tries to create a rational frame for anything the GOP does these days. They are not rational. They hate America (we must be armed to protect ourselves against govern’t aggression! Anyone who wants gun control need to know Hitler implemented gun control – and look what happened! http://bit.ly/1rZwHx8

Yes, those parents of the slaughtered Sandy Hook first graders are true Brown Shirts.

There is no sense at all in the GOP today. If there is sensible spokesperson for either freedom or liberty in the GOP, please point me to him/her. In NC, there are no sane members of the Republican party, none.

15

ZM 07.11.14 at 1:54 am

I notice most everyone forgets to note most times that the Declaration of Independence makes a good example of how people can engage in rhetorically agitating for ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’ so as they can continue in their harming of and taking of the land and resources of other people (also nature etc) (And if people say it was because of the ‘times’ and they couldn’t know better they should read Montaigne)
Also an example of people who know better engaging in a deliberate rhetorical strategy of blaming a person who is not the person/s most responsible – ie. blaming the King despite the American Revolution taking place Post- ‘Glorious’ Revolution

“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

16

CheezWhiz 07.11.14 at 4:20 am

The GOP (the party bureaucracy) is perfectly rational. Its long-term strategy has been to use billionaire resources to harness southern white insecurity to win elections. Its worked pretty well since Nixon. I think their plan is to ride that horse til it drops, then get off and drag it. At least, that’s what it looks like from the outside.

The media’s efforts to create a horse race where 2 differing political philosophies are competing in the marketplace of ideas is a completely separate phenonemon, that has almost nothing to do with the strategy of either political party. I think (assuming “the media” is rational by some definition) that they can’t put effort into describing, let alone explaining, what those ideas are since that would give the game away (in my biased opinion). This is why I like the idea of the Speaker suing the President. It forces the GOP to document what it thinks is “illegal” about what the President has done, rather than wave their hands around and yell on TV. Doing this can only help Democrats (again assuming a majority of American voters are reality-based, and not obsessed with the loss of white privilege. If this is overly optimistic then plan B is investing in ammo and MREs).

17

Brett Bellmore 07.11.14 at 10:45 am

“The GOP (the party bureaucracy) is perfectly rational. Its long-term strategy has been to use billionaire resources to harness southern white insecurity to win elections. Its worked pretty well since Nixon. I think their plan is to ride that horse til it drops, then get off and drag it. At least, that’s what it looks like from the outside.”

Likewise, I’d say that the Democratic party is rational: Your long term strategy is to exacerbate income inequality, because concentrating wealth in a small minority of extremely wealthy people enables it to be skimmed more efficiently, and reduced the number of control points. While maximizing dependence in the population makes it easier to buy enough votes to maintain control in a nominal democracy.

The plan is to push this until you achieve a one party state. You believe you’re approaching this goal, so some of the masks are coming off, and you’re openly moving to abolish freedom of speech by amending the 1st amendment, while implementing a panopticon surveillance system to keep an eye on dissenters.

The main problem you’re encountering is that you’re fairly incompetent at actually governing, and the more you concentrate power, the more obvious this becomes. For example, you move to take over health care financing, and utterly screw it up.

But you soldier on, the end game in sight, and the cover stories get thinner and thinner, because you care less and less if they’re believed, thinking yourselves on the verge of irreversible power.

At least, that’s what it looks like from the outside.

18

MPAVictoria 07.11.14 at 12:19 pm

“The main problem you’re encountering is that you’re fairly incompetent at actually governing”

Oh please. If any party is incompetent at governing it is the republicans….

19

Jerry Vinokurov 07.11.14 at 12:19 pm

Your long term strategy is to exacerbate income inequality, because concentrating wealth in a small minority of extremely wealthy people enables it to be skimmed more efficiently, and reduced the number of control points.

Ahahahaha yes, the people constantly railing against income inequality are the very people interested in increasing income inequality because REASONS.

The plan is to push this until you achieve a one party state. You believe you’re approaching this goal, so some of the masks are coming off, and you’re openly moving to abolish freedom of speech by amending the 1st amendment, while implementing a panopticon surveillance system to keep an eye on dissenters.

Liberals who criticize the surveillance state are the real racists NSA.

The main problem you’re encountering is that you’re fairly incompetent at actually governing, and the more you concentrate power, the more obvious this becomes. For example, you move to take over health care financing, and utterly screw it up.

This has been another edition of Reports From Counterfactualland. PS I AM NOT A CRANK.

Did you get banned from RBC or something that you felt compelled to bring your libertarian fantasies over here?

20

The Dark Avenger 07.11.14 at 12:53 pm

Conservatism is one hell of a mind-altering drug.

21

Collin Street 07.11.14 at 2:04 pm

Conservatism is one hell of a mind-altering drug.

A correlation between use of a particular drug and insanity could be because taking the drug makes you crazy, or could be because only a crazy person would want to take it.

22

Barry 07.11.14 at 2:05 pm

“Did you get banned from RBC or something that you felt compelled to bring your libertarian fantasies over here?”

Mark Kleiman likes Brett, and so Brett has a 99% free hand there. The only time that Mark ever cracked down on Brett was when Brett was doing the same old-same old Brett thing, but in favor of voter suppression. That stepped on Mark’s toe, and he lashed out.

23

J Thomas 07.11.14 at 2:08 pm

#17

Likewise, I’d say that the Democratic party is rational: Your long term strategy is to exacerbate income inequality, because concentrating wealth in a small minority of extremely wealthy people enables it to be skimmed more efficiently, and reduced the number of control points.

I tend to disagree with you on most of the details, but those don’t matter so much. The big picture is that both parties have a sort of ideology available for people who care about that, but then they mostly ignore that when they actually do stuff.

Then, you believe that both parties have a “High Command” which has a long-term plan for the nation and the world, which they carry out independent of what the voters want.

I tend to agree that both parties have ideologies that they give only lip-service to. This might be appropriate for them. We have a lot of trade-offs where it doesn’t work to be all absolute on one side. We do need some security even while we need civil rights. It would be ridiculous to be 100% anti-business or 100% pro-business. Etc.

You wouldn’t want a thermostat where two opposing ideological forces competed to raise the temperature as high as possible versus lower it as low as possible. That would probably not give you the temperature you want.

So maybe when they’re actually trying to govern, the different parties actually try to keep things balanced and make lots of small incremental changes to improve the balance, even while they spout doctrinaire ideologies.

The GOP talks as if they want to stop government from happening while Obama is in office, to block everything Democrats try to do, as if they want the government to be destroyed and replaced by something else. But in practice the government does not fall apart, the GOP cooperates well enough to keep things running smoothly even while they make a big show of blocking everything that the media notices.

And of course fanatics who support some particular ideology get upset that the people they voted for do not in fact uncompromisingly reject everything in government that does not fit their doctrines. But so what?

About the high commands, I don’t know. Such things would naturally try to keep a degree of secrecy. If a political party has a High Command that ignores its voters, it wouldn’t want the voters to find out. On the other hand, people who appear to have some power will tend to exaggerate it so that people who want to make deals will come to them. I can imagine that each party might have several High Commands, none of which actually have much control.

Even more, I can imagine a culture that runs on favors. A US Senator does you a favor, later he calls the favor in and expects you to do a particular something for him. One favor that legislators can do is to cast their personal vote for or against a particular bill, and that vote could count as favors to multiple people who all happen to want the same thing. Or he could promise multiple votes, the implication being that he will call in favors from people they can’t reach other ways. And then he gets credit for the ones who do vote as needed whether he actually caused it or not. And in this chaotic mess of petitioners trying to get their own individual needs met and legislators jockeying for position, there could be many High Commands who have varying amounts of influence, even while probably none of them can actually control very much.

And in the welter of thousands of proposed bills with many thousands of amendments, more detail than any small staff of hundreds could follow, are there really any long-term plans? Or is it mostly just muddling through….

I can imagine that particular administrative departments might have long-term plans. Like, the army had a big plan for hi-tech modernized stuff, but then the wars diverted most of the budget and the spending cuts have postponed most of the rest.

Lots of people have long-term plans but everybody’s plans depend on stuff they can’t control, which can require a lot of adaptation.

24

Robert 07.11.14 at 2:09 pm

“…readers should take … particular warning that I am absolutely not against freedom. On the contrary, I am for it. Libertarians … think they are for freedom but they don’t know what freedom is. In reality, their doctrine is so contrary to freedom that it ought to be entitled ‘anti-libertarianism’. The thief comes in innocent disguise, but the beautiful garment is stolen. (The Right are good at that sort of thing.) So, if you want to make your copy of this book read more accurately, you should delete ‘libertarian’ and ‘libertarianism’ throughout, substituting ‘anti-libertarian’ and ‘anti-libertarianism’ as you go. For ‘anti-libertarianism’, etc., you should substitute ‘anti-anti-libertarianism’. Unfortunately, this would make the book cumbersome to read, so I haven’t followed the advice myself except in my choice of title, where my subject is named according to its true nature.” — Alan Haworth, Anti-Libertarianism: Markets, Philosophy, and Myth, Routledge, 1994: 5

25

mud man 07.11.14 at 3:14 pm

It works for everything, don’t it? Party politics is about parties, issues are just shibboleths, it doesn’t matter what you say as long as you pronounce it properly. Which turns out to be great for social organization although not so hot for resolving issues. BUT it turns out that humans are so good at social organization that so far there has been no really pressing need to confront issues. That may change. This is progress.

26

Brett Bellmore 07.11.14 at 3:31 pm

“Did you get banned from RBC or something that you felt compelled to bring your libertarian fantasies over here?”

Left off commenting there voluntarily, for several reasons. It can be entertaining watching the apes throw scat, but not so much when it’s all directed at yourself. It’s entertaining in a somewhat different way, watching how much further off the rails they go without a contrary voice to suggest that, just maybe, not everyone who disagrees with them is a monster and a drooling cretin. And, of course, while I enjoy arguments, the enjoyment diminishes somewhat when you realize some of the people you’re arguing with are either mad or insincere, or perhaps both. I found the ‘Count’s occasional murderous fantasies a bit offputting, too.

Here, it’s someone entertaining to note that, while the most hideous motives can be attributed to Republicans, turnabout is instantly rejected, without any sudden realization that, “Hey I’m mad because he did to me just what *I* was doing to him!” My comment was meant to demonstrate that phenomenon. How liberals will just casually assume their opponents are evil, but be outraged if the tables are turned.

I think it would be fair to say that both major parties, institutionally, are dominated by people who are largely lacking in any ideology, but who must to some extent pretend to have an ideology. Because, who’s going to elect them on the basis that they want vacation homes and graft?

The Republican leadership are generally content to play the role of the opposition party. Granted, you don’t get so much graft from that position, but neither are you expected to actually deliver anything when you’re out of power, so the workload is somewhat less. What a disaster for them ’94 was, ending up in control of both houses of Congress for a while! Their supporters were generally willing to accept that they were fighting the good fight, and just losing because they were outnumbered. But then, they weren’t outnumbered, and they were contriving to lose anyway! Suddenly, the base knew they were really taking a dive, and ever since insurgencies trying to replace the establishment with people who really want to govern as conservatives have been bedeviling them.

The situation for Democrats is somewhat different, as the party of government. The drive to agrandize government may not, on the part of leadership, be ideological, but it’s there. Note that it is not Republicans who are proposing to remove the 1st amendment’s protection of political speech. Note that it is not Republicans who are defending the use of the bureaucracy as a policical weapon, or the destruction of evidence which was legally mandated to be preserved. And, who is rationalizing that Presidents are entitled to violate the law? Not, today, Republicans.

But I think there’s little ideology behind this, just the desire of petty tyrants to be better positioned to extract rent.

27

CJColucci 07.11.14 at 3:48 pm

Note that it is not Republicans who are proposing to remove the 1st amendment’s protection of political speech. Note that it is not Republicans who are defending the use of the bureaucracy as a policical weapon, or the destruction of evidence which was legally mandated to be preserved. And, who is rationalizing that Presidents are entitled to violate the law? Not, today, Republicans.

The “today” is the giveaway. Those of us with a few extra rings on our trunks and even some remaining short-term memory would have no trouble saying the same thing except for striking the “nots.” And every reason to think it would be equally true if the Republicans’ hands were on the controls today.

28

Brett Bellmore 07.11.14 at 4:00 pm

Maybe, maybe, but today it’s Democrats, so don’t think you’re so much better.

The dynamic is this: Everybody has a tendency to think well of themselves, and badly of their opponents. So, each party only has to be better than it’s own supporters think the other party. This is a recipe for a downward spiral, unless people set a floor below which they won’t permit their own side to decend even if they think the other side already worse than it.

Where’s your floor? I can look around to see where it isn’t, and that’s awfully low.

29

Layman 07.11.14 at 4:01 pm

“And, who is rationalizing that Presidents are entitled to violate the law? Not, today, Republicans.”

Really? Which Republicans are calling for criminal investigations into George Bush’s violations of the law? We know the violations occurred – a Court dominated by Republicans has told us they did. All I hear from Republicans about those particular violations are rationalizations. Isn’t that right?

30

Layman 07.11.14 at 4:09 pm

“Maybe, maybe, but today it’s Democrats, so don’t think you’re so much better.”

Certainly some Democrats, but there is a large and vocal segment on the left which decries drone strikes; NSA surveillance; assassination of American citizens; the continued occupation of Afghanistan; intervention in Libya/Syria/Iraq; the failure to pursue legal action against those who ordered torture, carried it out, and then destroyed evidence of their crimes; the abuse if secrecy for national security reasons, which now even applies to trade agreements. I could go on, but I think you take my point. Where are the Republicans who denounce the illegal acts of the Bush White House?

31

MPAVictoria 07.11.14 at 5:31 pm

You guys are giving Brett too much credit:

“Note that it is not Republicans who are proposing to remove the 1st amendment’s protection of political speech.”
Corporations are not people and are not entitled to any free speech rights under any sane reading of the constitution. Plus money doesn’t equal speech under any sane reading of the constitution either.

“Note that it is not Republicans who are defending the use of the bureaucracy as a policical weapon”
If this is referencing the IRS “scandal” then you are an idiot. There is no scandal, simply another made up issue by republican nut jobs. Next you are going to bring up Benghazi.

“the destruction of evidence which was legally mandated to be preserved”
A computer hard drive failed and emails were lost. This has happened before and it has happened again. There is no evidence of any wrong doing.

“who is rationalizing that Presidents are entitled to violate the law?”
Most republicans supported these exact same activities when it was there team doing it. Anyway, a big chunk of Democrats oppose them even with a Democratic president.

32

MPAVictoria 07.11.14 at 5:32 pm

their not there.

Damn

33

The Raven 07.11.14 at 6:02 pm

I like your observation that marketing categories don’t make good poli-sci categories. And Ben Smith thinks that there’s a straight line from the Declaration of Independence to any libertarian faction? What has he been smoking?

I break down the major factions (from right to left) into Tea Party Republicans, Wall Street Republicans, Conservative Democrats, and Liberal Democrats. On The Raven’s scale, going from Grover Norquist on the right at one to Noam Chomsky on the left at five, the factions measure at 1, 2, 2.5, and perhaps 3.5. Distressingly, the politics of the public fall in somewhere between 3 and 3.5.

Democracy: We’re Doing It Wrong.

34

CJColucci 07.11.14 at 6:18 pm

Maybe, maybe, but today it’s Democrats, so don’t think you’re so much better.

This time the “so much” is the giveaway. All I’ll add is that all the abuses I remember under Republican rule actually happened, as opposed to many (though, to be fair, not all) bruited about now, and reached directly and personally to Presidents and their highest advisors. And unlike Mark Twain, my memory hasn’t improved to the point where I remember everything whether it happened or whether it didn’t.

35

Ogden Wernstrom 07.11.14 at 7:11 pm

I suppose in some Boolean parallel dimension of politics, the Democratic Party is “the party of government”.

Or did autocorrect change that from “governance”, which would still be a binary opposite of the Republican Party’s stance?

36

Thornton Hall 07.11.14 at 7:13 pm

@28. There’s a woman in my Co-Op who is psychotic, but just barely. She’s very smart, spent the 60s in Berkeley getting advanced degrees, and runs a small non-profit that has gotten some acclaim around town for helping school kids. She’s convinced, however, that our building is out to get her. It’s a self-fufilling prophecy, of course, so it took a while for me to get down to the bottom of her narrative. But when I did, I saw her brain change just the smallest little facts to match her delusions. The most obvious one was a mistake about whether she or the building had paid to replace every piece of her 1400 square foot floors. Most were much more subtle. It was absolutely infuriating. No matter how much I helped the old lady time and time again, with midnight toilet plunging and various minor repairs, she still accused me of being out to get her at the first sign of disagreement about such non-issues as which neighborhood list-serve we used to find a plumber. Even when I spotted the twist in her facts, there was no winning. Finally, when I realized she was diagnosable with delusional disorder I was able to take her accusations in stride and help her anyway.

It’s too bad the DSM V rejected the inclusion of “Libertarian Disorder”. Threads like this would be cause for pity, instead of anger.

37

bobbyp 07.11.14 at 7:47 pm

I found the ‘Count’s occasional murderous fantasies a bit offputting, too.

The ‘Count (sic) does not spew at RBC. Brett, ‘self-retired’ from Obsidian Wings, not RBC. I imagine, with all his commenting, he gets a bit confused at times.

I suspect he’ll return. So many liberals to piss off, so little time.

38

Brett Bellmore 07.11.14 at 8:05 pm

“Corporations are not people and are not entitled to any free speech rights under any sane reading of the constitution.”

So much for press freedom, with every newspaper in the country published by a corporation.

“If this is referencing the IRS “scandal” then you are an idiot. There is no scandal, simply another made up issue by republican nut jobs.”

As they say, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. The IRS came right out and admitted that it had treated conservative organizations differently. A great many talking points have been issued in an effort to obscure this, but there is no question there is a scandal here. The only question is whether it was a local scandal, or went higher. That is what the emails were sought to determine.

“A computer hard drive failed and emails were lost. This has happened before and it has happened again. There is no evidence of any wrong doing.”

A computer hard drive crashed, and emails subject to discovery in an ongoing lawsuit were lost from the computer. Fine, that can be an accident. It happening six more times in quick succession, a bit more dubious. Then, six months later, the backups were wiped, despite those emails still being subject to discovery in that ongoing lawsuit, despite the IRS having a legal obligation to preserve them. That’s not an acident. That’s spoliation of evidence. The judge in that case is seriously pissed at this moment.

That the backups holding the emails Congress requested were wiped months after the IRS was on notice that Congress was investigating, and multiple hard drives crashed in the weeks following that notice, is not irrelevant, either.

To put it bluntly, it appears that the IRS adopted a backup policy which violates federal law. And, given that they terminated their contract with an outside vendor for backing up their emails only weeks after receiving notice from Congress that an investigation was starting, they adopted it after they knew they’d be destroying wanted evidence.

39

MPAVictoria 07.11.14 at 8:24 pm

“So much for press freedom, with every newspaper in the country published by a corporation.”

Are corporations people? Yes or no please. If yes, how can they be people if they cannot die?

“As they say, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. The IRS came right out and admitted that it had treated conservative organizations differently.”

http://www.salon.com/2013/07/08/how_the_media_outrageously_blew_the_irs_scandal_a_full_accounting/

“But now, almost two months later, we know that in fact the IRS targeted lots of different kinds of groups, not just conservative ones; that the only organizations whose tax-exempt statuses were actually denied were progressive ones; that many of the targeted conservative groups legitimately crossed the line; that the IG’s report was limited to only Tea Party groups at congressional Republicans’ request; and that the White House was in no way involved in the targeting and didn’t even know about it until shortly before the public did.”

The real scandal is that any Tea Party groups were granted tax exempt status at all.

“A computer hard drive crashed, and emails subject to discovery in an ongoing lawsuit were lost from the computer. Fine, that can be an accident.”

Thank you for admitting that. I am sure you were just as mad and certain of wrong doing when the Bush Whitehouse “lost” 22 million emails. Right?
http://crooksandliars.com/2014/06/issa-blamed-ibm-software-loss-22-million

I am a Canadian and am not a member of any American political party. I can however identify nuts. And the Republican party is Chock full o’Nuts.

40

J Thomas 07.11.14 at 8:33 pm

The dynamic is this: Everybody has a tendency to think well of themselves, and badly of their opponents. So, each party only has to be better than it’s own supporters think the other party. This is a recipe for a downward spiral, unless people set a floor below which they won’t permit their own side to decend even if they think the other side already worse than it.

That’s an important point.

We need more than two alternatives.

But we can’t get more than two alternatives while we have vote-for-one–plurality-wins voting.

Our voting system is mostly descended from the British system, which evolved out of a way to balance a powerful king. Democracy V1.0. With a better voting system we could get more than two alternatives, and then we’d have something better to keep Democrats honest than the GOP.

If we had a Liberal party that consistently got around 40% of the vote, and a GOP that got about 40%, and a Democratic party that was smack in the middle that got 70% of the vote, I wouldn’t have a lot of complaint. I’d rather it be a party of the center than the center-right.

41

Layman 07.11.14 at 8:36 pm

“The IRS came right out and admitted that it had treated conservative organizations differently. “

This is simply false, a canard you repeat whether wittingly or not.

“That’s spoliation of evidence.”

Almost as if there were videotapes of the crime; which videotapes were willfully destroyed by senior administration officials, who freely admit carrying out the destruction, or approving it, or acquiescing to it being done. Only this crime involved torture and death; not the stunningly obvious fact that the IRS has a duty to scrutinize overtly partisan political organizations on both sides who appear to be gaming tax law.

Isn’t it odd where you choose to point your outrage?

42

Layman 07.11.14 at 8:41 pm

“If we had a Liberal party that consistently got around 40% of the vote, and a GOP that got about 40%, and a Democratic party that was smack in the middle that got 70% of the vote, I wouldn’t have a lot of complaint.”

Well, I’d certainly wonder about a system which produced a vote tally representing 150% of the vote. Just sayin’.

43

mrearl 07.11.14 at 8:42 pm

“So much for press freedom, with every newspaper in the country published by a corporation.”

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are two different things. That’s why they’re both in the 1A.

44

J Thomas 07.11.14 at 8:45 pm

I am sure you were just as mad and certain of wrong doing when the Bush Whitehouse “lost” 22 million emails. Right?

Brett Bellmore is not arguing that the GOP is in any way sane, moral, or competent.

He’s arguing that the Democratic Party and Obama’s administration are not as virtuous as they ought to be.

To get people with center or leftist tendencies to vote for them, they only have to be better than the GOP and that’s a horribly low bar.

He has not argued recently that the GOP has ever done anything right. (Unless I missed it.) He’s only arguing that the good guys aren’t all that good.

45

J Thomas 07.11.14 at 8:53 pm

“If we had a Liberal party that consistently got around 40% of the vote, and a GOP that got about 40%, and a Democratic party that was smack in the middle that got 70% of the vote, I wouldn’t have a lot of complaint.”

Well, I’d certainly wonder about a system which produced a vote tally representing 150% of the vote. Just sayin’.

Yes, exactly. If we had a system where you vote for every candidate you think is good enough to suit you, we could have a lot of liberal-types who vote for the Liberal party and also the Democrats in case the Liberals lose. And if the Democrats were a real center party with Liberals off to the left, we might get a lot of right-leaning moderates who vote Democrat and GOP both, but not Liberal.

We could also have a Green party getting 20-30% of the vote, pro-drug party getting 10-40% of the vote, the NRA could have its own party and maybe get 40% of the vote, etc.

You vote for everybody you think is OK, and the one with the biggest majority wins.

If we voted that way, the best center party would tend to win but if they sleaze off too much then somebody else starts beating them out, somebody that a whole lot of people think is good enough.

46

Layman 07.11.14 at 9:30 pm

“He’s only arguing that the good guys aren’t all that good.”

Yes, that’s the problem. Faced with a circumstance where there are bad guys and, he says, not-so-bad guys, he can only work up outrage about the latter. And his examples of their failure to be good are, to some extent, trumped-up slanders invented by the bad guys in the first place. Why defend that sort of nonsense?

47

Jerry Vinokurov 07.11.14 at 9:32 pm

He’s arguing that the Democratic Party and Obama’s administration are not as virtuous as they ought to be.

No he isn’t, because pretty much no one who comments here thinks they’re “as virtuous as they ought to be.” The difference of course is that the CT commentariat critiques Democrats from the left, while Brett Bellmore is a delusional libertarian who lives in fantasyland. I can assure you that the consensus version of virtue obtained from a CT poll wouldn’t please BB any more than Obama does.

48

Brett Bellmore 07.12.14 at 12:01 am

“To get people with center or leftist tendencies to vote for them, they only have to be better than the GOP and that’s a horribly low bar.”

To be precise, they only have to be better than people of center or leftist tendencies are inclined to think the GOP is. Given the natural tendency to think badly of people we disagree with, this is an even MORE horribly low bar. Just as the GOP, to get it’s base’s vote, only needs to be better than their perception of the Democratic party, which is, of course, going to be worse than an objective take.

Supposing for the moment that both major parties were identically horrible, (A proposition I’m quite open to.) each would still be permitted by their own base to become still worse, in the belief that they were still better than the other side.

This produces a downward dynamic, which can only be interrupted by a party’s base demanding, not that it’s party be better than the other party, but that it be better than some FIXED level of corruption. People have to be willing to say, “I don’t care if the other side is doing X, I’m holding you to a higher standard. This far and no further, no matter WHAT the other guys are doing!”

The TEA party represents this impulse in the Republican party. They’re not holding the GOP leadership to a standard YOU like, naturally. They’re the other side’s base. But they’re holding it to what they view as a higher standard, and are not willing to take “But the Dems are doing blah blah blah!” as an excuse to turn a blind eye to what they think are their own side’s offenses.

Where’s the Democratic counterpart to this? I see nothing but rationalizations that the other side is almost supernaturally evil… Which, from a utilitarian standpoint, is an excuse to be merely humanly evil in opposing them.

Look, when you think you only have to be better than the other guys, you have a motive to think the other guys really, really bad, because it frees you to be worse. Fight this! Don’t tell yourselves you have to defend Obama, because the Republicans would ratchet NSA spying up to the next level, and under Obama merely read all our email and listen to all our phone calls. (What is the next level, anyway? Daily drug assisted interrogation?) Don’t make excuses for why the scandals aren’t really scandals.

We’d never have gotten rid of Nixon if Republicans of that day had behaved like this. Obama is doing things Nixon scarce dreamed of, and you’re protecting him because “the other side is worse”.

Well, of course you think that, they’re the OTHER side. They think the same of you.

49

Thornton Hall 07.12.14 at 12:46 am

@48 When pushed, my 83 year old neighbor frequently refers to a short story published in the New Yorker called “The Lottery”. Why would everyone in the building say that she’s crazy? She only wants us to admit that we are as fallible as she is? The answer, she suggests, is that lacking any commonality between us, we have created a community based on a mutual animosity toward herself.

It’s possible, I suppose. But Occom’s Razor points to the “she’s delusional” theory.

50

MPAVictoria 07.12.14 at 12:55 am

“Obama is doing things Nixon scarce dreamed of”

Oh? Has Obama killed millions by sabotaging a peace treaty in Vietnam in order to win an election? You think I would have heard about that.

51

Collin Street 07.12.14 at 12:56 am

> You vote for everybody you think is OK, and the one with the biggest majority wins.

Condorcet-type methods — your proposal isn’t condorcet, but has a lot of similar properties — run into the problem that they always invariably elect a “centrist” “compromise” candidate… but not everyone is a “centrist”, and always electing a “centrist” is thus pretty unrepresentative: the median is not the distribution.

The choice to run single-member electorates is the rejection of the possibility of representing the full range of political opinions in any particular election. You can either ignore this — but if you don’t want your elections to be representative why even run them? — or you can set up your electoral system to add some erraticness so that it’ll at least be somewhat representative over time.

They actually do this deliberately in digital signal processing, inject some randomness so that the errors created by the finite detail of digital signals manifests as random noise rather than distortion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dither#Digital_audio

tldr: condorcet and approval voting are terrible if there’s any diversity of opinion in the voting population you want represented. Probably why libertarians like them so much.

52

Lee A. Arnold 07.12.14 at 2:40 am

Brett Bellmore #48: “Obama is doing things Nixon scarce dreamed of, and you’re protecting him because ‘the other side is worse’.”

Are you ten years old? This is the most childish discussion on Crooked Timber in a while, and that is saying something. Nobody is protecting Obama, the other side is actually worse (they want to prevent universal access to healthcare, for Christ’s sake) and Nixon secretly threatened Hanoi with nukes. There is NOTHING Nixon didn’t dream of.

53

J Thomas 07.12.14 at 3:48 am

Condorcet-type methods — your proposal isn’t condorcet, but has a lot of similar properties — run into the problem that they always invariably elect a “centrist” “compromise” candidate… but not everyone is a “centrist”, and always electing a “centrist” is thus pretty unrepresentative: the median is not the distribution.

I’m totally baffled by your objection.

It seems to me that the candidate who gets the most votes ought to win.

The choice to run single-member electorates is the rejection of the possibility of representing the full range of political opinions in any particular election.

What voting system would you prefer? I figure that with approval voting there’s nothing wrong with a single party running mutiple candidates because they aren’t running against each other. Everybody can vote for as many of them as he likes.We can have as big a range of political opinions in the election as we like. Of course, the winner will be somebody that a lot of people vote for. That goes with the territory.

They actually do this deliberately in digital signal processing, inject some randomness so that the errors created by the finite detail of digital signals manifests as random noise rather than distortion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dither#Digital_audio

Yes, but … say you’re electing a president. I have no idea how you’d elect a president who represented everybody, unless he was full-blown old-fashioned multiple-personality schizophrenic. I guess if you had somebody who was so well-liked and so center-of-the-road that everybody voted for him….

Some voters are going to lose. Their stands are unpopular. Things won’t go their way. It’s supposed to be like that.

For legislatures, we elect people to represent specific geographical areas. If your unpopular opinions are popular in one of those areas, then those opinions will be represented in the legislature. But if you’re spread evenly, say you have 5% in every voting district, and 60% of the people have heard of you and disapprove? Then you won’t get a voice in the legislature. Though if you did have a voice you’d likely still get voted down every time. So what difference does it make?

I’ve thought of ways to change that. Like, we could run elections kind of like corporations. You give your proxy to whoever you trust, they pass it on to whoever they trust, eventually you have the legislators voting however many proxies they have. Then nobody goes unrepresented because his geographic area voted for somebody he doesn’t like. Everybody gets represented by somebody they chose, or if they choose somebody to choose for them, by etc. I think it would take a great big Constitutional amendment to get that one through, though. Or maybe not.

I don’t see the DSP analogy yet. Somehow I find myself imagining 2008 and the voting guys announce “Obama won the popular vote and the state votes, but we have randomly randomized the results so that McCain won, because we have decided a wider range of opinions needs to be represented.”

I apologize if it seems like I am ridiculing your idea. The truth is I don’t understand it yet and as a result it doesn’t make sense to me at all, yet.

I don’t see why we’re supposed to elect the full spectrum of opinion. To my way of thinking, democracy is a cheaper alternative to civil war. When the majority wins a vote, that’s an indication they would likely win if sore losers refused to accept the vote and chose to fight. If the voting rules are reasonable and a minority can’t win an election, that’s an indication they probably wouldn’t do well in a fight either.

And that’s related to my concern about approval voting. If there are a whole lot of extremists and they really want to fight, approval voting may get us a moderate who will try to keep the country together, even though the majority of the public wants to fight — because while the majority agrees they don’t like him, there’s nobody they can agree on in his place.

54

bad Jim 07.12.14 at 8:12 am

There’s a lot of fun to be had with

the possibility of representing the full range of political opinions in any particular election

It’s nearly impossible to elect a candidate who is representative of the full range of political opinions, though some thoroughly corrupt officials attempt to approximate it. Perhaps we could start a surrealist party whose candidates would pledge to base every vote on a strictly aleatory process.

I’m pretty sure I ran across a recent survey which showed that moderates aren’t centrists, exactly, but rather entertain a muddle of extreme beliefs. Turning an election into a perfect smorgasbord could have some alarming results, like a Senator with a mandate to liberalize immigration, legalize marijuana, investigate chemtrails, and restore the gold standard.

55

Ze Kraggash 07.12.14 at 8:31 am

@52 “…and Nixon secretly threatened Hanoi with nukes. There is NOTHING Nixon didn’t dream of.”

That’s actually the standard US foreign policy mantra, including, of course, the Obama administration: “no options off the table”. It’s just that you choose not to pay attention: ‘of course our guy couldn’t mean that‘.

56

Collin Street 07.12.14 at 10:35 am

I apologize if it seems like I am ridiculing your idea. The truth is I don’t understand it yet and as a result it doesn’t make sense to me at all, yet.

Here, a metaphor.

Imagine that you’re running a small town in anywhere, USA. Religious demographics are
55% baptist
30% catholic
10% other protestant [largely episcopalian, you call them]
5% other or no religion.
A prayer service or equivalent is called for before each municipal meeting. Currently, 100% of prayer services are taken by the local baptist preacher: is this optimal, or are improvements possible?

[this being an imaginary situation we can imagine that the “abolish the prayer services entirely!” option is excluded for reasons universally agreed to be appropriate.]

57

Layman 07.12.14 at 12:40 pm

“The TEA party represents this impulse in the Republican party. They’re not holding the GOP leadership to a standard YOU like, naturally. They’re the other side’s base. But they’re holding it to what they view as a higher standard…”

If the Tea Party wants to raise the level of the Republican Party to the higher standard of racist, ignorant, government- and economy-wreckers, then you’ve already made it perfectly clear who’s worse. That must be why you decline to answer any of the questions put to you in this thread, huh?

58

Collin Street 07.12.14 at 1:04 pm

Rereading, it looks like I didn’t put as much emphasis as I thought on “over time”.

Condorcet methods always reliably elect a “centrist” [==unrepresentative] candidate: methods that are more “erratic” elect a wider variety of candidates that means that over time — elections are not once-off, the time dimensions matter — the office-holders you get better represent the distribution of views within the population. Sometimes you get faction 1, sometimes you get faction 2. All-centrists-all-the-time will cut out almost all the population from the driver’s seat, which… I’ve got to ask why you’re even bothering with elections, in that case.

For an extreme case of the sorts of problems you can get, you might want to have a look at Singapore: government-run housing policy is — I understand — run so that every sub-district has the same ethnic and demographic breakdown as every other district, to “maintain social uniformity” or some-such. Consider the implications on the results of single-winner elections, minority representation, and issues discussed.

If you don’t have some mechanism that works to represent diversity of opinion your whole election process becomes kinda pointless, really. Condorcet runs into problems here, as does approval voting.

What do I like? STV works well in australia, but it works fairly badly in ireland. Cultural issues and details of implementation, yes, but we don’t for sure know which, exactly… and since these are the only two places that use it I don’t like the odds recommending it to other people. Otherwise… standard practice these days is to grab whatever seems more culturally-suitable out of list-PR and mixed-member proportional, and that’s probably a good starting point.

[but modulo specific cases [condorcet, approval, chilean two-member “proportional”, winner-take-all multi-member] most systems can be made to work adequately. I mean, canada runs on FPTP.]

59

Brett Bellmore 07.12.14 at 1:19 pm

“There’s a lot of fun to be had with

the possibility of representing the full range of political opinions in any particular election

It’s nearly impossible to elect a candidate who is representative of the full range of political opinions, “

Of course it is. That’s why you go with multi-member districts, or at large elections. There’s no reason any candidate for a legislative position has to “lose”. Just weight their vote in the legislature according to the percentage of the vote they get, and seat every one of them.

Naturally, this can’t work for executive positions, where inherently one person is required. That’s a good place for instant runoffs. But making sure the full range of political positions is represented in a legislature is dirt simple.

“Turning an election into a perfect smorgasbord could have some alarming results, like a Senator with a mandate to liberalize immigration, legalize marijuana, investigate chemtrails, and restore the gold standard.”

Aside from the fact that the first of these is unlikely to happen in a genuinely democratic election, given public opinion on the subject, so what? Marijuana is already being legalized, investigate away, (All you’ll find is that they’re fictional.) and we could use a break from inflation. What’s alarming here? That views you don’t like could get represented in the government? That’s a feature of any real democratic system.

60

Lee A. Arnold 07.12.14 at 1:34 pm

Ze Kraggash: “of course, the Obama administration: “no options off the table”. It’s just that you choose not to pay attention: ‘of course our guy couldn’t mean that‘.”

The quote was, “doing things Nixon scarce dreamed of”.

61

J Thomas 07.12.14 at 2:15 pm

Imagine that you’re running a small town in anywhere, USA. Religious demographics are
55% baptist
30% catholic
10% other protestant [largely episcopalian, you call them]
5% other or no religion.
A prayer service or equivalent is called for before each municipal meeting. Currently, 100% of prayer services are taken by the local baptist preacher: is this optimal, or are improvements possible?

It depends.

I’ll do all percentages as percent of total, so if I say 5% of baptists I mean 5% of the total, who are baptist.

If I’m running the town I get to listen to people’s complaints and decide what to do. Then I’ll do whatever seems to please people generally.

If instead it’s subject to vote, and baptists are sure they want a baptist prayer every time, that’s how it goes. Maybe it causes resentment among catholics etc. Tough.

If it’s up for vote and 45% of baptists want it this way while 10% of baptists are liberal enough to want some other arrangement, and those 45% of baptists bribe the 5% with no religion and some of the 10% others who wouldn’t get their way much regardless with other things they want more, so they go along, so the majority says 100% baptist prayer, then that’s how it goes.

On the other hand possibly the 30% catholics get the 10% of liberal baptist support and bribe the other nonbaptists to go along, maybe it winds up 100% catholic or 50:50. Again, the majority gets what they want. The no-religion people for example get help with something they care about in exchange for this trivia they don’t care about.

If a lot of people are reasonable, they might get an agreement that the guy who gives the prayer will cycle, the same guy never does it twice, and whoever does it is supposed to give a nondenominational prayer for everybody. I like it when people back down from their doctrinaire positions and do something that’s adequate for most people.

Even if I’m in charge I want to find something that’s at least acceptable to the majority. If I won’t give them something they want, I’ll try to give them some substitute. If the majority wants something I think is bad then I’ll try to persuade them to want something better instead.

A 55% majority that alienates everybody else is not very good, they aren’t that strong. If they head that way I’ll try to persuade them not to. But for binary yes/no decisions, I can’t think of an adequate replacement for majority rule. Even if they do it badly, getting people mad at them, a minority that rules and gets people mad at them is worse. I sure don’t want to be that minority all by myself.

62

Collin Street 07.12.14 at 2:38 pm

I’ll do all percentages as percent of total, so if I say 5% of baptists I mean 5% of the total, who are baptist.

Now. Imagine exactly the same situation, but instead of “religious demographics” I write “political demographics” and instead of “delivers the prayer service” I wrote “has a member of their community elected as mayor”.

Which is to say, elections aren’t “binary yes/no decisions”, because we hold more than one election for each office. We can use this spread over time to represent the diversity of views in society, and approval voting performs poorly here, sufficiently poorly that we shouldn’t consider it for use.

[although exact x% of the population x% of the time in office runs into its own problems, which you can probably work out yourself. Turns out there aren’t simple answers and that trade-offs are needed: always electing the average candidate means we discard information about the spread, for example here.]

63

J Thomas 07.12.14 at 2:39 pm

Condorcet methods always reliably elect a “centrist” [==unrepresentative] candidate: methods that are more “erratic” elect a wider variety of candidates that means that over time — elections are not once-off, the time dimensions matter — the office-holders you get better represent the distribution of views within the population. Sometimes you get faction 1, sometimes you get faction 2.

I don’t right off understand the allure of this. If we put all the votes in a hat and pick one at random, then we’ll get winners proportional to the votes. If a party has 5% of the votes then they have a 5% chance to win.

This has the advantage that it lets people with good ideas that they haven’t been able to persuade the majority of, to try out those ideas.
It has the disadvantage that it lets people with terrible ideas that they haven’t been able to persuade the majority of, to try out those ideas.

If you want the government to do something and the majority of the public is against it, why not work harder to persuade them?

All-centrists-all-the-time will cut out almost all the population from the driver’s seat, which… I’ve got to ask why you’re even bothering with elections, in that case.

If the guy with the biggest majority of votes wins the election, it seems to me that the smallest minority has been cut out. If you want assume people don’t actually want centrist candidates, just persuade them not to vote for them and the problem is solved.

What do I like? STV works well in australia, but it works fairly badly in ireland. Cultural issues and details of implementation, yes, but we don’t for sure know which, exactly… and since these are the only two places that use it I don’t like the odds recommending it to other people.

I have no objection at all to STV. It’s harder to describe, but I’ll gladly support whichever of approval voting or STV gets traction easiest.

[but modulo specific cases [condorcet, approval, chilean two-member “proportional”, winner-take-all multi-member] most systems can be made to work adequately.

Yes, given the will and favorable conditions, people can get by with almost anything including monarchy. I want a voting system for the USA that breaks us out of simple two-party rule. I don’t like having only my choice between Democrats for mostly-status-quo, Republicans for something crazy, or throw my vote away expressing my disapproval. I want to vote for something else and not throw away my vote.

64

Ogden Wernstrom 07.12.14 at 3:02 pm

Brett Bellmore 07.12.14 at 12:01 am

…they only have to be better than people of center or leftist tendencies are inclined to think the GOP is.

Consequently, you’re allowing yourself to be just slightly less-delusional than you think The Left is?

Where’s the Democratic counterpart to [the TEA Party]?

Are you now demanding that The Democratic Party should have an incalcitrant, ultra-delusional, sloganeering, uncompromising faction blindly pulling it as far left as they can? You really do hate the Democratic Party.

Don’t tell yourselves you have to defend Obama…

OK. That was easy.

Obama is doing things Nixon scarce dreamed of, and you’re protecting him…

Protecting him? It has become obvious that you are posting on the incorrect forum.

But I am curious what you know about Nixon’s dreams, and I suspect Tim Burton will buy the film rights.

65

Collin Street 07.12.14 at 3:13 pm

I want to vote for something else and not throw away my vote.

Ah.

In that case you want to have a look at the US’s nomination process: good keywords are “ballot access”. The US has serious problems here, with a government-run vetting process that dramatically narrows the options available to vote for and increases costs for unapproved organisations.

By the time the actual “voting” comes around the fix is already well and truly in.

66

J Thomas 07.13.14 at 12:45 am

By the time the actual “voting” comes around the fix is already well and truly in.

Yes, but before the time the subsidies for established parties etc come in, the fix is already truly in with the voting process.

It’s a collection of interlocking parts, and arranging that votes for third parties are not just wasted looks to me like one of the jackstraws on the top. There isn’t much point fixing the other problems when that one is sitting on them.

I want to arrange it that a vote for the Green party is not in itself a vote against the Democratic party and for the GOP. You should be able to vote Green and if that doesn’t work out you can vote Democrat too.

Similarly, you should be able to vote Libertarian and if they fail also vote Republican.

If you want to work toward a system where every vote counts — where the person you vote for either casts his votes in the legislature or chooses somebody who will do that for him — then I’ll go along with that. I’m working more toward IRV or acceptance voting because I consider them less radical and likely to pass sooner. But I’ll gladly support that too, and go with whichever one gets traction.

I’ll gladly support you in trying to get STV in US states, where we can get more data about its strengths and weaknesses. So far I’m with you on every specific proposal. I don’t understand why you might want to get occasional unrepresentative minority governments so that the government can sample the whole state space. I don’t get why that’s desirable. But I haven’t seen specific proposals for that. I can see value in maximizing the number of first-choice candidates that get elected in 5-winners-out-of-16-candidates elections.

67

ZM 07.13.14 at 1:48 am

“I want to arrange it that a vote for the Green party is not in itself a vote against the Democratic party and for the GOP. You should be able to vote Green and if that doesn’t work out you can vote Democrat too.”

In Australia we currently have compulsory preferential voting for both lower and upper house , eg. If there are 4 candidates you must number them 1, 2, 3, 4, according to your preferred order. There was a case in the 1990s where a man was gaoled for encouraging people to interpret the law at that time as being for voluntary preferential voting in the lower house – eg. to vote 1, 2, 2, 2 if there were parties (in his case the 2 major parties) that you didn’t wish to give preferences to. The law was changed to specify compulsory ordered preferential voting.

The upper house is composed of senators from the electorate of the states and territories – each state elects 12 senators and the territories elect 2. The Senate tends to be more diverse because there are 12 senators elected – if a candidate from smaller party gets around 10% of the vote then they should be elected to the upper house.

The 2013 election had a great number of candidates including many from smaller parties. The newspapers did not give very much information on the non-major party candidates – and some smaller parties had not done very much complex policy work. A group of small parties (“micro parties”) exchanged preferences (in our senate paper you can vote above the line and agree to the preferences of the party you choose above the line, or you can vote below the line and number all candidates, say 1 to 75, yourself by your own preferences – or guesses if you don’t know much about the smaller parties and independent candidates). The number of senators from non-major parties has caused consternation – as has the fact that not much us known about some of the smaller parties that now have balance of power in the senate., and people might have accidentally preferenced a candidate they didn’t want by voting above the line.

The senate and senate voting are now under review – with changes possibly being optional preferential voting, limited preferential voting (ie. you can only preference up to, say, 10 candidates), voter ID, electronic voting, higher fees to stand as a candidate, and higher numbers of members to register as a political party.

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Collin Street 07.13.14 at 8:42 am

Yes, but before the time the subsidies for established parties etc come in, the fix is already truly in with the voting process.

No voting system can elect candidates who are not permitted to stand.

Here, look.
http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/elections/standing/

In order to become a ‘validly nominated’ candidate, which means your name will appear on a ballot paper, you need to submit a completed set of nomination forms together with a deposit of £500 to the (Acting) Returning Officer before 4pm on the deadline day for nominations.

As a ‘validly nominated’ candidate you will be entitled to free postage for one election communication to electors in your constituency, as well as the use of certain rooms to hold public meetings.

Versus…
http://ballotpedia.org/Ballot_access_for_minor_party_candidates
… which isn’t even an official source, and I’m using because I spent ten minutes google searching and couldn’t find an official source.

And the US and the UK both run on FPTP!

69

Ze Kraggash 07.13.14 at 9:41 am

IMHO, there is no hope for capitalist democracy: no matter which way you turn it, money controls everything. It already produced the best it could (in finlandized states during the Cold War), and it’ll only continue to deteriorate from there.

70

J Thomas 07.13.14 at 1:23 pm

#68

No voting system can elect candidates who are not permitted to stand.

True, so I guess we need to attack on all fronts at once. Or maybe put extra effort into the ones that make strategic sense, that further the others too.

In the short-to-middling run, we could get some help from the GOP since the Libertarians are much more threat to them than any third party is to Democrats.

https://www.lp.org/2012-election-results

In places like AR or CO libertarians sometimes get as much as 25% of the vote when the election results are certain, but usually less than 5% in close races. But there are various examples where they threw elections to Democrats that would have been won if Libertarians had voted GOP. Arizona US Congress district 1, 6% libertarian, Democrat win. District 9, 6.6% Libertarian, Democrat win.

Indiana US senate race, Libertarians got more than 5% and if all of that had gone GOP it would have almost been enough. In Massachusetts US district 6 a 4.5% Libertarian vote was enough to throw it to the Democrat. In the Montana senate race, 6.5% Libertarians gave us a Democratic win. Similarly a Democrat for governor. New Hampshire District 1, 4.4% Libertarian, Democrat win.

It isn’t significant yet, but it can only get worse. As more and more Republicans get disgusted by the GOP and vote Libertarian, eventually it will start to hurt. In the long run to survive the GOP must find better ways to suppress the Libertarian vote, but in the middling run maybe they will support a better voting system to defuse the Libertarian threat. We can expect the Democratic party to strongly oppose it since — in the short run — it would give GOP dominance. (And as Brett Belmore pointed out, the GOP tries to avoid actually dominating since they hate to be responsible for results.) But getting the GOP mass media talking about better voting systems would help a lot.

I hate to pin my hope on the GOP acting in ways that help it in the short run but lead to its self-destruction. But maybe that isn’t such a bad bet.

71

PatrickinIowa 07.14.14 at 4:24 am

Not everybody on this list is a Democrat. Of course, the Greens haven’t committed many crimes because they’ve never been in power, but still…

Not everybody here is from the United States. For me, a Canadian (with US citizenship, but not exactly by full choice) a lot of the bullshit that happens is characteristic of Americans, not any particular flavour of Americans. (See racism, subtle. Canadians and Europeans are racist as hell, but not in exactly the same ways as white liberal Americans.)

Still, two words about Obama/Nixon: Henry Kissinger.

Those of us who have enough rings on them remember when the Dems were the experts at voter suppression in minority communities. They were better at it, but then some of the smarter Dems evolved to the point where they didn’t get peeled off by Reagan and Atwater.

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TM 07.15.14 at 4:27 pm

Methinks the sillyness of Smith’s article is best exposed by quoting a few lines from it. It’s hard to improve on that in terms of involuntary sarcasm.

Otoh, maybe the sillyness of Smith’s article should best have been left alone. As I keep saying, rightwing silliness is quite overrates these days.

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TM 07.15.14 at 4:28 pm

overrated.

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TM 07.15.14 at 4:44 pm

This concerns the “Vast, Conservative Literary-Persecution Complex”, where the comment section is closed:

Thank you for bringing these gems to our attention. I often complain about the time wasted on right-wing silliness but that particular silliness definitely rises above the ordinary. Great find!

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