Tactical Voting

by Harry on June 19, 2019

In the very unlikely event that you, a CT reader, will have a vote in deciding the United Kingdom’s next Prime Minister, and haven’t made up your mind, you could do worse than listening to various of the candidates discussing ‘political thinking’ with Nick Robinson. I don’t listen to the Today programme, and have no other real exposure to Robinson, and, in general, dislike the underlying premise of Political Thinking that looking at people’s childhood and youth tells you something useful about their political thinking. What is good about the podcast is Robinson’s other premise which is basically that in the long form interview it is very hard for politicians to disguise who they are. A typical pattern—Dominic Raab, Steve Baker and Esther McVey all comform—is that they start out seeming reasonable and perfectly decent but end up seeming either nuts (Baker), poisonous (McVey) or both (Raab). [Of course, plenty of interviewees (eg David Lidington, Stella Creasey, David Gauke) end up seeming exactly as they did at the beginning—smart, serious, decent]. It is no accident, as Robinson knows, that the most likely future PM has not yet chosen to appear on the show.

Anyway, down to business. There was talk at the second stage of the vote that the repulsive Johnson’s campaign might “lend” votes to Hunt so that Boris would face him rather than someone else in the run-off among the members, thus giving him an easier time than he might have against another contender. Simon Cotton on twitter says:

People seem to think that this kind of tactical voting is unethical because, rather than voting for a less-preferred candidate because their first preference can’t win, Boris’s supporters would be expressing an insincere preference. My question is, why is this so much worse?

There’s nothing wrong at all with regular tactical voting. And until I read the question it didn’t occur to me there was anything wrong in this case. But here’s my immediate thought. The design of the leadership election is as follows: the MPs vote on all the candidates in a series of ballots, gradually narrowing the options down to a top two: then the members decide on a simple majority vote. This design suggests that the MPs are acting as trustees for the party (and, when the leader will also be PM, for the country). The design (with iterative, information-producing, votes) enables them to block entirely unsuitable candidates (whose unsuitability may be down to their unelectability when they are acting as trustees for the party, or incompetence, when they’re acting as trustees for the country). It also enables them to produce a debate that will serve the party or country well by getting policy ideas aired and challenged.

Just to say that this idea—of MPs as trustees—has some as far as I can tell among Tory MPs, at least according to the many discussions I’ve heard over the past couple of years on the radio.

If so, there’s nothing in principle wrong with voting tactically for the purposes of blocking unelectable candidates or candidates unsuited to office, or producing valuable debate. But the purpose of lending their votes to Hunt, as far as I can tell, was to restrict, not expand, the space of policy discussion, and to protect Johnson from facing a candidate who might provoke him to a genuinely self-destructive gaffe. So the problem is with the particular aims of this proposed use of the tactic.

Discuss.

[And let’s leave to one side the fact that most MPs supporting Johnson do so knowing that he is unsuited to the office of PM (they have ample evidence for this, as you do, and from what I can gather very few indeed deny it) and that however unsuited to the office any of the other candidates are none are as unsuited as he is.]

{ 79 comments }

1

engels 06.20.19 at 12:23 am

Looking at Robinson’s behaviour off camera tells you something useful about his political thinking

2

J-D 06.20.19 at 1:08 am

My immediate thought is that nobody should vote for any of them.

I understand that people sometimes find themselves in situations where it seems that any way of not voting for any of the candidates is a worse option. But is this one of those cases? Is there no good way available to a Conservative MP of not voting for any of the candidates?

If I were being asked to give ethical advice to a Conservative MP (and that is what we’re being asked to do here, in a hypothetical way), it would be: ‘Resign from the Conservative Party, admit you were wrong all along, and apologise for the error.’

Obviously I know that none of them are going to do this, but then I don’t generally expect people will follow my ethical advice: still, if I’m being asked for it, that’s what it is.

On reflection, however, a further thought occurs to me, responding more directly to the question posed, and it’s this: as far as I can tell (which is an important qualification, because I haven’t been following closely) the probability is negligible that the inclusion or exclusion, at any stage of the process, of any of the candidates, will have an effect on the inclusion or exclusion from the debate of important sensible ideas that merit discussion. Enlighten my ignorance: what are the important sensible ideas meriting discussion which will be burked if Hunt is Johnson’s opponent in the final run-off but which might get an airing if it’s somebody else?

3

MisterMr 06.20.19 at 10:47 am

“There’s nothing wrong at all with regular tactical voting.”

My problem with tactical voting is: I’m a citiziens and politicians are supposed to work for me.
But the only way politician know what citiziens want is through voting; so how can politicians know what I want if I vote tactically?
So this isn’t a moral problem with tactical voting, but rather a practical one.

But if we speak in terms of ethics, no tactical vote can be unethic[1], IMHO, because vote is a right so who has this right can be definition use it in any way s/he wishes.

Or to put it differently, vote is a matter of manifested preferencies, and what are the underlying psychological preferencies is rather irrelevant IMHO.

____
[1] of course, if I vote for something that is unethic in itself, then my vote too can be seen as unethic, but this is a different question.

4

John Quiggin 06.20.19 at 11:20 am

@3 Voting has both functions – to express your views and to select a representative as close to those views as possible. Tactical voting puts priority on the second.

Most of the time, Alternative Vote/Instant Runoff systems let you do both. Tirst support your most preferred, but unelectable candidate. Then, when that candidate is eliminated, your preferences flow to the better of the two candidates who actually have a chance. This doesn’t always work, but the exceptions are rare in practice.

In this context, what’s the point of the multiple rounds in the Tory contest? Presumably, the voters have a pretty clear idea of who the candidates are. The only point of the multiple rounds seems to be to facilitate the bad kind of tactical voting and vote-buying.

5

Harry 06.20.19 at 1:24 pm

I think the point of the iteration is that with each round the MPs gather (some) information about what other MPs are thinking, which they can then incorporate into their decisionmaking. So it enables exactly the kind of tactical voting I’m suggesting it is designed to facilitate; and, of course, thus enables the kind of tactical voting that some I’m suggesting works against its purposes.

Vote buying is complicated because the ballots are secret: nobody know who voted for anybody, and, this being the Tory party, less than half the MPs are trustworthy (and they all know that).

The Tories only introduced voting for leaders in the 1965; before that some amorphous group of kingmakers mysteriously chose the leader. It only let the members in on the act in 2005. Being the Conservative Party, internal democracy of any sort is not a matter of principle. That said, they sensibly have a probationary period in which new members cannot vote (thus deterring sudden entrism to some degree, though it clearly was a problem as UKIP disintegrated and before the Nigel Farage Party mark 2 was created).

6

MisterMr 06.20.19 at 1:40 pm

@John Quiggin 4
” what’s the point of the multiple rounds in the Tory contest?”

Suppose a two rounds referendum about brexit, that starts with 3 options:
a) Revoke
b) WA
c) exit with no deal

In the first round, the least voted option is eliminated; in the second round, people can choose only between two items, so that one will necessariously have the absolute majority.
I’d say that it isn’t all that bad, if in the end you have to choose one single option.

The other option would be to have the item that got most votes in the first round win immediately; compared to this, multiple rounds seem fairer to me.

Or to put it in another way, if faction A has enough votes to play this second kind of tactical votes, probably with a different system where the one who gets a plurality wins they would win anyway.

7

Dipper 06.20.19 at 2:27 pm

“In the very unlikely event that you, a CT reader, will have a vote in deciding the United Kingdom’s next Prime Minister”

I don’t have a vote, but my 16-year old son does (unless there is a clause not allowing 16-year olds the vote in the Conservative Party rules). He was bought membership for his birthday by his older brother in an attempt to interest him in politics.

So, is he spending his time close following all the moves and avidly reading what everyone is saying? Or is he enjoying his post-exam summer by going to lots of parties with his mates, going shopping, and being on X-box? I think we all know the answer to that.

Of course he’s going to vote for Boris. What 16 year-old wouldn’t?

8

Colin Reid 06.20.19 at 3:41 pm

As a tactic, it sounds like a relative of the classic ‘wrecking vote’, where you vote for what you think is the most unacceptable version of whatever it is you already don’t like (whether it’s a version of a bill, or a leader of a political party, and so on), in an attempt to derail the whole project. It’s in the same spirit as the “Tories for Corbyn” meme of 2015, for instance. Leaving aside any moral questions, you can criticize it in terms of game theory by pointing out the big downside gambles involved: a) your insincere promotion of this candidate/position could actually be taken seriously and give them/it more respectability; b) if the ‘derailed’ version somehow prevails anyway, you’re getting the worst possible outcome.

9

Cian 06.20.19 at 4:03 pm

The Tory party leadership content has been designed and honed to make sure that the most ruthless, tactical, person wins – because that’s who they want to lead them.

It’s cute that people think it’s somehow about policy.

10

Leo Casey 06.20.19 at 4:07 pm

Let me slightly alter the terms of the issue. So long as our electoral systems are constituted in ways that allow for tactical voting, there are limited, purely ethical grounds for objecting to people engaging in such voting, as the response could well be that such ethical injunctions would end up in something akin to unilateral disarmament. A very strong ethical argument can be made against the role of private money in elections, based on its corrupting effects, but should I be expected to follow that injunction to my disadvantage, if the rules permit it and others are exploiting the rules? Perhaps the focus should be on how we devise electoral systems that abate, if not completely prevent, their gaming for the purpose of undermining the democratic will, such as preventing a choice between the leading candidates.

11

Cian 06.20.19 at 4:09 pm

The vast majority of Tory MPs are voting for the following (in order):
+ To keep the deselection wolf from their door.
+ To keep their seat for as long as possible.
+ The survival of the party

That’s it. They don’t care about the country. They don’t really care about Brexit to the degree that it conflicts with those things. Those three things are what they’re voting for.

Tory party members care about two things:
+ Keeping Jeremy Corbyn out of power.
+ BREXIT BREXIT BREXIT

It would be really useful if people focused on what the election is about – rather than some imaginary civics lesson in their head.

12

Harry 06.20.19 at 7:03 pm

Cian, you’re welcome to go elsewhere if you don’t like what we do here. No compulsion at all, either to read, or comment snarkily on, what we write.

dipper – – is that a comment on the general irresponsibility of 16 year olds?

engels — wasn’t he a Tory activist in college or something? Anyway whatever his defects in the short form (everyone I know hates him on Today, I don’t listen), he’s a master of the long interview.

13

Dipper 06.20.19 at 7:49 pm

“is that a comment on the general irresponsibility of 16 year olds?” well I guess so. Lots of people seem keen on 16 year-olds voting when they think youth will vote for a cause they themselves believe in. My boy is quite smart, as you would expect, but I don’t think he has really served his political apprenticeship in any meaningful way. I’m not sure I’d trust his judgement in the way I’d trust a 60 year-olds political judgement.

@ Cian – “They don’t care about the country”. I don’t see what’s wrong with Tories voting to keep themselves in power. In a democracy that means they have managed to be the most popular choice. If the people care about the country then that means doing things that the majority of people who care about the country approve of. That’s how democracies work, isn’t it?

I don’t see what is wrong with tactical voting. People are entitled to cast their vote where they like, and in whatever way they think will best further their cause.

14

John Quiggin 06.20.19 at 8:38 pm

@6 I need to explain better. In the instant runoff system, each voter ranks the alternatives in order of preference. So, when the least favored option is eliminated, there’s no need for a second round of voting. The counters simply take all the votes for that option and allocate them to the option that got their second preference.

The only reason for a second round is if voters want to change their preference ordering when they see the results of the first round. That can only be the case with tactical voting.

15

John Quiggin 06.20.19 at 8:43 pm

It’s odd that Dipper would comment on the irresponsibility of the young in relation to Brexit. The whole exercise involves old people voting to override the young on an issue that will barely affect people who are no longer working, have a more or less guaranteed income and won’t be around that much longer.

The standard assumption is that older voters will exercise wisdom in the interests of their children and grandchildren. When, instead, they trash the future in (at the most charitable) an exercise in nostalgia, you have to ask whether they should be allowed to vote on matters that don’t really concern them.

16

RobinM 06.20.19 at 9:23 pm

I don’t mean to be disputatious, but coming from someone whose observations I usually find careful and interesting, I’m quite taken aback by John Quiggin’s remarks at no. 14, for despite their brevity they contain so many questionable assumptions I don’t quite know where to begin to challenge them.

Is it really the case, for one, that the Brexit vote can be reduced to old people overriding the young?

As to whether the outcome will barely affect those who “won’t be around much longer,” that claim surely depends on a particular narrow view of what might constitute someone’s interest. (To switch to another interest here: should those of us who won’t be around in 10, 20, 50 years simply sit back and say, “well, climate change won’t really impact my life much, so it’s none of my concern”?)

With respect to “the standard assumption,” it hasn’t been something I’ve observed, that we are all only interested in, and ought to be only interested in things which affect ourselves and our extended selves, our children and grandchildren. At least some of us have larger concerns.

As with the first point I tried to make, respecting the interpretation of the Brexit vote, it is surely at least debatable, that the older voters were merely engaging in “an exercise in nostalgia”?

But to me the most distressing of JQ’s points is the last one: “you have to ask whether they should be allowed to vote on matters that don’t really concern them.” Surely anyone who is a democrat and who wants to see democracy extended and deepened will be shocked by this notion, that the right to vote should be restricted to those who can somehow prove that they have a legitimate concern respecting the matter being voted on?

17

RobinM 06.20.19 at 9:26 pm

Sorry, it should be comment no. 15.

18

Cian 06.20.19 at 9:57 pm

> @ Cian – “They don’t care about the country”. I don’t see what’s wrong with Tories voting to keep themselves in power. In a democracy that means they have managed to be the most popular choice. If the people care about the country then that means doing things that the majority of people who care about the country approve of. That’s how democracies work, isn’t it?

I’m merely stating that Tory MPs are voting based upon what they think will allow them to keep their job for as long as possible. Which for many of them may just mean delaying a general election and avoiding deselection by their local parties. I don’t think there’s much consideration about policy, or even ideology, at this point.

19

Cian 06.20.19 at 10:03 pm

Cian, you’re welcome to go elsewhere if you don’t like what we do here. No compulsion at all, either to read, or comment snarkily on, what we write.

Fair enough it’s your blog. I just don’t see the point of pretending that the leadership election is something that it isn’t. The Tories want a strong leader who can unite the party by fair means, or foul. It’s what they value, and the election system (including the cheating) seems like a reasonably efficient way of achieving that. After all if you’re a Tory don’t you want a leader who’s master of the dark arts?

20

engels 06.20.19 at 10:10 pm

President of Oxford University Conservative Association iirc. For better or worse I only really listen Radio 3 so can’t comment on his interviewing abilities.

21

Harry 06.20.19 at 10:13 pm

“Surely anyone who is a democrat and who wants to see democracy extended and deepened will be shocked by this notion, that the right to vote should be restricted to those who can somehow prove that they have a legitimate concern respecting the matter being voted on?”

There’s loads of interesting stuff in your comment RobinM, but I don’t think this is so shocking. Let’s set aside your comment about the narrowness of JQ’s conception of interests (which I think is basically right). AT least the following seems reasonable: its far from obvious someone who doesn’t have a legitimate concern respecting the matter being voted on has a moral right to vote on it. I get to vote in local elections here, and you don’t, and that seems reasonable because I have much more of a legitimate interest than you do in what happens round here. It’s not that you have NO legitimate interest. I have some legitimate interest in what happens in and to the UK; people I care about live there; my identity is invested in its future; I’ll be a citizen, and visit, till I die. What happens in and to the UK has some effects beyond the UK, even to people who live round here. But I don’t live there and I never will again. It seems reasonable for the UK to deny me a vote in its elections (as, in fact, I think it does, unless I move back, in which case I get a vote again). The principle of all affected interests is a good explanation of the principle of subsidiarity.

JQ isn’t saying that people should have to prove they have a legitimate interest, just that they have to have a legitimate interest. Of course we need an impartial way of determining that. But, suppose we have one: still you might think that voters have un-enforeceable moral reasons to defer somewhat to others whose interests are more affected by a choice than their own. Suppose the UK did allow me to vote in its elections, or my local authority allows you to vote in our elections: I, and you, have reasons to be at least somewhat deferential to those who will actually have to live with the consequences of decision. That’s why I would feel very uneasy voting in UK elections even if I were allowed to (and probably, but not certainly, wouldn’t).

So, when it comes to Brexit. Its a decision that will have far more impact on the young than the old. It seems reasonable to think the old have moral reasons to take that into account when deciding how to vote, and not simply vote their own preference without considering carefully both the interests and the views of the young. This does NOT necessarily mean they have a duty not to vote, or to vote remain. But the pro-brexit vox pops I hear sound like the people involved have not, actually, been diligent in the way I’ve said they should be. (Of course, these are pre-selected by journalists, and I don’t have lots of pro-Brexit acquaintances, so I am not making a blanket claim). Note, again, this view about the ethics of voting may be true, and one could still, nevertheless, say that the state should do nothing to enforce it (and JQ didn’t say anything about enforcing).

22

Dipper is too old to vote 06.21.19 at 7:12 am

@ John Quiggin “The whole exercise involves old people voting to override the young on an issue …”

There’s a separate post in itself right there. At what age do CTers think people have accumulated too much experience and become too old to vote? Have you passed that age yourself and stopped voting? Do you intend to carry on voting after you have reached that age?

23

Z 06.21.19 at 7:22 am

So, when it comes to Brexit. Its a decision that will have far more impact on the young than the old. It seems reasonable to think the old have moral reasons to take that into account when deciding how to vote, and not simply vote their own preference without considering carefully both the interests and the views of the young.

I actually disagree with that reasoning (I believe that a democratic system functions best as cognitive tool when a category X, here young people, is able to make its voices heard, not when other people try to devise what X’s preferences and interests are likely to be and vote based on that – to begin with such pretense at a moral stance seems to me to be the perfect rhetorical tool for self-righteous justification, like when my mother-in-law argues that “something must be done about the debt” because “I don’t want our children pay it” while her actual children are both active members of anti-austerity political movements) but if one accepts it for the sake of the argument, then it seems to me to be a principle applied quite inconsistently, and largely in agreement with what were the political preferences of the speaker to begin with.

For instance, the policies implemented by any government will, like Brexit, impact on average much more the young than the old. Once I checked, and I think that if only people under 55 or 60 had voted, the second round of the last French presidential election would have opposed Mélenchon to Marine Le Pen. If only person under 65 had voted in 2007, Sarkozy would never have been president. Yet somehow I have never read moral arguments that elderly French voters should change their vote towards the radical left of the nationalist right (rather, they tend to be applauded for their moderation).

24

Matthew John Heath 06.21.19 at 8:19 am

FWIW UK citizens resident elsewhere can register to vote if they have been on the electoral register in the past. You vote in whichever constituency you were most recently registered.

25

reason 06.21.19 at 8:44 am

Harry,
I think you are right. But I want to extend this to a somewhat different point.

I think the UK and US and also the EU throughout its history are illustrating a weakness in our model of democracy. That weakness is that nobody has really thought well about how to reform constitutions. Constitutions are supposed to be common agreed non-partisan rules of the game. Really, political parties should have no part in the development, since they are by definition partisans. Also, these rules although decided at a point of time have their effect in over several generations. I hold the view that everybody should have to think about the constitution hard once in their lifetime – i.e. so that a new constitution is needed roughly every 50-60 years. And also that after it is decided it should first come into effect say 15-20 years later, so that the hot political issues of the day are removed as much as possible from influencing its design (and also to ensure that the legal profession can prepare for it). We don’t want to every again get in the sort of constitutional nightmare that the US has drifted into.

If the rules can be gamed, they will be, and they will need to adjusted to compensate. Every sports league knows this. Countries need to realize it.

26

Stephen 06.21.19 at 9:51 am

Harry: I’m not sure that JQ has thought through his proposal to disenfranchise the elderly because they won’t live long enough to be affected by the consequences of their votes.

Young people die too. Some have congenital genetic defects (cystic fibrosis and a range of other syndromes) which mean they will not live to be old. Others, initially healthy, may be diagnosed as having incurable and lethal diseases. Should these, on JQ’s principles, be disenfranchised also? If not, why not?

A complicating factor: a cure for a previously incurable disease may be developed. On JQ’s principles, it looks as if AIDS patients should have been disenfranchised, but any survivors re-enfranchised after antiretroviral therapies were developed.

Another complication. Some groups of people have shorter life expectancies, on average. Smokers die younger. Should they therefore be disenfranchised at an earlier age?

And notoriously, poor people on average die younger than rich people. Should they therefore …

27

Cian 06.21.19 at 12:22 pm

You can vote in UK elections for up to 15 years after leaving.

I don’t necessarily disagree with the moral argument – but I think in practice people just don’t think that way. It’s not going to change the political reality in any way, so at best it seems like a distraction.

28

RobinM 06.21.19 at 2:30 pm

Thanks for your response to my previous, Harry (@ 21). Our geo-political situations are in fact rather similar—I, too, am British, but I’ve lived almost my entire adult life in the US—and like you I retain both a sense of connectedness to and involvement in the UK, yet I not only accept but approve of the fact that I cannot vote there since I wouldn’t experience any consequences. I actually also feel some reluctance to engage too vigorously in discussions about what is happening there since, again, I will not significantly experience any of the consequences of what I say. In other words, I quite understand why you and I and others might well impose a self-denying ordinance on ourselves.

Equally, I accept that there might be legal constraints on our voting in places we no longer live in and, as you say, are most unlikely to live there again in any foreseeable future. (Since I do go back quite a long way, even though I wasn’t then certain that I would not be returning to live in Britain, I was opposed to Thatcher’s invention of British absentee ballots, and not just because she did it because she thought—or so it was suggested—she and her party would benefit from the votes of a large right-wing, “ex-pat” vote.)

But I think we disagree on the interpretation of JQ’s statement, “When, instead, they trash the future in (at the most charitable) an exercise in nostalgia, you have to ask whether they should be allowed to vote on matters that don’t really concern them.” It’s that “allowed to vote,” especially in conjunction with the notion that the disallowance should be predicated on the perception—for it’s surely not an unassailable fact—that they are trashing the future, that sticks in my craw. For he’s not saying people should do what we willingly do, namely, abstain from political action when they won’t bear significant consequences. He’s saying someone, something, should somehow prevent from voting those who are legally permitted to vote. I can’t read what he says in any other way.

*****
Since I’m here, I also want to disagree with reason (@25), that “constitutions are supposed to be common agreed non-partisan rules of the game.” Tell that to the American anti-Federalists. Tell that to anyone anywhere who was on the losing side when a constitution was being deliberately constructed. Tell that to all those in Britain who have any historical perspective on the way its “unwritten constitution” was written. (I’m particularly aggrieved at the introduction of the 5 year for the most part fixed Parliament statute, not least because, as I see it, that has considerably contributed to the whole Brexit shambles.) In short, the notion that constitutions can be or have ever been composed a-politically is just a fantasy.

29

John Quiggin 06.21.19 at 2:57 pm

“To switch to another interest here: should those of us who won’t be around in 10, 20, 50 years simply sit back and say, “well, climate change won’t really impact my life much, so it’s none of my concern”?”

They shouldn’t, but in fact many do. Older voters in English speaking countries are more likely to support climate deniers and do-nothingers, and this is clearly related to their perception that they won’t be around to feel the effects https://news.gallup.com/poll/234314/global-warming-age-gap-younger-americans-worried.aspx

As regards my suggestion that the selfish old shouldn’t be able to vote, it was meant rhetorically, rather than literally, in response to Dipper’s complaint about sixteen year olds being able to vote.

To make the point more straightforwardly , since older voters are displaying the ignorance, selfishness and irresponsibility typically put forward as a reason for denying the vote to teenagers, and since teenagers have more at stake, teenagers should be allowed to vote.

30

Stephen 06.21.19 at 6:20 pm

JQ@28=9:
“As regards my suggestion that the selfish old shouldn’t be able to vote, it was meant rhetorically, rather than literally”.

Well, you win a prize for very rapid shifting of goalposts. This week’s, this month’s, this year’s …

Could I ask that in future, when you post a suggestion which if taken literally is obviously ridiculous (see my post above, on which you have not commented) you add a warning that it was only meant to be taken rhetorically. Would you agree that rhetoric, by your definition, is something obviously untrue?

Your second paragraph, saying that older voters display ignorance, selfishness and irresponsibility, seems a very good example of rhetoric.

31

RobinM 06.21.19 at 8:04 pm

In response to JQ @29:

I’m surprised by what you report respecting attitudes towards climate change. Some years ago, some elderly friends—almost all my friends are 75 and older—tried to get something going on that front. The people we found least willing to spend any time on the matter were our children, the parents of our grandchildren—being generous to a fault, we told each other that, unlike ours, their everyday lives were so immediately demanding that they had neither the time nor the energy to spend on such relatively distant prospects. These were the same elderly people, by the way, who some years earlier founded/participated in “grandmothers against the war,” etc., and their record of engagement in public issues extends over most of their lifetimes. But I’ll take your word for it.

Some else of what you say, I have more difficulty with. In particular, I am distressed that you assert “older voters”—NB. not SOME older voters—“older voters are displaying the ignorance, selfishness, and irresponsibility . . .” But first a personal disclosure: As will already be obvious, I can’t argue with the old part. At the same time, though it may be self-serving to claim so, I don’t believe I’m any more ignorant, selfish, or irresponsible than the average person, averaged, that is, over the entire age spectrum. (I’m even willing to average over only those who have outgrown infancy, since to include the very young might bias the outcome of the calculation in my favour.)

More generally, the old people I know do not generally display ignorance, selfishness, or irresponsibility. Is your charge that they are so again to be taken merely rhetorically rather than literally? I don’t even begin to understand what that might mean.

So what else can I say, other than to ask why you insist on making those gross generalisations respecting the elderly? Or do you have some precise method for determining that they/we of a certain age are, by and large, ignorant, selfish, and irresponsible? I.e., what is it they/we are doing that makes you so certain they/we are ignorant, selfish, and irresponsible? It surely cannot just be that SOME of them/us hold different opinions from you or voted as you would not have done, for it would surely be intellectually irresponsible to make that the ground for your assertion.

Finally, as to teenagers voting, I’d be quite happy were my 13-year-old granddaughter able to vote, for she’s thoughtful and argumentative about things that matter—but maybe I shouldn’t say that, for she lives in Australia and her voting would hold no consequences for me.

32

Moz of Yarramulla 06.21.19 at 10:02 pm

I agree that Quiggin was responding directly to support for disenfranchising young people. Saying, “well, ok, but surely then you need to also disenfranchise the old” makes sense in that context.

The thing about these “gross generalisations about the elderly” is that they’re based on facts – we hold elections, we measure who voted how, and we observe that the older a voter is the more likely it is to for for rather than against climate change. Viz, they vote against effective action to reduce or mitigate climate change. The pattern is also seen with Brexit AFAIK.

There are other factors and patterns, but I think it’s hard to argue against that one. In Australia it’s tricky because there are so few parties in favour of action to reduce climate change effects, but those parties do get more votes from the young, and those strongly in favour of climate change get more votes from the old. But since the far right are also overwhelmingly in favour of the rich (who are old) it’s a little hard to tell… OTOH, rich climate change enthusiasts are far more of a problem than poor ones so tdoes it really matter.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-10/fact-check-would-voters-aged-under-30-possible-elect-a-green-pm/7467068

33

Harry 06.22.19 at 3:21 am

I took JQ’s comment in the way that he says he meant it — that seemed the most natural and charitable interpretation to me. But I can see others didn’t.

Without generalising about older voters, and returning to the conservative leadership election, the recent poll of Tory members showing that majorities were willing to split the Union for the sake of Brexit, and willing to seriously damage the economy for the sake of Brexit was not exactly surprising but alarming. On that evidence I’d bet that the Labour party and the LibDems and maybe even the Greens have greater proportions of unionist members than does the Conservative and Unionist Party. If you want to hear an example of stunning irresponsibility about the economy you should listen to Liz Truss on the latest Westminster Hour. These people have no answers to very straightforward questions.

Maybe Johnson’s already imploded, I guess we’ll find out in the morning.

34

John Quiggin 06.22.19 at 5:12 am

@Stephen, my apologies for forgetting Rule #23: The Internet doesn’t do irony. Next time I’ll remember the irony alerts. Still, since irony happens, I’d suggest that when you encounter a suggestion that seems obviously absurd, you consider it as a possibility.

@RobinM When you are talking about general rules, you have to invoke generalizations . As you can easily check, I’m an old white male myself, so I’m generalizing about a cohort to which I belong. Sadly, in general, and specifically as regards voting, that cohort has displayed all the characteristics to which I refer (even though many are very nice in other respects). *irony alert on* Of course it would be much better to restrict voting to sensible people, like your friends (and, for that matter, my friends). But that’s not feasible *irony alert off*

35

Dipper 06.22.19 at 7:26 am

@ Harry “the recent poll of Tory members showing that majorities were willing to split the Union for the sake of Brexit, and willing to seriously damage the economy for the sake of Brexit was not exactly surprising but alarming”

Remainers making a lot of noise about this, but it is just a ridiculous poll. It poses two alternatives which are by no means connected and then asks a yes/no question where both answers play to the Remain agenda.

How about “Would you wish to remain in the EU and have civil war?” Yes and you would like to see people die for your views, No and you clearly don’t really want to Remain in the EU.

I love the way Remainers think they’ve done something clever and Leavers are too stupid to notice.

36

J-D 06.22.19 at 9:15 am

What is good about the podcast is Robinson’s other premise which is basically that in the long form interview it is very hard for politicians to disguise who they are. A typical pattern—Dominic Raab, Steve Baker and Esther McVey all comform—is that they start out seeming reasonable and perfectly decent but end up seeming either nuts (Baker), poisonous (McVey) or both (Raab). [Of course, plenty of interviewees (eg David Lidington, Stella Creasey, David Gauke) end up seeming exactly as they did at the beginning—smart, serious, decent].

That sounded interesting to me, so I listened to one of the interviews–I chose the one with Esther McVey–but I didn’t get the same sense of it. I knew nothing about Esther McVey going in except that she was a Conservative politician (which predisposed me against her). My impression, after listening to the interview from beginning to end, was that she comes across fairly consistently throughout: I thought that people like me, starting with a negative view of Conservative politicians and of the kind of positions espoused by Esther McVey, would probably be confirmed in a negative view by listening to the interview, but would not find it dramatically revelatory, while people who started with a positive view of Conservative politicians and of the kind of positions espoused by Esther McVey would also not find the interview dramatically revelatory and would probably find nothing in it to challenge or disturb the attitudes they started with.

I suppose it’s possible that some of the other interviews would give me a different impression, but the probability of it doesn’t seem great enough to justify the investmend of additional time in listening to more of them.

37

J-D 06.22.19 at 10:39 am

Dipper

“is that a comment on the general irresponsibility of 16 year olds?” well I guess so. Lots of people seem keen on 16 year-olds voting when they think youth will vote for a cause they themselves believe in. My boy is quite smart, as you would expect, but I don’t think he has really served his political apprenticeship in any meaningful way. I’m not sure I’d trust his judgement in the way I’d trust a 60 year-olds political judgement.

In my experience, both wisdom and folly are found among people of all ages, 16-year-olds and 60-year-olds. If you ask me whether I’d rather trust the judgement of a 16-year-old or the judgement of a 60-year-old, I’d have to answer that you haven’t given me enough information to form a view. I’m pretty sure my daughter at 16 had better judgement, in general, than my uncle at 60, but I have no reason to suppose that my uncle’s judgement was better when he was 16. On the other hand, my uncle’s a doctor and my daughter isn’t, so I’d rather trust his judgement on a medical issue.

38

J-D 06.22.19 at 11:10 am

reason

Thomas Jefferson argued that the earth belongs to the living and not to the dead, that the dead are nothing and can therefore have no rights, that therefore the living should not be ruled by the dead and that generations have the same right to be independent of each other as do nations, and that therefore a new constitution should be effected whenever the majority of the adults who adopted the preceding one have died (which, according to his knowledge of the mortality rates of his own time, he estimated should be about every twenty years).

39

SusanC 06.22.19 at 12:05 pm

I think the problem with wrecking votes is what happens if the tactic fails. Suppose you actually want Hilary to be President, but tactically register as a Republican voter and vote for Trump in the Republican primairs, on the basis that he can’t possibly win … and then he does.

(similarly for people who actually want a Conservative goverment joining the Labour party and voting for Corbyn in the leadership elections).

It’s pretty toxic to a democratic system to have a leadership that is suspected of only winning by virtue of mistaken tactical votes. (I don’t think the mistaken tactical vites were that big in either the us presidential election or the labour leadership … but still, the danger is there is that kind of tactical vote becomes common).

40

SusanC 06.22.19 at 12:13 pm

Anyway, the current Conservative leadership doesn’t seem to have a outstandlingly nduitable candidate that could be voted for tacticaly. (Unless you count Brexiteers voting for Rory Stewart on the basis that “of course” he will loose in late rounds).

Yes, in a sane universe Boris would bethe obviously unsuitable candidate that gets voted for tacically, but here he seems to be the genuine preference.

41

CarlD 06.22.19 at 2:13 pm

Back to the op, it seems to me there are two main attractors around which the tactics orbit. One is early interest and the other is being a conservative, however one defines that.

Obviously the closer any actor gets to the self interest attractor, the more the whole question of ethical responsibility breaks down. Otoh if conservatism pulls hard, at some point you would expect a strategic thinker to make a decision about what’s best for conservatism and act accordingly. In this case values like what’s good for the country and what’s good for the world and what’s good, generally fold into the conservative attractor.

In both these cases proceduralism is a means, not an end, and I’d say the kind of people who are able to live at the level of abstraction where rules and standards attract conduct more than targeted consequences are unlikely to be in decisive majority.

42

Stephen 06.22.19 at 4:01 pm

JQ @34: ah, irony. An old friend. Verbal irony, the kind applicable here, consists of saying one thing while really meaning the opposite; or being taken by the hearers as involving the opposite.

So when you wrote “When, instead, they [the old] trash the future in (at the most charitable) an exercise in nostalgia, you have to ask whether they should be allowed to vote on matters that don’t really concern them”, was your ironic meaning that they did not in fact trash the future; or that what they did was not an exercise in nostalgia; or that they should be allowed to vote; or that these matters do really concern them? Or some permutation of these?

I think, non-ironically, that you’re tying yourself in knots.

43

nastywoman 06.22.19 at 6:18 pm

– and as already my name says it ”nasty” – I completely agree with JQ and couldn’t Have said it better – and without any irony – just nasty, nasty, nasty:

After – let’s say 40 percent of these old and very old Brexit Voters are gone – and y’all know what I mean by gone: ”MAUSETOT” – Great Britain will become a lot more foreigners friendly place.-
AND!!! a place where crazy dudes who love to do crazy s… have NO chance anymore to get ”erected” as PM’s.

And that’s a fact – and it might be a ”sad fact” but nobody can do anything about it.

44

RobinM 06.22.19 at 7:48 pm

I appreciate, I think, the point you make @ 34, John. And your response is perhaps more courteous than I deserve. Your generosity even extended to putting me in your generation, but that is only a very rough approximation to the truth. But still, all irony aside, I continue to have a problem with generalisations applied to age cohorts.

Let me first say, that I’ve never been a fan of generational thinking. (Wasn’t it Feuer who sought to dismiss opposition to the war on Vietnam, support for civil rights, etc. as merely a generational rebellion against the parents? It’s a bit odd to encounter, half a century later, the notion that we’re still engaged in generational revolt, only this time against our children and grandchildren.)

I was quite aware—as you perhaps were too—that when ‘ours’ was the younger generation there were major politically significant differences within that generation. It was therefore no surprise to me that some of my generation became Trump supporters, Tories, etc., etc. Now perhaps you’re right in what I think you’re at least implicitly suggesting, that many, perhaps a majority of the generation we both approximately belong to hold political, social, economic, and cultural views we deplore. But shouldn’t we be concerned with the political consequences of glossing over, even ironically glossing over, significant differences within an age cohort in order to make a point?

To me, one of the more troubling aspects of the times we now live in is the way in which so many people are so casually mis-categorised and dismissed. I’ll again make it a personal point, if you’ll forgive me: Although I now live part time in northern California and part time in New York, I lived for many years in Wisconsin. The number of times, especially since 2016, I’ve felt pressed to respond to generalisations coming from liberal-minded Californians and New Yorkers about the “deplorables” inhabiting “fly-over country” is beyond count. Those making these comments seem to be not only ignorant of the diversity of views in a place like Wisconsin, they actually seem to care less that they are perhaps making just that bit more difficult the political task of the those in such places—numerous enough to, e.g., keep Tammy Baldwin in the US Senate and to drive Scott Walker from the governorship—who actually broadly share their politics.

Thankyou for your time, I’ll try not to take up any more of it. r

45

Charles Williams 06.22.19 at 9:34 pm

On the subject of the ignorant, selfish and irresponsible old Brexiters, I think it fair to note that they have been groomed for decades by newspapers like the Mail, Telegraph and Sun spewing out anti-EU propaganda. Brexit is evidence that those who control the mass media control society. Brexit would not have happened if the UK press had been objective in reporting on European matters.

46

J-D 06.23.19 at 1:02 am

RobinM

In particular, I am distressed that you assert “older voters”—NB. not SOME older voters—“older voters are displaying the ignorance, selfishness, and irresponsibility . . .”

There is a potentially unfortunate ambiguity, in this context, in the phrase ‘older voters’–it’s not because of anything special about that particular phrase, the same thing can happen, in some contexts, to nearly any plural noun phrase. If I make an assertion attributing some predicate to ‘older voters’, do I mean to be taken as asserting this of all older voters, or only of some older voters? If I assert that ‘people do X’, do I mean that all people do X, or that some people do X? In some contexts it should be clear, but in some contexts it won’t be.

Part of the problem is that in some contexts what is meant is stronger than a ‘some X’ assertion but weaker than an ‘all X’ assertion (and something that would take significantly longer to spell out in equally precise language). For example, in this context, it would be reasonable to assert that older voters favour Leave while younger voters favour Remain: I hope the meaning of that is clear, and the assertion uncontroversial, but when I assert that older voters favour Leave, I mean something more than ‘some older voters favour Leave’ but something less than ‘all older voters favour Leave’. Even ‘the majority of older voters favour Leave’ would not entirely capture the intended meaning.

Stephen

John Quiggin was deploying irony in conjunction with parody, specifically parody directed at (what John Quiggin took to be the meaning of) Dipper’s earlier comment. (It’s possible that John Quiggin misinterpreted Dipper’s comment and that the parody was unfair, but it’s still as that parody that John Quiggin’s comment should be understood.)

John Quiggin took Dipper to be suggesting that ‘maybe there is a justification for disenfranchising some people on the basis of their youth’ (Dipper referred specifically to 16-year-olds, and of course in most cases 16-year-olds are denied the vote on the basis of their youth). John Quiggin responded, parodically, that maybe there is a justification for disenfranchising some people on the basis of their (old) age. The irony is that, although putatively arguing in favour of a justification for disenfranchisement, John Quiggin actually intended, through parody, to argue against a justification for disenfranchisement. I admit, having made the attempt, that it is tricky to spell this out with precision, so it’s unsurprising if it gets missed.

RobinM

Let me first say, that I’ve never been a fan of generational thinking.

Then you should be pleased to know that John Quiggin has on more than one occasion argued vigorously against the generationeers.

I, too, decry generationeering as largely rubbish: but I can’t therefore deny that cohort effects do exist. More importantly, age effects do exist–unfortunately, age effects often get mistaken for and misdescribed as cohort effects (one of the ways in which generationeering is largely rubbish).

There’s no doubt that the fraction of older voters who favoured Leave was greater than the fraction of younger voters who did so: I don’t know whether this was an age effect or a cohort effect, but the effect is indisputable. (If being, now, in their sixties influenced a significant number of people to vote Leave, that’s an age effect; if having had the experience of living through the ’60s influenced a significant number of people to vote Leave, that’s a cohort effect. If it’s an age effect, the anti-EU older generation of today would have been more favourable to the EU when they were younger; if it’s a cohort effect, they would have been about as anti-EU when they were younger.)

Since the effect does exist, it might be worth analysing: it should be possible to carry out this analysis without lapsing into the kind of pop-psych generationeering that ignores the existence of other factors that affect people’s attitudes to the EU, or the many kinds of diversity which obviously characterise every age cohort.

I’ve felt pressed to respond to generalisations coming from liberal-minded Californians and New Yorkers about the “deplorables” inhabiting “fly-over country”

Good on you! Please do keep it up. That kind of thinking needs to be challenged.

However, it is possible to challenge that kind of thinking and yet still acknowledge that the experience of living in Provo is different from the experience of living in Providence, and that Provo votes differently from Providence, and that it might sometimes be worth discussing how and why.

47

J-D 06.23.19 at 1:18 am

Dipper

I don’t have a vote, but my 16-year old son does (unless there is a clause not allowing 16-year olds the vote in the Conservative Party rules). He was bought membership for his birthday by his older brother in an attempt to interest him in politics.

That seems like it should offer an insight into the nature of their brotherly relationship. It would be more of an insight if we knew how the 16-year-old reacted. What did his older brother get him for his previous birthday? a year’s supply of green vegetables?

Of course he’s going to vote for Boris. What 16 year-old wouldn’t?

Since you ask, a Web search suggests the names of Rory Weal and Hasan Patel, but I suspect they’re only the tip of the iceberg.Charles Williams

On the subject of the ignorant, selfish and irresponsible old Brexiters, I think it fair to note that they have been groomed for decades by newspapers like the Mail, Telegraph and Sun spewing out anti-EU propaganda. Brexit is evidence that those who control the mass media control society. Brexit would not have happened if the UK press had been objective in reporting on European matters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eBT6OSr1TI

https://faustusnotes.com/2018/11/05/enemies-of-the-people/

Some science fiction writer should tackle the project of a story about a time traveller who goes back to July 1837 to smother Alfred Harmsworth in his cradle.

48

Hidari 06.23.19 at 6:25 am

‘Brexit would not have happened if the UK press had been objective in reporting on European matters.’

Essentially nothing in British politics since 1979 would have happened if the British press had been objective in reporting on any matter.

49

Dipper 06.23.19 at 6:35 am

@ Charles Williams.

Maybe some camps for those who refuse to read the right publications and spout the right opinions? Perhaps you could run one? And those evil people running the newspapers? I believe Jeremy has plans for them

50

John Quiggin 06.23.19 at 11:15 am

@RobinM We are, I think, in furious agreement. I dislike generational cliches, and have written many times abut this. As J-D explains in detail, I don’t intend to make claims about all older voters. I merely assert that, taken collectively, they haven’t shown a degree of superior wisdom that would justify denying the vote to teenagers on the grounds of immaturity.

51

harry b 06.23.19 at 11:57 am

I feel responsible for the whole exchange not because I wrote the OP but because I teasingly made the comment about the irresponsibility of 16 years olds in response to dippers comment about his son which I took to be a wry illustration that not all 16year olds are the lefties theyre sometimes said to be. And I took his acknowledgement of the irresponsibility of 16 year olds not to be a generalization but a kind of joking concession to me. We need wryness operators as well as irony operators as well as plenty of others…. now. A day of taking 12 year olds to camp awaits!

52

nastywoman 06.24.19 at 4:23 am

– and about the ”Daily Mail Thing” and this theory that such ”rag-papers groom the people” -(for decades)

How… true? – but who ”grooms” whom – as I once heard a writer of the German ”rag-paper” (Bild) – say:
”I just write what the people want to read” – and my German Grandfather – who also turned into a more and more ”grouchy” man when he got older – just didn’t read the Bild – or the Daily Mail. When he read an English ”paper” he read the ”New Musical Express” –
or in other words – being well aware that ”newspapers like the Mail, Telegraph and Sun spewing out anti-EU propaganda. Brexit ISN’T evidence that those who control the mass media control society”. Or that ”Brexit would not have happened if the UK press had been objective in reporting on European matters”.

BE-cause that’s a lot like this excuse a lot of Americans currently using about America going to ”the dark side” -(and to Von Clownstick) – with blaming some MSM – or absurdly – some opposite InternetGreenwalds – in other words:
The Daily Mail -(or the Bild – or Fox News) – only has the power to make somebody vote for Brexit -(or Von Clownstick) if such a ”somebody” … let’s say ”can be influenced by rag-papers” like the Daily Mail the Bild or the National Enquirer.

AND who’s fault is that?

Not my grandfathers – as he opted for ”the New Musical” Express.
-(and a very ”Openminded English-Speaking Europe”)

53

reason 06.24.19 at 9:39 am

When I was an Aussie living in London, one thing that always shocked me was the Tabloid press. I found it hard to understand. We had tabloids in Sydney (full of salacious gossip and page 3 girls) but one they never did was tell people how to think. I also wonder why the people that buy these rags put up with it.

54

faustusnotes 06.24.19 at 10:22 am

Absolutely fascinating comment as usual by Dipper at 49. He suggests that a commenter wants to lock anyone he disagrees with in camps, and implies that this is a bad thing; then in the very next sentence sneers at Jeremy Corbyn for supposedly supporting an anti-semite’s right to free speech.

You really can’t win with these people. No principle means anything to them, except as a tool to bash anyone who disagrees with their political goals. They can sneer at people who they think want to restrict free speech in the same breath as they sneer at people who want to defend it, provided the people in question are their political enemies. There is no point in reasoning with them or arguing with them; drive them out of power or wait for old age to take them, but it certainly seems that discussing anything with them is a waste of time and effort.

55

harry b 06.24.19 at 12:54 pm

“I also wonder why the people that buy these rags put up with it.”
Certainly in the 70s and 80s by ignoring it. Several surveys during that time showed that Sun readers were mostly Labour voters and thought the Sun was a Labour paper (which its predecessor 20 years previously had, indeed, been, but…).

56

Harry 06.24.19 at 2:06 pm

Its predecessor, the Daily Herald, was the closest thing to a loyal voice of the organised Labour movement. One of its editors was Angela Lansbury’s grandfather, the most left-wing leader the Labour party ever had. But I’m guessing that most Sun readers circa 1980 were unaware of that fact. (As opposed to now when, no doubt, they are all aware of it).

57

Hidari 06.24.19 at 3:08 pm

‘Of course he’s going to vote for Boris. What 16 year-old wouldn’t?’

Budding stand up comedians of CT, this is what is known as a ‘feedline’.

58

Hidari 06.24.19 at 3:13 pm

‘When I was an Aussie living in London, one thing that always shocked me was the Tabloid press. I found it hard to understand. We had tabloids in Sydney (full of salacious gossip and page 3 girls) but one they never did was tell people how to think. I also wonder why the people that buy these rags put up with it.’

Never underestimate the strain of forelock tugging servility that is buried deep in the British psyche, and manifests itself in such forms as blind worship for the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha ‘British’ Royal Family, the right of the landed aristocracy to own half the country, and in many other ways (not least the propensity for all sectors of society to believe in the lies regularly pumped out by the media, both State and ‘private’). It was not for nothing that the non-British Robert Tressell coined the phrase ‘ragged trousered philanthropists’ to describe (some) of the British working class.

59

OldJim 06.24.19 at 3:51 pm

JD @46

“If it’s an age effect, the anti-EU older generation of today would have been more favourable to the EU when they were younger; if it’s a cohort effect, they would have been about as anti-EU when they were younger.”

I understand that this sentence is intended to do the work solely of illustrating the difference between age and cohort effects, and it does so very ably. But because it’s tied so specifically to the example of the EU controversy, I have to point out that ‘real’ generational arguments like the EU one very rarely take so textbook a form. I think you’d struggle to find a millennial angry with boomers who would profess to believe that boomers were always anti-EU. On the contrary, much of the ire derives from the belief that boomers were more favourable to the EU during the years where they were the greatest recipients of its advantages.

The generational argument usually takes the form of an interaction between age and cohort. So the story would run, for instance, that young people are very usually more radical than their parents, but the boomers’ cohort effect interacted with this such that most young boomers were radical individualists. Middle-aged people are usually more concerned with earnings and careers than those older and younger than them, but the boomers’ cohort effect interacted with this such that most middle-aged boomers were economic liberals. Older people are very usually more reactionary than their children, but the boomers’ cohort effect interacted with this such that most old boomers were autarkist reactionaries.

Here, you see that no claim to consistent political view is ascribed to a generation across a lifespan. Rather, the claim is made that the cohort runs through the usual range of age-related views, but the cohort effect gives the expression of these views its particular flavour. (Where, in the case of the boomers, the cohort effect is usually variously the appellations of “selfish, individualist, immoderate”).

I am making no defence of the generational narrative. I am concerned only to explain that the narrative would have no attraction if it didn’t seem to have some explanatory value. “The boomers were always anti-EU” has little explanatory value, because it tells us nothing about why the UK should have remained a member until now, nor why it should suddenly wish to leave now.

An age effect alone could have that explanatory value, if it were understood that, being a large cohort, boomers had a proportionately large effect on the politics of their time. But age effects are less attractive explanations, because they don’t easily allow for the psychologically desirable attachment of particular praise and blame, as cohort effects do. And a cohort-effect thinker would argue that whilst boomers’ outsized influence might explain the way that wider politics leaned towards their age-effects, an account that doesn’t include cohort ignores the way in which age-effects underdetermine content. Why wasn’t a new emphasis on communitarian radicalism the legacy of the ’60’s? Why weren’t bureaucracy and various forms of cursus honorum reinforced in the ’80’s? Why not a return to ration books, ostensibly on environmental grounds, in 2019? The cohort theorist insists that a generational ‘geist’ accounts for these choices of inflection.

Of course, a wider and structural analysis of institutional and market forces would provide at least an equally compelling explanation for the moves of Western populations towards economic and social liberalism from the ’60’s through to the ’10’s, and for the return to the fortress of the nation state thereafter. But something of that degree of complexity isn’t easily reduced to a narrative, and again, it provides us with no heroes and villains.

60

Dipper 06.24.19 at 5:15 pm

“discussing anything with them is a waste of time and effort.” says @ faustusnotes at the end of two paragraphs of wasted time and effort discussing with me.

So. Should i suggest @faustusnotes doesn’t spend the time and effort? Or to request he does spend the time and effort … I think keep it coming! A comment from @faustusnotes always brightens up my day.

61

nastywoman 06.24.19 at 5:19 pm

@
”Never underestimate the strain of forelock tugging servility that is buried deep in the British psyche, and manifests itself in such forms as blind worship for the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha ‘British’ Royal Family”

Hey!

As the Kardashians are absolutely NO match for – probably THE GREATEST Reality TV show on earth -(”the British Royals”) I stood -(with Queen Anne) two weeks ago in front of Buckingham Palace and we all waved when our relatives appeared -(for the Queens birthday) – as don’t you know – the Queen is ”related” to so many of US – that WE are happy for everybody of her relatives who don’t show up for such occasions – as it is/was pretty crowded already –
and as a very proud ”Royalist” – who I am – I’m really NOT amused with your critical comments about one of the YUUUGEST Tourist attractions in Great Britain -(and what actually might be one of the major things which makes ”Great Britain” so GREAT) –
– and I would wish you would keep your… ”satire” for yourself –
next time –

It’s like – nobody forces you to read ”the Daily Mail” -(or to watch the Queens Show) – Or to listen to some ”lies regularly pumped out by the media, both State and ‘private’ –

In this century you always can listen to any ”alternative” lies -(or truth) – you want to listen to – and if then Queens Show is not your ”thing” there is plenty – and especially in London which could even make a Dipper see the world with a completely ”nude perspective”!
-(I mean ”new” perspective!)

AND really!
To claim that ”the people” IN THIS CENTURY are still these kind of ”naive victims” of some ”rag-papers” is kind of… of… believing that ”the Queen” actually is an… ”Alien”?
-(or some ”spy’s for the Clownticks-Saxe-Coburgs)

62

Dipper 06.24.19 at 5:27 pm

… but to be serious, ignorant, selfish and irresponsible old Brexiters” is quasi-racist abuse and has no place in proper political discussion. To produce crude derogatory characterisations of people you disagree with to lessen their status as human beings and so undermine their right to hold opinions is not something that should be allowed to pass without challenge.

“Brexit is evidence that those who control the mass media control society”. This kind of conspiracy theorising is sadly popular on the left. There are two things wrong with it; firstly, again the characterisation of large sections of the population as people whose opinions can be freely ignored as they are too shallow and stupid to hold their own view or identify their own agency. Secondly it plays to the notion of shadowy groups of evil people exercising control over society. Usually international capitalists. And we all know which ethnic group tends to be associated with that description … so just stop it. Everyone can see what you are doing, it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t clever.

63

Hidari 06.24.19 at 7:03 pm

‘Secondly it plays to the notion of shadowy groups of evil people exercising control over society. Usually international capitalists. And we all know which ethnic group tends to be associated with that description … so just stop it.’

Ah the old ‘If you don’t like the Nazis, you’re a Nazi’ ploy.

64

Charles Williams 06.24.19 at 8:54 pm

‘Everyone can see what you are doing, it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t clever.’

Stuff and nonsense

65

J-D 06.24.19 at 10:19 pm

It is highly implausible to suppose that readers of the Daily Mail (for example) are reduced to the condition of puppets with no control over their own actions or thoughts; but is also highly implausible to suppose that readers of the Daily Mail are unaffected by it. In a blog post which I linked to above, faustusnotes gives an account, from personal observation, of the effects of regular reading of the Daily Mail on a few people. I can’t be sure how accurate or how representative that account is, but to the extent that it is accurate and representative, the influence of the Daily Mail is pernicious. Of course it’s true that people make their own choices and that it matters what choices people make for themselves, but that has to mean also that the publishers of the Daily Mail make their own choices and that it matters what choices they make.

It may perhaps be worth mentioning that the Harmsworth family were not Jewish.

66

J-D 06.24.19 at 10:33 pm

It occurred to me as soon as I’d clicked ‘Submit’ that the point I was getting at in my last line, and really needed to make explicit, is that it’s not anti-Semitic, or racist, or even ‘quasi-racist’, to make the obvious factual observation that there are people who control the Daily Mail (and the Sun, and Fox News, and so on), and that controlling major media outlets gives them power.

There is something (apart from the fact of controlling major media outlets) that is common to people who control major media outlets, and it’s not an ethnic or national or racial or religious background, and this leads on to my response to OldJim: of course cohort effects do exist (I’ve never denied it, and neither has John Quiggin), and of course age effects do exist (ditto), and of course age effects and cohort effects interact (ditto ditto). It is important to note that (not in every single particular case, but in general) age effects are more powerful than cohort effects, and it is important not to mistake and misdescribe age effects as cohort effects, but it is much more important to note that (not in every single particular case, but in general) there are other effects which are more powerful than age effects or cohort effects (independently or combined). It’s possible that the specific example of UK attitudes to the EU is an exception, and that in that case age effects and/or cohort effects really are the most important ones, I’m not insisting on that point one way or the other. However, in general, the biggest reason people like to tell themselves and each other stories about ‘the Greatest Generation’ and ‘the Baby Boomers’ and ‘Millenials’ and so on (for how long? how long!? must this be endured) is that it helps to distract attention (their own and that of others) from the fact (uncomfortable as it makes many people to acknowledge) that rich people behave and are treated differently from poor people.

67

John Quiggin 06.24.19 at 11:23 pm

@Dipper “To produce crude derogatory characterisations of people you disagree with” I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen Remain supporters, Clinton voters and so on characterized as out of touch inner city elites (and much worse). Can you point to any statement from, say Farage or Johnson, or the Brexiteer press, on the need to be sensitive to the concerns of the 48 per cent of the population who voted No, comparable to the handwringing on the left about how to respond to working class Brexit voters? I mean this as a serious question: I can’t recall seeing anything of the kind, and if this is confirmation bias, I’d be glad to have it pointed out.

68

J-D 06.25.19 at 1:54 am

@Dipper “To produce crude derogatory characterisations of people you disagree with” I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen Remain supporters, Clinton voters and so on characterized as out of touch inner city elites (and much worse). Can you point to any statement from, say Farage or Johnson, or the Brexiteer press, on the need to be sensitive to the concerns of the 48 per cent of the population who voted No, comparable to the handwringing on the left about how to respond to working class Brexit voters? I mean this as a serious question: I can’t recall seeing anything of the kind, and if this is confirmation bias, I’d be glad to have it pointed out.

I’ve mentioned in a past discussion here that Dipper, personally, in discussions here, has complained about dismissive or derogatory comments being made about Leave supporters and yet also made dismissive or derogatory comments about Remain supporters.

69

Harry 06.25.19 at 2:45 am

“It may perhaps be worth mentioning that the Harmsworth family were not Jewish”
Indeed. Far from it. If only they had been the world might be a better place! It certainly wouldn’t be worse.

70

Faustusnotes 06.25.19 at 6:54 am

Hilarious, now dipper wants to believe that criticism of a few rich peoples support for brexit is anti Semitic. Hilarious given that almost every nazi and anti Semite in Britain is a brexiteer.

Like I said, for these people there is no logic or facts, just rhetorical tricks in defense of their side. You can’t argue with people who refuse to accept facts or truth or logic and see all ideas as simply useful rhetorical tools in defense of their power.

71

Dipper 06.25.19 at 7:33 am

@ J-D “faustusnotes gives an account, from personal observation, of the effects of regular reading of the Daily Mail on a few people”

No-one makes people read a particular newspaper. During the referendum the Daily Mail was pro-leave, the Mail on Sunday Remain. I don’t think that resulted in people changing their minds on Sundays. Recently the Daily Mail has changed editor and become Pro-Remain. the Daily Telegraph seems to have responded by choosing to become the paper of Leave and try and win over disaffected Leavers from the Daily Mail. To my eyes, all this points to people choosing the paper that reflects their opinions, not randomly choosing a newspaper and becoming infected by that papers views. I think, also, that prolonged reading of The Guardian by Leavers would only result in them becoming much more hardened Leavers due to the obvious propaganda in that paper.

With regard to age, it may be that The Young are pro-EU because they have just become exposed to politics and look at the visions on offer and choose the brightest shiniest one that reflects back their self-image as modern liberal anti-racists. However, old people have the advantage of having lived a life full of these promises and understand how empty many of them were: That joining the EU was about trade, and wouldn’t change who ran the UK; that opening up the UK to labour from Eastern Europe would only result in a few tens of thousands coming here and that dire warnings of hundreds of thousands were alarmist nonsense. Over time, you try and distinguish between who is selling something to you, and who is speaking the truth. Who is deceiving themselves, and who has grasped the reality.

@ John Quiggin – I’ve not seen Remain supporters described as elites. I’m pretty sure that Leaver politicians have been clear to distinguish between politicians and people in power on the one hand and voters on the other, and not described 48% of the country in derogatory terms in the same way Remainers have about Leave voters. And “comparable to the handwringing on the left about how to respond to working class Brexit voters?” Perhaps this is one of those cases when being on the ground is an advantage. Worrying about working class Brexit voters amongst labour MPs is heavily correlated with having large numbers of working class Brexit voters in your constituency. Harlow MP Robert Halfon (Con) was Remain but is now pro-Leave following the referendum in which has constituency was revealed to be heavily Leave.

Re anti-semitism and the left, here’s Daniel Finkelstein giving an explanation

72

Jim Buck 06.25.19 at 3:08 pm

Snowflakes–you lot call the young people, Dipper; and your accusation of narcissism is a patent finessing of the sentiments expressed in rude form by the exitfetishit gammon-shites—who thunder and screech out of the Question Time whirlwind. None of it derogatory, of course, from the scabs.

73

Charles Williams 06.25.19 at 3:28 pm

@Dipper

This is getting boring now, so I intend this to be my last reply. Grooming readers of newspapers is a long-term project which takes place over time and requires the readers to fail to notice what is happening. This is best done by supplying them with a stream of ‘information’ which is selective, slanted or, worse still, distorted or even fabricated (viz. Johnson’s lies about the EU when he was a correspondent for the Telegraph) thereby altering their world view in a way which is imperceptible to them. Look at the recent research done on how Fox news alters the political views of those watching (and in particular those who did not choose the channel but happen to be in the room). Readers of the Sun, Telegraph and Mail have been groomed for thirty years.

Large sections of the population are indeed of below average intelligence and many of them are easily suggestible, as any intelligent demagogue knows full well. Did you catch the quote by Johnson about ‘coddling’ people ‘into self-deception’?

I watched the Finkelstein speech. If you believe me to be a Leninist or even ‘on the left’ then I have a bridge I would like to interest you in.

74

Hidari 06.25.19 at 5:06 pm

‘Large sections of the population are indeed of below average intelligence’

Indeed I believe it may even be possible to quantify the proportion.

75

Guano 06.25.19 at 5:26 pm

Surely what is disturbing in this case (Johnson’s campaign lending votes to Hunt) is Johnson’s apparent ability to control the votes of the participants in this election, to the extent of being able to “lend” votes to certain other candidates and manipulate the process.

76

John Quiggin 06.25.19 at 7:37 pm

Dipper “I’ve not seen Remain supporters described as elites.”

I find that impossible to believe. Time to draw this discussion to a close, I think

77

nastywoman 06.25.19 at 11:07 pm

@Dipper
”With regard to age, it may be that The Young are pro-EU because they have just become exposed to politics and look at the visions on offer and choose the brightest shiniest one that reflects back their self-image as modern liberal anti-racists”.

Yes! –
”the Young are more pro-EU” because they are ”modern liberal anti-racists”.

And not being able anymore to understand who is deceiving themselves, and who has grasped the reality – and who tells the truth – or not – might come after a life ”full of empty promises.”

Now I understand that every older Brit I know – who haven’t had a life ”full of empty promises” – voted for – stay.

78

Joshua W. Burton 06.26.19 at 12:12 am

John Quiggin @4: Most of the time, Alternative Vote/Instant Runoff systems let you do both. Tirst support your most preferred, but unelectable candidate. Then, when that candidate is eliminated, your preferences flow to the better of the two candidates who actually have a chance. This doesn’t always work, but the exceptions are rare in practice.

Not that rare.

In fact, it appears that instant runoff goes wrong about a quarter of the time in practice, and up to three quarters of the time “when it matters” (that is, when plurality voting would give a different result from instant-runoff).

My own views on social choice theory and democratic ethics (and hence, of the OP ethical question on tactical voting) are quite heterodox among the general public but fairly common among people who’ve been down the rabbit hole of looking at voting systems. Roughly, as follows. A voter has the legal right to do whatever the voting system permits: that’s what it means for her to be a voter. But the goal of voting systems is to solve the social choice problem, and the people are demonstrably ill-served in this by all ordinal voting systems (most notably, plurality voting, instant-runoff, and Borda count) in all situations other than straight binary choice. Therefore, it is the ethical obligation of our elected representatives to either upgrade to cardinal voting systems like approval and range voting so that our collective will in nonbinary situations can be determined without any concerns about tactical voting, or exercise delegated power by breaking it down into discrete, sequenced binary votes on which we can be consulted within the systems we have. If they fail in both of these, it’s on them, not us, and our legal right to vote tactically, perversely, or randomly is our ethically proper and only redress.

79

J-D 06.26.19 at 2:06 am

Dipper

@ J-D “faustusnotes gives an account, from personal observation, of the effects of regular reading of the Daily Mail on a few people”

No-one makes people read a particular newspaper.

Interestingly, there is another post on faustusnotes’s blog which makes this point also:
https://faustusnotes.com/2018/03/24/the-problem-is-not-facebook-its-you/

Both faustusnotes and I are critical both of news media (both new and old) for their publishing practices which disseminate rubbish and of people who uncritically assimilate unreliable information from news media. It’s true that nobody makes people read particular newspapers (or listen to particular radio stations or watch particular televisions stations or attend to particular online outlets); it’s also true that nobody makes the owners and managers of these news outlets publish what they do. People make choices about which news stories to believe; people also make choices about which news stories to publish. Neither the audience nor the publishers are absolved from responsibility for their own choices just because there are also choices being made by others. I live in a world which is affected by choices I make but which is also affected by choices made by others which I can’t control. It is true that Fox News and the tabloid press can’t control the choices their audiences make about what to attend to and what to believe, but it’s also true that the people who control the media which publish news have an influence on the world as a result. The (Sydney) Daily Telegraph (Murdoch-owned) affects people around me and the world I live in even though I do not read it; how can that be denied?

With regard to age, it may be that The Young are pro-EU because they have just become exposed to politics and look at the visions on offer and choose the brightest shiniest one that reflects back their self-image as modern liberal anti-racists. However, old people have the advantage of having lived a life full of these promises and understand how empty many of them were: That joining the EU was about trade, and wouldn’t change who ran the UK; that opening up the UK to labour from Eastern Europe would only result in a few tens of thousands coming here and that dire warnings of hundreds of thousands were alarmist nonsense. Over time, you try and distinguish between who is selling something to you, and who is speaking the truth. Who is deceiving themselves, and who has grasped the reality.

Distinguishing between the things people tell you which are true and the things people tell you which are not true is important, and in order to do it you need to be prepared to consider the possibility that something somebody tells you might not be true: the conclusion that older people are more willing to do this than younger people is not supported by evidence, and neither is the conclusion that they are more skilled at distinguishing. Young people get scammed; old people get scammed too.

I’ve not seen Remain supporters described as elites.

Here’s the Sun:
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/brexit/7928520/leftie-elites-are-conspiring-to-steal-brexit/
Here’s the Express:
https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1132889/brexit-news-european-elections-london-brexit-party-nigel-farage-rod-liddle-spt
Here’s the Telegraph:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/03/13/britains-remainer-elites-have-declared-war-democracy/
Here’s the Spectator:
https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/01/what-explains-the-idiocy-of-the-liberal-elite-its-their-education/

Is that enough to be going on with?

Comments on this entry are closed.