Nov 3, 2022Liked by Richard Hanania

I agree with a lot of this, so why am I a Democrat?

1. I think the government is bad at lots of stuff and may be getting worse, but it is good at collecting taxes and writing checks. I genuinely mean that. The IRS collects ~$200 for every $1 it spends, way better than any charity (because it can throw you in prison). Programs like Soc Sec and Medicare have very low overhead. I think that taxing people to make sure that all old people get $2k a month so they don't starve is a net utility positive, even if it modestly reduces GDP. Security matters a lot to people. The whole "a dollar raises the utility of a poor person more than a rich person" justifies some redistributionist policies. Finally, government funded scientific research (essentially another form of check-writing) does a lot of good and no one has really come up with a plausible mechanism by which the private sector would fund unpatentable basic discoveries.

2. Most culture war issues don't matter that much, but access to abortion matters a lot to peoples' lives and unlike almost everything else, depends predictably on who controls government.

3. I think global warming is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. I think our best hope of solving it is innovation, largely in the private sector, in batteries and nuclear energy. I'm not 100% sure Democrats are the better party for this happening. But I'm noticing Democrats smartening up on stuff like nuclear/permitting reform etc. and government incentivization of green energy breakthroughs may still be important (and will only come from Democrats).

If you are not a utilitarian (1) or think abortion is murder (2) then you can totally disagree with me. But from my ethical beliefs, here's where I land.

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On choosing between the two parties I am reminded of what Henry Kissinger once said about the Iraq-Iran war: “Too bad they both can’t lose.”

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Thank you for a largely sensible perspective. In a "liberal democracy," especially our winner-take-all version, voting for the least bad option is what you're stuck with. Trying to be an "enlightened centrist" is silly and mostly motivated by a person's desire to maintain their self-image as an "independent thinker" who is not beholden to playing for a particular team (even though, inevitably, they do anyways, unless they just completely refuse to take any positions on anything at all). And I have no problem agreeing that the Republicans are indeed evil, just less evil than the Democrats, although probably for different reasons than yours.

The two minor things that stand out to me:

1. Is it true that Republicans are "stupider and more immoral" if they are, simultaneously, right enough about the things that matter to earn your vote? This seems like a contradiction.

2. I wouldn't underestimate how much the ruling regime can do to change the culture downstream, when it puts its back into it. You've written quite well on the ways in which "civil rights" transformed our society. I would venture to guess that, if the political battle feels like it's irrelevant to the cultural one, it is because right wingers have not truly held cultural power in the United States, not since the second world war at least. The institutions that matter most in this respect--government, media, university, etc.--have been firmly in the hands of the left since that time if not before.

If we imagine a counterfactual in which these institutions were controlled just as firmly by the right, I am pretty sure that we would not currently be dealing with the phenomenon of "trans kids" (some other bizarre or disturbing behaviors might emerge instead, but they'd be different from the sort of wild sexual deviancy being peddled by these entities today).

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I am going to refrain from rote snark and simply point out that in the past two decades the Republicans have managed to botch two wars (one totally unnecessary), reverse their position on trade, and make a conman turned reality show star President (or as they would say “leader of the free world”). A man who was only running for the office, in the first place, as a publicity stunt.

Among other highlights, that President then cheered on a mob of violent yahoos, basically taking a giant shit on the peaceful transfer of power, all because he was embarrassed that he’d lost the subsequent election. Quite the historical moment, that was.

The GOP still refuses to fully acknowledge this. Many refuse even to acknowledge he lost the election.

Our center left party has its faults and pointing out that Biden isn’t as senile as Reagan was at the end, nor is crime now anywhere near as bad as it was in the Reagan years, is little consolation.

Still, the Democrats, at top, are essentially a reasonable technocratic left-of-center party, however stupid and annoying their loudest woke members are. Their crazies don’t call all the shots. Nor are they fully in charge.

Right now, the Republicans, at best, are stupid, amoral, and utterly shameless. The question is just how dangerous they are.

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Republicans also have better priors when it comes to how they treat people.

Democrats think the peons are inherently bad and need to be controlled (by enlightened and all-knowing Democrats) in order to have a civil society.

Parents cannot be trusted to treat their children well - so leftist schools have a policy to lie - to parents.

You cannot be trusted to save for your own retirement - so SS will be forced upon you. Etc

I vote Republican because Democrats embrace coercion (note Covid) and lying to the peons (note the censoring by recent DHS and denying of it) with the perpetual excuse that it is "for the peons own good".

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Since most of the money goes for entitlements, defense, and interest (over 1T for the latter in 2023), and neither party has much chance of cutting any of them, the only question is how far we fall and when it starts. Neither party is equipped to handle a real crisis. The leaders are too old, their replacements lightweights.

The rest of society is moving ever more quickly, while governance does the opposite. Something's gotta give, but it's hard to see what will replace it. Autocrats have troubles of their own, so don't see hope there.

If the Reps do get the legislature, what will they actually do. Slow walk appointments? What can they get past Biden beyond CRs?

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So 2000 new regulations... 1000 page bills that congress votes on without reading... so obvious that special interests and their lawyers are the ones running the show. I’m sure if we went through things one by one the amount of waste in government would make anyone sick. My GF is a public school teacher in a big city so I get to bear witness to the insanity within that domain. It’s so obvious that they can provide a better education at lower cost just by cutting some of the extremely low hanging fruit, such as “climate staff” who walk around collecting 6 figure paychecks doing absolutely nothing. Yet the democrats literally exist to grow this cartel they call “education”, along with several other useless interests they represent.

Yet republicans have to ruin literally the easiest decision ever by being not even slightly reasonable on abortion. The fact that there are actually republicans in power who would say that if my sister, gf, or daughter is raped, that they should be forced to carry the baby is just such an egregious violation of basic principles that I just can’t bring myself to vote for them. There is a non-0 chance of banning certain contraception. I mean it’s just so extreme. It sucks, but I think I’m just staying home this election.

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This article basically admits that the parties don't really matter and that there's no reason to believe that ordinary people are qualified enough make an informed decision on who should be in charge. Larry Romanoff just wrote an excellent series on how irrational, neurotic and dysfunctional American democracy is which I recommend https://www.unz.com/author/larry-romanoff/.

He also explains the Chinese system, why it works and why it is superior. Chinese government officials all must score top 0.1% in the nation on an exam, and election and promotion is handled by others in government who are the best to judge governing competence. This system also has no room for nepotism or moneyed interests dictating policy. Basically it gets the best and brightest in the country to make the most important decisions instead of the popularity contest that is American democracy.

The results speak for themselves, China has lifted so many millions out of poverty and expanded so fast that the US has no sensible geopolitical response aside from threats and bogus anti China propaganda.

We should do our best to understand their system and advocate for that.

PS the idea that markets are always right is BS. Someone explain to me how a Lasiez Faire market makes sense in banking, insurance, oil, real estate, communications, utilities, and transportation.

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Republicans are slightly worse on animals. If you care about animals at all that's a large cost.

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I agree with the reasoning process here, but want to explain a different method which may actually get results: deciding a priority, and voting based only on that. An example of results: we went from one state with constitutional carry(Vermont) to constitutional carry in half the states. Almost everywhere else is shall-issue, as well. This is because a substantial number of voters made gun rights the only issue they cared about. A secondary effect is that it's impossible to get elected as an anti-gun Republican, which is convenient because now the gun rights crowd can pick another priority(in theory) and influence the Republican party. Coordinating voters with a single priority can be very effective, although you have to vote in primaries, off-years, etc.

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"If one party could snap its fingers and make the kids less gay, it would be worth taking that into account"

Ugh. Repugnant.

Not to mention -- election results denial founded on false claims of widespread fraud? That poison is endemic to Republican candidates now (and apparently infects some of the nuthatches on your comment thread). That doesn't factor in to your 'priors'?

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The LBGT crowd is the most intolerant, anti-Liberty group in our society and has captured the Libertarian movement. The KKK had more compassion and tolerance. How evil do you have to be to not understand that people might have an objection to grown men in dresses reading to children. The filter in parents who object to this needs to be encouraged, not discouraged. This filter prevents a lot of other evil practices from happening. Racist and homophobic men created the greatest society in history. They did this by protecting values of liberty. You guys are destroying those values and making the Jim Crow South look reasonable.

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This is a great essay and its got good insights. Before going into things, I want to be clear that I'm in 99% agreement.

1) I think Red State vs Blue State is a good point of comparison. This is what the parties would do if they consistently had power to do what they want. It doesn't all have to come down to party, but when one side has a 10% income tax and the other 0% (and most purples states at like 5%) its a big difference.

Second, states become incubators of new ideas that eventually become national. If we get universal school vouchers it will start in red states. Then a GOP federal government will offer some kind of matching funds to states that adopt it, and then even hostile states will adopt it to get the matching funds. This is how they got Medicaid expansion through.

It's true that electing a Governor of one party for one term won't be enough to radically change the direction of the state, but it ain't nothing either. COVID showed us that governors have radical levels of power in an emergency, they are practically dictators. Who would you want in charge of your state during the next "crisis". I think you know GOP would be better, more likely to leave you alone.

Below I'll post long form how I think the difference between LA and Dallas is worth perhaps as much as $2.28 million to a big middle class family. You can easily take issue with some of it, but even if its only $1M that's still winning the lottery.

2) Most swing voters decide late, so the shift is more that they are actually paying attention.

But more specifically, it really has been a shitty time for the economy lately, especially what people can see.

A) Skyrocketing mortgage rates in just the last few months, and as you know 12 out of every 10 white suburban women are real estate agents.

B) Accelerating inflation, including rent inflation which people renewing their lease for the first time in 2022 are starting to really see

C) The stock market is down, the NASDAQ is down something like 20-25% since August. A lot of people even get paid in that stock (Amazon has 1.5 million employees that take a large chunk as stock in their comp and its down almost 40%).

These are all things people can see getting worse really fast in the last few months.

Moreover, they just spent a year being told that these problems were "transitory" and not to worry about them.

Finally, labor shortages are things suburban women can see, as a lot of services are basically related to childcare. They can see that there are no buses to pick their kids up at school and that they are constantly closing down for bogus reasons (non-covid, they just don't want to work). They can see when services they need to use can't find the people.

We can certainly debate the economic policies of the two, but I think that most people understand that:

*The lockdowns and lockdown spending caused this

**Democrats are the party of lockdowns and lockdown spending

So I don't see this shift as hard to decipher.

3) On Crime I've come to the conclusion that cultural status matters as much as actual crime policy. That is, when cops have higher relative status than criminals we get less crime. When that is reversed we get more crime. I think this fits empirically with what we've observed, especially in the BLM era. While some of this is direct (will the DA have my back?) I think most of it is a mix of de-motivated police "quiet quitting" and emboldened criminals stepping up their criminality.

As such, electing the pro-cop/anti-crime party sends a cultural signal, especially if the election clearly had a high public salience on the issue. No matter what specific policies are implemented, everyone knows who supports who.

4) On embryo selection I'm far more afraid of the left than the right. Politically, Democrats have tried to make hay that abortion laws will effect IVF. But as someone who went through it recently, none of the IVF clinics are worried about it. Even in Texas. There is just zero desire on the right to regulate this stuff. Abortion is defined as the "termination of a pregnancy." It's got nothing to do with embryos in a lab. Like with COVID some people are so freaked out that they worry about things they shouldn't worry about, but none of these clinics have stopped functioning.

People who really want to get abortions are still going to get them. A few people on the fence might be deterred by the inconvenience (not the end of the world). In general the status of fucking around when you shouldn't and getting knocked up needs to be lower in status.

5) Immigration is obviously terrible. If you pro-market, you have to be anti-immigration.

The two proposals for why immigrants vote Dem are:

A) Dems are pro-immigration and speak nice about immigrants (Caplan proposal)

B) Non-Whites are fundamentally anti-market (genetically, culturally, etc)

Empirically, I've seen no evidence for #1. If anything, we've seen negative evidence (Trump, De Santis, etc doing much better with immigrants they Romney and the amnesty crowd).

But #2 fits, especially with how these people vote in their home countries and how they poll on individual issues.

6) Industrial policy is shit, though I doubt the GOP could come up with a worse policy then the Green New Deal

As to trade, this country had a tariff rate of 20%-50% during its rise to greatness. I'm just not convinced a modest tariff is that bad for the economy, especially if its used as a revenue source to offset taxes like the tariff used to be used. Making it uniform across the board is the opposite of trying to pick winners.

Any foreign company that is truly more efficient can probably overcome that barrier.

7) I agree foreign policy is a total crap shoot, but I still think the New Right is the least interventionist group.


Let's take a simple example, a family we know that moved to Dallas. I will pretend they moved from Los Angelos where Richard lives.

First, they save on income taxes. Say 10% in CA versus 0% in Texas. They both have good professional jobs and are in their 30s. I know 200k a year isn't very typical for US households, but it might even be low for them.

$200k * 10% = $20k a year

Let's just say 30 years of paying taxes (also lines up with mortgage, makes my life easier).

$20k * 30 = $600k

Houses in Dallas cost $325k and in LA cost $966k. I understand there are multiple causes of this, but there are pretty big differences in building policy as well. And anyway, with four kids, my friends need a big house.

In Dallas their monthly payment is $2,000 or so. In LA it's about $6,000.

So let's say $4,000 * 12 = $44,000 a year.

$44k * 30 = $1,320k

They have four kids. I'm going to credit them $7,000 in value per kid per year for K-12 either because Texas might pass an Arizona style voucher after the election or because they are more satisfied with their new conservative school district. I've said myself that school voucher reform is the litmus test for the New Rights legitimacy.

That's $7,000 * 13 * 4 = $364k.

I won't even get into college costs.

So by moving from LA to Dallas they saved $600K + $1,320k + $364k = $2,284,000

Yeah, politics don't matter. It's all culture war nonsense!

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"Those who generally support allowing the market to set labor conditions suddenly take a different view when it comes to hiring Mexicans"

Those who generally understand supply-and-demand cannot comprehend why wage-labor-suppliers might not want lower wages.

"just as how people who wish American women would have more babies start talking like Malthusians when the topic of immigration comes up."

Reducing immigration relieves competition for scarce resources, the increasing costs of which depress native fertility.

I challenge you to make a purely economic case for open borders -- no morality, just explaining how it on-net puts dollars in the pockets of every native. Bryan Caplan certainly couldn't do it in his risible comic book. I don't think anybody can.

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I agree that being pro market in areas where that makes sense -- most ordinary business -- is a good rule. That still leaves the very importunate of externalities, specifically the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. And although neither party is ready to impose Pigou taxation on emissions, I can see Democrats coming to that position before Republicans. Another pure market distortion is the restriction of US employers hiring the best of the world's talent becasue of immigration restrictions. Again, I can see Democrats favoring immigration reform to recruit high value immigrants before Republicans. The other big issue is trade. Before Trump, I would have given Republicans the nod on that, but now I think they are even more restrictive than Democrats. Finally in macroeconomics, I see Democrats as more likely to increase taxes to decrease fiscal deficits than Republicans to reduce expenditures enough to do so.

So on pro-market/growth I think Democrats, though very far from ideal, are better

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What about an alternative strategy where you basically vote to prevent either the Republicans or the Democrats from owning both the Presidency and Congress, on the principle that preventing the government creating new programs is the best result for the country?

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