But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical

I agree with mistermix that even the liberal Kevin Drum is wrong about Jindal. Of course, it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. Nate Silver thought Sarah Palin would run for president in 2012 and that she had a good chance of getting the nomination. It’s probably fair to say that gay wizardry only works on polling data near the time of an election…though it sure works well then.

I am constantly stunned by how little my colleagues, most of whom remind me of Kevin Drum to some degree, understand about politics. I try to avoid the topic with them, but I’m often asked questions, which I answer with 100% accuracy. I’m not bragging, the questions are easy — should I put stock in political futures markets (no), who will win the election (Obama), why will Obama win the election (big demographic advantage), will the government default (no), will Sarah Palin be the Republican nominee (no)…simple questions like that. Sometimes I try to explain to them a bit about how politics works, so that they can answer these questions themselves, but it never takes.

The problem is that they are unable to conceive of how irrational voters are. They believe there will be some kind of logical consistency, that loving Jeebus has something to do with caring about the poor, that being a libertarian should make you more likely to be pro-choice, that people might consider their own economic interest when they vote, that voters pay attention to issues at all. Of course, that’s not how any of it works, people sort themselves into teams — roughly Team Liberal and Team Conservative, though there’s lots of little subteams within each, and there’s also Team Narcissist consisting of people whose beautiful minds won’t allow them to be put into a simple box. There’s a little more to it, but, essentially, the rest is commentary.

Sometimes I think that perhaps libertarians are politically inept for the same reasons that academics are. Academics tend to believe people are rational because they themselves are rational (or so they think anyway) and that fucks up their ability to understand politics. Libertarians believe that markets and consumers are rational (I’m not sure why they believe this) and that fucks their ability to understand how our society works, fucks it up so badly that the rest of the population can see immediately that libertarians are mostly cranks and weirdos.

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99 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    I’m not sure why you believe aligning yourself with a “team” is an irrational act.

  2. 2

    Projection. You’re onto something here. It isn’t only wingnuts who project their neuroses and psychoses and lack of morals onto us; we project our rational behavior onto them, too. I think that’s at least part of what’s behind the way Democratic politicians keep trying to work in good faith with the Republicans (like with filibuster reform). Harry Reid and Carl Levin somehow just can’t get it that the Republicans are soulless turds who will stab them in the back as soon as they can, if not sooner. Levin and Reid wouldn’t do that, and they have a hard time seeing that McConnell would–however many times he’s already done it to them.

  3. 3
    piratedan says:

    OT but, it’s nice to know that my state still refuses to dial back the crazy…. If only the voters had a clue what their votes end up doing by electing these nutjobs

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/f.....gh-school/

    really, loyalty oaths in order to get your diploma, what, no urine test?

  4. 4
    Hunter Gathers says:

    President Rick Perry thinks that Drum’s analysis of Jindal’s presidential prospects are fucking hilarious.

    Want to know what I think is funny? Discussing the prospects of potential 2016 POTUS candidates 7 days into Obama’s 2nd term.

    Did I say funny? I meant fucking retarded.

  5. 5
    NotMax says:

    Humanity tends to the tribal and to self-interest.

    This is news?

  6. 6
    Jake says:

    Aligning with a political tribe is perfectly rational. It’s impossible for everyone to know everything all at once. People have no choice but to figure out who’s generally on “their side” and to place some level of trust or faith that they’re “correct” about any given issue. If people didn’t do this routinely, they would be condemning themselves to a fate of absolute ignorance on nearly every single issue of public importance when that would be completely unnecessary.

    This is why liberals read Paul Krugman or Nate Silver. Over time we’ve determined they are trustworthy on public policy matters.

    What might be irrational is if these people were consistently WRONG about everything and yet still commanded authority among their respective tribes. This is the important distinction, I think.

  7. 7
    Ben Franklin says:

    Is there a tag for anal-gazing?

  8. 8
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    The limited number of academics I’ve meant think the opposite. It’s more like “The country’s full of idiots and we’re all doomed”.

    But I agree with you mostly. I wouldn’t mind seeing someone smarter than me put together a comprehensive theory about how irrational humans are in every day life and how society needs to account for that instead of ignoring it.

  9. 9
    Brachiator says:

    @Doug Galt:

    Of course, that’s not how any of it works, people sort themselves into teams — roughly Team Liberal and Team Conservative, though there’s lots of little subteams within each, and there’s also Team Narcissist consisting of people whose beautiful minds won’t allow them to be put into a simple box.

    Nonsense. This is just as simplistic as the supposedly simplistic views of your colleagues.

    This is as dopey as the notion that people naturally belong to a single community, from which you can easily discern everything that they might possibly know or believe.

    Sometimes I think that perhaps libertarians are politically inept for the same reasons that academics are. Academics tend to believe people are rational because they themselves are rational

    Shit, academics are among the least raional people in the universe. They simply hide their biases and stupidities behind an intellectual facade. The only people they most reliably fool are themselves.

    Trivial, but fun example. A bunch of scientists, swigging whiskey and rye at a cocktail party, sternly chattering about how Carl Sagan was a bad scientist and a bad, bad man because he smoked pot.

    Libertarians are just fools with an overly rigid and entirely wrongheaded idea about how the world, or anything, operates.

  10. 10
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @NotMax: It’s not news, but it keeps getting treated as if it were news.

    And for good reason.

    A taste for defining self-interest in purely economic terms, and forgetting that tribes exist and matter, is the source of a lot of tsuris for the left.

  11. 11
    Elie says:

    @Zapruder F. Mashtots, D.D.S. (formerly Mumphrey, et al.):

    I guess I am always puzzled by those who question attempts to work rationally with our many times irrational opponents. Those who believe in governance and responsible decision making have to act like they do and try to accomplish something. What — you think if the other side screams and runs up and down making threats, we should do the same? Alternately, given the reality of working within the structure of our current legitimately in place government, that we can ignore them and just make decisions and legislation unilaterally?

    Sure — I understand the frustration and the emotional reaction of just wantin to say “fuck ’em” .. But you really can’t. Remember, our president and our party is the only thing keeping rational governance in place for millions of people. The alternative is throwing everyone into anarchy while everyone tries to figure out their own place on the food chain. Seriously, our people — the people who actually care — have to be mindful of who we are protecting. Its dead serious because these clowns don’t care. We cannot behave caveleerly because someone has to actually “take care of the family” Never, please, forget that.

  12. 12
    Violet says:

    @Hunter Gathers: The discussion started November 7, 2012. That’s how the perpetual election cycle works.

  13. 13
    Doug Galt says:

    @Brachiator:

    Shit, academics are among the least raional people in the universe. They simply hide their biases and stupidities behind an intellectual facade. The only people they most reliably fool are themselves.

    They’re very rational about certain things and irrational about others.

  14. 14
    Baud says:

    @Ben Franklin:

    There is, but since every blog post would have that tag, it’s just implied.

  15. 15
    RSA says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing someone smarter than me put together a comprehensive theory about how irrational humans are in every day life and how society needs to account for that instead of ignoring it.

    To a first approximation, this is the entire field of psychology.

    Okay, I’m kidding. In the areas I work in with psychologists, even though there are some general principles that we know hold, it’s really hard to figure out how they apply.

  16. 16
    Rich says:

    I’ve never understood why Drum has stayed employed, esp. by Mother Jones for which he seems a little to centrist. He’s not a bright guy and and he often has missed the obvious, but he’s outlasted other pioneer bloggers.

    Jindal is doing what GOPers have been doing lately repackaging old wine in new bottles. Talking about outreach while pushing regressive tax proposals in his own state. McCain was able to get people to ignore his feeble legislative record and lack of comraderie in the Senate, as well as his erratic policy stands, etc. because of his ability to charm the media. Romney knew how to go after his opponents and had the money to do it and as a seeming animintron came off as less crazy than his field. he, too, was a master of reframing things, but much more so than Jindal.

    Jindal is one of several people on whom the media have a mancrush. their holy grail is a GOPer who isn’t Michelle Bachmann; someone who seems sane, rational and even a little brainy. Rubio, Christie, and Ryan give him competition on this score and Chritsie as well as Ryan have big advantages over him. Ryan has “ideas”–they may be crazy ideas from a fascist who writes like a Stalinist, but they are “ideas” which counts with media. Christie is the maverick-y character that McCain was, only less addled. Christie does not appeal to the teabaggers, which also makes him seem more plausible than others in teh field. that the teabaggers and their enablers really control much of the party apparatus probably counts him out but the media still loves him.

    Jindal’s hypocrisy is to obvious. A congresscritter like Ryan doesn’t have to make painful adminsitrative decisions or have them debated by other people and Christie isn’t running a state that’s always been a bit of a banana republic run by buccaneers.

  17. 17
    Brachiator says:

    @Doug Galt:

    RE: Shit, academics are among the least raional people in the universe. They simply hide their biases and stupidities behind an intellectual facade. The only people they most reliably fool are themselves.

    They’re very rational about certain things and irrational about others.

    Fair enough. But it comes down to individuals, not academics in general. I’ve known academics who are incredibly petty and irrational about their work, colleagues and departments, and who were as clueless as a high schooler about political and social issues, and whose ideas and beliefs were as uninformed and irrational as the average joe.

    On the other hand, apart from some issues (climate change, a few others), I’ve run across fewer wingnuts among academics than in the general population.

    But I’ll grant you that few academics are as shitstump stupid as the average libertarian.

  18. 18
    Violet says:

    Nate Silver thought Sarah Palin would run for president in 2012 and that she had a good chance of getting the nomination. It’s probably fair to say that gay wizardry only works on polling data near the time of an election…though it sure works well then.

    From the Nate Silver link you posted:

    But assuming that Palin is rational, and that her goal is to maximize her chance of someday becoming President (or at least winning the nomination), it’s not clear that 2012 is a worse bet for her than 2016

    Nate Silver was clearly not paying attention when he wrote that. He assumed Palin was rational? Was he basing that statement on some Palin fan fiction he read?

  19. 19
    angler says:

    Doug, you rule but why broad brush academics? I bet the biology dept sucks at political analysis, less sure about poli-sci. It’s one place where some, by no means all and by no means all of the university, liberal thinking has a home. To take one example, where would the left blogosphere be without its econ professors, Krugman, Stiglitz, DeLong, etc.?

  20. 20
    Gretchen says:

    I spent yesterday evening with my book club, a group of bright, college-educated women. They think that the debt is our biggest problem, a flat tax would help it, and don’t know what marginal tax rates mean when talking about golfer Mickelson. I despair.

  21. 21
    kindness says:

    Libertarians…doesn’t it seem they are exactly like the Teabaggers who don’t want the Government to change their Social Security checks or MediCare health insurance but want to gut services for all the other parasites and leeches?

  22. 22
    kindness says:

    I said that tongue in cheek but really I have some libertarian leanings. I don’t want a nanny state in all manner of everything. But I do want them to protect me from known fraud, poisoning, negligence & greed. It’s where you draw the line I guess.

  23. 23
    The Dangerman says:

    2016? Hill vs. Shrill (Palin). More logical than (Super) Trump.

  24. 24
    Baud says:

    Two things. One, rationality isn’t discrete state; it’s a continuum. Liberal Democrats are more rational than conservative Republicans, but we all have residual irrationality inherent in our humanity.

    Two, we live in a world of specialization. We may be highly rational if we are successful in our area of expertise, but are likely to appear more irrational when we are outside of that zone. Since interest in politics often exceeds expertise in politics, we tend to see greater irrationality in the political space.

  25. 25
    Yutsano says:

    @kindness: If you really wanna blow a wingnut’s brain tell them universal health care was originally a conservative idea. Then have an article on Bismarck and the foundations of the UHC in Germany available. It will cause much sputtering and consternation.

  26. 26
    Roger Moore says:

    @Zapruder F. Mashtots, D.D.S. (formerly Mumphrey, et al.):
    I wonder how much of projection is a result of self-sorting into like minded groups. We tend to hang out with people who agree with us and think like us, so we overestimate the popularity of our worldview and thought process. When we see others, we naturally assume they’re like us and the people we hang out with, and we’re surprised when they aren’t.

  27. 27
    Doug Galt says:

    @angler:

    I should probably just academic science types, that’s mostly who I talk to. But…I did go to a symposium of political scientists before the 2008 election and they were all idiots too when it came to the election.

  28. 28
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Gretchen: They think that the debt is our biggest problem,

    Not really surprising, given the way our political discourse works. I’ll bet they would have been stymied if you asked them how it’s currently affecting the country. As Rachel Maddow said, the reason so many professional centrists think Obama’s inaugural speech was liberal, radical (fanatical, criminal), was because he defended the social safety net, while the millionaires (David Gregory) and multi-millionaires (Tom Brokaw) who talk politics on TeeVee think those very popular, very successful programs are actually the country’s biggest problem.

    I’d also like someone to explain to me how Phil Mickelson is a “job creator”. And, non-politically, where the fuck does PGA money come from? All TV revenues? Hard for me to fathom.

  29. 29
    Doug Galt says:

    @Violet:

    Somewhere he said it was more than 50-50 she’d get in and if she did get in, she’d be in 1-in-3 to win.

  30. 30
    srv says:

    The more you believe people and markets are rational actors, the more irrational you are.

    This makes that population even more predictable. You just need to figure out how to profit/exploit that.

  31. 31
    RobertDSC-iPhone 4 says:

    Could you please skip the “gay wizard” commentary re: Nate Silver? It’s really irritating.

  32. 32
    Brachiator says:

    @Yutsano:

    If you really wanna blow a wingnut’s brain tell them universal health care was originally a conservative idea. Then have an article on Bismarck and the foundations of the UHC in Germany available. It will cause much sputtering and consternation.

    Of course, it will also blow their brains if you suggest that anything good or reasonable was invented someplace other than America and by anyone other than God-fearing good Real White Americans(tm).

  33. 33
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Violet:
    Nate Silver must assume Sarah Palin is acting rationally — at least in the sense of moving in some logical fashion towards particular goals. Otherwise, there’s no real basis for predicting her actions. Now, I’ll grant that logic is not prominently featured in her publicly expressed thoughts. But a Thénardier* of the political scene like Palin must be headed for some subsequent grift. For quite a while after 2008, seeking the Presidency (shudder) seemed her logical next step.

    *Yeah, I’ve got Les Miz on the brain.

  34. 34
    Culture of Truth says:

    I predicted for a long time here and elsewhere that Mitt Romney would be the nominee. Some liberals assured me the GOP would never ever nominate a Mormon. No doubt this may have been true for some percentage of christian primary voters, but this overestimated their influence.

  35. 35
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Baud:

    Since interest in politics often exceeds expertise in politics, we tend to see greater irrationality in the political space.

    This is a good point. Political expertise is like any other sort, requiring thousands of hours of practice.

    I was silently laughing when P Krugman was talking about p*ker and negotiation recently, since it seemed likely that BObama had an order or two (or three) of magnitude more experience at actual p*ker tables. The recent PK “i was wrong” was an admission of insufficient political expertise.

    These guys are great when they have various time series to work with to make predictions, but someone like DougJ is far better at intuitive political projection. (Forcing oneself to read the arguments advanced by the various camps helps. And … trolling helps develop mental models of political camps.)

    The future may bring much better automated approximations of intuitive analysis, e.g. by using big data analytic approaches fed by a deep polling of political attitudes and understanding and supplemented by automated analysis of online discussion and any other useful information. But we’re not there yet.

  36. 36
    Chris says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Funny how relevant that play remains. Between the Thenardier and Javert, you’ve pretty much got the essence of conservatism right there.

  37. 37
    JWL says:

    Jindal also looks like a twelve year old whose clothes are still chosen by a doting mother.

  38. 38
    Violet says:

    @Amir Khalid: I get what you’re saying. However, Nate’s assumption is that her goal was to become President or win the nomination. It wasn’t and isn’t. Sarah Palin’s goal has always to be the most desirable. A related goal is to make a bunch of money, but the money is secondary to the goal of being desired–it will “prove” she’s desired when people give her money.

    Running for President and winning would “prove” she is the most desirable. However, she stood a good chance of not winning and getting there involved a lot of hard work. Both of those things meant she was never going to run. But leading her followers on with the motorcycle rally in DC, the summer bus tour, the second book, etc.–those fit right into her goal of being the most desirable.

    Nate Silver’s mistake was treating her like a normal politician–they want to win and they want to continue to win higher and better offices. Sarah Palin doesn’t care about political office unless her having it proves she’s the most desirable girl around.

  39. 39
    Doug Galt says:

    @RobertDSC-iPhone 4:

    A reader who is a gay rights activists said that calling him the “gay wizard” helped to advance the cause of gay rights.

  40. 40
    rikyrah says:

    libertarians are just another pony and unicorn crowd.

    they do not live in the real world

  41. 41
    handsmile says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    You’re in luck! On questions of human irrationality and decision-making, let me enthusiastically recommend Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) by Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and 2002 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.....t_and_Slow

    The book garnered near universal acclaim and was widely selected on “Best Books of 2011” lists. By no means an easy read, as befits the complexity of the topic, but as neither an economist or psychologist (a mere art historian and I think academics are JUST GREAT!), I found the work largely accessible, most illuminating, and utterly worthwhile.

  42. 42
    Brachiator says:

    @Doug Galt:

    Somewhere he said it was more than 50-50 she’d get in and if she did get in, she’d be in 1-in-3 to win.

    When he is analyzing poll data, Silver is golden. When he does political punditry, he’s just another guy with an opinion.

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I’d also like someone to explain to me how Phil Mickelson is a “job creator”.

    Well, there’s his caddy.

  43. 43
    Culture of Truth says:

    I assumed that even if her goal was grifting, she would see that running would enhance that. I mean, the media treats even losing
    candidates as super celebrities (Herman Cain, etc.). Of course, she’s a special case, being already famous from the previous run. Anyway, I thought she might run in 2012 too.

  44. 44
    pzerzan says:

    One of the things I find to be underreported is how few of the Republican candidates are statewide officials from large states. Look at this last election-none of the candidates for the nomination were current statewide officials from a large state. The nominee was a former governor from the 14th largest state in the US but he only won one election there his entire career.

    I bring this up because in the past 100+ years, most people elected to the White House have been Senators or Governors from a large state. True, there were exceptions, but most of those exceptions (Eisenhower, HW Bush) were national figures before they got elected. My theory is you need to need to win at the top of a ticket of a major state to become President because big states tend to represent the country more. They have urban, suburban, and rural areas, they have large minority populations, federal issues like immigration and health care are much more pronounced there than in small, sparsely populated states. If you can master politics in a state like California or New York or Illinois, it puts you in a better position than winning in a state like North Dakota or Vermont.

    Here we have a governor of the 31st largest state, whose largest metro area is half the population of Chicago and who gets $1.50 from the feds for every $1 they put in. It’s easy to see why someone like that wouldn’t understand national issues.

    It should be noted the one GOP candidate who would fit my theory, Chris Christie, is having a hard time with the conservative base. Turns out trying to come up with a plan to govern nationally costs you the conservative base (surprise, surprise)…

  45. 45
    eemom says:

    Nate Silver thought Sarah Palin would run for president in 2012 and that she had a good chance of getting the nomination.

    Being a numbers wizard has zero to do with having political common sense, and Nate Silver — God bless him — demonstrated over and over during the 2012 election season, in the columns that ran alongside his numbers, that he does, in fact, have close to zero of the latter.

    I’ve known since the 2008 election was over that Palin was gonna flame out long before the 2012 election.

    I also know that it’s stupid as shit to be discussing the 2016 election on January 26, 2013 unless you’re either (a) an emmessemmbot who gets paid to do so, or (b) in desperate need of a life.

    Last but not least, I have a kid who is now older than I was when The Logical Song came out.

    I can win some kind of prize plz? kthxbai.

  46. 46
    jp7505a says:

    @Doug Galt: Maybe, but to those not in the ‘know’ still sounds like a slur

  47. 47

    @Davis X. Machina:

    A taste for defining self-interest in purely economic terms, and forgetting that tribes exist and matter, is the source of a lot of tsuris for the left.

    Not to mention agita. The ruling class has done a much better job of associating its economic policy package with a social and cultural worldview. The right-wingers are so bonded to that worldview that they don’t even bother to check the real life consequences of the economic policies.

    On the left, to the extent that it is actually the left, most of the discussion is directed away from the social and cultural worldview in order to avoid the inconvenient fact that the economic policy package will benefit social and cultural elements that despise each other.

    The argument is always “We need these policies because we are all in this together.” The left argues & explains why “we” need the policies while the right focuses on who “we” are.

  48. 48
    dmsilev says:

    @pzerzan:

    One of the things I find to be underreported is how few of the Republican candidates are statewide officials from large states. Look at this last election-none of the candidates for the nomination were current statewide officials from a large state. The nominee was a former governor from the 14th largest state in the US but he only won one election there his entire career.

    Well, there was Rick Perry. Of course, failing to be able to count to three in public may have had something to do with how badly he did.

  49. 49
    Haydnseek says:

    @kindness: That was tongue in cheek? It sounded like a dead-on accurate description to me.

  50. 50
    Haydnseek says:

    @Doug Galt: And you believed him.

  51. 51
    Anoniminous says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    Mission accomplish in 1841.

  52. 52
    pzerzan says:

    @dmsilev: Texas is an interesting case in that only 10-15% of eligible voters show up to vote in the primaries. Given that it is a one-party state (at least for the time being) this has allowed guys like Perry and Cruz to win statewide.

    Also, remember, what sank Perry wasn’t his inability to speak but was when he said nice things about immigrants…

  53. 53
    red dog says:

    I think this site discussing “academics” political brain farts is hilarious. Glass houses and all

  54. 54
    Anoniminous says:

    @srv:

    The more you believe people and markets are rational actors, the more irrational ignorant you are.

    Fixed for Accuracy.

  55. 55
    MattR says:

    Academics tend to believe people are rational because they themselves are rational (or so they think anyway) and that fucks up their ability to understand politics.

    Wasn’t there a study that showed the only people who acted like economic models expect are economists? OK, that is a bit of an exaggeration but it showed that economists were far more likely to act as the models expect than the average consumer. (EDIT: I heard about this years ago from one of my economics professors)

  56. 56
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Culture of Truth: predicted for a long time here and elsewhere that Mitt Romney would be the nominee. Some liberals assured me the GOP would never ever nominate a Mormon.

    I was one of them, and while I still think Willard was a Vicodin away from losing to Governor Goodhair, I am surprised how little was made of the Mormon issue, and how his tax returns faded away as an issue.

  57. 57
    glaukopis says:

    @Violet:
    I think Palin wants fame and money and that it’s circular. Fame leads to money which leads to more fame which leads to more money and so on. I think she wants to be Donald Trump.

  58. 58
    Anoniminous says:

    @MattR:

    People trained in any field think like people trained in that field. Which is as surprising as the sun coming up in the East, ’round about dawn. The cure is abductive scientific skepticism and is about as likely to be by people in a field as the sun coming up in the West, ’round about dawn.

  59. 59
    Xenos says:

    @Baud:

    I’m not sure why you believe aligning yourself with a “team” is an irrational act.

    Well, non-rational, at least. Speaking for myself, I am a Democrat for non-rational reasons (using the same sense of rationality as used by libertarians and most economists, which is another hovercraft full of eels entirely).

    I am a Democrat because of my values, qnd if it turned out the Democratic policies would make the country as a whole, say, 20 percent poorer, I would still support them.

  60. 60
    cckids says:

    @Brachiator: Also, some (apparently) incompetent accountants.

  61. 61
    Brachiator says:

    @glaukopis:

    I think she wants to be Donald Trump.

    Trump runs businesses in addition to running his mouth.

    Palin only runs her mouth.

    She was able to get a little traction playing fairy godmother to the Tea Party. Maybe she could run for Congress in Alaska. But it is hard to see her having any substantial political career. So that just leaves grifting.

  62. 62
    Xenos says:

    @Yutsano:

    If you really wanna blow a wingnut’s brain tell them universal health care was originally a conservative idea. Then have an article on Bismarck and the foundations of the UHC in Germany available. It will cause much sputtering and consternation.

    Even better, quote for them Hayak himself, from ‘The Road to Serfdom’, admitting that government-organized, universal health insurance is a good idea and does not harm liberty in any significant way.

    “Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong… there is no incompatability in principle between the state’s providing greater security in this way and the preservation of individual freedom.” Road to Serfdom Chapter 9.

  63. 63

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I am surprised how little was made of the Mormon issue, and how his tax returns faded away as an issue.

    If a Democratic candidate were a Mormon, the right-wing talk radio circuit would be on fire with it as an issue. But since right-wingers don’t really care about “faith” other than as an acceptable way to express bigotry and tribal hysterics, they were fine with a Mormon who hates the same people who they hate.

    If have thought and talked and smoked on the tax returns thing and the only explanation I can think of that works is that the president is a ni-clang, so the corporate press/media let it slide. Again, if any Democrat thinks he or she will get away with it in a future campaign, he or she is dreaming.

  64. 64
    burnspbesq says:

    Loving Jeebus does have something to do with caring for the less fortunate.

    The fallacy in your argument is the implicit assumption that wingnut fundies actually love Jeebus.

  65. 65
    efgoldman says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    No doubt this may have been true for some percentage of christian primary voters, but this overestimated their influence underestimated the influence of gobs of money in the GOBP primary process.

    A slight edit.

  66. 66
    sm*t cl*de says:

    (Super) Trump

    I rate for Supertramp lyrics in the post title.

  67. 67
    efgoldman says:

    @pzerzan:

    Look at this last election-none of the candidates for the nomination were current statewide officials from a large state.

    Umm. Rick Goodhair Perry?

  68. 68
    handy says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    You are surprised how little was made during the primary season, or the general? Because you really shouldn’t be if it’s the latter.

    Really, only one thing stopped Romney from being the guy at the steps of the Capitol on Monday: Obama campaign’s effective drive to get people who already support him to vote. You could also say a shrinking Republican base in the face of changing demographics too but that I liken that to the other side of the same coin. But in any case when the bell rang I think it was fairly predictable the base was going to do the right thing and vote for Mittens.

  69. 69
    efgoldman says:

    @James E. Powell:

    …the only explanation I can think of that works is that the president is a ni-clang, so the corporate press/media let it slide.

    The campaign certainly could have kept it alive, but chose not to. I expect they had internal polls showing it way down in voter’s priorities.

  70. 70
    Chris says:

    @James E. Powell:

    If a Democratic candidate were a Mormon, the right-wing talk radio circuit would be on fire with it as an issue. But since right-wingers don’t really care about “faith” other than as an acceptable way to express bigotry and tribal hysterics, they were fine with a Mormon who hates the same people who they hate.

    Remember, there are different levels of “unacceptable.” Mormons aren’t anywhere near the top of their shit list, and Romney being a Rich White Man helped counterbalance that.

    There is absolutely no way that they would ever overlook a Muslim candidate’s religion the same way they did Romney’s Mormonism. Or a gay candidate’s gayness. A nonwhite person who hates enough of the same people as them and isn’t in one of the Absolutely Untouchable categories like “gay” or “Muslim” might have a shot, but the bar would still be much higher than it was for Romney.

  71. 71
    Brachiator says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    I am surprised how little was made of the Mormon issue, and how his tax returns faded away as an issue.

    What Mormon issue? I can’t imagine trying to make a non-issue into an issue in order to gin up some votes. It also goes against the grain of Democratic Party principles.

    The tax return thing was more substantial. There is no excuse for the press not holding Romney’s feet to the fire on this one.

  72. 72
    Rich2506 says:

    I found a marvelous way to explain politics, the movie The Return of Martin Guerre, starring Gérard Depardieu. I had absorbed all the Marxist stuff about how the aristocrats were mean and vicious and cruel, etc. But the aristocrats here were fair and impartial and thoughtful. I thought “How can both of these images be true?”
    Then it occurred to me “Self-interest!” The aristocrats in the film had nothing at stake! They neither gained nor lost anything no matter what decision they reached. They had no problem reaching a just and impartial decision. I found it much easier to understand history after that.

  73. 73
    Doug Galt says:

    @burnspbesq:

    The fallacy in your argument is the implicit assumption that wingnut fundies actually love Jeebus.

    Fair enough.

  74. 74
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    I think so many libertarians are politically inept because so many of them are also so socially inept, given as they are to calling anyone who belongs to any party at all “sheep” and loudly demanding that they “wake up!” and “open their eyes!” My usual response to libertarians and their even more obnoxious cousins the anarchists is “somehow your condescending dickishness has failed to convince me.”

    As you might have guessed, I fucking hate libertarians, and I want to punch anarchists in the ‘nads.

  75. 75
    Heliopause says:

    Sorry, Doug, but if you submitted this post as a paper I’d have to give you something in the C range. It’s about as focused as Sarah Palin’s Facebook page. And can you please make sense of paragraph three for me? All voters are irrational (you didn’t specify a subset) but some of them are “narcissists” because they don’t participate properly in the grand irrational act? Which you follow on in the next paragraph by saying that most voters manage to make some sort of rational judgement about Libertarianism? Come to think of it, C might be a little generous.

  76. 76

    @Brachiator:

    There is no excuse for the press not holding Romney’s feet to the fire on this one.

    Yes there is If they had held his feet to the fire, he would have lost the election by a much larger margin. It would have been over in October. I am basing this on the inference that Romney believed releasing his tax returns would doom his candidacy. I accept his judgment on this because he is not stupid.

    The liberal media would have been blamed for throwing the election to Obama. Members of the corporate press/media will do almost anything to avoid the accusation that they are liberal.

  77. 77
    MikeJake says:

    Libertarians believe that markets and consumers are rational (I’m not sure why they believe this)

    Internet libertarians often have very shallow exposure to economics, and that exposure tends to be in the form of crap they read on the internet, or a single undergraduate economics course, and it will likely be some derivation of classical economics, which includes the Austrian and Chicago schools. Those schools of thought are espoused by Very Serious conservative types (professors, think tankers, corporate con-men), who cranks and wingnuts read and cite in an attempt at giving their bullshit arguments credibility when they talk out of their asses online. And those schools of thought depend on several dubious notions, the main one being the idea of the Rational _________ (Investor, Voter, Consumer, etc.). Without that assumption, their ridiculous ideas fall apart.

  78. 78
    Chris says:

    @J.D. Rhoades:

    Well, to be fair, most self-proclaimed libertarians turn out to be garden-variety conservatives when the chips are down. (Anarchists don’t vote. Voting’s too mainstream, maaaaaaaaann).

  79. 79
    Mandalay says:

    @Doug Galt:

    A reader who is a gay rights activists said that calling him the “gay wizard” helped to advance the cause of gay rights.

    You may have good intentions but it comes across as bizarre and ugly, and can only detract and distract from whatever larger points you are trying to make in your post.

    Now since his sexuality is completely irrelevant (right?), why not refer to him instead as…….”Nate Silver”? Treating gay people as being no different to anyone else (unless the issue specifically relates to sexuality) is a far better way “to advance the cause of gay rights”.

  80. 80
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    (Anarchists don’t vote. Voting’s too mainstream, maaaaaaaaann).

    True. There is absolutely no way that their vision of how the world should be will ever come about. So they just park on political discussion threads, taking up bandwidth by loudly proclaiming that everyone else in the discussion is just a “statist” and if everyone was as awake and enlightened as they are, we’d realize that the whole discussion was meaningless.

    God, I hate those fuckers.

  81. 81
    danielx says:

    @Rich:

    Don’t forget Jindal’s record with charter schools, which in Louisiana are indeed doing an excellent job of teaching kids that Jeebus rode into Jerusalem on a brontosaurus, or some such. However…he’s not going to be president in 2016 or any other time. He may be a Republican but he’s still a brown person and after eight years of Obama the Republican base is going to want a gen-u-wine white dude, and not some wog with a weird last name.

    For that matter the same thing goes for Rubio and the rest of the Great Brown Hopes of the GOP, in my not very humble opinion. Your true Rs of the base (particularly of the fundamentalist persuasion) are not interested in making nice with Hispanics/Latinos, or blacks, or gay people, or most especially the dirty fucking hippies. At this point they’d rather go down in ideologically/racially pure flames than win national elections*.

    One more illustration of the corner Republicans have painted themselves into, in which every solution to a problem leads to another problem. They’ve put themselves out on the end of a very long ideological limb, and all Obama has to give them is a saw.

    *And why not – failing wholesale disenfranchisement of Democratic voters (which they’re still pursuing), all they really want is to prevent the likes of Obama or his Democratic successor from accomplishing anything. It’s not like voters in their districts are going to throw out the likes of Louie Gohmert or Steve Stockman for being assholes; they got elected because they are and will continue to be assholes. It’s why their constituents like them.

  82. 82
    NotMax says:

    @Doug Galt

    A reader who is a gay rights activists said that calling him the “gay wizard” helped to advance the cause of gay rights.

    It adds nothing of import, nor does it have any bearing on Mr. Silver’s acuity with numbers.

    If (not that it matters a whit) he were heterosexual, would you feel that referring to him as the straight wizard added any value?

    Strunk & White put it succinctly: “Omit needless words.”

    If Mr. Silver requested to be referred to in those terms, that would, of course, be another matter entirely.

  83. 83
    eemom says:

    @NotMax:

    The fixation on Nate Silver’s sexuality on display here in general the last few days is a bit odd, if you ask me.

    Yes, odd even for here.

  84. 84
    NotMax says:

    @eemom

    Huzzah.

    So, so glad you said odd rather than queer.

    :)

  85. 85
    Brachiator says:

    @James E. Powell:

    RE: There is no excuse for the press not holding Romney’s feet to the fire on this one.

    Yes there is If they had held his feet to the fire, he would have lost the election by a much larger margin.

    Losing is losing. Romney’s butt has already been kicked to the curb. A harder kick might have felt better, but the outcome would still be the same.

    It would have been over in October. I am basing this on the inference that Romney believed releasing his tax returns would doom his candidacy. I accept his judgment on this because he is not stupid.

    I have no idea what was in his returns, and neither do you. And Romney was playing his futile little non-disclosure games when he was running against Kennedy.

    Maybe there was something stupendously horrible in them. Maybe not. Didn’t Gramps McCain see the tax returns?

    Romney’s idiotic secretly filmed speech about the 47 percent did him in as much as anything else. And I suppose that speculation about what he was hiding will dog him if he ever tries for a serious run again at public office.

    And oh, yeah, Romney is stupid. And stubborn. Especially about little shit that he lets get blown up into bigger shit. This also did him in.

    The liberal media would have been blamed for throwing the election to Obama.

    The supposedly liberal media gets blamed anyway. Their efforts to avoid looking like dopes in the eyes of both conservatives and liberals ain’t working out so well.

  86. 86
    Chris says:

    @Brachiator:

    The supposedly liberal media gets blamed anyway. Their efforts to avoid looking like dopes in the eyes of both conservatives and liberals ain’t working out so well.

    You’d think at some point they’d realize that conservatives are an inherently unpleasable audience which is determined to hate them no matter how much they bend over backwards. And that they might be better served by appealing to other segments of the country for a change.

    Word up at Romney’s stupidity, too. I never had a high opinion of his intellect, but God, it was staggering to see.

  87. 87

    @Brachiator:

    I have no idea what was in his returns, and neither do you.

    That’s true with respect to specifics, but isn’t it reasonable to infer that whatever is there, it’s damaging and maybe even fatal to a presidential campaign?

    Whatever it is has to be worse than “OMG! Romney pays a far lower rate than I do!” because Romney always knew he would release returns that showed that.

    Romney took the position that he would never release any other returns. He could not have known when he took that position that the Obama campaign and the corporate press/media would complain, then let it slide. So whatever he was hiding was bad enough that it would have been worth a summer of arguing about it.

    No, I don’t know the specific information in those tax returns, but I know that the guy hiding that information risked losing the one thing he spent his whole life trying to get when he decided to hide it.

  88. 88

    @Chris:

    You’d think at some point they’d realize that conservatives are an inherently unpleasable audience which is determined to hate them no matter how much they bend over backwards.

    Their problem is that their customers and bosses are rich people who are conservatives. See Arthur Jensen’s conference with Howard Beale.

  89. 89
    Linnaeus says:

    Libertarians aren’t naive rationalists. They’re neofeudalists; their apparent rationalism is window dressing.

  90. 90
    Brachiator says:

    @Chris:

    Word up at Romney’s stupidity, too. I never had a high opinion of his intellect, but God, it was staggering to see.

    I am still tremendously relieved to know that in the end the country rejected Romney. And it is not just that he is a Republican, and that I wanted Obama to win. Romney seemed to be even more emptyheaded than Dubya, and more venal and vindictive than Sarah Palin, with absolutely nothing to leaven his worst instincts.

    @James E. Powell:

    RE: I have no idea what was in his returns, and neither do you.

    That’s true with respect to specifics, but isn’t it reasonable to infer that whatever is there, it’s damaging and maybe even fatal to a presidential campaign?

    Again, I just don’t know. Romney had this odd vulnerable spot. He was running for the presidency, the most visible political office in the world, and yet insisted that he could imperiously force everyone to respect his privacy and to only allow to be inspected what he wanted to have inpsected. But he would act up over truly trivial shit.

    The few returns that he released didn’t reveal anything earth shattering. And people can, and will, imagine that he is hiding deeply politically embarrassing stuff. This will always hang over his head, because he was such a dope about it.

    I have no particular reason to infer one thing or another, because at this point there is no way to verify any suspicions that anyone might have.

    Either way, bad political instincts and stubbornness or hiding a mess of problems, Romney still looks like a dope.

    and BTW, could it be one of the things he was still waffling about could have been a relatively minor, but still damning, point such as his official state of residence?

    That’s the thing with Romney, despite all his bluster, he was wrapped up in all kinds of crappy little messes that gave lie to his Master of the Universe exterior.

  91. 91

    @Brachiator:

    and BTW, could it be one of the things he was still waffling about could have been a relatively minor, but still damning, point such as his official state of residence?

    We can’t rule that out, of course. He says and does odd things. And we will never know the facts. But I’m sticking with my speculation.

    The concern, for me, is whether it sets a precedent.

  92. 92
    taylormattd says:

    My favorite thing about that Eschaton link is that Atrios’ emo handwringing was the favorite of the very people he is making fun of in that post.

  93. 93
    noabsolutes says:

    only some academics believe people are rational, and only some of us are ourselves rational. we do a job, like everybody else, and everybody works with people who make no sense.

  94. 94
    Gretchen says:

    @Brachiator
    @James E. Powell

    I think the 2009 returns would have shown that he payed a penalty for not reporting income on his Swiss bank accounts. Up until then, he wouldn’t have reported them, so it didn’t show on what he showed McCain. He had no reason to believe that they wouldn’t always remain secret, but the US got UBS to reveal their US depositors. In 2009 there was a one-time amnesty deal, that if you paid a fine you wouldn’t be prosecuted. The 2009 returns were the ones he resisted releasing most strenuously.

  95. 95
    Brachiator says:

    @James E. Powell:

    We can’t rule that out, of course. He says and does odd things. And we will never know the facts. But I’m sticking with my speculation.

    As will many others. As I said, Romney still loses because this taint will not go away. And there is no way that it can ever be resolved.

    The concern, for me, is whether it sets a precedent.

    McCain only released a couple of years of his tax returns.

    Reagan only released one year. Bob Dole was a freaking releasing machine, releasing 30 years’ worth. John Kerry was very transparent.

    So there is not much of a precedent. Except, of course, that George Romney began the standard of releasing enough tax returns to allow an honest assessment, and trusting the voters to acknowledge the honorable thing. And Mitt, his son, was a weasel.

  96. 96
    mclaren says:

    The problem is that they are unable to conceive of how irrational voters are. They believe there will be some kind of logical consistency, that loving Jeebus has something to do with caring about the poor, that being a libertarian should make you more likely to be pro-choice, that people might consider their own economic interest when they vote, that voters pay attention to issues at all. Of course, that’s not how any of it works, people sort themselves into teams — roughly Team Liberal and Team Conservative, though there’s lots of little subteams within each, and there’s also Team Narcissist consisting of people whose beautiful minds won’t allow them to be put into a simple box.

    Solid gold.

    A human being is a tiny little blob of frontal cortex on top of a great big mountain of lizard brain. People who do math or science for a living are the sane millimeter-thin crust on the mile-deep redneck lava that is America.

  97. 97
    Rex Everything says:

    should I put stock in political futures markets (no), who will win the election (Obama), why will Obama win the election (big demographic advantage), will the government default (no), will Sarah Palin be the Republican nominee (no)…

    Yes, I’m sure Kevin Drum needed you to answer all those questions for him. You are SUCH a DFH compared to Kevin Drum (the ‘liberal’ Kevin Drum—HAR)! Power to the people; ciao, kisses etc, and keep it real, Dougie—

  98. 98
    Visceral says:

    @angler:

    … why broad brush academics? I bet the biology dept sucks at political analysis, less sure about poli-sci.

    I’m sure that poli-scientists have their pet grand unified theories – reductionist and determinist – of why everyone from voters to dictators do things. That’s the fundamental error: redefining irrational behavior into rational behavior because by God we need something to write papers about. Like another commenter said, explaining irrational behavior is more psychology’s department … and their tools are nowhere near up to the challenge.

  99. 99
    J R in W Va says:

    @piratedan:

    That is SO illegal and un-American I can’t even believe it. These people don’t even know how their own country is supposed to work, and how it has worked for the past 230-odd years.

    So now they have to waste precious resources trying to defend an act that has no chance of standing. Go AZ ledge… dumasses all.

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