What's changed and changing about (American) politics?
March 4, 2016 12:21 AM   Subscribe

The three party system - "There are three major political forces in contemporary politics in developed countries: tribalism, neoliberalism and leftism (defined in more detail below). Until recently, the party system involved competition between different versions of neoliberalism. Since the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberals have remained in power almost everywhere, but can no longer command the electoral support needed to marginalise both tribalists and leftists at the same time. So, we are seeing the emergence of a three-party system, which is inherently unstable because of the Condorcet problem and for other reasons."

A quick recap...
Concise history of 20th century US political and geographical turnabout:
New Deal: black votes from R to D
Civil rights: S white votes from D to R
And 'how we got to now'...
Quasi-parlimentarianism - "We now have four medium-sized and considerably more coherent voter blocs. 2 rump establishment parties, Trump representing 'racist welfare state' voters, and Sanders representing people who want a Nordic system."

While the 'Washington Consensus' breaks down...
Neoliberalism is being challenged - "Don't know about you, but I think neoliberalism, which has been a prevailing ideology for the past 40 years, is being challenged this year like never before. Let me start my argument with a discussion of the newest AltBanking essay, entitled Freedom in the Neoliberal Eden. In the essay, we make the case that the citizens of Flint, Michigan and Ferguson, Missouri are living lives of extreme freedom and liberty, at least if you define those concepts as a neoliberalist would. They are extreme cases, to be sure, but also 100% natural consequences of their political and economic environment...
When nothing trickles down, when boats don’t rise, here is the explanation that follows: it is not the system that it is at fault, but the character of those people who failed to prosper in it. In this supposedly radically free landscape, you will find yourself entwined in an unsatisfiable obligation. Yes, there is the ever-present Prosperity Gospel stuff we hear from the Christian right, but there is also an even wider-scale acceptance of financial responsibility, credit worthiness, and general economic success – whether earned or not – as equivalent to moral uprightness.
"In his new book The Only Game In Town, Mohamed El-Erian describes two possible near futures for the world economy: in the first, we go to hell in a hand basket characterized by economic stagnation, radicalized politics and social unrest, destructive inequality, and resource wars between nations. In the second possible future, the elected governments of the world acknowledge the major roles they play in a peaceful future. They pick themselves up off their collective asses, take their responsibilities seriously – and in particular take the economic reins from central bankers – and start providing the services, infrastructure, progressive tax systems, and opportunities that their constituents need."

Back to tribalism and assortative voting...
The rise of American authoritarianism - "The GOP, by positioning itself as the party of traditional values and law and order, had unknowingly attracted what would turn out to be a vast and previously bipartisan population of Americans with authoritarian tendencies... Democrats, by contrast, have positioned themselves as the party of civil rights, equality, and social progress — in other words, as the party of social change, a position that not only fails to attract but actively repels change-averse authoritarians."

To the left...
The Liberal Millennial Revolution - "Because Generation Y is the largest generation in American history, it's a big deal if it remains one of the most liberal generations ever. But there's a huge, inescapable problem with the viability of Millennial politics today: Young people just don't vote... If you want a revolution, you have to vote for it. Not just every four years. Not just for cool candidates. Not just for political outsiders unsullied by the soot of experience. If young people want a liberal revolution, they have to vote again and again and again, in local elections, midterm elections, and presidential contests."

Is it the economy?
Economics in the Age of Abundance - "There is no shortage of problems to worry about: the destructive power of our nuclear weapons, the pig-headed nature of our politics, the potentially enormous social disruptions that will be caused by climate change. But the number one priority for economists – indeed, for humankind – is finding ways to spur equitable economic growth. But it is not too early to think about this job number two. This job number two--developing economic theories to guide societies in an age of abundance--is no less complicated. Some of the problems that are likely to emerge are already becoming obvious. Today, many people derive their self-esteem from their jobs. As labor becomes a less important part of the economy, and working-age men, in particular, become a smaller proportion of the workforce, problems related to social inclusion are bound to become both more chronic and more acute."

If it is, just...
Give Everyone a Paycheck - "Imagine the government sending each adult about $1,000 a month, about enough to cover housing, food, health care and other basic needs for many Americans. U.B.I. would be aimed at easing the dislocation caused by technological progress, but it would also be bigger than that. While U.B.I. has been associated with left-leaning academics, feminists and other progressive activists, it has lately been adopted by a wider range of thinkers, including some libertarians and conservatives. It has also gained support among a cadre of venture capitalists in New York and Silicon Valley, the people most familiar with the potential for technology to alter modern work. Rather than a job-killing catastrophe, tech supporters of U.B.I. consider machine intelligence to be something like a natural bounty for society: The country has struck oil, and now it can hand out checks to each of its citizens. These supporters argue machine intelligence will produce so much economic surplus that we could collectively afford to liberate much of humanity from both labor and suffering."

Of course, politics; makes it more complicated than that...
What Are the Essential Principles of America's Political Parties? - "Gradually, between the political end of Nixon in 1974 and the ascent of Gingrich in 1990, the Republican Party transformed itself from the party of those confident who feel they have a lot to gain into the party of those scared who feel that they had something to lose. Whether they fear civil rights that would take their race privilege and assorted economic advantages, feminism that would take their gender privilege and assorted economic advantages, social democracy with its progressive taxes that would eat away at their wealth, new technologies or new people or simply change itself it would in some way disrupt and a road what they had, even if what they had was not much--they all fear, and they all ally together... America can, I think, make good use of a party of enterprise and creative destruction—and of the property wealth that that generates. But what need does America have for and what use might it make of a party of fear and stasis—and of property wealth that is above all else scared that somebody might take it away."

Like, what good is hierarchy if you can't have a ruling elite to bestow status markers that confer privilege?
What are the core differences between Republicans and Democrats? - "The Republican Party is held together by the core premise that the status of some traditionally important groups be supported and indeed extended. That would include 'white male producers', but not only. You could add soldiers, Christians (many but not all kinds), married mothers, gun owners, and other groups to that list... Democrats are a looser coalition of interest groups. They agree less on exactly which groups should rise in status, or why, but they share a skepticism about the Republican program for status allocation, leading many Democrats to dislike the Republicans themselves and to feel superior to them. In any case, that underlying diversity does mean fewer litmus tests and potentially a much broader political base, as we observe in higher turnout Presidential elections, which Democrats are more likely to win these days."

Anacyclosis: can anyone break the wheel?
The Mob Awakens - "According to the original version of Polybius' theory of Anacyclosis, society begins as tribal monarchy, develops into royal monarchy, then degenerates into tyranny. This in turn is overthrown by aristocracy, gets corrupted by oligarchy, and is later succeeded by democracy, which itself is perverted into ochlocracy (mob-rule) — finally opening the door (once again) to the chaos that makes autocratic rule palatable, thereby restarting the cycle."
posted by kliuless (77 comments total) 172 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fantastic post! I know what I'm reading this weekend.
posted by zardoz at 12:38 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Three parties? In Washington, there’s ‘the big money’ party, and that's about it. Jane Mayer’s recent book Dark Money notes that “It might seem a radical and troubling step for a couple of billionaire businessmen who had never been elected to any office, and had no formal allegiance to anything other than their massive, private multinational company, to decide to supplant one of the country's two political parties.” But the Koch Brothers with their billions to throw around, plus many (often secret) interlocking think tanks, tax-free foundations, and other organizations, might not even need the Republicans anymore.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:50 AM on March 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Three parties? In Washington, there’s ‘the big money’ party, and that's about it.

Yup - big money represents the neoliberal consensus, at least as I understand this framework. From the first link:
Roughly speaking, until the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberalism was the only force that mattered. The typical setup in English-speaking countries was alternation between two neoliberal parties corresponding to the two versions of neoliberalism I mentioned above. The hard neoliberal (in the US, the Republicans) relied on the votes of (white Christian) tribalists and made symbolic gestures in their direction, but largely ignored them, particularly if their interests came into conflict with those of big business. The soft neoliberals (in the US, the New Democrats) relied on the willingness of leftists to support them as “the lesser evil”.
posted by dialetheia at 12:54 AM on March 4, 2016 [14 favorites]


Great post. You Can't Tip a Buick has been propounding a similar theory for awhile, that the longtime reign of the classically liberal and pro-business establishment in both parties is breaking down in favor of Sanders' democratic socialism on the left and Trump's fascist populism on the right. Hence the threatened independent run by the uber-establishment Bloomberg (which is going nowhere fast). While the DNC has been able to contain the discontent so far, the GOP is in full-on meltdown mode. But will they be destroyed or rise from the ashes even stronger than before?

Living through a bona fide political paradigm shift is fascinating but also terrifying.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:55 AM on March 4, 2016 [44 favorites]


. But there's a huge, inescapable problem with the viability of Millennial politics today: Young people just don't vote... If you want a revolution, you have to vote for it. Not just every four years. Not just for cool candidates. Not just for political outsiders unsullied by the soot of experience. If young people want a liberal revolution, they have to vote again and again and again, in local elections, midterm elections, and presidential contests."

Do current young people vote less than young people used to? I've always assumed they will just vote more once they eventually have money, homes, kids, and roots in a community and that this was always the pattern. A lot of people don't care about government until they have a much more direct stake in it, especially when it comes to local elections.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:11 AM on March 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Not convinced the tribalism, neoliberalism and leftism distinction of the first article is very useful. "Tribalism" as defined there ("politics based on affirmation of some group identity against others") seems curiously devoid of the specific issues and policies. White "tribalists" want tough measures against immigration, less free trade and more protectionism, the restoration of higher pay and greater security for non-college-educated workers, lower taxes, pensions and healthcare for the elderly. It's not necessarily coherent (most party platforms aren't either) but it has issues that could be engaged with.

There's definitely ay huge movement towards populist platforms, of left or right, across the whole developed world. In any particular country it's tempting to attribute this to policies or mistakes of one party, or the charisma of an individual populist leader, but it's too global to have a cause in one country. Global factors like the financial crisis, the stagnation or decline of middle incomes, rising inequality, and increased migration are more likely to be causes.

One consequence of the rise of populism is that some electoral strategies that were very successful in the past are now much riskier. In the Nineties, politicians like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were very successful with "triangulation" strategies of putting themselves into the political centre. Triangulation is much riskier in a populist era as you can end up losing support to left and right. In the UK under Ed Miliband, Labour lost support to the SNP who were using leftist rhetoric, and to UKIP and the Conservatives on the right. In Greece, the formerly dominant centre-left Pasok was outflanked to Syriza to its left and the established rightist policies.

One thing that worries me about the response to right wing populism is that some politicians still seem very wedded to triangulation. They seem to see it as a universal key to winning elections rather than a strategy that works in some times and places.

In the UK, I don't like David Cameron, but he has been undeniably successful at winning re-election as an establishment figure in a populist era. The way he's done that is to make concessions on particular populist issues: bringing in gay marriage as a Conservative, announcing a rise in the minimum wage to £9 per hour ($12.72 USD, higher than his centre-left opposition wanted), allowing a referendum on EU membership.

If you're going to defeat populists in an era of rage, it's not enough to triangulate and spin, you need to actually make serious policy concessions.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:26 AM on March 4, 2016 [16 favorites]


Apparently presidential candidates are comparing their penises on television debates now. So that's a new thing.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:02 AM on March 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


In the UK, I don't like David Cameron, but he has been undeniably successful at winning re-election as an establishment figure in a populist era. The way he's done that is to make concessions on particular populist issues: bringing in gay marriage as a Conservative, announcing a rise in the minimum wage to £9 per hour ($12.72 USD, higher than his centre-left opposition wanted), allowing a referendum on EU membership.

I don't agree that's how it's played out in the UK. If only because the minimum wage was only announced after being elected. It was thoroughly mocked as unworkable when it was a Labour party policy. Instead the Conservative's victory came from several factors

-Having a clear line that the problems in the economy were due to the Labour party's mismanagement, and that they were still needed to do the job
-Hit home on that issue clearly, consistently, and relentlessly, and making sure that essentially all media organisations agreed with their presentation of economic issues.
-Use of a more wealthy party treasury to ruthlessly target liberal democrat seats, and protect marginals with Labour.
-A poorly unified Labour party with no clear strategy, and a bizarre obsession with targeting lib dem votes rather than tory ones.
-Using the rise of the SNP to promote nasty nationalist fears about being ruled from Scotland. There is evidence that this was very effective.

If you look at how the last election was won, the Conservatives lost seats to Labour, but more than gained them back by grabbing lots of lib dem seats. The Labour strategy of targeting the Lib Dems backfired because while Lib Dem support waned, the Conservatives were able to take more advantage of this than Labour could. It's worth noting that the reason the polling failed to match up with the results seems to be primarily due to Labour voters simply not turning out to vote.

While it's certainly true Cameron's project has often been about making the Conservatives in from the cold, he seems to have been the only one beating that drum, with most of his fellow party going towards traditional conservative issues. How Cameron is to a new paradigm for the Conservative party I'm not entirely sure, but I'm certain that when it comes to winning elections he will do anything it takes, which included hiring the cuthroat Lynton Crosby.

As much as this all relates to populism, the main surges in populism in 2015 were captured by

1)UKIP, who, similar to Sanders (and probably Trump when it comes to the election) found that their support was very dispersed, and lacked the party system to concentrate it in areas where they could win.
2)the SNP, who combined a sense of anger with a strong sense of nationalism, plus Labour's consistent treatment of Scotland as a rotten borough to sweep into power in Scotland.

I think populism of the kind expounded in these articles will struggle to succeed in a FPTP system, because it's designed to favour long established parties with local roots. Populist movements tend to be based on charismatic figures who gather support in a dispersed manner across the nation, and because of their very nature, don't have a long running party system that can try to concentrate that support to make it electable. The reason we see more populist movements succeeding in Europe is because they have more proportional electoral systems, which allow populist movements to obtain real electoral success, which they can then build on.

What makes Trump so interesting is his capacity to somehow break through despite those barriers. While this is certainly to some extent due to a very upset base, I also think it's due to the party elders being unable to pick a winner for too long. They really don't like a lot of candidates, and some are remaining in the race despite having no hope of winning. Nate Silver has an article pointing out that the base are unenthusiastic about every single candidate, and quite rightly so. Mitt Romney was much more popular at this point (in terms of "happy to have them as the eventual candidate") than any one of them.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:03 AM on March 4, 2016 [12 favorites]


Dave "Referendum" Cameron: Greatest Hits Vol. 1

Track listing:

1. Voting - how does it work?
2. "United" Kingdom? Whaddaya think?
3. Who likes "Europe"? I do, sorta.
4. Who here hasn't fucked a pig?
5. I know she'll hate me asking this, but: the Queen? Really?
6. What do you think of these pants?
7. So here's one: what if we started worshipping Satan? Just referenduming.
8. Dress: blue or ... no wait, forget I referendumed anything.
9. Just say George Osborne was dressed as a pig - you would, wouldn't you?
10. Badger cull, but instead of badgers we cull poor people? Asking for Iain Duncan Smith.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:19 AM on March 4, 2016 [32 favorites]


Amazing post, many thanks. There's a collection of great points here that hang together exceptionally well.

One of the overriding dynamics that neither party, nor the citizenry, can engage with in a meaningful way is the transition from manufacturing and service economies, to intellectual property economies.

When looking at the rise in real estate prices, two things are clear. The first is that after the financial crisis, when finance came under scrutiny and more heavily regulated, a lot of that money went into property. Often, property looks like finance's lightly-regulated (on a transaction basis) cousin. The second is that as the rest of the economy transitions from scare to abundant, real estate is the first and last scarce asset.

As the rest of the economy shifts toward computers that build and program other computers, and a world of bits, the fundamental basis of the economy changes from 'asset value' to 'use value'. I don't need to hire a photographer and create a physical print. Now I need to buy the license to someone's social media photograph. As we blister through the economy with thinking machines that decimate entire industries, the previous economic structure remains – which is an asset-value structure.

The machine intelligence section of this post is great, for it falls after the youth vote problem. Young people are growing up in a world where there are only two true assets – securities and real estate. Everything else (to them) seems largely impermanent.

Securities are great, but this is a group which grew up in the financial crisis, and they have a mistrust of banks. Simply look at the alternative banking startup in the UK yesterday that raise £1M in 96 seconds to show what people think of banks these days.

Real estate is great, however it's increasingly owned by fewer and fewer people. As capital seeks returns in an economy where the asset base is being destroyed, it's moving toward the ultimate asset, which is real estate. Unfortunately, most young people are already priced out of that, and their futures look like sharecropping.

The fact that they're not voting seems to mean two things. 1) They already see the world of the machine intelligence-rich, asset light economy, and 2) they don't see a proactive solution from either of the parties.

I agree that there are 4 parties, that are socialist, liberal, conservative, and authoritarian. For a new voter, they're betwixt by not wanting to waste their vote.

In a way, I wonder if we're seeing the exact point that lead to European proportional democracies, and away from the winner-take-all two-party system. It's all wrapped up together obviously, but my takeaway is that:

1) the fundamental action of creating value in the economy is shifting, yet the players continue to remain hidebound to the old rules. That's resulting is a schism around the very heart of the government's role in creating and managing the economy.

2) technology created that shift and is going to accelerate it exponentially, yet the discussion is not about that. the discussion is about which flavour of the old economy we're going to go with.

3) young voters don't see a place with either party, for they're on the outside of the system itself, perhaps looking in saying, "neither of you get it".

Great post. Exciting year.
posted by nickrussell at 2:31 AM on March 4, 2016 [18 favorites]


If you want a revolution, you have to vote for it.

I don't think we're using the same definition of revolution...
posted by Dysk at 3:04 AM on March 4, 2016 [27 favorites]


Cannon Fodder: 2)the SNP, who combined a sense of anger with a strong sense of nationalism, plus Labour's consistent treatment of Scotland as a rotten borough to sweep into power in Scotland.

Nit-pick: that may be the view in England, but it's a little inaccurate as seen from here in Edinburgh. The SNP were already the center-left party of government in Scotland (in the Scottish parliament), with Labour as the main center-right opposition party. (The Conservatives went into a nose-dive in 1979 under Thatcher, from which they have not yet recovered, although Ruth Davidson is currently working on detoxifying the brand.)

The real reason for the SNP sweep in last May's election goes back to the Independence Referendum. Scottish Labour made the disastrous decision to campaign against independence hand-in-glove with the Westminster establishment, led by David Cameron. This was seen by a large chunk of the population as a sell-out to the [hated] Conservatives. It also came on top of the two-decades-long shift to the right by Labour as Tony Blair and his successors triangulated (a la Bill Clinton) on Conservative policies. Although only 45% of the voters in the IndyRef actually voted for independence, it looks as if a larger proportion, despite being cowed into voting to keep the union, deeply resented being shoved around/taken for granted by the Westminster elite. Consequently, after the IndyRef a huge chunk of Labour's former voters either stayed home on UK election day or switched loyalty and voted SNP for the first time ever, resulting in a startling landslide.

The next Scottish parliamentary election is due this summer, and going by the last poll I saw the SNP are going to get somewhere in the range 50-60% of the total votes cast, for a landslide majority.
posted by cstross at 3:41 AM on March 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


I hope both democrat and republican strategists are reading this and the other lines of inquiry in metafilter, for what we have here is the most cogent inquiry as to the state not only of the election but also of fundemantal drivers. While some moments can be heated (re: Talia Jane thread), overall the last few months represent a brilliant level of discourse that I find to be both informative and balanced. Cheers there.

Re: Revolution, that's a huge point -- what kind of revolution are we talking about? I've read that Geroge Bush created Trump, through the hijacking of the Republican Party through its values and subsequent affront to those values. Yet, the authoritarian research would show that Obama was equally involved, by moving forward the social progression of the country, to a point that now trigger the authoritarian tendencies.

In that view, Trump hasn't created the base, rather he has given voice to a base that needed a galvanising leader. Perhaps that's what the Republican Party had problems with all along -- that the establishment candidates catered to the fragmented base left behind after Bush. What trumps found is the previously voiceless body of citizens who feel left behind in what has now been a socially progressive government for the last 8 years.

Fascinating that the corruption of Clinton and Bush led to the true populist candidate of Obama -- an outside insider. On the heals of the financial crisis, the country voted for change -- and he has largely delivered that.

Yet, now faced with a choice of two leaders, we see three parties of citizens in fact. The named democrats -- represented by Clinton and Sanders -- who are proposing a continuation of government-led social change. The republicans -- represented by Trump -- who is proposing a government run according to the dog-eat-dog ethos of the private sector and business world.

And then the third "party" which are the disenfranchised, mainly youth, who had their victory in Obama but now don't see that either of the offers speak to his version is social and economic progress.

So you have the return to Washington insiders, in the form of Clinton. The movement sideways toward business leadership and a gauche, baroque honesty on trump. After Obama, your choices are a politician who has played the game, or a businessman who has played the game. Neither self-made, for Clinton comes on the back of her husbands presidency and her own political career. Trump represents inherented wealth.

The third party, I would assert, is the Obama party of youth. The party of social media and democratic platforms. A party with the economic interests of Sanders, the social interests of Clinton, and the self-belief of Trump. It's easy to see why trump rules the republican roost, for the other republican candidates brought narrow talking points, where as these three (SanClinTru) bring values-based messages.

There isn't a vote for the revolution amongst Sanders, Clinton, and Trump, because the vote for revolution was Obama. Not coincidentally did that revolution begin, only to lead to the rise of Trump in the fertile rubble left by Bush. And that both Clinton and Sanders are not logical continuations of Obama, but a choice of two progressive agendas -- where Obama led on both fronts.

Thus, the final party, which is the party of youth that may be seeing that they don't identify with one of the leaders, but rather identify with the best qualities of all three -- an abhor the worst qualities of each simultaneously.

That starts to look more like a demographic revolution, where Sanders, Clinton, and Trump are fighting for those that believe in the establishment. Whereas the younger generation doesn't seem to resonate with the establishment at all.

Which has now led to a groundswell (at least on my social media channels) of "Obama - 8 more years". The youth are already living in the New Democratic world of online democracy, so is it a surprise that they can't decide between the economic progressive, the social progressive, and the winner-take-all strongman? For they want something represented by all, but at the same time, there's no choice on offer that seems whole, functional, and related to an online word and an online economy of openness and collaboration.
posted by nickrussell at 3:47 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


The real reason for the SNP sweep in last May's election goes back to the Independence Referendum. Scottish Labour made the disastrous decision to campaign against independence hand-in-glove with the Westminster establishment, led by David Cameron. This was seen by a large chunk of the population as a sell-out to the [hated] Conservatives. It also came on top of the two-decades-long shift to the right by Labour as Tony Blair and his successors triangulated (a la Bill Clinton) on Conservative policies. Although only 45% of the voters in the IndyRef actually voted for independence, it looks as if a larger proportion, despite being cowed into voting to keep the union, deeply resented being shoved around/taken for granted by the Westminster elite. Consequently, after the IndyRef a huge chunk of Labour's former voters either stayed home on UK election day or switched loyalty and voted SNP for the first time ever, resulting in a startling landslide.

That's fair, I don't disagree with that analysis, I was trying to cover it in a pithy way in a sentence. I do think there is populism inherent in the SNP's appeal, which was harnessed after the independence campaign, but I ignored the other key factor which you hit upon in that the SNP had already demonstrated that they were very effective in government, which is a marked contrast to UKIP, who have been profoundly useless whenever they have power, to the point of failing to actually attend the European Parliament when being elected to do so.

And in fact I think the SNP provide an important lesson in how to have a successful "revolution" without, you know, strong arming your opponents with guns. You need to demonstrate that you can actually be effective in government before you can win a true majority. Many of these populist movements in Europe and the US seems to be based around figures with little political experience. Building for change requires hard work and a concentration of power, and consistent demonstration that you're actually quite good at this! The Lib Dems did similar at a council level, getting them to the point where they could be a credible party of government. Sadly that didn't work out... brilliantly for them, but the principal remains.

The thing about a lot of movements like occupy or the tea party and now Trump is that they've felt incoherent. There's anger, but an inability to define a clear solution. I think what Obama has demonstrated is that the power of the president is incredibly constrained, which is actually a good thing if you're worried about populism, as the populists need to do more than just getting one person elected, they need to change the whole system, which usually involved engaging with the hard graft of what politics is. I note that Sanders would face exactly the same challenges.

[Although that said the republicans in congress appear to be a bit insane already, so maybe that work is already done]
posted by Cannon Fodder at 3:57 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


One of the overriding dynamics that neither party, nor the citizenry, can engage with in a meaningful way is the transition from manufacturing and service economies, to intellectual property economies.

An intellectual property economy requires continual, often quite intrusive interventions from both governments and multinationals in order to remain profitable. And it's hardly as if the idea of a manufacturing base vanishes; those lovely devices on which white-collar workers call up and print the photo (or the 3D model, or whatever) have to be built somewhere, and it turns out that beating wages into the ground is still cheaper than full automation.

Pretending that everyone is (or can be) a creative class or a financial class worker -- hell, a white collar worker -- creates the very sorts of resentments fueling the current populist surge.
posted by kewb at 4:00 AM on March 4, 2016 [20 favorites]


Three parties? In Washington, there’s ‘the big money’ party, and that's about it.

More specifically, "financial services" make up around 7-8% of US GDP and about 9% of UK GDP. By comparison, in the 1950's the share was 3%. But the more telling number is that financial services take in almost a third of *all* corporate profits in the US, which says that, on a basic level, it's far more more profitable to "own" money than to, say, own a factory.

And that's the reality of politics in the US and the UK.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:07 AM on March 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


I think President Obama actually said it best during his 2008 campaign:
Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism (laughter).

But -- so the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is -- so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing -- close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
It's important to note that the Clinton campaign criticised Obama for his "elitist" remarks and attempted to score a cheap political victory not by addressing the economic plight of these communities, but by exploiting their pride and class-ignorance:
"I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America," she said on Saturday. "His remarks are elitist and out of touch." Clinton campaigners in North Carolina handed out stickers saying: "I'm not bitter."
I really wish the Obama we elected in 2008 stayed President. He seemed to get it.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:15 AM on March 4, 2016 [43 favorites]


Cannon Fodder: it took the SNP about 35 years to go from being a fringe party of cranks to being a solid party of government.

Occupy was what ... 5-10 years ago?

It'll be interesting to see where the Obama/Millennial generation get to circa 2030 (if the USA lasts that long without a catastrophic explosion/descent into neofascism).
posted by cstross at 4:19 AM on March 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see where the Obama/Millennial generation get to circa 2030 (if the USA lasts that long without a catastrophic explosion/descent into neofascism).

Which will be just enough time for Generation X to become old enough to be "elder statesmen" and y'all can finally give us a chance to talk.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:34 AM on March 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


Which has now led to a groundswell (at least on my social media channels) of "Obama - 8 more years".

Is this really a thing? I thought most of the youth vote that's bothering to become engaged this time around is going to Sanders precisely because the past eight years haven't really lived up to the "Change" that electrified the 2008 campaign.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:37 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Last year's Spanish election, where the two main parties mutated into four, and none won a clear majority, seems to fit quite well into this tribalist - neoliberal - left model. Though the Catalans complicate it a bit.
posted by Bee'sWing at 4:40 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


American coalition government. It's like Netflix. But for government.
posted by nickrussell at 4:47 AM on March 4, 2016


Occupy was what ... 5-10 years ago?

It'll be interesting to see where the Obama/Millennial generation get to circa 2030 (if the USA lasts that long without a catastrophic explosion/descent into neofascism).


Indeed. The question is whether these movements can build themselves or fizzle out. I'm nowhere near close enough to US politics to track where occupy (or the people involved in occupy) are now. I'd expect an organisation which does something in 15 years to be taking over local politics, building those structures. Maybe Sanders is a reflection of that, I don't know.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 4:50 AM on March 4, 2016


Tribalism" as defined there seems curiously devoid of the specific issues and policies.

I think the issues and policies begin outside of tribalism but they are enforced by tribalism. Take the example of climate change, the policies come from Washington where big money makes denialism easy. However nobody is paying the average American to deny climate change, it's the connection to my tribe / my team where the irrational hate for Al Gore and refusal to believe comes in. The same is true for evolution, the tribe in this case is the church, and it wins out over science and logic.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:05 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I really wish the Obama we elected in 2008 stayed President. He seemed to get it.

But that's the thing, it's not about "getting it" or electing the right person, but the reordering who has power in society, and the people who have power aren't going to give it up without a fight. The idea that: "you have an election, someone wins and that settles it" ignores the reality of power in society. I wouldn't say that power=money, but it's close, and the distribution of wealth in our society is certainly not decided by an election.

So, the more concentrated wealth becomes, the more unlikely it is for an election to change who has power in society.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:08 AM on March 4, 2016 [29 favorites]


The answer, my friends, is blowin' in the wind. Or breaking wind in it, more likely.
posted by delfin at 5:11 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


ntary election is due this summer, and going by the last poll I saw the SNP are going to get somewhere in the range 50-60% of the total votes cast, for a landslide majority.

And to point out something that's not well known outside of the U.K. - the Scottish Parliament was explicitly built to force coalition governments. It was explicitly made hard to command an absolute majority.

Last election, the SNP did just that. This election, they'll be even stronger.
posted by eriko at 5:39 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


After Obama, your choices are a politician who has played the game, or a businessman who has played the game. Neither self-made, for Clinton comes on the back of her husbands presidency and her own political career. Trump represents inherented wealth.

Except that Trump's supporters do not and will not perceive that his success is inherited. His image is all that matters; the facts underlying (I wish I could say undermining) it do not. This is what Karl Rove tried to tell us about refusing to look beyond the "reality-based community."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:41 AM on March 4, 2016


No, what killed Occupy was two things.

1) The elites were scared of Occupy and acted to neutralize them. This shouldn't have worked, but did, because...

2) There was nothing that a member of Occupy hated more than another member of Occupy who they only agreed 90% with.

The single biggest problem with the left is that if you are not perfectly left, you're the enemy - and everybody disagrees on what perfectly left is.

Look at the Clinton/Sanders battle. BOTH sides have people saying they will vote for Trump before they vote for the candidate that they only partially agree with. Because you either agree 100% or 0%.

If Trump wins, they'll spend their time in the prison camps denouncing each other.
posted by eriko at 5:53 AM on March 4, 2016 [14 favorites]


But the Koch Brothers with their billions to throw around, plus many (often secret) interlocking think tanks, tax-free foundations, and other organizations, might not even need the Republicans anymore.

For every Koch brother reference, there is an equal and opposite Soros.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:56 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Look at the Clinton/Sanders battle. BOTH sides have people saying they will vote for Trump before they vote for the candidate that they only partially agree with. Because you either agree 100% or 0%.

Oh, come on. They said the same thing in 2008 and Obama won handily. And to characterize this as a thing of the left is ridiculous as well, as any GOP primary including the current one proves. The sunlight between Trump and Rubo and Cruz and even Kasich is actually extremy small once you look at it. Their economic plans are all dependent on the exact same magical thinking, none believe the 1st Amendment rights for certain races or religions are valid, they hate abortion (and to large extent, women in general) with a burning passion.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:11 AM on March 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


For every Koch brother reference, there is an equal and opposite Soros.

I do not think those words mean what you think they mean. But congratulations on banging the drum on memes from two elections ago.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:23 AM on March 4, 2016 [18 favorites]


Concise history of 20th century US political and geographical turnabout:

New Deal: black votes from R to D
Civil rights: S white votes from D to R


Concise to the point of pointless. As well point to the shift in Vermont went from rock ribbed Republican to Bernie Sanders. California from Governor Reagan to Brown. Never mind how many blacks found it - challenging - to vote at all before the Civil Rights Acts.

In any event, if you look at graphs of actual presidential voting turnout (rather than the highly misleading maps of electoral college votes), the results are pretty even. (NB the large turnout for Other in Nixon and Clinton elections.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:24 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


The single biggest problem with the left is that if you are not perfectly left, you're the enemy - and everybody disagrees on what perfectly left is.

Look at the Clinton/Sanders battle. BOTH sides have people saying they will vote for Trump before they vote for the candidate that they only partially agree with. Because you either agree 100% or 0%.


While overall you have something of a point, Clinton is left only compared to current GOP candidates and you really don't have to look hard to see major differences between Clinton and Sanders.

Any supporter of either of them who claims they will vote for Trump is not the least bit representative of supporters of the candidate or "the left" as a whole. And I wonder where you've seen that, because I haven't yet.

I will vote for Jill Stein before Hilary Clinton, but then I agree with her platform and voted for her in 2008 and would have given her my full support in the absence of a Bernie or Warren run. If you want to interpret that as "a vote for Trump" that's your own error to make.
posted by Foosnark at 6:27 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I really wish the Obama we elected in 2008 stayed President.

I don't; that guy thought he could sit down with the Republicans and end all the polarization. This was actually a big part of his appeal vs. Hillary, who was guaranteed to continue the fighting.

It's tedious how many people forget we have a Congress. 20% of the electorate fails to vote in midterm elections. Thanks to that, the Republicans grabbed the House in 2010 and never let go. If Bernie Sanders had got in instead, the same thing would have happened to him.
posted by zompist at 6:29 AM on March 4, 2016 [13 favorites]


Never mind how many blacks found it - challenging - to vote at all before the Civil Rights Acts.

Oh, yeah, just a minor point. A statistical blip, that one.

In any event, if you look at graphs of actual presidential voting turnout (rather than the highly misleading maps of electoral college votes), the results are pretty even. (NB the large turnout for Other in Nixon and Clinton elections.)

That graph shows some pretty wild fluctuations in percentages of turnout in the 20th century, with or without 3rd parties. Hoover to Roosevelt shows a 20% change in a single election (and 30% once you factor in "Other"), and LBJ's re-election shows a 15% change in turnout, for instance. Most elections show at least 5% change, which is considered pretty big. Many of them show 10%-15% or higher, which is an absolutely huge change.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:40 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


This writer at Christianity Today is basically saying that Christians who can stomach neither Trump nor Clinton/Sanders need to write in a "more moral" candidate.

(he doesn't mention their names but it's pretty clear who he's referring to).

Which I guess would be tribalism but of a more-acceptable kind.
posted by emjaybee at 6:41 AM on March 4, 2016


I really wish the Obama we elected in 2008 stayed President. He seemed to get it.

The 2010 election -- the House moving from Pelosi to Boehner -- essentially ended his presidency, other than the judicial appointments.

The House has the power of the purse, so when you lose that, you have not a whole lot to work with anymore as President.

And what was worse was the House started playing shutdown hardball, intentionally trying to trigger a recession leading into the 2012 election.

And complaining in late 2011 that the Fed was juicing things for Obama's benefit.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 6:49 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


For every Koch brother reference, there is an equal and opposite Soros.

Soros is now moving to de-fund subsidies for electric cars?

Get real.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 6:53 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do current young people vote less than young people used to?

Every generation thinks it invented young people don't vote.
posted by notyou at 7:09 AM on March 4, 2016 [19 favorites]


Great post, thanks. I've been reading the Tao Te Ching lately, partly because it exists in such a different context. But they're wrestling with more or less the same issues - how do you prevent power from corrupting the rulers? How should the ruler balance their actions between the needs of the people and Heaven's mandates? Is there a correlation between dick length (or military prowess) and the ruler's ability to keep people fed? More and more I see the media circus as a front for this same set of questions, just distorted to fit a bunch of half-baked ideas about how they view some ideal vision of the world, whether it's Ted Turner's or Dick Cheney's or Bernie Sanders's. A bit like how the Malheur occupiers said they were driven by a singular view of the constitution and how some cowboys' responsibility was to make a stand against things that prevented their world view from taking priority in the public mind.
If Heaven and Earth can't make things last, how much less can humankind?
posted by sneebler at 7:43 AM on March 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Thanks for putting these links together! A couple more:

Jack M. Belkin, The Last Days of Disco: Why the American Political System is Dysfunctional, March 2014. Takes a longer-term, more optimistic view -- maybe we're in the middle of a transition to a new order?
Today, America's political system seems remarkably dysfunctional. Many people believe that our 225-year-old Constitution is the problem. But what looks like constitutional dysfunction is actually constitutional transition, a slow and often frustrating movement from an older constitutional regime to a new one.

Americans last experienced this sense of dysfunction during the late 1970s and early 1980s – the "last days of disco." The New Deal/Civil Rights regime had gradually fallen apart and was replaced by a new constitutional order – the conservative regime in which we have been living for the past three decades. By 1984, few people argued that the country was ungovernable, even if they didn't like President Reagan's policies.

In the same way, our current dysfunction marks the end of the existing constitutional regime and the beginning of a new one. This new regime may be dominated by the ascendant Democratic coalition of young people, minorities, women, city dwellers and professionals that elected Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Or insurgent populists associated with the Tea Party may revive the decaying Republican coalition and give it a second wind. As of yet, neither side has been able to achieve a successful transition, leading to the current sense of frustration.
A similar but more alarming-titled analysis from Matthew Yglesias: American Democracy is Doomed (October 2015).
America's constitutional democracy is going to collapse.

Some day — not tomorrow, not next year, but probably sometime before runaway climate change forces us to seek a new life in outer-space colonies — there is going to be a collapse of the legal and political order and its replacement by something else. If we're lucky, it won't be violent. If we're very lucky, it will lead us to tackle the underlying problems and result in a better, more robust, political system. If we're less lucky, well, then, something worse will happen.
posted by russilwvong at 7:45 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


We've had a long period of relative political stability, so it's not a surprise how jarring it is for folks in the U.S. to live through a major political shift. I think we are now about six months into a transition period that will last until the end of 2022.

Whatever happens in the presidential election this year, there is now a clear undercurrent of discontent that will continue to play out in local and state elections throughout the country both in this election and in 2018. It is hard to imagine that everything will be resolved by the next presidential election, so 2020 will likewise be a huge mess on at least one if not both parties sides of the aisle. In the mix may be various third party campaigns, vote splitting and other features of messy realignment.

2020 will be an election for president, possibly continued supreme court balance and also election at the state level of the factions that will draw up the next set of electoral maps. When that is done we will have the mid-term election of 2022. This election will be the opportunity by the stalwarts who have managed to gain ground in 2020 to settle into their gains and set themselves up for the next 20 years (since the following redistricting is again mid-term based), just as the Republicans did from the 2000 election of George W.

This election is critically important (they all are), but by 2020 it will be important not only to elect a leader but to drive a platform down ticket across the country. The key challenge of this cycle is not only to win, but to learn. The political players who best learn to navigate this shifting landscape will be able to put down impressive roots in four years.
posted by meinvt at 9:40 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


DailyKos: "The Seventh Party System: Trump Could Be the Catalyst" by Geenius at Wrok, Dec. 2015

The Sixth Party System has lasted for 51 years. The United States is due for a partisan realignment. Arguably overdue. And one of our major political parties has now rejected the principle of universal human rights. Straight-up rejected it.

And now it has a candidate who rejects it not just implicitly but overtly. And crowds cheer for him.

Suppose this makes a bunch of less radical (I won’t say “more moderate”) Republicans nervous. Where do they go? Where do they end up?

What if they end up in the Democratic Party?

Then we’ll have a Democratic Party whose commitment to human rights is even shakier than it already is now, and we’ll have no countervailing force in favor of them.

On top of that, we’ll still have a contingent of white “conservative” fanatics, based in regions where their views are mainstream and granted legitimacy by the Fox News Channel, dominating the rump of the Republican Party and not going anywhere anytime soon. And human rights will remain an issue that’s up for discussion, rather than a self-evident truth and moral pole star.

"Mike Huckabee and the Coming Republican Realignment" by poblano, Nov. 2007

Say that Huckabee wins the nomination. I believe that we could see a similar re-orientation, where populism tended to be associated more with the Republican cause and the Democrats were considered more pro-business. What we'd have then is two parties that looked something like this:

* The secular rationalist party, a.k.a. the Democrats, which would tend increasingly toward libertarianism.
* The theocratic collectivist party, a.k.a. the Republicans, who would shift in the direction of economic populism while remaining extremely conservative on social issues.

At first glance this might seem far-fetched, but I would argue that it actually makes more sense than the current, disintegrating Republican coalition, which relied on a (literally) unholy alliance between libertarian-leaning "Reagan Republicans", and religious conservatives who were looking for a party to bind themselves to. In fact, to some extent this realignment may already have taken place. Outside of urban areas, working-class protestant whites tend to vote strongly Republican even when it's not in their economic best interests. Meanwhile, the affluent citizens are lining up with the Democrats; and so too are affluent corporations. It's almost like the platforms are just waiting to catch up with the people they represent.

There's also one particular issue that seems to be a harbinger of change: immigration. For the most part, we've had Democrats taking the pro-growth, pro-immigration position. The Republicans, meanwhile, after an internal struggle with the issue, have mainly reverted to the more reactionary but more populist anti-immigration position. A good way to tell a "Reagan Republican" from a "Huckabee Republican" is his stance on immigration.

Last question: would this be a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know, but I tend to think that on balance it would be a good thing, and here's why. I think the new, more libeterian-ish Democrats would retain enough of their tradition that they would not "sell out" the progressives on issues like health care and the environment -- which after all, are economic disasters among other things. On the other hand, the new, more populist-ish Republicans would be less likely to block reform in these areas. But I'd like to ask you guys the same question. (See poll below after electoral college tangent).
posted by Apocryphon at 9:43 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


The links shared in this thread are well presented and useful, thanks all.
posted by waxbanks at 10:03 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


For reals serious question: is tribalism just what we're calling fascism now? Is there a meaningful distinction between the two concepts, or can I just keep calling the violent white supremacist ultranationalist patriarch-worshippers fascists?

For my part, I am increasingly legitimately terrified of the realignment happening right now; I do not have any faith at all in the ability of the decent people in the United States to outnumber or outmuscle the followers of genuinely rotten ideologies (tribalisms, fascisms, whatever you want to call them). There are brilliant, decent, dedicated, skilled people on the left doing the thankless work of organizing every day — I know a bunch of them and I'm all partnered up with one of them — but there are so many people in this country insanely devoted to a type of patriotic American nationalism that excludes almost all actual Americans. In the form of the Oath Keepers and jokers like the /pol/ crew we've got nascent freikorps, every Trump rally feels like a purge about to break out, and even the mainline Republicans publicly state that the worst thing about a state government deliberately and knowingly poisoning an entire city full of Black people is that the Democratic Party is trying to "score points" off of it. We've got most of the cities, but they've got most of the turf and they've got most of the guns and it all frankly scares me half to death.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:39 AM on March 4, 2016 [17 favorites]


That seems like an unfair characterization, because there are many tribes in any country. It's just that the race relations of the U.S. have mostly aligned minority tribes with liberal/leftist groups, as the dominant tribe has for a very long time pursued a policy of its own dominance. We are living in a time when that tribe is in dire straits (though not more than any other tribe, except for the fact that it's losing its previous supremacy). Perhaps then a better label for that group would be nativism. Because whether it's about cutting government and taxes but protecting entitlements for white people (Tea Party) or keeping out immigrants protecting entitlements for white people (Trump's apolitical supporters), they're both about supporting the "core" of what's considered to be Americans.

Perhaps we're seeing the rebirth of the Know Nothings as an actual party.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:45 AM on March 4, 2016


Is there a meaningful distinction between the two concepts

If there's one thing the last year ought to have taught all of us, it's that there isn't a concept of fascism, there are a thousand incompatible explicit and implicit ones which coexist only uneasily. Whatever "tribalism" is (pretty much equally untheorized in the thin discourse of the linked blog-post) it at least has the virtue of being a little narrower and more circumscribed analogically (at least until it's associatively linked with "authoritarianism" in the FPP here, for unarticulated reasons that totally escape me). But really this whole discussion is a dog's breakfast of terminology from radically different, indeed entirely incompatible, political discourses.
posted by RogerB at 10:51 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, fascism has dozens of definitions, some academic, some folk (Umberto Eco's article is good, but he himself is no scholar of fascism), and right now just serves as a pejorative or a dismissible one, similar to "communist."
posted by Apocryphon at 10:58 AM on March 4, 2016


For reals serious question: is tribalism just what we're calling fascism now? Is there a meaningful distinction between the two concepts, or can I just keep calling the violent white supremacist ultranationalist patriarch-worshippers fascists?

My understanding of fascism is that it's nationalism plus corporatism plus authoritarianism. Where the nationalism and authoritarianism are mainly tools to serve the corporatist interests in a cronyish manner. But my understanding of the term may not jibe with current theories, I dunno.

I don't think that mere "tribalism" covers what's happening with the more rabid members of the GOP base, it just doesn't explain the deference to corporate will that we've seen. (Many of them seem quite upset by the financialisation of the economy, hence the popularity of Trump's occasional rhetoric against big banks, but they still appear to believe in the absolute right of corporations to pursue a profit without meaningful regulatory interference.) I'd expect true tribalism to be more interested in in-group/out-group dynamics than anything else. The original forms of the KKK are easy to understand as tribalist, but I'm not so sure about its modern friends.

Apocryphon's use of the term "nativism" seems more apropos, but again I don't think it accounts for the hard-on that the presumptive nativists in question seem to have for non-financial corporations.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:59 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Perhaps then a better label for that group would be nativism.

I object to that since the people being referenced are descendants of immigrants/invaders for the most part. White supremacism fits them better.

(And it gets even weirder if you get into discussions about getting rid of the 14th amendment, when the people advocating it don't seem to realize they open the door to their own disenfranchisement.)
posted by emjaybee at 11:06 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is sort of reductionist, but I think it's less that they love corporations and more that 1) ever since the Russian Revolution, any sort of state limit on businesses is seen as encroaching communism and so the holy invisible hand and the free market must be held sacrosanct, and 2) some are small business owners who dream of one day heading a corporation, the ol' "I'm a billionaire-in-waiting so let's keep taxes low for once I'm rich" trick. It's not so much as they love corporations in of themselves, so much as they love capitalism and hate any sort of regulation against them.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:07 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't think that mere "tribalism" covers what's happening with the more rabid members of the GOP base, it just doesn't explain the deference to corporate will that we've seen. (Many of them seem quite upset by the financialisation of the economy, hence the popularity of Trump's occasional rhetoric against big banks, but they still appear to believe in the absolute right of corporations to pursue a profit without meaningful regulatory interference.)

1. Corporations are enemies of liberals/therefore friends of people who identify with conservatism.

2. Capitalism is a religion which many conservatives subscribe to, in which the wealthy are the chosen elect that we can all aspire to be. This last one seems to be breaking down a bit, but it's still pretty strong. And it gets reinforced by the first one; if you defect from capitalism, you leave your tribe and either have no tribe or become lumped in with the hated liberals. That's why there's a massive unwillingness to recognize just how dependent many conservatives are on social programs, or here lately, a push to prove that they deserve them, while the Others do not.
posted by emjaybee at 11:11 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


As far as small businesses go, the burden of regulation can be a lot heavier since compliance can involve a lot if fixed costs. For example, making sure your kitchen layout is to code is the same whether you've got one small diner or 100 chain restaurants using the same building design.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:15 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Apocryphon/emjaybee: I can buy that. Thanks.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:16 AM on March 4, 2016


On another note, I have to wonder if there's something about American culture that causes the emotional scars from the Civil War, the Red Scare, and 9/11 to still remain in our politics to this day. FDR basically saved capitalism by reforming it through the New Deal, and yet conservatives are still baying against communism and socialism.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:28 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


1. Corporations are enemies of liberals/therefore friends of people who identify with conservatism.

Oh how I wish that were actually true!
posted by dialetheia at 11:34 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I read this book a while ago, but it really helped me understand the nuances and contours that make a defining 'fascism' particularly difficult. Mussolini is the proponent of fascism who described it as a political theory (authoritarian state, combined with corporatism). But really it is an anti political theory because it ignores reality and facts and is almost better defined as hatred en masse mixed with aggressive denial of facts. So how can you define that in political terms? Because it really is what is happening today with the arise of Trump. Anyway sorry if this is too much of an aside.
posted by goneill at 11:45 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


ooh ooh ooh can I post my favorite Assata Shakur quote?
I have never really understood exactly what a ‘liberal’ is, since I have heard ‘liberals’ express every conceivable opinion on every conceivable subject. As far as I can tell, you have the extreme right, who are fascist racist capitalist dogs like Ronald Reagan, who come right out and let you know where they’re coming from. And on the opposite end, you have the left, who are supposed to be committed to justice, equality, and human rights. And somewhere between those two points is the liberal.

As far as I’m concerned, ‘liberal’ is the most meaningless word in the dictionary. History has shown me that as long as some white middle-class people can live high on the hog, take vacations to Europe, send their children to private schools, and reap the benefits of their white skin privilege, then they are ‘liberal’. But when times get hard and money gets tight, they pull off that liberal mask and you think you’re talking to Adolf Hitler. They feel sorry for the so-called underprivileged just as long as they can maintain their own privileges.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:08 PM on March 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'd expect true tribalism to be more interested in in-group/out-group dynamics than anything else. The original forms of the KKK are easy to understand as tribalist, but I'm not so sure about its modern friends.

Eight years of having a black president has the prospective republican presidential candidates arguing about their dick sizes. That tribalism runs deep in the white american psyche.
posted by srboisvert at 12:13 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ha, dialethia, I should have said "the perception is." Liberals are perceived as anti-corporate whether they actually are or not.
posted by emjaybee at 12:50 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Tribalism is the worst quality of humans, period, and it's baked in our primate bones.

We all end up belonging to tribes--seemingly endless tribes, sometimes without even desiring to do so. It is such a powerful force that we constantly try to add more tribes--just think of the fine distinctions drawn within groups (tribes) of enthusiasts. Tribes form organically, often without conscious effort. Sometimes tribes are imaginary, constructed as an enemy to reinforce the importance of membership within an existing tribe (the people supposedly perpetuating the "war on xmas" is a good example of an imaginary tribe).

The smaller the tribe, the easier it is to feel important within, and that sense of importance, combined with the familial "belonging", is what make tribes tick. From tribalism arises "us" vs "them" in all its many guises--religions, states, political parties, militants, stand wipers vs. lean wipers.

Complicating tribalism is that the importance of a particular tribe to some members might be minimal, for other members, it's everything. Tribalism is onion-skinned, but the layering of those skins for each person will be different. A simple example -- two white, religious, US, heterosexual male voters will consider different parts of those tribes important, from least to most important:

[ US [ Religion [ Male [ White [ Hetero [ Politics ] ] ] ] ] ]
[ White [ Hetero [ Politics [ US [ Male [ Religion ] ] ] ] ] ]

There might be a "fight line" in that skinning--a point where any tribe within that line is worth supporting by any and all means to further the interests of the group.

The secret to a better world: make the most-important group for any individual the largest possible ("human" is good, "earth resident" is better), and removing the "fight line", if we cannot do that.

I'm a member of the incoherent ramblers, and will fight anyone who isn't.
posted by maxwelton at 1:32 PM on March 4, 2016 [7 favorites]




Tribalism is the worst quality of humans, period, and it's baked in our primate bones.

From Peter Watts: "Fractals".
posted by Apocryphon at 2:04 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tribalism is the worst quality of humans, period, and it's baked in our primate bones.

Yet tribes might be the only preserves of memories of aspiration towards greatness and goodness during what I fear to be the coming Dark Age. They did it before.
posted by Chitownfats at 2:59 PM on March 4, 2016


A big factor that I think has been left out thus far: the Internet and a resulting general breakdown in the ability of those in power to dish out unchallenged bullshit. Milennials more than us older folks have seen the puny, lying man behind the curtain, and are not buying the past century's whole edifice of bullshit masquerading as a "serious" system of government and economics. We're arguing about which set of theories explains the unraveling of this system. What if the whole thing is just a fraud that's predictably coming unraveled, or a pyramid scheme that's run out of the marks who were born while the con looked believable?
posted by ccaajj aka chrispy at 7:28 PM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


A big factor that I think has been left out thus far: the Internet and a resulting general breakdown in the ability of those in power to dish out unchallenged bullshit.

How does this square with Donald Trump's success?
posted by Justinian at 9:50 PM on March 4, 2016


Trump is challenging "the bullshit". Granted, he doing so with (his own gold-plated) bullshit.
posted by Rat Spatula at 10:24 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


A few more thoughts now that I have a bit more time.

I think First Past the Post systems offer a kind of brittle resistance to populism. Up to a point, populist forces can be ignored. Third party challenges are difficult, central party organisations can maintain control. But that brittle resistance can break beyond a certain point. Sometimes third parties can succeed to main party status: for example the UK in the early Twentieth Century, the Liberal Party found itself permanently superseded by the Labour Party to it's left. Sometimes, the party can be taken over by populists, as has happened in the UK to the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. So beyond a certain point, FPTP starts to benefit populists as they can take control and sideline the centrists.

Already a bit burned out by the arguments about Trump being a fascist. As others have said, there's no precise definition of fascism and Trump is like the old fascists in some ways, unlike them in others. Trump is authoritarian, nationalist, socially conservative, used belligerent rhetoric, and favours some left-of-centre economics (anti free trade, anti H1B visas, espousing state control of corporations).

On the other hand, the large paramilitary organisations of Brownshirts and the Blackshirts were a major factor in the rise of Hitler and Mussolini. They had some electoral success, but they held power through paramilitary force, and always used physical violence and intimidation against their opponents. Trump doesn't seem to have anything like that, despite the odd roughing up of protestors.

Hitler also had a contempt for democracy and vowed to "destroy democracy with the weapons of democracy". Trump doesn't seem to want to overthrow the democratic system itself.

Rhetorically, I think the eight years of calling George W. Bush a fascist, though he was even less similar than Trump, have stripped away the power of the word "fascist": it's pretty much a routine political insult at this point. As the Republicans are finding with the word "socialist", if you use a specific term too much as a smear, you're at a loss when a genuine one turns up...

Back to the UK:
It's worth noting that the reason the polling failed to match up with the results seems to be primarily due to Labour voters simply not turning out to vote.
That was an early hypothesis, but it's not what the more detailed research shows: the problems were down to sampling problem, in particular the people polled had a much stronger influence in politics than the general population.

So that's another thing that worries me about Hillary Clinton's 3 point lead over Trump. Americans haven't had the experience of Britons, Canadians or Israelis in having all the opinion polls predicting the wrong election result. I find it harder to have confident optimism about narrow poll leads.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:32 PM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Mike Huckabee and the Coming Republican Realignment" by poblano, Nov. 2007

Very interesting, not just for its content, but because of who said it. The Daily Kos diarist "poblano" was actually the pre-538 Nate Silver.
posted by jonp72 at 10:07 AM on March 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Picture from today's Trump rally. Great optics, Trumpy.
posted by Justinian at 1:51 PM on March 5, 2016


You Can't Tip a Buick quotes Assata Shakur: I have never really understood exactly what a ‘liberal’ is --

Just to stick up for liberals, it's like the joke about bacon and eggs: "The chicken was involved, the pig was committed." Liberals support the progressive cause (often against their own self-interest, narrowly construed), but are not necessarily fully committed in the same way as leftists.

Shakur appears to believe that liberals are actually just conservatives in disguise, that only committed leftists can be trusted. I would suggest that sympathy should not be undervalued; getting public opinion on your side is important. Expecting full commitment from a majority of the population is unrealistic.

George Washington on the primacy of self-interest:
A small knowledge of human nature will convince us, that, with far the greatest part of mankind, interest is the governing principle; and that almost every man is more or less, under its influence. Motives of public virtue may for a time, or in particular instances, actuate men to the observance of a conduct purely disinterested; but they are not of themselves sufficient to produce persevering conformity to the refined dictates and obligations of social duty. Few men are capable of making a continual sacrifice of all views of private interest, or advantage, to the common good. It is vain to exclaim against the depravity of human nature on this account; the fact is so, the experience of every age and nation has proved it and we must in a great measure, change the constitution of man, before we can make it otherwise. No institution, not built on the presumptive truth of these maxims can succeed.
posted by russilwvong at 1:56 PM on March 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


As the rest of the economy shifts toward computers that build and program other computers, and a world of bits, the fundamental basis of the economy changes from 'asset value' to 'use value'. I don't need to hire a photographer and create a physical print. Now I need to buy the license to someone's social media photograph. As we blister through the economy with thinking machines that decimate entire industries, the previous economic structure remains – which is an asset-value structure.

or exchange value or market value... the GFC tho i think revealed the political-economy machinery behind the curtain as increasingly 'rent funnels' -- such as finance, housing, health care, education and defense 'industries' -- or as edward bellamy describes it: "If you own the things men must have, you own the men who must have them."

if you think that machine intelligence is taking over markets, and that attention is replacing capital, you might be interested in the productivity debates taking place over this 'paradigm' shift:
  • IT is improving our lives without boosting productivity - "After 2004, measured growth in labor productivity and total-factor productivity (TFP) slowed. We find little evidence that the slowdown arises from growing mismeasurement of the gains from innovation in IT-related goods and services. First, mismeasurement of IT hardware is significant prior to the slowdown. Because the domestic production of these products has fallen, the quantitative effect on productivity was larger in the 1995-2004 period than since, despite mismeasurement worsening for some types of IT—so our adjustments make the slowdown in labor productivity worse. The effect on TFP is more muted. Second, many of the tremendous consumer benefits from smartphones, Google searches, and Facebook are, conceptually, non-market: Consumers are more productive in using their nonmarket time to produce services they value. These benefits do not mean that market-sector production functions are shifting out more rapidly than measured, even if consumer welfare is rising. Moreover, gains in non-market production appear too small to compensate for the loss in overall wellbeing from slower market-sector productivity growth. Third, other measurement issues we can quantify (such as increasing globalization and fracking) are also quantitatively small relative to the slowdown. Finally, we suggest high-priority areas for future research." (via) [1,2,3]
  • Does the United States Have a Productivity Slowdown or a Measurement Problem? - "Isn't 'measuring consumer welfare' the point? We (a) arrange atoms (b) in forms we find pleasing and convenient, and then use them in combination with (c) information and (d) communication to accomplish our purposes. That our measures of economic growth are overwhelmingly 'market' measures that capture the value of (a), much of the value of (b), and little of the value of (c) and (d) is an indictment of those measures, and not an excuse for laziness by shrugging them off as 'non-market' and claiming that measuring the shifting-out of market-sector production functions is our proper business."
  • Secular Stagnation: The Long View - "Eichengreen looks at the economic consequences of the age of steam and of the age of electrification. His analysis identifies two dimensions of the economic impact: 'range of applicability' and 'range of adaptation' ... Innovations such as new tools (quantum computers), materials (graphene), processes (genetic modification), robotics, and enhanced interactivity of digital devices all promise a broad range of applications. Range of adaptation refers to how comprehensively economic activity must be reorganized before positive impacts on output and productivity occur. Eichengreen reasons that the greater the required range of adaptation, the higher the likelihood that growth may slow in the short run, as costly investments in adaptation must be made and existing technology must be disrupted. Yet the slow productivity growth in the United States in recent years may have positive implications for the future, he writes. Many connected activities and sectors - health care, education, industrial research, and finance - are being disrupted by the latest technologies. But once a broad range of adaptations is complete, productivity growth should accelerate, he reasons."
  • Great transformations: The societal dimensions of technological change - "Imagination and productivity: One reason it is so difficult to know where economies are headed in the long run (decades from now) is that transformations are often not like the incremental quantitative change we see in models of economic growth. The greatest economic changes have, rather, involved deep and qualitative social transformations as well... The biggest challenge to our imagination, however, is not what technology may or may not be able to do, but how social relations might change — perhaps unrecognisably — when new technologies come into widespread use. Chris Dillow argues, with customary erudition, that the real obstacle to productivity-enhancing technology is social."
  • Abundance - "Today recession is often characterised by excess supply. There is more labour and capital available than there is demand for what it can produce. As such, workers become unemployed and factories are mothballed, inventories are run down instead of new stuff being produced. So wages and prices fall and there is a general economic slowdown... Marx argued that we could not ignore money and think solely in terms of trade in goods as Ricardo and Malthus did. His view is that the transformation of commodities into money and then back again allows for the possibility of a crisis and a general glut... A recession is coming, sooner or later and we will all likely live to regret the choices made in the seven years since the end of the financial crisis. But it is foolish to cheer this process on."
  • A 'cyber-security' productivity paradox *alert* - "Competition in other words is a fine thing, but it doesn't do much for the broader economy because it mostly encourages a redistribution of wealth. The bigger the stock-market valuations on the firms which command this sort of social wealth distribution, the bigger the rewards offered to predatory business models focused on grabbing other people's wealth and the bigger the risk that the actually productive enterprise is run out of town... We now have 30 years of data to prove wealth distribution isn’t generating the right sort of cooperative or productive incentives. To the contrary, inequality has been increasing, the productive world has been burdened by more opportunists not fewer and globalisation has restricted the downtrodden doves to areas where their exploitation is ignored."
what to do?
  • What's Really Happening in the Global Economy? - "For the past month, I've been bouncing around Europe talking to a variety of people about primarily the Chinese economy but really about all about the global economy. In all the conversations I have had, there is one theme that comes through both implicitly and explicitly: people are scared because they do not understand what is going on throughout the global economy and everywhere they look are pockets of real risk. I had one very smart person works for a major asset manager look across the table and say to me: the problem is nobody knows what the _____ is going on right now. Many other people have expressed similar sentiments even if not quite so bluntly."
  • How concerned should we be about business investment and productivity growth? - "Furman cites research that argues the extremely weak growth in U.S. business investment since the Great Recession is due to the nation's weak economic growth during the recovery. Businesses plan investment based on expectations of future spending by consumers, so investing based on future growth makes sense. But while this 'accelerator' view of the slowdown makes sense, Furman notes some puzzles. In particular, the return to capital has increased substantially while investment has not. What are firms doing with all these profits they're earning and not investing, then? The data show that a large chunk of these profits are being distributed to shareholders in the form of increased dividends and stock buybacks... Furman notes that the increase in the rate of return on capital may be a result of increased rents in the economy, due to increased business consolidation and market power. Given that a more consolidated market will invest less, that's another possible structural roadblock to higher investment and stronger labor productivity growth."
  • Who's afraid of John Maynard Keynes? - "Ultimately, there is only one way of resolving this question for sure: Attempt aggressively expansionist policy, and see how far we can get. No one knows for sure where the top is, or whether serious efforts to bring the millions of discouraged workers with fiscal stimulus, active labor market policies, or paid family leave would pay dividends. But they are unquestionably worth trying. Insofar as the professional center-left economist corps is creating a sense that such efforts are futile, they are doing their nation a massive disservice."
  • What Is the Economy's Speed Limit? - "The two questions are (a) how much higher could expansionary fiscal and cooperative monetary policy permanently push annual GDP up above its current trend without triggering massive inflation, and (b) how large would the expansionary policies have to be to push the economy up that far? My guesses are 5% to (a)--that we could permanently raise annual GDP $800 billion relative to our current trajectory without triggering an upward spiral in inflation--and that we would need $300 billion more of annual government purchases to get us there to (b)... I would love to discover that a high-pressure economy with spending more than halfway back to the pre-2008 trend would be consistent with relatively-stable inflation and with rapid-enough growth of economic potential to quickly catch us back up to that trend."
  • A world stumped by stubbornly low inflation - "There is no evidence that policymakers are acting strongly to restore their credibility. In a world that is one major adverse shock away from a global recession, little if anything directed at spurring demand was agreed. Central bankers communicated a sense that there was relatively little left that they can do to strengthen growth or even to raise inflation. This message was reinforced by the highly negative market reaction to Japan's move to negative interest rates. No significant announcements regarding non-monetary measures to stimulate growth or a return to target inflation were forthcoming, either. Perhaps this should not be surprising. In the 1970s it took years for policymakers to recognise how far behind the curve they were on inflation and to make strong policy adjustments... In all likelihood the important elements will be a combination of fiscal expansion drawing on the opportunity created by super low rates and, in extremis, further experimentation with unconventional monetary policies."
  • Improving Monetary Policy By Aiming for (Possibly Better) Goals - "As it re-examines its long-run goals and strategies for monetary policy, the Fed should actively solicit input from the public and its elected representatives. This public input would be beneficial for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that the Federal Reserve is making policy on behalf of the public. It should certainty have a deep understanding of the views of the public and its elected representatives on the appropriate goals for monetary policy. And the process should leave the public and its elected representatives with a much deeper understanding of why the FOMC has the goals that it does. The second reason is that the FOMC would benefit from outside input in any re-thinking of its long-run goals and strategies. The Fed has a large number of talented economists. But any organization can fall victim to group-think on key questions. The FOMC needs to reach outside its walls for a broad range of perspectives if it hopes to build the best possible monetary policy framework for the American people."
  • Moore's Law and AI - "Hint to technocratic planners: invest more in physicists, chemists, and materials scientists. The recent explosion in value from technology has been driven by physical science -- software gets way too much credit. From the former we got a factor of a million or more in compute power, data storage, and bandwidth. From the latter, we gained (perhaps) an order of magnitude or two in effectiveness: how much better are current OSes and programming languages than Unix and C, both of which are ~50 years old now?"
  • Safe Asset Scarcity and Aggregate Demand - "We explore the consequences of safe asset scarcity on aggregate demand in a stylized IS-LM/Mundell Fleming environment. Acute safe asset scarcity forces the economy into a 'safety trap' recession. In the open economy, safe asset scarcity spreads from one country to the other via capital flows, equalizing interest rates. Acute global safe asset scarcity forces the economy into a global safety trap. The exchange rate becomes indeterminate but plays a crucial role in both the distribution and the magnitude of output adjustment across countries. Policies that increase the net supply of safe assets somewhere are output enhancing everywhere."
posted by kliuless at 12:45 PM on March 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


oh and to maybe try to bring this full circle (and relate 'safe asset scarcity'* and aggregate demand with the death of banks and a citizen's dividend from a national accounts perspective scroll down and read the fine print ;) if anyone cares... just to be clear!
  1. beyond sovereign fiat currency tokens of exchange being passed around and highly sought after -- what people will do for just a little bit of money :P -- with the US dollar as numeraire, we live in a fractional reserve banking world where banks more than the fed -- or your friendly neighborhood central bank -- have more control over the money supply (and know our velocity) given their private lending decisions -- who is 'creditworthy' or not -- especially at the ZLB.
  2. but having the power to create money 'out of thin air' comes with the achilles' heel of asset-liability mismatches that render the system periodically unstable -- hence the institutionalization of technocratic central banks at the heart of the 'capitalist' system, in quotes because the price(s) of money (interest rates) are literally _set_ by a central planning 'federal open market' committee, otherwise known as 'conducting' monetary policy, particularly in an emergency as a lender/pawnbroker of last resort.
  3. how do asset-liability mismatches occur? rather than get into the exciting world of maturity transformation, which (the subsequently much-reviled) moldbug has ably covered, simply note that banks' balance sheets (b/s) are incentivized to be -- *technical term* -- 'daisy-chained up the wazoo' where financial 'assets' are really just "liabilities on the balance sheet of some other (eventually unreliable) institution."
  4. [on a more fundamental level, perhaps, they occur because the financial system has become noticeably bad at organizing 'productive' activity lately, but recall that productive in an economic sense means generating market-based transactions* (that the gov't can record, for tax purposes... to make sure it's all above-board, of course!) and not in a utilitarian 'use value' sense where you go 'oh where have you been [product, service, activity] all my life' and squeal with delight.]
  5. um, okay, where was i? oh, that's right, financial 'assets' where post-crisis everybody is scrambling to be/get backed by 'collateral' or safe assets, which are money good at/with the fed(s). so here's the one weird trick (of MMT) thanks to srw@interfluidity: Translating 'net financial assets' - "The crucial thing to understand is what the net means in net financial assets... Private sector net financial assets are 'special' precisely because they are not backed by domestic real assets, but instead by promises that are credibly independent of domestic real asset values, especially promises of states... Net financial assets are special, because they serve insurance functions that assets produced by the domestic private sector simply cannot provide."
  6. that's a lot to unpack, which srw helpfully does (of which i'm eternally grateful :) but speaking of reforming 'asset-value' structure in an increasingly non-market and attention-based 'economy' is not only a great place to start, i think it's foundational, if not fundamental, to what delong says is a "priority for economists – indeed, for humankind – [in] finding ways to spur equitable economic growth [by] developing economic theories to guide societies in an age of abundance."
  7. it's a project for our age: we will rise and fall as a civilization based on our ability to produce public goods -- inclusively provisioned and widely distributed -- and harness positive externalities while corraling negative ones, to paraphrase paul mason: "if we want a postcapitalist economy, not only do we need something better than the market for distributing goods, we also need something better than the finance system for allocating capital... we need to focus on where the externalities are being generated and distributed... [if only] human beings, with freedom of speech [and movement], became the sensors and feedback mechanisms for the planning system could this crude calculating machine work."
---
*that whittle away at your humanity until you stare into the abyss that was your soul in hour after hour of pointless unending drudgery... go warriors!
posted by kliuless at 11:42 AM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]




i don't necessarily disagree with those assertions re: the political economy of a UBI, but in the art of the possible and in the interests of shifting the overton window, it's worth noting that it's not infeasible either; criticism should be welcome anyway, extraordinary claims and all... so sure, what about:
  1. the centrality of work
  2. elites won't allow it
  3. racism won't allow it
  4. cost/taxes/inflation
  5. it undermines existing welfare programs
  6. it'll all just go to enriching rentiers
  7. other policies, in light of the above, would be more effective
all (could be ;) true! i don't see basic income as a panacea, but as a potential means to an end, and maybe not even the most important among a panoply of policies with no certain outcomes. i just think it's worth trying and to keep experimenting. how else is progress made?

i'd just also keep in mind that:
  1. what we have now isn't working, for more and more people: America's Middle-class Meltdown - "Society splinters as bedrock of postwar economy is 'hollowed out' "
  2. America’s middle class has shrunk to just half the population for the first time in at least four decades as the forces of technological change and globalisation drive a wedge between the winners and losers in a splintering US society.
  3. this isn't politically sustainable, as we're seeing: "embracing a new economic narrative that actually delivers the goods to regular folks is what it will take to compete in a meaningful way again... Prosperity does not end racism—but it is one hell of a distraction. When most citizens feel like they are winning, it's not so important to them that others lose. Shared prosperity creates the conditions whereby few reasonable people are angry enough to take a clown like Trump seriously."
  4. and what is that 'narrative' route? if not scapegoating muslims, mexicans, chinese, blacks, liberals, jews, gays, poors, druggies, losers, etc. here's one that's convincing to me: "the economy more broadly must be conducive to expansion in the more productive industries. That requires at least three things: a functional financial system that can fund the expanding businesses; sufficient demand growth for productive businesses to expand with confidence; and the ability of labour and capital to move easily between companies or sectors. The first is mostly but not wholly fixed after the financial crisis. Policymakers are falling unpardonably short on the second. On the third, note that the Scandinavian model involves wage compression from below and above..."
  5. wealth compression too? a large part of the productivity debate -- taking place among elite opinion, at least in some circles -- is that inequality (whether income or wealth) lowers aggregate demand and the velocity of money and is therefore itself a cause of low productivity growth and secular stagnation, leading to much of the political polarization and fracturing mentioned above.
  6. so the goal isn't so much a basic income per se, but creating and maintaining a high(er) pressure, 'good equilibrium', boat-lifting economy for most, if not all, of which an UBI is one way to go about it. infrastructure spending financed by debt monetization (while inflation is low), NGDP targeting, job guarantees, wage subsidies, EITC expansion, raising the minimum wage, living wage proposals are all attempts, in their own ways, to address this problem... short of a pitchforks and torches revolution that isn't likely to end well for a lot of people.
  7. but the economy, as students of intersectionality (and marx!) will tell you, isn't everything :P and may even becoming less and less of a thing, as hard as it is perhaps to imagine how now... doesn't money make the world go round? well actually, it's not so much money as much anymore as information, right? it's attention that's scarce; what are we paying attention to that's really intriguing to us? money and finance it turns out are only a subset of all the information and values people have, which are not always fungible and commensurable.
  8. in this way and age it seems people are caring more about utilitarian use value, what works in a 'what have you done for me lately' fashion, rather than maintaining the political machinery for tokens of exchange that reward and are only available to a few... and, moreover, that neglects public goods and institutions -- including democracy -- or only sees them as patrimonial spoils to the detriment of the general welfare and the degradation of the commons.
posted by kliuless at 12:45 PM on March 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's my impression (right or wrong) that most Western countries have broadly comparable levels of support for the poor and otherwise disadvantaged. The main differences are in implementation. "Nordic" European countries have such support as a central principle; by contrast, in the US with its self-image of independence and self-reliance, the supports are mostly a patchwork of government programs at city, state and federal levels together with non-government charities.

This US patchwork approach to a safety net is uneven and inefficient. Something like a UBI might eventually find grudging acceptance in the US simply for the fact that it would cost significantly less to administer and deliver. Though getting 50 states to work together on this seems far off.

Anyway if all the following are true:

- because of efficiences and automation we are coming to the end of being able to offer gainful employment to everybody
- consumers will remain the most significant part of the economy
- we accept that all people are entitled to a share in our collective wealth; they are not just labour units to be employed at will and ignored otherwise

... then some form of UBI will be inevitable.

Having worked with and on open-source projects, I know that there are other motivations besides wages for doing meaningful work. Financial security will release creativity and ingenuity.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:43 AM on March 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


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