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Red vs. Blue and Political Self-Segregation
April 22, 2004 3:53 AM   Subscribe

Red vs. Blue and Political Self-Segregation:
“Republicans and Democrats joke these days that they can’t understand each other, that they feel as though they live on different planets. It’s no joke. They do. One of the reasons American politics is so bitter is that Republicans and Democrats are less likely today to live in the same community than at any time in the last 55 years.”
The Austin-American Statesman’s Bill Bishop begins a series of articles on the increasing political segregation across the US—a variety of segregation that has surprisingly increased while others (for example, racial) have declined. Timothy Noah of Slate has some thoughts. For background, it’s been discussed elsewhere that the traditional 2000 election red vs. blue state map is misleading and that a gradated county map might be more enlightening. Here’s one. Here’s an analysis with a different take on the data. And here are some other interesting cartograms of that election’s results. [Alternative Links Inside]
posted by Ethereal Bligh (90 comments total)

 
Hopefully this is sufficiently non-NewsFiltery. The Google search seems to indicate that the story hasn’t been picked up by many other papers. The trend is interesting and unfortunate, I think; and it explains some of what we’re seeing in contemporary USAian political discourse. (For those who decline to register for AAS access, here is the first story; and here is the second. For future reference, you can search Google for the first story here; the second story here.) It’s also relevant, I think, to the ongoing left versus right debate here on MeFi in that many of us live in these increasingly politically insular communities; and so we find opposition political opinion often “beyond the pale” and risible when, perhaps, it is not.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:54 AM on April 22, 2004


It seems that US News doesn't like my direct link to their image of the RvB map (it worked as a URL directly from my browser, I promise). Here's a different link to the red/blue US 2000 presidential election state map; and, just to be helpful, here's a Google image search.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:34 AM on April 22, 2004


Any chance of a login for the first link? Registration is not exactly friendly...

The following fields contain missing or incorrect data.
• Email Address format is invalid.
• Gender is required.
• Primary Phone is required.
• Home Address Line is required.
• Home City is required.
• Zip Code is required.
• Home State is required.
• Paper Usage is required.
• Household Income is required.
• Birth Year is required.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:02 AM on April 22, 2004


BugMeNot.com has some logins for the Austin American-Statesman. Note that I included alternative non-registration links to the first two stories in my comment.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:09 AM on April 22, 2004


Try these.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:12 AM on April 22, 2004


Phooey.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:13 AM on April 22, 2004


Thanks!
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:35 AM on April 22, 2004


a gradated county map might be more enlightening

Anyone with any sense has been saying this for the last three years. It's kind of a good bellwether comment, really: if you hear a pundit talking about county-by-county precision, then the rest of their analysis probably deserves more attention, too.

The reason people stick with the state-by-state map is because it is linked to electoral voting. Problem is, they are then saying, Well, anyone in a red state is a Republican, or, Anyone in a blue state is a Democrat, which is flat out wrong. There are too many purple states, ones which are almost perfectly split, for anyone to be paying that much attention to the state-by-state map when determining the outcome of this year's election, rather than hashing over 2000.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:05 AM on April 22, 2004


I knew it, democrats prefer living close to water, while republicans prefer a more arid climate. Glad we got that sorted out.

Seriously though, I've always thought the county map was the more interesting one from the 2000 election. The fact that in many regions it's nearly indistinguishable from a population density map shows a pretty interesting geographic (urban v. rural) divide. Although that's obviously just one aspect.

Interesting post Ethereal Bligh.
posted by malphigian at 6:11 AM on April 22, 2004


Red vs. Blue

Does anyone else smell a potential crossover? I do!
posted by mkultra at 6:28 AM on April 22, 2004


...or a red vs blue political jay z remix
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:40 AM on April 22, 2004


Either my geographical area needs to switch colors or I need to move.

Just this morning I was behind a car with two Bush '04 stickers on either side and a "heritage, not hate" sticker in the middle.
Could that be the racist Bubba vote?
If I were of the nature I would have flipped Bubba the bird.
posted by nofundy at 6:48 AM on April 22, 2004


' "I don't think we are at a really dangerous stage," said Cass Sunstein, a professor of law at the University of Chicago and an author of books exploring issues facing democracy, "but if it's a case that people really are pretty rigidly Republican or Democratic and that's widespread, that's not healthy. Our democracy is supposed to be one where people learn from one another and listen."

Sunstein's concern is rooted in more than 300 social science experiments over the past 40 years that have found a striking phenomenon that occurs when like-minded people cluster: They tend to become more extreme in their thinking. They polarize.

This research would predict that the increasing physical segregation of voters in the United States would result in a more polarized and partisan political culture. And that is exactly what is happening. '

I think this happens on the Net too.

Ethereal Bligh, this is a wonderful post - and very, very removed from newfilterism. My only criticism (not of your post itself - It's great.) is of at least one apparent, rather striking gap in Bill Bishop's awareness of trends surrounding this issue. To wit :

"The answer, in part, can be found in a dramatic demographic and political shift. For eight presidential elections, from 1948 to 1976, presidential elections at the local level on average grew more competitive.

Republican voters became more likely to encounter Democrats at the courthouse and in the express line at the grocery..... the average county was growing more politically diverse, at least when it came to presidential voting.......After 1976, however, the political mixture began to separate, and for the next six presidential elections, Republicans and Democrats pulled apart."

This time period corresponds up rather neatly with that continuous trend towards reduced income equality in the US (measured by the GINI index) which held from about 1948 to 1970. The trend since 1970 has been towards greater income inequality. The trend seems to have accelerated considerably in the last three or four years (though there's always a time lag between the emergence of apparent trends and their final confirmation as expressed in widely agreed upon hard data).
posted by troutfishing at 6:54 AM on April 22, 2004


troutfishing: "reduced income equality" vs. "greater income inequality" -- since those, to me, sound synonymous, one of them must be a typo, but I don't know enough about this to figure out which. Someone help me? Sounds interesting.
posted by evinrude at 7:18 AM on April 22, 2004


And - before anyone tars me with a "you want wealth redistribution!" brush (maybe, maybe not) - let me add that wealth distribution inequality isn't necessarily good or bad per se......but it does tend to correlate with political instability.

Now, political instability isn't necessarily good or bad per se. But is does tend to correlate with higher levels political violence - civil war, death squads, government repression and violence, etc.

Now, some would say that higher levels political violence (civil war, death squads, government repression and violence, etc.) aren't bad per se. Some people dig violence.

Well, it comes down to basic values then, I suppose. But I think it's safe to guess that very few Americans think political violence is good and desirable or something which national policies should promote.

But - as I said - some dig violence. Like these folks :

 "I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus - living fossils - so we will never forget what these people stood for."  - Rush Limbaugh, Denver Post, 12-29-95

"Environmentalists are a socialist group of individuals that are the tool of the Democrat Party. I'm proud to say that they are my enemy. They are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans." - Rep. Don Young (R-AK), Alaska Public Radio, 08-19-96

   "Get rid of the guy. Impeach him, censure him, assassinate him."

     - Rep. James Hansen (R-UT), talking about President Clinton, as reported by journalist Steve Miner of KSUB radio who overheard his conversation, 11-01-98

"We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs."  - Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX), Mother Jones, 08-95

 "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building." - Ann Coulter, New York Observer, 08-26-02

It's curious - in the late 1960's, the radical left's rhetoric espoused violent poltical tactics. Now perhaps - in their strident, vitriolically hateful attacks on the counterculture and the political and cultural tendencies of the American left during the Vietnam War era, the US far right has come to become, somehow, a mirror image of that leftist extremism they've spent so much time excoriating. To paraphrase Jung, "repressed, contradictions in the human subconscious which are not made conscious and reconciled are eventually manifested externally - as fate."
______________________________________________

But, to rephrase that whole point - not all polarization can be pegged on mere demographic trends. Some of the recent polarization in American politics - and the parallel rise of American political rhetoric that advocates, essentially, domestic terrorism - has been promoted quite intentionally by many on the US right.
posted by troutfishing at 7:25 AM on April 22, 2004


The biggest problem with this increasing segregation is that it allows people to develop the belief that all Democrats/Republicans are stupid and evil. That's a natural human tendency anyway, and when you can go most of your life without meeting someone from the opposite party, that trend is only going to be strengthened.
posted by gd779 at 7:28 AM on April 22, 2004


What gd779 said.

A certain amount of birds-of-feather flocking together is bound to happen, but if you never come in contact with someone with an opposing veiwpoint, then you're bound to become smug and lazy in your thinking.

OTOH, you could argue that peoples political beliefs are, at least to some degree, shaped by their enviornment so it may not be surprising when people from the same community hold similar beliefs.

But people segregate themselves for all kinds of reasons, race, politics, religion, income level, taste in music, haircuts whatever. It's a shitty trend however you look at it, just a new spin on tribalistic behavior.
posted by jonmc at 7:36 AM on April 22, 2004


There's an excellent article in this month's Harpers (unfortunately, not available on their site) which dismantles the "red vs blue" notion nicely. Just fyi for anyone who's interested in the topic, and particularly for those interested in how reductive metaphors start being taken for truth.
posted by jokeefe at 7:37 AM on April 22, 2004


evinrude - thanks for pointing that out. ("troutfishing: "reduced income equality" vs. "greater income inequality" -- since those, to me, sound synonymous, one of them must be a typo") - you're right! That was a bad typo. It should have read :

"This time period corresponds up rather neatly with that continuous trend towards reduced income INEQUALITY in the US (measured by the GINI index) which held from about 1948 to 1970. The trend since 1970 has been towards greater income inequality."

Here's a Metafilter post on this from January 15, 2003 : US income distribution moves towards 3rd world profile? "...US Census Bureau data on growing family income inequality, 1947 to 2001." (AKA "Slouching towards Sierra Leone?")

There have been a number of posts on this subject since. I've got a list somewhere......
posted by troutfishing at 7:40 AM on April 22, 2004


The biggest problem with this increasing segregation is that it allows people to develop the belief that all Democrats/Republicans are stupid and evil.

I think that Republicans are either stupid or very selfish. And I grew up in a republican county. So it doesn't matter.

This link is not directly applicable, but still a neat coincidence.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:40 AM on April 22, 2004


Sunstein's concern is rooted in more than 300 social science experiments over the past 40 years that have found a striking phenomenon that occurs when like-minded people cluster: They tend to become more extreme in their thinking. They polarize.

I have read that this comes from a sort of polarization within the ranks of the converted, when people try to differentiate themselves from the group by declaring themselves more Republican or more Democrat than the next person. Individuals try to position themselves by staking positions along what is leading edge of opinion and by pushing the envelope of what is considered acceptable ever outward, push the median of opinion toward the margins and, thus, farther away from what could be considered common ground.

Democratic politics has always been this way to an extent but with the rise of concepts like RINO--Republican In Name Only--and well funded drives from within conservative ranks to to purge such politicians from the ranks, it seems there's a mirror of this on the right.

This is, in a sense, an example of the ego gone mad, of individualism as social cancer, when people on the same side start to divide into poltical camps of , ultimately, one--the individual consumer monad. Bring on The Solar Lottery !
posted by y2karl at 7:46 AM on April 22, 2004


This is a fascinating post. I do not live in the United States anymore, but when I do visit, it's to vote.

My real concern is that each party is so convinced that they will win the next election, accepting the results will be difficult. While I am not one hundred percent convinced that the last election was stolen, I suspect it was. Moreover, I do not believe that either party is completely innocent in this arena.

I sincerely regret that both parties have decided to ignore swing voters. It seems like moderates who would have a fighting chance working with the other party are disqualified automatically. I believe that both Bill Bradley and John McCain would have been infinitely more electable than the men who were nominated by their parties.

I do not see any uniters, any joiners, just two men pandering to the same special interests, who are hated by different groups of Americans.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:51 AM on April 22, 2004


gd779, jonmc - Chimps live in tribes and sometimes wage wars of genocidal attrition against their neighbors.

Here's another Mefi post (#25045) on societal income equality/inequality : Soaking the Rich

"...I have read that this comes from a sort of polarization within the ranks of the converted, when people try to differentiate themselves " y2karl, It's a breeding strategy! - the brightly colored plumage of political extremism makes the firebrand, who stands out in the flock, more attractive to members of the opposite sex simply for the fact of standing out in the crowd! - Genetic strategy as tautology.

gesamtkunstwerk - Perhaps, but you will NOT find the equivalent of those Republican incitements to political violence (which I cited earlier in this thread) coming now from American Democrats - you'd have to go back to the 1960's to find any sort of parallel to this sort of hate-speech.

Further - on the vote fraud story - in a historical sense you are correct, but in the present day, I'm not aware of any major accusations of vote fraud leveled against the Democratic Party. All electronic voting machine companies are Republican owned save one, and in the vast majority of elections which have sparked charges of vote-fraud, the alleged fraud has benefited Republicans, not Democrats.
posted by troutfishing at 8:12 AM on April 22, 2004


And, I use too, many commas.
posted by troutfishing at 8:31 AM on April 22, 2004


I think that Republicans are either stupid or very selfish.

And lots of Republicans would say that liberals are either stupid or very naive. So how does either statement make anything better for anyone? Both seem to highlight exactly the problem this thread addresses.
posted by deadcowdan at 8:45 AM on April 22, 2004


Personal anecdote here: I ran into an acquaintance while out and about on my bike recently and stopped to talk. And we talked about this and that in normal conversational tones. He 's a contractor at Microsoft and we talked about the grim employment situation there. Condoleeza Rice had just testified before the 9/11 campaign and we were going back and forth about this and I said something like "Well, I would have done something if someone had told me what to do..." in your standard sarcastic tones when some guy started screaming--and I mean screaming--at us from the window of a third floor apartment about how he was going to come down and kick our asses if we didn't shut up. I didn't consider this a hopeful sign on how things are going in this country.

This was on Capitol Hill, about the most liberal neighborhood in liberal Seattle--so much for demographic maps.

I often wonder how much internet manners have colored and coarsened political discourse in this country. But I wonder that about talk radio, too.
posted by y2karl at 8:48 AM on April 22, 2004


Like Mayor Curley, I too grew up in the land of Republicans (Orange County, California, in my case), and I've yet to figure out how one can be a Republican without being stupid or selfish.

This isn't a willful attempt to be a polarizing asshole; I've spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out if someone can be both a Republican and a good person because I don't want to write off an entire sector of people. Yet I remain unconvinced. Republican policies and actions just seem to make my country worse and guarantee misery for more people.
posted by dame at 8:57 AM on April 22, 2004


Well here in the U.K the opposite seems to be the case in that we are drowning in a tsunami of apathy. However this seems to have accelarted in recent years due to Tony Blairs' big-tent politics/third way. I think the political pulse began to slacken in this country the day that Margaret Thatcher left office. What a great year 1990, Spike Island, and the electrifying poll tax riots, certainly interesting times.
posted by johnnyboy at 8:58 AM on April 22, 2004


dame - I think, for many, a Republican political affiliation happens organically and in tandem with rising incomes. Not for all whose incomes rise. But probably for most. I think, with many, rising economic fortune triggers the development of an unconscious personal narrative like this : "I worked hard to get where I am. I am wealthier because I am more disciplined (or smarter, have greater drive, am more talented, etc.). In fact, I deserve more because I am better. Those others who want my money - they don't deserve it. I earned it fair and square."

And so, Democrats morph into Republicans and Libertarians.
Few - on any part of the political spectrum, I think - actually consider their political positions on their own merits and aside from their economic status.

y2karl's point though......that's something very different and very much of a piece with the sort of behaviors which have preceded fascism wherever it has arisen : intolerance and violent, hateful bullying.
posted by troutfishing at 9:09 AM on April 22, 2004


I guess I can understand, as a purely intellectual exercise, why this polarization is a bad thing.

But as someone who probably votes diametrically opposite his neighbors 99% of the time, I have to say that it would sure be a lot less stressful to live around people who think more like I do.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:28 AM on April 22, 2004


I think this whole left vs. right thing is gonna be the US's undoing. it gets worse all the time. the other day I saw an SUV with a sticker on the back of Calvin pissing on the word, "LIBERALS." very scary.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:32 AM on April 22, 2004


dame-

I grew up among moderate Republicans as well, and have watched people I care about struggle with being in the middle of the road as their political tent is being shifted ever further to the right. My Dad recently switched affiliations to join me as a Democrat (yay!) while my mother has taken to responding to all fundraising mailers by writing across the response page in bold red ink: "I'M NOT GIVING THE REPUBLICANS ANY MONEY UNTIL THE REPUBLICANS START ACTING LIKE REPUBLICANS AGAIN." (for her, that means fiscally responsible and out of people's trousers.)
posted by ambrosia at 10:02 AM on April 22, 2004


Another personal anecdote -

First of all, FYI I'm a liberal ffrom the Bay Area, big shocker. Anyway, I'm taking CalTrain home from work yesterday and it's packed with baseball fans, as is the case whenever the Giants play. Baseball fans and business commuters are mortal enemies. Commuters prefer silence and tranquility on the train, whereas baseball fans are loud, drunk, chatty (if shouting to your friend 10 seats away for an hour counts as "chatty"), and surrounded by herds of untended children practicing to be like their parents. So, anyway, this kid in his late teens gets on the train and takes the seat behind me and he's muttering over and over in that passive aggressive stage whisper, I shit you not: "Goddamn lazy Republicans should drive to the game!"

So - 1.) he's instantly equating annoying people to Republicans and 2.) he's mad at said "Republicans" for using public transportation! He's so blinded by his own intolerance that he forgot what he supposedly stands for. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
posted by badstone at 10:04 AM on April 22, 2004


troutfishing - i've long suspected that conservatism comes with age and income. i'm hoping to buck the trend.

don't know. my brother and one of my friends are pretty strongly republican. for the most part i can talk to them about anything, but if politics comes into it generally it turns into a shouting match unless i force myself to shut up and leave the room before i punch someone. my brother in particular was insufferable after bush became president. he kept saying to me that i'd change my mind and see things his way once i left this "liberal college atmosphere" (his words). i've been telling him that one day soon he'd see things my way. he disagreed and said he'd never dislike bush. well, he's on the ground in tikrit right now. i wonder how republican he'll be when he gets home.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:19 AM on April 22, 2004


speaking of "liberal college atmosphere" - I have this ultra conservative uncle who keeps talking about how crazy and terrible it is that liberals are trying to "bring back the 60's". He's not the only conservative I've heard say that. Frankly, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. Is it just that the 60's were the last time that conservative midwesterners were aware of the existence of liberals because there were hippies on TV, or is there something more to it?
posted by badstone at 10:29 AM on April 22, 2004


Troutfishing: See that's a perfect example of selfish and stupid working in tandem.

"I have money now, so fuck those who don't; it's mine": that's selfish. Look, I don't make very much money, but I make enough to pay taxes and have it hurt. But you know, if me having less money means someone can eat or have a roof over their head or get some healthcare, then you know, I can live without that money. Sometimes I can't buy the pretty shiny things I'd like, but I can pay my rent and eat and go on vacation once in a while, so I'm taken care of.

And then the personal narrative you speak of: that's stupid. Making more money doesn't make you better and it isn't an indication of superiority. To think it is is stupid. And to think you made your money without any help from anyone else or any luck is stupid too.
posted by dame at 10:36 AM on April 22, 2004


Troutfishing: Point well taken about hate speech. Inciting the assassination of political figures and the bombing of newspapers is a dangerous abuse of free-speech. The right should own up to its responsibilities.

But for voter fraud, you need look no farther than Cook county for fairly conclusive evidence that both parties are abusing the electoral process.

ahem /gesamtkunstwerk clears throat and climbs onto his soap box/. What strikes me as scary is not just the celebrity hate jocks, it's the general atmosphere of pandering that is sweeping the nation. Limbaugh, Coulter and their ilk are pandering to viewers in a way that translates into cold hard cash. American media shies away from critical analysis of political events for fear of inciting the wrath of voters.

And while I feel desperately that US media needs to critique what I consider to a be disastrous administration, when I hear things like "liberal radio" and even "talkingpointsmemo", I can't help but cringe. Voters need analysis, not talking points.

News analysis is never truly neutral. But forums that attempt neutrality can engage citizens in dialogue. Our entertainment-based news is creating huge ghettoes of very poorly informed, opinionated people, and vast deserts of bewildered apathy.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 10:40 AM on April 22, 2004


a perfect example of selfish and stupid working in tandem

It's partly selfish, but it's also supremely naive. The more money you make the more taxpayer provided resources you consume to make that money. The relationship (unlike the tax system) is probably exponential.
posted by badstone at 10:43 AM on April 22, 2004


It seems the divide is becoming more epistemological these days than anything. Class lines don't seem to matter as much anymore - why would all those lower-middle class people in the red states vote Republican while the richer coasts vote Democratic? It seems to come down to a divide between a religious worldview - we *know* what the answers are, and what the right thing to do is, and we won't let reality get in our way; and a scientific worldview of data-driven policy analysis - condemned by the right as "waffling".

These two groups CANNOT have a rational discussion with each other about the correct policy for the nation because they don't even agree on what "rational" is.
posted by bradhill at 10:44 AM on April 22, 2004


My father, a moderate Republican, used to claim that I'd get more conservative and less idealistic as I grew older. (But he never understood that although I'm intellectual and principled, I'm not as idealistic as I am pragmatic.) And, of course, there's that damned "If you're not a liberal when you're young, you're.../if you're not a conservative when you're old..." saying.

My maternal grandmother, however, a well-read, worldly, relatively wealthy socialite, moved from being a Goldwater Republican to being what a lot of folks would call liberal in her later years up until she passed away (a couple of years ago). God, she couldn't stand Bush 41 and I know she would have despised Bush 43 if she hadn't had Alzheimer's during his time. Anyway, my dad always would remark how my grandmother--a woman he thought highly of--bucked what he thought is the normative trend. (A lot of Goldwater Repubs probably hate the current regime, though. Hell, I like Barry Goldwater. By the way, my grandmother and her husband were asked to fly Goldwater somewhere in their jet, I guess in the eighties sometime, and they tried to convince him to run for Pres again. He told them he'd had enough of that.)

Anyway, although because of my dad's influence I was a moderate Republican back when I was growing up (a teen), I became pretty liberal right around the time I was out on my own, and for the most part I'm stayed to the left or even moved lefward since then. The point of my story is that a few years ago I came into quite a bit of .com money and had to pay a six figure income tax bill. (And, of course, I'd done well through the nineties in the tech industry.) I didn't enjoy writing that check, of course, but it didn't really upset me, either, and I didn't think it was unfair. (Not to mention that I didn't try to reduce my tax bill in any way, even though lots of folks tried to convince me that surely I could get out of paying most of it.) In fact, I thought it was sort of patriotic.

And I knew that for me, at least, this idea that if one actually has to pay these "high" taxes then one would naturally be a conversative and a Republican, etc., etc., was false. You hear that sort of thing from conservatives--they tend to assume that liberals can't possible be wealthy or pay high taxes. This really annoys me and I'll mention my six-figure check to the IRS in response. But it's sad to also see this stereotype perpetuated from the other side of the fence. (Partly, I don't think taxes are "high". They're quite low by world and US historical standards.)

However, I do really think that people vote their own self-interests. One time when I argued against this idea of voting purely in one's own self-interest (and not in national interests, or simply what's right), one person responded with completely honest bafflement and asked why anyone, ever, would not vote their own pure self-interest. That really depressed me.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:35 AM on April 22, 2004


It seems to come down to a divide between a religious worldview - we *know* what the answers are, and what the right thing to do is, and we won't let reality get in our way; and a scientific worldview of data-driven policy analysis - condemned by the right as "waffling".

Of course, when George Bush changes position, he's being--in the words of David Brooks--ruthlessly flexible.

Like a really mean, tough Slinky or something, I guess.
posted by y2karl at 11:43 AM on April 22, 2004


But the national interest is part of your self-interest. That's like saying "Why should I care if the kitchen is on fire when I already have a plate of hot tasty waffles right in front of me?" Along with the "scientific worldview of data-driven policy analysis", the Left also tends to think in more integrative and proactive terms, rather than in the linear and reactive terms that drive the worldview of the Right. Environmentalism is another example of this. The reasoning behind supporting a healthy environment is simply too nuanced to be comprehensible to the Right wing worldview. The only conclusion they can draw is that you must be interested in the environment for the sake of worshipping Gaia or something (and the attitudes of certain hippy environmentalists only makes this misconception worse) and not because it truly is in our own self-interest to maintain a healthy living space.
posted by badstone at 11:48 AM on April 22, 2004


This is a really great map. I have traveled all over the USA and could sense the differences but could not articulate them. This map does a wonderful job and it just further shows how rich and diverse this country is.

What scares me most is the attempts to get rid of diversity. I think the Politically Correct generation has a hard time allowing for divergent political views and will do anything to make everyone equal. This is historically very dangerous, Communism was founded on the same ideals. Instead of the prolitariate we have the environmental movement. Instead of the struggling masses we have gay marriage, welfare state, diversity training and end of racism. The EU in particular represents these ideals taken to an extreme. If we have another war in the west it is going to be a war about equality and diversity. Indeed one can say, we are in that war right now.
posted by stbalbach at 11:52 AM on April 22, 2004


badstone, I know the type well--a friend of mine and her parasite Chomsky-reading self-declared anarchist boyfriend went to look at Christmas light displays a couple of years back. We went to Candy Cane Lane and all of a sudden he was climbing over my head and yelling shit about the stinking rich people at the people and kids walking around looking at the Christmas lights. The people who live on Candy Cane lane are well off middle class college professors, for the most part. That's not the Rich in my book. And there were poor people with kids looking at the lights that night, too.

He wasn't, however, threatening to kick anyone's ass.
posted by y2karl at 11:52 AM on April 22, 2004


So, here I am reading this really interesting thread about the potential pitfalls of political segregation when whaddaya know....some of the squeakier wheels that live on this generally lefty street corner start egging each other down the polarization alley...


from troutfishing - "and in the vast majority of elections which have sparked charges of vote-fraud, the alleged fraud has benefited Republicans, not Democrats."

Ya wanna back that up with some facts?

Read the following excerpts of Senate testimony...

here and here

The vote fraud referenced in the above links in Philadelphia, Alabama, California, Texas, and Miami all involved Democrats. That doesn't mean Republicans haven't been involved in the same kinds of shenanigans...but nobody claimed that was the case. I guess the whole "Republicans are evil incarnate!" thing clouded your mind to the details.

from mayor curley & dame- "I think that Republicans are either stupid or very selfish"

Now there is an open-minded observation...I know plenty of republicans and democrats who are neither stupid nor selfish...people that I would bet have given more to their communities in terms of time and resources than you ever dreamed of. I also know plenty of people who are both stupid and selfish. The stupid ones often make narrow-minded generalizations about groups with which they disagree.


"i've long suspected that conservatism comes with age and income"

I can think of one other thing that comes with age - wisdom.

Maybe it's just a coincidence.


BTW, despite our likely political differences, I really enjoyed the post ethereal bligh...some very fascinating stuff in there.
posted by cyclopz at 12:12 PM on April 22, 2004


I knew it, democrats prefer living close to water, while republicans prefer a more arid climate. Glad we got that sorted out.

Gee, looking at Utah, I feel mr_crash_davis's pain. By the way, anyone here from Wyoming?

But what's that reddest of all all counties--as in red for democrat on the county map--doing in South Dakota ? Must be a college town.
posted by y2karl at 12:16 PM on April 22, 2004


The people who live on Candy Cane lane are well off middle class college professors, for the most part. That's not the Rich in my book.

19% of Americans think that they are in the richest 1%.

This article from the NYT in January of 2003 attempts to explain why working class people vote against their own interests over and over again. (My apologies if it's been posted previously.)

y2karl, from your story I can only guess that the left is as uninformed as everyone else. (No big surprise- everyone knows to go to a conservative source for accurate hard data.)
posted by small_ruminant at 12:19 PM on April 22, 2004


from Jacques Ellul's Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes:

"The double foray on the part of propaganda, proving the excellence of one's own group and the evilness of the others, produces an increasingly stringent partitioning of our society. This partitioning takes place on different levels... but this diversity of levels and objectives in no way changes the basic law, according to which the more propaganda there is, the more partitioning there is. For propaganda suppresses conversation; the man opposite is no longer an interlocutor but an enemy. And to the extent that he rejects that role, the other becomes an unknown whose words can no longer be understood. Thus, we see before our eyes how a world of closed minds establishes itself, a world in which everybody talks to himself, everybody constantly reviews his own certainty about himself and the wrongs done him by the Others--a world in which nobody listens to anybody else, everybody talks, and nobody listens. And the more one talks, the more one isolates oneself, because the more one accuses others and justifies oneself."
posted by creamed corn at 12:22 PM on April 22, 2004


dame: "I have money now, so fuck those who don't; it's mine": that's selfish. Look, I don't make very much money, but I make enough to pay taxes and have it hurt. But you know, if me having less money means someone can eat or have a roof over their head or get some healthcare, then you know, I can live without that money. Sometimes I can't buy the pretty shiny things I'd like, but I can pay my rent and eat and go on vacation once in a while, so I'm taken care of.

If you do this voluntarily with the fruits of your labor, you're an altruist. When you compel others to do so via the coercive mechanism of the state (because you value healthcare for others), than you're putting your values ahead of the values of others.

Patting yourself on the back for your willingness to determine what should be done with money that someone else has earned? That's selfish.
posted by trharlan at 12:34 PM on April 22, 2004


The more money you make the more taxpayer provided resources you consume to make that money.

Say what? This is so non-obvious to me it's basicaly a non-sequitur. Are you saying that if my employer gives me a raise, I somehow am "consuming more taxpayer-provided resources"?
posted by kindall at 12:34 PM on April 22, 2004


I consider myself a political moderate, but folks in the middle don't make enough noise or are ignored unless it's election time. The extremists on both sides are too busy trading barbs and one-upping each other.
However, being in the middle can mean lots of different things, and that is too subtle a difference for most people it seems. Plus, we don't get a "line-item" vote.
I personally wish there were more support and funds for more parties. I think other countries do quite well with governments that reflect more than two lines of thought.
I suspect this hardening of attitudes is only going to contribute to a greater fleecing of the average citizen by powerful men who are loyal only to themselves and their peers.
In other words, while we sit here insulting one another, someone's robbing us blind, stripping away our rights and undermining the common values we believe in.
posted by black8 at 12:45 PM on April 22, 2004


y2karl - bit 'o gold there. A tough slinky. heh.

caution live frogs - I'd be interested to hear what happens.

Ethereal Bligh - You're the less common sort, I'd say, who knows the concept of "enough" and who has a sense of responsibility in terms of giving back for the common good. That's why you opted tax pay taxes rather than to work the system, right?

Most people do vote their self-interest, I agree - and most in your shoes might have opted for a trophy mansion. But there's also a more expansive understanding of self interest which asks - "If I don't lead by example and show the way, what will happen to the collective good? Perhaps everyone - myself included - will suffer?"

A good example of this is the meteoric rise of the private security sector, both in the US and especially in Brazil. Large inequalities in income distribution, and significant poverty amidst great wealth translates into crime - and so Rich Brazilians and now, increasingly, Americans turn to private police and security forces and surveillance systems. None of these are cheap and they only go so far in addressing the problem. Of course, the wealthy can then demand a more punitive criminal justice system and more police surveillance, but these measures cost more public money and - once again - don't necessarily address the underlying problem (or even can exaccerbate it!) and can wind up turning the nation into a police state.

Guatemala - in the last three decades - provides a rather brutal example of where this logic can take a country : to wholesale massacres, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings.

"Self Interest" isn't always so readily apparent!

Anyway, I'm not especially wealthy (except in ideas, perhaps) but I have more disposable income now than I've ever had, and so I wonder about whether I'll clutch my money more tightly as I earn more. And if I start another business and it does well, what then? I hope my politics and sense of social equity won't mutate in the usual way.

One thing which comes to my mind is the very different view on "wealth" which human societies are khown to have held. Many smaller, close knit agrarian and especially hunter-gatherer societies have senses of "wealth" which is actually measured by the strength of one's friendships and communal ties. Wealth, for "Big Men" (or "Big Women") is viewed not in terms of stuff but in terms of social relations.

I wonder about this, because I've always had, from my teenage years, a sense of obligation that I should take responsibilty for the fact that - by world standards - I am actually rich (though I'm only middle class by American standards) : with little effort, I could change the lives of hundreds in the developing world.

recently, my father - a lucky sort - found an expensive watch on a city sidewalk. He didn't really care about it. He already owned a watch (not such an "exalted" one, however). The sum he could sell the found watch for (maybe $500) could make a major change in the quality of life for hundreds of the world's desperately poor - clean water from a new well, or a foundation for a school or hospital.
___________________________________________

gesamtkunstwerk - I'll have to look into the Cook County story, but I'll stick by my contention that in the last three or four years, in the vast bulk of cases where voting fraud has been alleged, that purported fraud seems to have benefitted Republicans. Here are some recent Metafilter posts on the subject.

Also, the problem you cite - "Voters need analysis, not talking points...... News analysis is never truly neutral. But forums that attempt neutrality can engage citizens in dialogue. Our entertainment-based news is creating huge ghettoes of very poorly informed, opinionated people, and vast deserts of bewildered apathy." - is very real, but the current style of republican attack politics ( winning by any and all means available, legal or not in certain cases ) has been in vogue for at least a decade. I think the creation of apathetic and opinionated attitudes among the voting public has been at least partly by design. Since the Powell Memo, some 2 to 3 billion dollars have gone to right wing organizations and think tanks working to sahift the American political consensus. To quote the above liked story, "Beginning in the early 1970s, a new conservative establishment set a counter-movement in motion to replace the institutions and expunge the ideas of American liberalism, which had dominated public thought and social policy since the New Deal. A new breed of conservatives sought to roll back a set of social gains going back to FDR, Truman, Johnson, and Kennedy.

They shifted the nation rightward; tilted the distribution of the nation's assets away from the middle class and the poor, the elderly, and the young; they red-penciled laws and legal precedents at the heart of American justice. They aimed to corporatize Medicare and Social Security. They marketed class values while accusing their opponents of "class warfare." They loosened or repealed the rights and protections of organized labor and the poor, voters, and minorities. They slashed the taxes of corporations and the rich, and rolled back the economic gains of the rest. They came to dominate or heavily influence centers of scholarship, law, and politics, education, and governance - or put new ones in their place."

posted by troutfishing at 12:45 PM on April 22, 2004


Republican voters became more likely to encounter Democrats at the courthouse and in the express line at the grocery..... the average county was growing more politically diverse, at least when it came to presidential voting.......After 1976, however, the political mixture began to separate, and for the next six presidential elections, Republicans and Democrats pulled apart.

I was listening to a radio west broadcast the other day, and the guest suggested that the political difference in her family had kept her more open. Thinking of that, and reading this thread, I had the thought.... family sizes have decreased and far-flung-ed-ness have increased since the 1970's , too, and I wonder if this has something to do with it. Perhaps as part of a larger problem: ideology replacing place and personal connection as the basis for community.
posted by weston at 12:50 PM on April 22, 2004


Could that be the racist Bubba vote?
FYI nofundy, Bubba can mean friend or "hey you". See you using it repeatedly. So who are you refeing to when you say Bubba?, The President.?
posted by thomcatspike at 12:56 PM on April 22, 2004


But what's that reddest of all all counties--as in red for democrat on the county map--doing in South Dakota ?

y2karl, what you're looking at is the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Indian Reservation. Just FYI. Republicans in general are not seen as having been very kind to Indigenous Americans.
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:02 PM on April 22, 2004


Just to be clear, I firmly believe that the Republican right is more cynical and corrupt than the worst Democratic. I really can't think of anyone worse than Ann Coulture outside of Stalinist Russia or North Korea. She's a nasty, ignorant opportunist.

I just think it's important to realize that short-comings that dog all aspects of American political culture. I have a hard time even thinking of the Democrats as leftist. Moreover, even the smallest amount of voter fraud challenges the legitimacy of an elected government.

As far as I'm concerned, Bill Clinton was a moderate Republican, and Ted Kennedy, bless his heart, is only slightly left of center. Ralph Nader is a country-club radical and a parody of independent politics.

Like many leftists, my family, friends and I have voted Democratic in every presidential election, and even donated our hard earned cash. We are not Democrats, however, and all of us feel a responsibility to challenge the hegemony of these two, sick and corrupt parties whenever possible. Sadly, GW has coapted us into voting for a party that is only marginally better.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 1:18 PM on April 22, 2004


wow, I consider myself left of quonsar, but this thread has really turned into a democratic masturbation session. Come one, can't someone please make fun of PP?
posted by jmgorman at 1:22 PM on April 22, 2004


Troutfishing: Well, a contrary and less hagiographic protrayal of me and my actions during my erstwhile flushed period is that money and financial security matter little enough to me that such things are not prime motivators. Perhaps if they were, then I'd have been much more jealous of my earnings. It also was, in my opinion, completely "found" and essentially unearned money. That probably makes a difference, too. Finally, I had a SO at the time, but not a family. If I had children, maybe my views on thngs would be different. I am, however, turning forty this year so it's not like I'm young. On the other hand, in spite of my many, many faults, my particular virtue is an intellectual rigor and continual radical doubt (including self-doubt) that means that the views that I've continued to hold are likely not matters of circumstance or convenience, but the type of beliefs that will hold regardless of how my life changes around me. Unless I learn new things, of course. But my own narrow self-interest isn't likely, I don't think, to radically alter my values or worldview.

And, for those keeping track or those wishing to hold accurate mental models of this strange Ethereal Bligh fellow, I should be clear that I no longer have all that money as, sadly, I kept half of it in the market (stupidly in a single stock, my company's) and it devalued by 95%; while the remainder I was very prolifegrate with for a while, and then have lived off of since and now it is entirely gone and I'm quite destitute. My life has been very interesting, actually. It's sort of a blessing, really, as I've been in all the major economic classes and lived among and known a wide variety of people, all of whom are truly individual human beings to me: black or Native American, conservative republican, evangelical, radical feminist, professors, oilfield workers, whatever. It's interesting that creamed corn's quote from Ellul equates propoganda with what I tend to call alienation and villification; but, regarldess, to me this is the principal common human evil. You can see it in this thread, far too easy generalizations about entire swaths of people making them out to be stupid, villainous, or as likely, both. I think this political segregation of the US increases this and it's a very bad thing.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:31 PM on April 22, 2004


Ethereal Bligh: Maybe that's just a computer industry thing. I'm a programmer, and if anything I've shifted further to the left (and gotten crankier about it) as my income has grown. I have a fair number of friends who are also in the industry, many of whom make more money than I do, and I haven't detected signs of incipient Republicanism in any of them.

One time when I argued against this idea of voting purely in one's own self-interest (and not in national interests, or simply what's right), one person responded with completely honest bafflement and asked why anyone, ever, would not vote their own pure self-interest. That really depressed me.

That doesn't sound depressing to me; that sounds sensible. "No man is an island", and any sufficiently well-informed view of one's own interest will inevitably draw upon the well-being of the surrounding society.

The question, then, is what will bring about the well-being of one's society? And this is where the factions part ways.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:43 PM on April 22, 2004


Instead of the prolitariate we have the environmental movement. Instead of the struggling masses we have gay marriage, welfare state, diversity training and end of racism.

posted by stbalbach at 11:52 AM PST on April 22

this makes no sense at all and is 'con-literate' to boot. it seems like you're just riding your personal hobby-horse, regurgitating past pet peeves. how we gonna get anywhere with this kind of dialogue?

and how is 'end of racism' in any way bad?

What scares me most is the attempts to get rid of diversity...

i thought you didn't like diversity. Maybe that was 'diversity'.

If we have another war in the west it is going to be a war about equality and diversity. Indeed one can say, we are in that war right now.


what scares me is when people frame all conversations or conflicts of ideas in terms of war.
posted by Miles Long at 1:48 PM on April 22, 2004


trharlan:

I had a big, long response to you, but you know what: fuck it.

Refusing to help those worse off than you once you are amply taken care of is selfish. It's being a bad citizen, and eventually it will bite you in the ass. I get pissed off because when people like you encourage stratification and instability, you endanger me. Talk about imposing your values.

And, you know, I said before, I don't *want* to write off an entire segment of the population. I would love for someone to show me a principled Republicanism based on wanting the same kind of world. However, that's like waiting for a good argument against gay marriage or Godot, it seems. (These days, anyway. Principled Republicans seem to have existed once upon a never never.)

People are concerned about polarization, and I understand that concern. I just don't see how they get around it. Because I look for humanity in the other side and can only manage the find the more venal aspects there. Can someone tell me how they manage to find something else?
posted by dame at 2:06 PM on April 22, 2004


Are you saying that if my employer gives me a raise, I somehow am "consuming more taxpayer-provided resources"?

Take two people of differing incomes - say Bob, the guy who owns Kwiki Liquor Store on the corner and Marge, the CEO of First National Bank of America. Let's say Bob has three employees under him and Marge has 3000 employees. Each of those employees has to get to work in order for either Bob or Marge to make any money. Marge therefore requires one thousand times more in the way of decent roads and/or public transporation. Marge also needs a thousand or so phone lines, where maybe the liquor store needs two. Marge needs to supply power to a skyscraper and a hundred branches. Marge needs the government to handle the taxes and social security paperwork for those 3000 employees. Marge also probably has her money invested in all sorts of interesting places, most of which depend on regulation and subsidies from the government. (The finance industry is among the most subsidized industries in the US.) It goes on and on...
posted by badstone at 2:22 PM on April 22, 2004


Dame: people oversimplify and they start from a set of biases. In too many contexts, this results in what appears to be deeply irreconcilable views.

But what I've found is that if I take the time to really talk to someone I disagree with, not confrontationally, assume their good faith (which, I think, is the opposite of what most people do when talking across a partisan divide), and listen to them, their views are far more reasonable than many may assume.

Usually what you'll find is that the thing you think you are arguing about isn't really the same thing for the two of you. People do, of course, have essential ideological differences. But the overwhelming majority of people have sensibilities that are roughly similar. It's just that they focus on different things and have chosen perhaps incommensurable archetypes around which they organize their "good-enough" understanding of reality.

I think a very good and unfortunate example of this is the conflict between the pro-choice and the pro-life camps. From my point of view, both sides have very inaccurate and distorted views of the opposition. Specifically, pro-lifers think that pro-choicers are really anti-lifers while pro-choicers think that pro-lifers are really anti-choice. And while it's true that perhaps a tiny minority in each camp might be accurately characterized thusly; for most of these people it's simply the truth of the matter that they are starting with different assumptions and are concerned with different issues. Yes, in practice, the implications of their assumptions and reasoning put them at odds; but the important point is that they are not inherently at odds in the sense of A and not-A. But people have this really bad tendency to assume that a lack of agreement is the equivalent of a contradictory.

A second, deeply related problem is how people (and we all do this) assume motivations when trying to understand someone else's view. More to the point, people often are really arguing about motivations they are assuming the other party has and using the actual position on a matter as a proxy for that assumed motivation. In this way, people often, similarly, are actually arguing against each other about completely different (and inaccurate) things.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:34 PM on April 22, 2004


I had a big, long response to you, but you know what: fuck it.

Bravo!

I get pissed off because when people like you encourage stratification and instability, you endanger me. Talk about imposing your values.

Easy on the rhetoric, pal. How have I (or people "like (me)") encouraged stratification and instability"? Or "endangered" you? The "instability" argument is laughable. If you draw the short list of history's bloodiest butchers, you'll see that their weapon of choice was not individual liberty, but the state.

Our values are different. You are a collectivist, I am an individualist. You are a statist, I am a libertarian. You think that people should help the less fortunate, I say that people should do whatever they choose with their resources.

See, the thing is, I don't begrudge you for helping others. That's a choice with which I have no business interfering. You, on the other hand, have a problem with those individuals who would choose not to spend their lives to benefit others. In other words, I think an individual ought to be able to make that choice for herself. Is it "selfish" or "venal" to allow people to be selfish?

And, you know, I said before, I don't *want* to write off an entire segment of the population. I would love for someone to show me a principled Republicanism based on wanting the same kind of world.

Principled Republicanism ended when Goldwater hung 'em up. I think you'll see in a few years that the movement of "principled Democrats" died with Paul Wellstone. Honestly, when you look at Hillary Clinton or Patrick Leahy, do you see "principle"?
posted by trharlan at 2:57 PM on April 22, 2004


A better map would have the counties sized by population.
posted by goethean at 2:57 PM on April 22, 2004


Badstone, your example is helpful...but I take issue with your use of the term "subsidy". A subsidy really is a specific thing, economically speaking, and what you're describing isn't it.

But the general point is correct and mostly indisputable. In general, the people earning or holding the greatest wealth in economically advanced countries are particularly dependent upon the services that the governments of those countries provide.

Another, market oriented, way of looking at this is that large, not merely aquisitive (but actually creative) accumulations of wealth are only possible by utilizing comparative advantage with large numbers of people who, collectively, are very dependent upon the various ways in which governments make advanced economies possible. This is why, aside from a few, mostly aquisitive (and not creative) wealthy people; countries with ineffective or unstable governments inhibit the growth of individual wealth. (A nice example of this is the mess that Russia is in: much of the "new" wealth there is actually just acquired, often looted, assets that already existed and now in the hands of modern-day robber barons. Russia would be far more productive if its government actually was able to effectively do the things that a contemporary government of an advanced economy does. )

This is, in fact, one of the principal problems and misunderstandings with the vulgar version of the meaning of Laffer's curve and supply-side economics. There's actually little doubt among economists that at some very high level of taxation, a reduction of tax rates will eventually result in an increase in tax revenue. But that's at a very high rate, almost certainly much higher than the aggregate tax rate for Americans. However, the vulgar version of supply-side economics assumes, basically, that either all or all but the very smallest amounts of taxation are revenue reducing because of a disproportionate economic inhibitory effect. But the truth is that there's a great many things that a contemporary government of an advanced economy does that makes such an advanced economy possible and those things need to be funded.

The US Interstate highway system was a massive, incredibly expensive public works project by the US government. Yes, in some cases it was a boondoggle and pork. But there's a great deal of economic research that indicates that a large portion of it has been essential to the growth of the post-war US economy. US taxes made most of it possible and one can see how a whole bunch of high-income (industrialists, whomever) people are very dependent upon its existence--whereas, in contrast, your local plumber's liveliehood is not.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:01 PM on April 22, 2004


Marge needs the government to handle the taxes and social security paperwork for those 3000 employees.

Marge wishes the government handled the taxes and social security paperwork for her employees.

The stuff you're listing that "Marge needs" is not stuff that Marge needs. It's stuff that Marge's employees need. Of course if you count stuff that Marge's employees need as stuff that Marge needs, then Marge's employees need nothing and Marge needs everything, and thus Marge's employees use far fewer taxpayer-provided resources than Marge herself does. That makes Marge look like a real pig, which is of course convenient if your goal is to make Marge look like a real pig, but I don't see how it's meaningful.
posted by kindall at 3:04 PM on April 22, 2004


Ethereal Bligh:

I would argue that it is where the practical divergence occurs that I find myself struggling to understand. But you took the time to make good points, so thanks. Really. Gold star and all that.
posted by dame at 3:08 PM on April 22, 2004


Tharlan, you unfortunately illustrate several of the tendencies I was describing in my answer to Dame.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:08 PM on April 22, 2004


But what's that reddest of all all counties--as in red for democrat on the county map--doing in South Dakota ?

Curious myself, Google found a thourough study about voting patterns in the west. The results cite voting on Native American reservations as the nucleus of most Democratic enclaves in the largely Republican West and Shannon Co is home to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle's foundations are the nine indian reservations in South Dakota who vote Dem 11 to 1, but the Republicans are on the offensive.
posted by roboto at 3:30 PM on April 22, 2004


Principled Republicanism ended when Goldwater hung 'em up. I think you'll see in a few years that the movement of "principled Democrats" died with Paul Wellstone
posted by trharlan at 2:57 PM PST on April 22


Goldwater/Wellstone 2004
slogan: 'Please'
posted by Miles Long at 3:35 PM on April 22, 2004


troutfishing - as a person who's familiar with Strauss and Howe's theory of generational procession in history (see fourthturning.com), I think it's significant that both the 60's radicals and the current conservatives who use such violent and uncompromising language are Baby Boomers. Truly a generation of vipers in part, and I say that as a person who was born in '57.
posted by pyramid termite at 3:36 PM on April 22, 2004


Well, look at David Horowitz. If you can stand it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:41 PM on April 22, 2004


Tharlan, you unfortunately illustrate several of the tendencies I was describing in my answer to Dame.

Well let's see if we can work around that and slightly undo one instance of polarization then.

How have I (or people "like (me)") encouraged stratification and instability"? Or "endangered" you? The "instability" argument is laughable. If you draw the short list of history's bloodiest butchers, you'll see that their weapon of choice was not individual liberty, but the state.

Economic inequality makes things bad for everyone. See the Brazil example above. And the state may have been the weapon, but it was inequality that allowed the state to get the power. As Paxton argues in his new book, when the dislocation of modernism coupled with the First World War hit nations with solid middle classes (Britain, France), everyone managed to pull together. When it hit nations still ridden with landless peasants (Russia) or recently unified nations (Italy, Germany), you got murderous dictators. You would say this proves the state is bad; I would say this proves rampant inequality is bad.

Our values are different. You are a collectivist, I am an individualist. You are a statist, I am a libertarian. You think that people should help the less fortunate, I say that people should do whatever they choose with their resources.

I'm not really a collectivist. I get in a large number of arguments with my anarchist friends about it. Mostly, I think people should leave each other alone. However, I think that being left alone well involves making sure the basics are taken care of for everyone. Otherwise those on the bottom have no choices and therefore aren't really being left alone; they are being coerced into certain actions for lack of alternatives.

Furthermore, you say "their" resources. I don't think they are "theirs," not entirely. In this society, people with great wealth profit off the work of others and the largesse of the government. In this sense, the profit was not won by their own hand, but was made possible my many others. I think they ought to acknowledge that by putting it back in the pot.

See, the thing is, I don't begrudge you for helping others. That's a choice with which I have no business interfering. You, on the other hand, have a problem with those individuals who would choose not to spend their lives to benefit others.

I don't "live my life to benefit others." I do however think that my living a good life doesn't involve impoverishing others or letting them suffer when I have more than I need.

And to say, I won't stop you from helping people, don't stop me from not helping them, is to set up as equivalent two choices that aren't, it seems to me. The kind of basic guarantees I find necessary are impossible to make on a person-by-person basis. It can't be opt-in.

In other words, I think an individual ought to be able to make that choice for herself. Is it "selfish" or "venal" to allow people to be selfish?

Selfish or venal, perhaps not. But wrong. Just like it's wrong to watch a bunch of people staring at a burning house and not try to get them on the bucket brigade.

Honestly, when you look at Hillary Clinton or Patrick Leahy, do you see "principle"?

No. And I don't love Democrats. I'm not even registered as one. I do, however, believe that they hold the same ideals I do; picture the same version of the "best world."

That's all really long, but I wanted to try to answer your questions this time around, in the spirit of understanding and whatnot.

Having thought it through, I wonder if you've ever been poor. (That isn't meant as an accusation.) I find that people who haven't don't really understand the utter degradation of spirit it causes. Poverty is not a state in which humans ought to live; it is inhumane. I'm not poor now. But I remember when I was and I would never wish it on anyone.

To continued attempts to bridge the gap . . .
posted by dame at 3:47 PM on April 22, 2004


Kindall - I'm not sure what's missing. Are you saying Marge could still run her corporation and make her hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in the absence of physical and financial infrastructure on a scale that only the federal government can provide? Please give an example of a large business with no footprint as I prepare myself to be fascinated.
posted by badstone at 4:02 PM on April 22, 2004


PS - implicit in my scenario is that all of the Bank employees do not make the same salary, and in particular, do not earn as much as Marge. Does that change anything?
posted by badstone at 4:06 PM on April 22, 2004


Marge wishes the government handled the taxes and social security paperwork for her employees.

One more thing - in fact the government does have to maintain quite a large database for this information. As much as the Right would like it to be otherwise, Social Security has not yet been privatized. And as much as you might think otherwise, the IRS does in fact have to do a teensy little more work on all that paperwork you send them.
posted by badstone at 4:12 PM on April 22, 2004


Pyramid termite - Are you familiar with "The Psychohistorical Origins of the Nazi Youth Cohort" ? - I brought this up recently on this metafilter thread : "Compare "Werther's" take on the psychological rigidity and infantalized quality of American "pseudoconservatives" - and their obsessions with strength and martial virtues (though this group is characterized by a lack of actual military service) and their desire to be rescued by a strong leadership (father?) figure.

Now, on the surface, America of the 1950's through the 1970's - when the currently rising generation of these pseudoconservatives grew up - shared little in common with Loewenberg's "Nazi youth cohort's" experiences growing up amidst the deprivations of WW1 and post WW1 Germany.

On the surface...... "

posted by troutfishing at 4:30 PM on April 22, 2004


Are you saying Marge could still run her corporation and make her hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in the absence of physical and financial infrastructure on a scale that only the federal government can provide?

No, I'm saying that if they weren't working for Marge but someone else -- heck, if every single one of them were self-employed -- they would still use about the same amount of taxpayer-funded services they do when they're working for Marge. Allocating the services Marge's employees use to Marge makes no sense at all, unless you have already decided that Marge is to be condemned and are just looking for ways to condemn her.
posted by kindall at 4:48 PM on April 22, 2004


if all of them were self employed then Marge would not be able to skim her larger salary from them, she would not be able to aggregate the benefit they all reap from working within the taxpayer provided infrastructure. furthermore, if all of them were self-employed and therefore working at a much smaller scale, they wouldn't have to lean on federal resources much at all, instead leaning on local resources.
posted by badstone at 5:07 PM on April 22, 2004


Instead of the prolitariate we have the environmental movement. Instead of the struggling masses we have gay marriage, welfare state, diversity training and end of racism.--stbalbach

this makes no sense at all and is 'con-literate' to boot.--Miles Long


Miles, I actually lifted that right out of an article "Political Correctness, Or The Perils of Benevolence" (last paragraph). Reading the entire article presents a case for it easier than I could summarize here on the MeFi forum, I just happen to agree with the authors conclusions on the current state of Political Correctness in the world today.

Also, no idea what con-literate means a quick check of google returns no results you'll have to take that up with the author and editors of The National Interest magazine.
posted by stbalbach at 5:13 PM on April 22, 2004


dame:

> I've yet to figure out how one can be a Republican without being stupid or selfish.

> I've spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out if someone can be both a Republican
> and a good person because I don't want to write off an entire sector of people.
> Yet I remain unconvinced.

I don't think calling anyone (let alone a large group of people) "stupid" or "not a good person" is very insightful.

I'll go a little further: I believe the quoted statements are almost self-evidently very, very fatuous. But I won't conclude the person uttering them is stupid (nor a bad person). I'll just call him or her mistaken and leave it at that.

I don't think political opinions are so important that you can base sweeping judgments on them. It's a kind of category error to do so. It's childish and a sign that you are taking things way too seriously.

To slightly get back on topic, I personally have had the feeling that, these days (since GWB's election? since 9/11?) politics has become more polarized and casts a long shadow on everything. I notice it in myself, too. It's sad. It makes everything a bit pedestrian and humorless.

I trust that it's just a phase, and that we will find many ways to resist this bogus dualism.
posted by Turtle at 5:35 PM on April 22, 2004


f all of them were self employed then Marge would not be able to skim her larger salary from them

Whaaaaaaaaat?

Let me rephrase that.

Whaaaaaaaaat?

furthermore, if all of them were self-employed and therefore working at a much smaller scale, they wouldn't have to lean on federal resources much at all, instead leaning on local resources.

Again, allow me to say: Whaaaaaaaaat?

Let's go through your original points one at a time:

Marge therefore requires one thousand times more in the way of decent roads and/or public transporation.

Well, no -- the opposite, in fact. Three thousand people all going to a thousand separate employers will require way more total transportation infrastructure than three thousand people all going to the same place, or even to 101 different places by comparison to 1000, especially when one of the 101 places (the headquarters) is where the majority work. In any case this is largely a state or local issue (admittedly subsidized by the feds, but certainly the resources used do not magically become "more local" if those 3000 people are all working at small companies).

Marge also needs a thousand or so phone lines, where maybe the liquor store needs two.

So basically you're saying that Marge's employer, the bank, needs far fewer phone lines per employee than Bob's Kwik Shop (one for every three employees in the case of the bank, two for every three employees in the case of the shop, or one for every two if you count Bob). Which means that if these employees were spread out over 1000 businesses like Bob's, at least 50% more phone lines would be needed, and they would have to go to a thousand locations instead of to a hundred, and would thus be more expensive to build out. (A T1 carries 24 voice lines and is one physical wire that needs to be installed. The bank's 1000 phone lines are way easier to install than the 2000 phone lines needed for the area's Kwik Shops.) And again, the resources used are not any "more local" in Bob's case.

Marge needs to supply power to a skyscraper and a hundred branches.

Hope she can pedal fast! In any case, I'm willing to bet that a skyscraper holding 2000 people is a much more efficient user of power than the equivalent employees working in individual Kwik Shops. The total infrastructure required to supply 1000 buildings is certainly greater than the infrastructure required to supply 101. Once again, infrastructure requirements don't get "more local" if you take the bank out of the picture.

Marge needs the government to handle the taxes and social security paperwork for those 3000 employees.

Bob and the other 999 convenience store owners who each employ three people also need the government to handle the taxes and social security paperwork for their 3000 employees. At best, it costs exactly the same regardless of where these employees work. The paperwork for the bank's employees might even cost less to process -- they'll deliver it electronically, I'm sure, whereas Bob will probably print and mail his forms. Once again -- stop me if you see this coming -- the resources Bob uses are not "more local" than the resources the bank uses.

Marge also probably has her money invested in all sorts of interesting places, most of which depend on regulation and subsidies from the government. (The finance industry is among the most subsidized industries in the US.)

I'm sure your belief that the finance industry is heavily subsidized is just as accurate as everything else you've said. I suppose you could be right about this one thing, even after all the other completely wrong stuff you've said, but somehow... I just can't muster the energy to go check it out.

I will say that someone who puts a million bucks into the bank isn't really reassured by Federal deposit insurance, which tops out at $250,000. That little Federal subsidy is there completely for the little guy. Oh, and there's no insurance on brokerage accounts, or on venture investments, or whatever. Sure, Marge has more opportunities -- to lose all her money!

It goes on and on...

I'm sure it does. Maybe you could come up with some better examples that don't actually argue against the point you're trying to make?
posted by kindall at 6:32 PM on April 22, 2004


You're right, Turtle, it isn't very insightful. I'm human; I have insight on some things and not on others. You will notice, though, that I have tried to gain some insight by asking other people how they figure it, by looking for dialogue to break up the brain-circle I find myself in.

Where we find ourselves disagreeing is here: I don't think political opinions are so important that you can base sweeping judgments on them.

I do. For better or worse, politics is how we decide how we are going to organize our society (or large parts thereof). How we organize our society directly affects the texture of our lives. I think that's pretty damn important.

And yeah, I do take things really seriously. Just don't make the mistake you comdemn in others and assume it means I can't laugh at those very some things.
posted by dame at 6:36 PM on April 22, 2004


Same, damnit, same.
posted by dame at 6:43 PM on April 22, 2004


politics is how we decide how we are going to organize our society (or large parts thereof)

No, that's already happened. Politics today is niggling about details.
posted by kindall at 7:36 PM on April 22, 2004


kindall - Well, it's happened, yes, but it's also been happening for thousands of years - and on an ongoing basis. Further, many apparent cultural certainties have been overthrown in sudden reversals.

What is fixed or at least changing only slowly, though, is the human genome.
posted by troutfishing at 9:00 PM on April 22, 2004


Ethereal Bligh - Hagiographic? Ouch......I was the last person I've read on Metafilter to employ that term. Well, maybe you were young. Nonetheless........
posted by troutfishing at 9:08 PM on April 22, 2004


> Where we find ourselves disagreeing is here: "I don't think political opinions are so important
> that you can base sweeping judgments on them."
>
> I do.

dame, here's what I was driving at: whether the following people are Republicans or Democrats is relatively unimportant:

- Johann Sebastian Bach
- your Mom
- William Shakespeare
- your best friend
- the doctor who saved your life
- the guy who fixed your car
- someone you chat with in the elevator
- an actor in your favorite film
- pretty much anyone who is important to you in some way or other

The question "is one of the following people a Nazi or not?" would cause me (a little) more anguish. But Republican or Democrat? Jeez.

I'd argue the question is really (somewhat) important in one case only: if you're about to vote for them.

PS: I'm glad you can laugh about this. But I do find chilling your blanket statement that a sizable group of people you don't know are selfish, stupid or bad. Unless you are a teenager (radical intolerance is common, ephemeral, and harmless at that age).

Or unless it was meant as a joke, of course. For example, I am convinced, nay, I know Flash is evil, and so, I regret to say, is anyone who disagrees with me.

PPS: Of the people near and dear to me, over 9 out of 10 would be very likely to vote Democrat (I'm a bit disappointed my circles of acquaintance are not more diverse). So I don't even have a significant sample to draw upon to assert that Republicans are not, in fact, stupid, selfish or bad people. It's just an article of faith. I could be wrong!
posted by Turtle at 1:51 PM on April 23, 2004


troutfishing - according to Strauss and Howe's characterization of the generations, Gen X would be more likely to have been the "deprived" generation, and they tend to explain Boomer extremism by saying that as a generation that came of age during an "awakening" they tend more naturally to extremism and idealism. Be that as it may, I found your links interesting - although I wasn't familiar with the Nazi Youth Cohort article, as long ago as the late 70s, I remember people discussing the similarities between the Weimar Republic and Vietnam-era America, the Wandervogel and the hippies and the reaction of the right in each society to having lost a war ... I think you're on to something here ...
posted by pyramid termite at 4:22 PM on April 23, 2004


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