June 22, 2012
"Ultimately the deep problem isn’t about personalities or individual leadership, it’s about the nation as a whole. Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it’s hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed."

— Yikes. Krugman and Wells via The New York Review Of Books.

April 12, 2012
theeconomist:

Tomorrow’s cover today: our cover in North America argues that the presidential campaign looks likely to sharpen America’s divisions.

Everyone’s kidding themselves following politics the way they do like the nuances of this election are at all meaningful. If you think we can solve any of these intractable problems we’ve been accumulating without fundamental changes, and i mean fundamental as in going to the core of people’s underlying assumptions and opinions about what a political party is and what a politician does, then you’re delusional. We need radical change in how people organize society. In other words, we need further evolution in the organization of the global political ecosystem. This has to be the next evolutionary step that society/humanity takes. It’s either inevitable this happens and we continue going forth as a species or we’ve tragically reached, as Fukuyama says, “The End of History.”
And if you think this is all wild conjecture, just remember how crazy far humanity has come in only the past few thousand years. And how that pace of change has come to increase with such rapidity in recent centuries and decades. After all, in less than fifty years communism went from a legitimate competitor to capitalism to an almost extinct political and economic phenomena. And the difference between communism and capitalism is pretty friggin huge. 
Or, I don’t know, maybe technology will soon advance to a point where we’ll just all clone ourselves over to computer simulators and live forever in individual utopia. Maybe it already happened and that’s what life is.

theeconomist:

Tomorrow’s cover today: our cover in North America argues that the presidential campaign looks likely to sharpen America’s divisions.

Everyone’s kidding themselves following politics the way they do like the nuances of this election are at all meaningful. If you think we can solve any of these intractable problems we’ve been accumulating without fundamental changes, and i mean fundamental as in going to the core of people’s underlying assumptions and opinions about what a political party is and what a politician does, then you’re delusional. We need radical change in how people organize society. In other words, we need further evolution in the organization of the global political ecosystem. This has to be the next evolutionary step that society/humanity takes. It’s either inevitable this happens and we continue going forth as a species or we’ve tragically reached, as Fukuyama says, “The End of History.”

And if you think this is all wild conjecture, just remember how crazy far humanity has come in only the past few thousand years. And how that pace of change has come to increase with such rapidity in recent centuries and decades. After all, in less than fifty years communism went from a legitimate competitor to capitalism to an almost extinct political and economic phenomena. And the difference between communism and capitalism is pretty friggin huge. 

Or, I don’t know, maybe technology will soon advance to a point where we’ll just all clone ourselves over to computer simulators and live forever in individual utopia. Maybe it already happened and that’s what life is.

March 19, 2012
"

Since 1976, no serious contender, Democrat or Republican, has watched his favorable ratings fall as low as Romney’s have in recent months. Or watched his unfavorable ratings climb as high. Or watched his overall numbers stay underwater—that is, more unfavorable than favorable—for so long.

At this rate, Romney is shaping up to be the most unpopular presidential nominee on record.

"

Mitt Romney may be the most unpopular likely presidential nominee ever.  (via cheatsheet)

I see GOP leaders as nothing but figureheads, so the fact that this is true does not surprise me. Why? Because the party only works with a certain blend of policy proposals that you CANNOT go outside of, because if you do the house of cards falls apart. When you consider the insane contradictions of the party’s core policy platforms, this house of cards become apparent. 

Here’s the basic structure of said house:

  • The GOP says it wants free market competition, but in reality it wants advantageous conditions for pre-established business interests. Healthy markets and the competition they produce are indeed the best tool societies have to distribute people and resources so as to best create value for people within that society. But creating the conditions for those markets to be best unlocked requires investment in education, health care (i.e. a safety net, so more people can be in positions to take risks), a well-functioning Wall Street (i.e. market transaction hub), equality (so more people can participate, provide more demand, generate more innovation). The fact that the GOP is not for these things leads one to conclude that a robust, healthy, competitive free market-striving capitalist society IS ACTUALLY NOT A PRIORITY for this party, and thus all the talk of “free markets” is just a disguise for being “pro-business” - which really means, “pro-business interests.” A more direct example of this is how much the party loves to hand out government contracts to favored interests, contracts which absurdly end up costing more and producing less than if your standard shitty government agency had just done it themselves. Thus, the direct purpose of the party is to serve incumbent business interests. The “free market” angle is just the intellectual tool for you to justify the pro-business policies you want. It’s not actually what you’re in pursuit of.
  • Noting these points, it is easier to understand the contradictions behind their markets/capitalism platform. It also explains the precarious position our country has been in through the second half of the 20th century - weakening government, less competitive overall, but thriving big businesses. Generally speaking, as the decades go by and the GOP moves toward getting more and more of their way with this “pro-business” economic policy platform, the life of your median citizen gets harder and harder. Since the country remains a democracy, it seems odd that the trend would be allowed to continue… Why would people vote against their own economic self-interest? The strategy for the Republican Party, then, becomes to find a way to get democratically elected so that you can get these business policies through. We know the business interests will provide the $. And you can always game the numbers a bit through gerrymandering, making it harder for your non-constituent to vote, etc. But you still need a certain number of raw votes - votes that will necessarily come from the very people who are getting SCREWED by your policies. How can you get him to vote for you despite this? 
  • Well, first you have to find your target demographic. They can’t be educated, because then, even if they can’t totally figure out your real agenda, they’ll at least realize that their lives aren’t getting any better by it (and probably getting worse). They probably can’t be urban, since in cities they are most likely to be educated and, given the geographic trends of the early to mid 20th century, have a greater chance of being a minority grouping. So your target demographic for getting votes becomes rural, less educated, predominantly poor, and predominately southern. 
  • So how you get those votes is where the brew of social policies comes in. It’s completely irrational that the business pursuits of the party should be so wedded with the blend of social policies they support. But they support them so that their target demographic will vote through the clandestine business policies the actual policy leadership wants. The social policies are just a tool for getting the economic policies. 

So there you have it. That’s my back of the napkin-esque calculation analysis of the Republican party. Briefly looking back over it, I notice I didn’t mention the hawkish approach to foreign policy. But that one’s easy. Wars and subsequent occupations allow the business interests to spread their reach. All the while, a military-industrial complex develops, creating a new set of empowered business interests, and their interests are in the business of war and maintaining a large standing army. The Bush/Cheney presidency is an especially ripe example of how that whole process works. 

Well what about the Democatic party? Explain them.

Simple.

  • The Democrats are the party of non-Republicans, adopting whatever platforms they can to attract those voters outside of the Republican’s target demographic. There’s not a core policy target other than a vague notion of “populism,” but in pursuit of that it’s a bunch of what Mike The Fixer calls “Half Measures” - in that there’s a conflict between full on pursuing the mechanisms for achieving the values of the society that most liberals want to live in and capitulating to the party’s own special interest drivers. This explains the dichotomy of wanting an effective public school system, but making education policies in large part driven by teachers unions. It also explains how a achieving a “fair liberal society” would mean reforming Wall Street, but that’s off the table because Wall Street funds the Democrats as well as the Republicans. 

I suppose you’ll want me to put my money where my mouth is an take a stab at offering a solution:

  • it has to be from one or more competing “third” parties, which splinter the existing two parties into a new political ecosystem of multiple competing coalitions. i don’t see how a democracy in such a large and diverse country properly functions any other way. 
  • the best of the resulting coalitions will be the one that pursues a goal of creating growth and opportunity and a baseline standard of living for all - but does so in a way that decentralizes power as throughly as possible. doing so will mean understanding that you need certain aspects of the safety net that the liberals behind the Democratic Party are all about, but that, in embracing the decentralization aspect, you want to achieve those safety nets in a way separate from a government program. why? bc government programs, centralized as they are, are always vulnerable to either bad centralized decision making or special interest tampering.
  • the successful coalition would also need to understand what the power of markets are in a way that Republicans say they do but completely do not and embrace them and growth and embrace both. when growth is the goal, innovation is the tool, and empowering people becomes the means. 

Capitalism and democracy go hand in hand, we just haven’t experienced the “full measure” of either yet. No society yet has. But to get there, you need to decentralize, and yes, that does eventually mean smaller government. The Republicans have just, once again, been smarter than the Democrats in capturing that idea for their own use. Because, once again, the Democrats are mainly the party of non-Republicans. Blow it all up.

March 3, 2012
The biggest issue with lobbying isn't that it leads to outright fraud; it's that it leads to intellectual capture

"The outcome of this is that a disproportionate number of people who have access to politicians, and who are owed favors by politicians, are lobbyists. And so those politicians are listening to a lot of lobbyists—lobbyists who are being paid by a client to invest in their relationships with politicians in order to advance the client’s interest. On some level, the politicians know that. But it doesn’t feel that way to them. It feels like they’re listening to reasonable arguments by people they like and respect on behalf of interests they’re already sympathetic to. And what’s so wrong with that? The answer, of course, is that players with money are getting a lot more representation than players without money, not in sacks of cash delivered in the middle of the night, but through people a politician listens to and trusts and even likes having lunch with in the bright light of the day."

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