Who’s Voting

Ace of Spades has an interesting post on Independent Voters, who are turning away from Obama. If you want to understand why our political system is in such dire straits, you should go read it. Studies of independent voters show that the majority of them are closet partisans. In other words, they can be considered reliable votes for one of the two major parties, but for various reasons, don’t want to identity with them. There is, however, a large number of voters who fit the profile that Ace describes, and they constitute enough people to swing elections:

In other words, they have decided — they just think it makes them seem like smarter, more informed voters to claim they’re still deciding, so they won’t admit that. As they’re actually not very well informed voters — and I think they know this — this pretense becomes very important to them. They need some pretense to excuse away their complete disinterest in reading the news.

So they basically start insisting they want the candidates themselves to catch them up to speed, ignoring the fact that policies are spelled out on their campaign websites, and ignoring the fact that these positions are easily and readily discoverable, just by googling and reading.

In 2008, this cohort broke heavily for Obama, and in 2012 they will be an important component in the race. This is why political rhetoric today is so heavily geared toward the ignorant. Speaking of which, Ilya Somin has a video highlighting the problem of political ignorance.

13 thoughts on “Who’s Voting”

  1. Absolutely. Most “moderates” are actually not well-informed. I don’t mean that they disagree with me. I mean that they don’t read newspapers, and get most of their knowledge of the world from TV, radio, and social media. It’s easier than, you know, reading something serious, or even more painful, thinking.

  2. Sometime one becomes “unaffiliated” because while supporting many of one’s party’s candidates, one finds others candidates — not to mention the discourse from the vocal fringe — just too disgusting, even at the local county assembly level. Contra Clayton Cramer, one remains just as informed as ever.

  3. The basic premise behind that article is beautiful: The “Uncommitted” demand we do Something, so it’s a mistake to do Nothing (even when nine-tenths of the time, we’d be better off if we did nothing at all, or even less than nothing and just cut back on stuff). So we have to do “Something”…even if that “Something” is just Nothing dressed up in pretty, flowery language (and perhaps even a simple “show bureaucracy”) that convinces everyone that something is being done!

    I particularly like the suggestion: make a three-hour video explaining basic economics. Those who clamour the loudest for such a video won’t actually watch it, but they’ll appreciate it, because you did Something for them! I really hope that Mittens takes that advice. I’d probably watch the videos myself (because, after all, I’m not a “well-informed independent” ;-).

  4. I’ve now seen the video, and I have some interesting thoughts:

    First, Ilya is wrong when he says that politicians have no control over the business cycle: they control the interest rates, and when interest rates are pushed artificially low, they start a bubble. Thus, if politicians wanted to end cycles, they’d just leave the interest rates alone! (Fat chance convincing politicians to do that, though…)

    Second, if we could implement a system where each individual chooses their own representative, or even their own local government, that would make “choosing with your feet” even easier: people wouldn’t even have to move…and people would have more incentive to be knowledgable about who they choose for reprensentation. I’ll start a blog right now dedicated, to convincing people that we should change our government to be like that!

    What should I call that blog?…I know! I’ll just take the old name of this blog, since Sebastian isn’t using it anymore, because it perfectly describes the chances we have of establishing such a government!

    1. I’ve heard proposals like that before, but I think they’d be unworkable. What if I, as a neighbor, decide to adopt a local government contract that allows for loud noise past 10PM because I like to blast music? What if I get tired of not being able to solve the water problems in my property by dumping all of it into the sewer, and so decide to adopt a local government contract that allows for that? What if I want to dump it in my neighbor’s yard? Or I put a huge antenna in my backyard that’s so high that I have to put a giant flashing light to ward off low flying aircraft?

      It doesn’t address the fundamental reason we adopt governments, which is living together without killing each other. Libertarians spend a lot of time trying to solve the problem of government. You can’t. It’s a necessary evil. But as an evil, we should have as little of it as necessary. I think libertarians would do better to spend time thinking how to get from here, to as little government as is necessary, rather than trying to figure out how we get out of government.

      1. If I understand correctly, under a so-called “anarcho-capitalist” system, if I act in a way that harms my neighbors, they would sue me, and we would have to either settle our differences, or agree on an arbiter to help us settle our differences. I’m inclined to think that it would work out–and I wasn’t inclined, untile I learned that Medieval Iceland had done it for around 300 years or so.

        Having said that, I completely agree with your assessment, that libertarians need to figure out how to get there from here, rather than say “we should just get rid of all government, right now!” Indeed, one major reason Ron Paul creeps me out, is that he wants to pull out all our military from the world. While I would agree that it’s a good end point, I would not want to live in a world where we do that overnight. We need a good transition plan.

        Even so, I’ve noticed that (especially on a local level–hint, hint to all libertarians) it’s possible to impliment these ideas on a small scale, right within our system of government. For example, if I wanted to represent a particular interest for the City Council, I can gather together like-minded people, and say, “I’m going to represent you with regards to Interest X; what are your concerns?”. Then, I start attending City Council meetings. It turns out that, if I attend them three or four times in a row, the council people will come to me and ask “who are you, and what do you want?” and from there on out, they know they are being watched.

        I learned about this when Provo tried to pass a draconian truancy law, that would have had detrimental effects on home-schoolers. The home-schoolers of Provo discussed what it would take to keep the City Council in line after that, and they pointed out that certain constituencies already do that.

        1. I’ve heard several descriptions of such a system, and it suffers from the same problem communism does. It depends on a state of human nature which is not actual human nature. What happens when your neighbor just extends a big middle finger to you and your suit, and keeps playing loud music, or keeps dumping his sewer runoff into your yard? At some point you need a government to go in and exercise control over your neighbor. I don’t see a difference as to whether that’s done with civil or criminal law. At some point you need law so people can live together without killing each other.

    2. As for interest rates, that’s controlled by the fed, which is a pseudo-governmental entity… essentially a partnership between government and private banks. That’s another area libertarians have spent an inordinate amount of time: trying to figure out how to get government out of banking. Again, I don’t think you can do it, since ultimately the government is responsible for coining money, which is an artificial medium of exchange created by government, which is what banks deal in.

      I’ve never been persuaded that returning to the gold standard would help things any. Ultimately, gold has no intrinsic value either, other than people’s faith in it, and it’s an awful inconvenience if the economy needs more cash, such as if there’s a run on banks, that we have to go dig up more gold before we can do it.

      1. Being a so-called “anarcho-capitalist”, you could probably anticipate my answer: I’d get rid of currency altogether. Let people decide to trade in whatever they want, whether it be gold, or silver, or oil, or an amalgram of different things. I’m confident it would work, but, like you said in a previous comment, there’s no way we’d be able to change to that system overnight! Too many of us (myself included) are just used to fiat cash, which is always going to be a slave to the fiddlings of politicians, who think they “know” how the economy works, but cannot possibly know, because it’s just too complex.

        So, for better and for worse, the business cycle is likely here to stay.

        Now that I think of it, there’s another way to avoid the business cycle altogether: for all businesses, and all individuals, everywhere, to come to accept that the government is going to manipulate the interest rates and the currency, and to calculate future growth with that in mind. That way, we wouldn’t build things on illusions, to have them crash down on us later! But even that is likely too much to ask of society! :-)

        (And even if society went that direction, the President is going to have little influence on it, if any…which is the point that Ilya was making about the President and the economy in the first place!)

          1. In theory, it would work just fine…but in practice, there’s a world of a difference between practice and theory! I’m inclined to think that it would work, if we could get the transition done right. Between the Federal Gov’t’s tendency to mess things up, and the Federal Gov’t’s interest is in keeping the system as it is…so I’m inclined to think that the transition won’t go as well as we’d like. :-) (Or should it be :-( ?)

            Of course, with the Fed (both Gov’t and Reserve) mess things up enough, we might just get a crash course in starting up a barter system of sorts, from scratch…or, at the very least, we might find ourselves trading in State-issued gold and silver coins. A couple of States, including Utah, if I remember correctly, have already committed themselves to creating such currencies.

            Having said even that, I don’t doubt that States, or even the Federal Gov’t, will find ample opportunities to mess things up.

            I’m also inclined to think that, with enough gumption, private individuals could come up with some sort of system…but under current circumstances, I have the impression that using gold in such an attempt would be pretty much out, because of the heavy hand of Federal Regulation, distorting it.

            But I’d really like to see a modern economy using some sort of barter system. Theory is a beautiful thing! (Perhaps it’s too beautiful…)

          2. I would also add two things:

            First, in a “barter” system, it’s likely that trade would settle down on two or three things, say gold and silver. If this happens, we end up with a “de facto” currency, although one controlled solely by market forces (for better or for worse).

            Second, barter is already an option for us, if we choose to pursue it: and the IRS is already aware of it. If a dentist were to trade fitting braces on a child for for getting cabinets installed, the IRS expects taxes on the income from the exchange between the two trades. (As a practical matter, though, I don’t think “braces fitting” and “cabinet installing” will become standard “currencies”… ;-)

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