Are they going to blow it?

If you had asked me 8 months ago if the democrats could lose this election, I would’ve said “No way.” Without even knowing who was going to run, it was clear that the dems would have the election handed to them on a silver platter. Well, take a look at this.

I treat the elections a lot like the NFL. I don’t have a team that I follow, but I do enjoy watching the contest. If the democrats lose this (and let’s be clear, this election was theirs to lose), it will be one of the great choke jobs of all time. I’m not loosing any sleep over it, our next president will be a big step up no matter who wins…


My choice

As much as I bitch about the political process and politicians in general, I don’t want to give the idea that the candidate doesn’t make any difference at all. I don’t think that they can do most of what they claim that they are going to do. Even if it were all possible, which it never is, they would need congress’ help. There’s no telling what will come out of the bill that ends up passing through both houses. Inevitably, there are all sorts of things added, and the bill is watered down, it’s the only way it can be passed.

So a president isn’t as powerful as his campaign makes him sound, but the president does wield significant power in other areas. In many aspects, the president can implement foreign policy unilaterally. He does have to contend with the established bureaucracy of the state department, but the president is going to have his way…

I think this is a weak point of Obama’s. He has no real foreign policy experience to speak of. There’s no telling how he plans to implement his rather vague ideas about how the US can rehabilitate itself in the world’s eyes. On the other hand, we know exactly what McCain has in mind. Call me crazy, but I’ll take the lesser evil of the uncertainty of Obama to the known evil of McCain. We already know what McCain’s strategy leads to, lots of dead people (on both sides) and people hating us more than when we started.

I think that most of what I heard of Obama’s economic plan sounds like a disaster, but I know that there is very little likelihood of it being passed in the way he thinks it should be. Who knows how that’ll end up. As much as I hate to say it, I think that Obama could very well “change” things for the better in the foreign policy department. The problem with McCain is that we know what to expect. Some of those things aren’t so bad, but the whole warmongering thing has to stop. The American economy is robust enough (despite the doom and gloom you keep hearing, there really isn’t any consensus as to whether or not we’re actually in a recession. That means that if we are, it isn’t much of one) to survive fiddling by politicians. It’s done pretty well so far despite the best efforts of the jackasses in power. Waging unjustified wars has no upside. So go Obamaa!

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Watched Obama’s speech

I didn’t really want to watch, I wanted to see the Cubs game but my father and step mother wanted to, so… I hear people raving about his speech, and it was a pretty good one. I did notice a few bones thrown towards those of us with more libertarian outlooks. He talked about personal responsibility, parental responsibility, the importance of reducing parts of the government that don’t work, and the freedom to work towards our own goals.

I read a Cato thingy about how the Democrats might be in a position to appeal to libertarians. According to their polling, up to 25% of people in the US have what would be considered libertarian tendencies (defined as wanting smaller government, fiscal responsibility, and strong civil liberties) even if they don’t consider themselves as such. That could make for a significant swing vote. Traditionally, libertarians have voted republican. Truth be told, there really hasn’t been a libertarian republican since Goldwater. The republicans have held onto the “smaller government” mantra for a while. They did, that is, until this president. I think W. has actually added more to the government than LBJ did, and that’s something. Add to that the ongoing social conservatism, and the absolute trampling of the constitution and civil liberties, and it’s not hard to to come up with reasons libertarians are a little dissatisfied with the republicans. The Democrats have held the high ground on so called social liberties (especially with gay rights), but have an awful record with other civil liberties like issues of gun control and other, more mundane liberties like what you’re allowed to eat (see the NYC ban on transfats and the busting of street vendors in San Jose for selling bacon hot dogs against city ordinance..). I do think those things have been overshadowed by little things like the denial of habeus corpus. So the dems reaching out to that group is, I think, significant. It isn’t just trying to look more centrist, they are actively courting the libertarian-minded voters.

I think it will be fun to watch McCain throw W. under the bus in the upcoming convention. It’s really his only chance as far as I can see. I’m not sure how the democrats can screw up this election, but we should never underestimate the incompetence of the democratic party…

Just remember this. As good as Obama’s speech was, it had no more significance than any other soliloquy given by any actor. Anybody can say anything. Anyone can promise anything. Talk is cheap, talk from politicians is worthless. I think the comparisons to Abe Lincoln are a little premature. Obama has yet to actually do anything, Abe has a pretty significant legacy. The appropriate response to Obama’s speech is, “Prove it.” He has promised the moon, with no downsides. He has laid out ideas with absolute certainty that he knows what is best and has taken all contingencies into account. In short, he made a very good POLITICAL speech, we should take his ability to do any of this stuff with many heaps of salt. Right now, he is saying what he needs to say in order to get elected, nothing more. Why would you trust him more than any other politician? He is what he is…

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A Strange Dream

I dreamt that I had come out of something, school, work, something or other and there was a table advertising free pancakes sponsored by the Republican party. I’m no fan of republicans, but PANCAKES! So I wandered over there and sat myself down. There were three older ladies there, very prim and proper, and they looked at me rather circumspectly.

I knew what I was in for, but I waited until the food was there. And like good waiters, they waited until I started eating to start in on recruitment. I don’t remember exactly what was said (you know how dreams are) but they amounted to complaining about the moral decay of the nation (an argument I haven’t really heard in a couple of years thank God), the importance of protecting America’s interests abroad, and the general faith of electing the right people to carry out the right projects.

I couldn’t help myself, I had to point out that the Democrats had just as much faith in that last thing as the Republicans. I then asked them what Barry Goldwater would have thought of that. I had fun telling them that I would have voted for Goldwater (especially considering his opponent) but the Republicans hadn’t produced another guy worth electing since then.

The ladies didn’t have any idea on how to respond since the current republicans (minus Ron Paul) are much more like the democrats than their historic record. Seriously, can you think of too many differences between W. and LBJ? Expanding wars, rapidly growing government, and most of all, an abiding sense that the government can “fix” any problems that came up.

This is the real reason I can’t get excited about this election. Both parties sound almost alike to me in most things. It also amuses me when someone bitches about how so and so in office is ruining things by his policies. It never occurs to people that someone they don’t like will eventually be in office. It also never occurs to people that the only sure fire way to avoid political policies that they don’t like is to make sure that whoever is elected has precious few opportunities to enact policy. Smaller government with less power is the way to avoid corruption and to avoid power creep, especially with the party you don’t like in power.

With my little speech over, I woke up. And then I went and made pancakes…

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culture economics politics

I’m reading a new book

It’s a little light reading entitled “The Logic of Political Survival.” I had heard of this work before and it intrigued me. In it, De Mesquita et. al. tries to explain how bad policy is often good politics and how good policy is actually bad politics.

He takes a rather cynical view of politics (something that I can identify with) but it works rather well for explaining things. It turns out that if you see governments as essentially collecting taxes and then distributing them, you can make sense of what most governments do most of the time. This applies to the worst autocracies and dictatorships as well as to the highest functioning democracies in the world. It’s nice to see a theory that applies to all types of governments.

I have never really read any political science work before, but I’m diving into the deep end. Bruce De Mesquita is actually a controversial figure in this realm. As far as I can tell, he has gained this notoriety by actually using mathematics to formalize his theories. Game theory is very well known to economists, but it has come very late to the political science realm. Deep down, I wonder if the people that oppose this approach resist because they can’t handle the math. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened…

This is one of two political science books that I have wanted to read for a while. I own the other but have never gotten the chance to read it. “The Calculus of Consent; Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy” by Tullock and Buchanan (Buchanan won the Nobel prize for it) started the entire field of political economy. In short, they had as their premise that politicians are motivated not by altruistic thoughts but by self interest. Their ability to accurately predict how government bodies act pretty much proved that their approach is sound. It turns out that politicians aren’t saviors, who knew?

I think that books like this should be mandatory reading, especially during an election year. I’ll report back with any amazing things I learn as I read…