Discussion:
The Obama elephant in the room
(too old to reply)
acar
2007-03-22 17:32:49 UTC
Permalink
I find it unbelievable that TV pundits, political analysts and all
sorts of commentators and even financial contributors continue to
discuss Obama's bid for the presidency as if he (Obama) were in fact
making a run for the presidential nomination. I have yet to hear
anyone discuss what Obama is really up to, despite the fact that it
should be so obvious. That is the elephant in the room. Obama is smart
enough and intelligent enough to know that he is not going to get the
Democratic presidential nomination. He probably even knows that he
shouldn't get it! (At least I give him credit for being that smart).
As we speak Barack Obama is angling for the vice-presidential
nomination. With the kind of support that he is getting and the
enthusiasm that he is generating Hillary Clinton would be foolish not
to select him. And of course she will. Obama's plan will undoubtedly
succeed and the Clinton/Obama Democratic ticket for the 2008 election
s already fixed in stone.

On a more speculative note, if Hillary is elected I would not be
surprised if she pulls another John and Bobby Kennedy stunt by naming
Bill Secretary of State. I think she should, and like W. Bush did with
Colin Powell, she should announce it before the election. That ticket
with that pre-election announcement would have a fighting chance
against the coming Giuliani/Gingrich ticket.
Agent Cooper
2007-03-22 21:20:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
the coming Giuliani/Gingrich ticket.
Don't you believe it.
Paul Robinson
2007-03-23 05:10:29 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
On a more speculative note, if Hillary is elected I would not be
surprised if she pulls another John and Bobby Kennedy stunt by naming
Bill Secretary of State. I think she should, and like W. Bush did with
Colin Powell, she should announce it before the election. That ticket
with that pre-election announcement would have a fighting chance
against the coming Giuliani/Gingrich ticket.
Actually, she can't do that.

As a direct result of JFK naming his brother Attorney General, congress
passed a law (not sure if the president signed it or they overrode his
veto) which specifically prohibits the president from naming relatives
to cabinet posts. It was created specifically because of Bobby being
appointed AG.

In fact, I've sometimes humorously said that it's JFK's fault that the
Oklahoma City Bombing took place.

See, JFK appointed his brother. Congress didn't like this so they made
it illegal for the president to appoint a relative. Had this law not
been in effect, Clinton would have appointed his wife Attorney General,
and she wouldn't have been stupid enough as to allow the attack on Waco,
thus it would never have happened, and the Oklahoma City courthouse
would never have been bombed!
Reggie Perrin
2007-03-23 12:04:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
[...]
Obama is smart
enough and intelligent enough to know that he is not going to get the
Democratic presidential nomination.
I wouldn't be so sure. In fact, I have money on him doing so.

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Agent Cooper
2007-03-23 13:17:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Reggie Perrin
Post by acar
[...]
Obama is smart
enough and intelligent enough to know that he is not going to get the
Democratic presidential nomination.
I wouldn't be so sure. In fact, I have money on him doing so.
Though I'm with Acar on this one, I think Reggie's is not a bad bet.
Under normal political conditions (whatever that means exactly) I think
that Acar's point would be pretty solid. But I think there are some
special conditions here. Hillary has made ordinary competition from
ordinary candidates extremely difficult (that is, everyone *except*
Obama hasn't a prayer, because the institutional support has all dried
up). Second, Hillary has got some serious problems--being saddled with
her husband, being saddled with her support for the Iraq war when the
nomination process gives disproportionate emphasis to the more extreme
element, and these are the more forceful opponents of the war, and,
well, her personality, which even when the prism of partisanship is
removed comes across as kinda unattractive. Hillary works best as an
*idea*--as a candidate, she kinda sucks. On the other side: I think that
there is this unspoken, subterranean thing that still plays a role that
may have surprising effects: 9/11 trauma. This may create a hunger for
the appearance of idealism, youth, newness, lack of association with the
politics of the past, etc. that would normally be counterbalanced by
concern with lack of experience. But the desire to feel that all that
9/11-Iraq stuff is *behind* us may prove so powerful that someone who
projects cheery youth, inexperience and no clear ideological message
other than hope itself may prove enormously seductive. Obama facilitates
repression in a sense.

This could prove a danger for the other side, because on some level, the
Pubs *have* to send the message that they are the *strong* people, who
will most effectively deal with *threats*. This is why I think Giuliani
and McCain are so inevitable, one of them at least. But the interesting
question will be how the general electorate will respond to this set-up.
"I will protect you from your enemies" versus "We can move *beyond* this
whole having enemies thing! Don't be so negative!" may be a much tighter
race than one might think. Yes, it is conceivable that he could be
nominated. More, he could win. He doesn't seem like much until you align
him with a silent yearning out there--a desperate desire for things to
be normal again. But that can't be achieved by a normal candidate.

He could prove to be the Jimmy Carter of the 21st century.
Robert J. Kolker
2007-03-23 13:33:07 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
race than one might think. Yes, it is conceivable that he could be
nominated. More, he could win. He doesn't seem like much until you align
him with a silent yearning out there--a desperate desire for things to
be normal again. But that can't be achieved by a normal candidate.
He could prove to be the Jimmy Carter of the 21st century.
If Obama wins it means the jig is up.

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Bob Kolker
Agent Cooper
2007-03-23 15:08:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by Robert J. Kolker
If Obama wins it means the jig is up.
[wince]
Bob Vogel
2007-03-23 17:01:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Robert J. Kolker
If Obama wins it means the jig is up.
What, you mean the scheme or deception will be revealed or foiled?

Talk about a Freudian slip.
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Reggie Perrin
2007-03-23 17:11:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bob Vogel
Post by Robert J. Kolker
If Obama wins it means the jig is up.
What, you mean the scheme or deception will be revealed or foiled?
Talk about a Freudian slip.
I think it's intended to be an unpleasant joke (but maybe you got that,
I dunno).

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Bob Vogel
2007-03-25 05:02:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by Reggie Perrin
I think it's intended to be an unpleasant joke (but maybe you got that,
I dunno).
I once knew a white supremacist hick that called his black horse "Jig-
a-boo".

But I actually agree with Kolker, literally. ;-)
Robert J. Kolker
2007-03-23 17:53:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bob Vogel
Post by Robert J. Kolker
If Obama wins it means the jig is up.
What, you mean the scheme or deception will be revealed or foiled?
Talk about a Freudian slip.
You are apparently unschooled in American slang. Ask Coop what the joke was.

Bob Kolker
Post by Bob Vogel
.
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Agent Cooper
2007-03-24 01:44:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by Robert J. Kolker
You are apparently unschooled in American slang. Ask Coop what the joke was.
You can't make me say that word, Bob. You know, the one that rhymes with
"wiggle-too." That one. Oh Bob, your atrocious punning is wasted on
these heathen.
Bob Vogel
2007-03-25 05:09:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
You can't make me say that word, Bob. You know, the one that rhymes with
"wiggle-too." That one. Oh Bob, your atrocious punning is wasted on
these heathen.
Try rubbing elbows with the rank-and-file scum who bandy that term
about the dinner table and then get back to me on how funny you think
it is.
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acar
2007-04-17 17:44:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by Reggie Perrin
Post by acar
[...]
Obama is smart
enough and intelligent enough to know that he is not going to get
the Democratic presidential nomination.
I wouldn't be so sure. In fact, I have money on him doing so.
I hope that it's not very much. You're going to lose it. The US is not
ready for a black president. And a young inexperienced one to boot.
Charisma and platitudes will take him a very long way but not all the
way. Vice-President is the perfect spot for him now, and the white
(err...) hope for the Democratic party. He can and will get that
easily. Plus the fact that as Vice-predident he is not likely to get
assasinated, a fear that kept Powell out of the Republican ticket. And
what a shame that was.
.
.
.
Agent Cooper
2007-04-17 18:24:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
Post by Reggie Perrin
Post by acar
[...]
Obama is smart
enough and intelligent enough to know that he is not going to get
the Democratic presidential nomination.
I wouldn't be so sure. In fact, I have money on him doing so.
I hope that it's not very much. You're going to lose it. The US is not
ready for a black president
Absolutely false. It's about ideology. The Pubs would've nominated Condi
or Powell in a heartbeat, and I'm sure that if Uberhillary wasn't
running, Obama would have a very good shot. I've seen polling data that
completely undermines this piece of "conventional wisdom."
Reggie Perrin
2007-04-17 18:23:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
Post by Reggie Perrin
Post by acar
[...]
Obama is smart
enough and intelligent enough to know that he is not going to get
the Democratic presidential nomination.
I wouldn't be so sure. In fact, I have money on him doing so.
I hope that it's not very much. You're going to lose it. The US is not
ready for a black president. And a young inexperienced one to boot.
I bet on him securing the nomination, not the presidency. Notice that
he's raised more money than Clinton for the primaries.

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Agent Cooper
2007-04-17 18:36:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Reggie Perrin
I bet on him securing the nomination, not the presidency. Notice that
he's raised more money than Clinton for the primaries.
Acar is epistemically innocent here. It's just that his conventional
wisdom is decades out of date. There are surely *thousands* of people
who would not abide a black president (I detect 27,000 google hits for
"Channon Christian" for example, and I'm guessing that no one who
mentioned her, excepting myself here to make this point, would abide a
black president), but not anywhere near *millions*, not anymore. The
polling data on supporting Powell or Rice nominations are huge, and
Obama's numbers are similarly huge.
acar
2007-04-17 19:20:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Reggie Perrin
I bet on him securing the nomination, not the presidency. Notice that
he's raised more money than Clinton for the primaries.
Acar is epistemically innocent here. It's just that his conventional
wisdom is decades out of date. There are surely *thousands* of people
who would not abide a black president (I detect 27,000 google hits for
"Channon Christian" for example, and I'm guessing that no one who
mentioned her, excepting myself here to make this point, would abide a
black president), but not anywhere near *millions*, not anymore. The
polling data on supporting Powell or Rice nominations are huge, and
Obama's numbers are similarly huge.
Fortunately we WILL know, won't we. Vice-president - yes. President
no, especially not an innocent child. Is America ready for a black
president? Yes if it's Colin Powell. He proejcts a level of maturity
and experience that can make closet bigots overlook the race
imperative. But he would have a 50-50 chance of getting assasinated.
Condolezza has a better resumee than Obama and she has been given an
aura by the media. She could be nominated but she would lose the
election not because she is an unmarried woman, but because she is a
black woman. Wake up. A black could run and win only if he is a Jackie
Robinson - perfect.

You are epistemologically naive, whatever that means, if you think
that America voted ideology in the last two presidential elections. Or
that Obama's ideology is that different from Hillary's. What Obama has
going for him is charisma, but he has those two albatrii (heh heh)
race and inexperience which will shut him out of the #1 spot.
He will be ready to compete after 4 or 8 years as Vice-President and
then he can get elected and probably be a very good president.
But now? I say like my son used to say when he was 5- "M,O, No." It
ain't going to happen - to say nothing of the fact that the Hillary/
Obama ticket is by far the strongest ticket that the Democrats can put
together - with the bonus of Bill back in the Whitehouse. But that may
not be enough to beat Giuliani who may even get my vote unless he
completely turns me off like during the campaign. For now he has my
vote even if he gets a rabid right winger for VP, which he probably
will. At least Pat Buchanan will not run Giuliani like Cheney runs
George W.

In brief, regarding race: Too many albatrosses have a cumulative
effect.
Agent Cooper
2007-04-17 23:22:29 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
In brief, regarding race: Too many albatrosses have a cumulative
effect.
I still disagree with you on the extent to which Obama's race would
prevent his election; lack of experience is probably the more decisive
consideration. Viewing him neutrally, that is, with no particular
sympathy or antipathy, I think that what you are characterizing as his
charisma is to some extent a secret weapon---secret in the sense that
everyone knows that he has an effect on people, but I don't think the
effect is well understood, and in part that leads me to believe that its
power could be severely underestimated. I think he can beat Hillary,
just barely, though it's hard to say if he will, and that if he were to
get the nomination, all bets are totally off. The country is so closely
divided that "chaos" can influence a final outcome in a big way.

My take on the Obama effect has to do in part with a generational thing.
Politics has been dominated for ages now by people who are fighting over
the meaning of the 60s. From Kennedy all the way to Bush2, there's a 60s
thing as subtext to all sorts of political issues. I think that
silently, invisibly, a growing critical mass of people under the age of
50 has been accumulating on both sides of the political spectrum that
doesn't know where it wants to go, but knows it wants to go anywhere but
back to fighting the same old battles about the same old issues. They
are sick to death of it, and are desperate for something that is
sufficiently vague that it doesn't trigger any fears, while at the same
time suggesting that in some fundamental sense, we can put the past to
rest and move on. This is very similar to the climate in which Kennedy
prevailed.

The generational dynamic is, I think, intensified by a sense that 9/11
is kicking around, and the more a politician can project willingness to
break with the past in some sense, the better he can persuade the
electorate that the "war on terror" is over, is won, is behind us. This
is the overt weakness of McCain and the subtle weakness of Giuliani.
McCain gets the message across not only that we need to have a strong
leader who will fight it effectively, but that the way to be that is to
"stay the course." That's already demonstrably a recipe for disaster. No
one wants to stay the course. But Giuliani has a similar problem,
because even if he can credibly project that he could do better in
fighting the war (however it is conceived) the very basis of his fame
inextricably associates him with disaster. Hillary is inextricably
associated with the past too, for other, obvious reasons. But Obama is
the only candidate that can subliminally send the message: "we've
declared victory and moved on to face the exciting challenges of the
21st century in a new way with new leadership." That's not even remotely
true, but then again, what did Kennedy deliver? Truman's foreign policy
with a facelift.

I know my street cred is weakened by my predictions of war with Iran,
reasonably as they were (in fact, I'd be willing to say that if the
Hezbollah thing hadn't happened or had gone better, we'd still be on
track for war with Iran). Obama could surprise everyone. The reason why
he's pulling in so much money is that the people who want to be
incahoots with the next administration are hedging their bets--a lot of
pros think so too. He may not make it, but rather than see that as
something structural and inevitable, I now see it as more like a fluke.

I keep thinking of the scene from Godfather II, where Michael is tellin
Roth about having watched a Fidelista kill himself to avoid capture.
"What does that tell you?" "He could win." Yeah, it's just a gut
feeling, but it's not coming from my own wishful thinking. It's coming
from a lifetime of well-honed political instinct. Personally I think an
Obama administration would be like Carter2, but that's a whole 'nother
question.
acar
2007-04-18 02:56:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
My take on the Obama effect has to do in part with a generational thing.
Politics has been dominated for ages now by people who are fighting over
the meaning of the 60s. From Kennedy all the way to Bush2, there's a 60s
thing as subtext to all sorts of political issues. I think that
silently, invisibly, a growing critical mass of people under the age of
50 has been accumulating on both sides of the political spectrum that
doesn't know where it wants to go, but knows it wants to go anywhere but
back to fighting the same old battles about the same old issues. They
are sick to death of it, and are desperate for something that is
sufficiently vague that it doesn't trigger any fears, while at the same
time suggesting that in some fundamental sense, we can put the past to
rest and move on. This is very similar to the climate in which Kennedy
prevailed.
I don't buy it. If Osama is nominated I'll eat a crow wing; if he wins
the WH I'll eat the whole crow. But for now I don't expect that I
will. You have an intellectual attitude toward race. Did you marry or
fall in love with a black woman? Are you prepared to have kids with
Halle Berry? Regardless of how you answer (Sec. Cohen is one of
millions who would answer yes) the fact is that too many Americans
still feel about the presidency like they feel about inter-racial
marriage. You tolerate it in others and and you send wedding presents,
you attend their parties and invite them to yours. You are best
firiends with them but you dont marry them. A snotty kid like Barack
may be well be vice-president. After all we are not bigots. But if a
black is going to be president he has to leave the elctorate without a
credible excuse (Colin Powell).

I have a suspicion that Obama is a minor genius, of Tiger Woods or Ayn
Rand proportions. Eight years from now I may consider voting for him.
John Alway
2007-04-18 05:00:40 UTC
Permalink
On Apr 17, 9:56 pm, acar <***@mail.com> wrote:
[...]
Post by acar
I have a suspicion that Obama is a minor genius,
I seriously doubt it. Allan Keys, remember him? , was a
brilliant man with *ideas*. Yes, lots of his ideas were pretty bad,
but he was brilliant. Obama is an empty suit, not an ideas man.
Post by acar
...of Tiger Woods or Ayn
Rand proportions. Eight years from now I may consider voting for him.
When Obama becomes a capitalist let me know, because then he'll
get my vote.


...John
Agent Cooper
2007-04-18 13:43:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Alway
[...]
Post by acar
I have a suspicion that Obama is a minor genius,
I seriously doubt it. Allan Keys, remember him? , was a
brilliant man with *ideas*. Yes, lots of his ideas were pretty bad,
but he was brilliant. Obama is an empty suit, not an ideas man.
There's truth, intellectual depth, and then sheer smarts (computational
speed). Obama shows evidence of the third in having made law review at a
top law school, something extraordinarily difficult to do (you have to
be in the top, say, 2% of your class first year, based on objective,
forced-curve grades). But it only measures quickness. Clinton was quick.
Matt Barrow
2007-04-18 14:07:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Alway
[...]
Post by acar
I have a suspicion that Obama is a minor genius,
...of Tiger Woods or Ayn
Rand proportions. Eight years from now I may consider voting for him.
When Obama becomes a capitalist let me know, because then he'll
get my vote.
Anyone catch the brain fart Obama let go after the VT slayings?

If that guys a genius, then I'm handsome.

How many "gaffs" has he had, with ethics, behavior, etc.?

I'd put his sanity level right there with Algore.

Matt Barrow
Mark N
2007-04-18 00:58:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Reggie Perrin
I bet on him securing the nomination, not the presidency. Notice that
he's raised more money than Clinton for the primaries.
Acar is epistemically innocent here. It's just that his conventional
wisdom is decades out of date. There are surely *thousands* of people
who would not abide a black president (I detect 27,000 google hits for
"Channon Christian" for example, and I'm guessing that no one who
mentioned her, excepting myself here to make this point, would abide a
black president), but not anywhere near *millions*, not anymore. [...]
I like it when you say that, Coop. Please keep saying it, to reassure
me! Seriously, I find the possibility that Acar's view of this might be
right very disturbing. And intuitively, it just doesn't seem plausible
to me. I mean, where are all these people who are "not ready" for a
black president? I don't think I know any of them!

Mark
TommCatt
2007-04-19 04:51:22 UTC
Permalink
... The US is not ready for a black president.
Says who? The US is not ready to make any junior Senator yet to serve
out his first term -- with no experience and no background on which to
support our trust and respect -- President. The US is ready to elect any
competent man, or woman, President.
And a young inexperienced one to boot.
Charisma and platitudes will take him a very long way but not all the
way. Vice-President is the perfect spot for him now, and the white
(err...) hope for the Democratic party. He can and will get that
easily.
Presidential hopefuls choose running mates who make a meaningful
complement to themselves. Northerners select Southerners, extremists
choose moderates, and so forth and vice versa. This fills out the ticket
and makes it more appealing to a larger block of voters. Obama and Her
Ladyship are two peas in a pod, the Boobsy twins of the Far Left. Each
appeals to voters from the same narrow niche. Not a ticket that has any
chance to win the Oval Office.
Plus the fact that as Vice-predident he is not likely to get
assasinated, a fear that kept Powell out of the Republican ticket. And
what a shame that was.
Powell, a career soldier, scared away from the Presidency because of
fear of being assassinated? That claim just calls out for supporting facts.

TommCatt
--
.sig file missing. (A)dlib, (R)etry, (F)ail?
acar
2007-04-20 01:11:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by TommCatt
Presidential hopefuls choose running mates who make a meaningful
complement to themselves. Northerners select Southerners, extremists
choose moderates, and so forth and vice versa. This fills out the ticket
and makes it more appealing to a larger block of voters. Obama and Her
Ladyship are two peas in a pod, the Boobsy twins of the Far Left. Each
appeals to voters from the same narrow niche. Not a ticket that has any
chance to win the Oval Office.
You are right - both are Democrats. But wait, one is white and one is
black. In 2004 Lieberman delivered the Jewish vote in Florida (alas
they voted for Buchanan). If Obama delivers the black vote the South
may be cracked. Yes Hillary gets the black vote anyway, but Obama can
bring more to register and actually show up at the polls.
Post by TommCatt
Post by acar
Plus the fact that as Vice-predident he is not likely to get
assasinated, a fear that kept Powell out of the Republican ticket. And
what a shame that was.
Powell, a career soldier, scared away from the Presidency because of
fear of being assassinated? That claim just calls out for supporting facts.
Just my opinion.

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.

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Mark N
2007-04-20 01:16:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
You are right - both are Democrats. But wait, one is white and one is
black. In 2004 Lieberman delivered the Jewish vote in Florida (alas
they voted for Buchanan). If Obama delivers the black vote the South
may be cracked. Yes Hillary gets the black vote anyway, but Obama can
bring more to register and actually show up at the polls.
So people will be more likely to vote for someone if he is a member of
their "tribe," huh? How pathetic is that?

Mark
Agent Cooper
2007-04-20 01:54:44 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
So people will be more likely to vote for someone if he is a member of
their "tribe," huh? How pathetic is that?
If it is what you think, it's not pathetic, it's disgusting. But it
isn't what you think.

Suppose you're waiting in line for some hot concert tickets, but then
you have to go pee. You're afraid you'll lose your place in line. And
you're close to the front. You need to give your money to someone and
say "here's my sixty bucks. I'll be right back. Buy me a ticket, I'd
really appreciate it."

So. You have a choice. You can say that to your sister, or to the total
stranger in line behind you. Who do you choose? The one you trust the most.

I know, I know. Your sister is a real piece of work. I understand. And
the stranger *might* be fine. Still, what do you do? I mean assuming
that your sister isn't bananas, doesn't have it in for you, etc.

I've got an idea. Let's start a world government with a representative
legislature, constitution copied directly from our own. The largest
number of the law-makers will be Chinese. Search your feelings, Luke. Do
you feel safe? Why not? And yet I'm sure you think that most Chinese
people are, you know, fine and all. So why that momentary balk?
Mark N
2007-04-20 02:50:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
So people will be more likely to vote for someone if he is a member of
their "tribe," huh? How pathetic is that?
If it is what you think, it's not pathetic, it's disgusting. But it
isn't what you think.
Suppose you're waiting in line for some hot concert tickets, but then
you have to go pee. You're afraid you'll lose your place in line. And
you're close to the front. You need to give your money to someone and
say "here's my sixty bucks. I'll be right back. Buy me a ticket, I'd
really appreciate it."
So. You have a choice. You can say that to your sister, or to the total
stranger in line behind you. Who do you choose? The one you trust the most.
I know, I know. Your sister is a real piece of work. I understand. And
the stranger *might* be fine. Still, what do you do? I mean assuming
that your sister isn't bananas, doesn't have it in for you, etc.
This doesn't seem like a very close analogy to me. In your scenario,
it's someone you know vs. a stranger. In the voting case, you don't know
either of the people, but one of them "looks more like you," or is of
the same "ethnicity" as you, or something like that. Do you think that
such considerations can be rational criteria for voting for someone?
Post by Agent Cooper
I've got an idea. Let's start a world government with a representative
legislature, constitution copied directly from our own. The largest
number of the law-makers will be Chinese. Search your feelings, Luke. Do
you feel safe? Why not? And yet I'm sure you think that most Chinese
people are, you know, fine and all. So why that momentary balk?
You mean like, Chinese people who live in China, and who have lived
their whole lives in China? Do I think that, all else being equal,
people who come from a background like that are less likely to be good
lawmakers in a newly-created worldwide constitutional republic modeled
on the USA than, say, someone who is a lifelong citizen of the USA? Um,
yes. But maybe I've misunderstood the question?

Mark


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Agent Cooper
2007-04-20 04:01:01 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
yes. But maybe I've misunderstood the question?
Yeah, you misunderstood the question. Let me put it this way. In a
constitutional republic which allows the redistribution of resources
(and burdens) in non-libertarian ways, who do you trust?

The point is that in a democracy, there will be acts that redistribute
resources and burdens. As a voter, you want to either get the biggest
slice of pork or the smallest taxes and regulatory burdens. Assuming
that the legislator is not directly motivated by, say, bribery, he will
be motivated by what sounds plausible and attractive to him--and these
are likely the sorts of things that would serve (or seem to him) to
serve his interests if he was just a voter and not a legislator, because
people's values to some degree rationalize their interests. So, for
example, a former scientist will find funding scientific research a more
plausible and attractive thing to do than, say, funding highways, or
music education, or the military, even if they don't stand to gain
directly at all. Now if you're a scientist-voter, there's some reason,
all else being equal, to prefer a scientist as your representative,
because he's more likely to vote in ways that will tend to coincide with
your interests. Even if that likelihood is weak, it's better than
nothing, which is the likely alternative.

I'm assuming that everyone is principleless and has at bottom the same
collectivist ideology, with only variations of detail.

Now affiliations, whether family, ethnic, religious, professional or
what have you will often come with interests, so if you have an
affiliation and the interests that go with it, you might prefer to
elect someone that is at least marginally more likely to act in ways
that will coincide with your interests, and if they have had similar
affiliations, that's somewhat more likely.

Suppose that you live in the inner city, and work at a job that's funded
by government largess--say, a clinic for poor people. Now it comes time
to vote. Both candidates are keen on government largess. One is a former
agribusiness owner; the other is a former worker at a homeless shelter.
Who do you *trust*? Isn't the guy with the background, experiences and
former interests that resemble yours more likely to be biased in favor
legislative choices that will help (or hurt less) people who currently
resemble his former situation? And that would be you.

Now when it comes to actual voting behavior, what people are doing is
*gambling* on judgments of that sort. A vote is not a contract, it's a
crapshoot. So all you can do is predict what the person will do. If they
have no ideology, all you can rely on is the extent to which they are
likely to make decisions you would make, and that is made more likely
because they are similar to you, or seem so.

This, incidentally, is why Obama gets no black boost. Because he's not
"black." And "blacks" know this. He's a middle class Hawaiian kid who
went to Harvard and made law review.

Now my point is that it would be completely irrational to vote for
someone just because of their skin color or genitalia, etc. But it's not
irrational to vote for someone that you have some reason to think has
had similar experiences, challenges and problems as you have had. (If
I'm a woman concerned about abortion rights, all else being equal, I'd
vote for a woman). And so it's not unreasonable to look for indicators
of what a person is like, how much they resemble you, and hence how much
they're likely to look out for you in the battle to craft rules that
have uneven impact or distribute resources in the face of competing
would-be distributors. It's all about risk and trust.
Mark N
2007-04-21 18:17:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
yes. But maybe I've misunderstood the question?
Yeah, you misunderstood the question. Let me put it this way. In a
constitutional republic which allows the redistribution of resources
(and burdens) in non-libertarian ways, who do you trust?
People who articulate principles that I agree with, and who have a
consistent public record of acting in accordance with those principles.

[...]
Post by Agent Cooper
I'm assuming that everyone is principleless and has at bottom the same
collectivist ideology, with only variations of detail.
I see. Well, in that case, I guess we might expect that people would
"trust" (i.e., vote for) people with whom they share interests (or
believe that they do). That's still quite a long way from "I'll vote for
someone who is a member of my tribe."

[...]
Post by Agent Cooper
Suppose that you live in the inner city, and work at a job that's funded
by government largess--say, a clinic for poor people. Now it comes time
to vote. Both candidates are keen on government largess. One is a former
agribusiness owner; the other is a former worker at a homeless shelter.
Who do you *trust*? Isn't the guy with the background, experiences and
former interests that resemble yours more likely to be biased in favor
legislative choices that will help (or hurt less) people who currently
resemble his former situation? And that would be you.
I think you're saying that, based on what you know about someone's
personal history, you might have reason to think that that person is
likely to agree with you about certain things. I don't necessarily have
a problem with that. (On the other hand, I'm skeptical about the
importance of such considerations in evaluating candidates for political
office. I would go by the person's public record and publicly expressed
views instead.)

I note that, in your example, you were able to characterize the voter's
basis for preferring one candidate to another without making any mention
of race or "ethnicity." Is it fair to say that the kind of thinking that
you are "defending" here excludes cases in which such factors actually
are used as criteria? (Cases of that kind are what I take a phrase like
"delivers the black vote" to refer to. Hence, my initial comment.)

[...]
Post by Agent Cooper
This, incidentally, is why Obama gets no black boost. Because he's not
"black." And "blacks" know this. He's a middle class Hawaiian kid who
went to Harvard and made law review.
Out of curiosity, what is your definition of "black"?
Post by Agent Cooper
Now my point is that it would be completely irrational to vote for
someone just because of their skin color or genitalia, etc. But it's not
irrational to vote for someone that you have some reason to think has
had similar experiences, challenges and problems as you have had. (If
I'm a woman concerned about abortion rights, all else being equal, I'd
vote for a woman).
And what if you were a man concerned about abortion rights? :-)

What does "all else being equal" mean here? Do you mean that if a male
candidate and a female candidate had the exact same public record and
publicly expressed views on abortion, you would think that the female
could be more safely relied upon to stay true to that view?
Post by Agent Cooper
And so it's not unreasonable to look for indicators
of what a person is like, how much they resemble you, and hence how much
they're likely to look out for you in the battle to craft rules that
have uneven impact or distribute resources in the face of competing
would-be distributors. It's all about risk and trust.
Could we come back to your question about Chinese people? What is it
about Chinese people that you assumed would make me uncomfortable with
having them as lawmakers? And is this assumed reaction on my part (which
you said would be "momentary") one that you think would be rational or not?

Mark
Agent Cooper
2007-04-21 23:25:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
yes. But maybe I've misunderstood the question?
Yeah, you misunderstood the question. Let me put it this way. In a
constitutional republic which allows the redistribution of resources
(and burdens) in non-libertarian ways, who do you trust?
People who articulate principles that I agree with, and who have a
consistent public record of acting in accordance with those principles.
[...]
Post by Agent Cooper
I'm assuming that everyone is principleless and has at bottom the same
collectivist ideology, with only variations of detail.
I see. Well, in that case, I guess we might expect that people would
"trust" (i.e., vote for) people with whom they share interests (or
believe that they do). That's still quite a long way from "I'll vote for
someone who is a member of my tribe."
I don't have a yardstick. All I'm saying is that it's not wicked or
nasty to try, in the very unfortunate situation of living in a democracy
where everyone's interests get thrown in a big pool and then divvied up
according to whichever gang is stronger, to try to predict the likely
behavior of various gangs and their relation to your interests, and
psychological similarities to yourself is a way to do that.
Psychological similarities are more likely to correlate with similar
experiences than not. The question is how you're going to minimize risk
to you your interests in a certain (very unfortunate) situation. In less
unfortunate situations, people qua employers can minimize risks by
interviewing, hiring at will, supervising, etc. But democratic politics
have these huge drawbacks compared to ordinary employment. It's as if
you were trying to pick someone to house-sit for you for the summer and
the only information you were allowed to have about them was that they
will be selected randomly from one of four lists, with each list
relating to a geographic quadrant into which the country is divided.

The general point I'm making is that the "racism" of the judgments are
not rooted in the character of the voter, but in the structure of the
situation the voter is forced to operate in. The voter then does the
best they can within that.
Post by Mark N
a problem with that. (On the other hand, I'm skeptical about the
importance of such considerations in evaluating candidates for political
office. I would go by the person's public record and publicly expressed
views instead.)
Will you do that research on your new laptop with the wireless wifi
while you're waiting in line at the soupkitchen, or will you borrow the
laptop of your social worker next time she comes over? Access to
information presupposes that the costs of acquiring it and the costs of
acquiring the mental resources to evaluate it have already been paid.
It's like asking the welfare queen why she didn't file her 1040. Didn't
her accountant tell her about the Earned Income Credit? Oh wait, I know.
She doesn't have an accountant.
Post by Mark N
I note that, in your example, you were able to characterize the voter's
basis for preferring one candidate to another without making any mention
of race or "ethnicity." Is it fair to say that the kind of thinking that
you are "defending" here excludes cases in which such factors actually
are used as criteria? (Cases of that kind are what I take a phrase like
"delivers the black vote" to refer to. Hence, my initial comment.)
*Excludes* it? No1 This was my whole point--I'm assimilating
ethnicity-based voting to the more general phenomenon of voting on
perceived psychological similarity, which could be evidenced by
profession, region, education, gender, you name it.
Post by Mark N
Out of curiosity, what is your definition of "black"?
Nietzsche says that nothing that has a history can be defined. So I'll
provide you with what I'll call an "indication" instead, which I think
has to be filled out with lots of unenumerated assumptions: a descendant
of freed African-American Slaves, raised by same, below a certain class
(income plus education plus "values") line. Obama has zero relevant
characteristics. There is no slavery in his genealogy.
Post by Mark N
And what if you were a man concerned about abortion rights? :-)
But such a case is *typical*! The odds of you finding the perfect
candidate are slim, regardless of who you are or what you want.
Post by Mark N
What does "all else being equal" mean here? Do you mean that if a male
candidate and a female candidate had the exact same public record and
publicly expressed views on abortion, you would think that the female
could be more safely relied upon to stay true to that view?
Depends, depends. For example, I'd be interested in their *age* too,
since there's a psychological tendency for abortion politics to shift
over the lifetime.
Post by Mark N
Could we come back to your question about Chinese people? What is it
about Chinese people that you assumed would make me uncomfortable with
having them as lawmakers? And is this assumed reaction on my part (which
you said would be "momentary") one that you think would be rational or not?
(I was talking about Chinese in China, not Chinese-Americans, if that
wasn't clear). Significant cultural difference and vast quantity. As a
white American male, you really don't have any intuition of what it
would be like to be in a "when push comes to shove, the interests of
your permanent minority-hood will *always* be disregarded, unless you
take special steps (find big allies or generally make an enormous amount
of noise). I was trying to induce that sensation, but apparently I've
failed.
Mark N
2007-04-22 21:07:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
I see. Well, in that case, I guess we might expect that people would
"trust" (i.e., vote for) people with whom they share interests (or
believe that they do). That's still quite a long way from "I'll vote
for someone who is a member of my tribe."
I don't have a yardstick. All I'm saying is that it's not wicked or
nasty to try, in the very unfortunate situation of living in a democracy
where everyone's interests get thrown in a big pool and then divvied up
according to whichever gang is stronger, to try to predict the likely
behavior of various gangs and their relation to your interests, and
psychological similarities to yourself is a way to do that.
Psychological similarities are more likely to correlate with similar
experiences than not. The question is how you're going to minimize risk
to you your interests in a certain (very unfortunate) situation. In less
unfortunate situations, people qua employers can minimize risks by
interviewing, hiring at will, supervising, etc. But democratic politics
have these huge drawbacks compared to ordinary employment. It's as if
you were trying to pick someone to house-sit for you for the summer and
the only information you were allowed to have about them was that they
will be selected randomly from one of four lists, with each list
relating to a geographic quadrant into which the country is divided.
But it's *not* like that at all! If it really were like that, then I
suppose you might have a point. But, your assertions to the contrary
notwithstanding, it really is not very hard to find out things about the
*individuals* who are running for office. Come on, Coop! How many people
lack access to television and newspapers? It certainly is not hard to
find out enough information about candidates to render criteria such as
race and "ethnicity" utterly superfluous -- if they weren't superfluous
already.

And guess what? If a person really (for whatever reason) doesn't have
the ability (or the time, or the interest, or whatever) to become
informed about the candidates, then that person should not vote!

[...]
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
a problem with that. (On the other hand, I'm skeptical about the
importance of such considerations in evaluating candidates for
political office. I would go by the person's public record and
publicly expressed views instead.)
Will you do that research on your new laptop with the wireless wifi
while you're waiting in line at the soupkitchen, or will you borrow the
laptop of your social worker next time she comes over? [...]
No, newspapers and television will do just fine. Stop making excuses for
people who can't be bothered to inform themselves about the candidates,
but still consider themselves qualified to judge those candidates. I
hope there are not too many people like that!

My bottom line: if you believe that you lack the ability to find out the
information that you would need to judge the *individuals* who are
running for office, then you have no business voting. Simple as that.
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
I note that, in your example, you were able to characterize the
voter's basis for preferring one candidate to another without making
any mention of race or "ethnicity." Is it fair to say that the kind of
thinking that you are "defending" here excludes cases in which such
factors actually are used as criteria? (Cases of that kind are what I
take a phrase like "delivers the black vote" to refer to. Hence, my
initial comment.)
*Excludes* it? No1 This was my whole point-- [...]
Well, I guess I'm the King of Wishful Thinking. :-(

[...]
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
And what if you were a man concerned about abortion rights? :-)
But such a case is *typical*!
FTR, I'm not sure what this means. If it's important, maybe you could
try again?
Post by Agent Cooper
The odds of you finding the perfect
candidate are slim, regardless of who you are or what you want.
Post by Mark N
What does "all else being equal" mean here? Do you mean that if a male
candidate and a female candidate had the exact same public record and
publicly expressed views on abortion, you would think that the female
could be more safely relied upon to stay true to that view?
Depends, depends. For example, I'd be interested in their *age* too,
since there's a psychological tendency for abortion politics to shift
over the lifetime.
But these issues would only come into play if the candidates' public
statements and public records were essentially identical, right?

[I think it's time to give up on the "Chinese" analogy!]

Mark
Agent Cooper
2007-04-22 22:42:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
And guess what? If a person really (for whatever reason) doesn't have
the ability (or the time, or the interest, or whatever) to become
informed about the candidates, then that person should not vote!
Perhaps you could propose some legislation to that effect. And then all
those unqualified people could vote for it.

Incidentally, did you know that the average person is also of average
intelligence? Do you have any idea what that means? Do you know what
someone with a 100IQ is and is not capable of? You'd be boggled.
Post by Mark N
My bottom line: if you believe that you lack the ability to find out the
information that you would need to judge the *individuals* who are
running for office, then you have no business voting. Simple as that.
Um, I don't know how to break this to you, but on that criterion, no one
ever has any business voting. Because, (1) *everyone* is unprincipled,
(2) ever politician lies, and (3) the future is unknown. Enjoy your
retirement.
Post by Mark N
Well, I guess I'm the King of Wishful Thinking. :-(
Pretty much.
Post by Mark N
Post by Agent Cooper
But such a case is *typical*!
FTR, I'm not sure what this means. If it's important, maybe you could
try again?
Because you're not voting for an issue (unless you're a monomaniac) or
even a philosophy (unless you're living in a fictional universe) but for
a human being. This is something that has often been complained about by
voters, but so far no one has managed find a viable alternative to it.
Post by Mark N
But these issues would only come into play if the candidates' public
statements and public records were essentially identical, right?
I think it's awfully sweet of you, this trusting nature.
Mark N
2007-04-24 21:37:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
And guess what? If a person really (for whatever reason) doesn't have
the ability (or the time, or the interest, or whatever) to become
informed about the candidates, then that person should not vote!
Perhaps you could propose some legislation to that effect. And then all
those unqualified people could vote for it.
Incidentally, did you know that the average person is also of average
intelligence? Do you have any idea what that means? Do you know what
someone with a 100IQ is and is not capable of? You'd be boggled.
I think you're saying that there are lots of people who are *so stupid*
that they are literally incapable of judging people as individuals, so
they have to rely on their "tribal instincts" instead. Is that it? If
so, it's a pretty dark vision of humanity. And I certainly reject it.

Frankly, I'm shocked to see your casual acceptance of habits of thought
that I think are obviously...um...unhealthy, to put it mildly. You are
defending *tribalism*!! I really don't know what to say. You have me at
a loss for words. I'm still hoping that maybe I'm misunderstanding you
somehow! (And it's weird, too, because this is an issue that
"conservatives" usually seem to be pretty good on. Go figure.)

[...]
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
FTR, I'm not sure what this means. If it's important, maybe you could
try again?
Because you're not voting for an issue (unless you're a monomaniac)
What if you're a mononominal? :-)
Post by Agent Cooper
or
even a philosophy (unless you're living in a fictional universe) but for
a human being. This is something that has often been complained about by
voters, but so far no one has managed find a viable alternative to it.
Coop, I'm not talking about looking for an "alternative" to voting for a
human being, fer Rand's sake! It's *understood* that one votes for human
beings! The issue is, should one judge the human beings in question as
*individuals*, or as members of some "racial group" or "ethnic group"? I
know how *I* answer that question!
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
But these issues would only come into play if the candidates' public
statements and public records were essentially identical, right?
I think it's awfully sweet of you, this trusting nature.
You seem to be getting "I will judge people as *individuals*" confused
with "I am (overly, and naively) trusting." I'm not sure why. The two
statements are quite different.

Mark
Agent Cooper
2007-04-24 23:10:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
Frankly, I'm shocked to see your casual acceptance of habits of thought
that I think are obviously...um...unhealthy, to put it mildly. You are
defending *tribalism*!! I really don't know what to say. You have me at
a loss for words. I'm still hoping that maybe I'm misunderstanding you
somehow! (And it's weird, too, because this is an issue that
"conservatives" usually seem to be pretty good on. Go figure.)
Well, I'm tilting Left this week, that must be it. Seriously, though,
this is just an application of a related point that I've seen economists
make (not that that would please anyone here either)--the theory of
rational ignorance: information-processing itself involves costs.
Consider, for example, me. Awhile back, opining was going on about Iran
policy. So I ran out and read Pollack's _Persian Paradox_ cover to
cover, thought carefully about it, came to some tentative conclusions.
But I'm an academic, which means I have time on my hands like a retired
person, without being a retired person (and I have a higher than average
IQ). So for me the costs of getting a really well informed opinion about
something outside my area of expertise is "sustainable." I can do this.
I suspect that you are much the same way, though frankly, no one reads
like the Agent reads. You should just see my nightstand.

But if you poke around outside this strata of privilege and
wonderfulness and talent into what is mistakenly called "the real world"
what you find are greatly circumscribed resources (by comparison) for
doing this sort of thing. I mean, around the time that I was thinking
about Iran, I probably knew as much about Iran as anyone, save an
Iranian or a professor of Middle Eastern Studies. But that's not the
situation of a person of average intelligence who has to work for a
living, hug the kids in the evening and mow the lawns on the weekend.
What that person does is become aware of the issues that make the most
noise (looking for quiet issues is probably costly and likely to
generate minimal return on cognitive investment---what's your view on EU
fisheries policy? I know mine), and then he makes a cost/benefit
analysis of how much trouble to invest in figuring the thing out. It's
not rational to try to build the opinion from scratch any more than to
build a car from scratch. So you defer to expert opinion to some extent.
Ah, there's the rub. *Which* expert? So there have to be ways of making
*that* decision rationally which are more cost-effective than simply
figuring out what all of your own opinions are on everything and then
selecting experts on the basis of prior agreement with what you already
think (in which case you don't need them anyway). In a world of rational
ignorance, there's also rational guesswork.

Picking representatives who will make decisions for you based on your
interests is like that too. If you are rational, you will focus on all
the factors you can afford to discover information about that are
germane to the representative's likely behavior. Some of that will be
about how *morally* reliable they are (you don't send someone to pick up
something of value for you who has been known to run off with things in
just such situations). But you also want to know how much their model of
your interests is likely to track your actual interests. Broad
psychological similarities do that. And in a representation situation
where the representative has really broad powers to deal with a wide
range of issues, some of which are unpredictable, a *rational* decision
will have to fall back more and more on considerations other than (1)
what he says he'll do or (2) what they've always done (if per hypothesis
the situation is unprecedented).

[I can't help but mention Bush again. I voted Bush in 2000 on the basis
of ideology. My wife voted against him on the basis of his experience of
privilege, apparent feelings of inferiority, his former alcoholism and
the religious basis of his recovery. As she explained it, someone like
that is likely to make bad choices based on "getting religion"
metaphorically speaking, about issues that seemed meaningful to them,
and persist in the teeth of evidence that a wrong choice was made, out
of loyalty to the perceived higher cause and defiance of criticism. I
thought at the time that this was a silly emotional way to pick a
president, and of course she was absolutely right and I was absolutely
wrong.]

So this is the question. As a rational decision maker, you are granting
huge powers to someone, with minimal ability to recall them in the short
run, to act on what they regard as your interests, in situations that
may be unprecedented.

My question is, is allowing (defeasible, possibly wrong) evidence of
psychological similarity to play a role in that sort of decision
*irrational*? Only if (1) there is no causal connection between
psychological similarity and action, or (2) that there's no way to
discover psychological similarity, or (3) THERE'S A BETTER METHOD AT
LOWER COST.

Your response, minus the rhetoric about tribalism, is presumably some
combination of all three. I think much of what you've said hinges on #3.
But it's pretty effing plausible that in all kinds of situations, there
actually isn't.

So really the debate between us comes down to an *empirical* question. I
take it that you are saying that my imaginary voter is being
*irrational* by ignoring all kinds of evidence of complex psychological
facts (that could be discerned by reading the candidate's policy papers,
his past record, etc.) that can be assessed, and instead giving into the
Dark Side of the Force by hearkening to earthy/creepy feelings of
communal oneness on the basis of irrelevant characteristics. I on the
other hand am characterizing the imaginary voter as rationally weighing
information processing costs in a situation of enormous complexity and
uncertainty, and seeking at least moderately reliable proxies for
desired behavior in the representative. I'm not *defending* "tribalism."
I'm expressing skepticism about its very existence, and a la
Freakonomics, bringing an area of apparent irrationality within the
orbit of rational choice models, in an attempt to better understand
them. And that's not so very terrible, is it?

I could make almost exactly the same point about voting Party tickets
instead of voting ethnicity. One could respond much the same way you
did, by saying that that's politicism, a particularly nasty form of
tribalism. I have days when Party preferences strike me exactly that
way. But the fact is that I nonetheless vote Party anyway (though I've
been wondering of late which party that should be!). I assume that
someone who self-presents as a Republican will raise my taxes more
slowly than someone who self-represents as a Democrat. But isn't that,
on your account, POLITICAL STEREOTYPING? Shouldn't I spend a few months
with them, psychoanalyze them, before I jump to any conclusions? Well, I
can't. In the meantime, there's an election coming up, and I must decide
what to do about it.
Post by Mark N
Coop, I'm not talking about looking for an "alternative" to voting for a
human being, fer Rand's sake! It's *understood* that one votes for human
beings! The issue is, should one judge the human beings in question as
*individuals*, or as members of some "racial group" or "ethnic group"? I
know how *I* answer that question!
Perhaps you're assuming that the preceding analysis means that ethnicity
is the *only* indicator such a sub-Agent voter looks at or would look
at? But I mentioned several such indicators, including former
profession, nor am I suggesting that one should *ignore* readily
available and easy to interpret information of other kinds. For example,
up until recently, many voters drew all sorts of inferences from
McCain's military record (now some draw other inferences, or perhaps
preferences have shifted). That's another indicator.

Are such methods fool-proof? Nothing ever is. But when you factor in the
information processing costs and resources available to the
decision-maker, giving them some weight may be rational. If that freaks
you out, I really don't know what to say. I take back all the little
teases though, because I honestly think you haven't thought this through
enough, partly because your own epistemic situation (which resembles
mine, if I'm not mistaken) makes it difficult for you to imagine other
people with far fewer epistemic resources (time, energy, access to
information, perceived stake, intelligence) than you have, and partly
because you have a *model* of what decision-making that reflects group
affiliations is about (the giving in the the dark side comment above).
But as the excellent scientist I know that you are, just remember that
your tribalism model is just that: merely a model. My rational choice
with scarce information processing model is also merely a model. One way
to test which model is more accurate is to see if in situations where a
person makes a decision that looks facially tribal, if the decision
changes when the stakes go way way up, and the information processing
costs go way way down. At that point, if the person says "you know, I've
examined this problem with great care, and clearly the best choice is X,
who happens to be the 'wrong' ethnicity for me. But I am overcome with
irrational feelings of sympathy and antipathy on the basis of ethnicity,
and this tsunami of craziness has overpowered my volition, leading me to
choose on the basis of ethnicity the way a shark goes after the smell of
blood." If *I'm* right, in the *changed* situation, they'll say "ya
know, usually I feel more comfortable with people like myself, but this
guy looks really good, and after a lot of thought, I think I'll go with
him."

Extra credit question: if African-Americans prefer Hillary to Obama in
significant numbers (which I predict), which thing did they do?
Mark N
2007-04-27 18:10:38 UTC
Permalink
Thanks for taking the time and effort to give such a detailed and
thoughtful response. I think I'm starting to get a better idea of where
you are coming from on this.
[...] And in a representation situation
where the representative has really broad powers to deal with a wide
range of issues, some of which are unpredictable, a *rational* decision
will have to fall back more and more on considerations other than (1)
what he says he'll do or (2) what they've always done (if per hypothesis
the situation is unprecedented).
OK, but the question is, what kinds of other considerations are, or can
be, creditable? That is where we seem to disagree.

[...]
So this is the question. As a rational decision maker, you are granting
huge powers to someone, with minimal ability to recall them in the short
run, to act on what they regard as your interests, in situations that
may be unprecedented.
My question is, is allowing (defeasible, possibly wrong) evidence of
psychological similarity to play a role in that sort of decision
*irrational*? Only if (1) there is no causal connection between
psychological similarity and action, or (2) that there's no way to
discover psychological similarity, or (3) THERE'S A BETTER METHOD AT
LOWER COST.
Your response, minus the rhetoric about tribalism, is presumably some
combination of all three. I think much of what you've said hinges on #3.
But it's pretty effing plausible that in all kinds of situations, there
actually isn't.
I think you may be reading my objection too broadly. I don't generally
have a problem with taking evidence of a person's psychological traits
into account. But you seem to have a more expansive conception of what
kinds of things can properly count as such evidence than I do.
So really the debate between us comes down to an *empirical* question. I
take it that you are saying that my imaginary voter is being
*irrational* by ignoring all kinds of evidence of complex psychological
facts (that could be discerned by reading the candidate's policy papers,
his past record, etc.) that can be assessed, and instead giving into the
Dark Side of the Force by hearkening to earthy/creepy feelings of
communal oneness on the basis of irrelevant characteristics. I on the
other hand am characterizing the imaginary voter as rationally weighing
information processing costs in a situation of enormous complexity and
uncertainty, and seeking at least moderately reliable proxies for
desired behavior in the representative. I'm not *defending* "tribalism."
I'm expressing skepticism about its very existence, and a la
Freakonomics, bringing an area of apparent irrationality within the
orbit of rational choice models, in an attempt to better understand
them. And that's not so very terrible, is it?
You seem to be acknowledging that there is something called "tribalism,"
that is objectionable. But, based on what you say below about "testing
our models," I think you may be defining it too narrowly.
I could make almost exactly the same point about voting Party tickets
instead of voting ethnicity. One could respond much the same way you
did, by saying that that's politicism, a particularly nasty form of
tribalism.
No. That's completely different. Political affiliations are based on
individual choices, and they are related to the ideas and principles
held by individuals. Judging someone on that basis is completely
different from judging someone on the basis of "ascribed"
characteristics such as race and ethnicity.
I have days when Party preferences strike me exactly that
way. But the fact is that I nonetheless vote Party anyway (though I've
been wondering of late which party that should be!). I assume that
someone who self-presents as a Republican will raise my taxes more
slowly than someone who self-represents as a Democrat. But isn't that,
on your account, POLITICAL STEREOTYPING?
It's not tribalism. Just the presence of the word "self-represents" here
tells me that you are not talking about "ascribed" characteristics. And
the thing that the person "self-represents" as, is something that is
related to *ideas*. This is completely different from the kind of thing
that I have been objecting to.
Shouldn't I spend a few months
with them, psychoanalyze them, before I jump to any conclusions? Well, I
can't. In the meantime, there's an election coming up, and I must decide
what to do about it.
Then just do the best you can in guessing how the person would behave,
based on what you know about him. Feel free to use his party affiliation
as a criterion, if that seems appropriate to you. I won't condemn you
for it!

[...]
Are such methods fool-proof? Nothing ever is. But when you factor in the
information processing costs and resources available to the
decision-maker, giving them some weight may be rational. If that freaks
you out, I really don't know what to say. I take back all the little
teases though, because I honestly think you haven't thought this through
enough, partly because your own epistemic situation (which resembles
mine, if I'm not mistaken) makes it difficult for you to imagine other
people with far fewer epistemic resources (time, energy, access to
information, perceived stake, intelligence) than you have, and partly
because you have a *model* of what decision-making that reflects group
affiliations is about (the giving in the the dark side comment above).
But as the excellent scientist I know that you are, just remember that
your tribalism model is just that: merely a model. My rational choice
with scarce information processing model is also merely a model.
I'm not clear on exactly what the behavior that we are trying to explain
is. What are we stipulating about the voters in question? Are we
stipulating that a voter is explicitly using ascribed characteristics of
the candidates (such as race and ethnicity) as a basis for judging them?
One way
to test which model is more accurate is to see if in situations where a
person makes a decision that looks facially tribal, if the decision
changes when the stakes go way way up, and the information processing
costs go way way down. At that point, if the person says "you know, I've
examined this problem with great care, and clearly the best choice is X,
who happens to be the 'wrong' ethnicity for me. But I am overcome with
irrational feelings of sympathy and antipathy on the basis of ethnicity,
and this tsunami of craziness has overpowered my volition, leading me to
choose on the basis of ethnicity the way a shark goes after the smell of
blood."
LOL!
If *I'm* right, in the *changed* situation, they'll say "ya
know, usually I feel more comfortable with people like myself, but this
guy looks really good, and after a lot of thought, I think I'll go with
him."
Are you saying that making assumptions about people based on race or
ethnicity is only objectionable if those assumptions are *incorrigible*,
and can never be superseded by other considerations? Or are you saying
that, so long as a person is actually acting on the basis of *beliefs*
that he has about people -- as opposed to acting blindly under the
influence of dark instinctual forces that have no propositional content
-- that person's behavior is not really tribal or bigoted, and we
shouldn't object to it?
Extra credit question: if African-Americans prefer Hillary to Obama in
significant numbers (which I predict), which thing did they do?
Well, of course, we know that Obama is not black. Also, since Bill
Clinton was the first black president, it follows that his wife Hillary
is also black. So I guess if African-Americans prefer Hillary to Obama,
it will be because they are just thoughtlessly assuming that the black
candidate is better, just because she is black! :-)

Mark
Agent Cooper
2007-04-28 00:56:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
Are you saying that making assumptions about people based on race or
ethnicity is only objectionable if those assumptions are *incorrigible*,
and can never be superseded by other considerations? Or are you saying
that, so long as a person is actually acting on the basis of *beliefs*
that he has about people -- as opposed to acting blindly under the
influence of dark instinctual forces that have no propositional content
-- that person's behavior is not really tribal or bigoted, and we
shouldn't object to it?
I don't *think* I'm saying either of those things. I think what I'm
saying is that if there is sufficient evidence to support the inference
that the ethnic preference is just an elliptical form of preference for
certain outcomes with no irreducible ethnic dimension, coupled with
causal hypotheses that have no irreducible ethnic dimension, the
inferences are warranted, the mean-ends reasoning rational, etc. etc.,
then it's OK to do it. Probably adverting to an example of what I think
OK and what I think not OK will help.

I work in a government funded clinic for urban single mothers recovering
from drug addiction. I have many political preferences, but as far as I
can tell (or maybe I can't tell at all) all the candidates are equally
good bets on my other issues. But I don't care much about them anyway. I
do care about getting my clinic funded so I won't be out of a job.

All the candidates have expressed a philosophical commitment to
government spending on health and social services, so there's no help
there. But I still have to choose someone. No candidate has spoken
precisely to my concern with my clinic. It is reasonable for me to
think, however, that someone whose life experiences would lead them to
regard services to drug addicted urban poor single mothers as a positive
thing is someone more likely to assign a greater weight to that budget
choice over, say, funding the public golf course. So I'm looking for the
guy more likely to have had those kinds of experiences; probably someone
who has benefited or observed someone benefit from such programs.

If I read in campaign literature that candidate one grew up in the
suburbs, is an accountant, and likes to golf, it's not a crazy causal
hypothesis that he probably doesn't have a lot of intimate familiarity
with the kinds of good works people like me are doing in the community.
By contrast, if I read that he grew up in an economically depressed
neighborhood, went to a low-tier law school and runs a free legal aid
clinic in said neighborhood, and likes to watch basketball, he's
probably seen people helped by programs like mine. For the first guy, my
clinic is an abstraction. For the second guy, it's more concrete, and,
let's say, more attractive. So I want the second guy.

Now let's complicate the situation. For $1000, I can have detailed
campaign biographies which gives me lots of info about the two of the
preceding sort. On the basis of that sort of information, it's rational
for me to vote urban guy. For $1, I can have a photograph and a brief
audio clip, just long enough to catch their accents. I don't have $1000.
I have $1. You know where this is going.

Now, the question is: is it irrational to completely ignore the
"irrelevant characteristics"? Sure, they're *intrinsically* irrelevant.
But I'm not voting for an accent or a skin color. That's not what this
is about. But if there's *any* tendency to correlate those
characteristics with the background that makes the prospective
representative more useful to me materially, what should I do? I can
ignore it or not ignore it.

Now all I was suggesting was that it's not necessarily irrational not to
ignore it, in a case like that. What would be irrational? Well, we know
a fair amount about that. For example, allowing the ethnic information
to *trump* a lot of other data (change my scenario so that the white
guy's the urban guy but I reject him even though all my info tells me he
fits my preferences, because I assign too much weight to the ethnic data
as a predictor--this is the kind of thing that we take exception to:
you're an MD, but you're black, so I don't want you. Yuck! He's an MD
fer crissakes! He's Foreman! He's really smart! Ignore the blackness!)
looks bad. But that emphatically wasn't the kind of scenario I'm talking
about.

Anyway, the short version (yay!) was to suggest that a lot of what
appears to be racial preferences are really other sorts of preferences
masquerading as racial preferences. Now where that claim is still prone
to invoke discomfort is the suggestion that these non-racial preferences
are still rooted in racial causal *generalizations*. And yes, that's an
uncomfortable thought. However, even here, my claim all along was that
this was one among many kinds of generalizations which may not be
irrational when other, more precise forms of information are unavailable
or difficult/costly to get. You use what you can. What's pernicious is
allowing those kinds of inferences to dominate reasoning when there are
other, better, sources of information available at reasonable cost.

Cathcart has emphasized in his own inimitable way that the costs of even
bothering to vote at all are excessive. He may be right. It may not make
much sense to waste any effort at all on information gathering. My
suspicion is that an awful lot of stuff we deplore in the political
process, we deplore because of the collective outcome that emerges, but
that if we looked at the actual decision-making process at the
individual level, it's actually completely rational to make snap
judgments based on very limited information of doubtful probativeness.
The problem is not justifying failing to live up to a standard of
scholarly scruple here. The problem is justifying paying attention at all!

Here's an interesting thought: on some level we know all of this, that
individual decisions in the political process are individually rational,
but have collectively unfortunate results. Sounds like a strategic
rationality problem akin to the Prisoner's Dilemma. David Gauthier
suggested that *morality* is the device we use for making collective
decisions optimal when the sum of the individually rational decisions
leads to suboptimal results. Perhaps the citizenly duty you and I both
feel to research the issues and candidates and think carefully about
them is individually irrational, but such that it conforms to standards
which, if everyone adopted them, would lead to optimal results. Hmm.
Could be. I've always sensed that something about the Cathcart "It's
crazy to vote at all" thing was wrong, morally wrong. Maybe this
explains why. If so, in a certain sense, you may turn out to be right in
the end after all: we have a moral obligation to set aside individual
rationality in favor of those actions which lead to the most rational
result for the whole (at this point, I hear howls of outrage emanating
from certain corners...) If that's right, it may be morally obligatory
to eschew the use of racial information in decision-making EVEN IF DOING
SO IS INDIVIDUALLY IRRATIONAL. How weird is that?
Andrew Macdonald
2007-04-28 04:06:51 UTC
Permalink
Perhaps the citizenly duty you and I both feel to research the issues and
candidates and think carefully about them is individually irrational, but
such that it conforms to standards which, if everyone adopted them, would
lead to optimal results. Hmm. Could be. I've always sensed that something
about the Cathcart "It's crazy to vote at all" thing was wrong, morally
wrong. Maybe this explains why.
It's not crazy to vote - it's only crazy to think your vote can make a
difference to the outcome. There are some benefits to thinking about
politics and voting (or not voting), but there are also opportunity costs.
Is there any reason to think the country would be better off if everyone
spent more time thinking about their vote, and less time pursuing their
private activities?
If so, in a certain sense, you may turn out to be right in the end after
all: we have a moral obligation to set aside individual rationality in
favor of those actions which lead to the most rational result for the
whole (at this point, I hear howls of outrage emanating from certain
corners...)
A categorical imperative, or something else? It seems to me that if
rationality and morality don't align, then we should try to change that, not
accept those terms and forgo individual rationality. I'm not sure what
ultimate value there is in obeying a "citizenly duty" that only arises when
the system is defective.

Andrew
Bert Clanton
2007-04-28 13:18:01 UTC
Permalink
Post by Andrew Macdonald
Perhaps the citizenly duty you and I both feel to research the issues and
candidates and think carefully about them is individually irrational, but
such that it conforms to standards which, if everyone adopted them, would
lead to optimal results. Hmm. Could be. I've always sensed that something
about the Cathcart "It's crazy to vote at all" thing was wrong, morally
wrong. Maybe this explains why.
Boy! It would do my little collectivist heart good if every one of you
conservative folks were persuaded by Cathcart, and didn't vote; and if
every one of us irrational liberals voted! Of course you guys wouldn't
like the *result* of your extreme rationality and our absurd
irrationality, but you could draw some comfort from the fact that
according to your principles you behaved in a totally unobjectionable
manner.

Under that scenario, by behaving in a completely rational manner, as
understood in your hyperindividualist conceptual framework, you would
bring about a result precisely the opposite of the result that you
desire. Perhaps some label other than "rational" might be more
appropriate?
Post by Andrew Macdonald
It's not crazy to vote - it's only crazy to think your vote can make a
difference to the outcome.
What would be crazy would be for me to suppose that it would be my one
vote that would determine the outcome. The probability that any one
specific vote would determine the outcome is indeed extremely small. But
of course my vote will be added to the votes of a whole lot of other
people who support the same candidate that I support, and if that "heap"
is larger than the other candidate's "heap", my candidate will be
elected.

As individualists, you guys seem to think that if it isn't your
individual vote that determines the outcome of an election, it's foolish
yo vote. As a collectivist, I'm completely reconciled to the undeniable
fact that the effect of my one vote will be extremely small. But I'm
aware that a whole bunch of other guys will be voting too, and that our
collective vote and the collective vote of our opponents *will*
determine the resulr of the elaction.
Post by Andrew Macdonald
There are some benefits to thinking about
politics and voting (or not voting), but there are also opportunity costs.
Is there any reason to think the country would be better off if everyone
spent more time thinking about their vote, and less time pursuing their
private activities?
Yup.
Post by Andrew Macdonald
If so, in a certain sense, you may turn out to be right in the end after
all: we have a moral obligation to set aside individual rationality in
favor of those actions which lead to the most rational result for the
whole (at this point, I hear howls of outrage emanating from certain
corners...)
It seems rather weird to suppose that it is irrational to engage in that
action which, of all available actions, is most likely to contribute to
the result that one desires.

Warm collectivist fuzzies,
Bert
--
³It is no measure of sanity to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick
society.

--Jiddu Krishnamurti
Mark N
2007-04-29 23:45:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bert Clanton
Boy! It would do my little collectivist heart good if every one of you
conservative folks
Actually, "libertarian" characterizes the political views of most
Objectivists and Objectivism-friendly people much better than
"conservative" does.
Post by Bert Clanton
were persuaded by Cathcart, and didn't vote; and if
every one of us irrational liberals voted!
But surely there must be some political issues that you agree with
libertarians about? I mean, you're not on the anti-liberty side of
*every* issue, are you?

Hey, did you know that some prominent Objectivists supported Kerry in
the last election, as the lesser evil when compared to Bush? What do you
make of that? You would have been happy to see *those* Objectivists
voting, I assume.
Post by Bert Clanton
Of course you guys wouldn't
like the *result* of your extreme rationality and our absurd
irrationality, but you could draw some comfort from the fact that
according to your principles you behaved in a totally unobjectionable
manner.
Under that scenario, by behaving in a completely rational manner, as
understood in your hyperindividualist conceptual framework, you would
bring about a result precisely the opposite of the result that you
desire. Perhaps some label other than "rational" might be more
appropriate?
Well, call it "hyperindividualist" if you like, but to me it's all about
limiting the circumstances under which one considers it acceptable to
deal with people by means of force. It sounds pretty good when put that
way, don't you think?

[...]
Post by Bert Clanton
Warm collectivist fuzzies,
Bert
You should insert the word "thug" right after the word "collectivist"
there, just to mess with people! :-)

BTW, I like your sig!

Mark
Andrew Macdonald
2007-04-30 02:07:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bert Clanton
Boy! It would do my little collectivist heart good if every one of you
conservative folks were persuaded by Cathcart, and didn't vote; and if
every one of us irrational liberals voted! Of course you guys wouldn't
like the *result* of your extreme rationality and our absurd
irrationality, but you could draw some comfort from the fact that
according to your principles you behaved in a totally unobjectionable
manner.
If the left are looting thugs and the right are mooching mystics, then which
side should John Galt vote for?
Post by Bert Clanton
As individualists, you guys seem to think that if it isn't your
individual vote that determines the outcome of an election, it's foolish
yo vote. As a collectivist, I'm completely reconciled to the undeniable
fact that the effect of my one vote will be extremely small. But I'm
aware that a whole bunch of other guys will be voting too, and that our
collective vote and the collective vote of our opponents *will*
determine the resulr of the elaction.
Since it's extremely small, you're better off spending your time and energy
on things that make a real difference, according to your values. The answer,
in John Galt's case, is he would be busy creating a motor somewhere.

You qua collectivist could instead be lobbying *both* parties to have the
motor industry nationalized!

Andrew
Bert Clanton
2007-04-30 15:06:30 UTC
Permalink
Since the point of my message was logically independent of my
collectivism versus your individualism as political viewpoints, I'll
rephrase it as follows:

Boy! It would do my little heart good if every one of you
folks who disagree with me were persuaded by Cathcart, and didn't vote;
and if every one of the irrational folks who agree with me voted! Of
course you guys wouldn't like the *result* of your extreme rationality
and our absurd irrationality, but you could draw some comfort from the
fact that according to your principles you behaved in a totally
unobjectionable manner.

You guys seem to think that if it isn't your individual vote that
determines the outcome of an election, it's foolish to vote. As for me,
I'm completely reconciled to the undeniable fact that the effect of my
one vote will be extremely small. But I'm aware that a whole bunch of
other folks who desire the same electoral result that I do will be
voting too, and that our votes and the votes of our opponents, taken as
two *heaps* (as they will be), are precisely what *will* determine the
result of the election.

How can I better spend my time on election day than by contributing in
my small way to the result that I desire? Can't you spend your time on
election day in a better fashion than by contributing in your small way
to the defeat of the result that *you* desire?

My basic point, of course, is that to the extent that you and people who
agree with you behave in a way consistent with your beliefs, you will
contribute to preventing the result that you desire--and that perhaps
such a course of action deserves some label other than "rational".

Warm collectivist fuzzies,
Bert
--
³It is no measure of sanity to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick
society.

--Jiddu Krishnamurti
utabintarbo
2007-04-30 16:03:41 UTC
Permalink
Re: Obama
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/27/AR2007042702
027.html

Interesting.
Matt Barrow
2007-04-30 16:35:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by utabintarbo
Re: Obama
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/27/AR2007042702
027.html
Ummm...word wra
p
Post by utabintarbo
Interesting.
Nuts. Just a bit ago, as Kagan points out, that was "bullying" as defined by
the left.

The more I hear of him, the more I think Obama needs a straight-jacket.
--
Matt Barrow
Performace Homes, LLC.
Colorado Springs, CO
Agent Cooper
2007-04-30 19:07:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by utabintarbo
Re: Obama
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/27/AR2007042702
027.html
Interesting.
Looks interesting, but couldja Snipurl.com it next time?
Andrew Macdonald
2007-05-01 16:37:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bert Clanton
How can I better spend my time on election day than by contributing in
my small way to the result that I desire?
By contributing in a larger/more effective way to the result you desire.
Post by Bert Clanton
Can't you spend your time on
election day in a better fashion than by contributing in your small way
to the defeat of the result that *you* desire?
My basic point, of course, is that to the extent that you and people who
agree with you behave in a way consistent with your beliefs, you will
contribute to preventing the result that you desire--and that perhaps
such a course of action deserves some label other than "rational".
Even accepting your assumption that one of the two results is desired, your
point is stll incorrect - see the opportunity cost point I made earlier. The
choice isn't primarily between voting for X or voting for X's opponent, it's
between voting at all or doing something else.

The value to be gained between voting (and taking into account costs such as
determining who to vote for) or doing something else should be weighed.
Pursuing the greater value is the rational course of action.

Andrew
Bert Clanton
2007-05-01 18:26:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Andrew Macdonald
The value to be gained between voting (and taking into account costs such as
determining who to vote for) or doing something else should be weighed.
Pursuing the greater value is the rational course of action.
And that's exactly what I do. I value the possible enactment of policies
which I believe would benefit my society over the possible amusement I
might get from surfing the 'net, or something else equally trivial.
Hence I vote. And I'd really appreciate your *not* voting, so please act
according to *your* hierarchy of values!!

Warm collectivist fuzzies,
Bert
--
³It is no measure of sanity to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick
society.

--Jiddu Krishnamurti
Andrew Macdonald
2007-05-01 21:11:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Bert Clanton
And that's exactly what I do. I value the possible enactment of policies
which I believe would benefit my society over the possible amusement I
might get from surfing the 'net, or something else equally trivial.
Hence I vote. And I'd really appreciate your *not* voting, so please act
according to *your* hierarchy of values!!
Then it's win-win all around! I'd prefer that you vote rather than actually
*be* implementing collectivist ideals.

Andrew
Mark N
2007-04-29 23:18:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Now let's complicate the situation. For $1000, I can have detailed
campaign biographies which gives me lots of info about the two of the
preceding sort. On the basis of that sort of information, it's rational
for me to vote urban guy. For $1, I can have a photograph and a brief
audio clip, just long enough to catch their accents. I don't have $1000.
I have $1. You know where this is going.
Yes. And at this point, I would say that our differences have been
clarified considerably. The "detailed biography" is a stand-in for
<enough information about the candidates to render "ascribed"
characteristics irrelevant to the project of forming rational
expectations about how the candidates would behave if elected>. The
question is, is it often the case that this information is so difficult
to obtain that doing so would impose unacceptable costs on the voter?
And I guess I just have a harder time imagining how the answer to that
question could be "yes" than you do. (I also have a hard time allowing
that it's proper to vote at all, if it's really true that one has
nothing more to go on than the "photograph" and the "audio clip.")

[...]
Post by Agent Cooper
Anyway, the short version (yay!) was to suggest that a lot of what
appears to be racial preferences are really other sorts of preferences
masquerading as racial preferences. Now where that claim is still prone
to invoke discomfort is the suggestion that these non-racial preferences
are still rooted in racial causal *generalizations*. And yes, that's an
uncomfortable thought. However, even here, my claim all along was that
this was one among many kinds of generalizations which may not be
irrational when other, more precise forms of information are unavailable
or difficult/costly to get. You use what you can. What's pernicious is
allowing those kinds of inferences to dominate reasoning when there are
other, better, sources of information available at reasonable cost.
Cathcart has emphasized in his own inimitable way that the costs of even
bothering to vote at all are excessive. He may be right. It may not make
much sense to waste any effort at all on information gathering.
I liked one point that Chris made (or was it Bugged?) in this regard.
Namely, that if one has the requisite gifts, the time that one spends
voting could perhaps be better spent composing an eloquent and
persuasive short essay that may be read by a few tens or hundreds (or
more, who knows?) of people on Usenet. Or one could spend the time
thinking about, and sharpening one's approach to, political questions,
in preparation for making better, and more persuasive, arguments. Or one
could watch lezbo porn instead of voting. :-)
Post by Agent Cooper
My
suspicion is that an awful lot of stuff we deplore in the political
process, we deplore because of the collective outcome that emerges, but
that if we looked at the actual decision-making process at the
individual level, it's actually completely rational to make snap
judgments based on very limited information of doubtful probativeness.
The problem is not justifying failing to live up to a standard of
scholarly scruple here. The problem is justifying paying attention at all!
Here's an interesting thought: on some level we know all of this, that
individual decisions in the political process are individually rational,
but have collectively unfortunate results. Sounds like a strategic
rationality problem akin to the Prisoner's Dilemma. David Gauthier
suggested that *morality* is the device we use for making collective
decisions optimal when the sum of the individually rational decisions
leads to suboptimal results.
Well, one way to solve (or avoid) the Prisoner's Dilemma is to form a
binding agreement ahead of time, if that's feasible. Hey, maybe someone
can come up with an amendment to the Constitution that would address
this problem and relieve all these rational people of the burden of
having to organize themselves into gangs and engage in warfare with each
other!
Post by Agent Cooper
Perhaps the citizenly duty you and I both
feel to research the issues and candidates and think carefully about
them is individually irrational, but such that it conforms to standards
which, if everyone adopted them, would lead to optimal results. Hmm.
Could be.
I have a confession to make, and it may shock you. I have never voted in
my life! (And I'm old enough to have been eligible to vote in several
national elections.) So obviously I don't think that there is a duty to
vote. But I think that if one does vote, one should do so intelligently
and responsibly.

It seems to me that it's wrong to vote if one has not made oneself at
least reasonably well informed about the issues (and candidates) in
question. I think that I am moderately well informed about political
matters, but if I were contemplating voting in some election, I would
make it my business to become better informed than usual for the
occasion. The idea that someone out there might be casting a vote based
on the candidates' physical appearances or accents, or their supposed
membership in some "ethnic group," is just appalling to me! Oh, wait, I
mentioned that already, didn't I? :-)
Post by Agent Cooper
I've always sensed that something about the Cathcart "It's
crazy to vote at all" thing was wrong, morally wrong. Maybe this
explains why. If so, in a certain sense, you may turn out to be right in
the end after all: we have a moral obligation to set aside individual
rationality in favor of those actions which lead to the most rational
result for the whole (at this point, I hear howls of outrage emanating
from certain corners...) If that's right, it may be morally obligatory
to eschew the use of racial information in decision-making EVEN IF DOING
SO IS INDIVIDUALLY IRRATIONAL. How weird is that?
Does this come down to the idea that it's wrong for a person to try to
get an advantage at the expense of other people's rights, even if he has
reason to think that the others may do the same to him if he doesn't do
it to them first?

Mark
Agent Cooper
2007-04-22 23:42:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
But it's *not* like that at all! If it really were like that, then I
suppose you might have a point. But, your assertions to the contrary
notwithstanding, it really is not very hard to find out things about the
*individuals* who are running for office. Come on, Coop! How many people
lack access to television and newspapers?
"I don't think our troops should be used for what's called nation
building." - George W. Bush, 2000, in newspapers and on television

If you vote for a man, you're likely to get what you voted for. If you
vote for a platform, you're likely to get disappointed. I was.
acar
2007-04-23 03:01:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
If you vote for a man, you're likely to get what you voted for. If you
vote for a platform, you're likely to get disappointed. I was.
Indeed. Democracy (American style) sucks big time. Only it sucks much
less than all the altrnatives.
Mark N
2007-04-24 21:39:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
But it's *not* like that at all! If it really were like that, then I
suppose you might have a point. But, your assertions to the contrary
notwithstanding, it really is not very hard to find out things about
the *individuals* who are running for office. Come on, Coop! How many
people lack access to television and newspapers?
"I don't think our troops should be used for what's called nation
building." - George W. Bush, 2000, in newspapers and on television
If you vote for a man, you're likely to get what you voted for. If you
vote for a platform, you're likely to get disappointed. I was.
Does this somehow lend support to the idea that it's rational to judge a
person based on what tribe he belongs to?

Mark


x
x
Agent Cooper
2007-04-24 23:15:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
Post by Agent Cooper
If you vote for a man, you're likely to get what you voted for. If you
vote for a platform, you're likely to get disappointed. I was.
Does this somehow lend support to the idea that it's rational to judge a
person based on what tribe he belongs to?
Indirectly, it may. Any information that is relevant to forming a
psychological model of them may be helpful. I knew that Bush's Texanness
was relevant to his views (which I share) on Hispanic immigration: I'm
for it, but it doesn't surprise me that a guy from Texas who speaks a
fair amount of Spanish and has had to court the Hispanic vote there will
have moderate and sensible views on it as well. I'd feel much less
comfortable with a Coloradan. ;)
Mark N
2007-04-27 21:28:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by Mark N
Post by Agent Cooper
If you vote for a man, you're likely to get what you voted for. If
you vote for a platform, you're likely to get disappointed. I was.
Does this somehow lend support to the idea that it's rational to judge
a person based on what tribe he belongs to?
Indirectly, it may. Any information that is relevant to forming a
psychological model of them may be helpful. I knew that Bush's Texanness
was relevant to his views (which I share) on Hispanic immigration: I'm
for it, but it doesn't surprise me that a guy from Texas who speaks a
fair amount of Spanish and has had to court the Hispanic vote there will
have moderate and sensible views on it as well. I'd feel much less
comfortable with a Coloradan. ;)
Incidentally, do you have any thoughts on Gov. Richardson's admission
that he had been slow to criticize the Attorney General "because he's
Hispanic"?

Mark


x
x
Agent Cooper
2007-04-28 01:04:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
Incidentally, do you have any thoughts on Gov. Richardson's admission
that he had been slow to criticize the Attorney General "because he's
Hispanic"?
It doesn't fit any of the models that I was suggesting in the thread.
Certainly he has no trouble getting information here. Sounds like not
wanting to reduce the capacities of a team member, which suggests that
he regard the team as La Raza and not the Democratic Party. If it is a
brute fact that Hispanics have helped Richardson because he's Hispanic,
it might be prudential to that extent. But it sounds indefensible on the
face of it, because presumably Richardson gets far more help from fellow
Democrats, or at least from Hispanic Democrats, and that whatever
Hispanic boost effect he might hope to get would be way overbalanced by
the partisan adversary effect. The only other rational possibility I can
think of is that he might fear retaliation from Hispanic voters for
criticizing a fellow Hispanic. But my gut tells me that it was his gut
that spoke, not rational considerations. I've never denied that that
happens or that it's generally a bad sort of thing when it does if it
trumps other important moral or political considerations. If Gonzales
*did* act inappropriately (which is far from clear) Richardson has an
obligation to take a stand against it, La Raza or no.
acar
2007-05-01 06:59:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Sounds like not
wanting to reduce the capacities of a team member, which suggests that
he regard the team as La Raza and not the Democratic Party.
Here's a bit of rocket science for you: members of minorities do feel
a certain kinship. And another: Honesty may well be punished when
hypocrysy is par for the situation. Hey, look at me - I'm defending
Richardson! I must be a terrible guy. First I said that a black guy
will attract the black vote and then I said that a Jew will attract
the Jewish vote; and now I'm saying that a latino should be praised
and trusted when he declines to indulge in the usual hypocrisy. Sorry.
Mark N
2007-05-01 22:42:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
Post by Agent Cooper
Sounds like not
wanting to reduce the capacities of a team member, which suggests that
he regard the team as La Raza and not the Democratic Party.
Here's a bit of rocket science for you: members of minorities do feel
a certain kinship.
OK, let's assume that that's so. The question then arises, is this
feeling of "kinship" a good thing or a bad thing? And if it's a good
thing, is it only good for members of "minorities"? What would you think
of a white person who told you that he felt a special "kinship" with
other white people, and was willing to cut white people a little extra
slack, or would be more inclined to give white people the benefit of the
doubt if their integrity were questioned? Would that be a good thing, in
your view? Or even an acceptable thing?
Post by acar
And another: Honesty may well be punished when
hypocrysy is par for the situation. Hey, look at me - I'm defending
Richardson! I must be a terrible guy.
If you are defending his honesty, I don't think that's terrible at all.
But if you are defending the "tribal instinct" that he so candidly
admitted to, then I have a problem with that. I won't go so far as to
call you a "terrible guy." But I do think that you should take a hard
look at the thing that you refer to as "kinship," and seem to approve
of, or at least, seem not to disapprove of. I think that you should
disapprove of it. It's a bad thing. I don't see any upside to such group
identification emotions. And I see a lot of downside to it. (Just open
any newspaper to see the downside.)
Post by acar
First I said that a black guy
will attract the black vote and then I said that a Jew will attract
the Jewish vote;
But why *should* that be the case? Why *should* a black candidate be
able to "attract the black vote"? *Why*?? I gather you don't buy
Cooper's "rational voter" theory? It's just straight-up tribalism, as
far as you are concerned? And that doesn't bother you at all? Are you
really happy with the idea that the world is filled with people who see
themselves as members of various groups, based on things like "race" and
"ethnicity"??
Post by acar
and now I'm saying that a latino should be praised
and trusted when he declines to indulge in the usual hypocrisy. Sorry.
Again, I have no problem with your praising Richardson's honesty.

Mark
acar
2007-05-02 03:53:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
Post by acar
Post by Agent Cooper
Sounds like not
wanting to reduce the capacities of a team member, which suggests that
he regard the team as La Raza and not the Democratic Party.
Here's a bit of rocket science for you: members of minorities do feel
a certain kinship.
OK, let's assume that that's so.
Assuming an obvious fact is a good start.
Post by Mark N
The question then arises, is this
feeling of "kinship" a good thing or a bad thing?
Are you related to Ayn Rand? :-). She ruined her magnificent
deontological dictum in reference to man (...as he should be) with a
characteristically unrealistic counter- inductive addedndum; "... and
can be". I have a correction to make - no, he can't. For Cripes sake,
are we going to argue about that? This planet is called Earth.
Pretending to be an extraterrestrial will get you nowhere.

Here is a piece of news: Life is not as it should be. Human beings are
not as they should be. There is a significant amount of 'bad' in all
of us. Forgive me for including you, whom I don't hardly know, but I
know that you are a human being, and even though you profess to be
shocked by reality, it's a sure bet that you don't always do what you
should. (We all try, I know).
Post by Mark N
And if it's a good
thing, is it only good for members of "minorities"? What would you think
of a white person who told you that he felt a special "kinship" with
other white people, and was willing to cut white people a little extra
slack, or would be more inclined to give white people the benefit of the
doubt if their integrity were questioned? Would that be a good thing, in
your view? Or even an acceptable thing?
To begin whites as an ethnic entity are not a minority in our society
but there are many minorities in our society that are or include
whites (Jews for example). Next, there is indeed a sense of kinship
among Caucasians. To what extent that sense of kinship manifests as
bigotry is a separate question. (And we know that all too often it
does.)

Perhaps you expect special kudos for having an African American wife
(Do you? And if not, are you one of the "kinship" bums?)
Post by Mark N
Post by acar
And another: Honesty may well be punished when
hypocrysy is par for the situation. Hey, look at me - I'm defending
Richardson! I must be a terrible guy.
If you are defending his honesty, I don't think that's terrible at all.
But if you are defending the "tribal instinct" that he so candidly
admitted to, then I have a problem with that.
I don't plan to vote for Richardson, but when he was attacked for
feeling "kinship" I did feel a slight kinship with him myself, being
as I am a Puerto Rican. My reply was not motivated by my desire to
defend his candidness, even though I think it's praiseworthy, but it
was a knee-jerk rection of disgust at an attack on a latino because he
said that he was a little slow to jump on another latino friend,
especially when there were conficting caims about his conduct.
(Gonzalez is a Bush shill and as such a hack, of course).. Personally
I feel no significant kinship with Gonzalez and none with Hugo Chavez
or Fidel Castro, but I feel a little kinship with Richardson. Not
enough to vote for him, though. :-)
Post by Mark N
I won't go so far as to
call you a "terrible guy."
Please don't go that far. Stop a little short, at least.
Post by Mark N
But I do think that you should take a hard
look at the thing that you refer to as "kinship," and seem to approve
of, or at least, seem not to disapprove of. I think that you should
disapprove of it. It's a bad thing. I don't see any upside to such group
identification emotions. And I see a lot of downside to it. (Just open
any newspaper to see the downside.)
Your advice is honest and well meaning but misguided. Tribal kinship
is a constitutional form of empathy. It is a dimension of our social
constitution. We need to manage it but there is no dividend in falling
into denial about our humanity.

You are saying that allowing race to determine who we vote for is a
bad thing. Of course. The Sun rises on the East. I'm saying that a
huge number of people do just that. On the East, you hear me?
Not rocket science. Can you spell human, imperfect, etc.? And people
that want to win elections must take simple known facts into account.
Post by Mark N
Post by acar
First I said that a black guy
will attract the black vote and then I said that a Jew will attract
the Jewish vote;
But why *should* that be the case? Why *should* a black candidate be
able to "attract the black vote"? *Why*?? I gather you don't buy
Cooper's "rational voter" theory? It's just straight-up tribalism, as
far as you are concerned? And that doesn't bother you at all? Are you
really happy with the idea that the world is filled with people who see
themselves as members of various groups, based on things like "race" and
"ethnicity"??
To tell you the truth I'm not happy with the world as it is. Did
Cooper say that all voters are rational? No, he didn't.
Post by Mark N
Post by acar
and now I'm saying that a latino should be praised
and trusted when he declines to indulge in the usual hypocrisy. Sorry.
Again, I have no problem with your praising Richardson's honesty.
Thanks, but I was saying that YOU should (my turn to say - should)be
praising his honesty in view of the fact that he was saying: "Hey look
at me. I'm just like Rand and Mark N. I'm not 100% objective. I do not
always jump on my friends as soon as they stumble. But if I should, I
will, and I am doing so now."
Agent Cooper
2007-05-02 11:15:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
To tell you the truth I'm not happy with the world as it is. Did
Cooper say that all voters are rational? No, he didn't.
Not that it matters, but my heart condition forbids me to participate
further in topics of this sort. Really.
acar
2007-05-02 16:29:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by acar
To tell you the truth I'm not happy with the world as it is. Did
Coopersay that all voters are rational? No, he didn't.
Not that it matters, but my heart condition forbids me to participate
further in topics of this sort. Really.
Of course it matters. Get better.
.
.
.
Mark N
2007-05-03 23:56:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by Agent Cooper
Post by acar
To tell you the truth I'm not happy with the world as it is. Did
Cooper say that all voters are rational? No, he didn't.
Not that it matters, but my heart condition forbids me to participate
further in topics of this sort. Really.
That sounds kind of ominous. Should we be worried?

Mark
Mark N
2007-05-03 23:51:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
Post by Mark N
Post by acar
Here's a bit of rocket science for you: members of minorities do feel
a certain kinship.
OK, let's assume that that's so.
Assuming an obvious fact is a good start.
Is the sarcasm really necessary?
Post by acar
Post by Mark N
The question then arises, is this
feeling of "kinship" a good thing or a bad thing?
Are you related to Ayn Rand? :-).
Why do you ask? Do you think that there is something specifically
"Randian" about my question? Do you consider my question uninteresting
or inappropriate for some reason? (It seems to me that it's a pretty
natural question to ask!)
Post by acar
She ruined her magnificent
deontological dictum in reference to man (...as he should be) with a
characteristically unrealistic counter- inductive addedndum; "... and
can be". I have a correction to make - no, he can't. For Cripes sake,
are we going to argue about that?
What is it that you think man can't do? Refrain from tribal thinking? Do
you think that doing so would constitute some kind of superhuman feat?
If so, you're wrong. Tribal thinking is just a stupid (and toxic) habit
that many people thoughtlessly fall into. It's not very hard to kick the
habit. You just realize that it's stupid, and you're done with it! Easy
peasy! :-)
Post by acar
This planet is called Earth.
Pretending to be an extraterrestrial will get you nowhere.
Whatever that means. :-\

[...]
Post by acar
I don't plan to vote for Richardson, but when he was attacked for
feeling "kinship" I did feel a slight kinship with him myself, being
as I am a Puerto Rican. My reply was not motivated by my desire to
defend his candidness, even though I think it's praiseworthy, but it
was a knee-jerk rection of disgust at an attack on a latino [...]
Well, there you go. Recognizing that it's just a thoughtless reaction is
the first step toward getting cured of it. But if you then go on to say,
"But after all, it's an inevitable aspect of being human, so I guess I
should just accept it," you will have taken two steps back! So don't say
that! Move forward, friend, into the light of rationality! :-)

[...]
Post by acar
Your advice is honest and well meaning but misguided. Tribal kinship
is a constitutional form of empathy. It is a dimension of our social
constitution. We need to manage it but there is no dividend in falling
into denial about our humanity.
I'm not sure what you're saying here. Are you trying to argue that
feelings of "tribal kinship" are good in some sense? Or that they're
inevitable? (In either case, I would strongly disagree.)
Post by acar
You are saying that allowing race to determine who we vote for is a
bad thing. Of course. [...]
Thank you! I actually wasn't sure where you stood on that question! So I
guess our differences come down to the question of the "inevitability"
of such behavior (and the kind of thinking that underlies it), and the
question of whether or not it's appropriate to point out that it's bad.
For those who may be keeping score, *my* answers are (i) No, it's not
inevitable, and (ii) Yes, it is appropriate to point out that it's bad.

[...]
Post by acar
Post by Mark N
Again, I have no problem with your praising Richardson's honesty.
Thanks, but I was saying that YOU should (my turn to say - should)be
praising his honesty [...]
Um, OK. I hereby join Acar in praising Gov. Richardson for his honesty!
I declare that his honesty is a good thing! I would have said it before,
if I had known it was so important to you! :-)

Mark
acar
2007-05-04 06:52:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark N
For those who may be keeping score, *my* answers are (i) No, it's not
inevitable,
Then you buy the claim that man is not a social animal but a rational
being INSTEAD. (They say 'rational animal' but I'm helping iron out
the contradiction.) You don't like to be with your friends. You do not
belong to clubs or organizations. You don't play team sports. You
relate to Mamibians as you relate to Americans. You have no tribal
feelings whatsoever. Xcuse me!
Mark N
2007-05-05 18:20:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
Post by Mark N
For those who may be keeping score, *my* answers are (i) No, it's not
inevitable,
Then you buy the claim that man is not a social animal but a rational
being INSTEAD. (They say 'rational animal' but I'm helping iron out
the contradiction.) You don't like to be with your friends. You do not
belong to clubs or organizations. You don't play team sports. You
relate to Mamibians as you relate to Americans. You have no tribal
feelings whatsoever. Xcuse me!
Sigh. I see that your hard outer shell is still intact. I give up. :-(

Mark

Agent Cooper
2007-04-20 01:43:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
You are right - both are Democrats. But wait, one is white and one is
black. In 2004 Lieberman delivered the Jewish vote in Florida (alas
they voted for Buchanan). If Obama delivers the black vote the South
may be cracked. Yes Hillary gets the black vote anyway, but Obama can
bring more to register and actually show up at the polls.
Unlikely. If anything, he seems to annoy African-Americans. He's "that
guy from Hawaii who went to Harvard." I think there's a gain there, but
not from ethnic voting. I think the gain is that people like Obama and
can't stand Hillary, and so he improves the ticket, period.
Post by acar
Post by TommCatt
Post by acar
Plus the fact that as Vice-predident he is not likely to get
assasinated, a fear that kept Powell out of the Republican ticket. And
what a shame that was.
Powell, a career soldier, scared away from the Presidency because of
fear of being assassinated? That claim just calls out for supporting facts.
I have read that it was not his own concerns (about that and other
inconveniences of office and its pursuit) but his consideration for his
wife's concerns that kept him out of campaigning.
Reggie Perrin
2007-05-02 09:43:01 UTC
Permalink
Post by acar
Post by Reggie Perrin
Post by acar
[...]
Obama is smart
enough and intelligent enough to know that he is not going to get
the Democratic presidential nomination.
I wouldn't be so sure. In fact, I have money on him doing so.
I hope that it's not very much. You're going to lose it.
Obama ahead in the polls for the first time:

http://snipurl.com/1j251

x
x
x
x
x
x
acar
2007-05-02 16:17:38 UTC
Permalink
Post by Reggie Perrin
http://snipurl.com/1j251
Even more impressive than I expected! His nomination for vice-
president is now insured regardless of who gets the presidential
nomination. (I would not be surprised if even he is starting to think
like you. Not me.)
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