Why I’m Not a Cosmo-Globalist and other Musings of a Politically Homeless Philosopher

by Daniel A. Kaufman

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Extensive reading and numerous discussions about the recent UK election and its significance for the United States, as well as an argument with my friend and colleague, Massimo Pigliucci, on Twitter has forced me to confront the fact that I am more politically homeless than I have ever been. (1) As the end of the decade rapidly approaches, it seems like a good time to take political stock.  Be warned, however, that what follows is simply a sketch of my views and some of the reasons for them, the main purpose of which is to demonstrate how out of touch I am, not just with our current political parties, but with the majority of those who belong to my socio-economic and professional classes. It is not my intention, here, to make any kind of substantial case for my views, which, in any event, likely would be futile in today’s noxious political climate.

(A) I’m socially liberal, but don’t think that socially conservative people are evil or should be “canceled.”

I’m for legal abortion. I’m pro-gay (and pro-gay marriage). I think (adult) people should be allowed to have sex change operations, take cross-sex hormones, or do whatever else they like sex- and gender-wise, so long as they don’t harm anyone or diminish anyone else’s rights or prerogatives. I’m pro-marijuana legalization.  You get the drift.  At the same time, I don’t think that people who oppose some number or even all of these things are by default evil or that their views are beyond the pale or that they should be driven from their jobs or from the public square. I would oppose them at the ballot box and in public discourse, but I also would fight strongly for their right to access both, and I think it is important that they are a part of our civic life. Alas, disconcertingly, I increasingly find myself having to defend such people from those on my own side of these issues, who lately have been quite eager to look down upon, sneer at, malign, and even “cancel” them in myriad and often devastating ways.

(B) I like cities. I dislike cosmopolitanism.

I grew up in a suburban neighborhood on Long Island’s North Shore and lived for a decade in Manhattan.  I am a lover of fine art, classical music, theater, and fine dining. Living as I do now in the sticks of Missouri, I spend silly sums of money to have the bounties of New York urban life shipped to me.

I really dislike cosmopolitanism and its various manifestations, though. I dislike its celebration of rootlessness; its tendency to treat traditional cultural institutions and artifacts as floating signifiers to be endlessly remixed and re-purposed; its fundamental lack of loyalty to people and place, and its far too prevalent contempt for those to whom such fidelity is a core value (often rural or blue collar people). The cosmopolitan is a “citizen of the world,” which means that he isn’t a citizen at all, as citizenship is always in relation to a polity and never to landmasses, oceans, or other geological entities. (3) And though I am very much a humanist in the early-modern sense of the word, I do not think that our relationship to all of humanity is sufficient to sustain and nurture our need for connection, belonging, and shared purpose that begins with family and friends and reaches its farthest limit, I would argue, with our compatriots.

(C) I like countries. I dislike globalization.

One of the things that came out in my argument with Massimo is that he is a globalist, and I am not.  Indeed, in response to my saying that the nation-state is the largest viable political unit, he wrote: “I’ll toast the first world government with you when it will be inaugurated. Drinks on me, since you’ll be miserable. 😉” It was something I had not really thought through in all of its different dimensions before, so I am grateful to Massimo for putting the matter in such stark terms.

Besides being (in my view) the largest viable political units, countries are wonderful for being distinct and distinctive; in some cases embodying the culture and spirit of a people, in others that of some number of peoples, united under a common set of ideas or a shared history. The nations of the world are a remarkable expression of human diversity, at the largest scale at which it seems possible to embody it. Whether in terms of language, architecture, dress, cuisine, customs, or manners, to travel from one nation to another is to confront the many and magnificent forms of human life.

I find it strange, then, that the biggest champions of diversity tend also to be those most in favor of globalization. Rather than the distinct and distinctive places, peoples, cultures, cuisines and so forth, which enrich and benefit us in so many ways, the ultimate and inevitable result of globalization is a generic, global fusionism in which the sum is far less than its parts, because the economically and technologically most advanced countries dominate and color the whole. As one who has been traveling abroad since the early 1970’s, I can testify that precisely this sort of homogenization is settling upon what were once far more dissimilar (and consequently, far more interesting) places and which, with every day that passes, seem more and more the same, architecturally, culinarily, and in innumerable other ways. (For a startling impression of this ongoing, terrible development, check out  Miroslav Sasek’s “This is…”series, which I read as a young child, and compare its depictions of some of the world’s great cities with your experience of them today.)

There also is the economic cost, the consequences of which are and will continue to be catastrophic.  When globalization is combined with (largely unbridled) capitalism, the result is capital chasing labor to its cheapest sources, the result of which has been the de-industrialization of entire regions in many countries (the American Rust Belt, the English Midlands and North, etc.) and the endgame of which is the de-industrialization not of regions but of each and every country as a whole, as the cheapest labor will be that performed by machines. The social and political anger and unrest that this will cause will make the current stirrings of populism look like fun and games and figures such as Donald Trump like Mr. Rogers. People need to be able to work (which is why a “UBI” is little more than a farcical effort at a solution), and it will never be the case that all or even a majority of them will be suited to doing so in information-heavy or super-highly-skilled fields that require advanced education and can be done wherever one is.

(D) I like our Electoral College.

The histrionics engaged in by American progressives in the wake of the 2016 presidential election and comparable meltdowns and tantrums on the part of their compatriots in the UK in the wake of the recent election (in which the Conservative party ate the Labour party’s proverbial lunch) have done nothing but reaffirm my longstanding belief in the wisdom of our electoral system. For one thing, it prevents us from being ruled entirely from the handful of high population-density, major metro-areas in which these people tend to be clustered in large quantities and where cosmopolitan attitudes of the sort I described above prevail. (3) For another, it insures that the social, political, and cultural diversity of our very large and populous country is reflected in national government, insofar as that diversity is increasingly distributed geographically, something that Crisipin Sartwell and I discussed in depth over the course of our dialogue on geography and political representation at BloggingHeads. It also, of course, is a crucial component of a Federalist system like ours, of which I am an admirer. (4)

(E) I’m anti-concealed/open carry.

I’ve written and spoken about this at length before, so I won’t go through all the rationales again. Readers can consult what I’ve already said on the subject.  Suffice it to say, here, I do not believe that ordinary citizens – i.e. not police or licensed, private security guards – walking down our streets, shopping in our stores, or hanging out in our parks while carrying firearms, concealed or not, is consistent with the Social Contract.  Ditto for the possession of weapons designed for modern warfare, which make it possible for a person to kill scores upon scores of people in just a few minutes, even from a great distance.

(F) I am for maximally free speech.

I’ve written and spoken about this at even greater length than I have the subject of gun control, so I’ll just say that I am extremely disheartened by the abandonment of time-worn, proven liberal principles concerning free speech on both the contemporary Left and the contemporary Right. (5) It seems to me that we collectively have become disinclined to engage in politics anymore, which requires maturity, self-control, and sometimes even self-effacement, opting instead for a kind of know-it-all-fueled clique-wars that ordinarily are the province of obnoxious, self-important teenagers.

(G) I care more about my relationships than politics.

The subjects around which the most contentious political disputes revolve are extraordinarily complex and the views one takes are heavily dependent not just upon “the facts” involved but on the values one brings to the table, which themselves are contestable and contentious. Even more so than in philosophy itself, rarely if ever is there a demonstrably “correct” view on such matters and regardless, in a democracy — in which we all should be so lucky to live — one’s views may not prevail on this occasion or, perhaps, ever. It is not just inadvisable, then, but flat-out stupid to hold one’s relationships hostage to political agreement, and our increasing and lamentable inability to recognize this is just a further testament to the collective juvenility that seems to have descended upon us, like some horrible, disfiguring fog.

Notes

(1)  https://twitter.com/mpigliucci/status/1205485408131391488

https://twitter.com/mpigliucci/status/1205608177942839297

(2) https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-global-citizen/2013/12/06/2924cae6-5d0a-11e3-bc56-c6ca94801fac_story.html

(3) In our exchange, when I put this point to Massimo, he said that the US should be ruled from the major metro areas, as that is where the population is.  When I pointed out that the US has a Federal system – that the country is not a collection of individuals, but a confederation of states – he characterized this as “a blunder that needs to be corrected.”

https://twitter.com/ElectricAgora/status/1206224836399443970

(4) https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/11/15/in-defense-of-the-electoral-college/

(5) https://theelectricagora.com/2018/03/10/the-liberal-consensus-and-the-orthodox-mind/

https://theelectricagora.com/2019/12/06/the-good-old-liberal-consensus%e2%80%a0/

https://theelectricagora.com/2017/01/21/classical-liberalism-part-one/

https://theelectricagora.com/2017/01/25/classical-liberalism-part-two/

https://theelectricagora.com/2017/01/14/liberalism-implicit-bias-and-thoughtcrime-on-the-subject-of-the-i-a-t/

https://theelectricagora.com/2018/06/26/provocations-13/

76 Comments »

  1. I wonder if the attitude towards the Electoral College carries over to direct election of senators and the advisability or constitutional status of Reynolds v. Sims.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anyone over age 21 who doesn’t have a screw or more loose cares more about their relationships than about politics. That’s just plain good sense.

    And those under 21 who care more about politics than about relationships do so because they are dependent on their parents, a relationship which they often pretend not to notice.

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      • The next time I’m in the hospital AOC isn’t going to bring me dental floss and a book to read. And if I call her because I’m feeling depressed, she’s not likely to return the call.

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        • This is a great attitude as long as one has a secure job with great benefits (or is independently wealthy). E.g. if one lives in one of the 14 states that hasn’t expanded MedicAid or one of the states with excessive restrictions, not so much. Democracy presumes that folks will assign politics a high priority. Since most of us can walk and chew gum, most of us can handle politics and relationships without invoking straw men.

          Liked by 2 people

          • First of all, I don’t live in the U.S.

            Dan has pointed out and my experience confirms that many people do not handle relationships and politics well, that they reject or keep a distance from family members and old friends because of political differences and that they often end up alone because when the chips are down, it’s your family and your old friends, the ones with whom you share more than just political values, who back you up, who, to use my metaphorical example, visit you in the hospital and bring you a book to read.

            Now if you personally have managed to successfully balance relationships and politics, my congratulations.

            I myself more and more have learned to be very diplomatic with friends members and old friends, to avoid political arguments with them, especially with those of them who take their politics very seriously, because in the end family and old friends are the people who count for me. I’ve also learned to take my politics a little less seriously, because it’s just not the most important thing in my life.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Not living in the US you likely miss my point. In order to be visited in the hospital one must first be admitted to a hospital and in the US that (beyond being stabilized, N.B. “stabilized” not “treated”) is not guaranteed in the U.S. Absent the ACA (Obamacare), MedicAid, Medicare, or employer provided insurance (vast wealth would also work) admittance and treatment isn’t guaranteed.

            A couple of decades ago I stopped in a remote town in Utah to shop. At the grocery was a table with some young girls having a bake sale for a family that had a problematic premature birth. Great gesture and that the community was stepping up but you aren’t going to cover a lengthy stay in a NICU with a bake sale. In a society that is both good and wealthy no one should die or go bankrupt over financial and health issues.

            There are people close to me that I simply don’t discuss politics with but comparing present trends with even a passing knowledge of history easily justifies a hair-on-fire attitude. You’re in another country so your mileage may vary but unless you are in New Zealand global warming is going to bite you or yours.

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          • I live in Chile where someone without ability to pay would be treated free in a public hospital. They’d have to wait longer to see a doctor than someone in a private hospital or clinic (where you or your insurance pays), but their doctor would be equally competent.

            What do I think of a society where people without money do not receive hospital treatment, you probably ask.

            I believe that everyone has a right to decent healthcare independent of their ability to pay. No one who I know either in Chile or the U.S. would doubt that, although they might disagree on whether the best way to put that into effect is a subsidy on the demand, vouchers for example, or on the supply side (a public health service). I myself have no idea what would be the best way to put that into effect, and I suspect that most people, even those who vehemently defend one option or another, have no idea either. We all know that many times what looks good in books does not work out well in practice. Given that I really don’t know the best way to assure healthcare for all, I avoid arguing on the subject, even more so because as I said above, I suspect that most people have no more idea than I do how to assure healthcare for all.

            That’s true of so many political issues. People become passionate about one or another option without knowing much about the subject, and even the so-called experts are often wrong. In general, I defend human rights, including the right to healthcare: that is, my values are more or less defined, but as to specific policies I tend to increasing skepticism.

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  3. On the Electoral College, you can tell us what deviation from “one person, one vote” you prefer – is two-fold acceptable, or would you like it higher? The majority of states allocate according to the within-state partisan vote – should they be stopped? And how much within-state gerrymandering do you like, affecting state governments and the House of Representatives?:
    “In numerous states…the Democrats need to win almost 60% of the vote to have a 50:50 chance of having a majority of the state’s delegation to the House…” [McGann et al Gerrymandering in America: The House of Representatives, the Supreme Court and the future of popular sovereignty]. I understand this is the more serious manipulation that has been carried out by the Republicans since 2008.

    As to cosmopolitanism, “It is not befitting to the philosopher to worship at one temple only, either in his own town or of his native land, but he must be a minister of the whole world in common” [Proclus].

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not sure I understand the question. If you are interested — and if it helps clarify — I think it was a mistake to go to the direct election of Senators.

      I don’t know if you saw the dialogue I did with Sartwell that I reference in the piece, but there is quite a bit of detail there on why I think it so important that the regions of the country be represented in national elections. Massimo would like the entire country to be run by the people in NY and LA County. I think that would be a disaster.

      Finally, as per your last paragraph, I disagree. I worship at plenty of temples. I just don’t buy into “global citizen” nonsense.

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  4. “… I can testify that precisely this sort of homogenization is settling upon what were once far more dissimilar (and consequently, far more interesting) places and which, with every day that passes, seem more and more the same, architecturally, culinarily, and in innumerable other ways.”

    The forces at work here are mainly technological and economic but political forces also play a role. It’s all too easy to dismiss concerns such as you express here as unimportant, as *merely* aesthetic. As you say, these various cultural elements express “the many and magnificent forms of human life.”

    You mention Miroslav Sasek’s books. Movies tell the same story, of course, at least those shot on location.

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    • It’s a damned tragedy is what it is. I can remember when London really felt like an entirely different place, Tel Aviv even more so. Now, if you fly from New York to London to Tel Aviv, you might never have left New York, but simply gone to a different borough. It’s horrible.

      There is something so elitist, so disconnected, so futurist (not in a good way) about those who celebrate this sort of thing that I can’t figure out how they’ve managed to con everyone into thinking it’s a product of “progressivism.” And I wonder how many times they are going to have to get their heads kicked in at election time to figure it out. Massimo is over on Twitter telling me that the only reason the Democrats don’t win every election in the US is because of voter suppression and turnout. That’s how deep the self-delusion goes.

      We disagree about a lot of things, Mark, but these are the sorts of things on which we connect very deeply, which is why I always resonate very strongly with your period and setting pieces. They remind me of a world when there was far more diversity of the best kind.

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  5. “I care more about my relationships than politics.”

    Have you encountered any of Robert Talisse’s stuff on “overdoing democracy?” He gives different reasons for a similar conclusion. I’d be interested in hearing what you think.

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  6. I have some thoughts on your views as stated above:

    1. Social liberalism vs. conservatism: To be honest, I consider the terms ‘liberal,’ ‘conservative,’ ‘left-wing,’ and ‘right-wing’ outdated. The number of different usages of ‘liberal’ has multiplied, with the two most prominent today being ‘classical liberalism’ (libertarianism; “liberals” who prioritize liberty) and progressive liberalism (associated with leftism, “liberals” who prioritize equality, whatever that means). Conservatism is always dependent on what things the conservative is trying to preserve or revive. Thus, an American conservative wouldn’t support the reviving and/or preserving monarchy and the nobility and their inherited titles, whereas a European conservative would do so. Likewise, a Christian American conservative wouldn’t support reviving and/or preserving many of the things that a Vedic Indian conservative would support preserving and/or reviving. Regarding ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing,’ I find the one-dimensional left-right political spectrum inadequate for today despite the appeal of its simplicity. Libertarianism anarcho-capitalism cannot be adequately placed anywhere on the spectrum. Contrary to popular beliefs, fascism contains both the elements commonly associated with being right-wing and those commonly associated with being left-wing (you can see the Wikipedia article ‘Fascism and ideologies’ for more information about this).

    2, 3. Cosmopolitanism and globalization: I am not sure what sort of a cosmopolitan Prof. Pigluicci is, but I am a moral cosmopolitan. This view is a direct consequence of my preference utilitarianism with diminishing marginal utility. My moral belief is itself a result of consulting my moral intuitions and seeking the most parsimonious explanation for why an act is immoral or moral. I have also made sure that it is consistent, that is, no “exceptions” go unexplained and no special pleading. In this theory, beings with moral status extend at least to most vertebrate animals. That said, I don’t have contempt toward those who are proud of certain shared characteristic(s) (some of these are called ‘culture’) and identify with them, as long as those people don’t demand loyalty from those with that characteristic but decide to not prioritize others with that characteristics within moral consideration as if a person is bounded by blood, the family in which he/she grew up, the location in which he/she lives, his/her skin color, the sovereign state in which he/she is a citizen, etc. It is important to remember that these loyalty and these demands for loyalty were and still are the basis for conquests for resources, inheritance of private properties, compensation, reparation, restoration, repatriation, nobility/peerage, collective blaming (collective moral responsibility), the concept of ancestral/original sins, demands for self-determination and for supporting secessionism/separatism, charges of cultural appropriation, irredentism, charges of category traitor (race traitor, sex traitor, etc.), the concept of false consciousness, charges of self-hatred (‘self-hating Jews,’ ‘self-hating blacks,’ ‘self-hating whites,’ ‘self-hating women,’ etc.), demands for linguistic preservation, and other instances of not giving a damn about outgroups and about dissenting group members.

    As for me, I don’t have any attachment towards any of my immutable (or nearly immutable) characteristics (such as ethnicity (Thai/Chinese), national origin (Thailand), current sub-national residence (city of San Diego, SD county, SoCal, California), current sovereign state of residence (U.S.), and first language (Thai)), and I don’t feel morally obligated to do so (and my moral theory prohibits it).

    As for cultural diversity, I do not regard a world where each token of a diverse category is concentrated in one location (ex: Japanese cuisine only existing in Japan, and no sushi restaurants existing in the U.S.) as being any more diverse than a world in which the tokens are not concentrated in one location. The cuisines are diverse all the same and as long as we all know and remember the cultural origin(s) of each token the cuisine the world would remain diverse. A truly non-diverse, dull world would be where every person always speaks the same language, always eats a cuisine originating from a single cultural origin, always listen to the same genre of music, always wear the same fashion of clothing, always watch the same genre of film and televisions, always favor the same style of painting, etc. It doesn’t seem to me that the world is heading in this direction. For example, successively new genres of music have failed to cause people to favor it above all other genres that have come before each of them such that no one choose to listen to past genres any more. There are today still listeners of European classical music (despite the arrival of jazz, pop and rock), of opera (despite the arrival of musicals), music without lyrics (classical and soundtracks), of Baroque music, of Gregorian chant, and of folk music. Throughout history, there had also been many art revival movements (neo-classicism, Gothic-revival, Romanesque-revival) despite the arrival of newer styles and adoption of foreign styles. Thai cuisine remains popular despite Thailand being merely a developing country. People still want to taste something different even when that difference is already accessible via a fast-food restaurant at a nearby mall. But how much is the diversity valuable to those who cannot afford to travel long-distance in order to access the differences that are far away? They would be stuck with hearing words of mouths, searching online photos, watching online videos, etc of those faraway differences.

    About a world government: Yes, I do favor a world government or something resembling it that rescues the state of the world order from being an anarchy (international agreement between states with varying amount of bargaining power leading to a lot of backstabbing) as it is today. It would be ideal, but my primary concern is with lowering, via advocating state mergers, the number of sovereign states in the world to fewer that the current number today. I am deeply concerned with people being trapped within the country in which they were born (birth lottery and no easy way to exit) (Antarctica is hostile to human life), and national borders being the impediment to free trade. For example, if United States is completely open to international trade but has a national border, American workers cannot easily move to a place (such as China and Taiwan) where jobs are more available merely because American companies decide to produce there, causing unemployment when companies producing in the U.S. cannot compete because of higher production cost in the U.S. If, however, the U.S. imposes tariffs on imports or force American companies to produce solely in the U.S., American jobs would be saved but the prices of many products would hike because of higher production costs leading to fewer available produced supplies and less competition within the market because of tariffs imposed on products of foreign companies. Neither option is pareto-optimal. Simply, put, the benefits of capitalism are not being maximized because of national borders preventing free movement of job-seekers and workers.

    4. Electoral college: Beyond my question of why the justification of having a non-democratic electoral college only applies to the presidency and not other political offices, there is my support for introducing epistocracy into the current government based on the same concerns of Prof. Jason Brennan.

    5. Gun laws: Can’t we retain handguns before we have a more effective and fast way of dealing with vehicular terrorist attacks like the one that happened at Nice, France?

    6. Free speech: I favor time, place, and manner restrictions as dictated by the resulting net utility. You wouldn’t favor legalizing loud, nighttime speech near houses, wouldn’t you? Also, I oppose campus speech outside of lecture rooms, whether they were for advocating any causes whatsoever (left-wing or right-wing). Beside the counterproductiveness of spoken debates (no fact-checking, debaters talking over each other, etc.), I don’t want to be lectured outside the classrooms. Between classes and after classes, I want to simply relax and socialize.

    7. Politics and relationships: Agreed, that is why clubs and forums not about politics should ban any political discussions with them, and group members should not expect other members to share more characteristics than those that the club is founded on. For example, a chess club member shouldn’t expect other members to share any characteristics other than the interest in chess.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I agree with all of this except the part about guns! But it’s all very well written, regardless!
    The part about relationships being more important than politics is more urgent than ever, and very timely, as I see nut jobs on my Facebook feed saying that you should consider breaking off friendships with people who voted conservative last week, and making tired excuses for an unmitigated disaster of a political project.

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  8. (Human) relationships may be more important than politics. But the two almost always accompany each other within the context I assume you’re describing here.

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    • My point simply is that I am not going to stop being friends with someone or divorce someone over political differences. Now this strikes me — and apparently, S. Wallerstein — as bloody obvious, but for an increasingly large number of people with whom I share a profession or class, it seems not to be.

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      • As someone who has themselves grown up with and has personally fallen into the “politics everywhere” and “disagreements about social/political issues are worth destroying relationships” spirit of the age, I found your article illuminating.

        Hard to disentangle it from my general intensity and passion. Casual mechanisms are unclear and I am dubious of introspection in these cases.

        My sister and I have such hard a hard time with each other based on issues that are completely marginal to our relationship. Her hatred of “TERFS” and my aesthetic preferences about movies targeted by progressives as insufficiently woke, actually have damaged our relationship in ways that are emblematic of our overly politicized environment.

        My friend (philosophy major) and I have can’t discuss economics without our relationship being in jeopardy. Pure avoidance, instead of dialogue.

        P.S. I cant tell you how much i disagree with your views in the philosophy of language. Every-time you bring up Wittgenstein, i feel #triggered and must perform self-care by reading modern philosophy of mind and language articles. PLZ stop hurting and marginalizing me.

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  9. Those defending the electoral College should reflect on the fact that it has never functioned as intended. There was general agreement that Washington was going to be the first president and everyone knew who he was. By 1792 the First Party System was a thing and political parties contradict and render moot the scheme underlying the EC. Perhaps you would explain how you merely moving a thousand miles makes your vote more valuable while my moving a similar distance – from southern California to far northern California leaves the strength of my vote the same?

    Whatever validity regional differences may have held (and doing a lot of hand waving over the perniciousness of many of those differences), the high mobility of our population renders any such differences as irrelevant (my fifth great grandfather was conceived in what is now Germany – nationhood for Germany was well over a century in the future – born in Philadelphia harbor and his grand children were living in Missouri and several other states while my father was born in Sweden and died in California by way of Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, and Kansas – this is typical of everyone I know. In any case almost no one except for Native Americans whose ancestors weren’t removed and a handful of Latinos in New Mexico are descendants of someone who settled where they are for any significant time.

    The 1787 Constitution broke down due to the anti-democratic aspects of that document. Among other things the Senate and the 3/5 Compromise guaranteed that the Slave Power would have a veto on the presidency leading to the civil War and the Second Founding with the Reconstruction Amendments.

    You might want to consult the First Gilded Age Muckrakers on the Senate. The selection of Senators by the state legislatures had become hopelessly corrupt. The Seventeenth amendment was an entirely proper response to that corruption. Why are you advocating that which failed?

    I’m not sure why cultures changing is such a problem. Humans have always have interacted and changes have resulted – cultures aren’t zoos or museums. Jets and the internet have speeded things up over Silk Road caravans, sails, and Gatling guns but things change
    (perhaps its useful to consider that the only things truly valuable in any culture are food,
    music, art, technology and philosophy and the good usually persists).

    Where is the world government thing coming from? I recall some right wing hyper-ventilation over the notion in the 1950s and I recently read a paper by a Swedish philosopher advocating creating a world government by some sort of a coup by the UN Security Council but otherwise nothing. World government won’t happen until the material conditions for it develop (recall our nation is the result of perceived necessity not hopeless idealism). Nations are useful to the extent they facilitate flourishing. I hope you aren’t buying into Hawley’s populist/nationalist shtick as tears will surely follow.

    Globalism isn’t an option while the structure of it is. Opposing it is akin to yelling at clouds and is guaranteed to immiserate those who don’t engage.

    BTW, “cancelling” or being mean isn’t the same as seeking to use the power of the state to impose ones notions on reproduction and sexuality on others. In the current timeline one can’t be “socially liberal” and politically conservative.

    Our current discontents are the direct result of the failure to properly respond to the 2008 financial crisis, ditto the UK. Enough was done to allay the shear terror but only to the point of mere fear and anger. Fear and anger favors the political and social right and here we are.

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  10. Perhaps you would explain how you merely moving a thousand miles makes your vote more valuable while my moving a similar distance – from southern California to far northern California leaves the strength of my vote the same?

    = = =

    Not the point at all. The essay is more than clear as to what the point is.

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    • I don’t think your or Crispin’s positions on the Electoral College stand up to scrutiny. It’s unclear how we can speak of the “wisdom” of the Electoral College when, as Al mentioned, it doesn’t work as intended and even fell apart right out of the gate. It was intended to put electors in between the presidency and voters as a stopgap against demagogues and factionalism. WHOOPSY DAISY!

      If it does any of what you claim, it would be more by accident than intention. But I’m not even convinced it does what you say it does. It doesn’t let our geography speak or look out for personality types drawn to certain geographies so much as it focuses all attention in a couple of swing states. Factionalism has triumphed and we’re ensconced in a two-party, heavily nationalized system with all of the colors and contours of the country getting flattened out in a clash of red and blue. This is exacerbated by the majority of states choosing to allocate their electors on a winner-takes-all basis, further flattening the nuances within any given state. Might as well be Siskel and Ebert.

      The result is that a few parts of a few swing states predominate in our presidential elections due to the accidents of history and our system positioning them as the wobbly middle between Democrat and Republican. This doesn’t so much help protect rural voters against the tyranny of urban voters as sideline huge swathes of both urban and rural voters in electorally irrelevant wastelands. My presidential vote as a Democrat in KY is almost entirely symbolic, for instance. Hardly a surprise that roughly half of eligible voters don’t vote at all.

      I’m not sure I follow when you say our “diversity is increasingly distributed geographically”. Trends show most growth in urban and suburban areas with rural areas (the overwhelming bulk of our geography) slowly dwindling. A huge portion of our population is still concentrated and arguably further concentrating in a handful of populous counties:

      https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/05/22/demographic-and-economic-trends-in-urban-suburban-and-rural-communities/

      The notion of one party who represents a shrinking demographic minority lording over another party who represents a growing, diverse majority should give anyone with any concern for the health of the republic serious fucking concern. The incentives of the system should push the former party to expand its base, not depress the turnout and representation of its opposition. So insofar as one person can coherently stand in for the diversity of our electorate or our geography or whatever (and I’m not even sure what that means), I don’t buy that the Electoral College is even the least worst of all systems.

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  11. “There also is the economic cost, the consequences of which are and will continue to be catastrophic. When globalization is combined with (largely unbridled) capitalism, the result is capital chasing labor to its cheapest sources, the result of which has been the de-industrialization of entire regions in many countries (the American Rust Belt, the English Midlands and North, etc.) and the endgame of which is the de-industrialization not of regions but of each and every country as a whole, as the cheapest labor will be that performed by machines. The social and political anger and unrest that this will cause will make the current stirrings of populism look like fun and games and figures such as Donald Trump like Mr. Rogers. People need to be able to work (which is why a “UBI” is little more than a farcical effort at a solution), and it will never be the case that all or even a majority of them will be suited to doing so in information-heavy or super-highly-skilled fields that require advanced education and can be done wherever one is.”
    I copied this paragraph because it seems to me this could be a whole other essay in and of itself and I think it is the most important of all the matters you mention, even including the ones on your list concerning speech and guns etc. I think, accordingly it is not that you are without a political home it is that, according to your criteria, politics is defined in terms of existing institutions .What I would say is that you are possibly anything but homeless politically but that political institutions might have abandoned you and those with similar views.
    I think, in brief, what we have is a failure of political institutions. I would say they are only suited towards those who are solidly Left Wing or Right wing only and alone and that is a serious mistake since the center, if that is what the third option is needs as much of a place at the political table as anybody else. The fact it is not represented only shows that the center is disparaged in our particular moment, but this has nothing to do with the amount of people statistically who are member of this center. It may well very be the majority while the machinery in place refuses the expression of this majority. It is about keeping the game of Left versus Right going.

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    • “The fact it is not represented only shows that the center is disparaged in our particular moment, but this has nothing to do with the amount of people statistically who are member of this center.”

      I hear sentiments like the above expressed time and again. They smack of motifs speech writers for Nixon/Agnew might have expressed in the early 70’s, i.e., the so-called “silent majority.” Nothing new here. These, no matter how well-intentioned, serve chiefly as dog whistles for conservatives and neo-liberals who are “comfortably numb,” in the words of a Pink Floyd song.

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        • Well, feel free to substitute “subliminal code” if you prefer, but I’m equally tired of writers who seem to think they make meaningful political distinctions by weakly using vanilla labels like centrist or moderate as well as the so-called “wings” be they left or right. BTW, you might refrain from using “absolutely right” for obvious reasons.

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          • Well, I agree with him. And consider myself a centrist. And I also think that most people are centrists and that our politics is being held hostage by a minority of extremists on both wings. I see nothing of a dog whistle about it.

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  12. Dan,

    Just watched your new and rather remarkable conversation with Spencer Case. I sure wish there were a lot more things like that around. Not only was your talk interesting, but you each seemed to come to an understanding of your diferences and where you each were coming from that doesn’t often happen. Do try hard to have more discussions with him.

    I mention your video here because it because it helped me understand why you hold some of the views you lay out in this essay. In my own case, I’m a liberal but also a leftist. So I think there are a lot of areas where it is best to leave people to their own devices to do as they see fit, and a lot of other areas where it is much better not to. Not being a moral realist, I don’t think there is a bright–or even all that stable–line between the two. My sense of what is pragmatic and prudential is going to differ from yours.

    Since we now have very large populations that have been growing much richer, we will increasingly face new problems of global scale such as climate change and the ability of various actors, large and small, to manipulate each other via the internet. Or China’s new practice of recruiting corporations to help with it’s propaganda for fear of losing market share. I don’t think liberalism has a toolkit for this. Definitely not a world government, but I do think we need to develop capable and influential international institutions. The halting steps in this direction since WWII seem to be in retreat at the moment.

    In your talk with Case, you mention again that you think there has been moral progress. But hasn’t most of that resulted from conflict? The gains we’ve made have come from people who were not looking for ways for us to get along but from people who were offended that the world was wrong and were motivated enough to try and do something about it. And, of course, we have had some horrible things because of people who were offended that the world was wrong and were motivated enough to try and do something about it. I got a much better sense of your views on this when, in the video, you contrasted the experiences your parents had with the very comfortable life you have been lucky enough to live.

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  13. So, someone is not evil or beyond the pale for opposing the civil recognition of same-sex “marriage”? Good to know. So, I take it, then, that you don’t buy the analogy between the non-recognition of same-sex “marriage” and the anti-miscegenation laws. Support for the latter was baldly racist, and if you thought that the heterosexual definition were in any way as bigoted as such racist support, I can’t imagine that you would regard that as not evil or not beyond the pale, correct? Or do you believe support for the criminalization of interracial marriage and co-habitation is not evil or not beyond the pale as well?

    I ask because, as you know, during the “marriage equality” debate defenders of the heterosexual definition of marriage were routinely lumped in with the defenders of the anti-miscegenation laws even though this analogy was demonstrably a category mistake. Even so, the overturning of these laws was used by the courts, including the Supreme Court, as a precedent, if not THE precedent, for the civil recognition of same-sex “marriage”. So, if you do disavow this analogy, you are also denying an important legal argument for “marriage equality”, but if you don’t, then you are essentially saying that a view which is as bigoted as racist support for anti-miscegenation is not evil, and I don’t think you would want to go that far with toleration, or do you?

    And I suppose you also don’t believe, as Kennedy wrote in Obergefell, that not recognizing same-sex relationships as “marriages” is tantamount to condemning people in those relationships to lives of loneliness and thereby denying them love. Because wanting to condemn people to loneliness and wanting to deny them love IS really evil, right? But, again, if you say that non-recognition of same-sex “marriage” is not denying love to those in such relationships, you are denying one of the most important arguments made on behalf of “marriage equality”.

    Finally, I suppose you don’t believe that the only reason one defends the heterosexual definition of marriage is to demean gays and Lesbians because defining something a certain way simply to cause harm for an entire class of people is sadistic and evil. But, once again, this was perhaps THE main argument for re-defining “marriage”.

    All the arguments that were advanced in favor of “marriage equality” entail making its opponents appear as bigoted as racists, hateful, and sadistic, all qualities that should be beyond the pale for any civil society, and yet you claim that opponents of “marriage equality” are not beyond the pale and should be accepted in civil society. This suggests that there are arguments for “marriage equality” that do not entail the demonization of its opponents. Okay, then, what are they?

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  14. The argument for “marriage equality” was pretty much “You’re a hateful bigot if you’re not on board with it,” and if you think that is a distortion of the debate, then I respectfully remind you of all the court decisions, including Obergefell, that EXPLICITLY cited Virginia v. Loving as a precedent for “marriage equality”, thereby likening the non-recognition of same-sex “marriage” to the racist criminalization of interracial marriage and co-habitation. I respectfully remind you that the most popular slogan of the “marriage equality” campaign was along with “Love wins”, “Stop the hate.” This was not an eruption from the lunatic fringe. This was the mainstream campaign. Your suggestion that the demonization of the opponents of “marriage equality” is simply the work of the woke periphery is simply untrue. The demonization was the mainstream because all the main arguments for “marriage equality” entailed demonization, and it is very telling that you don’t even try to refute this.

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      • Then, would you, please, give me an argument for the civil recognition of same-sex “marriage” that does NOT entail the demonization of its opponents?

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          • I do as well, but why should those civil contracts be recognized as “marriages”, be singled out for special state privileges, and why, pray tell, should the civil contract be dyadic?! Also, marriage is not merely a civil contract. It’s a particular relationship surrounded by specific laws that fairly obviously assume heterosexuality, such as the laws regarding consummation, adultery, and the acknowledgement of paternity (not “parenthood” but “paternity”). Redefining “marriage” necessarily means redefining those concepts as well, and legal experts still have no idea how to do that. As I have mentioned previously, England tried to come up with a concept of consummation that would apply equally to opposite- and same-sex couples alike and failed. Because it can’t be done. And if you strip “marriage” of the concepts that surround it because they are not amenable to re-definition, then you’re pretty much left with a meaningless sound “marriage”, and why in the world should the state privilege a meaningless sound?

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          • I’m not having this by now very tedious argument with you again. Not the point. You want me to demonize my opponents and I won’t. Nor, at this point, do I have any interest in persuading you. The arguments were already made and the law is in place. Have a good afternoon.

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      • Again, the law explicitly cites Virginia v. Loving as a precedent for “marriage equality”. Can you at least understand why opponents of the civil recognition of same-sex “marriage” finds this outrageously offensive?

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        • Yes, but I’m afraid they will just have to get over it. Or find out a way to pass relevant legislation or overturn the Supreme Court decision.

          That’s the last I’ll entertain on this, as it is not on topic, and I won’t allow the comments section on this piece to be hijacked. That goes for people who want to pile on you as well. I simply will not post further comments on this.

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    • The argument for “marriage equality” was pretty much “You’re a hateful bigot if you’re not on board with it,”

      I watched the evolution of the same-sex marriage debate and I don’t agree with this characterization. There was a lot lot of argument along the lines of “Describe what actual harm to heterosexual marriage you think that same-sex marriage will cause?”, with opponents generally unable to point to anything convincing. There was also the increased presence of openly gay people in popular culture that played a role in building acceptance. It’s taking a very selective view of history to claim that the entire argument was based on demonizing the opposition.

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  15. You do not know this about me, but I am a cripple. I have cerebral palsy. The people who supported the anti-miscegenation laws were eugenicist who wanted to sterilize people like me. So, I hope you can understand why I deeply resent being told by the courts, and NOT just the woke fringe, that in opposing the civil recognition of same-sex “marriage” I am as evil as the cripplehaters who wanted to sterilize people like me. If you are serious about your claim that opponents of “marriage equality” should not be demonized, then you would criticize the reasoning of Obergefell and not just the SJWs.

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    • Sorry if this is off-topic, but I feel it is for the best here. As a gay (I am sexually aroused by a human possessing phenotypes highly correlated with the phenotype of producing motile gamete), male (my body produces motile gamete) philosopher who has long awaited to debunk Foucault’s anthropocentric thesis regarding homosexuality, I don’t demonize those who oppose legalizing same-sex marriage on philosophical or religious ground. I may do so for people who oppose it out of sadism, but it is difficult for me to hate anyone nowadays given that I have now learned about the limits of a person’s control over the his/her environment and past.

      I have to admit that I do find it lamentable that among the rights-based argument were the accusations of hate and other rhetorics arising from the hermeneutics of suspicion, involved in the push to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S. Things could have been better, and these rebuttals used much more frequently:

      1. On faith-based-based arguments: unjustified, and religious/denominational diversity

      2. Impacts on free exercises of religion: see Reynolds v. U.S. (one of the first of the “self-evident,” “fundamental” rights to be demolished by consequentialist concerns), also it is possible for a religion to involve the practice of same-sex marriage among its members, so by parity, not legalizing same-sex marriage would be an infringement of religious liberty.

      3. Definitional arguments: The semantic meaning of ‘marriage’ has changed similarly to how the semantic meaning of ‘awful’ has changed. The semantic shifts occurred when the new usage of the word become wide enough. This is evident in the use of the term ‘same-sex marriage’ both by its advocates and its opponents. In European cultures, marriage was once considered to be all about procreation for familial legacy. As such, courtship was a community affairs and arranged marriage was the norm. Having children was seen as part of one’s duty to one’s family. A marriage involving an impotent partner was disallowed and importance is placed on consummation (for procreation). Then things changed significantly after the Protestant Reformation onwards. Marriage came to be seen as a formalization of love between two individuals capable of romance. Infertile couples are allowed to marry. Voluntary childlessness no longer holds back eligibility for marriage. When most people became aware of that some people are capable of romance with an person of the same sex, the usage widened beyond infertile couples.

      4. Natural-law ethics: Presupposing a creator with intention for its creations, thus theism-dependent. Also, natural law ethics has been used to justify libertarianism.

      5. ‘Legalizing same-sex marriage hurts my feeling:’ Your feelings do matter but they are outweighed.

      My argument for legalization: from new usage and from redundancy of terminologies (two contracts with the same possible provision yet called using different terms depending on the traits of the contractees? Redundant, and either we use ‘marriage’ for both heterosexual contractees and homosexual contractees, or use ‘civil partnership’ for both, or privatize marriage altogether.

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  16. Dan,
    sorry for delayed response; health issues plaguing me right now.
    I agree with much of this. Just two points worth remarking.
    First, As you may remember, I have come to the conclusion that the Electoral College is out of date. “Massimo would like the entire country to be run by the people in NY and LA County. I think that would be a disaster.” Probably; but is it better run largely by people from the South and the Mid-West? The Constitution was intended to further the will of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority (as the voting population was composed at the time). We have for some time appeared to be headed to a dominance of the will of a minority, with no adequate protection for the rights of the majority. Something just seems to be wrong about that.

    Or has it always been that the Constitution leaned toward the dominance of one minority or another? Is a majority government possible given current divisions? In which case isn’t it really a matter of choosing which minority would be preferable for leadership? – as long as the rights of other minorities are protected?

    Globalization and cosmopolitanism – I think these are separate issues, actually – have two points of origin: The one you’ve rightly pegged is the development of global capitalism. But there’s another – response to increasingly nationalistic wars for the past three hundred years. The current formations of these phenomena certainly owe much to the experiences of the Second World War. This response I am particularly sympathetic to. Insistence on “the nation” has too ethnic a flavor – ethnicities seem to have difficulties getting along without some imposition of the rule of law.

    Global capitalism, which has followed pathways first marked by colonialism, is a different matter. I am no great fan of it. But I do see it as inevitable, exactly given that origin. Again, what is crucial to its management is the rule of the law.

    As to the particularly American influence on cosmopolitan cultural developments – before passing judgment on it, we should ask the question – what does the world want from America? For instance: there are several national cinemas that have produced wonderful work. Yet Hollywood is what it is because much of the world loves movies produced there. The one cinema that competes successfully on its home turf, so to speak, is Bollywood – which has no interest in marketing itself beyond India’s borders, and a potential native audience of a billion.

    And where do we find the greatest resistance to American influence culturally? In authoritarian Islamic states, which may even permit the occasional Hollywood film, but punishes any behavior learned from such.

    What I am suggesting is that globalization and cosmopolitanism have very complicated histories, and currently present us with something a political tar-baby. The good of it may be increasingly difficult to grasp, but even more difficult to extract ourselves from it.

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  17. About usage of ‘maturity’ and ‘infintilism:’

    To be honest, I don’t really like the use of the terms ‘juenvile’ and ‘infitilism’, and related terms by you (Prof. Kaufman), Prof. Leiter, and others for referring to the recent attitude and behaviors of self-proclaimed leftists and “social justice” advocates. That is because these terms do not point to the cause of those attitudes and behaviors, which is simply faith. I think the word ‘zealots’ (already used along with the maturity-related terms would be more accurate. These people have deeply held-beliefs, which they hold to be self-evident such that no justification is needed for these beliefs, and these beliefs are a major part of their self-esteem, psychological well-being and physical well-being.

    I think that these attitudes and behaviors are not much different from those of the Latin Church in medieval Europe (or any other religious institutions that engaged in persecution of dissents within their jurisdiction for that matter), for example. Medieval Catholics deeply held their beliefs and consider them a major part of daily life, both personal and interpersonal. They relied on these beliefs to guide their ways of living, to feel certain about the purpose for their existence, and to be certain what would happen after they died. Thus, any heresy (dissent) would be offensive to them. This was particularly the case, when said heresy involved what they consider to be a cheap knock-off of their Christianity (for examples, see the Arians, the Cathars, and the Lollards). They would persecute (deplatform/cancel) the heretics by burning them at the stake along with their “heretical” works. Aside from being offensive, other justifications include preventing the “corruption” of one’s fellow Catholics that they believe would result in their damnation, removal of obstacles toward the spreading of an accurate Gospel, and paternalistic treatment of heretics for salvation. Yes, they did sometimes engage in theological debates (called ‘disputations’) with heretics, but when these debates were unsuccessful, they would resort to burning. When Sir Thomas More wrote apologetical, theological polemics against Martin Luther, he was not opposing Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli being burned eventually. The legal power of the Holy Inquisition was vast, and even scientists like Bruno and Galileo weren’t able to escape its grip. And all of these, they considered morally just, because they already felt certain about what is true and what isn’t, and about what is moral and what isn’t.

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  18. Daniel’s disagreement with Paul shows just how frail the harm principle is. Unlike Paul I agree with gay marriage. When two men or two women get married they are gay married. If they have the ceremony in December they should get an illuminated scroll from Santa Claus. From amongst their number some could take up the honourable trade of confectioner and florist.

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  19. “Massimo would like the entire country to be run by the people in NY and LA County. I think that would be a disaster.”

    I’m in the process of listening to the dialogue with Sartwell and this is a recurring riff. Ever curious, I went to the google and found a list of MSAs. NY and LA MSAs together only gets us to ~35M (and covers three states for NY and two counties for LA, oh and the Boston MSA only adds ~5M). So no, it’s impossible for two or three MSAs to control the presidential elections. Getting to half the nation’s population requires us to go down the list to #34 which is Indianapolis. In all we then cover 26 states. Your model of a couple or three MSAs running things fails. A straight popular vote would involve a broad cross section of the nation and would probably be more representative then the EC. BTW, I live in a rural county and we are quite blue.

    Madison’s notes and Federalist #68 covers the rationale for the EC. It’s clear that the EC was the Founders wishing political parties into the corn field. It didn’t work in1788 and parties made the EC pointless from 1792 on (or a time bomb depending on circumstances – see Civil War and now).

    The problem is that we currently have the worst of everything in democratic governance (hey, the Founders were kinda first at this and doing their best under the circumstances): Presidential systems are inherently unstable. The Senate allows a minority of the voters to run the nation or else gridlock. First past the post elections allow for spoilers and manipulation. Consider this with your preferred mode of Senate selection – state legislatures can be gerrymandered (see Wisconsin) and a minority of state voters can elect a majority of state legislators who then go on to select their Senators. We then could have a minority of voters in a sparsely populated state or two possibly controlling the Senate.

    Re: sour grapes. The flaws in our Constitution have long been apparent and many folks on on the record (e.g. Sandy Levinson (UT)). Had Clinton won with the EC only we would still be screwed as Trump getting a majority (esp. if turnout was normal) would likely be a sign of terminal dysfunction.

    In your reply to my comment above you blew off the significance of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. That is a huge mistake. Trump, Brexit, and the rise of populism, nativism, and fascism in the U.S., U.K., and Europe are the result of austerity as a response to the crisis. A financial crisis is way more then a mere correction. Absent New Deal/Great society automatic stabilizers, an (inadequate, but still) stimulus, and the Fed we would have had a depression. In the US the bottom quintile only just recovered and the next one took to ~2016 (adjusted for inflation) and these are the neglected folks in rural areas.

    Have you ever puzzled over folks in red states electing Republicans who then enact policies that further impoverish them causing them to feel more neglected, rinse and repeat? Kansas and Kentucky were perfect examples. Waxing over those folks feeling neglected hardly seems enough.

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    • My remarks about NY and LA County were simply meant to indicate “major metropolitan areas.”

      Agreed about the foolishness of austerity. However, I stand by my characterization of 2008 as a correction of a wildly overvalued market.

      Your last paragraph is just the “What’s the matter with Kansas?” thesis. The attitude it reflects is in good part what just earned Labour in Britain the worst election result they’ve had since the 1930’s.

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      • “The attitude it reflects is in good part what just earned Labour in Britain the worst election result they’ve had since the 1930’s.” Largely true; but it didn’t help that Jeremy Corbin is a complete ninny, possibly the worst politician in British history. Labour tied its cart to a rock and then rolled it off a cliff. (I just wanted to say that, because it’s so annoying. It has been rather obvious for a long time, and anyone with open eyes could see this election coming months ago.)

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        • I’m just wondering if any number of catastrophic defeats will be enough to convince the cosmo/metro progressive types to recognize that they will have to compromise if they want to win. My impression is that the answer is: No. In my argument with him on Twitter, Massimo just kept doubling and tripling down on “backwards” blue-collar types and how there is no point in trying to convince them. That our efforts should be entirely in terms of trying to energize “progressives.” I tried to explain that this will do no good in our system, which is where his “Electoral college is a blunder” comes in.

          Just seems to me like a recipe to keep losing and losing and losing.

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          • Actually, if you have a good candidate these days, you win. Trump’s victory shows that: he didn’t compromise at all, but he had charisma (not for me, but for a certain type of voter) and he won. Obama also was an excellent candidate and he won twice. Leiter a few days ago linked to studies which show that many people who voted for Obama voted for Trump in 2016. The Democrats have to find a winning candidate, a new Obama, which, as far as I can see, they haven’t found yet. Michelle Obama?

            Yes, I know a lot of people still vote for the issues and study them closely, but I sense that elections are decided these days by people without much political knowledge who vote for someone who appeals to them as if they were buying an attractive new product.

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  20. I have read through all of your responses and the post itself. It may not be an issue you have given much thought to. In Reynolds v. Sims the Supreme Court handed down the one-person one-vote principle, which transformed state legislatures, mainly be undermining and limiting the overrepresentation of rural areas over urban areas. Was that like direct election of Senators, a mistake? I am struggling with seeing your positions as consistent with Millian or classical liberalism.

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