How both sides can believe they are losing

by on March 22, 2016 at 1:51 am in Education, History, Philosophy, Political Science | Permalink

If you read narratives of recent history from the perspective of the left and the right, each side believes it is losing. One could dismiss this as marketing strategy. If our side is winning, then why is it urgent to read my book or donate to my organization?

But I think it is possible for the each side to sincerely believe it is losing.

The left presumes that government can solve problems. We have problems. Therefore, we must be losing!

The right presumes that the government causes problems. We have problems. Therefore, we must be losing!

That is from Arnold Kling.

1 Chip March 22, 2016 at 2:08 am

Well, let’s look at the biggest example of more government recently: Obamacare.

Whose presumption is most accurate? The Dems got the government they wanted – they won.

The right got the government they knew would cause problems – they lost.

Replace “Obamacare” with any other input you like – debt, regulations, illegal immigration. The Left won.

The people lose.

2 Barkley Rosser March 22, 2016 at 3:53 am

Oh gag, Chip, can’t you do better than to just repeat partisan propagandistic drivel?

The Dems wanted to have universal coverage, a public option, and much greater cost controls. While some of the interest groups that got paid off to get Obamacare support the Dems (trial lawyers), more of them support the GOP (private health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, doctors). Obama never even proposed universal coverage, even though every other high income nation has it. He gave up the public option to please some GOP senators (who still voted against the final bill), and every single private interest group got paid off, thus guaranteeing that there would be no dramatic cost savings leaving the US to still pay far more for medical care than any other nation, despite our less than impressive overall health outcomes. So, no, Chip, the Dems did not get what they wanted. They lost, or think they did, which is the point of this argument, how each side thinks they lost.

You are right that the GOP thinks it lost, although its repeated claims and forecasts that Obamacare would tank both the medical care system and the whole economy have turned out not to have happened at all and to have been a total joke. II suppose this failure of their forecasts of doom can be considered another loss, although if one only watches Fox News, one will not realize this happened and will still be filled with the delusion that Obamacare destroyed America, or is about to do so.

3 R. Jones March 22, 2016 at 4:31 am

It was predicted Obamacare would suck. It does suck. The Republicans didn’t stop it.

Get over yourself.

4 Jan March 22, 2016 at 5:54 am

If you tell people over and over and over that it sucks, many will think it sucks. Those who actually use Obamacare don’t think it sucks, that it is even good. I’d say in that case both sides actually win. Republicans win the propaganda battle with almost all of their voters, which is their priority, while the Dems win the battle of providing more access to better care, which was their goal.

No, it is not a 100% win for either side–read about the staunchly conservative person in a red state who used the exchanges and say Obamacare saved his life, or about the Dem lawmaker who ran in a purple state and got beat up over support for the ACA. But it is largely good for both.

5 Alan March 22, 2016 at 6:28 am

The Seen and the Unseen.

The effect of ObamaCare on the policies of those of us who have employer health care have been largely negative – layers of deductibles, restricted physicians networks, smaller formularies, fewer choices. Even with the positive offsets like kids on parents plans longer and pre-existing condition reform, ignoring the impact on ALMOST ALL of us who had insurance is a bit myopic.

6 Derek March 22, 2016 at 7:45 am

The true nature of the law will take a decade or more to become apparent. It won’t be government or patients our even insurance companies, but the individual decisions of people to get into the field, invest in solutions to problems, etc.

The first wave of issues will be the distortions on employment opportunities as the costs and obligations end up being reflected. The democrats have been delusional in this; a thriving economy with high demand for labor would swallow most of the disruption, but they have to stack major reforms on top of each other.

The second wave will be the structural accommodations which will wait until Obama is out of office. There is much that can be changed and improved in this dogs breakfast legislation, and this election cycle means something. I suspect after four years of Hillary it will be unrecognizable, so investments and reforms on the provider business will wait for a bit.

The third wave will be a concerted and ugly war on doctors. The contradictions and cost will lay open the flaws of the model, and doctors have always been a handy target. I tend to prefer the guy sticking a sharp instrument into my person to be reasonably content, but that’s just me.

The fourth wave will be the supply of practitioners. Watch for hagiographies on how wonderful the woman centered practices are with parental leave. There is a reason why doctors work long hours and have no life; the skills and abilities are demanding and rare, and with the diminished freedom and extraordinary burdens it will become a normal job with time of and shorter hours. Net result will be waiting for access.

As is usual with the US, everything good about the quasi private system will disappear and everything bad about the government run systems will be there norm. The upper middle class will be fine, and things will be reformed or adjusted to keep the awfulness from encroaching, something like how Democrat jurisdictions keep the African Americans over there.

7 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 9:35 am

Those who actually use Obamacare don’t think it sucks, that it is even good.

Perhaps in a narrow definition of “use,” where we only look at those are meant to reap the benefits to the exclusion of those who are meant to bear the costs. But those who bear the costs are truly and royally getting boned.

8 Jan March 22, 2016 at 9:56 am

@Derek, lots of conjecturing there. I’d be more apt to accept the possibility of any of those outcomes if any of the dozens of “disastrous” predictions from the right about the ACA had come true. They haven’t. And if Congress is willing to make improvements to the law where it needs it, which they seem to be lately, then the risks are even lower.

9 Cassiodorus March 22, 2016 at 11:28 am

@Alan, all of those things were already occurring before the ACA. It seems odd to blame the ACA for an already existing series of changes.

10 mpowell March 22, 2016 at 11:53 am

Derek, I agree that supply side is important and the left is completely clueless on what that even means, but supply side in medicine is a nightmare of guild protectionism and horrible training practices in conflict with everything known about learning. Nothing free market ab out it. Obamacare doesn’t address this, but neither does the previous system. Best case outcome is that doctors start to be replaced with nurse + Watson-like diagnosis tools. Doctors already underperform simple heuristical models and the gap will only grow as the tools improve. That takes care of the low hanging fruit. Surgical specialists’ is still expensive and rationed though.

11 JonFraz March 22, 2016 at 1:47 pm

The trends that have affected employer health insurance were well in progress before the ACA. Only lazy thinking blames them on the ACA.

And Derek, what happens when the healthcare world does not end in “decades”? Change the forecast of Doom to centuries?

12 spencer March 22, 2016 at 4:31 pm

If it suck so bad, why are the Republicans giving up their battle to repeal it?

It couldn’t be that once people see it they actually like it?

13 Alan March 23, 2016 at 6:45 am

And ignoring these effects when trumpeting the “success”” of Obamacare remains myopic. At least your reflexes are still good.

14 mulp March 22, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Not only did conservative Republicans not stop Obamacare, they participated in passing it. And Arlen Specter was never a Democratic Party candidate elected by Democrats, but the conservative Republicans along with several conservative Democrats who definitely would have been progressive Republicans before the 80s who defined the Obamacare compromise.

The reason conservatives have failed to replace Obamacare is conservatives can’t find anything that gets more than 30% support, not even going back to what existed in 2009.

Obamacare has defined 30% losers on the right, 28% losers on the left.

Ted Cruz speaks for 30% on the right, Bernie speaks for 28% on the left. Trump and Clinton will fight it out for the biggest share of the center, and the left and right will see the result, no matter what, as a devastating loss.

15 So Much For Subtlety March 22, 2016 at 4:39 am

The Dems wanted to have universal coverage, a public option, and much greater cost controls. While some of the interest groups that got paid off to get Obamacare support the Dems (trial lawyers),

Not a single Republican voted for this bill. All the Democrats did. They got precisely what they wanted. No more and no less. It may be true that they wanted to fake support for a public option, but it doesn’t look like they actually did. Why would you think that the legislators did not get exactly what they wanted down to the last comma and full stop? The voters might not have. That is harder to say.

more of them support the GOP (private health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, doctors).

Obamacare promised these people and end to competition and an endless supply of government money. Why would they not support it? What makes you think that these people support the GOP?

forecasts that Obamacare would tank both the medical care system and the whole economy have turned out not to have happened at all and to have been a total joke.

The economy does not look like it has recovered to me. In fact what recovery there is looks weak and anemic. That suggests that it has not killed either the economy or the medical care system yet, but it is not helping it either.

16 dan1111 March 22, 2016 at 4:46 am

This point is not about Republicans vs. Democrats but left vs. right. The left wants European-style socialized medicine, and they pretty clearly did not get this in Obamacare. However, it was not Republicans who stopped them but moderate Democrats (and/or liberal Democrats who preferred re-election over ideology).

The point about all predictions of Obamacare’s failure being debunked is pretty clearly false, though. Over the top predictions of doom haven’t come true, but the law is not working well, and some of the big problems are exactly what was predicted (e.g. high costs because it is hard to get healthy young people to sign up).

17 JonFraz March 22, 2016 at 1:49 pm

The law is not working perfectly, that is true. And in a sane political world it would be tweaked to correct some of its problems. And we all know who is stopping that from happening.

18 mulp March 22, 2016 at 4:26 pm

“Not a single Republican voted for this bill.”

Name one time the Democratic Party elected Arlen Specter as the Democratic candidate to the Congress.

Only in the universe where Reagan never hiked taxes and balanced the Federal budget did Obamacare pass without a conservative Republican Arlen Specter vote.

You are spouting the Soviet politburo Pravda propaganda lines out of the Koch funded “don’t think because we think for you” tanks.

ARRA likewise passed only with the reduced spending and job killing tax cuts demanded by Republicans Snowe, Collins, and Specter. For that, they were targeted by McConnell, Specter cutting a deal with Reid that the Democratic Party of Pennsylvania rejected, Snowe deciding to not run for reelection based on the “my way or the highway” politics, she took the highway and the Maine voters replaced her with independent Angus King.

But hey, never let facts get in the way of your claims that the majority 40% were overridden by the minority multipartisan 60%….

19 Careless March 22, 2016 at 1:12 pm

The Dems wanted to have universal coverage, a public option, and much greater cost controls.

Funny, then, that that’s not what they voted for

20 The Original D March 22, 2016 at 4:23 pm

In a nearly deadlocked Senate, an overwhelming majority of Democrats can want these things and just one or two can prevent them.

The Senate is exceedingly undemocratic. A Wyoming voter has four times the say of a California voter.

21 mulp March 22, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Especially when the 60 Senators include Republicans, a Senator rejected by the Republican Party for being too much in agreement with Senator and presidential candidate McCain, a socialist constantly criticizing Democrats more than he criticizes Republicans based in large part on his view that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans.

22 poorlando March 22, 2016 at 10:49 pm

Senators are, or at least were, supposed to represent states (state governments), not “voters”. The Senate was never meant to be democratic, but it is egalitarian in treating every state equally.

23 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 5:16 am

I’m definitely with Barkley on this one.

If Dems got what they wanted, there would be universal health care, full amnesty, and the debt would be less of an issue following tax hikes on higher income earners.

If the Republicans got what they wanted, there would be no Obamacare and curtalied Medicare, zero amnesty with mass deportations (admitted, there is a major divide within the party here) and debt would be higher after massive tax cuts for the rich.

In all the cases you site, recent changes roughly represent a middle ground after much horse trading, if not exactly compromise. But the notion that you lost in each regard fuels the notion that the middle ground is in fact a capitulation, serving as an attempt to drive the discourse fully in the direction of the final objective, sans compromise.

24 dan1111 March 22, 2016 at 5:33 am

Conservative Republicans want broad tax cuts not just “for the rich”. They also want the budget to be balanced by reducing the role of government.

I largely agree with you on the point that nobody has gotten what they wanted, but you’ve fallen into the left’s caricature of what conservatives want on those points.

25 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 6:12 am

I wasn’t aware of any Republican proposals to lower taxes on anyone but the wealthy. Who’s campaigning on the basis of lower taxes for the middle class? In the recent Canadian election, for example, the centrist party campaigned on many things, including a 1 percentage point tax cut for the middle class (mostly offset by reversing previous tax reductions to the highest tax bracket).

Are there any similarly concrete proposals being campaigned on by any conservative politician of any relevance?

The rhetoric is that they want lower taxes for everyone, but in practice this seems to almost always end up as tax cuts targeting the rich, including introducing various deductions, etc. which are also targeted to the rich. I would much rather observe a conesrvative politics which was more reflected by what you portray, but this is not what I observe.

26 dan1111 March 22, 2016 at 6:51 am

“I wasn’t aware of any Republican proposals to lower taxes on anyone but the wealthy.”

All three remaining Republican candidates propose across the board tax cuts. So did Rubio and Bush and probably every other Republican candidate. Pretty much no Republican ever has proposed tax cuts solely for the rich.

Leftist sources typically label any plan “tax cuts for the rich” and emphasize the disproportionate benefit to the rich of any across-the-board plan (since the rich pay a large share of taxes). However, you need to get beyond such sources if you want to understand what Republicans actually propose.

27 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 8:36 am

Marginal tax rates at present (deductions not considered), focused on the case of single filers for simplicity:

10%: $0–$8,025
15%: $8,025-$32,550
25%: $32,550–$78,850
28%: $78,850–$164,550
33%: $164,550–$357,700
35%: $357,700+

I assume the following remains up to date.

Cruz’s plan:

Establishes a flat rate of 10% on all ordinary income. I stand corrected, that would reduce taxes for most taxpayers, but it’s pie in the sky because Congress would never accept the multi-trillion dollar deficits it would imply.

Rubio’s plan:

Establishes three brackets of 15%, 25%, and 35%. The top rate applies to taxable income over $150,000 for single filers. Looks to me like basically all the benefits would accrue to those earning between $150,000-$350,000, but without specifics on where the other brackets would lie, it’s hard to say with precision. Not fiscally insane, and would improve incentives for high-value professionals, but, then, Rubio’s out of the race.

Trump’s plan:

Establishes four tax brackets, with rates of 0%, 10%, 20% and 25%. The top rate applies to to income over $150,000 for single filers. Hard to say much without specifics on the brackets, but it looks to me like basically all the gains would go to those earning above $80k, and mainly concentrated among those earning above $165k, and even more outsized benefits accruing to the wealthiest, including those who earn in the tens of thousands a day and whose incentives to work are probably not at all affected by the tax rate.


Considering that blowing a ginormous hole in the budget could only be addressed by practically closing down most areas of government activity, many of which disproportionatey help the poor and middle class, it’s hard to see how, after considering required cuts to public services, anyone other than the wealthy could end up with more money in their pockets after meeting their needs for housing, food, education, health and transportation.

Also, lowering taxes on corporations benefits shareholders, which are disproportionately wealthy people.

I stand corrected. Some candidates have some crumbs for the poor and middle class. But, considering how this would necessitate dismantling many areas of government activity in the near future due to balooning deficits, it is hard to see how anyone but the wealthy actually stand to gain from any of these proposals. That is, unless you buy the theory that billionaires will apply their additional retained income in a way that will create jobs for the working poor and middle class. More likely, they will invest in highly skilled ventures and just bid up the salaries of those who are already earning six figures.

If Republican candidates weren’t so busy with taunts and name calling all the time, it would be more likely that people would have a better understanding of policies which will affect the distribution of resources within the economy.

28 albatross March 22, 2016 at 10:03 am


You’re moving the goalposts. You started out with the question: Do Republican politicians propose tax cuts only on the rich, or do they propose them for everyone? Then, you shifted to answering: Where will most of the benefits of their proposed tax cuts go? Then, you moved on to: What do I predict will be the other spending effects of those tax cuts and whom will they harm or benefit?

29 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 2:59 pm

albatross – I unquestionly accepted the counterargument, and then pointed out that distribution of resources goes deeper than headline marginal taxation rates. I didn’t even bother to get into things like capital gains taxation, where billionaires pay less taxes than people earning $15/hr.

Must I be refuse to incorporate a contrary perspective in order to participate in the conversation? You seem to imply that obstinacy is a superior mode of argumentation.

If you’re concerned about goalposts, here’s my new goalpost: it is better to discuss policies which affect the distribution of resources in their totality (both taxation and allocations which accrue to different segments of society), and not focus exclusively on the most easily visible aspects (marginal tax rates on earned personal income). Goalpost: count everything, not just some things.

Indeed, I think the new goal post is not the most relevant framing of the issue. I unabashedly accept that I am talking about a different goalpost now.

30 foosion March 22, 2016 at 7:39 am

The Republicans do want broad tax cuts, but the benefits go disproportionately to the rich. They give the middle class something, but give the rich a lot.

To the extent they propose reductions in govt, it’s overwhelmingly to programs that help the middle class and poor.

31 dan1111 March 22, 2016 at 7:50 am

This is the left’s critique of conservative policies, while this post is about how each side views themselves.

32 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 8:40 am

dan – anything not accurate about foosion’s portrayal? If considering the actual distribution of resources in consideration of both tax cuts and service reductions, it’s hard to argue that there’s anything in it for the poor or middle class.

Why would it be “left wing” to point out the obvious? If so, is it “right wing” to deny the obvious?

33 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 9:44 am

Well, for starters, we have to define “disproportionate” to have a coherent conversation on the subject. The wealthy already contribute substantially more as a proportion of tax revenue than they earn as a proportion of national income–more than half of overall income tax revenues depending on where you draw the line for “wealthy”–so any rational tax reform plan will end up saving the wealthy more than the middle classes that don’t pay enough in taxes to get an enormous break.

Beyond headline rates, most tax breaks already benefit the wealthy disproportionately. So any rationalization of the tax code that eliminates tax breaks benefits the middle class more than the rich, even if its a political nonstarter because the middle class is so enamored with its little favors no matter how exploited by the wealthy.

34 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Bill – a proportional tax cut, say, of 10%, would maintain a constant share of taxes paid by all groups, and all groups paying 10% less in taxes.

If the tax bill of high income earners declines by 20%, but the tax blil of the middle class declines by 5%, this is not proportional.

Also, on the matter of the wealthiest paying the largest sum of taxes, I think it is worth observing that they are getting a very good return on investment in a system which enables them to get fantastically wealthy. Indeed, the incomes of the wealthiest have risen significantly over virtually any relevant timeframe (1 year, 10 years, 50 years), while depending on methods adopted, the incomes of lower classes may have declined or perhaps have increased only slightly.

35 Jay March 22, 2016 at 7:37 pm

@Nathan W

LOL @ R’s getting higher debt, hasn’t it more than doubled the last 8 years (almost exclusively front-loaded too during that time too)?

36 Nathan W March 23, 2016 at 1:38 am

I’m siimlarly disinclined to hold Canadian Conservatives and American liberals as “guilty” for debts incurred following the Great Recession. In the Canadian case, however, Canadian conservatives inherited a structural surplus which they rapidly gutted through tax cuts/credits with poor rationale (specifically, cutting GST and boutique tax credits which are far inferior to an income tax cut), while American liberals inherited a structural deficit from predecessors.

Neither Ds nor Rs have been at all responsible about debt. I don’t think there’s really any other reasonable interpretation.

37 Jay March 23, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Yes that is a reasonable position (the both are irresponsible) but isn’t the one you posted that I was replying to. Also I wouldn’t call surpluses “gutted” if those in power choose to give it back to the people who paid it instead of wasting it on some new program.

38 anon March 22, 2016 at 9:13 am

FWIW, I think the big test of a health care system “failing” would be more people dying through gaps in the system.

Costs are very secondary to that.

39 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 3:13 pm

Or people not getting access to health care and then having a high number of sick days. It is costly for the economy when people cannot (or simply do not) access health care.

40 anon March 22, 2016 at 9:15 am

Another test would be whether Republicans want to “repeal” or “replace” anything more than the name.

Would insured get a tax break? Would uninsured pay more tax?

41 anon March 22, 2016 at 9:18 am

If you want to make all health care and health insurance non-deductible, THEN you are getting free market, but no serious candidate is going there.


42 So Much For Subtlety March 22, 2016 at 2:28 am

Don’t look at what people say, look at what they do. Their revealed preferences are more likely to show what they really think.

The Left is always complaining that they are a poor picked-on minority fighting against The Man. Except they do not behave like it. They demand more laws and for the police and the government to have more powers because they know they own those institutions. Like they know they own the media – they complain about bias but they are happy to work with the media because they know they are among friends.

The Right is always complaining that it is losing, but there are still enormous deposits of trust there. They still obey the laws.

43 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 5:34 am

The logic of revealed preferences can be taken too far if one or more groups is negotiating in good faith. Having abandoned what they actually what out of preference for what seems feasible, the observation is that they argued for X, whereas this does not in fact reflect their revealed preference.

Consider a more tangile and less politically charged example. Having observed that someone pays $600 for an iPhone, one might conclude that their revealed preference is that they LOVE paying $600 is their revealed preference. However, the actual preference is to pay $0 for the phone. Unsure? Offer them the option of paying $0 or $600, and then still try to argue that the revealed preference is to pay $600. Similarly, having observed that Apple sells iPhones for $600, one might conclude that their revealed preference is to sell iPhones for $600. However, the actual preference would be to sell each phone for an infinite sum of money each.

Of course, both sides of the negotation must face reality, and the consumer must recognize that Apple cannot make phones if they are all sold at $0 and Apple must recognize that consumers cannot buy phones for an infinite sum of money.

Another example would be to look at a poor person working in a low end job and conclude “his revealed preference is to live in poverty”. However, given the opportunity, say, if someone handed their parents a large sum of money and informed them of a choice between free college with lots of money for tutors or a 100k ahdnout to start a business, or perhaps a generous job offer with one of daddy’s friend’s businesses, we would (most of the time) soon find that the revealed preference was not in fact to live in poverty.

To find what the revealed preference actually is, you have to offer them a blank cheque to write the rules and determine all outcomes of the game. Of course, reasonable people understand that compromise is required to get anywhere in negotiation. I do not suggest that this implies that Republicans MUST tolerate a middle ground that they simply do not want. But, when Democrats set their sights on an achievable middle ground, it is incorrect to interpret this objective as their revealed preference.

The revealed preference is that Democrats negotiate for what they think they can get, not for what they actually want. Republicans, observing this, dig in and refuse to accept what was formerly perceived as a middle ground. Not something that I consider as negotiating in good faith. It’s like when you’re haggling in a market and agree on $20 – then, the seller intuits that you might have paid more and then makes some excuse for why it had to be $25 (a credible claim could be “oops, this inferior shirt is the one I can sell for $20 – if you want to buy the one that you really want it will cost $25). Reasonable people immediately leave the negotiating table with people who pull such tricks, but that’s not an option in politics when either side can put the kibosh on any or all deals.

44 asdf March 22, 2016 at 9:57 am

“To find what the revealed preference actually is, you have to offer them a blank cheque to write the rules and determine all outcomes of the game.”

My revealed preference is for flying unicorns to take me the my party mansion to bang a harem of super models.

Seriously, this is THE rightist criticism of leftists. That they live in a fantasy world and want things that are physically impossible. They pursue these things anyway and use government violence to try and remake the world in the image of their fantasies.

Revealed preference means *given reality* what does a person actually do.

I completely disagree with you on Obamacare. Democrats got exactly what they wanted. I was there, I worked on the Obamacare reform with Democratic politicians. Democrats wanted a 2,000 page private/public monstrosity. How the fuck do you expect to make money going back and forth from the private sector if the law was simple and just worked. Also, do you really thing most medical providers are Republicans. Your average industry lobbyist is generally left leaning unless we are talking big oil. Medicine, banking, etc have absolutely no problem with Democrats.

They had 60 votes. They could have gotten what they wanted. And they did get what they wanted. It’s just not what you wanted. And you can’t yet figure out why.

45 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 1:58 pm

“They had 60 votes. They could have gotten what they wanted. And they did get what they wanted. It’s just not what you wanted. And you can’t yet figure out why.”

If the Left admits they got what they voted for with Obamacare, then they have to deal with the many downsides. Instead, they project a fantasyland where the good parts of Obamacare are because of the good intentions of the Left, but the bad parts of Obamacare are because the Right wouldn’t “compromise” on the perfect Left wing solution.

It doesn’t matter what the facts are, the Left is largely living in a cognitive bubble with respect to the issue.

46 David March 22, 2016 at 2:48 pm

This is actually a good criticism of the left’s view, and one that I had myself subscribed to until reading this comment.

47 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 3:31 pm

asdf – What does the left want that is physically impossible? Much of what they are asking for is status quo in most of the rest of the West, suggesting that it IS physically possible.

A blank cheque to set the rules and determine outcomes does not imply the ability to achieve outcomes which are literally impossible. True. But we could alternatively discuss what they might actually ask for if they had said blank cheque (ignoring that the “left” emcompasses a rather diverse set of perspectives and occupies wide breadth across the ideological spectrum, say, from the 1% extremist left to the 30% most left – perhaps you would rather discuss what the 30% most left wants rather than the 1% most left).

“Your average industry lobbyist is generally left leaning unless we are talking big oil. Medicine, banking, etc have absolutely no problem with Democrats.”

This has nothing to do with left/right. Rent seeking has proliferated across the American system, and bigwhigs of neither party have demonstrated the remotest interest in any reform that would affect this highly suboptimal status quo.

“revealed preference” belongs to the consumer theory aspect of economics ( It is not generally applied to the political realm, so neither of us should ne lecturing the other on what it “really means”. But, it seems rather natural to me to modify it in political realms to mean “what they actually want” and not “what they realistically think they can get”. Why? Because due to the nature of negotiation, any party that negotiates in good faith faces the risk that the other party will simply abuse this good faith negotiation to pull the pendulum ever further in their preferred direction, implying an interest for both parties to stake their ground in ever more extreme positions, allowing both of them to claim that they “lost” in cases where in fact they had engaged in reasonable compromise. The more appropriate theoretical construct for what you referred to (what they think they can get) is the Nash equilibrium (, not revealed preferences.

Anyways, I have nothing particulary good to say about the ACA. Universal health care is cheaper and delivers better results, even when ignoring that a healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. This is driven by pragmatism, not left/right preferences. Yes, upfront tax rates would be higher, but you would have more money in your pocket at the end of the day.

48 asdf March 22, 2016 at 4:02 pm

The left wants all people to be the same, even though genetic realities mean we aren’t. It wants blacks to be as smart as whites. Arabs to be as high trust as Anglos. It wants perverted transgender Grindr queers who have bareback orgies till everyone has AIDS to be as healthy and well adjusted as normal straight family men. Etc.

If exactly equal outcomes can’t be achieved, the force of the state will be brought to bare to make those outcomes equal. Since it can’t really raise the lowers up by telling them their vice is virtue, it does so by tearing down the uppers. Blacks riot and destroy cities, Arabs rape women and blow up airports, queers perform fellatio in the middle of crowded city streets in front of children and call it “pride”, and normal straight white families pay the taxes to keep these groups alive through government welfare.

I don’t see what’s “realistic” about any of that.

You got the outcome you got on ACA because it was consistent with leftist philosophy and morals. Leftists don’t believe in anything. They are vague soft materialists that think everything is relative and pointless. When a lobbyist comes up to such a person and suggests that this or that action is the way to go, what exactly do you expect to happen. Its very easy to get such a person to give in, they have zero reason not to. If you spent time dealing with real political leftists some would even explain this logic to you point blank. Outside of politics in the social the business world I’ve noticed the same pattern. All this stuff of social justice is just words, whatever words grant power and comfort to the person saying them will do. The latest thing to sell to the rubes.

And why not, there is nothing realistic or philosophically consistent in leftism to lead to any other outcome. I suppose one should be grateful, being a true believing would be even more retarded. Down that path lies the SJW fanatic.

49 Nathan W March 23, 2016 at 1:56 am

asdf – “The left wants all people to be the same”

No, they want people to be treated similarly (affirmative action is viewed as eventually leading to such a reality). They easily accept that people are different, both genetically (gays) and culturally.

“You got the outcome you got on ACA because it was consistent with leftist philosophy and morals.”

a) it was originally a Republican idea, b) the “leftist” health care approach is univeral healthcare, not mandatorily buying insurance at the individual level.

Yes, there are hypocrites in all camps who merely want power and control over resources. But in all camps there are those who legitimately fight for what they believe is right, even when doing so runs against their self interest. Given the role of money in American elections, it is easy to predict which would be more influential these days even without knowing any details of anything happening on the ground.

50 Art Deco March 22, 2016 at 2:44 pm

They demand more laws and for the police and the government to have more powers because they know they own those institutions. –

They own the court system, the regulatory agencies, and the bulk of the legal profession, not the police.

51 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 3:42 pm

“They own the court system,”

No. Cases where the courts are somewhat more left or right can be identified throughout the land, but courts are not systematically more left or right in any sort of sense whatsoever. Unless you focus exclusively on anti-discrimination rulings to the exclusion of all else, that is.

And as the frontline face of the state without which legal proceedings cannot begin, it is hardly irrelevant that police tend to be more favourable to Republicans (who return the favour, but it’s not clear which is the chicken and which is the egg).

52 Art Deco March 22, 2016 at 4:27 pm

You don’t know what you’re talking about. Go away.

53 Nathan W March 23, 2016 at 5:44 am

Where are these left wing courts? How inclined are courts to rule in favour of unions, for example? Conversely, how inclined are courts to uphold the right of billionaires and major corporations to infuse as much dark money as they like into political campaigns?

I challenge you to name a single decision that reflects a patently left-wing bias in the courts, in the traditional sense of the communist/capitalist spectrum? It it not sufficient that a finding happened to benefit the poor, for example – it would have to be so patently strange of a ruling involving contorted logic relating to the actual words of laws to qualify. Say, corporations having the same rights as voters in the elections system seems a little odd to me. In a two-party system where median voter theory clearly is relevant, the onus is most certainly on you to demonstrate that there is any particular bias in one direction or the other.

54 Dzhaughn March 22, 2016 at 2:40 am

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster

55 Sometimes better to use another username March 22, 2016 at 3:01 am

Ditto for American Muslims and the Radical Conservative Right.

56 Thursday March 22, 2016 at 3:07 am

Social conservatives have definitely lost ground by any objective measure, but social conservatism has not completely disappeared, so apparently social conservatives are winning.

57 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 5:37 am

No one is forcing social conservatives to have gay sex, have abortions, or divorce their wives. They are winning in their own lives, but are less successful in forcing their mores on society (this seems like it feels like losing badly for them).

If mandatory experimentation in gay sex, mandatory marital infidelity and mandatory abortions come into law, then it will be time to conclude that social conservatives have lost.

“lost ground…”. Yes.

58 asdf March 22, 2016 at 10:02 am

Gays are moral degenerates. An incredible number of them have STDs. I know because I pay for their AIDS meds. The gay community exists because the straight community pays the medical bills necessary to save them from themselves. If we simply stopped the subsidies half the gay community would Grindr themselves to death. When two gays have sex it does in fact “hurt someone.” It’s a public health hazard.

Promiscuity is proven to lead to higher divorce rates and less successful marriages. This is an easily provable social science fact. The promotion of promiscuity has lead to broken homes and immense suffering. People are influenced by the social norms of their society. If your society promotes destructive norms it will have destructive affects.

59 JonFraz March 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Disgusting, full stop.

60 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Gays: If perspectives like this didn’t exist, there would never have been any need to formally entrench their rights to enjoy the same freedoms as enjoyed by all others, to naturally express and live according to who they naturally are. A straight man saying that homosexuality is immoral makes about as much sense as a gay man saying that heterosexual sex is immoral. There is no sense in discussing moral attributes of someone who is genetically predisposed to have different sexual tastes. If you’re concerned about STDs in the gay community, you should advocate for pro-condom campaigns targeting them.

Promiscuity: What’s the good in a system which traps people in horrible, potentially violent, marriages? Promiscuity is rather natural, although there are clear benefits for having stability in family life.

And meanwhile, no one is forcing you to have gay sex or cheat on your wife, so what the hell do you care? Consenting adults, private bedrooms – none of your God damned business which or whose holes they stick it into.

61 M March 23, 2016 at 4:34 am

Gays don’t seem so different in productivity from straight folk who don’t have kids.

Re: promiscuity, data, as far as I can tell is gays’ lifetime sex partners about 2x straight men (OKcupid and GSS data). Problem for the Left is gays’ promiscuity is obviously the cause of their STDs, not discrimination. While for the Right their gay orgy stuff is probably wrong and its hard to get random straight guy to be outraged about the amount of sex of someone who has had 2x the amount of sex partners he has. While the bad news for all is that even relatively small changes in shifting sex networks to peer to peer higher frequency leads to large changes in STDs.

62 asdf March 22, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Straight men start families and live normal productive lives that bring the next generation into this world and contribute to the community.

Gays mostly live for themselves in hedonistic libertine arrangements that produce no new life and are generally a drain of the society around them. There is no moral equivalence, one it clearly superior.

“If you’re concerned about STDs in the gay community, you should advocate for pro-condom campaigns targeting them.”

Pro-condom campaigns have been going on a long time, they haven’t put a dent in STD rates or gay sexual dysfunction. In addition, social acceptance has increased the level of promiscuity. Who would have thought normalizing something socially would increase its likeliness to occur.

Promiscuity is the number one cause of horrible violent marriages. Most domestic violence happens in broken homes and usually the parties are unmarried. They also happen mostly to single parents, which last time I checked you don’t end up a single parent by staying chaste. If you really gave a fuck about the safety of women you would advise them to remain chaste and engage in mating patterns of the old school, not experiment with whoever got their hormones going at the moment.

Social norms matter a lot. Individuals don’t exist in a vacuum unaffected by what goes on around them. Societies that normalize marriage and chastity get more of it then those that normalize promiscuity. Again, the social science data on this is astoundingly one sided towards proving my point.

63 Nathan W March 24, 2016 at 9:14 am

I’m pretty favourable to efforts to normalize monogamy, mostly based on one this implies for family stability.

When it comes to youth, and speaking as a male with two younger sisters, I’m inclined towards the “you’ve got your whole life ahead of you to get into the sexual side of a relationship … what’s the rush?”. Also, the point that sex is better with a long-term partner where you both know each other’s preferences is worth making – one night stands, for example, are highly overrated and moreover risky – if you want a little experimentation, this is probably actually more likely with a long-term partner than with a fling. Also, getting across the point that boys will often say any and everything it takes to get into their pants is important – at which point it is worth empasizing that you’ve got your whole life to have sex, and putting it off a few years is no great loss.

Having said that, I do not at all agree with slut shaming or formal economic incentives to drive these decisions.

64 albatross March 22, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Similarly, we can see that gun control advocates have won in the US. Obviously this must be so, because we all remain free *not* to carry guns around.

65 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 2:05 pm

“They are winning in their own lives, …”

I’m in agreement with respect to the first two issues. (I’m not sure what you even mean by forced to “divorce their wives”. Polygamy?)

However, it’s pretty clear the Left is using force regarding accusations of rape or sexual misconduct on campus. Title IX has been used to promulgate campus kangaroo courts. Furthermore, PC speech codes are being implemented across US colleges.

66 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Rape stuff and the (extremer parts of the) left: I don’t fell well informed on the issue, and it’s been a long while since I’ve spent any serious time on any campus, but the way that demonstrably leftist outlets line up to villify anyone who has even been accused of rape, often forgetting to mention the part that the accusations have not been proven in court, suggests to me that this is a big problem. For example, in Canada, Rabble produced an 18-part series of “The Gomeshi case reminds me of … [the time I got sexually assaulted”, but, it turns out, that BOTH of the women who accused him sent him loving messages in the days following the purported sexual assaults, and moreover there is evidence that they collaborated and that one of them was specifically on a mission to destroy him. The character assassination occurred AFTER this evidence was very much in the public domain. Calling them out on this fact, I got lynched by a bunch of SJWs and was banned from their forum (I’d previously submitted a couple of pieces to them, so I know the editors check their mail, but they never responded to my request to explain their decision let alone be unbanned).

I would like for women to feel more justified in coming forward, and higher conviction rates would help, as would an institutional setting where their claims are taken seriously. BUT, the way some women would have it, we would end up with a world where any woman could accuse any man of rape, and have them destroyed basically at any woman’s convenience.

How it could play out: Imagine the conversation in a professor’s office after getting a low grade on a paper in such a system and waiting until the other students leave the office: “Let me explain to you how awesome my argumentation in this paper is … blah blah blah … oh yeah, and I felt really, uncomfortable about about that sexual advance you made [even if completely making it up]…”. Or with the boss asking for a promotion. I know it would make some women angry to suggest such possibilities, but if the legal system operates in a way where women could so easily blackmail men in the absence of strong evidence (generally difficult to obtain), well, we’re all human … we all know where that would go. Women got the shit end of the stick for millennia. I have no intention of experiencing the other end of any such stick. “Too many” rapes will go unpunished, but this is critical for the purpose of gender equality.

Anecdote to “prove” how this could be really bad: In uni, once a professor forgot to leave the room during student evaluations (a very good prof, but he was being generally absent minded those days and had explained that it was a rough year in his personal life), and this is strictly against the rules because students might feel pressured if the prof could observe the evaluations. I called him out on the fact shortly after, and took at face value that it was just a slipup. A short time later, I received a lower mark than I thought I deserved on a major project and went to discuss it with him. There was a palpable sense of discomfort, since indeed the entire class could corroborate any complaint that I might make. I tried to emphasize that I only wanted the higher mark if he thought I deserved it, and made my best case. He gave me the mark I wanted, but to be honest, I don’t think he bought my arguments: he clearly felt pressured. I would hate to see such things replayed across academia and the working world – the world would not be better for it.

Campus speech codes: I unquestioningly uphold the right of organizations to uphold stricter standards than the minimum required by law, BUT, this is not at all desirable for a place of higher academic learning. Moreover, many unis are on public property, and there is a general expectation that first amendment rights should apply to public property. Want to privately rent a hall on campus, and then kick out anyone who doesn’t meet your standards? Go ahead. Want to censor opinions, even radically offensive ones, in the regular course of publicly funded/subsidized activities on public land? Not at all OK. The only available option should be to address the offensive free speech with your own free speech. HOWEVER, there are also laws about harassment. There is a big difference between a) expressing offensive opinions regarding a certain group during the regular course of an academic exercise and b) engaging hateful or vindictive personalized attacks which may reasonably be expected to have an especially negative impact on the targeted individual(s)/group. Not at all a black and white issue.

67 Thursday March 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm

“lost ground…”. Yes.

A bunch of bullshit followed by the admission that, yes, bottom line, social liberalism is winning over social conservatism.

68 Millian March 22, 2016 at 4:25 am

Perhaps the left think they are winning and Kling simply doesn’t understand the left. There’s no reason to think someone from his intellectual circle would understand the side in which he doesn’t participate as well as the side in which he does.

69 dan1111 March 22, 2016 at 4:33 am

It seems to me that the left is pretty disillusioned with Obama and pessimistic about the state of affairs generally. Is the rise of Bernie Sanders something that happens in a movement that thinks it is winning?

I’m not on the left, so maybe I don’t have the best reading of them either. However, it is very easy to find articles and analysis about how unhappy the left is with Obama’s record. Can you point to some people (on the left) who say otherwise?

70 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 5:41 am

As early as 2009/10, I recall reading a lot of people (especially on complaining about how Obama was a traitor of sorts and had gone back on all they had hoped of him. My view is that he played a pretty good middle ground (and got dealt a pretty bad hand), but that’s not a good storyline if you’re mobilizing the right for the next election.

71 Millian March 22, 2016 at 5:43 am

I just look at data. I think a clear majority of the left is satisfied with Obama, as evident from his good approval ratings among the American public at large which I’m quite sure are from Democrat voters and not Republicans. The majority of Democrats would like to continue Obama-type governance under Clinton, while a large minority would like to go for a more extreme economic stance under Sanders. As usual, the loudest voices are not representative; on the left, the loudest voices are media commentators who embody a more white, intellectual, partisan and economic-declinist wing of the Democrats (I mean, the whole print media industry is decaying before our eyes!).

72 dan1111 March 22, 2016 at 5:52 am

Good point. The latest polls show about 80% of those who call themselves liberals approve of Obama’s overall job. And nearly 90% of self-identified “liberal Democrats”,

Another point that I didn’t think of at first is that the left widely believes they are ascendant due to changing demographics, and that conservatives will be on the decline.

After some more thought I agree that this narrative is overblown.

73 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 6:23 am

I think the demographic view is significantly overplayed. It seems to be driven by some simplistic view, where if only they can get guaranteed 55%/45% in every future election, then they will get everything they ever wanted. More realistiically, even if the demographic view is realistic, this would just lead to some fine tuning in partisan positioning and things would only tilt slightly in the other direction. In this view, the preferences of the, say, 2-5% of voters in the “middle”, and whatever it took to bring them out of noting Democrat and into voting Republican, would determine the extent of the shift. Republicans would just tweak a few things to win these votes and the competitive middle ground would only change slightly. (However, the classic left/right divide in median voter theory is too simplistic – it is not clear how exactly partisan policy preferences would realign in order for both to be essentially competitive with roughly 50% of the voting electorate).

Also, promoting such sentiment (demography will lead to Democrats always winning) is likely to lead to blowback and retrenchment from the other side. For Republicans who are concerned about demographics, the notion of having to appeal to a few percent more of what were formerly the median voters is much more palatable than the prospect of, in 20 years time, being outvoted on every issue that matters to them.

74 dan1111 March 22, 2016 at 6:30 am

I agree with your criticism of demographic victory, not finding it a particularly strong argument. Another point: this narrative depends on blacks voting 95% Democratic in perpetuity, though historically demographic groups that voted as a bloc did not do so forever.

Nevertheless, I think it contributes to the perception (if not the reality) of the left being ascendant.

75 anon March 22, 2016 at 9:25 am

Most people are tribal, superstitious. They approve of the President according to broad conditions, and the powers of his mojo.

Why can’t Obama mojo Congress into reviewing a fine Supreme Court nominee?

76 Millian March 22, 2016 at 9:32 am

Meaningless comment.

Obama cannot convince people to sign their own political death warrants.

77 anon March 22, 2016 at 9:36 am

I think you just agreed with me, while missing the point.

Popularity is judged by success, not the range of the possible, not even by the actual responsibilities of the President.

A housing crash reduces Presidental popularity.

78 anon March 22, 2016 at 10:35 am

Mark Thiessen(sp?) just tweeted this: “Brussels under attack. Obama on a tourist trio in Havana with his family. Says it all.

A perfect example of the tribal, superstitious, view. If the Chief had support of the Gods, bad stuff would not happen, even in countries he does not run.

79 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 4:39 pm

anon – yeah, Canadian conservatives have been trying to paint overseas foreign relations excursions as expensive taxpayer holidays as well. However, they are perfectly fine with business executives having their thousand dollar a plate networking events subsidized by the taxpayer via business deductions.

As though heads of state should travel by public transit and eat rice and beans while engaging in international diplomacy. Culture matters, and in showing respect for their cultures, a head of state should naturally be expected to partake in all the best foods, entertainment, etc., building useful personal relations between heads of state in between rounds of intensively serious stuff.

Apparently we should expect that heads of state will work for the salary of a high end pharma sales rep, but work 16 hours days, have the weight of the world on their shoulders, take personal blame for any and every thing that goes wrong anywhere, and then, God forbid, they take a few hours or days to themselves from time to time, we should demonize them for enjoying any sort of luxury that any business executive would take for granted.

80 dan1111 March 22, 2016 at 4:26 am

This is not a football game. It is actually possible for both sides to lose. For example, left and right would both lose if an asteroid struck earth and wiped out all human life.

81 Rich Berger March 22, 2016 at 9:32 am

But look on the bright side. We would finally be rid of the Department of Education.

82 msgkings March 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm


83 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 5:45 am

Victim narratives seem to do a better job at mobilizing people than saying you’re already ahead/winning and just want to win some more. Kind of like how, even if you’re pretty sure you’re going to win the election, you underplay the lead to the maximum extent possible to ensure that you don’t lose after all your supporters stay home, having assumed that victory was certain.

Unfortunate that, having observed the success of legitimate historical victims in using their victimhood to political and economic gain, that others are now inclined to play the victim card when the don’t get everything they always wanted.

Fundraising, as mentioned, is also central. Who’s going to send money after receiving the plea “we’re already winning big, now send us lots of money”. Rather, “there’s this grave injustice, the other guys are driving us into the ground, and we desperately need every last penny you can spare, even if just a few dollars, to undo this horrible horrible thing.” The second form of message wouldn’t be remotely as useful if portrayed as “a middle ground was reached but we don’t like it. Please send lots and lots of money to help us pull the middle ground in our general direction.”

84 chuck martel March 22, 2016 at 6:15 am

Bureaucracies care not if the left or right is ascendant. Their influence inevitably grows, if not their numbers. We see this daily in the increasing dominance of city departments in every aspect of their citizens daily lives. It can’t go on forever.

85 rayward March 22, 2016 at 6:21 am

1. Republicans control the House and the Senate and most state and local governments. 2. State and local governments controlled by Republicans cut funding for education and child welfare programs and adopt laws that deny evolution and allow discrimination. 3. When Republicans control the Supreme Court – it’s a draw for now – the Court turns democracy into an auction to the highest bidder. 4. When Republicans are in control of all three branches, it’s tax cuts for the wealthy and deficits as far as the eye can see, financial misfeasance, disastrous wars in far off places, and financial and economic calamity at home. 5. When Democrats are in control of the House, Senate, and White House, the worst they do is doodle with girls not their spouse, the best they do is clean up the mess left by the Republicans. Other than those details, Republicans and Democrats are about the same.

86 dan1111 March 22, 2016 at 6:33 am

Thanks for clarifying that Republicans are evil. I’m going to quit the party now and support Sanders!

87 Rich Berger March 22, 2016 at 9:32 am

Rayward, I know mulp, and you’re no mulp.

88 Careless March 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Oh, come on, he’s not that far away from being the mulp

89 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 2:10 pm

mulp’s posts are much more interesting to read. If your going to go delusional, you might as well, go all the way

90 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 4:46 pm

He just hasn’t managed to translate old-fashioned unionist economic theories into modern economics language. He’s definitely trapped in the view of AD being driven by working class salaries and seems to miss out on basically the entire rest of the picture, in particular the fact that whatever is not paid out in salaries is available for investment into production capacity (and hence jobs), but given the large cash stockpiles of many firms these days, it seems like a very relevant perspective.

However, after the 50th time I’d muddled my way through various permutations of the same line of thinking, to be honest I just don’t pay much attention any more.

Careless always ridicules him, but it just shows that he doesn’t understand (or perhaps cannot decode, as some major decoding is definitely required) the arguments of the role of AD being driven by income earned by consumers.

91 Anon. March 22, 2016 at 7:28 am

Moldbug to the rescue!

“The logic of the witch hunter is simple. It has hardly changed since Matthew Hopkins’ day. The first requirement is to invert the reality of power. Power at its most basic level is the power to harm or destroy other human beings. The obvious reality is that witch hunters gang up and destroy witches. Whereas witches are never, ever seen to gang up and destroy witch hunters.”

92 BenK March 22, 2016 at 7:49 am

Perhaps it is more like this:

The left believes that government solves problems. There are problems and so they have not yet created enough government. These problems are urgent, every day that passes before they create Utopia is a loss.

The libertarians believe the government is making problems worse. The government is growing every day. They are thus losing.

The (social) right believes that the institutions, norms, morals and mores rejected by the left are good – and the left is enforcing its own values through the growing government, so … they are losing.

93 Luke March 22, 2016 at 8:04 am

“The left/right presumes that government can solve/causes problems. We have problems. Therefore, we must be losing!”

Both of these arguments defy basic formal logic (“affirming the consequent”…)

94 anon March 22, 2016 at 9:29 am

On the heels of all the Trump news, I was surprised to see Cruz go full paranoid yesterday with this on his official Twitter:

Why must this POTUS always agree with our enemies & refuse to defend our interests?

Forget the false equivalence, one side is not like the other.

95 Rich Berger March 22, 2016 at 9:36 am

I guess you weren’t following Dear Leader’s triumphant visit with the wardens at that quaint tropical prison.

96 anon March 22, 2016 at 9:42 am

Cuba? That would be both histrionic and dishonest then.

Cuba is more a business opportunity than an enemy, and has been for some time. Everyone expects AirBnB and Starbucjs to break down Communism faster than isolation. Just as they did in China.

So what a weird thing to generalize as “always agree with our enemies & refuse to defend our interests”

Cheap, dishonest, political paranoia.

97 Rich Berger March 22, 2016 at 9:56 am

“The fog of time and the strength of anti-anti-Communism have obscured the real Che. Who was he? He was an Argentinian revolutionary who served as Castro’s primary thug. He was especially infamous for presiding over summary executions at La Cabaña, the fortress that was his abattoir. He liked to administer the coup de grâce, the bullet to the back of the neck. And he loved to parade people past El Paredón, the reddened wall against which so many innocents were killed. Furthermore, he established the labor-camp system in which countless citizens — dissidents, democrats, artists, homosexuals — would suffer and die. This is the Cuban gulag. A Cuban-American writer, Humberto Fontova, described Guevara as “a combination of Beria and Himmler.” Anthony Daniels once quipped, “The difference between [Guevara] and Pol Pot was that [the former] never studied in Paris.”

Has Obama ever met a left wing thug he couldn’t admire?

98 anon March 22, 2016 at 10:10 am

So, we should have kept an embargo with China because Mao was bad?

You can’t be serious, repeating ancient history to block, not just progress, but capitalism.

Obama just took a huge step in opening Cuba for business. Che is rolling in his grave.

99 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 6:06 pm

And America once had slavery. Should that be the basis for evaluating whether it might be an ethical partner in current relations?

Moreover, the ability of American presidents to develop relations with foreign dictators is certainly not a special feature of the left.

100 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 10:08 am

Everyone expects AirBnB and Starbucjs to break down Communism faster than isolation. Just as they did in China.

You haven’t been paying much attention to China’s human-rights record over the last 30 years, have you?

101 anon March 22, 2016 at 10:11 am

Have you? Would you prefer Mao’s famines?

102 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 10:23 am

That’s a non sequitur. That the CCP decided gratuitous mass murder was a sub-optimal policy some decades before American companies entered the country has precisely nothing to do with whether those same American companies have weakened either of the CCP’s grip on power or willingness to use the same overwhelmingly when needed. Opening trade with totalitarian dictatorships tends to have the effect of stabilizing them rather than liberalizing them, as the crony elites amass resources by skimming off the top of the trade and compound both political and economic inequalities (see also: Russia, Saudi Arabia).

I don’t much care about lifting the embargo, but let’s not overstate the prospective effects: new market for Americans, new income stream for the Castro regime to maintain its grip on power. Straightforward enough deal, which is I’m at a loss why it required the President to prostrate himself before the memorial to a murderous psychopath.

103 anon March 22, 2016 at 10:40 am

So funny. “Non sequitur” reliably means “facts I don’t want to hear.”

China is not great, but is definitely improved over the oppression of the Cultural Revolution.

Now really strangely, a link between free markets and free people is a solid right wing position. Free To Choose. Milton Freedman.

Or was Milton a “non sequitur?”

104 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 10:57 am

China is not great, but is definitely improved over the oppression of the Cultural Revolution.

Which is still a non sequitur, because (1) whether the CCP maintains absolute power over the Chinese people is a different question from how it wields that power; and (2) unless and until you offer some argument for how trade liberalization, rather than the marginalization of Chairman Mao, led to the changes in how that power was wielded (hint: the chronology doesn’t back you up), the Chinese example remains irrelevant (at best) to your point.

105 anon March 22, 2016 at 11:01 am
106 anon March 22, 2016 at 11:06 am

I think the right wing reaction to Cuba is a triumph of their tribalism over any economic philosophy they may hold.

107 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 11:17 am

No, I reject the unstated premise that trade liberalization with a totalitarian regime necessarily leads to economic freedom under such a regime.

108 albatross March 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm

If the embargo was likely to work to change Cuba into a liberal democracy, doesn’t it seem like it would have done so by now?

109 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 2:16 pm

If the embargo was likely to work to change Cuba into a liberal democracy, …”

The trade embargo’s purpose was to weaken a Soviet client state. It seems to have been successful. It’s IMO time to end it. But Obama’s visit is at least is some part propaganda against the American right. He could negotiate with Congress to lift the embargo. He’d rather throw red meat to his base.

110 anon March 22, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Why did you personify the argument as “Obama should make Congress end it?”

Why not “Congress should end it?”

111 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 2:31 pm

“Obama should make Congress end it?”

It’s pretty amazing that you would type something I didn’t write and then put it in quotes to mislead readers into believing that is what I wrote. That’s taking a strawman post to a much higher level than the norm.

112 anon March 22, 2016 at 2:50 pm

You are doubling down in a stupid way. “He could negotiate with Congress to lift the embargo.”

You agree that “It’s IMO time to end it.”

But you won’t call on Republicans to do it directly. Why? Because it is the Democrats job to do anything sensible, I guess, and the Republican job to do nothing.

113 anon March 22, 2016 at 2:53 pm

No, let’s face it.

We accept that the Republican job is to fight common sense, as t”eh socialism,” light hair on fire, as in the Cruz quote that began this subthread.

114 albatross March 22, 2016 at 2:55 pm

If the goal of the embargo was to weaken a Soviet client, wouldn’t it have made more sense to end it a couple decades ago, when the Soviet Union ceased to exist?

As far as I can tell, the only reason we have an embargo on Cuba, and the only reason we’ve had one since the end of the cold war, is because we have a substantial bloc of Cubans here who fled Castro’s regime, and who want to maintain that blockade for reasons of their own. Since most Americans don’t really care all that much how we treat some little island in the Carribean, the Cuban refugees get their way. But this makes no sense at all for US policy, and hasn’t made any sense for a couple decades now.

115 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 3:03 pm

And anon predictably piles non sequitur upon non sequitur, responding to this:

“Obama is probably right to end the embargo, but it’s readily apparent he decided to do so in an antagonistic way.”

with this

“Why should it be Obama’s job to end the embargo, HUH??”

116 anon March 22, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Let’s parse this out: Cruz calls Obama a traitor in pretty direct words: “agree with our enemies & refuse to defend our interests”. JWatts, and now perhaps Bill, agree that the embargo should end. So who do they blame? Obama! For trying to do it. Who are the good guys? The Republicans! For trying to block the very policy they like.

117 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly March 22, 2016 at 3:32 pm

It can simultaneously be true that (1) the President has adopted a “correct” policy position, but (2) has adopted a manner of implementation so boneheaded as to be worthy of opprobrium.

118 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 3:38 pm

It can also be true that both Cruz and Obama are partisan jerks. In this situation, Obama is President and he has far more political power than Ted Cruz. Obama could negotiate an end to the embargo, but politically it’s better for him to score partisan points, particularly during an election year.

119 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 6:29 pm

Bill – things are freer in China with liberalization than before. You may wish to uphold them to foreign standards in your opinions of them, but things are unamiguously freer than they were before, especially in consideration of the fact that people actually have expansive choices in the market now, both as consumers and producers.

120 anon March 22, 2016 at 10:15 am

If there was ever an example of the Right declaring “failure” contrary to their own interests, this is it.

We are watching the end game of Cuban Communism, but because black Socialist Obama has a hand, it must be bad.

121 Jeff R. March 22, 2016 at 11:54 am

Only Nixon could go to China.

122 Thomas March 22, 2016 at 5:41 pm

People are just suggesting that taking a picture, at attention, in front of a memorial to a communist mass-murderer was in poor taste, and you decide to pull the race card? Why don’t you just admit that the picture was in poor taste?

123 albatross March 22, 2016 at 11:06 pm

Perhaps the actual reopening of relations between the US and Cuba, with an eventual end to the embargo, just seems like a much bigger deal to most of us than whether partisans can find something symbolic to complain about.

124 Brian Donohue March 22, 2016 at 10:21 am

Multiple theories.

1. America loves the underdog.
2. The idea that you are being ripped off by dark forces is pervasive, appealing, and largely unchallenged.
3. This is what victim culture looks like (maybe this is a variation of #2.)

125 Cassander March 22, 2016 at 10:50 am

The american left is immensely invested in their self image as an embattled minority bravely standing up against the dark forces of reaction. If they passed British style single payer tomorrow, by next week they’d be complaining about how some republican proposal to reduce clerical staff was murdering grandparents and rolling back the new deal.

There is precisely one area of policy where things are to the right of where they were 20 or so years ago, gun control. On everything else, we’ve moved left or stood still.

126 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 2:24 pm

“There is precisely one area of policy where things are to the right of where they were 20 or so years ago, gun control.”

Regarding large scale Federal policy, you are largely correct.

However, society is moving towards a right wing economic market that the Left has been powerless to stop. Uber will (unless stopped via legislation) undermine the Taxi cartels and supporting legislation. Charter schools are making inroads into the public education monopoly. Unions are losing their legislative monopolies and are shrinking when they can’t force workers to contribute. Municipalities and states are trending towards having public sector unions pay for larger percentages of their health care and pension costs.

127 Brian Donohue March 22, 2016 at 2:39 pm

Government employment as a % of total employment peaked at 19.4% in July of 1975 and is now 15.4%.

128 cassander March 22, 2016 at 10:28 pm

that figure counts civil and excepted service employees only. It does not count contractors, because it is official OPM policy NOT to keep track of the number of contract employees working for the government. their number is enormous, in the millions.

129 Brian Donohue March 23, 2016 at 10:58 am

Fair point. How many millions? Even if the incremental number of new government contract employees since 1975 5 million, and I move 5 million jobs from ‘private’ to ‘government’, the percentage is still down to 18.8% today.

And government contract employees don’t have the same long-tailed, non-transparent compensation packages and ironclad job security of their government counterparts. As a taxpayer, I see this as incremental progress in the right direction.

130 JWatts March 23, 2016 at 2:00 pm

“As a taxpayer, I see this as incremental progress in the right direction..”

I agree with this. There are legions of Federal contractors, but that’s still an improvement on legions of Federal employees.

131 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 6:46 pm

I think this is generally ignored on the right. Until the Great Recession, neoliberal orthodoxy was the main point of reference across partisan lines, and assuming that things don’t go off course into protectionism, economically speaking that seems like the more relevant general trend.

The identity politics stuff are not so naturally amenable to a left/right sort of analysis – perhaps it is a matter of historical accident that these issues happened to be split up left/right as they are. Reversing the clock, it seems more natural to me that it would have been the freedom loving anti-communist conservatives that would have prioritized the freedom to live free of discrimination over the freedom to discriminate. That, especially because Christian mores seem rather more left wing than right wing from the economic perspective, and I don’t think many would have predicted the strong influence of the Christian right within right wing parties. The whole storyline can be deconstructed as a matter of fact, but it’s still surprising in those senses.

132 Henrique March 22, 2016 at 11:30 am

Both left and right believes the government can solve problems, but only ‘their’ government.

133 Cassiodorus March 22, 2016 at 11:30 am

Preferences and loss aversion would seem to explain this phenomena pretty well. Liberals tend to care more about the economy, an issue where their position is losing ground. Ditto for conservatives who care about traditional morals.

134 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm

+1, this is the best summation in the thread.

135 Brian Donohue March 22, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Really? I read this as “people focus on areas where they are losing,” which is consistent with growing evidence that bitching is the new national pastime.

136 JWatts March 22, 2016 at 3:30 pm

That’s how I read it too.

The title question was: “How both sides can believe they are losing”. Cassiodorus has a succinct explanation, that captures the apparent dichotomy. His explanation captures it better IMO than Arnold Kling’s “size of government” argument.

137 Brian Donohue March 22, 2016 at 4:00 pm

I prefer my “nation of complainers / victim culture” theory. Perhaps it amounts to the same thing.

138 Nathan W March 22, 2016 at 6:49 pm


139 Anon. March 22, 2016 at 2:38 pm

>an issue where their position is losing ground

It is? Government spending as % of GDP is increasing steadily with no end in sight. Economic regulations are being added every year. In what way are they losing ground?

140 spencer March 22, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Actually, when you compare the distribution of income and the share of taxes paid by each income quintile in the US is is amazing how close each quintiles share of wealth and share of taxes is.

141 Kevin C. March 23, 2016 at 3:03 pm

C’mon, it seems obvious that, in the longer run, the Left has clearly been winning, and the Right losing, since at least the Glorious Revolution. The American Revolution: victory for Leftism. The world wars: victory for Leftism. Burke was a Whig.

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