Assorted Tuesday links

1. Could TPP survive without the United States?

2. Dan Ariely has a new book coming out, Payoff.

3. Michael Lewis on Tversky and Kahneman.  Recommended, plenty of new information in the piece.

4. Fed chair rumors for 2018 (speculative).

5. Sam Tanenhaus on Dylan, including Springsteen vs. Dylan, a good piece on a topic with much chaff these days.

6. Nate Silver: “The Electoral College serves to constrain financial & ground game advantages, because you encounter diminishing returns in the swing states.”


Interesting series of tweets by our president-elect and (as often) Nate Silver. Trump says he if the election was decided by popular vote he could have campaigned in Florida, NY, California. Nate Silver says it is hard to refute, but that the electoral college advantages the candidate with less money and ground operation, because of diminishing return of those assets in swing states. That's probably right. But there is also a more obvious application of the law of diminishing returns, which says that when you get only 10% of the votes (9.87% exactly), like Trump in his home county of Manhattan, it is in general much easier to get to 20% by campaigning heavily than for the other candidate which has 86% to get to 96%.

True, but wouldn't it be the reverse where Trump got 80%+ and HRC less than 20? If the election was decided by popular vote , may be turnout would go down in swing states but go up in current red and blue states. And isn't a higher overall turnout a net positive?

The idea is that there aren't many places like that. The Democrat vote is more geographically concentrated. The Republicans are somewhat popular in a lot of places, the Democrats are wildly popular in a few places.

And call me crazy, but I think the Democratic Party might have a better chance of success at raising their appeal outside of California and the Acela stops than they have at trying to reengineer the electoral college.

Doubling down on whatever Boston thinks strikes me as unlikely to succeed. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to move towards the Republicans; after all, that's not how Trump did it.

A surprising number of voters never rise above "try the other guys."

For a minimal algorithm it isn't bad, but it can be taken to an extreme.

If I ran the Democratic Party and I wanted to win, I'd survey college-educated single women in Newton, Mass and Marin County, California, and I'd run the hell away from whatever they say.

More seriously, I don't think this is a "Blow up the party, run Elizabeth Warren" election. I'd come up with a defensible position on trade and immigration. "White men, recognize that you're going to be replaced and drift off peacefully into the sunset" is not a defensible position, even though it's popular with Democrats around here, even moderate ones. There's got to be a left-wing version of "America First" that can be articulated well. Mess around with some of the shibboleth positions, but recognize that they aren't very important. Swing voters aren't voting Democrat to implement strong gun control and they aren't voting Republican to end gay marriage. But the mainstream Democrat vision of higher taxes, stronger central government, well, that didn't exactly suffer a big defeat here.

Again, I remember 4 years ago when center and left were the only ones wanting action on automation and outsourcing. The right really was all free market and invisible hand, here and elsewhere.

The ju-jitsu was to say that if you didn't want a wall with Mexico, you hated American workers, again as cross border flows reversed.

And so now the burden Republicans have is their solution. If a stronger fence does not yield jobs, what then?

I know that I will get shouted down by other commenters here, but I think that the Democrats version of "America First" was "Hope and Change," or "Yes We Can," etc. There seem to be enough voters that went for Obama but didn't go for Hillary that it could be a winning strategy again (assuming the Democrats can field a credible "change" candidate).

The key to understanding the election is to stop thinking of Trump as a Republican. Start thinking of him as a centrist with novel immigration and trade ideas. Forget the caricature.

"I remember 4 years ago when center and left were the only ones wanting action on automation and outsourcing."

I don't remember that at all. I don't remember either party caring much about that. Certainly not the Obama administration, and not the open-borders free-trade Republican Party.

I don't know if the stronger fence will yield jobs; I suspect that's only part of the goal for the fence. But this is important to the point I'm trying to make. You don't have to agree with the Trump solutions to our problems - by all means, fight against them. But to win elections, you have to recognize that the problems are real and come up with your own solutions.

"the Democrats version of “America First” was “Hope and Change,” or “Yes We Can,”"

Government expansion in the healthcare market and an intangible stimulus were an unfortunate way to spend all that political capital. But I think I agree with you; that wasn't a faulty vision or a bad marketing plan, it was poor execution.

Huh? No memory of "structural unemployment" or Obama's Jobs Act?


The Democrats talk a good talk, but when you look at say Obamacare you see that unless you are extremely poor you are worse off. High premiums, high deductables, and the awful employer rules that will limit hours and opportunity.

The Democrats in action are a 10% highly productive export oriented/financial business, 30% civil service, 20% on pension or welfare. The rest can go to hell.

The favor was returned.

"but when you look at say Obamacare you see that unless you are extremely poor you are worse off."

Not at all. Medicaid expansion, almost by definition, means people other than the "extremely poor" have basic health coverage. Obamacare also benefits those people who are in less than perfect health and who were thrown out of work by the great recession or who otherwise have spotty employment histories. Before PPACA was passed, over 200,000 individuals were enrolled in very expensive and still partially-subsidized state-run high risk pools. Most of those people almost certainly now have cheaper coverage.

It's not exactly my field of expertise, but I recall substantial research in Political Science that essentially boiled down to "unless you have a very specific reason to vote for the incumbent, always vote for one of the other guys".

6. This seems like a post-facto rationalization. Its true that Trump won the Electoral college, with less money spent and less ground game. But possibly only because the Democrats didn't realize till almost the end that PA.WI and MI were also swing states.

Oh come on! Polls had been calling PA & MI within the margin or for Trump then for HRC, off and on for the entire campaign. If "Democrats" didn't "realize" it, then that isn't because the facts weren't right in front of them. But it is the campaign strategists who f'ked up royally. Apparently they failed (just my guess) to realize that given the dislike for both candidates and the revulsion in the media response to a lot of Trump's comments, that many people would be unwilling to share their true feelings with anyone (assuming they'd actually made the choice before election day). They made the "searching for my lost keys under the light" error, accepting as true the results which missed getting the accurate picture. More spending and ground troops are useless if you don't deploy them at the front.

Yes, but it's also a conclusion that Democrats should not welcome. He's arguing that the electoral college diminishes the value of money in campaigns, and isn't that what Democrats have been wanting pretty much forever? It seems that abolition of the electoral college is the last thing that people worried about money in politics should be pushing.

Romney thought he was going to win the day before the election also.

This election was an absolute humiliation for the professional election consultant class, in both parties. Trump read the the mood and went around the Maginot line with almost no opposition. Clinton and crew did ok for a while, but her incompetence while in office caught up with her.

I suspect all the positive spin about victory was to keep her own party from finding a handy tree.

4. There is some concern in the financial markets that Trump will appoint a hawkish Fed chair. However, I think if Trump wants to get re-elected, then he will probably abstain from some of the more hawkish candidates.

6. But is that a good thing? Seems like the goal of the US election system should be maximum civic engagement, not minimal campaign expenses.

Really? Our election system should optimize for maximum civic engagement, rather than, say, good governance?

Exactly. We know some people don't vote because they don't bother to inform themselves and feel it would be irresponsible to vote based on their ignorance. The Progressive (Democrat Party) assumption is that they are the party pandering to more of the free lunch crowd, so that these uninformed votes will tend to go Democratic. The question is if I know I would be acting irresponsibly by choosing to cast my vote between choices I know nothing about, then how can I think someone else who does that, given the same state of ignorance, is doing a good thing for our democracy? It's not Politically Correct to say, but the truth, imho, is that we don't (or shouldn't) want all eligible voters to vote; we want all voters to become informed, and all informed voters to vote.

But horse, water, drink.

Just to clarify, we are saying voting for Trump is a vote against 'free lunches'?

Sure, good governance would be a better "goal seek". I'd say good governance means utility maximizing for the people being governed. In a representative democracy, one way to do that is to make more voters feel like they have a say. In non-swing states, i'm sure a lot of voters on the losing side feel like they don't count, and candidates don't invest as much into securing those more votes on the margin because a few more votes won't swing the state. Get rid of the electoral college and now every vote is equally valuable and candidates may be more inclined to spend time and money in places that are usually left out of the process.

Perhaps that re-aligned investment will be more efficient too. Something about picking the president based on popular vote feels like a more competitive market -- candidates can choose where to allocate assets most efficiently instead of being regulated by the electoral college.

Then again, maybe utility gains from feeling like your vote counts are offset by utility losses in more annoying tv ads.

Good governance is about the outputs of governing, not the inputs. In any case, there's no clear evidence to suggest that people are much more satisfied with elections for other offices at the federal, state, and locals levels that lack the peculiar campaign effects of the electoral college. The focus on reforming the EC is an annoying distraction.

Yes, maximum civic engagement. The point of democracy and elections is that what is good governance is impossible to define, among other things because even if you could define it, the population could change their mind about the definition at any moment.
If there was an agreed upon definition of good governance, why bother with elections at all? You could just have a government agency who hires the best governors.

I disagree. Ideally, it should be as safe to ignore the presidential election as it usually is to ignore the election of your local drain commissioner. In fact, it might have a positive effect just to change the title of the office from 'President' to 'Federal Drain Commissioner'.

Trump campaigned on being the Federal Swamp Drain Commissioner.


No one knows who won the popular vote in the U.S. and no one ever will. Here is why. Illegal voters and illegal voters are now commonplace in the U.S. The U.S. has essentially zero mechanisms for detecting and removing illegal votes and voters. Obama went to pains to assure illegal voters that they faced no risks.

For some actual data, see See "Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections?" ( Since we will never know the number of illegal voters in 2016, we will never know who really won the popular vote.

This is one of the key reasons we have the electoral college.

I don't know whether it's a key reason you have it, but it's bloody good reason to keep it.

Over they years I've noticed one aspect of politics that Dems and Repubs have universally agreed on in my conversations with them. Both have agreed that the Dems do far better out of vote cheating than the GOP does. Why is the GOP so slack in this matter?

The study you link to concludes that somewhere between 38,000 and 2.8 million non-citizens voted.

I'm inclined to believe the lower number. In a country with such poor voting participation rates from people legally entitled to vote, I find it hard to believe that illegals would be rushing to vote (especially because other data such as their lower level of traffic citations suggests they go out of their way to keep a low profile where legal authorities are concerned).

Even if we accept the higher number, and some skewing toward the Democrats, a large proportion of those illegals will be in safe states - CA, TX - where their votes won't make any difference.

Whether or not the Electoral College is a good idea has nothing to do with illegal immigration. Never did.

The authors themselves estimate 1.2 million in 2008

Even if we accept the higher number, and some skewing toward the Democrats, a large proportion of those illegals will be in safe states – CA, TX – where their votes won’t make any difference.

Which is irrelevant, given that you're responding to a claim about the popular vote.

Maybe the precise margin will be in doubt, but the most careful and well-informed projections have Hillary winning by several million, a full 2%. once all the votes are counted. What remains out is about 7 million, all of it from CA, NY, and WA, where she won by about 2 to 1.


1. If you have a lot of illegal voters, then you'd want a popular vote rather than the electoral college. At the moment Hillary is ahead of Trump by nearly 800K votes, likely to close this election well over a million. Statewise however, it takes a lot less to flip a state. 13,000 votes would have flipped Michigan. 80K PA. Even NC could have flipped with 178K votes.

2. I'm skeptical of your study for a couple of reasons. First states typically require voters to register with either a SSI or drivers license #. Neither are easily available for a non-citizen. Second, the study is based on a survey of people which asked them if they were non-citizens and if they voted. This assumes people answer both questions correctly. The fact that the study had some non-citizens who also claimed they voted in states that required photo ID to be presented without a hassle. Third both voter registration and whether or not they voted is public record that both parties study for their data mining. Millions of illegal voters would be easy to document.

First states typically require voters to register with either a SSI or drivers license #. Neither are easily available for a non-citizen.

Well that's delusional. 50 states give driver's licenses to legal immigrants. Green card holders and certain other permanent resident immigrant types get SSNs. 12 states openly give driver's licenses to illegals.

Boynton, Careless is right.

Every immigrant with a work visa allowing him to work receive a SSN upon arrival. The SSN is for life, it doesn't disappear when your visa expires. Spouse of visa holder who are allowed to work (for example with a J1 visa, but not a H1B) also gets a SSN.

[Thus I came to the US first on a J1 visa for three months some (long) time ago, went back to Europe for three or four years, and came back later on another visa, then a green card, still with my SSN I got the first time.]

As for driver license you can get one everywhere if you're a legal immigrant (even for a short duration). You need either an SSN or to explain why you can't have one (for instance, as a spouse of H1B holder). My first driver license (from New York State) mentioned the fact that I was here on a visa due to expire on such date. So it would have been difficult to use it to vote. But when I became permanent resident (thus still not allowed to vote), my subsequent driver license where perfectly normal.

Finally, you do not need a driver license anyway in many states, neither to register nor to vote. Here a state by state analysis would be useful, but for instance in Massachusetts, you can register with a simple utility bill or any bill with your name and address, and you can vote with nothing (by mail).

Driver's licenses and SSI numbers, however, create a record that can be cross referenced for citizenship or lack of it. It would be quite easy for stressed prosecutors to find examples of voter fraud to take to court if there were thousands or millions of non-citizens whose SSI or license numbers show up both in registration rolls and voter rolls.

Perhaps it is paranoid but then again I suspect these times need some paranoia. What is the point of arguing against using a popular vote rather than electoral vote system by asserting mass voter fraud? If you can't trust a popular vote then you can't trust a state by state vote which means you're not really interested in defending elections in principle.

As a man with clear autocratic tendencies prepares to take office, why do you think now is the time to be laying the groundwork for such ideas?

Can't trust people to get this right with self reporting. 41% of those who claimed to have been non-citizens in 2012 and voters in 2010 had previously reported being citizens in 2010. 1/5th of people who said they weren't citizens in 2012 had said they were citizens back in 2010. Glancing at the survey that they are pulling this data from ( indicates the problem. 50,000 people opted in over the Internet to a survey which appears to have dozens of questions. People get lazy and will answer too quickly clicking the wrong option or just clicking to get through the question.

This study is indeed rather weak as a proof of fraud, though not as much as the studies that were quoted by the NYT to prove the contrary, that voter fraud is virtually inexistent.

Yet I find astonishing how easy it is to commit voter fraud in the US (in many ways, registering or voting when you're not allowed to, registering or voting several times under different names, voting for someone else who knows do not vote) compared to France, where is also an old solid democratic tradition, but where fraud is taken seriously and which asks proof of right to vote (citizenship, age, address) and of identity before accepting any vote.

It doesn't imply necessarily that massive fraud happens in the US, but denying flatly that it happens, as many Democrats do, when most other democratic countries consider the risk very seriously and do what they can to limit it, and sometimes discover vast fraud schemes (for instance the one concerning Tiberi, once mayor of Paris) reminds me of Ahmadinejad's answer at Columbia University, when asked about homosexuality in Iran: "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country."

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I turned in a cousin for voter fraud last week after she was boasting about it (voting in a state in which she has not been a resident for many years) on Facebook, which she doesn't even have set to friends only. Not the sort of thing ID checks prevent, but if I know someone stupid enough to publicly announce she's doing it, I have to wonder if there's actually a lot of it out there.

The study is well done if you read through it. I have no doubt there are issues with the data but they did well to identify and account for it.

I agree, but they data set they rely on is not good enough to warrant solid conclusions.

On #1, the article ignores the fact that the Copyright and other IP provisions we included in the TPP draft at the insistence of the US. It's hard to imagine that if the other parties wished to move forward they would keep any of that.

I hope you are right, but I fear your underestimate the the bovinity of lawyers.

If you are an IP lawyer (Hi Ray!) you will be brought up on the assumption that IP entanglements == good law. This is sustainable because it keeps IP lawyers in business, but I think the the poor dears genuinely believe it too.

Even if only the US has a comprehensible interest in pushing this point of view, such lawyers exist in all countries, and by now they must be involved in advising the negotiators.

#6...Oh my...Here's an idea...Since poorer neighborhoods in congressional districts have financial & ground game disdvantages, why don't we give them more of the vote?

That would really give the advantage to the Republicans. There are a lot of poor neighborhoods out there past where the sidewalk ends.

Here's the difference between Brexit and the Presidential election...In Brexit more people voted to leave than to stay.

To be super anal, the privilege of a journal editor, I must note that Mr. Literary Sam Tenenhaus used "strata" for a singular item in his essay on Dylan and Springsteen. Tsk tsk, :-).

I guess that while you are technically correct that stratum is the singular, I use the word strata all the time at my job and have not once been corrected. So at the very least it doesn't sound incorrect to use strata as a singular noun for some number of Anglophones.

I would say Prof Rosser has the datum in his comment , but since you do it all the time, you have the data.

Is the singular form of "anecdote" datum? What is an agendum?

Agenda is a collective noun, it doesn't have a singular.
You're welcome.

#6 The most populous 40 Metropolitan Statistical Areas contain over 50% of the US population (the 300+ MSAs have, I forget 250-275 of the 310-320 million US citizens). Confusing geographical area with statistical area with political precincts/districts is a blunder of the worst kind. Some words should not be used (or only used with great care and when clearly defined) in this discussion, "density" and "concentration" are two of them.

Can the TPP survive without the U.S.?
It could but why? The purpose of TPP is to hook up the cheap labor/slave labor countries to the worlds largest/richest market. Without that market what would the purpose then be for TPP? Would there be a carnival if there were no suckers???

Well, Japan is also a large high income market, and would be the leader of the group as noted in the article.

As a matter of fact most of the serious trade-increasing parts of TPP involve trade among the various Asian nations in it, not trade with the US aside from a major opening vis a vis Vietnam, arguably the final end of the Vietnam War. Much of what has been involved with the US part the rest of them could do without, namely the assertion of "intellectual property rights" by US companies to impose higher prices on them for US products, especially Big Pharma.

To that I say; good luck Japan. I would be happy with them becoming the dumping ground rather than us.

As for intellectual property rights; Did you know most of Komatsu's heavy equipment were direct and total copies of Caterpillar's products? I understand, but don't know for sure, that many of the components were even interchangeable. And yet those greedy U.S. companies want to protect their property rights, go figure.

And then there is "Big Pharma"! Greedy Big Pharma who wants to make a profit selling their products. Big Pharma who make products that save lives and make people healthier and live longer (the bastards!!) Who the hell do they think they are charging for their products. They should give them away, right? The bastards...

Maybe you could look up which countries are involved.

I know which countries are involved. All the countries that want to use cheap and slave labor to make cheap junk to sell into the U.S. the worlds largest market. The TPP should be renamed to the "Take advantage of the USA treaty".

I would suggest a simple sentence to be added to all of the gobblyDgook in the current TTP that would make it acceptable:
Every trading partner of the U.S. would be required to purchase as much finished goods and services from us as the value of the products they sell us. Now that would bring "Trade" into the trade treaty.

Yes, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore and Brunei, all kings of cheap labor.

Am I allowed to buy the cheap stuff? I prefer to pay lower prices.

1. From John Hempton of Bronte Capital:

"The TPP did not die in a vacuum. A bunch of countries north of Australia want to have guaranteed open access to big markets and they will wind up signing a trade treaty. This time they will sign with the economy that will honour their commitments: China.

And in thirty years time there will for the countries of Australia's north be a hegemony: a Chinese hegemony."

"This time they will sign with the economy that will honour their commitments: China."

Yeah, cause nobody ever got burnt believing this.

Our country is named The United States of America. By established Constitutional law, amendments require the votes of State Legislatures.

Darned if I can come up with a reason that states like Wyoming or the Dakotas will limit their importance in a national election. Maybe others on here can figure out why they'll say "Sure we want people from California and Illinois to run our States too" but I can't figure it out. "Because the left wants them to do so" doesn't seem very convincing.

You are certainly correct. It would make no sense for the smaller states to give up their advantage in the presidential election. Kind of crazy how the 3/5ths rule created this system.

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