For a few years now, a number of you have been asking me where Tyrone, my evil twin brother, has gone. The truth is a sad one: I have had to put him away, because in these especially fractious times his particular brand of malfeasance is less funny than before. His wisecracks cut too close to the bone, and so many matters on MR have become more somber — no more dating advice either!
Nonetheless, is there a stable equilibrium to be had? If Tyrone receives little or no surplus, he becomes all the more…unruly. And so, risking punishment, he snuck out this message to Alex T., and I agreed to print it, for fear that further transmissions would occur (I do respect the Laffer Curve, and at an optimal punishment level I still can get away with some editing of his words). Here is the ridiculous nonsense that Tyrone reports this time around, and you can see he is gaming the message to encourage his own liberation:
Tyler and his media friends keep on reporting that political polarization has gone up. But that’s wrong: it has radically fallen. Just look at economic issues. As of 2011, many Republicans were for some ostensible Tea Party version of economic liberty, or at least they pretended to be. Now both parties are very bad on economic issues. For instance, you’ll find protectionist ideas all over the political spectrum.
The wonderful thing about polarization was this: it forced people who didn’t really believe in economic liberty to act as if they did. The resulting gridlock was better than letting people’s real instincts come out.
Trump of course used to be a Democrat, and our president himself draws bad ideas from both sides of the aisle. Which party again was campaigning against NAFTA? What is they say?: Look into trade as an issue. and you see a man’s soul.
What about abortion, that (supposedly) most polarizing of issues? As Matt Yglesias noted:
About a third of Republicans are pro-choice and about a third of Democrats are pro-life.
Yes that is a real difference, but it hardly sounds like two worldviews, standing irrevocably cleaved and apart. And a lot of those positions are in actuality fairly nuanced in their details.
According to Larry M. Bartels, about a quarter of the Democrats on cultural issues stand closer to the Republican party than to the average position of their own party. And talking through the poll data on Christian black women — often Democrats but on average not exactly “progressives” — would require a lengthy missive of its own.
Nor do I see either party speaking up for free speech on campus, except in the most opportunistic terms. Republicans are pushing bills to crack down on left-wing protests against conservative talks, while the left is trying to limit those same conservative talks. Distinction without a difference, your Tyrone says, and he should know. I yearn for the “good ol’ days” when the New Left was for free speech and the conservatives were largely more skeptical. At least someone was for it, and in an oppositional kind of way.
Contrary to standard reports, the urban-rural divide has not really been growing.
Trump wants to change various governmental rules and norms to cement his own power, such as dumping the filibuster and perhaps reinterpreting the emoluments clause and expanding executive authority of trade and immigration. Democrats talk of dumping the electoral college or, right now, bringing back FDR’s “court-packing” plan.
It is widely granted that traditional political parties are blowing up (NYT). Plenty of people wanted Trump and Sanders to run together as a ticket. And in just about every European country, immigration and terrorism poll as the major issues, neither of those being the traditional territory for previous polarization.
The thing is, when people really believe in something, they end up polarized. Of course they don’t agree on everything, and so polarization ensues along the dimensions of difference. Less polarization is a symptom of believing in less more generally, and don’t confuse the resulting obnoxious fractiousness with greater polarization. Instead, it is a sign that ideas are no longer ruling the day. And indeed, religious participation is down in America and the secularization thesis is finally beginning to bite. Polarization, however unpleasant it may have felt at the time, meant order.
What can I say people? Tyrone now opposed to obnoxious fractiousness? In spite of his periodically reasonable tone this time around, don’t believe it for a moment — he hasn’t changed. Nor is polarization down. Polarization between Tyler and Tyrone clearly has gone up as of late, thus his enforced silence. Tyler believes in free speech, and he knows that freedom from harm for others requires the silence of Tyrone. And so is freedom realized, and to thunderous applause.
Who knows when you will hear from Tyrone again? Maybe I’ll let him do a restaurant review instead.