You silly, silly people…

Using difference-in-difference and regression discontinuity techniques, we find that US states governed by Democrats and those by Republicans perform equally well on economic, education, crime, family, social, environmental, and health outcomes on the timeline introduced by elections (2-4 years downstream).

That is from a new paper by Adam Dynes and John B. Holbein, forthcoming in APSR.


Is the lesson that politics is irrelevant? Or that terms should be lengthened?

The lesson is the same as that illustrated by Lee Kuan Yew In Singapore: there is no big government or small government, only smart government. Meaning, you can do good or bad with either a big or small government, contingent on how intelligently it is run. Democrats are for big government, Republicans are ostensibly for small government, and they’re both equally smart or dumb. Take your pick. That being said, competition both between and within parties results in a de-facto smarter government at the equilibrium.

I don't think the lesson would be that politics is irrelevant.

Rather that democracy is on a local (state) scale probably more responsive to the pressures shared between party electorates rather than those that bifurcate sharply between parties (at the state scale), and that these generally discipline the parties to work out with similar performance in practice. As well as that parties can only really affect a limited amount of stuff in 4 years.

Showing that two parties perform fairly consistently with each other over time is consistent with the idea that the general mechanisms of democratic accountability are more important in shaping outcomes than specific content of party ideology or structure.

Politics being irrelevant is probably what the "90% less democracy; 90% more 'love letters to Big Business, 90% more forgetting about being 'Pro-market, not pro-business''" crowd would probably take from this.... But back on Planet Earth we'd find that a world without democratic accountability would be very different, of course.

Best explanation so far.

Compare Illinois with Indiana. Indiana has zero debt Illinois has so much debt there isn't room here to list it.

Ha. Almost no one voluntarily lives in Indiana, unless they have close family ties there or work for a toxic chemical plant. One of the few interesting things about your state, Indiana Dunes, was rendered into a toxic cyanide-laden dump by a steel company. Thousands of dead fish are washing up on your shores. They had a taste of that sweet sweet Indiana freedom. It's really to die for. Ayn Rand is smiling from her grave. If you ever get bored living in the middle of nowhere, please don't come to Chicago. Heaven forbid, those dumb libs might charge you a $5 congestion fee for your pickup truck. Don't provide welfare for their bankrupt s**tty state. Cheesecake Factory opened up in Indianapolis anyway. I hear they serve fillett magnon. They really get the cook right when you order well-done: Michelin-rubber texture with no hint of pink.

If I found the right Al’s Beef those do look like tasty sammiches. Might have to swing on by next time I travel thru ChiTown.

Loaded fries might seal the deal.

The lessons probably are:
-Long term effects do not show up if you only measure short term
-Carefully selecting your measurement term is important for "lies, damn lies and statistics"

Happy Brexit Day Everyone! Long Live FREEDOM!

We've done it! Broken free of the EU stranglehold led by Prime Minister Johnson and the Tories! We've shown the world what a determined Britain, led by good Eton men, is capable of! Hip-Hip Hooray!

Thanks Tyler! Love it. In the short run, not a statistically significant dime's worth of difference in performance.

The figure on prolonged uniform control is interesting--even there, not a lot of effects (and I did not read carefully to check whether that figure corrected for multiple comparisons first or not...).

If we may ask, what does Tyrone think of this paper?

Tyrone has retired.

He now works for the Trump Administration

Are you kidding me? It's pretty obvious that Tyrone is Tulsi's campaign manager!

More evidence that the Ruling Class have created a fake democracy that gives the appearance of choice to the proletariat. Same as it ever was.

Not fake democracy but real republic. Read the Constitution.

Constitutional republic my eye. Control of the legislature decided by vote harvesters hauling in truckloads of “absentee” ballots in districts with 30 percent more registered voters than actual residents. The separation of powers so vaunted by the delusional and moronic made a mockery of on a daily basis by a hack political judiciary completely unrestrained and an unaccountable and invincible federal bureaucracy that runs rampant ignoring any inconvenient law. The USA public is content with bread and circuses. This paper demonstrates that this is true at the state and local level as well. The USA is the epitome of a failed state.

I guess it's been a failed state for centuries. Pretty good failed state, I can't actually think of a place I'd rather live.

+1. It's run by stooges and dimwits hired by venal politicians. But that seems to work okay, given that we're talking about humans.

perhaps not so much that politics is irrelevant but maybe (within some limits perhaps) economic outcomes are a bit path independent? And, of course, the consideration of the metrics (allocation aspects) verses the internal distributional aspects -- which then get to the politics).

So it is rational to vote solely based on which party opposes abortion.

Abortion policy is generally not modulated on the “timeline introduced by elections” in the study. When it is changed, many downstream effects also fall outside of the 2-4 year range.

No, but it is rational to assume that abortion does not influence short term outcomes (kids are quite long-term investment or problem anyways, depending on who you ask). And long-term outcomes cannot be measured correlating to a party, because in many places changes in laws can bring changes in winning party. So now you have a feature, where another party has to deal with the fallout of the previous one's actions.

Or, indeed, on which party believes in UFOs and Little Green Men.

Are you talking about Russia or aliens?

Nonsense...Red states are full of dumb inbreds. Life isn't equal or fair.

I wonder which silly people Tyler means. I hope he doesn't mean we don't impeachment because it just doesn't matter.

We need fidelity to truth, the Constitution, and to the laws of the land, because they underpin all these changeovers.

Then sure, it is part of the system that parties and policies change over time. That is indeed a feature and not a bug.

We need truth, justice, and the American way.

That is interesting, but so far it is one guy paid to support a wrongful death case. Still, I suppose the sleeping guards will get some more scrutiny, and that's fine.

I suppose somewhere there is a geneticist who was hired to support the argument that Senator Warren has a soupçon - however small - of Red Indian descent.

At the time I wondered why I had read nothing about his background. Then the explanation occurred to me. It's because Senator Warren is a Democrat.

For example, you hear someone say:

There is a risk to our Republic if we do not maintain what our Founders put forward: three coequal branches of government, separation of powers, with a check & balance on each other.

Do you look at it objectively? Situationally?

Do you need to know "which side" said it in today's climate?

Or are you so libertarian-woke that you call it "silly" and return to your breakfast?

I get one day a year to celebrate my existence but you can't help yourself and just have to drag me out and beat me up.

Be better

Best post of the week. This is why I come to MR.

lol, I'm sure that was the confirmation "scarecrow" needed that he's on the right track. "Slappy" is right with him.

Strawman, you thimblewit. Do you have to have *everything* explained to you?

Outstanding post, Scarecrow, +10 internet points

Ostriches beware: That quote is not an imagined "scarecrow," it is a topic in today's news.

+1, LOL, that was funny. And anonymous obsessively trying to Respond to every reply makes the whole thing even more amusing.

Sure boys, keep your heads down.

No coequal branches of government action to be seen today.

I smell a mouse in the house.

Maybe "Galt" is a good name for that kind of libertarian-woke.

But they never actually go to their valley, or seastead. They like it here, and the services we provide.

Aargh, what a weird take on this story! If true, this is a triumphant vindication of democracy (and possibly, by extension, markets): whatever their ideological differences, repeated exposure to voter choice has forced both parties to make sure that they are not actively harming their voters (any more than the other party). This is the best possible outcome there could be.

Thank you for that sensible perspective.

+1, that seems a sensible take on things

Yes, Mississippi performs equally well as California, Arkansas performs equally well as New York, and West Virginia performs equally well as Washington. You silly, silly people.

Based on a quick scan of the paper, it appears that the metric is to compare states to themselves, to measure policy impacts across independent 2 to 4 year time spans.

But it does mention "shark attacks" as an element of voter information regarding incumbents in the intro, so I checked to see if it was published on April first.

Well Ray, you really didn't think this through right?
Not to mention that you could at least have compared variations of apples to apples, like Texas and California... or New Mexico and Utah.

"Mississippi performs equally well as California,"

No, Mississippi has pulled ahead of California on the Percentage of population below the Poverty Line.

Is that adjusted for the giant military base /research and mfg.. largesse recipient that is California?

Per capita federal spending, by state, federal fiscal 2013 is here.

California is by no means a high flyer.

California and Wyoming are within a hundred bucks of each other on per capita receipts. That's kind of interesting.

A single structure, representative democracy, federal, state, and local.

A friggen miracle that a state with half million is equal to a state with 35 million.

Do me a favors, and compute the variance in that number across all states. I think the town of Cheyenne is in cahoots with California politics.

Maybe TC is calling out all these dopey studies pumped out by academics.

Many of the studies that Tyler posts do that. I'm not certain it's on purpose.

The big news is BREXIT! October 31st - UK Independence Day! We're FREE!

I suspect that while the amount of progress is the same, the difference is which in-groups capture most of the benefits based on political affiliation.

Right, just like public school teachers are the primary recipients of state education.

Galts are so weird.

School teachers are the primary beneficiaries of state education. See Chicago Public School strike. The students certainly are not the beneficiaries.

You guys are great. Maybe you should try something different on the seastead.

There is much politicking on say sanitation contracts, but you have to be around the libertarian bend to think the companies "capture most of the benefits" of garbage collection.

Education is a rivalrous nonpublic good. That should give us an indication of whether it’s a rent seeking activity and the diffusion of benefits.

Teachers in NY earn on average $85,000 for 9 months work, $113,000 annualized. They are immune from layoffs. They cannot be fired for cause unless they commit a violent or sexual crime against students. If they are unfit to teach they are allowed to sit in an empty classroom until retirement age.

They can retire at 57 years old with a yearly pension of approximately $90,000. They pay nothing into the pension system for the duration of their career.

Teachers represent the bottom tenth of bachelors degree holders and when benefits are included earn approximately $170,000 annualized.

So yes it’s rent seeking.

You have moved the goalposts.

There might be some "skim," but could libertarians really believe that the skimmer is primary beneficiary?

The terrible, terrible, postman "capturing most of the benefits" of daily mail delivery?

Let's say the whole 3% percent who voted for Gary Johnson really do feel that way. Well, that's by definition a fringe group. Weird in a specific way.

Since I haven’t mailed nor received anything of importance via the USPS in a long time, my letter carrier certainly captures all the benefits of mail delivery to my house. Since I also have to drop off mis-delivered mail to my neighbors, my letter is actually a net-negative to my utility.

>There might be some "skim,"

Might? Some? And skim is in scare quotes?

You're a dope.

Not scare quotes, just highlighting that I'm applying a term. There might be some "loss" or "shrinkage." There might be some "inefficiency." There might be some "administrative burden."

But kids are taught, garbage is collected, and mail is delivered. Except for old coots at the end of the (dirt) road, most people benefit from all that even so.

We are the primary beneficiaries.

Libertarians... a magical world where context is optional.

"And when you factor in cost-of-living, the rankings change, too. Last year, NPR partnered with the education nonprofit EdBuild to calculate what teachers in each state make before and after adjusting for regional cost differences. They found that while New York teachers are top of the list in average salary, they are in 17th place after taking into account cost-of-living. "

+1 Thanks for the context.

So NY isn’t even an outlier, that puts it in perspective.

so, a reasonable next question might be: how much should a degreed professional earn with 20 years of experience, who is responsible for the care, education and safety of 25 or so children.

those kids ranging in situation including downs syndrome, adhd, defiant disorder, non english speakers, autistic, and children of extreme poverty and abusive home setting. along with the neurotypical and gifted children.

Thankfully we don’t need to ask the question since there’s a robust free market in private teacher labor.

The average is $35,000. Add in benefits and you’re at maybe $55,000 all in. Annualized that’s $73,000.

So two married private school teachers would be at almost double the median household income on salary alone. Seems reasonable.

in other words, 20% less than a hardware store manager

Operational measures of competence and more value-added from the hardware store manager.

Regression techniques? Try congressional district data instead of state data.

Thirty congressional districts have a life expectancy of 82 or higher. Democrats represent all but one district. Ninety congressional districts have a life expectancy of 81 or higher. Democrats represent all but nine districts. About a third of congressional districts have a life expectancy of 80 or higher. Democrats represent 80%.

And their life expectancy is because of their Democrat representation in Congress?

Or, people who make good life decisions vote Democrat (in the current political moment).

Yes they make excellent political decisions. They make it impossible for immigrants and blacks to live in their district unless they too are wealthy. They send their kids to private school all the while strongly supporting public education to keep the competition down for their kids.

The key to their success are walls. Walls for them but not for everyone else.

That's very silly. You fault democrats for wanting higher taxes and more social welfare, and at the same time you fault them for being rich and not caring about anyone else?

Backwards much?

Derek, people in non-Right-To-Work states with the five largest Hispanic populations live about a year longer than people in R-T-W states with the five highest percentages of whites. People in non-R-T-W states with the five largest black populations also live about a year longer.

It is interesting to observe that governors of states will sometimes resign from their jobs to take second-tier positions in the federal government. Part of that is the allure and future business opportunities that come from that level of access in the federal government but it could also be partly due to the fact that state-level leaders don't have much power or influence outside of a narrow set of areas.

I live in India and while I understood the post I could not understand the title. Can someone explain it to me?

Tyler is calling a group of people silly. No one knows for sure who he is calling silly, so his title doesn’t make sense to anyone.

No he is not, I think. Tyler is not actually calling anyone silly.
The title could , with the same meaning, be stated thusly:

"do we waste time on politics" ....
but "you silly silly people" has a different effect.

For the record, "you silly silly people" is the sort of thing a villain says in a Batman TV show, and Cowen expects the reader to know that he is nothing like such a villain.

Hence, the writer of the phrase does not expect the reaction to be:
no I am not silly, but rather

oh, hey here is another post about a study that probably falsely claims (and we adults know most of the studies that are talked-about make false claims) that it is silly to care about politics.

To make this clearer, think of it this way: there is nothing in the title of the post, or in the commentary, that would lead one to believe that, for example, the fact that a baby girl or boy has a much greater chance of not being killed before she or he is born in a state with a Republican governor than in a similar state with a Democratic party of abortion governor is not an important fact.

(If English is not your native language, please trust me - the lack of commas in those last 20 words or so was on purpose - I have been insulted hundreds of times on the inter webs by people who do not understand what I am trying to do, when I communicate, but I understand rhetoric and dialectic just about as well as they can be understood, and I am amused at the insults).

TLDR - his title makes sense to me.

amusing insults always welcome, but please do your research first! THANKS!

Maybe the author knew that 4 years is too short of a time to assess performance, but that’s the average of the House and Senate terms. Of course, that’s also the presidential term. On the margins, Americans vote based off of the last 4 years. TC may be winking that American’s can’t see past their nose.

The conclusions of the paper are limited to a 2-4 year timeframe. Over a longer time frame, it's difficult to argue that there is no difference between, say, New York/New Jersey and Texas.

If you(Tyler) are going to criticize Piketty and Saez for ignoring transfers with respect to personal wealth, why not apply that same standard here? We know empirically that red states receive more in federal dollars than they give, shouldn't that be accounted for, ceteris paribus?

Sorry - Not True!!!

There is plenty of evidence that it is true. Do you have something to suggest its not?

The top four contributors per capital are: New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Jersey. All solidly blue. Virginia, West Virginia, New Mexico, and Kentucky are the largest recipient of federal dollars.

"states where federal aid comprised the largest share of general revenue" could just as easily mean low tax states. Not saying you're wrong, just that this isn't proof.

Is this part of the 30% that's valid, or the 70% that's junk? You know, "Replication Crisis?". We don't really know. Tyler doesn't know. Not single commenter here knows. So why are we talking about it? Are we really that out of important topics?

This is why I would like Professor Cowen to put his grading hat on and assign a letter to each study he posts. They can’t all be A’s.

So California IS just as well-run an American state as any other suffering from historically arid conditions prone to seasonal wildfires (in every year prone to twelve-months' duration), arguably a mismanaged environmental state whose annual wildfires disrupt families and education, pose threats to life and health, and disrupt economic activity for days and weeks at a time for thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and/or millions of Californians.

Are northern California secessionists as favorably impressed with Democratic Party leadership in Sacramento as Silicon Valley residents or as Southern Californians whose homes and businesses are not themselves plugged into the PG&E grid?

As opposed to Texas where folks regularly kill their children in mass shootings.

Such events occur with deplorable frequency in California itself, events perhaps made possible in part due to the tax take Sacramento gets to fund woeful state mismanagement.

If anything, dissatisfied with the state's fatalities from mass shootings, California municipal officials contribute themselves to mass casualty events by failing to enforce existing building codes (Ghost Ship conflagration) or by failing to maintain critical infrastructure (the Oroville Dam, among others).

State dysfunctionality in California arguably far exceeds citizen lunacy in Texas, since California suffers severely and profoundly from BOTH state dysfunctionality AND plentifully loony citizens.

You bring up Texas as a murder capital? You are a monster movie flying spider with the wires showing.

One area where the Democrats seem weakest is negotiating with public sector unions to control long-term costs. A 2-4 year time frame does not seem remotely adequate to assess this. Also, the minority party has a huge effect on what gets passed and how much gets spent, particularly if the majority is not united. Republicans are usually bad on spending, but Democrats are almost always competing against them for more spending, not less.

One area where Republicans are strongest at is passing tax breaks that don't hit the bottom line until they leave office

Two reasons Republicans should not be in power. Dropping bombs and endless deficits. At least when they are out of power they are forced to pretend to care about spending. Not that they actually do.

we find that US states governed by Democrats and those by Republicans

1. Defined how? Someone in the governor's chair or is there a more extensive set of criteria?

2. Why would you limit your measure to 2-4 years downstream?

The state governments aren't merely supposed to keep things running, they're supposed to supply national talent.

I freely confess to impotent bitterness but not partisanship when I say that the people who govern my state, in recent decades at least - I didn't witness an older period, but I "believe the buildings" and assume there was greater competence - have been a thoroughly embarrassing lot, party be damned. [W. is not brilliant, no, but neither is he stupid, and he is light years ahead of the people I'm talking about; in any case he was not a product of the statehouse. Neither is Beto for that matter.] If it's supposed to be not merely a market for the trading of favors and the placement of the lege's family and friends into permanent state sinecures, but a factory for producing talent - well, so much for that. It's unclear whether the rare intelligent exceptions like Joe Straus have managed to keep the whole thing just barely afloat, or if there's just so much money down here monkeys could distribute it and keep the lights on. I honestly don't know how it works. The urban demagogues are either corrupt or imbecilic. The rural demagogues likewise, especially the Valley ones, and the Latina demagogues are simply, stridently unlistenable. The bubba lawyer-legislators seem like their community got together and said, his daddy's money's probably gonna put him in office, and really isn't it just better overall to get this jerk out of town? The emblematic state legislator for me is the one who got busted for prostitution or something, fled, was pursued back to East Texas, and found hiding in his childhood toy chest.

But maybe "good-enough, by no means great" outcomes are not about our governors, or their variation. Maybe we the people have been less silly than, on the whole, fairly governable.

If so, the ineffability of such a quality (as, I understand, is gestured at but not really acknowledged on p.131 of your colleague's picture book, per your twitter feed) should concern you when you think about: the coin toss election we had in 2016, and the rancorous, constant politicization-of-everything since; the inevitability of third (and fourth, and fifth) parties eventually exploiting the weak candidates the two major parties fielded in 2016 and continue to field, making a pro wrestler/porn star seem not out of the realm of possibility; combined with the influx in great numbers of a cornucopia of peoples who, however individually saintly, per the media, they may be - may not share that mysterious "governability."

Chaos is kind of alluring, even to me, but it's not really a joke. (Does Pelosi, out of everybody, see that?) This country occupies a very large footprint, to become ungovernable.

So doesnt this mean that state government has no value on these criteria and should be drastically cut to Mississippi levels?

I think it means that states should become agencies of the Federal Goverment. Department of Transportation, Dept. of Education, Medicaid, and the FBI.

We can leave a couple bureaucrats in place to run their lotteries.

There: done.

In 1776 this would have been a terrible idea.

2019 - I could be convinced.

It’s not like anyone pays attention to local politics anyways. Except for the various special interests.

This study measures where there is a change from one party to another: it doesn't address a state which is consistently one party:

Like Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama.... I wonder how those states do relative to a group of states with the opposite party consistently in charge.

So politics is just a matter of aesthetics (like religion). But this observation poses a new question: what matters more -- legal institutions or culture?

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