06 November 2008

Running the numbers: Slacker America

The following is a position paper for The Jacksonian Party.

I have run with this theme before, but often in a humorous mode, like I did before the elections in 2006:

This one from the disreputable AFP, so it may not have actually been said, check your local chicken entrails to make sure. Coming from Ehud Olmert talking about the 'International Community':

"Like the 1930s in Germany, the international community hears voices today calling for the destruction of Israel and does nothing," he said Friday during a speech at the country's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

And since there is no Nation greater than that of the United States we find ourselves accused of doing nothing! Yes, of being slothful!

And, yea and verily, this is TRUE!

America wishes to ascend and excel at all thing and one of the foremost of those is being slothful and slovenly! We much prefer to do nothing to the point where we wish to be the very foundational definition of *doing nothing*. If nothing can be done then Americans will find a way to do it 50% slower than any other people on this planet! And we go further in our attempt to reach these great heights of sloth so that no one can ever attempt to compare us to anything better, save a corpse which has *perfected* slothfulness.

And, really, this is true! Examine any average workplace and just see how many folks you can find looking for inventive ways to do nothing and pass it off as 'work'. Then I soon applied this to the Congress that came in, as it looked for ways to put the National Tail between the National Legs and scurry from Iraq:

This, the 110th Congress of the United States, realizes that the long struggle in the war on terrorism has exhausted this Nation while fighting in Iraq. Collectively this war has so sapped our manpower that we must get illegal labor into this Nation to do the jobs which Americans can't do, which is all of them, save fighting for us as the NAFTA treaty only allows for the one-way movement of illegal labor and that is into the US, so we can't ship them anywhere.

This Congress has also recognized that the actual will to fight any conflict in the modern era beyond two terms of Congress is foreordained to failure, as we have now recognized with the poor state of everything in the Nation. The United States has so exhausted itself in this fight in Iraq that our economy is in shambles and We, the Congress of the United States, can no longer even find it to get ongoing spending to fight a war all together. We have asked the Treasury Department to get us two pennies to rub together, but they have run out of copper.

This Congress additionally sees that the ability of the United States to actually educate its population is impossible. In areas of math it has gotten to the point where this Congress no longer has the math skills to even figure out what a balanced budget looks like. Above and beyond that, the entire infrastructure from sewage lines to geostationary satellites is in such poor state that we are now using up the last of the sneakers in warehouses to walk around on and depending upon the mercies of tourists, who marvel at the ruins they behold in our once proud Nation, for handouts on a daily basis. As we have burned all the books, no one knows how to communicate by semaphore, nor can it be learned.

And more on and similar in that sort of view.

Fun and games, but with a point to it. A point that would come up with this post asking if the Presidential election has truly come down to voting for a dim-wit or a slacker? That is harsh, but fair, given what has been going on, but no one wanted to take a look at what led to this problem.

That fun and sardonic attitude would, however, change with this article on the non-inevitability of history being created along certain lines, because our lack of analysis to do historical and alternative historical analysis is, apparently, limited to a hidebound area in academia and a free-wheeling area in fiction. I would insert two graphs looking at representative democracy in America and they are telling:

The above taken from US Census datasets.

Those are not pleasant graphs to look at if you do believe that representative democracy is more than just winning the votes of those who come out to vote, but winning a large percentage that is at least a plurality, of those in the voting age range.

Now I've made a few notes on this, primarily that the National Socialist Party in Germany in 1932-33 had a much higher claim to legitimacy than either of the two major parties in the US at present, and that holds true so long as the overall participation rate for voting is under the 70% range and elections are closely divided ( no more than 54% to the winner). Both of those must be present for this to be true and that marks the NSDAP as having greater representation in a plurality of a multiparty system due to higher base turnout of the voting population. To get to those lofty mid-30% ranges you actually need a high base turnout of the voting population to do this thing known as 'vote'.

Now if you put the old mental line that is an average for these you get a general slope that becomes the regression towards the mean for each graph, and that is downwards, so that even if you have some noticeable points away from it, upwards or downwards, the likelihood is that the next points will fall in a way to continue along the mean line for each graph. Frankly, it is too depressing to put those in, and I leave it as 'an exercise for the student' as math instructors used to put it. The process of analyzing a larger system that creates such a mean line is trendline analysis, and it is an easy analytical tool to pick up: look at the stock markets over decades and you get trendlines, which can then be corrected for by inflation to give you a good idea of where longer term market movements are going on. On a National scale for non-economic things, however, trendlines measure other things, and trendline analysis becomes a bit of looking at the trends and puzzling them out. I go over some of that with this post.

In election politics, one must look to larger cultural trends over time, and how the political parties are acting. Thus one man decrying the 'coarsening' of American culture is another man's view of people walking out of the current culture because it does not suit them. One can examine the trendlines of things non-economic, as I did in the regression towards the mean article, and then have some fun reversing graphs after removing labels and ask if there is a predominant trendline over time. If there *is* then the trendline is happening with respect to the graph and actually putting the proper order of the graph into place allows one to then ask 'what is causing this'? Baseball players get older, their accuracy on swings may go up, but their ability to actually get on-base may decline due to losing a step or two: it is a question of capability, accuracy, and ability to hit the ball with the force necessary to do the job. In sports most trendlines on a per year basis that are non-cumulative go down - players get older and perform less well in certain parts of their job.

So when other authors come up with lots of lovely graphs that purport to show all sorts of things, you can actually start to put trendlines in and do your very own analysis! I did that with a previous article on Polarized America and came up with some interesting conclusions that allowed me to start putting the whole of modern politics into perspective. The actual 'polarization' of American politics is a knife-edge thing, with absolute majorities in Congress becoming a thing of the past. Congress now sits with 'majorities' of a few handfuls of seats spread across both houses, and the Senate's rules allow it to require an overwhelming majority to actually 'run the boards' there. If the House doesn't have a similar sized majority to over-ride vetoes, then it becomes a two-stage Congress: even a minority can prevent things from happening in the Senate.

Now this election I had a chance to opine here and there and here is a bit I left at Mr. Z's on what would happen, and I am truncating my commentary:

I expect this election to follow the general trend, post-1968. More importantly, an overwhelming full D party win (President and Both Houses) and attempts to 'soak the rich' will backfire like nothing you have seen in your life. Why is that? The trends have demonstrated and odd artifact: when the richest in society have their ability to get a larger share of the wealth there is increasing polarity in society, not lessened. By measures of partisanship in Congress, there is less divisiveness when there is an uneven distribution of wealth... it is something that flies in the face of all Leftist economics, yet points to a basic fact of America: Americans like to know you can succeed beyond your wildest dreams of success.

Things go bad when you stop that, and the longer it goes on the more divisive things get. Not only do I expect a sub-50% turnout, but an absolutely misguided set of laws passed that will starkly divide America by squelching achievement via wealth accumulation.

In other places I would opine that a low turnout (being sub-52%) would be a win by Sen. Obama and anything above 54% would be a McCain victory.

Why is that?

After 1968 politics becomes an affair of factions: appease some factions, help others and craft a 'majority' out of what is left and then try to suppress the 'base' of your opponent. For the first time in long decades a low voter turnout helps the Democratic Party as it gives more power to fewer groups. No longer can a high turnout mean a Democrat winning and may, in fact, indicate just the opposite. On the flip side, the Republicans do not appear to know that there is a disaffected population that cannot find a party to represent them, and so the Republicans refuse to actually change the structure of their party or hold those elected to office in their party to any standards. By not having some method to 'read-out' party members, there is no capability to keep a coherent system of party ideology going. Thus to 'get a majority' there is no coherent platform that Republicans can say represents their party: no one runs on it, just like on the Democratic side. That means that politics is now pure personality driven by factional ideologs who have *no* worries they will ever be disdained by *either* of the two parties.

Now as exact population is only projected by the census for 2007, getting a direct handle on the population size of 2008 is difficult. So here are the two graphs with the added data, and I will give a word on the meaning of the 2008 one after them.

Congressional Election cycle graph percent

Presidential Election cycle graph percent

The deal with the Presidential one is that if you include a voting population increase of just a 1.75 million people (people turning 18 minus those who have died) then you get an almost flat 51% turnout. So my expectations of a sub-50% turnout were not seen, but the 51% is enough to return to the mean and then some, evening out the mean line which (in my mind) would be just above this election's turnout. That peak of percentage turnout in 2004 did not last and has come down harshly.

Note that this is the *opposite* of a mandate: more people did not turn out in this election, so the winning percentage of a bare majority can no longer be considered anything close to a plurality. More plainly: the US now has true minority government in both houses of Congress and in the White House. That has been the tipping point for the last three election cycles, where some supposed claim to plurality could be made. That is no longer a defensible position as 51% of 51% is just a bit over 25% of the voting age population. Note that even shifting those convicted of felonies out of this pool will *not* establish a strong plurality. That argument, to compare plurality strength to that of the NSDAP in Germany points to the *strength* of the NSDAP and the weakness of the US in having representative democracy. Those wanting National Socialism during the Great Depression voted for it in droves compared to this last election.

What can be said is that more Americans do not support this government than ever before in its history, save during the Civil War.

That is how far back you have to go to get percentages like these.

Attempting to pass anything beyond the 'status quo' in this sort of atmosphere is problematical: enforcing a 'mandate' that does not have a popular majority of the entire adult population to *back* becomes one of coercion. This is a minefield for *any* President-elect as it points to the extreme weakness of popular support for government that is beyond any normal grounds for 'healing'. That is why this is a setting for the 'Cold Civil War':

And that is the Battleground of the Cold Civil War: those who want to stay in cities with all of its lovely cultural artifacts and those who want to create good culture to sustain their outlooks on the world. One is centralized and imposed and adores cities and full blown top-down control structures, and the other is decentralized, lateral and allows an individualist stamp to be put on one's life so that one's values can be sustained. The Urban regions are trying to grow outwards, but have an unsustainable population ethos of 'two children being a drain is all you can afford to have' and 'sustainable growth': both of which mean stagnation of culture. Jacksonians and Traditionalists see children as a great boon to families, that finances can be stretched to increase coverage while nominally living with lower living standards, and that one makes growth for themselves and sees no need for growth based on productivity to be 'sustainable' outside of sustaining one self and one's family.

Often those battle lines are hazy, and there are sections of rural America that enjoys the largesse of federal handouts, just as there are still some Urban Black neighborhoods that disdain criminal gangs and support sustainment of self and family above all other things while creating a good community in doing so. If you have a hand out to receive from the public coffers you find it very hard to give yourself a hand up to a better life. That is the Traditionalist Conservative view of creation of society by doing good deeds and living a good life, and it forms the basis for individualism in America.

That division is one between wanting to be absorbed into the world and disappear into a polyglot of humanity ruled by government, and those seeking to create good lives and accountable government and help those that agree with us on that basis for a better world. The first has no standards, save destroying anything that allows individuals to achieve and wanting there to be a quick and easy system of prejudice with a handbook to tell you how to treat anyone else based on their color, gender, religion or ethnic background. The other holds standards to one self, one's family, one's society and government so that each are held accountable and NONE have the chance to run roughshod over liberty and freedom, and working with those who support both liberty and freedom.

The first is authoritarian based and is seeking to found a new Empire of Global Discrimination with a death toll that will be unmatched by any previous authoritarian State as this will be a Global Empire.

The second is the coalescing of Free People to support their liberty and freedom via minimal accountability and hold the State down with our hands around its neck to keep it from doing anything more than the bare minimum to protect us as we depend on our good nature for charity and distrust government to ever be 'good' or 'do good'.

To put a fine point on it: this is the great 'Interstate Bypass' division of culture. If you live inside a bypass, you are oriented more towards urbanized, centralized life. If you live outside one, then you are oriented more towards individualism and personal freedom. It is an inexact rendering, to be sure, and there is a mighty fuzzy line in that formulation, but it comes down to proximity of centralization as a 'good thing' against distance from it and lateral inter-work and support. Many in urban high-rises can create the latter and some taking federal money in the farmland areas come to depend on centralization.

That is a division that goes back to before the founding.

The last time cities had such sway and the Elites had such input against the countryside, the new Nation started to see those who rose up in arms in protest. In attempting to over-reach, over-centralize and dictate culture from Elite urban views, that will happen again to a Nation so divided.

We are one fine Shays away from disaster.

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