Pragmatist in Westerosi politics, kids and conflict, and Bangor's bright future
I take issue with the narrative I’ve heard some friends repeat that throwing soup at a painting is at least “courageous”. I think the left is sometimes too quick to bestow that accolade on people who do sort of shocking but low personal risk stuff (she’s a trust fund baby who might spend a night in the clink at worse but probably not). It makes progressives look deeply unserious.
Thank you so much on noting that we should have encouraged more outdoor activity. This in my mind was overwhelmingly the biggest failure of pandemic policy, and I was seeing it as early as near the beginning when we were doing insane things like closing off playgrounds. It was so critical to run a cost/benefit analysis to demonstrate that getting more people outdoors would in turn keep them away from far more dangerous behavior indoors.
But we didn't. And my guess as to why is that we ceded too much authority to the public health crowd, who through this experience I've noted are some of the most neurotic people on the face of the earth. That's understandable given what they study. But it shouldn't have meant turning the keys entirely over to them on societywide policy, since most people are nowhere near as neurotic as them. That should have been strictly within the realm of elected executives to decide in a more holistic manner, who have a better read on how important socialization is to most people.
At a time when more & more people in the West are described as lonely, alienated, and without strong social connections- the trend towards 'let's have everyone white collar work out of their living room and never leave their house' is just utterly bizarre to me. Why would anyone think more social isolation is a good thing? I'm with Matt, I think that remote work is likely a negative trend in modern society, but is probably unstoppable. Speaking just from my industry, I can tell you that all the software engineers want to work 100% remotely, and they can simply choose not to work for companies that won't accede to that. They have all the leverage. So, hello increasingly lonely & isolated America.
I am hearing lots of rumblings from people at large companies, including the FAANGs, that productivity is markedly down from remote workers
Listening to you on the EK show and i gotta say, you two still have great podcast chemistry. There's a reason those weeds episodes during the dem primary were my favorites, i appreciate the combo
Matt, if you're interested on the impact of remote work on productivity/growth, there was recently an econ conference at Stanford that focused on remote work. (see here: https://www.remoteworkconference.org/) Most of the research was focused on US workers, but not all.
The results were broadly that workers like remote work (and so it will probably stick around) but that fully remote work seems to be bad for feedback/mentorship -- especially for young workers -- and knowledge spillovers.
There was one field experiment run (in Bangladesh I think, so external validity is something to think about for the US context) that showed that mandated hybrid resulted in the best work outcomes: specifically, they found that hybrid workers send more emails, send more unique information in their emails, are rated by managers as having higher work productivity, and receive a higher wage increase than workers in either the mostly remote or mostly in-office groups.
One paper did find that remote work's negative impact on science collaboration has decreased as technology has gotten better, looking at scientific coauthors from geographically distant locales. So the results are at least somewhat mixed.
Not at this conference but I think I saw a paper in Science suggesting that remote brainstorming resulted in worse outcomes than in-person, as well.
So IMO I think the research mostly supports your POV, that remote work will stick but (fully remote) is bad for feedback/productivity/growth
I’m sorry but MY’s conspiracy theory of politics is a bit silly. If you must reduce all politics to one sentence then the left seeks change to improve things and the right seeks to protect the things that are already good *from* change. Both are genuine human interests and that’s why both have had and will forever continue to have varying degrees of popular support. Neither is in its essence a conspiracy although individual politicians and organizations on *both* sides have known to use conspiracy theories from time to time to advance their cause.
WRT the question about zero tolerance toward aggressive masculine behaviors..,A daycare teacher told us at the end of a day that our 3 year old son was interrupting girls all day and not letting them talk. I think this was a weird way to frame his behavior if he was being disruptive he’s not a disruptive kid but my wife and I were like “uh is she trying to say our 3 year old is sexist or something?” I think there is a little bit of hypersensitivity toward typical little boy behavior these days from my admittedly limited experience.
So this was a great mailbag, as usual, with one exception: the bizarre conspiracy-theory version of conservative politics: "And the right’s strategy is to obfuscate".
What about the statement from last week's mailbag, "I don’t think questioning people’s sincerity is productive"? Maybe that doesn't apply to approximately fifty percent of our country - or, more charitably, to a large share of our politically active class?
In order to stand by that view of American politics, even if you want to question the right's sincerity, I think you have to either repudiate markets as a mechanism for advancing social good (which Matt obviously does not), or buy into the proposition that economic interests are the only genuine interests (or both). If you accept that people genuinely have non-economic priorities, it's easy enough to invert that critique and conceive of the American left as a conspiracy to bribe the electorate into accepting their high status as natural ("reality has a left-wing bias") and their cosmopolitan cultural preferences.
The original question is interesting, though! Why do Republicans keep nominating hapless lunatics and con men? I can think of at least two reasons. First, political talent is hard to come by in the first place, and the Republican party is suffering from a brain drain that is partly self-inflicted (by amplifying resentment of educated elites) but also driven by the left's tendency to treat conservative opinions as bad manners. Second, celebrity and its close cousin notoriety are much more important factors that we typically credit - far more important than, e.g., command of policy, at least in a representative democracy.
(Incidentally, this is why I disagree with Matt's recent, related off-hand remark on Bad Takes: he contrasted Republican's promoting meritocracy with the distressing candidates they promote, noting that they were extremely weak on policy. I don't think this is a contradiction at all: policy knowledge is not a core piece of a contemporary American politician's skill-set.)
I have a question for the community: how off-putting do regular Americans find Democrats' accusations of racism and other forms of oppression against each other? I witnessed a mini Twitter pile on the other day and I was shocked for a few days by how nasty it got. Maybe I'm naive but I've just never seen people treat each other that way IRL, let alone ones supposedly on the same side
Twitter is not real life but there's wide coverage of progressive institutions becoming paralysed by various accusations of oppression. I actually find it slightly weird Kamala Harris went out of her way to criticise Biden over race during the primary and then became VP.
I wonder if it's one more thing about Dems that repels normies.
I think the experience might be different for those who had young children. For us, serious restrictions continued for quite a long time, mostly relating to schools. But just to give one dumb example, the playgrounds were open again by June of 2020 where I live. They were open, but my wife didn’t want to use them, and didn’t want to allow me to take our kids there. She wasn’t comfortable with playgrounds for at least another year. And that was in large part due to the lack of encouragement from the public authorities to use playgrounds. She was looking to respectable opinion leaders on the left for guidance throughout, and their advice was always “why take the risk?”That’s how I remember it.
Since Matt couldn't get to my question, I'm going to go rogue and post it here for the crowd, as I'm beginning to freak out a bit, and would love to get an opinion or two: assuming they lose the House (or worse) will Democrats have the common sense to address the debt ceiling the day after next month's election? Would it not be political malpractice of the highest order if they don't do so? Also, ten months ago they did it with 51 votes, so GOP votes aren't, strictly speaking, necessary.
(Also, we may well be heading into recession next year, and I can think of few better ways to intensify a downturn than a nasty debt scare at some point. If they don't take action on the debt ceiling, Democrats may as well invite DeSantis to the White House and let him get started early on measuring for curtains.)
> Our elections are organized as if these are highly personal contests between two individuals, but Congress actually operates as a very polarized very partisan body. We’d be much better off with electoral institutions that matched that reality.
One reason I'm so keen on the Alaskan top-4 system (or the proposed Nevadan top-5 system, which I think is slightly better) is that it enables both intra-party and inter-party competition to happen simultaneously.
If you have that system and one of your party's candidates is a scumbag, then there is another candidate of your party you can vote for instead - meaning you can vote against a particular politician without risking affecting the balance of Congress. It also enables voters from the minority party to weigh in to some degree on which member of the majority party wins - which should advantage moderate members of both parties.
I think that top-4 is going to get a somewhat bad reputation among Republicans in Alaska because a typical top-4 in Alaska is going to be two Republicans, one Democrat and one Independent, and the intra-party battle between the two Republicans is liable to help the Democrat (as it did in the special election for the House recently). A top-5, which would almost certainly bring in a second Democrat, and so even out the intra/inter party conflict is a superior system.
I don’t know that your characterization of the “fundamental” dynamic of the right is telling the whole story. There’s a parallel core group on the right that sincerely believes basically: “(1) economic growth lifts everyone’s standard of living much more than anything else, (2) the difference between say 1.5% annual growth and 3% annual growth over a human lifespan is enormous, (3) relatedly, society-wide high growth includes noticeable change and disruption that in the short-term is uncomfortable for many, therefore (4) the right thing for the government to do is to keep the economy growing fast even if this means ignoring short-term pain the electorate won’t tolerate.”
Ironically this is a very collectivist worldview - people on the left like to tar and feather the right as *only* trying to protect the rich, but most people on the right don’t see it as protecting the people who are rich today, but rather protecting the ability to *get rich* ideally by creating some transformative business that makes everyone better off.
You can also look to places like China today (and America in the past) and see that when you do things like just build the high speed rail lines fast even if you have to crush some individual property owners to do it, you get high speed rail lines fast and very soon society is better off (even though the change really sucked for a small number of people).
Of course you can totally disagree with that worldview and ideology but I think *ignoring it* is unwise.
I take issue with the Slow Boring conventional wisdom that the right's activists are more disciplined than the left's. The more conservative the primary, the more likely you are to get a nutjob. That's because the true believers of the conservative movement ("activists") are nutjobs.
I feel like the most obvious recent evidence for this is Jan. 6. Was that a disciplined act or not?
Beyond that, right-wing nutjobs have in recent memory 1) stopped all business in the Canadian capital for several days, 2) supported nutjob conspiracies about multiple mass shootings, 3) endorsed Q, 4) celebrated family border separations, 5) called for a national abortion ban, and 6) described their political enemies as an evil "regime" that controls the media and deep state.
I understand that Matt is trying to make nuanced critiques of bad Democratic messaging, but it seems to me that he is really just creating more bad Democratic messaging with many of those critiques.
“Because right-wing politics is organized as a conspiracy to mislead people into not voting to give themselves more money, it creates structures that elevate and reward hucksters and flim-flam artists.”
There’s a kernel of truth here, and yet it seems extraordinary that a conspiracy to mislead people could more or less work for 246 years.
Was it just good luck for conservatives that Eisenhower and Reagan presided over four combined terms of peace and prosperity and that LBJ scuttled the Great Society in Vietnam? Is that why American voters plunder the rich less than their European counterparts? Is the conservative movement falling apart because there haven’t been any Reagans, Eisenhowers or LBJs for 34 years? It certainly takes some quirks and unexpected twists for a multimillion person conspiracy to prove so durable.
To be clear, I was reading a *little* into Martinez's comments on gay parents. What she actually said was that it fell to her and Karen Bass, as the women on the parade float where Bonin's son was allegedly misbehaving, to parent the kid. I think what she was explicitly saying was basically an unnuanced feminist point, and I'm not sure what she thinks about gay men as parents – it's just that if you generally think "men are less attentive as parents" that might lead to some homophobic views about whether a kid should be raised by two of them. And also separately a lot of people do hold those views on their own terms. I think some of the cries of homophobia might also be due to Martinez characterizing Bonin as another male councilmember's "little bitch", so it's not like all of a sudden she's exonerated of homophobia, just thought it was worth me being clear.