November 05, 2012

Much ado

As I've noted before, I'm wary of the apocalyptic mindset. Once the province of the religious right, Matt Ridley recently documented in Wired magazine how it's been thoroughly embraced by the secular left. Doomsday economics is currently all the rage, with "fiscal cliffs" and monetary meltdowns in Europe and Japan, and the like.

In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, archeologists pointed to the numerous stone markers found in the coastal foothills of Japan, warning future generations not to build permanent dwellings below that elevation. Warnings that were forgotten in a generation or two. So much for learning from history. And yet Japan remains with us.

And so we gamely muddle on. As Michael Wood points out in The Story of England, many towns and cities across Europe took centuries to recover their pre-Black Death populations. And yet not only did they do so, but in the process relegated that cataclysmic event to the stuff of entertaining PBS documentaries.

Mother Nature could squash us like bugs. It's our job to scurry out of the way of her big feet like cockroaches. Which we've gotten very good at over the past 10,000 years of human civilization. If nothing else, human beings are the masters of muddling through. The Greeks will, the Japanese will. And so will the American voting public.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow. I'll just be glad when it's over. Though I can't complain too much. One advantage of living in a solidly Republican state like Utah is being spared most of the electioneering hubbub.

Only the newly-created 4th district is a close race, as it includes a big chunk of Salt Lake City and its liberal (!) enclaves. I switch the channel every time an ad from either side comes on the air. I can't imagine what it'd be like to live in a state like Ohio, where the voters are evenly split.

The local punditry has concluded that veteran Jim Matheson erred in switching from the 2nd to the 4th. He expected to run against a bland Republican newbie. Instead, Mia Love currently has even odds of riding Romney's coattails to Washington and becoming the first Republican African-Haitian-American woman in Congress. Change!

In the 3rd district, where I live, Chaffetz is leading his challenger 68 percent to 15 percent. Nobody wastes money campaigning with polls like that, for which I am very grateful.

One of my ideas for saving the Electoral College would be a quasi-parlimentary system that allocated Electoral College votes according to each House district. Winning the House would (usually but not necessarily) win the presidency. Of course, that would turn contests like Utah's 4th into scorched earth battlefields.

So, maybe not. In any case, on November 7th, the proper reaction to whatever happens on November 6th is to shrug and continue muddling through.

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# posted by Blogger Joe
11/05/2012 1:27 PM   
A corollary to apocalyptic thinking is the notion, ironically, that trends are immutable. For example, the hand wringing over Japan's declining birth rate; putting aside the numerous positive benefits of this (once they fiscally survive their baby boom) is why the absurd assumption that this trend will continue? (Somalia is another; the punditry declared Somalia a lost cause forever, yet it's recovering [perhaps because the intellectuals and busy bodies left it alone.])

Concerning the 4th district. Most of the "pro" Matheson commercials done by PACs are so politically tone deaf that I'm surprised Matheson hasn't asked them to cut it out. Many of the negatives listed against Mia Love are positives to the average Utahn.

Then there are the ads which conveniently leave out the fact that Mia Love is mayor of a one of the fastest growing cities in the country and thus any changes in the tax rates stated by percentage, look enormous, even though they are relatively small by the standards of anywhere else. (Moreover, for us federalists, taxation is far better at the local level than at the federal level [and having the money sent back!])

Funny thing is I've also seen Obama and Cook [Democrat Utah governor candidate] ads which I thought were campaigning for the other side until the sponsorship disclosures. (In one case, I first thought "I can't believe Romney is bringing that up; how brave of him."

Which, of course, reminds me of Yes, Minister:

Sir Humphrey: If you want to be really sure that the Minister doesn't accept it, you must say the decision is "courageous".

Bernard: And that's worse than "controversial"?

Sir Humphrey: Oh, yes! "Controversial" only means "this will lose you votes". "Courageous" means "this will lose you the election"!
# posted by Anonymous Dan
11/05/2012 8:00 PM   
I agree that the future is not as dim as the hand wringers predict. On the other hand I don't think Americans are willing to "muddle through" for long. While a much greater percentage of citizens are willing to acquiesce to the rules government creates I question how governable Americans are.

My prediction is that no matter who is elected the next 4 years will see a rising trend of "out of the box" thinking that will redefine politics and economics. Economic forces trump grand ideas based on false notions. The political system is lagging behind the innovations that are working through the system. Disruption will challenge traditional political definitions and this will lead to much needed, much desired, change.
# posted by Blogger Kate Woodbury
11/05/2012 9:41 PM   
Ditto to muddling through--what's struck me over the last week is how thoroughly and absolutely discussions of Hurricane Sandy have swamped discussions of anything else--even in a place only slightly affected like Maine. Humans are such peasants at heart: an exciting natural disaster (pathos, inconvenience, and a possible movie outcome!) outweighs human politics any day of the week. It's very comforting. (Of course, extreme environmentalists ruin this when they combine the two things.)