Separation and Red America

The second part of my post. Before, I start, a few points of clarification.

1. In this fictional exercise, Blue and Red each gain the counties they controlled in 2016. Within reason, there is a degree of population redistribution.

2. I intended Red to be a more speculative exercise, but it seems there are actually some lessons we can draw from it.

3. For reasons I will not get into, there is a substantial possibility I will be spending years of my life in Red America. Therefore, even though I am not a part of it, I have an inherent interest in the topic.

Now we begin. For reference, here is our lovely population density map, courtesy of the New York Times.

2012 Election by Pop Dense

Same as before, but we’re working with Red this time, and it has a lot going for it. Red has the vast majority of the country’s arable land and natural resources. It controls most of the military. It’s people are a more united bunch than Blue’s “coalition of the fringes,” to use Sailer’s parlance.

There are a few problems, though. In this scenario, Blue took away most of the wealth, and almost all the centers of finance, commerce, research, and technology. Red state economies are primarily built on resource extraction, agriculture, and manufacturing. I don’t mean to take away from the importance of these things. But if Red rests on its laurels, it’s looking at a fate similar to Russia, especially once mass mechanization comes into play.

This is before we get into a litany of of more proximate issues. Two such issues are the dual epidemics of obesity and substance abuse that brutalize Appalachia and the Rust Belt-and the marked paucity of health personnel to address them. A third is the almost post-Soviet population hemorrhage that rural and small town America is experiencing.

Multiple commentators have talked about these problems. Some, like Williamson, say that these communities “deserve to die.” Others talk about mass immigration as a potential solution. Yet others focus on technological solutions. The first two ideas are terrible. The last one is incomplete.

In the rest of the piece, I will address these issues while detailing a plan to Make Red America Great Again.

The first issue we face is building nexuses of knowledge. Whatever else I disagree with in this piece, it gets one thing right.

By contrast, the innovation-driven growth in blue states creates broad positive externalities. People educated in blue states can move to red states; technologies developed in blue states can be emulated in red states. In other words, blue state investments “leak out.” Yet these states are still producing high levels of prosperity.

Unfortunately, Blue gets Austin in this exercise, so we have our work cut out for us. Fortunately, we have a historical precedent to draw on. We aren’t facing quite as dire a situation as Deng Xiaoping did, but we shouldn’t hesitate to ask foreign advisers to help gets us off on the right foot in areas we are lacking. When all is said and done, Red will have a Research Triangle to dwarf the current one.

The next issue is education. I think we can all look at current events and agree that the attempt to bring college to the masses took a wrong turn somewhere.

Fortunately, in this exercise, we have a chance to put things on the right foot. There are a lot of people who aren’t cut out for college, but whose talents could be perfected with some vocational education. There are others who do well in college, and whose talents could be directed somewhere besides grievance studies and leftist agitation.  All in all, a much more scientific, technical focus in higher education is what we’re looking for.

The next issue is healthcare. This statement from a South African physician, though it describes sub-Saharan Africa, sums up our predicament as well.

With hindsight, one could argue that the colonizers erred in training doctors instead of following the examples of Russia and China, with their feldschers and ‘barefoot doctors’. Not only would such frontline health workers have been more effective, in the long run, in caring for the health of their mainly rural populations, but their training is not recognized in other countries, ensuring that they remain at home, working in the conditions and with the people, the illnesses and the problems they know best.

Since Red also inherited a large, predominately rural nation,  and nowhere near enough doctors to staff it, switching to a more Russia-style healthcare system is our best option. That means building an infrastructure of feldschers (a clinical officer trained to roughly the level of a physician assistant) throughout rural America .

There will still be plenty of physicians, but they will work in more of a scientific and managerial capacity. And that’s the best option: there simply aren’t enough to be on the frontline, nor would it be practical or cost-effective to train that many.

One more benefit (for us) is that a feldscher system is immune to brain drain.

We’ve built a scientific and medical infrastructure, so now it’s time to talk about the people themselves. We should be trying to preserve and save small communities, not encourage them to die. I don’t think the Williamsons of the world will be convinced of this on deontological grounds, so we’ll have to convince them through other means.

Metropolitan life favors a certain type of person-a high IQ Homo economicus (like me, incidentally). But we should recognize that not everyone acts like us, and we should seek to use our human capital as best as we can. Some people will thrive in cities, and some people will flourish when buttressed by local communities. That means building healthy small towns and rural/semi-rural societies throughout Red.

There are also economic and public policy arguments against shoving masses of people into a few large cities, and ignoring large chunks of the country. But they are outside my domain of expertise, and I think the human capital argument is stronger anyways.

We now come to the matter of how to save these communities. There are good ideas…and there are, uh, not so good ones. We’ll start with the latter. One such dubious plan is mass-importing migrants to rural and semi-rural America.

Some of my readership sits on the dissident right, and I don’t need to convince them that this is a bad idea. But let’s convince everyone else.

Read the articles I’ve linked (and similar articles you may find), and notice the kind of immigrants settling in these places. They’re poor, unskilled people moving to small towns for purely economic reasons. Even if assimilating them was possible, by selecting for economic mercenaries and planning to import them in sizable numbers, this system creates structural incentives against assimilation.  The end result is that instead of revitalizing the small town, we’ve merely Brazilified the small town.

And what’s going to happen when the work gets automated or offshored? They’ll follow economic incentives right out of town, or out of the country. So at best, mass immigration is a stopgap that will eventually fail. It just kicks the can down the road, instead of addressing the structural problems that plague these communities.

This is before I get into the sheer political unpalatability of a mass immigration project among the Republicans who will be comprising Red. That ensures that a mass immigration project would end badly for everyone involved, including the new arrivals.

The specific immigration policy of Red is not relevant to this post, though I suspect its residents would settle on a quite restrictive one. I only aim to point out that importing hordes of disparate people is not a remotely viable policy.

As pointed out in the Forbes article linked above, what we need to do is make people want to live in the rural areas and small towns of Red. Building electronic infrastructure and incentivizing rural-sourced and freelance work can solve this to a degree. The internet and upcoming delivery drones can bring urban benefits to people around the country. The lesson we’ve learned from 20th century rural America is “don’t keep all your eggs in one basket,” or the factory will close and then the town is fucked. Fortunately, new technologies will help immensely in diversifying local economies and creating stable communities, while mitigating various challenges of small town life.

I think if Red (and America in general) are willing to take steps towards using technology to revitalize small town America, it will create a positive feedback loop in the right direction, and eventually, more people will move and stay there, and more industries will slowly bloom.

In a fictional national split, Blue would inherit an economically successful but politically fraught nation, and Red would inherit an economically struggling but politically stable nation. Therefore, what I’ve proposed for Red are ways to bring its economy into the 21st millennium, while creating better lives for its citizens.

In the last part of this piece, I will talk about lessons we can draw from these exercises for America as a whole.


The Promises and the Pitfalls of Democracy – A Response to Hammond and Smith

“To hear these defenders of democracy talk, one would think that the people deliberate like a committee of wise men…”

-Joseph de Maistre

Economist Noah Smith recently linked to this Twitter thread.

To his credit, Hammond states he is not fully convinced by the argument. But immediately afterward, he says this:

Let’s try looking at this like the Man from Mars. We know that economic growth has worked wonders for fighting extreme poverty and associated suffering. We know that this growth will continue in market-friendly autocracies, as Hammond himself states. We know that slowing the growth down will harm millions of lives and livelihoods.

What would our Martian conclude? Clearly, “freedom” and a “democratic system” must be very valuable, if they win out against the lives and welfare of millions upon millions. But now let’s assume I set the intrinsic utility of “democracy” to zero, which it is. Now, when I make the above argument, our Martian wants to commit me to a mental hospital.

I’m not sure what people envisage as the endgame of liberal democracy in India. A Scandinavian welfare state? Corrupt bureaucrats would hoover up everything before the poor saw more than a few cents. A united nation-state? That’s even more a pipe dream than thinking Indians will recreate Sweden.

Let’s leave the dreams and get back to reality. One of the lovely things democracy has given India is slum votebanks. Even politicians admit they let slums proliferate to secure the votes of their inhabitants. de Maistre was right: far from having “wise men,” we have rent-seeking lumpenproletariat with room temperature IQs holding our cities’ futures hostage.

Now, let’s raise the stakes. Agriculture is the heart of India, but its productivity is destroyed by a number of issues. Very small farms mean that farmers cannot mechanize  or achieve economies of scale. Poor infrastructure and ineffective supply chains mean goods spoil en masse before they even reach the market. Extensive subsidies mask inefficiencies and divert resources from more useful tasks (like building the aforementioned infrastructure).

All these problems have solutions, and adherents of both state-driven and market-driven approaches will find them easily. But they cannot be implemented in a democracy. In a Nash Equilibrium, farmers will vote to keep their subsidies rather than building road-and-rail networks, even if the latter would benefit everyone to a greater extent. An autocracy would step in to correct this problem. A democracy will never do so, and that is why India will always suffer.

I’m sure someone will respond with Churchill’s famous quote, but Churchill’s words look rather hollow and outmoded these days. A market-friendly federalized autocracy is the best way to avoid the failure modes of both statist dictatorships and populist ochlocracies.

Separation and Blue America

“To a dark place, this line of thought will carry us.”

-Yoda, SW3

In light of the recent spate of articles about “Bluexit” and “Calexit,” as well as California’s ban on travel to “anti-LGBT states” (not countries, apparently), I feel it’s appropriate to have a discussion on what a national separation would actually mean.

The Twitter user PALE_Primate has already given a magisterial rebuttal to Baker’s Bluexit piece, and I will not repeat it here. Instead, I am concerned with what comes after the split, for both Blue (Democratic America) and Red (Republican America). I will then discuss ways to save both Blue and Red from potential dooms. This post will focus on Blue, and Red will be discussed later.

We’ll begin with this map of 2016 election results by county.


2016 Election Results

The problem is that this doesn’t correct for population density. Let’s try another map, on a more granular level. Unfortunately, the NYT only has a 2012 map, but it’s similar enough to suffice for our purposes.

2012 Election by Pop Dense

Now we have a better idea of what Blue and Red are working with.

Though Blue looks small and disjointed on the map, it has a lot going for it. As Baker points out above, it generates two-thirds of our economic activity. It controls virtually every institute of research. Its cities are ever-growing nexuses of advancement and productivity.

But there is another side to it, one that Baker obviates.

What’s more, as a quick glance at the electoral map will tell you, almost all of blue-state America is now concentrated in three contiguous clusters: the East Coast from Maine down through Virginia; the West Coast, along with Nevada and Hawaii; and the Rocky Mountain zone of Colorado and New Mexico.

I invite my reader to look at the maps I posted and figure out his glaring error. Hint: find the two contiguous areas he missed.

It seems there’s no room in Baker’s liberal utopia for Blacks and Latinos.

For better or worse, humans really resent having to subsidize outgroups. Even forgetting about race, there’s a similar issue in Italy between the advanced, productive North and poor, state-dependent South. So in that light, Baker’s feelings are understandable.

The danger that progressives face is that this issue will be unmasked if Blue separates from America. It’s easy to bash Mississippi for dependence on the federal government. It’s much more uncomfortable to face the fact that redistribution has a racial character. Once this is laid bare, I don’t expect even progressives to continue high levels of welfare indefinitely.

When the dust settles, I expect Blue will be a plutocratic multicultural state, as opposed to anything resembling America.  Politics will consist of rival elites mobilizing ethnic grievances for rent-seeking purposes. If mass immigration continues (as Baker desires), this could lead to chaos, violence, and suffering.

It’s an open question whether assimilation could solve this issue, assuming it’s even possible. But it’s not a relevant question, since Blue is more interested in the “cult of ethnicity” than assimilation. These days, at least.

Can Blue salvage a viable country out of this? Most on the dissident right would vehemently say no. I dissent, and think yes.*

(Of course, being on the Right, I think this country would be suboptimal on every level. But just for fun, let’s see how a minarchist can try to save the Left.)

The world has a long, storied history of federalized, multicultural empires, dating back to Persia. It’s a perfectly fine way to build a society,** and Blue can model itself on such lines. But it has to be serious about doing so.

The problem right now is that progressives wants to have their cake and eat it. They want social democracy, but they don’t want nationalism and assimilation, which democracy requires to avoid succumbing to rampant identity politics. They want diversity, but don’t realize that it includes much more than just skin tone and food and clothing.

I will assume social democracy and diversity are non-negotiable to progressives. Fair enough. I don’t see why people can’t live in small, autonomous communities that operate on social democratic lines. Their interest in diversity would be satisfied by voluntary interactions with people from other societies, which would be inevitable in densely-populated cities. The central state would play a minor role, mainly being involved in dispute arbitration and collective security.

That said, there are some things progressives cannot do successfully. For example, they cannot make saliently different people share a political unit. A city or county, maybe, but not a political unit. Doing so would only lead to a political discourse of grievance and resentment. Thus, a multiracial political unit would require a completed assimilation process to work.

The second problem is that progressives have a messianic tendency to spread their ever-novel social norms. Sure, I’ll grant that every White that would live in Blue would share these norms. But Blue has a lot more than Whites, and Blue wants to import hordes of people from much more conservative societies. People from countries that behead gays are not going to care about your pronouns.

Verbruggen writes:

Pillalamarri explains that in some countries, an extreme form of federalism reigns where, for instance, “family law … is particular to various religious sects.” This degree of segregation is necessary when cultures are not merely different but incompatible. 

Thus, SocJus City and the Ummah would need to have different laws, sharing only a minimal set of individual rights. Progressives would need to content themselves with slow, gradual acculturation from the latter. Of course, they may be assimilated into the Ummah themselves.

I’ve left aside the matter of economic issues, primarily because the Left and I are starting from completely different premises. For market socialists, guaranteeing a modest standard of living would have negligible issues on the economy. I’m sure they would argue it’s even possible for lower-performing populations to develop successful redistributive systems (remember, you can’t take from some races and give to others indefinitely). I strongly disagree with all those ideas.

I suppose Blue would guarantee a modest standard of living for its citizens, and Red would guarantee nothing at all, and we will see whose arguments are better, in what situations and for what populations.

Finally, immigration. I think mass immigration is a thoroughly terrible idea. But with the changes I’ve discussed, it becomes a bit less terrible, and maybe Blue could make it work.

Blue could go one of two paths: search for utopia and find only disaster, or secure a more modest set of goals. It cannot create an racially equal, diverse, socially progressive nation. But it could create a confederation of social democratic communities.

Demographically speaking, real-world America is headed in the direction of Blue, and this is baked into the cake.  Multicultural federation may well be our fate, though obviously social democracy won’t be ubiquitous. In any case, we should start thinking about how such a world may look.

The next post will be on Red, and it will be more exploratory. And probably get me more hate, too.

*Pillalamari’s comments at the end about clothing and other items mar what is otherwise an excellent piece. I also think he could focus more on intellectual historical valuations of diversity, uniformity, nation, and empire. For a brief introduction to such ideas, see here. 

**Most of the dissident right would argue that diversity is always terrible. I think that’s usually the case, especially when dealing with disparate populations, as is happening in America and most of Europe. But as a rule? I think the effects of diversity depend on the populations involved. Oftentimes, it can be neutral or even net beneficial, as it forces people to abandon tribal rituals as they create common ground. I recommend readers see the arguments about research on diversity here.