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2012 October 21 Sunday
Whoever Wins US Election Loses For Following 4 Years

As regular readers know, I see the signs of declining living standards. So can either of the two US presidential contenders win a prize by winning the 2012 election? Seems like the answer is No because the next 4 years won't provide either candidate with opportunities to restart the US economy back onto the previous long term trend of yearly growth in economic productivity and per capita output.

If Obama wins he'll get less blame than Romney would get for the same level of poor economic performance. The press is going to much more aggressively attack a Republican over a poor economic performance. Unfortunately, I do not think the press will be any more likely to look at the fundamental causes of poor economic growth under Obama than under Romney. So there's no great learning experience in store in a second Obama term.

Neither American intellectuals or the public at large is in a mood to accept a less rosy prospect for America's future. America's intellectuals are unrealistic about limits to human ability. This helps to enable the public at large to embrace a continuing myth about American exceptionalism. The country becomes less exceptional every year. But anyone not embracing the exceptionalism myth is at risk of being called unpatriotic or unduly pessimistic.

American exceptionalism has recently been championed by conservatives, who accuse President Obama of paying the notion insufficient respect. But the self-censorship it produces in politicians is bipartisan, even if it is more pronounced on the left for some issues and the right for others.

FOR instance, Democrats are more loath than Republicans to look squarely at the government debt crisis indisputably looming with the aging of baby boomers and the ballooning cost of Medicare. Republicans are more reluctant than Democrats to acknowledge the rise of global temperatures and its causes and consequences. But both parties, it is fair to say, prefer not to consider either trend too deeply.

Both parties would rather avert their eyes from such difficult challenges — because we, the people, would rather avert our eyes.

We have fundamental problems that require we adopt long term policies aimed at addressing them. But as Jorgen Randers, one of the authors of the original The Limits To Growth opines in his "2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years" , the high human discount rate (focus on present returns at the expense of long term benefits) precludes a long term approach to growing long term problems.

We live in a period where the innovation costs for maintaining civlization are rising too fast for us to innovate our way out of national and global problems. Depleting resources, rising populations, Unfavorable demographic changes, less remaining low hanging fruit of innovations to discover and quite possibly global warming are what we face. A mere President of the United States isn't going to solve these problems.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 October 21 09:49 PM 


Comments
roystgnr said at October 21, 2012 11:26 PM:

The prize is control of the Supreme Court. Whether this is worth having your party take the blame for the next four years' economy is uncertain, but upcoming Supreme Court nomination chances are at least important enough that I don't suspect either party of trying to "throw" the election.

Jason said at October 22, 2012 6:35 AM:

They could unleash fracking. There is an ocean of fairly cheap energy and tons of related jobs to be had. That is something Romney could push but Obama can't (due to the Left). It wouldn't be a cure all, but it would help.

Dan said at October 22, 2012 7:45 AM:

"The prize is control of the Supreme Court."

All manner of things are at stake, up to and including the right to bear arms (currently favored by only 5 justices). And the left seeks to create a modern South Africa, doubling down on affirmative discrimination. Making gays a holy super class would be a way to go after churches. Ending the tax benefits of churches would surely be a goal, undercutting one of the few pillars of society.

Mike M said at October 22, 2012 5:14 PM:

1. I agree that control of SCOTUS is probably THE most important aspect of this election, but I also think that Romney has a chance to put favorable conditions into place IF the Republicans can win the senate.

2. It would be far easier for Obama to open up US energy development, especially in a 2nd term. A republican president would be met with opposing complaints that he is a "typical" Republican unconcerned with the environment. Obama already has credentials as a green president and wouldn't face such harsh criticism, especially from the center left. The radical left is sure to oppose energy development by either R or O, but the center left would give O a pass.

3. I find it hard to stomach another four years of the lying, scheming, Marxist sack of "stuff" (Biden's term) currently in the White House and while I would have preferred other Republican candidates to Romney, he'll do for now. At the minimum, Romney's election will give me the brief satisfaction of seeing the smug, uppity smirk wiped of Obama's face and the opportunity to sport my new "My President Is WHITE" t-shirt.

Randall Parker said at October 22, 2012 8:03 PM:

Dan,

I certainly want to see more conservatives on the US Supreme Court so that our society is less damaged by racial preferences. I see affirmative action as racism against me.

Justinian said at October 24, 2012 9:30 AM:

The problem with claiming that SCOTUS is the prize is that conservatives have been ineffective at nominating judges who actually uphold the constitution.

Democrats have a track record of nominating judges who are loyal to the leftist agenda, while Republicans have about a 50/50 chance that their judges stay true.

The last Democrat-nominated judge who flipped was Byron White (nominated long long ago by Kennedy), who voted against roe v wade.

Since Nixon, Republicans have had at least a half dozen judges flip to the other side once they got on the bench

As someone who used to voted Republican and now votes third party, the SCOTUS issue is not sufficient for me to vote for Romney.

The repeated failures to nominate conservative judges demonstrates the lack of seriousness on the part of Republicans to defend the constitution.

I was skeptical of the Roberts nomination back in 2005, and I was shouted down on another conservative forum by rabid Bush defenders.

If conservatives want to use the SCOTUS issue to get support for their candidates, they should have been more careful about vetting judges.

Like a whole host of other issues, SCOTUS judges are just another football Republicans use to tempt the gullible Charlie Brown voters.

A football that gets pulled away as soon as the establishment Republicans are back in power

Dan said at October 24, 2012 2:51 PM:

The trouble with the doomsayers (and I sometimes am one) is that productivity in some areas is just un - effing - believable. I kinda hope things hit an economic wall so that people rediscover their values, but I am not sure that will happen.

I just read an article in NatGeo about how all the sharecroppers left the Mississipi delta because of the super productive mechanized farms. And came across this sentence:

"Today one person can farm 38,000 acres with only a dozen farm hands."

Sweet Lord a'mighty! You got that? That is almost exactly the land area of Washington, DC. One farmer, a dozen helpers.

Check it out said at October 24, 2012 3:04 PM:

I don't think I can stand four more years of another god-damned puppet politician as president, whether democrat or republican, black or white, christian or muslim. Presidents are now just another product of big corporations. What choices do we really have? Two political parties? Two versions of the same product?

That's democracy for you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yt49DsfKDMc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZOsfdzv0_4&feature=related

Mike M said at October 25, 2012 7:19 AM:

A 50/50 chance is better than no chance.

The presidential choices in this election are only two - Romney or Obama. Romney's not perfect, but he's not Obama and he is electable. Lumping Obama and Romney together as indistinguishable is a laughable excuse used by a subset of low information voters.

Mike M said at October 25, 2012 9:58 AM:

To paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer, not to vote (for Romney) is to vote (for Obama).

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless.

Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer–

Ignant said at October 25, 2012 11:47 AM:

Here's a challenge for you, from a doomsayer / "low information voter". Can anyone list some of Obama's greatest VERIFIABLE "evils"? Seriously, please please please consider your answers from the perspective of a centrist. Frothing militant extremists need not reply. Let me illustrate some centrist positions: a. TARP forestalled/avoided utter economic armageddon b. Obama is just trying to keep the country afloat c. Obama isn't all that leftist

Mike M said at October 25, 2012 1:35 PM:

Low information voters are more likely to support Obama. When provided with some economic education, they tend to shift to Romney.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/carrielukas/2012/10/16/demography-isnt-destiny-when-voters-are-economically-informed/

It's easier (and more reassuring) for some people to believe that the government is there to look out for them and that it will protect them. But the government is run by politicians who are humans and thus suffer from the human condition - they will look out for themselves first. Politicians promise things to people not because their primary interest is to benefit their constituents, but because they want better conditions for themselves. Now, some may seek to do this indirectly by creating an environment favorable to business and economic growth while others may seek to do this by trading favors for votes in order to keep themselves in that class of special citizens known as politicians with the spoils that go with elected office.

TARP may have forestalled, but it did NOT avoid economic armageddon. The economic consequences of throwing the hard earned dollars of hard working taxpayers to companies who had demonstrated that they hadn't handled assets prudently is that dollars were transferred from productive people to moochers - in this case, the cronies of the White House administration (unions, big banks, political supporters). No new lasting jobs were created. It was simply a matter of paying off political favors. The ultimate economic price is being paid in terms of a prolongation of the recession - the area under the GDP/time curve (a measure of the depth and duration of the recession) is less than if the failed businesses had actually been allowed to fail.

Obama is not just trying to keep the country afloat. He is more concerned with his agenda of redistribution, which he imagines is "fairness", than with the economic growth of the country. In his world, it's better if everybody is a little worse off if that means everybody is more equal than if everybody is better off, but the rich get richer to a greater extent than the increase in well being experienced by the poor. That's not good for anyone - except politicians who use class warfare to "buy" votes.

ObamaCare promises what it cannot deliver and has created an environment where small business - which even Obama states is the backbone of our economy - is afraid to expand and hire. The promoters of Obamacare promised lower costs, better quality and more access. Any good economist knows that you cannot simultaneously have all three. In reality, what ObamaCare will do is raise the total cost of healthcare (some people that government subsidizes MAY see their individual costs go down while many others WILL see their costs go up - as a country, we will see more money spent on healthcare). Part of the increase in national spending on healthcare will be fueled by the removal of any "braking" mechanism that would normally make people weigh the cost and benefits of seeking care, especially for routine or trivial conditions. As a result, the volume of care will increase, but much of this will be for self-limiting conditions or "problems" that are so common in the population that adding an insurance layer is foolish. As a result of this increased volume, dollars will necessarily be reduced for high cost items such as cancer care and cardiac and neurological surgery - it's politically more beneficial to provide a large number of constituents with free condoms than a small number with cancer chemotherapy. Also, it's easier and cheaper to train additional mid-level providers to assume much of the low intensity visits (colds, immunizations, ear aches, etc.) than it is to train specialists to care for additional cancer/heart/brain cases. In order to offset the increased costs resulting from the increase in volume, access to and quality of care for less common, but more serious disorders (cancer, heart surgery, brain surgery, joint replacements, etc.) will be reduced. This is just simple economics that the White House recognizes and which was a part of ObamaCare as envisioned by Obama's advisors. Is there anyone out there who really believes that everyone in the US can own a Lamborghini, that they can have it right away and that (even with the increase in demand) the cost of the individual cars as well as our nations entire expenditure on cars (including gas) will decrease?

Soleman said at October 28, 2012 3:34 PM:

Unfortunately, you can't vote the rascals out, because you never voted them in, in the first place.

Soleman said at October 28, 2012 3:37 PM:

The "corporatization of America" during the past century has been an attack on democracy—and on markets, part of the shift from something resembling "capitalism" to the highly administered markets of the modern state/corporate era. A current variant is called "minimizing the state," that is, transferring decision-making power from the public arena to somewhere else: "to the people" in the rhetoric of power; to private tyrannies, in the real world.

sestamibi said at October 29, 2012 4:03 PM:

Agree completely that we're fucked either way, but there are other non-economic reasons to vote for Romney: complexion of the judiciary, as mentioned above, and a president who won't be off partying or fundraising during a Benghazi-type situation in which one of our diplomats is murdered.

Mike M said at October 29, 2012 4:56 PM:

Hold on there, Chief. I hope you're not implying that crony capitalism would be worse under Romney than under Obama. The fact is that the huge corporations and the huge banks in particular have generally supported the Democrats. When you talk about corporations, there's a big difference in terms of political shenanigans between small corporations and the big boys. The Democrats and the big corporations have been in bed together for years. On the other hand, Democrat policies have hurt small businesses. Rather than lay the blame on "corporate" America which does not clearly distinguish between small and large companies, a better description is the "caramelization" of America. Democrats and big business would love to extinguish small business. For the Democrats, it's always been hard to control the large number of small players and it's less efficient dealing with (trading favors with) multiple small guys than it is dealing with a few bigger guys with richer payoffs. For the big businesses, it means less competition for customers and for workers and more control of their industry.

Check it Out said at October 30, 2012 5:41 PM:

I see no reason to vote for Romney, just as I see no reason to vote for Obama either. I'm trying to cut down on politics, cause that drug is really bad for you. So I'll probably stop playing the "elections" game and exercise my right NOT to vote until I see some real candidates that fit the shoe. Don't care if I'm called an "irresponsible" citizen, whatever the hell that means.

Mike M said at November 2, 2012 8:32 AM:

Good choice. Low information voters (or potential voters) shouldn't vote. That's being responsible.

ErisGuy said at November 3, 2012 8:51 AM:

"authors of the original The Limits To Growth"

A class of person who should be ignored.

Randall Parker said at November 3, 2012 9:24 PM:

ErisGuy,

I used to have the same reaction. But I've learned a lot more about resource limits and also I've learned that the critics of the original The Limits To Growth have been attacking strawmen.

Check it Out,

Do you vote in your country?

sestamibi,

I agree about the judiciary. That's the main reason I prefer Romney. I don't want a Supreme Court which thinks it constitutionally permissible to discriminate against me.

Soleman said at November 4, 2012 1:46 PM:

"Hold on there, Chief. I hope you're not implying that crony capitalism would be worse under Romney than under Obama. " What? Remember the mess Bush left for Obama? Who could ever clean that up?


"Do you vote in your country?" Do we have any in ours, Randall?


"That's the main reason I prefer Romney." I mean, do you seriously think we're gonna have a radically different country because one wins over the other? Even a mildly different country? Naive.


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