Monthly Archives: September 2020

State campaign value, September 27

Five weeks away from Election Day/week/month, things are starting to get interesting. Rasmussen’s daily tracking numbers for presidential approval took quite a plunge today. Presumably the cause was apocalyptic coverage of the president’s nomination to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, something the Constitution requires him to do. The Democrat party, of course, has a rich tradition of anti-religious bigotry on which to rely.

There are a few shifts in the state campaign value map worth noting. You can compare this week’s results to last week’s summary here:

StatePercent of national value
North Carolina6.4

Florida’s value is soaring as the polls are extremely close; similarly for Arizona, which rocketed up to 4th place in this list. Virginia is now starting to look more as if it may be in play after all.

Texas’s presence in 2nd place on this list remains a surprise, and invites explanation. That is: why is Texas so close?

The Suicide of the West: The spectrum of conservatism

These days, there are many competitors for the title of “true conservatives”, none of which are without flaw. They include: loyalty to the established “conservative” party (Republicans in America); globalism; internationalism; isolationism; laissez-faire; libertarianism; nationalism; neo-conservatism; objectivism; originalism; paleo-conservatism; paternalism; populism; realpolitik; theocracy; and no doubt there are more. Each one contains an element of validity. Each one also contains a fatal flaw that would render blind obedience to it dangerous. This has not stopped adherents of one school of conservatism from shrieking apoplectic accusations of apostasy at proponents of differing views. As noted above, however, we must be willing to change our minds when new evidence becomes available. Therefore, we undertake to compare various schools of conservatism.

The struggle between paternalism and libertarianism, security versus freedom, is old among conservatives. There are probably very few on the political left who know that in the 18th and 19th centuries, to be a liberal meant to be what is called conservative today: an advocate of freedom from government intrusion. In America especially, conservatives tend to lean more to libertarianism. After all, what was the point of rebelling against the English king if we are to take up new masters within our own government?

And yet, Ayn Rand pungently referred to libertarians as “right-wing hippies”. The American Libertarian Party has achieved virtually no success in elections, other than siphoning votes away from other conservatives; and perhaps that is its purpose. A society without a common identity or purpose lacks the cohesion needed to resist external competition or internal decay. Conservatism must balance the stagnation associated to rigidity with the chaos associated to libertinism.

The bitter fights among conservatives over international trade and foreign policy are more recent, and deserve another look. So-called neo-conservatism has come under withering attack recently from a resurgent populist movement during the Obama presidency. I would argue that neither neo-conservatism nor paleo-conservatism have served Western society well. However, neo-conservatism is caricatured in the rendering of its opponents. The argument deserves a dispassionate treatment.

Neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism are rather close on international trade and foreign policy, sometimes having more in common with each other than their paleo- cousins. Both schools accept the theory of comparative advantage in trade policy, which we review. Suppose country A and country B make goods X and Y, and country A is more efficient in manufacturing both goods than country B. Suppose too that country A is 3 times as productive as country B in manufacturing X, but only 2 times as productive as country B in manufacturing Y. The theory of comparative advantage instructs country A to give up industry Y to country B, to focus its economy solely on manufacturing good X. In theory, members of both societies will benefit, as country A can make good X more cheaply than country B, and with their new-found profits, will be able to buy good Y from country B at a lower price. In theory, everyone wins.

In practice, of course, this is not true. The fable above depends upon the ability to re-train country A workers who originally manufactured good Y to now manufacture good X. Laid-off textile workers and miners are not likely to start writing web apps in C++ and Java; and that is not to mention the number of programming jobs that have been outsourced. Free trade has been an intellectual experiment in which the economy has increased in size, at the expense of workers and national self-reliance. Free trade advocates have not helped their case by recent expressions of contempt for its victims, during the 2016 presidential campaign. Both major political parties have been complicit. The advocacy by the Trump administration on behalf of the forgotten American is a breath of fresh air to dying families and communities nationwide.

Foreign policy discussions have fallen prey to a false dichotomy, in which we are told that we must choose between nation-building and isolationism. The former is activist and interventionist, in which we seek to re-make the world in our image; the latter retreats into fortress America while the rest of the world burns. Neo-conservatives start from a premise that should be accepted by all conservatives, and then draw a faulty conclusion. The true premise is the proclamation in Declaration of Independence that all people are endowed by God with the inalienable rights of life and liberty. The false conclusion is that all people want to live in life and liberty. We should know better, as demonstrated in our comparative study of cultures.

Paleo-conservatives offer us safety, if only we would end all foreign affairs, immigration, or trade. Pull up the drawbridge to our castle, and we will not be affected by the madness of the outside world. This fable was shattered in the 1930s and 1940s, as the monstrosity of nazism took the lives of tens of millions of people unnecessarily. Paleo-conservatives prevented the West from confronting Hitler when it would have been easy to defeat him. When he finally declared war on America, these same paleo-conservatives spun conspiracy theories to excuse it. It may not be a coincidence that there is an ugly undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the paleo-conservative movement, although it is less influential than the anti-Semitism of the “progressive” left. The alt-right, or alternative right, has tried to become a synthesis of paleo-conservatism with libertarianism, falsely imagining that their brand of bigoted irresponsibility recaptures the vision of the Founding Fathers of America. Paleo-conservatism has had a resurgence, due to the bland re-assurances of nearly all Western leaders that Islam is a religion of peace, all news to the contrary notwithstanding. Strangely enough, some paleo-conservatives have a curious sympathy for Islam (as does the left), suspecting neo-conservatives of conspiring with leftists to undermine an imaginary American racial purity. The Trump administration is choosing to re-assert American strength, enforce America’s borders, and take the fight to the jihadist enemy, without attempting to re-construct their homelands in America’s image. President Trump uses economic weapons skillfully, no doubt enraging some “free market” advocates who profit from human misery. This is a strategy with a much higher probability of success than either paleo-conservatism or neo-conservatism.

State campaign value, September 20

We are six weeks and one day away from Election Day (or Election Week, or Election Month, depending on your state). At this point, I have decided to continue with a weekly update on the value of states to the presidential campaigns. I hope that this analysis will be useful.

Last week’s map and analysis is here:

Below is the map with polls updated as of Sunday, followed by the top 9 states in value.

StatePercent value
North Carolina7.6

The latest poll in California shows Biden with a 23-point lead, so it becomes less competitive than it appeared last week. Texas, on the other hand, is considerably closer than it was last week, so more resources need to be devoted there. North Carolina has edged closer as well.

According to 270 to Win, there are two states, Ohio and Georgia, in which the candidates are separated by less than one percentage point. In two more, Texas and North Carolina, the candidates are separated by less than two percentage points. In three more, Arkansas, Iowa, and Florida, the candidates are separated by less than three percentage points. All seven states are in the table above except for Arkansas and Iowa, because of their low electoral counts.

The Suicide of the West: The principles of conservatism

A civil war is taking place within the conservative movement. All factions claim to be the true conservatives; many factions have an intense loathing of the other factions. We seek to understand what general principles unite all conservatives. We further seek to establish a future direction for the conservative movement. Let us start with first principles.

Conservatism acknowledges the truth at all times, no matter how unpopular the truth may be. Conservatism seeks the good at all times, no matter how uncomfortable the good may be.

Conservatism has three sources: tradition, experience, and morality. Reason enters into the discussion in the form of practical reason, not pure reason: that is, reason informed by experience, rather than idealism. Therefore, the study of history is of central importance to a conservative.

Conservatism promotes loyalty to God above all, loyalty to country when it does not conflict with loyalty to God, and loyalty to one’s fellow when it does not conflict with loyalty to God and one’s country. Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man…”, and conversely: no man is a god.

Conservatism takes responsibility for its choices. Conservatism sticks to its principles, but is willing to change its mind when new evidence becomes available.

Conservatism avoids any activity or policy that tends to degrade virtue or coarsen character. Rather, conservatism acts in such a way as to promote the voluntary growth of individual virtue and character.

Conservatism learns from the ancient teaching that to improve the world, one should improve one’s country; to improve one’s country, one should improve one’s neighborhood; to improve one’s neighborhood, one should improve one’s acquaintances; and to improve one’s acquaintances, one should improve oneself.

Conservatism encourages wisdom, fortitude, temperance, justice, mercy, modesty, and gratitude. Conservatism encourages love of God, love of one’s fellow, and refraining from actions of which one would not want to be the target. Conservatism obeys the universal ethical code described as the dào (Chinese: the way) in the appendix to C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, and develops the seven levels of self that are identified with chakras: survival, relationship, appetite, emotion, expression, intellect, and spirituality. More details are given in the end-matter of this book.

Conservatism is manifested in the American experience in the American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We fill in some of the details. You are a conservative if you believe all or most of the following:

the three American mottos “Liberty”, “E Pluribus Unum”, and “In God We Trust” are your mottos;

all citizens are equal before God and before the law, and the law must not show preferences for any group;

all citizens have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as self-defense and freedom of conscience;

republican self-government is the best way to secure these rights;

the rights of citizens are protections against government intrusion, not claims upon the government or other citizens;

character, honor, virtue, responsibility and consequences are just as important as rights;

respect for innocent human life, the traditional family, secure borders, national sovereignty, and a unified culture and language are cornerstones of a viable society;

private property, the free market, and a reward commensurate with risk and effort are cornerstones of a free society;

military strength is a cornerstone of a peaceful society;

you love and are proud of our country and our civilization and our accomplishments, you want children to learn the same love and pride, and you want our country and our civilization to survive and to flourish.

Most schools of conservatism subscribe to most of the principles above, which I shall call ortho-conservatism. In this shared core of conservatism, so to speak, there is:

recognition of a transcendent Source of authority: the Creator spoken of in the Declaration of Independence;

a large degree of freedom to think and to act within the Creator’s world, subject to causing no harm to others;

and a recognition that nature is subject to laws. Those laws constrain and direct not merely physical nature, but human nature as well.

State campaign value, September 13

We will continue to update our computations and maps for state campaign value, a subject first discussed last week here:

We explained in detail why it is that the value of states to the presidential campaign varies directly with the number of electors in a given state, but inversely with the size of the margin in the polls in that state. Under the winner-take-all method used by all states other than Maine and Nebraska, there is no point wasting time or money on a state where one candidate leads the other by 50 percentage points.

Polls are coming in more rapidly now. Only six states do not have polls yet for the presidential election: Illinois, Nebraska, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia. We compensate for this lack by employing the 2016 election results as a baseline for all states, supplementing this baseline with the polls that exist in 44 states; those latter polls are taken from 270 to Win:

We provide the updated map and a list of top states. All numbers represent percentage of total resources that should be devoted to each state.

StateValue, as percent of total
North Carolina6.7

We were rather astonished to see California move into 10th place, muscling ahead of Minnesota on the basis of a closer than expected poll. Last week, 270 to Win was reporting that the average of polls in California showed Trump to be 37 points behind Biden. This week, Trump is “only” 17 points behind Biden. What is happening here? 17 points still appears to be too far to catch up.