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In section II, when discussing how rich Americans might be shifting left: "If this is real and continued, it might bring the US closer to the European mainstream."

Wouldn't that move us *away* from the European mainstream? In Europe, it looks like rich people vote right.

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Scott, big fan, and I appreciate the response. You write in the caption:

"Hanania uses this graphic to show that Democrats donate more than Republicans. But it's also worth noting that top Democratic donor groups include professors, educators, and nonprofit employees, and top Republican donor groups include (*squints really hard*) homemakers, welders, and disabled people. Which coalition do *you* expect to end up with more power?"

That's actually part of the theory, probably more important than the other stuff about donating money, etc. People aren't randomly assigned to careers, they can decide what tradeoffs they make when they select what field to go into. Liberals tend to do the stuff where you get more prestige/status/influence than money, conservatives the opposite. Journalism and academia are the clearest examples of this.

Most welders I've known have made more money than grad students I've known, and lived in more affordable areas. The grad students chose one career, and the welders another for a reason.

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I don't have a substantive comment on this beyond saying that "Whiteshift" by Kaufmann touches on many of these issues (not so much institutional tilt but growing educational polarization in politics) in the context of trying to explain Brexit and Trump, and is truly excellent.

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I think it is hard to discuss this without mentioning the two-party system, which itself is a biproduct of electoral college and first past the post voting. Saying something like "Given that there are approximately equal numbers of Trump voters and Biden voters in elections" just isn't really true in that context. The Republican candidate has lost the popular vote is all but 1 of the past 8 elections. What is happening a smaller coalition of voters with higher voting power (conservatives in states with smaller population) reach an equilibrium with the opposite coalition of voters with less voting power (liberals in high population states) so that the end result is closer to a coin toss, but the actual population split isn't. The overall population thus skews left of center while these factors exist.

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is this just confusing electoral parity with 'approximately equal numbers of Trump voters and Biden'

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What do you think of the thesis that this is all driven by Big-5 personality types, mainly Openness being correlated with both education and left-wing social views? The book Open vs. Closed makes a fairly compelling case.


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What do we mean by conservative? It looks like JD Vance is running on a pro-natalist platform. Is pro-natalism liberal or conservative?

To me partisanship is about team red and team blue and has basically nothing to do with policy. Eh…I don’t know what to think.

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My understanding about jobs needing a college degree is that is a proxy for *something*. There are a whole bunch of questions you can't ask people in an interview, so instead of asking them, they simply require a college degree.

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One important factor here is the increasing salience of technology and tech companies, which are disproportionately young, and young people are disproportionately liberal.

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Here's another way to break this cycle: get rid of first past the post voting. Remove the underlying structures that force us to exist in the current situation.

“When life (America) gives you lemons (crappy voting schemes), don't make lemonade (change party affiliation). Make life take the lemons back (abolish FPTP)! Get mad!"

More: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tWHJfhiyo

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The end of the post feels a little weird to me, I honestly don't see a reason to try and salvage coalitions and turn them into something more positive. I think the far better option is to change our voting systems so that coalitions are less necessary, and less adversarial.

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Also, philosophically, conservatives believe gov has a smaller role and personal life should be more primary (the opposite of the ‘personal is political’). So being less active in gov, which you believe should be less pervasive in the lives of the polity, is consistent.

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One possible explanation of what happened might be the march through the institutions, that the left somehow captured the universities, and, now that a large minority of the population goes to university, that gave the basis for a left coalition of the educated.

Nozick has an interesting explanation for why academics tend to be left. Through high school, kids are facing two different status systems, an informal decentralized one of social status, a formal, centralized, one of academic status. Kids who do well on grades, not so well on social status, naturally come to prefer the formal, centralized model, go on to become academics. That could give a general tendency for academics to be left, which matters more when such a large fraction of the population has spent four formative years in academia.

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Not sure if you've seen this, but *heavy* recommendation for this piece (and various other writings by the author) https://cameronharwick.com/blog/professional-culture-and-market-power/

"We do not see predatory pricing, collusion, or cartelization among the tech giants. What we do see are those giants acting as vehicles for the ideological rents being sought and extracted by the specialized labor cultures they employ."

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Left-wingers tend to care more about politics because neuroticism/hysterics is far more associated with both left-wing politics and increased activism.

Source = https://www.psypost.org/2017/09/study-suggests-lower-levels-neuroticism-explain-conservative-states-happier-49627

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From AP news on Census: “The figures show continued migration to the South and West at the expense of counties in the Midwest and Northeast. The share of the white population fell from 63.7% in 2010 to 57.8% in 2020.”

Conservative regimes have been less and less about governing and diverse opinions. Cleek’s Law of Republican’s opposing whatever Democrats want, updated daily, is not a long term strategy. It’s just flailing reactionism, chasing the laser pointer. A slow trend towards populism for a shrinking majority does not incubate competency and we’re fortunate for that (until a really smart populist who knows the levers of power comes along).

It’s taken 50 years to take back the Supreme Court and a bit of that was random luck. We’ll see that kneecap and slow some progression but we won’t see conservatives get any better with the hard logistical requirements of revanchism.

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The left might be winning on symbolic issues like "wokeness", but when it comes to actually important stuff like foreign policy the dominant forces are right-wing or centrist.

I think many people, particularly on the right wing, vastly overestimate the power of the left because they see centrists like Biden and Harris as left-wingers. If anything, they lean right. The centrist wing of the Democratic Party often seems to prefer Trump to Sanders, and I have no doubt that they would've jumped ship to the Republicans in a hypothetical Jeb Bush vs Bernie Sanders 2016.

Centrism, incidentally, appeals to both financial and educational elites.

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"Probably solving racism would help shake up political coalitions, so somebody should do that too."

I would appreciate more specificity here. Is the point that the democrats are more successful with minorities because racism exists and a decisive portion of minorities care about the issue enough and think the democrats care about it enough to swing them democrat?

But also, what would solving racism mean? Equality of outcomes across every race? Nobody says anything racist anymore?

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Simple experiment: would a neutral company that takes a conservative position benefit economically or be hurt economically? The former would back Scott’s theory (they would benefit but just don’t because they’re led by all progressives), the latter would back Richards (they would be hurt because progressives care more and would cause a big stink).

I think the company being relatively neutral (ie not Chick Fil A) is important here.

My own experience working in corporate finance and dealing with multi-billion dollar CEOs makes me lean toward Richard’s explanation. Most C-level don’t really care about wokeness and largely think it’s silly - but they’re relatively ambivalent and just don’t want to deal with the headache.

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Trust busting…conservative of liberal?

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I take issue with the idea that "liberals dominate" - domination implies some kind of set of tangible victories, of which we see hardly any. Gay marriage I guess? Healthcare exchanges? Corporations are as powerful as ever, the military is as big as ever, the welfare state hasn't blown up, there hasn't been significant progress on climate change, etc. Culture war narratives simply perpetuate the status quo, which academia/corporations/media/politicians all find useful for different reasons. If liberalism is supposedly so powerful, why does everything look so illiberal in practice?

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I would like to separate out two phenomena: self-interest and ideology/religion. From a pure self-interest perspective, rich people's self-interest tends to align them with the right and poor people's self-interest tends to align them with the left. However religion/ideology is much more important than self-interest. Also, on the margin, poor people will tend to vote more according to self-interest (for obvious reasons) while rich people can better "afford" to vote according to religion or conscience. I think that in the 50's there was one dominant religion in the US, namely Christianity, which was right-wing affiliated. In 2010, there were two religions, namely, Christianity/traditionalism and leftism/humanism, which were strongly correlated with education (and thus also income). People in 2010 were also much richer in real terms than people in the 50's, and thus could afford to vote their conscience more. I think this explains the large-scale phenomenon of elites going to the left. There is a separate and probably at least partially internet-driven phenomenon of hyperpolarization (that creates things like the blue bubble diagram of institutions), where a "critical mass" of a particular ideology in a particular environment creates a purity spiral, like what happened with Christianity in the late Roman empire or revolutionary radicalism in the French revolution.

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I know this is opening a can of worms, but I didn't see it mentioned anywhere else in the article or comments. In the long term, traditional religion is diminishing as a force in society. And traditional religion is part of the right-wing coalition and has been so since the left-right divide existed. In fact it was one of the fulcrum issues that caused the left to splinter off from traditional societies, which are closer to conservative positions. I predict conservatives will be unable to conserve traditional religion, which has historically been their number one duty. (Conservation of wealth is a more recent addition to their roster of duties.)

Now I make a distinction between traditional religion in particular and religion in general, because I see religion in general as a stickier phenomenon. Religion in general need not concern itself with a god, as long as it serves its main purpose of creating and sustaining myths that unify society. I already see the sprouts of a new kind of religion that moves beyond theology but nonetheless offers a totalizing worldview that outstrips the evidence in support of it.

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Re increased diversity, non-Hispanic whites are only about 60% of the US population. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/IPE120219

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Scott wrote: "I think I would go with the same recommendations ... try to decrease the salience of college in society, so that not every smart person needs to get a college degree, and not every important job is degree-gated."

I don't think that would be possible with the way corporations need to be free to higher and fire their workforce to deal with economic positive and negative economic stresses. Charlie Stross discusses the rise of credentialism from a British perspective, but there's a lot similarities between what went down in the UK and the US during the 1980s...

"Consequences of Thatcher revolution include: emphasis on credentialism — if you don't have a job for life, you need proof (on paper) of skills that were formerly acquired in the workplace — combined with deprecation of apprenticeship system (where's the incentive to provide a 5 year apprenticeship for a trainee if they then turn round and go find a job elsewhere?). Demand for pieces of paper as proof of fitness for employment goes through the roof."

... and thus the increased salience of college education in today's "knowledge" society.


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Generally nodding along with this post, while getting increasingly uncomfortable as more of the elephant comes into view and you don’t notice, and then it ends with a big fuck-you.

Scott, it’s simpler than you think, in the American context. There is an oligarchy dominating both parties, and many of the differences between them are fake, but the PEOPLE in the two parties have been sorted to be quite different and at odds, which suits the oligarchy. Also, one party is more reformable than the other.

From the right, it is obvious that the concept you are missing is “left entryism”—the left loves to infiltrate respected institutions and gut them, sometimes wearing the corpse as a skin suit to demand the respect it used to deserve. The right isn’t this devious, they prefer to simply avoid institutions they regard as bad rather than plunging in and remaking them. That does NOT MEAN THEY CARE LESS. It only means they’re stupid to have allowed themselves to ignore the entryist dynamic until the institutions were too far gone to defend.

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Speaking of an Orban like natalist welfare state. Hungary's birth rate is down to 1.55 births per woman. With very little immigration the right in that country is all about the government doing whatever it can to get that number up. Would a continued fall in the US birth rate (and a clamp down on immigration) also push the right in the US toward a more statist/natalist welfare state direction?

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Rough outline of a theory:

1. values of a society are an adaptation to subsistence strategies

2. technological change drives changes in values, with conservatives trying to maintain values they learned from their parents/when they were kids, liberals trying to adapt to new circumstances

3. technological change is happening faster, so the division between liberals and conservatives is widening

4. in this context, liberals will tend to thrive as they are by definition the ones who are attempting to adapt to new technologies, and 4.a. the specific form of this thriving will be in education and tech

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Both Hanania and yourself (Astral Codex) are trying too hard to avoid a much more simpler explanation: oligarchy. A class of people dominated by government and PMCs that is self perpetuating and self-promoting.

One clue: look at the shift in income demographics around Washington DC over the past 3 decades. It used to be middle class, now it is upper class.

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One other factor in team red team blue partisanship is that policy positions become divorced from the brand. You'll see that often in comment sections - someone very partisan will be convinced that everything they personally believe their party also believes. And is many cases they don't or in fact they believe the complete opposite.

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It would be interesting to see the liberal/conservative breakdown by major or field of study. I'm guessing that the people majoring in agricultural or mechanical engineering lean a lot more conservative than the people majoring in journalism or gender studies.

So maybe the rise of the tech/knowledge of economy has changed the types of institutions (or the types of people within institutions) that gain power, from those that leaned conservative to those that lean liberal.

Now, why certain fields of study might select for political ideology is a different question.

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Scott, it's been said before but your imagination of the '1950's' is a cardboard cut-out.

Consider, which party had complete control of the USG during the Depression and WWII, at a time when government power at home and abroad increased as never before?

What was the basic ideology/polarity of FDR and his advisers? Did the 'Republican' Eisenhauer administration manage to meaningfully role back much of the New Deal, or recreate the old right-wing foreign policy ideal of American isolationism?

I think you could improve your historical thinking by thinking less about the '50s' (fake) and more about USG in the 30/40s (real, scary, and still with us).

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Regarding the questions you raise about focusing on decreasing partisanship and the observation that there seemed to be less partisanship in the 1950s, I would strongly recommend reading Lee Drutman's book "Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop" for an analysis that sheds some light on why partisanship was less of an obstacle in that era.

Essentially he argues that we had a hidden four-party system at the time where there was a "party" of fiscally conservative urban voters within the Republican party and a "party" of fiscally liberal rural voters within the Democratic party. This both made it easier to identify with and understand some members of the other party, and allowed the main difference between the parties to be on an economic axis, rather than an identity axis, making compromise easier.

Starting from the civil rights movement and finishing in the 90s and 2000s, these groups started to re-align based more on identity issues, which is more difficult to compromise across, and has led to a more complete split between the parties, increasing partisanship. This also fits well with the graphs you're considering here, as it offers an explanation for why high-income is no longer strongly predictive of party preference.

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There's a great old Hayek paper (possibly intellectuals and socialism) about self-selection driving this sort of thing, especially around the dimension of focusing on making money/business/trade VS focusing on reading/writing/intellectual pursuits. Intellectuals are generally always far more likely to be liberal (this has been true for a long time).

A big difference recently, in the US at least (can't speak to any other country) might be that "intellectuals" have ended up being a much larger proportion of wealthy elites than they used to be. Highly educated types are increasingly rich types as well - the economy increasingly rewards high intelligence/education (and offers a lot more interesting work to those with such things), which pulls intellectuals into the corporate world and blurs the selection boundary between people who like trade and money and people who like intellectual pursuits. Think tech start-ups dominating the business landscape rather than manufacturing companies. They're run by radically different types of people. The latter are far more likely to be Hayekian intellectuals (they come from universities, they like other highly educated/intelligent people, etc.).

Anyways, speculative, but I suspect this is driving at least a sizable chunk of things.

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"The Labour Party managed to change its ways - all we can do is hope the Republicans can too."

Not as reassuring as you intend it to be; Maynard Keynes might have longed for the "intellectuals" to run things, but the problem was that the intellectuals in Labour *did* start running things in the 60s and 70s, and you got the rise of the "champagne socialists" and college students arguing Marxist dialectic and one sub-group sniping at another sub-group over its lack of ideological purity. The party moved from the old blue-collar working-class base to the middle-class college graduates - the rise of New Labour in Britain (and Ireland), where - to take an example from my own country - someone who had the nickname "Ho Chi Quinn" as a student radical getting involved in politics and rising up the ranks, while also gradually transitioning from the radical roots to the business-friendly model popular today (and from a solidly middle-class background, with family members the kind of comfortable capitalists his student self would have excoriated): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruairi_Quinn

The trouble is not that Labour didn't get run by the intellectuals, the trouble was that in the end it did, and they so remoulded it that now you have the kind of divide this post describes: how is it that an elite on one side is rivalled by an elite on the other, where they should naturally be the elite versus the commoners, and that the financial elite are happy to divide along the same lines?

"try to decrease the salience of college in society, so that not every smart person needs to get a college degree, and not every important job is degree-gated"

That horse has bolted and the stables has been razed to the ground and a shiny new technology park built where it used to stand.

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>>Maybe this is the wrong axis and we need to focus on decreasing partisanship somehow?<<

My money is on this one. I don't know that I'm particularly optimistic about it decreasing, but I think the core problem is hyperpartisanship. We need to make party-affiliation a less salient aspect of one's identity.

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I wonder to what extent this is driven by an increase in meritocratic sorting in institutions.

In a toy model of the 50s-70s, rich and well-connected people would be selected for the Ivy League -> Government/Wall Street pipeline solely on the basis of their class, so there was no sorting effect, and the institutional ideological distribution would look like that of the upper-class as a whole. As each of those pipeline steps has become more dominated by performance and merit, it's more selecting for a certain type of person (eg, high conscientious correlates with liberals as well as people who are willing to follow steps that look good to admissions committees).

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I'm dubious of your claim that in 2016 the political valence of wealth had reversed, rather than merely weakening - https://www.statista.com/statistics/631244/voter-turnout-of-the-exit-polls-of-the-2016-elections-by-income/, https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?next_url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.washingtonpost.com%2fnews%2fpolitics%2fwp%2f2017%2f12%2f29%2fplaces-that-backed-trump-skewed-poor-voters-who-backed-trump-skewed-wealthier%2f , https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/09/white-voters-victory-donald-trump-exit-polls etc all state that in 2016 the Democrats (narrowly) won among poorer Americans and the Republicans (narrowly) won among richer ones.

And a quick google also shows the same thing happening in 2020.

So I think that strand of your thesis is probably mistaken - like the US, America is now in the top-left quadrant, with the rich leaning (weakly) right-wing while the educated lean (strongly) left-wing.

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An aspect of this I've thought about: as educational achievement predicts liberal politics more and more strongly, the arguments conservatives make become at least worse from the perspective of educated people and at most simply worse in some semi-absolute sense because there are a lot fewer educated people working on them.

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so many words, and no string of three fo them are "urban/rural divide."

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Instead of any coalition system, how about instituting voting methods that don't have a vote-splitting system so that giant coalitions don't need to form at all? :P (Yeah, OK, there would still be other forces pushing towards big coalitions, but it would be nice to lessen it...)

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I think you can find a lot of parallels to the education split today with Marx's writing.

Marx was right that the two revolutionary classes were the bourgeoisie and the urban proletariat. The proletariat--urban, industrial workers--at the time were something completely new (so new, in fact, they were really only a thing in the UK at the time of Marx's writing). We typically just think proletariat=poor or proletariat=workers, but the people Marx wrote about also had some socio/psychological characteristics that united them as much as they were united by their economic situation. This was a mass of people who had left the countryside trying to find a better life. These are strivers who were willing to leave their family, friends, and community behind. One would imagine if you gave them a big five personality test, they would score "high openness to experience" and "low consciousness." So they came to the factories in the cities to find a better life, and instead they were being ground into the dirt. You have ambitious people, those who are the least tied to traditional ways of life, and they've been stymied by a bad system.

The bourgeoisie were also something completely new--wealthy people outside of the noble classes. Again, this is a class of people who are strivers, who started businesses, took risks, and amassed wealth. But within the old feudal systems, they lacked the ability to influence government. Again, ambitious people, not tied to the old ways, stymied by a bad system.

So the first revolution (per Marx) would be a bourgeois revolution focused on individual rights (American Revolution, French Revolution, Revolutions of 1848, Russian Revolution of 1905, etc.) and the second would be the revolution of the proletariat.

I think what Marx got right here is that the *left wing* of a society will always be most strongly backed by ambitious strivers who separate themselves from traditional modes of life and who are in some way held back by the system (or at least view themselves that way). In a feudal society, that's the bourgeoisie. In an early capitalist society, it's the urban proletariat.

So where will you find ambitious people today who feel held down by the system? That would be liberal arts grads with 60k in student debt living in expensive urban areas. That's the "proletariat" of our day.

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The best analysis of the difference between liberals and conservatives that I've seen comes from <a href=https://www.conradbastable.com/essays/elite-underproduction-why-we-cant-solve-hard-problems-anymore>Conrad Bastable</a>

In his model, conservatives are motivated by a fear of what he calls feudalism, what I'd call endemic warfare, and what Hobbes calls "the war of all against all". In other words, they fear that society could break down, like <a href=https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-57835756>South Africa just did</a>. Conservatives want institutions that are strong enough to protect us from the chaos that is always at the gates.

Conversely, liberals are motivated by intolerance of injustice. They abhor the intrinsic unfairness of existing institutions and try to erase the stains of the past. Unfortunately, the deeper they look the more injustice they find, and frequently they feel the need to dismantle the whole system (at which point endemic warfare comes back and systematic oppression is replaced with poverty and random violence).

In his model, conservatives build institutions to protect people from chaos. Liberal spend the strength of the institutions on a fairer and more just society. When the institutions are spent, the chaos comes back and it's time to try again.

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I think a key difference here is a background change in definition. With Picketty you bring in the point about how 'college educated' now means 32% of people instead of 6% of people.

I'd also point out the definition, goals, and actual reality and actions of the parties have changed. The US probably looks strange in the data to a degree because the 'Liberals' are not liberal at all. The Democrats are akin to a group of rich people concerned with a managing the poor to avoid riots and revolution while maintaining their power. While the Republicans are a group of wealthy people more in the 'let them eat cake' group of getting richer no matter what.

The US has no liberal party and the Dems are a middle right wing party while the Republicans are a far right wing party.

How else to explain a total lack of delivery on every single lower class concern since Carter, maybe since FDR? That's 50+ years of Democratic party demonstration of right wing goals as they gave money to the rich, failed to provide the healthcare of the developed nations, actively scheme with Wall Street and under Clinton deregulated/make crimes legal several activities which led to financial speculation and the GFC.

Clinton also oversaw the full blown use of massive inflation manipulation to reduce 'entitlements' to starve out teh minimum wage and benefits from the poor while entitlements/welfare/subsidies/cash handouts for funnsies to the wealthy expanded.

I think a key factor here is the total divorce of the Unions from the Democrats in the US. There has never been a Labour party in the US while there has been in every other Western nation.

If you look at the increasingly right wing Dems, the lack of union power overall or political power on the left to get anything workers actually want, and the changing demographics of who votes with fewer people voting and many convict non-voters amongst poor males....then the 'change' we are seeing is more of an illusion.

To me it is no wonder that an increasingly wealthy and increasingly diverse group of elites are looking to feel good about themselves and their massive wealth inequality. The message of 'take it all, guns and god' from the republicans is simply not an enticing message for newly rich gay black men or similar demographic who are less religious, more urban, and more wealthy who have no relationship with anything like a factory or a union.

So the Dems offer a highly woke, and highly status quo of the rich getting richer and no one doing anything about it. Have your rainbows and gay marriage and vague armchair concern around BLM and the 'problem' of wealth inequality. But with that cultural veneer aside, which is no more than branding, the wealth pipeline to the top 20% or people keeps flowing while the bottom 80% can have their entire wealth surpassed by a few hundred billionaires.

Being an elite who supports the Dems/'Liberals' who gets massive corporate handouts vs being a Republican elite supporter is simply a matter of taste, presentation, and wanting to avoid pitchforks. They can claim they are for all these things for the poor...which they never do. Instead of being open about not caring or wanting those things - every dollar given to a poor person is a dollar that could be given to a rich person. Namely, themselves.

They'll 'feel for the poor', but have to recognise the reality that we have limited resources after the latest round of tax cuts which mostly went into their own pockets. How about a charity gala dinner for the wealthy to 'give back'?

Bill Gates (can we even mention him or is he a total mind killer at this point?) is giving away 90% of his wealth...please ignore that he's multiple times richer now than he was back when he said that! He's a 'Liberal'! in this new definition of right wing elite businessmen who claim to enjoy other people looking at rainbows.

I'm not trying to break the rules or be overly partisan here. But any non-US perspective can see that all of the major things working people want from a 'Liberal' party are simply not on the table anywhere in US politics. So the idea of the elite becoming more 'liberal' is an illusion. I'd say the 'liberal' terminology has changed in definition.

How else to describe it when the so called liberals in California or right now in DC fail to pass into law a single significant change which would benefit the bottom 80% or in any way change anything about 'the game'. No healthcare, no unions, no increased minimum wage...but plenty of corporate handouts and ultra wealthy donors getting what they want.

If the head of the Dems was the same person who was the head of the AFL-CIO....do you think they'd be taking money from Wall Street or Big Tech? In most other nations the Unions/workers at least have an actual seat at the table in their so called 'liberal' political parties.

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It's not really that complicated - corporations are 'woke' because 50 year olds in rural Wisconsin made up a larger percentage of Nike's pie in 1990 than they did in 2020, and education is even more liberal, because a lot of those Republican professors were Rockefeller Republican types. Actual right-wing professors were always basically non-existent, by the standards of the time. Plus, conservative spent forty years telling their kids, "go get an MBA, then open up a small business, and buy a nice house in the suburbs," while liberals went, "do what you love and fight for people, even if it doesn't make you rich."

People want really complicated explanations. Sometimes, stuff is simple.

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> Maybe there’s a natural tendency for some of these organizations to lean left wing (eg colleges are heavily exposed to the opinions of young people, who lean left)

I think there is some tendency here. I'm a big believer of the Moral Foundations Theory that Jonathan Haidt talks about in his book The Righteous Mind. A liberal/progressive/leftist is someone who consistently care about care vs harm more than the other morals. Institutions that are about providing care to people should have a tendency to lean left. I think education would be one of those institutions.

I think the causation wrt young people goes the other way. They tend to lean left as they spend half their day in an institution where left leaning adults are over-represented.

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Let me suggest an alternative (or a different slant on) "liberals care more", namely "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Mob".

Although the phrase Great Awokening is occasionally used, few of those users look at the issue at a deeper level than the obvious historical parallels. But to me the current US' versions of the great -ism's look like nothing so much as a resurrection of Calvinism, call it KKKalvinism. Recall that the defining trait of Calvinism is that man is born sinful, and that this stain cannot be removed from his soul no matter how he tries.

Now replace sin with racism/sexism... Replace Augustine with Implicit Association Tests as the proof that we're all racists/sexists... Replace the obsession with outward forms as ways to try to prove (to ourselves and our friends) that we're of the elect with, well, the obsession with outward forms as ways to try to prove (to ourselves and our friends) that we're of the elect...

Puritanism (ie Calvinism) in America never totally dies; it's reborn every few generations in a new round of youth utterly ignorant of history while just as utterly convinced they understand humanity's master plan.

ie this round of "liberalism", ie KKKalvinism, carries the whip for basically the same reasons that it did in Geneva in 1550, or in Moscow in 1930, or in or in Shanghai in 1970, or in Teheran in 1990; because there's a large (never a majority, but a large enough minority) fraction of people, especially among the youth, who thrill to the idea that they can bring about utopia and, at the same time as carrying out the divine plan, also punish their enemies.

And it takes the exact form it does today in America purely for contingent reasons, just as it took the form it did in Geneva, in Moscow, in Shanghai, in Tehran. You won't understand the movement by obsessing over these contingent "America in the 2000s" details.

As our host has said elsewhere: the ideology is not the movement. In every one of these cases, the ideology is merely a cudgel with which to beat up the opposition; the movement is based on the emotions of "you mean I can punish other people [like my parents]? and make the world a better place? and impress girls? Sign me up!"

If that's the sort of thing you are after, KKKalvinism is, today, the primary game in town. Sure you could join a few other variants playing the same game, but genuine revolution ala The Weathermen seems way too dangerous, and the White Power crowd not only listen to different music and follow different customs, they're unlikely to ever be on the winning side --- those are for actual ideologues, not for posers and chancers who're just in it for the signaling and the chance to tell other people what to do.

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I have to argue for decades of censorship creating a humanities universe which contains almost nothing except left-liberalism and a few conservative caricatures. People are thinking they are leftists when they have seen nothing else. The smarminess and self-dealing of university humanities over the past 50 years has been significant. It’s not that thinkers are inherently left; it’s that the only people not shamed out the door of the vestibule of intellectuality are the next generation of left-liberal acolytes. If personal=political, personality is political, then certain politics requires a certain personality. That’s been happening at least since the 80s which I’ve seen and probably longer.

Academia was not a rich and powerful club until the research-industrial complex grew in it. It is now though and a middle-class obedience mindset has been catapulted into the upper class, where, power joined to inflexible, parroted, gate-keeping left vocabulary words, we have the nightmare of the hungover philosophy PhD, in which soooo many people are discussing theory, but it’s slowly going to hell.

I like to think rich people, if they are aware they are rich, become acquainted with trade offs and management decisions; newly empowered middle class, not thinking of how to wield power responsibly, carry out each treasured vengeance instead.

Tech created class churn like nothing else. The idea-ocracy may become a disaster; there’s more to leadership than ideas, but the bucket of ideas to draw from has been very restricted.

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As for dictatorship apologia: I remember a lot of Democrats talking about how democracy is failing or the US is no longer a democracy and we need some kind of auto-coup to remove Trump in 2016. One person, I believe a Twitter exec, wrote a piece about how the right needs to be completely excluded from power for a generation. The trending tweet at one point was by a former member of the Clinton administration about how Republicans need to be outright banned from holding any position of responsibility. I think the new phenomenon is that the losing side is less likely to accept it. Both for the presidency and lesser offices. If they accept they just lose power while if they maintain THEY are the rightly elected person they get rewarded by their own side. Which is ominous in of itself!

This is, as far as I can tell, the sophisticated anti-democrat's (little d) case. We're heading for a dictatorship so you should make sure it's left-wing/right-wing. That's not new: dictatorial movements generally make the case there's no alternative. The enemy and siege mentality are a common feature of such regimes.

Personally, I see the modern period as a replay of the 19th century in the US or the 17th century in Britain. Both of which led to violence and even civil wars. There's a lot of similarities even down to some very specific points. Though neither ended democracy such as it existed at the time over the long term.

Both those conflicts usually get sociologically described as a conflict caused by economic/technological changes creating a new rising middle class elite. This elite leveraged a power base in the middle class against a more traditional elite whose power came from institutions and whose popular support lay in the lower classes and various minorities. And that's broadly what I think is happening now. My impression is the Democrats represent both the very elite of society and the lower classes plus minorities while the Republicans represent the broad middle. If so, the faction more equivalent to the Republicans won both times in Britain/the US. But not everywhere. Other countries followed different paths and a few didn't even have a decisive winner.

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Trying to think of something conservative that was celebrated fifty years ago and drawing a blank. Columbus Day? That has its roots in big city Democrat machine politics.

In fifth grade I did get a portable New Testament from a local Christisn evangelical organization.

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For an underlying explanatory mechanism see


The greater the population density the more likely it is that voters tilt liberal. At around 900 people per square mile in the US, populations move from mostly D to mostly R. The liberal enclaves in Red states are all in their larger cities.

The paper proposes a few causal mechanisms for the divide and its growth over time.

One major cause explained in the paper is the Big 5 "Openness to experience" trait. People higher in this trait are more likely to value education, which makes it more likely they go to college. Colleges are in areas where the population density exceeds the threshold (even in mainly rural states the college itself is a locus of higher density.) People with higher Openness are more likely to be liberal. So even you are surrounded by people who are liberal, which is likely to move you in that direction if you are already oriented that way (and especially if you are high in Agreeableness)

College education increases the likelihood you will not go home and pursue a career in a mainly rural profession but instead migrate to an urban center where there are more career opportunities for the educated. And there you are surrounded by more people who tilt that way.

And institutions? Institutions are density-centric. You find most institutions in larger cities more than smaller cities and the exurbs. So people who are inclined (or socialized) to be liberal will go to the places where the institutions live

As we continue to move from an economy where there's a lot of wealth created in low-density areas--farming and resource extraction--to an economy where increasing amounts of wealth are created (and captured) in high-density areas, the power tile inevitably moves in that direction

The density divide is robust across all 50 states and several countries where it has been studied

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In terms of more employees donating to the democrats, it seems to me that two very good and simple explanations are:

1. Given that partisanship goes by age so much these days, liberals are much more likely to be working age.

2. Conservatives are more likely to be self employed or small business owners (petit bourgeoise in the old language)

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"Conservatives did dominate institutions somewhat in the 1950s, though there were still a lot of socialist professors and newspapers."

Academia and media were far less monolithic back then, so there was much more of a mix among independent institutions. Hollywood *was* monolithic, though--and sure enough, communists were being purged at least as ruthlessly as conservatives are today.

The two big tribes/coalitions have evolved a lot since then, of course. The PMC grew in numbers and status to the point where it could take over the "blue" coalition, evict the working class and replace it with the poor and minority groups. (That was the upheaval of the 1960s.) The working class responded by joining the previously business-focused "red" coalition. (That was the "Reagan revolution".) The 1990s boom enriched the PMC to the point where their interests started converging with those of the formerly-red "investor class", creating the bipartisan crony capitalism of the Bush-Obama years, and now "woke capital". And the red coalition, reduced to a white working-class (T)rump coalition, is now responding by trying to lure more of the previously-blue minority groups left behind by the PMC-business alliance that controls the blue coalition.

But I don't see any fixed rule or order to this evolution--rather, the shared interests that form the coalitions' foundations gradually shift tectonically, producing occasional earthquakes that realign them along new fault lines. In particular, when there's an imbalance of power between them, then the least well-aligned constituencies within the stronger one stand to gain by defecting to the weaker one, until balance is re-established.

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The Republicans are facing a demographic time bomb of their own making. The Democrats have bet the farm on corralling all the non-white voters, plus much of the white population disgusted with Trump's emphasis on whiteness. The Republicans just need to undertake a slight marketing switch to totally derail this strategy. Instead of being anti-minority, they need to become pro-meritocracy again. Latinos and Asians were planning on following in the footsteps of the Germans, Irish, Jews, Italians and Poles, working hard and earning their move up in American society on the merits. Instead Republicans decided to focus on being pro-white, which explicitly excludes them. And the whites are split down the middle depending on whether they are attracted or repelled by the pro-white message. Only Blacks are the logical core of the Democratic Party, and even there of course there is a good sized subgroup of middle and upper income Blacks who stay Democrats because the Republicans don't want them. Republicans need to accept amnesty for all Latinos currently living in the US, enforce a strong border preventing further illegal immigration, and focus on the traditional low tax low regulation regime that boosts economic outcomes for all regardless of ethnicity. The Democrats can only offer more taxes, unpopular affirmative action programs that mostly benefit Blacks at the expense of Latinos and Asians, and calling their remaining white elite supporters racist just because they're white. It just seems so obvious and yet it's obviously not or it would already be happening.

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I'm not sure why *stopping* the Piketty ferris wheel would be a way to end this perceived control of certain institutions by one party. Rather, you'd want to *speed up* the ferris wheel, so that the other party cycles in sooner, rather than the party currently in control remaining there.

People sometimes like to point out the similarity (with opposite colors) between the 1892 presidential election and the 2012 one to show the half orbit of the ferris wheel.


I think the truth is a bit more complex - it's true that the urban/rural divide (surprisingly not mentioned in this post!) has basically perfectly reversed since 1892, but business has been on the side of the Republican party all the way since 1852, with 2020 being really the closest we've come to that not being the case.

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>note that Hanania himself is conservative, so this isn't a cheap attack

Downplaying your own side's strengths to make it look like you're the underdog fighting against powerful institutions can indeed be a cheap trick. You see it all the time on both sides - the equivalent on the left would be "Democrats are spineless cowards who give Republicans everything they want in the name of bipartisanship."

I'm also doubting if some of these "left-leaning institutions" actually have any meaningful support for the left. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin (major defense companies) show up as slightly left-leaning on the chart, but I don't think most people would say the military-industrial complex serves left-wing interests.

If liberals donate more than conservatives in general, as Hanania says, then an industry that's right in the center politically would show up as "liberal" on the chart even though it's not "captured" in any meaningful sense.

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Could there be a connection between the Political Party Ferris Wheel and the Style Barber Pole? Something about counter-culture generational rebellion spawning political movements?

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>Liberals express more willingness to shun people for being conservative than vice versa.

Anecdotally as a male in a purple city in a red state I see far, far, more "don't swipe right if you voted for Trump" than "swipe the way you voted"

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(From an Australian author several decades ago). O’Sullivan’s First Law: “All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.”

If this is a First Law, I would like to propose a few others.

Second Law. "All organizations that are centre-left will over time become implicitly, and complicitly, Marxist in character.”

Third Law. "Any organisation, campaign or regime that is explicitly anti-West, regardless of whether it is far-left, ultra-conservative, racist or fascistic, will be supported by the far-left.”

Fourth Law. “All entities in Law 3, seemingly of the opposite political beliefs to the far-left, will have a term of opprobrium invented on their behalf, to be used against political opponents in the west, in order to allow overt far-left support.”

Fifth Law. “All western institutions will become increasing anti-western over time.”

Sixth Law. “All centre-leftist organisations who express some sort of support for a far-left campaign will be set increasingly difficult and absurd hurdles to overcome, until inevitable failure allows a far-left takeover and the Second Law to come to pass”.

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But Scott, what have they actually WON?

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Your final paragraph says it. From the Scopes Monkey Trial to the last 40 years of climate denialism, too much of American conservativism has been hostile to science for over a century, and it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that it lost academics. When right-leaning politicians push things like low taxes, stronger borders, and activist foreign policy, they've had plenty of broad support. I don't pretend to fully understand why the GOP felt it had to get in bed with the American equivalent of the Taliban to get a large enough coalition to win national elections, but it did and it lost a whole lot of people who are not naturally left-leaning in any meaningful general way. This perception that "woke" causes are winning some broad culture war just feels like you guys are in a bubble because you spend too much of your time on Twitter. If I asked my dad, a dark-skinned Mexican, life-long union man, Democrat to the bone, how he felt about trans athletes competing in the Olympics, I'm reasonably sure he'd stare blankly back at me and have no clue what I was talking about. These causes don't have any broad support, and if they end up becoming platform-core issues for the Democratic party rather than things people actually care about, we're going to be asking the exact opposite set of questions in 2120. It's not like the left has some permanent monopoly on evidence-based beliefs. But it's probably fair to say after the 1980-2020 dominance of moral majority and fossil fuel extraction politics, "reality has a liberal bias" is a common perception among educated people even if it isn't broadly true.

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Errata: "Liberal protests attract orders of magnitude more protests than conservative ones"

Perhaps you want to replace the first protests with causes or the second protests with people?

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One thing I find exhasperating is how lousy people on the right (like me) have been at building alternative institutions. The network of think tanks built, I think, mostly during the Reagan era were something of an achievement, but that's now 30 years in the rear view mirror. If you think of right wing media outlets, they're too unscrupulous to do more than preach to the choir, mostly, and too many media figures they produce are people like Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, ie, long on bombast, short on integrity. Universities: mostly nada.

I have a couple pet theories on this:

1. If you think of conservatives as people motivated to defend a traditional American strand of individualism, the result is these people are just less motivated to do stuff where the benefits mostly accrue to the group rather than to them personally, like becoming an activist or starting a non-profit.

2. Advocating for still more government spending and programs creates more opportunities for personal profit and career advancement for folks on the left, because hey, maybe some of those new appropriations find their way into your pocket, one way or another, or maybe there's a cushy job waiting for you at that new agency being created, and so the supply of people willing to go in for this is simply a lot higher. This is particularly true in our current post-industrial economy, where government employment, contracting, and the like makes up a greater share of the opportunities available to educated workers.

I'm not wedded to either of these, just putting them out there.

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Speculation: The current divide is between large families on the right and small families on the left. Family size is currently correlated with income and anti-correlated with education.

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"The Labour Party managed to change its ways "

The Labour party is now the party of media, finance, and education, and they have driven away their working class base.

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The trouble with this analysis is it implies the causal direction is like: educational elite flips to Dems --> institutions turn left. But that doesn't really fit the chronology suggested by the graphs.

The highly educated don't start tilting Democratic until the 1990s. But the decisive period in the capture of "institutions" (meaning primarily: higher ed and NGO's, maybe also prestige media though my grasp of the history there isn't so firm) by the left is generally agreed to be the late 1960s.

That's more consistent with the reverse causal path: institutions turn left, at a time when left-leaning people are still a minority among the highly educated --> people formed by those institutions, or wanting to advance within them, increasingly come to identify with the Democratic Party, eventually reshaping that party in their own image.

And also prima facie more consistent with the Hanania approach. Because it suggests that institutional capture isn't an organic outcome of coalitional shifting, but might instead be a kind of exogenous shock that arises for idiosyncratic reasons and resets coalitions in unpredictable ways.

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It would be interesting to see data on college attendance by political affiliation. I would bet that, controlling for IQ, liberals are more likely than conservatives to go to college and also more likely to go to elite colleges. And that this is due less to anti-conservative attitudes in the admissions offices than to liberals' higher motivation for elite degrees.

If there is actually a difference of this kind, then education doesn't really explain anything. Saying "journalists are liberal because they're Ivy Leaguers" is sort of like saying "journalists are liberal because they're liberal".

I grew up in a very conservative subculture. Hanania is on to something, but I don't think "liberals care more" is the best way to explain it. Conservatives and liberals have very different strategies for dealing with hostile institutions. The liberal tendency is Infiltrate--->Take Over--->Purge, but the conservative tendency is Withdraw--->Recreate.

Previous generations of conservatives grew uncomfortable with the increasing liberalism of the public schools, so they put their kids into private schools. Now the private schools have gotten more liberal, so there's been a huge upswing in conservative homeschooling.

This is not the behavior of people who "don't care much". These alternative approaches to schooling are a LOT more difficult for middle class people. Private schools cost a lot of money, and parents often spend more than an hour a day just driving their kids there and back. Homeschooling is effectively a job. Public schooling seems laughably easy by contrast- it's free, and they literally pick up your kid at your front door.

Ultimately, I think conservatives are the spiritual descendants of the people who settled the United States-people who dealt with conflict by striking out for the colonies, and then for the frontier, and building new communities with immense effort from scratch. Now we have no frontier and no escape.

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> Does this explain why so many institutions are so liberal? Because they draw from mostly educated people, and educated = liberal these days?

I think this is pretty straight forward obvious. Liberals have dominated education for decades. Especially higher education, just look at your own graph. Professors and educators are the most likely to donate to democrats. Once you control education, it's becomes possible to route every other institution. Everyone who goes through your education pipeline has their opinions shifted more liberal. They then go into every other institution and drive out everyone who's not part of their coalition. If your HR department is filled with liberals, then you can drive out any other conservatives. So now you control companies. You can then use those institutions to apply pressure to other institutions who don't sufficiently share your ideological makeup. For example, threatening to pull your advertisement spending, denying access to payment processing services, deplatforming, etc....

I guess you could call it the long march through the institutions.

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My bid for a solution is 'Get the Republican party to adopt positions that educated people find less distasteful,' but some people may claim that the causal arrow points the other way there. I think you could make a good case that the Republicans actually held positions educated people would like more in the past, and don't now - I would offer 'democrats ate their lunch by becoming pro-market economic conservatives' as a primary factor - and this could be a genuine change that explains why the educated affiliation has flipped.

I also wonder how much rural vs urban divide matters here. Urban people are 73% more likely to get a college degree than rural people, so 'educated' is a pretty good proxy measure for 'urban vs rural'. If the real issue is just that urban areas are democratic, and urban areas are where all national institutions are headquartered, that's also a simple explanation.

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I think Hanania is right that the Blue Tribe cares more about defeating the Red Tribe than the Red Tribe does about defeating the Blue Tribe, and that this is relevant to Blue takeover of institutions (Blue purges Red more effectively than Red purges Blue).

What he leaves out is *why*. I don't think Red is especially incapable of worrying about things, but while Blue is a nearly-pure counterculture, Red's primary focus is external threats. The threat of Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe was something that held Red together and allowed Red-based ideological purges (e.g. McCarthy), but there was no threat for a while and the alarm bells around the PRC don't seem to be ringing as loudly (at least, in the USA - in Australia we're plenty scared).

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>>The Labour Party managed to change its ways - all we can do is hope the Republicans can too.

I feel fairly confident on reading this that you do not know very much about the Labour Party leader who fought the last two elections, Jeremy Corbyn.

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I wanted to ask "How can a discussion of woke companies be complete without a mention of 'harassment law', 'hostile workplace environment', 'anti-discrimination' or 'civil rights act'?" but one of Hanania's followups discusses just that.


Companies are woke because hostile workplace environment laws and guilt-presuming anti-discrimination laws make it too risky to hire a manager who is outspokenly right-wing about race, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. It's not that laws require companies to celebrate gay pride, but when every manager is either a SJW or keeps quiet about politics, the SJWs can push the stuff well beyond what the law or even the company's interests require, without pushback.

Programmers aren't uniformly progressive. As far as I can tell, conservatives are uncommon, but libertarians are common. E.g. according to polls 56% of Google employees didn't think Damore should have been fired, and IIRC 40% agreed with him (though I can't find the source for the latter). That suggest a pretty even split. It's the management that uniformly takes the progressive side—while commentators as well as the EEOC argued that Google would have risked harassment lawsuits if it doesn't fire him.

I don't follow Hanania's argument though that it's civil rights laws that make conservatives care less about politics even in ways that aren't regulated by those laws, such as going to protests.

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One factor is probably related to how, in a non-authoritarian system, it takes much more time and effort to synchronize conservative action (i.e., to restrain new projects) than to make “noise” or new pilot initiatives of a new/liberal type.

Here’s a small scale, slightly obscure, but real life example:

- portuguese academic “Praxe”


Essentially, Portuguese Praxe consists of initiation rituals that last your whole degree, in many ways similar to American fraternities and sororities, although usually with no common housing.

In Portugal, a university course in which there is no Praxe is in a state of unstable equilibrium. Any given year, 2 or 3 students can simply decide to start doing initiation rituals to consensual 1st year students. In a non-authoritarian system, what can the conservative do to refrain this voluntary action to stop from happening? Other “conservative” students would have to spend much time *convincing* people not to join this initiative. in practice, every year the ritual easily grows in numbers.

In essence, there’s a bias in the system to make it easy for social “innovation” and pilot projects of volunteers. (And in the case of Praxe, several mechanisms exist to perpetuate the practice).

This could probably be solved if the existence of Praxe was voted on every year. But as it is initially proposed, it is not a mandatory action, so why not.

This effect might be specially true in countries whose identity is so attached to individual freedom. Same-sex marriage was always going to become legal in the US, since it is something that does not really affect other people. Of course, secret voting delays the passing of the law.

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My intuition is that, when X correlates with Y, but X and Y have opposite correlations with A, that there is very likely some fourth factor B strongly at play that correlates the other way round with X and Y than does A.

Here, surely B must be age? Even though education correlates a lot with wealth, there's also this huge age effect where older people are richer just due to building up wealth over time, getting promoted through organisations, gaining skills and seniority, etc., but they're also a lot less well educated because they had their formal education back when any given person at some given point on the intelligence spectrum generally got a lot less schooling than they do now.

So these poor educated people voting left are going to disproportionately the young educated people, with the older educated people being more right wing, and then those older educated right-wing people are also rich, and then the uneducated rich people are also old, and they're right-wing too, and then the old uneducated people generally left wing and poor.

I've tried to write that sentence a bunch of times but basically any four-dimensional system like that is ass to explain, and I'd want it all drawn out on a 3D graph of voters in one of the countries that exemplifies this new alignment (say, UK) with income and education on the X and Y as here, but then age on a Z direction, and colour to represent the parties as here, and I think you'd essentially see a very nice graph of with eight 'boxes' of which four would be mostly empty, and you would see all the correlations that way, and how you end up with income and wealth correlating with each other, but correlating opposite ways with both age and vote. You could even do a before/after shift showing a transition between the one where everything lines up, and the one where it all splits off in different directions.

Doing that would provide the sort of intuitive grasp of what I'm trying to say that I have in my head but can't remotely explain in words. This is why data visualisation is an important skill - it's much easier to see this than read someone ham-handedly try to explain it.

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If you're analyzing the "modern" US political alignments, I don't think you can skip noting the *absolute dominance* of the Democratic Party of Congress from 1933 through 1995 - the Dems held the majority in both houses for most of that period, and an *unbroken* 40 year run of control of the House from 1955 to 1995.

Now, the wider ideological intra-party diversity of this period makes this a *little* less interesting (at their centrist ends, the parties' memberships in Congress overlapped significantly, the rightmost Dem was well to the right of the leftmost Republican - this overlap has pretty much disappeared in my lifetime).


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I think most political disagreements come down to factual disagreements rather than value disagreements. Imagine a world where one party was dominated by a philosophy that was largely correct and the other was dominated by a philosophy that was popular and intuitive but fundamentally flawed. The 'correct' party would gain more support among educated and intellectual elites (because these people are better at telling truth from lies). The 'mistaken' party would gain support among those who benefit from the realisation of its philosophy. If they had the means, these people would then persuade other groups that the mistaken philosophy was good. This could be through religion, divide-and-rule tactics, personal charisma, targeted advertising, and many other methods.

You'd get a contradiction if educated and intelligent people also tended to fall into the group who benefit from the mistaken philosophy, because then they have incentives in both directions. Possibly gradual improvements in education over the course of decades cause them to vote more with what they think is correct and less with what benefits them personally. Perhaps economic growth makes them less worried about their personal wealth and gives them the freedom to vote for what they think is correct. Perhaps some other factor.

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"Probably solving racism would help shake up political coalitions, so somebody should do that too."

The elites are pushing the racism stuff the hardest.

"Racial conflicts make it hard to keep poor whites and poor minorities together in a "grand coalition of the poor". "

Divide and conquer.

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"Piketty thinks the same process might be happening in other countries with eg Muslim immigrants"

Can partially confirm this for Sweden. The Social Democratic party has essentially monopolized the muslim vote through extremely close relationships with muslim organizations, but in the process lost a large chunk of uneducated, especially rural, especially male, whites to the anti-immigrant populist Sweden Democrats. For the first time ever, the Social Democrats have to fight tooth and nail to maintain control over the unions against a challenge from the right.

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Sorry if someone else has made this comment, but I feel obliged to make it in all discussions of this type: 95% (or maybe 99%) of the answer is everything isn’t woke, it’s just that you live in a very particular media bubble. The remaining few percent of the answer is just that we are still engaged in the long, long process of offering real equality to people who are a bit different. The law is still more radical than most people.

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The elites weren't right-wing during the 1950s-1970s; they were right-wing in the 1920s.

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One very important aspect that is neglected in this post (but brought up in the comments) is the rural-urban divide. Living in cities is one of the most predictive factors for voting Democratic, and most of today's elites (for a variety of reasons) live in cities. Likewise, most of today's important institutions are run from medium-to-large cities. That alone could account for much of this disparity.

I do think Hanania's hypothesis is a little bit conspiratorial. For example, professors in all disciplines lean left pretty severely (depending on the field, professors identifying as Democrats outnumber professors identifying as Republicans by between 3:1 to 10:1). However, I think that the number of, for example, physics professors who chose to become professors (rather than, say, hedge fund managers) *in order to exert political influence* is minuscule. I know a decent number of STEM professors, and not a single one has ever indicated that weilding political influence was even a small factor in going into academia (anecdotal, yes, but telling nonetheless).

Today's "elite" also includes things such as FAANG tech workers. These tech workers also tilt heavily to the left. But it's pretty evident that most tech workers choose those jobs not out of political ideology, but rather because the compensation is good, the conditions are comfortable, and the work is interesting. Perhaps you could argue that the left-leaning tech workers are more vocal than the right-leaning tech workers, but you would *also* need to explain why there are just so many more left-leaning tech workers to begin with, and Hanania fails to do that.

Finally, I think people here are *vastly* overstating the effect that teachers and professors have on political discourse and society at large. I have spent many years in academia and in academia-adjacent areas, and generally speaking, professors are delighted if they can even convince their students to do the readings and hand in assignments on time, never mind permanently change their political ideology. Furthermore, while perhaps some parts of the humanities have large political components, the vast majority of disciplines are not really related to politics. I studied a STEM field in undergrad and graduate school, and political topics were basically never discussed with professors. Students' political views are much more likely to be affected by the views of their (overwhelming left-leaning) peers rather than by professors.

The commenters who have proposed explanations such as "academia was captured by the left" or "the great march through the institutions" seem to be missing the big picture. Academia, universities, and teachers *worldwide* lean left. Institutional capture could potentially explain why some American universities are left-leaning, but it doesn't explain why university professors throughout almost all of the Western world are left-leaning (unless you posit some sort of "global institutional capture", which I think strains credulity).

A much more credible explanation is that significant planks of the modern right's platform are off-putting to (or even incompatible with) academics and intellectuals. I don't think it's controversial that there is a very strong anti-intellectual strain in today's GOP (such thinking also exists in the Democratic party, but it's better kept in check). Ignoring policy, is it not clear that Barack Obama's style of communication is more appealing to academics than Donald Trump's? The right has a fairly large faction that is extremely skeptical of "expert opinion", and academics are (some of) those who determine expert opinion: the conflict between these things is evident. Politicians on the right are much more likely to "go with their gut". Going with your gut doesn't cut it in academia. Religiosity is another big factor here.

In short, is it really so surprising that the political ideology that has elevated being anti-elite, anti-academic, anti-intellectual and anti-expert finds itself out of favor with the elites, academics, intellectuals, and experts?

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So I've been trying to draw a bead on the motivation and mindset of the rationalist community for a while now. My current take is that they are trying eliminate emotion and are skeptical of any and all preconceived notions. They want to work from first principles so to speak with high value for hard numbers, especially reproducible hard numbers.

If you will forgive me a little skepticism of my own there also seems to be sort of inordinate fondness for Bayes Theorem. At times this seems like the sort of fondness for beetles and stars that J.B.S. Haldane ascribed to The Creator. I do get its importance. I think. At times it does seem overdone here.

I'm curious though if there is any room at all for noetic knowledge with rationalists. The sort of insight that comes through mediation or prayer or fasting or ingestion of entheogens. I see that taken at literal face value a rationalist would reject this out of hand. I'm just probing for any wiggle room that a rationalist might be open to.

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I wonder whether the fundamental reason isn't simply that the left has always assigned a lot of importance to intellectuals, whether as skilled technocrats or as a liberal vanguard whose superior education allows them to transcend the prejudices of the conservative masses. People naturally like being told they're important, so it's not really surprising that intellectuals should be attracted to the set of ideologies that makes them the stars of the show.

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I haven't finished the post yet, and so not even tackled the replies. But this may be my fav. post since 'a modest proposal for republicans'.

1.) I keep thinking have you read "Coming Apart" by C. Murray. You don't have to agree with his bias, but his idea's should be considered. We have made the costal elite. The best people from, say, my home town Buffalo, have gone to good colleges on one of the coasts, and the best of those have stayed there... making more kids together.

2.) As far as a Caesar: (voting in a dictator) have you listened to Dan Carlin's "Death throes of the Republic" about Rome? I think we pick a dictator, when we get sick of the two party political system not working. Where you lean politically has little to do with your disgust with the current system.

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Does the multi-elite party theory fit in with Turchin's ideas of elite surplus? When the elites are few in number they share a common destiny and naturally congregate in one party, but when there are so many that they can't all be on top, they have to segregate so they can jockey for position.

Maybe a Just So story -- I haven't explained why they can't jockey for position within one party.

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I think the fundamental problem that we are working with is that the basic cleave that separates the parties and Americans, is who counts as an American. This is not something that can be negotiated. Either someone is an American with the full rights and privilege that that gives or they are not. People in institutions and those who run them tend to believe that we need to include people because that gives the most possibility to getting the correct people and the fact that lots of different people already are there.

The American public are policy liberal, in general they want the government to do more to help folks. But people vote based on their identity. So some people will define themselves by how much they don't like black people and how much they don't like gay people and how much they don't like trans people and so on. No matter how much you want the government to do things if you don't like your fellow Americans and believe that they should not be part of the body politic then you will not vote for Democrats. Not all republicans think this way. But all of the people who believe this tend to vote republican.

All of these institutions have a law based duty to have diversity. They don't quite succeed but if you run one of these institutions you need to try and if you are going to try then you need to believe and not have a dislike of your fellow Americans. If you want to join these institutions then you know you are going into a rather diverse place and need to not care about that. So when this basic issue interacts with politics all of these institutions look liberal and democratic because people who have problems with diversity won't be there.

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Maybe the dot-com boom had something to do with it ? All of a sudden, you could jump from "educated" to "rich" without going through the traditional corporate/finance hierarchy. Thus, liberals remained as liberal as they were even after their transition to elite status.

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I don't see much in the discussion yet about the recruitment of intelligent working class people into the ranks of the better paid intelligentsia via free and subsidised education, and I think that's a key part of the puzzle. Prior to WWII there isn't much of a path to rise in socio-economic class via education (at least in the systems I'm most familiar with - AU/UK/US). The university elites were the children of the wealthy - inasmuch as the wealthy were right wing supporters, that would be perpetuated into the next generation.

However, after WWII you get:

US (40s) - GI bill which allows the expansion of education opportunities to a wide cross section of men

UK (60s) - Education grants supporting any students of whatever financial means to go to university

AU (70s) - Start of free tertiary education

And I'm sure there are similar examples in other systems that I'm less familiar with.

So working class kids who grew up in left wing social circumstances became more educated, got good jobs, got paid well but retained their left wing affiliation, therefore moving the left-wing support average towards the "more educated" side. The education helped them get more well-paying jobs which moved their income up somewhat - the main graph shows income effects coming after education effects which is exactly what I'd expect under this model. The apparent relative movement of the right is probably just a reflection of the fact that what's considered "right" and "left" changes over time - conservatives have stayed pretty much the same, but society moved right.

The next phase appears to be that when you have a clump of left-wing support among those who are personally well off, they gradually cease to care about the economic equality side of left wing politics and start focusing more on the "identity" side. And although society has move socially left pretty continuously since ... hmmm ... I'd say about the early nineteenth century, economic leftness seems to have peaked in the 60s with high wages, 90% tax rates and the building of welfare states in various nations, which has gradually been walked back since then.

The marriage of social left/right with economic left/right is honestly a bit odd because they're opposed on the "should governments intervene in this?" metric. There seems to be no a priori reason why those particular pairings should stay linked apart from "this is what we're familiar with so we predict it will continue"

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I did a quick search to see if anyone mentioned it, but Stephen Davies has been doing work on this type of realignment for ages. He has a whole book about how it applies to the most recent shift in the UK. Here's a quick link from Cato. https://www.cato-unbound.org/2018/12/10/stephen-davies/great-realignment-understanding-politics-today

The gist of it is that shifting alliances happen because diving questions become exhausted, or rather the debate around them does. Once it's no longer a really big deal whether or not the state legalizes gay marriage, the coalitions that formed on either side of that issue look at those they are allied with and realize they don't really agree on much.

What I think is likely in this case is we'll see a split among the Democratic party. Each side will ally with various elements in the Republican party and you won't have the same level of institutional monopoly.

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I think Bernie Sanders would have upended this system and changed the whole political landscape, if he had won the nomination in 2016.

Elections are a contest of ideas (yes, yes, I'll pause while you laugh, I'm serious though) and over the past few decades there has been very little difference between the major currents of the left and the right parties.

Eventually a new type of socialism will emerge and then liberalism will be on the back foot, it will be the conservative poor versus the educated rich liberals once again.

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One thing that's consistent, and consistently annoying, both in the comments section and in Scott's writing, is what should be called just old fashioned ignorance and bias on what the Tribes actually think in relation to the Tribal leaders. In a strict sense.

It's come up multiple times in the comments already that the woke nonsense is a product of a bubble, normal Blue Tribe people don't know or care or agree about any of this. This is almost certainly true.

However this assumption is not carried over to the Red Tribe. People are still talking about stuff like evolution denial and gay marriage or whatever Obviously Wrong (TM) idea as if they were just massively popular with the Tribal Leaders, and that Tribe Members and prospective Tribe Members all accurately gauge this significant popularity.

Consider that these opinions are the woke opinions of the Red Tribe. Treat evidence for it exactly as you'd treat evidence in favour of "Blue Tribe holds woke beliefs."

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I wish the natural conclusion from thinking "this 2-party system has given the opposite tribe too much power" was "we should break up the 2-party system and devolve power" instead of flirting with dictatorship. Especially since our main political cleavage is rural versus urban, it should be really easy in theory to divide up so that local control keeps the large majority of people happy.

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Hanania's case also feels weak to me because I always thought that Republicans cared more about their politics than Democrats.

For instance, it was explained to me that the reason why Trump wanted mail-in voting to be banned was that only Republicans would care about to line up in front of the polling booths in the middle of a pandemic, whilst the Democrats would be too lazy/unwilling to do anything but send in a mail-in vote

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It seems to me that those that attend college and expose themselves to serious inquiry of historical events in human history, Piketty-style analysis - which is about an honest exploration of data as you can get - as well as reading deeply and often - are going to skew LEFT in the current U.S. political environment, simply because of the way in which the two parties, right now, approach the very real problems that we as humans and our planet faces. There are significant differences.

Let's say you are 23 or 24 and you have finished your Bacc. studies and you turn on Fox News, listen for awhile, and then turn on MSNBC, and listen for awhile. Which is going to ring truer? Or you listen to Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene and then listen to AOC or Brian Tyler Cohen? Which actually makes more sense to a 23 or 24-year old who just went through four years on campus?

Or, more likely, they look at the their phones and sweep down the algorithmic highway on whatever social media channel(s) they subscribe to -- I just don't think people of that age group that have been through four or five years of college are going to buy the right-wing narrative. At least not the way it is currently fed to the algos.

I agree with the comment regarding an apology for dictatorship. Those who have been exposed to fascist ideology (through ready history) from last century and even more recently in Europe and the results, and who also happen to live in a demographically changing country are going to feel pretty uncomfortable with the rhetoric espoused by the U.S. Right. If one side is willing to throw the system out with the bathwater rather than relinquish political power for a cycle or two, this will make educated people pretty nervous. And honestly, calling "Cancel Culture" or "Mask Mandates" a new type of fascism is just a little too silly to be taken seriously.

Having said that, all of this right/left polarity is disheartening and counter-productive. Two of the most serious problems - real problems - that we face are : 1)Economic inequality, which has been very well documented by Piketty himself, and 2) A rapidly-changing climate that we all selfishly thought might have been our kids' and grandkids' problem, and which is now very much OUR problem.

I believe the only way we can seriously face these very real issues is to stop with the political bickering over emotional, hot-button political issues like, say, gun control, abortion, cancel-culture, etc. We might have had the luxury to engage issues like this in during the last generation, but we simply no longer have that luxury - the luxury of division. There are important things to be done and we must do them together.

Will true existential threat erase these mundane arguments? Or will we, as a country, go down in flames from above while fighting each other over issues that are artificially delivered to us and embraced as important?

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I think the main point of the Keyes quote is that any party in which the elites are not taking the lead is really not fit to govern. Functional government is always government by elites. Thucydides (referencing Pericles) said that democracy works best when the masses ("the many") leave policy making to the elites ("the few") and limit their participation to choosing between the options crafted by the elites, usually by voting for the particular elite person with the policy positions they most agree with. This goes off the rails when the masses don't like any of the options that the elites crafted, so they start to insist on policies of their own crafting. The big one in the last decade was immigration. A bipartisan group of Senators crafted some workable immigration reforms, but the right wing masses rejected it not because it would not work, but because it did not inflict pain past illegal immigrants and it did not inflict pain on the Democrats. Many pundits conclude that this shows that right wing populism is driven by pure mean-spiritedness. There probably is a good dose of that in there, but I think mostly Populists don't have the mental tools or discipline to analyze policy on its merits, so they rely on the heuristic that they like any policy if it is liked by people they like and hated by people they hate. They have a mindset that everything  in life is zero sum - one side wins, the other side loses. They don't believe in win-win solutions. If the other side is not crying in pain, then you are probably the loser and should start howling. Trump did not do much on delivering effective policy if one looks at it objectively, but he made the Democrats howl in pain, so the right wing populists figure he must have been doing something right. That is why they love him so much.

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When we look at the US political system from the distance and see two movements with nearly equal numbers but somehow one is winning the culture this may look weird, especially if 50 years ago it was the other way around. But when we look closer, the mystery disolves quickly.

Our null hypothesis is that's some part of a global trend. And indeed liberalism seems to be winning over concervativism in general. But why?

Huge part of the liberal ideology is niceness. In this case it's not even fair to call this ideology. We do not need complex narrative not to harass people around us - it's the default mode. Being mean and justifying it, on the other hand, requires an ideology. The question is now reframed: How comes societies become nicer with time? This is much less mysterious question. Scientific progress is an obvious part of an answer.

But there is even more obvious problem with conservatism. It's trying to stand still in the world which is constantly moving. It worked in the middle ages when the progress was slow, but not now. Why is the world moving faster and faster? Once again we can obviously blame the science.

There also was an important philosophical shift which left conservatism out of fuel. We used to have no real alternative to religious point of view and "banishment from heaven" narrative. Now we do. Making world a better place is such an blatantly obvious idea that people are made fun of for even mentioning it aloud. But that's because everyone shares it. Fashism tried to restore the former narrative but fashism failed hard. Religion became less of a political drive and more of a personal choice. Whatever memetic adoptations of separate magisterium people installed in their minds to preserve their religion, it predictably decreased their ability to act on their religious beliefs.

One more thing. It's kind of weird to mention it, but conservatism is plainly falser than liberalism. It's not a huge surprise as conservative narrative is built upon religious one. Additionally as conservatism requires more justification of meanness it's more complex therefore more likely to be false. And when some part of the narrative is revealed to be false it affects it perspective of memetic spread.

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Could it be that there's really no shift in people's political affiliations/engagement levels based on education/affluence, but rather a general changing trend in who gets a higher education or makes money which happens to be letting more left-leaning people into elite groups?

I think this would fit best with a more "hereditary" model of political attitudes, which feels more in line with my personal experiences and observations...

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It's The State Stupid

Left wing ideology legitimize state power as a moral good

therefore people with left wing pov are more likely to go into government and far more likely to use that power to both impose their pov AND expand the power of the state

this expands to all sectors of the public that are dependent on the state like finance or the law

also a side note on "education"

a 50's BA is NOT the same as a 2020's BA

any attempt to explain political changes that doesn't take that into account is BS

neither Hanania nor Piketty nor SA seem to acknowledge that

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There’s an alternative hypothesis to both of these convoluted explanations about the power of liberalism, and it rhymes with Schmurtis Schmarvin. The three of you should get on a podcast together.

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I kind of think Hania and Scott are both wrong, but I’m not really confident that I have the “right” answer. I work for an investment bank, and I can tell you that (1) my employer has become annoyingly woke, (2) I’m fairly confident that most of the actual bankers are not personally woke. As examples of the atmosphere, I have been invited to attend “conversations” with the white fragility lady and some expert on “the power of allyship”, and now when we hire someone we have to report statistics and receive permission based on the % of candidates who were “diverse” (this hasn’t been defined for me but I think it means anyone who isn’t a white male, though I’m unsure of the status of white females).

As far as I can tell an overwhelming majority of employees think it’s all awkward at best. Why are we doing it? My best guess is that management feels that we will look bad and open ourselves to criticism if we don’t. What causes this dynamic? Again, I’m guessing, but I think historically the conservative position has often been proven not only wrong but bigoted. At various times in the past, the conservative position would have been (1) don’t hire blacks and don’t let them vote, (2) don’t hire women, (3) gays are maybe ok as long as they stay in the closet, but they certainly can’t get married. These are all very embarrassing positions in retrospect.

Today, the conservative position might include things like: (1) we shouldn’t have explicit racial quotas and certainly shouldn’t be required to hire unqualified candidates just because of their ethnicity, (2) colleges should stop pretending that Asian students have bad personalities in their “holistic review” to justify massive explicit racial discrimination, (3) biological sex is a thing that actually exists, and I don’t need to tell you my pronouns.

In 30 years, will all of these positions seem like the moral equivalent of denying blacks the right to vote? I don’t know, but I suspect a lot of organizations have essentially internalized the policy “the conservative position will always be proven obviously morally wrong in retrospect, so always take the other side.”

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When class is defined by education level that creates a dangerous dynamic whereby the sectional interests of the educated (e.g openness, globalization, financialization, foreign intervention, high volume migration, subsidies for higher education, etc) face no articulate or institutional opposition. The core self-representational systems of society (media, politics, education) are coded by the highly educated and there are no institutional islands which can speak from outside that monopoly.

I would argue this is not just a platitude - because historically it is highly unusual that 'the highly educated' are also the core of the ruling class of any society - as opposed to just their loyal attendants, advisors, ritual specialists, administrators or socially distant bankers. Historically, there were always landed aristocrats, the military, guilds, trades unions, caste organizations, etc whose institutional power was not based on educational status. Educational meritocracy has homogenized the ruling institutions to a very unusual degree.

With great and unopposed power comes hubris, followed by collapse, or an anarchic backlash - with Jan 6th as a very small foreshadowing perhaps.

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Eric Hammer on August 17, 2021 at 1:47 pm said:

I think the big things missing in both Hanania and Alexander are why the left cares so much about politics, and why so many educated people lean so hard left. I try to answer both in this post here https://dochammer.substack.com/p/contra-hanania-and-alexander-on-partisanship , but the short version is:

1: Leftism is all about using power to make people be the way you want them to be. That’s why the politics of expert rulers appeals so much: it is the way modern Americans can legitimately force people to fit a certain mold.

2a: Experts must be educated, by definition, so if you are leftist you are going to want as much education as possible.

2b: The public schools have long been indoctrination centers extolling the use of power in the hands of experts. The longer anyone stays in the schools, the more that rubs off onto them.

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The recipe for preventing the institutional capture by educated elites (be they left-leaning or otherwise) is the exact opposite of dictatorship. It's direct democracy of the Athenian type.

When all major policy questions are decided in referendums and all office holders and public servants are chosen by sortition, institutions can't be captured by any particular group.

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Could this be a weird effect created by how they defined top educated?

They defined highly educated as 10% vs bottom 90%. In the 50s, you point out that 6% of people had degrees. So the top ten captures the elite.

Now, with a third having college degree, the top ten % essentially captures professionals, pHDs and whomever got a masters after not getting a job post undergrad. It’s not capturing the same group of people…

For example, Mr Silver spoon that got a ba to then take over his fathers business is the top ten % in 1950, but not now.

Weirdly enough, most of Silicon Valley (with all that income), might not hit the top 10% now as coders and the start up crowd tend to not to have much more than a bachelors.

I get the underlying point that more educated people seem to be very left these days, but this “creative class” barely existed in the 50s, and, as you mention, the rump of it that existed back then (journalists, profs etc) was as left wing as they are now no?

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May 17, 2022·edited May 17, 2022

"*not every important job is degree-gated*"

I'm all in favor of that, but this would require Griggs v. Duke Power to be overturned. Think there's any chance of that happening?

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May 17, 2022·edited May 17, 2022

Regarding your closing paragraph--sure it's easy to see that R decisions are dominated by "those who do not know at all what they are talking about", but good grief why single out the R's?

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