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Does a 90% chance of the cost of failed campaign out way the 10% chance of the benefit of a successful campaign. My guess is that the vast majority of successful people do not want to be governor to begin with.

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“ unvaccinated unmasked indoor dinner”

In his defense:


I wouldn’t call that indoor.

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point in favor of intelligence, but evidence that intelligence isn't worth much without imagination?

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Do you actually want to be governor of California? For myself, this is a job that I am completely unqualified for (including residency requirements), would have no aptitude for, and which is a lot of work for not much reward. If I had the option of definitely becoming California governor, I would turn it down, so I certainly wouldn't campaign for the office.

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I'm not so sure that the California Democratic party's logic was unsound here. If a legitimate democratic candidate did run, the chance that the recall succeeds is inevitably higher (there may be people who don't want a Republican replacement, but who'll vote yes on the recall because they don't like Newsom and are hoping for the sane Democratic replacement). But, the chance that the recall succeeds also raises the chance that we end up with Larry Elder as governor.

This is essentially what happened during the 2003 recall. Democratic politician Bustamente campaigned on "No on recall, yes on Bustamente", ended up getting 30% of the vote, and that's how we ended up with The Terminator as our governor.

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His ex-wife... has done a lot worse than date Donald Trump Jr.

(I don't recommend reading this)


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Not having a good alternative to Newsom seems bad. However,

1) Having a legitimate backup to Newsom might get some people who would normally vote "no" on the recall to vote "yes." Voters aren't super rational so if a high profile, reasonable Dem is running, you might get more "yes" votes even if they make it way more likely Larry Elder is elected.

2) At least some people think this is what happened in the 2003 election: https://www.kqed.org/news/11870960/should-a-democrat-run-in-the-newsom-recall-we-asked-cruz-bustamante

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I think voters may be sensing that someone named "Patrick Kilpatrick" would be at risk of suicide.

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> if you don't have diminishing marginal utility to power, a 10% chance at the California governorship looks fantastic.

Does it?

If you, a random guy got elected as governor, what are the chances you'd be able to accomplish anything that you really wanted to?

I get the impression politicians are all actors in this insanely complex system which depends heavily on human relationships, that literally nobody is in charge of. The power any one politician has (i.e. their ability to influence outcomes) stems far more from the relationships they, and their ability to build and manage those relationships, than anything else.

Being governor of california sounds like being CEO of a giant money losing non-profit, stuffed to the gills with ambitious people who'll all be trying to trick you into doing what they want. It's not like the state government is some chess board and the governor gets to move pieces around. I'm beginning to think that measuring power with a number is kind of silly, and instead it's like, we're playing chess in 10 millions, and being made governor only amplifies a certain kind of power you must already possess in order to do any thing.

If you end up somewhere 'above your pay grade' then i'd be the most likely outcome is you have no idea how to appoint, who to trust, who's trying to screw you, or how to do things like build a consensus around your objectives, so that the end result is likely that you just become hated for doing nothing, as rivals for your power successfully trip you up and get the media to blame you for failing.

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<i>4. Californians are lucky Peter Thiel isn't a Democrat, because his mind is minmaxed for spotting opportunities like this, and you can bet he would have gotten involved here if he could have.</i>

I keenly remember when Thiel was going to influence Trump to pick all these awesome contrarian technocrats and instead he picked a bunch of mediocre hangers-on and FOX commentators.

And I note his current pet project, JD Vance, has approximately 100% name recognition from blue checks and 10% name recognition from Ohio primary voters, who are flocking to the established local actual-crazy-guy over a Yalie who left the state after college and wrote a book about how shitty it was but is now pretending to be crazy.

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> Maybe you should actually be scared of the California Democratic Party and its demand that no Democrat stand as a replacement for Governor Newsom? I think this makes sense if you want a future career in California state politics; probably they can blacklist you forever if you cross them. But I wasn’t expecting to have a future career in California state politics, neither were you, and probably neither was Kevin Paffrath. That’s why we would have been able to take this weird opportunity that all the real politicians turned down. Also, given the level of competence they’ve shown here, having the California state Democratic Party out for your head is probably the surest path to a long and healthy life.

This is the key part, IMO. The opportunity is only desirable to people who want power within the Californian political system, but the costs are higher on those who... have a career engaged with the Californian political system. Without disputing that there surely are people whose expected value exceeded Paffrath's, I'd bet the candidate space is fairly small. Maybe a few thousand people or so?

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I would think most sane Democrats who don't want to see the state burn would go NO / Faulconer.

He's not some rando vanity candidate - or a far right loon. He was the mayor of demographically diverse, largely safe and orderly, San Diego - probably the best run city in California.

Which makes it even more hilarious that he's polling so low.

My theory is the normie California managerial class sees a "R" next to the name and is immediately revolted, and the more sophisticated politicos think that he would have a much better shot at re-election than any of the other meme candidates.

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If people think Paffrath has that good a chance of becoming governor, I'll offer them 12:1 odds. I'll accept up to $200. (As an assurance that I'm trustworthy, I work at the Future of Humanity Institute, and my colleagues would expect me to honor bets like this, and if I didn't pay, you could ruin my reputation by informing them.)

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Is Peter Thiel really so ideologically attached to the Republican Party that he wouldn't have switched party registration to run? It seems like he totally could have run, so either he didn't see it or it wasn't worth it to him given the controversy it would stir up.

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The election is rigged

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My wish is that a close election shakes up the smug complacency of California Democrats.

The state is like a one-party mandated country, but unlike somewhere like China, government officials don't face any consequences for poor outcomes. China fired hundreds of local officials for poor COVID response for example. In California you can be a corrupt grifter and really nothing happens.

Take crime in California. The numbers are relatively middle of the pack vs. other states, but I recently did an analysis where I looked at county by country crime rates adjusted for demographics and income, and virtually every county in CA dropped to the very bottom / worst.

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I consider "went through a competitor's office dressed as an elf and giving out flowers" a pro, not a con.

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I find it interesting that the strategy of the party that calls themselves Democrats was to intentionally limit the choices available to voters. Doesn't seem very (little d) democratic to me.

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Presumably the downside risk for political actors is that:

1. You run.

2. You lose and Newsom wins.

3. The enduring Newsom administration bears a grudge and ices you out.

And this risk doesn't necessarily have a symmetrical upside if e.g. Elder wins.

The interesting thing about this downside is it's proportional to how engaged you are with state government. So it's a very strong downside incentive for the sorts of people who are most natural candidates for governor—state-wide electeds, mayors and state legislators, etc. etc. etc. On the other hand, this risk basically doesn't exist for Kevin P.

This is a fascinating counterproductive incentive structure. Probably someone should fix it.

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>>>Apparently his videos include things like tips on how to defraud your tenants.

An accusation like this needs support, I think.

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Another consideration: if you ran as a "D" against the party's wishes, you would almost certainly be retributed against. The California state govt has a long history of political retribution (most of it gets no press coverage for obvious reasons). It would be as dumb as publicly standing up against the CCP as a business leader in China. Just suicide.

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The big question here is, Do the people of California want to keep Newsom as governor? Reading up about it, it seems that there have been a few attempts at recalls that never got anywhere, until this year. This year, for whatever reason or reasons, enough people were pissed-off enough to do something like sign up to the recall campaign.

Probably yes, everyone is tired of Covid, and the fires, and all the rest of it, and whoever is sitting in the hot seat is bearing the brunt of it. That happens to be Newsom.

However, then the Democratic Party in California does have a problem. Because if people *are* fed-up and blaming Newsom, they are also going to be angry at *you*. And doing the strong-arm tactics of "anybody serious who tries running, we're gonna break your legs (politically speaking)" is *not* a good look when the public want to know "so are you taking our concerns seriously, or are you treating us like mushrooms?"

Scott talks about running a spoiler candidate, but that won't get anywhere unless the Californian Democrats (and the wider party, it sounded like Biden etc. were rowing in behind Newsom to fight the recall) sit up and take notice. Because if they won't give people a choice, this is the perfect opportunity for a protest vote: no, we are not your tame spaniels who'll roll over and follow what you say.

The way this is set up sounds *great* for angry voters to go "No. 1 - don't recall Newsom (because we don't want the Republican candidates and we don't want the joke candidates)" BUT also "No. 2 - we're voting for the guy who brings you out in hives as the recall candidate, because fluff you Democratic Party in California, is why".

Paffrath is not a good candidate? He sounds like a joke? Well, (a) if the worst anyone can dig up in his past is "dressed up as one of Santa's elves and delivered flowers to a Youtube rival", then we're doing pretty good in today's cancel culture and (b) if nice reasonable Democrat supporters are going "Don't vote for Paffrath, for the love of God!", then it's Trump all over again - 'I can't stand the guy, but more importantly, these people who have annoyed the cranberry sauce out of me and are taking me and my concerns for granted and ignoring them *really* can't stand him'.

If the Democratic Party didn't choose a proper candidate to run if Newsom is recalled, then that sounds like they're afraid Newsom *will* be recalled and if given a choice, the electorate will boot him out and pick the replacement. But by trying to strong-arm the voters into "Newsom or no-one", they very much risk "well since you put it like that - stick it up your jumper, I'm voting for the one guy you all hate".

In which case a guy (or gal) running on "I don't really care about being governor, I'll serve the one year if elected then stand down for the Democratic Party really true candidate" is not what the people want and if they went on the list of candidates with the Party backing them, maybe they would pick up the concerned moderates - or maybe they'd throw fuel on the fire and make a protest vote even more likely.

I do think what needs to be addressed here is "the people of California are mad, why are they mad, and what can the Democratic Party do to make them not mad, and that does not mean 'you vote for who we tell you to vote for, peasants!' tactics" and not "oh, if only someone Nice had run, then we wouldn't get Youtube landlords and Republicans with a chance".


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I was surprised no actually big YouTube personality, like a Logan Paul, went for it. My sense of it is that Paffrath was a big enough deal to get name ID and traction, but not so big that the negative attention of a campaign could harm their career. Remember, Americans hate politicians---every celebrity who gets publicly involved in politics sees their career prospects damaged. Is a grueling, miserable campaign where you will get blasted by folks you're normally aligned with, attacked by the media, and have your career tainted with politics worth it? I doubt it

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This is the argument from Newsom's former campaign manager regarding voting on the second candidate. I think he's right.


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It seems like someone really ought to circulate a ballot measure to reform the recall process. Probably the best way to do it is to automatically put the current Governor and the current Lieutenant Governor on the ballot of alternatives, whether they want to be or not, and only require other people to file to run. Having the current Governor on there solves the problem of the Governor losing the first half, but still getting more votes than anyone on the replacement ballot. Having the current Lt. Gov. on there solves the problem of the Governor being a transparently corrupt crook with a 30% fanbase but hanging on because there is no coherent alternative. The possibility of other candidates filing means that there is still a chance for new blood if there is really a popular revolt against the current political establishment.

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>The point of VC funds is to help people who do have declining marginal utility to money act as if they don't

I have strong reasons to believe LPs think VC funds exist to provide returns and potentially coinvest opportunities. Was your comment more of a dig at VCs (which is totally warranted)?

I know you wrote this post in a sorta joking tone but I think it's worth mentioned that Kevin Faulconer is pretty much doing what you've suggested and he's a legit candidate with legit experience and not the least bit of an assclown. He was the mayor of San Diego and dealt with most of the issues that are now endemic across the state.

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I think the chance of a failed campaign is a massive hit to personal reputation apart from just money lost which takes a special kind of person to be willing to do it. Billionaires maybe willing to lose money but they’re not willing to be the most hated person in the universe. I can only imagine the number of sexual harassment cases that will come out of the woodwork once someone starts to run for office, followed by claims of racism and on and on. A politician is built different

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I honestly don't think that the characterization of Kevin Paffrath as a "landlord influencer" is entirely fair. His heavily politicized Wikipedia makes a big deal about it to try to leave a bad impression in the reader's mind, and I'm wondering if that figured prominently in your research. The term comes from a writer that did a piece on him in a trade publication a couple years ago, referring to him that way. What one author pigeonholed him as doesn't define the man.

I also don't think he has posted any videos showing how to "defraud tenants" (I've watch many but not all - he is prolific). He is quoted as saying that "most landlords sucks" and he has videos encouraging people to develop win/win relationships with their tenants.

A comparatively small percentage of his content in the past 2 years has to do with landlording. Most of it is more in the arena of financial education and real estate.

Lastly, his campaign had no telltale signs of being a vanity campaign. He has been aggressively and transparently campaigning the entire time, sharing aspects of it on YouTube and other social media as he crisscrossed the state. He did a 24 live stream that was the source of much of his campaign donations.

I believe that the available evidence on his channel shows that Kevin Paffrath is both sharp and shrewd and saw this opportunity that the Democrats left wide open.

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Reminds me of a the rationalist failure in early bitcoin. Thought without action..

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The California recall election is the absolute weirdest electoral game. It's a scenario where a potentially *tiny* minority can win an incredibly important election due to the sheer inconvenience of having to vote in a one-off.

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It would be a stretch to say that Paffrath is running because his Wikipedia article got deleted last year ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Kevin_Paffrath ), but I think the basic idea holds: Paffrath wanted to boost his public profile, and "lucked" into a decent chance of getting elected governor.

Because nobody else seems to want the job.

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This works if you're the one, and only one, "reasonable" Dem. But once the first person like that files, a dozen others figure "well, why not me then?" and it's all shot to hell.

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Probably a naive question, but:

If the candidate is some rando Internet personality who gives landlords tips on defrauding tenants and who is only running opportunistically, is the fact that he claims to support your preferred political party still a good reason to vote for him over a different-party candidate? If so, why? Is this based on a belief that the political game is zero-sum, or what?

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Surprised nobody’s mentioned Paffrath’s Reddit AMA where he proposed piping water from the Mississippi River to California


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50/50 means Newsom is a goner.

If there is one thing that is very clear - it is that Republicans don't respond to traditional polling anywhere like the liberals.

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I wish more of the internet people I respect got involved in politics. But being a public figure sounds like my idea of hell and I imagine that's pretty typical in the community.

Scott's one of THE most public figures in the community, and he's still desperate to preserve the anonymity he can.

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I remember very clearly that when Grey Davis was recalled, the Dem establishment tried the same thing, no candidate. Lt. Governor Buestamante tried running on a platform of "No on the recall, Yes on Buestemante"

It's interesting that Bustamante's political career went no where after that. He tried running for the Insurance Commissioner and lost.

So maybe based on precedent there was an idea of it's bad to be the guy who tries to be the insurance policy.

On the other hand, in the last 20 years, two Democratic governors will either have been recalled or be at risk of being recalled and replaced by a Republican. So it seems like the Democrats don't have a strategy other than grumble-grumbling about the will of the people.


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The position of governor of California is nothing more than a scapegoat. It clearly doesn't afford enough power to fix anything or someone would have do so.

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Scott is writing here as if he personally would like to be CA governor if he recognized a low cost opportunity to take the job. And I think that probably isn't true, but just as some jokes work best when told in first person, he's using it as a literary device of sorts. Really, having to be governor of California sounds terrible.

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I really thing the best explanation is Paffrath is a much more serious and intelligent candidate than you're giving him credit for, and most people didn't seize this opportunity because most people aren't as ambitious and hard-working. Its ridiculous to dismiss him as a youtuber -- he's had success in other fields, his videos directly help people build wealth (not just for entertainment), and he has a strong policy platform

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Stepping back from the object-level political discussion, I want to talk about the philosophy of “smart people should win” that underlies this post and several of your older ones. You’ve written about:

- How smart people could/should have seen the early Bitcoin boom coming and invested/mined some Bitcoin early,

- How smart people could have seen COVID-19 coming before the mainstream did (this is arguably the one people in this community did best at), and

- Now this post about how smart people could have had a decent chance of being governor of California.

In all these cases it feels like the issue isn’t intelligence per se, it’s more an issue of *knowing what to pay attention to*.

Generally speaking, it seems like it’s less about “forecasting the future value” of each of these scenarios (future price of Bitcoin, chance of COVID-19 being a serious worldwide pandemic, chance of being able to seriously get listed on the California ballot) and more about estimating whether it’s worth putting in the effort to forecast that in the first place, instead of just focusing on your day-to-day life as you usually do.

COVID is arguably the most obvious of all of these, given that the terrifying lockdowns in Wuhan and its spread across the rest of China was being decently well-reported in the media. Most people seemed to be using their incorrect heuristics from previous pandemic scares, where pandemics were either mild (e.g. swine flu) or heavily localized (e.g. SARS, Ebola); those that didn’t (many of them in this community) took it seriously enough to be better prepared.

But the other two? I don’t think people here had heuristics that were well-tuned for bringing those opportunities to conscious attention. Bitcoin was weird and niche and annoying to set yourself up with back then. And I’ll bet that most people in California don’t have a clear enough sense of how state politics works to know how to get yourself listed on the ballot. (Though maybe richer people would?)

It might be worth focusing on how you can train yourself to actually see these opportunities clearly enough to justify spending time validating them, without constantly wasting time on fake “opportunities” that go nowhere.

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I'm sufficiently smart not to want to be governor of California. I expect you are too.

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Political power does not select for intelligence.

Political power selects strongly for sociopathy.

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Okay, I'll bite.

I was in this exact situation. I ran. I deliberately ran no campaign. And I won. I'm still regretting it.

The stakes were lower: councilor on the student government at university. A very large student government handling something like multiple millions of dollars a year, but just a student government nonetheless. I didn't want to run, since my friends had horror stories about their time in student government. But my closest friend still wanted to reform it, and was running to be president. So when they asked me to join them, I accepted because what are friends for? (It also helped that he handheld me through the process of gathering enough signatures to become eligible to run - beware trivial inconveniences and all that, plus I'm about as sociable as you'd expect from a SSC/ACX reader.)

I deliberately ran no campaign. No appearances at the scheduled debate, no advertising online, no canvassing people in the dorms, no posting flyers, and definitely no walking up to people and asking for a moment of their time to hear the good word. (I hate that stuff, especially when I'm running to class, and I didn't want to force any other introverts to go through it either). All I did was write up the candidacy statement you have to put on the ballot, the one that goes next to your name and in a couple hundred words explains why people should vote for you. Even then I kind of half-assed it, since I only started late and almost missed the deadline. But I wrote something I would like, talking about what I was going to do and how we weren't getting much done with our multi-million dollar budget. I deliberately avoided writing like the other candidates: too many words, too much focus on which groups you're from and how you've had previous student government experience in high school, too much focus on what groups have endorsed you and which people you'll stand up for... the position was to be a general representative, so I wrote for the ordinary student instead.

And I won, first place, against a well-established political machine. I'm still kind of shocked about it. I joked with my friend that I was running an experiment to see if any of the conventional wisdom was right: you need a campaign, you need to appeal to these sorts of people since they're the only ones that vote, you need endorsements from these groups to win over those people, you need to attend the debate to make it clear which groups you favor and disfavor to win their endorsements... all of that was wrong. Turnout in our elections was as low as ever, something like 15 to 20%, but in our uni that still meant >5000 voters. The last debate I had attended the year before had something like 6 people in the audience, and every single one of them was there as a friend of one of the candidates running (I should know, I was one of them). The debate for this election, the one I had skipped as pointless, had something like ~100 people watching. The set of activists who cared about identity politicization enough to vote by club endorsement lines? A few hundred at most. This was the fearsome political machine, the one that had won every previous election for years, that I had defeated with a zero effort attempt to speak like an ordinary person.

And there were a dozen candidates! There were like 8 independents! And somehow none of them had worked out that they could do things differently from the political machine and *not* buy votes by the group, and instead speak to people like they were individual people. I had found the proverbial $100 bill on the ground, and all it took was one candidate statement that talked about issues instead of identities. It was even worth more than $100 because of the stipend (something like $10 000 for a year of attending weekly meetings), and I think I wrote and edited my candidacy statement in like a few hours tops.

And yet none of it was worth it. This post is already going on too long, but in short everything people are speculating about, about why someone might not want to be in politics - all of that is true. Tomorrow I might have enough energy to rant about all the time I wasted, but in short everything you're saying about long meetings, inability to actually change things [remember I was once councilor in a council of 12], pointlessness of everything we *were* doing, making enemies by being a competitor to the political machine, having to be surrounded by people who hate you, being shouted at whenever you do speak up - all of it is true. We might have been able to change things if the set of candidates my friend had organized had all won, and we swept the council, but instead I was basically the only person who won and I was completely alone in the most toxic work environment I have ever known. It was almost as bad as the things my friend saw in his time in student government, like the time the council shouted at a gay police officer that it was not his job to protect people if that meant protecting Republicans. (Note that this was in 2019, not 2020. Apparently the police officer is used to things like this, which is why he quit attending our council meetings as police department representative. I eventually realized he had made the right decision and quit as well.)

All of this is to say that (a) there are $100 bills on the ground, and (b) they're left lying there for a reason. Taking a position in government has brought nothing but disillusionment to me, an inability to fit into activist circles and a wish I had spent more time working on my own things. Epicurus was right, politics was a mistake - we should neither seek power over others nor support those who do in our name. To do so is to lose yourself in a game without any sense of satisfaction, only the bitterness of humiliation. Fundamentally, that is what the game is about: dominance and submission, hierarchy and humiliation, the powerful and the powerless. Every round of it is a net destroyer of happiness: the powerful get less schadenfreude than the powerless feel pain. And every round creates the desire for another round from the slighted, an endless cycle of vendetta. I am glad to be rid of it.

(About the only good thing that came of this was that I got to donate $10 000, my entire office stipend, to the Coronavirus Relief Fund when the pandemic started. From an Effective Altruism standpoint, that might have made the entire thing worth it, all the time and fear and humiliation. Might have. I will not do this again.)

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Vice President Kamela Harris is the smartest person in the world. Look at an actuarial life table for men aged 78 to 86. About half of 78 year old men in the US don't make it to 86.

Then consider that former vice presidents have a very good chance to be nominated as a presidential candidate by their party. Major party nominees always have a good chance to win.

She has multiple paths to the Oval Office, and in the meantime she was elected to fill a job with few responsibilities, so she can avoid association with the outcome of bad decisions. All she has to do is show up.

She has placed herself perfectly to become the next president. Hats off.

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A deep sub-point, but look at the ref to Thiel's Zero to One book on the old SSC.

My short on-topic point is - these actors/celebs/ceos/VC and PE etc. people don't want to be governor. It is simply not something they want to do with their time. The model is that they purchase legislation through think tanks and campaign donations if they're interested and rich enough and they do so for the narrowest band of policy which specifically relates to themselves. The idea of generalised power is unimportant to them, so they don't think to go for it. The king has servants to take care of that sort of thing! Maybe?

But primarily!

Thiel makes the argument that monopolies can treat their workers better and at the time the plight of Amazon warehouse workers who have timed bathroom breaks, get fired by the app on their phone, have to pack an unreasonable number of boxes per hour, and are subject to anti-union thuggery - not to mention the drivers who piss in bottles and have to now assemble all kinds of furniture in 12 minutes on site somehow....

I think everyone/Thiel is thinking of the $200k salary ping pong playing Google employee with a meditation lego room....but the reality is that monopolies are terrible for workers in the same way kings are terrible for serfs and peasants.

This is a huge bias of that type of person who basically see the entire lens through the world of the wealthy and the ownership class while regular humans are just cattle. How could workers ever get nicer conditions without a monopoly daddy figure to give it to them? Why it is that dirty U' word of Unions or the G word of Government who can mandate better conditions.

Thiel would knee-jerk style throw up in his mouth if he had to think about unions by himself, except as the evil boogeyman here to slay the financial aristocracy. A primal fear in the wealthy business circles exists where there is a mind-killer style effect of unions=evil and all they can see are villagers with pitchforks from their ancestral memories of owning 100% of everything while doing less than 0.001% of the work.

Did Rockefeller get so rich that he decided on an 8 hour work day, a 5 hour work week minimum wages, or paid sick leave? I don't think so. Every single good thing that has ever happened for lower class workers was something they fought for and forced the government or employers to give them. I recall them being so rich that they hired thugs to murder union leaders from the 1890s-1930s major factory and farmer labour movements.

This poor person blindness is a deep affliction in 'business' thinking and the wants, dreams, and perspectives of the poor simply don't exist in their world.

In the end it is no surprise that 'rich VC guy' has entire system and way of thinking where he is the virtuous hero leading humanity into the future. No surprise there. I recall the old kings saying they had a divine right to rule and special bloodlines and such. How is this any different? It is just another ideology of the wealthy that 'somehow' just so happens to strongly support their own existence. While ignoring any and all common thought of ideas like minimum wage or unions as 'mind-killer evil throw a tantrum and kick you legs around wildly' type ideas which must be expunged from your mind to maintain PURITY!

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This reminds me of the exchange between Superman and Lex Luthor in the (excellent) JLA cartoon (paraphrased):

"Superman: What do you want, Luthor ? Where do you go from here ? You want to be President ?

Luthor: Ha ! Do you know how much power I'd have to *give up* just to be President ?"

What's the point of being Governor of California ? Everything you do is subject to extreme scrutiny; the Republicans are out to get you just because you exist, and the Democrats are out to get you because they want to be you. You get to deal with intractable problems like the homeless crisis, endless wildfires, and COVID, and no decision you make will be judged the correct one.

Meanwhile, if you spent all that time quietly making money at your mansion instead of campaigning, you could spend $200M -- a relative pittance -- to push through whatever policy you wanted. It doesn't take a genius to figure out which option to pick.

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Re: Kilpatrick: his "platform", such as it is, is clearly focused on the film industry, and has limited appeal outside of SoCal. Paffrath, in contrast, is clearly thinking about the whole state and beyond. Granted, a lot of his platform is a wishlist of big projects that are completely untenable for a number of reasons ("turned up to 11 and given all-you-can-snort cocaine" is one description of it I can't disagree with), for example: building a 14 feet-diameter water pipeline to CA from the Mississippi River, building giant homeless shelters in cities (where?), ending homelessness by executive order in 60 days, etc. It's unquestionably ambitious and unworkable, but I can admire the effort to move the Overton window on the government ambition axis. What he actually can get done happens to align with my views more than most, and that's why I'll be voting for him if the polls indicate he has a better chance of beating Larry Elder than Kevin Faulconer at the time I send in my ballot.

Re: No, and leave Q2 blank: It's not about not dignifying it, nor is it strictly about "voters being confused" by "No on recall, Yes on Bustamante" as they claim. Part of it is, yes, not giving Democrats an excuse to vote Yes on the recall because there's a candidate they really like, but there's more to it than that, I think. Your average partisan Democrat may not care for Newsom (and I don't think they do. His unforced errors, especially during the pandemic, are absolutely morale-busting), but if they know that the party is deliberately ceding the choice of the next governor to the Republicans, not only does it swing the median Democrat's vote toward No, it should increase Democratic turnout as well: "I don't really care if Newsom loses, as long as his replacement will probably be a Democrat" turns into "With all these Democrats not voting on Q2, there is no chance he'll be replaced by a Democrat. I better vote". It's manipulative, and I kinda resent it, but it should work.

It wouldn't surprise me either if it turned out that the Democratic Party (or someone in it) quietly pushed Larry Elder to run, and certainly they must have been happy about his announcement. If Elder hadn't joined the race, that probably would have meant a Faulconer win. By many measures he's done well for San Diego, and if he wins now, he's got a decent shot at winning in 2022, which is when he was already planning to run. A good year for Faulconer could give Republicans the governorship until 2026 at least, maybe even 2030, and that probably seemed in early July like a larger risk to the CA Democratic Party than a right wing nut getting a plurality in a recall election Newsom would sail to victory in *if* Democratic turnout was high enough. And Larry Elder is great motivation to turn out; I know several people who were apathetic about the recall election until Elder joined; and then they were guaranteed to turn out for Newsom. But then Newsom had to go along and commit yet another unforced error that makes him look arrogant and hypocritical, and suddenly the victory on Q1 is no longer assured. If there was such a push by the party or by someone in the party, they're probably changing their pants about now.

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Here is a more boring explanation: the Democrats successfully solved coordination problems, and the problem wasn't that steep in the first place. Gavin Newsom has a greater than 80% popularity among Democrats[1], and so running against him now is worse of a sin than running a primary challenge against a popular incumbent.

Look at Chamath Palihapitiya. The Technology investor threw his hat in the ring as early as January[2], then pulled out a few weeks later[3]. Most likely, any Democrats in his investor network convinced him that this move was too much of a troll.

To run against Newsom as a Democrat is effectively saying, "I hate Democrats so much that I might as well be considered a Republican." But if you truly felt that way, then your incentive would be to probably not piss off actual Republicans by running as a Democrat.

The opportunity only exists to fringe candidates with some success story and no Democratic friends. I even think you, Scott, would get a lot of blowback from the Rationalist community because running as a strategically labeled Democratic in a California recall election against a popular Democrat is too affirmatively anti-Democratic.

McAfee would've probably seen this opportunity, but he hated Democrats so much that he wouldn't have gone for the Democratic label.

The Democrats raised the penalty for defection when the penalty was already high.

[1] https://www.ppic.org/blog/tag/approval-ratings/

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-california-governor-palihapitiya-idUSKBN29V2PE

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/03/chamath-palihapitiya-says-hes-not-running-for-california-governor.html

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This is especially relevant because the only reason Newsom is in trouble is because his support among LA area Latinos -- strong Democrats, heretofore -- has cratered. If *only* Hispanics could vote, Newsom would lose in a landslide, according to the most recent polls I've seen. Basically his chance of survival rests on enough Bay Area whites coming out for him, and enough LA area browns staying home.

Unfortunately, that points both ways. On the one hand, it means an attractive Democrat would have a pretty good chance of topping the "replacement" vote, because of the Democratic voter advantage, and the people second-most motivated to kick Newsom to the curb and vote are Democrats. But on the other hand, it means it's quite reasonable to think that having a plausible Democratic replacement on the ballot would make it easier to vote to recall the governor in the first place, for the Democratic voters who are going to swing the election.

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Newsom can end this farce now, and do the right thing for the California, by resigning immediately.

Eleni Kounalakis will become California's first female governor, and the Democrats will not face the very real possibility of losing the Senate due to Feinstein becoming unable to serve.

Newsom won't resign though, because it's not about California, it's about Newsom.

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I think there's a ton of overlap in the traits that make a popular politician and the traits that make a popular YouTube personality. The only major difference between the two might be that the politician needs to modulate the content to appeal to a broader audience more shallowly and suck up to more gatekeepers.

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Scott, I admire how you were able to put a practical and (somewhat) optimistic spin on the story that basically reads "California Democrats are so far up their own asses that they ended up with a tenant-defrauding christmas elf as their top candidate".

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Newsom's chances keep getting worse, but there is a claim that if he flat out resigns from office before the recall election, the recall election goes up in smoke and the Lieutenant Governor (another middle of the road Democrat) becomes governor. As the election gets close, if the polls are going against him he'd be crazy not to pull the plug like that. Here is an article about the specifics:


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And the election gets even more interesting! Now, this news story comes from a place that seems to be one of a set of various websites/blogs/online media run by a guy who is definitely very right-wing (this is the opinion about one of his ventures which is not at all enthused about it: https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/the-red-elephants/).

So yeah, probably a fair amount of bias in it. That being said, if the facts are anywhere near correct, then there could be all the fun of the fair with protests over the ballot results being rigged or fake or dodgy in some manner: https://www.dailyveracity.com/2021/08/25/women-caught-stealing-hundreds-of-recall-ballots-as-police-find-hundreds-more-in-car-of-passed-out-felon/

"According to a report from KTLA5, over 300 California recall ballots, drugs, and multiple driver’s licenses were found in the vehicle of a passed-out felon in Torrance, California.

According to Torrance police, approximately 300 ballots were recovered from the vehicle, which was found in a 7-Eleven convenience store parking lot on August 16th.

Officers also found a loaded firearm, methamphetamine, a scale, and dozens of California driver’s licenses that were in other people’s names. Xanax pills were also discovered on the unidentified male subject, who police described as a felon.

In Valley Village, another Los Angeles neighborhood, hundreds of more ballots were stolen out of the mailboxes of a multi-unit housing complex.

Two women with a USPS post office master key were caught on camera stealing the California recall election ballots within several mailboxes at an apartment complex."

I have no dog at all in this race, so it's free entertainment as far as I'm concerned, but long-suffering citizens of the Golden Utopian Dream of California, my thoughts and prayers are with you 😁

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And we have the Republican candidate answer to Kevin Paffrath!


"John Cox

You may recognize San Diego businessman John Cox as the Republican nominee in the 2018 gubernatorial election, which Newsom won in a landslide. Cox also made headlines earlier this summer for his use of a live bear as a campaign prop."

Dress up as an elf? Pah! Only a live bear will do for Candidate Cox! Plainly what Governor Newsom needs to do to restore the confidence of the citizenry in his abilities is to find an appropriate costume and animal friend to frolic with. Smokey The Bear *might* be a bit on the nose, given all the fires, but surely there are some birds or beasts he could be photographed interacting with?

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“He’s getting attention because the media is looking for some Democrat to tell people to vote for, and he’s the best they can find.”

If this was mere honesty, it’s kind of amusing that the Democrats have the media do their political organizing for them and nobody seems to think that’s objectionable. If it was meant to be a jab at the media for being partisans, then well done with the jab.

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Paffrath is a quarter of Bergisch Gladbach, where the clergy of Cologne had the forest cut down to build the settlement. So it comes from Pfaffe and Rodung, thus: cleric clearing. Considering this kabbalistically, Kevin Paffrath won't be a good governor against forest fires. For real estate, maybe?

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The real reason no one did is because politicians are petty vindictive little shits. Newsome really didn't want a challenger and anyone who through their hat in the ring could expect revenge in the very likely case he isn't recalled.

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could you not write in "gavin newsom" as I did?

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> There have been a lot of fights around here about whether you can really get power just by being intelligent, able to predict things accurately, etc. I think this is a point in favor - sometimes there are big opportunities just waiting for someone to notice them. But also a point against - intelligence did not, in fact, help anyone notice this opportunity. Overall kind of a wash.

Does anyone have any good examples for both sides of the argument?

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" Californians are lucky Peter Thiel isn't a Democrat,"

Uhh why? Because Newsom is so much better than Thiel?

Not only that but that Thiel is sooooo awful that we can't risk punishing Newsom like behavior because Thiel might get elected?

This whole essay is written from the perspective that Democrat means "better for California".

Which is wrong on many levels.

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Being a governor without experience is actively terrible. Your name gets dragged through the mud constantly and without prior political experience you don’t have the knowledge or close allies to fend off the attacks. And you don’t actually have that much power. The legislature ties your hand, and somehow you’re still blamed when things go wrong. If I had a magic button to become governor of any state, I would dare not press it.

And that’s just from a selfish perspective. From a utilitarian perspective, running a big governor campaign in this instance gives you a small shot at the governorship but it increases the odds of Larry Elder becoming governor (probably to a greater extent than it helps you).

My takeaway is different. The recall process is stupid beyond belief and it should be replaced with a single question “who do you want to be governor?” Or alternatively, it should be a run off, with the replacement election held at a later date.

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Well this post didn't age welll... though IMO, it was a dumb take even at the time it was written.

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The state of California is shocking. I have not visited a dirtier place. If Californians are so clever, why does their state resemble a dystopia?

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