Once more, dear friends: Johnson helps Clinton

On the one hand, I’m sure faithful BHL readers are sick of this. On the other hand, people are writing in widely-read political news sites that Clinton should go to extraordinary lengths to blow up the Johnson-Weld ticket. (Note: Actually offering a cabinet post in exchange for an endorsement would be a federal crime.) So: unto the breach.

In the new Fox News poll Clinton leads by 5 in the 2-way race, by 3 in the 4-way race. Net of -2 from adding the third parties.

Stein polls at 4%. On any reasonable view of where her votes come from, she accounts for the whole loss to Clinton– probably and then some. Johnson’s 8% could be neutral, but most probably draws 1-2% net from Trump, making up some of the Stein effect.

And this is the pattern in almost every poll I’ve looked at that compares the 2-way and 4-way races. It’s the pattern in a large majority of states including most swing states. It’s the pattern you would expect from two former Republican governors running a ticket against a deeply unpopular (und un-conservative and unhinged) Republican nominee. It’s the pattern you would expect from the fact that (at this writing) six traditionally-Republican newspaper editorial boards, including the very conservative swing state New Hampshire Union Leader and the rock-ribbed Chicago Tribune and Detroit Free Press, have endorsed Johnson. I’m happy that Johnson and Weld have run a more leftward campaign than Libertarians usually do, and have emphasized Libertarians’ liberalism on drugs, crime, policing, imprisonment, and war. I’m happy that they’re bringing some young liberals into the movement, and I think that’s good for the future of libertarianism. But it’s still the case that the low-tax, free-market, free-trade candidates running against a protectionist Republican consistently bleed off a few more disaffected Republicans than they do Democrats. And the punditry, commentary, and strategy that pits Clinton’s interests directly against Johnson-Weld’s is mistaken.


Epistocracy at Aeon

Another short piece introducing epistocracy at Aeon today.

Also at the PUP blog.

Of course, any epistocratic system would face abuse. It’s easy to imagine all the things that might go wrong. But that’s also true of democracy. The more interesting question is which system, warts and all, would work best. In the end, it’s a mistake to picture epistocracy as being the rule of an elite band of technocrats or ‘philosopher kings’. Rather, the idea is: do what democracy does, but better. Democracy and epistocracy both spread power among the many, but epistocracy tries to make sure the informed many are not drowned out by the ignorant or misinformed many.

Current Events

The Presidential Candidates and Civil Discourse

Well the first debate is over.  There is no need to remark here about how crazy this election cycle is or how terrible the debate was.  US politics has gotten more and more divisive since 1988, when The League of Women Voters stopped sponsoring the presidential debates because of what they saw as the Democratic and Republican parties move “to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions” (here).

Rightly or wrongly, each of the last several presidents has been called “the most divisive” in history.  The divisiveness might not be as bad if the nation had been willing to engage in honest conversation about important issues facing us.  Instead, we get candidates who spout scripted lines, ignoring what their opponents say. There is none of the give and take that is the essence of genuine conversation.  Unfortunately, this is now true of the majority of political discourse—not just the debates.

Supporters of Hillary Clinton are simply astonished by the behavior of people at Donald Trump’s rallies.  Supporters of Donald Trump can’t believe how out of touch Clinton’s supporters are.  And neither group really listens to the other.  Neither of these candidates has the ability to end this cycle of failed communication.  The two party machinery won’t let them.  Fortunately, there is a better option available.

This year, with the stakes higher than ever, we have a candidate who is head and shoulders above the Democratic and Republican nominees in terms of honesty, humility, and integrity.  Gary Johnson, running with Bill Weld, wants your vote—and given the other options, voting for Johnson and Weld is far from a waste.  It’s a way to help improve the political dialogue and tell the Democrats and Republicans both that we need more civility and honest conversation about the issues that face us all.  A further step might be for the candidates to sign on to the standards of conduct proposed by the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

Johnson is a libertarian; indeed, I think he is as close to a Bleeding Heart Libertarian as any national politician has ever been in my adult lifetime.  He wants to work for genuine criminal justice reform, to end over-incarceration, end the destructive drug war that ruins the lives of many people and their communities, streamline our immigration policy, reduce the size of the regulatory state, increase participation in the workforce, stop the US bombing of innocent people while maintaining the most powerful armed forces the world has seen, improve and extend cooperation throughout the world with genuine free trade policies, and balance the federal budget.  (Oh, and since people will ask: He takes global warming seriously, but is skeptical of the supposed remedies thus far proposed.  Clearly, he prefers–rightly–to reduce the interference of the regulatory state so as to unleash human ingenuity–which might help find a better solution than those currently on offer.)

Putting all of that in place will not be easy.  But Johnson and Weld have track records.  They were both successful governors (of New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively).  Both ran as Republicans in heavily Democratic states.  Both were re-elected by wide margins because of their success and ability to reach across the aisle to work with people from both parties.  Neither is Republican in anything like the way Donald Trump is.  Again, they seem to be BHLs, or at least kindred spirits along the same path.  Both favor social inclusivity along with fiscally conservative policy.  Both worked for the common good of their states as chief executive—something neither Clinton nor Trump can claim.  (Admittedly, Johnson doesn’t know the name of every town in the world, including one that is the center of much suffering; importantly, his policies should be what matter to you–and I would suggest that they are likely to result in fewer places where people experience that sort of suffering.)

Its time for a change, but a change with a real plan by someone with a history of getting things done.  I urge everyone to encourage the Commission on Presidential Debates (media@debates.org; 202-872-1020) to add a podium (correction: lectern) for Johnson at the next debate so more people can hear his views and I urge everyone to consider voting for Johnson and Weld in November.

If you don’t know enough about Johnson and Weld yet:

Current Events

Trump Will Probably Lose. Does that Mean American Democracy Works?

Most predictions markets and election forecast models predict Trump will lose. One might be inclined to say, “Ah ha! See, democracy works!”

Two problems with that:

1. HRC isn’t that great. Using the enlightened preference method, we see that HRC diverges significantly  from the policies a fully-informed public would want. Yes, she’s closer to those policy preferences than Trump is. But, still, if the American voting public were fully-informed about basic information, we’d either have someone much better than HRC, or HRC herself would be pushing a better set of ideas.

2. Suppose a dad was choosing a nanny for his children. He narrows it down to two candidates, whom he’s still interviewing. One of them is mediocre. The other appears to be grossly incompetent, frequently says horrible things, has a terrible record of dishonesty, appears to be abusive, and has terrible ideas for raising children. Right now, the dad admits he’s got about a 55% chance of picking the better nanny over the worse one. You probably wouldn’t conclude that the dad is doing a good job and “works”. You’d conclude that even though he’s more likely than not to pick the better of the two finalists, the facts that A) the second finalist is obviously terrible, and B) he’s still giving serious consideration to this finalist, shows that there’s something seriously wrong with the dad. Even if he ends up picking the better candidate, there’s still something wrong with him. “In the end, I decided to pick the mediocre nanny over the child-abuser,” isn’t a display of competence.


It’s not Gary Johnson’s support that’s helping Trump. It’s his decline.

If, as I’ve been arguing, Gary Johnson’s presence in the race slightly helps Hillary Clinton— because Johnson’s support, although drawing from both sides, draws slightly more potential Trump voters than potential Clinton voters, due to Trump’s fragile hold on parts of the Republican coalition– then the other side of the coin is that a decline in Johnson’s support disproportionately helps Trump.

These are drawn from the 538 poll averages. The last undated frame is from today– the day when 538’s now-cast as suddenly flipped to saying “if the election were held today, Trump would win.”


In the last month, Clinton has declined by 1.6%, Johnson by 1.9%. Trump has risen by 3.9%, a little more than the sum of those declines. Across the more recent two weeks– Clinton’s supposedly terrible stretch– Clinton has basically held steady. Trump’s rise has been at Johnson’s expense.

For people who keep not believing that a strong Johnson helps Clinton because The Millennials, see this. Young white voters act more like white voters than they do like young voters. Mitt Romney won among young white voters. Up until now, Trump’s solid lead among white voters was not reflected among young white voters. That might well have been a Johnson firewall– one that, at least as of today, seems not to be holding up.