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How well does that explain politics in Western Europe, where for the most part there are no pro-Moscow political parties? It certainly appears that Russian influence on politics is negligible in Western Europe - is this incorrect? Why is hating the EU necessarily a pro-Moscow position?
Please explain how the political parties map onto your axis in, say, Britain.
I will try and address this comment as neutrally as I can, although it is difficult on such a politically charged issue. There are basically two issues. One is the spending cuts. The other is the macroeconomic performance. They are separate, but linked.
The spending cuts are not dismantling the welfare state. In fact, most of the spending cuts are not cuts, they are simply increases less than the rate of inflation. They are, however, causing unpleasant consequences, because people generally like their local library or their benefits etc. And of course everyone is innocent, no-one personally caused the financial crisis. On the other hand, many of the cuts are very justified; for example, people getting paid housing benefit of more than the average salary is utterly indefensible. Not all the cuts are like that, but no-one is getting "really" unpleasant consequences.
However, there are no two ways about it, the macroeconomic performance sucks. And this is causing really unpleasant consequences - long-term unemployment, stagnant wages, etc. And not just that, but as RichardKennaway says below, the bad economic performance means that despite the "austerity," the budget deficit has not come down as much as the government had hoped. Some people say the bad economic performance is caused by the spending cuts, but it's impossible to know - there are so many possible causes. For example, our largest trading partner is the Eurozone, which has had truly terrible economic performance. Alternatively, lots of people blame the Bank of England. This is the major issue. - most of the benefit cuts are very popular. To the extent that people don't like the austerity programme, it is mostly because they think it is responsible for the bad economy.
In summary, I reject your framing - there are no would-be dismantlers of the welfare state. If the austerity measures are responsible for the bad economic performance, then they are (indirectly) bringing in really unpleasant consequences. Otherwise, not.
I sympathise with your sentiment, but I do think you should expect pushback, because such a notion is obviously problematic. I'll just pick a few of the obvious issues:
It is generally not possible to make different values compatible in this way just by splitting off into smaller societies. Values aren't just abstract, they are moral claims about real things. For example, if my value is that I have the right to retain my inherited feudal rights as Duke of Redland, but the serfs of Redland don't agree, we have a problem. It's not just that I want to live in a generic feudal society, it's that I place moral value in the specific history and laws and inheritance rights of Redland, which I view as just and legitimate. So we need some kind of arbitration decision as to which kinds of values get implemented, and which don't. There is nothing stopping communists from setting up their own little communes, and indeed many have. But they also want possession of already existing wealth, which is always going to be contested.
I'm living in my little society, you're living in yours, each one reflecting our conflicting values. But our societies still have to interact. Trade, boundary disputes, pollution, migration, whatever else. Whose laws, customs and values should govern our interactions? What's more, external relations are often determinative of a society's success or otherwise, particularly for very small societies. If no-one wants to trade with sub-society A, perhaps they aren't viable. Should everyone else be forced to trade with them, in order to uphold your right? By saying individuals have the right to live in their own society, you are just pushing problems of contention up a level, from intra-society to inter-society.
Also, every society faces constant immigration - i.e. children. Clearly, a two-year-old cannot choose a society that reflects his values. Equally clearly, we are shaped by our experiences. If I wish to live in a closed community that constantly reinforces belief-system B, that is one thing. But if I bring my child up in that community, when he reaches adulthood his belief in B, and his desire to remain in that community, will not be based on surveying all the possible options, but just because it's all he knows.
Suppose I want to live in society C. Then I change my mind, and I want to leave. What happens? Alternatively, suppose I want to join society D, but they don't want me. Suppose most people in society E decide that E was a mistake, and want to keep their society together, but change its ways, but the minority disagree.
Ultimately, I worry that your proposition is a way to evade the problems of politics, rather than solve them. If you aren't already aware of the literature, you might be interested in reading about anarcho-capitalism, which is similar to what you're talking about.
Interesting. This is basically what I meant by (4).
Is this the case with all such low-level elected officials, or just school board members?
It has nothing to do with being "entitled" to a vote. My post is not concerned with the moral status of voting, but rather the outputs.
My prediction (and experience) is that a population high in traits like that - basically, conscientiousness - will result in better decision-making for everyone than a population with the opposite traits.
Opposition to PCCs may have been part of it, but my understanding is that very large numbers of people weren't even aware that there was an election being held, and that many more felt they had no information about the role. Certainly that was the impression in my bubble, but you could well be right - unfortunately I haven't been able to find hard data on this. But I think the point holds regardless - local elections generally only get around mid-30s in turnout, unless they coincide with a general election, and I don't think people are opposed to having local councillors.
Certainly people have challenged that book. But my understanding is that its findings have held up well and that, to the contrary, it is Ryan and Jetha's book that has been variously ignored and discredited, especially for their highly misleading presentation of others' data and the literature generally. See e.g. here.
In Britain, the government has just introduced Police and Crime Commissioners, who are elected to provide civilian oversight of the local police force - like an American sheriff. Turnout for these elections was very low - just 15%, which has led to the media describing the PCCs as a failure.
I am not so sure. Voter ignorance has been repeatedly demonstrated, but it has also been shown that voters in low-turnout elections are much higher information. This is intuitively plausible - the person who can be bothered to vote in the local council election is much more politically engaged than the person who only votes in the general election. I'm not aware of any study about voter ignorance in the PCC elections, but I don't doubt that (1) the electorate is much better-informed than members of the general public and (2) much more likely to be civically virtuous - i.e. hard-working, homeowners, not divorced, not on benefits, etc. Therefore it seems to me that a low turnout is a good thing, and at first I thought that Britain should have other unglamorous elected positions which would also take advantage of this better electorate to improve standards of governance.
However, I am also aware that something like this exists in America, and my understanding is that these municipal posts are often quite corrupt and elections frequently uncontested, so my naive theory is wrong. Possible explanations:
The better electorate is more than cancelled out by the obscurity of the election - i.e. the typical clueless moderate nevertheless knows much more about Barack Obama than the high-information voter does about his local sanitation commissioner.
Lack of a proper demos (i.e. people vote for their preferred party's candidate for a local election to send a national message).
The stories I hear are limited to the big cities, and things are much better in suburbs and the countryside.
The UK would get a good short-term effect from this move, but in the long-term it would move to a new equilibrium where corrupt voters would see how much sense it made for them to vote for sanitation commissioner.
Your thoughts would be particularly appreciated if there are unglamorous low-level elections where you live.
Before posting, you should have spent a year thinking up ways to make that comment clearer.
I made quite a few substantive points about the discussion in that comment. Why don't we talk about those? Unfortunately almost all the replies has been about this side-issue, which I have already stated I am not going to discuss.
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