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June 27, 2006


Your best post. Very intriguing. If only you were a pundit with a name, you could write a book on it. Some historical research is necessary to thouroughly validate it.

Jews vote anomalously according to your hypothesis. I suppose Jews, progressives, and poor Whites comprised the emerging left. And the blacks voted Republican out of deference to Abe until then? Or because their white neighbors voted Democrat?

The Democrats are still far from becoming the secular libertarian party, daresay farther than the Republicans. While the right has religion, the left has ... abortion? Privacy? It's social libertarianism is at best tenuous. Consider freedom of association (affirmative action, antidiscrimination law) and hate speech regulation.

Barry Goldwater, an Episcopialian, may have been America's chance at recapturing 'secular libertarianism.' It didn't. The religious didn't vote right until Reagan I believe, but am not certain of.

Anyway, my reading of history used to match the view you present above, but as I looked farther into it it came to seem to me that the leftist policies associated with FDR had already moved pretty far towards fruition prior to his election. After all, we established an income tax and banned alcohol, opiates, and cocaine pre-FDR, among other religious populist and leftist goals. Womens sufferage might also count. Antitrust legislation surely does. So does nation-wide compulsory schooling. Eugenics ditto. TR's big public works, such as the Panama Canal, imply substantial movement towards big government.
I think that the rapid growth of Prussia during this period made a huge impact on everyone, making all of the developed nations modify their policies to be more like Prussia. Look at Oliver Wendel Holmes' career and you can see the rise of federalist autocracy as the dominant belief system among the politically active part of the public and the Supreme Court following along.
Another reason for the huge change was the explosion of agricultural productivity, eliminating a huge amount of rural work in the 1890s, leading to the relatively forgotten but huge depression of 1895. A series of waves of agricultural unemployment followed, associated with mechanization, and culminating in the dust bowl and then in effective nationalization of agriculture under FDR.
The massive growth of the biggest corporations during the 1900-1929 period also made a huge impact, shifting power towards aloof central control on a national scale and strongly suggesting the need for federal regulation. So did the rise of infrastructure's importance, e.g. electric grids, railroads, telephone grids, etc.
Finally, it's hard to overestimate the impact of radio on the public consciousness, as people who had hitherto never met anyone 2 sigma persuasive suddenly found 4 sigma public speakers brought into their living rooms. It was like a plague through a population with no acquired resistance.

Prior to FDR, the democrats were mostly just a party of corruption. The democrats had the party machines in places like Chicago and Boston.

Being a secular libertarian, I would like to believe your proposition that one of the major parties will come to represent us whole heartedly. However, I think this excessively optimistic. The democrats are way too much enthraw with the left and the addiction to the corrupt force of government. Also, their money for campaigns comes mainly from labor unions and the trial lawyers.

The republicans are not much better. They get their money from big business (big business being ALMOST as parasitical as unions and big government). The republicans are enmthrawed by religon, but not to the extent that the democrats are hooked into leftism and government control over everything.

Both parties have too much baggage associated with them.

Some people think during the 19th century the democrats were more libertarian. See here: http://mises.org/story/2201

I'm personally socially conservative, but I don't think the government should be involved with that sort of thing. I'm more supportive of the Republicans, because when they focus on stupid stuff like Terri Shiavo it doesn't really matter, but when Democrats try to centrally plan the economy or engage in social engineering, it does. I just wish Bush hadn't changed his mind about nation building being an awful idea and would veto the out of control spending Congress has been engaging in.

"big business being ALMOST as parasitical as unions and big government"

Switch the words around the almost, and you'll understand why I'm a Democrat.

to TGGP:

(1) I wrote "from 1856 to 1932" and Martin Van Buren was President before that time period.

(2) The primary "right" the pre-Civil War Democrats were concerned with was the "right" to own slaves. Any "right" which denies people their freedom and liberty is bogus in my book.

" used to think that political division of Americans is mostly left vs. right. But after studying the data in the General Social Survey, I have changed my mind.

The American political pattern is actually one of secular libertarianism on one end and religious populism on the other. The Political Compass, which is popular among bloggers, is wrong. "

No, you just have your axes rotated. The religious populist-secular libertarian axis corresponds to the upper left and lower right. The standard left and right are lower left and upper right. Elites (I guess these are your smart people) are toward the bottom, commoners toward the top.

David Brooks did a nice bit on his 'progressive globalists' versus 'populist nationalist' column.

Wow, that was some fast responding. I was just looking for a paper I'd read that explained the fiscal & social link in politics better than anything I'd read before. It's here: http://congress.utu.fi/epcs2006/docs/G7_lind.pdf

Regarding slavery, the importance of it in politics of the time has been exaggerated to us because of how obviously wrong it is. Back then Free Soilers/Republicans weren't as upset about slavery as they were about "Slave Power", which is why Lincoln said if he could preserve the union without freeing any slaves he would do it and radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison advocated NORTHERN secession so that his government would not in any way be supporting slavery.
After slavery the Democrats were pretty much locked out at the national level pre-Wilson except for the two (non-consecutive) Grover Cleveland terms, which were fairly libertarian.

There are three axes: (1) libertarian vs populist (2) religious vs secular; and (3) leftist vs non-leftist (I don't really like "righist").

I guess the problem most have is they don't get the importance of religion to a large number of voters... maybe because so many political science professors are secular to the point where they can't even imagine how it feels to be strongly religious.

High IQ people are more likely to be the following: libertarian, secular, and (unfortunately) leftist.

However, while leftists hate religion, they also hate libertarianism because it promotes inequality. Leftists seem to be libertarian only on issues with a religious theme to them. On free speech, leftists are only libertarian when it suits them--they would love to fire people who speak the truth about issues like genes and IQ.

As Adam Smith, JS Mill, et al knew, (and as this site discusses in a fairly intelligent manner www.holisticpolitics.orm) Libertarianism does NOT promote inequality. The trouble is that Libertarian rhetoric + public choice realities promote inequality AND market inefficiency but since the Dems don't bother with Libertarian Rhetoric of their own it alwasy SEEMS like Libertarian policies promote inequality because only inequality promoting policies are ever promoted from a Libertarian perspective.

By now, superdestroyer, Big Bill, Superfluous Man, and other posters on this sight should have convinced you that there are actual rightists in the political world, not just "non-leftists", that is, there are people who argue for (or more frequently quietly promote) inequality for its own sake. There used to be far more such people.

"does NOT promote inequality."
Choice promotes inequality. Libertarianism tends to advocate freedom, which tends to multiply choice. Even if people were equal in all capacities, their choices would create inequality, such as whether I choose to invest 4 years in becoming an engineer or 6 years in becoming a doctor or begin as a clerk now. I neither like or dislike inequality - I just recognize that it exists and always will. It can have bad consequences, especially when ethnicity and/or politics are involved (cf. Armenians in Turkey, Chinese in South Asia, Amy Chua's world on fire which I have not read), but the government response is part of those bad consequences. But inequality per se does not bother me like it does most liberals. The people (that come to mind) who advocate inequality for its own sake tend to be conservatives in the defender of the status quo manner, not Whigs but Tories, who seem not to exist in America. That site is a bit delusional - its purpose is to bring leftists into the fold of libertarianism.

What you describe in your first comment here is the activity of the progressives, the leftists without a clear party - the Bull Moose Party was formed to appeal to them. As HS describes, they eventually joined the Democratic party.

actually, being a doctor takes 11 to 15 years
4 yrs college + 4 yrs med school + 3-7 years residency

The best political typology would come from a factor analysis of answers to a comprehensive political opinion poll. The clusters of respondents in n-space with significantly overlapping responses would constitute distinct political factions.

At the highest level of generality, "the left" and "the right" would still have utility as descriptions of coalitions of political factions at the most basic level of proximity.

This sort of typology is done with genes. It could also be done with memes. Since meme frequencies change more rapidly than gene frequencies, the typology would need to be updated regularly. The GSS might serve as the raw data upon which the factor analysis of political opinion could be extracted.

In truth, the U.S. was such a thoroughly religious country a century ago that no secular-oriented party could win. The GOP was based on mainline Protestants in the North and Midwest. What's happened is that those sects became less religious and more secular over the generations.

In 1906 you couldn't have a religious-secular struggle in politics because there was very little disagreement over religion in general, just between different kinds of religions.

It's easy to caricature William Jennings Bryan, but he was a much more sophisticated figure than you would think from watching "Inherit the Wind." Bryan was not a literalist interpreter of Genesis. For example, he testified under Darrow's cross-examination that the six days of creation should be interpreted metaphorically and a "day" in Genesis could have been tens of millions of years long.

Bryan's particular concern in the Scopes trial against Clarence Darrow was the popularity of the kind of violent cartoon Nietzscheanism that the German General Staff had promoted among German soldiers during the Great War.

In the previous year's Trial of the Century, Darrow had used a bizarre sort of nihilistic deterministic argument -- these two boys couldn't help being born rich! -- to save from execution Leopold and Loeb, two super high IQ fans of Nietzsche, who had tried to get away with committing a random murder to demonstrate their Supermanness.

H.L. Mencken, a German chauvinist whose first book was about Nietzsche, set the tone for all subsequent discussions of Bryan with his mocking coverage, but he was deeply biased.

The subsequent decline of Pop Nietzscheanism has left later generations devoid of context for understanding the Scopes Trial.

Thanks, Steve. I honestly had no idea.

OK, the 25,000 dollar question: Where do you learn all this stuff?

"the U.S. was such a thoroughly religious country a century ago that no secular-oriented party could win."

That is only partially true. Even today an atheist party can't win, but even then there were those who wanted to pass laws to outlaw what they thought was immoral behavior, and those who had a more libertarian outlook.

Our Constitution was clearly written by secular libertarians.

"That is only partially true. Even today an atheist party can't win, but even then there were those who wanted to pass laws to outlaw what they thought was immoral behavior, and those who had a more libertarian outlook.
Our Constitution was clearly written by secular libertarians."
Once again, the elites tend to be less religious. I honestly think this is cross-cultural.

Steve is right that Bryan was, in part, fighting the politics of German militarism, eugenics and social Darwinism that were genuinely intertwined with evolutionary science during the time. Stephen Jay Gould isn't shy about crediting him for this in 'Bully for Brontosaurus'. But let's not out-Gould Gould; Bryan was, by any definition, an ignoramus about the science he was challenging on the basis of his religious dogmas.

He said that he interpreted the days as possible periods, but also that it really didn't matter to him, and that he wouldn't argue with anyone who thought they were days either. Also, he was inflexible that man was created about 6000 literal years ago:

Darrow: Don't you know that the ancient civilizations of China are 6,000 or 7,000 years old, at the very least?

Bryan: No; but they would not run back beyond the creation, according to the bible, 6,000 years.

Choice promotes inequality. All social/political systems involve choice.

Authority to use force promotes inequality. Libertarianism is the idea that this authority should be minimized.

Libertarianism doesn't tend to eliminate inequality, but it does greatly reduce inequality relative to systems of legal/autocratic privilage such as monarchy or plutocratic oligarchy.

Catholics were the big opponents of Prohibition. Ethnicity had a lot more to do with views on Prohibition than religon, per se. Ethnic groups that suffered a lot from alcoholism, such as WASPs tended to support it. Groups that didn't suffer much from excess drinking, such as Italians and Jews, opposed Prohibition.

Prohibition was one of the reforms set in motion by the modernizing, social engineering enthusiasm set off by the Great War, which led to a variety of reforms such as women's suffrage and closing of red light districts. The liquor companies were big contributors to the campaign against women's suffrage, because they knew Congress would pass Prohibition if women were likely to get the vote.

"Prior to FDR, the democrats were mostly just a party of corruption. The democrats had the party machines in places like Chicago and Boston."

That's a bit simplistic and harsh. Prior to FDR nationally, and prior to Al Smith at the origins of the change in NY, the Democrats were an alliance, in national politics, between big city immigrant/machine politics (which yes had large elements of corruption but even larger elements of at least quasi legal patronage politics) and southern and western rural populism. Exclusionary white populism in the south for sure.

What united the two was opposition to high tarrifs and other pro big business Republican policies.

What the Democrats really were was the anti Republicans. As was said above, the Republicans were the truly dominant party from the Civil War up to the Great Depression.

"Ethnicity had a lot more to do with views on Prohibition than religon, per se. Ethnic groups that suffered a lot from alcoholism, such as WASPs tended to support it. Groups that didn't suffer much from excess drinking, such as Italians and Jews, opposed Prohibition."

Jews and perhaps Italians may not have suffered from alcoholism as much as WASPs but the Irish Catholics certainly did. There appeared to have been truly epic amounts of big city drunkennes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries -- vastly more than we see today, for example, from what I can tell. Books such as Luc Sante's Lowlife about the NYC of the period are eye opening.

Prohibition was very much a woman's suffrage led movement. The two were closely intertwined. Together with supportive heavily church going (Protestant) men.

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