The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: October 2009 Page 1 of 3

Obsession: Geniuses, Generalists and Specialists

Genius isn’t the same thing as intelligence, there are plenty of intelligent mediocrities. The highest IQ on record (and yes, IQ is not everything, but it measures something important as well) is that of Vos Savant (Marilyn Jarvik). To the best of my knowledge she has no significant body of work in any field, nor any great accomplishments. Yet she is, unquestionably, so much smarter than someone like Napoleon that there is no comparison. Indeed even most composers and theoretical scientists have IQs that pale in comparison.

Intelligence is one factor in genius, and it is generally necessary to be highly intelligent to be a genius. But it is not sufficient. Instead, genius is about obsession. It takes, on average, about 10 years of dedicated study to master a field. This has nothing to do with formal education – some people learn at school, just as many great geniuses have not. The time can be reduced by high intelligence, but not as much as one might think.

Operating at the highest levels is about integrative complexity, and what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has called Flow. Flow is the state where you are operating at the edge of your ability – where your mind can just barely handle whatever you are doing (or rather, thinking) at the moment. In such a state the outside world fades out, time stretches or contracts so that hours pass as instants, and thought and action become the same thing.

There are many ways to achieve flow – meditation is one way of systemizing flow so that you can achieve it at will, and so are many of the techniques that are considered to lead to enlightenment in many traditions. However for most people flow occurs when their abilities are precisely matched to the challenge they are facing.

Which brings us to integrative complexity. Integrative complexity is simply a measure of how much information you can hold in your head at one given time. The ability to hold a complicated argument in your head all at one time, with all its caveats and arguments, is an example of integrative complexity. Historical psychologists measure integrative complexity by reading the speeches and writing of historical figures and noting the number of clauses and caveats routinely used. Figures can move up and down the scale – for example, revolutionaries need to speak with low integrative complexity while revolutionaries, but successful rulers need high integrative complexity to actually run the state. A good case in point is Castro. During his time as a revolutionary his integrative complexity was very low, but once he was in power it rose significantly. Revolutionaries unable to make the shift up tend not to last once the revolution is won (Trotsky, as compared to Lenin, for example.)

Thinking or performing in any field is a skill. All skills operate in essentially the same way. When you first perform a skill you have to use your raw processing power (which, even for a genius, is very small). You have to think about what you’re doing. As you practice with the skill things you once had to think about become automatic and you are able to use those components automatically, while adding in other components. As such your ability to think or perform moves up the scale. In the physical arts an example would be learning a basic stance in martial arts – until you learn that stance, you can’t add a kick or an evasion, or even a movement within a stance. Once you add it, you can add a specific movement. Over time those movements become part of one thing or become an easily used language, and you can shift easily from one to another. This is the style of learning used in traditional Japanese arts, where, for example, an archery student might spend months doing nothing by draw his bow, never ever shooting an arrow, or where a traditional butcher would spend months practicing his grip, then months making only a few different cuts, on a specific type of meat. By the end of the process the archer always pulls the string correctly (and even this is made up of multiple parts, including breathing) and the butcher never holds a knife incorrectly, nor uses an incorrect knife.

But even if not formalized, this is how you get better at pretty much everything – you take the small and learn to do it automatically, and then you lump it into the big. In intellectual traditions part of this occurs when you learn specialized language. When I say “Externalization of costs in the food industry is health pollution” I’m saying something that would take a few essays to explain properly to people who haven’t internalized a particular understanding of economics and ecology.

A genius moves up the chain of integrative complexity quickly, but more than that a genius is addicted to a particular form or forms of flow. Operating at peak, in flow, is something everyone enjoys, but most people aren’t very good at obtaining peak. The problem is that the goalposts keep moving – as you get better at something, a performance that took everything out of you, and threw you into flow, will no longer do so. You have to step up, and make it harder, and risk failure, in order to do so. (The other method of obtaining something approaching peak is to reduce capacity. This is one of the things that alcohol and many other drugs do.)

And so, to the outsider, genius often looks like obsession. Operating at peak literally puts you in a place where your entire concentration is dedicated to what you’re doing. It can be profoundly alienating to the people around you.

The life cycle of genius varies between disciplines. Roughly speaking there are two different types of intelligence. There is liquid intelligence, which is raw processing power. This is your sheer ability to operate, and it is highest in the young. Fields that operate in pure symbology, such as math and physics, reward this very highly. The greatest mathematicians generally make their great discoveries in their twenties, and there is a saying that if you aren’t a great mathematician by 30, you never will be.

At the other end is crystallized intelligence. This is how much skill you’ve made automatic, or knowledge you’ve internalized as discussed above. Fields such as history, for example, value this sort of information highly. No matter how smart you are, it’s hard to know enough to make a significant contribution to such a field young.

Which leads to another important point. You can’t look it up! No, you can’t. If you don’t know it, if you haven’t internalized it, you can’t make connections between it and something else, you can’t work with it. The old saying that “the more I know, the more I know I don’t know” speaks to this. Most people have no idea of their profound ignorance. You can’t work with what you don’t know, and you can’t look up what you don’t know you don’t know. Genius – creative accomplishment, is about making new combinations with your skills and knowledge. Knowledge in a book, which isn’t in your head or your hands, can’t be used in that process.

Once you have all that knowledge, once you have all those skills, you have to do something with it. And while I’m not a genius, I’m here to tell you that creative work is a mystery even to those who do it. You put everything together, you stir it up, you think about it a lot and then half the time you give up and sometime later it comes to you in a flash – the pieces whirl around in your head, click and fit together and in that instant you see it. After you see it, you have to grind out the consequences of what you’ve seen, and you have to put it in language that other people can understand (invariably highly frustrating), but it’s that moment of insight, which Hambly once called “the cold clear ecstasy of intellectual discovery” which is the final, and ultimate payoff for all the years of constant refinement of skill and knowledge.

Hambly said something else which is entirely appropriate to the subject: “Love something for itself and it will give itself to you.” You can’t do all of this out of duty. Sometimes there are hard slogs, true, but ultimately no one is a creative genius who doesn’t, well enjoy isn’t quite the right word, but obsess in probably is, their chosen work.

There are other things that could be said, but we’ll leave it at that for now, except to note that I am not a genius (except in the strict and bogus sense that I have a high enough intelligence to qualify for the book definition used in some circles.) As Heinlein once noted about himself, I am smart enough to stand on the border of genius, to understand, but not to, mostly, do. Instead I am a generalist. I move from field to field, and I pick up the 20% of the knowledge of the field that is required to understand 80% of its applications, and then I move on to the next field. The late Oldman, whom some of you may remember, was a genius, one of the very few I’ve been lucky enough to meet, and he himself recognized the difference.

Most of my friends are generalists or specialists. A good specialist is someone who is a borderline genius and who makes the choice to dedicate himself to a field. A generalist is the same person who cannot give up the bright sparkly objects in other fields to concentrate on just one and work on that last 80% of the knowledge that separates the real specialist from the knowledgeable generalist. For concrete modern day examples – DeLong is a good specialist and Krugman is a genius and that is no insult to DeLong at all.

(Originally published at BopNews, also published at FDL).

Consumers Can’t Choose Not to Do Business

One argument free market fundamentalists use often is that if you don’t like how a company does business, just don’t do business with them, go to a better company, and the market will get rid of bad companies.  So, for example, if you don’t like the way your credit card company is raising arbitrary fees and interest rates, well, find another credit card company.

A good idea.  If, of course, there was a free market.  With credit cards, the terms tend to be pretty universal.  If your credit rating is X, and you have Y assets, credit card companies will generally all treat you the same way.  One may be marginally better than another, but it is marginal.  They make more money by all engaging in the same practices which increase fees and interest than by engaging in price wars, and they understand that

Same thing with telecom service.  If there are 3 providers, and they all provide about equivalent services, then there isn’t a free market.

In many rural markets for health insurance, one provider may control 90% of the market, and in many others two or three controlling the majority is very common.  Nor is their much difference between their offerings at any given price point (or their customer service/denial rates, etc…) even when you have multiple “options”.

And since doing without a credit card is actually very difficult (I did it for years, I know what I’m speaking of—I invite you to travel without one one day to see what I mean) and so is doing with phone or internet service, well, you’ve got little choice.

In fact, what the US has in many industries are largely unregulated oligopolies, because the regulators mostly don’t bother.

I’m a big believer in free markets, myself.  I’d love for more of them to exist.  But it is basic economic theory (and something Adam Smith understood very well) that the first thing people do when they win the market is try and make sure there isn’t a market.   The best profits are monopoly or oligopoly profits.

Free market mechanisms by themselves cannot ensure the continued existence of free markets.  Government is needed, but so are the proper mores.  When John Kenneth Galbraith, in the post war period, looked into why executives didn’t pay themselves a lot more (they could have) he came to the conclusion that it was essentially a cultural thing—managers wouldn’t tolerate it, it was against what they believed in.

Their ethics.

Likewise in 19th century America belonging to certain religious groups was a big plus for a merchant.  People would go out of their way to do business with you, because they knew it was much more likely you wouldn’t cheat them or price gouge them, that you believed in a fair profit, but only a fair profit.  Ethics.

Free market fundamentalisms in the US has done a great deal of damage by claiming the only ethic that matters is greed.  The free market is not self regulating, the invisible hand does not always work to the benefit of society as a whole (as Adam Smith well knew), greed is not always good, and free markets naturally tend towards unfree markets in which the choice for consumers is to take what is offered or go without.  (If you don’t believe me, take one of the “contracts” given to you by a big firm, and cross out the parts you disagree with, and write in your own wording.  “Negotiate” with them.  Let me know how it works out.)

Free markets are grand things.  Every once in a while they even exist.

Dancing with the devil while whistling past the graveyard

The immediate pushback on my last post was “Rasmussen?  They’re a joke.”  Now there’s a lot of truth to that, Rasmussen leans heavily Republican.  But even they haven’t had results leaning towards Republicans like that in years.  In other words, think of them as a canary in the coalmine.  It’s not as bad as they say yet, but it’s heading there.

Too many folks are dancing with the Devil, because he or she is a Democrat.  Let me repeat one more time, Barack Obama and this Democratic Congress have given the richest people and corporations in America trillions of dollars, have packed the administration with neo-liberals and Goldman Sachs cronies, and are on track to pass a health care bill, which, whether it has a “public option” in it or not, is a regressive tax on the middle class, which will directly be handed over to the health industry.

By the time the 2010 elections roll around, although there will have been a “recovery” of sorts, the majority of people who lost jobs will not have gotten them back, and Americans will feel worse off than they have.  Guaran-fucking-teed.  I may be wrong about many things, but I am not going to be wrong about this basic economic fact.

Democrats in general, and Barack Obama in particular, have betrayed the principles they claimed to stand for.  Trillions for the rich, a few hundred billion for the middle class and the poor while civil rights continue to be trampled.   Anyone who thinks otherwise, anyone who tries to cover for them, is dancing with the Devil while whistling past the graveyard.

I didn’t get into blogging in 2003 to be a partisan Democrat.  I’m not even an American.  I got into it to tell the truths that Americans needed to hear if they were going to save their souls and the bodies that house those souls, and if it’s my friends I have to tell unwelcome truths to now, so be it, and be damned.

Republicans Now More Trusted than Democrats on Every Issue

According to Rasmussen polling:

For the first time in recent years, voters trust Republicans more than Democrats on all 10 key electoral issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports. The GOP holds double-digit advantages on five of them.

Granted that this is Rasmussen, not the most credible source.  But as they note, even they haven’t found this much Republican lean in years.

  • 49 to 35% on economic issues
  • 54 to 31% on national security
  • 50 to 31% on Iraq
  • 33 to 29% on government ethics
  • 46% to 40 on health care
  • 50% to 35% on taxes
  • 43% to 38% on eductation
  • 45% to 37% on Social Security?

Etc…  Oh, and on healthcare?

Separate polling released today shows 49% of voters nationwide say that passing no health care reform bill this year would be better than passing the plan currently working its way through Congress.

Trying to pass an unclear dog’s breakfast, easily demonized, instead of something clear, has had its cost.

And it takes real talent to be less trusted on social security, considering Bush tried to privatize it not so long ago.

On the generic Congressional ballot, Republicans are now favored 42% to 37%.  No wonder the Democratic Congress is becoming less and less willing to follow Obama’s lead.  He may not have to face voters till 2012, most of them will be staring down the barrel of voter discontent in 2010.

But the worst number is this: 73% of GOP voters nationwide think Republicans in Congress have lost touch with their voting base.

In other words, Democrats are right.  Republicans aren’t trusted.  It’s just that Democrats are trusted even less.

Trust is earned.  By making the economy work for banks and not for Americans; by refusing to put through a clean health care bill; by repeatedly not coming through on campaign promises and by not providing a clear alternative to Republicans, Democrats have lost the trust of Americans.

If Democrats want to turn this around they should simply start doing what they should have always done.  Break up the big banks, institute real bankruptcy reform and other help for real Americans, pass a medicare-for-all bill, get out of Afghanistan and push through a real and effective stimulus bill immediately paid  for it with a tax on America’s rich.

If not, as I’ve been saying for some time, they will pay a heavy price in 2010.  Americans expect results for them, not mealy mouthed platitudes, trillions for the rich and broken promises.

Miscellaneous Quick Hits

There’s nothing that catches my eye today as needing a long exposition, but a number of stories worth a brief comment or two.

The Iraqi Car Bombing

Car bombs killed 136. One of the main ways the US lowered violence in Iraq was to simply pay various insurgents to stop shooting and them and other Iraqis and go kill al-Q’aeda in Iraq.  Think of it as a security tax, or protection money.  As long as you pay, no one gets hurt.  Stop paying, and violence reoccurs.  Since the US has reduced its payments and the Shia central government doesn’t want to pay, violence is flaring back up.  The government can either pay the security tax, crush the insurgents, or find some other way to get money to the Sunnis and others who feel left out and are willing to be violent about it.  Until they do, the killings will continue.

The IMF Tells the Ukraine Not to Raise Wages and Pensions

Taking money from the IMF is always like making a deal with the devil.  You may get something you want, even need, but you will pay and pay and pay.  And somehow it’s always ordinary people who pay, while the elites pretty much skate.  It’s not all on the IMF though, if the Ukraine wants to have a flat tax and also have populist pay and pension raises they’re living in a dream world.  My sympathy for individual Ukrainians is deep, my sympathy for their moronic government and idiot politicians following conservative voodoo economic cant is minimal.  (The paradigmatic example of doing what Chicago school economists recommend by the way, was Iceland.  Worked real well.)

Shipping Banks Move to Mark to Model From Mark to Market

It seems shipping banks want to value ships not based on what they can be sold for, but for what their models say their future earning potential is.  Regular banks have been doing this for a while on other sorts of assets.  Problem is that shipping traffic has fallen through the floor and a huge chunk of the world’s merchant marine is idle.  As Dagfinn Lunde of DVB Bank said “Would you buy a ship today if you could not have the price so low that you could afford to lay it up for at least two years before you earn any money?”.

An item is worth what a buyer will pay for it.

Asset Bubbles Again Already?

Wolfgang Münchau thinks so and he has some technical fixes.  When he discusses technical fixes though he can’t quite bring himself to note that if you include assets in inflation and then inflation adjust, well, suddenly bubbles become brutally obvious and central banks can’t ignore them, while crushing wages whenever the wage economy seems to have some inflation.

Japanese Industrial Production Rises 7%

Despite the strong Yen.  Hrrrm.  It’s notable that keeping the Yen weak, forever, didn’t do much for Japan.  Maybe the strong Yen isn’t so bad after all?  Much of what Japan imports is resources and inputs for manufacturing.  A higher Yen means those inputs are cheaper.  Whether that outweighs the increased Yen, I don’t know, but it’s quite possible it does.  In addition the consumer side of the economy benefits from cheaper imports of food and so on, while Japanese tend to buy Japanese consumer goods, and not foreign ones.  It could well be that a higher Yen (or at least a Yen that isn’t artificially kept low) is in Japan’s interest.

The Fed and the Pay Czar’s Executive Compensation Restriction Plans

So, the Fed has unveiled its plan.  Details are somewhat sparse, but as best I can tell:

  • It won’t significantly reduce pay
  • It will concentrate on risk management, which is to say trying to tie pay to longer term measures rather than shorter term measures
  • The big banks will have to give their compensation packages to the Fed upfront, but the review will be confidential.  Only the bank and the Fed will know the contents of the review.
  • Small banks will have their pay reviewed when they are examined.

Meanwhile, Feinberg, the pay czar, has restricted compensation at bailout recipients.  Cash compensation is restricted to 500K a year until they pay back the bailouts, but once they do they can receive more, and they do have bonuses tied to various goals given by the treasury till then.

I am skeptical.  The end result of Feinberg’s plan will simply be that the companies will pay off the bailouts as fast as they can, even if that means borrowing the money at higher rates than the feds have loaned it to them.

As for the Fed’s plan, it requires us to trust the Federal Reserve to really restrict pay and to really understand what type of compensation creates long and short term risks. Given the Federal Reserve’s track record in understanding systemic risk, which indicates they have no understanding of systemic risk worth speaking of, I’m skeptical that they can do this.  And that assumes one trusts the Fed to tell its friends in the banks they can’t have what they want, which, again, given their track record, is questionable.  Especially when the Federal Reserve itself seems to essentially be run by Goldman Sachs.

Furthermore, the Federal Reserve is confused.  When they say it’s not about “social equity” it’s about risk, what they mean is “we don’t mind them getting paid a lot of money if it doesn’t lead to risky behavior”.  But receiving enough money in a year or 3 years to retire inevitably means that people will engage in risky behavior because they don’t need the job.  They may want to keep it, they may like it, but if their company goes under, at the end of the day, they’re still going to be rich, rich, rich—and never have to work another day of their lives.  And, after all, even if they do blow it, this crisis shows that the government will probably bail them out so they probably will keep their jobs.

Paul Volcker, the last good central banker the US had, is right.  This finicky micromanaging won’t work.  He’s right to want to break the banks back up, dividing retail banking from investment banking. And while as far as I’m aware he hasn’t suggested high marginal taxation as a solution to the perverse wage incentive issue, that’s my suggestion.  Just tax every dollar after 1 million, on all income equally and with no deductions, at 90%.  Tax every dollar after 5 million at 95%.

The objection to this sort of taxation, or any other severe restrictions on excessive pay is:

But, bowing to concerns that too heavy a hand could lead to a mass exodus of executives, both the Treasury and Fed policies will permit top earners to reap millions of dollars.

This is insane.  These executives are the folks who lead the world to the greatest financial crisis since the great depression.  The goal shouldn’t be to keep them working, the goal should be to convince them to quit.  Let some middle managers take over, it is beyond comprehension that they could cause a greater disaster, and if they are only earning a few hundred K a year, they’ll have every incentive to turn their banks around so they can keep their jobs, which they’ll actually need to keep unlike the current generation of overpaid, incompetent, executives.

These executives’ management lead to the greatest destruction of wealth and the largest job downturn in post-war history.  They did so by pushing products and practices which were frankly fraudulent. In a sane world, huge criminal investigations would be ongoing and most of them would be spending all of their time huddled with their lawyers, rather than sending out millions of dollars worth of lobbyists.

However, as a second best scenario, their pay should be restricted, and if that makes them leave, well, that’s a bonus.  Let them go work for companies in any country stupid enough to want them.  Hopefully if not operating from the US anymore they’ll only be able to trash their new host economy, and not the entire world economy.  These men and (a few) women, are parasites who feed off and damage their hosts.  They are not a benefit to the country or company they work for, but an active hazard.

I’m glad to see the Fed and Feinberg doing something.  But it’s not nearly enough, and it won’t be sufficient to stop the same suspects from causing yet another financial crisis.

Actually 1930s solutions stopped financial crises for decades and would work now

Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England had the temerity to suggest that banks be broken up into retail banks and investment banks, thus reducing risk and making them smaller so they aren’t “too big to fail”.

Today the Labor government shot back that such a solution is a 1930s solution, but these days it wouldn’t work. The conservatives suggested that they would only follow King’s suggestion if every other country did too. Which is to say, they wouldn’t.

There’s a strange idea in Britain that the financial sector, which is to say “the City”, represents a comparative advantage for them. This idea mirrors the American belief. Both countries are wrong. What has happened instead is that over-sized fraudulent leveraged returns in the financial sector have driven out investment in the real economy. And since those returns were and are fraudulent, when the collapse came the real economy, aka: taxpayers, had to bail them out.

Over-sized, over-powerful financial sectors are parasitical on the real economy, and actually damage it. This is a clear lesson historically, where economic financialization of any country larger than a city state is almost inevitably disastrous.

What is occurring right now in England is a huge amount of slashing of basic services, as both Labor and Conservatives compete to cut, cut, cut. Huge amounts were spent on bailing out the banks, and now it will be paid for by ordinary people. This is a direct transfer of wealth from the real economy, to the financial economy.

England would be better off with a much smaller, weaker financial sector composed of banks small enough to be allowed to fail. If the possibility of them being taken over is Brown’s real fear (and it may well be) then simply create some ownership restrictions to keep them in British hands.

Splitting banks into retail and investment banks, keeping brokerages and insurance companies separate as well is part of a solution set which kept major financial crises like the recent one from happening for most of the second half of the 20th century. It was put in place by people who were experiencing the Great Depression and had learned the lessons of the roaring 20s.

The inability of our decision makers, whether British, American, Canadian or otherwise to understand those lessons and take action is why it is inevitable at this point that we will have an economic collapse. It is, at this point, all but inevitable, not because nothing could be done to stop it, but because no one will do what it takes.

Such a collapse may be as far as two economic cycles out, or it may be sooner, but it will happen. And the sort of non-argument made by Brown “not a 21st century solution”, which is content empty, is why. The real reason is cupidity. Both the British and American governments are completely captured by monied interests and will do nothing significant to reign in those interests, no matter what the costs or consequences for the majority of the population.

And so those consequences will ensure. By not making another financial crisis impossible, they are making another financial crisis inevitable, and next time it will be even worse.

Corrected: Support for Public Option (Does Not) Collapse If Real Public Option Polled


Edit: oops.  I’m full of it.  Misread the poll.  In fact it indicates the opposite of my title.  Ignore the below.  Perhaps the public option will be fantastically popular.

The problem with public option polling is that the questions imply strongly that everyone has access to it.  In fact, most people don’t have access to it (if, for example, your employer offers insurance you can’t opt out and go to the public option.)  Kip Sullivan did a bit of investigating and found a poll which actually did inform Americans of this fact (h/t Corrente):

“Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?”
Support: 55%
Unsure: 3%

If oppose/unsure: “What if this government-sponsored plan was available only to people who cannot get health insurance from a private insurer? In that case, would you support or oppose it?”
Support: 21%
Oppose: 24%

That’s quite the difference, don’t you think?  As I noted in my last post, voters are going to be furious with Democrats if they pass any of the current proposed health care “reform” bills. The public option in all of them is crippled and the subsidies are low, such that they will eat as much as 1/3 to a half of many people’s disposable income.

Because the public option proposed in any of these bills is not robust, since they won’t have enough enrollment to have market pricing power, and thus won’t be able to force down costs, there is no reason to believe that health care reform will actually contain health cost increases below inflation, let alone below wage increases.

Since the bills also force people to buy insurance, that means voters will be forced to buy insurance whose cost will rise faster than their wages.  This is particular pernicious when it comes to 20 and 30-somethings, fresh out of College, with huge student loans already, and few good job prospects.

This is horrible policy. It is also political suicide.  The people in the progressive blogosphere who are pushing for a “public option” without insisting on an actual robust option (again, none of the options being considered are robust and even if linked to Medicare rates none of them will be because they are not large enough) are pushing for a law which is a massive giveaway to insurance companies—a regressive tax on the middle class.  It is worse than immoral, though it’s terribly immoral, it is a horrible mistake the price for which will be paid at the ballot box.

I have warned on this repeatedly, as have others.  We have not been listened to.  I am not looking forward to having the last laugh on this, because it is a laugh which will be purchased in the suffering of Americans, but I will have the last, bitter, laugh.

Progressives need to learn how to analyze policy.  The reason you elect a particular party, Senator, President or Representative, let alone a Congress, is to implement good policies, not to pass something bad for the sake of saying they passed something.

When you pass good policy (say a stimulus bill which actually improves the job situation, instead of a stimulus bill to weak to do more than slow the bleeding) the population, aka: voters, receive good results. That makes voters happy. When they’re happy, they vote for you again.  When they aren’t happy, they don’t.  This is how LIBERAL government works.  Do good things, reap the benefits.

Reactionary government figures that if you give enough money to private interests and throw a few scraps to the population, you can buy the election.  But it doesn’t work.  Democrats received more money from special interests last election not because special interests decided they loved Democrats, but because the Republican brand was so sullied they knew the Republicans were toast.  So they gave money to the Democrats to protect their interests.  They bought in.

But the second Democrats are weakened, and Republicans look like they can win, they’ll go back to giving Republicans most of their money.

The right thing to do, passing good policy, isn’t just the right thing to do morally, it’s the right thing to do pragmatically.  It is clearly pointless to expect most Democratic legislators to do the right thing for moral reasons, but it would be nice if they understood they are cutting their own throats by continuously passing bad policy.

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