Wednesday, 7 November 2012

This US election “is about the clash of symbols”

Harry Binswanger reckons this US election is the most important since the Goldwater-Johnson election of 1964, which, “had Goldwater won, the entire course of world history would have been different… no War on Poverty, no Johnson-era expansion of government intervention, no Vietnam War, and, perhaps, no New Left.”

Not because the two candidates are as wildly different as Johnson and Goldwater were--“the candidates, as men, are ciphers,” reckons Binswanger. “The election is about the clash of symbols.”

Obama symbolizes collectivism, and its psychological corollary and breeding ground: second-handerism. Romney doesn't symbolize much of anything, except that he's the non-Obama. This mean he symbolizes non-collectivism and pre-post-modern America. To his definite credit, Romney has said several times that he will not apologize for his success (at Bain Capital).
    I continue to predict a Romney victory, in fact a solid one. But I have to admit that I'm scared. Can it be that all the polls are so wrong? It can be—but that doesn't mean they are. Still, I have made my bets, based on factors I've discussed here before: Obama has only lost supporters since 2008, and the failure of his policies is pretty easy to discern. In 2008, Obama was the One, the Messiah, our Deliverer. Now he's just that grim graying dude who scolds us and blames everybody else.
    By this time tomorrow night we should know if the American sense of life still exists. If it does, You didn't build that and We're all in it together will have been slapped down. If it does not, we'll survive for many years as a nation, but not as America.


  1. Whilst I hope Binswanger will be proved correct today, the prediction betting market is saying that he is wrong.

    Romney would need to win Florida, Ohio and Virginia to win the election. Securing that trifecta is highly unlikely.

    From a NY Times article last month: "Late in election campaigns, Intrade has produced better results than polls or than virtually all academic forecasts, including his own, Professor Ray C. Fair, the Yale economist, says"

    Here is the Intrade website:

    Where tens of millions of dollars are being placed in bets every day.

    68% predict an Obama victory. More than double Romney's score at 31%. This translates to receiving about a 20% payout for every dollar placed on Obama, and a 300+% payout for every dollar placed on Romney.

  2. While I have no dog in this race myself, it's worth noting that while Intrade may have "produced better results [for Presidential elections] than polls or than virtually all academic forecasts," Intrade has only been monitoring Presidential elections since 2004.

    Which means its sample size is precisely two.

  3. Due to Romney's running mate Romney is associated with Ayn Rand although as you have said all he really is is non-Obama.
    Given the economic troubles ahead if he were to win and just tried to maintain the status quo (e.g. John Key) would this end up setting back the hope for a more libertarian US in the long term?
    Is it wrong to hope for a Obama victory so he can take the flack?

  4. Of note:

    "Economists at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who in November 2003 produced a study of all-but-forgotten U.S. political markets that dated back to the election of George Washington as the nation’s first president.

    “At times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, betting on political outcomes at the Curb Exchange in New York (later to become the American Stock Exchange) would exceed trading in stocks and bonds,” wrote the authors, Paul W. Rhode and Koleman S. Strumpf. “… While the New York market was the center of national betting activity, similar markets emerged in Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore and most other major cities.”
    Markets were effective prior to polls.
    The study showed the organized political markets, which were offered both through financial exchanges and at public gathering spots such as pool rooms, did an admirable job of forecasting election results before the advent of scientific polling in the 1930s.
    In the 15 presidential elections from 1884 through 1940, the betting favorite in mid-October won 11 times (73 percent) while the underdog won only once (Woodrow Wilson in 1916), the authors found. In the remaining three contests (1884, 1888 and 1892), the odds as reflected in the political markets were essentially dead-heats.
    The demise of the political markets after World War II occurred largely because of the increase in scientific polling and, as Rhode and Strumpf put it, the increasing availability of “other forms of gambling.”
    That last phrase could be key if political futures markets are to re-establish themselves on the American electoral terrain."

    Excluding dead-heat odds (which this election is not), and adding in the last two intrade results which were correct, 13 out of 14 correct predictions is a fairly good sample size.

  5. Source for quote above:

    We'll find out soon enough if it'll be 14 out of 15.

  6. @PaulB I am thinking along the same lines. This is not the time to turn things around.

    A libertarian president (Not that I think Romney is one) would need a big mandate to be able to reform society back to the founding principles.

    A narrow win is not enough to turn the USA around and would only tarnish libertarian principles.

    I also hope Obama wins because people need to feel the pain before they come to their senses. It is not time yet.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.