Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I guess the problem with Michele Bachmann promising to close the embassy in Iran which we haven't had since 1980 is that it displays her serious lack of policy knowledge. But we knew that about her already. As an affirmation of the status quo, it actually strikes me as the opposite of the really bad kind of Bachmann statement. What gets me worried is when she proposes new bad things to do -- for example, raising taxes on poor people.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Bernsteinian Argument For Gingrich

Jonathan and Nick seem to be pretty sure that the Newt surge won't win him the nomination, while I take the recent polling at face value -- Newt leads Mitt 31-27 in NH, 38-15 in SC, and 29-13 or 28-12 in Iowa. I get the objections to early polling, but now we're five weeks from the Iowa caucuses and the numbers matter. Mitt needs some way to make up ground fast. Now Ann Selzer, who knows Iowa better than any other human, is saying that Newt would be the major beneficiary of a Herman Cain flameout.

Jonathan writes that "party actors have been very reluctant to line up for any of the surge candidates other than (while he was hot) Rick Perry." Here I want to recall something Jonathan was saying a lot last year. The people who really control public opinion and deliver primary votes in the GOP aren't elected officials. They're people who are basically paid like entertainers -- Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. And while it's deeply in the interests of elected officials and staffers that their party win elections, since their career prospects depend on that, entertainers don't have such a strong reason to care. They can happily get behind the unelectable guy who says more exciting things.

So if Gingrich doesn't win big endorsements of any kind from GOP officeholders, who cares? Those aren't the people who deliver votes, anyway. And eventually, it all comes down to votes. Conservative media figures are the relevant party actors here, not New Hampshire congresspeople. They don't have an especially strong reason to give Romney the favorable treatment he'll need to catch up, and they could easily turn Newt's book publicity tour into a presidential nomination.

[Update] Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link! I didn't link properly to Jonathan's comments about the entertainers in the GOP media when I first put up this post. For his points on that (which have shaped my understanding of the contemporary GOP) you can look at posts like this: "what Rush and company talk about -- which is driven by what drives ratings and sells books -- then becomes the only thing that conservatives talk about." There's also a great one I can't find about how we haven't ever seen a party like the modern GOP before, where a lot power is in the entertainers' hands rather than the politicians, and how that might result in the GOP doing weird and unprecedented things.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Those The Gods Wish To Condemn, They First Make Whole

Apparently Erick Erickson of Red State thinks the DNC's new "Mitt vs Mitt" ad is designed to (a) sow doubts about Mitt Romney among conservative Republicans, and (b) "potentially drag out the pain of the Republican Primary before doing what every Democrat and Beltway Pundit in America thinks — settling for Romney, a guy they will have already defined as a flip-flopper."

Certainly (a) is the main point the DNC is trying to drive home, but if Democrats think that extending the primary schedule is good for them, I present the 2008 Democratic primaries as evidence for the opposition. Those primaries granted Democrats largely positive media coverage in places the otherwise never would have shown their faces: North Dakota, Indiana, North Carolina, etc. By the end of a 50-state primary season, Republicans and independents would be familiar with the arguments for and against each candidate; 11th Commandment concerns and ambitions for VP or cabinet posts would probably prevent all but the most oblique attacks in the back half of the campaign, which would otherwise go mostly uncovered.

The ideal outcome here for Democrats is probably for the anointed NotRomney to enjoy a brief, Pat Buchanan in 1996-esque moment in the sunshine, winning a couple of early primaries and then a handful of smaller states on Super Tuesday. I suppose it's possible that Gingrich could engage in some sort of Ted Kennedy-in-1980-esque "Well, things worked out a little different from the way I thought" campaign to the bitter end, but it's not 1980 and Gingrich is savvy enough not to do that.

Out Of Iraq

Soldiers, trucks and weaponry are streaming out of Iraq every day. From that peak of 170,000 troops, about 18,000 remain this week, with hundreds leaving daily. Virtually all will be gone before Christmas.
John McCain, meanwhile, is still against withdrawal. Elections matter!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm in Austin with some grad student friends for Thanksgiving. They've introduced me to the concept of the heritage turkey, which is what we're having. It sounds pretty interesting -- turkeys like they used to be before modern industrial farming bred birds for the maximum possible amount of white meat.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play

Contra Neil, I'm not really paying much attention to how the current NotRomney is faring in the Republican primary polls. Newt isn't running for President: he's running to sell books, or get a better deal from Fox News for his new TV show, or otherwise improve his ability to rake bucks on the wingnut welfare circuit. He doesn't have much of a campaign infrastructure. Large chunks of his staff quit to join the Rick Perry campaign. He's not even on the ballot in Missouri. And while crazy people who said crazy things won GOP Senate primaries in 2010, they're not faring so well in 2012. Richard Lugar, Orrin Hatch, and Olympia Snowe are all in a position to withstand any challenge from their right flank, and those challengers are having a harder time gaining traction.

Nor do I think that we should read too much "weakness" into Mitt Romney's inability to pull away from the pack of midgets challenging him for the nomination. Much of the right wing infrastructure has yet to really get behind Romney, in the same way that much of that infrastructure didn't get behind John McCain until fairly late in the 2008 election cycle. When faced with the prospect of re-electing Barack Obama, the 20-30% of Republican poll respondents will almost certainly get behind the nominee, regardless of prior apostasies.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gingrich-Related Thoughts

I'm taking the Newt Gingrich surge seriously. Even if he's a crazy person who thinks crazy things, that's the sort of person who won GOP Senate primaries in 2010. And given how these marginal-candidate surges usually last about two months, he's a decent bet to be on top when Iowa rolls around. The lack of any serious organization in Iowa is a real problem, but having enough voters could overwhelm organizational disadvantages. And he has a small lead in the Iowa polls, which could easily grow as Cain deflates.

Against Romney, Obama has a serious chance of losing, but losing isn't that bad. Against Gingrich, the chance of losing is much smaller, but defeat would result in a crazy person getting control of the presidency and with it the American nuclear arsenal. I'm not too worried that Gingrich would be able to pass major legislation to undo the social safety net, because I know how hard it is to get major economic proposals through Congress. He isn't an especially smart political tactician either, so I imagine a future of botched proposals that the left successfully smacks down. But it's harder to block bad foreign policy proposals than domestic proposals for some reason, so he might be able to create real havoc there.

The big thing that has come to interest me lately is the situation downticket. Romney most likely isn't going to turn into a chaotic mess that hurts Republicans everywhere. (You might think with him that Republicans wouldn't turn out to vote for a moderate. I don't think that's likely -- Republicans can be driven to hate Obama enough that they'll come out to vote against him.) But with Gingrich there's a serious chance that he'll just be unappealing enough to hurt the party as a whole. If Gingrich getting the nomination is worth one or two more Democratic Senators, that's enough to make me hope he gets it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Pursuit Of Ignorance, From Bush To Palin And Cain

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about how Herman Cain "ardently pursues ignorance." Boasting of one's lack of knowledge and passing off crude anti-intellectualism as anti-elitism is a common thing in contemporary American politics. My impression is that while it's always been around in some form, it became a much bigger deal in the wake of George W. Bush.

I don't think Bush actively planned things out this way. There's the video comparing how he talked in the gubernatorial debates against Ann Richards to his performance against Kerry -- back in the old days, he seemed to be trying his best to look smart, speaking clearly and rattling off facts and policy proposals.

In 2000, the media played up the Bush versus Gore contrast as a simple Texas yokel versus an cold-blooded intellectual. It so happened that Bush won, though I really don't see reason to think the contrast in level of education actually worked in his favor. But what happens in the wake of victory is that the media spins every feature of the winner, especially the ones it's made most salient, as winning traits. The converse happens to the loser.

Many in the next generation of Republican politicians -- Cain and Palin, for example -- took their lessons from the story the media told them. While Bush more or less backed into the position of the proudly uneducated person by accident, they came to regard it as a winning political strategy. Moreover, it's a strategy that fit them really well. Absorbing complex policy views, even if they're crazy, takes some work and intellectual effort. Cain and Palin weren't up for doing that, whether for reasons of ability or time or sheer laziness. So they pursued the supposed winning strategy that was open to them.

The funny thing is, I don't actually think Republican primary voters actually put a premium on this. They have high opinions of people like Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich, who have all kinds of complex views about policy and don't actively try to come off as ignorant.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Moore's Law, Artificial Intelligence, and Why We Can All Take A Deep Breath

Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias discuss the extremely rapid potential future growth of computing power, and how this affects the way we should think about the march towards more and more awesome computing machines.

An important caveat here is that while computing power may continue to grow exponentially for some time, our ability to do something useful with that increased power may not grow at the same pace. Graphics cards today are capable of rendering much more complicated content at much higher resolutions than they were twenty years ago. But that hasn't resulted in a massive reduction in the amount of time artists spend producing content. Likewise network bandwidth has not enjoyed growth rates as fast as CPU power, because someone has to actually set up a large amount physical network infrastructure, and the costs associated with that infrastructure don't reap all the goodness of whatever bastardization of Moore's Law you're using to describe network speeds. Japan is at the forefront of using robots to replace humans for certain service jobs, particularly in the health care field, but those robots are and will continue to be quite expensive, since there are lots of physical processes that go into robotics that don't benefit from Moore's Law. So while computing will become cheaper and even more ubiquitous, computers will interact with more and more processes that won't be able to take full advantage of extremely fast growth rates of computing power.

Another important consideration when thinking about our ultra-fast, ultra-cheap CPU future is that disk-IO does not grow in a Moore's Law-esque fashion, though Solid State Drives may change that equation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Defending Popular Programs And Winning

I'm tempted to disagree with Jonathan Bernstein on this: "But if ACA survives the courts, and survives the outcome of the 2012 elections, and gets implemented and turns out to work more or less the way that Gruber (and Barack Obama) believe it will, my guess is that it will have virtually no direct political effect going forward, and little or no indirect effect."

I have two especially unhappy memories of Republicans achieving serious power -- Gingrich in the mid-1990s, Bush after 2004. They're followed by two happy memories of Republicans getting in serious trouble after attacking popular Democratic social programs -- Medicare and Social Security. In both cases, politically savvy Democrats (Bill Clinton and Nancy Pelosi) firmly defended the programs and won.

I wonder if this is a structural phenomenon. Democrats pass a well-designed program. It becomes popular with swing voters. But there's enough influence in the Republican Party against it that when Republicans come to power, they have to attack it. So they do! And it's defended with so much political firepower that the Republicans fail miserably and suffer massive casualties.

If this is how things work, it's a pretty awesome deal, and we should make sure it happens more often.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Replacing The NBA

NBA commissioner David Stern has offered an ultimatum, and the players' union has rejected it. This puts the next NBA season at a serious risk of not happening. I don't know how NBA contracts work. But I'm wondering if it would be possible for the players to organize themselves into teams outside the formal NBA organization and make money by playing games.

You could keep all the teams together in their last NBA incarnation and fill out rosters with whoever the existing players on the teams were willing to add. I'm sure that without the formal apparatus of the NBA, they'd earn a lot less money -- the installed base of arenas and basketball-promoting resources has formidable value. But I'm guessing they could make enough money playing in smaller arenas to be worth their while. And I imagine that before long, the new NBA union-cooperative teams would attract more allegiance than the empty brand names they replaced. The guys who can do the insane athletic feats have the real value.

What Would Newt Need?

I appreciate the force of Jamelle's arguments that Newt Gingrich faces major obstacles in his campaign for the GOP nomination -- in particular, a lack of organization and focus in key primary states. But the way I'd put the point is just that Newt only can win the nomination if he has a really big national lead over Romney. Even with a PPP survey coming out soon that puts him on top, he's far from that point yet. But what if January rolls around and he's at 45% and Romney's at 25% nationally? Even if Romney's focus on key states and organizing advantages are worth 15% in the early primaries, you've still got Newt in the lead. This doesn't strike me as an implausible scenario, as he's a more plausible candidate than Cain or Trump or Bachmann in terms of formal qualifications. His ceiling is likely to be higher than theirs.

The other thing is that there's a track to the nomination for anyone who comes out a clear second to Romney in early primary states. If Iowa and New Hampshire winnow down the candidates to where it's Romney versus any one other Republican, the large number of Republicans who find Romney unacceptable can be united. It's not only important for Romney that he win Iowa -- it's important that it come out being something like 30-20-20 in his favor rather than 30-25-15. In the first scenario, there's no clear person for later-state Romney haters to align behind. In the second scenario, there is.

One of the things that made the war in Libya so interesting from a purely military-strategy viewpoint was how different the two sides were. Gadhafi had a conventional army with lots of tanks and trained soldiers. The Free Libyan forces had a ragtag band of dudes with small arms backed up by awesome NATO airpower. It was interesting to see who would win, with the two forces so differently configured. If Gingrich, or really any Republican other than Perry, is at a major national polling advantage over Romney when the Iowa caucuses come around, Iowa and New Hampshire are going to be interesting in much the same way.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Raising Taxes Averts Witch Trials

Sarah Kliff passes on an interesting piece of research on taxation and witch hunts in 17th century France. Noel Johnson and Mark Koyama looked at the regions of France in which the most taxes were collected, and in which the greatest number of witch trials took place. These two things were inversely correlated -- more taxes meant fewer witch trials.

Apparently the explanation is that the places where the most taxes were collected could support a standardized legal system. In an orderly legal system, the authors say, it's hard to successfully prosecute someone for witchcraft. But if you've got the worst judges of the 17th century, you can get some pretty weird results. I'd wonder if there was some deeper explanation of the phenomenon -- maybe really backwards places where witch trials happened also were poor and thus didn't generate much tax revenue, while taxable wealth and education went together.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Treasury Bong Yields

That's what Krugman should've titled this post.

Eye Of Newt And Toe Of Frog

This kind of commentary showing Newt Gingrich rising as the final anti-Romney strikes me as plausible.

There's a significant portion of the GOP base that will support someone regardless of whether they're in any usual sense a plausible major-party nominee. These are the people who were telling pollsters they wanted to vote for Herman Cain and Donald Trump. I'm thinking that these people can be easily swayed by media forces, whether those are within conservative media proper (Limbaugh / Hannity / O'Reilly) or traditional media that doesn't do anything immediate to alienate conservatives.

If you were in the market for this kind of candidate, I think you might be up for some Gingrich once Cain went down. Gingrich's ideas are in fact total poorly thought out nonsense, but he's got pseudo-ideas that appeal to people who vote in a Republican primary. And at the same time, he has an impressive formal qualification in having been Speaker of the House back in the 1990s. I suppose this might be the kind of thing that'd get GOP elites who may not have been up for some Cain to believe in him. In a Romney-Gingrich primary, a lot of GOP media figures would take the Gingrich side. He's got nice crazy conservative views that they won't be dissatisfied with. Given the amount of time these weird surges of interest in some flaky candidate last, we've got enough time for Cain to die down and the final star to rise before Iowa. Newt sounds as good as anybody.

And as a general election opponent who'll run a terrible campaign and alienate swing voters, he sounds okay to me too. I don't know whether he'd beat Romney, and frankly I don't know whether to prefer the relative safety of Mitt where you might easily lose the election but he's not crazy, or the Gingrich deal where you're very likely to beat him but if Europe crashes and takes our economy down with it maybe people vote for insane Newt.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Paul Krugman criticizes Politico for a silly article passing on criticisms from right-wing pressure groups that there's something hypocritical about Elizabeth Warren for being wealthy and trying to help poor people. The message of the 99% movement is not that being rich is itself a bad way to be. It's that we need to change laws and the economic system so that everyone else is better off. Elizabeth Warren has been working hard to make that happen.

Rejecting crusaders against poverty and inequality for their personal wealth will make it basically impossible for there to be an effective movement against poverty and inequality. Extremely successful people usually end up with money -- that's the way our world works. And if you say that nobody can be a legitimate crusader against inequality if they have money, you delegitimize most of the extremely successful people who want to crusade against inequality. Who's left? Well, lots of ordinary people, but the media isn't going to give them a special platform to speak, because they're ordinary. Occasionally a well-funded special interest group might be able to turn some ordinary person into a media celebrity, but that's going to be the kind of game that's tilted in favor of the rich and powerful, because they have the money to successfully fund special interest groups. So the only people talking about the issues will be rich people who don't care about income inequality or poverty. Disaster.

How would you get any effective crusaders against inequality or poverty in such a situation? I guess if an intelligent hippo spoke out against these things, the media would cover it, because, hey, a talking hippo. Maybe then progressives would vote the hippo into power. Anyway, that's the best connection I can see between Scott Wong's idiotic Politico article and hypocrisy or hippocracy or whatever.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hillary Veep Swap?

Paul Starr's case for swapping in Hillary Clinton for Joe Biden sounds fine to me, I guess, though I don't imagine it would have especially major effects. The one thing I'd care about most in this deal is that Mark Penn not be allowed to return to Democratic politics as a Hillary consultant. Every time I hear a Democrat complain about Obama and wish we'd gotten Hillary instead, I think of the idiot consulting infrastructure that surrounded her. Hopefully she's made better friends in the last couple years.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fiction, Reality, And Corporate Personhood

I'm unimpressed with the arguments of Stephen Bainbridge, who tries his best not to engage the actual reasons driving the movement against corporate personhood. (via Pejman Yousefzadeh, who does no better).

Abolishing corporate personhood altogether, so that we wouldn't be able to maintain the useful legal fiction of the corporation for purposes like listing the owners of property on deeds, doesn't strike me as either a good idea or one that has any likelihood of becoming policy. But I'm happy to see a movement that might push policy a small distance in this direction. The majority of the people in any movement that pushes for good changes on a complex issue will have confused views about matters of detail. And this is a movement one should support.

Much of the reasoning in the Citizens United decision is based on the failure to recognize that the notion of the corporation as a person is nothing more than a useful legal fiction to be maintained when it has good social consequences and ignored otherwise. Bainbridge offers consequentialist arguments in favor of giving corporations some legal status. Even if these arguments are good (as I think they are) I don't see how they can support striking down Congress' judgment about where the good consequences of corporate personhood end.

When Scalia writes that the text of the First Amendment "offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker" the obvious response is that the text may offer no foothold for excluding any category of real person who may want to speak, but that this doesn't cover what we call persons in some contexts merely as a convenient legal fiction. The real / fictional distinction is among the deepest distinctions there are, and Scalia's attempts to elide it are ridiculous. Our claims typically don't encompass fictional entities. When I say that hobbits don't exist, I'm not saying Frodo isn't a hobbit, or that you're doomed to fail at pretending you're Sam Gamgee for the purposes of Live-Action Roleplaying. My claims encompass only the real. And that's the right way to understand the claims about rights in the Constitution. Real persons have rights, but if you're just pretending that something is a person for limited practical purposes, you don't have to pretend it has all the rights persons do.

I hope it's obvious to Bainbridge and Scalia that corporations shouldn't have the right to vote in elections after they've existed for 18 years. The end of a corporation isn't a death, such that intentionally causing it would be murder. These points follow just as well if one sees corporations not as fictions but as groups (as Scalia does at some points) -- groups don't have the vote in addition to that of the individuals who compose them, and disbanding them doesn't constitute murder. If you ignore the distinction between convenient legal fictions and real entities and regard corporations as fully real persons with genuine rights, I don't see how you draw these distinctions.

This is what the opponents of corporate personhood understand. If they're wrong on the details, they make up for that by having a grasp on the fundamental issues.

Battles Won

I tend to be a lot more optimistic about politics than many of the left-wing folk I meet on my travels. Some of this is the product of a peppy disposition and a happy life, but I think a lot of it also comes from keeping in mind the tremendous successes of the progressive movement over the past. Amanda's post about how much better social relations between the sexes are now than fifty years ago provides a good example.

Right-wingers have had a lot of rhetorical and political successes over the past 50 years, particularly on economic issues. But it's a tremendous achievement that now everybody at pays lip service to the general idea of racial and sexual equality. For all the awful things mainstream Republicans do, they can't actually come out and say "Obama isn't fit to be president because he's black, and black people are intellectually inferior." And they can't run against female politicians and say "Women aren't capable of handling jobs like being a Senator." They can try sly ways to insinuate this, and they can use all kinds of racial and gender prejudices to support policies that harm the poor or restrict abortion. But things have progressed to where everybody in the political mainstream understands, or at least pretends to understand, that racism and sexism are bad things.

I'm focusing on the political side of this, but the way it appears in the basic nature of social relations between people of different races and genders is (as Amanda discusses) the most important thing. The idea that I'm supposed to regard women around me as owing me some kind of deference just because I'm a guy, or think less of them for not being deferential to men, strikes me as alien and monstrous.

Obviously, it's not that everything is okay now. We've got major problems, among them a dismal economy in the intermediate term, and the threat of climate change in the long term. But I don't see that these problems are more grand and terrible than things we've faced and triumphed over in the past. I mean, this country had slavery 150 years ago. The progressive movement has made things better in some pretty tremendous ways over the last fifty years (and really, the last several centuries), and it's going to take a lot more than what's happened to make me pessimistic about the long-term direction of things.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Rick Scott

I'm in Florida right now, where I've talked with lots of people at local universities about Governor Rick Scott's crusade against humanities departments (apparently he especially doesn't like anthropology).

It's kind of insane that this guy has any kind of political career, let alone being the governor of Florida. The health care company he ran had to pay out the biggest fraud settlement in US history -- $600 million -- after committing 14 felonies. I'd think that sort of thing would disqualify you from holding elected office. As a grad student at FSU put it, "We elected a supervillain for governor."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

FBI Gang Threat Assessment Of The Emerging Juggalo Menace

The picture at right, given the filename "juggalette-with_possible_firearm_-atf_file_photo_www_red-alerts.jpeg", is Figure 6 from the FBI 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, which makes 44 references to Juggalos. I didn't realize that Juggalos were a gang. I thought they just liked to go around listening to bad music and drinking Faygo.

The following certainly came as news to me: "NGIC reporting indicates that Juggalo gangs are expanding in New Mexico primarily because they are attracted to the tribal and cultural traditions of the Native Americans residing nearby." Maybe that's how they plan to figure out how magnets work. In any event, that's more impressive of them than I would've thought, unless they're just going there to see if they can score some peyote.

In other FBI Gang Threat Assessment commentary, whose idea was it to call a gang the "Oriental Fantasy Boys"?

Who Hates Herman Cain? Part 2

Bolstering the case for the Perry explanation of Herman Cain's sexual harassment scandal, a consultant for a firm that does some polling for Perry is saying that he knew Cain was harassing women. Chris Wilson used to work for the National Restaurant Association at the time, and apparently he was with Cain when the major events took place. He might've been the one to tell Perry's people where the bodies were buried, so they could get the info out to Politico. For exactly the reasons Matt cites -- Perry could win a one-on-one showdown with Romney, but he's not going to get that as long as Cain is riding high -- that's exactly what they'd be eager to do.

[Update]: Cain himself accepts the Perry theory! You heard it here first.

Free Trade Is Beating Labor Mobility

It's disappointing to learn that Nick Clegg and David Cameron are trying to keep skilled non-EU immigrants (basically, people like me) out of the UK.

Restrictions on the trade of goods seem to be less severe and more easily overturned than restrictions on labor mobility. We buy a lot of stuff from China and Mexico, but Chinese people and Mexicans have to jump through all kinds of hoops to come here, and in many cases they aren't allowed to. And that's well over and above the larger costs of transportation. Container shipping for goods is cheap, but if people come over that way something has gone horribly wrong. So transit costs are higher for labor mobility than for mobility of goods, and on top of that, governments add extra regulatory barriers.

I'm seeing this as an instance of the organized power of businesses to influence regulation, which the rest of us as poorly organized individuals don't have.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Condorcet Wants Kids To Vote

I've been reading the discussion following Jonathan Bernstein's "Kids Vote" proposal with some interest. Extending the voting age downward by at least a couple years strikes me as a good idea.

I think this despite accepting a view of democracy that Bernstein sees as most opposed to the Kids Vote proposal -- the view that "justifies democracy on the basis of an informed individuals, thinking for themselves, being the best way to make good decisions about public policy." If you think kids are just barely better than random in determining who should rule, adding their votes to the system will push things in the right direction overall. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what he means by 'informed', but large numbers of barely informed people can systematically contribute to good public policy if each is right 51% of the time in two-way choices. And then their small but positive level of information is actually producing good public policy. (This sort of reasoning, where larger numbers of barely informed people end up increasing the probability of good decisions, is the kind employed in Condorcet's Jury Theorem.)