Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Are Voters In Nations With A Poland Problem Especially Sophisticated?

The argument here is that a nation with a Poland problem has a disconnect between its economic conditions and its political  outcomes.  It could be argued that in such a case the voters of that nation may realize that elected leaders (especially presidents in the US) have much less control over economic outcomes than voters in most nations give them credit or blame for.  So they vote on other issues.

Of course in many such cases, notably the US and Poland itself, those issues seem to revolve heavily around hatred of immigrants and asserting a racist nationalism of an extreme variety.  What is more this has often involved making exaggerated, if not downright incorrect, claims about the impact of immigrants on national economies.  This becomes especially unsophisticated when those making these appeals outright lie about the state of the economy, declaring that the economy is in much worse shape than it is and then blaming the supposed terrible shape on the immigrants.

Thus in the US we had Trump claiming that improving employment numbers were fake news, and that the BLS was engaging in fraudulent and inaccurate measuring and reporting of the improving employment numbers.  Then, of course, the supposedly much worse employment situation in the US that we really had according to him was mostly due to immigrants coming in and taking jobs (he was more accurate in his complaints that in Midwestern rust belt loss of manufacturing jobs was partly due to imports).  Then the minute he got in office and the employment situation continued to improve at about the rate it had been doing so, well, all of a sudden the BLS was accurate, and the improving employment situation was all due to him, as was the rising stock market he had previously ignored was suddenly the most important thing around.

The irony in this particular situation is that the US's Poland problem has come back to bite Trump. Even though indeed the economy is continuing to improve since  Trump has taken power, it is not helping Trump at the polls at all, with him having the lowest poll ratings for a new president we have seen since reliable polling began.  Some of that is indeed that people do not believe he has had much to do with the state of the economy so far, but probably most of it is simply people focusing on the other things he is doing, including the extreme racism of his anti-immigrant policy, which has ceased to be the vote getter it was earlier.

Barkley Rosser  


Pixel-stained techno-peasant said...

I'm skeptical that America has a Poland problem as opposed to a regionally-distributed shithole problem.

While the American economy is doing well on an average basis, there are still large areas with shithole economic performance and shithole people. Shithole people living in shithole areas are one of the main pillars of the Trump coalition. People who live in areas with good economic performance didn't vote for Trump in large numbers; shitholes who live in shithole economic backwaters did.

Rural people are racist shitholes who vote with their hatreds. This is especially true when rural economies are doing poorly, which they currently are. There's nothing special going on in Trump's America -- just rural people voting for hate as they always do.

AXEC / E.K-H said...


NOTE on Barkley Rosser’s ‘Are Voters In Nations With A Poland Problem Especially Sophisticated?’

Over the past weeks, Barkley Rosser, the alleged economist, identified a “Poland Problem” in the USA, Germany, Iran, and Poland. These are obviously journalistic exercises in political economics. Political economics, though, lacks sound scientific foundations since Adam Smith/Karl Marx. For this simple reason, political economics is vacuous blather or fake news since 200+ years.#1

While the alleged economist Barkley Rosser has been occupied with newspaper reading, the formal impeccable proof has been given that MMT rests on macroeconomic foundations that are false since Keynes’ General Theory.#2 The fact that Keynesianism is axiomatically false obviously escaped Barkley Rosser over the last 50 or so years. So, while he was distracted by the “Poland Problem” he entirely missed that just under his nose developed an MMT problem.#3

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 The end of political economics

#2 MMT = proto-scientific junk + deception of the 99-percenters

#3 For the full-spectrum refutation see cross-references MMT http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2017/07/mmt-cross-references.html

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...


Whatever one thinks of MMT (and I have never specifically advocated it here, although I think its advocates are right about some things), it has nothing to do with this issue, so I am not going to discuss it on this thread further.

Some people have disagreed with my argument, notably David "Vasovian" from Poland, but your only comment on it is that it is "journalistic," which also fails to address whether it is correct or reasonable or not.

Peter T said...

Adam Tooze highlights a recent paper which makes an interesting connection (to my mind) between economics and politics. Specifically local politics (which is most of it) - the high level of monopsony power enjoyed by local employers, and the consequent grind on wages and working conditions. It leads, if intense enough, to the serf's choice - rebellion or subservience. Trump look a bit like rebellion in some places, but there's a lot of subservience mixed in.

Link is: https://www.adamtooze.com/2018/01/20/americas-political-economy-local-structure-labour-markets-bargaining-power/

Bruce Wilder said...

I could offer an alternative hypothesis.

Maybe those suffering from poor economic conditions feel that their plight is being ignored and they feel frustrated with neoliberal politicians who claim that things are fine and getting better and besides, nothing can be done beyond applying the band-aids of ineffective melioration and pious hectoring to train and educate. Those most dissatisfied may not be the ones suffering most, nor are they likely to be sophisticated about the economic or political possibilities, but they are certain about their own dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Racism or extreme nationalism could simply be a signal of commitment and solidarity, a signal neoliberal politicians are unwilling but also unable to credibly make on some other basis.

I don't know much about Poland, but it is not hard to find reports of analysis of the 2016 election in the U.S. that links opioid addiction and declining life expectancy with Trump's success, and especially his success in districts that had previously voted for Obama in an earlier period of hoping for change. I am pretty sure declining life expectancy trumps any statistic BLS can come up with as an indicator of economic health.

I am not saying that Trump voters were either drawn from the class of addicts (pretty sure turnout among addicts is low) or even from the class of people with deeply altruistic humanitarian concerns about economic suffering. But, they might be people who were frustrated with serious economic problems affecting their locality and an unresponsive government. I will go out on a limb here and say that declining life expectancy is a strong indicator of policy failure. Unsophisticated in their understanding of what government can accomplish and how, sure, but that's not their job. Their problem as voters -- finding politicians who will be responsive -- is a tough one. I, personally, would like to believe that it could be solved by sophisticated grassroots policy analysis: lots of neighbors, say, getting together to discuss how great medicare-for-all could be and then quizzing candidates. But, I also know the candidates may respond to the quizzing with promises they know how to get things done, without so many specifics about which things that it might discourage fund-raising from extremely wealthy people. I cannot say my best hopes in that regard have been triumphing over experience. So, I can see why the frustrated and desperate (and economically unsophisticated) might look for some other signal of commitment to solidarity. Racism. Nationalism of a particularly chauvinistic and parochial kind. Anti-immigrant sentiment.

Is racism the primary consumer value of choice? Or is it frustration or dissatisfaction with an unresponsive government that creates demand for racism as a signal of commitment? If we are going to test competing interpretations against observable facts, what is relevant is the fate of attempts to put forward politicians and political groupings who are willing to respond effectively to economic problems. Neoliberal politicians who solemnly preach, "there is no alternative" might actually be a significant part of the political problems that give rise to authoritarian nationalisms.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...


Looking closely at the 2016 election only gives weak support for your argument but some. The question is where were the districts that most strongly shifted from Dem to GOP between 2012 and 2016, especially in the 5 states that switched (actually 6, but Florida was close both times and no pattern there. The others were in order of strength of shift, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. In IA this was mostly in rural southern parts of the state where the economy has not been bad. These are areas heavily evangelical. In OH one finds a mix, rural southern parts not doing too well but not too poorly either, with some specific ones long doing badly, most noticeably Youngstown. In WI it was rural southwestern areas usually supporting Dems, not doing badly economically. In MI a mixed bag again, with white working class suburbs shifting although their economic condition had improved, but also some rural areas not bad off kind of like in IA and WI. PA another mixed bag, with hurting industrial Erie and Scranton shifting, but also some rural areas not hurting so much.
Rural IA, the biggest shifter, seems to have been an evangelical matter and was long given up on by Dems in the campaign. But in the three surprise last minute shifters, the crucially last minute changing areas seem to have these not so badly off rural areas, especially in WI, with the latter a stronghold of progressive good government values. These were places especially susceptible to being influenced by the late breaking Comey report on Hillary's emails, and they probably swung it in the end. That said, there certainly were parts of some of those states, such as Youngstown, Erie, and Scranton, where your story holds, Bruce.

Peter T said...

I've seen analysis of results at county level that strongly imply racism was the main driver. Not surprising, as it's a constant presence/pressure in US life, and almost any shift in political life has a major racist component (even if this is just a strong awareness that different racial groups will be affected differently). In this sense it's like class in the UK (not an economic construct per se, but a complex mix of social position, accent, manners, lifestyle, income).

In any event, there are some indications that political outcomes are becoming unmoored from economic ones in a number places. Corbyn in the UK, the unpopularity of the Turnbull government here in Australia, the swing to Labour in NZ. It's as if the expectation of rising incomes is not seen as the main point of politics by a substantial and growing number.

AXEC / E.K-H said...

Barkley Rosser

The mission of economics is to figure out how the economy works. The mission of sociology is to figure out how society works. The objective of science is the true theory with truth defined since 2000+ years as material and formal consistency.

Obviously, economics is a failed science. Obviously, economists are incompetent scientists. What they have done in the last 200+ years is folk sociology, folk psychology, and political agenda pushing.

Worse, economists are not only incompetent scientists but in direct opposition to plain evidence claim that what they are doing is science: “Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel”.

Barkley Rosser, that much is clear, is doing neither economics nor science. Neither does Peter T, Bruce Wilder, and the rest of self-styled political experts at EconoSpeak.#1

The institutional choice of current economics is to speedily clean the Augean stable or to drown in shit.#2

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 For details see cross-references The representative economist

#2 Time to retire political economists


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