Things Fall Apart (Part 1)

14+  Little Carmine: So, the reason I’m here you could probably guess.Tony Sopr
You have reached the maximum number of free, long-form articles for the month.

Please join here to read the rest of this content.

Paid Members can log in here.
Notify of
7 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David Robertson
David Robertson
1 year ago

So I read “Things Fall Apart” and my first impression, as usual with Epsilon Theory work, was that this is an extremely insightful and useful analysis of the political landscape. The claim that “This is the breaking of mediative and cooperation-possible political institutions and practices, and their replacement by non-mediative and cooperation-impossible political institutions and practices,” captures for me both the nature and severity of the situation. Something kept nagging at me, however, and it was picked up in a research piece entitled, “Hidden Tribes: A study of America’s Polarized Landscape”, to which both Gillian Tett at the Financial Times and David Brooks at the New York Times have referred recently. The study, based upon extensive survey data, reports, “despite America’s profound polarization, the middle is far larger than conventional wisdom suggests.” Indeed, it finds that 67 percent of Americans comprise what they call “Exhausted Majority”. People in this group are less tribal than the extremes and share the attributes of “being ideologically more flexible,” “supporting political compromise,” “being fatigued by US politics,” and “feeling forgotten in political debate.” This analysis also resonates with me partly because it more accurately reflects my own views and partly because it more accurately represents the views of most people I know. Given this apparent contradiction, I’ve been trying to reconcile the perspective of a “widening gyre” with that of an “exhausted majority.” It seems to me that the widening gyre refers more the political landscape and the exhausted majority refers more to the… Read more »

David Robertson
David Robertson
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Hunt

Ben, thanks for the reply. I understand what you are saying in terms of the existing political landscape. I am more curious about exploring/imagining a different landscape. After all, if you don’t like the game, change the rules, right? This seems to be the message from Paul Volcker which I came across in Martin Wolf’s review of his book in the FT this morning: “We face a huge challenge in this country to restore a sense of public purpose and of trust in government. It will require critically needed reforms in our political processes …”

To that point, David Brooks provided a specific suggestion in his May 31, 2018 NYT article, “One reform to save America”. He recommends shifting to ranked-choice voting which seems like it could alleviate much of the polarization in politics by making it “much easier for third and fourth parties to form.”

So a more specific question would be: Are you arguing that most people have become such “sheep” that even sensible political reforms are practical impossibilities? Thanks.

David Robertson
David Robertson
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Hunt

Alright, thanks Ben, that’s helpful. Also, for what it’s worth, I appreciate your wake up call as to just how intractable some of these problems are.

Eric Steen
Eric Steen
1 year ago

Hey Dave,

I did a little bit of reading into that report as well. It’s a pretty interesting take of the current state of affairs. The thing that piqued my interest the most in this report was the table of the 7 classifications and the corresponding household incomes shown on page 145 of the report. In it, those on two extremes (Progressive Activists & Devoted Conservatives) are much more likely to have incomes that are greater than 100K than the means (25% of PAs & 21 % of DC vs 13% for the general population), while those in the “exhausted” to be towards the lower ends of the income distribution. My initial thoughts on this are that some of the questions in the survey that measure political activism, such as donating to a political fund or attending a rally are more likely measuring the amount of leisure time or excess cash that an individual has rather than judging the intensity of their political beliefs. If this is the case, the study may be void, as it is not properly judging the political engagement of each respective group. Any thoughts on this?

Thanks,
Eric Steen

David Robertson
David Robertson
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Steen

Eric,

The short answer is that I don’t know because I haven’t seen the questions. It may be possible to track them down in you’re interested.

While I can certainly be skeptical of survey results, I am less so of this one because it is so much more involved than typical surveys. Read through the context and methodology section and you can see that this entails a unique (at least to my mind) bridging of survey results and academic research and the survey results are also complemented by interviews and focus groups. None that makes the results bullet-proof, but quite a ways off from a run-of-the-mill poor survey design.

Dave

The Latest From Epsilon Theory

DISCLOSURES

This commentary is being provided to you as general information only and should not be taken as investment advice. The opinions expressed in these materials represent the personal views of the author(s). It is not investment research or a research recommendation, as it does not constitute substantive research or analysis. Any action that you take as a result of information contained in this document is ultimately your responsibility. Epsilon Theory will not accept liability for any loss or damage, including without limitation to any loss of profit, which may arise directly or indirectly from use of or reliance on such information. Consult your investment advisor before making any investment decisions. It must be noted, that no one can accurately predict the future of the market with certainty or guarantee future investment performance. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Statements in this communication are forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements and other views expressed herein are as of the date of this publication. Actual future results or occurrences may differ significantly from those anticipated in any forward-looking statements, and there is no guarantee that any predictions will come to pass. The views expressed herein are subject to change at any time, due to numerous market and other factors. Epsilon Theory disclaims any obligation to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statements or views expressed herein. This information is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation of any offer to buy any securities. This commentary has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it. Epsilon Theory recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies, and encourages investors to seek the advice of a financial advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.