The Strategic Depth Theory of Diversity and Inclusion

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Paul Gottfried has made many insightful contributions in his storied academic career; however, even the most erudite thinkers have their blind spots. One thing that Gottfried errs on is the ideological proclivities of American corporations (if applying methodical individualism, the expressed opinions of executive management represent the firm). In his article, Bourgeois Liberalism [1], Gottfried infers that the leadership of US firms has moved further to the left.

Superficially, this seems to be the case, especially considering the rapid and conspicuous growth of corporate Diversity and Inclusion programs. However, most office workers are not hardcore progressives. This is also true of management. Per Fos, Kempf, and Tsoutsoura (2022) 69 % of corporate executives identify as Republicans (p.8). In the current political climate in the United States, few registered Republicans want to be labeled as woke. Politics may not explain the increase in Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in corporate America.

If Gottfried is incorrect about the political preferences of U.S. corporate executives, what could explain the uptick in D&I in the workplace? It might be sensible to look at discrimination ligation to see why executives adopt corporate policies antithetical to their values. Lawsuits are not only monetarily costly [2], but also generate negative publicity. Frequently, public perception matters more than facts. The wisest policies in corporate governance would be to create distance between the firm and the perceived instances of workplace discrimination to dispel any claims of a hostile work environment.

  This phenomenon is known as the Strategic Depth Theory of Diversity and Inclusion because where firms try to distance themselves from the incident. Strategic Depth is best defined as:            

“… the distances between the front lines or battle sectors and the combatants’ industrial core areas, capital cities, heartlands, and other key centers of population or military production..”

(Harkavy, 2001, p.12).

In the field of military strategy, there are many notable applications of this concept in geopolitical struggles. The most obvious example is Israel [3]. Israel has long been a small nation surrounded by hostile neighbors (p.4), making the acquisitions of “..Sinai, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights..” critical in achieving national security (Eisenkot, 1997,p.5). Much as territorial expansion can act as a buffer between quarreling nations, the creation of programs fostering D&I figuratively acts as a geographic barrier between the firm and the plaintiff. Including these principles in the company’s culture; gives executive management the latitude to condemn the offensive actions of middle managers and hourly employees without appearing to be hypocritical.

Notes

  1. Thanks to Calculus of Decay for re-blogging the article back in early August 2022.
  2. Even if the firm avoids paying damages, there are still costs associated with legal defense. 
  3. This is not a commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict , but a conspicuous example to illustrate my theoretical postulations.

Bootleggers & Baptists: LX- Arizona Senate Race

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In recent Arizona election news, Libertarian senate candidate Marc Victor has withdrawn from the race and openly endorsed Republican Blake Masters. Much like other circumstances in politics, there is a moralizing rationale for Victor’s capitulation and an obvious beneficiary of his exiting the race. There is Bootlegger and Baptists (1983) dynamic in this development in the Arizona mid-term election.

Victor left the race and lent his support to Master to avoid a spoiler effect; a phenomenon where third-party siphons off votes from a major party candidate. This is an enduring problem for Arizona Republicans for a while, hence the passage of HB 2608 (2015). This has only been exacerbated; by the fact that the Democratic party made numerous donations to Marc Victor’s campaign. By any metric, Victor calling it quits to avoid a spoiler effect has the normative underpinning of moralistic reasoning [1].; he is a Baptist in this scenario.

The Bootlegger in this situation is indisputably clear, Blake Masters. One less candidate in the race means more votes for Blake. Masters has been after the Libertarian vote before Victor even dropped out of the race. He has been dog-whistling and pandering to certain Libertarian sensibilities that are still congruent with the new strain of right-wing populism (no one will accuse him of being soft for wanting to “End the Fed”). Even leaning on his ties to the Ron Paul movement back in college. His strategy to capture the voters of a right-wing leaning third-party is a shrewd move on his part; if the polls are accurate, this will be a tight race. Per Five-Thirty-Eight, Mark Kelly currently holds a meager lead over Masters, Kelly polling in at 48.4 % and Masters trailing behind at 46.8%.

Notes:

  1. Victor may have been concerned about the effect of his third-party campaign on the election results, he may only be a superficial Baptist. Why? Per Reason, Victor did receive threats from supporters of his opposition. This fact cannot be dispensed with when evaluating his decision to exit the Arizona senate race.

2. Data source Five-Thirty-Eight. Figure A.

3. Figure B. data was processed in Microsoft Excel.

Figure A

Figure B

Arizona 2022 Senate Race

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The contentious senate race in Arizona is a worthwhile mid-term election focal point as the Grand Canyon State drifts towards becoming a purple state. Now the senate race is down to a two-party showdown since Libertarian candidate Marc Victor pulled out and bent the knee to Republican Blake Masters. While the individual impact of a single vote may be minuscule; voters should still attempt to educate themselves, as voting provides an expressive function. A vote is a confirmation of consent for a candidate or bundle of policies on their platform.

Here are the purported platforms of both candidates:

Republican: Blake Masters (per his campaign website, a three-plank platform)

Make America Safe Again

Democrats are the party of lawlessness and anarchy. We have lawlessness at the border. We have lawlessness in our cities. And with weak leadership in the White House, our foreign adversaries are becoming ever more emboldened and dangerous.

 As a father of three young children, I am so sick of this crime and chaos. It’s time to turn this ship around. We need to get control of our border. We need to punish criminals severely. And we need to project strength and competence abroad.

 Without baseline safety and security, society cannot survive, let alone thrive. In the U.S. Senate, I’ll fight every day to make life in Arizona safe again

  • Secure the border and end illegal immigration.
  • Stop the Biden crime wave.
  • America First: Strong and smart national defense.

Make America Prosperous Again

In Arizona, you should be able to raise a family on one single income.

You used to be able to do that. After decades of government intervention stifling our growth, outsourcing our jobs, and devaluing our money, you can’t do it anymore. The Left likes it this way it makes us more controllable and undermines the nuclear family.

In the U.S. Senate, I’ll fight every day to make life in Arizona affordable again. And I’ll bring innovative thinking to Washington that builds an environment for greater economic opportunity and bigger paychecks.

  • Empower parents and stop woke teachers.
  • Stop Bideninflation.
  • More jobs and bigger paychecks.
  • Immigration that works for America.
  • Energy independence, low gas prices.

Make America Free Again

The Far Left is hell-bent on destroying your rights. They want to suppress any dissent from their agenda. And they want to impose their radically liberal ideology to transform our culture into something unrecognizable.

 As your U.S. Senator, I will fight to my last breath for our constitutional rights and for our way of life.

  • Save free speech and fight big tech.
  • Expand gun rights.
  • Protect babies, don’t let them be killed.
  • Protect religious freedoms.
  • Pro-Bitcoin.
  • Secure our elections.
  • Put an end to wokeness.

Democrat: Mark Kelly (per his campaign website, a twelve-plank platform)

 LOWERING COSTS

  • Since last November, Mark has called on the Biden Administration to take action to lower costs. His plan to lower prescription drug costs was recently signed into law. He’s also introduced legislation to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax, supported increasing domestic oil production, and has pushed corporations to stop price gouging.

 GETTING ARIZONA’S ECONOMY BACK ON TRACK

  • Mark has helped cut taxes for families, all while making sure corporations pay their fair share. He delivered direct support to Arizona families and small businesses as well. Since taking office he’s also returned over $17 million in owed benefits back to constituents and has used his office to help support local small businesses like Tres Leches Cafe in Phoenix.

CREATING JOBS

  • Through the bipartisan infrastructure law and his microchip manufacturing law, Mark is bringing thousands of good-paying jobs to the state of Arizona, many of which don’t require a four-year degree. By supporting community colleges and technical schools around the state, he’s making sure Arizonans have the tools they need to fill these jobs.

INFRASTRUCTURE & MICROCHIPS

  • Mark played a key role in shaping the bipartisan infrastructure law that will fix our roads and bridges, increase access to high-speed internet, and modernize our ports of entry. He also negotiated the bipartisan CHIPS law which will invest in microchip manufacturing here in Arizona, easing supply chain demands, creating jobs, and supporting our national security.

HEALTH CARE

  • Mark passed a law to ban surprise medical billing. He also passed major prescription drug reform that will allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and will cap out-of-pocket expenses for seniors. He will also always protect Social Security to make sure seniors have the benefits they’ve earned.

SECURITY

  • Mark has delivered increased technology and staffing to strengthen Arizona border security. Thanks to Mark, Customs and Border Protection will be closing border barrier gaps near the Morelos Dam outside Yuma. Mark will keep working to ensure that Arizona has the tools needed for a secure, orderly, and fair process at the border.

BAN CORPORATE PACS

  • Mark doesn’t take a dime of corporate PAC money and he has proposed legislation to ban corporate PACs entirely. Mark believes we need to reduce the corporate influence in Washington that so often stands in the way of getting results for Arizonans.

PUBLIC SENATE SCHEDULE

  • Mark publishes his official Senate schedule online so Arizonans can see whom he’s meeting with and how he’s working for our state — and he’s introduced legislation to require all senators to do the same.

END CONGRESSIONAL STOCK TRADING

  • Elected leaders have access to valuable information that impacts policy, the economy, and entire industries. Mark has introduced legislation to ban members of Congress from trading stocks, which would put an end to corrupt insider trading and ensure leaders in Congress focus on delivering results for their constituents — not their stock portfolios.

PROTECT ABORTION RIGHTS

  • Mark is a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act which would write almost 50 years of precedent for abortion protections under Roe v. Wade into law. Mark will always defend and protect the right of Arizona women to make their own healthcare decisions.

FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE

  • From the International Space Station, Mark has seen the impacts of climate change on our planet. He knows we have to use science, data, and facts to fight climate change and its impacts on Arizona, including drought, heat, and wildfires. He passed legislation to boost renewable energy, which will protect the climate and create more great-paying jobs in Arizona.

SUPPORT VETERANS

  • As a Navy combat veteran, Mark has great respect for Arizona’s military and veteran community. In office, Mark helped pass bipartisan legislation to expand VA healthcare eligibility for toxin-exposed veterans.

Both candidates are offering very different bundles of public goods, so it would be wise for voters to look a little deeper into the mechanics of each policy prescription. Once the results are in, a Shapley value should be calculated to determine the magnitude of the winner’s success. Will it be the Thiel-backed conservatarian or center-democratic astronaut?

Contra-Populism: IV

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The third and arguably most compelling reason to refute populism is that it creates division. As observed by Pierre Lemieux:

“..populist regimes crave enemies and scapegoats this feature is sometimes included in the definition of populism. Foreigners are convenient scapegoats, as can be observed in both late-nineteenth-century populism in America and Donald Trump’s recent version..”

“To counter the people’s disenchantment, populist leaders blame internal enemies: experts, elites, domestic minorities, even opposition parties, who are said to work against “the common people..” (P.21).

It is no surprise that populism capitalizes on the social friction between various groups. The emphasis of this divisive rhetoric varies depending upon the strain of populism. Populism mirrors the varieties of socialism; frequently, both are the same. Since populism; assumes the preferences of all average constituents, there is a collectivistic nature of this category of political philosophy. In his master treatise, Human Action (1949),  Ludwig Von Mises describes this phenomenon of collectivism in the concept of polylogism. Polylogism assumes that:

“.. Marxian polylogism asserts that the logical structure of mind is different with {the members of various social classes. Racial polylogism differs from Marxian polylogism only in so far as it ascribes to each race a peculiar logical structure of mind and maintains that all members of a definite race, no matter what their class affiliation may be, are endowed with this peculiar logical structure… (p.75).

Essentially, both right-wing and left-wing variations on collectivistic rhetoric heavily lean on the differences between various subsets of the population. Populist political leaders feed up these differences to sow disconnect and political antagonism. Bernie Sanders capitalizes upon longstanding class envy; Donald Trump weaponized concerns about Mexican immigration to pander to the political demands of everyday voters. These tensions are exacerbated through the “us against them” (p.29) irresponsible framing of public policy by opportunistic politicians. Much of this political bluster from populist candidates has little regard for facts or truth; making it a potentially false narrative to persuade naïve voters that these candidates are working for the good of the people.

The irony is that many pundits complain about political tribalism, but many of the political influences throwing fuel on the fire are prominent movers and shakers in public discourse. Considering both rights and left collectivism gain followers through sowing social discord or on the lines of race or economic status, it should not be a shock when we see more friction between various political factions.

Contra-Populism: Part III

Do not let the hollow promises of populist ideology fool you! Populism of the right or left is antithetical to the individual liberty cherished in Classical Liberalism and Libertarian philosophy. For one, populism frames policy in collectivistic terms rather than individualism. Populism tends to advocate for policies that support Positive rights (a right to an economic good, e.g. Social Security) over Negative rights to protect the individual from interference with exercising their rights (free speech). Much of what populists advocate for is the retribution of wealth and market privilege instead of individual freedom. Policies such as Single-Payer Healthcare and tariffs impose costs on all voters. This is because populism holds the interests of the group; without unanimous consent. Sure, by choosing to live within a certain jurisdiction you may be tacitly consenting to the laws. However, the rise in populism has spurred an increased demand for state intervention to provide more economic privileges. The problem is that the preferences of the “average voter” cannot be known, as every voter has their own opinions and preferences (p.20). Ordinary voters are not unitary actor, but many individuals with different political proclivities; populism assumes too much about what is best for all of society (p.16).

It is not just the threat of majoritarian tyranny that makes populism perilous to liberty, but populism also requires conferring more authority to the state. This may seem ironic with all the “drain the swamp” rhetoric of the Trump presidency. Even in applying rudimentary logic, more collectivism requires a more centralized authority to be enforced and implemented. The unified will of the people is not recognizable; it takes the personified form of a “strongman” leader embodying the general will (p.20). They generally shift towards autocratic regimes (p.20) since implementing and justifying factually flawed and illiberal policies necessitates large sums of political authority. Beyond the threats of authoritarianism, the elites still benefit from waves of populism. The elites can hide behind the fluid nature of populism and allow majoritarian sentiment to shape crony policies that benefit narrow interests (p.171-172). For example, the supervillain of retail Walmart’s (not the author’s opinion, but a commonly held belief)CEO publicly stated the minimum wage was too low. Raising the minimum wage has been a longstanding talking point of the populist left. In true Bootlegger and Baptist (1983) fashion, Walmart stands to gain. Why? Because a higher minimum wage means more automation and fewer salaries. The bonus is that not only will the firm gain monetary from saving money while maintaining the veneer of having concern for those in the lower income brackets. 

Contra-Populism- Part II

The best explanation for the recent tide of populist sentiment is the self-propelling dynamics of the social desirability bias and irrational rationality. The social desirability bias in psychology is when survey participants shape their responses to make themselves look better. Elected leaders portraying themselves as champions of the people can conform their campaign promises to what makes them more appealing to voters. As candidates that consistently miss the mark on the opinions of their voters don’t stay in office long(p.21)! Even middle-of-the-road elected officials drift away from the median to keep their heads above water in political waves of populism (p.4). The unmoored and amorphous qualities of populism; make it flexible to the changing tastes of the public. The malleable nature of populism makes a “thin ideology” (p.171) that political opportunists can easily manipulate. By definition, a populist candidate must pander to the interests of regular people, regardless of how detrimental the consequences are. Hence, populist candidates typically support raising the minimum wage and import tariffs; superficially, these policies sound beneficial. There is ample evidence that both suggestions do more harm than good. Most of the “majoritarian” solutions to economic issues are predicated on emotional appeals rather than solid facts.

Professor Bryan Caplan’s Rational Irrationality not only dovetails today the social desirability bias in populist politics but forms a symbiotic mechanism for perpetuating these policies. Rational Irrationality is when voters have intense biases and disregard evidence contrary to their strong beliefs. The reason for illogical rationalization is that as long as the individual costs are low (per Alex Tabarrok political decision-making lowers the individual costs of policy). Caplan surmises that there is a demand for irrationality in the political process (p.7), as the voter will barely notice the costs of the policies they favor, providing clarity on why we people support bad policies. However, this can cause voters to adopt disastrous policies (p.152). Through tailoring attractive policies that lean into the concerns and biases of the typical voter, populist candidates can win the approval of their prospective constituents, generating a synergistic feedback loop of detrimental interventionism in the economy and other spheres of life. 

Contra-Populism- Part I

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Each election year, millions of Americans are bombarded with many political advertisements. This communication is designed to persuade voters to vote for or against a ballot referendum or a specific candidate. Frequently, the arguments conveyed on these pithy postcards and commercials are slanted, oversimplified, or even factually incorrect. 2022 like any other election cycle is the Super Bowl for political persuasion, even if campaign managers and political action committees need to restore to sophistry, emotional appeals, and distorted facts to convince the public.

One global trend in politics that political tastemakers in the United States have capitalized upon is populism. Examples include AOC and Bernie Sanders on the left; former president Donald Trump and Josh Hawley on the right. What is populism? There are several interpretations and misconceptions regarding the term, but it can be best defined as a political movement that “..champions..” the interests of ordinary people over the elites. Despite the growth of both left-wing and right-wing populist movements across the globe, many of the policy prescriptions of populist politicians are quixotic and at worst are antagonistic. Such ideologies subvert individual liberty, advocate for economically illiterate policies, and create social discord.

Prisoner’s Dilemmas XXI: (Part B): The Fiasco on the Vineyard

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Part A

As mentioned in Part A, the lack of foresight and economic ignorance of Massachusetts voters are a notable feature of the Fiasco on the Vineyard saga. However, Governor DeSantis is far from innocent in this debacle. He essentially used tax dollars to make an existing problem worse. All in the name of political gamesmanship. Yes, DeSantis is correct that Massachusetts does not fully bare the cost of liberal immigration policies. Many immigrants avoid Massachusetts because the state is financially inhospitable due to the high cost of living. It is tempting to give a political actors a dose of their own medicine when they have virtually no skin in the game.

DeSantis marooned these people in a jurisdiction where they do not have much hope for economic mobility, only stressing the island’s meager resources. Massachusetts voters defected first, by favoring immigration policies that will not impact their communities. The governor of Florida (DeSantis) chose to punch back and flew fifty migrants to an affluent tourist town in the Bay State. Not only was this tactless and passive-aggressive, but it was also lazy. It is easier to make a political spectacle out of the immigration debate than to advocate and implement reforms. The suboptimal result is; a group of impoverished immigrants stranded on a prohibitively expensive island. It is reasonable to argue that this situation is the second layer (and most salient) layer of this Prisoner’s Dilemma Dynamic.

The model for Validating the DeSantis vs. Martha Vineyard PD

Condition 1:  T>R>P>S

  • 1> .5>0>-1

This expression is typical in political Prisoner’s Dilemma centered on a single issue. 1= represents a single victory, .5= a compromise, 0= the lack of direct political blowback for refusing to compromise, and -1 = political defeat. If two political adversaries are competing over multiple policies that are being implemented independently of each other then the Temptation to defect would surpass the value of 1. 

  • Considering the current political animosity between Democrats and Republics; this situation numerically and quantitively fits this condition. 

Condition 2:   (T+S)/2<R

· (1+-1)/2 < .5

· (0)/2 <.5

· 0<.5

Bootleggers & Baptist- LIX: California Fast-Food Bill (Did Someone Say Automation?).

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The advocates of worker rights have always been in a precarious position; reforms often do not align with the interests of employers. This is an enduring pattern that supporters of California Assembly Bill 275 need to consider. Most initiatives for economic equality tend to be more moralistic than practical and do not account for how firms will respond to such measures. Depending on how establishments defined in the bill as Fast-Food Restaurants (only the larger companies with 100 + stores) adjust to the requirements set by AB 275.

The law aims to establish a governor-appointed council (comprised of workers, union representatives, etc.) that reviews and amends workplace standards and wages. Even boasting a requirement where any measures would need signatures from 10,000  (consent of the governed?) fast food workers employed in California to move forward. On the surface, this new bill sounds like it will provide reforms that will improve the lives of millions of workers struggling to make ends meet on a low salary. However, the lofty aspirations of AB 275 may have the exact opposite effect.

When analyzed from the framework of Bruce Yandle’s Bootleggers & Baptists (1983) theory of coalitions, it is easy to see the fast-food workers as the proverbial Bootleggers. But such an assumption is flat-out erroneous; the hourly employees at the local Jack In The Box are the ones who will pay the price for this new labor reform.

Prima Facie, it sounds like the hourly fast-food employees of California make out like bandits. The prospect of escaping penury wages and making $22/hour. Then there is the bonus of having a voice in shaping the regulation that will impact your work life. These benefits will be short-lived; because the titans of the drive-thru will eventually respond to the monetary and transaction costs of fulfilling these new legal mandates. Few (if any) companies in any sector of business can whether a significant increase in labor costs ( there is a potential for labor costs to increase by 60 %). Depending on how large the increase in worker compensation becomes, menu prices stand to increase by 22 %. (p.7). Some may speculate that firms such as Mcdonald’s would benefit from passing along labor costs to the consumers at higher prices; there is a strong likelihood that patrons may just opt for cheaper or higher quality alternatives. There is also an increase in transaction costs because of the additional layers of complexity added to the relations between the management of franchise owners and hourly employees. AB 275 may discourage smaller regional fast-casual restaurants from expanding to avoid the onerous conditions of this new law.

Ultimately, our Bootleggers, the established fast-food eateries will gain from decreased labor costs. How? These firms will decide to automate operations and benefit from long terms savings in not having to pay salaries and benefits or cope with the loss in productivity from theft or employee absence. Only increasing the minimum wage is enough to drive many firms to reduce costs. Creating a price floor is a price control that causes disruption throughout the market. Because businesses will attempt to avoid the artificial increase in labor costs. For the workers that are lucky enough to keep their jobs, certain nonmonetary forms of compensation disappear (p.10-11); no more free coffee in the breakroom.

Bootleggers & Baptists-LVIII: The War on Whipped Cream Dispensers

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Efforts to shield the public from the negative externalities and pharmacological effects of drugs have been unavailing. One example of this has been the dismal failure of the decades-long War on Drugs spearheaded by President Nixon. Most of these fruitless measures go up in smoke since they attempt to suppress human nature; we like to feel pleasure ( hence why neurotransmitter receptors exist) and the desire for money. As long as both characteristics remain true, the drug war will never prevail.

The languishing policies pushing for a “drug-free” America are not limited to the federal level of government.  60 % of all states prohibit recreational Marijuana sales. Despite that, Cannabis is believed to impose fewer social costs than hard drugs. Considering the powers conferred to the states under the Tenth Amendment, there is still plenty of room for lower levels governments to enact ineffectual drug laws [1].

One recent example of this was Legislation (S.2819-A) a bill sponsored by New York Senator; Joseph Addabbo, Jr. S.2819-A, requiring an individual purchasing a “whipped cream charger” to be 21 years old. The restricted device depicted in the laws as being “.. steel cylinder or 5 cartridges filled with nitrous oxide (N2O) that is used as a whipping 6 agent in a whipped cream dispenser…”. However, there are several issues with this legislation. First (minor issue), the bill lacked clarity. Several stores and NY-based news outlets stoked public confusion by declaring that these age requirements applied to cans of aerosolized whipped cream ( e.g. Reddi Wip). From the perspective of the Bootleggers and Baptists (1983) model of coalitions, makers of non-aerosolized whipped cream (Cool Whip)may have temporarily made out like bandits. However, once this misinterpretation of the law is cleared up, these temporary and meager gains will fizzle out. The Kraft Foods corporation is far from being the biggest beneficiary of this new law, especially considering how whatever the organization gained was negligible.

The true Bootlegger in this scenario would be Addabbo himself. This law will have a minuscule impact on public health and safety, but by being the lead advocate, the senator fosters a positive public image. The fact that S.2819-A will be virtually ineffectual is the most notable shortcoming of this law. Inhalant abuse only comprises a small percentage of all drug use in the United States. It was exceedingly difficult to find specific data on inhalant abuse in the state of New York, but we can always extrapolate from national data. This would only be untenable if New York (specifically Queens) had an outrageous epidemic of young people huffing nitrous oxide.

Here are some numbers:

  • 0.9% of Americans 12+ years old have reported abusing inhalants in the past year.
  • Only 4.8 % of eighth graders, 2.0 % of tenth graders, and 1.8% of twelfth graders reported using inhalants in the past year.
  • In 2015,  97.3 % of teenagers (ages 12-17) did not use volatile vapors/industrial chemicals or other solvents to get intoxicated.
  • 1.8 % of individuals who reported having a major depressive episode in 2022; admitted to using inhalants (12 + years old).

Unless an overwhelming number of young Americans abusing inhalants happen to be residing in Addabbo’s district, it is difficult to see why there is such an exigent need to remedy the issue of youth inhalant use. If anything, he merely reached for the low-hanging fruit; regulating a legal product is far easier than mustering the resources to combat a thriving black market. He avoids jumping through the hoops of justifying the expenditures for drug-related taskforce and all the associated red tape. Simply, slap a fine on the vendors who do not comply. For Addabbo to grapple with the opioid crisis that most likely impacts his district would require more tax dollars and coordination with multiple levels of government and agencies (after all the heroin and fentanyl supply chain is international). The kind senator gets to sidestep all this mess and still look like a hero.

Footnotes:

  1. This statement is not a critique of Federalism but a pointed observation of flawed policies implemented by individual state governments.

A Fresh Take on Gun Control

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The gun control debate recycles more haggard and stale arguments than other issues in public policy. The talking points of both sides of the Second Amendment have become warn-out platitudes that lack facts, context, or intellectual depth. All these two-dimensional pithy statements fit handsomely on a bumper sticker. Intellectually honest or curious individuals would insist that further elucidation is required. 

However, there may be a novel anti-gun control argument that few commentators have explored. See below from philosopher Michael Huemer:

“…As in Example 1, except that Victim has a gun, which he would use to defend himself against Killer. Before he can do so, Accomplice grabs the gun and runs away, with the result that Killer is able to stab Victim to death.

Q: How wrong was Accomplice’s action in this case?

A: This case is morally comparable to Example 1. Again, Accomplice violates Victim’s right of self-defense in a way that predictably leads to Victim’s death. This is comparable to murder.

The government does not know specifically which people will thus be victimized, but we know a large number will be, and our not knowing their specific identities is morally irrelevant. So strong gun control laws are similar to the Accomplice’s action in Example 2.”

We frequently hear the right to self-defense as one of the key arguments supporting the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Few gun rights activists squarely address (from a moral context) the government’s culpability in victimizing law-abiding citizens in instances of strict gun regulations. Too often, they rely on the concise statement “guns save lives”. There is some truth to this statement, but what did the government do when they restricted gun access to the victimized individual? In effect, these laws were analogous to restraining someone while they were being robbed, assaulted, or raped, making the state complicit in the crime. Stringent controls on personal possession of weapons have a greater degree of ethical depth than the conspiratorial narratives of “gun grabs” spun by populous conservatives. A government using legislative fiat to deprive its citizenry of access to weapons is morally equal to a rapist, thief, or murderer.

The Billionaire and The Average Voter: Moral Equals

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It is easy to forget that not everyone shares similar needs and desires as you. This is a fact that is validated by contemporary public policy debates. All too often, voters and participants in the political process conflate (either inadvertently or strategically) their self-interest with the common good. Public interest or social welfare is an abstract metric open to interpretation; the terms operate as a form of persuasion than a concrete standard (p.77). For some, it is difficult to think that someone would not want free college or a single-payer healthcare system; this stems from an individual being too fixated on their values and policy preferences.

If it is likely that every political actor (including the average voter) acts in their self-interest, then why is it perceived to be immoral when a wealthy voter does versus an impoverished or middle-class voter does so? If the Republican and Democratic parties are moral equivalents, it is not outrageous to surmise that the poor person voting for “free” healthcare and the billionaire that votes for tax cuts are ethical equals. Neither individual is genuinely concerned by the potential externalities their favored policies impose on the rest of society. They only want initiatives that work in their self-interest. The concerns for the feasibility of these programs and processes are not even the equation for these people!

Admittedly, this is a heterodox position; most people would derisively dismiss it. The underlying assumption is that wealthy people do not need more money or institutional advantages. Most refutations would cite the imperative of actual need, especially if people lack necessities. There is some veracity to this argument, but the United States is not on par with the plight of a third-world country. Only 10.5 percent of households in 2020 suffered from “food insecurity”; in 2021, the United States outranked Germany in food security. Overall, impoverished people in the United States are better off than their counterparts abroad. While the wealthy may have market power and the connections to exert their political influence, the stakes for the average person in the US are often embellished. 

The belief that wealth inequality is the only determining factor in assessing the morality of voters acting in their self-interest is a fallacy. This suggests that the ethical responsibility for advocating and selecting bad policies (at the referendum level) is only subject to the size of a voter’s bank account. While a single vote is inconsequential in an election, a myriad of like-minded citizens voting in unison is a formidable coalition. Should these individuals be excused for electing representatives and choosing government programs that bankrupt this country or get us tangled in another foreign war? It would be reasonable to suggest no. Ultimately, neither the billionaire nor the average citizen truly cares about what is best for the country, only what benefits their interest. In the consumer market, this is not an issue, as acting in your interest does not require a redistribution of resources. In contrast, the same cannot be said about the political marketplace. 

Blockchain Voting Systems

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America’s faith in domestic elections is now buckling. Elections are now among the many enduring institutions; that the American people are losing trust in. Whether it was the investigation into meddling in the 2016 Election or the claims of voter fraud costing Donald Trump reelection, Americans have lost faith in elections. Voting, much like other segments of political life, perception carries more weight with the public than reality. An axiom keenly observed by Machiavelli centuries ago; appearance is everything.

63 % of adults polled indicated that they favor abolishing the electoral college. An NPR poll claims that 64 % of participants believed that democracy was in a state of crisis. One survey suggests that many Americans favor reforms to increase ballot access. US voters have concerns regarding the fairness and legitimacy of domestic elections. Both sides of the aisle are worried, but their distress is generally limited to situations of ideological interest. For example, 70 % of Republicans believed that the 2020 election, that ousted Trump out of office; was manipulated. A notable 72% of democrats suspected Russian interference in the 2016 Election was likely.

Could the faith be restored in American elections if we scrapped the current voting methods for one that made the process more transparent and accessible? A potential solution could be implementing a blockchain-based voting system. This would entail that each vote is permanently recorded on a publicly accessible ledger. Each voter “transaction” would then be confirmed by blockchain validators, in effect decentralizing the vote authentication procedure. Providing greater transparency, fewer barriers to the ballot box, and anonymous consensus on the majority vote. It would be possible for there to be a two-tiered blockchain system, one environment for voters and the other for the electoral college. This way, we do not have to restructure the legal framework of voting in our Democratic Republic. But also, this avoids the controversy of “faithless electoral” (the issue was adjudicated in Chiafalo v. Washington), as the electoral representative’s fidelity to the popular vote would be visible and immutable[1].

Some municipalities throughout the United States, such as Chandler, Arizona, have run pilot programs to identify problems before mapping this system to a local election. Taking precautions such as a trial run is a wise approach. It is imperative to conduct such experiments before implementation because such a cutting-edge voting system is largely untested. However, it is also advantageous to consider the hypothetical benefits and cost of blockchain voting; to be valid if even it is worthy of drafting a formal proposal to local policymakers [2].

Benefits of Blockchain Voting

  • Prevents tampering with votes; “…blockchains generate cryptographically secure voting records. Votes are recorded accurately, permanently, securely, and transparently. So, no one can modify or manipulate votes..” (p.3).
  • Blockchain voting would increase voter participation by eliminating some barriers and coordination costs associated with in-person voting and mail-in ballots (p.4).
  • This system could make the vote counting process more efficient (p.4); “… with an automatic tally that can be publicly disclosed after the fact, election officials will be able to simply add the digital votes to the votes cast otherwise…” (p.430).
  • Greater transparency because “… recording votes onto a blockchain allows for an easily accessible method for a voter to audit their respective vote..” (p.430).

Drawbacks of Blockchain Voting

  • There is potential for the blockchain validators to succumb to external interests (bribery, threats of violence, etc.) and collude to alter the election results. 
  • As with blockchain environments for cryptocurrency transactions, this system would only provide pseudo-anonymity. Ultimately, the validator would be the “key holder” and possess the ability to decrypt the voter’s identity. Utilizing a voting protocol that would have a two-step (having the voter “re-vote”) process may add a layer to ensure privacy, making the process more complex
  • Blockchains are still susceptible to the cybersecurity threat of attacks from hackers. “…If a user loses their private key, they can no longer vote, and if an attacker obtains a user’s private key they can now undetectably vote as that user… happened to cryptocurrency exchanges, which have lost hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency to attackers or through bad key management..” (p.14).
  • Decentralized ledgers are managed by multiple validators which can make “.. coordination difficult..” (p.15).

Conclusion:

It is impossible to develop a voting system with zero margins for error. Regardless of the format, the potential for mistakes and devious machinations will always lurk in the background. Most individuals in the political establishment and the academy are not receptive to blockchain voting. Below is a conclusion from a widely cited MIT paper on the topic:

“…A summary of this article’s takeaways follows. 1. Blockchain technology does not solve the fundamental security problems suffered by all electronic voting systems §3. Moreover, blockchains may introduce new problems that non-blockchain-based voting systems would not suffer from. 2. Electronic, online, and blockchain-based voting systems are more vulnerable to serious failures than available paper-ballot-based alternatives (§2). Moreover, given the state of the art in computer security, they will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. 3. Adding new technologies to systems may create new potential for attacks. Caution is appropriate in security-critical applications, especially where political pressures may favor an expedited approach. (§3.4). The article has also provided a collection of critical questions intended as a reference point for evaluating any new voting system proposal from a security perspective (§4) and provided references for further reading on this topic (§5). Blockchain-based voting methods fail to live up to their apparent promise. While they may appear to offer better security for voting, they do not help to solve the major security problems with online voting, and might well make security worse…”.

(p.19)

Although the conclusion in the above white paper may be reasonable objections, this does not mean that developers could not attempt to correct these shortcomings. For the ivory tower intellectuals, it is easy to dismiss this concept on technical grounds alone, but virtually no one is supplying any solutions. Even though numerically, a person’s vote has no chance of influencing the outcomes of an election, voting still operates as a form of political expression. Since there is a great deal of disillusionment with the current political system, it is critical to find a way to provide greater transparency in elections. Political strife and division have already taken their toll on American society for the past decade; no need to continue down this dark and fruitless path.

Footnotes:

  1. This observation is not commentary nor a critique on the institution of the Electoral College. The only aim of this statement is to address the popularly held misgivings about electoral voting systems.
  1. The detailed lists of the positive attributes and negative qualities of blockchain voting are not exhaustive.

Terrorism as a Factor of Production in a Coup

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The subtle differences between various forms of political violence makes it easy to confuse and conflate these categories. The Politics of Violence: Revolution in the Modern World (1968), cites Brian Crozier  as asserting that “… terrorism is a weapon of the weak..” (p.33). There may be veracity to this statement since creating an atmosphere of fear and unrest requires fewer resources than an actual coup d’état. A complete government takeover is likely to fail (p.82); due to onerous coordination costs. However, is it reasonable to separate terror from a coup? Temporally, terrorism campaigns could be an antecedent to a full-on takeover by an aspiring political faction.

It is feasible to see terrorism as a higher order good in the political entrepreneurship (p.143) of a coup d’état. Terror alone will not provide a subversive faction with global domination. However, “… countries may be more vulnerable to coups if they have weak political institutions and lack informal institutions that could support resistance against a regime that itself came to power by staging a coup..” (p.5). Terrorist tactics could weaken faith in the existing regime and even persuade the citizenry to support the more capable insurgent faction.

Much of this is subject to institutional scale; utilizing terrorism to cajole a constituency in a tiny banana republic to abandon the current regime is far easier than forming a global caliphate. The topic of scale becomes pronounced when we consider the costs of communication, organization, and reaching consensus on the direction of the political movement. In terms of networking, the costs of striking consensus increase with the size of the take over/ terror plot; as participating actors not only have to consent to the terms of the political action but also contend with “..local power struggles..” (p.621). Reasonably, if terrorism is fraught with organizational costs, a government takeover is much more costly. Although terrorism by design, aims to wear down the enemy (p. 20), it is not farfetched to assume that it could be a long-term strategy for effectively implementing an extralegal regime change Especially, when Palestinians have used terror tactics to advance their aspirations in the territorial expansion (p.32). It would not be outlandish to extrapolate this phenomenon to government takeovers.

If the dissenting organization is to use terrorism as an effective implement in staging a regime overthrow, the coalition needs to be successful. In the event of foiled terror plots, the group losses support among would-be citizens (p.9). Whether it is a legitimate political campaign, an uprising, or a marketing campaign for a consumer product, bad publicity stalls success. Much how recalls have a deleterious effect on the success of companies producing consumer products, failure on the part of terrorists has a similar effect. Reducing the perception of legitimacy and political clout, making it more difficult for citizens to accept the governance of the new regime.

The Third Condition For Log-Rolling to Occur

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In a recent blog post, professor Bryan Caplan suggests that bipartisan log-rolling (vote trading) is frequently untenable on wedge issues. Since there is a high degree of polarization in the climate of American politics, winning on contentious political topics that have clear ideological divisions (e.g. abortion and gun control is a zero-sum exchange. Not towing the party line of these policies is tantamount to political suicide for elected officials. Dr. Caplan does provide two conditions under which log-rolling is likely to occur:

“….First, when the two sides, protestations notwithstanding, share similar principles and don’t disagree very much. Like the budget. Or any ultra-boring issue, like fisheries or snow removal. This is what most democratic log-rolling comes down to.

Second, to avert large, sudden deteriorations. The polity will forgive you for passing up endless opportunities to make the country richer or safer. But if life quickly gets much worse, even the most silver-tongued demagogues struggle to keep holding the reins of state…”

Professor Caplan is a very astute and innovative Public Choice scholar, but he ignores a potential third condition under which vote trading may transpire; intrapersonal vote exchange. This example of vote trading is a form of implicit log-rolling (p.101), where policies are entrenched in a specific political party’s platform. By voting for a candidate affiliated with a coalition, the voter must accept all of the planks in the campaign platform, as we cannot cherry-pick the policies an individual candidate or party advocates.

 Because of this, we must engage in some degree of policy preference ranking. Potentially, engendering an intrapersonal collective action problem, if a voter favors gun rights ( a conservative position) and open-borders immigration ( a liberal policy), odds are they effectively choose one over the other when voting for the president or another variety of political representatives ( a tradeoff). The policy or sets of policies the voter prefers more; will be the deciding factor. If Jim is a proponent of lax gun laws and lenient immigration laws; but votes for a conservative candidate, we can only surmise he values gun rights more than free immigration. In this scenario, Jim engaged in log-rolling with himself.

The most common form of intrapersonal vote trading is when people contour all of their policy preferences to the platform of a political party. The likelihood that every diehard Republic sincerely agrees with the party on every issue is exceedingly small, but most partisan political participants don’t even allow themselves to question their political beliefs. These individuals exchange any disagreements with their party of choice for the designated status as a loyal member of the political faction. An excellent example of this is former Reaganites supporting the presidency and 2020 candidacy of Donald Trump. Regan was the American king of Neoliberal trade policy; Trump echoes the paleoconservative concerns for globalization. We could provide a convoluted explanation for this discrepancy, but such gymnastics would be superfluous. It is much more probable that these individuals tailored their policy preferences to fit an evolving Republican party than they had a sincere paradigm shift.