Tag Archives: Regional Poles

The Electoral College and the Tidewater Nation

The author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, tries to show us why we should not view policy positions as simply “Democrat” or “Republican”.  According to Woodard, we live in a country of 11 nations that form coalitions based upon various issues.  The objective of each nation is to preserve their identity and to be influential in national politics.



Woodard (c)2011

The author suggests that contrary to popular notion of the United States being a melting pot, new arrivals either specifically moved to one of the 11 nations because the nation encompassed their values or the newcomers were assimilated, adopting the pre-existing values of a nation.   In this second scenario, the original founders of a community set the framework for that nation and new arrivals conform to or otherwise reinforce that culture.

Colin Woodard also explains that different nations in the United States held different conceptions of democracy.  The Yankeedom nation held the Nordic or Germanic conception of democracy, which encouraged near universal male suffrage.  Yankeedom was founded primarily by middle-class, well-educated Puritans.  Immigrants came in family units and they valued community structure and shared values.  When migrants settled other parts of the United States, they carried these tendencies and traditions with them.  When confronting other nations, such as New Amsterdam, the Midlands, and Greater Appalachia, they sought to impose their Puritanism.

Other nations were founded by deep inequalities.  The Tidewater and Deep South treasured Greek or Roman democratic system, where the existence of slaves coincided with their perception of democracy.   The Greek of Roman democracy exists to benefit the few, allowing a select group of men to become “enlightened” and guide their societies.  This benefit is seen as outweighing the agonies of those enslaved.  They viewed slavery as more humane than the treatment of the urban poor in the northern nations.  They reasoned that at least the slaves had a master that was supposed to care for them.  “Enlightened” Tidewater and Deep South gentry also argued that Yankeedom was a society of shopkeepers, which prevented individuals from becoming educated enough to advance their societies.

The Tidewater and Deep South were also not founded by equal proportions of men and women and tended to support the Royalists back in the United Kingdom.  During the English Civil War, then tended to side with the King.  The Tidewater saw themselves as an extension of the Norman culture while Yankeedom was Anglo-Saxon.  Things changed for the Tidewater when the British Empire sought to homogenize control over their empire.  The King redefined the rights of his British subjects.  Only those living in England had full rights.  This  clarification of who was considered an Englishman did not go over well for the gentry of the Tidewater.

It should be interesting to note that other nations did not value the democratic system at all.  New Netherland (New York) preferred a hegemonic system and hoped to be reabsorbed by the Dutch or British monarchies on several occasions.   Autocracy worked given that citizens showed tolerance towards one another.

It should not be surprising which cultures would support the continued use of the Electoral College system.  The National Constitution Center features a podcast from December 1, 2016 titled “Should we abolish the Electoral College?”.  The two panelists have biographies included on the website.  From this limited information, we might conclude that the one panelist is from either Yankeedom or the Left Coast while the other is from the Tidewater.  Given that Woodward’s theory is correct, both natives and migrants become assimilated by their nations.  In turn, panelists eventually will advocate the ideals of their nations.

This perspective is interesting because “Yankeedom” or “the Left Coast” could be considered “Democrat” in this past election cycle.  They will be on the defensive when faced with the new administration.  The representative from the “Tidewater” may or may not be considered a “Democrat”, but they come from a dying nation.   The Tidewater nation may not exist in the future. The growth of the DC metropolitan area into Maryland and northern Virginia essentially divides this nation.  Incremental growth from the Midlands also reduces its power.  With rising sea levels, the region will also loose geography to the east.  Essentially, the representative from the Tidewater seeks to preserve any formerly established advantage at all costs.

Both panelists introduce us to the history of the Electoral College.  Some of the original founders envisioned the electors to choose the President and Vice President that were most qualified for the position.  Initially the most qualified person would become the President and the second-most qualified would be Vice President.  Electors were supposed to deliberate and select candidates to run for the final election.

The Electoral College was one of the last systems established during the Constitutional Convention.  The framers were concerned about the excesses of democracy and the emergence of demagogues, but showed “haste and fatigue” by the time they got around to the Electoral College.  Modern campaigns were also not envisioned.  Founding fathers thought the President should be determined based on their reputation and history of service, not by their cleverness, or radicalism, during a campaign.

According to Alex, the electoral college was supposed to serve as a nominating board to send candidates to the House of Representatives.  From this cohort we would end up with the best candidate.  However, by the 1820s, the responsibility for narrowing down the candidate list was being usurped from the Electoral College and handed over to the political parties.

During the 19th century a series of reforms were advocated.  Since several nations exist in the same state, district elections were advocated versus the “winner-take-all”. Some also wanted to eliminate human electors.  Andrew Jackson, an Appalachian, was one of these strong advocates for changing the system.

The moderator and President of the National Constitution Center reminds us that when elections are close, the Electoral College provides us with a clear winner.  A series of small differences in certain states are magnified by the electoral system.  In effect, there is “no room for doubt”.

The Tidewater representative suggests that the smaller states look favorably on keeping the Electoral College.  Its existence helps preserve the Federation; all consistences matter.  The Yankeedom or Left Coast representative refutes this idea, starting that two strong advocates for ditching the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote came from small states, Rhode Island and North Dakota.  Candidates do not campaign in these states under the Electoral College system and they probably still would not if we switched to a Popular Election system.

Both representatives do agree that a popular vote system would lead to increased role for the federal government, since national standards for registration and voting would need to be set and enforced.  The Tidewater representative shows deep concern over this possibility.

It is important to put this concern in its proper context.  As previously mentioned, the Tidewater nation is the only one today that is at risk of extinction.  During the expansion of the Deep South, the values of the Tidewater were eroded and made more extreme, especially its policy towards slavery.  Tidewater leaders eventually followed the lead of the Deep South.  The tobacco industry declined in the Tidewater just as the cotton industry became prosperous in the Deep South.  The Deep South was also able to expand west whereas the Tidewater was cut off by a new nation, Greater Appalachia.

american-nations-advancingWoodard (c)2011

The Yankeedom representative tells us that the conception of “democracy” has changed over time.  The Electoral College does not conform with people’s every day notions of democracy.  He uses our gubernatorial and student body elections as classic examples.  In these instances the popular vote installs the new leader.

This argument rests on the belief that all people in the 11 nations share this belief.  We might question if the Deep South uses wealth and race, or if Greater Appalachia uses strength, in place of popular elections as their preferred method for finding a new leader.

The panelists also discuss the geography of states.  The blue oases in red states do not count.  Woodard addresses this issue by analyzing nations at the county level.

They also discuss the implications of a Popular Vote system.  The Tidewater representative reminds us that having “run off elections” creates an entirely different system.  Other “fringe” political parties would have a stronger initiative to enter the contest.  These “fringe” parties would be able to form coalitions and run for a second round.  The Tidewater representative also warns us that with more than two political parties, there would be less of a “moderating” influence.  It is also uncertain if third parties would increase or reduce the emergence of demagogues.  Regardless of how many exist, political parties were not viewed favorably by most of the founding fathers.

Logistics in 2050

This study was fueled by the need for corporate foresight, a business practice that z-punkt argues most companies do not actively employ.  Most businesses simply project forward by extrapolating from the status quo, without anticipating radical transformations that could occur.  This project discusses five possible evolutions for the Logistics & Supply Chains industry over the next 36 years (until 2050).

I found this study through Deutsche Post GA, a company who contributed resources and expertise in collaboration with z-punkt and an array of other participants.

The complete project can be found here.

The basic methodology evolves as follows as depicted by the flow chart on page 105.  Various factors were chosen and then assorted according to high or low uncertainty.  Their complexity was reduced through a process termed “environmental scanning”.

There are some striking possible changes for the logistics and supply chains industry, which could soon involve itself in the transfer of information and knowledge services, private security measurements, and direct involvement in A-Z industrial processes, all while employing new, non-traditional methods of transportation.  Logistics can either expand more radically on global proportions or become more heavily concentrated within sub regions, depending on the effects of globalization and climate change.

Warehouses may also return as the “just-in-time” production methods are phased out in favor of ensured security.  The same is true about timeliness.  Consumers may begin to value the longevity of products over the speed in which inferior products arrive at their homes.  Megacities may eventually only trade amongst themselves, leaving rural areas as dependencies.  The contrary may also occur, as new cities are constructed with better infrastructure and that are less prone to ecological disasters.   Rural infrastructure may be allowed to deteriorate, or contrarily preserved simply for use in emergency situations.  They also associate the involvement of international governing organizations with their ability to create sustainable economic developments globally.

Other interesting possibilities are the strengthening of regional trade blocs, which then use protectionist trade policies, only trading raw materials and data when necessary.  The Internet could also divide and be monitored regionally, and/or an Outernet could develop to facilitate global trade in commodities and new products made by Prosumers (where individuals are both the producers and consumers) are fabricated through 3D printers.

I encourage you to read the study in its entirety since by brief synopsis does not do it justice.

The rest of Oates: Laboratory Federalism, Suboptimalities and Thresholds for Decentralization.

Temporarily, I have bitten off more than I can chew.


Today I will finish a reevaluation of Oates and then I will write about either “Agrofuels in the Americas” by the Institute of Food and Development Policy or Pobreza Alimentaria en México (Nutritional Poverty in Mexico).  Afterwards I want to read a paper from UNICAMP and revisit some papers from a course in International Trade.

[I have introduced this paper in an earlier article dated: ______]

Laboratory Federalism assumes that states not only can, but want to absorb negative externalities.  The concept of the poor as a “negative externality” was introduced in the paper.  Regardless of any philosophical arguments, let’s make a very crude and general assumption that they are a “negative externality”.

If states view this socio-economic group in these terms, what incentives do they have to internalized this externality?  I believe that the distinction between “will” and “capacity” will be hard to measure.  It will be best to just determine a definition of “effectiveness” of internalizing this externality and then to look at the results.

A state can be judged as internalizing this externality by reaching a certain threshold for poverty aleviation, in whatever terms that society would like to classify this as.  This will have to be near-optimum for all strata of the society, because if not, the Tybout model assumes that wealthier individuals could just “vote” against such measures by moving to another state.

I think the following factors will be important to measure.

  • relative size of the state
  • relative size of the state’s economy
  • the type of economy [determine a threshold and place a state in 1-3 major economic sectors (industrial, commerical, service, pharmaceutical, etc.)
  • What type of education do these careers demand?  Were their educational experiences “well rounded”?
  • relative population concentrations in the state
  • relative amount of “economic/regional poles” in the state (if any)
  • what are the “humane” conditions in the state [these can change every two years, disregarding major changes in opinions following major world events, wars, etc.]
  • the previous category can have subcomponentes (A) the location of the state, (B) the attributes of the governor, (C) the majority party in control taking into account both local and state statespersons, (D) other (to be determined..) or simply “room for error”

Susan Rose-Ackerman (1980) and Strumpf (1997) say that states may “free-ride” through the existence of an informational externality.  Montana may be less prone to “experiment” if it is just waiting on California to flip the bill and use the Californian population as the test subjects for a new policy.

Another consideration would be what suboptimalities decentralization imposes.  Also, how do we even measure suboptimalities?  According to Schumpeter, should we even really be trying to find an equilibrium?!  He urged us to see the economic model as a “evolutionary process”, when we consider the role of technology in economic growth [Richard R. Nelson p.158].  Given that technology has been a significant impetus for economic growth over the last pair of decades, this is essential to recognize.

How can I relate “efficient businesses that use new technology” to “efficient states trying to internalize externalities”?  In Laboratory Federalism, states are trying to not only find the most successful policy, but also produce and maintain wealth.

When we consider Nelson’s analysis on Schumpeter we find that Schumpeter’s thoughts  could invalidate the notions of Game Theory “people make the ‘rational’ and ‘most economically efficient’ choice.  Humans do not make automactic decisions as if their were machines in most socieities.  Maybe they move instead of fight new state legislation internalizing negative social externalities?

William Baumol believed that the maximization of wealth could not lead as a general business policy.  Maybe the same applies to state policy?

“Em todos esses [modelos de maximização] os homens são considerados autônomos maximizadores e como tais permanecem.  E isso mostra por que nosso conjunto de teorias, conforme se tem desenvolvido, não nos oferece qualquer promessa de sermos capazes de lidar efetivamente com a descrição e a análise da função empresarial. (Baumol, 1968, p.68)  _(Nelson 156).

Returning to address another variable..

How can suboptimalities be measured in the original context?  Why can’t the effectiveness of tax policy and the actual tax rates be considered?  This could be analyzed per socio-economic sector in every state.

Oates & Schwab (1988) also discuss Niskanen-type political agents that seek to maximize wealth for personal gain over the considerations for their constitutencies [Oates 1136].  However, what makes us believe the Decentralization results in complete disengagement of the Federal Government.  The national government has no interest in seeing a member state completely fall into anarchy or an oligarchic status-quo.  The federal government cannot function if there are no highways, basic education, basic services and utilities in a given state.  Therefore, even if states are not going to “directly” consider environmental costs in the moment, they will be forced to eventually in an “indirect” way.  If not their economic growth will eventually be halted.  Over the long run, this is erode large economic gains witnessed in previous periods.

To bring this discussion into an international context.. is decentralization responsible for the economic growth witnessed over the centuries?

Roy Bahl and Johannes Linn (1992) say that, well, it depends.

They say that “Decentralization more likely comes with the achievement of a higher stage of economic development” (p.391); the ‘threshold level of economic development’ at which fiscal decentralization becomes attractice ‘appears to be quite high’ (p.393).

So what is this threshold?  Should be consider the evolution of the public sector and when countries acquired independence (Oates 1143)?

[“sidenote”: Even thoough those generally newer countries are highly centralized.. isn’t this a huge simplification?  New countries come into existence in various sizes and “from” various colonial powers (addressing Richard Bird 1986).]

Jeff Huther and Anwar Shah (1996) found that there is a “significant and positive coorelation between increased decentralization and improved performance (either in political or economic terms)” (Oates 1140).  Should we look at the increased decentralization of countries such as Brazil or China as examples of successful decentralization in coorelation with economic growth?

Brazil is moving large portions of its population inland, while simultaneously creating new states.

China grants different states of autonomy to different economic regions and states.

Davoodi and Zou (1998) and Zhang and Zou (1998) have concluded two different sets of results regarding if decentralization leads to economic growth.

As a contrast, consider Russia.  Ever more centralized, is its economy really growing?  Or is this a result of energy resources that are temporarily masking a more serious economic problem?