Targeting your political message

I start with this, which is my frequently cited quote from Peggy Noonan from way back in 2011:

The other day a Republican political veteran forwarded me a hiring notice from the Obama 2012 campaign. It read like politics as done by Martians. The ‘Analytics Department’ is looking for ‘predictive Modeling/Data Mining’ specialists to join the campaign’s ‘multi-disciplinary team of statisticians,’ which will use ‘predictive modeling’ to anticipate the behavior of the electorate. ‘We will analyze millions of interactions a day, learning from terabytes of historical data, running thousands of experiments, to inform campaign strategy and critical decisions.’

There is no secret that the Democrats outhustled the Republicans on the technology of personal access. Here is an article that adds important detail. Picture just how pinpoint accurate the Obama campaign must have been to getting particular messages to particular people:

They created the most sophisticated email fundraising program ever. The digital team, under Rospars leadership, took their data-driven strategy to a new level. Any time you received an email from the Obama campaign, it had been tested on 18 smaller groups and the response rates had been gauged. The campaign thought all the letters had a good chance of succeeding, but the worst-performing letters did only 15 to 20 percent of what the best-performing emails could deliver. So, if a good performer could do $2.5 million, a poor performer might only net $500,000. The genius of the campaign was that it learned to stop sending poor performers.

Obama became the first presidential candidate to appear on Reddit, the massive popular social networking site. And yes, he really did type in his own answers with Goff at his side. One fascinating outcome of the AMA is that 30,000 Redditors registered to vote after President dropped in a link to the Obama voter registration page. Oh, and the campaign also officially has the most tweeted tweet and the most popular Facebook post. Not bad. I would also note that Laura Olin, a former strategist at Blue State Digital who moved to the Obama campaign, ran the best campaign Tumblr the world will probably ever see.

With Davidsen’s help, the Analytics team built a tool they called The Optimizer, which allowed the campaign to buy eyeballs on television more cheaply. They took set-top box (that is to say, your cable or satellite box or DVR) data from Davidsen’s old startup, Navik Networks, and correlated it with the campaign’s own data. This occurred through a third party called Epsilon: the campaign sent its voter file and the television provider sent their billing file and boom, a list came back of people who had done certain things like, for example, watched the first presidential debate. Having that data allowed the campaign to buy ads that they knew would get in front of the most of their people at the least cost. They didn’t have to buy the traditional stuff like the local news, either. Instead, they could run ads targeted to specific types of voters during reruns or off-peak hours.

This is the game as it is now played at the highest levels.

FME 2nd ed

I am very happy to report that I have received the following from the RMIT College of Business:

Research Excellence Award for Best Book by an Academic

The book is, of course, my Free Market Economics: an Introduction for the General Reader. It’s not the new Samuelson though it should be since it’s a tonne better and will teach you a lot more of what’s useful about how economies work than any of his 21-and-counting editions ever did. I wrote my book to show how useless any economics text built around a Keynesian frame of reference actually is. And as I point out, since there is nothing else like it when I thought the financial crisis would lead to a glut of such books, I really do have this terrain to myself. The sad thing, though, is that I do have this terrain to myself since no one else seems to want to invade this space. How this can be I will never understand.

But please do let me also note that I received this award on the same day I signed the contract for a second edition which I hope to have at the publisher by the middle of next year. There is some demand, at least, so there is a niche for what I have to say. Not a lot I feel I need to add or change but there will be some things. For any of you who have read the first edition – which has sold a similar number of copies as the first edition of The Wealth of Nations – if you have any suggestions about how the book might be improved or extended, please email me at this address:

And please use the subject line: FME 2nd ed. Let me thank in advance anyone who is able to help for their kind assistance.

From Each According to his Ability, To Each According to his Vote

Let’s go right to the source, Karl Marx writing in 1875:

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

Which really reads:

In a higher phase of communist society – blah blah blah – From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

The United States has taken a mighty step towards turning this principle into practice. There are people over on one side who have all this income, and there are people on the other side who have all these needs. And while there is an overlap between the people with income and the people with needs – pretty well most of the reason for earning an income is to satisfy those needs – not all the people with needs have incomes, or at least not incomes high enough to suit them. But every one of those people with needs but not enough income does have something else, a vote.

So there is to be a new principle, call it the Obama Principle, which is the practical incarnation of Marx’s original principle. Now we have: From each according to his ability, to each according to his vote.

Majority rules, right? That “narrow horizon of bourgeois right” can now be crossed in its entirety. This “abundant co-operative flow of wealth” that you anyway didn’t build has now indeed come into existence, but irrespective of how it got here, it is Obama’s to distribute as he sees fit.

This democracy stuff is your principle, not his. You devised the system that has made him the president, not him. Obama, as a good follower of the blesséd Saul Alinsky, merely makes others live up to their own principles. Too bad if you don’t like it because there’s not a thing you can do to change it.

This post now at Quadrant Online.

Some ideas are so stupid only an economist could believe them

It’s hard to tell whether this opinion piece by Robert Shiller was put up by the Financial Review to remind us of just how stupid some people are or whether it is there because the editors think Shiller gets it exactly right. This is the bit they put on their editorial page:

During the US election campaign, opinion polls consistently showed the economy, especially unemployment, was voters’ No. 1 concern. The Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, sought to capitalise on the issue, asserting: ‘The President’s plans haven’t worked – he doesn’t have a plan to get the economy going.’

Nonetheless, Barack Obama was re-elected. The outcome may reflect the economy’s slight improvement at election time (as happened when Franklin Roosevelt defeated the Republican Alf Landon in 1936, despite the continuing Great Depression). But Obama’s victory might also be a testament to most US voters’ basic sense of economic reality.

It’s depressing, just depressing.

Free speech on campus

This is America which really is far gone. But everything American eventually seems to get here too. So the most anti-American segments of our population will eventually pick up this all-too-American meme as well. It is not a good omen. It was this statement, however, that I found the most remarkable (at 4:24):

Those with the highest levels of education have the lowest exposure to people with conflicting points of view, while those who have not graduated from high school can claim the most diverse discussion mates. In other words, the most educated amongst us are also the most likely to live in the tightest echo chambers.

That is quite something to think about if it is actually really true.

I am not a sexist and who is The Age to say I am?

I see I have been named in a column under the heading, “The Sexist Hits Just Keep on Coming“. And in the text we read:

And if we needed any reminding of the kind of stuff Jenna Price and her supporters are up against, the past few days served up a couple of useful reminders. On Thursday, RMIT economics lecturer Steve Kates did his best to put Fox News to shame with an opinion piece on the right-of-centre Quadrant Online site. Kates’ reaction to Barack Obama’s re-election: ‘The confluence of the mendicants, the envious, the abortion lobby, what I call the cohort of damaged women, and the social-sciences know-nothings has proven a formidable combination.’

Quite frankly, this burns me up. I am the least sexist person I know and it harms my reputation to say anything to the contrary. I will be looking for an apology from The Age and whoever wrote this statement. It is an actionable matter and I am not going to stand for it. I can hardly think of anything more purposefully designed to harm my reputation than this. It is totally unacceptable. I will not accept such statements and this goes for anyone else who might decide to call me a sexist in print.

As it happens, I have worked for women, I have worked with women, I have had women work for me whom I have employed, I have promoted women because I thought they were excellent at what they did and I have always sought in every way to promote women rights in every environment I have been in. Who is this columnist to make such a statement on a single phrase in a single para when she didn’t even bother to read the entire article and see what I said? She know nothing about me at all.

My point was this. The sexual revolution has damaged young girls and done them a great deal of harm but the Obama campaign, rather than try to remedy these problems merely sought to exploit them for political gain. And this they have done and quite successfully. Whether women are better for it in the long run I have my doubts. But that is the question to answer if you want to buy into the debate. And the particular point I was making was the vast amount of harm the “sexual revolution” has done to women.

To me, the question whether the sexual revolution has damaged young girls and the women these young girls eventually grow up to become seems open and shut to me. I didn’t say all women, of course, but I do say some and it is a sadly large proportion. But let me make a few observations.

First, the Obama campaign targeted young single women and were very successful in this targeting. The Gallup Poll shows that the 2012 election ended up with the widest gender gap since gender gap measurement began in 1952. Moreover, a much larger proportion of unmarried women voted for Obama in comparison with married women. This was not by accident but was the explicit design of the Obama campaign.

Second, every father who has met at the front door the young man who has come to pick up his young daughter knows very well what is in that young man’s mind. “You’re not going out dressed like that” is an old story but comes from a kind of experience that everyone is perfectly aware of.

Third, are women really content with the culture of the one night stand or commitment-free serial monogamy? The culture of respect, specially the serious importance attached to sexual relations that was once a universal, has been worn away and while it has not disappeared, it is nothing like what it was. Sex is too easy to come by; boys are less inclined to marry and girls do not end up with the love and companionship a true marriage should bring. Nor are we cultivating an environment that encourages children. This was always an ideal, of course, but is it still the culturally driven ideal or are we into a kind of every-woman-for-herself society?

Four, enticing young women into the socially dead end of bearing fatherless children is a major problem. Why is that not seen as a catastrophic outcome? We have institutional structures that allow young single women to accommodate having children but why are we not warning them about how it ruins their own chances in life and dulls the prospects of their children as well.

Five, how is one to make sense of “vote as if your lady parts depend on it”? That really is an Obama-Biden ad which they pulled after a while but not before it made the rounds. You tell me what this is supposed to say if it is not the single most sexist ad you have ever seen.

This is asking for a prioritisation of issues that is very different from what I think was important. I worry about the fiscal cliff, public debt, rising deficits, foreign policy, radical Islam, a nuclear Iran and other issues along those lines. How does worrying about your “lady parts” fit into this? An explanation is needed for why this is of such relative importance to young single women when the likelihood of limiting the availability of abortion or eliminating contraception is nil as my article pointed out.

Six, whatever else my article was, it was sympathetic to the problems facing young women. It is not sexism to raise this issue. The anger that I believe is there really does seem to be there, which led to the largest gap ever not only between women and men but between unmarried and married women, in both cases in Obama’s favour. This requires explanation, and for me, part of the a explanation I trace back to the sexual revolution. I may have this wrong, although I cannot believe it is not an important part of a full explanation. But an explanation of some kind is required. The Obama campaign knew what it was doing in targeting this demographic in this way.

Seven, Code Pink and their demonstration at the Republican convention where they dressed as v______ was to my mind vulgar but was trying to sway the same demographic. To me, it is something that ought to lose you votes but instead it seems to have picked them up. Look at the video and see what sense you can make of it, but this comes with a triple-X vulgarity alert.

Eight, Obama in many ways provides policies that seem to me to undermine marriage. In my view, the importance of marriage and stability in marriage are values that should be defended. Not everyone agrees but that is why we discuss. Perhaps someone such as myself from a very different world does know something that might be useful knowledge to those who were not there. And it may not seem all that important to some, but the stability of the family is at the very centre of our stability as a society.

The Democrats pander to this destabilising segment of the population by providing resources that contribute to the breakdown of the family. Barack Obama’s Life of Julia ad was addressed to these women. No man ever appeared in this ad but at age 31 Julia had a child (a son who does appear once at age 10). This is a cohort that the Democrats were appealing to. I think of this Julia as very badly served by a culture that does not encourage her to have children within marriage and which allows her to look to government to provide the support that was once provided within a family structure.

Nine, the song by Garfunkel and Oates also looks at things from the perspective of a 31 year old woman. I thought this made a lot of sense and, as you can see, it is a point being made by two women. The 31 year old is angry and particularly at the stupidity of her own self when she was 29. A very clever piece of work and worth more than just a passing glance. And if you got through Code Pink, you will find this quite tame by comparison.

Ten, a sexist dismisses women as a lesser breed without the competencies to manage and do the things a man can do. I, on the other hand, have always welcomed women into top jobs and think it is wonderful that women are reaching such levels. We as a society are tapping into a wonderful resource that other societies do not and both men and women are the better for it. I feel I shouldn’t have to explain myself, but as someone who supported to the maximum extent Margaret Thatcher (here is a posting I did on Thatcher which I titled, “The Greatest Woman of the Twentieth Century” I can hardly think of my polical views as tainted with an anti-woman brush. Odd kind of sexism to support a woman but be anti-woman. This may cut no ice with the left, but if you are thinking in this case about men and women and not left and right, it is hard to pin a sexist tag on someone who would be happy to be governed over by a woman and who would trust their political judgment ahead of someone else just because they were a male.

And whatever I felt about Hilary Clinton, I felt the same about Bill Clinton. Gender has nothing to do with it, just as I would oppose most of what Gillard has done had she been Julian and not Julia.

Lastly, I will mention the afterward of my book, Free Market Economics. This is the first of the acknowledgements I made. I won’t mention names since I don’t want to bring her into this, but she was instrumental in getting the book done as I have personally told her many times and wrote this to say so:

I am therefore endlessly grateful to my colleague, _______ _____,who allowed me to write this book as the basis of the course we taught together. Her support, encouragement and sensible advice meant a good deal to me as the book was being carved out of nothing more than the ideas which had been developing in my mind over a goodly number of years. Neither she nor I knew what would come out during any given week. Her willingness to allow me to put onto paper my views on economics, and to use these as the basis for our classroom instruction, was essential for this project even to have commenced.

I know sexism when I see it and I am not in any way, shape or form a sexist. It is a quite defaming statement to make about someone, particularly someone who must work with and for women. As it is not true, and is demonstrably untrue. I am outraged that The Age can see fit to put such a defamatory para into its news without even giving me a call so that I could at least make the points I am making here. I will expect an apology.

Not the kind of help men want

A review by Helen Smith, the Insta-Wife, of Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men which for some women is apparently something to hope for. From the review:

One reason I suggest in my book for men’s negative attitudes towards marriage, women and the society is the denigrating and damaging way that boys and young men are treated in our culture and a book with a title like this sure doesn’t help. To her credit, Rosin at least offers up a lame explanation to Jacob [that is, to Rosin’s young son who is affronted by his mother’s book title] that ‘I want to convince people that some men out there need our help, since it’s not so easy for them to ask for it. ‘He doesn’t quite believe me yet, but maybe one day he will.’ Yet as I read the pages of her book, I am not sure what type of help she thinks men need and as Christina Hoff Summers said to me about men’s centers that try to convince men to be more like woman: ‘I don’t think that’s the kind of help men want.’

It’s bad news all round but at least there is a rear guard that is trying to turn this around. For the record, the question Rosin’s son asked his mother was: “Mommy, Why Would You Write a Book with Such a Mean Title?” I don’t really think there is any good reason myself. The comments at the end of the review are also worth a read.

It might also be noted that Smith is writing her own book on these issues but from a very different direction. Her title is, Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matter.

It was a dark and stormy night

I saw this at Andrew Bolt’s blog on election day and my reaction was, it just couldn’t be. Surely there was no one left with their vote not completely tethered at this final hour. Surely the election could not have turned on images of Obama at command central. But if it’s the real thing, if people really did change their vote because of how in command Obama was in the midst of the storm, you’d have to agree that it’s insane. But look at that image and now read this which is from a letter sent to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit:

In keeping with Professor Jacobson’s warning concerning the media’s ‘Operation Demoralize’ campaign, already in full swing, have you noticed how the role of ‘Superstorm Sandy’ in Obama’s win has now largely been buried by the mainstream media? Other than Chris Matthews’ now infamous praising of God for the political gift the storm provided to Obama, and some mention of the AP’s exit poll data showing 42% of those polled reported being positively influenced to vote for Obama based on his purported stellar handling of the emergency response to the storm, Superstorm Sandy has not found its way into many MSM election post mortems. The reason for that should be readily apparent. The mainstream media’s preferred narrative has predictably changed. Now, the Obama victory is being depicted as the result of America’s widespread disapproval and rejection of Republicans and their extremist, white-focused policies and ideology.

A week before the election, the in-the-tank-for-Obama MSM was deeply worried that Romney was going to beat their guy, so they played up Superstorm Sandy and the game-changing effect it was having on the election for all it was worth. Suddenly, Chris Christie was someone to be listened to, ad nauseum, rather than being dismissed as a partisan Republican attack dog. However, with Obama’s re-election now safely in the bag, the MSM would prefer that Americans forget that a freak storm probably averted an Obama loss. Obviously, such a loss would entirely preempt “Operation Demoralize,” and the only thing the MSM enjoys more than helping elect Democrats is predicting doom and despair for Republicans.

‘Operation Demoralize’ completely falls apart if one considers just how close the margin of victory was for Obama in the four swing states that decided the election, and how Superstorm Sandy almost certainly moved enough votes from Romney to Obama to provide the election of victory. In Florida, with nearly 8.3 million ballots cast, the margin of victory was a mere 52,000 votes. Because this U.S. presidential election was a two person race, a takeaway by one candidate from another represents a two vote swing. Accordingly, if somewhere in the order of 26,000 Floridians, out of 8.3 million, decided that they were changing their vote from Romney to Obama based on his supposed ‘heckuva job’ in relation to the storm response, those voters alone decided Florida’s 29 electoral votes. Given the AP exit poll and its 42% figure for those who claimed the storm influenced their decision to vote for Obama, it’s safe to say that Superstorm Sandy threw far more than 26,000 voters into Obama’s column and out of Romney’s.

The same argument can be made in Ohio. 5.3 million votes cast, margin of victory: 103,000. If the storm flipped about 52,000 votes or more from Romney to Obama, then no storm meant Ohio would have been a Romney win on election day.

In Virginia, 3.7 million votes cast, margin of victory: 107,000. If the storm influenced 54,000 voters or more to abandon Romney for Obama, the storm was decisive in converting a Romney win in Virginia to an Obama win.

In Colorado, nearly 2.4 million votes cast, margin of victory: 113,000. If 57,000 voters or more moved from the Romney camp to the Obama camp based on the storm, then Obama doesn’t win the state if the storm never happens.

A Romney win in these four states would have given him the election.

I want to emphasize that these are very small numbers of voters in relation to the overall number of votes cast in these states, and with such a high percentage of voters in the AP poll attributing their vote in large measure to Obama’s positive media coverage from the storm, I don’t think there’s much doubt that Obama loses the election, albeit narrowly, if Superstorm Sandy never happened. But for our illustrious media elites, the truth won’t do, not when such a grand opportunity for another anti-Republican hatchet job has presented itself…

As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.