The Long Tail of Politics

by on September 24, 2006

Via Mike Linksvayer, I see that Nick Gillespie has a new interview with Chris Anderson. Anderson “laments that national politics has yet to become part of the Long Tail,” to which Mike responds:

The real long tail of politics isn’t about elections at all. Even if I can vote for my ideal candidate, or vote directly on every issue, at the end of the day I will still get policies approximating those of George W. Bush and John Kerry. That’s like being able to order any of millions of books at Amazon but always getting the current #1 best seller delivered regardless of your order.

The real long tail of politics is decentralization and arbitrage. Lots of people say “Bush isn’t my president.” Why can’t that be true? Declare yourself Venezuelan, Hugo Chavez is your president. It should be (almost) that easy. If that seems extreme and disruptive, at least executive power should be curtailed, for surely it is the antithesis of long tail politics. And being able to live and work in any jurisdiction should be a given.

Now, I don’t think this would work exactly as he describes it. If Mike declares himself Venezuelan and steals my hubcaps, I still want the American police to arrest him, rather than waiting for Venezuelan police to fly up and deal with it. But this is an interesting way to think about federalism. One of the great virtues of the American political system is that left-wingers can move to San Francisco or Boston and get policies they generally like, while right-wingers move to Salt Lake City or Birmingham to get the kind of government they want. To some extent, federalism allows us to have the same kind of diversity in government that we’re used to getting from the market. We don’t all listen to the same music or eat the same food. Why shouldn’t we have the same kind of choice in politics?

Of course, no matter where we Americans live, we all have to put up with the decisions of the bozo in the White House. Which is why I think it’s so important to move as much power as possible away from Washington, DC. That way, I might not be able to get the entire country to adopt my preferred political views, but I at least have the option of moving to a state or city where the majority shares my values.

In any event, Anderson’s interview is definitely worth reading.

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