The Future Looks Much Less Bright than It Did Thirteen Hours Ago...

A Schwarzenegger, a Berlusconi, or a Mussolini?

Preview of A Schwarzenegger a Berlusconi or a Mussolini

Well, that was an interesting election night...

Back in 2000 we had a chance to establish the principle in the running code of our constitution (as opposed to the specifications document) that electors switch so that the winner of the national popular vote becomes president. In fact, back in late October 2000 I was pushing that: I argued that if Al Gore won the electoral college but not the popular vote, he should direct his electors to vote for George W. Bush because the long run stakes at risk were too high for it to be wise to do otherwise.

We did not do that in 2000--to our great cost then, and perhaps to our greater cost now.

Certainly nobody is talking this morning about how electors have a duty to be faithless in the interest of recognizing the will of the popular majority.

The most likely outcome is that we have elected somebody like Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was Governor of California: a smart, highly undisciplined celebrity, who will try to govern by making celebrity sphere-like deals. Schwarzenegger found out that the politics of governance really does not work that way. And California had eight years of do-nothing rather than of good government. That is not a good outcome.

The next most likely outcome is that we have elected a Berlusconi: somebody who will try to loot as much as he can for him and his friends, and under whom policy will be a combination of random and rent-seeking. Italy seems to have lost a decade of economic growth as a result of Berlusconi. That is a bad outcome?

The tail risk, of course, is that we have elected a Mussolini. This is unfair, you may protest. I agree that it is a small risk. But note that Mussolini did not set out to be a terrible fascist dictator. He wanted to be powerful and famous, his judgment was not so good, and step followed step. We need to figure out how to guard against this tail risk. We need to figure out how to do that. Now.