Brad DeLong is puzzled by Dan Weintraub’s thinking on the California recall. Weintraub admits that he’s skeptical of the practicality of the plans put forth by the conservative candidates because they would be unpopular and not pass the legislature; thinks Schwarzenegger is too inexperienced and insufficiently forthcoming about his plans; and disagrees with Bustamonte’s political philosophy but thinks his plan has some chance of passage.
To this, Brad observes,
A normal person, if offered a choice between candidates (McClintock, Simon) who are lying to you, a candidate (Schwarzenegger) who refuses to say what he would do both because he has no clue and because he thinks “people do not care about the numbers and figures,” and a reasonably-smart guy who understands what the tradeoffs are and has a set of ideas about what to do with them–as I said, a normal guy would choose the clued-in candidate who is not lying to him.
Hmm. Even aside from the fact that Weintraub doesn’t accuse the candidates of lying but rather calls into question the political feasibility of the plan, I’m not so sure I agree with Brad’s rational selection. There are essentially three choices available. (If you oppose the recall, there’s a fourth choice, but even then it makes sense to vote No and then pick a candidate “just in case.”)
A. Candidate who mirrors your ideology but whose plan is likely not workable. And who is likely unelectable.
B. Candidate who is probably electable, whose ideology matches yours somewhat but who is inexperienced and deliberately vague about his plans.
C. Candidate who is diametrically opposed to your ideology, is quite electable, and probably efficient.
If the point of elections is to enact your policy preference, it seems clear that C is by far the worst choice. The guy is both efficient and trying to implement an ideology you hate; the worst possible combo.
Choice A (Weintraub’s) is being pushed by many on the right. It’s not inconceivable that he could win and, frankly, having even a somewhat ineffective leader who is at least trying to get your policy preferences enacted is better than the alternative. Until the fallout from Simon’s departure shapes up, this may make sense.
Choice B still seems the best choice to me. You get some of your policies enacted and have a reasonable chance of winning the election, thus minimizing the chance of getting the worst result.
Hat tip: Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber, who has a related thought experiment.)