February 23, 2008

Calvin Ball

Six-year-old Calvin's favorite sport in the great comic strip Calvin and Hobbes is Calvin Ball. It's key feature is that Calvin gets to make up the rules as he goes along to favor whatever he does.

It's fun to play Calvin Ball in politics, too. For example, after the 1968 election, Sen. George McGovern got himself put in charge of changing the rules for how delegates would be selected for the 1972 Democratic convention. He instituted racial and gender quotas, plus more subtle changes, and -- whaddaya know? -- the delegates selected via George Ball rules nominated George McGovern in 1972. Similarly, in 2008 the Republicans played under John Ball rules (the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws that give the media more power) and -- whaddaya know? -- the winner was the media's favorite candidate, John McCain.

Ann Coulter has the economics of why we can't get Ronald Reagan-type candidates under the current campaign finance laws.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Johnson said...

To think that campaign finance is a free speech issue is absurd.

Good to know that Coulter is bringing out the Hussein already. It's going to be a very interesting election

Anonymous said...

Oh, come on. I'm no fan of McCain-Feingold, but changing delegate apportionment rules at a convention and more restrictive campaign finance laws are hardly analogous.

McGovern was like a batter who was suddenly allowed to have four strikes in the middle of a baseball game. Inasmuch as any "mainstream" candidate benefits from current campaign-finance law, it's more akin to having home-field advantage -- not anything intrinsic to the game itself.

Anonymous said...

Actually it would have been Obama's parents who brought out the 'Hussein'.

And I don't recall any Democrats complaining of James Webb's constant invocation of George 'Felix' Allen, or his supporters constantly mentioning that his mother's father was Jewish, even though Allen insisted he was a Christian. Turnabout is...

It will be an even more interesting campaign if Obama chooses Webb as his veep nominee. Then the constant reference to 'Hussein' will be completely legitimate

Antioco Dascalon said...

If that notion is so absurd, then why does one third of the Supreme Court believe that campaign finance is unconstitutional?
See the separate opinion of Justices Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC (also Senator John McCain v. Wisconsin Right to Life).
1/3rd of the SC believes that campaign finance, as contained in the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment's free speech clause. I have read the Justices argument that it is unconstitutional. Where is your argument that it is not only constitutional but "absurd" to think otherwise?

Antioco Dascalon said...

I think changing the convention rules is far less problematic than campaign finance reform. The former is not unconstitional, since a political party can do whatever they like in choosing their candidate. Campaign finance reform which restricts political speech is unconstitutional. I think Coulter's point about the reform act giving greater power to the Mainstream Media is a good one. Why can the NY Times tell millions of people to vote for McCain and Hillary, but I can't tell millions of people to vote against them, with my own money? Because one is an unbiased editorial board and the other a partisan? I think that is pretty weak tea.

Antioco Dascalon said...

Here's the last paragraph of Scalia's opinion:
There is wondrous irony to be found in both the genesis and the consequences of BCRA [Bipartisan Campaign-Finance Reform Act]. In the fact that the institutions it was designed to muzzle--unions and nearly all manner of corporations--for all the "corrosive and distorting effects" of their "immense aggregations of wealth," were utterly impotent to prevent the passage of this legislation that forbids them to criticize candidates (including incumbents). In the fact that the effect of BCRA has been to concentrate more political power in the hands of the country's wealthiest individuals and their so-called 527 organizations, unregulated by §203. (In the 2004 election cycle, a mere 24 individuals contributed an astounding total of $142 million to 527s. S. Weissman & R. Hassan, BCRA and the 527 Groups, in The Election After Reform 79, 92--96 (M. Malbin ed. 2006).) And in the fact that while these wealthy individuals dominate political discourse, it is this small, grass-roots organization of Wisconsin Right to Life that is muzzled.

Anonymous said...

The actual rules that gave McCain the win were written by Giuliani's supporters, namely making the liberal northeast states that Giuliani expected to win winner-take-all.

Then Giuliani imploded, and the 2nd most liberal candidate got the benefit of Giuliani's rule-rigging.

Anonymous said...

This is roughly my opinion about first past the post and proportional electoral systems too. PR wouldcv allow the election of people representing something more than whatever the 2 big parties like but those currently running it don't like the idea of more players.

Anonymous said...

This is roughly my opinion about first past the post and proportional electoral systems too. PR wouldcv allow the election of people representing something ...

... That something would be their own skin color.

In the les-and-less-USA, proportional representation would mean representation strictly divided along racial lines.

Glaivester said...

's key feature is that Calvin gets to make up the rules as he goes along to favor whatever he does.

Ironically enough, the rules always seemed to work out that Hobbes won.

Anonymous said...

In the les-and-less-USA, proportional representation would mean representation strictly divided along racial lines

If Louisiana in, say, 1963 had adopted Israeli-style PR for the lower house of its legislature, I have no doubt that there still be segregationists(or "neo-segregationist" white nationalists) serving in that legislature to this very day.

PR would also help whiterpeople political tendencies like the Greens.

Anonymous said...

While we're mentioning Calvin Ball, let's not forget George W. Bush's vice-presidential search committee, which was chaired by Dick Cheney, and - by the remotest of coincidences - chose Dick Cheney as George's running-mate.

A million-to-one shot, doc! A million-to-one shot.

Anonymous said...

I don't necessarily think that the answer is to raise the contribution limits through the roof. The better answer, I think, is to develop a culture where contributing to the political candidate of your choice is as much a social expectation as donating to your church or to the United Way at work or anything else.

One reason we have such a generous country is because Americans feel some moral obligation to give a portion of their good fortunes to various worthy causes. Given the amount of power the government has, supporting the democratic process is as worthy a cause as I can imagine.

I also have two other (perhaps crackpot) ideas.

One is that we should raise the contribution limit to any one candidate to the overall contribution limit. Right now you can give a total of about $28,000 to candidates for federal office. Allow a person to give as much of that as he wants to any one candidate, but if he does he can't give to anyone else.

The other is to give tax credits to campaign donors below an income limit (preferably the $90,000 max for payroll taxes). The feds could give a 50% credit up to $100, so a $200 donation would only cost the donor $100. That would - er, might - encourage more people at the "bottom" to get involved. Campaigns need money to survive. If 10 million people gave $200 each, the net infusion into campaigns each cycle would be $2 billion, which would swamp (or at least balance out) the big donations.