October 19, 2004

Limbo

Through me the way is to the city of sorrow;
  Through me the way is to perpetual grief;
  Through me the way among the forever lost....

  All hope abandon, ye who enter here!

[...]

And I looked again, and saw a banner,
  Which, whirling round, ran forward so rapidly,
  That any thought of pausing it seemed to scorn;

And after it there came so long a train
  Of people: I never would have thought
  That Death had ever undone so many...

Then I understood, and I knew,
  That this was the place of the cowardly wretches
  Hateful to both God and to his enemies...

Daniel Drezner doesn't have a view whether George W. Bush or John Kerry would make a better president: all he says is that there is a 70% chance that he will vote for Kerry. Similarly, David Adesnik doesn't have a view either: all he says is that there is a 60% chance that he will vote for Kerry.

Guys, this is pitiful. I can understand people who say, "I still have to investigate X, and if I discover that Kerry is a Y, then I will vote for him (or against him, as the case may be)." But this probability stuff? This "I'm not making a rational decision based on evidence, I'm a weighted coin that's being flipped"? It's undignified.

Plus it stands a chance of landing you in Limbo forever, forever chasing the banner that you will never catch because you refused to weigh the evidence and pick your side.

Posted by DeLong at October 19, 2004 06:11 PM | TrackBack
Comments

ha fantastic

Posted by: jared bailey at October 19, 2004 06:20 PM

Man, double posting is getting to be a real problem...

Posted by: Tom Marney at October 19, 2004 06:41 PM

What about "the candidate for which I will vote depends on which and how much of certain substances are in my bloodstream at the time?"

Posted by: Julian Elson at October 19, 2004 06:51 PM

The post reminds me of my experience in 1968. Although I was born, raised and educated in MN, and have lived here for the past 28 years, at the time I lived in PA. I had gone to the polls convinced that in order to bring the Vietnam war to the quickest possible end, I should vote for Nixon. I thought Humphrey would be too beholden to the policies of Johnson to pull off a graceful exit. I had been raised in a staunchly Republican family and would have voted for Nixon in 1960 if I hadn't been 9 days too young to vote. By the mid-60s, however, I had moved somewhat to the left of center (where I've been mostly ever since), and had come to respect Humphrey in spite of the fact my dad turned red in the face at the very mention of his name. I had also lost most of whatever respect I'd had for Nixon, both because of his pathetic performance following his loss of the 1962 California governor's race, as well as what I'd learned about his ruthlessness. Nevertheless, my head told me that he was thelogical choice regardless of the pull of my heartstrings.
But when I got into the voting booth, I found that I could not bring myself to pull the Nixon lever. When I came out my wife asked me why I had such a sheepish expression on my face, and when I told her that I had voted for Hubert because I just couldn't bring myself to cast my lot with Tricky Dick she roared with laughter all the way home.

Posted by: Minnesota Chuck at October 19, 2004 06:59 PM

Delong's.best.post.ever.

Posted by: haasalum at October 19, 2004 06:59 PM

Double posting is a symptom, not the problem. It took Moveable Type an estimated 4 minutes to respond to my above post. This time I'm going to time it to the second.

Posted by: Minnesota Chuck at October 19, 2004 07:07 PM

3:36.80
What's the problem? Lack of server horsepower? Messy code?

Posted by: Minnesota Chuck at October 19, 2004 07:12 PM

DeLong has never paid the squirrels a living wage. In response, they only run at half speed.

Posted by: haasalum at October 19, 2004 07:17 PM

Brad,

A few months ago I remember you waxing romantically about Robert Rubin's "probabalistic" decision making style. That it lead to better outcomes than seemingly more "steadfast," but actually less intelligent, approaches to problems. Have you changed your mind? Or are you just pissed off that unquestionably decent and intelligent people like David and Dan don't share your conviction that its unpatriotic to support the Other Guy.

The undecided have until the first week of November to make up their minds.

Posted by: sd at October 19, 2004 07:18 PM

I have a suspicion they've already made up their minds and are merely making a show of taking a long time to decide.

Posted by: fling93 at October 19, 2004 07:18 PM

Brad, I think you're thinking more of Ante-Hell, the place where Dante puts "the neutrals," who could never decide between good or evil, and who were neither worthy of Heaven nor deserving of Hell. Instead, they stood in the smoke and fog issuing from Hell's gates, being bitten by lice and flies, trying waiting in vain to gain admittance, just so they could be somewhere - anywhere - instead of standing forever inbetween.

Limbo, on the other hand, was reserved for the righteous unbaptised (in standard pre-Vatican II Catholicism, mostly babies who died before baptism, and thus who couldn't enter heaven; Dante expands its mandate to include worthy pagans). A decent place all around, or at least, the best place you could get that wasn't in Heaven.

Posted by: FKeeper at October 19, 2004 07:29 PM

Brad the vestibule of the futile is not limbo, which was, in contrast a very dignified place where one could chat with Aristotle among others, including, of course, Virgil. Also Dante is not the max in the effort to reach out to Daniel Drezner.


Lo buon maestro a me: "tu non dimandi che spriti sono questi che tu vedi ? Or vo' che sappi, innanzi che più andi, he'ei non peccarò, e s'elli hanno mercedi, non basta, perche non ebbre battesmo, ch'è portadella fede che tu credi. E se furon dinanzi al cristianesimo, non adorar debitamente a Dio: e di questi cotai son io medesmo . Per tai difetti, non per altro rio, semo perduti, e sol di tanto offesi, che sanza speme vivemo in disio."

Gran duol mi prese al cor quando lo 'ntesi, però che gente di molto valore conobbi che 'n quel limbo eran sospesi"

ovvero

The good Master said to me: "dost thou not ask what spirits are these thou seest ? I would have thee know, then, before thou goest farther, that they did not sin; but though they have merits it is not enough, for they had not baptism, which is the gateway of the faith thou holdest; and if they wre before christianity they did not worship God aright, and of these I am one. For such defects, and not for any guilt, we are lost, and only so far afflicted that without hope we live in desire."

Great grief seized me at the heart when I heard this, for I knew people of much worth who were suspended in that Limbo.

Canto 4 not canto 3 describes limbo.
"The good Master said to me:

Posted by: Robert Waldmann at October 19, 2004 07:31 PM

Brad, I think you're thinking more of Ante-Hell, the place where Dante puts "the neutrals," who could never decide between good or evil, and who were neither worthy of Heaven nor deserving of Hell. Instead, they stood in the smoke and fog issuing from Hell's gates, being bitten by lice and flies, trying waiting in vain to gain admittance, just so they could be somewhere - anywhere - instead of standing forever inbetween.

Limbo, on the other hand, was reserved for the righteous unbaptised (in standard pre-Vatican II Catholicism, mostly babies who died before baptism, and thus who couldn't enter heaven; Dante expands its mandate to include worthy pagans). A decent place all around, or at least, the best place you could get that wasn't in Heaven.

Posted by: FKeeper at October 19, 2004 07:35 PM

I don't know Drezner from Cain, but Adesnik's conflict is that he is embarrassed by Bush in almost all respects, yet grateful for what the President's done on behalf of Israel, and suspects that more good may come that way. It's an awkward position to be in, publicly at any rate.

Posted by: Kinseda at October 19, 2004 07:48 PM

I'd pick this song
Artist: Jimmy Cliff
Song: Sitting In Limbo

Sitting here in Limbo
Waiting for the tide turn.
Yeah, now, sitting here in Limbo,
So many things I've got to learn.
Meanwhile, they're putting up a resistance,
But I know that my faith will lead me on.

Sitting here in Limbo
Waiting for the dice to roll.
Yeah, now, sitting here in Limbo,
Still got some time to search my soul.
Meanwhile, they're putting up a resistance,
But I know that my faith will lead me on.

I don't know where life will take me,
But I know where I have been.
I don't know what life will show me,
But I know what I have seen.
Tried my hand at love and friendship,
That is past and gone.
And now it's time to move along.

Sitting here in Limbo
Like a bird ain't got a song.
Yeah, I'm sitting here in Limbo
And I know it won't be long
'Til I make my getaway, now.
Meanwhile, they're putting up a resistance,
But I know that my faith will lead me on.

I don't know where life will take me,
But I know where I have been.
I don't know what life will show me,
But I know what I have seen.
Tried my hand at love and friendship,
That is past and gone.
And now it's time to move along.

Gonna lead me on now.
Meanwhile, they're putting up resistance,
But I know that my faith will lead me on.
Sitting in Limbo, Limbo, Limbo.
Sitting in Limbo, Limbo, Limbo.
Sitting in Limbo, Limbo, Limbo.
Meanwhile, they're putting up a resistance,
But I know that my faith will lead me on.

Posted by: Steve at October 19, 2004 07:58 PM

More than 50% would mean they will probably vote for Kerry. There may be a big hidden vote for Kerry who will not admit it before or after. Imagine living near a military base and expressing an opinion! There has to be a large percentage who hate Bush's social atavism and suspect his psychological approach to the war on terror is misfooted. (Although the Dems did a poor job of explaining this.) Not to mention the lies. And know they're underpaid. Everywhere. Leave it alone. Or rather, encourage it.

Posted by: Lee A. at October 19, 2004 08:01 PM

Endgame: sympathize.

Posted by: Lee A. at October 19, 2004 08:14 PM

Endgame: sympathize

Posted by: Lee A. at October 19, 2004 08:16 PM

More of that darned double-posting!

Posted by: Lee A. at October 19, 2004 08:18 PM

Re: o buon maestro a me: "tu non dimandi che spriti sono questi che tu vedi ? Or vo' che sappi, innanzi che più andi, he'ei non peccarò, e s'elli hanno mercedi, non basta, perche non ebbre battesmo, ch'è portadella fede che tu credi. E se furon dinanzi al cristianesimo, non adorar debitamente a Dio: e di questi cotai son io medesmo . Per tai difetti, non per altro rio, semo perduti, e sol di tanto offesi, che sanza speme vivemo in disio."


Gran duol mi prese al cor quando lo 'ntesi, però che gente di molto valore conobbi che 'n quel limbo eran sospesi"


ovvero


The good Master said to me: "dost thou not ask what spirits are these thou seest ? I would have thee know, then, before thou goest farther, that they did not sin; but though they have merits it is not enough, for they had not baptism, which is the gateway of the faith thou holdest; and if they wre before christianity they did not worship God aright, and of these I am one. For such defects, and not for any guilt, we are lost, and only so far afflicted that without hope we live in desire."

Is the Italian that archaic?

Posted by: Brad DeLong at October 19, 2004 08:27 PM

DeLong has it exactly right. What new information are these people waiting for? Frankly, at this point I think it's a pose--a lame attempt to attract attenion.

Posted by: contrapositive at October 19, 2004 08:29 PM

I just saw George Carlin on CNN saying he wasn't going to vote because he didn't like the candidates and the system is absurd (paraphrasing). That's pathetic and defeatist in my book.

Posted by: craig at October 19, 2004 08:46 PM

A lot of people have made strategic anti-Democratic existential committments which they find very hard to break. Their whole political persona is based on not being doves, not being liberals, and not being Democrats.

On Yglesias several up-and-coming young Ivy League things confessed unembarassedly that they supported the Second Iraq War because they didn't like hippies. (These are the best and the brightest of our time).

Life is hard for these people, but not hard enough yet.

Yeah, I know it's my fault. By being right, I forced these people to be wrong.

Posted by: Zizka at October 19, 2004 09:15 PM

Zizka gets it just right: ill-informed younger people just know, in their bones, that dems must be wimps on national security issues because, sheesh, the dems were the party that finally sucked it up (by and large) to oppose the previously stupidest strategic decision since ww ii.

now faced with the evidence of their lying eyes as to the discombobulation of the supposed "better" party on national security, the identiy crisis overwhelms them and they are playing out these little games to prove how right they were when they were wrong.

Posted by: howard at October 19, 2004 09:43 PM

A note on the whole "probabilistic voting" thingy. From what I've gleened from the discipline of political science (I haven't taken any courses in it, though), political scientists frequently use probability-based models of voting. For example, rather than saying that about 75% of Jewish Americans will vote for Kerry this year, but each individual Jewish American has an almost 100% chance of voting for Bush or a 100% chance of voting for Kerry, they find that modeling is simpler if you claim that there is a 0.75 probability that each will vote for Kerry and a 0.25 probability that each will vote for Bush. I'm not sure: if anyone knows more than my abysmal knowledge of political science, please, please yell at me.

We have a tendency to internalize our models of how things are after we've gotten used to them enough. An economist like Brad sometimes mentions that a better-insulated coffee mug increases his utility, in spite of the counterintuitively unitary view this takes of human satisfaction. Someone with an anti-realist view of morality may internalize the idea that her own morals are about what's right and wrong to her, rather than statements about the objective world, in spite of the intuitive feeling that morality is about the objective world. An anthropologist might view his daily customs and rituals more within the context of his own culture, rather than viewing them as an obvious part of human behavior, etc. In Daniel Drezner's case, perhaps he's internalized probabilistic models of voting, so that he thinks of himself in such terms, even though it's counterintuitive to those who aren't into political science? Just a guess.

Posted by: Julian Elson at October 19, 2004 11:02 PM

Actually, Carlin has consistently been an advocate of not voting for at least two Presidential elections now. He quite seriously argues that If You Vote, Then You Give Up Your Right To Complain. Carlin appears to have rejected Democracy and embraced Anarchism.

Posted by: s9 at October 19, 2004 11:18 PM

I take it Brad is a Frequentist not a Bayesian. Or they indicate they will create a three-sided hanging chad.

In any case, the election will be decided by the outcome of the Astros - Sox World Series.

Posted by: ogmb at October 19, 2004 11:37 PM

Carlin has it exactly bassackwards: Only if you vote, do you get a right to complain. Don't care how or who you voted for, but if you abdicate that right then you don't have a basis for whining.

moe

Posted by: moe at October 20, 2004 12:31 AM

It is a lot simpler than that: either you see Bush is unstable and essentially anti-American or you don't. The rest is an exercise in missing the forest for the trees.

Posted by: pwax at October 20, 2004 04:23 AM

Steven Weinberg operates on a probabilistic model as well. He says in a recent NYRB that in the voting booth, the wave function of his vote will "probably" collapse on Kerry, but he's not sure. He would rather to vote against liberals because he thinks they're identified with anti-Zionism, and his only reservation concerns Bush.

This may be what Drezner is trying to say in code. It's the only concrete meaning I can find in his otherwise vaporous phrase "foreign-policy instincts", which appears to reduce to "will invade Syria, if not Iran". Neither side has a high estimation of the functional state of Bush's cerebral cortex. But Drezner wants to vote for his brain stem.

All I'm sure of is that I wouldn't let Weinberg take my cat into the voting booth with him.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 20, 2004 05:20 AM

Drezner is playing with himself in public. The notion that Democrats are weak on national security is conservative masturbation. The last 30 years is loaded with examples of Republicans talking tough and Democrats being tough. Some people seriously and wrongly think tough and smart are exclusive properties in foreign policy.

(And in the prior 50 years there are even more examples-- though one Dem president couldn't combine tough and smart.)

Posted by: dennisS at October 20, 2004 05:46 AM

There are alot of folks who consider themselves ABB voters. Thats Anybody But Bush. I think a large share of the undecideds are really sort of a "kicked up" ABB voter.

As a former Republican voter (this is the first time I will vote Dem) I have found myself concealing my real intentions/feelings in mixed company so as to not sound like a conspiracy theorist or a shrill. Its a reflexive thng.

Posted by: Fr33d0m at October 20, 2004 06:33 AM

Carlin is a wealthy elderly man with one grown daughter. He can afford not to care.

Posted by: jr at October 20, 2004 07:11 AM

We've only had five or six great presidents. Of the remaining 37-38, some have left the country better off and some have left it worse off. Why do people think that a presidential candidate has to be the next Abraham Lincoln? Be realistic and select the one whom you think will leave the country better off. Period. Remember, nobody knew Lincoln was going to be great.

Posted by: pollysi at October 20, 2004 07:14 AM

Hey, if I was struck with instantaneous Alzheimers between now and November 2, and forgot everything that Bush has done these last four years, then my mind might not be completely made up about voting for Kerry. Who knows, maybe these guys have a similar mental disability.

Posted by: Leo Casey at October 20, 2004 07:45 AM

There are formal reasons why it's more likely for a President to be very bad than very good. The distribution of Presidents is not a random Bell-curve distribution, but a steeply-sloped accomplishment curve, like the curve for athletic performance.

For this and other reasons, it's more reasonable to hate a President a lot than to love him a lot. Popper, Berlin, and many others have shown how unrealistic expectations from politics lead to totalitarianism.

The idea that there's something wrong with ABB, or that ABB voting is a reflection on Kerry, is just bullshit. The dominant fact about the 2004 election is that Bush is possibly the worst President in American history. No opposing candidate could be as good as Bush is bad.

For ne, ABB meant not putting a lot of energy into Kucinich or Dean, and letting the centrists (Kerry) have their way. I'm not completely sure this is the right choice. "Issues" aside, centrists seem to have an addiction to wimpy short-term campaigns which might win, but do not build for the future.

Josh Micah Marshall recently said something that Bartcop ( www.bartcop.com ) has been saying for years: voters take the Democrats' feeble campaign style as an indication that their foreign policy will be feeble. Dukakis' lame response on the rape question, and Gore's lame debate with Bush are examples.

Posted by: Zizka at October 20, 2004 07:55 AM

There are formal reasons why it's more likely for a President to be very bad than very good. The distribution of Presidents is not a random Bell-curve distribution, but a steeply-sloped accomplishment curve, like the curve for athletic performance.

For this and other reasons, it's more reasonable to hate a President a lot than to love him a lot. Popper, Berlin, and many others have shown how unrealistic expectations from politics lead to totalitarianism.

The idea that there's something wrong with ABB, or that ABB voting is a reflection on Kerry, is just bullshit. The dominant fact about the 2004 election is that Bush is possibly the worst President in American history. No opposing candidate could be as good as Bush is bad.

For ne, ABB meant not putting a lot of energy into Kucinich or Dean, and letting the centrists (Kerry) have their way. I'm not completely sure this is the right choice. "Issues" aside, centrists seem to have an addiction to wimpy short-term campaigns which might win, but do not build for the future.

Josh Micah Marshall recently said something that Bartcop ( www.bartcop.com ) has been saying for years: voters take the Democrats' feeble campaign style as an indication that their foreign policy will be feeble. Dukakis' lame response on the rape question, and Gore's lame debate with Bush are examples.

Posted by: Zizka at October 20, 2004 08:01 AM

I'll repost this--

Gasps and wails and whistling shrieks
echoed through the starless air.
I wept. Outraged screams, ululation,

gasps and howls, the languages of strangers,
grating voices, a roar of drumming
hands—all sounds a cacophony

which forever wheels its way within
the black'ning atmosphere, all sounds
swept up as sand is when a whirlwind spins.

"Teacher, what is this? Who are these folk?
It looks like pain has beaten them,"
I asked, as horrors swung around my head.

He spoke: "This misery, it is the death
of those who earned no praise and no disgrace
back in the world above.

Mixed in is that pathetic choir of angels
who neither put their faith in God,
nor rose up to fight him. They just looked on,

so heaven flung them down, still lovely,
to here, nigh on the rim of the abyss,
lest the outcasts down below

begin to lord it over them." And I responded:
"Now, what could be so terrible;
what causes all this howling?"

"I’ll tell you. These can’t even hope for death.
Their life is void and doorless;
it has no exit. They envy everyone.

News of them is not allowed to reach
the upper world; the merciful and just disdain them.
Don’t gawk; look and move."


Dante's Italian is not Italian but Florentine Tuscan, a dialect that primarily because of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch evolved into "literary Italian." It is indeed "archaic," Brad, not unlike Chaucer's English, but doesn't need to be translated that way, and I have not.

As other posters have pointed out, this passage doesn't describe limbo; limbo is in canto 4, and is primarily inhabited by the "virtuous pagans" This is a "grey area" outside of Hell proper, wherein dwell those unable to make important choices, such as the angels who when Satan rose in rebellion did not follow God and did not join the rebel-angels.

To the sixty-percenters, to the undecided, to the uneasy Republicans:

reason or faith?
competence or incompetence?

Where do you stand? Can you put aside partisanship, can you put aside some of your moral convictions, can you put aside your short-term self-interest, and make the choice that is best for the country and the world?

NM


Posted by: Nicholas Mycroft at October 20, 2004 08:08 AM

I feel compelled to make a rather snotty comment here, that this p-value bs is a way to comfort themselves, and to portray their decision as a totally rational choice, in spite of the fact that p-value implicitly identifies a non-rational choice (i.e., an event that occurs with a defined likelihood, like a weighted coin). This is done to essentially mathematicize something that is inherently non-mathematic, which essentially confuses their poli-sci brethren (and sisters). The fact is that both have come out in favor of various Bush policies (most notably Iraq) and are trying to back away from it gracefully. It is hard to vote against someone that you have a deep loyalty to in the partisan sense, and this public display of equivocation is a symptom of that. As an aside, it does seem to me that improper use of probability is a potential issue in public policy. For example, it drives the vicious cycle of voting rates trending down among the young and the poor.

Posted by: Paul Orwin at October 20, 2004 09:20 AM

I'm not sure how anybody can really be "undecided" at this point, though it's possible that someone who says "there's a 70% chance I'll vote for Kerry" may be expressing a view that in some sort of issue-weighting methodology, he or she agrees with Kerry with 70% of their heart.

What mystifies me is how people who aren't 90+% committed at this point can hold that view, in light of stories like that on cnn.com today:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/10/19/robertson.bush.iraq/index.html

Before the invasion of Iraq, Pat Robertson said to Bush, "You need to prepare America for a difficult war and for American casualties." And Bush's response? "There aren't going to be any casualties."

So someone who's "70% in favor of Kerry" is 30% in favor of an incumbent who, even before the war began, was completely out of touch with reality. Ah, yes - this bodes well for the next 4 years if Bush wins...

Posted by: Uncle Jeffy at October 20, 2004 11:24 AM

I noticed yesterday that the first two questions in the Economist/YouGov election poll are "Suppose the election for President were being held TODAY. Who would you vote for?" and "As of now, what do you think you are most likely to end up doing on November 2?", with the same set of possible answers. At least some of the respondents answered those two questions differently, which I found incomprehensible. But now I'm thinking that it could be due to mixed-state quantum voters like Drezner and Adesnik who collapse their personal wave functions twice and get different observations.

Hmm. I wonder if you could predict (or influence?!) the election results by creating entangled pairs of undecided voters and collapsing one of them at some opportune moment? Hang on a second while I call my patent attorney...

Posted by: Marty Plotkin at October 20, 2004 11:58 AM