Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Not left:right but industry specific

A friend recently asked whether emigration was likely to jump if Donald Trump won the election. I answered:
No. The threat to leave if an individual does not get the result they want is a long standing, perennial and empty threat. Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood founder, threatened to leave if John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960. She objected to his Catholicism. She did not leave. So the threat goes back at least 56 years. There is no good evidence of any election outcomes measurably affecting emigration and immigration flows. Immigration and emigration flows are primarily determined by macro-economic influences with the size effects swamping most other influences.
My response was based on accumulated knowledge and involved no research. I had looked into this during some earlier election, perhaps Romney/Obama in 2012 and that was the conclusion I came to at that time and had seen nothing to contradict that since then.

But as often happens, once a question is out there, your mind is alerted and you begin to see better researched answers without even looking for them.

Researching a separate issue, I came across Here’s why you won’t really move to Canada if Trump wins in November by Adam Alter.

His answer is consistent with my original response. He provides the data showing that there is no discernible shift in emigration flows after elections. However, Alter relies more on the psychology of the event as an explanation of the phenomena than I would.
There are at least two reasons people overestimate the effect of election outcomes — and other life events — on their enduring well-being. The first is the tendency to forget that life goes on even after traumatic events. Most of our lives consist of a series of mundane events: rising in the morning to eat breakfast, going to work, commuting home, etc. These prosaic events have a greater effect on our daily well-being than, say, election results do, and they tend to be similar for winners and losers, or accident victims and lottery winners. If Trump wins the presidency, the pain of his victory will eventually subside for Democrats, and their lives will be dominated by the same pedestrian events that dominated them before the election.

The second reason that defeat stings less than we fear before our candidate loses is that humans have a tendency to overestimate how long severe psychological pain will last. Just as we might treat a deep gash with antibiotic ointment and bandages, we’re equipped with a sophisticated psychological immune system that targets serious emotional injuries. Self-soothing is distracting and mentally exhausting, so we tend to employ it only for major injuries. As Gilbert and his colleagues explained, “A wife may do the costly cognitive work necessary to rationalize her husband’s infidelity (‘I guess men need to try this sort of thing once to get it out of their systems’), but not his annoying habits (‘I guess men need to experiment with leaving their dirty dishes in the sink’), and thus the wife’s anger about her husband’s disorderliness may outlive her anger about his philandering.” Ardent Democrats may find a Trump presidency more painful at first, but their psychological immune systems should therefore kick in more keenly.
Well,yes, perhaps.

But reading his response leads me to elaborate on mine.

The first elaboration is that there is a matter of pertinence. Most of the declarations about leaving if the preferred candidate does not win only occur in the context of federal elections and usually in the sphere of presidential contests. You don't often hear declarations that "If Governor X doesn't win, I'm moving to ..." or "If Mayor Y doesn't win ...." or even "If Senator Z doesn't . . . "

We live in a republican system of government with three layers (federal, state and local) and in each we have three branches (legislative, judicial and executive). We have lots of checks and balances. In fact, the outcome in one branch at one level of government is hardly determinative of anything. In terms of day-to-day living, local government is far more consequential than state government and state government is more consequential than federal government. Most of everything that the federal government does is a 10% cap on the heavy lifting done locally and at the state level.

Whichever candidate wins the federal presidential election, the result is not much more than a token. In terms of what it means for everyday life, the consequence is miniscule. Hence, when some bombast has to consider whether to leave, they have to consider whether a career disruption, a lower standard of living, the cost of actually moving (in the many thousands of dollars), etc. and hold that in balance against the fact nothing has actually changed in their day-to-day life. They don't leave because the economic equation and the political consequence equation just don't add up to a compelling proposition.

The second elaboration is speculative. Alter's article mentions Rush Limbaugh (conservative) threatening to leave if ACA is passed. After some searching, I found Stephen Baldwin (actor), and that's about it in terms of anyone of any public prominence on the conservative side. Most of the claims to leave seem to come from the left side of the spectrum the Rev. Al Sharpton, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Cher, Lena Dunham, Eddie Vedder, Alec Baldwin, Robert Altman, Pierre Salinger, Barbara Streisand, Lynn Redgrave, Eddie Griffin, Samuel L. Jackson, Barry Diller, Katie Hopkins, Omari Hardwick, etc.. And that's just from the first google page of results.

There is something more going on here.

Yes, there seem to be a lot more left leaning leavers than right leaning. That sort of makes sense given that conservatism (granted, a big tent) is often characterized by a more visceral love of country that would preclude departure.

But perhaps it is not a left right issue at all so much as it is an industry issue. Look at the list of leavers. They are virtually all in the entertainment industry. Yes it is an industry noted for its liberalism but so are tech, journalism, finance, and the academy. Where are the prominent tech, journalism, finance, and professors proclaiming their commitment to depart? Maybe they are out there but I am not seeing them in the search results. And that makes some sense from a career and self-interest point of view.

The academy does not pay near as well outside the US and who would give up the golden ring of tenure to start the grind again elsewhere for much lower money? Same with journalism. There is perhaps more latitude for finance and tech, but still not a lot. There is no other Silicon Valley and the closest rivals (Research Triangle, Route 128, Silicon Alley) are still in the US.

So perhaps this is not so much a left/right issue as it is a peculiar quirk of the entertainment industry involving tribal and moral signaling.

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