Barone mentions a book called The Big Sort, which says that such self-sorting within the USA is bad, because it is “tearing us apart”. The book, says Barone:
… describes how Americans since the 1970s have increasingly sorted themselves out, moving to places where almost everybody shares their cultural orientation and political preference – and the others keep quiet about theirs.
Thus professionals with a choice of where to make their livings head for the San Francisco Bay Area if they’re liberal and for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (they really do call it that) if they’re conservative. Over the years the Bay Area becomes more liberal and the Metroplex more conservative.
Barone only concerns himself with how such self-sorting might be affecting the upcoming Presidential election, speculating that it causes liberals to live in an ideological cocoon and be bad at dealing with criticisms of their opinions. He instances the claim that Obamacare is unconstitutional, which liberals only took seriously when the Supreme Court suddenly did. Liberals had had months to prepare counter-arguments to that argument, or to rejig Obamacare so that it didn’t clash with the Constitution, but they saw no need to do either.
But there is plenty more to be said about ideological self-sorting. Might ideological self-sorting in due course become a major global tendency, with people choosing not just localities within countries, but actual countries, on ideological grounds? Is that already happening to any significant degree? If not, how likely is it that it might? And if it did start or has started, what might be its consequences?
The self-sorting Barone refers to is happening because moving within the USA is now quite easy. But time was when moving anywhere else was far harder, yet some people still did it, to particularly enticing destinations, from particularly abominable starting points. That people tried to hard to get out of the old USSR was one of the most damning and least answerable criticisms made against that horrible place.
The USA itself, all of it, is an exercise in ideological self-sorting, in the sense that most Americans are descended from people who bet the farm, metaphorically and often literally, on life in America being a better bet, even if they started out in America only with what they could carry. Americans are mostly descended from people who took a huge chance to make hugely better things happen for them. The great American exception to this is Americans descended from slaves, or from American natives. African slaves shipped to America placed no bets. They were chips in bets placed by others. Does that fact illuminate the seemingly still rather fraught relationship between black America and the rest of America? I think: yes.
But I am digressing into American history. What of the future of the world?
As a libertarian, I like the idea of ideological self-sorting, partly because it seems to me that there is a huge imbalance, in favour of minimal statism and against maximal statism, when it comes to how well each works out when practised only locally. Remember all those mental agonies suffered by Soviet communists when they started to realise that they were going to have to make do with “socialism in one country”, rather than everywhere? And remember how easy it then became to see which was better, Communism or not-Communism? Most of the world’s collectivists, although there are surely exceptions to this generalisation, are now collectivisms whose entire purpose is to deny “free riders” their free ride, anywhere on earth, thereby denying not only choice but exit. For collectivists, a world in which anti-collectivism flourishes, albeit only in some places, is anathema. They have to have it all, or their ideas won’t work, even in the limited sense of being inevitable and inescapable, and alternatives being hard to imagine because all suppressed. For most collectivists, it’s world government or nothing. But for libertarians, we only have to get a libertarian nation of some sort going, and to protect it from being completely shut down, and we’re in business.
We libertarians also have a big advantage in believing in being self-armed. Any libertarian national enclaves that emerge from the process of self-sorting that I envisage will, I believe, punch above their numerical weight, militarily speaking.
It is tempting to suppose that once ideological self-sorting gets seriously under way, if it does, it will then self-reinforce. As more people of one mind concentrate in particular places, those of other minds will have ever more reason to go elsewhere. This is the process that the author of The Big Sort dislikes, but which I favour for the world as a whole.
And then, when we all get to see which places work well and which work badly, you would at least hope that lessons would be learned. Sometimes that happens, as when many Eastern Europeans fled from Communism to America and then provided the political fuel for what America’s Communists and their useful idiots still describe as anti-Communist “hysteria”, in other words opposition to Communism and the belief that Communists ought not to infest the American government.
However, a big problem with ideological self-selection is that sometimes, having helped to wreck their original home, ideologically stupid people then move to other more successful places, but bringing their own stupid ideological opinions with them. Think of all the Muslims who now run away from overwhelmingly Islamic countries because of Islam’s despotic habits of government, only to bring those despotic tendencies with them to their new homes.
I’ve never been to the USA, but I occasionally read reports (and I seem to recall comments at this blog along these lines) that something similar happens there quite a lot, and is happening now, as “Blue” Staters run away from Blue States, but then vote for more Blue State stupidity in their new and formerly Red State homes. I trust I have the colour coding the right way round there. Personally I think this coding is wrong. How did the damn pinko taxers-and-spenders manage to get themselves coloured blue, and to colour their more enlightened and less parasitical enemies red?
So, to sum up, and hence to enable me to bring this rather unwieldy posting to a close, I think that, although it might not work out as well as I hope, I’m in favour of ideological self-sorting, and especially when it comes to self-sorting between different countries. But I’m sure I’ve missed out a lot of important things that could be said further on this topic, and I look forward to any such things that our commentariat might want to add to this.