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[flagged] Robots in Europe Vote for the Radical Right (unibocconi.eu)
28 points by geox 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments





Paper title: Individual Vulnerability to Industrial Robot Adoption Increases Support for the Radical Right.

From the abstract: >[we] show that individuals more vulnerable to negative consequences of automation tend to display more support for the radical right. Automation exposure raises support for the radical left too, but to a significantly lower extent.

Authors clickbated their own title in an academic journal


What a headline.

No, the article isn't about bots voting. It actually says:

> individuals that...are more exposed to the automation shock are significantly [about 3%] more likely to vote for a radical right party.

> individual exposure to the automation shock leads to poorer perceived economic conditions, lower likelihood of having a permanent contract, and lower satisfaction with the government and democracy.


Thanks for the clarification. The disconnect between the title and the content is very puzzling, I was really expecting this article to be about some kind of experiment with AI choosing seemingly far right policies from an array of options. Or about voting bots.

The headline was quite good IMHO, I understood immediately what it was meant, even before clicking - and I found it quite smart. But, of course, is not to be read literally.

3% sounds a surprisingly small and uninteresting percentage as well, given that "exposed to the automation shock" is basically "works in a list of mostly low paid occupations with less educated workforces we've highlighted as susceptible to automation". Right wing populist parties have always been more popular with low income, low education workers. So have populist left wing parties and the abstract indicates the authors' model is specified so it find no such correlation with left wing support, but this sounds suspiciously like p-hacking...

Because the left right spectrum is muddied beyond utility, it's worth teasing out what exactly this means. According to most political compasses, for example, the left right axis is supposed to represent economics, with the left being authoritarian redistribution and the right being free markets.

So, do I think that automation causes most people to desire freer markets? No. In the same way that the immigration or globalization doesn't exactly make the working class reach for free markets... it's actually the complete opposite. So they're definitely not reaching right in that sense.

Well, another thing that's often represented on the left vs right is progressivism vs conservatism, and here is where we get to the heart of this pattern. People who want things to change in some uncharted direction, vs people who want things to stay the same or go back to a previous state. Your job is gone due to automation, immigration, or globalization? It's entirely reasonable to reach for the conservative button to make things go back. Populists promising your job back is an appealing message.

Because think about progressivism. Progress is fundamentally just change. Whether the change is good is not a given. While pairings with automation actually do exist that could theoretically usher in better economic outcomes for everyone, i.e. UBI or the like, I don't think most people have faith in our politicians to actually get us there. So the Luddite impulse kicks in, and says "I don't like what's happening, make it stop, take us back to the state where I know I still have a place in our economic system." It's completely understandable. If you want to change things, you have all of the burden to convince people that you're taking them someplace better, and that's no easy feat when they're watching circumstances around them rapidly knocking out their livelihood, and there's someone out there promising they can make it stop and go back to how it was.


> Your job is gone due to automation, immigration, or globalization? It's entirely reasonable to reach for the conservative button to make things go back. Populists promising your job back is an appealing message.

Much like the left-right spectrum muddies things, so does the limited choice of political parties. Consider that (mostly) the only ones promising to bring back jobs/protect local industry are on the right, while the left sees this as something nasty and nativist, that just shouldn't be done. So even if you disagree with the rest of the right's platform, many will vote for them anyway, since the left's promise of turning your country into nothing but an economic and social platform on which you have to compete with the whole world makes them too nervous, despite the social safety net supposed to protect them. With their economic and social status dramatically diminished, how long will the safety net hold?


> Consider that (mostly) the only ones promising to bring back jobs/protect local industry are on the right, while the left sees this as something nasty and nativist, that just shouldn't be done.

Is this true in most European countries? Because in Latin America, the Left wants to protect workers jobs and local industries.

I'm confused because in many parts of the world, the US in particular and I guess (some of) Europe, "the Left" seems to mean "liberal democrats". Over here, on the contrary, the Left is all about workers rights. We do have some social democrats masquerading as progressives, of course, but we understand that's not "the Left".


> Is this true in most European countries?

Sort of. For an example that's not exactly worker rights, Hungary has a fertility rate of 1.52 births/woman, far below the replacement rate of 2.1. Yet when the right-wing government enacted policies to increase it, it was attacked as "xenophobic" [1] and that it "reeks of the 1930s" [2].

It is part of a trend of delegitimizing any kind of favoritism of a country toward its own people.

[1] https://twitter.com/nowthisnews/status/1095495521748353024

[2] https://www.thelocal.se/20190216/hungary-family-plan-reeks-o...


In many ways the current democratic party could be cast as 'conservative' in the classic sense of 'to conserve'. They are trying to conserve the status quo - institutions, democratic processes, norms, how government works/what it is, globalism etc. This also means they are tightly enmeshed with corporations and corporate interests. It means that the progressive part of the democratic party are generally disappointed, because the party at large isn't trying to make things change.

If the democrats are 'conservative' what are the republicans and the people that are voting for them? They are reactionary. They do want change - but as a reaction. That the things desired are not compatible or even necessarily well defined: `religious values based government`, `returning culturally to a previous era`, `small government/government is the problem`, `reversing globalization`, `blowing it all up to rebuild`.

It is also reactionary in terms of being against whatever the democrats are for. So much so that they will reverse their previous position, if the democrats agree with it. An obvious example of this would be Merrick Garland. Or the ACA.

There are other more mundane 'conservative' values that remain - like low taxes, corporate interests, maintaining the social/financial hierarchy, traditional family values perhaps. They remain, but arguably aren't as significant as they were in the past.

Assuming this is correct it means: republicans want big changes. That it's largely undefined what these big changes would actually be in practice. Moreover it is logically impossible for them to deliver in practice. They can appear to temporarily deliver on being 'not democrats'.


To be fair, the Democrats have also been playing this game of changing their position to oppose whatever the Republicans are for. Though that seemed to happen more when Trump was president. Maybe it's whichever party doesn't hold the presidency at the moment?

And, in becoming "conservative", the Democrats have abandoned the working class. This has been a huge change in the last 10 or so years.


> left right axis is supposed to represent economics

Most political compasses place the left right axis separate from the liberty/authoritarian axis. So the 'top left' is 'authoritarian-left' and the bottom right is 'liberty-right'.

I think economics is represented across the entire surface of the compass, not just one axis or another. You might be liberty-left, for instance, and believe in some mixture of gift economies, communalism, etc.


It's a fundamental flaw in the axes, though. There is no such thing as "lib-left," because the left economic wing is fundamentally authoritarian. You cannot have arbitrary distribution of resources without authoritarianism. The only way to make any sense of the political compass is to say that the vertical axis is authoritarian vs libertarian, and the left/right is egalitarian distribution (still authoritarian) vs libertarian (free markets). So the only true liberal/libertarian position is LibRight, but we accept LibLeft as "anti-authoritarian" because, while they're economically authoritarian, we've agreed to peel that off onto an independent axis.

this is interesting and out-of-the-box, so I will try an "add"

people are not entirely the same individual through their life cycle. Adolescent/young adult patterns are driven largely by a desire to break out of the mold of the past, while parenting/administration is driven by stability, perhaps efficiency or perhaps grandeur.. creative drive is more likely attributed to the adolescent side, while overwhelming strength is likely built on the stability side.

Political leanings change with external circumstances, like a group responding to an external threat; and internal circumstances, a person or group's worldviews. The WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) may believe in the individual drive, but raising children and running a business are group activities. The values of the group, in most places, in most times, are going to drive political choices.

Summary? a voter will change over time, secondly their social circumstances drive that change as much or more as the individual.


> Your job is gone due to automation, immigration, or globalization? It's entirely reasonable to reach for the conservative button to make things go back. Populists promising your job back is an appealing message.

If you're a miner in a ex-mining town who lost his job, but the government isn't doing anything about it what are your options really? Either leave or vote for whoever is promising changes, even if that somebody is a known liar and/or radical.

On another note, I think that just as technological progress is making some people unemployed, it's also leaving some countries behind. It's just that countries can afford to be ignorant of this trend since it's not an existential threat in the _present_.


> Because think about progressivism. Progress is fundamentally just change.

No. "Regress" is also change, but it's in the opposite direction of "progress". Progress is a change for the better, not just a change.

And "progressives", just by claiming that label, are selling us that they're going to bring "progress", not just change driven by a random number generator.


Hypothetical imperative. Better for who, or to what aim? For the purpose of this topic, progressivism is change, and conservatism is either no change or regression. There's no need to add morality into it.

From dictionary.com, progress is:

> 1. a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage: the progress of a student toward a degree.

> 2. developmental activity in science, technology, etc., especially with reference to the commercial opportunities created thereby or to the promotion of the material well-being of the public through the goods, techniques, or facilities created.

> 3. advancement in general.

> 4. growth or development; continuous improvement: He shows progress in his muscular coordination.

It's not just change. It's beneficial change. That's the mantle that progressives are claiming by choosing the label "progressive". That's what they're saying they're offering.

> Better for who, or to what aim?

I agree that those are essential questions. Those who claim to be progressive should have to answer them. "Change for the sake of change" isn't good enough; we want change that makes things better, not just variety. And we want change that actually will make things better, not just that some wild-eyed zealot claims will make things better.

Under your definition, those calling for a Christian state, or a pure white state, or a monarchy, are progressives. That's... well, it's not the definition anyone else is using, and it's not a very useful definition.


This reminds me of a debate that Tucker Carlson was having, wherein he mentioned that, if he were king, he would immediately ban self-driving trucks, reasoning that truck driving is the #1 employer of non-college educated men in the US. I don't think Carlson thinks such a ban would be advisable in the long run, but there's certainly a point to be made that destroying the livelihoods of large swathes of the population is not something to be trifled with. People aren't fungible, truckers don't become software devs overnight, if ever. There's a cultural aspect to it too, which I think UBI will not fix. Take the coal mining industry in Virginia - there are families there that have been miners for generations. At that point it's become a matter of pride and a centerpiece of their culture, not just a source of income. Cash payments from the government cannot replace that. I grew up surrounded by the abandoned mills left after the collapse of the textile industry in the South. Although a few have been converted into lofts and trendy bars, many remain empty and it hollowed out the communities that grew around them. Parents sent their children to the cities to seek other work; when they get there they lost the old support structure of parents, extended family, friends, and Churches. The kids have no friends to rely on, the parents go into nursing homes as they've no one to take care of them, and there is no transfer of culture. These are the issues that conservatism should attempt to address - instead we get wal-mart patriotism, hyper-libertarian off-shoring of jobs, and neocon wars in the name of evangelical democracy.

Many of these ideas -- guaranteed employment for citizens, the creation of a strong middle class -- were the specific focus of policy initiatives like the New Deal. Conservatives hated the New Deal and spent decades trying to eliminate it, finally succeeding in the 1980s. The result was a much more efficient (largely offshored) economy, and many of the social ills you mention above.

ETA: It's easy for Tucker Carlson to rail against self-driving trucks when they don't (really) exist and businesses aren't clamoring for them. I'm much more skeptical that he'll remain opposed when they're real and powerful industries are lobbying for them.


> with the left being authoritarian redistribution and the right being free markets.

No. Authoritarianism and Libertarianism are orthogonal to Left and Right in almost all modern models that include two or more dimensions [1][2]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_spectrum

2. https://www.politicalcompass.org/


Yes I understand what the political compass purportedly states, but the fact is that the economic axis is not devoid of authoritarianism. If the left axis is about arbitrary allocation of resources (in this case, in accordance with some egalitarian distribution scheme), then it is authoritarian. That doesn't make it bad or good, it's just authoritarian.

Therefore, the best way to reason about the common political compass is that the vertical axis is authoritarianism vs libertarianism, and the horizontal axis is economic authoritarianism vs economic libertarianism.


> If the left axis is about arbitrary allocation of resources (in this case, in accordance with some egalitarian distribution scheme), then it is authoritarian.

It's not though. Your premise is not satisfied by definition because if someone were authoritarian then they would not be libertarian. It doesn't matter how people classify themselves, only their actual positions. A lot of libertarian socialism is about building cooperatives, unions, mutual aid, free banking, etc. You're just begging the question, assuming what you want to conclude.

> vertical axis is authoritarianism vs libertarianism, and the horizontal axis is economic authoritarianism vs economic libertarianism.

That's just nonsensically redundant and not useful.


This is honestly not the conversation I was inviting and am not interested in having for what is probably the thousandth in my life. The bottom line is that libertarian socialism is absolutely paradoxical, socialism is necessarily authoritarian. That doesn't mean evil, mind you, it just means that your personal liberties are overridden in service of some mandated objective.

Again, I'm not interested in having this conversation, so I won't be responding again.


> absolutely paradoxical, socialism is necessarily authoritarian.

Again, you're just begging the question and not giving any argument, despite being given counterexamples. No personal liberties are override by forming a cooperative.


> In the same way that the immigration or globalization doesn't exactly make the working class reach for free markets... it's actually the complete opposite. So they're definitely not reaching right in that sense.

There was an under-examined switch between anti-globalization being a "left" thing round about 2000, and its current status of being "right" thing. Obviously the financial crisis happened in the middle of that, but what happened ideologically?

Part of it is just the general uselessness of labels, especially those applied externally in bad faith; anti-racism being labelled as "Marxism", for example. It also fails to capture the various internal factions and rifts in both movements and parties.

It's fairly clear that the US Republicans contained a pro-international-free-markets faction and an anti faction, and the anti faction won a significant victory in the Trump primary which has led to substantial capture of the party.

> Progress is fundamentally just change.

Normally this is defined differently, see "whig view of history", such that "progress" is by definition better. What you need to ask is "for whom?"

Speaking of labels, the early Luddites were proto-socialists; see https://libcom.org/history/machine-breakers-eric-hobsbawm


Yes I wouldn't get hung up too much on whether it's a left or a right thing, that's why I specifically isolated the "progressive" vs "conservative" aspect. There's also an element of "populism" vs "elites" going on, which is language that can be leveraged by either the left or the right.

This title is an atrocity



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