Remember: Just because an idea is old doesn't mean it's good.

Knowing whether old ideas are more likely to be good requires understanding whether conditions have changed in important ways.
Horse archery was an amazing method of warfare for over a thousand years...then people invented guns, and suddenly this great idea that had stood the test of time became obsolete.
Then again, when underlying conditions don't change much, tried-and-true approaches are probably better.
"Learning the lessons of history" usually just means assuming ergodicity and stationarity in an informal time-series model...

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More from Noah Smith

Bloomberg Ideas conference now starting! I will be live-tweeting it. You can watch on our Facebook or Twitter pages (links below)!


Our first panel is about cryptocurrency! We have @matt_levine, @tylercowen, @eiaine, @nirkaissar, and Camilla

Ou: Crypto will be useful for the unbanked.

Cowen: Crypto has to compete against a bunch of other emerging payments technologies. Bitcoin is too inflexible.

Cowen: I'll bet on the payments companies over crypto.
When Republicans started to believe in racial bloc voting - when they stopped believing that nonwhite people could ever be persuaded to vote Republican - they started to see immigration as an invasion.

This explains why immigration is now at the center of partisan conflict.


Of course, the belief in ethnic bloc voting becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When a slight Dem tilt among Hispanics and Asians caused the GOP to turn against them, Hispanics and Asians shifted more toward the Dems. Etc. etc. A self-reinforcing cycle.

Bush's 2006 amnesty attempt, and the 2013 intra-GOP fight over immigration reform, were two moments when the GOP could have turned back to the approach of Reagan, and courted Hispanics and Asians.

But they decided against this, and...here we are.

What will disrupt this bad equilibrium, and save American politics from being an eternal race war?

Either:
A) More white voters will grow disgusted with the GOP approach and defect, or
B) The GOP will find some non-immigration-related issues to attract more Hispanics and Asians.

As long as both parties see elections in terms of racial bloc voting - where the only way to win is to increase turnout among your own racial blocs or suppress turnout by the other party's racial blocs - American politics will not improve, and the country will decline.

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