Tuesday, October 31, 2017


What is charisma?  You know it when you see it.  Reports cited in the WSJ go a bit further. Various studies are cited.  Here are the results of one:
“What we found is charisma is composed of two elements,” says the paper’s lead author, Konstantin Tskhay, who now works as a consultant at Deloitte. “One relates to influence, or the ability to guide others, and the other to affability, or making other people feel comfortable and at ease.” ...
Political success is measured by an ability to build and sustain coalitions.  This usually means issuing more than one message on any issue to more than one potential constituency -- and worrying less about inconsistencies. It means getting away with it: doing so without being thought of as duplicitous. It means sticking to the bland and crowd-tested cliches -- and getting away with it.  FDR and LBJ managed to build and sustained coalitions. All political actors carefully hone their approach and their rhetoric.  But are they a turn-off or a turn-on?  Ask Hillary Clinton.

Many people (here and abroad) were dazzled by (fell in love with) the charismatic Barack Obama. Many still like Bill Clinton. Infatuations are funny. Our natural BS detectors go limp for a while.

Celebrities (usually from entertainment these days, from the military in the past) presumably have charisma. Recently, Maureen Down speculated whether or not Mark Cuban would run for the presidency. It is not simple. Ronald Reagan made the entertainment-politics transition. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura were less successful. Who knows about Al Franken?

My guess is that the jury is no longer out on Donald Trump; his approval ratings appear to be stuck below 40%. Not a sign of successful coalition building -- or of charisma as the cited authors define it. His efforts, just feeding red meat to the true believers, are not adequate.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Networked networks

Tyler Cowen noted that Cities and Suburbs Are Becoming Pretty Similar.  Of course.  A city-suburb dichotomy is much too simple. Nevertheless because Census and others report many data series this way, we keep using the two categories.

The idea of (suburban) "sprawl" is useless and specious. Qian An, Jim Moore and I showed some time ago that, using conventional travel time data, means as well as variances for work as well as shopping trips varied little no matter whether the traveler was "urban" or "suburban". In other words, most people and businesses have an interest arranging themselves spatially so as not to have to put up with irksome distances.

People and businesses in cities want two things: space and accessibility. We now say they want to network profitably. "Space" can proxy for a preferred amenities package. How can they get both? When large numbers of people and businesses consider the possibilities and the trade-offs available to them they make workable choices. The outcome is the cities we have.

There is enough movement of people and capital among cities that they must see themselves as competing. Uncompetitive packages of location and travel costs cannot survive for very long.

Robin Dunbar thought that a village of 150-250 would be as large a community that our brains could cope with -- in the interests of group survival.  Our "villages" are now much bigger.  The networks in our brains are networked with the networks in the brains of very many fellow citizens -- the ones with whom we interact physically and/or electronically.  That's modern accessibility; we can seemingly manage the blend of networks we want whether in the "city" or the "suburbs."