Shortening the “Long Tail” of politics

The Long Tail is a much-discussed phenomena in
marketing and technology circles; one example is how Amazon makes more money on the million non-best-sellers
its able to carry than it does on the top 100,000 you’d find at a corner
bookstore. To put it actionably, rather than merely trying to monetize the most
popular items, create an infrastructure that allows you to cost-effectively
monetize the entire “tail” of the
distribution.


Thus, I was fascinated to
find an article (hat tip to Weintraub) by Arnold
Kling
applying “Long Tail” thinking to
politics:

The Long Tail is
not the political center. It is not a third party waiting to form. It is not a
coalition. It is not a “silent majority” of either the right or left. It is
simply every variety of political belief that does not fit within the two major
parties. If we had a parliamentary system with proportional representation, the
Long Tail would consist of many splinter parties, including some parties that
are ethnocentric, a variety of Greens, a variety of libertarians, single-issue
activists, and parties which are outside of today’s classifications. The Long
Tail is a motley assortment of political misfits, wing nuts, and sober
independents

He then proceeds to
discuss a parliamentary-style system called “virtual federalism”, which is
basically proportional representation (PR). I have mixed
feelings about PR (which is why I propose a mixed alternative :-), but that’s not my biggest
concern. Right now, I believe our current parties are not the ‘head’ of the
long tail, but rather two-sigma out from the normal
distribution!

Ultimately, I believe
we’re in for a seismic political shakeup which will result into two parties: a
center-right ‘radical center’ and a center-left ‘sensible-center.’ The former
may be called Republican, and the latter Democrat, or they might be completely
new. Regardless, the situation now is extremely unstable, and eventually
something will have to rationalize it.

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