Krugman Smears SuperFreakonomics

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner certainly don’t need my help defending their new book SuperFreakonomics. They’re doing a great job of it themselves. However, I do want to draw my readers’ attention to the debate surrounding the book and recommend the book itself.

The first thing to note about the book is that it contains five chapters plus an epilogue (about monkeys). The main text of the book runs through page 216 (while notes and such run through page 270). The fifth chapter mostly concerns climate change, though it also rambles into topics such as auto thefts and AIDS, and it runs from page 165 to 209. The book covers a wide range of topics from prostitution to hospital sanitation. But the part about climate change is what has the critics riled up.

Though the debate has since seen more developments, I want to focus on Paul Krugman’s attack on the book in his blog post, Superfreakonomics on climate, part 1, published October 17.

Krugman claims that “the first five pages” of the chapter on climate change “are enough to discredit the whole thing… [b]ecause they grossly misrepresent other peoples’ research, in both climate science and economics.”

The chapter opens with the “global cooling” story — the claim that 30 years ago there was a scientific consensus that the planet was cooling, comparable to the current consensus that it’s warming.

Um, no. Real Climate has the takedown. What you had in the 70s was a few scientists advancing the cooling hypothesis, and a few popular media stories hyping their suggestions. To the extent that there was a consensus, it was that there wasn’t much evidence for anything, and more research was needed.

Krugman puts much more trust in the politically subsidized computer models projecting human-caused global warming than I do, but he legitimately points out that global warming now has much more scientific support than global cooling did decades ago. Uncle.

So where do Levitt and Dubner claim that global cooling was the consensus in the 1970s? They don’t say that. Krugman just made that up. Talk about grossly misrepresenting other people’s research.

What Levitt and Dubner do is quote two old articles about global cooling to begin their chapter. Through the course of their chapter, Levitt and Dubner make precisely the same point that so excites Krugman: global cooling soon lost support whereas global warming now has widespread scientific support.

On to the next point. On page 169, SuperFreakonomics states, “The economist Martin Weitzman analyzed the best available climate models and concluded that the future holds a 5 percent chance of a terrible-case scenario — a rise of more than 10 degrees Celsius.”

Krugman replies,

Yikes. I read Weitzman’s paper, and have corresponded with him on the subject — and it’s making exactly the opposite of the point they’re implying it makes. Weitzman’s argument is that uncertainty about the extent of global warming makes the case for drastic action stronger, not weaker. … Again, we’re not even getting into substance — just the basic issue of representing correctly what other people said.

So where do Levitt and Dubner imply that Weitzman’s paper urges weaker action on global warming? They don’t imply that. Krugman just made that up. Because it’s “just the basic issue of representing correctly what other people said.”

Indeed, just two paragraphs later, Levitt and Dubner quote another economist who favors spending over a trillion dollars per year to address the problem. Perhaps that’s not sufficiently “strong” action for Krugman, but it seems pretty strong to me.

Krugman more recently complains that Levitt and Dubner don’t include arguments from Weitzman’s paper that Krugman wishes they had included. But so what? Krugman is welcome to write his own book on climate change. Levitt and Dubner use the information from Weitzman fairly to set up their question, “So how should we place a value on this relatively small chance of worldwide catastrophe?”

Levitt and Dubner’s broader point is that it’s far cheaper and much faster-acting to geoengineer cooler temperatures than it is to dramatically curb carbon emissions. Read the book for details, or read Levitt’s post on the matter.

You might also want to check out replies from Levitt and Dubner to other environmentalist critics.

Our authors do raise an interesting question: given that geoengineering seems like it would solve potential problems of global warming much faster and much cheaper, why are most environmentalists so dismissive of the idea? I think my dad and I provide the answer in our recent op-ed: environmentalists “see untouched nature as intrinsically valuable. They have no problem with natural climate change, smoke, or chemicals. They just dislike anything that people do to alter nature.”

Environmentalists favor carbon reduction because that reduces human interaction with the rest of the environment. Environmentalists oppose geoengineering because it increases human interaction with the rest of the environment. And that preference has exactly no basis in science.

In the end, the mere fact that Paul Krugman blasts SuperFreakonomics should interest readers in buying and reading the book.

* * *

Which is not to say that the book is perfect. Apparently I’m the outlier in reading the book from the beginning, but my issue with it arose much earlier, in the introduction, pages 2 and 3.

Levitt and Dubner write that “1 of every 140 miles is driven drunk, or 21 billion miles each year.” The “total number of people killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents each year” is “about 13,000.”

Here comes the sketchy part: “The average American walks about a half-mile per day outside the home or workplace. … If we assume that 1 of every 140 of those miles are walked drunk — the same proportion of miles that are driven drunk — then 307 million miles are walked drunk each year.”

The upshot is that, given “more than 1,000 drunk pedestrians die in traffic accidents,” it’s more dangerous to walk drunk than it is to drive drunk.

But whey should we “assume that 1 of every 140 of those miles are walked drunk?” The notes offer no clue about this. Offhand it seems like a wildly implausible assumption.

First, a lot of people go on long walks every day, and typically people don’t get drunk before they exercise. So that skews the averages. Second, when people are rip-roaring drunk, it can seem very hard to walk down the street but very easy to turn the ignition key. So I suspect that the fraction of miles walked drunk is much lower than what our authors assume — which bolsters their point that drunk walking is dangerous.

Regardless of the exact risks, as someone who used to abuse alcohol, I can confirm the author’s broader point that getting drunk can be generally dangerous, and traffic fatalities hardly exhaust the list of potential harms.

Rosen 0, Longo 0

Some readers may have noticed that my blog posts feed into the People’s Press Collective. How this process works is a mystery to me, and I’m not even sure whether my posts automatically feed into it or whether they must pass through a human gatekeeper. At any rate, I think it’s a useful site, and I like all the contributers I know. That said, I disagree with the occasional post there.

A recent post by “AnCap” — a.k.a. Justin Longo of Complete Colorado (and I’m not spilling any beans here) — is quite interesting even though fundamentally wrong.

Longo’s main point is that radio host Mike Rosen often compromises free-market principles in the name of “reality.” I can attest this is true. Rosen often has expressed a belief that what’s good in theory may not work in practice. Therefore, he often jettisons principles for the sake of pragmatism. For example, Longo notes, Rosen supported the TARP “stimulus” corporate welfare. As Longo paraphrases, Rosen is “still reluctantly for TARP because doing nothing would have been far worse.”

Longo is correct that Rosen’s position violates free-market principles. Moreover, Rosen is simply wrong: “doing nothing” would have been far better than forcibly transferring wealth from the productive economy to political boondoggles. Robert Higgs makes this case.

The more fundamental point that Rosen misses is that restoring a truly free market would be a lot better than “doing nothing.” Advocates of free markets are not for the status quo: we are for replacing today’s mixed economy with liberty. As my dad and I reviewed, politicians caused the mortgage meltdown. Since then they have been worsening the recession and delaying recovery through massive wealth transfers, new and capricious economic controls, and continuous threats of more of the same.

As Longo reviews, Rosen believes that free market reforms today are “not on the table.” What Rosen neglects to notice is that what’s on the table is what we put on the table. Free market reforms are not on the table today because practically all Republicans have busily renounced free markets in favor of more political controls. But that’s not quite true; despite the Republican war on free markets, some free market reforms are on the table thanks to the efforts of a small but dedicated few devoted to liberty, such as the idea to expand Health Savings Accounts. (This reform appears to be hidden under a napkin, but at least it’s on the table.)

True, cultural changes can be long and arduous. But we can’t achieve positive change unless we fight for it. Just look at what the abolitionists achieved in a span of years. Rosen creates a self-fulfilling prophesy by presuming that free market reforms are off the table. Pragmatists content themselves to gnaw on the scraps tossed to them by those with the ambition to take a seat at the table.

Yet Longo’s deeper critique of Rosen illustrates precisely what’s wrong with the libertarian movement. Rosen plays the “pragmatic libertarian” to Longo’s “dogmatic libertarian.” This is precisely the problem I observed in the Libertarian Party a few years ago — and the reason I left the party and no longer count myself a libertarian.

Longo’s argument is worth examining:

If stopping an employee from negotiating a mutually agreeable wage with an employer is wrong because third parties do not have the right to infringe on voluntary transactions, then one conclusion we can draw is that the minimum wage is immoral. Now take that principle and apply it universally, to all parties, at all times, and to all contracts, decisions, and transactions. Think about it. Do you not like the outcomes you get in some scenarios? Too bad. Those are the consequences you must deal with when principles are applied universally.

Is it wrong to kidnap another human being against their will? Yes? Okay, now apply that principle to all parties, at all times, ever in history? Oh no! You mean we cannot conscript soldiers during war? You mean we can’t force people to sit on juries they don’t want to? Too bad. Those are the consequences you must deal with in order to claim you are principled.

I realize that applying basic principles universally is scary, as some of the outcomes we reach are sometimes outcomes we are uncomfortable with. However, applying principles universally is an important thought experiment that allows us to see whether we really believe in something or we don’t.

Let me close by suggesting just two principles I live by and apply universally. You are more than welcome to run millions of thought experiments in order to reach as many conclusions as possible with these two — warning: some outcomes will scare you.

First principle: You own yourself. No one else has a higher claim on you than you do.

Second principle: It is ALWAYS wrong to initiate force on someone else. (notice the use of the word initiate. Self-defense is absolutely moral).

As you can see, the second principle is really just a logical extension of the first principle. In my view, all we need is the first principle, as everything else is logically deduced from principle one.

Please apply my two principles universally — to all people at all times, ever in history. You will then see why I believe what I believe and how I reached my own conclusions over the years.

To Longo, it is simply “too bad” if libertarian theory, say, causes a death or the destruction of the planet. But obviously he doesn’t really believe that “principles” should be completely detached from consequences; he suggests in his final line that, on net, looking at “all people at all times, ever in history,” the principles he favors achieve the best results. Is that not why he believes what he believes?

The problem is that Longo’s principles aren’t principles at all; they are statements of dogma. A principle is a guide to action integrating vast knowledge about the real world. If a principle doesn’t work in the real world, that means it’s false. Contra Rosen, a principle is such precisely because it is tied to the real world. There is no split between theory and practice — provided that one’s theory is grounded in reality and one’s practice follows sound principles.

Longo claims that “everything else is logically deduced from principle one,” which is, “You own yourself. No one else has a higher claim on you than you do.”

Not only can very little be “deduced” from this claim, but the claim itself is, without principled grounding, completely arbitrary and implausible.

If we look at the course of human history, practically everyone has flat-our rejected the notion that “no one else has a higher claim on you than you do.” Most people have accepted the authority of a king, a priest or deity, a democracy, or some proclaimed moral leader.

So where does Longo’s “first principle” come from? It is certainly not intuitively obvious, it is not written in our genes, it is not written in the heavens.

For libertarians, this “first principle” — this fundamental dogma — is pulled out of nowhere. And that is the most basic problem with libertarianism.

Now, I certainly agree with the principle that a person properly directs the course of his own life. But this is a moral proposition that can only be grounded in the facts of human life and the nature of social interaction. One must prove it and determine its context, not just invoke it as some magical formula. (Proving it takes a lot of hard work that I am not prepared to undertake here, though I will note that in my view Ayn Rand made the most progress in developing the principle.)

But the statement “you own yourself” is not some sort of axiom. Indeed, it cannot possibly be an axiom. Ownership arises, conceptually, in the context of property, which arises only in a social setting. One could not even reach the idea of owning one’s self without the idea of owning some bit of property (a tool, a bowl of food, whatever). Why should I think that I own the stone ax that I made? What if the tribal leader thanks me for creating the ax for the tribe and graciously hands it over to the canoe carver? A lot has to go on conceptually to get to the point where I can think about owning some piece of property. And, as I’ve noted in brief, Leonard “Peikoff argues that ownership properly applies to external objects, and that ownership of one’s self doesn’t make sense.”

But let’s assume that we’ve developed some idea of self-ownership. What deductively follows from that? Practically nothing.

Consider. If I “own myself,” and “no one else has a higher claim” on me, doesn’t that mean I get to control my own actions? Fine. I want that nice-looking TV in the window, so I smash the window and take the TV. The libertarian will reply that the owner of the TV also owns himself, so I have violated his rights. But why should I give a rip about that, if self-ownership is the highest axiom? Go ahead and go own yourself; all I’m doing is taking is TV. To get anywhere with this, we need a complex theory of property rights, and this is not a matter of spinning out deductions from some alleged axiom. We have to say something about why property rights are necessary for human flourishing and why we should adopt one particular theory of property rights instead of some alternative one (such as one in which a king decides who controls what property).

“Second principle: It is ALWAYS wrong to initiate force on someone else.”

Or, as one libertarian put the matter:

Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well, even if it’s distasteful to us personally. Some children will make poor choices just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess. When we outlaw child pornography, the prices paid for child performers rise, increasing the incentives for parents to use children against their will.

In fact, some libertarians have argued that children have a “self-ownership” right to have sex with adults, which is absolutely abhorrent. The quote above seems to sanction child pornography, which is disgusting and despicable. With “principles” like this, who can blame those who “pragmatically” stray from the “principles?”

The general problem is that what counts as force, and what counts as the initiation of force, depends entirely upon our theory of property rights, which again depends on complex moral and legal theories.

Saner libertarians argue that parents may, after all, use force in some contexts when it comes to their children. For instance, if Johnny is playing in the street and refuses to move, a parent may properly pick Johnny up and put him in a safer place. Unquestionably this is the use of force. Whether it is the “initiation of force” depends on which ad hoc rationalization the libertarian confuses for a deduction.

To hint at the real solution, the concept of rights (including property rights) arises in a particular context: the context of rational (as opposed to insane) adults capable of peaceful interaction with others. But again this is the end result of a complex chain of theoretical knowledge, not some first “principle” pulled out of the sky.

Let us extend another of Longo’s examples. He argues that employers and employees should be able to voluntarily agree to a wage, and I quite agree in the normal context. But what if somebody decides to sell himself into lifelong slavery for a supply of drugs or a sum of money? Must we refrain from intervening in that transaction?

The sane libertarian will reply that contract law depends on certain conditions, and that selling one’s self into lifelong slavery could not possibly meet those conditions. Regardless, the conclusion does not simply spin itself out deductively. Principles must integrate a wide range of facts about the human condition, and they can only be applied by examining the particular facts of the case at hand in light of the broader facts identified by the principle.

Ultimately Rosen and Longo make the same error of detaching principles from practice. Rosen abandons principles to achieve what allegedly works. Longo says we must stick to “principles” even when they are scary in practice. However you flip the libertarian coin, you get ungrounded theory on one side and unguided practice on the other. The dogmatists and the pragmatists clash as codependents.

Where I think Longo is headed is that consistently applying principles can create short-term and narrowly defined problems. But the far more important insight is that properly derived principles are absolutely essential for a person’s success in life. Exercise might be momentarily unpleasant, but it contributes to general health. That union of theory and practice cannot come from libertarian dogma disguised as “first principles.” Obviously it cannot come from the pragmatic rejection of principles. It can come only from a proper understanding of what principles are, why sound principles necessarily work, and why successful action must be guided by principles.

Radical Environmentalists Undermine Human Progress

The following article originally was published October 26 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

Radical environmentalists undermine human progress

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The documentary Not Evil, Just Wrong apparently draws its title from an interview with an advocate of DDT, the pesticide sprayed in the U.S. decades ago to wipe out malaria by killing disease-causing mosquitos. Thanks to radical (and dishonest) environmentalists, such as Al Gore’s hero Rachel Carson, international bans on DDT helped cause millions of deaths from malaria in developing nations.

The DDT advocate says that he doesn’t think these environmentalists are evil, just wrong. Yet they advocated policies that caused misery and death for millions of human beings, and they continue to advocate policies that would devastate the global economy and cause more death particularly among the world’s poor.

Your younger author attended a free screening of the documentary October 18 at an event sponsored by the Independence Institute. The same night the documentary also streamed online.

In addition to reviewing the history of DDT, the documentary also pokes holes in some of the major “global warming” claims, including the infamous “hockey stick” graph and claims that recent years have been the warmest on record. Indeed, even the BBC recently admitted that we seem to be headed into a relative cool spell.

The documentary also offers some historical perspective. The earth has gotten warmer and cooler many times over the ages for entirely natural reasons. And, since the beginning of human civilization, some people have been predicting the apocalypse. The global cooling scare is just a few decades old, the documentary reminds us, and some scientists quickly jumped from global cooling to global warming fear mongering.

Unfortunately, while the documentary is better than the work of, say, Al Gore or Michael Moore, it drops the ball on a number of important points.

The film should have offered more information about the earth’s natural warming and cooling cycles, including theories attempting to explain them.

The film says that replacing coal with windmills and solar panels would be economically devastating, and we agree, but the film doesn’t offer much detail on the matter. Nor does the film discuss nuclear power generation in Europe or, potentially, in the U.S.

The film doesn’t even clarify its view on global warming. The film seems to alternately suggest that human-caused global warming is unreal or overstated, that some global warming might be a good thing, and that we’ll be able to develop the technology required to deal with warming.

Critics will legitimately ask: if human-caused global warming is real, and if it will cause harm, and if we can deal with that harm technologically, then why can’t we also explore new technology to reduce CO2 emissions in the first place?

The film plausibly argues that reducing U.S. CO2 emissions would merely shift emissions to China and other developing nations, where coal burning tends to be a lot dirtier. However, the film could have offered considerably more detail on the projected impacts on CO2 emissions from anti-industrial “cap-and-trade” proposals.

A better documentary would have clearly articulated these themes. Radical environmentalists grossly exaggerate human-caused global warming and the potential harms of it. Industry operating in relatively free markets has progressively created cleaner and more abundant energy, leading to dramatic improvements to human life, and it should have the freedom to continue. More political controls on energy will stifle industry and innovation while trivially impacting global CO2 emissions.

There is a broad sense in which we are practically all environmentalists. We all want to breath clean air, drink clean water, and eat healthy food. We all want to limit our exposure to dangerous chemicals. More broadly we want to live and work in comfortable homes and offices in a productive and economically expanding society. We want what’s good for people, and we want an environment conducive to human life.

But radical environmentalists often see people as the enemy. Some environmentalists have likened people to a virus or plague, lamented the growing human population, and hoped for human-killing diseases and catastrophes.

Such environmentalists tend to make two basic errors. First, they see untouched nature as intrinsically valuable. They have no problem with natural climate change, smoke, or chemicals. They just dislike anything that people do to alter nature. Second, they see people as unnatural, as something apart from nature and disruptive to it.

We view nature as good for people. We enjoy wilderness areas for their recreational value. We enjoy the products of mines, tree farms, and factories. We see people as part of the environment, and our proper goal is to use and modify nature for our own benefit.

Radical environmentalists opposed human industry long before the global warming scare. If the earth cools again, they will soon offer some other pretext to destroy human development.

We do not know whether human-caused global warming will ever pose significant challenges for people. But we do know that radical environmentalists pose a grave threat to human progress and life.

CO Constitution Requires Tax-Funded Schools Three Months Per Year

The Colorado Supreme Court is totally out of control. As Clear the Bench details, the court’s latest outrage is to allow a legal suit to force taxpayers to send more of their hard-earned money to government schools.

As Vincent Carroll summarizes, the suit would “undermine democracy and the separation of powers in Colorado.”

The Denver Post’s Tim Hoover nicely reviews the case. He writes, “Kathy Gebhardt, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the school-funding suit, said… courts would have to determine whether the right to a ‘thorough and uniform’ education funding system outweighs the right of citizens to vote on taxes.”

But why should the courts get to establish what constitutes a “thorough and uniform” education? As Carroll and others note, the state’s Constitution explicitly grants funding authority to the general assembly.

However, there is another telling line in the same provision that indicates what the document’s authors thought consistent with a “thorough and uniform” education: the line requiring schools “at least three months in each year.” Obviously, dramatically less tax spending on education is consistent with this part of the Constitution.

Here is the entire bit from Article IX:

Section 2. Establishment and maintenance of public schools.

The general assembly shall, as soon as practicable, provide for the establishment and maintenance of a thorough and uniform system of free public schools throughout the state, wherein all residents of the state, between the ages of six and twenty-one years, may be educated gratuitously. One or more public schools shall be maintained in each school district within the state, at least three months in each year; any school district failing to have such school shall not be entitled to receive any portion of the school fund for that year.

Ben Carson, A Hero of Medicine

We just rented and watched Gifted Hands, the story of neurosurgeon Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins. It’s a fantastic film. In today’s cinematic world of mindless action, dumb comedy, and grotesque horror, here is a different sort of movie, a movie about a true hero, someone who made medical history with his innovative brain surgeries.

Dr. Carson says in a documentary accompanying the film, “It will show the incredible power of education and what it can do for a person. How it can take a person from a life of virtually nothing to the pinnacle of one of the toughest professions in the world.”

Carson grew up in poverty. Though illiterate, his mother drove her sons to educational excellence, requiring them to report on books from the library. Carson overcame struggles in school and racial prejudice to achieve an outstanding education and take the path to medicine.

The film has an obvious religious theme and emphasizes Carson’s religious faith. What drives the heroic story, though, is Carson’s dedication to learning and to his career goals. Well worth viewing.

Fall Harvest

It has been snowing and raining today, so it feels like winter is upon us. Hidden on my camera, however, were some nice photos of the fall’s harvest.

This year’s garden was thrown together. We were in the middle of working on the house (which we’re still doing), and we planted late in mediocre soil. Still, we had a garden, and we did pretty well given our limitations. We got good produce from our 48 tomato plants, and we also had some summer and winter squash. Next year I plan to do considerably better.

By the way, the basil is from our wonderful indoor plant. Also by the way, today I turned a couple of butternut squash (one purchased, one from the garden) into a fabulous soup.




Vampire Haiku

The Denver Post is running a weekly contest for writing haikus. This week the topic is vampires. The only rule is that the verse must follow the 5-7-5 syllable structure. Here’s my entry (which my wife, at least, thought was funny):

Vampires suck my blood?
No, they suck my wallet dry
at cheesy movies.

Here’s the rest of the entries, for those interested.

Activism and Writing Letters to the Editor

I led an “Activism and LTE Workshop” October 6 (thank to the Independence Institute for lending me the space). Here are my modified notes.

The type of activism we should pursue is Intellectual Activism, marked by presenting reasonable arguments based on logic and evidence to the public. The goal is to reach active minds in the culture through various means of communication.

Intellectual activism may be contrasted with a couple of bad types of activism. Intimidation is what we think of regarding the typical far-left protest, where the goal is to scare people, break property, and throw stuff at police. Any sort of threat or violence falls into this sort of bad activism.

Sophistic or postmodern activism uses language as a battering ram or a weapon to change policies, irrespective of the facts. This is the modern version of what the Greek Sophists did: use language to persuade people through deceit and trickery rather than through sound arguments. On the left, this sort of activism is marked by postmodernism, using language as a social tool rather than as a means of conveying the truth. This sort of activism involves distorting statistics, cherry picking data, taking quotes out of context, and pushing logical fallacies. This sort of activism often relies upon crafting some “narrative” to spin one’s policies or vilify one’s opponents, as with calling opponents of Obamacare an unruly mob. Closely related is the obsession with unfounded conspiracy theories.

The primary goal of intellectual activism is to present the case for liberty and individual rights to the public. Generally this is done by presenting arguments in written or oral form. Other goals of intellectual activism can be to promote a positive article, person, or group, or to draw attention to some cause.

Many types of activism can be good or bad depending on the context. For example, rallies can be great, but if the participants are off message they can be counterproductive. Partisanship, or beating up the other side, can be appropriate if partisan attacks are rooted in the facts and if they put principles above politics.

So what are the types of intellectual activism? This can best be seen in graphic form (thanks to my wife Jennifer for creating the image):


The image illustrates the roots of activism, the main three divisions — activist training, politics, and mass communication — and the written and oral branches of mass communication.

Note that one particular campaign of intellectual activism can involve multiple branches. For example, promoting a good article written by an ally might involve writing a blog post, posting a social media link, and mentioning the article in a letter to an elected official.

Obviously, intellectual activists generally specialize in a few branches, though a well-rounded activist can swing easily among various branches.

Writing letters to the editor is one small branch of the tree, but it is an important one. The ability to write a good letter to the editor is an essential skill of any good activist. If you can write a good letter, you can also write a good blog post, learn to write a good op-ed, and translate your skills to oral communication. That is why the workshop I led focussed on developing this skill.

I recorded my presentation on writing letters, so I’ll turn the reader over to those YouTube videos. Some of my material finds inspiration on the article by Robert W. Tracinski, “How to Write an Effective Letter to the Editor.”

Part 1

Part 2

Ryan Frazier Appears Set to Switch Races

A few hours ago Ryan Frazier, candidate for U.S. Senate, commented on his Twitter feed: “Hi everyone, I’m going to be making a big announcement this week. Stay tuned for more details.”

Ben DeGrow writes: “My guess? Fundraising numbers for the third quarter were less than stellar, and higher-ups in the party finally had the leverage to persuade Frazier to take a stab at the 7th Congressional District instead.”

This is so obvious I’m stunned I didn’t think of it before. Last month I speculated that Frazier might jump races to lieutenant governor. But there’s one huge problem with that: Scott McInnis and Josh Penry are duking it out for the Republican nomination for governor. Plus, it’s sort of a lame position, especially for someone with Frazier’s political hunger.

Perhaps I didn’t think of congress because I think of the Seventh as Arvada, not Aurora. But look at the map. It is a strangely drawn district that goes right around Denver.

I personally like Brian Campbell, the guy currently in the race on the GOP side. But I never seriously thought Campbell had a chance to beat out Ed Perlmutter, who has walked over his opponents with ease.

A Frazier run against Perlmutter means that the Colorado GOP has a serious chance to pick off three big Democrats: Governor Bill Ritter (via Penry or McInnis), Senator Michael Bennet (via Jane Norton), and Perlmutter. Suddenly the best-case scenario for Republicans looks very good indeed.

Unfortunately, I know very little about Norton, except that she worked for Bill Owens, which means that she’s at least strongly associated with the tax-and-spend “Country Club” wing of the GOP. Apparently she’s against abortion.

I know a bit more about Frazier. He’s better than most Republicans on economic matters — which is sort of like saying he smells better than Roquefort. He supports domestic partnerships for gay couples. And he seems to personally oppose abortion without getting too excited about banning it.

Frazier’s socially moderate views will play much better in the metro ‘burbs than they would play in rural Weld County or in El Paso, home of Focus on the Family. And the House seems a much more plausible step up for a city councilor.

I suppose we will see very soon whether the official story matches the obvious scenario.