Late Night Thoughts

Hey, stay calm. Germany elected Hitler, and they survived okay.

Less flippantly, there are some silver linings in this very dark cloud:

  • Lots of good people re-elected to the Senate: Portman, Toomey — still waiting to hear on Ayotte. This means there will be at least some smart and forceful advocates for what we used to call Republicanism.
  • ObamaCare will probably be repealed and might be replaced by something better. (Or not.) It even stands a chance of being replaced by something much better, along these lines.
  • Dodd-Frank is probably about to go away. Again, that stands a chance of being excellent news, depending on what it’s replaced with.
  • The estate tax is likely to be finally dead and buried. Beyond that, there is at least some hope for broader tax reform (closing loopholes, lowering rates, fewer incentives to overconsume, etc). I’m not aware that Trump has ever shown much enthusiasm for this, but if Congress takes the initiative there’s a least a chance of avoiding the veto that would have been certain under Clinton.
  • Donald Trump will name the successor to Antonin Scalia, along with, probably another one or two or three Supreme Court justices. I am hopeful that he’s sufficiently uninterested in constitutional law that he’ll hand over the choosing to someone like Mike Pence. Compared to what we’d have gotten from Hillary Clinton, this would be a majorly good thing. Of course it’s equally likely he’ll nominate, oh, John Gotti, Jr. or someone. But we have reason for hope.
  • More generally, we can at least hope that Trump is sufficiently uninterested in governing that he’ll hand over everything to someone like Mike Pence.

None of this remotely compensates for the prospect of living in an America where Trumpian stormtroppers go door to door ferretting out people to deport. None of it compensates for the Trump Depression that we’re in for if he’s serious about his trade policies. But it’s something.

The big loss is that there will be no unified right-of-center voice in American politics. Toomey, Portman and the rest of them will do what they can, but it’s Trump who will be taken to define Republicanism, which is to say that Republicanism will henceforth be pretty much the same thing as Democratism. If Hillary Clinton had moved to raise the federal minimum wage, tighten business regulations, favor some industries over others, and expand entitlements, there would at least have been a more-or-less united Republican party explaining why these are bad ideas. Now Donald Trump will do exactly the same things, with few on the right to oppose him. That, I think, is high tragedy.

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81 Responses to “Late Night Thoughts”


  1. 1 1 Advo

    I expect that the actual policies will be for the most part in line with what the GOP establishment wants, i.e. large tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of Wall Street. The results are utterly predictable – massive deficits and the meltdown of the financial industry.
    The timing of the meltdown is uncertain. I guess we can only hope that it happens within the next few years so that responsibility is appropriately assigned.
    I don’t think there will be either mass deportations or a wholesale tearing up of trade agreements.
    There will be some small steps on both of these issues so that the base doesn’t feel too screwed over, but really, why should Trump make problems for himself? He has what he wanted.
    There is no reason for him to deliver on any of his crazy promises.

    I will revise my opinion if Bannon or some other alt-right guys get into Trump’s cabinet.

  2. 2 2 Advo

    One thing I’m curious about, Steve:
    How do you think the electorate got so crazy as to elect a mentally ill con artist like Trump?

  3. 3 3 Mikebravoza

    As a foreigner, I expect:

    1. Expansionary fiscal policy. Large scale infrastructure projects;
    2. Repeal of Obamacare replaced with a less regulated alternative;
    3. Increased controls over the Internet and ISPs;
    4. No wall, but a “human wall” of increased border personnel;
    5. Pardon for HRC;
    6. An originalist on the Supreme Court; and
    7. Tariffs on [name 20 industries].

    Of course, I like #2 and #6 only.

  4. 4 4 Mikebravoza

    Oh and

    8. increased NASA funding

  5. 5 5 Harold

    To those that say that absolute prosperity matters and inequality doesn’t, I say it does matter, because if people perceive they are not getting an equitable share you end up with Trump for president, and Brexit.

    People say they want change, but they really want to go back to some distorted view of the 1950′s. Some of Trumps thinking seems to pre-date Adam Smith. And we all thought mercantilism was dead.

    There are lots of parallels with Brexit. The winners succeeded by playing on the same fears and resentments. The old white voters were on board. The less educated were on board. The young and well educated were very much against. The odd thing is that many of the results promised are the exact opposite of what the proposed policies will deliver. People want change but not all change is good.

    Something has changed. The fact that the polls were wrong in both cases indicates that the adjustments that worked in the past did not work this time, so something is different.

    One hypothesis is that automation has now become sophisticated enough to replace low grade, menial work like sweeping the floor. Until recently these tasks had to be done by people, but now machines can do it. This has removed the mechanism for re-distributing the extra wealth through employment.

  6. 6 6 Advo

    This has removed the mechanism for re-distributing the extra wealth through employment.

    Failure to enforce anti-trust law is also certainly a factor.
    There is MUCH less anti-trust action now than 40 years ago.
    This has allowed companies to gain much stronger positions vs. consumers and employees.

  7. 7 7 blink

    One other possible benefit: A united front in congress to reign in executive power. This has been impossible when approximately 1/2 support the President, but now… maybe everyone can agree that storm troopers are bad…

    If only Hillary Clinton had listened to you months ago, set aside her arrogance, and partnered with Jeb Bush!

  8. 8 8 Max

    A year or two ago it seemed likely that the next president would be a Bush or a Clinton, and that was a little depressing. Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Clinton, really? This election shows you don’t have to be political royalty to get into office. You just have to be an exceptionally vicious demagogue. :/

  9. 9 9 Jonathan Kariv

    A 5 minute conversation with the average voter is now the 2nd best argument against democracy.

  10. 10 10 Harold

    How did Johnson/Weld do in the end?

  11. 11 11 Manfred

    To Mikebravoza’s list I would add that Trump (and Congress) might reduce the corporate income tax to more reasonable levels, and they might start a taxation system based on territorial income, and not worldwide income. If they do that, it would be a good start.

  12. 12 12 Zazooba

    Another upside is the sweeping away of the Clinton and Bush dynasties.

  13. 13 13 nobody.really

    Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Clinton, really?

    That’s my older brother. (It’s a family name.)

  14. 14 14 Khodge

    Steve, your endorsement of Kotlikoff filled to move the needle in Colorado, where he was on the ballot from the Kotlikoff for President party.

  15. 15 15 Khodge

    Kolitkoff’s actual vote was 338 which makes him 13th out of 17 third tier candidates.

  16. 16 16 iceman

    I continue to find analogies with Nazi Germany thoroughly unpersuasive (in fact easy way to forfeit an argument)

    Harold #5 – IMO it depends entirely on the source, or all inequality is not equal if you will. E.g. corrupt kleptocracy vs. a system based on voluntary exchange ~ whether gains for some come at the undeserved expense of or actual benefit to others. Of course we can create the perception that any system is inequitable through our political discourse.

  17. 17 17 Jens Fiederer

    Actually, the Germans did NOT elect Hitler. They elected Hindenburg, who ended up appointing Hitler as Chancellor when no majority government could be formed.

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler#Appointment_as_chancellor

  18. 18 18 Richard D.

    SL:
    “ObamaCare will probably be repealed and might be replaced
    by something better. (Or not.) …
    Dodd-Frank is probably about to go away. Again, that stands a
    chance of being excellent news, depending on what it’s replaced with.”

    Those are the two biggest expansions of federal power in 50 years.
    The Dems will filibuster any such attempts.

    “Donald Trump will name the successor to Antonin Scalia,
    along with, probably another one or two or three Supreme Court justices.”

    Trump published a list of potential judges, which was vetted
    with approval by WSJ. I tend to trust their judgement on that.

    “I am hopeful that he’s sufficiently uninterested in constitutional law that he’ll hand over the choosing to someone
    like Mike Pence.”

    We can be sure that Trump has no inkling of the Constitution –
    much like the current emperor, whose version reads “All power
    is vested in the president, without limit” – and his program
    consists of being Celebrity in Chief. In which case, he may
    well hand over the boring policy stuff to a few graybeards,
    and hope remains -

  19. 19 19 nobody.really

    We can be sure that Trump has no inkling of the Constitution … and his program consists of being Celebrity in Chief. In which case, he may well hand over the boring policy stuff to a few graybeards,

    Remember that Zaphod Beeblebrox was elected President of the Galaxy
    not to wield power but to draw attention away from it“–that is, to serve as a rodeo clown distracting people from those who were making all the decisions.

  20. 20 20 Zazooba

    We can be sure that Trump has no inkling of the Constitution –
    much like the current emperor, whose version reads “All power
    is vested in the president, without limit” – and his program
    consists of being Celebrity in Chief. In which case, he may
    well hand over the boring policy stuff to a few graybeards,
    and hope remains

    I suspect that Trump will be very much like Obama in not wanting to or not being able to understand the details and preferring to just give speeches. Trump couldn’t even be bothered to prepare for the debates.

  21. 21 21 Roger

    For a year and a half, I have had to listen to pundits argue that Trump has no understanding of politics or our politics.

    Now that he has beaten the person that the mainstream press said was the most qualified candidate ever to run, isn’t it time to admit that maybe he does know what he is doing?

  22. 22 22 Steve Landsburg

    Roger:

    Now that he has beaten the person that the mainstream press said was the most qualified candidate ever to run, isn’t it time to admit that maybe he does know what he is doing?

    1. If a four-year-old child had just beaten Hillary Clinton, I would not conclude that this four-year-old child knew what he was doing. I would instead conclude that this year, a lot of people wanted to vote for a four-year-old child, and this particular four-year-old child just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I think there is ample evidence that Trump is the mental, emotional and moral equivalent of a four-year-old child. It seems to me that it is possible, but unlikely, that I am misreading that evidence, and hence possible, but unlikely, that Trump knows what he is doing.

    2. Trump’s stated goal is to pretty much continue the policies of Obama and Clinton — no entitlement reform, higher federal minimum wages, infrastructure investment, etc etc. If he knew what he was doing, couldn’t he have accomplished that same goal a lot more easily and cheaply by simply backing Clinton?

    3. Or, if you believe that Trump’s actual goal is to implement real reforms, then “he knows what he is doing” seems inconsistent with his tendency to undercut real reformers like Paul Ryan.

  23. 23 23 Roger

    So if Trump and Clinton want the same things, why was there all the acrimony? Why aren’t the Clinton fans celebrating that someone has a mandate to carry out their agenda?

    This election sure appeared to offer a lot of sharp ideological differences to me.

  24. 24 24 Advo

    Well one appointment we know – Jeffrey Eisenach for the FCC.
    The guy has written a lot of very foolish things about net neutrality and appears to lack any understanding of what’s going to happen in the absence of net neutrality.
    Namely, the ISPs will be able to extract huge rents from anyone offering goods and services over the internet and block or put obstacles in the way of anyone who wishes to compete with them in regard to their online services (video streaming, VoIP).
    In some countries (e.g. India) the ISPs don’t allow VoIP, or charge extra. Skype at first didn’t work on the iPhone because obviously Verizon didn’t want the competition. It is only due to FCC enforcement of net neutrality that smartphones have voice chat.

    The best thing about the internet economy are its low barriers of entry. Removing or substantially weakening net neutrality will raise those barriers, potentially by a lot. Creating market entry barriers for no good reason is the last thing any economist should want.
    The long-term damage to the US economy could be incalculable.

  25. 25 25 Harold

    Iceman #16 . “Of course we can create the perception that any system is inequitable through our political discourse.”

    It is possible in principle, but much easier with some systems than others. If you ignore equality you end up missing important factors. The economy is not isolated from politics, so it is naive to over-rely on models that ignore political and social aspects.

  26. 26 26 Harold

    “Trump’s stated goal is to pretty much continue the policies of Obama and Clinton — no entitlement reform, higher federal minimum wages, infrastructure investment, etc etc” He also has many other stated goals – building a wall, banning muslims, tearing up trade agreements, declaring China a currency manipulator, imposing 35% tariffs at the Mexican border etc, etc. Many things that would not happen with Clinton.

    An interesting aside. He wants to abolish birthright citizenship, yet does he also not favor appointing SC judges that tend to a literal interpretation of the constitution? I am not an expert, but it strikes me that these goals are contradictory.

  27. 27 27 iceman

    Harold 25 – I’m suggesting it’s harder to characterize the results of a process of voluntary exchange as inequitable or unjust, which I take to be the source of your concern over ‘missing factors’. Of course politicians can still do so but this will require more spin / divisive classist rhetoric. Do you disagree?

    Harold 26 – FWIW (b/c I like you :)), now with the campaign over I think is a good time to start being more precise with our language, so when I read “banning muslims” it makes it harder to take the rest as seriously. Also just to clarify are you saying China does not manipulate its currency, or we just shouldn’t say they do publicly? (BTW I’m not sure we should care if they do or even view it as a gift)

  28. 28 28 Ken B

    Harold 26
    I posted on birthright stuff here long ago. You are under-informed. There is a colorable case for Trump’s view on birthright citizenship, and respectable academic work on the issue.

    Trump does not propose “banning muslims”. Iceman’s point is well taken.

  29. 29 29 Advo

    Also just to clarify are you saying China does not manipulate its currency, or we just shouldn’t say they do publicly?

    China is now manipulating its currency UPWARDS.
    After many years of supressing currency rates, inflation has raised the price level within China so that now the RMB is overvalued vs. the dollar. If China were to go for a free floating currency, the RMB would very likely drop substantially.

    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/china/foreign-exchange-reserves

    Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His ideas about China are a few years out of date.

  30. 30 30 Advo

    I’m curious what the impact of the election will be on the South American (especially Mexican) drug economy.
    Improved border security will surely impact the cross-border drug trade.
    Rising drug costs for drug imports may lead to a loss in market share of drug imports vs. domestic US drug production.
    And then there’s marihuana legalization.
    I don’t think many people realize that marihuana is thought to account for around half of illegal drug revenues in the US (USD 50-100 billion).
    This could be a fairly disastrous election for Mexican drug cartels.

  31. 31 31 Harold

    Iceman, KenB. My language was a shorthand and not entirely accurate, he does not want to ban muslims but said he wanted to prevent muslims entering the country for some unspecified period. Point taken, but it leaves my main point unaltered, a great many things that Trump says he wants to do would not happen with Clinton. A great many of them I think are bad. Whether or not China manipulates its currency, it is only Trump who says he wants to declare it a currency manipulator with all the consequences that would follow.

    Ken B. I am sure I am under informed about the birthright stuff. I don’t suppose you can point me to the stuff you posted? I am absolutely sure that there are arguments on both sides, but it did strike me that the constitution says “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” is fairly clear and anyone that supports original intent view would struggle to interpret this in a different way than it is currently understood. That means that if Trump tries to get around this by an Act of Congress based on an interpretation that is not shared by most scholars he is deliberately finding a legal fix to get around the intent expressed in the constitution. Can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a goal of supporting original intent and a goal of re-interpreting the words to suit you simultaneously.

  32. 32 32 iceman

    Still not quite there. Despite his typically clumsy language initially (esp. before he discovered the value of the teleprompter), he eventually got the memo that a religious test is not even possible (like they’re going to tell you?), let alone an appropriate or desirable way to frame policy. “Enhanced vetting of people from areas of the world that sponsor / support terrorism” is less easily painted as bigotry

  33. 33 33 Harold

    Yes, in this case you are right – I am getting my discussions of Trump’s bigotry mixed up with this one, which about Trump policies. He said he wanted to ban all muslims from entering the country, but ended up toning it down. It still does not really change my argument.

    Just noticed I had not replied to your other comment.
    ” I’m suggesting it’s harder to characterize the results of a process of voluntary exchange as inequitable or unjust,” I don’t agree. The results of the free exchange results in USA steel plants closing and there seems to be no trouble characterising this as unjust. Free exchange results in lots of Mexicans coming to live in the USA and there seems to be no problem characterising that as unjust. That is pretty much what Trump’s campaign was about.

  34. 34 34 iceman

    Harold – I confess I have lost track of what your initial argument was.
    But interestingly I just learned that Krugman has argued in a liquidity trap mercantilism works. Just when I thought I had at least some things figured out…

    How about (to borrow a phrase from SL) “it’s harder *for an honest truth-seeker* to characterize the results of a process of voluntary exchange as inequitable or unjust”? That said I agree trade has been an area ripe for demagoguery forever, this time by both parties. Regarding the free movement of *people*, I think most of us agree countries need to have border policies as a matter of practical necessity.

    There are the theories you allude to, even propounded by people like Tyler Cowen, about technological jobless societies and while I confess I have not read in-depth on this, at a basic level it strikes me as an odd type of argument for economists to make, demand being infinite – for goods, services and leisure – while resources like time are finite so the more wealth some accrue the more activities they will look to outsource. Up to now I would have called such arguments Luddite. I’m sure I have more to learn here.

    Advo – thanks, I confess I had not been following the recent efforts (hope?) by China to walk a very fine line to shift the drivers of growth from external to domestic demand, while not popping a property asset bubble. Apparently this is quite recent, e.g. in June 2014 reps from both parties were urging Obama to deal more strongly with Chinese currency weakness, and in Aug 2015 China effected a fairly meaningful devaluation once again (showing the difficulty of their balancing act). “A few years out of date” may be stretching it.

  35. 35 35 Ken B

    Harold
    No can do re a link. It might have been some other site. Volokh had a discussion, as did some of his conspirators. But I think it was here as Steve is reliably dreadful on legal posts, and I was rebutting someone.
    It is of course no contradiction with originalism if it’s the original meaning. I don’t know it is, I just know the situation is not as many paint it. But it’s kind of a moot point as Trump won’t pursue it.
    As for your “main point”, I agree with that and that Steve’s reply to Roger is, well, weak. But that larger point does not justify such inaccuracy, as I think you agree. We can be right AND accurate both.

  36. 36 36 Ken B

    Harold, is this you? I assume so, since the same lies are peddled casually. http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2016/11/an-example-of-the-tolerance-of-the-left.html#comment-1772032

    Iceman was too kind.

  37. 37 37 Harold

    It is me, and was probably the discussion I referred to earlier about Trump the person vs policies that might me enacted under Trump. I don’t see any lies there. Can you point them out please? I said Trump was called racist not because he is a republican or an outsider but because he says and does things that can be interpreted as racist. It was in that context where saying he wanted to ban Muslims entering the country was correct, because he did say that. It was incorrect here because he has since backed off from that as a policy. I have no idea if Trump is a racist because he lies so convincingly that his racist comments could themselves be lies.

    Iceman, too kind or not, the view of technological change altering the game this time could well turn out to be Luddite. A similar argument has been used by Luddites for generations. There is a difference in that now there is an acknowledgement of the Luddite fallacy and a hypothesis to explain why this may no longer be the case. That explanation may well turn out to be as false as the others, or it may not, but we cannot refute it simply because the earlier ones were wrong. The recent votes indicate that something has changed. This may be just a blip – the natural swing back and forth – but time will tell. It is important that the history of developed economies is really very short – far too short to be certain that things will always just carry on as they have done for a couple of centuries. So I am considering this technological game changer as a possibility, not a fact.

  38. 38 38 Ken B

    Trump did propose temporarily stopping muslims from coming into the country “until our leaders can figure out what is going on” after a rush of terror attacks. He later backed off that. It is false to claim he says it, which implies an ongoing state. Nor is that a racist policy, Islam not being a race. (France closed its border at the time Trump said that, excluding all foreigners temporarily. ) What i object to is not that you criticize Trump for this (foolish) policy suggestion but that you do so inaccurately.

    Trump did not call most Mexican migrants rapists or killers. He was firstly speaking of illegal immigrants, a minority of Mexicans here. He did say there were rapists and murderers among them and did imply that the fraction of such bad apples would be higher amongst those here illegally, and hence without vetting. But nothing about a majority even of that minority.

    I forget what else you said, but all are examples of what Iceman called out. There are legitimate criticisms of Trump to be made, but they should be made accurately, not just by waving the bloody shirt.

  39. 39 39 Harold

    The legitimate criticisms of Trump include that he makes comments that are described as racist. I said he says and does things that can be so described and that was an example. I did not say he says that particular thing about the Muslims on an on-going basis. What he said was “When mexico sends its people… they’re rapists…” That is not only illegals. Whether or not he described all Mexican migrants or only illegal ones as rapists is something of a distraction anyway – he is the only candidate that described any Mexican migrants as rapists. You are looking to get him off on a technicality when he is guilty. Same with the “Islam is not a race” card. Most of the Muslims would be of different race and that is understood so it is simply a proxy for racism.

    My point in that other discussion was that Trump is called a racist because of the things he says, not because he is a republican or an outsider. Without nit-picking the total accuracy of the examples do you disagree with that or not?

  40. 40 40 Harold

    “He did say there were rapists and murderers among them and did imply that the fraction of such bad apples would be higher amongst those here illegally,”

    He did not say that. If we are being accurate we should apply this to everyone. He said
    “When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically.

    The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.

    “Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

    But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.”

    Compare that with your interpretation
    “He did say there were rapists and murderers among them and did imply that the fraction of such bad apples would be higher amongst those here illegally, and hence without vetting. But nothing about a majority even of that minority.”

    That is wrong. He said “They’re rapists”. He did not say there would be rapists among them. He said “and some, I assume are good people” That is the exact opposite of the implication you draw, that there would be a minority of rapists. No, he says they are rapists and some, that is an implied minority that he does not know but assumes, would be good people.’

  41. 41 41 Ken B

    Harold, first your interpretation of that passage is strained, tendentious, and silly. When people talk of a large group and say they are this or that they commonly mean some are this and some are that, not all are. I invite you to watch The Grapes of Wrath, where in Tom Joad’s speech just such things are said. But I can make the point more directly here. I can sensibly say the people of America are doctors, lawyers, laborers, office workers, farmers, students, young, old, rich, poor without anyone except you thinking I mean they are each of those things simultaneously.

  42. 42 42 Ken B

    Harold, when I read in 39 how you ignore the context you quote at length in 40 I can only conclude you are simply shilling not debating. It’s hard to see any value in continuing. So I won’t.

  43. 43 43 Roger

    @Harold: Mexican is not a race either.

    If Trump said negative comments about ugly ppl, or stupid ppl, or Democrats, would you also be arguing that they are proxies for race?

  44. 44 44 Harold

    Before you go Ken B can you answer the question in 39, which was my main point? Do you think Trump was called racist because he was Republican or an outsider, or was it because of the things he said? Are you defending Trump or just objecting to slight nuances of meaning?

    If you want to grind down to the detail and ignore the argument, then OK, I will say he did not literally say “most Mexican migrants are rapists” he said “they’re rapists” of Mexican migrants. It does not alter my argument one iota and it is not a lie peddled casually. It was not even a quote.

    One more example. If I were to say Americans are stupid, would you interpret that as my saying there are some Americans that are stupid, so it is not an anti-American statement, merely a statement of fact? If so you would be in a very small minority.

    Roger- of course not because they are not.

  45. 45 45 Roger

    @Harold: You and others call Trump a racist because you have no legitimate argument.

  46. 46 46 Harold

    Roger – Trump said racist things. That is not an argument, it is documented. Ken B can argue that he did not say all Mexicans were rapists but that is irrelevant and it does not make the thing he said not racist. He said racist things so people called him racist. I do not know if the is racist because one thing he certainly is a consummate liar, so the things he said may have been lies.

  47. 47 47 Ken B

    46
    No, it is not racist to point out, truthfully, that amongst a particular identified set of persons some are rapists, or murderers, or Joni Mitchell fans. That is what Trump did. If he had gone on to say “Aztec blood shows through” or some other racial generalization. then you’d be right. But he did not. He did not in fact generalize about Mexicans at all, but actually implied that that cohort was not in fact a representative sample.

  48. 48 48 Harold

    By saying some, I assume, are decent people he implies that most are not. He knows they are rapists, but only assumes some are decent. Your racist filter is way out of kilter.

    If I were a newspaper and published only true stories about blacks committing crime and never reported whites committing crime, would that be racist?

    OK, you don’t think what he said was racist, I do. Lets leave it there. Perhaps Americans and Canadians are stupid.

  49. 49 49 Roger

    @Harold: Okay, you are stupid and racist and you think everyone is stupid and racist.

  50. 50 50 Ken B

    Roger 45
    No, there’s lots to object to or to worry about with Trump. Harold prefers to parrot partisan bullshit that’s all. Harold always does; remember he was saying maybe Michael Brown just wanted to hug the officer. But better critics have better criticisms.

  51. 51 51 Harold

    Ken B. Since you were so concerned about accuracy it would be useful if you applied the same standard to yourself. I did not say Brown just wanted to hug the officer. The posts are still available for you to review and post a correction here if you want to demonstrate your consistency.

    Roger, I have not personally insulted anyone involved in this discussion, I see no need for you to do so. Perhaps you missed the purpose of my statement? It was to demonstrate that if you refer to a group and say, for example, Americans are stupid, most people do not interpret that as a simple statement of fact that some people in that nation are stupid, as Ken B would have us believe.

    It is disappointing that Ken B and Roger refuse to engage in the discussion and instead resort to insults and accusations. If you find it necessary to hide behind the view that because I disagree with you I must be partisan, stupid and racist there is not much I can say. It did not seem controversial to me that referring to those Mexicans that come to the USA as “they’re rapists” could reasonably have a racist interpretation, even if you disagree that the racist interpretation is the right one. But no, because I hold that view I am a partisan, stupid racist. Ken B considers it impossible to reasonably hold the view that such comments are racist

    After the Brown engagement I suggested to Ken B that we should leave that one and thought we would have a more productive exchange next time. I no longer have such expectations for any future debates and my previous high opinion of Ken’s forensic incisiveness has been lowered.

  52. 52 52 Ken B

    Harold
    Actually aside from being irony-challenged you are in fact technically wrong. You argued we cannot know what Brown intended and cannot rule out any theory. That’s why I said ‘maybe’.
    And one last time. Trump was not referring to Mexicans tout court. He was referring to those actually crossing the border illegally, which is not the same thing.

  53. 53 53 Harold

    Ken, I did not argue we cannot rule out any theory. I argued there were other reasonable theories consistent with the evidence. They are not the same thing at all. I never mentioned “hug” or suggested that Brown was well-disposed or loving towards the cop. Whilst we may be unable to rule these explanations out absolutely, like we cannot rule out absolutely that you are a figment if my imagination, that is not the argument I put forward. I categorically was not saying that maybe Brown just wanted to hug the officer.

    “And one last time. Trump was not referring to Mexicans tout court. He was referring to those actually crossing the border illegally, which is not the same thing.” You say this as though it makes a difference. I agreed that Trump was talking about Mexicans who cross the border – look at my last post. When he said “when Mexico sends its people…” it is not clear he is talking only illegals. But that doesn’t matter anyway. What he said could still be racist even if he was talking only about illegals.

  54. 54 54 iceman

    Just trying to maintain the consistently high level of dialogue we have here. Elsewhere I’m cutting people a lot of slack right now because emotions are high and everyone’s processing a surprising outcome. There are people I know and love who are truly fearful and grieving. I’m hoping they’ll gradually discover those fears were overstated. Campaigns are an ugly business.

    However, I’d add that IMO a good deal of that fear and the post-election messiness that has ensued is the product of many “reasonably interpreting” as racist things for which more charitable (the preferred standard on this blog) alternatives are also plausible. Sadly there’s been a strategic thrust to this for a long time as well. Calling out bigotry where it is for what it is is essential; so is resisting the impulse to impute it, especially where it happens to line up with one’s underlying policy preferences.

  55. 55 55 Ken B

    I googled the phrase “they’re doctors, lawyers, and teachers”. Just out of curiosity. One particular phrase, many others were possible.

    On “Today’s Backstage Pass we talk about the cult following of Jimmy Buffett. Just ask his die hard fans, affectionately known as “parrot heads,”…
    They’re doctors, lawyers and teachers but you can’t tell by looking at them.”

    http://www.today.com/id/3079758/ns/today-toyota_concert_series/t/living-life-parrot-head/#.WCoTvS0rJOQ

    They’re doctors, lawyers and teachers who enjoy fancy cars and fine clothes. They like dinners and dancing and that’s exactly what the Surf Club has to offer.

    Colling, Turning Points: The Detroit Riot of 1967, A Canadian Perspective

    Sounds like anyone who is a doctor and a lawyer and a teacher too sure knows how to have fun!

  56. 56 56 Harold

    I know I differ from others here, but to me what Trump has said are as clear examples of bigotry and misogyny as one is likely to come across in a presidential election. Other interpretations are always possible, but in this case I do not think they are reasonable. Charitable interpretations are OK if someone says something off the cuff. I have often defended people who have said things spontaneously or written them in a comment rather than a column or speech. People often get things a bit mixed up when responding off the cuff and it is reasonable to give people some benefit of the doubt. I defended Trump against accusations that he was calling for Clinton’s assassination by pointing out that a more charitable interpretation could be made for his words, although I did not believe that charitable interpretation was likely. I also said that it was a poor taste joke not a genuine desire to arrange her murder.

    Some have said that Trump’s final ad was anti-Semitic. I said I could not see that, even if it would line up with my policy preferences. It is entirely reasonable to see that ad as not anti-Semitic, although it is also possible that there is a hidden message to the extremists. Looking at the ad I just did not find that a convincing argument. It is possible to see racism where it is not really present and I do not consider myself immune from this. I might get some things wrong, but I do not believe I have in this case, after much consideration.

    If it was just one comment a charitable interpretation might be reasonable, although the rapists comment I think on its own is a step too far. But when it is part of a pattern that requires charity for every individual case it is stretching charity way too far. The white-washing of Trumps comments go well beyond charity, and I see it as essential to call them out and I don’t think I require any slack.

    Anyway, enough for now.

  57. 57 57 Ken B

    Harold, no-one is denying that partisans stewed in confirmation bias and group-think took Trump’s words to be racist. We only disputed how fair, reasonable or certain such a reading is. And I think I have comprehensively refuted your one attempt at an objective argument: parsing “they’re”.

    As iceman said, Trump is sometimes clumsy in speaking and a bit steam of consciousness. That makes him especially prone to biased misreadings. I have heard him make a statement, then pause and give an exception. This is pretty normal for people thinking on their feet. Leap years occur in every year divisible by 4. Well not the hundreds. Unless its divisible by 400. But I have seen such statements by Trump characterized as “everything he says he immediately contradicts.” That’s bias at work. I have no doubt it was a sincere reaction. It’s just a wrong, unfair one, driven by bias.

  58. 58 58 Roger

    For 1.5 years I have watched the mainstream press miscontrue everything Trump says. They call him stupid and racist and sexist and lacking in basic character, and they do not understand why anyone would vote for him.

    Maybe they are stupid or racist or partisan or narrow-minded or playing dumb or something else, I don’t know. Trump speaks plainly, and is very easy to understand. The election is now over, and the bulk had no trouble understanding him. For Harold and others who still claim to not understand him, get with the program, or sit back and watch what he does.

  59. 59 59 Harold

    Roger and Ken B. I have not called Trump racist or stupid, I said he says racist things. If you want to believe that Trump did not intend those comments to be interpreted in a racist way then I don’t think I can help you. Trump is not stupid, he knows how to communicate and he did so effectively by using racist rhetoric. I can’t believe you give Trump so little credit for understanding the message he is giving.

    Ken B’s refutation is no such thing. I am not saying that you cannot refer to individual members of a group in that way so your positive examples do not prove your point. I do deny that that was the way Trump intended it and that is obvious from the context. Just like if I say Americans are idiots, Republicans are racists or Jews are misers nobody except Ken B would take that as a simple statement of fact, more importantly it is obvious that they will not.

    As Roger says, Trump speaks plainly and is very easy to understand.

  60. 60 60 Roger

    Yes, Trump is easy to understand and yet throughout his campaign, mainstream media pundits would announce nearly every week some misinterpretation of something he said, and declare that it would end his campaign.

    It sure is funny to see so many people proven wrong again and again and again.

    So keep it up Harold. You can probably do it for another 4 years.

  61. 61 61 Harold

    What I have said about Trump has not been proved wrong. If Trump continues to use racist and misogynist language then yes, I will keep it up for four years.

  62. 62 62 mlanier

    Hello Steve, Long time fan here of your work.

    I was wondering what your position in on fixing adverse selection externalities present in the insurance marketplace. I don’t see any alternative to single payer or individual mandate.

  63. 63 63 Steve Landsburg

    mlanier:

    There is no perfect solution, but the various versions of John Goodman’s plan (see also Cassidy/Sessions for the version that’s been introduced in Congress) address this problem by including “free market risk adjustments” which require insurance companies to bear the full cost of driving patients away.

  64. 64 64 Zazooba

    @Ken B #42

    “Harold, when I read in 39 how you ignore the context you quote at length in 40 I can only conclude you are simply shilling not debating. It’s hard to see any value in continuing. So I won’t.”

    Ken, Ken, Ken! You were completely right in your comment #42. You should have just stopped.

    What does it accomplish to argue with someone who pretends the following is a fair quote?

    “What he said was ‘When mexico sends its people… they’re rapists…’” (Harold #39)

  65. 65 65 Harold

    Zazooba, I then included the full quote in the very next comment, before anyone else had posted, so nobody could accuse me of quoting selectively to create a wrong impression. Unfortunately you have just done so, which reinforces my view that those commenting here are unable to see this without their confirmation bias goggles on, Desperately looking for some get out to avoid acknowledging that what Trump said was racist.

    The people that support Trump, they are not like you and me. They have thinking problems, they are racist and misogynist. And some, I assmue, are able to string two words together without lying.

  66. 66 66 Ken B

    @Zazooba
    Yes. Insert embarassed smiley here.
    I need you as my personal blog comment trainer! You have warned me twice before *on this exact situation*. Three for three now.

  67. 67 67 iceman

    Harold – I get that being “charitable too many times” is unsettling, which I think is your best case at the moment. I’d also agree we want a president who is articulate enough that everything isn’t so open to interpretation. [Of course the eloquent politician speaks a lot without saying much, and people seem to be a little tired of that.]
    But esp. now that the campaign is over we’re obliged to consider each charge in turn rather than just throw them onto a pile and claim some critical mass has been reached. And when you do, IMHO some of the ‘antis’ seem more or less stretched (in decreasing order: disabled, LGBT, black, female, hispanic / muslim), and all raise questions of a) whether we can even talk about issues like border policy or religious freedom, and b) whether feuds with individuals (also not presidential) or issues involving sub-groups (e.g. criminals / illegals) are fairly extrapolated to entire races / classes / genders as Ken B has commented on at length.

    FWIW I decided no one had earned my vote this time, but I’m a big fan of objectivity (because it’s really hard). We’re all inclined to confirmation bias. Some who feel like you may have found themselves first saying “I’m sick of hearing about the emails”, then “but the Clinton Foundation does some good work”, then “I don’t believe she really used that anti-Semitic slur”…who knows, pretty soon you might even find yourself feeling differently about accusations of sexual harassment depending on who is president.

  68. 68 68 iceman

    mlanier / Steve 62-63
    I haven’t looked closely at these proposals but my instinctive question is why the onus would be on private insurers to bear the burden of “driving people away” as this seems to imply they had some obligation to cover anyone in particular in the first instance

  69. 69 69 Harold

    Iceman, something like Bayesian analysis would be appropriate. We cannot simply take each one in turn, claim something like “reasonable doubt” for each case then dismiss it and move on to the next. However, with the rapists slur I don’t think that is necessary because it fails the reasonable doubt test on its own.
    “a) whether we can even talk about issues like border policy or religious freedom,” Of course we can. We just do not have to do so in terms of rapists and criminals, unless we are actually addressing the issue of rapists and criminals crossing the border. In which case pretty much everybodies policy is we don’t let them in.
    “b) whether feuds with individuals (also not presidential) or issues involving sub-groups (e.g. criminals / illegals) are fairly extrapolated to entire races / classes / genders as Ken B has commented on at length.
    I don’t know what feud you are referring to, but personal feuds don’t seem to have a bearing here. I am not focusing on gender either, although there is of course lots of well aired material on that. It does not matter if the slur can fairly be extrapolated to entire classes. Clinton was justifiably slated for calling half of trump supporters deplorables. We don’t say that is OK because she did not say all Trump supporters were deplorable. Trump says of the people Mexico sends to America they’re rapists, we don’t need to assume he meant every single one of them to impute a racist or bigoted slur.

    A question that Ken B avoided, but I would like the answer to as it might show the reason for our different views here. If a newspaper publishes only true stories about crimes perpetrated by black people and chooses not to publish any stories about crimes by white people, is that racist? After all the stories are true, but to me that is clearly racist. Maybe I have misunderstood, but Ken B’s argument suggests that this could not be racist because the stories are true.

    Scott Adams calls Trump a master communicator, and it seems he has a point. Analysis reveals that the stories of poor whites switching to Trump because of economic fears turn out to be false, and the factor that correlates most strongly with voting for Trump is racial resentment. That is not assumption but data. Here is one analysis, but there are others from Pew also.
    http://www.vox.com/2016/9/19/12933072/far-right-white-riot-trump-brexit

    Trump the master communicator has tapped into that. I don’t believe it was an accident.

    By the way, the fact that Trump increased the share of the black vote does not affect that at all. He was criticized for his comments about blacks being poor and uneducated. “What have you got to lose?” he said. How stupid, said the commentators, most blacks are not poor or uneducated. Trump understood that he didn’t need to talk to most blacks, only the few at the bottom of the pile.

  70. 70 70 Ken B

    Scott Alexander has a great piece on this http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/11/16/you-are-still-crying-wolf/ I especially like his analogy about Atlantis, which seems to fit a poster here nicely.

  71. 71 71 Harold

    Ken B, I am mystified by the paths these discussions take as I genuinely do not understand the position you are taking. I find it frustrating to have a lengthy discussion and at the end be none the wiser, everybody unaffected by any argument proposed and all arguments just flying past the other person.

    Can you answer the question I asked? Forget Trump for a moment, as it seems to generate more heat than light. Just for a moment I ask you to put that aside and say whether it is possible to say racist things whist saying something that is true, as in the newspaper example? I think this will clarify a lot and take the heat out of it. I ask because I genuinely do not know what you will answer. Please, anyone else feel free to answer also.

  72. 72 72 Ken B

    Harold, I have pretty much decided you won’t listen, and Zazooba will rightly spanke me. You are once again trying to ignore the key point. But I’ll try to explain (again again).

    And I’ll do you one better in fact, I’ll take a case where you can say something not inherently racist, that can be meant as a racist comment — depending on motives and context.

    Consider a hypothetical man Jim. Jim says there are rapists amongst the cohort of those here from Mexico illegally. He just flat out says it! Why would Jim say such a thing?

    Well there are various possibilities. Jim is a Grand Kleagle, he’s at a Klavern dinner, and his friend Harold just said to him “Mexicans are repulsive”. Jim wants to chime in, add his bit, express his ditto.(I’m confident you understand the impulse.) We agree in this case Jim is being both truthful and bigoted. Jim said it to express his bigotry; the truth of it was incidental and unrelated to his purpose or motive for saying it.

    But there are other possibilities. Jim is a Mexican proof-reader for an Open Borders lobby group, correcting a potentially embarrassing error in a speech about to be delivered by the leader of his organization. Jim is being both truthful and working to increase Mexican immigration. In this case though the truth of it is vital to why Jim said it. He said it *because* it’s true and relevant to his golas and motives. Are we agree that in this case Jim is not a bigot?

    But wait! I’m not done yet! There’s more! Jim is arguing that we need to control our borders, and enumerating some of the problems we face which he seeks to remedy. He make the point that our chaotic and essentially absent immigration controls allow in less desirable immigrants, such as rapists, whom better controls would exclude. Jim is being truthful and making an argument.

    So here’s where we disagree. I think third Jim is like second Jim and neither are like first Jim. You think third Jim is a Republican so therefore he’s like first Jim, but worse.

  73. 73 73 Harold

    At the end of your post you assume to know what I am thinking. In the interests of dialog, and without deciding what the other persons view is, I would like to elucidate the things we agree on.

    Point 1) You did not answer the question directly, but from your response I take it that you agree that one can make a racist statement whilst saying things that are true. I take it that you agree that a newspaper publishing only negative stories about blacks and no negative stories about whites is racist, even though every word they publish is true.

    Thus is it is not the truth of the statement that solely decides on the racism of the statement. We can establish that what someone said can be interpreted as true but they could still be saying racist things.

    You have various scenarios of Jims based on a statement that nobody has made. That is, nobody has said exactly “there are rapists among the cohort of those here from Mexico illegally.”

    Can we agree on that and move forward?

    (Incidentally, second Jim seems to be in a position of advising a person in private who as about to say “there are no rapists among migrants to America” or something similar. This seems an unlikely scenario and not very applicable).

  74. 74 74 iceman

    Harold – I’d say sure there can be sins of commission too. Not sure where you go with that.
    I guess you and I are going to have different standards, and maybe the best we can hope for is that we apply them consistently and equitably. I fear the lower the standard one adopts in a particular case, the less likely one will be even-handed in others.
    I can’t support the Bayesian approach, e.g. a series of questionable charges constitutes a verdict. Certainly it can raise your radar for something more substantial to emerge.
    But esp. with the campaign over we can focus harder and do better, and in general to me these kinds of charges are too serious, too easily used as a cheap political tactic, and frankly the potential damage from crying wolf on them is too great. Something we should all agree on.

  75. 75 75 Ken B

    Oh get real Harold. I established clearly that “they’re rapists” means precisely that amongst them are rapists. Read 41 and 57. So of what my Jims said is precisely what is at issue. I think you know it and I think you are being disingenuous. Look at your “when did you stop beating your wife” formulation you say I did not answer. The point at issue is precisely if pointing out that there are (by implication a high number) of rapists amongst illegal immigrants is inherently racist. And my tale of three Jims shows it is not.

    Anyway Harold here’s your chance to prattle any tendentious, slanted nonsense you want with no reply.

  76. 76 76 Harold

    Iceman. “I can’t support the Bayesian approach, e.g. a series of questionable charges constitutes a verdict.” Well, that is not really the Bayesian approach, but can you accept an approach that ignores history and is prepared to take a charitable view of every statement in isolation?

    I do find it slightly ironic that I have been accused of not complying to some putative charitable standard when I have been criticized for inaccuracies that a charitable interpretation would overlook, and accused of casually spreading lies. I am not great fan of this form of charity, which is why I acknowledged more than once in this thread where I had been inaccurate. If you are wrong, you are wrong, and sod charity. As Ken B said, we can be right and accurate. That I agree with, so I cannot therefore agree that we should allow the most charitable interpretation of every statement in isolation.

    I am not therefore prepared to let Trump apologists off on some charitable interpretation, any more than Ken B or Roger are prepared to let me off, and rightly so. As you say, one standard applied equitably. So I suggest we forget charity and look at what people actually said.

    Having said that, we are forced to interpret to some extent what people actually say. What I disagree with intensely is pretending that what people actually said is a charitable interpretation of what they actually said.

    Thus I would find it objectionable if someone were to argue, say that Trump said that there are some illegal immigrants that are rapists and we must have some policy to protect us from this small minority of migrants. That is a charitable interpretation of the words he actually spoke. I would find this particularly objectionable from someone that insists on accuracy and is happy to call inaccuracies lies. So far Ken B has not actually said this, and I hope he will not do so. I am a fan of right and accurate, not agreement through charity.

    Referring back to a previous discussion, Trump has now settled the Trump University case. My position in that discussion has been vindicated.

  77. 77 77 Harold

    #75. ken B .”I established clearly that “they’re rapists” means precisely that amongst them are rapists. Read 41 and 57.”

    #41 “When people talk of a large group and say they are this or that they commonly mean some are this and some are that, not all are.”

    In the interests of establishing how far you want to pursue this, are you happy that if someone says “Jews are misers” that is fine and not antisemitic because some Jews are misers? If so, then I have an idea of where you are coming from.

    Even if you are prepared to accept that, it does not make your case because we have established that true statements can be racist (or at least you have failed to make a case against this proposition, so I assume you accept it). This still leaves us with the question of whether Trump’s statement was racist. You have certainly not refuted that proposition.

  78. 78 78 Ken B

    Harold, you are a fucking liar. Sorry Steve but no other words will do.

  79. 79 79 Harold

    Ok, Ken, insults are the only place you have to go now hiving run out of arguments.

    Out of interest, what have I said that is a lie?

  80. 80 80 iceman

    Harold – was on vaca, in case you’re still here:

    “can you accept an approach that ignores history and is prepared to take a charitable view of every statement in isolation?”

    I addressed that already in 74. Certainly it should raise your radar for something more substantial to come along, but again IMO such serious charges deserve a solid foundation. In fact to do otherwise is irresponsible. Are you not in fact saying “enough maybes = a conclusive yes?”

  81. 81 81 Harold

    Drifted back here after a while – hope you had a good vacation Iceman.

    “Are you not in fact saying “enough maybes = a conclusive yes?””
    No, we must take into account the prior information too. Lots of maybes with a very small probability still only add up to a small probability. We don’t know all the priors, of course, so that is why I said “something like” a Bayesian approach. That is where the analogy with Atlantis that another poster mentioned falls down.

    Remember I have not said that Trump is racist, but that he uses racist language and encourages racism.

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