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Book Review: The Art Of The Deal

I.

Many of my friends recommend Robert Cialdini’s Influence, a book about how to be persuasive and successful. I read a most of the way through, and it was okay, but I didn’t have it in me to finish the whole thing. It’s not that being persuasive and successful doesn’t sound pretty neat. It’s just that I wasn’t sure the book could deliver the goods.

Robert Cialdini’s Wikipedia page says “He is best known for his book Influence“. Since its publication, he seems to have spent his time directing an institute to spread awareness of techniques for success and persuasion. At the risk of being a little too cynical – a guy knows the secrets of success, so he uses them to…write a book about the secrets of success? If I knew the secrets of success, you could bet I’d be doing much more interesting things with them. All the best people recommend Cialdini, and his research credentials are impeccable, but I can’t help wondering: if he’s so smart, why isn’t he God-Emperor?

Donald Trump is also not God-Emperor, but he’s at least sort of on the short-list for the position. I knew that Trump wrote his own book on success and persuasion back in 1988 – Trump: The Art of the Deal – and I wondered if it might not be the anti-Cialdini.

Trump is no psychology expert, but he’s sure done well persuading people in real life. After a few months of attributing his victories to blind luck, most people have accepted Scott Adams’ hypothesis that he’s really a “master persuader”. Salon, Daily Caller, Bill Maher, and the Economist all use the word “genius”. The less you respect Trump’s substance – and I respect it very little – the more you’re forced to admire whatever combination of charisma, persuasion, and showmanship he uses to succeed without having any. If this guy has written a book on how to be persuasive and successful, that’s a book I want to read.

II.

The downside of buying a book by a master manipulator is that sometimes you learn you were manipulated into buying the book.

Trump: The Art Of The Deal is 365 pages of some of the biggest print I have ever seen. The cover has a quote from the New York Times – “Trump makes one believe for a moment in the American dream again” – which some poor reviewer is probably desperately wishing he could take back right now.

Although the blurb says that he “fully reveals the deal-maker’s art” and that it is “an unprecedented education in the practice of deal-making” and “the ultimate read for anyone interested in achieving money and success” – only seventeen pages of very large print are anything resembling business advice. The rest of it is a weirdly deal-focused autobiography that doesn’t mention marrying his wife or having children, but devotes a lovingly detailed twenty-four pages to the time he renovated the Commodore Hotel.

But first, those seventeen pages. I am pleased to report that Donald Trump is well-abreast of modern science – he tells his readers looking for advice about how to make it big that deal-making is probably just genetic.



Related?

Either you’ve got the deal, gene or you don’t:

More than anything else, I think deal-making is an ability you’re born with. It’s in the genes…unlike the real estate evangelists you see all over television these days, I can’t promise you that by following the precepts I’m about to offer you’ll become a millionaire overnight. Unfortunately, life rarely works that way, and most people who try to get rich quick end up going broke instead.

This is a weirdly humble and self-aware Trump. It might be that the book medium suits him well; more likely he just has a really good ghost-writer. Unfortunately, he has much to be humble about. His advice, while not bad, is vague and not too useful. For example, his first rule is “think big”. But his second rule is “protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself”, which he explains as:

It’s been said that I believe in the power of positive thinking. In fact, I believe in the power of negative thinking. I happen to be very conservative in business. I always go into the deal anticipating the worst. If you plan for the worst – if you can live with the worst – the good will take care of itself.

So – take a lot of risks, but also be very cautious. Okay. I’m not saying his advice is literally contradictory – it makes sense that you can have big plans but also be very careful about them. I just don’t get the feeling that his advice is too helpful in narrowing down your plans.

Is there anything at all worth reading in these seventeen pages? Oh yes. But not for the reason I expected.

Trump’s sixth rule of deal-making is “Get The Word Out”. He says:

One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better. It’s in the nature of the job, and I understand that. The point is that if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you…

The funny thing is that even a critical story, which may be hurtful personally, can be very valuable to your business. [When I announced my plans to build Television City to the press], not all of them liked the idea of the world’s tallest building. But the point is that we got a lot of attention, and that alone creates value.

The other thing I do when I talk with reporters is to be straight. I try not to deceive them or to be defensive, because those are precisely the ways most people get themselves into trouble with the press. Instead, when a reporter asks me a tough question, I try to frame a positive answer, even if that means shifting the ground. For example, if someone asks me what negative effects the world’s tallest building might have on the West Side, I turn the tables and talk about how New Yorkers deserve the world’s tallest building, and what a boost it will give the city to have it again. When a reporter asks why I build only for the rich, I note that the rich aren’t the only ones who benefit from my buildings. I explain that I put thousands of people to work who might otherwise be collecting unemployment, and that I add to the city’s tax base every time I build a new project. I also point out that buildings like Trump Tower have helped spark New York’s renaissance.

The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.

I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion.

In the immortal words of Marco Rubio, “Let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Donald Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”

On the other hand, his eighth rule of business is “Deliver The Goods”. He gives an interesting example:

You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.

I think of Jimmy Carter. After he lost the election to Ronald Reagan, Carter came to see me in my office. He told me he was seeking contributions to the Jimmy Carter Library. I asked how much he had in mind. And he said, “Donald, I would be very appreciative if you contributed five million dollars.

I was dumbfounded. I didn’t even answer him.

But that experience also taught me something. Until then, I’d never understood how Jimmy Carter became President. The answer is that as poorly qualified as he was for the job, Jimmy Carter had the nerve, the guts, the balls, to ask for something extraordinary. That ability above all helped him get elected president. But then, of course, the American people caught on pretty quickly that Carter couldn’t do the job, and he lost in a landslide when he ran for reelection.

Ronald Reagan is another example. He is so smooth and so effective a performer that he completely won over the American people. Only now, nearly seven years later, are people beginning to question whether there’s anything beneath that smile.

Trump-1988 is weirdly prophetic.

Finally, his tenth rule is “Have Fun”:

I don’t kid myself. Life is very fragile, and success doesn’t change that. If anything, success makes it more fragile. Anything can change, without warning, and that’s why I try not to take any of what’s happened too seriously. Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what I should have done differently, or what’s going to happen next. If you ask me exactly what the deals I’m about to describe all add up to in the end, I’m not sure I have a very good answer. Except that I’ve had a very good time making them.

Marcus Aurelius, eat your heart out.

III.

So much for seventeen pages of business advice. The other three hundred forty-eight pages are Trump gushing about the minutiae all of the interesting deals he’s been a part of.

“GUYS, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS, THERE WAS THIS ONE SKYSCRAPER THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE A FLOOR TO AREA RATIO OF 6, BUT THEN I BEAT HILTON IN NEGOTIATING THE AIR RIGHTS FROM THE COMPANY NEXT DOOR, AND ACTIVATED AN OPTION TO BUY A PROPERTY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF IT, AND ALL OF THAT LANDED ME A PARTNERSHIP WITH ONE OF THE BIG BANKS, AND THEN THE PLANNING BOARD TOTALLY CHANGED THE FLOOR AREA RATIO! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT, GUYS??!”

Overall the effect was that of an infodump from an autistic child with a special interest in real estate development, which was both oddly endearing and not-so-oddly very boring.

I started the book with the question: what exactly do real estate developers do? They don’t design buildings; they hire an architect for that part. They don’t construct the buildings; they hire a construction company for that part. They don’t manage the buildings; they hire a management company for that part. They’re not even the capitalist who funds the whole thing; they get a loan from a bank for that. So what do they do? Why don’t you or I take out a $100 million loan from a bank, hire a company to build a $100 million skyscraper, and then rent it out for somewhat more than $100 million and become rich?

As best I can tell, the developer’s job is coordination. This often means blatant lies. The usual process goes like this: the bank would be happy to lend you the money as long as you have guaranteed renters. The renters would be happy to sign up as long as you show them a design. The architect would be happy to design the building as long as you tell them what the government’s allowing. The government would be happy to give you your permit as long as you have a construction company lined up. And the construction company would be happy to sign on with you as long as you have the money from the bank in your pocket. Or some kind of complicated multi-step catch-22 like that. The solution – or at least Trump’s solution – is to tell everybody that all the other players have agreed and the deal is completely done except for their signature. The trick is to lie to the right people in the right order, so that by the time somebody checks to see whether they’ve been conned, you actually do have the signatures you told them that you had. The whole thing sounds very stressful.

The developer’s other job is dealing with regulations. The way Trump tells it, there are so many regulations on development in New York City in particular and America in general that erecting anything larger than a folding chair requires the full resources of a multibillion dollar company and half the law firms in Manhattan. Once the government grants approval it’s likely to add on new conditions when you’re halfway done building the skyscraper, insist on bizarre provisions that gain it nothing but completely ruin your chance of making a profit, or just stonewall you for the heck of it if you didn’t donate to the right people’s campaigns last year. Reading about the system makes me both grateful and astonished that any structures have ever been erected in the United States at all, and somewhat worried that if anything ever happens to Donald Trump and a few of his close friends, the country will lose the ability to legally construct artificial shelter and we will all have to go back to living in caves.

Trump’s greatest pride is his ability to construct things on time and under budget. He gives the story of an ice rink that New York City was trying to renovate in Central Park. After six years and $13 million, the city had completely failed to renovate it and just made things worse. Trump offered as a charitable gesture to do it himself, and the mayor, who was a political enemy, refused. The press hounded the mayor, Trump eventually was allowed to try, and he finished it in four months for only $2.5 million. He boasted that he finished fixing the rink in less time than it took the city to complete their study on why their rink-fixing project had failed.

He had a couple more stories like this – but throughout all of it, there was a feeling of something missing. Here is a guy whose job is cutting through bureaucracy, and who is apparently quite good at it. Yet throughout the book – and for that matter, throughout his campaign for the nomination of a party that makes cutting bureaucracy a big part of their platform – he doesn’t devote a lot of energy to expressing discontent with the system. There is no libertarian streak to Trump – in the process of successfully navigating all of these terrible rules, he rarely takes a step back and wonders about a better world where these rules don’t exist. Despite having way more ability to change the system than most people, he seems to regard it as a given, not worth debating. I think back to his description of how it’s all just a big game to him. Most star basketball players are too busy shooting hoops to imagine whether the game might be more interesting if a three-pointer was worth five points, or whatever. Trump seems to have the same attitude – the rules are there; his job is to make the best deal he can within those rules.

Maybe I’m imagining things, but I feel like this explains a lot about his presidential campaign. People ask him something like “How would you fix Medicare?”, and he gives some vapid answer like “There are tremendous problems with Medicare, but I’m going to hire the best people. I know all of the best doctors and health care executives, and we’re going to cut some amazing deals and have the best Medicare in the world.” And yeah, he did say in his business tips that you should change the frame to avoid being negative to reporters. But this isn’t a negative or a gotcha question. At some point you’d expect Trump to do his homework and get some kind of Medicare plan or other. Instead he just goes off on the same few tangents. This thing about hiring the best people, for example, seems almost like an obsession in the book. But it works for him. When somebody sues him (which seems like an hourly occurrence in real estate development no matter how careful you are) his response is to find the best lawyer, hire them, and throw them at the problem. When he needs a hotel managed, he hires the best hotel managers and tells them to knock themselves out. Even his much-mocked tendency to talk about all the people he knows comes from this being a big part of his real estate strategy – one of the reasons he can outcompete other tycoons is because he knows people on the planning board, knows people in the banks, knows people in all the companies he works with. It’s a huge advantage for him.

These strategies have always worked for him before, and floating off into some intellectual ideal-system-design effort has never worked for him before. So when he says that he’s going to solve Medicare by hiring great managers and knowing all the right people, I don’t think this is some vapid way of avoiding the question. I think it’s the honest output of a mind that works very differently from mine. I’ve been designing ideal systems of government for the heck of it ever since I was old enough to realize what a government was. Trump is at serious risk of actually taking over a government, and such design still doesn’t appeal to him. The best he can do is say that other people are bad at governing, but he’s going to be good at governing, on account of his deal-making skill. I think he honestly believes this. It makes perfect sense in real estate, where some people are good businesspeople, others are bad businesspeople, and the goal is to game the system rather than change it. But in politics, it’s easy to interpret as authoritarianism – “Forget about policy issues, I’m just going to steamroll through this whole thing by being personally strong and talented.”

I said it before, but it bears repeating – this book has a really good ghostwriter. Yeah, it comes across as narcissistic; there’s probably no way to avoid that in a Trump autobiography. But Donald Trump’s interest in Donald Trump pales beside his blazing hot interest in the sheer awesomeness of hotel property deals. And part of me wants to say that people with obsessive interests in bizarre things are My Kind Of People.

But there’s still something alien about Trump here, even moreso than with the populist demagogue of the campaign trail. Trump the demagogue is attacked as anti-intellectual. I get anti-intellectualism because – like all isms – it’s an intellectual idea, and I tend to think in those terms. But Trump of the book is more a-intellectual, in the same way some people are amoral or asexual. The world is taken as a given. It contains deals. Some people make the deals well, and they are winners. Other people make the deals poorly, and they are losers. Trump does not need more than this. There will be no civilization of philosopher-Trumps asking where the first deal came from, or whether a deal is a deal only by virtue of its participation in some primordial deal beyond material existence. Trump’s world is so narrow it’s hard to fit your head inside it, so narrow that on contact with any wider world it seems strange and attenuated, a broken record of deals and connections and hirings expanding to fill the space available.

On the other hand, he made a billion dollars and will probably win the GOP nomination. So there’s that.

Trump ends by saying:

What’s next? Fortunately, I don’t know the answer, because if I did, that would take all the fun out of it. This much I do know: it won’t be more of the same.

I’ve spent the first twenty years of my working life building, accumulating, and accomplishing things that many said could not be done. The biggest challenge I see over the next twenty years is to figure out some creative ways to give back some of what I’ve gotten.

I don’t just mean money, although that’s part of it. It’s easy to be generous when you’ve got a lot, and anyone who does, should be. But what I admire most are people who put themselves directly on the line. I’ve never been terribly interested in why people give, because their motivation is rarely what it seems to be, and it’s almost never pure altruism. To me, what matters is the doing, and giving time is far more valuable than just giving money. [note: a contrary perspective]

In my life, there are two things I’ve found I’m very good at: overcoming obstacles and motivating good people to do their best work. One of the challenges ahead is how to use those skills as successfully in the service of others as I’ve done, up to now, on my own behalf.

Don’t get me wrong. I also plan to keep making deals, big deals, and right around the clock.

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988 Responses to Book Review: The Art Of The Deal

  1. Frog Do says:

    “But what I admire most are people who put themselves directly on the line.”
    He’s talking about skin in the game. Giving money to economic arguments in situations you can’t observe just means you’ll be convinced by the best argument. And you can be argued into anything, the correct state should be epistemic helplessness. Betting your time, betting your reputation, is so much more meaningful then giving some designated resources at whatever currently has the best argument.

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    • TexasCapitalist says:

      I largely agree with this comment.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, that approach is much better than throwing money at the problem, and saying “at least I tried” while shrugging if things go wrong.

      I wonder how much of Scott’s focus on giving money as charity, as opposed to offering labour, stems from his self-admitted hatred of having work levied from him and no such revulsion about being taxed.

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      • expjpi says:

        One might consider the hypothesis that he’s actually a utilitarian like he claims and that evidence really does favor the efficacy of donations.

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        • Anonymous says:

          One might, but that would be too obvious.

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        • Maware says:

          One would doubt that, given the staggering amount of money poured into various places across the globe. Haiti in particular has received enormous amounts of aid, and has more or less lurched from one crisis to the other. Rational Altruists could learn a lot from Christians, as they have dealt a lot with the money/labor divide.

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    • ShemTealeaf says:

      Maybe I just haven’t had enough coffee yet, but I’m not really understanding why giving time/reputation/whatever doesn’t leave you victim to manipulation by the best argument just as much as giving money. I guess if you’re directly involved in doing the work, you have a better sense of the efficacy of one particular organization, but you’re still mostly relying on other people’s assessments unless you’re very knowledgeable about the organization in question. Even then, you’re still relying on other people’s assessments if you want to compare your efficacy to that of another organization.

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      • Frog Do says:

        It leaves you more vulunerable, so you’re incentived to actually do the work to make sure you see good outcomes, I think. In a lot of situations status is way more important to people than money, so wagering status is meaningful. That’s not to say effective altruism doesn’t do this, there’s a huge discourse in the larger grey tribe where people are staking their reputations on the credibility of this-or-that charity, in addition to donating money.

        I think the “Money is the unit of caring” post is talking about a general rule that is usually a great rule! But the way it’s discussed sometimes makes it seem like a categorical imperative, which I disagree with.

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    • Douglas Knight says:

      Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous when Scott labels running for president as THIS IS WRONG.

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    • Anonymous says:

      41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

      Now who are you going to believe on this matter: Yudkowsky, or Jesus?

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      • Jiro says:

        Yudkowsky.

        I’ve often pointed out that EA would, taken to its logical conclusion, imply that you should give everything you have except that necessary to live on and stay psychologically healthy, and that EA implies you should self-modify to be psychologically healthy with very little money.

        But even EA doesn’t imply you should give away money when the money is all you have to live on.

        If that passage didn’t have the name “Jesus Christ” attached to it, the writer would be excoriated for demanding that the poor impoverish themselves.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          It really annoys me when people don’t see any difference between praising a behavior and demanding it. I blame totalitarian modernity.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Look I don’t want to put words in big J’s mouth but my interpretation of that passage of Mark was only that, although being smaller in absolute terms, the contribution of the widow was more important to her than were those of the rich to them, and as such we can infer that she cared as much and more about the cause they were giving to: demonstrating very plainly that money is not linear in caring. As such, I suggest that in fact our protagonist and our villain are only speaking past each-other, as the latter is talking about money considered by a person, and the former money compared between persons.

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        • Deiseach says:

          Jiro, the passage says the widow gave more than all the rich people did.

          Huh? But she only put in tuppence! This one guy put in much more!

          Yes, but he put in a fraction of the excess he had. It didn’t cost him much. Whereas she put in all the little money over that she had. So proportionately, she gave much more.

          It is not saying “the poor should impoverish themselves”. It is saying “the rich guys making big, ostentatious, public donations of large sums are really giving less, and from less worthy motives, than the poor and unknown who give small amounts”.

          It’s part of the message that the last shall be first and the first shall be last, that the wisdom of God is the foolishness of the world, that the rich have their reward here in this life but the kingdom runs on different rules.

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          • Jiro says:

            It is not saying “the poor should impoverish themselves”.

            She put in all she had to live on. If you’re poor and you donate all you have to live on, then you don’t have anything to live on. That is, in fact, saying that it’s praiseworthy for the poor to impoverish themselves through donation.

            Jesus is way overrated.

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          • Frog Do says:

            “If you’re poor and you donate all you have to live on, then you don’t have anything to live on.”

            Behold Randian libertarianism, surely the permenant form of all human societies throughout history.

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          • Deiseach says:

            Jesus did not say “Go thou and do likewise”, He was saying Big Cheese Guy gave his surplus and had plenty left in store, Poor Widow gave all she had to live on. Big Cheese Guy was trying to impress both the public and God; Jesus was saying whatever about the public, God was not fooled.

            Jesus: “Big Cheese Guy donated $1,000 and Poor Widow gave two cents. Who gave more?”

            Apostles: “(Oh man, this is another one of those trick questions, right?) Um – Big Cheese Guy, Master?”

            Jesus: “No!”

            Apostles: “(We knew it!) Why not, Master?”

            Jesus: “Big Cheese Guy has his living expenses covered. Out of what he had left over, he gave a big donation, but not everything, only a part. To really hurt, he should have donated that million he’s got socked away in that trading partnership in Rome.

            Poor Widow, on the other hand, gave everything she has. Everything. Not for public recognition or to gain credit with God or to get a seat on the committee to rebuild the temple and network so as to get that trading partnership a juicy public works contract, but because she wants to give to the House of God. So she gave much, much more than Big Cheese Guy, even though if you count the pennies her amount was less”.

            It ties in to Ananias and Sapphira; their sin was not in “making a profit” or “keeping back money to live on”. Their sin was (1) perjury (2) trying to gain credit for generosity by deception. They promised they would give all the proceeds of selling that land. Then they got more than they expected. Instead of saying “Okay, we said we’d give everything, that means everything” or “Okay, we thought it would only be a small amount but we don’t want to give this big amount”, they lied. To the people in a community that was being built on trust and honesty, and to God.

            As Peter said, “It’s your money, you were free to do what you liked with it. You could have kept it”. They swore falsely that yep, this was every penny of the sale money when it wasn’t. They were trying to deceive the people who trusted them and were being ungenerous. They defaulted by giving less than they promised while still taking their full share of everything that was offered by the community.

            The Poor Widow is the type that is seen as a drag on society, as a consumer by both the progressive and conservative side. She’s not a wealth creator, an innovator, someone who is earning to give. But she is more honest and more truthful than the wealthy and high status who are making their donations at least in part to get social credit and kudos.

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          • Jiro says:

            Poor Widow, on the other hand, gave everything she has. Everything.

            Yes, exactly, and she shouldn’t be praised for it, because she shouldn’t be doing it. She’s poor. She shouldn’t be giving when giving means that she doesn’t have enough to live on.

            You don’t praise poor people for impoverishing themselves by giving away money that they can’t afford to give away.

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          • Alraune says:

            …Except to make a point about condemning hypocrisy.

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          • Randy M says:

            Jesus was making an economically accurate observation about the diminishing marginal utility of money, not a normative command. He doesn’t say that it is good that the poor all give all they can, however nor does he forbid it. The point is about what the gifts indicate about the virtue of the giver.

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          • Jiro says:

            He doesn’t say that it is good that the poor all give all they can

            He said that it was good that this particular poor person gave away all she can.

            In fact, if “all she can” means “all she can give away while still having enough to live on”. then he said it was good that this particular poor person gave away more than she can.

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          • onyomi says:

            I’m not especially religious, but I think many here look at religious stories and dicta from a fundamentally wrongheaded perspective. You’re thinking in terms of “what kind of behavior would make the most people the happiest” on the assumption that what makes people happiest is material wealth. That is almost the reverse of the religious perspective.

            When Jesus asks his apostles and disciples to follow him, he doesn’t say “please work me into your schedule on the weekends.” He says, in effect, “drop what you’re doing and wander around with me full time.” And so have religious leaders throughout history, much to the consternation of families and businesses which need heirs and taking care of. Islam means “surrender [to God].” Hinduism has its “bhakti” which is devotional practice, among others it has.

            Christianity, like Pure Land Buddhism, is fundamentally a devotional religion. It asks you to focus single-mindedly on God all the time. Anything that is a distraction from that, get rid off (“if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off…”). It’s harder for a rich man to get into Heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle not because being rich is inherently sinful, but because riches and their maintenance are almost always distracting.

            You don’t just give to the poor because you feel empathy for the poor; you give to the poor because it makes you better. This was better understood in the middle ages, when giving of alms was a weird, elaborate thing. It was almost like “good thing we have these poor people around so we can get into Heaven giving them stuff!”

            I think there is psycho-spiritual value in the devotional mindset, though I’m not about to give away all my possessions and live in a cave. Yet I can also derive some benefit from understanding how that works in a less extreme way. Thinking about all this in terms of social engineering, etc. is completely missing the point.

            From an economic point of view, of course, the poor lady should keep her money; even all her money can’t do much good for anyone else, after all. But from the spiritual point of view, giving all you have (to God–and giving to the poor is seen, essentially as giving to God, since whatever you don’t have isn’t distracting you from God: whatever you do for the least of them, etc.) is much more important than how much you give.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            Jesus teaches lessons of the coming apocalypse. The Gospels anticipate the end of the world within the lifetime of those who first utterered them. Perhaps even by the time they were first committed to paper this was starting to look likely, but it is still hard to understand the teachings of Jesus in the context of a world expected to continue on for even a few generations.

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          • Nita says:

            The Gospels anticipate the end of the world within the lifetime of those who first utterered them.

            It does seem that way. Basically, the end is nigh, drop everything and get into God’s good graces while you still can.

            Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. Mark 9:1

            Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. Matthew 23:36

            And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Matthew 24:30-34

            And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Mark 13:25-30

            And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Luke 21:25-32

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Jiro is absolutely right in this thread, and onyomi makes some very insightful arguments.

            The thing to realize is: if Christianity is true, then giving all you have so that you don’t have anything left to live on, or acting like St. Francis drinking laundry water or jumping into the snow every time you get a sexual desire, is a purely egoistic act. It’s not selfless at all. Purifying yourself of worldly attachments so that you can enter the Kingdom of Heaven is the best thing for you.

            Now, of course Christianity throws a wrench into this by saying that this is a bad motive and that you really should do it because you love God. Well, then it becomes clear that the most selfish thing to do is to “self-modify” into the sort of person who only cares about what serves God.

            ***

            Not to mention that burning heretics and suppressing dissent—even if it means that you yourself are going to go to hell—becomes an altruistic act.

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          • Randy M says:

            He said that it was good that this particular poor person gave away all she can.

            I reread both versions in context. I can’t find a literal reading that does so. He says she gave more, because she gave all she had. He doesn’t say “go and do likewise.” But, yes, he is praising her, saying her virtue is greater because her sacrifice is greater. Same as saying “No greater love than the man who gives his life for his friend.”
            Elsewhere Jesus bids people to give to the poor, and I doubt it is simply so it will flow back to the Temple. You want Him to pull the widow aside and say “God does not need your money. Keep it, in fact, take some more out.” Jesus allows the woman her demonstration of devotion and faith.
            You are right, though, that Jesus, as simply a moral teacher, is overrated. If there is no God who clothes the sparrows, you had better give a thought to what you will wear tomorrow.

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        • Vamair says:

          That’s just the usual “being a good person” vs. “doing good” question. The widow acted as a better person, the rich man did more (expected) good.
          There was a parable of a pig I’ve heard somewhere:
          “It’s often difficult for a farmer to butcher an animal if they’ve been spending a lot of time together. So many farmers lock up their pigs somewhere and just feed them. But there was a girl who decided to make a pig her pet. And so they played together the whole summer, and she taught the pig different tricks and feed it tasty bits. And when the summer ended the girl easily butchered the pig and her family made a lot of tasty food out of it”. The girl acted as a bad person (one may argue with that, but that’s a common conception), but the result for the pig is much better than otherwise.

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          • Nita says:

            Different beliefs about the world induce different moral policies.

            For a Christian, trying to do good for its own sake, with no regard to being a good person, is pointless — God is infinitely more powerful, wise and benevolent than you, so you should simply obey God and trust Him to take care of things. And ‘being a good person’, of course, means being whatever God wants you to be — who are you to question Him?

            But for the typical effective altruist, polishing your virtuous character for its own sake is pointless — chances are that there is no God, so mere mortals have to work towards good outcomes using their own limited powers. And since there is no external authority on virtue, ‘virtue’ that results in worse outcomes is no virtue at all.

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          • Vamair says:

            I believe you’re right, but right now I consider the distinction between a good action, a virtuous one and a praiseworthy one to be really helpful when I think about ethics. Conflating them is very common even for a non-Christian.

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        • Mariani says:

          You’re confusing poverty and destitution. Those are very different ideas in the Christian sense.
          http://anunslife.org/blog/nun-talk/vow-of-poverty-not-destitution

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      • FeepingCreature says:

        And Jesus spoke to his disciples, saying, “you know – this sort of thing is exactly why she is poor.”

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      • Maware says:

        Jesus mostly makes sense when you realize his statements are exaggerations to prove a point, less literal commands.

        His point here was that virtue in giving comes from sacrifice not from the total amount given. Giving pocket change isn’t virtuous, even if pocket change for you is $100. A lot of statements he makes are similar. The verse that states if you even look on a woman with lust you have committed adultery is in the context of a person thinking he is good simply because he refrains from public sins. Jesus says no, you can’t be comfortable thinking that, the bar is far higher. It’s not a literal command nor are the two equal though.

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        • Jiro says:

          First, how do you tell what counts as a literal command and what doesn’t? If he *actually* meant that lusting after a woman is like adultery, how would we know the difference? (Consider that millions of people over centuries could not tell that that wasn’t literal.)

          Second, even if it’s not literal, aren’t there better ways to exaggerate that aren’t so easy to misinterpret? He could say that a poor person giving even a cent is good, for instance, exaggerating the smallness of the donation instead of exaggerating how much the poor person needs the money. It’s as if he actually did mean it literally and “it isn’t literal” is an after the fact rationalization to explain how Jesus could say something so stupid.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            The Pope knows which parts Jesus meant literally and which parts he didn’t. Obviously.

            And no Pope has ever been proven wrong when making statements while wearing his special funny hat that he only wears while making statements about things he’s really sure about. That proves he’s infallible while wearing that hat.

            See, the problem with Christianity is that people aren’t creative enough with it. If the Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra, why doesn’t he speak ex cathedra about climate change or the best economic system? It would sure clear a lot of things up.

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          • Alliteration says:

            “See, the problem with Christianity is that people aren’t creative enough with it. If the Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra, why doesn’t he speak ex cathedra about climate change or the best economic system? It would sure clear a lot of things up.”
            (Warning: I am not a catholic nor have I ever been one)
            My understanding is that for papal infallibility, the infallibility only works when talking about religious stuff.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Alliteration:

            Well, yes. The Pope is supposedly infallible: “When, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.”

            Even then, Popes are unreasonably cautious for someone who truly has infallible powers. They don’t proclaim such statements very often. They don’t use it for controversial matters where it would be very helpful. They just use it when they are very sure they won’t get contradicted later.

            The only totally unambiguous ones are the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary—clearly the most pressing issues of our time. There is no complete, undisputed list of infallible proclamations. Some people classify the idea that only men can be priests as one, but even there they are vague, with arguments on both sides.

            Even on abortion, though the Catechism describes the Church’s opposition as “unchangeable”, the Pope has never unambiguously denounced it while wearing his “I am infallible” hat.

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          • Frog Do says:

            Religions that engage in that sort of brinskmanship did (and presumably do) exist, and do achieve pretty spectacular heights of popularity, and then flame out.

            Edit: Or else go conservative very quickly, at which point it becomes a matter of birthrates, IIRC.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Frog Do:

            Well, yeah. I’m not saying that the Catholic strategy here is bad from the standpoint of its being a false religion. It’s a good strategy from that point of view. If you are not actually infallible, you can’t make a statement liable to be proven wrong or contradicted later.

            It’s only a bad strategy from the standpoint of its actually being true.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:

            I think the standard counter to that would be to assert that the Pope has no real control over when infallibility is invoked. The church does not control God, but rather God controls the church. As to why God does things as he does? Who are we to questions or know?

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          • Frog Do says:

            General rule of thumb that’s usually helpful for me at least: when trying to think through religious beliefs, starting from the position that you are hypothetically acting from God’s perspective is generally going to be considered the height of hubris and the foundational myth of Not Getting It inside that religion. Speaking in a general Christian perspective, this is (definitionally?) Satanic.

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    • Michael Vassar says:

      Ash. ‘You can be argued into anything’, or ‘the best argument… can point to any conclusion’. And here you have it Scott. That is the essence of intellectual anti-intellectualism, natural given your blog, but I really think that you are mistaken in your belief that this is the normal form of anti-intellectualism. Ordinary anti-intellectualism is more like Trump, a tacit faith that people (or at least ‘winners’) will always assume a Prisoner’s Dillemma, regardless of appearances, and will seek to profit by defecting against cooperators rather than cooperating with cooperators, regardless of the payoff matrix, and that this is right and proper. The attitude leads to not engaging with theories.

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  2. Dennis Ochei says:

    > When he says that he’s going to solve Medicare by hiring great managers and knowing all the right people, I don’t think this is some vapid way of avoiding the question. I think it’s the honest output of a mind that works very differently from mine.

    Well, the president can only interface with a finite number of people daily. I imagine Trump plans to yell with just the right volume at the people he surrounds himself with to fix the problem, and since they are presumably the best at their respective fields, they will in turn yell at just the right people, recursively, until the world is reformed in the image of Trump

    Besides veto/sign, hire/fire for cabinet members, and I guess declaring war, what levers does the president pull directly anyway? I guess I’m saying the president’s job is to point at problems and say “fix that,” and to access how well people are fixing a given problem.

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    • Jon says:

      Only congress can declare war. The president can order people to bomb some place without technically declaring war.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Besides veto/sign, hire/fire for cabinet members, and I guess declaring war, what levers does the president pull directly anyway?

      I think that’s largely irrelevant to a Trump-type. Those things are just negotiation material in making deals.

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    • Deiseach says:

      Well, does anyone think President Obama is sitting at his desk with a pencil and paper totting up figures for how Medicare (or Obamacare, or any other policy) will work and taking notes about which office in what state deals with how many clients?

      That’s what the civil service is there for. He turns it over to the relevant departments and they have to work out the implemention, then the draft legislation gets run by the Attorney-General (or whomever is your equivalent) to get advice if it’s constitutional or not, then the President picks the teams (probably off a list of names provided by the permanent civil servants, who are the ones in any government that do the daily donkey work – they’re the ones that don’t change with administrations).

      I don’t think Trump would be a great president, but not because he claims his solution would be to hire great managers; that’s pretty much what Obama is doing with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (one Sylvia Mathews Burwell at present), who is the person tasked with overseeing the running of the services and how they are implemented.

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      • Tommy says:

        I think the problem with a Trump presidency would lie in the fact that a healthcare system is on a different order of complexity than a hotel. Certainly Trump has proven himself adept in complex situations, but in most of these, the end goal itself was fairly straightforward — a building — and the complexity lay only in the environment he was navigating. But a different skillset is needed when you’re end goal itself is mind-numbingly complex, since you have to not only pick your managers wisely and provide them motivation, but also coordinate between them such they’re each contributing within a wider framework that you’ve carefully thought through.

        This is just a poor attempt at saying that Trump would probably be great at building a big federal hospital, but not so great at improving the healthcare of 300 million people.

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        • but not so great at improving the healthcare of 300 million people

          So, here is my question while reading your post.
          According to what metric?

          Trump needs to point to a metric and convince people the healthcare system is improving. No matter how crappy the healthcare system might be, if people believe the metric, he’s won the battle.

          The flipside: doing a fantastic job and failing to reach the metric means you have objectively failed.

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          • Dennis Ochei says:

            I mean, I feel like this is a separate, complex issue, that’s going to cash out at a formalization of morality, which we don’t have. But if we pretend we’re somewhat naive utilitarians, optimizing QALY’s per dollar of medical spending is a start. By which I mean, a really, really rough start.

            We can hand-wave over the metric if we merely ask about Trump’s capacity to modify the US healthcare system. We could pretend Trump is evil (this might not be too taxing on your imagination muscles) and is try to ruin healthcare, for instance. Would he succeed? I kind of doubt it.

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          • Trump’s metric seems to be, people not dying in the street. So if he can show not that many people are dying in the street he can declare his healthcare program, whatever it may be, a success.

            But is that how being president works? You set a really minimal goal and you make it and everyone says, my gosh, he did a great job? Or do people instead insist everything you do against a series of metrics you never claimed would be met and then declare you a complete failure and demand your immediate impeachment?

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          • Dennis,
            You are picking a metric objectively, and I get your point, but my point is that Trump can point to a different metric. All he needs to do is convince people to believe it.
            That’s what a LOT of business is.
            A lot of businesses in turn structure SLAs (Service Level Agreements) with certain metrics called KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to solve this issue.
            Like my Director says about our BPO, the wheels could be falling off the bus, and no one gives a shit as long as the SLAs are met.
            It’s the business equivalent of “teaching to the test.”

            But is that how being president works? You set a really minimal goal and you make it and everyone says, my gosh, he did a great job? Or do people instead insist everything you do against a series of metrics you never claimed would be met and then declare you a complete failure and demand your immediate impeachment?

            Both. The US public isn’t homogenous. There is a loyal opposition pointing to numbers saying the President is doing a crappy job and the White House staff pointing to numbers saying the President is doing a great job.
            The question being whether Trump will prove more effective than prior White House staffs in convincing the middle portion of America HIS metric is the correct one.
            He obviously won’t win over everyone. Even Barrack Obama only had ~70% approval ratings coming into office, which seems to be the high mark: Eisenhower and JFK had the same ratings. Trump doesn’t quite have the same fanfare Obama does so I imagine Trump will operate at a bit of a handicap in approval ratings.

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        • Dennis Ochei says:

          > But a different skillset is needed when you’re end goal itself is mind-numbingly complex, since you have to not only pick your managers wisely and provide them motivation, but also coordinate between them such they’re each contributing within a wider framework that you’ve carefully thought through.

          I actually somewhat doubt this idea. Yes, optimizing healthcare or something is much more complex than constructing a building, but think the interface is similar. Let’s say you start a company out of your garage. It’s wildly successful and suddenly you can’t handle all the orders and customers and logistics yourself, so you hire a team of people to do all that and you manage the team. The business keeps growing, and with it grows the ground level team, until you can no longer manage them by yourself. You hire a team to manage the ground level workers, which you then in turn manage. Each of these moves creates a layer of abstraction, that reduces your amount of control to reign in tractability.

          I think the problem of the president optimizing healthcare is like this, except the number of indirection layers between the oval office and how much you pay at the pharmacy is pretty large.

          Fundamentally, what I’m saying, is that at 3+ layers of abstraction, managing people is just managing people. You use the carrot and the stick, you set budgets/priorities, and you get people in the same room. When the management problem becomes too complex, you abstract away by adding a new team of underlings.

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          • Tommy says:

            Certainly possible. I don’t have any direct experience in building towers or reforming healthcare systems, after all.

            Still, I feel there’s a skillset mismatch. All of Trump’s successes seem to ‘one-off’, insular achievements. A TV show, a casino, a presidential campaign, etc. Does this mean he would be successful as the long-term CEO of Disney or Apple? My gut says no. And if that distinction holds: which type of skillset is more useful for the presidency? I don’t know.

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          • CatCube says:

            I don’t know for sure that “management is management” in the way that modern corporations seem to have a fetish for. One of the reasons Steve Jobs was so successful is that he combined a working knowledge of the technology with his management skills. I think a lot of the problems in modern companies stems from putting a finance guy at the top since he can make the balance sheet rain, while hollowing out the core of the company.

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          • Desertopa says:

            The difference, I think, between the sort of business management Trump is experienced in, and the sort of management necessary for a project like reforming healthcare, is that with the business management, you generally have a very clear idea what the responsibilities you’re hiring people for are and what sort of metrics you can use to judge their skill with them.

            If you’re hiring a lawyer, you want them to be able to win cases, or write airtight contracts, or guide you through the restrictions of legal compliance with minimal hassle. All of these are things where it’s relatively easy to judge if a candidate has a history of doing them well.

            For an architect, you want them to be able to design buildings which are convenient, aesthetically pleasing, safe, practical to maintain, and cost a reasonable amount to build. Again, it’s fairly straightforward to judge an architect’s record for accomplishing these things.

            If you want to reform the healthcare system though, who do you hire for that? You’d either need to know what kind of change you wanted in order to have an idea of who would implement it effectively, or you’d have to know who would be good at figuring out what kind of change was necessary. But what kind of metrics would you use to judge a candidate for that? If you don’t understand how to reform the system, then, as per the Dunning-Krueger effect, it’s likely that you don’t have the meta-level skills of assessing what competence at reforming the system would look like.

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        • Furslid says:

          The question this prompts is, “Would anyone be great at improving the healthcare of 300 million people?” I can’t answer yes to this.

          “Is Trump the only person claiming that he can improve healthcare?” No, all the candidates are claiming they can improve healthcare.

          It doesn’t seem fair to single out Trump for criticism on this point. He’s not exactly alone at making big promises that he’s not qualified for. If anything, he may be more qualified. I wouldn’t even say that the other candidates would be great at building a hospital.

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        • Vardan says:

          Well that’s just such a reductionistic approach. We can say that about any project, and in any case what other candidate has proved to have an ability to grapple with such complexities. In the end the goal is simple, to provide 300 million citizens with adequate healthcare at the most cost efficient level.

          Many people do not understand the simple fact that presidency is not about doing anything specific, but the simple management of people, and choosing the right people for the right jobs. In fact the president does very little in terms of hard detailing in much of anything, other than areas that require immediate judgement, like war, or an emergency. Otherwise the bureaucratic machinations should take care of mundane, everyday tasks, but also the complex issues that require hundreds of people to find a solution, which needs to right, specific leader to manage.

          That said I don’t know whether Trump is capable of choosing the right people, but one thing is definitely assured, and which is that he’s good with people. He knows how to deal with them, and manage them, and not mention he also is a very capable visionary that sells ideas more than he sells objects. So it’s not just about a better health care system, or a better education system, or better foreign relations, it’s about Making America Great Again, as a general idea, as a vision.

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    • Matt says:

      That’s a really funny thing about the entire Presidential campaign process. Everyone expects solutions and results from Presidential candidates, yet really, there’s simply no means by which the President can deliver such results, making the solutions somewhat moot. They spend an entire year telling you all the things they’re going to do and how they’re going to do them, but when they’re elected, virtually all that goes out the window immediately.

      In a weird way, Trump might have a better philosophical approach to the job. Use your position to promote the shit out of the people you think can actually get the job done.

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      • Jacob says:

        Even if this is the only practical solution, isn’t Trump’s approach (hire someone else to do it) fundamentally undemocratic? I mean, you’re voting for a president to make decisions, not give them to a contractor.

        The really worrying thing is that unlike in the construction business, Trump is not going to have a large number of contacts, and he’s not going to have any kind of inside knowledge as to who is the best person to delegate to. So either he’s going to contract it to the person who sells themselves as the most qualified (not necessarily the person who is actually most qualified), just be generally persuaded by congress-type people on who to give the contracts to, or be VERY susceptible to lobbying and corruption.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Actually you’re voting for electors to vote for a president. The American tradition received from the Founders is that the more layers of indirection you have the better your democracy is.

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          • BBA says:

            To be perfectly precise, you’re voting for state legislators to determine the manner for choosing electors to vote for the president. It’s just that every state has passed statutes to directly elect its electors, Maine and Nebraska by congressional district and the rest at large.

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        • onyomi says:

          Here’s a crazy idea: instead of having a billion-dollar popularity contest-cum-reality tv show every 4 years to pick the decider-in-chief who will pick the people who will pick the people who will pick the people who will do the things that need doing, why don’t we all just pay people who know how to do things to do the things we think need doing? But that would be terribly undemocratic, of course…

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            1. Most people recognize that privately-made decisions are superior to collective situations, all else equal. But:

            2. Most people believe that there are large number of decisions that, for a variety of reasons, simply have to be made collectively. For instance, they involve public goods.

            3. Therefore, somebody has to be in charge to make those decisions.

            4. Most people believe that holding a nationwide popularity contest is the best practicable way to select the people who will be in charge. They believe that this is better than hereditary rule, or the kinds of internal politicking that selected the members of the Politburo, or the (actually very clever and intricate) system that selects the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

            It’s conceivable that we’d have better presidents if they were chosen by an 88-member Assembly of Experts, who were all extensively trained in constitutional law and jurisprudence—and elected from slates of candidates approved by appointees of previous sitting presidents. That’s the sort of “closed loop” Iran has to make sure the Islamic principles of the constitution are not degraded over time.

            It could in theory work the same with the Enlightenment principles of the American Constitution. It would be like having the federal judiciary select candidates for the Electoral College, who elect the president, who appoints the members of the judiciary.

            I am not at all confident that this really would be better, though. Maybe.

            Such a system would probably be closer to the Founders’ vision of the Electoral College than its current status as a mere transmitting gear, though.

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          • onyomi says:

            Vox, no offense, and I know your intentions are good, but your post pretty much undercuts the whole point of my post. I am, of course, aware of all that you’re saying. The point was to get people to consider, maybe just for a second, that allowing decisions they think need to be made by politicians to instead be decided on the market might actually produce more democratic results. I mean, not that I think I’m so clever or that my post would have convinced a ton of people, but I feel like you’re basically in the position of giving a detailed explanation of a joke right after someone makes it.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            I am aware of that.

            The point of my post was to indicate that you are simply preaching to the choir. I guess those kinds of comments or jokes where libertarians say “Hillary or Trump? How about nobody? hue hue hue” have started to grate on me because they get really old.

            Also, I edited my post to flesh it out a little bit more and bring in some more content. I don’t know if you wrote your comment before that.

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          • Nita says:

            @ onyomi

            If you want to persuade people who currently disagree with you, you should try supporting your ideas with arguments.

            Or hey, if you hate democracy, law and order so much, why don’t you go live in Somalia? LOL!

            Did reading the previous paragraph make you reconsider your libertarian beliefs?

            Edit: “allowing decisions they think need to be made by politicians to instead be decided on the market might actually produce more democratic results” is a bare claim. It could become an argument if you supported it with some evidence or reasoning. Responding to the obvious objection described by Vox might also help.

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          • onyomi says:

            The point of my comment wasn’t just to say “how about nobody hur hur,” but to point out that the results of the so-called democratic process are not really very democratic.

            Edit: @Nita: Electing people who appoint people who appoint people who hire people to do things might be less democratic than directly hiring people is an argument. The Somalia thing is not.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ onyomi:

            It was not clear to me that your main point was supposed to be that the free market is a more democratic system than collective decision-making. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

            In that case, it’s vulnerable to two obvious rejoinders. The first from the people who think there is some kind of importance to “all of us making decisions together, as one people”. The free market is an absolutely anti-democratic system in that sense. The second from those who point out, correctly, that the free market is not one man, one vote but one dollar, one vote.

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          • Anonymous says:

            >If you want to persuade people who currently disagree with you, you should try supporting your ideas with arguments.

            No, I’m pretty sure the best way is to convince them that they’re evil and/or low-status for disagreeing with you. Preferably the latter.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            Well, no, that’s not how you persuade people. That’s how you intimidate them into silence.

            Is it your opinion that most e.g. self-proclaimed progressives actually oppose it but are intimidated into silence?

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          • Anonymous says:

            >Well, no, that’s not how you persuade people. That’s how you intimidate them into silence.

            From a practical purpose, what difference does it make? Besides, that seems like a pretty black and white way of seeing it, looking at your example:

            >Is it your opinion that most e.g. self-proclaimed progressives actually oppose it but are intimidated into silence?

            You’re talking about “Progressivism(tm)” as this coherent block of ideas, but in reality, there’s a lot of people who believe things that are sometimes only vaguely similar, and often people are pressured into positions they don’t necessarily believe, by framing them as part of positions they do believe in. See: a great deal of what gets thrown around regarding racism, sexism or, for the other side, Christian dogma and TRUE Conservatism.

            All in all, I really just wanted to make a clever joke, but one can always count on you to be a killjoy and bring about interesting discussion.

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      • eccdogg says:

        Of course none of the proposals actually get done, but they lay out the vision of the candidate. They are kind of like saying, “this is what I would do in a world where I could accomplish anything I wanted”. It gives you an idea of what direction the candidate wants to push in.

        The problem with Trump is other than building a wall, he does not have much of a vision. Its fine to say you will hire the best people, but the best people for what? What do you want to accomplish?

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        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Exactly.

          We all recognize that there are limits in the real world to what you can accomplish. Every politician understands those limits.

          You’re trying to achieve the most of your goal possible, as constrained by circumstances. The question is: what is your goal?

          Trump doesn’t have any clear goals. As Rubio put it, in I think the funniest part of his role in the debates: “He says five things: everyone’s dumb, he’s going to make America great again. Win, win, win, he’s winning in the polls. And the lines around the states. Every night. Same thing.”

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          • I don’t think we know whether Trump has clear goals for what he would do as president. What we have observed so far is what he does to get nominated–and it has been surprisingly successful.

            Someone pointed at a page with his proposals on several subjects. The health care part seemed pretty reasonable–a fairly standard list of ways of making the health care market work a little better after abolishing Obamacare. The trade part was a mixed bag. The closest he comes to protectionism is to complain that China maintains trade barriers against us—how true that is I don’t know. But he makes the argument, popular on the left, that we should require them to meet our standards on employment–no “sweatshops,” a conveniently vague term. It’s hard to tell whether that is just rhetoric designed to get votes or an excuse for putting up trade barriers.

            I have my doubts that his tax proposals are really revenue neutral—but has anyone in this election put up reasonably clear tax proposals that actually work out as advertised?

            The one definitely positive thing about Trump is that he argues for a non-interventionist, or at least much less interventionist, foreign policy. I’m guessing that that would be true for Sanders as well. Hillary Clinton is clearly on the other side, Cruz a bit ambiguous.

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  3. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So with this narrow worldview of deals and sales, what is he trying to sell voters?
    My guess: their birthright, as opposed to a bowl of porridge. His success is coming from telling low-income Americans that they have a right to well-paying jobs in a homogeneous culture, while the Left’s deal to the same demographic is a bowl of porridge (food stamps, healthcare, whatever) in exchange for letting them destroy English-speaking Christian culture.

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    • g says:

      I take it “them” means immigrants? (On the face of it, it means those low-income Americans, but I’m pretty sure that can’t be your meaning.)

      This may be what some Trump supporters (or indeed others) are thinking, but it really doesn’t make any sense, for three [EDITED: oops, I mean four] reasons.

      First: America has been taking in immigrants, many of them non-English-speaking, with quite a variety of cultures, for a long time, and the result of this is the 20th-going-on-21st-century American culture whose destruction you’re worrying about. American culture is in no danger of being destroyed by immigration.

      Second: “in exchange for”. Huh? It sounds as if you’re describing a transaction. The government gives low-income Americans benefits; in exchange the low-income Americans allow the government to allow foreigners to come in and destroy “English-speaking Christian culture”. But I don’t see that there’s any relationship between the two sides of this alleged transaction that justifies treating it as such. I mean, it’s not as if immigration is what enables the government to provide benefits for people without much money; nor is providing benefits what enables the government to let immigrants in; nor, so far as I can tell, has any government ever proposed it in such terms to either existing low-income Americans or wannabe immigrants.

      The nearest I can get to making that “in exchange for” true is to observe that, roughly, the Left wants to let immigrants in and wants to pay relatively generous benefits, while the Right wants to keep immigrants out and wants to pay relatively ungenerous benefits. So in practice voters have to choose between those combinations. But there’s no essential connection between them (though maaaaybe you could say that in both cases the Left values being Nice and the Right values being Stern, or something) and e.g. I think libertarians often want to let lots of immigrants in and slash state benefits, and it’s easy to imagine a movement that wants to keep immigrants out and offer generous support to struggling Americans. (It could call itself “socialist nationalism” or “national socialism” if it weren’t for the unfortunate history of that term.)

      Third: “their birthright”: this is, shall we say, just a little melodramatic. In the story you’re referring to, Esau gives up his entire inheritance in exchange for a tasty meal. Even if we stipulate that letting immigrants into the US harms its existing culture (which, see above, I think is extremely doubtful) there is no possible way that the difference between Left and Right here amounts to taking away existing American citizens’ entire inheritance.

      Fourth: “a right to well-paying jobs”. If Donald Trump or anyone else claims to be offering that, they are either radically delusional or, more likely, just lying. And it turns out that historically job growth has been substantially better under Democratic than Republican presidents. It’s not clear how to split that between luck and actual policy differences, but it does make it kinda ridiculous to say that the Right offers “a right to well-paying jobs” while the Left doesn’t. What I think is true is that the Right talks about such things more than the Left.

      (Obvious disclaimer: “the Left” and “the Right” are broad terms, making claims about either as if it’s a monolithic entity is kinda nuts, and Donald Trump is not necessarily representative of “the Right” anyway. In my defence, I’m just going along with your usage.)

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      • Randall Randall says:

        Pretty sure “them” in the grandparent comment referred to “the Left”, which leaves it slightly ambiguous, but not dragging in categories not even mentioned earlier.

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      • Brian says:

        Going down the line:

        “First: America has been taking in immigrants, many of them non-English-speaking, with quite a variety of cultures, for a long time, and the result of this is the 20th-going-on-21st-century American culture whose destruction you’re worrying about. American culture is in no danger of being destroyed by immigration.”

        A. Most voters on either side don’t know history. It’s not taught well at most American public schools, and I don’t mean in the “People’s History of the United States” “school ignores US sins” way. Most people really don’t understand what other European immigrant groups contributed to US culture.

        B. But of the ones who do know history, they point to a difference in immigrant cultures’ attitudes towards assimilation. The Irish, Jews, and Italians who came over in the early 20th century wanted to become Americans. The same may be true for a lot of Latin-American immigrants today, but the left has very loud, very vocal anti-assimilationist movements, and worse, they seem to be in charge of major school districts. No one in 1910s New York was yelling that Jews shouldn’t learn English because they would lose their native culture.

        “It sounds as if you’re describing a transaction. The government gives low-income Americans benefits; in exchange the low-income Americans allow the government to allow foreigners to come in and destroy “English-speaking Christian culture”. But I don’t see that there’s any relationship between the two sides of this alleged transaction that justifies treating it as such.”

        Take the popular “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” argument that lower class whites should vote their economic interest. Now think about that argument combined with the left’s visceral hatred for uneducated, lower class white men. If someone was telling you that you should vote for a party that hates your way of life because they’ll give you money, would the exchange seem more apparent?

        As you say, the Republicans offer the opposite trade–we’ll protect your culture, but we’ll have free trade that kills your uncompetitive jobs and we won’t give you welfare to make up for it. And yes the nationalist socialist combination appeals to these voters–which is why depending on their cultural outlook, they end up voting for either Sanders (who emphasizes socialism more) or Trump (who emphasizes nationalism more).

        “I think is extremely doubtful) there is no possible way that the difference between Left and Right here amounts to taking away existing American citizens’ entire inheritance.”

        These voters believe they have a right to highly paid unskilled manufacturing jobs that were largely an artifact of the 50s-80s post WW2 uniquely American manufacturing boom. That’s the birthright being taken away (by both Democrats and the Republican “establishment.”)

        “Fourth: “a right to well-paying jobs”. If Donald Trump or anyone else claims to be offering that, they are either radically delusional or, more likely, just lying.”

        Agreed! But voters love hearing sweet lies more than harsh truths. Which is why tax hikes are always going to be on the rich, government spending will never really be cut, entitlements will last forever, generous pensions will last forever, etc.

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        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          @g: Brian has pretty accurately unpacked my thought process there. There’s a huge demographic of low-income voters who would like a return to the economic and cultural conditions of the 1950s. Fully understanding this requires mind-modeling a white American without a college degree. If this is what Trump is promising them, they’re not equipped to understand that it’s economically daft.
          My thinking is that the Left is aware of the size of this demographic, and has a two-pronged strategy for dealing with it: stoking the fears of low-income blacks and Latinos that whites of the same class want to oppress them, and increasing the number of low-income voters who get college degrees (because then they’ll be indoctrinated to hate their native culture and vote for multiculturalist socialist candidates).

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          • Trump is not offering a return to the 1950s, he’s offering a return to the 1980s. NAFTA was signed in the 1990s, China’s ascent to the WTO was approved by Bush 2.0, not Bush 1.0, the S&L Scandal (aka government bailout 1.0) was in 1989.

            The White population was 83% of the total US population, marginally lower than the typical 90% which prevailed from 1900 to 1970.

            What Trump promises isn’t a return to the idealized childhood of a Norman Rockwell painting, stifling of all discontent, but to an America that existed contemporaneously with the Cosby Show, Madonna, and Michael Jackson.

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            You sure? The 1990s were better than the 1980s economically, weren’t they?

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          • CatCube says:

            @Samuel Skinner

            If you were a college graduate, sure.

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          • Outis says:

            @Beta: free trade with China was mostly Clinton’s doing, not Bush’s.

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          • You sure? The 1990s were better than the 1980s economically, weren’t they?

            The 2000s were better than the 1990s, and yet I deal every day with people who want to go back to the 90s, too.

            But I don’t mischaracterize their position as suggesting we return to the era of the horse and buggy so I can laugh at how backwards they are, which is my point. 😉

            @Beta: free trade with China was mostly Clinton’s doing, not Bush’s.

            Agreed, not assigning blame. Just providing the time metric. The era of “restricted” trade with China is the era when MTV played music, not when Elvis was new.

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          • onyomi says:

            I think the disconnect between what the numbers say about the economy and what man on the ground feels about the economy is one of the biggest reasons for Trump’s and, indeed, Bernie’s success.

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          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @A DBG: Mea culpa. However, I’m confident that “He’ll take us back to the 1950s, when white people lived in Norman Rockwell paintings while black people were lynched and Latinos were called spics and forced to speak English” will be a huge part of the D nominee’s rhetoric if Trump wins the nomination. The last thing they want is the Rs to ever get a populist who can unite undereducated voters of all races against them.
            Not saying that Trump is capable of being that Man on a United Colors Horse, but it’s not logically impossible for such a candidate to emerge.

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        • Anonymous says:

          The same may be true for a lot of Latin-American immigrants today, but the left has very loud, very vocal anti-assimilationist movements, and worse, they seem to be in charge of major school districts. No one in 1910s New York was yelling that Jews shouldn’t learn English because they would lose their native culture.

          Tangential: Where I went to school, in the 1980s, the policy was to retain early elementary students for failing to pick up English quickly enough (costing the district however much it costs to educate that child for an additional year). I’m not sure which is worse.

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          • Adam says:

            The above comment about Jews seems particularly weird given Jews actually did create their own schools to preserve Jewish culture and resist assimilation. Armenians and Persians have also done that. Even certain types of Euro-descended Christians have done that. I don’t believe any Latin-American immigrant group ever has and the existing advocacy organizations have largely been devoted to the attempt to create a pan-Latin American identity that is divorced from the specific country of origin, something that has never actually existed.

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          • Brian says:

            Adam,

            You’re confusing after-school programs with anti-assimilationist programs, and also confusing eras. In the early 19th century, American Jewish movements were trying insanely hard to get Jewish immigrants to learn English so they could succeed. Decades later, Jews had assimilated so well that after school programs and Jewish day schools needed to reverse the trend. Similar patterns happened for Armenians, Persians, and Catholics. But there was no academic movement complaining that encouraging Jews, Armenians, Persians, etc. to learn English and assimilate into American culture was colonialist, racist, or some other left wing pejorative.

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          • Adam says:

            Are immigrants being blamed for the rhetoric of academics they likely don’t even know exist?

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          • One group that has created its own schools, not just supplementary schooling, to protect its culture is the Amish. Education is in English, which is not the home language, but the culture is Amish, not English.

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          • Adam says:

            The Amish are definitely one of the Euro-descended Christian groups I was thinking of.

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      • sourcreamus says:

        About #1, America has taken in and assimilated alot of immigrants but to do so it always goes through painful adjustment period first.
        As Robert Putnam’s research shows, the more diversity in an area the lower the social capital. People have to live with this now, and telling them that everything is going to be okay in 40 years as soon as the current wave of immigrants has assimilated is cold comfort to those experiencing the bad effects now.

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        • onyomi says:

          Personally, I think the problem with the current system is not that too many immigrants come, but that it is unfairly biased toward Central American immigrants. There are hundreds and millions of Indians and Chinese who would love to come here but can’t because to immigrate legally is actually really hard. My biggest problem is the double standard: make it super hard to come here legally but look the other way if you come here illegally. Seems it should be the other way around.

          If we could really claim that America is still truly the land of opportunity for people from around the world (and enjoy the economic benefits that entails) then that would make me feel a lot better about the inevitable social upheaval that entails.

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          • Nicholas says:

            There is a repeatedly made claim that if there were not so much illegal immigration (either because people did not immigrate, or because they immigrated illegally) then several South-Western based domestic industries would be driven to bankruptcy by their dependence on illegal (right free, poorly paid) labor.
            Whether or not the claim is true, it is possible that enough people accept the claim that local and state politicians support keeping immigration illegal, preventing a stronger national intervention from gaining support.

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        • I thought Putnam showed that diversity causes lack of trust. In other words, it makes people less gullible.

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        • onyomi says:

          I think this is one of the reasons Bryan Caplan is so pro-immigration. He thinks we have too much social cohesion.

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          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            …is Bryan Caplan a supervillain?

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          • The D&D map up in Bryan’s office doesn’t *prove* he’s a supervillain, but …

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          • onyomi says:

            I’m having trouble finding the post where he literally says “we need less social cohesion” (basically, people already think of themselves as their neighbor’s keeper way too much in the US, resulting in policies which amount to rich Californians deciding what’s best for poor West Virginians), but like most of Caplan’s positions, they sound like supervillainy until you hear him explain them (at which point you may still disagree, but they sound more reasonable):

            http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2014/08/natives_are_bad.html
            http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2014/05/nationalism_won.html

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          • Randy M says:

            I don’t think wanting to control your neighbors is the same definition of social cohesion Putnam was talking about; at worst it is only an element of it.

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          • Zaxlebaxes says:

            Then shouldn’t we trade less, too, since trade encourages trust and cooperation? Or is it just that trade encourages the good kind of trust and cooperation, which only leads to more voluntary trade interactions and specialization, while caring about your fellow citizen more because you have greater affinity for them engenders the bad kind of “trust” and “cooperation,” the fake, non-empathetic altruism that leads to a busybody mentality?

            It seems just as likely that the extra affinity and trust people have for people in their ingroup could bolster trade between them. And I don’t think it’s impossible that less social cohesion could have a negative impact on the frequency of voluntary trade between individuals who trust each other less.

            I wonder if Caplan is so pro-immigration because we have too much social cohesion, or if he’s just more inclined to see social cohesion in a negative light because he’s so pro-immigration. In any other circumstance, such as when talking about the effects of trade, for example, I would not expect an economist to see trust, cooperation, social cohesion or other related concepts in a negative light.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          When you put it that way, it starts to seem persuasive.

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    • ad says:

      That will be his argument if he wins the nomination. Probably he won’t say anything about Mexicans being Christians who can and do learn English.

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  4. jax says:

    Ahaha you’re so mad a Trump! It’s glorious!

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    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think he’s mad. Very concerned, perhaps afraid, it sounds more like.

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    • Anonymous says:

      You’re reading what you want to read. When OP writes that book-Trump seems smart and good at working with the system and hiring good people, as well as limited in his worldview, that reads to me more overall positive than negative, if you insist on reducing a nuanced post to a single shade.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I read this post as pretty much a glowing recommendation of Trump, as the best person for the job. Who else, indeed, could better navigate the byzantine mess that is the USG?

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        • Anonymous says:

          Your gravatar implies that you’re talking to yourself.

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        • andysw says:

          Knowing Scott’s explicit statements in previous posts (he’s a Hillary supporter), I think you need to reconsider your interpretation. I think you’re sold on the side that “intellectualism-design-ideology” is inaccessible or bad. Don’t you think a president in the US with the tools to change component/enabling policy, well, should think about the positive value in doing so? Scott seems to think he should.

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    • Tommy says:

      that is a very motivated interpretation of this piece

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  5. hermanubis says:

    >Trump is at serious risk of actually taking over a government, and the idea of trying it still hasn’t occurred to him.

    I wouldn’t be too sure. Treating the regulations as a force of nature is probably a pretty good instrumental rationality technique for your run of the mill real estate developer. (Remember that Art of Deal came out before Trump was somewhat of a household name) if you can actually pull it off. I’ve had some success realizing that just because something is arbitrary and seems like it should be changed doesn’t mean I myself have the capability to change it. Once I can get my System 1 to believe that, it seems to free up mental energy for other things (like navigating the arbitrary system) and I have better outcomes. Maybe Trump did this, then once he became better known decided that he could have the capability to change these things.

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    • TexasCapitalist says:

      He has talked about abolishing entire departments, including Education, and cutting lots of stuff and spending money much better. He’s also talked about cutting the state Insurance lines or something, and also abolishing some other huge government enterprise that I can’t think of right now. I think this is a good insight of yours.

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      • Jeff says:

        I think a lot of those things he said about eliminating departments were part of the “negotiating” (to become president). I doubt he intends to do any of it.

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    • CatCube says:

      Working inside the government, I have some co-workers that are really unhappy because they rage against the incoherence of the system. I learned a long time ago if you just come to peace with the fact that parts of the system are incoherent for reasons out of any one person’s control and learn what levers to pull, you’ll be a lot happier.

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    • andysw says:

      I think Trump’s tendency to steamroll and preemptively-promise, would do something to government between seriously rattling executive common-law precedent or just getting himself impeached. You’d have to argue that Trump can be convincing or impactful within an arena that is not controlled by business-media-shareholders (for whom the bottom line strictly justifies the means/is the only metric), but controlled by lawyers and politicians, where precedent runs the show, and all of these lawyers and politicians of whom Trump is to work with are establishment Cons and Dems who probably are a) fully expecting his tactics due to precedent, b) really dislike him. I think acceptance into the political sphere requires the belief that the system is meant to be changed, or else, what are all the protocols good for? What are they meant for?

      I can’t see Trump using his current strategies effectively, unless he really knows that hiring the best people would really just mean hiring someone who does the real job of political negotiating for him.

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  6. Walter says:

    It’s hard to imagine a mind so incurious as to never wonder why, or whether things could change. Then again, it seems to be working for him. Perhaps that was the answer all along. Just head down and do the silly dance. If I spent less effort rolling my eyes at the silliness of corporate murica and more effort nodding along perhaps I’d get ahead.

    It’s funny. Reading all of these profiles (and there are SO MANY TRUMP STORIES) he’s sort of becoming a mythical being in my mind. Like, I know he’s just a fat dude in a suit, talking fast. But then I read some lefty stories where he’s Sauron. And I read some fawning stories where he’s John Galt. Then I read the right lament that he’s destroying the entire system, and others exclaim that he’s remaking it in his image. Then SlateStarCodex’s take on him is that his mind is weird and distinct. He seems far more interesting than the outsider politician I took him for.

    And then there’s this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ1L013k5Hw

    He fights literal supervillains. How can you not support this guy?

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    • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

      In my headcanon, Trump is one of the Old Ones.

      H̫͓̻̰̝͓ͅe̙̲͉̖ ̯͉̼̼͇̮s̩̼̖̦̗̤͚͍l͖̗͓̺͖̙u̪m͉̹͚b͉e̙͕̦͔̹r͎͈̻͉̹̦s͇̫̲͙̟̱̙ ͈̩̮͇͈̬͕̼̱i̞͙̞̻͖͓͇n͔̠ ̣̲̹̰̟̞͎̞a̙̺̜̪ ̤̫̫̣c̹̺̹̟͓̺̣i̯̺͔͚̬̦̭t̞͕̼̯͕̯̭a͎̳͈̠̬̹ͅd̪̗̤e͉͔l̰̳̖ͅ,͇̳̗̫̦̯̹̟̭ ̺̼͓̱͍̟ͅt͖͍͙͚̪ḫ̪̣͖͔̪̭o̺̦̞͙̟͕u̯̙̹̥ͅͅg͕̦h̪̰̗̩ ̳͈͙̳̠̪ͅh̯e̲̤͔̖̭̪̺̹ ̠̫̖p̗̤͕̰̠̥r̻̹̺͔̞o͇̩̥̺͙͚ͅj̱̼̖̘̪̯e͕̘͓̻c͉̠̬̼͚̮t̩̰̜ͅs̲̺ ̘͉̫̯̝̳a̝̹̖n̻̠̯͖̮͇ ̥̤̦̭̦̝̞a͚̪̭s̙̘̲t͔̩̬͇͈̲͉r̬̯a̤̙̟̫̥̪̪̳l͓̹̦̬̲ ̬̭̹̠p̤̭͉̜͇r̟̞͕͕͎e̫͓̳̻s̙̭̯̗͖̪e͕̠̳̠̠̭n̝̭̤̤̻̪̳̻͇c͕̺̻̭ͅe͈ ̩͔̬̳w͓̘̻̭̼̬̻̹h̖̜̻i̗̬͎̼c̥̪̭̳̱̙̦͚̼h̖̮͓̤͍ ͎̳̻r̮̱̳͈̬̬̰͉̠e̺̳̼̘̲a̪͈̭̝͈͙̘̬̫c̩̬h̖̬̜e̥̼͙̩s͖͔͎̗͇̜ ̞t̫̞̞h̯̰̖̬̪̫̩͕e͇̞̞͖͙͎ ̥͉w̦̞̟͉o̞͎͚r̫͓͓͙̬l̝̹͇͖̺̺̪d̫̺̦̺̜̬’̦̮͔̣͓̭͙̜s̖͙̳ ̜̲̘e̼͎͍d̰͈̰̣̝͈̯g̩̯̣̰̠͚͇͕e͎̻̮̮.̘̠ ͕͎̠̘ͅH̜̭͍i̤̝̺̯s̲̟̹͙̜ͅ ̼̝̤̣̪̙̮m̼͖̟i̖n̳̳͕̺͈̹͉̮d̗͈̦̘̱̲̩ ̦i̮͚̯̪̥̣̻͈s͙̪̝̺ ̩͔̟͇Po̲̟w̙̘͚͉̯̯͙̟e̼ͅr̗̜͎̠ͅf̝̫̬͇͍ͅͅu̞̞̼̬l̤̻̜.̥̬͖͔̞͓ͅ ̳̯̤̱̯̞ͅA̳̞̖͓̤̫̭̻̺ḻ͎̬ḭ͙̫͖̙e͍͙̺n̦͓.͓ ̦͈̭̪̺͇̥̤A̤͍̭n̹̝̬c̝͉̬̠̰̬̙͔i̯͉̭̩̤̰e̟n̯͍͎͚͓̤͚̜t̖̰͇̟.͈͕̟̥̺̲̯ ̖͖̜͈̩̲I͎͙̝̱̰̙̝̮̫f̻͙̖̖̗̼̞͎ ̹̥y̯͎ͅo̘̜͕͕u̗̥̼̺͓͙ͅ ̟̣̰̮͓̰̟d̝̤̻̗̳̜̹̤ͅa̬r̘e̮͇̝̪̭̪̫ ̠̗͚͚c̞͔̞̫̺̟̱a͍͉̮l͔̮̹̯͕̟ͅl̦̲̤ ̫̗͖̼͉͎͉̹h̹̟͍̖͇̦̗̩i̥̼̦͉͚͉̫̝̺s̺̠ ̙ͅn͙̙͖̞̮ͅa͎̦̞m͓̻̺̜̪͉e̝̙̲̙͕̼,̪̘̳̣̼̥ ̣͕͕h̟̱̳ͅe̲͉̟̪͓ ̻̣͇m̯͙̦̦̰̙͕̘a̱̱̤̭y͙̜͖̭͇̰ ̰̰̩̤̘̹̳a͓͕̲̤̱͚̤p̲͇̙p͓̟e͕̤͙̳a̱̮̣̘̖͍̜ͅr̥͎̫͖ ͇͍͈̺͈̘t̪̩͖͕̣̺ͅo̲͙̤̙̙̘̻͉ ̺̗y͖̳̻̝͖̬̳o͕̟̹̞̰̥͓ṵ̱͎̖̮̘̻̯ ͇̜͇͕̟ͅi͈͓̭̪͚̥̝̯͎n̖͕ ̦͕͕͕a̠͙̙ ̼͇͖̲̯̬̩d̺͚͕̼͚͈̫r̳͚̰̭ḛ̮͈̜̤͔ͅa̲̣̰͇m̺̤͎̩̞.̺̝̞͚͕͎ ̘͔͇̩̖̫̟T̗͓̮̤o̰̠ ̭͚t̫̺̼̩͚̬̥̪h̞͈̥͍̤o͉̼͈̘s̺͇e̪͍̘̱̺̘ ͖s̱̰͈̪̖̬̱̯t̜̞̮̠̠r͔o͚͈n̮͉̯g̻̰̜̮̣ ͍̻̺̮̪̲͈o̠̭̰̘̗̦̮͇f̝̖͇̬͇͇̠ ̹̟m̘͓̙̯i̤̹͎̟͙̺̤̙͖n̝̥͓̯͖̖d̥̘,͉͇ ͈̺͉̼̤h̘̭͇̻̝̞͚̘e̖̙̪̭̘͚ ̼̠̠̤̟͙̙̬m̞̥̮̺̦a̹̱̤̰y̟̣̜̞̹̠̗ ͅo͈̦͚̳͉̦͙f͇̥̭͕̩̳f̮̹̞̙͈͔e͇̪͎̗͓r̬͖͖͇̮͖ ͎̬͖̱͔͕a̼͈̣͉̠̺͚ ̭͚͎̼̪d̩̫̮͈e̟̮̺͍̮̱̻a̻͙̞̙͕l͚̜̻̟ͅ.̙̺ ̮̖̭̫̣̰W̺̫̘̤̠ẹ̤̮͉a̝̫̹̗͖̯̺k̯̱̝̻̭̘e͙̥̫͉̝̮̪̙͕r̟̘̩̞ͅ ̙̗͎m͈̲̙̦̹̞i̠̠̳̩̘͓͚͚n̘̭̘̜͔̘d͇͉̺̻s͈ ͕̘̹h̝̰̰a̗͎̣̻͕̜̤̣v̳͔̞e̤̭ ̙̲̻͍̗͎ͅb̥̥͇͍̲̖͓͚ḛ̗̺e̠̭̫̭̲̱̠̬n̮̫͎̺̦̫ ̘ḍ̙̲̼̭͕r̺̣̖̮i̜̼͖͖̻͙v̰̯e̖͙̩͈̙̬̫͙n͎͇͚͈̠͕̮͙ ͍̯̙̳̪̮̯i͉̱̠͕̳͈n̟s̰̝̮ͅa͍n̗͙̟͉͚e̺̻̤͉̙̹̮.̹̱̱̻ ̬̝I̗͉̩͎̤ṱ͔ ̰̫̣̥̗i̼s̪̩͕̟̳̠ ̼͚͙̩̟̻̺p̥̭̠̞͈r͉̫͙͇o̥̻͙̤͖̠͔ͅp̺̺̹h̰͙͎͕̝e̺̥͍̹̟̞s̱͍̝i̟̟͖̫͍ẹ̙̝̹̟͚d̹͙̻̮̘̤̩̝ ͙t͇͖h͙͚̩̮͈̞ḁ̥̻̥̤̺t͉͉ ̱͎̹a͕͙̹t̠̗̣̼͖̖̹ ͇̜̼t̠͓̠͕h̙̜͍̦͖̙͇̣e̦͙̣̱͇͎̞̩ ̺̯̞͙͓̫̤̰̰e̗̬̦̪n̠͎̪͈d͓̩͕͎̣ ̺̮o̟̮͈̮͉f̰̭̣̦̖ ͕t̼͔̲͉̯h̪͕̦̝e͖̮͉̥͈̩ͅ ̬̱w̹̝̭̭͚ͅo͙̭̠̥̖͕͖͉r̩̘̥̙̦̟̣l̞͍d̪̗̙͇͉,̰̙ ͚h̙̬̠e̥̝ ̻̮̱̯̣w̯͓̩̠̜̠i̦̭̥̟͈̠̲l̰̙l͕ ̦̠͓̗͎a̝̩̰̝̖̙̟̟w̝̮͕̜ͅa͙̙͕͙ͅk̜͈̣͚e͕̦̜͚ͅn͇̩.̥̫̹̻̗͖̮ ̺̲̞̖T̝̞͉̮R͙̹͖̤͈̮̙̙U̹̲ͅM͓͇̘̜P͚.̻͓͚̣ͅͅ ͖̗̗̩̥̣H̪̥͇̖̦̬͚̤E̳̯̞̰͇̹͓͕̹ ͎̱̼̤̯͉̦C̯̺O̼͚̙̪̦M̬͇̹̣E̳Ș͈̞͔̳̟̼͇.̫̬̗̞̰̘̙̝ ̳̭̻̜̤̥̟ͅ

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      • TheAltar says:

        Because he’s the Old One the United States deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So, we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our Old One. He’s a outspoken guardian. An unscrutinizing protector. A Dark Dealmaker.

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      • Nornagest says:

        I’m still voting for Sweet Meteor O’Death.

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  7. Thank you for reading and providing an entertaining gloss of the contents of a book I wasn’t too interested in.

    Here’s where you went wrong: you presumed that a book aimed at people who’d like some aspirational deal-making porn tells you about Trump’s mental character outside of that arena.

    There’s a tremendous appetite for insulting-to-Trump+supporters insight porn and you just filled it. Congrats.

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    • Psmith says:

      This piece strikes you as insulting to Trump? I don’t know about insulting exactly, but if you were against Trump because you were worried that he was going to Burn the Motherfucking System To The Ground and be a fascist strongman, this post is a really compelling argument that Trump will govern as a sensible moderate. (If you were for Trump because you thought he would hashtag BTMFSTTG, well.). Given the sort of people who read SSC, I suspect that this post’s net impact has been and will be almost entirely pro-Trump.

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    • PDV says:

      I definitely came out of this somewhat less concerned than previously. Still concerned. But less.

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    • MawBTS says:

      Here’s where you went wrong: you presumed that a book aimed at people who’d like some aspirational deal-making porn tells you about Trump’s mental character outside of that arena.

      Scott’s description makes it sound like a biography rebranded as a self help book. One normally expects biographies to be a bit revealing.

      (I have a hunch that the book was originally titled “Why I’m So Great” (or something equally Duke Nukem-esque), but then the publisher tapped Trump on the shoulder and said “hey, why don’t we give it a title that makes people think there’s actually business advice in them thar hills?”)

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  8. Jordan D. says:

    Well, I can’t say his musings about the ‘deal gene’ make me think much of his Trump University initiative. It’s one thing to run an insane scam which no rational person should have fallen for; it’s another to do so while earnestly believing that you’re running a scam. But it could be that he didn’t see it that way.

    Also, I admit that I don’t really know anything about Trump’s lawsuit record in real estate, but I haven’t been very impressed by his defamation and condemnation suits. I wouldn’t doubt for a moment that he’s got an honest philosophy of ‘hire the best people and let them sort it out’, but has he got a criteria of judging who the best people are which extends beyond real estate law firms?

    Still, this is an interesting review. It sounds like it might be worth reading the whole thing to get some perspective on the guy.

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    • Elizabeth C. says:

      You can believe that some people have innate talent for dealmaking and some people don’t, but also believe that those who have that innate talent will benefit from education. And therefore, it’s reasonable to make the education available for those who can make use of it, knowing that some people will take the course and not benefit due to their lack of innate talent.

      I think this is the attitude many STEM professors have.

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  9. While we’re at it, let’s hear it for the non-utopic pragmatists. Their death toll is often lower. Rejiggering incentives is a ‘special interest’ of mine too, but delegating to better appointees seems nice too; in just doing that, you’d have beneficial rule changes that would have been impossible to predict in advance. (on some level this is not-humble: i know how to choose better people; on another it is humble: i won’t pretend i know what these experts will do with their commission). Where can we go to bone up on how the current system really works at an executive level? I admit, I’m slipping into “how can we get the most out of our across-election professional bureaucrats, how do we stop agencies always trying to increase their scope+importance” …

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  10. Richard says:

    Just about everything in this posts leads me to believe that Trump would be an extremely effective president. I also think that Obamas biggest problem has been that he’s trying to change the system rather than get things done within the system.

    I suspect that a compulsive deal-maker is a perfect fit for the byzantine mess that is Washington and that Trump would accomplish a lot in the relatively short time allotted to a presidency.

    Now, whether I would like the actual things he would accomplish is an entirely different matter.

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    • Yeah, this was my reaction as well. I have so far been pretty negative on the idea of Trump-as-president (as opposed to Trump-as-eldritch-horror-destined-to-devour-the-political-system), but you know, this doesn’t sound half bad.

      In fact, it’s profoundly conservative. It an important way, he sounds even more conservative than the Moldbuggian neo-monarchist thing, given that he truly takes the system as a given, and merely strives to be awesome within it.

      Huh. My respect for Trump has weirdly grown.

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    • Jiro says:

      Scott’s post leads me to conclude that
      1) Trump would be a relatively effective president, which isn’t the same as an absolutely effective president, and
      2) Scott doesn’t seem to realize that he’s undermining his anti-Trump ideas by accurately quoting Trump’s book and pointing out that Trump has half a clue.

      Those book quotes sound a lot better than the typical candidate who promises to do X, Y, and Z with no idea about running an organization that is about as easy to direct as a herd of rampaging animals. And since they precede the campaign, they are more likely to indicate how he actually thinks than anything he says now.

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      • suntzuanime says:

        Someone undermining their own ideas is how you know they’re honest.

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        • Yes. As long as you show the right tribal affiliation (Trump is culturally/mentally less than), you can support Trump covertly by undermining dominant anti-Trump caricatures – not to accuse Scott of pursuing this strategy consciously!

          And anyway undermining weak arguments improves the quality of thought in whoever you reach.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Well the book was written back in the 80s. Are we sure that Trump’s ideas haven’t changed since then? I’m not sure how well old books of his can predict his behavior as President of the United States.

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        • PDV says:

          Yeah, if we could take it for granted that 2016!Trump would govern the way 1988!Trump described, I would stop being particularly concerned. But I don’t think that’s true.

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    • HeelBearCub says:

      This comment is why I frequently wonder Scott is actually on the side of truth.

      Yes, yes. I understand all the arguments about epistemic status and so forth. But Scott seems to think that if there is evidence, right in front of you, that someone is awful, that the best thing to do is go full score in favor of how not awful they are. Unless of course they are doing very specific awful things, in which case, that awfulness must be amplified.

      Ignore your own principles about how violence is not to be encouraged. Ignore the language of hate that Trump employs. Ignore how he very specifically de-persons whole classes of people. Ignore how his supporters employ the exact same tactics you detest when they are employed by “SJWs”. Ignore all the awful things, and focus instead on something off to the side. For what reason, I don’t really understand.

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      • onyomi says:

        “The language of hate that Trump employs”

        Specific examples? This is by far the most common anti-Trump accusation I see thrown around: that he is racist. But I haven’t heard him say or write anything in particular to indicate that? Nor evidence that he incites it, other than by getting gaggles of blue collar white people together in stadiums. For xenophobia you have a slightly better case, though he does make a point, occasionally, of praising legal Hispanic immigrants, and most of the criticism seems to be labeled at the Mexican government for “letting” them come here.

        I’m not saying I’m sure he doesn’t, nor that he doesn’t attract some racist and a fair number of xenophobic supporters, but thus far I feel like all my Blue friends are doing a logic which goes: attracts big blue collar white following+criticizes illegal immigrants=racist spouting language of hate. But I haven’t actually heard him say anything I would describe as “language of hate.”

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        • HeelBearCub says:

          He wants to ban every single Muslim from entering the US, for any reason.

          He is ostensibly in favor of a database of every single US citizen who is Muslim.

          He encourages violence against protestors at his rallies, saying “In the old days this didn’t use to happen, because they treated them rough. We’ve become weak”. and has offered to pay legal bills for supported charged with violent acts against protestors at his rallies.

          He says people who disagree with him are disgusting and pathetic.

          He says that the illegal immigrants who come to the US from Mexico are pushed here by Mexico and are the worst elements of Mexico, that they are rapists, drug dealers, or diseased, there are many fabulous Mexicans who come here, but these are the legal immigrants.

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          • Alraune says:

            I’ll reiterate: If he’s even remotely serious about his willingness to break the US’s demonic pact with Saudi Arabia, Trump will have the best effect on Muslim people, at home and abroad, of any president in a century.

            But, oh right, I forgot. The Right Thing To Do to Muslims is murder them with drones, but speak highly of them in the abstract.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Alraune:
            That isn’t the argument trump is making.

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          • onyomi says:

            Is criticizing any group for any reason “a language of hate”? What if you just said “thugs who don’t respect the law, criminals, and illegal immigrants are ruining this country” without even naming specific ethnic or racial groups? Would that inherently be “language of hate”? Do you have any specific quotes by Donald you’d call “hateful,” as opposed to just “ignorant”? Criticizing illegal immigrants, Muslim terrorists, and people who disrupt his rallies sounds more like “criticizing people who behave badly (even if he has, like everyone, a blind spot for his supporters) rather than any sort of generalized “language of hate.”

            Not that I personally favor blocking Muslim immigration or registering Muslims, nor do I believe the factual claim that the Mexican government is intentionally shipping its worst citizens over the border. And I certainly don’t support violence at rallies or for much of any reason. I just don’t see how any of this translates into “racist spouting the language of hate.”

            To his supporters, at least, it isn’t seen that way at all: it’s seen as hitting back against people whom they’ve been shamed into quietly putting up with for a long time: the violent protesters in places like Ferguson and Baltimore, the illegal immigrants who flout the law, and, of course, Islamic terrorism, which, right or wrong, they think Obama has been weak on.

            Based on the admittedly few ardent Trump supporters I know, there’s really no racism behind it: it’s lawlessness they hate. As well as, frankly, what seems to me a huge double standard: a crowd of mostly black people destroy a small city and their apologists are all over the news. Some guy at an otherwise peaceful rally of 10,000 people punches a disruptive protester? Hate, hate, hate (even when the puncher is a pro-Trump black person and the protester a white guy, which happened recently; the white protester was equating Trump supporters to the KKK, which the black Trump supporter unsurprisingly didn’t take kindly to).

            And the very fact that I think this is described as “the language of hate” is part of what’s spurring them on: they feel emasculated because they have been systematically put into a position where they are only allowed to take punches, never fight back. This is almost literally explicit: I’ve heard many in the Blue Tribe saying to never “punch down.” But, right now, all white men are defined as “up.”

            Is there any way you could tell these people it’s okay to fight back against the forces they see as destroying their society without encouraging violence or speaking “the language of hate” (if you can’t tell, I don’t like that phrase, because I think it’s a fnord standing in place of something more specific)? (And yes, I am actually asking that question, not just rhetorically).

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          • Alraune says:

            HeelBearCub: That is true, and good. If a presidential candidate’s pitch for why they should be president prioritized how great they’d be for non-citizens, said citizens would be insane to hire them.

            It is, however, the argument everyone who is anti-racewar should be making.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Go back. See if I referred to race at all or called him racist.

            I didn’t.

            The language he uses is hateful, demeaning and mean-spirited. Have you actually listened to what he is saying (not just read quotes, but listened to him speaking)?

            It’s all in a language of “us” vs. “them”. Everything is aimed at identifying the outgroup. Whether it’s the Chinese or The Mexicans or The Muslims or the protestors or his current political opponent or whomever.

            It’s almost midnight here and I have to get on a plane tomorrow, so I’m probably ducking out of this conversation.

            Edit:
            As to your comments about the working class supporters of Trump who feel vilified and want some representation, I get that. I really do. But I don’t see how talking about destroying the outgroup is anything much more than satisfying a certain urge.

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          • onyomi says:

            I apologize if I read too much into it; recently had a long debate with people insisting that xenophobic Trump support was inherently racist, so I may be bringing that baggage.

            I guess my main point is, to me “language of hate,” because of the way it is frequently used today, doesn’t just mean being hateful about person or group. It, and even just “hate” by itself have become something of a fnord for Hitler-esque hating of people for their race, ethnicity, culture, sex, or sexual orientation.

            I see Trump and his supporters (who, let’s face it, seem to have a lot of overlap with the imo, unfairly vilified as hateful Tea Party movement: disgruntled, conservative white people who just want everyone to behave like conservative Christians) as largely criticizing bad behavior rather than groups qua groups.

            Not that I think this is the right way to go myself. I mostly just want to vilify the government.

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          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @onyomi: And the very fact that I think this is described as “the language of hate” is part of what’s spurring them on: they feel emasculated because they have been systematically put into a position where they are only allowed to take punches, never fight back. This is almost literally explicit: I’ve heard many in the Blue Tribe saying to never “punch down.” But, right now, all white men are defined as “up.”

            I would totally get where the SJWs are coming from here, if they’d just be consistent. Machismo without a conscience really is, as the feminists say, toxic. I don’t want to live in a society dominated by dueling or even punching. But a man’s conscience is a social construct, and they’re explicitly dedicated to tearing down Western civilization. For some reason that’s totally anti-racist and not just racist, black Americans get idealized as Africans who can do no wrong rather than as low-class Anglos. Hence the Ferguson vs. one punch per Trump rally hypocrisy.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Is criticizing any group for any reason “a language of hate”?

            No, of course not.

            Criticizing a group for the particular reason that you want a bunch of people who hate that group to rally behind your banner, that generally does involve the language of hate. Doing so by accusing the group as a class of crimes only a small minority are guilty of, and at a rate no greater than your own in-group, that’s the language of hate. And if, when people call you out on that in person, you suggest that it would be a good thing if they were violently assaulted and that anyone who violently assaults them should be shielded from the consequences, what part of this hateful progression escapes you?

            I understand what you are looking for in a President. Donald Trump is that man’s evil twin, and you’re falling for the act. It doesn’t matter if the man actually hates Mexicans, Muslims, et al, or is just pretending to for political gain. We know where this path leads.

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          • onyomi says:

            One of my Trump supporting FB friends just posted this, and I think it actually kind of gets at the attitude I’m trying to describe:

            https://cdn-webimages.wimages.net/052d2652c37cb323989c6fe1e82c91b263c6a5-v5-wm.jpg

            It’s the sense people have that one can no longer criticize bad behavior of non-white groups or even specific members of a non-white groups without being seen to “hate” them just for being non-white.

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          • onyomi says:

            “I understand what you are looking for in a President. Donald Trump is that man’s evil twin… We know where this path leads.”

            What am I looking for in a president? (Actually, I want no president) And where does this path lead? If you’re implying “to the holocaust” or “internment camps” or something, I think that’s way overblown, though I do worry it could lead to the US becoming more insular.

            I would not describe myself as a Trump supporter. He just seems to me the least bad of the likely options, and much of the criticism of him seems to me overblown, unfair, or else to depend on pattern-matching to Hitler. My estimation:

            Trump: probably a little better than Obama on domestic and foreign policy. A little worse on free trade.

            Cruz: a lot better than Obama on domestic policy but probably worse on foreign policy. Also, would probably lose the general.

            Hillary: probably indistinguishable from Obama on domestic policy and a little worse on foreign policy.

            Sanders: much worse than Obama on domestic, significantly better on foreign policy. The latter point alone might be enough to make me support him, especially over Hillary, but he seems not to have any more realistic chance of winning the nomination, much less the general.

            So really my only options at this point are Trump or Hillary. Between “slightly better domestic and foreign policy+entertaining self presentation that mocks political correctness” and “same domestic policy, slightly worse foreign policy+annoying self presentation+likely continued haranguing on culture/identity issues,” I’ll take a. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have serious misgivings about Trump, too.

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          • Anonymous says:

            ” they feel emasculated because they have been systematically put into a position where they are only allowed to take punches, never fight back. ”

            Love it when Onoyoko channels his totally authentic Nascarmantic alter-ego.

            but why o why does Suzieanime’s Yosemite Sam puppet only speak of rage against SJW’s and never about jobs or free trade?

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          • Anonymous says:

            Writing your insults as cryptically as a Forbidden One writes a 101 post doesn’t mean they’re no longer insults.

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          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Yosemite Sam puppet”?
            Scott, I feel that this anon account is degrading the quality of discussion here, with flames that are Dadaesque rather than substantive.

            EDIT: And the fact that the same account argues with itself takes the goofiness level up a notch.

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          • Anonymous says:

            One thing history tells us is that anytime bitter eggheads get together to giddily hero-worship dogmatic “men of action”, that shit always goes right.

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          • ” It doesn’t matter if the man actually hates Mexicans, Muslims, et al, or is just pretending to for political gain. We know where this path leads.”

            You may know. I don’t.

            In FDR’s first campaign, he attacked Hoover for being a big spender. Would one know, from that, where his path would lead?

            Trump is obviously a demagogue. So are most people who run for president.

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          • John Schilling says:

            In FDR’s first campaign, he attacked Hoover for being a big spender. Would one know, from that, where his path would lead?

            Yes. When politician X attacks politician Y for spending too much money, I assume that politician X wants to spend at least as much money but on different things, and if they win will wind up spending more money because their victory is less than overwhelming and they have to keep spending on some of Y’s stuff as well as their own.

            Surely that’s not news to you? Politics is not wholly deterministic, but some things can be predicted with reasonable confidence.

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          • Taradino C. says:

            @onyomi

            And the very fact that I think this is described as “the language of hate” is part of what’s spurring them on: they feel emasculated because they have been systematically put into a position where they are only allowed to take punches, never fight back.

            It’s interesting to see this associated with emasculation, because one tenet of American machismo says exactly the opposite: a real man never strikes a woman under any circumstances, and if attacked by one, the proper response is literally to take punches and never fight back.

            IME this attitude is especially prevalent in the same Red culture from which Trump draws support, among people who are likely to consider the left unmanly or effeminate. So I wonder if what they’re feeling is not so much emasculation as frustration that, even though their assailants are turning out to be stronger than they thought, their code of honor still prevents them from retaliating in kind.

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          • Nita says:

            @ Taradino C.

            a real man never strikes a woman under any circumstances

            Nah, that’s the old rule, from the good old days when women knew their place. The new rule is “I won’t hit a lady, but I’ll slap a bitch“.

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          • Sylocat says:

            One of my Trump supporting FB friends just posted this, and I think it actually kind of gets at the attitude I’m trying to describe:

            https://cdn-webimages.wimages.net/052d2652c37cb323989c6fe1e82c91b263c6a5-v5-wm.jpg

            It’s the sense people have that one can no longer criticize bad behavior of non-white groups or even specific members of a non-white groups without being seen to “hate” them just for being non-white.

            Well, when someone uses the pop-cultural trope of a savage, subhuman, murderous horde as an analogy for groups of actual human beings that actually exist, that could be said to imply some slightly-troubling things about that person’s attitude towards them.

            Of course, even many people who enjoy zombie fiction freely admit that its principal appeal is the fantasy of finally having an excuse (nay, an imperative) to shoot all your annoying neighbors and coworkers plus everyone who lives on the wrong side of town from you, so this is hardly surprising.

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          • Alex says:

            “One thing history tells us is that anytime bitter eggheads get together to giddily hero-worship dogmatic “men of action”, that shit always goes right.”

            Theodore Roosevelt is in fact considered one of the greatest U.S. presidents, yes.

            Oh sorry, did I accidentally blow up your inevitable Hitler comparison? I apologize, please feel free to substitute a different dictator if you like.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Taradino C.

            You’re conflating legal correctness with moral correctness.

            The legally correct thing is to take your beating and not fight back because the moment you raise a hand in your own defense the lawyers and the media will nail you to the wall.

            The morally correct thing, if you respect that woman, is to treat her her exactly as you would a man, and if that means putting her in her place either through words or violence that is what you should do.

            The idea that a real man never strikes a woman is nothing more than bourgeoisie patriarchal sentimentality.

            Edit: Which isn’t to say that I don’t subscribe to it. I just acknowledge the fact that my reluctance to hit a woman is old fashioned and likely makes me a misogynist.

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          • Nita says:

            @ HlynkaCG

            If you’re reluctant to treat women like you treat men, perhaps there’s something wrong with the way you treat men?

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          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong with the way I treat men.

            If you value others you have a responsibility to treat them honestly. If you value yourself you have a responsibility to be selfish.

            If women are to be equal they must be treated as equals. Held to the same standards and subject to the same repercussions in the event of failure.

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          • Nita says:

            @ HlynkaCG

            Wait, so are we holding people to standards or “putting them in their place”? Because the latter usually results in everyone’s “place” depending on how strong (popular, powerful etc.) they are.

            E.g., imagine you and Scott happen to meet IRL. In a physical fight, you can probably beat Scott easily, so he’d better not piss you off. But you are free to be an asshole to him, because he couldn’t “put you in your place” even if he wanted to.

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          • anonymous says:

            “E.g., imagine you and Scott happen to meet IRL. In a physical fight, you can probably beat Scott easily, so he’d better not piss you off. But you are free to be an asshole to him, because he couldn’t “put you in your place” even if he wanted to.”

            Accurate.

            It’s amazing how women don’t have any understanding of how men interact with each other while simultaneously demanding to be treated like a man.

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          • Nita says:

            @ anonymous

            1. I don’t think there’s one way in which all men interact. I was trying to reconstruct Hlynka’s personal modus operandi from the vague dark hints he’s been dropping.

            2. If I’m wrong about something, feel free to correct me. It might actually improve the situation.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            @ anonymous:
            If you have even half a brain you pick your fights carefully. People get hurt in fights. I might beat Scott in a physical altercation, but he might still get a shot in or two. Maybe Scott pulls a weapon and shit goes pear-shaped. Or maybe he just has friends and connections that could make my life difficult. In short, why would I take that risk? Or alienate a potential ally in future altercations?

            But in the end yes, accurate.

            Respect is an acknowledgment of capability. I know I can hurt Scott and Scott knows he can hurt me, neither of us is particularly interested in getting hurt and we’re both likely to be better off if we play nice so what say we play nice.

            @Nita
            I’m sure that there are people who think it would be nice if we lived in a world where there was no competition, and never a reason to raise your voice, nevermind a fist, or put one’s self in the path of bodily harm.

            But that’s not the world we live in. So what then?

            Maybe I’ve just spent to long down in the mud and the blood. But the fundamental contradiction of modern feminism and the progressive movement as a whole is that we’re supposed to believe that, women are tough enough and cut-throat enough to be CEOs, Firefighters, and Navy Seals but they’re still too delicate to take a punch, or will suffer significant psychological damage if you tell them that they need to quit whining whining and start carrying their own weight.

            Women say they want to be treated as equals and be seen as legitimate competitors, but they don’t want to take the hits or shoulder the risks.

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          • Nita says:

            @ HlynkaCG

            Well, no one’s saying that you would actually punch Scott over some minor thing. But if you loudly declare that you put men in their place “either through words or violence”, then Scott will take that into account, right? He’s a rational person, after all.

            And Scott doesn’t know what exactly you consider violence-worthy, so he’d have to avoid doing or saying anything that might make you angry, just to be safe. Of course, he might have a gun (or whatever). So, if Scott subscribed to your rules, you would also have an incentive to be nice. But his incentive would still be stronger than yours, so Scott’s equilibrium “place” would be below your “place”.

            tl;dr: The risk can be asymmetric between two men just like it’s asymmetric between the average man and the average woman.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            Have you considered that this may be a feature rather than a bug?

            Scott might not know where my lines are, but I don’t know where Scott’s are either. So we should both make a point to be extra polite so that neither of us accidentally offends the other.

            As for putting people in their place…

            Like I said, maybe I’ve just spent too much time down in the mud but fact of the matter is that sometimes violence really is the answer and you need to prepare for it. And other times you need to clear the deck ahead of time to avoid reaching that point.

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          • Nita says:

            Yes, sometimes violence is necessary. And some people are better at it than others. That doesn’t mean that only people who are good at violence are worthy of respect in everyday life, or that we should select CEOs based on their ability to take a punch.

            The problem with “chivalry” is that it tends to have strings attached. It often comes with the expectation that you’ll know your “place” and be eternally grateful for not being bullied or for being granted favours you didn’t want in the first place.

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          • God Damn John Jay says:

            “That doesn’t mean … that we should select CEOs based on their ability to take a punch.”

            Wow, Michael Eisner is coming up a lot today, huh?

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          • keranih says:

            @ nita –

            Yes, ‘chivalry’ is a system, with upsides and downsides for all parties. They come as a package – if you reject the downsides (ie, women not being treated as interchangeable to men in society) you also have to reject the upsides (women are not legit opponents/adversaries of men as men engage in conflict to attempt to increase their status.)

            As you say, there are ways to conduct status conflict that don’t require physical danger and violence – but men excel at many of those as well. (And women are attempting to make it unacceptable to use those techniques too – further artificially hampering men.)

            If we have individuals from different subsets of humanity, who have distinctly different resources and advantages, and a balancing system of interaction is created (culturally) to allow a stable-ish interaction between individuals from the different groups…we should not be so fast to assume doing away with that ‘unequal’ system is *essential* to achieving a ‘better’ result.

            The unequal, some-upside/some-downside version might just be the best we can do.

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          • Nita says:

            @ keranih

            ‘chivalry’ is a system, with upsides and downsides for all parties

            Sure, with extra upsides for the individuals who personally enjoy their assigned roles and find them a good fit, and downsides for those who don’t.

            If we have individuals from different subsets of humanity, who have distinctly different resources and advantages, and a balancing system of interaction is created (culturally) to allow a stable-ish interaction between individuals from the different groups…

            Right, but wermen and women are ridiculously coarse groups. And “status conflict” is a ridiculously coarse category. We can — and, in fact, we do — have a more nuanced system than that.

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          • wysinwyg says:

            Women say they want to be treated as equals and be seen as legitimate competitors, but they don’t want to take the hits or shoulder the risks.

            …ooooor other people have a different perception of what it means to “take the hits” and/or “shoulder the risks”. I also suspect you’re conflating different groups with different premises to arrive at this “contradiction”.

            women are tough enough and cut-throat enough to be CEOs, Firefighters, and Navy Seals but they’re still too delicate to take a punch, or will suffer significant psychological damage if you tell them that they need to quit whining whining and start carrying their own weight.

            This is clearly strawmanning…or maybe just pure macho bullshit:
            1) It’s not necessarily about women being too delicate to take a punch so much as the fact that people shouldn’t go around punching each other. This preference is not restricted to women. I’m a man in good shape and practice martial arts and I still prefer people not go around punching each other. At any rate, a preference that people not go around punching other people does not seem to me to be a bar to being a CEO or firefighter, and probably not even a Navy SEAL when you get down to it. (I assume that truly effective special forces members don’t pick fights for the fuck of it.)
            2) I doubt the issue is about “psychological damage” (and I’m willing to bet money that characterization is pretty purely coming from you) as much as potentially unjustified assumptions that the woman isn’t already pulling her weight, or potentially unjustified perceptions of calling attention to a serious problem as “whining”. That is, a woman anyone might object to these characterizations as being unfair as opposed to “complaining” that these characterizations “cause psychological damage”.

            Or perhaps this can be made even simpler: many women agree with many men that we should not order our society on the basis of male dominance hierarchies. The combination of willingness and ability to engage in violence is not and should not be an indication of a person’s worth to society.

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          • How does this men punching each other thing work out in practice? Do they make allowances for apparent strength and health?

            Where does punching fall on the range between intent to punish and intent to injure?

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ wysinwyg:

            Or perhaps this can be made even simpler: many women agree with many men that we should not order our society on the basis of male dominance hierarchies. The combination of willingness and ability to engage in violence is not and should not be an indication of a person’s worth to society.

            Exactly.

            I am 100% with you and Nita here. hlynkacg‘s argument is nothing but absurd strawmanning. Or at best weakmanning: substituting some kind of crazy Andrea Dworkin types for your average self-proclaimed feminist and saying “this is what feminists actually believe“.

            To quote from a woman who was self-proclaimedly not a feminist (for, I think, bad reasons):

            The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships—thus establishing the principle that if men wish to deal with one another, they may do so only by means of reason: by discussion, persuasion and voluntary, uncoerced agreement.

            […]

            One does not and cannot “negotiate” with brutality, nor give it the benefit of the doubt. The moral absolute should be: if and when, in any dispute, one side initiates the use of physical force, that side is wrong—and no consideration or discussion of the issues is necessary or appropriate.

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          • Adam says:

            My ex-wife was among the first women in the Army to hold a number of field artillery positions, technically before they were open to females in some cases by being kept off books and given the job unofficially. She excelled because she’s a determined and tough motherfucker who grew up shuffled between a schizophrenic mother, coke-addict aunt, and various group homes, who dropped out of high school to get a GED and join the Army when she was 17. She’s been through more than I can imagine and nothing has ever broken or stopped her. When she got back from Afghanistan a few months ago, she spent her block leave summitting mountains in the Andes and she’s 35. I’m reasonably certain I could kill her with my bare hands in under ten seconds if I wanted to, but that didn’t make me a better soldier and it certainly didn’t make me a better leader. Hell, part of the reason I’m where I am now and she’s still in is my shoulder, ankle, and back nearly don’t work any more but she keeps ticking, even though for any given peak of a few seconds, I could definitely lift more and run faster and hit harder.

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          • Jiro says:

            if and when, in any dispute, one side initiates the use of physical force, that side is wrong—and no consideration or discussion of the issues is necessary or appropriate.

            This would not allow putting someone in jail for slander, or failure to pay fines, etc.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            @Vox Imperatoris & wysinwyg

            I wish it were absurd straw manning, but it isn’t. This is the exact mentality underpinning the whole “pull-up controversy” a couple of years back.

            For those that weren’t paying attention the USMC agreed to let women serve in infantry and recon battalions on the condition that they pass the existing PFT. 50% of the initial female applicants failed which lead to the usual suspects on MSNBC and CNN ranting about how requiring infantry recruits to do pull-ups was sexist, cue culture war shit-storm.

            On a more personal level this sort of shit would come up all the time when I stil working as a shift supervisor at *Local Hospital*. Young female medical student thinks that’s unfair of me to expect her to respond to a Code White because she might get hurt, but still want to work weekend shifts because the money is better. However fact of the matter is that getting hurt is part of her job and if she wont do it I’ll give the shifts to someone who will, which is why battleaxe and burly male nurse get the weekend “action news” shifts and young female medical student gets stuck working Tuesday mornings and filling gaps in other peoples schedules.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            With the case of physical fitness tests, the problem is that there is no objectively-founded requirement for someone to be able to do a certain number of pull-ups to serve in the military. The test is a proxy for general physical fitness and health.

            The markers of that differ between men and women. There are arguments for having the standards be the same, but there are also arguments for their being different.

            For instance, to take a silly example, use the stereotype that “white guys can’t jump”. If that’s true, then you could have a test of jumping ability that 90% of black men could pass while only 30% of white men pass , creating discrimination in favor of black men. Now, if soldiers really need to be able to jump a certain height, fine, but if the test is supposed to be a proxy for general fitness it is biased.

            It’s similar to the issue of IQ tests asking about regattas and other country-club things.

            The question isn’t whether women have, on average, the same athletic ability as men. The question is whether they have enough to do the job.

            This shit would come up all the time when I used to work as a shift supervisor to. Young female medical student thinks that’s unfair of me to expect her to respond to a Code White because she might get hurt. But fact of the matter is that getting hurt is part of the job and if she wont do it I’ll give the shifts to someone who will, which is why battleaxe and burly male nurse get the weekend “action news” shifts and young female medical student is stuck working Tuesday mornings and filling gaps in other peoples schedules.

            That sounds reasonable to me if you are relating this accurately.

            But it seems unreasonable to equate the self-serving arguments of this woman (if she indeed said this was unfair sexism) with the opinion of informed people advocating gender egalitarianism.

            Not to mention that you can question why the people with medical training have to be the ones who go in like bar bouncers to restrain people. It’s possible that things could be set up differently to allow not only women but e.g. paraplegics to do the cognitive parts of the job. Maybe the current way is the most efficient way, but not necessarily.

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          • nyccine says:

            The test is a proxy for general physical fitness and health.

            The markers of that differ between men and women.

            No, the physical fitness test is not supposed to be a proxy for “general physical fitness;” it is supposed to be a proxy for the strength and endurance levels to perform basic tasks expected of servicemembers in their particular branches*, balanced by the need to be quick and inexpensive to be administered.

            The question is whether they have enough to do the job.

            Do you not see the sleigh-of-hand that’s being done here? At first, we hold up the physical fitness test as a measure of one’s ability to perform. Then, we insist on differing standards because women can’t meet the same standards as men – not a big deal, because the combat positions where failure to meet physical requirements would have dire consequences aren’t open to them** – and then we further claim that they are “fit” for their gender. Then, we insist that women be allowed to participate in combat jobs, and point to their gender-normed scores as evidence of qualification. It’s ridiculous.

            *whether it actually manages to successfully measure this is up for debate.

            **anyone who’s been active duty, like me, can tell you that the overwhelming majority of fall-outs during ruck marches are going to be your female soldiers, the “broke” platoon will always be overwhelmingly female, it just doesn’t matter because the guys can pick up the slack. This isn’t an option in combat operations.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ nyccine:

            Look, I’m not saying that women should be put into combat positions if they are unable to do a satisfactory job.

            But whatever sort of bias some people are going to have towards saying that women are qualified when they really aren’t, I see a bias at least equally as strong on the part of people trying to find every excuse to keep them out of combat positions at any cost because they think it’s immoral.

            I am saying that there should be a policy of scrutiny (maybe even…intermediate scrutiny) to make sure that these tests are not unnecessarily discriminating against women.

            Hell, just a few years ago they were still saying that allowing homosexuals in the military would destroy morale and cohesion, leaving us at the mercy of Al-Qaeda.

            And anyway, it may be true that women are worse on average in the military and that it would be better to replace them all with men. But that’s not really the choice before us. Allowing women expands the number of potential recruits.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            @Vox Imperatoris
            We make recruits run laps because the “Mogadishu Mile” is a thing that actually happens. We make recruits do pull-ups because infantry are expected to be able to lift their own body-weight, if you can’t lift your own body-weight how are you going to climb a wall in full kit, or carry a wounded comrade to safety?

            You say women shouldn’t be put into combat positions if they are unable to do a satisfactory job. but then turn around and object to ability based discrimination as being sexist. You realize that this is the precise view that you called “an absurd strawman” not 2 posts ago don’t you?

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            We make recruits run laps because the “Mogadishu Mile” is a thing that actually happens. We make recruits do pull-ups because infantry are expected to be able to lift their own body-weight, if you can’t lift your own body-weight how are you going to climb a wall in full kit, or carry a wounded comrade to safety?

            I am not arguing that the tests have no relation whatsoever to the duties of a soldier. Obviously, they do.

            I am saying that, just maybe, it is possible that the Pentagon hasn’t picked the magic numbers. For any level of ability you select, there is a conceivable military situation that demands something higher. If you’re not going to let in only people qualified for the Navy SEALs, you have to accept some trade-offs.

            I also said that I can think of reasons for having the fitness test standards be the same between men and women. I can also think of reasons for having them be different. I never came down on the side of having them be different. In fact, I lean the other way.

            The reasons for having them be different are something like: if a test is such that a woman who passes it is in good shape and health—but nevertheless has lower performance than a man who fails a test with somewhat higher standards—she may yet be a better soldier than the man, if the man is lazy or has some kind of medical condition that could flare up unpredictably.

            But obviously I recognize the arguments saying: no, these are truly minimum standards to do what is required of a soldier. It doesn’t matter how hard-working and dedicated a woman is if she can’t do these things.

            The thing is, whenever any kind of bureaucratic procedure is challenged, it suddenly becomes the stone tablets which are the bedrock of our society. In other words, regardless of other factors, there is generally a strong status quo bias.

            You say women shouldn’t be put into combat positions if they are unable to do a satisfactory job. but then turn around and object to ability based discrimination as being sexist. You realize that this is the precise view that you called “an absurd strawman” not 2 posts ago don’t you?

            Tell me where I said ability-based discrimination is sexist. Maybe that’s why you’re finding people saying so many crazy things: you’re attributing to them things they didn’t say.

            The most I said was that a large number of people are biased in favor of keeping women out of combat positions because they have other reasons for thinking it is immoral. There is a long history of stonewalling on this issue. As I also said, I’m sure there is bias on the other side, too.

            All I alluded to was the idea that fitness standards should be held to the same standard normally used by the courts for sex-based discrimination: that it is “substantially related to an important government interest”. Or in normal speech, they should have a good reason backed up by the facts.

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          • Nita says:

            @ HlynkaCG

            I think Vox is just repeating what, e.g., the US Department of Defense says (emphasis mine):

            Generally speaking, potential service members should be in good physical condition, of appropriate weight and able to pass a standard physical screening prior to entry.

            “Good physical condition” does sound like something a healthy person of any gender should be able to reach.

            I’m definitely not against absolute tests of ability where the ability is necessary to do the job. Heck, even rules like “no menstruation allowed” could be perfectly fair in some cases. But “no women allowed” is not a good substitute for such rules.

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          • Vox, I feel like you’re going back and forth between two positions. Position one is that there are minimum standards for fitness, but they’re not the ones we have, and position two is that there is no (or an extremely low bar) for actual physical capacity, but the willingness to go to the gym for an hour every other day and run a mile every morning is strongly correlated with good being-a-soldier-ness for reasons of health and self-disclipline, and it’s that more than the actual physical ability that the fitness tests are testing for.

            If we have actual physical norms that soldiers need to meet in order to, e.g., evacuate a casualty, get to cover, climb a wall, and so on, then there should be absolute standards. If we’re measuring health and self-disclipline, then we need to norm that to people, because there is such a wide range in how people perform physically with their sex.

            In neither case do we see any real justification for sex discrimination in fitness testing. And as you say, I could well see a policy of challenging specific fitness aptitude tests, with data showing that they’re not really correlated to needed tasks…but almost no one is asking for that, and that’s not what we have now.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            It would be surprising if the PT standards of today were solely a result of the necessary physical requirements of today’s military jobs. The US military has been extant for the countries entire history, and before the country existed, their was still a military. Any PT standards are going to be a result of existing standards being modified over the entire period of that history.

            Absent data to suggest the military is suffering in combat readiness due to changed PT standards, the proper assumption would be to assume that DOD is setting PT standards properly to satisfy their goals.

            The debate over PT standards seems like a proxy battle that is really about whether the DOD goals are proper.

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          • Adam says:

            And as you say, I could well see a policy of challenging specific fitness aptitude tests, with data showing that they’re not really correlated to needed tasks…but almost no one is asking for that, and that’s not what we have now.

            It actually is generally acknowledged that existing fitness standards and tests are poor proxies for combat performance, though the common complaint is they discriminate against bigger soldiers, not that they discriminate against female soldiers. The absolute number of push ups and sit ups one can do in a specified period goes up as your arms and torso get shorter without you actually getting any stronger, and it ignores the maximum force you’re able to exert. They’re also too coarse-grained in that different jobs have different fitness requirements. The Army spent years coming up with better tests, but then scrapped it a few years ago after deciding that implementing what they’d come up with would be too expensive.

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          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            It’s probably worth pointing out that fitness standards are already different for men and women. The Marines, for example, do not require pull-ups for women to meet their general fitness requirements. The Army requires 35 push-ups for men, but only 13 for women.

            Specific positions sometimes have more demanding requirements — I think HlynkaCG is probably referring to the USMC Infantry Officer Course, which is extremely difficult (here is a reflection by a woman who failed to complete it — interestingly, she blames her failure in part on the fact that the Marines have lower fitness standards for women than for men).

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          • At a considerable tangent …

            I think the strongest argument for limiting women in the military has nothing to do with their fitness. It’s that humans, having been designed by evolution for reproductive success, devote a lot of attention to mating behavior—which might distract from what soldiers are supposed to be doing.

            One possible solution, which I have heard the Israelis use, is to have all male and all female units.

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          • Adam says:

            They also differ by age, though not nearly as much as between male and female.

            Those are just the base standards to gain admission to and stay in the Army, though. What people are thinking of are more combat-specific standards. One problem is there really aren’t any. If you’re not way above the normal standard, you might get laughed at and harassed every single day you’re in the infrantry, but they can’t kick you out. Aside from the special forces, only schools have special standards and they are generally the same for everyone. Women have always had to do the same obstacle course and 12-mile ruck march to pass Air Assault, for instance, which they’ve always been able to try. In recon school, we had to do a 5-mile ruck in 50 minutes and then pass a 60 km land nav course with the ruck, which isn’t really that big a deal but would probably be pretty hard for most women (they weren’t allowed to try when I did it, but I guess they are now). Ranger School is much harder than that.

            This is about how it should be, in my opinion. Keep the standards the same and keep them the same for everyone, but at least allow women to try. If they can do it, they can do it. The reason this is a problem right now is there is no general higher standard to be in the infantry and there should be. ‘Combat MOS’ != ‘infantry,’ though. I was a tanker during my time, which was also all-male, and you were judged on your gunnery scores, not your physical fitness. Being fat and broken was pretty common. As long as you knew how to shoot a tank, that was fine.

            It frankly is hard to imagine how they’ll integrate women, though, for somewhat close to the reason David gave. We lived on that tank. If you’re on a crew together, you’re sleeping right next to each other for weeks at a time with no privacy. You’re gonna see each other naked, watch each other take shits. It’s not a submarine. There is no feasible way to separate people unless you’re gonna to have all-female crews, but that makes it a harder problem because you’d always need a number of women in the company divisible by 4.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            Nita & Vox
            I’m going to second Robert Liguori’s comment above. You seem to be conflating but willingness to go to the gym for an hour each morning and general fitness with specific physical capabilities that are expected of individual members of infantry platoon.

            To turn your earlier example on it’s head, there’s a stereotype that black men don’t swim. If that’s true, then you could have a test of swimming ability that 75% of white men pass while only 25% of black men pass, creating discrimination in favor of whites. Does that make requiring someone to pass a swim test before becoming a lifeguard racist?

            @ ReluctantEngineer & Adam
            Those are the minimum requirements to join the corps, individual MOSs/Specialties may have additional requirements in addition or in place of the baseline.

            Can’t speak for the Army but in the Navy/Marines there is a baseline PFT score above and beyond the minimum entry requirement that has to be met in order for you to get certified as deployable. If you’re a mechanic or a truck driver that score might be the same an the minimum, but if you’re infantry you might have to score a “minimum” of “Good +” to pass. Likewise when I was in, divers and SAR personnel had to do a minimum of 4 pull-ups and got a 500m swim tacked on to the end of our run.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            To turn your earlier example on it’s head, there’s a stereotype that black men don’t swim. If that’s true, then you could have a test of swimming ability that 75% of white men pass while only 25% of black men pass, creating discrimination in favor of whites. Does that make requiring someone to pass a swim test before becoming a lifeguard racist?

            I mean in some sense it’s racially discriminatory, but it’s justified in this case. As are, as Nita and I have said multiple times, standards too high for women to pass—provided they are necessary to the job.

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      • Chrysophylax says:

        TL;DR: everyone already knows their enemies suck; Your Enemies are not Evil Mutants; every time you blame a problem on Bad People, you waste an opportunity to fix the problem.

        http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/06/09/all-debates-are-bravery-debates/

        http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/03/24/should-you-reverse-any-advice-you-hear/

        Everyone already knows about Trump’s campaign persona. Everyone has already heard the standard talking points. If Scott wants to say anything useful about Trump, he’s got to talk about things that haven’t been done to death already.

        Also, believing that our enemies are evil mutants is one of humanity’s most important and universal failure modes. If you go to great lengths to be as charitable as possible to your political enemies, you *might* manage to actually be fair to them. If you want to have true beliefs about how President Trump would behave, you need to look at Trump’s strengths as well as his (glaringly obvious) weaknesses.

        It’s also important to understand exactly how and why people are awful. Saying “Trump is awful, let’s move on” wastes an opportunity to understand why so many Americans think he’s great, which means you can’t *fix the problem*. Failure to understand that bad things happen for *complicated reasons*, instead of because Bad People do Bad Things, is probably the single easiest way to fail at solving problems. “Never attribute to malice what is adequately explained by stupidity” – or by Moloch.

        Investigating Trump’s popularity leads you to some pretty important insights about American culture, politics and economics (e.g. “the post-war manufacturing boom is over and the doom of the lower-middle class is at hand” and “racism is partly about not being the Official Worst Demographic” and “wow, poor rural whites really are pretty damn poor, we should do something about that before it destroys the political system”). It also tells you important things about politics and persuasion in general.

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        • onyomi says:

          While I mostly agree with your post and don’t mean to pick on you for saying this in particular, since everybody says it, I feel like people say “the post-war manufacturing boom is over and the doom of the lower-middle class is at hand” with far too much fatalism. As if it were just a hurricane or something.

          Sure, we had a special advantage right after WWII, but here in my very red state a number of foreign companies have recently opened factories where they hire lower-middle class Americans to make cars. They’re not UAW jobs, but they’re pretty good jobs. I feel like treating the decline of US manufacturing as if it were a pure result of force majeur can be a bit disingenuous for many who are, frankly looking for a reason not to blame the super left-wing governments of places like Detroit.

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          • Douglas Knight says:

            Foreign companies make cars in America because of protectionism.

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          • onyomi says:

            Well, that’s a point in the Trump people’s favor, then? Not that I, personally, favor protectionism.

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            Isn’t it the case that it is not American manufacturing in decline, but American manufacturing jobs and wages that have been hard hit?

            It’s my understanding (probably incorrect in some way) that we produce as much now as we ever have. But automation and wage pressures means that it hasn’t been great for workers who are engaged in that manufacturing.

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          • Nathan says:

            My impression is similar to HeelBearCub: manufacturing as a share of the labour force is in general decline worldwide because we are constantly getting better at making more stuff with fewer people. The same is true of farming.

            The path to good middle class incomes is paved with stable, healthy NGDP growth, not car making.

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          • onyomi says:

            “in general decline worldwide”

            Definitely not worldwide. Look at China. It’s not the machines; it’s the cost of labor (which includes complying with regulations, etc.)

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        • HeelBearCub says:

          This to me feels like crediting the blind Indian wise man who, holding the elephants tail, insists that elephants are like ropes.

          Yes, it’s nice to say something interesting or novel. But one should not ignore the whole elephant.

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          • Frog Do says:

            The point of that parable is that everyone is blind and choses what they want to believe, not that your enemies are blind and only you see The Truth of The Elephant.

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      • Anon. says:

        >Ignore how his supporters employ the exact same tactics you detest when they are employed by “SJWs”.

        What are those exactly? Are people fired from their jobs for not voting Trump? Have people been forced to cancel speaking arrangements at universities for not voting Trump? Are non-Trump voters discriminated against in academic hiring? Does the overwhelmingly pro-Trump media publicly shame non-Trump supporters? Do Trump supporters go to Democrat rallies dressed in KKK hoods?

        Please, show me the peer-reviewed, government-sponsored Trumpist Glaciology article. Clearly it must exist, his supporters are just like the SJWs after all.

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        • HeelBearCub says:

          I’m sure we could come with many other things that are dissimilar. I said there are tactics that are similar, not that every tactic is shared.

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          • Anon. says:

            Enlighten us, what tactics are you talking about exactly? I think I covered the worst of them, so I’m not sure what’s left. Whining on tumblr? Attention-seeking hair coloring?

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        • BBA says:

          Compare Trump’s reaction to the Central Park Jogger case to the left-wing reaction to the Duke Lacrosse case two decades later.

          There were important distinctions but Trump’s continued insistence that the Central Park Five were guilty, even after the perpetrator confessed and DNA evidence was shown to support his confession, echoes the worst behavior of the SJ left.

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          • The Nybbler says:

            Does Trump still insist they were guilty? He opposes the settlement with the city on the grounds that the defendants “do not exactly have the pasts of angels”, which IMO is disgusting (even bad people are entitled to justice, and forced confessions are the opposite of justice). But I don’t see him saying they were guilty of that crime — and that some of the five did in fact commit violent crimes before the night of the rape is undisputed.

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          • BBA says:

            I was going to respond by going into the distinction you point out, but that misses the point. Trump is a sloppy thinker and doesn’t care about the distinction. They were crooks and they deserved to be punished, end of story.

            And in politics, this wins. If you’re explaining, you’re losing. Talk less, smile more.

            I’m no pundit, so this doesn’t really act against what onyomi said elsewhere in this thread, but: I really hope Trump doesn’t win the election, but I predict that he will.

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          • Frank McPike says:

            I was curious about the answer to this, so I looked up the editorial Trump wrote about the settlement (here: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/donald-trump-central-park-settlement-disgrace-article-1.1838467). I’m honestly shocked at how inscrutable it is. He’s extremely clear that he’s outraged, but figuring out the source of his outrage is next to impossible.

            Consider this paragraph: “Settling doesn’t mean innocence, but it indicates incompetence on several levels. This case has not been dormant, and many people have asked why it took so long to settle? It is politics at its lowest and worst form.”

            The first sentence seems to suggest that that the reason the city settled isn’t because the Five were innocent, but because the city screwed up the investigation. Then the next two sentences seem like they’re railing against the city for not settling quickly enough. Put those together, and his complaint is that the city botched its case against five guilty people, and should have acted more quickly to deal with its liability and move on.

            But that can’t be what he’s angry about since he goes on to say “As a long-time resident of New York City, I think it is ridiculous for this case to be settled — and I hope that has not yet taken place.” Okay, so he presumably thinks that the case should instead be taken to trial, right?

            Except, “One thing we know is that the amount of time, energy and money that has been spent on this case is unacceptable. The justice system has a lot to answer for, as does the City of New York regarding this very mishandled disaster. Information was being leaked to newspapers by someone on the case from the beginning, and the blunders were frequent and obvious.”

            Huh. So New York City and the justice system did screw up (by convicting the wrong people?), and they’ve taken far too long to deal with this blunder. But they should deal with it by spending even more time and money on fighting in court to deny the fact that they screwed up? Or, alternatively, New York is right to fight the lawsuit. But if so, where did it waste its money? In the initial investigation?

            And some of it is just incomprehensible: “What about all the people who were so desperately hurt and affected?” Meaning the victim? How is she affected by the settlement? And people plural? Does he mean the Five? “The recipients must be laughing out loud at the stupidity of the city.” Uh… guess not.

            So the editorial is inconclusive. Back in 2002 Trump refused to apologize for calling for the death penalty, saying, “They confessed. Now they say they didn’t do it. Who am I supposed to believe? … At the time there seemed to be very little question, but all of a sudden this seems to come up. I do have tremendous respect for the district attorney, and I’m sure the right answer will come out.”

            Alright, there he seems uncertain over their guilt (though I’m left even more uncertain over who he thinks screwed up). But in 2013 he tweeted (then deleted) “Tell me, what were they doing in the Park, playing checkers?” in response to someone saying “With all due respect, after your rant about the Central Park 5, perhaps you should keep your law and order comments to yourself.” Perhaps Trump is implying that they are guilty. Perhaps (more disturbingly, in my view) he is implying that their actual guilt is irrelevant to whether they should have been punished. Perhaps he deleted the tweet because he realized it was wrong. Perhaps he deleted the tweet as part of a concerted effort to avoid making a public statement on the guilt of the Central Park Five.

            If I had to guess, it would be the latter. Trump has no moves that don’t look bad for him (entirely a consequence of a really stupid decision earlier on). If he acknowledges they they were innocent, he has to own up to the fact that he publicly called for the execution of five innocent people. If he insists they were guilty, he gets raked over the coals for willfully ignoring evidence. So he does the political thing, and keeps his mouth shut. This hypothesis also explains the mystifying editorial. If you read it on the assumption that he’s trying to express outrage while avoiding taking a clear position on guilt, suddenly it makes a lot more sense. Not any sort of moral sense, of course; the question of whether the Five are innocent is so central to the case that it’s amazing that a full, outraged editorial on the subject would duck the question. But a certain strategic sense.

            In any event, as far as the analogy to the Duke case goes, it seems enough to say that Trump vociferously participated in an initial rush-to-judgment against innocent people. He doesn’t seem to feel very bad about that, but it’s hard to tell whether that’s because he thinks the Five are guilty or because they had it coming on other grounds.

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          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s some similarities, but I think Trump is just showing the characteristics of a law-and-order conservative here. Initial rush to judgement, call for harsh penalties, then when turned out to be wrong, kinda dismissing it (though without actually admitting they were innocent) by saying “oh, they were bad people anyway”.

            It’s a common sort of thing for authoritarians to do or support; you often see the argument put forth that someone falsely accused of speeding shouldn’t be upset about it because surely there were many times they were speeding and didn’t get caught.

            It lacks the essential (IMO) element of “guilty despite lack of evidence” or the stronger “guilty despite being proven innocent” that something like the Duke Lacross case brought out in the SJW left.

            I don’t think this is _good_ of Trump, but unlike him (or the SJWs), I prefer to see people condemned only for what they actually do.

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          • Frank McPike says:

            Ah, see that’s where I disagree. First, the evidence was very weak. People often remember the Central Park Five as a DNA exoneration, but that’s not true. All five suspects were excluded by the DNA profile – but that happened before the conviction, not afterward. When you refer to guilt despite being proven innocent in the Duke case, I assume you’re referring to the fact that DNA evidence cleared all of the players. Exactly the same thing happened in the Central Park jogger case.

            The only real evidence against the Central Park Five was the confessions. Those had serious problems: they weren’t really consistent with each other, and were taken under circumstances that make false confessions highly likely. There are some tragic cases where innocent people are convicted because circumstances have arrayed strong evidence against them, and even with hindsight it’s impossible to pinpoint where we went wrong. The Central Park jogger case wasn’t one of those.

            When you look at the media coverage at the time, it’s hard not to see accusations of guilt despite evidence. Once the DNA results came back, the simplest explanation was that they’d arrested the wrong guys. Instead of being released, they were put on trial anyway. And frankly, one of the reasons for that is the momentum created by the rush to judgment. In a media vacuum, things may have played out differently. But since so many people had already expressed so much outrage and certainty, releasing the suspects would have been a massive public embarrassment for the police and prosecutors. Again, the parallels between it and Duke are hard to miss.

            More broadly, though, I’m skeptical of any strong distinction between “Well, I’m sure he did something bad” and “There’s no evidence, but he must be guilty.” Sure, there’s a conceptual distinction, but they tend to be embraced by the same people and to be blurred together. Plenty of people on the right still publicly assert that the Central Park Five are guilty: Ann Coulter comes to mind. And plenty of people who thought the Duke players were guilty were quick to bring up the fact that one of them had some previous run-ins with the law. If someone said “Well, maybe they didn’t commit that rape, but I’m sure they’ve raped someone” would you peg that person as being a right-wing authoritarian? Or, alternatively, how do you imagine Nancy Grace would have come down on the Central Park jogger case, if she’d been on the air at the time?

            You seem to see a big gulf between “Not acknowledging innocence despite evidence and still condemning the accused on vaguer grounds” and “Believing in guilt despite evidence.” I’m not seeing it.

            [My positive theory is this: I think there’s a type of collective behavior that might be termed “moral panic” where a community engages in escalating rhetoric and symbolic punishment over a perceived, and invariably fictitious or exaggerated, spate of wrongdoings (or singular wrongdoing somehow characteristic of an ongoing trend). I think it occurs on both the right and the left, just over different things. I think the Duke case and the Central Park jogger case are both prime examples of it (and Nancy Grace in particular is basically an anthropomorphization of the phenomenon). Satanic ritual abuse would be another. I think people vary in their susceptibility to moral panic (and the variance is caused by something other than partisan affiliation) and that Donald Trump is more susceptible than most.]

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          • The Nybbler says:

            Actually, when I said “guilt despite being proven innocent”, I mean people still thinking them guilty after the dismissal and after all the prosecutorial misconduct was revealed. And in the Duke Lacrosse case, there were no confessions.

            The rush to judgement and the tendency to find something to condemn the accused with if the initial claims turn sour are authoritarian tendencies both sides have.

            The belief in specific guilt despite clear demonstration of innocence (or, indeed, that the crime didn’t happen) is a step further that’s SJW-left specific.

            And for completeness, the “guilty because member of group I hate” is common to both sides.

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          • Frank McPike says:

            Dismissal isn’t the same as proof of innocence. If you’re looking for genuine proof of innocence, that’s the evidence in the case, not an authority’s statement they they’re innocent. In both cases, there was at least some genuine evidence of guilt. In one, confessions. In the other, a complaining witness who identified her attackers. Both of these pieces of evidence look pretty weak once you get into the particulars, but it’s not as though there was literally no evidence in the Duke case, or as if one case had substantially stronger evidence than the other.

            I’m not sure why you think believing a wrongly-accused person guilty despite evidence to the contrary is a distinctly left-wing behavior.
            As I noted above, many conservatives still do think that the Central Park Five are guilty. (Without much effort: http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/238071/central-park-five-still-guilty-jack-kerwick, http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2014-04-23.html)

            Nor is there a universal left wing belief that the Duke players are guilty. I’ve honestly never encountered anyone who still holds that belief. I have seen stuff like this: “It’s Cohan’s view that “justice was subverted” in Durham, where law enforcement made a series of reckless mistakes that defense attorneys for the athletes were able to exploit and ensure that no trial could ever reach a jury. His book lays out ample evidence that the Duke athletes, though cleared of charges, were not altar boys, and that Nifong overreached, that Mangum was deeply unreliable, and that the media jumped to conclusions.” That seems to take more or less the same line as Trump took on the Central Park Five case (except: Trump does at least flirt with implying that the Five are guilty).

            But there’s another example that comes to mind from Trump’s past: birtherism. Certainly birthers believe Obama guilty of a crime. Even in the beginning, they would appear to have done so in the face of evidence. But leave that aside, let’s focus only on the period after Obama released his birth certificate, presumably proving innocence. In September 2015, 61% of Trump supporters still thought Obama was born abroad (http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2015/08/trump-supporters-think-obama-is-a-muslim-born-in-another-country.html). Not just some liberal propaganda either, Jerome Corsi, author of “Where’s the REAL Birth Certificate” (which, I kid you not, was hastily retitled from “Where’s the Birth Certificate” immediately after the birth certificate was released) seems to endorse similar numbers, albeit in 2012 (http://www.wnd.com/2012/10/americans-distrust-of-obama-birth-story-rises/).

            Maybe conspiracy theories aren’t fair game. But I’m not sure I see a substantive difference between thinking Obama perjured himself in the face of evidence and thinking the Duke players were guilty in the face of evidence. And even if you want to carve out conspiracy theories as a special node, it’s not clear why the right and left wing would be equally susceptible to conspiracy theories, but differently susceptible to an extremely similar form of false belief.

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          • The Nybbler says:

            > I’m not sure why you think believing a wrongly-accused person guilty despite evidence to the contrary is a distinctly left-wing behavior.

            Probably because I’ve seen it so often.

            You’ve found some right-wingers that share this flaw. Coulter, certainly is a candidate for right-wing SJW equivalent. But I think that particular faction on the right is weaker than the SJW left. Trump (himself) certainly isn’t it.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ The Nybbler
            > > I’m not sure why you think believing a wrongly-accused person guilty despite evidence to the contrary is a distinctly left-wing behavior.

            > Probably because I’ve seen it so often.

            Perhaps you’re not counting the people who think the Clintons, often investigated and charges dismissed, must be guilty anyway.

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          • Prosecutors and judges are apt to insist that someone who they’ve prosecuted or convicted must be guilty, regardless of how much contrary evidence is found.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Prosecutors and judges are apt to insist that someone who they’ve prosecuted or convicted must be guilty, regardless of how much contrary evidence is found

            Right. So when the District Attorney who was in charge during the original trial, says that the convictions should be vacated, that’s a pretty good sign that every outsider looking to paint themselves as “tough on crime” should shut up and give case one a pass.

            Trump 1989 may have been honestly but foolishly ignorant when he called for the execution of five innocent men. Trump 2014 had no such excuse.

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      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Are you suggesting as a general principle that trying to understand what makes a person tick should be subordinated to encouraging other people to have the correct feelings about him? Or is Trump a special case?

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      • “on the side of truth” is cult-speak

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Jonathan Graehl
          “on the side of truth” is cult-speak

          Which cult? Not, I think, LW’s or EY’s or Scott’s. Their attitude seems to be, that being on the side of truth doesn’t arise till we get a lot closer to finding what the truth (of whatever question) is, and even then we won’t be all that certain.

          If it were ‘being on the side of finding truth (or getting closer)’, then I’d think that Scott’s approach is just right: examining all the evidence, particularly the bits that jump-to-conclusion advocates reject.

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        • Nornagest says:

          It’s vaguely religious at worst. I mean, I don’t like the framing: political fights make for strong incentives to paint opponents as the spawn of the devil, so when you’re presented with evidence of diabolical parentage, you’re usually a lot better off looking for reasons not to believe it. But words like “cult” are uncalled for.

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  11. Anthony says:

    Does anyone know much about Donald Trump’s achievements as a real-estate developer, from a source other than his own book? I’ve been sort of interested, for a while, in knowing just how successful (or mediocre) his career has been, and in what ways. I wonder (sincerely — I do not know the answer) if Scott is being a little bit credulous here. Is Trump really the whiz he’s presented himself to be? Or is he just a guy born on third who thinks he hit a triple?

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    • TexasCapitalist says:

      Don’t you think his total mastery of the political race when virtually every estalblishment figure and many who aren’t part of the estalblishment have been against him? Or do you really believe that he hasn’t performed much better at the political system compared to pretty much everybody alive today? If you accept that he’s pretty much proven himself to be a genius at politics, why couldn’t he be one at real estate? Or do you think that that’s how he made his money at real estate, that he was a genius at politics but couldn’t cut it in that job otherwise? If you believe what I just said I have some news for you about Carlos Slim, John D Rockefeller, etc.

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      • Rowan says:

        That sounds plausible, but a plausible-sounding just-so story is a pretty poor substitute for some actual sources about Trump’s real estate career.

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        • TexasCapitalist says:

          Fair Enough. One thing that suggests he is excellent, from Scott’s post itself:

          “Trump’s greatest pride is his ability to construct things on time and under budget. He gives the story of an ice rink that New York City was trying to renovate in Central Park. After six years and $13 million, the city had completely failed to renovate it and just made things worse. Trump offered as a charitable gesture to do it himself, and the mayor, who was a political enemy, refused. The press hounded the mayor, Trump eventually was allowed to try, and he finished it in four months for only $2.5 million. He boasted that he finished fixing the rink in less time than it took the city to complete their study on why their rink-fixing project had failed.”

          If you don’t believe that part of the post, here’s Wikipedia: “The rink was closed in 1980 for a proposed two years of renovations at $9.1 million. Six years and $13 million later, after the problem-plagued work was still not completed by the city, Donald Trump persuaded Mayor Ed Koch in 1986 to let him complete the work in four months at $2.5 million in order to have it open by the end of the year.[3][4] Koch initially objected to Trump’s proposal when Trump offered to pay for the renovations himself with the stipulation that he be allowed to run the venue and an adjacent restaurant and use the profits to recoup his costs. Public pressure prompted Mayor Koch to reverse his position.[5] The rink reopened to the public on November 13, 1986, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and press conference attended by Koch and Trump, covered by national evening broadcast television news.[6][7] Total cost of renovations by Trump came in under budget at $2.25 million.”

          Under time and under budget, even by his own very demanding standards!

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          • phisheep says:

            I’m not convinced by the under budget bit. It’s very easy when spending your own money to conceal how much you have spent and if it cost, say, 4 million then Trump would say 2.5 anyway for the publicity.

            I know this only because it is *exactly* the sort of thing I used to do in a previous life.

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          • John Schilling says:

            It also helps keep the budget under control when you don’t have to use the lowest bidder. The lowest bidder is lying, pretty much always. Either they’ll get the job half-done and say “Oh, so sorry, I guess we can’t do it at this price after all” knowing full well that you can’t afford to cancel the project, or they’ll deliver something that meets the letter of the requirements but is useless without extensive (and expensive) remedial work. Or both. F-35.

            Everybody knows this. But in the public sector, unless you can prove this, going with anyone but the lowest bidder gets you sued.

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          • Wulfrickson says:

            @John Schilling:

            I believe that contracting laws differ by state, but yes, New York requires projects to be awarded to the lowest bidder regardless of technical merits or past performance, and this is one plausible reason why construction in New York (the examples I have in mind are rail tunnels) costs far more than in most of the rest of the US (and US construction costs are already high by world standards).

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          • It also helps keep the budget under control when you don’t have to use the lowest bidder. The lowest bidder is lying, pretty much always. Either they’ll get the job half-done and say “Oh, so sorry, I guess we can’t do it at this price after all” knowing full well that you can’t afford to cancel the project, or they’ll deliver something that meets the letter of the requirements but is useless without extensive (and expensive) remedial work. Or both. F-35.

            Everybody knows this. But in the public sector, unless you can prove this, going with anyone but the lowest bidder gets you sued.

            I wouldn’t have put it quite so starkly, but yeah, in my public sector experience, that’s often the way it works.

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          • CatCube says:

            They’ve moved away from the pure low-bidder system in federal construction contracting. The few I’ve been involved in are Lowest-Priced Technically Acceptable and Best Value Trade Off.

            Both can theoretically scupper a bidder with poor past performance. In real life, filling out the paperwork to document that the contractor was poor can turn into a massive legal catfight, and it often ends up being filled in as acceptable. This won’t actually prevent the same company from having acceptable bids on future projects.

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          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I’m not sure how much credence to place in the “only $2.5 million” part– we don’t know how close to completion the city’s $13 million had brought the project.

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          • John Schilling says:

            In real life, filling out the paperwork to document that the contractor was poor can turn into a massive legal catfight, and it often ends up being filled in as acceptable. This won’t actually prevent the same company from having acceptable bids on future projects.

            Yes, I remember being on the source selection committee for a federal contract where we were absolutely delighted to find that the usual lying rat bastard contractor had included, on their list of past successful programs that showed they were qualified for this one, a project which we could trivially show had gone massively over budget. Made it very easy to document that, yep, this contractor is likely to go over budget and we should go with the higher but honest bid.

            But that was a relatively small contract, single-digit millions, so they presumably didn’t have their legal A-team on the job.

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          • bean says:

            In fairness, the lowest bidder does occasionally know what they’re talking about. The A-4 Skyhawk springs to mind here. And I’m not sure that the F-35 is a good example. Was Lockheed really that much more mendacious than Boeing? (Of course, these days picking anyone for a major defense contract gets you sued.)

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          • Alsadius says:

            Cerebral Paul Z.: If you trust Trump’s book(and on a technical detail like this I do), they ripped out the whole thing before they started, because the city wanted to use a then-experimental coolant system in hopes of future cost savings, and Trump replaced it with a more traditional, reliable style.

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          • JuanPeron says:

            @John Schilling

            It’s not an accident that the defense sector makes substantial use of “no-bid” contracts. The lowest-bidder system is so reliably dysfunctional that national security and compelling urgency are both grounds for refusing to take the lowest bid submitted. Entire companies like Palantir make their money by never competing on price, and simply being reliable enough to get contracts without bidding.

            I honestly wonder if simply taking the second-lowest bid instead of the lowest would increase accuracy and even save money.

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      • nil says:

        A farmer who grinds his seed corn into flour will have more bread than his neighbors, but that doesn’t make him a good farmer.

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      • TrivialGravitas says:

        Trump has timing on his side. American voters traditionally reshape the political parties every few decades. We’ve been through a series of false starts (Obama, the Tea Party, and Now Trump+Sanders) and Trump is the only guy on the right with even the potential for change (even if it’s not really clear what he’d change, or if he’d be another faux revolution like Obama). That could be because he’s extremely shrewd and figured out that now was the time. Or it could be blind luck.

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    • Jacob says:

      According to Vox piece which quotes a paywalled National Journal article , if he started off with about $40 million from his Dad in 1974 and would’ve been better off investing in the S&P500. Honestly it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s still above average as far as real estate developers go. Politifact shows that’s a gross oversimplification (he didn’t start of with $40 million in 1974) of the reality of his financial history, at the very least he seems to have done well at his fathers company (became president in 1974) and had $200 million in 1982. Depending on the exact month in 1982 in which he invested all that it would be worth anywhere from $6 to $9 billion.

      I’m willing to say that he did a good job as president of an extant real estate development firm (make of that what you will), but he definitely didn’t start from the bottom.

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      • You cannot leave out thr fact that Trump leads an expensive life. If he lived like Warren Buffet, this would apply better.

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        • God Damn John Jay says:

          Trump has spent his life running through trophy wives, which is an expensive hobby. The question is, how much money is it worth to make sure Ivanka looks like Ivanka and not Chelsea.

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      • Shellington says:

        As this Matt Levine column notes, grading Trump on whether he would have made more money investing in stock market indices than real estate is unfair – basically it’s grading him on his ability to time the stock market, and timing the stock market is INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

        It’s not fair to grade a successful real estate investor on his ability to time stocks; it requires a very different skill set. It’s like complaining the world’s best pathologist can’t do neurosurgery and calling him a crappy doctor.

        Even most financial professionals cannot time the market successfully. The ones who can successfully over the long term are generally several times richer than Trump. (For example, James Simons, the head of Renaissance Technologies, one of the greatest traders ever, has over 15 billion dollars in assets. George Soros, another great trader has over 25 billion in assets.)

        Furthermore, even great traders can make mistakes and hindsight is 20/20. I’m sure if you looked at Soros’ record, you could find missed opportunities that had the potential to double or triple his wealth. Is Soros a bad trader because he’s not perfect? I think if you subjected everyone to this hypothetical standard, it would be impossible to find anyone “successful” period.

        (Funnily enough, one of the sole exceptions to this would be Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s success in trading cattle futures in the early 80s was so improbable that most people believe that she was receiving insider information.)

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        • haishan says:

          The other thing is: index funds weren’t actually really a thing in 1974. Burton Malkiel called for one in 1973. Vanguard was founded in ’74 and launched its first index mutual fund at the end of the next year. It started with only $11 million in assets under management.

          Donald Trump was, of course, a rather wealthy man on receiving his inheritance, and he wouldn’t have had to go with a Vanguard mutual fund. But if he’d indexed in the early ’70s, that would have put him on the bleeding edge of financial technology.

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          • Hanfeizi says:

            John Bogle wrote his thesis calling for the creation of index funds in the 1950s, so it pre-dated Malkiel by a few decades. Though portfolio managers had already been indexing for awhile at the point Vanguard was formed- they just did it manually.

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        • “Clinton’s success in trading cattle futures in the early 80s was so improbable that most people believe that she was receiving insider information.”

          I’m not sure how that would work.

          The explanation I have seen, provided by a successful speculator who was a Soros protogee, was that the broker had two customers, Hilary Clinton and someone high up in Purdue Chicken. Trades that made money were allocated after the fact to Clinton, trades that lost money to the other customer, as a way by which Purdue Chicken could pay off the governor of the state where a lot of their operations were in exchange for favorable treatment.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman
            Trades that made money were allocated after the fact to Clinton, trades that lost money to the other customer

            I’m not sure how that would work. Hillary herself called each shot in advance.

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          • God Damn John Jay says:

            As best I can tell, Clinton’s performance was so impressive it had to be impossible, but nobody was ever able to actually prove a quid-pro-quo style arrangement.

            I believe that the same thing happened with Madoff, anyone with a clue could tell he wasn’t just a good investor — they just couldn’t imagine he was pulling a scam so simple or that he had the gall to scam Elie Wiesel.

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          • Chalid says:

            Why would Purdue do such a complicated bribery scheme when they could’ve just paid Clinton a similar amount of money for speeches or the like?

            Report comment

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ God Damn John Jay

            The existence of the Purdue Chicken quid pro quo accusation can be seen as (weak) evidence against the more common ‘insider information’ accusation. If the latter were holding up, there would be no need for a bottom of the barrel quality conspiracy theory.

            A bribe is not very useful if the bribee does not know that it is a bribe and who it is coming from. So both the Purdue guy and the Clintons would have to agree to bring in the stockbroker and his staff and any future investigators — a conspiracy of third parties who had no good reason to support it.

            (There’s also the boring fact that the chicken guys proceeded to oppose Governor Clinton’s re-election, which would be an improbably quick abandonment of their sunk cost.)

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          • nyccine says:

            Why would Purdue do such a complicated bribery scheme when they could’ve just paid Clinton a similar amount of money for speeches or the like?

            If they wanted to get brought up on racketeering charges that badly, why not just go full Abscam and deliver briefcases loaded with cash straight to the governor’s office? Paying Hillary – at that point in time, a “literally who?” person – to give speeches while her husband is sitting governor would be insane.

            You have to be more circumspect. Contra houseboatonstyx, yes, political bribery does have to be that complicated because you can’t leave any clues at all. From what I gather, real estate is the preferred scam; you, the company looking to make the bribe, take an unrelated real estate development, the politician gets an LLC set up, and you sell a property/some properties to the LLC for well below market value, which will then be re-sold to another buyer, which you may or may not have already coordinated.

            These steps are important – the project has to be chosen well before you need approval for whatever it is you want to do, and needs to be as unrelated to it as possible, so that people aren’t already taking a close look at things. The property can’t be sold/transferred to the politician, or a family member, friends, or even a corporation; it has to be an LLC because most state corporation commissions only list the Registered Agent for the LLC (for Corps you can easily get all officers) – this LLC is a shell that won’t do any other business that can be tracked back to the “members” i.e. the politician. The low sale values won’t necessarily arouse suspicion all by themselves because that sort of thing happens all the time – new trusts being set up to manage family properties, transferring from one business entity to another in the same corporate family, that sort of thing. If you do it right, no matter how much digging someone does, they’ll never have enough evidence to convict.

            I’m not sure how that would work. Hillary herself called each shot in advance.

            She did no such thing; in her own press conference on the matter, she said James Blair placed the orders for her, and her trades were done on his advice.

            Everything about the cattle futures deal reeked of fraud, what with Refco being cited a ridiculous number of times for improprieties, not requiring her to meet the basic asset requirements to cover trades (like having $1,000 in her account to cover $12,000 in trades), not exercising a margin call when she was down to them $100,000. Yeah, totally above-board.

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    • Alexp says:

      He’s fairly succesful, but there are many far more succesful real estate developers (who’ve started in both better and worse places than Trump did) who just haven’t spent as much time on self-promotion.

      I’ve talked to a friend who’s an architectural engineer and he said generally there’s rarely a single “real estate developer” and it’s usually a consortium of corporations with a financial stake. Things have probably changed since the 1970’s but it still suggests that Trump may be exaggerating his role, possibly in the same way that I’ll put a cool project my company did, that I was peripherally involved in, on my resume.

      Also, Trump is no longer a Big Deal in New York real estate circles, and hasn’t been for a decade.

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      • Cliff says:

        Who are the more successful real estate developers??

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        • BBA says:

          Off the top of my head, Tishman Speyer, Silverstein, Brookfield, Vornado are all bigger real estate firms than the Trump Organization.

          Or do you mean individually? Because I’m not sure how much of Trump’s wealth comes from his real estate versus his TV show, book sales, brand licensing, etc., but it’s likely that Jerry Speyer has made more money just from real estate than Trump has.

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    • sptrashcan says:

      This seems relevant to Trump’s record in business:

      http://www.npr.org/2016/03/17/470806232/opening-the-books-on-donald-trumps-business-deals-in-atlantic-city

      Assuming the story is accurate as reported, my takeaway is that Trump is good at managing deals such that he personally comes out ahead, but everyone else involved – including those who invested along with him – may not. I think that’s not really a desirable trait in a public official…

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  12. Cerulean says:

    “I’ve been designing ideal systems of government for the heck of it ever since I was old enough to realize what a government was.”

    LOL at being this fucking delusional.

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    • John says:

      >for the heck of it

      I somehow get the impression Scott understands his ‘ideal’ systems aren’t really ideal and have approximately zero chance of being implemented. Especially since he’s written multiple posts on how designing ideal systems and then pouring lots of money into them often creates horrible outcomes that incremental improvement doesn’t.

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      • windmill tilter says:

        FWIW, I think if he derived from some sense of achievement from it, there is no problem-it’s like building model airplanes. Or if he seriously thinks it could impact the world in a significant way, then great, although I don’t know how that would happen.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Lurkmoar or at least read the rules before commenting.

      Also I’ve been getting 504 errors every time I try to comment and sometimes when I refresh the page, is it just me?

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    • Soumynona says:

      How is this delusional? Did Scott hallucinate all the time spent on his conworlding hobby?

      I suspect you read something that was supposed to mean “I find Trump weird because my obsessive interests are the complete opposite of his” as “I would be better president than Trump.”

      You know, not every act of self-disclosure has to be a ploy to sit down at the cool kid’s table.

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    • windmill tilter says:

      On a related note I’m wondering if there is a standard name for a problem I seem to have-not the inability to accept politics for what it is and work within the established order (and obviously Trump is not doing that) but rather the inability to focus on things that I objectively can impact or help bring about. I seem to bite off way more than I can chew, or you could say I keep tilting at windmills. I think this is narcissism. Is it?

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    • Nornagest says:

      He’s telling the truth — Google “micronation” or “conworld” under this site for details — but “ideal” in this context means “idealized”, not “perfect”.

      I don’t know how or even whether Scott’s conworlding scene figured out which policies were successful and which were not, but anyone who’s ever tried to implement policy in the wild, even on a small scale, knows that it’s incredibly hard and fraught with perverse incentives. I get the impression that Scott knows this too.

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  13. Yakimi says:

    >he tells his readers looking for advice about how to make it big that deal-making is probably just genetic, and either you’ve got the deal gene or you don’t:

    >Every time I speak of the haters and losers I do so with great love and affection. They cannot help the fact that they were born fucked up!

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  14. Dan says:

    Trump has put some thought into systems – there is a video of him talking about tax policy and the causes of the 1990-91 recession to a House of Representatives committee from Nov 1991 (which was shortly after the end of the recession, but before people realized that the recession was over).

    He blames the 1986 tax bill for reducing the incentive to invest (in real estate and other things) as a cause of the recession. (Wikipedia’s explanation is somewhat different.) He also complains about the government changing the rules in a way that caused previously good deals to go bad.

    He suggests that the economic downturn might be a depression rather than a mere recession, and predicts that the economy won’t get better for several years unless the government takes drastic action to change incentives for investment. That turned out to be false.

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    • E. Harding says:

      Tax policy did lead to a clear slowdown in residential investment after 1986:

      https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/B011RA3Q086SBEA

      But the recession was caused by the Fed raising the Federal funds rate.

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    • TheAltar says:

      I would imagine that 1991Trump was far more interested in getting laws changed in order to benefit his real estate deals than he was interested in improving the entire economy overall. I say this not to show disfavor towards him, but to point out that whether his predictions and explanations for the recession were correct or not would be mostly irrelevant to him compared to getting the desired effects of the law changes. He would need to know the basics of the systems to provide a plausible explanation though (or hire someone to do the job for him).

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  15. anonymous says:

    But I don’t think Trump thinks in terms of how to design ideal systems, whether that be real estate law or Medicare. I think he takes the system as a given, then tries to do a good job making deals within it.

    Trump’s insistence on hiring the best people, for example, seems almost like an obsession in the book. But it works for him.

    The world is taken as a given. It contains deals. Some people make the deals well, and they are winners. Other people make the deals poorly, and they are losers. Trump does not need more than this.

    In light of Trump’s endlessly repeated bit of dogma “Make America Great Again” – how can you not find this horribly disturbing?

    Aren’t the implications obvious? Trump is unreflective of privilege and the horrible disparities it creates. A privileged man with that kind of a world view is going to see only one path to fulfilling his vision – an America consisting of nothing but straight white cisgendered people – after all, that’s what “hiring the best people” translates to, right?

    He exposes his genocidal beliefs that openly and the worst condemnation you can muster for him is “well, he thinks kind of differently than me”? I guess you feel safe with your level of privilege but those of us who are more vulnerable really have to be a bit more worried than a high minded shrug.

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    • Randy M says:

      “He exposes his genocidal beliefs that openly ”
      You completely reading in things that were never even close to said is not him exposing it openly.

      Report comment

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      If leaps of logic were an Olympic sport, that would be a Gold Medal leap.

      Report comment

    • TexasCapitalist says:

      I will take you at face value, even though I have some suspicion of you being a troll. He was the first to hire a woman to manage the construction of a skyscraper. He’s made buisness deals and hired African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans times and time again. His national spokeswomen is an African American woman, and he has had African American women Silk and Diamond who love him speak at many of his rallies right next to him. If he has genocidal beliefs and only hires white cisgendered males why has he hired and promoted black people, latinos, asians, and diverse people all the time? He also favors Affirmitive action and has said this multiple times, though everyone assumes he is against it because he is a Republican for now.

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    • hlynkacg says:

      anonymous asks:how can you not find this horribly disturbing?

      You must be new here…

      http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/

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    • multiheaded says:

      Dude, your avatar can be matched to right-wing comments in previous threads here. You should have used a proxy if you really wanted to pass as someone with SJ views.

      Also, no, your trolling is just plain bad. You idiots are always laying it on too thick. Social Justice culture is a tone and an inclination, not a string of buzzwords. You lack the subtlety to see it.

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    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      > Trump is unreflective of privilege and the horrible disparities it creates

      Honestly, I’m starting to understand his appeal now.

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      • CatCube says:

        It’s weird. I’m NeverTrump, because I think that the few conservative policies he has are a smokescreen, and that he’s the avatar for everything wrong with modern culture. However, the antics of left-wingers opposing him have moderated my dislike of him an awful lot.

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  16. Randy M says:

    I’m currently reading “I Man in Full,” which is basically about an over-the-top real estate developer very reminiscent of Trump (and some other stuff). It’s interesting, and knowing Wolfe pretty true to life, although I don’t have any great insights to apply it does give some familiarity to the role–basically an economic middle man on a grand scale, using force of personality to get a lot of people to take risks along with you based on your understanding of market trends.

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    • Steve Sailer says:

      Good insight.

      In “A Man in Full,” Tom Wolfe describes how a high IQ corporate staffer, known as The Wiz, views his lower IQ boss, Charlie Croker, real estate developer, good old boy, and ex-football star “with a back like a Jersey Bull:”

      “The Wiz looked upon [Croker] as an aging, uneducated, and out-of-date country boy who had somehow, nonetheless, managed to create a large, and, until recently, wildly successful corporation. That the country boy, with half his brainpower, should be the lord of the corporation and that [the Wiz] should be his vassal was an anomaly, a perversity of fate. . . . Or part of him felt that way. The other part of him was in awe, in unconscious awe, of something the old boy had and he didn’t: namely, the power to charm men and the manic drive to bend their wills into saying yes to projects they didn’t want, didn’t need, and never thought about before… And that thing was manhood. It was as simple as that.”

      During my long corporate career, I repeatedly witnessed exactly the same phenomenon—but putting it so baldly in words leaves most people uncomfortable.

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  17. Brian Slesinsky says:

    A side point on “giving time is far more valuable than just giving money”.

    Maybe it’s not either-or. Maybe the idea isn’t to invest time instead of spending money, but rather to get involved to make sure the money gets spent in the right way to get stuff done? That is, active management, instead of passive investment.

    This may be why CEO’s are in the news and their company’s investors aren’t. And similarly for real estate developers who want to do the contract negotiation and hiring themselves.

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    • Roxolan says:

      > Maybe the idea isn’t to invest time instead of spending money, but rather to get involved to make sure the money gets spent in the right way to get stuff done?

      This is one of the domains where “just hire the best people” is a sound strategy. At the moment, those people are GiveWell.

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  18. TexasCapitalist says:

    Sorry, but the part where you go “(NOTE THIS IS WRONG” Just reminds me of Nate Silver and everybody else who have kept on saying “WRONG, IMPOSSIBLE, JUST PLAIN STUPID” to everything Trump has done. Maybe it’s partially wrong but in a broader philosophical sense I think he has a point.

    Edit: I forgot Also Trump is proving for just one example that Political Science Proffesors/Textbooks are laregely composed of complete Euphemism hot air. I’ve heard from people with classes in political science that all the proffesors and academics and textbook writers are enraged, perplexed, or both that Trump has proved that so much of their writing are Euphemism or only apply in very limited scenarios.
    Also:

    “This is what grownups do. This is what you do when you want something to actually get done. You use money to employ full-time specialists.”
    Trump gets this and as you mentioned he mentions and uses this technique all the time. But if (virutally)all the full-time specialists are (virtually) all completely full of shit, it’s mostly just a waste of money. For example, Politicians, Political advisors and consultants, journalists, most doctors in the ancient, medieval, and even early modern world. Most of these people are barely worth any money at all, some are even outright harmful, and are certainly not worth the money. Politcians and political consultants and the like are only worth it for the power structure/bought influence/networking/ “good ole boy” thing and if you’re smart and rich enough like Trump you can mostly just use your own brain and strategy instead of hiring a billion consultants and spending billions of dollars on ads. He’ll get the best results for the least amount of money.

    Not an endorsement of Trump but imho anybody denying that the man is an absolute genius at politics is in denial at this point. Also philosophical stuff is tricky, I wouldn’t quite rule Trump out as a philosophical/intellectual type or even philosopher outright, it’s just that innovative/new/genius philosophy is often hard to recognize as philosophy at first because it is so different or jarring or hard to understand. I will admit here that I am a Euphemism stupid scumbag redneck rube who hardly can understand anything or think for myself, and thus I don’t fully appreciate many modern works of art from roughly 50s or 60s onward, like for example personally I prefer most people from 1400s to 1600s for just one example to Jackson Pollack.

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    • trump did nothing wrong says:

      Scott Adams would definitely have a field day with this post and its attempts to admit Trump is a genius while not admitting Trump is a genius. Maybe he will have a field day with it, I think he reads this blog.

      Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am not saying he’s incompetent. I’m not even talking about his presidential campaign. I’m saying that in general, it’s almost always better to donate money than time. Money is usually earned doing the one thing you are best at. Time is usually spent at things you are not so good at.

      Trump talks in the book about him working to help some woman get her farm back. It sounded very nice and like he was genuinely interested in helping her. Suppose that took X hours. Trump’s comparative advantage is building skyscrapers, so if he had spend those X hours on his normal skyscraper building projects, he would have made enough money to hire someone else whose comparative advantage is getting people their farms back, plus lots of extra money he could have used for other charitable projects, or kept. See also here:

      “Whether you volunteer versus donate money versus raise awareness is your own choice, but that choice has consequences. If a high-powered lawyer who makes $1,000 an hour chooses to take an hour off to help clean up litter on the beach, he’s wasted the opportunity to work overtime that day, make $1,000, donate to a charity that will hire a hundred poor people for $10/hour to clean up litter, and end up with a hundred times more litter removed. If he went to the beach because he wanted the sunlight and the fresh air and the warm feeling of personally contributing to something, that’s fine. If he actually wanted to help people by beautifying the beach, he’s chosen an objectively wrong way to go about it. And if he wanted to help people, period, he’s chosen a very wrong way to go about it, since that $1,000 could save two people from malaria. Unless the litter he removed is really worth more than two people’s lives to him, he’s erring even according to his own value system. And the same is true if his philanthropy leads him to work full-time at a nonprofit instead of going to law school to become a lawyer who makes $1,000 / hour in the first place. Unless it’s one HELL of a nonprofit.”

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      • Jiro says:

        Trump, in thinking this way, is thinking like 99% of human beings who find more value in helping someone who they are personally involved with than helping strangers. What you have said is not so much a criticism of Trump, but a criticism of the human race.

        I think Scott has fallen into the trap of taking ideas seriously when it comes to EA principles.

        (Remember when Multiheaded needed help, and Scott posted a request–and basically ended it with “and Multiheaded promised to pay money to effective charities so that honestly, you’re not really violating EA principles here”? Most people do not need to add such disclaimers.)

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      • Deiseach says:

        If a high-powered lawyer who makes $1,000 an hour chooses to take an hour off to help clean up litter on the beach, he’s wasted the opportunity to work overtime that day, make $1,000, donate to a charity that will hire a hundred poor people for $10/hour to clean up litter, and end up with a hundred times more litter removed.

        By that logic the lawyer would do better to (a) directly give the $10 each to the hundred poor people (b) should be working 22 hours out of 24 seven days in a week to get the maximum money for donations.

        Suppose the lawyer took an hour out of his free time – is that as culpable on his part, or should he never have free time or holidays but work work work every spare hour that will not result in death by starvation and lack of sleep?

        Take this to the extreme and it really is “you should be robbing banks to buy mosquito nets; don’t mind if you shoot and kill a security guard or two, you will be saving more lives than you take!”

        “Oh hello child drowning in a lake – no, I won’t jump in and help you. I’m not a professional life-guard after all. What I will do is go away and get a really high-paying job so I can donate to a charity that will pay for a life-guard to patrol this lake and save drowning people. Of course, you will be dead by then, but it’s the principle of the thing – it’s much better to give money than time, as my time will be better spent on what I am good at – making money – than what I am not good at – being a lifeguard!”

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        • Anonymous says:

          It is best if he works 22 hours out of 24, but around here we recognize that most lawyers are humans and having 0 free time is impossible. By the same logic the lawyer is absolutely allowed to work in a soup kitchen, but that is because giving money doesn’t create as much goodfeels as helping directly, even if it is more efficient. So you work in a soup kitchen for motivation and to feel good, and give money to actually accomplish things.

          People don’t rob banks because society has a way of punishing antisocial actions that makes it not worth it. Also the kind of person who has the initiative and bravery to rob a bank on cold calculation alone is probably made of the same stuff CEOs are made from, so why would they rob a bank?

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        • g says:

          By that logic the lawyer […] (b) should be working 22 hours out of 24

          I think you’re mixing up two separate questions. (1) What charitable activity gets the best benefit:sacrifice ratio? (2) How much should you be sacrificing? It’s true that someone whose only concern is utility maximization might answer (1) the way Scott does and (2) the way you say follows from that (but maybe not, if they consider what working 22 hours per day would do to their future ability to help others) — but that doesn’t mean that everyone who answers (1) the way Scott does must be concerned only with utility maximization.

          Oh hello child drowning in a lake

          If there is a child drowning in a lake right next to you and you’re a good enough swimmer to save them, your ability to do immediate good is drastically increased compared with normal situations. Even our hypothetical obsessive utility-maximizer would, I think, save the child in that situation.

          That isn’t the only thing I find wrong in your mean-spirited mockery, but it’ll do for now.

          (It would be rather refreshing if some time a topic related to “effective altruism” came up on SSC and you didn’t jump in to portray everyone involved as heartless and inhuman and downright crazy. Just occasionally. But perhaps that would be too much to ask.)

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          • Deiseach says:

            to portray everyone involved as heartless and inhuman and downright crazy

            But g, they make it so easy for me!

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          • Frog Do says:

            But the pitch for effective altruism is about managing the extreme scrupulosity of people who are alienated from their local community and with extremely poor social skills. The pitch is designed for people who are crazy and heartless and inhuman. It sounds crappy when you say it like that, but it’s not like that characterization comes out of nowhere.

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          • g says:

            @Deiseach: Only because you apparently don’t care whether what you say about them is true or not.

            @Frog Do: I disagree with your characterization of “the pitch for effective altruism”, but maybe we have different ideas about what the pitch in question is. As far as I’m concerned, it goes something like this: “Do you engage in charitable activities in order to help people? Yes? Then wouldn’t it be a good idea to choose those activities with a view to maximizing how much good you can do at whatever level of expenditure or effort you’re happy with? Yes? Then welcome to effective altruism.”

            That’s “designed for” people who actually care about doing good. If it makes you feel better to call that “extreme scrupulosity” and paint them as having no friends and no social skills, well, knock yourself out, but it really isn’t the same thing.

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          • Frog Do says:

            You can’t disagree that’s part of the pitch, it’s explicit in posts Scott has made about it here as well as discussions by the broader rationalists on social media. I’m not saying anything that wasn’t said by EAs about themselves, the only thing I’m doing is reporting, again, using the terminology that the EAs themselves used about themselves.

            And stating a really, really weak form of EA and saying that’s what you’re defending is not that great. I know motte-and-bailey is overused, but come on now, you know that’s what you’re doing here, right?

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          • Jiro says:

            The problem is that EA makes it difficult to have a principled way to limit how much you should give (unless you hold to “EA says it’s praiseworthy but not mandatory so you don’t have to give anything at all”). People normally don’t donate everything they have to charity because they value themselves and people close to them more than they value random members of the human race, so they can say “yes, this money could save the life of someone in Africa but I would rather go buy some ice cream”. EA doesn’t allow for that.

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          • Anonymous says:

            >EA makes it difficult to limit how much you should give
            Wasn’t the point of EA that you sign up to give 10%, no more, no less, and you can tell yourself you’ve done enough and you don’t have to feel pressured to give more unless you want to?

            I don’t really follow the movement and it feels like Scott last mentioned the 10% thing more than a year ago so I might be confusing it with some other movement that’s popular around here.

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          • Jiro says:

            I didn’t say that EAs don’t limit themselves to 10%. I said that EAs have no principled way to limit themselves to 10%. They limit themselves to 10% by being hypocrites.

            For a normal charity, you can say “I think I’m more important than other people, so it is okay to keep the rest of my money”. For EA, you can’t say that because you are not more important than other people.

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          • g says:

            @ Frog Do:

            I really don’t think I’m doing the motte-and-bailey thing. There are two completely separate questions, and it’s important to keep them separate: (1) what form(s) of charity if any shall I prioritize? and (2) how much will I do overall? What is distinctive about EA is (to me, at least) precisely its attitude to #1.

            Some effective altruists are (by most standards) outrageously generous with their time or money or both. Maybe that’s because scrupulosity produces both EAism and outrageous generosity. Maybe it’s because utilitarianism does. Maybe it’s because people who care more than most about charity are more likely to look seriously at how to make it most effective. Maybe it’s because people who look seriously at how to make charity effective are likely to be struck by how much more good their money can do for people much needier than them, than it can for them. Probably it’s all of those, in varying mixtures. But outrageous generosity is, to my mind, a thing that sometimes goes along with EA, not a part of EA itself.

            Actually, on reflection I will move one step in your direction. If I were making a serious attempt to define EA, I think I would say something like this: “Looking seriously at the effectiveness of different charitable interventions, and choosing one’s actions in the light of that.” And that means both (1) giving preferentially to more effective charities and (2) choosing how much to give in the light of serious consideration of effectiveness. But, empirically, most people who identify as EA seem to be reasonably comfortable giving on the order of 10% of their income — which is distinctly more generous than average, but typically doesn’t involve huge sacrifice.

            @ Jiro:

            So far as I can see, there is precisely nothing stopping effective altruists valuing themselves more than others and admitting that they do.

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          • Jiro says:

            So far as I can see, there is precisely nothing stopping effective altruists valuing themselves more than others and admitting that they do.

            Yet they don’t, and moreover, they always compare interventions by a calculation that always assigns an equal value to everyone.

            This can also be seen in EA’s beliefs about immigration–nobody ever says “an open borders policy may help humanity on the average, but it is harmful to Americans, and I value Americans more”.

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          • g says:

            @Jiro: Here is an example of an effective altruist explicitly balancing his own welfare against others’ in a way that gives more weight to himself than to each other random person in the world (“how do I accept that other people need my money more without giving up on being happy myself?”, etc.). Here another effective altruist talking frankly about how she spends much more on herself than she gives away and “celebrating” her decision to give a substantial fraction of her donations to causes she has a more personal interest in.

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          • Frog Do says:

            @g
            Your definition of EA is absurdly broad here, this is what I mean by motte-and-bailey. “Looking seriously at the effectiveness of different charitable interventions, and choosing one’s actions in the light of that.” is the key statement. “Looking seriously” means “agreeing with EA’s specfic set of philosophical assumptions”. Or are you claiming literally everyone else who donates to charity is either hugely moronic or consciously donating in bad faith? I’d bet on “hugely moronic”, given my stereotype of Grey Tribers.

            As a meta-point though, we’ve reached the point where we are defining things to each other in conversation, which given that we almost certainly aren’t starting from a common framework, means we’re mostly going to be talking past each other.

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          • Ariel Ben-Yehuda says:

            @Frog Do

            It is true that taking an overseas vacation to America while Africans starve is morally bad. However, I don’t do what is morally good. If that is being a hypocrite, then, well, I can’t make the vacation be morally good any more than I can make pi be 3.2, but I am not going to live in poverty just because it’s morally better.

            That does not mean I don’t care about morality, just that I also care about other things. However, if I have 2 options, equivalent to me except that one is morally better, I will pick it.

            I expect other people to be similar to me in that respect. Therefore, the EA community is looking for ways to do the most moral good for a given personal price, because that’s what EA people will do.

            Not all donations are made to create the most moral good. There are other reasons, like emotional donations, social expectations, and the occasional egoistic campaign donation. EA does not apply for these.

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      • Randy M says:

        Trump made his money building buildings, but I don’t think that’s a single skill, but a skillset with some transference to a variety of other situations. Without knowing any more about the farm situation, I can imagine a number of reasons why the time it took Trump to help were both not diminishing his work elsewhere (projects were in motion which needed to executive decision, etc.) and uniquely suited to him (needed to call a bank to renegotiate a loan, likely using some influence or favors unique to him).

        I mean, sure, if he rolled up his sleeves and helped her plant her beets so they could make the harvest that year, it was probably inefficient and more aptly chalked up to a feel-good moment he could have bought off with less effort, but was that what it really amounted to?

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      • Adam says:

        I suspect the number of high-powered attorneys who forego income to donate time is very small if not actually zero, as opposed to the number who maximize billable hours and then donate time they would have spent interacting with their own families or just reading a book in bed or something.

        I mean, when you’re talking about people like Romney and Trump, just how much richer do you think they could have been if they’d just devoted even more time to getting rich rather than wasting their time on charitable side projects? The relationship between percentage of hours spent trying to get rich and wealth accumulated is not that obviously linear.

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      • Maware says:

        1. You will not find 100 people willing to clean a park for one hour for $10, because life is not a thought experiment and the gas to get to that park will eat up 50% of the pay. You will find plenty of people willing to work in perpetuity to clean it though, at 20-40 hours a week and benefits.

        2. You are forgetting that now, said charity needs to hire more managers and overseers because it’s much harder to manager 100 people than one. So you are hiring 10 people at $20 to watch all the people you get.

        3. By paying the volunteers, you now start to eat up the donation in overhead which maintains in perpetuity. You need to pay taxes, interview the 100 applicants and vet them, keep records on file, and more. That $1000 is bringing a bunch of headaches, eh?

        4. Over time, you find as an organization you become less about actually cleaning parks and more about raising money to clean them, because you’ve now grown to a size where you need to do so. That lawyer who gave $1000 made you increase your cleaning efforts, but now the $1000 is gone and you have the increased workload. So now you focus more on convincing him to give more. You had to hire managers and bookkeepers and used it to buy a van to ferry people in.

        Look Scott, no offense man but altruism isn’t this little neat intellectual puzzle. It isn’t an equation you put x number of dollars and get y results. You don’t understand Trump because you only deal in ideas, where businessmen deal with real situations that involve inertia, mission creep, human nature, and human management.

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    • piercedmind says:

      I think you should be a bit more balanced in your assessment.

      While it’s true that Nate Silver and pretty much everybody else were dead wrong on Trump’s chances to win the nomination, many people take him seriously now. While most left-ish journalists portray his chances in a general election to be dismal, Nate Silver gives him about a 35% chance to win the general, IIRC. So it seems that many of those experts you criticise are indeed willing to correct themselves.

      It’s also very important to note that Trump is a fringe case in that there is probably no comparable person ever running for a nomination. This means that the amassed knowledge of experts is not going to be that useful, meaning that it’s expected that their predictions were not going to be as good as in most cases.

      Basically, just because your prediction is wrong one time, even if it pertained to a very important and famous example, does not mean that all your predictions are going to be wrong. In particular, Nate Silver is a Super-Forcaster (one of those quite rare experts who are able to consistently beat the predictions of the market), so there is statistical evidence that he is not full of shit, as you claim, and in fact worth the money he is getting.

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      • eponymous says:

        “It’s also very important to note that Trump is a fringe case in that there is probably no comparable person ever running for a nomination. This means that the amassed knowledge of experts is not going to be that useful, meaning that it’s expected that their predictions were not going to be as good as in most cases.”

        Doesn’t this suggest that experts who gave Trump a very low chance of winning the nomination last Summer were being much too overconfident? They should have recognized that we were in a new circumstance and assigned higher probability to the possibility that their models were inapplicable. Instead they confidently asserted that, based on their model of the electoral process, Trump would *not* win the nomination.

        By contrast, some people (e.g. Scott Adams) predicted Trump’s success, so clearly it was possible to do so. This represents pretty strong evidence in favor of their models of politics relative to the experts’.

        Granted, a lot of the evidence provided by their correct prediction goes towards bringing these experts to your attention (if you didn’t already pay attention to them). In my case, since I already paid attention to Scott Adams, his success has caused me to update my beliefs about the importance of persuasion skills. And if Trump wins in a landslide, I will update massively in favor of the master persuader theory.

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        • piercedmind says:

          “Doesn’t this suggest that experts who gave Trump a very low chance of winning the nomination last Summer were being much too overconfident? They should have recognized that we were in a new circumstance and assigned higher probability to the possibility that their models were inapplicable. Instead they confidently asserted that, based on their model of the electoral process, Trump would *not* win the nomination.”

          Yes, it somewhat does. But first of all, OP claimed that the experts who failed to see Trump’s rise are ENTIRELY useless, which I disagree wtih. And second of all, I still think it’s possible that the predictors didnt do anything wrong, but just got really unlucky.

          If you had asked Nate Silver for a probability of a Trump win of the nomination, he might have said something like 1-2%. It’s entirely possible that this was in fact the correct probability, and Trump doing as well as he does is a product of chance. If I had to predict whether the ball in a round of roulete would land on ‘0’, I would always say no. If it just so happened that the one round where ‘0’ actually occured decided over who gets to be president, my guess and my probabilty would still have been correct.

          Basically, I think the importance of the event that is being predicted overshadows all the other predictions. We only hear about Nate Silver being wrong about Trump, but not about all of the times he was right. As an example, fivethirtyeight assigned a 1% chance of Bernie Sanders winning in Michigan, along with every poll that was out there. He still won, but that one failure, especially coupled with the lack of other failures in predicting who would win, does not invalidate his whole model.

          I am not a huge follower of Scott Adams, but do his other predictions usually amount to much? I vaguely remember a comment here that listed a rather meager track record.

          At most you could argue that “the experts” failed to adjust their predictions when Trump was continuing to soar in the polls, but in the beginning there was no reason to expect him to do well. Trump had offended a lot of people in the Republican Party, had extremely low favourability ratings, and Jeb Bush looked like a strong candidate. Jeb!’s lack of charisma should maybe have been considered, but that sure was not a problem for Romney. There is no time in recent history that an complete outsider won the nomination.

          In total, I find it difficult to see anything that the experts have overlooked in assessing Trump. In fact, I think we might be falling prey to survivorship bias. There have been outside candidates multiple times, which have never gained a lot of traction, but Trump may just be a reasonably smart man that we now consider super genius level (as Scott Adams does). I think Trump just has one strategy (offending and not apologizing), which is working because of a yuge amount of luck. Social media, the current level of resentment towards the establishment, Obama’s presidency, the current improvement(!) of the economy (upsets often happen after a crisis is just over and things are getting better, see the French Revolution) the Republican Party’s incompetence (having failed to gather around a single candidate, and to have attacked Trump much earlier), those are a unique mix of very important circumstances that in my opinion have just as much to do with Trump’s success as Trump himself.

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          • God Damn John Jay says:

            There have been outside candidates multiple times.

            Ross Perot got 18.9% of the vote, against H.W. Bush a (whose son became president and whose other son was considered the heir apparent for the party) and Clinton (who is so beloved his wife is now a party front-runner) and running as a third party. He also suspended his campaign halfway through and was a conspiracy theorist.

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          • eponymous says:

            In the part I quoted, you said that Trump was a very unusual candidate, and therefore the experts’ standard model did not apply, which is why they were wrong about him. This is quite different from saying that Trump was one of many outside candidates, most of whom fail, and thus assigning a low probability to his success was ex ante reasonable.

            I actually mostly still agree with the latter view. However, I have partially updated in favor of the alternative hypothesis that he has exceptional persuasive ability.

            It’s quite possible that Scott Adams makes lot of predictions that don’t turn out. I haven’t kept careful tabs on his predictions, and don’t trust my ability to accurately assess his record, but I don’t remember other notable successes. Also he pretty much explicitly follows a life strategy of trying low probability things with high payoffs and hoping he gets lucky.

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          • Anonymous says:

            >If I had to predict whether the ball in a round of roulete would land on ‘0’, I would always say no. If it just so happened that the one round where ‘0’ actually occured decided over who gets to be president, my guess and my probabilty would still have been correct.

            Your guess would have been wrong. That you can’t calculate where the ball in a round will fall is a fact about your model, it doesn’t make the ball nondeterministic or anything like that. In the case where the ball hits 0, betting on 100% ‘0’ is the most correct guess and whoever can do it consistently is the perfect predictor. You can adopt a strategy of never betting on 0 because you can’t simulate the roulette in your head and that’s the best you can do with your available resources, and betting non-0 in a 0 roll will be a correct implementation of that strategy, but it’s still a wrong guess.

            I’m not saying the experts should be expected to be prediction gods or that SA can be pronounced one before he has established a long track record of being better, but lets not call them correct when they factually were not correct. Yes, they were following their models, and maybe the models can’t be improved any more.. but “correct prediction” does not mean “the predictor used the Official Model in the Proper Way”, it has a more empirical basis.

            [yes i just wrote three paragraphs on something where you just skipped an obvious disclaimer; sorry]

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          • TexasCapitalist says:

            Silver’s model actually gave the chance of Bernie winning Michigan as less than 1 percent as opposed to 1 percent, suggesting that the model saw his chances of winning 1 in 200 or even less. That was before adding his endorsement model that gives Hillary a massive advantage, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the polls plus model gave him a 0.2, 0.1 % chance of winning.

            One of the 538 people said that Trump had a better chance of being in the NBA finals then winning the nomination and that he was a joke candidate. The 538 people have been smearing at him for months.

            The 538 people are way too trusting of the establishment and mainstream despite claiming to be alternative to an extent. They don’t seriously recognize the possibility of Black Swan events and understimar the chance of them. Also they generally ignore historical politics and examples before 1980.

            I never said that all political consultants are useless, just that virtually all of them are BEers who are nowhere near worth the money they charge if you are smart. Again, I said virtually all. It’s also barely a credit to Natr Silver at all that he gives Trump a real chance to win the Presidency and the nomination recently, all that proves is that he’s probably not completely biased, I’m denial, or a payed shill for eststalblishment candidates.

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          • onyomi says:

            Eliezer recently had an interesting post about the danger of simply multiplying a series of probabilities to arrive at an accurate probability, as Nate Silver did to arrive a 2%ish percent chance of Trump winning the nomination. Though I don’t know enough about statistics to get the finer points, I think part of the problem is that, if one is so inclined, one can use a large number of “bottlenecks” to make even likely things seem highly unlikely.

            Of course, it could also be that Silver was right, and Trump really did only have a 2% probability of winning the nomination back when he made the prediction. We could just be living in that 1 in 50 world.

            BUT while everything seems obvious in retrospect, I do feel somehow that Silver was mistaken to create so many sine qua nons for a Trump nomination.

            Also makes me wonder if the real essential factor for prediction, as Jim Rogers indicates it is for stock picking, is not just “feet on the ground”-type experience and/or close attention to lots of survey-type data. For example, if one knew a year or two ago that illegal immigration would suddenly become a big deal this cycle, one would have correctly adjusted upward the probability of a Trump victory. But how could you possibly know this would be the election when that would become a big deal? I guess only by doing or reading a lot of surveys?

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          • Jaskologist says:

            For example, if one knew a year or two ago that illegal immigration would suddenly become a big deal this cycle, one would have correctly adjusted upward the probability of a Trump victory.

            I think it’s even more complicated than that, because I’m pretty sure Trump was the one who made illegal immigration a big deal.

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          • onyomi says:

            “Trump was the one who made illegal immigration a big deal.”

            It’s a good point, though of course he couldn’t have done so had there not been a lot of latent energy surrounding the issue. The weird thing is, I don’t really imagine him going around interviewing coal miners about their biggest concerns.

            It could arguably be that this really is one of his own, personal worries (actually not a surprising one if you work in the service industry–in my hometown, for example, jobs like line cook, housekeeper, and construction worker were almost universally done by black people when I was a child; now they are all done by Hispanic immigrants, and not because the black people got better jobs. If you were in the business of building buildings and running restaurants you might be more apt to notice this, and we have footage of Trump from 20 years ago saying the same “we’re getting ripped off by foreigners” stuff.) and he just waited until the national mood seemed right to jump in, after testing the waters in ’12.

            If so, you have to at least credit him for reading the national mood very well. That said, one does wonder how much it is him reading the signs well and him just being able to make an issue a big deal because he’s charismatic or whatever.

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          • Douglas Knight says:

            I read that Trump said that he hadn’t intended immigration to be his centerpiece, but he just tried a lot of things and it turned out to be a winner.

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          • onyomi says:

            That also makes a lot of sense. And confirms my suspicion that having a well thought-out, consistent political philosophy is a hindrance in politics. Better to throw every platitude at the wall and see what sticks; though, in a way, one could argue that that is more responsive to the voters.

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          • Ptoliporthos says:

            Those of you who didn’t see illegal immigration was going to be a big deal in the GOP nomination process need to read more right leaning news sources — this fault line in the GOP was clearly visible In the articles doing post-mortems of Romney’s loss.

            The “establishment wing” wrote a lot of think pieces about how Romney’s loss was clear evidence the GOP had to back amnesty for illegal immigrants to capture the Latino vote or risk never winning a Presidential election again. A different wing of the party (which I would say overlaps with, but is not identical to the Tea Party) wrote a lot of heated comments on those think pieces denouncing the idea as hogwash, and the thinkers of these pieces as members of the Democratic Party in disguise. One of those wings of the party put Rubio in the Senate, the other put Cruz there. If Trump hadn’t captured the media’s attention with it so early, it might have been an issue for Cruz to run on.

            The divide in the GOP over amnesty has been simmering for a long time. Disagreement in the GOP was actually pretty heated in George W Bush’s first few months in office. He wanted to get an amnesty deal done in his first year, and might have succeeded, but the terrorist attacks on September 11th changed his legislative priorities, and it faded into the background.

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          • onyomi says:

            One person I have to credit with being fairly prophetic on this point is Ann Coulter. She was complaining that immigration was the most important issue for the GOP (in the Trumpian sense of “if we don’t stop this flow of liberal voters from another culture our culture will disappear and we’ll never have a conservative in the White House again,” as opposed to “if we don’t start supporting amnesty we’ll never win the Latino vote”) back in ’12, if not earlier. It seemed to me at the time an odd thing to harp on so strongly, but I’m sure she is much better tapped into what Republican voters and party members are worrying about than I.

            Actually, I think she and Trump are weirdly similar in that they are kind of trolls in a way which belies how smart they are, though, superficially, at least, she strikes me as smarter than him (I don’t think Trump is dumb, but I think Coulter is actually very smart and very intentional about her trolling).

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          • Mikk Salu says:

            Nate Silver is not just forecaster, but also media pundit and as a pundit, he has to simplify and sell his case. I´ve read Nate Silver´s 538 long time and noticed that quite often his headlines are much stronger than fine print. In fine print he quite often admits that there is just not enough data, but in headlines he makes a strong claim.

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        • RiverC says:

          It’s worth noting that experts in American politics do not merely describe but ascribe – American politics and its expert class are not primarily analysts but prophets of democracy. This fundamental mistake causes many people to misunderstand why political experts are so often wrong — why they seem to use statistics so poorly or whatever — because they assume media-space (where predictions are being reported) is compartmentalized off from the space where people are influenced to support a given candidate. Fact is, Nate Silver is an example of a soothsayer proper – given inside information on polls (that was not known) not only did he have an expert view on trends, he also acted as a prophet, adding demotic momentum to the Obama movement.

          These people are not predicting so much as trying to see the intersection between what they want and what is growing and predict it will win, thus causing it to win and their predictions to be true.

          With Trump, he simply understands that all of these people, reporters included, are part of the mimetic system. To get them to soothsay for you, you have to agree to a straitjacket, which seems to never have been his style. The only other thing to do is get them to dislike you enough that they can’t stop talking about you. Then you just neg them. Though he works within the system, he does not permit the system to determine his ends so as to acquire its support. He seems more likely to take it by the scruff of the neck and go, “Look, this is what we’re going to do. It’s gonna be excellent.”

          It is a wondrous thing, the demotic propaganda engine of our country.

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          • onyomi says:

            One thing I noticed quite clearly leading up to the ’12 election: I don’t think I saw a single commentator (except maybe mopey Michael Moore?) say “I want Obama to win, but I predict Romney will win” or “I want Romney to win, but I predict Obama will win.”

            I’m not sure if this is fear of self-fulfilling prophecy, optimism bias, fear of not being a “team player” (predicting Obama victory on Fox would likely not have been welcome even if you prefaced it by saying you hoped for Romney victory), or some combination of these and other factors. I think it is inherently psychologically difficult to announce in public: “I really hope x, but I predict y.”

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          • Vamair says:

            I’ve once asked people on a site about a hypothetical situation where a person that is a huge fan and expert on horse races is at a horse race and he’s predicting the first horse to win (and tells his friend that the first horse would probably win), is betting on the second as the ratio is good, and hopes for the third to win as it’s from his hometown and he’s very patriotic. The story had actual numbers and a few irrelevant details thrown in (like names). A lot of people has written how they don’t understand his behavior and how he’s probably a bad person and a hypocrite.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Vamair

            That behavior makes perfect sense to me. Do others really have a problem with it?

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          • Vamair says:

            @ hlynkacg
            Yes, at least a few people (>3) commented that they don’t understand his behavior and consider his actions revolting. I was surprised as well. There also was at least one such person among the three people I’ve told this story IRL.

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          • onyomi says:

            This makes no sense, rationally, but perfect sense based on my experience of human nature.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            What’s so irrational about it?

            Sure one could make old Zen-master argument about how you should only desire things that are already true, but that’s not a view I see a lot of rationalists espousing. Quite the opposite in fact.

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          • RiverC says:

            It is because, as I’ve said – a lot of people know how much positive media exposure helps with popularity, and this IS a populist system (even when ‘populist’ platform policies are not for sale.)

            Predictions are half “what seems to be going on in reality” and half “what I want to see happen.” I think that due to ideological immersion, progressives especially don’t realize they are doing this: they literally believe that “reality” is “progress will continue towards [insert the present idea of progress]” but even so, the savvier members know how mimesis works are trying to work it as hard as they can.

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          • Nicholas says:

            @hlynkacg
            “Only desiring true things” is the whole of the Litanies of Tarski and Gendlin. Impatient men pray for patience after all.
            @RiverC
            This particular form of ideological immersion is referred to formally as the Religion of Progress, is one of the textbook examples of map-territory confusion, and has had quite a bit of ink spilled on its specifics.

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          • Vamair says:

            @Nicholas
            Isn’t the Litany of Gendlin about “only desiring to believe true things”, not “only desiring what’s already true”. Otherwise you can desire whatever thing you want to desire, no matter how false it is right now, as long as it’s not impossible.
            @hlynkacg
            If it’s about the person that bets, he’s not irrational. If you’re talking about the people who find him repulsive… Well, I don’t quite understand them, but I’d guess that behavior somehow activates their “treason” circuits. And I don’t really know if it’s rational to activate the circuits in such cases. (There is a war, you’re saying you want our side to win, but also that we’d probably lose and you’re getting ready for the others’ victory already. Are you a traitor?)

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          • Nita says:

            @ Vamair

            The most likely explanation seems to be that these people don’t know how betting on horse races works, and assume that he would only bet on horse B if he thought it was most likely to win. That would make his prediction that horse A is most likely to win a lie, and lying to one’s friends is not nice (especially if it might cause them to lose money).

            Also, this imaginary guy sure knows how to diversify. If A wins, he gets bragging rights, if B wins, he gets money, and if C wins, he gets warm fuzzies. That would actually make him a worse ally for any of the three teams if his actions could affect the outcome.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            @Nicholas
            I hadn’t heard of those Litanies before your post and cursory observation shows that the wider rationalist community does not take them seriously.

            EY’s quixotic crusade against death, and the wider EA movement are both prime examples of desiring things that are untrue.

            @ Vamair
            That sounds plausible but I still don’t see anything irrational about it.

            @ Nita:
            There seems to be a misunderstanding on how betting generally works. Betting on a sure winner doesn’t make you much (if any) money, and while long shots have the biggest payouts, they’re long shots.

            The trick to making money betting on sports is to bet on those who have a decent chance of winning but are undervalued by the bookies. (Horse B in this example)

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          • null says:

            Please explain how those things are ‘desiring what is untrue’.

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          • Vamair says:

            @ hlynkacg
            Acting in any other way is irrational for the horse race expert for obvious reasons. As we’ve decided, it may also be rational for people to dislike such sort of behavior. If that’s true, then for the expert it would also be rational to dislike other people that act like he does. That makes him a hypocrite. And if it’s rational to dislike hypocrites, he may do that as well. While acting rationally in all the cases and being a hypocrite himself as a result! Ain’t it fascinating?
            @ null
            Is there a problem with desiring something that is untrue? If I’m sick and I desire to be healthy, then I desire something that’s not yet true. Desiring something totally impossible is a waste, sure.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Vamair:

            I believe null meant to say “desiring to believe something untrue”, which is contrary by definition to epistemic rationality.

            Also, in what possible way is it rational to dislike the horse-racing guy?

            As I see it, people are analogizing it to situations that are very different but seem vaguely similar. For instance, in a war, you dislike people who are preparing for the victory of the enemy, since it shows that they aren’t totally committed to the cause in a “better dead than red” sort of way.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            @ null
            Follow the litany of Tarski to it’s obvious logical conclusion…

            If I am mortal I will desire to be mortal.

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            No, the proper conclusion is: “If I am mortal, then I desire to believe that I am mortal.”

            Report comment

          • null says:

            That’s not what the Litany of Tarski is saying though. It says ‘If I am mortal, I should believe that I am mortal.’ It makes no claims about whether mortality should be desired. The Litany of Tarski also says ‘If I am not mortal, I should believe that I am not mortal.’ One can still say that death is really really bad even though it is inevitable, and then try to prevent death.

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    • Nornagest says:

      I get why you’re doing it, but this would be more readable if you used the appropriate swear words rather than “euphemism”. There’s no policy saying you can’t.

      Report comment

  19. Jason says:

    Is leadership really about thinking of new designs for systems?

    Or is it about hiring good people and cutting deals?

    In Australia we have two major political parties. One is full of hardened political hacks and the other full of idealistic former corporate lawyers and small business people (simplifying here!).

    The first party is generally smarter and more cohesive. Its members have mostly never had an idea in their life. They’re not interested in ideas. They know that there are millions of people outside government eager to provide ideas to them, for free (people like Scott, people like me). That work is taken care of and the far more difficult task of making things happen via parliament and the media is their area of expertise. It requires years of practice.

    The lesson I take from this is that a PM should be an expert at politics. You don’t need a Philosopher King, so long as the king knows to listen to occasionally listen to philosophers, (and doesn’t choose the wrong ones. Hi To Dick Cheney and Karl Rove if they are reading).

    Report comment

    • blazeeeeeit says:

      Is Tony Abbott part of the idealistic party you described?

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      • Jason says:

        He’s an exception – a good example of a political hack among the Libs. A lifelong staffer, his capacity to thrive inside parliament has far outstripped his general ability. Turnbull is a bit different, and more typical of the libs. Clearly highly able he remains relatively politically inhibited (for someone of his raw powers). Although he is improving at playing the game!

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    • postchimp says:

      I’m not sure either party could be accurately described as “cohesive”. Australia goes through prime ministers like [insert rustic metaphor of your choice], mainly because of political infighting on both sides. I do think that sounds like a not inaccurate description of Labor and Liberal respectively, though Turnbull might fit the former description more.
      Also, we have a Donald Trump of our own. Meet Clive Palmer, mining magnate and founder of the Palmer United Party. Things are not going well for him in politics or business right now.

      Report comment

    • If you’re hiring philosophers its probably best to know at least a little bit of philosophy, otherwise you might end up hiring Kanye West as your philosopher-in-chief. Some might say there is a similar problem in some spheres of politics.

      Report comment

    • Acedia says:

      http://i.imgur.com/MfyPBZj.jpg

      Trump fanart is tremendously enjoyable to me for some reason.

      Report comment

    • Soumynona says:

      What’s worse, once he becomes the most powerful Trump, he will awaken the Endbringers.

      Report comment

    • Deiseach says:

      Damn it, stop convincing me that a Trump Presidency would be awesome! 🙂

      No but if he really is such an immense narcissist and as vain as he is portrayed, a reign term of office where he spends much of his time posing for state portraits and having sculptors do monumental public works that get plonked down in city squares might be fantastic for a revival of the arts, in a trickle-down kind of way. The expenditure on bronze and marble alone should provide plenty of jobs for foundry workers and quarrymen! Not to mention the revival of gilders and other practitioners of the decorative arts! A public works project to rival Mount Rushmore where every major population centre of the continental United States would have an equestrian statue of The Donald!

      Also, if his day is blocked out between meeting ambassadors and heads of state and posing for official portraits and criss-crossing the country on his private jet for the Royal Progress of the loyal cities amid the rejoicing of a grateful populace, that would leave the rest of the government free to govern without interference.

      At the very least you would get the kind of pageantry and ceremonial performance that the British get in return for funding the monarchy which helps stoke the tourist industry 🙂

      Report comment

      • Alraune says:

        You know what Mount Rushmore needs? Gilding.

        Report comment

        • Deiseach says:

          The new great project of the President’s first term in office: adding the fifth head to Mount Rushmore!

          And of course it would need to be gilded so they get the barnet right! 🙂

          Imagine the public art competitions to pick the winning sculptor to create the model for the carving, the engineering and architectural firms employed on the job, the boost to the local economy of North Dakota – it’s win-win all round 😉

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        • Sylocat says:

          I vote they add Trump’s face in brass, to more closely match his skin color.

          Report comment

    • Eli says:

      This! Is! HERESY!

      BLAM!

      Report comment

    • Simon says:

      Well that’s disappointing. I was expecting a monstrous human-sandworm creature.

      Report comment

  20. daronson says:

    This was a really insightful post — thanks!

    Report comment

  21. hnau says:

    Ironically, this post came very close to convincing me to support Trump.

    The last part of the argument seems to imply that Trump would make a bad President because he games the system rather than trying to change the system. The hidden premise in this argument is, “an effective President will try to change the system rather than gaming the system.” After thinking about this premise a bit, I’m starting to believe that it’s the exact opposite of the truth.

    That’s not to say that changing the system is a bad idea. There are just two problems: 1. it’s not historically obvious that attempting to change the system gets you much net improvement, and 2. even if it might, mandating change from the top down is one of the worst ways to go about it. Lincoln and FDR managed to change the system somewhat, with overwhelming Congressional support, in times of immense preexisting social upheaval. No other President has. Besides, setting domestic policy is mostly Congress’s job, not the President’s. (And before you argue that presidential races influence control of Congress, ask yourself how this would work out in Trump’s case, since he doesn’t really have a party behind him.)

    Foreign relations is a whole different matter. International politics is a system that’s practically crying out for the U.S. to game it. The alternative, as we’ve recently seen, is for it to be gamed by other actors like China and Russia. With his negotiating mindset, President Trump could actually change their behavior– and that of other unfriendly states– in ways that President Obama couldn’t. Of course, most of the U.S.’s allies would be aghast; but they’re our allies for a reason, namely because our interests align with theirs anyway.

    In short, I’d definitely consider supporting a President who wants to game the system over one who wants to change it. In the extreme case, even if Trump’s policy positions are exactly as horrible as they appear– I believe with ~70% confidence that they’re just an act to win the primary– making him President could be good for America, in a weird I-hate-your-preferences-but-your-maximizing-for-them-benefits-me kind of way.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve added some of your wording to the post.

      Report comment

      • hnau says:

        Nope, I don’t mind at all. Thanks!

        Report comment

      • HeelBearCub says:

        “Ironically, this post came very close to convincing me to support Trump.”

        “Thanks”

        Did you really just thank someone who you have almost convinced to vote for Trump? Is that actually your intent here and I mis-read the whole post, especially the part where you said you didn’t respect the substance of Trump?

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        • tern says:

          I suspect your pattern-matching modules have run away with you and are drawing scary dog-entities where none exist.

          Report comment

        • Bryan Hann says:

          I think it was a polite ‘thanks’ that you are indicating that I have spoken reasonably enough to get someone to reconsider a previous opinion.

          [And what tern said.]

          Report comment

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, I agree that is how the comment reads, but ostensibly he isn’t trying to get people to update in a pro-Trump direction. Which is what is confusing.

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          • Bryan Hann says:

            I think he is trying to get people to update in a *rational* fashion, whether than means greater favorability/animosity to Trump, less favorability/animosity to Trump, or just *different* favorability/animosity toward Trump.

            On that assumption, what is it that is confusing?

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          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Bryan Han:
            1) A single ghost written hagiography is very poor as a single source from which to update.
            2) That it was writen 27 years ago makes it even less good as a single source.
            3) Scott is not taking any of the most recent evidence into account.
            4) Scott still ostensibly wishes us to update in a negative direction based in the evidence of this book.
            5) Yet Scott seems pleased when people are updating a pro-Trump direction.
            6) So, what was Scott’s actual intent?

            If Scott spent a blog post also analyzing Trump’s current rhetoric and urged a negative assessment, I would be more sympathetic. But the only thing he has said about current Trump was to defend him against charges that his rhetoric was racist.

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          • wysinwyg says:

            So, what was Scott’s actual intent?

            Seemed to me like a: “thanks for making an interesting contribution to the discussion.”

            Report comment

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Bryan Hann
            I think he is trying to get people to update in a *rational* fashion, whether than means greater favorability/animosity to Trump, less favorability/animosity to Trump, or just *different* favorability/animosity toward Trump.

            I doubt Scott’s intention goes as far as changing anyone’s favorability rating to a firm new setting.

            But it does demonstrate a better way of looking at the question — ie glancing at some lamppost evidence for other side/s, and not jumping to a conclusion. Opening the question … and leaving it open.

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          • sinxoveretothex says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            > 6) So, what was Scott’s actual intent?

            > If Scott spent a blog post also analyzing Trump’s current rhetoric and urged a negative assessment, I would be more sympathetic.

            Who *cares* what Scott’s intent is? A rationalist should update on evidence, wherever it goes.

            Here, what you just said is essentially that you dislike Trump and therefore refuse (are unsympathetic) to the idea of updating towards a favorable view despite the evidence.

            In a very simple world where there’s a simple metric going from -10 (Hitler) to 10 (your-ideal-entity-here) with you having priors placing Trump at -6 while he’s really at -2, you *should* update more favorably when presented with favorable evidence. If you want to claim being a rationalist, that is.

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    • jnicholas says:

      > hnau

      Great name. Out of the Silent Planet, right?

      Report comment

      • hnau says:

        Thanks! Yeah, it’s from Out of the Silent Planet (I forget whether it’s used in Perelandra too). It’s conveniently nonspecific for online use since it basically just means ‘person’.

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    • hlynkacg says:

      Other’s have already said it but I’ll throw my 0.02$ in as well.

      Good post! would read again.

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    • Nicholas says:

      I doubt Trump’s ability to achieve results in the international sphere, because I think the hand he’d have to play is actually a lot weaker than it has been made to appear.
      Basically I think Obama has, on the international front, been bluffing for most of his presidency regarding the American Government’s power in certain spheres and contra certain specific goals. I think most of the last two years’ failures have been that bluff getting called, either by some specific agent or by changing events.
      But Obama isn’t allowed to fold, and his hand isn’t improving, so he just keeps doubling down on the bluff.

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      • suntzuanime says:

        Isn’t a lot of Trump’s foreign policy platform suggesting that he’ll fold rather than double down on bad bets? (Which is of course what you want to do.) At least that’s what I took away from his whole “our interventions have been a disaster, we’d be better off with Hussein/Qaddafi in power and it’s not even close” spiel. You don’t have to “achieve results”, just stopping fucking things up for no reason would be an improvement.

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  22. BD Sixsmith says:

    …a broken record of deals and connections and hirings expanding to fill the space available…

    The best that can be hoped of President Trump is that he makes good use of his connections and his hirings to promote people with a more extensive appreciation of the world. A conservative might not want Trump himself concocting legislation on border controls, for example, but might be pleased to see him hiring Jeff Sessions.

    Report comment

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I was thinking about that, but I think this attitude makes more sense for a business developer than a President.

      If there are only so many good businessmen, they’re going to be split up among a bunch of different companies, and you can gain a lot of advantage by knowing who the best ones are and seizing them for yourself.

      The highest caliber foreign policy experts, generals, economics advisors, and so on kind of default to working for the government. At the very least, the skill in hiring the best economist to be head of the Treasury Department isn’t about having access to the most famous guy, it’s about being able to distinguish among many economists, all of whom are famous but some of whom are more correct than others. I’m not sure why Trump would have better access to the best economists, health care advisors, etc in a way more so than me, if I were President, googling “who is the most famous health care policy expert”.

      In part, this is an area where Trump is at a disadvantage. I’m sure he knows all of the cool New York real estate people. I expect Hillary knows a lot more about all of the cool Washington policy people.

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      • Anonymous says:

        >The highest caliber foreign policy experts, generals, economics advisors, and so on kind of default to working for the government.

        You would think so, but is this actually true? Look at how much power neoconservative foreign policy advisers have, for example. If the government were meritocratic, then surely they would have all been thrown out of both parties by now. I think you’re right that the *ability* to pick the best guys for the job isn’t really that uncommon, but in practice, how often does it actually happen? It’s not just about access to the best people, but also wanting to pick the best people, rather than appointing people for other reasons. How many people, out of the small subset of people that are able to get elected President, are also likely to both be able to select the best people for various jobs, and want to hire based only on competence, and not other reasons?

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        • God Damn John Jay says:

          I think a lot of leaders like declaring wars because that is part of how they justify their existence. George W Bush stated that the Iraq war would be how his presidency was judged. I have heard it speculated that one of the reasons Clinton agitated for the war in Libya was because she thought that have a dictators anus on a pike would look good when running for president.

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          • Anonymous says:

            Perhaps, but there’s still an astounding level of incompetence by their advisers. If Bush knew what a disaster Iraq would be, and that his Presidency would be judged by that disaster, he wouldn’t have gone in. The same is likely true of Clinton in Libya. So, it’s not just that they have poor motives, but that they, and their advisers, are unable to accurately predict the consequences of their policies.

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          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Sounds like a case of “Anyone smart enough to win a war in the middle east is smart enough not to start one”

            Is there a word for that?

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          • Samuel Skinner says:

            The Groucho Marx effect? Any club that would accept me, I’d be unwilling to be a member of?

            Report comment

          • hlynkacg says:

            One could make the argument that war in Iraq wasn’t THAT much of a disaster, and that middle east’s current sorry state is largely a result of the US State Department’s fecklessness post Bush. (not to say that they weren’t feckless before, but they’ve really outdone themselves since)

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          • suntzuanime says:

            How long was it supposed to take Iraq to turn not so bad? Bush presided over five damn years of that disaster. The fact that we could have kept throwing money and lives at it to prop it up doesn’t mean it’s Obama’s fault it collapsed after he pulled out, you shouldn’t start pointless wars that have to go on forever.

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          • Ptoliporthos says:

            @suntzuanime

            I don’t know how long it was supposed to take, but Iraq had definitely calmed down after “the surge” — to the point that the author of that strategy, General Petraeus, was sent by Obama to work the same magic in Afghanistan, and then brought into the Obama administration as director of the CIA in 2011. He was even seriously discussed as a possible presidential contender until he was caught passing classified information to his lover/biographer.

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          • hlynkacg says:

            What Ptoliporthos said ^

            And lets be honest, Petraeus was fired to get rid of a political rival. The Mishandling Classified Material charge was simply a pretense. The classified material in question was his own notes, it’s not like he sold secrets to the Russians or transmitted unencrypted TSC material over a public internet connection or anything.

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          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah I don’t know how anybody looks at the current election and thinks mishandling classified material disqualifies you from the presidency.

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          • wysinwyg says:

            I don’t know how long it was supposed to take, but Iraq had definitely calmed down after “the surge” — to the point that the author of that strategy, General Petraeus, was sent by Obama to work the same magic in Afghanistan

            Note that this isn’t even remotely evidence that the surge “worked” in anything but a short-term sense. The fact that the same strategy didn’t seem to work in Afghanistan is evidence against.

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          • God Damn John Jay says:

            I was under the impression that the surge was able to enforce order in the short term, but that those gains dissolved after the surge ended– so it was more of a proof that you can do more with more soldiers.

            The problem was, that the US didn’t have many extra soldiers.

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          • Adam says:

            I don’t think anyone has ever doubted that there is some combination of troop level and time in country that would stabilize Iraq. What they question is whether those numbers are worth it or politically feasible. By the same token, we can lower crime rates just about anywhere by giving them ten times as many policemen, but doing that isn’t free and not all people prefer police states to existing crime rates.

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          • gbdub says:

            In 2010 Joe Biden was trying to take credit for how stable and great Iraq was turning out. It was clearly in a better place than it is today.

            We don’t know if that stability could have been maintained, because we didn’t try. We up and left on a deadline to meet a campaign promise, situation on the ground be damned. Now we’re back fighting there again because ISIS grew up in the interim, when maybe keeping a few thousand troops around the whole time could have quashed them early.

            The problem is that everyone was (and is) still arguing about whether going into Iraq in the first place was a good idea, in order to assign blame for the current woes. The reality is that “should we have invaded Iraq in 2003” is entirely unrelated to the question “should we have maintained a presence in Iraq post 2011?” It turns out power vacuums in the Mideast don’t end well, and we created one.

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          • Randy M says:

            True, but “How we are likely to act several years after a war that requires several decades to fully win” is relevant to keep in mind when evaluating proposals that require starting wars in the future.

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      • pneumatik says:

        There’s more to it in politics. Generally a new president will bring in advisers and political appointees (like the various Department Secretaries) from their own political party. For more politics-focused departments and subjects the people tend to be more tightly linked to the actual party, while for other positions (say, Energy or Economics) the new president can find someone who just shares their general political views. Part of this is general politics, and part of it is that people who are strongly affiliated with one party don’t want to work for a president from the other party. If nothing else it damages their brand within their own party.

        Trump may have trouble getting the “best” people to work for him because he’s not strongly affiliate with either party. The people with the most experience in running government also play by the standard government rules, which means that even if Trump becomes more likable and gets elected the more offensive things he said in the past might still keep people from working for him.

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      • Dues says:

        The only reason I like trump for this, is because his position is that he will hire the best people and then actually let them do their jobs. Hillary’s stated position is the same, but like with most politicians, what she actually does is hire the best people, then ignore them and do what her super rich campaign contributors tell her to do.
        Trump’s only advantage is that he is unbought, so his incentives are better. He might actually follow through with his (super vague) campaign promises while Hillary is almost guaranteed to ignore any promises she made.

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        • g says:

          @Dues: If Hillary can be expected to hire good people and ignore them in favour of the preferences of her super-rich campaign contributors, why wouldn’t we expect Donald to hire good people and ignore them in favour of the preferences of his super-rich self? Are you expecting Trump to be markedly less self-interested than Clinton, and if so why?

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          • GTrem says:

            It’s not so much that he’d be less self-interested, it’s that his self-interest is likely to coincide with that of the country, for two reasons. First is that Trump being in real estate means his interests are quite literally tied to the US. The interests controlling Clinton are multinationals who can and will move their manufacturing to Mexico or China and their headquarters to Ireland if they find it in their interest. Or rich powerful private citizens with no specific attachment to the US, and have enough wealth to uproot themselves at any moment.

            The second narcissistic self-interest. At this point in his life, I find no reason to believe Trump desires more money, except as an expression of greatness and fame. And there is no bigger fame than the immortality given to great leaders. He’s putting a lot at stake: if Trump gets the nomination and fails in the general, he’ll be remembered as a loser. And if he becomes president, his actions in office will easily eclipse all of his real estate career. Who remembers Reagan as an actor first? If the US collapses under his rule, he’ll be remembered as the worst president ever. If he succeeds and the US thrives under him, he’ll be the president who Made America Great Again ™. On the other side, the people holding the strings that control Clinton are not interested in being part of history. They won’t be blamed or congratulated no matter what happens to the US.

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          • g says:

            GTrem, it seems to me that your two reasons can’t both apply: if Trump no longer cares about getting richer, then the fact that what would make him richer is tied to the US doesn’t tell us anything about what he’d do.

            I’m not terribly convinced by either of them separately, actually. As to the first: sure, his interests are “tied to the US” but that’s a very different matter from being “closely correlated with the interests of the US as a whole” which is surely what voters should actually care about. Or they might care about the interests of particular parts or aspects of the US. But the mere fact that Trump’s interests are located in the US doesn’t give anyone — except maaaaybe other billionaire real-estate developers — reason to think that advancing Trump’s interests will do anything to help the things they care about.

            (I also suspect that it’s less clear than you imply (1) that there are “interests controlling Clinton” as such and (2) that they’re multinationals that can easily move their operations around the globe, both because (2a) doing so is a pretty big deal and empirically multinational companies don’t seem to make major shifts of that kind often and (2b) her biggest donors seem to include e.g. a lot of Wall Street firms that really couldn’t centre their operations anywhere else.)

            As to the second reason: I do not generally get the impression that very rich people often stop being obsessed with getting more money merely because they are very rich. It does happen sometimes — Bill Gates and Warren Buffett might be examples — but the people I’ve seen it happen to seem to be quite different in character from Trump.

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          • “But the mere fact that Trump’s interests are located in the US doesn’t give anyone — except maaaaybe other billionaire real-estate developers — reason to think that advancing Trump’s interests will do anything to help the things they care about.”

            It doesn’t guarantee it, but it does give some reason to think it. If lots of people are employed at jobs that pay well, they will be renting real estate and buying from stores that are located in real estate and doing other things that tend to drive up the price of real estate.

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          • Frank McPike says:

            That would be one way of benefiting American real estate developers, but not the easiest or the most efficient. (And the same argument would seem to apply to most multinationals, which would benefit, ceteris paribus, from American economic growth.)

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      • moridinamael says:

        Having just watched a couple of movies about the 2008 Financial Crisis, I am now an expert and fully qualified to express opinions on this topic.

        It seems like Bush and Obama were both completely suckered into hiring “the most famous (and psychopathic, self-enriching) economist” every time they had an opportunity to put anybody into a position of power. Any effort whatsoever aimed at just not immediately hiring the most aggressive bank executive would pay off in spades.

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        • Deiseach says:

          From the viewpoint of this side of the ocean re: the financial crisis and the demise of the Celtic Tiger, it’s that nobody wanted to be the wet blanket, nobody wanted to believe the party would ever be over. This time round was different (unlike the good times of the 60s which led into the recession of the 80s), the good times would never end, finally Ireland was a modern economy and was a success story and so what if it was all based on a property bubble and we depend heavily on foreign investment with little native industry/businesses, and so are vulnerable to multinationals pulling out and going elsewhere when labour and costs are cheaper?

          Even when some economists were warning that the bubble was going to burst and we would crash, the government of the time didn’t want to do anything that would seem like undermining confidence by putting the brakes on. That’s partly why the party in power at the time got hammered at the next election by the angry public and it is only very slowly creeping back up to where it used to be.

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  23. Plucky says:

    >and engaging in some sort of intellectual ideal-system-design effort has never worked for him before

    It’s never worked for anyone before.

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  24. Trevor says:

    Sounds like Trump solves coordination problems that have high transaction costs. And is rewarded for doing so.

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  25. suntzuanime says:

    I dunno that Trump is actually capital letters wrong when he says “giving time is far more valuable than just giving money”. I mean, as a general rule, maybe, that works for most people, but there are some things money can’t buy, or at least is at a severe disadvantage in buying relative to time. Like, let’s say, to take an example at random, you want to make America great again. If you try to just spend money, you end up like Jeb Bush. If a master persuader can seize the office of the presidency and use that to negotiate a New New Deal for the people, that’s an awful lot of leverage relative to making more hotel deals and spending the money on marginal greatness projects.

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    • Frog Do says:

      Garbled serious thoughts warning.

      I think both the LW article and Trump are doing the same thing, but on different levels. At a “standard citizen” level, giving money is more valuble than giving time, because you are probably a mook who can’t influence the course of world events, and shouldn’t hypocritically think of yourself above your station. For people in Trump’s class, the ability to leverage their reputation to organize richer people’s money to flow to “proper ends”, whatever those are, is huge relative to the amount of money they have, so you should bet your most valuble thing, and shouldn’t pretend to false modesty.

      There’s some point where money doesn’t seem to matter anymore in a “just buy it” sense. The thing I am thinking of most here is the huge pay disparity in being a pro baseball player versus a pro football player but the status disparity is exactly the opposite (American sports, obviously). I mean, how much would Trump have had to pay for media time if he hadn’t bet his reputation the way he did? How much would other politicians pay for the ability to say absolute garbage publically and keep getting away with it?

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  26. Anonymous says:

    >[note: this is WRONG]

    That’s just, like, your opinion, man.

    Report comment

  27. Lel says:

    Heh, should we interpret the aggressive rhetoric as your official endorsement?

    Report comment

  28. Anonymous says:

    >[note: this is WRONG]

    If donating time rather than money means doing ordinary charity work (working in a soup kitchen, doing the books, etc), then you’re right – it’s better to give money. However, if Trump really thinks he can Make America Great Again(tm), then giving his time to become President could potentially accomplish a lot more good (at least in his estimation) than spending his money on charities.

    edit: basically what suntzuanime said above.

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    • anonymous says:

      Read the sequences (yes, all of them – not just the linked one).

      That statement is indeed all caps WRONG.

      Report comment

      • Anonymous says:

        I think we all agree here, it’s just Scott taking the statement as it is in the book (a generalization which is wrong almost all the time) while OP/suntzu are talking about the current events which are one very specific case that doesn’t even go against the spirit of the advise in the sequences.

        Saying that OP should read the sequences when he’s not actually disagreeing with the spirit of “don’t work in a soup kitchen, use your skills instead” is just begging for a pointless argument. And then you follow it with a claim that is factually true but requires some charity to read in a literal manner, charity which you’ve wiped out with the framing established by your first line.

        tldr stop trolling

        Report comment

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t know; I think working in a soup kitchen would be very valuable experience for the types of people who like to write about “the poor” in terms of theoretical social experimentation and have apparently never met anyone actually poor in their lives (having to live in a squat while you build your career as an indie documentary maker and shop in thrift stores for your carefully cultivated Bohemian look is not poverty). And as well, I know that it’s a lot easier for me to give money than to give of my time/labour because it’s more selfish on my part (I don’t want to spend time doing things for others, can’t I just pay someone else to do it?)

          Seeing Real! Actual! Poor People! In the Wild! would do them a power of good the next time they decide which is the most efficient charity to give to and on what grounds. And it’s never any harm to be of service to others when you have to get your hands dirty doing that.

          But then, I’m prejudiced:

          12 Then after he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, being set down again, he said to them: Know you what I have done to you?
          13 You call me Master, and Lord; and you say well, for so I am.
          14 If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
          15 For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also.
          16 Amen, amen I say to you: The servant is not greater than his lord; neither is the apostle greater than he that sent him.
          17 If you know these things, you shall be blessed if you do them.

          Report comment

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, indeed. Be a saint, not a communist.

            Report comment

          • anon says:

            You can always count on Deiseach to come in and spout religious nonsense and shit on EA.

            I think most EA people are more of the software dev type and not the poor artist hipster type. No idea where you are getting that besides your own bias showing.

            Report comment

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            “Having to live in a squat while you build your career as an indie documentary maker and shop in thrift stores for your carefully cultivated Bohemian look is not poverty”

            Mark Cohen?

            Report comment

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            You can always count on Deiseach to come in and spout religious nonsense

            And people wonder why we don’t have more Christian regulars.

            Report comment

          • Deiseach says:

            You can always count on Deiseach to come in and spout religious nonsense and shit on EA.

            Oh anon, you say the sweetest things! *blows kisses right back at you*

            Did I mention EA at all? (As a matter of fact I was not thinking of EA in particular, or indeed at all). What made it leap to your mind? Yes, I have criticism of the philosophy behind EA as a movement, but that does not think I think it is worthless; just that it needs to sort out what it hopes to achieve now that it is attracting attention and getting organised and will be dealing with new members.

            Mmm-mmm! These steel-toed jackboots feel so comfy and well-fitting as I trample all over the poor software developers! 🙂

            Report comment

          • onyomi says:

            Recently you can count on anon@gmail to come in and lower the quality the conversation.

            Report comment

          • Nicholas says:

            The easiest counter that comes to mind is that I can’t actually meet the poor people who live in the countries that, for example, Give Well is saying need my money more, without getting in an airplane and flying across up to two oceans. Won’t meeting these particular people prejudice me to consider them the least among me, because I happen to like them, when I should be thinking about who the least among me actually are?
            The leap from money>time to criticizing EA is that the essay about comparative advantage was the seed for a lot of EA thought. So it’s a bit like criticizing the writing in Genesis, then wondering why people think you’re hard on Christianity.

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      • merzbot says:

        >You’re wrong; read over a thousand pages worth of blog posts to figure out why.

        I wonder if this has ever worked on anyone ever.

        Report comment

  29. Scudamour says:

    If you liked the book, you should see the film! Art of the Deal, the Movie, starring Johnny Depp as Donald Trump.

    https://vimeo.com/154967194

    Report comment

  30. Anonymous says:

    Extra, extra! Read all about it! Scott Alexander endorses Donald Trump for President!

    Report comment

  31. Neanderthal From Mordor says:

    1. Top politicians are not philosopher-kings. I doubt Cruz, Kasich or Clinton have any deeper concern besides winning power. At least Trump and Sanders have consistent political views that span decades.
    2. At this point Trump has a full political program (with videos!) like any other politician and it’s not worse than other political programs, probably because it was written by the same people who write this type of stuff for all politicians. More traditional politicians, like Sanders, pretend that the details of the political program are relevant, but the truth is that beside a vague statement of intentions platforms are not important.

    Report comment

    • Vaniver says:

      I doubt Cruz, Kasich or Clinton have any deeper concern besides winning power.

      Cruz does seem to be deeply principled. They’re just the wrong principles.

      Report comment

    • Deiseach says:

      Yeah, do people really think that if Bernie Sanders is elected, the New Dawn of Progress and Justice will beam upon the nation?

      I would have thought this lesson would have been learned the hard way after “Hope and Change!” and “Hope and Change II: This Time For Sure!” but apparently self-deception is not the sole province of we blinkered conservatives with our wrong principles 🙂

      Report comment

      • antimule says:

        The reason why “hope and change” stuff has mostly failed is because in America you can’t accomplish anything w/o
        – President
        – Senate fillibuster-proof majority
        – House majority

        Obama had all of that for only 2 years or so. I am not saying that his policies would have been successful if he had a chance to implement them (I have no idea), but the reason why he couldn’t even really try has little to do with him.

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        • g says:

          I don’t think Deiseach is claiming that the shortage of actual Hope And Change is Obama’s fault. Just that empirically it seems to be achieved much less often than it’s advertised, and that there’s no obvious reason to think Sanders would do better in that regard than Obama.

          Report comment

        • BBA says:

          And a majority of the Supreme Court, too.

          Funny thing about the filibuster: it’s only in the last couple of decades that it’s become standard practice to filibuster everything. It used to be an extraordinary measure only used for the most controversial topics, but even after the “talking filibuster” was eliminated in the ’70s it was still relatively rare compared to today.

          I expect the Senate leadership to unilaterally abolish the filibuster the next time it gets in their way. This happened partially in 2013 and the House abolished its filibuster equivalent (the disappearing quorum) the same way in 1890.

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        • Deiseach says:

          antimule, the Archangel Gabriel could not have lived up to the expectations loaded upon the Obama presidency by the starry-eyed supporters.

          “Hope and Change” was a great campaign slogan – and that was about all it was. It was like New Labour in Britain using “Things Can Only Get Better”.

          It’s like “Make America Great Again”. Vaguely positive, aspirational, and no real substance there once you start looking into it. What kind of change and how? Hope in what? Hope for whom? What is American greatness and how do you do it again?

          The idea of rah-rah slogans is encapsulated in the couplet by Yeats about Parnell (a late 19th century Irish politician, leader of the Home Rule movement):

          Parnell came down the road, he said to a cheering man:
          “Ireland shall get her freedom and you still break stone”

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          • keranih says:

            the expectations loaded upon the Obama presidency by the starry-eyed supporters

            On the one hand, I agree that the pro-Obama people were not only anti-Repub (and anti-Sara Palin, in a way that was shockingly vicious) but strongly promoting Obama as the answer to everything. (And it wasn’t just Americans – the disease infected the Nobel Peace Prize committee as well.)

            So while I didn’t see the oughts as a time that needed whole hearted rejection the way that many did, it was obvious that many people (who said this to me at the time) saw Obama presidency as a final turning of the corner into a new light of hope.

            That this is obviously wish-magic and irrational doesn’t make it not have happened.

            So, no, that’s not his fault.

            But no one made him say “this is the moment the oceans stop rising”, no one made him accept the Nobel Prize, and no one forced him to continue to promote himself as that bright shining hope to the right sorts of people.

            There are always multiple factors that go into the course of a nation, and one can’t blame anyone individual for the path a country goes down.

            But one can – and I do – blame an individual for the arrogance that assumes they can control that nation, all by themselves.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih

            + to your whole comment, especially about Palin.

            But one can – and I do – blame an individual for the arrogance that assumes they can control that nation, all by themselves.

            These quotes from Trump have been reminding me of some quotes from Obama, though Obama didn’t talk about controlling the nation. He sounded like all he had to do was be elected, then float somewhere above, and the lower officials would somehow do the right things — as he described Mayor Daley doing. A description I doubt all Chicagoans would agree with.

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          • keranih says:

            @ houseboat –

            Agreed, I hear a lot of similarities between Obama the candidate and Trump – and Bernie is (to my ears) yet another flavor of the same sort of thing. Trump appeals to my uncles and cousins, Bernie to my college classmates and professors.

            The difference I hear that Trump goes into this with the understanding that he will have to make deals and hire experts. I heard a great deal less emphasis on actual compromise (‘elections have consequences’) and other experts (‘if I was actually writing the code…’) from the current admin. (Obviously, there’s been enough speechifying from all sides to cherrypick quotes consisting of the entire works of Shakespeare, minus the monkeys.)

            Mostly, though – between Obama, Trump, and Bernie, I’m getting a sense of how madmen come to power. They arise in a situation where the people want something very, very badly – something that cannot be obtained through rational and non-mad means – and promise to deliver that thing – peace, land, bread, circuses, free phones, whatever. If there was some other option – who could both respect why the people wanted this thing, and understood why it could not be obtained except through madness, *and* explain that to the people…there would not be enough tolerance for the madman.

            None of these three are madmen. But they are all promising things which can not be, to people who are no longer taking ‘no’ for an answer.

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        • Jaskologist says:

          You can in fact accomplish quite a lot without all those things, but it requires a willingness to reach across the aisle. And to complain that Obama only had 2 years of Congressional control that no president has enjoyed in decades is perhaps setting the bar a bit a high.

          More to the point, let us consider some of the things he promised to do that were entirely in his power:
          -Broadcast all the health care negotiations on CSPAN.
          -Allow 5 days of comment before signing bills.
          -Tougher rules against the revolving door of lobbyists and regulators.
          -No more signing statements to undermine congressional intent.

          Note that I’m just sticking with the basic ethical promises there. This is important, because while “Hope and change, we will clean out corruption and repair alliances just by being in charge” sounds like youthful naivete, the underlying, darker, message is “we are better than you.”

          When your message is “you are bad, unlike me,” and as soon as you get the chance, you ignore all those moral things you said you were going to do, well, don’t be surprised if that creates some acrimony among your supposed moral inferiors.

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      • Nicholas says:

        My thin rod of hope for supporting Sanders is that he will be able to sign into law bills reintroducing the fiscal policies of the 1970’s American government, and that he will negotiate future trade deals with an eye to the map of economic reality that lead to the creation of those policies.
        So basically I’m supporting the most radically conservative presidential candidate.

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  32. anoner says:

    I haven’t been a Trump fan, though I’m not a Trump hater, either. This review is the single most compelling article I’ve read in terms of shifting my view of him, and I now feel more optimistic about the potential future where he becomes President.

    (Most of the articles I’ve read have been either bemused in a “but aren’t his downsides obvious?” sense or unhinged in a “voting for Trump is a TERRIBLE idea because HITLER” sense. Even the ones that were more evenhanded still had an air of “this is not normal and I don’t understand it.”)

    I don’t find Trump all that attractive, but he’s been a major celebrity for years, and so his shock value isn’t that remarkable to me. On the other hand, I’ve been appalled by the behavior of our political class–both right and left–since almost no-one even attempted what I thought would be the plausible strategy against him. Co-option of his primary themes might have deflated his attraction, but full-bore demonizing /especially/ by groups that his potential fans loathed wasn’t going to make him go away. Much of his appeal is due to ideas like “If I made a list of all the people I didn’t like, how many hate Trump? Nearly all of them, and they hate him passionately? …Well then.”

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    • stillnotking says:

      The major media outlets have finally figured out that their pearl-clutching only helps the guy (the minor ones, like Slate, are still behind the curve). Or maybe they knew all along, and were actively trying to help him get the nomination so Hillary could crush him in November, as a conservative friend of mine believes.

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      • Protagoras says:

        The major media want what they’ve always wanted, to make money. They run the stories about Trump that attract attention so they can get advertising revenue. Sure, lots of individuals involved care who wins, but they don’t care about that nearly as much as they care about the revenue (and anyway, they don’t all agree in their preferences about who wins, so a lot of that cancels out). Any theory that is based on thinking they’re following a strategy to help their preferred candidate is going to be mostly wrong.

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        • stillnotking says:

          While I agree with that, reporters and editors do have distinct political biases that come across in the tone of their stories, if not the content. They cover Trump because Trump gets them page views, but the tone has evolved a lot over the course of the campaign — from “ha ha, look at this clown” to “OMG LITERALLY HITLER” to pieces that attempt to engage with his positions more or less seriously.

          I don’t believe in media conspiracies, but I do believe journalists at the major papers nearly all independently hate Trump and would like to damage him. My right-wing friend is giving them way too much credit though.

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          • anoner says:

            I used to not believe in media conspiracies, until they were proven to exist. See “Journolist,” for example. Literally a straight-up, meets-every-criteria conspiracy to shape the national coverage of various events with a political valence, where the explicit agreement was out of the public eye, and the resulting news stories were lockstep similar while ostensibly “independent.” If you think the participants, once caught, decided to repent and not immediately start another private mailing list…well, I heard the Brooklyn Bridge has a “For Sale” sign on it.

            Very likely, the evolving media narrative is the result of the same sort of internet-enabled “water-cooler conversation” among various members of the national press.

            As far as predictions go, I think the most likely outcome in the primaries will be Clinton on the D ticket and Trump on the R ticket, both by winning the requisite convention delegates outright. As for the head-to-head matchup in the general election…I don’t believe I have enough information to make a confident prediction.

            Trump is a rare figure in the presidential context, because he’s an A-list celebrity whose stature is not based on previous political office at all. (Sure, Reagan was an actor, but he was also Governor of California.) Usually, one of the biggest hurdles for an aspiring politician is name-recognition; no matter the specifics of Trump’s reputation, his name-recognition was extraordinarily high for a politician when he started out, and the wall-to-wall free coverage he’s gotten since has just polished off all but the most dedicated shut-ins.

            I’d like a better choice among presidential candidates, but I might as well wish for a pony.

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  33. multiheaded says:

    Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what I should have done differently, or what’s going to happen next. If you ask me exactly what the deals I’m about to describe all add up to in the end, I’m not sure I have a very good answer. Except that I’ve had a very good time making them.

    Fuck.

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    • Deiseach says:

      That thing about “money is only for keeping score” makes sense; why do wealthy and successful people keep working after they’ve made their pile? Why did people here on another comment thread say that no amount of money would be worth giving up their job, they couldn’t imagine having nothing to do all day?

      After a certain point, money isn’t valuable for itself. It’s only a means of keeping score, and the success and achievement (which means you beat the other guy in some way, even if it’s a co-operative scheme you’re working on – e.g the malaria nets are about “beating” malaria, and so forth) is the important thing. If you have five hundred million, another million isn’t that big a deal, but getting it means “you still have it”, you are still the best, you can sniff out a bargain and an opportunity where others can’t, etc.

      It’s ego-boosting.

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      • Nornagest says:

        I was friends with a professional poker player when I was in college, during the Noughties online poker boom. He was making pretty good money — not spectacular by my adult standards, but almost unimaginable by the standards of the broke student I was at the time — but long after he could have afforded not to, he kept sleeping on a mattress on the floor, driving the ancient, leaky, gasoline-smelling Buick he got from his grandmother, etc.

        One day he finally snapped, and over the course of maybe a month he replaced his car, his furniture, and most of his wardrobe. When I asked him why, he said (paraphrasing) “well, Gest, I spent so long thinking of money as ammunition that I forgot you could use it to buy goods and services”.

        Stands to reason that the same psychology would still be there on a larger scale.

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        • stillnotking says:

          I’ve known a lot of poker players, some of them pros, and all the most successful ones have an extremely cavalier attitude toward money. My theory is that this lowers the psychological stakes and lets them make more rational decisions in big hands. Actually it isn’t my theory — Doyle Brunson wrote something very similar in his famous poker book Super System.

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  34. Matthias says:

    To anybody interested in negotiations I recommend starting with these two articles:

    “Common negotiation tactics for negotiating business agreements.” (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/contract-negotiation-11-strategies-33340.html)

    “Lawyer/Diplomat” (http://diplom.org/Zine/F1997R/Windsor/lawdip.html)

    The first is an overview of how to reach business agreements in practice. The second is the same material applied to the game of Diplomacy.

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  35. Vaniver says:

    So – take a lot of risks, but also be very cautious. Okay. I’m not saying his advice is literally contradictory – it makes sense that you can have big plans but also be very careful about them. I just don’t get the feeling that his advice is too helpful in narrowing down your plans.

    Suppose I gave you the advice “buy low sell high.” You’ll note there are three other permutations–one could buy high and sell high, one could buy high and sell low, and one could buy low and sell low.

    Because asset prices are correlated across time, you might look at this and say “but this is contradictory! If a price is low now, I should expect it to be low in the future.”

    Another way to think about this is the phrase “shoot for the moon–even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” One might think that, in terms of actual rocketry, missing isn’t the problem–the problem is falling back to Earth and shattering into a million pieces. So the point here is to do non-destructive moonshots, but the important thing is not imagining the possibility of fantastic wealth (easy) but ensuring that the ‘lose’ scenario is alright. If you create lots and lots of no-lose scenarios for yourself, you end up pretty well off at the end of things.

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    • Right, the advice “take risks but manage your downside” seems relatively straight-forward to me.

      You should take risks with your career: look for a new job if your current one is not advancing. However, make sure you have 6 months of expenses saved in emergency cash.

      Eventually, you should find a career better than your current one. The upside will take care of itself, because you learn what works and what doesn’t, and reinforce the parts that work.

      But only if you manage the downside. Because the downside risk is starvation.

      Yes, you need to take risks, but you need to take prudent risks.

      This is as obvious to me as if Trump said “You need to breathe air to live. Don’t forget to breathe the air!”

      Other analogy:
      You’re telling me to drink water but you’re telling me I can’t drink the ocean? What kind of inconsistency is that?

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  36. Vicious Champion says:

    > To me, what matters is the doing, and giving time is far more valuable than just giving money. [note: this is WRONG]

    Actually, while this sentiment is wrong for most people, it’s true for Trump. Because, for Trump, Trump’s time is far more valuable than Trump’s money.

    Report comment

    • Anonymous says:

      The LW wisdom is about not spending your time in a way that doesn’t line up with your skills. Trump is currently using his time in a way that apparently lines up with skills. If he went to work in a soup kitchen it would still be a waste of his time (and his advise in the book can be taken as an endorsement that working in a soup kitchen is more valuable than donating $1000).

      It’s the difference between:
      -a programmer going to play with 20 orphans for a month
      -that same programmer writing some sort of software that directly helps all the orphans
      -that same programmer writing software for a bank and donating the earnings.
      The snappy version of the LW advise is about contrasting #1 with #3, but #2 is an option too. It’s just usually not worth considering because it’s rare for your skills to line up that well with your goal, unless you have some sort of generic skill that applies equally well across domains (like Trump claims about his negotation).

      Report comment

      • Deiseach says:

        A programmer going to play with orphans and talking to orphans about programming and how they can get into it may do more for the orphans than giving the orphanage a cheque for $1,000.

        Sometimes time is better than money, even if money would be more efficient. If everyone is going for high-earning jobs so they can make large donations to orphanages and nobody is actually playing with the orphans, well – there are monkey studies about that.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          What is “better” if not “more efficient”

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          • Deiseach says:

            (a) Programmer goes to orphanage to play with kids. Kids get human interaction from people other than hired state caregivers, get role models, get actual advice from real people as to how to get a start in a job, programmer may even mentor some bright orphan(s) who have programming talent

            (b) Programmer takes better-paying job with longer hours to give larger donation to orphanage but never has time or inclination to visit the place. Thanks to large donations the orphans have nice clothes and better rooms and tasty food to eat but only have hired state caregivers. They grow up with little outside human contact and are at a disadvantage when applying for college (if they even think of applying for college), dealing with real life outside of care, etc.

            Which is “better” for the orphans? In the job, we see a lot of kids who come out of care. They turn 18, they are no longer the state’s responsibility, and they are dumped out to fend for themselves with little to no support or raising to help them in life decisions. Foster carers are not substitute parents, the old foster family may be fostering new kids, in the main they will not be around to give the kids the kind of advice and support parents would (ever had to ring up your parents after you’d moved out to live independently for advice about dealing with bureaucracy, cooking, or a small home repair?)

            Having someone spend time with you, who is there to give you advice and help and show you “this is how it’s done” is a huge advantage. Scott had his family background to give him advice on his career. Imagine he was an orphan without that background. Would he be better off with a doctor who came to the orphanage every month to interact with the kids and gave them his contact number for advice if they ever wanted to go to medical school (where to apply, how to jump through the hoops of form-filling, people he knew in training hospitals), or if the doctor instead gave large cheques but no time?

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          • God Damn John Jay says:

            State caregivers can be pretty good at their job, provided you hire people with a clue, unfortunately you could also just mandate that they take the motherly compassion upgrade course in order to apply.

            I am reminded the (possibly most reactionary scene ever) in Annie where the Orphanage Matron recollects that she is stuck in her government job raising other peoples because she is too ugly and bad tempered to have a husband.

            Also, lol at programmers and human interaction. (I’m a programmer, I can say it).

            Report comment

      • ” It’s just usually not worth considering because it’s rare for your skills to line up that well with your goal”

        Ayn Rand? George Bernard Shaw? GKC?

        Report comment

  37. Vaniver says:

    I’ve been designing ideal systems of government for the heck of it ever since I was old enough to realize what a government was. Trump is at serious risk of actually taking over a government, and the idea of trying it still hasn’t occurred to him

    The president is the face, not the brain. This is a feature rather than a bug.

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  38. beortheold says:

    He had a couple more stories like this – but throughout all of it, there was a feeling of something missing. Here is a guy whose job is cutting through bureaucracy, and who is apparently quite good at it. Yet throughout the book – and for that matter, throughout his campaign for the nomination of a party that makes cutting bureaucracy a big part of their platform – he never really expresses discontent with the system. There is no libertarian streak to Trump – in the process of successfully navigating all of these terrible rules, he doesn’t seem to take a step back and wonder about a better world where these rules don’t exist. It’s not that he likes the rules – he’s happy to come up with ways to circumvent them personally when he can.

    Perhaps Trump the real estate developer favors these sorts of rules because his mastery over them is an advantage over his competitors.

    Large companies with the best lawyers and lobbyists are best at crushing their competition in an over-regulated environment. In a low-regulation environment small, nimble companies have an advantage in their ability to innovate the product.

    That’s the same reason why big oil companies favor Byzantine environmental regulations, insurance companies favor the PPACA, etc.

    Startups, like Uber or Airbnb fight regulation.

    Report comment

    • wysinwyg says:

      That’s certainly an incomplete, one-sided view of the relationship between business and government regulation.

      Uber and Airbnb “fight” regulation the same way that large companies “favor” regulation — both parties hire lobbyists to try to change regulations to favor their own business models. Businesses that are already large and established have been playing the game longer and have thus already influenced the regulations through their own lobbying, while new arrivals like Uber and Airbnb are starting from scratch.

      VW’s recent regulatory troubles provide interesting insights. There’s no fact of the matter whether US or European emissions standards are “better” than the other, but European standards tend to favor fuel efficient diesel engines far more than the US standards. Why? Because the emissions standards were developed over the same few decades that VW put a bunch of time and money into researching fuel efficient diesel engines.

      The “free market” is a fiction; there are always rules*, and those rules favor some business models over others.

      *The laws of physics always apply at the very least, but also “might makes right” is a regulatory regime of sorts — perhaps without much intellectual justification for the regulations in question.

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  39. TIL Trump is some kind of deal-making version of a paperclip-maximizer, Thanks nice article.

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  40. Simon says:

    In light of this, does anyone understand what Trump’s actual agenda would be if he’s elected? If he says most of the things he says just to get elected because he figured out what to say, what will he actually want to do? Build a 10-mile monument to himself?

    Report comment

    • I don’t think anyone knows, with the possible exception of Trump. But a lot of people think they do.

      Report comment

    • JayT says:

      I obviously don’t know better than anyone else, but my gut feeling is that he just intends to cut “really good” deals for the country. I don’t think he completely adheres to any particular political view. I think he would just take each issue and try to make what he thinks is a good deal to try and solve it.

      I don’t know if that would make for a good president, and I don’t know if it would end up badly for me, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was curious to find out!

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      • smocc says:

        But what sorts of things does he consider a “good deal” for the country? His business history is evidence of what he considers a good deal for himself. But what makes a good deal for an individual is very different from what makes a good deal for a nation. For example, is free university education a good deal or a bad deal for the country? Is increased legal immigration a good deal or a bad deal?

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    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      This is not too different from other candidates.

      To get nominated you say what gives you enough votes. Then you change your story to win the election. Then you do some combination of what is possible and what you really want when you govern.

      I’m not saying these are completely unrelated, but many things Obama has done would be very surprising to the voters of 2008, and that is not atypical.

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  41. Sniffnoy says:

    http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0330.html

    Durkon: Ye know, you could just use yer powers o’ precognition to to make yerself a fortune.
    Oracle: I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I am doing.

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  42. John Schilling says:

    One critical distinction between the kind of deals in Trump’s real estate experience, and the kind of deals the President of the United States has to make, are that real estate deals are optional. If you don’t like any part of them, you can walk away and try one block over. And the ability to walk away, to say that you’ll just go get your profit elsewhere and leave the other guy with no profit at all, can be a very powerful negotiating tool.

    I’d be interested to know if Trump goes into that in his book. But with two divorces, four bankruptcies, and countless exclamations of “You’re Fired!” on his TV show, the man is obviously willing to walk away from deals even late in the game. I have to expect that he’s walked away from far more in the earlier stages, and uses the threat of walking away more often than not.

    As POTUS, he wouldn’t be able to walk away from deals. When he’s trying to convince Mexico to pay for a wall on the border, there’s no “…and if you don’t, I’ll find a different nation on America’s southern border and make them pay”. When he’s trying to get the Department of Health and Human services to administer Obamacare or Trumpcare or whatever in an efficient fashion, it’s HHS or nothing. And as a real estate developer he could go to any of a dozen big Manhattan investment banks to finance his deals; as President, he can only get money from the House of Representatives. Likely as not in the event of a Trump presidency, a Democratic House.

    The only deal he could walk away from is the Presidency itself. And with a Trumpian ego involved, I am not optimistic about his doing that by appointing a competent vice-president and quietly resigning.

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    • Deiseach says:

      When he’s trying to convince Mexico to pay for a wall on the border

      The cynical part of me says President Trump could cut a deal with them. Let Mexican construction companies, etc. bid for contracts to build and/or supply labour, material, plant for the wall. There will be enough government slush money sloshing around to enable local politicians on both sides of the border to sell it to their constituents as job creation and to enrich their cronies and pals in businesses to make it worth the while of the Mexican government to come to an agreement (and stop the mouths of local politicians on the U.S. side of the border about “why are these Mexican firms taking our business?” There will be jobs for all the boys, don’t worry!)

      They pay for their share of the wall-building. Juicy government contracts go to Mexican companies. Mexican sub-contractors get jobs and a lot of guys who would otherwise be illegally working on U.S. construction sites on the lump get jobs working on the wall as legitimate Mexican building workers. The U.S. government pays them back by making a favourable deal on a trade agreement or something else later on. Tit for tat bargaining.

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      • Jordan D. says:

        This is a good point- a President Trump could easily make Mexico pay for a wall by paying for them to pay for the wall. As long as the method of recompense were sufficiently difficult to see, I’d wager that most of the population would not actually notice or care.

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        • God Damn John Jay says:

          I think that he has floated the possibility of taking money from the “Foreign Aid “bucket and putting it into the “Build a Wall” bucket.

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          • BBA says:

            Normally I’d point out that foreign aid is around 0.7% of the federal budget and cutting it wouldn’t provide nearly enough funds for whatever someone proposes to do with foreign aid…

            But according to construction experts, the cost of a border wall is around $25 billion, approximately equal to USAID’s annual budget, and it’d take several years to construct, so you actually could pay for it with foreign aid cuts. How about that.

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          • suntzuanime says:

            Although most of that aid doesn’t go to Mexico, so cutting aid specifically to Mexico as a way to make Mexico pay for it is a little tougher.

            Although we could let them pay on the installment plan and keep withholding aid even after the wall is finished. We’d want to give them a good deal on the interest, because we want to be good neighbors, after all.

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          • Deiseach says:

            Definitely need to see some costing on that. There are estimates floating around online that the wall would cost something north of $17 billion dollars. The US foreign aid to Mexico in 2016 is budgeted at $142 million. To take money out of the “Foreign Aid bucket”, he’s either going to have to stop all Mexican foreign aid for a decade or so, or take a lump out of money going to global causes, which is estimated at $37 billion for 2016.

            As a boondoggle, The Wall is a great idea – it would certainly provide plenty of “shovel ready” jobs and give a boost to the construction industry – remember, quarries and cement plants etc. would also benefit, and they would be nation-wide. And very interestingly, according to the Portland Cement Association (emphasis mine):

            According to PCA estimates, U.S. cement plants achieved an average capacity utilization rate of 63 percent in 2012. At this operating rate, domestic production alone does not satisfy total United States cement consumption. The gap between domestic production and consumption was filled in 2012 by over seven million metric tons of imported cement and cement clinker. Over 80 percent of cement and clinker imported in 2012 came from five major countries: China, Canada, Columbia, Mexico, and the Republic of Korea.

            New plants opening up to cope with increased demand in the USA plus Mexican plants getting nice government contracts to fill gaps in supply? You really think this couldn’t be represented as a carrot to dangle before the Mexican government?

            Joe Sixpack in Iowa or Alabama need not be a racist to think that if he votes in Trump as president, the plant in town will start hiring and if he is anyway qualified at all he’ll have a good-paying new job! I’m going by the small local quarry here in my own place, which for years and years was hanging on by a thread and spent more time closed than operational. Come the Celtic Tiger years, the boom in construction, and all of a sudden it was going at full blast and grew in size more in a few years than in the twenty or so I’d known it.

            Though every time I see references to The Wall, I immediately think of Pacific Rim 🙂

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    • Sam says:

      “it’s HHS or nothing”

      Meh, that seems a little fatalistic and is probably not even factually true, since I don’t think the scope of executive branch agencies’ actions is always (in practice) tightly constrained by legislative authorization/mandate. (Obviously true for CIA, questionable for DOJ [viz. Obama’s policy on deprioritizing drug law enforcement], clearly highly contentious in the case of EPA…)

      If, hypothetically, Trump’s secretary of HHS was unable to corral the department into executing Trump’s vision for healthcare, why couldn’t he try to run things out of the Department of Labor or Treasury? As long as the actual policy being implemented isn’t blatantly illegal, would Congress make a fuss over the details of which bureaucrats are implementing it?

      This is a question of Constitutional law that I am raising in good faith; I don’t know the answer. The Congressional Research Service says (https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL30240.pdf, p. 4) that “Congress, in short, exercises ultimate authority over executive branch organization and generally over policy”, citing Article I, seciton 9, and Article II, Section 2, clause 2. But as I read them, those passages in the Constitution don’t (at least literally) deny the President the authority to organize the Executive branch however he or she wishes, although they do give Congress some role in appointing staff (“the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments”).

      And as regards your other example, of course he won’t be able to convince Mexico to pay for the wall, nor will Congress be willing to pay for it (assuming it is very expensive), so it won’t get done, which seems like the right outcome. What’s the problem?

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      • John Schilling says:

        I believe it would violate, not the Constitution, but the enabling statutes of the various agencies involved. So it would be illegal to do it without Congressional support, which is unlikely to be forthcoming for something like that.

        More importantly, the one thing Federal bureaucrats are really, really, really good at is winning turf wars on the defense. At the level of implementing any health care policy, there are countless places where mid-level bureaucrats in HHS can say “No” and make it stick, no matter who is doing the work. Really, countless places where it is by statute illegal to act unless lots of mid-level bureaucrats in HHS sign off on the permits. If Trump is trying to shift health care to Labor or Treasury, every relevant approval will require a careful investigation that, gosh, really, to do this right and properly protect the health of the American people, we’ll have to study the issue until early 2021, or maybe 2025…

        At which point Trump is going to either give up, or break the civil service in ways that can’t be readily fixed.

        And as regards [the Mexican wall…] it won’t get done, which seems like the right outcome. What’s the problem?

        The problem is that this is true of essentially everything Trump wants to do, if he tries it in the only way he has any experience of doing. So the best possible outcome is an incompetent loser President who does nothing, including the stuff that needs to be done. The other possible outcomes involve Trump not settling for being an incompetent loser President and trying to do things he’s not allowed to do.

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        • hlynkacg says:

          I don’t know why you think violating the enabling statutes of the various agencies involved would present a problem.

          Isn’t it a about a decade too late to be worrying about that sort of thing?

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    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ John Schilling
      When he’s trying to get the Department of Health and Human services to administer Obamacare or Trumpcare or whatever in an efficient fashion, it’s HHS or nothing. And as a real estate developer he could go to any of a dozen big Manhattan investment banks to finance his deals; as President, he can only get money from the House of Representatives.

      Starting with Obamacare as it is, there are a lot of insurance companies to make deals with (and he’s got his own money to start a new insurance company to compete with them, and perhaps make it profitable).

      The current HHS crew seems pretty fresh (not yet Regulatory Captured); if he makes good enough deals, HHS would probably go along.

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      • John Schilling says:

        and he’s got his own money to start a new insurance company to compete with them, and perhaps make it profitable

        He could start a lemonade stand too, so as to single-handedly revitalize the US economy.

        If The Donald were to liquidate everything he owns and put it into a new health insurance company, it wouldn’t be in the top ten by market cap, and it would make up maybe 1% of the US health insurance industry. Whee.

        As for his ability to “make deals with” insurance companies, that’s not really the President’s job. And without the full support of congress and the civil service, it’s not clear what you think he could offer an insurance company. For that matter, with the industry’s operating margins at about 5-10%, it’s not clear what you think insurance companies could offer a Trump presidency.

        Have we all lost the ability to do math here? I doubt that the biggest deal Donald Trump has ever negotiated in his life, rises to the level of the most insignificant economic matter to merit the personal attention of a United States President. Anyone who thinks he is a Great Titan of Industry, whose unprecedented personal wealth, economic power, or negotiating skill is going to transform the Executive Branch, has been drinking the Kool-Aid in a big way.

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        • Publius Varinius says:

          > If The Donald were to liquidate everything he owns and put it into a new health insurance company, it wouldn’t be in the top ten by market cap, and it would make up maybe 1% of the US health insurance industry. Whee.

          Now that’s just stupid-talk. Companies are not funded via liquadting personal assets, and I suspect you know that.

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          • John Schilling says:

            The specific claim under discussion was that Trump could use “his own money” to start an insurance company. I was being charitable in allowing that he might also use his non-monetary assets to that end.

            Stupid-talk? Houseboat might have made an honest mistake in passing, not bothering to check his math. I’m not seeing that or any other excuse on your end.

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          • Publius Varinius says:

            When we say Elon Musk had enough money to “create a banking and money transfer service”, we really mean that he had $10000000 from selling Zip2. Needless to say, that money is a drop in the bucket compared to what a real world banking and money transfer service requires. The rest of the money was provided by investors, venture capital, other companies, etc. However, $10000000 was more than enough to get these other parties interested, and to hire some people who made the whole thing happen.

            After becoming President of the United States, Donald Trump would be in a very good position for ensuring the creation of a new health insurance provider. Lots of Fortune 500 companies will be happy to invest in acquiring a share of the healthcare pie – if Trump can promise them (perceived or real) legislative advantage over the old players.

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          • John Schilling says:

            Well, if it’s not The Donald’s money that enables him to create this wonderful new health insurance corporation, then I find myself wondering why, say, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton didn’t go do such a thing when it was their turn to reform the health care system.

            Oh, aside from the fact that it would be a felony crime and an impeachable offense, without any hope of concealment or plausible deniability. You know that, right?

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  43. Sarah Palin says:

    I thought the title was The Art of the Dill

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  44. Douglas Knight says:

    How do building regulations work? You provide two models, but you don’t quite acknowledge how different they are. One is that building regulations are a sludge gunking up the workings of the world, helping no one. Successful developers have the special skill of cutting through this sludge, providing a valuable service to the world. Such people should be provided with as much leverage as possible. But…

    just stonewall you for the heck of it if you didn’t donate to the right people’s campaigns last year.

    This says that the bureaucracy is already under control of the executive, who is auctioning it off to the highest bidder. Successful developers are the people with the most skill at winning that auction (which is not just cash). If they were eliminated, other developers would win instead. Since the bureaucracy is always under control, putting Trump in charge doesn’t change anything, but just lets him receive the bribes.

    Well, maybe the bureaucracy is under control, but maybe it isn’t under control of the executive. Trump’s experience bribing the right people might allow his to identify the real control and negotiate and/or wrest control. But it’s not clear that his experience is any more relevant than politicians’ experience on the inside.

    For some reason this reminds me of Bueno de Mesquita’s claim that the distribution of dictator tenures is bimodal: if they successfully set up patronage systems, they rule indefinitely; if not, they’re gone in a couple of years.

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    • Deiseach says:

      Also please note that this is equal-opportunity bribery; you’re just as likely to get stonewalled by local governments if you didn’t contribute to the Democratic mayor/governor’s election campaign as if you didn’t contribute to the Republican one.

      This is why businesses and businessmen often give donations to both sides 🙂

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    • Muga Sofer says:

      That was just one of a list of reasons The System may decide to sludge you, which makes winning that auction just one of the ways developers cut through the sludge. There’s no contradiction.

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    • HeelBearCub says:

      Perhaps pedantically, those aren’t the only two possibilities.

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  45. Ano says:

    I want candidates to engage in (or give us some hints about) ideal government design. Not because it will help them do the job better. It won’t. But it does give me some idea what they would be trying to accomplish, what direction they’ll be rowing in, who they’ll be trying to help. It’s great and all that we’re all realizing that Trump is not a clown but rather a negotiation maniac savant with bad taste. That’s good to know and it explains a lot. These are relevant skills for the presidency. But we need to know how he plans to use these skills. Would you hire an assassin if he doesn’t let you tell him who his target is? We have hints that Trump wants to help working class whites (some of my best friends are working class whites!) at the expense of minorities and (he thinks) foreigners. But Scott Adams and others say this is all a ruse to get elected and he’ll actually be sane once in office, and we can tell because he “winks” at us while blowing five dog whistles simultaneously. I’m not impressed.

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    • Deiseach says:

      Him being interested in making deals and “playing the game” may actually not be a bad model for a putative presidency. It means he’s much less likely to start tinkering and fiddling with things (wanting to push his pet project, imagining he knows the nuts and bolts of how to get the things done) that are part of the machinery of government.

      If he’s more interested in cutting a deal over (say) Syria with his good pal Vlad, he can go and do that with the attendant press coverage and leave the civil service and various departments to get on with running things.

      If he hits up against “You can’t do that because it’s unconstitutional” he may lose interest, just pick a cabinet and tell them “You’ve got the job, now make things run!” and stick to the nice “grinning and shaking hands with world leaders” gigs.

      What would be a problem is the whole Executive Order thing. I know there was a bit of making merry about that poll and “Trump supporters are for slavery!” (the question about the executive order freeing the slaves), but that was actually a good question: do you or don’t you think executive orders are constitutional? If you blanch at the notion of President Trump being able to impose his crazy ideas via executive order, maybe those poll-respondents who said “no, even freeing the slaves via executive order was unconstitutional” may not be as bone-headed (or racist) as the mockery afterwards made out.

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      • nil says:

        I wouldn’t put any money on Trump’s restraint. Maybe Trump is a political genius, but all I see is someone willing to break taboos that others weren’t and being rewarded for it… and when you’re talking about executive orders, you’re talking about a “taboo” that even the non-iconoclastic modern presidents break routinely.

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        • Deiseach says:

          when you’re talking about executive orders, you’re talking about a “taboo” that even the non-iconoclastic modern presidents break routinely

          Yes, that was my concern. And it’s a tool or weapon that has been put into his hands by former office holders who used (or abused) it copiously, including the present office holder.

          I don’t think Obama is a bad president, but I don’t think he was ever going to be the combination of the Messiah and Superman his image was blown up into. He’s a career politician. I am somewhat astounded by the posts I see wishing that there were no term limits so he could run a third time. Or a fourth, or be El Presidente for life.

          What do those calling for imagine he would do more in a third and fourth term than he has done already? And remember, if term limits are abolished, then the guy you don’t like has every bit as good a chance of being President for twenty years as the guy you do like and want.

          The main reason, I think, is that they’re vaguely hoping Obama could get re-elected and keep Trump out of the White House.

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  46. Him says:

    “But I don’t think Trump thinks in terms of how to design ideal systems, whether that be real estate law or Medicare. I think he takes the system as a given, then tries to do a good job making deals within it.”

    He knows more about human nature than the high IQ idealists that read this blog. The system will always creep towards bureaucracy and inefficiency.

    In business, and in government, you don’t spend your time planning every detail of a perfect system, because conditions always change. Your design will not work. The creep will return no matter what.

    The optimal solution is smashing through the old system with your quickly developed New Idea. Duct tape your New Idea to the machine, and hit the gas pedal. You’ll have to do it again in a few years, no matter what. Humans are too chaotic and self-interested for anything else to work.

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  47. Wulfrickson says:

    This review reminded me of nothing more than David Foster Wallace’s review of tennis player Tracy Austin’s autobiography. Pardon the long quotation, but it should make the grounds for comparison clear, and the whole essay, which is short by DFW’s standards and possibly my favorite book review, is well worth reading.

    Great athletes usually turn out to be stunningly inarticulate about just those qualities and experiences that constitute their fascination. […] It remains very hard for me to reconcile the vapidity of Austin’s narrative mind, on the one hand, with the extraordinary mental powers that are required by world-class tennis, on the other. Anyone who buys the idea that great athletes are dim should have a close look at an NFL playbook, or a basketball coach’s diagram of a 3-2 zone trap … or at an archival film of Ms. Tracy Austin repeatedly putting a ball in a court’s corner at high speed from seventy-eight feet away, with huge sums of money at stake and enormous crowds of people watching her do it. Ever try to concentrate on doing something different with a crowd of people watching? … worse, with a crowd of spectators maybe all vocally hoping you fail so that their favorite wil beat you? In my own comparatively low-level junior matches, before audiences that rarely hit three digits, it used to be all that I could do to manage my sphincter. […]

    The real secret behind top athletes’ genius, then, may be as esoteric and obvious and dull and profound as silence itself. The real, many-veiled answer to the question of just what goes through a great player’s mind as he stands at the center of hostile crowd-noise and lines up the free-throw that will decide the game might well be: nothing at all.

    How can great athletes shut off the Iago-like voice of the self? How can they bypass the head and simply and superbly act? How, at the critical moment, can they invoke for themselves a cliché as trite as “One ball at a time” or “Gotta concentrate here,” and mean it, and then do it? Maybe it’s because, for top athletes, clichés present themselves not as trite but simply as true, or perhaps not even as declarative expressions with qualities like depth or triteness or falsehood or truth but as simple imperatives that are either useful or not and, if useful, to be invoked and obeyed and that’s all there is to it.

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    • Mo Fareed says:

      This reminds me of Peter Watts’ idea, explored most saliently in his novel Blindsight (and continued in Echopraxia), that ‘consciousness hinders cognition’.

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      • …which, incidentally, I think is going to probably receive confirmation as AI continues to go forward.

        AlphaGo may fall short of superhuman cognition for the moment, but surely it or similar programs will surpass the greatest humans in the future. But no one on earth thinks that MCTS plus a few neural networks constitute consciousness. The vampires in those books can spin of subsections of their mind to do things–whatever conscious processes do, there might be few of them not best spun off to subsystems. All hail Moloch.

        Also, that was a nice DFW quotation I hadn’t seen before.

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      • Fj says:

        Watts is a pretty awesome writer and asked a very interesting question, but I think there are overwhelmingly strong arguments against his suggested answer.

        Basically, for every case of blindsight and such, where your consciousness malfunctions, there are millions of optical illusions and such, where your consciousness is precisely what allows you to realize that your senses lie to you and correct for the lie. If you can do that, if you have a slower virtual model of self that you check your perceptions against, then you effectively have self-consciousness to some extent.

        And the more complicated problems you solve, the more complicated your model-of-self (aka “system 2”) has to be. Figuring that reflections in water aren’t real might be easy for a cat; as far as humans go, the whole and entire point of overcomingbias and lesswrong is how our “non-conscious cognition” invariably goes horribly wrong and how to detect and fix that, for example.

        Interestingly enough, Peter Watts planted enough fuel for that argument in his own book (I’ve not yet read Echopraxia), from what I remember: the way vampires get crashed by cross-shaped things or can be DoSed with a handful of grain, or the part where they don’t get Havens because they “can see the pixels” but with the transparent implication in the end of the book that the moment the pixels get small enough, they’d be completely and utterly lost.

        Maybe it’s the same stuff as with Cory Doctorow’s “Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom” where the latter accidentally ended up describing a dystopia against his best wishes. Like, good authors just can’t help painting rich, self-consistent worlds, even if that goes against their point.

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      • JuanPeron says:

        It also seems to be a close mirror (assuming Watts does not directly mention this) of the “four stages of competence”. It’s a model claiming that as we improve at skills, we pass from “unconscious incompetence” to “conscious incompetence”, and then to “conscious competence” and “unconscious competence”.

        That last tier of skill is where serious athletes operate, displaying the sort of consistency that no one can get from mindful effort (and indeed, the whole thing suggests that mindfulness is counterproductive in a lot of tasks). In that model, “choking” is what happens when the stakes get so high the consciousness intrudes on an otherwise-natural process and worsens our performance.

        I think there’s a lot of truth to this model – consciousness as a helpful way to learn a task and develop skill, but ultimately a threat to reliable execution. Time to check out Blindsight!

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    • Anonymous says:

      This was a good read.

      To the extent that superior athlete’s skills are encoded in parts of the brain that are not open to consciousness introspection, it may be that introspective tendencies are indeed more harmful than helpful for athletic performance.

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      • DarkWing says:

        When athletes find themselves competing against someone who’s “in the zone”, they often try to get them to think about what they’re doing.

        Or think about a field goal attempt in football, where the other team will take a timeout just for the purpose of giving the other team’s kicker more time to think about the kick.

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      • The Albatros says:

        Could you clarify the relation you propose in your comment? Specifically, the first clause/part:
        “To the extent that superior athlete’s skills are encoded in parts of the brain that are not open to consciousness introspection”

        Does not seem to be related in a significant way to the second:
        “…it may be that introspective tendencies are indeed more harmful than helpful for athletic performance”

        I feel that with some clarification, I would understand you more accurately.

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  48. Wency says:

    I’m not an expert, but I have a bit of direct experience in real estate development, and a lot more experience interacting with commercial real estate people. I think Scott was somewhat off base here.

    So what do developers do? This list probably isn’t exhaustive:

    — Initiate deals. They are the ones who decide that something ought to be built somewhere. They usually make this decision based on an analysis of the market conditions, complementarity of other nearby real estate, the estimated construction costs, and their cost of capital. They are the ones putting together the financial analysis.

    — Offer a general vision for the deal. You wouldn’t normally go to an architect saying, “I want to build a large building on Manhattan. Come back to me when you have something.” You would offer a description of the size of the building you’re looking for, the mix of office/residential/retail, the amenities to be included, and the general size and layout of units. You would talk through some ideas, and then send them to draft something up.

    — Manage the deal. Developers are the ones in charge of making sure that everything comes together. The bank and the other equity will certainly look for updates, but developers are the ones working every day to make sure the other parties are doing their jobs and the development is actually happening. The architects, lawyers, and construction people are paid hourly. They have reputations, but they are not nearly as invested in making sure the deal happens as the developer.

    — Navigate legal/regulatory/political concerns. Though lawyers are of course heavily involved on the legal/regulatory side, the developer is largely managing the political side on his own. They deal with everything from NIMBY issues to environmentalist shakedowns (I have been told these are especially gross in California — there exists a class of Jesse Jackson types who do nothing but threaten to sue every development above a certain size over environmental concerns, and end up getting a payoff). The political side is always a concern, but it’s probably an order of magnitude harder in a place like Manhattan or Chicago than in a growing suburb in Flyoverville.

    — Create a web of lies? From what I’ve seen, this isn’t the way the business is done normally, but I’m in Flyoverville. Maybe in Manhattan, you can’t build anything without lying to every other counterparty, which is also lying to you. For many players, especially those who concentrate on a single MSA, everyone knows everyone, and the second you’re caught lying or trying to cheat another local player, everyone in town will know and you will have a much harder time doing business. I know one firm that refused to work with another ever again just because they pushed too hard in negotiating a price. Of course, when it comes to national players (and probably big cities), reputation and relationship are much less important, but I don’t think they ever go away.

    — Supply equity. Scott’s discussion left out the existence of equity, which I thought should be mentioned. Banks (and insurance companies) will normally only lever a deal up to maybe 60-80%. The other 20-40% is normally supplied mostly by equity. Who’s the equity? Could be REITs, real estate private equity, pension funds, or private investors (in a smaller deal). The developer normally offers a small portion of the equity — perhaps 10-15% of that 30%, though they could potentially supply more if they have the capital. Usually the developer’s equity is advantaged so that they receive a disproportionate return if the development goes well, and this is the source of most of their compensation. Of course, the whole structure here is highly negotiable, which is where a lot of the “art of the deal” can come into play. A developer may, rarely, be able to negotiate away the need to commit equity. This was more common in the past, so it might be more relevant to the period discussed in the Trump book.

    — Property management/Leasing. Most real estate companies aren’t pure-plays. A lot of developers will be involved in managing and leasing the property for a period after its construction. Even if the nitty-gritty of property management and brokerage are outsourced to another organization, the developer might be overseeing the property manager and broker on behalf of the other investors.

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  49. eponymous says:

    I also read Art of the Deal recently — over Christmas.

    I agree with many of your observations, though I didn’t find the book boring at all. However, I strongly disagree with one point. I think you are selling Trump way short by talking about his perspective being very limited.

    Sure, Trump doesn’t think in terms of how to change the system. But he’s very very perceptive about how the system works. Most of all, I think he is very perceptive about people.

    I also think you’re massively underselling the value of the ability to coordinate people and get things done. In fact, doing this at a high level is a really scarce resource, and people who are good at these things are the best-compensated people in our economy by a large margin. You can joke about Trump and his friends vanishing and our inability to build anything, but that might not be far from the truth, given how the market compensates high-level executives.

    The people who can build things and solve narrow technical problems get paid okay for that, and people who can understand how systems work can get decently-paid jobs in universities or whatnot, but the really high-earning people are those who see opportunities for a business idea/venture, and then get it done — your CEOs and entrepreneurs.

    Trump’s definitely an executive type. Sure, he’s a bit unusual in some respects — he’s probably a bit more disorganized and intuitive than some executive types, the type who makes things up as he goes rather than the strategizer, and a huge showman.

    I also disagree with your implication that the job of president is to improve the system rather than the get things done within the system. Sure, it’s helpful if you do a little of this, but the office of president is no philosopher king who gets to redesign society from scratch. There’s a lot more deal-making and working within the system to make things marginally better than that.

    (Disclaimer: I don’t support Trump for president, but after reading his book I did say “I’d vote for him for mayor, if he ditched the racist stuff.”)

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    • Vita Fied says:

      >In fact, doing this at a high level is a really scarce resource, and people who are good at these things are the best-compensated people in our economy by a large margin.

      Money!=Talent

      Plenty of the wealthiest people in history were those born into wealth or power without talent to “earn” their position.

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      • eponymous says:

        In a market system, income is a pretty good proxy for the value of the services you’re providing to whoever is paying you. This value is a function of the scarcity of the services, and the demand for those services, including the availability of substitutes.

        So we can conclude that if the most highly compensated people in society are executives, than high-level executive ability must be at once very rare and very necessary. Or else the system isn’t functioning correctly.

        Of course you can inherit wealth, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

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        • Vita Fied says:

          I don’t want to make compensation-value follow so closely to a tautological free-market reward system, as I don’t believe it translates so closely and clearly.

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        • Theo Jones says:

          Like Vita, I have some doubts about the close tying of value and compensation.

          But I’d suggest that the scarce thing is more people who can prove that they have the leadership skills to run a major company. The skills themselves might be fairly common. But its an abstract skill that is pretty hard to demonstrate. About the only way to demonstrate that skill is a successful past of managing something of that scale — and few people can claim that experience.

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        • Anonymous says:

          I think the extreme rewards of large organization management under capitalism are actually the result of extreme risk aversion rather than extreme talent value. These are positions were vast, vast amounts of wealth can be destroyed by a misstep. Only people who have proven they won’t misstep in similar positions are even in the running for those jobs. This isn’t because those jobs are so uniquely difficult that these are the only people who can do it. It’s because those jobs are so uniquely important that capable candidates with inadequate historical demonstration have no chance. Harsh supply constraints on a high-demand system lead to extreme prices.

          Reducing the supply constraint would be an interesting angle that I see few taking in talking about executive compensation, but I think it would be an angle that would accord well with the interests of important stakeholders who have actual influence over executive compensation decisions.

          See also: business management texts talking about agency problems. Convince people that you can steer an organization without paralyzing it or making it into a personal conquest, take home the big bucks. Of course, a weakness in my conjecture is that corporate executives seem to be rewarded rather than punished for being big-name/big-ego types who defy good-agent evaluations by indicating a desire to remake organizations in their own image. I acknowledge the objection and concede that it indicates an imperfection in my conjecture.

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          • Vita Fied says:

            I think its just a side-effect of what happens in *any* vast organization. And I think its very very simple.

            The bottom guys are in charge of little wealth, and such can get fired for being suspected of stealing 5 bucks.

            A middle manager who normally makes 250,000 a year with quite a few underlings *might* be able to cook the books a bit and walk away with an extra 50,000 every year or so. And being clever with complicated tax laws and using unpaid workers for dirty work, he can get away with it.

            The person in charge of any vast organization can keep quite a few million tucked away every few years without the organization as a whole noticing. So of course, they do. And this becomes the official legitimized salary that society goes onto. Truly massive organizations start melding into a country, with the CEO’s wealth not really being measured by salary. Say, enact a wage “tax” of 50 a year for a company with a million employees, it may not be noticed, but that’s 50 mil a year.

            This is what I am talking about on page 37 (assuming I am reading this right)

            http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/16-044_9c05278e-9d11-4315-a744-de008edf4d80.pdf

            The very best visual correlation between CEO income and pay was the size of the business they worked at.

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          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ non-b/w Anonymous
            March 20, 2016 at 4:27 pm
            “I think the extreme rewards of large organization management under capitalism are actually the result of extreme risk aversion rather than extreme talent value.”

            KInd of like the following attitude?

            I believe in the power of negative thinking. I happen to be very conservative in business. I always go into the deal anticipating the worst. If you plan for the worst – if you can live with the worst – the good will take care of itself. [Trump, quoted in Scott’s review]

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          • eponymous says:

            “I think the extreme rewards of large organization management under capitalism are actually the result of extreme risk aversion rather than extreme talent value.”

            If you are correct this simply means that “avoiding missteps” is the rare talent that is being highly compensated.

            However, I disagree because a world in which being a CEO was mainly about avoiding missteps would be a world in which CEOs would be a lot more boring and risk-averse than they actually are. It seems that flexibly responding to changing circumstances and new opportunities is pretty important too.

            The question of verification of ability is interesting, but I’m not sure why it’s more acute here than in other professions. There’s a career ladder in management, so you can verify managerial ability at smaller scales. And there’s always the option to start your own company, though those skills are not identical with high-level management.

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          • DarkWing says:

            >I believe in the power of negative thinking. I happen to be very conservative in business. I always go into the deal anticipating the worst. If you plan for the worst – if you can live with the worst – the good will take care of itself. [Trump, quoted in Scott’s review]

            I’m reading that not as risk aversion, but as being aware of what you’re risking, and accepting that you could lose it.

            In other words, it’s not about never putting your chips on the table. It’s about being able in advance to accept the loss of the chips.

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        • wysinwyg says:

          In a market system, income is a pretty good proxy for the value of the services you’re providing to whoever is paying you.

          The value of the services of a CEO of a tobacco company is high in this sense, but that person’s contribution to society is probably a net negative.

          Another way to motivate the difference between “market value” and value in general: sanitation probably has had a much bigger impact on life expectancy than medicine. Go to a hospital and the janitor has probably in an important sense saved more lives than the physician. But who gets paid more?

          So we can conclude that if the most highly compensated people in society are executives, than high-level executive ability must be at once very rare and very necessary. Or else the system isn’t functioning correctly.

          It’s not clear what “functioning correctly” means in the first place (is the system functioning correctly when a tobacco CEO makes millions of dollars figuring out clever ways to get people to pay to consume poison?), but even if we assume we know what it means, it’s not clear that the system is functioning correctly without making an argument for it.

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          • Jiro says:

            sanitation probably has had a much bigger impact on life expectancy than medicine. Go to a hospital and the janitor has probably in an important sense saved more lives than the physician.

            That doesn’t follow. Sanitation workers as a class may have saved more lives than physicians as a class, but that doesn’t imply that one sanitation worker has saved more lives than one physician. You need to divide by the number of sanitation workers to avoid double-counting, and there are a *lot* of people in society who do something related to sanitation. Every time you wash your hands when they get dirty, you’re an amateur sanitation worker and some percentage of the lives saved is attributable to you.

            Also, be careful when someone’s life depends on more than one thing. If someone would have died without either sanitation or refrigeration, sanitation can’t get credit for a whole life. (And you need to use QALYs anyway, for obvious reasons.)

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          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            The value of the services of a CEO of a tobacco company is high in this sense, but that person’s contribution to society is probably a net negative.

            He said it’s a “pretty good proxy”. The tobacco case is an exception, taking it for granted that tobacco is a case where what people voluntarily choose to do is not in their best interest. Unless you think that such areas of the economy are particularly widespread and susceptible to being fixed by government intervention?

            Anyway, Eric Garner could tell you how the government’s restrictions on cigarettes are not without costs, either. Costs that, taken as a whole, potentially outweigh the harms of cigarettes.

            Another way to motivate the difference between “market value” and value in general: sanitation probably has had a much bigger impact on life expectancy than medicine. Go to a hospital and the janitor has probably in an important sense saved more lives than the physician. But who gets paid more?

            Come on, this is silly.

            We’re talking about marginal value. Sanitation provision comes in much smaller “lumps” than provision of medical expertise. That’s why a janitor makes less than a doctor. But if you add together the salaries of all janitors and maids, the pay of the CEOs of cleaning companies, and all the economic spending dedicated to paper towels, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, etc. it’s a lot of money.

            In fact, we’ve pretty much got all the sanitation we can use. Not quite there, but any additional sanitation capacity would be dedicated to very low-priority uses.

            Whereas with medical spending, we could still get a lot more benefit out of it with increased efficiency and technology.

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          • eponymous says:

            @wysinwyg

            I said value “to whoever is paying you”. In the case of the tobacco CEO, that means value to shareholders and the board. I recognize that this may differ from social value, for instance because of an externality. (The tobacco CEO case is unusual because cigarette companies may be exploiting customers’ irrationality, so it doesn’t fit into the standard externality framework.)

            Regarding the sanitation worker vs. doctor — you’ve just restated the classic diamond-water paradox, i.e. why do shiny rocks cost so much more than something necessary for life.

            The answer is supply and demand and thinking at the margin. The value of sanitation is very high, but the value of the marginal sanitation worker is fairly low, since a somewhat dirtier office building probably won’t start a pandemic. Also, sanitation services have a low marginal cost because it can be provided by low-skilled workers who don’t have good outside options. The result is that marginal value = marginal cost = wage falls to a fairly low level.

            By “functioning correctly” I was referring to all the standard reasons markets fail, like market power (due to costs of entry or collusion), asymmetric information, or agency problems. These are all probably issues in CEO pay, but I don’t think they affect my basic point.

            (I’m pretty surprised that comment was so controversial. I guess I underestimated the inferential distances here.)

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          • Adam says:

            Commission-based or heavy bonus pay work definitely tries to pay you as close as possible to your marginal revenue product. Whatever part of your wages are fixed is more an estimate of what the hirer expects you to be worth than what you actually end up being worth, though. For CEOs, it’s particularly hard to know in advance as its a job with extremely high performance variance. Jeff Bezos is worth every penny. Marissa Mayer is arguably worth negative pennies, but they still have to pay her what they hoped she’d be worth.

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      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        “Talent -> Money” != “Money -> Talent”.

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  50. eponymous says:

    Also, you pretty much have to interpret everything Trump says through the filter that he’s manipulating his audience. And that very much includes his books.

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  51. piercedmind says:

    The debeate whether Trump says his most ridicilous statements to get elected or because he actually believes them, one piece of evidence is usually not mentioned: The Birther debate.

    Assuming Trump was already hedging his odds to run for president and using his continued insistance that Obama was not born in the US to increase his chances: why would he pick an opinion that any objective person can tell is wrong (even Bill O’Reily disagreed with him)? Even then it must have been obvious that this issue was going to be settled eventually, and surely it would be stupid for Trump to end up on the wrong side in this debate.

    I see two possible motivations for Trump:

    1.He realized that Obama was very likely born in the US, but still wanted to get attention through the media. He either did not foresee it was going to be settled, or he considered the damage to his reputation to be worth the name recognition.

    2. He actually believed that Obama was not born in the US, and maybe even that he was Muslim.

    I assign Case 1 low probability, because Trump, in an attempt to uphold his image of a “WINNER,” usually makes predictions that are not liable to be falsified, or at least falsified very clearly. He may state that illegal immigrants commit tremendous crime, but a statistical analysis in a newspaper that tentatively concludes that this claim is likely wrong, is not a strong refutation. Him saying he’s worth 10 billions, and reporters correcting him with the number 7,8 billions or something still makes him sound very rich. However, saying that Obama was not born in the US while he in fact was born there, is clearly wrong. It is so wrong, that Trump, whenever asked about it nowadays, just says that he does not speak about the topic anymore, so he also agrees that it makes him look very bad, even to his supporters.

    At least to me it seems that he might have actually believed that Obama was not born in the US. This indicates dangerously high priors in his mind for stuff like “All politicians are just literal scam artists” or “Blacks are not part of America and not to be trusted”. It also makes me worry that he might mean a lot of the stuff he says.

    To invoke Godham’s law: The general assessment of Hitler on part of the intellectual elite was very similar. It appeared simply unimaginable that a man that attained that kind of high political position would believe stuff that only the lowly uneducated working class could believe. Their mistake was forgetting that Hitler was not part of the intellectual class and that prior to his ascent to power he had acted upon his believes when it was not opportunistic to do so.

    Similarly, Trump, as Scott has pointed out, is not part of the traditional elite class. Sure he is loaded now, but his Grandfather was a barber, and his father a self-made man. OTOH, his past behaviour is not full of supporting racist-ish views when it’s not advantageous to do so, supporting the birther movement is possibly the only incidence of that, but it is worrying.

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    • onyomi says:

      I think you are greatly overestimating the degree to which a statement like “Barack Obama is definitely a natural-born citizen of the US and definitely not a Muslim Manchurian candidate picked by the Bilderberg Group” can be conclusively proven in the minds of the sort of person likely to have been interested in the birther debate in the first place.

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      • piercedmind says:

        If Trump’s sole goal was to achieve popularity with that small part of the population, then he would be correct about not caring whether his claim was actually true.

        However, his goal is to run for presidency, where he has to win over the majority of the country (well, close enough, unless he can “negotiate” the electoral college into somehow abandonging their pledge). Surely he should realize that this makes him look ridiculous in the eyes of at least 80% of the country? And I reiterate that this is *not* one of the issues which he can continue to just shrug off, as evidenced by him not even answering questions about it, saying “I stoped talking about it”, which also makes him look weak in front of his core supporters.

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        • onyomi says:

          Most people have kind of forgotten about it. And if someone brings it up, he can just brush it off as being the liberal media out to get him. Or, at least, that’s my explanation for the objective fact that, thus far, it hasn’t seemed to hamper him, even if it seems like it should (though I guess maybe it could in the general in a way that it wouldn’t when he’s just talking to Republicans).

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        • 27chaos says:

          I don’t think politics works by building up a broad consensus of support from the beginning and then turning it up in enthusiasm. Instead, you get a core rabid fanbase and work from there, destroying your political opponents and forcing their peons to come reluctantly vote for you. I agree with Onyomi.

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          • piercedmind says:

            I agree, you dont need a broad consensus from the beginning. However, you have to rely on the majority being at least ambigous towards you. Obama was not able to win over most Democrats supporting Clinton by seriously offending and angering them, which is in fact what the Birther movement and its supporters did to 80% of the population.

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          • Anon says:

            Do you really think 80% og the population was seriously offended by the brother thing? You must be living in a Blue or Grey Tribe bubble in which most people follow the news or care about these things this must. I say 70% at most were mildly offended or more, and only 25% to actuallt really care about this at all for a serious issue long term.

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          • onyomi says:

            I think 80% of the population have no idea what the birther controversy is at this point.

            While I don’t know if he’s really this clever or just lucky, it may also help that it’s an accusation against someone he won’t be running against. It established his cred in the eyes of core rabid fanbase back in ’12, but now he’s not running against Obama, so anyone bringing it up will seem to be dredging up the past. If he were to make an obviously false claim about Hillary that would probably hurt him more, but my guess is he’s not going to worry so much about facts but instead continue to try to subtly plant the idea in everyone’s head that she’s boring, nagging, unserious (ironic table turn), etc.

            One thing I saw him say which made me feel like Scott Adams has a point: he was talking about how protesters supposedly from the Sanders campaign forced him to cancel his Chicago event: he said something like “I gotta hand it to Sanders–his people have got real passion. Don’t see a lot of Clinton supporters out there protesting–because, let’s face it, people are not passionate about her–but I told Sanders he’s gotta tell his supporters to tone it down…”

            That little aside in a comment ostensibly about Sanders but actually aimed at his real opponent seemed quite clever to me because of the way it plants the idea in your head “nobody’s excited about Hillary” without seeming to directly criticize her, which would tend to meet more resistance.

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          • Theo Jones says:

            @onyomi

            Agreed about the passion gap. I voted for Clinton in the primary, but that was more out of a very strong dislike for Sanders rather than a strong preference for Clinton.

            In the general election, if Clinton wins the primary I’m going to vote for her. If Sanders versus Kasich — I’d vote for Kasich
            If Sanders versus Cruz/Rubio — third party vote. If Sanders versus Trump — Sanders.

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          • onyomi says:

            Well, my point wasn’t really about the passion gap per se–though I do agree that few of my Blue friends are genuinely excited about Hillary–just scared of Donald Trump.

            But what is so effective about the Trump comment is he inserts a little barb with a kernel of truth to it in the middle of talking about something else. I feel like that’s more likely to stick with you than if he were directly attacking her.

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      • Theo Jones says:

        Thats kind of the issue piercedmind was talking about. Taking a claim like birtherism seriously indicates a substantial lapse in judgment that is hard to account for in terms of fakery done on account of political expediency.

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    • bluto says:

      Getting a president to take time out of his day and produce a document no one in the opposing party had gotten him to produce is quite far from chopped liver and likely won Trump a measure of support from people who also viewed the opposition as feckless.

      The target wasn’t Obama it eas exposing the opposition’s inability to do the same thing with far more advantages than he had.

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  52. anonymous user says:

    My basic problem with the idea of Money as the Unit of Caring is that for some people, volunteering is genuinely a better use of their time economically than working and donating. I know the default assumption among the LessWrong crowd and the Grays generally is that the reader is a STEM type with plenty of hourly income, but there are still people in the world who work jobs that pay about as much as (or less than) the labor they perform while volunteering is worth.

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  53. 27chaos says:

    Is it wrong to say that if you can hire the right people, you are automatically going to be a good president? It sounds kind of silly, but maybe that really would be adequate for most of the president’s job. Hire a PR expert, do exactly what they say. Hire an economist, do exactly what they say. Hire a foreign policy expert, do exactly what they say. There would be situations where their advice conflicted or failed, but maybe blindly following the advice of good employees is truly a crucial quality for a good president to have. How different would someone who followed that decision policy be from the average of our last several presidents, even if they flubbed the judgment calls? And would they be better or worse?

    I don’t think Trump would actually care much about improving the country though, so there’s that. As a self-funder this is an enormous investment for him, and he’s going to want to recoup that.

    If you were offered a 20% chance at the presidency in exchange for 4 billion dollars, all the money you had in the world, would you take it? Kind of an interesting question. I would not. Presumably that’s part of the reason why I’ll never have 4 billion dollars.

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    • Theo Jones says:

      Agreed on the importance of deference to experts in a politician. A politician can’t be an expert in everything, so, its very important for one to surround himself in good experts, and to give deference to the factual predictions of those knowledgeable in the field. Politicians are there to decide what values policy should reflect — but due to imperfect knowledge need to rely on other for determining what the factual outcomes of policy will be and what the tradeoffs involved in governance are. You don’t want to envelope your self in yes-men and people who will tell you what you want to hear. You want people who will tell you the actual costs and benefits of government policy so you can decide which of the options best navigates the tradeoffs.

      But I think Trump is quite unlikely to actually govern that way. Trump might be good at finding talented people — but I think he has too much ego to actually defer to them.

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      • 27chaos says:

        I think Trump has a ton of bluster, but I don’t know if he has a ton of ego. He changes his mind rather often. He doesn’t care about using optimal language to express himself or give his position caveats. These are sometimes seen as characteristics that belong to the egotistical, but I see them as characteristics that actually belong to people with sufficient epistemic humility that they don’t worry much about broadcasting strong fake signals of epistemic humility. Shamelessness when confronting mass public opinion is different than shamelessness when confronting skilled experts and their arguments.

        Not sure if I even half-believe this argument, and it’s my own, but hopefully making it helps me process some of these ideas better.

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      • JayT says:

        “But I think Trump is quite unlikely to actually govern that way. Trump might be good at finding talented people — but I think he has too much ego to actually defer to them.”

        Isn’t that what he’s claimed to have done throughout his entire career though? He’s always saying that he’s really good at finding the best people for a given job. Heck, that’s like half his policy positions. Why would he change course and not listen to them once he was in power?

        I want to add that I know very little about his career up to this point, so it’s entirely possible that he is known for not taking advice of his experts in his business dealings, but at the same time, I’ve never heard that claim made, so I’m willing to take him at face value on this, unless I have some reason not to.

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    • Expertise doesn’t work that way, particularly in complicated subjects, particularly in the kind of problems the President might face.

      Which economist’s advice do you pick to fix the economy? Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Paul Krugman all won Nobel Prizes, and they all would have different answers.

      And that’s assuming our knowledge is better than the medical expertise that persuaded George Washington to drain half his blood. Or “smells cause disease, so if we dump our sewage into the drinking water we will all be healthy!”

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