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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 it 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. But how could I be sure the book would 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 Emperor?

Donald Trump may not be Emperor, but he’s a lot closer than Robert Cialdini. 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 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 weirdly abreast of modern science – he tells his readers looking for advice about how to make it big that deal-making is probably just genetic. 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.


Related?

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 strategy.

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. Mariani says:

    This post is a lot more heavy-breathing than I am used to on SSC. Is it a book review thing or a Trump thing?

  2. HeelBearCub says:

    Why do many keep insisting on referring to Trump as “fascist”?

    He displays authoritarian, nativist, and populist rhetoric and the thrust of his message is concentrated on a nationalistic “greatness”. But does that rhetoric distinguish him from any other authoritarian leader? Trump is an isolationist who has said he wants to reduce defense spending, which would seem to miss an essential element of the fascist message.

    Is this just Godwin in action? Is it that his rhetoric bears some resemblance to fascism? Or is there something else?

    • brad says:

      I don’t think fascism is a particularly useful word at this point. Even less so than communism. At least with communism there’s Karl Marx, a continuing intellectual tradition, and at least a handful of real world examples to choose from. For fascism there’s just rightly obscure Italian writers that no one ever reads anymore and one example that’s so overwhelming in the public mind that prevents any attempt at a definition beyond “like Nazi Germany in some way”.

      That said, there certainly is a broad pattern of nationalist authoritarianism that makes many people nervous, and the liberal throwing around of the word ‘fascist’ springs from that reasonable anxiety.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        The absence of a coherent, long term, fascist intellectual tradition is a good point. It probably doesn’t help that fascist governments largely went the way of the dodo at the end of WWII, depending on how one views Spain.

    • Jaskologist says:

      @HBC,

      John Schilling took a crack at that in a previous thread.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      I always got the impression that Hitler comparisons are so popular because he is both:

      A) Really Evil

      B) The only historical figure most people can name and discuss with anything approaching depth.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Hmmm. Do you think the average person can go at deeper than the two words Holocaust and Blitzkreig? Can they even get to Blitzkreig?

        I do agree that “really evil” is probably the salient factor. The transitive property of evil means that everything bad is fascism/Hitler/Nazis.

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, they probably have an idea of his leadership style — shouty, bellicose, heavy on rhetoric, spectacle-driven, extremely confident. That’s probably the point where he is closest to Trump, although in terms of substance it’s also the least important.

          If you ask Joe Sixpack about Hitler as a historical figure, you get the Holocaust, the Blitz, taking over France. But if you ask Joe Sixpack about Hitler as a person, you get an image of a little guy with an ugly toothbrush moustache, ranting and banging on the podium.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The theory being that Hitler, as the archetype of the bellicose authoritarian, begets comparisons to any bellicose political figure?

            Sure, I’ll buy that. I do think that Trump is tapping a certain fundamental aspect of human nature and that this also something Hitler exploited.

            But I think Hugo Chavez, for example, exploited the same thing. And he certainly wasn’t fascist.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          Get to Blitzkrieg? Most of us can’t even spell it!

      • Jiro says:

        I would suggest an alternative. Hitler comparisons are popular because with a Hitler comparison, you can’t fight the hypothetical. First of all, Hitler actually existed, and second, Hitler is unambiguously evil–if you use almost any other comparison to a bad thing, someone will try to argue that the bad thing is good.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          That seems sort of circular. The reason you can’t fight the hypothetical that Hitler was evil is because people already know and accept that he was evil.

          IOW, while not being able to fight the hypothetical is a valid point for why the comparison is so seductive, GDJJ seems to identify the reason for it. I’d argue you are identifying an effect rather than a cause.

        • I would think Mussolini would be a more natural example of fascism, given that he invented it. But he is somewhat less obviously evil and more obviously someone whose intellectual origins were on the left.

          • Nornagest says:

            I get the impression, looking at history and political science, that figuring out who and what the central examples of fascism are is one of those questions that never gets answered and never goes away.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      It’s because calling political opponents to the right of you ‘fascist’ has been a viable tactic since at least 1945. Remember back in the Bush years, when people were going on about Christo-fascists? It doesn’t actually have to make any sense, it’s just about demonizing the opposition.

      Beyond that, a lot of important people are (understandably) jumpy about anything smelling of fascism or national socialism. For various reasons, our intellectual class is overwhelmingly Jewish and moreover most American Jews are originally from Germany. They take the whole “Never Forget” thing very literally, and there seems to be a real fear that a second holocaust could pop up at any moment.

      As for Trump not being a capital-F Fascist, I think you missed the biggest difference. Fascism is necessarily totalitarian, with explicit promises to use the State to prop up failing or failed social institutions. A genuinely fascistic Trumpist movement would be all about organizing the Trump Scouts, sawing the tops off of crosses for their Winner’s Christianity or just passing out huge numbers of copies of his books. Trying to actually remake society in his image.

      • Randy M says:

        And all that (lats paragraph) sounds as much like Obama’s rhetoric as Trumps. Stylistically, is there anything less scary about the 08 Obama movement than Trump’s?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Obama’s rhetoric has always been inclusive. It’s very, very different from Trump’s.

          • Randy M says:

            You can be an inclusive totalitarian.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Can you find some actual examples of speeches Obama gave that you consider to be totalitarian in nature?

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But that doesn’t mean we’ll kick them out or anything.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Mark Atwood:
            You understand that was Obama telling a liberal audience to have compassion for rural communities that had lost jobs and saw their traditional way of life threatened, right?

            It was expressed in an offensive manner, but it was not intended to exclude rural Americans.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t have an encyclopedic memory of Obama campaign speeches, but the impression of a messianic figure who was going to fix all our problems, worthy of following and worship was clearly cultivated. Lines like “He’s not going to let you be unchanged” by his wife, or “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” or “this is the moment the oceans began to recede” were common.

      • “moreover most American Jews are originally from Germany.”

        I’m pretty sure this is false– the majority of American Jews are Ashkenazi , but that includes a lot of eastern Europe and Russia which aren’t Germany.

        It may be relevant that there was a big wave of Jewish immigration to the US which was decades before Hitler.

        These are details, of course. It’s quite possible for Jews to be very worried about anything vaguely Hitler-like without them having a direct connection to the Holocaust, and to have a personal connection to the Holocaust (which mostly happened in Poland) without being German.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Jews check the History section

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Well, I agree that Trump-ism lacks the call to an ascetic discipline that was also a hallmark of fascism. It’s another reason why the fascists label seems incorrect to me.

        But as far as promising that the government will correct the failings of society, what do you think that “Make America Great Again” means? Trump is promising to use the machinery of the state to accomplish this. It’s one of the things that is driving the movement conservatives nuts about Trump. Trump is not espousing the superiority of the free market. Rather he is explicitly saying that business is screwing people and that he can correct it.

        You make an interesting point about “never again”. If Trump represents a significant enough threat of authoritarian rule, such that it becomes reasonable to worry about the kinds outcomes we saw under Hitler, perhaps such labeling is warranted even if it is not fully accurate.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        It is not true that the American intellectual class is “overwhelmingly Jewish”. Jews are heavily overrepresented among intellectuals, but most intellectuals are not Jews, just for the reason that Jews are a small minority of the population in general.

        This doesn’t really alter your point much (Jews are a large minority of intellectuals), but I just wanted to clarify it.

      • “moreover most American Jews are originally from Germany”

        I doubt it. My guess is that the immigration from Eastern Europe was substantially greater.

    • Frog Do says:

      I’ll repeat a story I’ve heard a lot, definitely not original to me:

      “Fascism” as a slur is very useful historically. Mussolini was a socialist, then developed fascism as a self-consciously intellectual spin-off movement. In the wreckage of World War 2, there were usually at least two socialist parties, one relatively nationalist, one relatively taking orders from Moscow. The existence of a former socialist who turned traitor gave Moscow a powerful meme to denounce disobedient socialist parties, by calling them fascist.

      Jump to the USA. The majority of leftists in the academy are pro-USSR socialism, this is the height of High Modernism, and Marxism is the great trend of the day. So naturally they adopt the same rhetoric. Why does this work? In the aftermath of the Great Depression, FDR, Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler all embraced similar policies for running a government. We are all national socialists now. So calling someone fascist always works: they share enough characteristics that it’s not completely stupid, and it’s nearly universal as an insult.

      I’d add the speed at which the twenteth century beame an almost religious mythology also probably helps.

  3. Sailor Vulcan says:

    So Trump is really just a capitalist and not a fascist? Hmm…so why is he saying and doing things that make him seem fascist rather than merely capitalist? Putting someone like Trump in power IS going to change the system, and Trump should be smart enough to know that. He wouldn’t just be doing the same thing as a normal president but “better”. He would be doing something entirely different from a president.

    But then why in his book does he appear to always think of gaming the system instead of changing it, if he (presumably) already plans on changing it?

    I notice that I am confused.

    People keep comparing Trump to Quirrelmort from HPMOR, so I might as well make yet another relevant comparison:

    “*How many different people are you, anyway?

    I cannot say that I bothered keeping count.*

    You couldn’t help but wonder…

    …whether ‘Professor Quirrell’ was just one more name on the list, just one more person that had been turned into, made up in the service of some unguessable goal.”

    • I don’t think Trump’s positions in the campaign give much evidence of his actual views–consider how much more centrist his expressed views were in the past. They are evidence of what he thinks will get him the nomination. If he gets it, his views in the campaign will be evidence of what he thinks will get him elected. If he gets elected, what he does thereafter will be some evidence of his actual views.

      The same is true of the other candidates—Trump is just a somewhat more extreme case.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        This seems both far too cynical and also somewhat naive.

        Most candidates, when elected, actually do attempt to enact much of the platform that they ran on. As one example, if you look at what Obama actually proposed and what he has attempted to implement, they are very similar. W. Bush, Clinton, Bush 1 seem similar.

        Now, when the exigencies of a campaign force changes to policy positions of a candidate, those may fall by the wayside more quickly. Bush I’s “read my lips” statement comes to my mind. But that is different than wholesale abandonment of any and all policy positions taken.

      • eponymous says:

        The one issue that Trump has been talking about consistently since 1988 is trade. That’s the issue he probably is serious about. I think he really does believe that free trade has hurt America.

        Otherwise I think you have to look at his long record in business and public life to get an idea of his personality and abilities. I’m reasonably confident he’ll be fairly non-interventionist on foreign policy. Otherwise I don’t really know.

        One guess — and I stress that this is just a guess — is that he will be highly poll-driven. He’s a businessman, and he’s very good at giving the public what it wants. He thinks of the voters as his customers, and he wants to deliver for them, and adjust the product to make them happy.

        Another model of him is that he’s a crotchety old man who’s used to getting his way and has an inflated ego. Basically what happens to a lot of aging billionaires. Maybe he’s running out of genuine concern for the country, or anger that other people are screwing up, or just as an ego trip. He may have been an effective businessman in the past, but now he’s just an erratic geezer with off the charts salesmanship skills.

        I’ve read that he’s pulled in some fairly conventional Republican advisers to draft policy ideas for him. So another possibility is that on the issues he doesn’t care about he will just be a standard Republican. Basically chamber of commerce on content, but with a different brand and packaging. Except I think he really will be anti-trade, non-interventionist, and crack down on illegal immigration.

        But most of all, there’s a *ton* of variance here, since we really don’t know what he will be like. So if you think the current system is awful, then it might be worth the risk to blow things up. If not, he’s probably an unacceptable risk.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Despite Trump’s avowed isolationism, I wonder how successful he would be at reducing our involvement in international conflict. His bellicose rhetoric and tendency to favor brinkmanship as a tactic seem unlikely to produce any sort of Pax Trump.

  4. Nero tol Scaeva says:

    A bit of a sidenote, and defense of Cialdini. He does mention that there are two types of persuasion, which he calls being a “detective” of influence and a “smuggler” of influence.

    Basically, there’s a light and dark side of the Force (of persuasion) and he chooses to be a Jedi. Only a Sith would want to become God-Emperor.

  5. zolltan says:

    My friend recently went to MIPIM, which is a big international real estate conference they have in Cannes, where he talked to other real estate developers as well as people on the bank side of the real estate world about Trump as dealmaker.

    What he heard overwhelmingly is that people who have done business with Trump would never do it again, largely because of the strategy Scott mentions: lying to everyone saying that things are just about done (when they are not done) as a way of getting things done. Lying to everyone and getting them to trust you is a useful one-time strategy, but it’s not really one that can be iterated. So he did all these deals where he comes out ahead, but in the process has pissed off enough people/shown himself to not be trustworthy enough that he’s burned a lot of bridges.

    My conception of Trump’s dealmaking, then, is that he’s like the person who betrays you on the second move in a game of Diplomacy. Nothing about Scott’s review changes this conception, and some things reinforce it. I don’t know how you envision the job of a president, but to me it seems obvious that that would be a really shitty way to be a president, because four years is a long time, and poisoned relationships on the international level are prone to staying poisoned for years.

    • notes says:

      Exactly right.

      He’s an excellent marketer and world-class self-promoter, but not actually good at real estate development. The good developers handle coordination without having to lie to anyone, and the best do so without catastrophic downside risk.

      Consider the career of the late Minoru Mori, who was a world-class developer. Look at how many different projects he helmed, on what great scales, over how many different decades… or just compare Trump’s Television City to Roppongi Hills. Alternately, look how rarely he’s developed one of his own properties, rather than marketing a project which someone else developed. (Credit where due, he’s good at that task.)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, this all sounds worrying.
        But at least he’s not Hitler. YOU’RE Hitler.

  6. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So what I’m really interested in now is whether Trump has an intelligent conception of who “the best people” are for stopping radical Sunni Islam. His rhetoric shows that his heart is in the right place, but I’ve been very skeptical that he has the intelligence to delegate the task successfully.

  7. I’ve seen a lot of talk about the end of the Republican party, but no descriptions of what would happen. There continues to be a Republican party, but it’s run by different people? The Democratic party splits? There are a number of new parties, but it settles down to two parties?

    • Nornagest says:

      Anytime you hear someone talking about the end of a political party the smart money’s on it being wishful thinking. But all of these have historically happened during transitions between party systems. I can only think of one major American party that’s died out due to lack of support — the Federalists, during the early 1800s — and that left the opposing Democratic-Republicans dominant for a number of years. The Democratic-Republicans broke up a few years later during Andrew Jackson’s controversial presidency, but this won’t necessarily always happen; from the experience of other countries, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious time limit on a single-party system, even a non-totalitarian one.

      This situation seems closer to that breakup, or to the Whig breakup a couple decades later over the issue of slavery. In both those cases, several small, short-lived parties popped up in the fallout and eventually congealed into a new major party with a different platform: the Whigs in 1828 and the Republicans in 1854.

      There have been several realignments and partial breakups since then, some of them giving us the “still the same party, but run by different people” scenario. Arguably the most recent one followed Goldwater’s electoral failure, but you could make a clearer case for the mid-century Democratic party.

    • brad says:

      I not convinced it is actually going to happen, but if it did it could go one of a couple of ways.

      The most likely would be similar to the transition that happened from the late 60s through mid 80s — namely that the Republican and Democratic Parties still exist and are still the main two forces in American politics, but the coalitions that make them up are reshuffled. Another possibility is that part of the current Republican coalition breaks away and forms a new party. That new party would aim to supplant the Republican Party as the second major party by attracting parts of the old republican coalition as well as parts of the Democratic coalition and unaffiliated voters. There are various ways that might look depending on how successful they were. For example, if they pulled a substantial number of voters away but not enough to supplant the old line Republicans, and the other coalition held, you might see a period of Democratic dominance for a few cycles.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      My completely uninformed guess of what you’d see is the emergence of a ‘Christian Democrat’ sort of party to replace the GOP. It would be based on the white evangelical base plus the more religious minorities (particularly African Americans) and minus the libertarian / buisness wing. Latinos may or may not also be in, it depends on how the Catholic thing shakes out.

      If that happened, of course, it would shake up the Democrats just as much. Rhetoric aside, the Democratic party has a very similar economic vision to the Republican establishment for the most part. And without being able to lay sole claim to the legacy of the Civil Rights movement anymore the Democrats would need to regroup around being the sophisticated and ‘serious’ coastal party in contrast to the Jesus-freaks in flyover country.

      Again, pure speculation. But it makes sense from my perspective.

      • Brad (the other one) says:

        Not the most relevant comment, but man, I’ve been wishing some sort of left-wing Christian party would happen for a long time. I just want a Pro-life Bernie Sanders, is that too much to ask?

        • Anonymous says:

          Just get the pope to run for US president. You’ll have all of the latino vote, it’s almost impossible to lose.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I wish there were one, too, so I could vote against it. Get all my opponents in one place. 😉

        • Adam says:

          Hugo Chavez?

          • Randy M says:

            Hugo Chavez being remotely religious is news to me. Wiki backs it up, a little.

          • Adam says:

            He seemed to become less so later in life, but he at least claimed much of his motivation was Catholicism and that Jesus was a communist, and Venezuela definitely banned abortion. Left-wing religious is probably the most common thing to be in much of South America. That is, after all, where Pope Francis is from.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            “Liberation Theology” has been hugely popular and influential there. Leading to right-wing dictatorships infamously assassinating nuns.

    • Adam says:

      It hardly matters what the coalitions call themselves, but we’re probably set up for structural reasons to always stabilize at two with any sizable measure of power. The current ones don’t necessarily make much sense. There is no obvious reason except historical contingency that business interests should align with religion and that either should align with people butthurt that they had to integrate their schools. On the other side, the marriage of technocrats with academic activist types only works because they’re culturally both city-people and the alliance with minority voters makes no sense at all except the minorities are trying to be as far away as possible from the butthurts over school integration. Effectively nobody really aligns with labor, but Democrats have managed to largely buy their votes with union kickbacks, a nonsense farce that is probably why Trump and Sanders are happening.

      What comes next? You’d think business interests and technocrats are a pretty natural fit. Labor, minorities, and the religious are a natural fit. Whatever tiny number of people are still honestly motivated mostly by bigotry will probably be dead in the next two decades anyway. The extreme leftist academic types will just support whichever alliance ends up more socially progressive because nobody is going to accept whatever else they care about if they can even stop fighting each other long enough to articulate it. The obvious problem with such a hypothetical arrangement is all the power is with the business/technocrat alliance if that happens. Right now, power is pretty evenly split by the fact that a fairly large number of rich people are willing to pretend to care about poor white religious southerners to get their votes. If Trump gets elected at the cost of that farce ending, it could be the last victory those people ever win.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        It hardly matters what the coalitions call themselves, but we’re probably set up for structural reasons to always stabilize at two with any sizable measure of power.

        It only goes to two if there are no regional parties. Which the United States does not really have, perhaps for reasons having to do with the need to directly elect a president.

        The obvious problem with such a hypothetical arrangement is all the power is with the business/technocrat alliance if that happens. Right now, power is pretty evenly split by the fact that a fairly large number of rich people are willing to pretend to care about poor white religious southerners to get their votes. If Trump gets elected at the cost of that farce ending, it could be the last victory those people ever win.

        First of all, there’s not really much of a “natural alliance between business and technocrats” because technocrats typically want to control and limit business. Now, some businesses end up wanting to use them to control and limit their competitors, but they end up opposed by other businesses.

        In any case, why would you say that all the power would lie with them? The government is not elected by rich business owners and the inhabitants of DC. The government is elected by the masses. They’ve got to have some mass appeal.

        Maybe that mass appeal is that they know what’s best for the country and that “what’s good for General Motors is good for America”. Anti- “class warfare”. That’s not necessarily wrong. But they’ve got have some mass appeal.

        And plenty of countries have shown that “soak the rich” left-wing economic populism has plenty of mass appeal as well.

        • Adam says:

          I guess. It seems like most countries where left-wing populism succeeds are close to failure if not actual failed states. Here in the U.S., it seems more like safe comfortable people with boring lives full of relative abundance by any reasonable standard are made to feel like they’ve failed and are in danger by news media and politicians trying to capitalize on fear and resentment. I’m not sure that kind of mass delusion can sustain itself for very long if they actually won anything.

          Honestly, I’m not sure how to parse American alliances. Too much of it is a vestige of the rebel/yankee divide that was retarded to begin with. There was never any reason for poor white southerners to support their own aristocracy and slavery. If they think today that immigration is driving down labor prices and taking jobs, then what the hell did importing slaves do? Yet they fought to keep it alive, because at least they were fighting yankees, and here we are with the modal Trump supporter on Scott’s blog basically just saying ‘I don’t know what he wants and don’t give a shit; he pisses off the right people.’ I suppose I see technocrats and business as natural allies because they’re largely the same people who just decided to do different things with their lives after graduating from the same schools and pledging to the same frats and going to all the same parties. It’s at least natural for them to like each other.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I guess I’m not sure what exactly you were trying to get across by saying that if this realignment happens, “poor white religious southerners” will never win another election.

            Like, if it’s true, then do you think this would be good or bad? And why do you think they wouldn’t be picked up by one coalition or other?

            Say business and technocrats really do form an alliance and always win every election from now until the end of time. In that case, you’d end up with elections split between, say, the ones in favor of somewhat more regulation and the ones in favor of somewhat less. And they will each be interested in picking up the votes of everyone else. (This may indeed be what already happened…)

            Even if we have a one-party state, like the Democratic-Republicans or the “Solid South” after the failure of Reconstruction, there will be factions.

          • Adam says:

            They’d be in the alliance with minorities and labor, who will collectively never win anything again. Instead, the major stakes in an election would be things like ‘somewhat more regulation’ versus ‘somewhat less.’ It’s not good or bad. Mostly I’m indifferent to how elections turn out so I didn’t intend to make a value judgment about this.

          • “There was never any reason for poor white southerners to support their own aristocracy and slavery. ”

            “Most of us never owned slaves and never expect to
            But we won’t lie down and let the North walk over us
            About slaves or anything else.”

            (Benet, _John Brown’s Body_, a novel in verse)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Adam:

            They’d be in the alliance with minorities and labor, who will collectively never win anything again. Instead, the major stakes in an election would be things like ‘somewhat more regulation’ versus ‘somewhat less.

            If one of those sides wants their votes, they’ll have to give them something, won’t they? Or at least “pretend to care about” them, as you say.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Mark Atwood, Wow. Saying that supporting slavery is a reasonable response to perceived smugness does not, I must say, do much to endear me to the people who make a big deal of how conservatives are entirely justified in being angry because they are being “sneered” at. If I believed all poor white southerners thought like that, I think I really would sneer at them.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Mark Atwood:

            Wow.

            The Civil War is the damnyankees’ fault because they drove the poor white southerners to supporting rebellion with their awful damnyankeeness. It’s just so unspecifiedly bad!

            The South took it’s beating and breaking, and has been reforming and rebuilding itself, different and better.

            I agree that it has been doing this. Since the 1960s, anyway.

            The blue Bostonians, on the other hand, have done nothing but get worse at all the things the were already bad at in 1850.

            Give me a break. I agree that the South has gotten relatively more desirable over time with better economic policies (and the invention of air conditioning), to the point where it is often now better overall than the North.

            But to say that Boston or wherever has done nothing but get worse is tribe-baiting (?) nonsense.

            Edit: I just want to note that I did not see Protagoras‘s comment before I said “wow”.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Mark Atwood:

            The unparalleled awfulness of Reconstruction, the “carpetbagger/scalawag theory”, is mostly mythological. Yes, there was extensive corruption, but the whole damn country was run on the basis of corruption and it went alright.

            Reconstruction did fail—of course, the primary victims of that failure were black people—but mainly for the reason that the Republicans did not take enough measures to stop the white supremacists from regaining control of the institutions of power.

          • keranih says:

            Reconstruction failed because the local population did not agree with the social and economic changes imposed by the military victors – and the military victors eventually went away. (They went away back to their overwhelmingly white towns, with their centuries old social castes, where the idea of even 5% of the population being Negro was laughable, and so the idea of actually having to compete with freed slaves for an education or a job was inconceivable. They went, back, in other words, to their white-controlled antebellum world.)

            In order to sell the new “racial equality”, the northern occupying forces would have had to present evidence that the new social system would be no physical or economic threat to the white population and that there was a way for more people to prosper than to decline under the new economic system. The first was possible, but unlikely, and given the circumstances –

            – seriously, if my family had been held in bondage for generations, myself and my sisters raped, children sold off, all of us subject to over work, soon as the yankees arrived, my brothers would have been out slitting throats in the nighttime. and worse. And all of us would have voted to screw over every white in the region, slave owner or not –

            – and the Northern bias against Southern whites, highly unlikely to be done to the satisfaction of the local whites. At the same time, the material devastation of the war, the shifts in global cotton production, the huge advantage of the North in manufacturing, and the tremendous drain of labor and brains to the West pretty much made it inevitable that the antebellum world would have had tremendous emotional appeal to those too stubborn to leave the South.

            (It should be noted that in most counties, the white population was higher than the black – unless one did away with democracy, the white voter’s preferences were going to hold sway. The end of Reconstruction was also the end of that suspension of democracy.)

            The result was economic and social stagnation that crippled the whole region for another century – and to imply that the effects were limited to blacks is both ignorant and untrue.

            As for the “mythos” of the Reconstruction…that’s a nice story, isn’t it? That the North was fair and just and governed well, and everything was going swimmingly until the evil/stupid white Southerners “took back over.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            I have to question the validity of looking at people from “The South” and “The North” in the present as representative of their past selves. I’m a yankee by upbringing, but many of my ancestors were Southerners at the time of the Civil War. Then again, some were Northerners, and the majority hadn’t even come to America yet. If you tried to use me to figure out what Unionists were like back then, you’d be using a bad sample. I don’t think I’m atypical in my mixed heritage.

          • Adam says:

            Frankly, I have trouble believing the modal confederate soldier had ever even met a Yankee prior to fighting the war.

          • Mark Atwood, the Confederation used conscription, which makes it difficult to judge how much poor whites were in favor of it. And, of course, both sides expected to win quickly and easily.

          • keranih says:

            @ Adam –

            Nor had the modal Northern yoeman farmer met a Southern slave owner (although they might know slavers or slaves in their own area.) (And the degree of research put into Uncle Tom’s Cabin turned out to be rather less than Harriet Beecher Stowe implied.)

            And so we come back around to the age-old tradition of demonizing people we don’t know, and assigning them motives that please our own ends.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih
            if my family had been held in bondage for generations, myself and my sisters raped, children sold off, all of us subject to over work, soon as the yankees arrived, my brothers would have been out slitting throats in the nighttime

            So how many such incidents were recorded, and publicized, by the arriving yankees?

    • BBA says:

      It’s a safe bet that there will be two major parties, one named “Democratic” and one named “Republican”, until the US makes some kind of radical constitutional change – going parliamentary, adopting proportional representation, something wild and unimaginable like that. There are enough assumptions baked into our institutions that it’s going to be very hard for things to go otherwise. In particular, ballot access laws are intentionally designed to favor the big two parties and prevent anyone else from getting on the ballot.

      That said, this electoral cycle has raised the question of what precisely a political party is. If the RNC doesn’t support the choice of most Republican primary voters, can they really consider themselves the national organization of the Republican Party? If the primaries will decide everything important, why even have a party organization at all?

      • It’s a safe bet that there will be two major parties, one named “Democratic” and one named “Republican”, until the US makes some kind of radical constitutional change – going parliamentary, adopting proportional representation, something wild and unimaginable like that.

        Strongly agreed. With control of the entire federal executive branch decided in a single high-stakes election, there is irresistible incentive to build your 51% coalition.

        Both parties also have a lot of institutional continuity and credibility, so (for the last 150 years) it has been easier for new movements to work within them than to try to build a new party from scratch.

        There are enough assumptions baked into our institutions that it’s going to be very hard for things to go otherwise. In particular, ballot access laws are intentionally designed to favor the big two parties and prevent anyone else from getting on the ballot.

        No, no, no no. The restrictive ballot access laws have been struck down everywhere. That did not cause any upsurge in independent candidacies or third-party wins.

        That said, this electoral cycle has raised the question of what precisely a political party is. If the RNC doesn’t support the choice of most Republican primary voters, can they really consider themselves the national organization of the Republican Party? If the primaries will decide everything important, why even have a party organization at all?

        A party organization isn’t generally the decider of intraparty fights. Rather, it’s there to provide institutional support, especially during political campaigns. If you imagine a small corporation with a handful of very active stockholders and a hired CEO, the national party organization is the hired CEO.

        • BBA says:

          Re ballot access: well, you’re the elected official, you know better than I do, but I didn’t mean the old laws that only let two parties on the ballot. Here in New York, getting on the ballot requires getting a very large number of signatures (varies based on the office, but it’s 3500 for a seat in Congress) in a very short period of time (six weeks), plus they must all be notarized and are subject to challenge by opposing candidates. This is facially neutral but clearly only a large established organization can consistently jump through all the hoops. Maybe Michigan is better, I don’t know.

          Re party organizations: it’s not the voters who hire the RNC, at least not directly. Sure, eventually Trump supporters may filter through the local and state committees and take over the RNC, but that’ll take a year or two and who has the time for that? So instead we may end up with a committee tasked to provide institutional support for a candidate that they do not support and in fact actively despise. If the party committee breaks from the candidate that the party voted for, who is the party?

          • Nornagest says:

            3500 signatures doesn’t sound all that large from my perspective — a ballot initiative in California requires two orders of magnitude more, though you’re given six months rather than a month and a half, and stupid (sometimes crazy) stuff makes it onto the ballot all the time. The notarization requirement does seem a little onerous, though.

          • BBA says:

            Compared to Britain, where all you need is 10 signatures and a £500 deposit (refunded if you get more than a certain percentage of the vote), it’s a lot.

          • John Schilling says:

            Compared to what it takes to win an election for a house seat, it’s tiny. If you can’t get 3500 people to sign your petition, what are you really going to accomplish that’s worth the ink and effort of putting your name on the ballot?

          • BBA says:

            Fair enough. I’m just a little peeved that we’ll never get a local equivalent of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

            (I guess there’s the Greens, but it’s a lot less fun if they aren’t in on the joke.)

          • Here in New York, getting on the ballot requires getting a very large number of signatures (varies based on the office, but it’s 3500 for a seat in Congress) in a very short period of time (six weeks), plus they must all be notarized and are subject to challenge by opposing candidates. This is facially neutral but clearly only a large established organization can consistently jump through all the hoops. Maybe Michigan is better, I don’t know.

            Maybe you didn’t know this, but New York has, hands down, no contest, the very worst election law in the United States.

            It’s all set up to make it difficult for ANYONE (who’s not already an insider) to get on the ballot, no matter what their party affiliation, and to make it easy for your opponents (with insider attorneys highly experienced in this specific kind of work) to get you kicked off the ballot.

            Think it’s tough to get on the ballot as a New York Libertarian? Try doing it as a Republican or a Democrat.

            When I was in grad school at Cornell, in Ithaca, I was a New York voter. It was shocking how few contested races there were.

        • Anonymous says:

          We also allow cross endorsements which are absolutely awful.

      • eponymous says:

        @BBA:

        How safe a bet? The current party alignment has survived for 150 years, but before that the Federalists and the Whigs died. So in a bit over 200 years we’ve had two parties die, or about once every 100 years. So a reasonable annual base probability of a party breakup is about 1%. I have to think it’s higher than the base rate at the moment.

        I don’t know enough about comparative political systems to say what the rate of party death is in other countries with similar systems of government. But I do know that fundamental changes in the party system are not so uncommon. Another example is the Liberal Party in the UK losing its dominant position to the Labor Party.

        Then you have the record of revolutions throughout history changing the governing structure. I don’t see why such a political revolution is less likely in the US — it seems it would be easier to do in a democratic system since you don’t need to shoot anyone.

        And even when the parties’ names stay the same, we know that there are fundamental realignments that take place.

        Overall, I think people tend to overestimate how much the fundamental structure of things will stay the same, because of our short lifespans and status quo bias. And also because we massively privilege our own experience, and so place undue weight on the relative stability of our political system over our own lifetimes relative to the evidence of hundreds of years of history across hundreds of countries worldwide.

        • eponymous says:

          Hmm, I may have misused “status quo bias” in the previous comment. I think it should mean an undue preference for how things currently are, rather than an undue expectation that how things are will continue into the future. Is the latter a bias, and does it have a name?

        • John Schilling says:

          But there’s a difference between the expected lifespan of a young party in a young nation, and that of an established party in an established nation. Do not underestimate the value of the name, the reputation (however damaged by Trump vs. NeverTrump), and the network of connected insiders that is the Republican Party. Anyone proposing to contend with the Democratic Party with any real chance of success, is going to want to claim that resource for their own, and if they can’t then they probably can’t win elections either. It may be a greatly transformed Republican Party, but it will have institutional continuity with the GOP.

          The one possible mechanism for a wholly new party to form in the near future, is a substantial effort by Republican insiders to form a NoTrumps party that carries as much of the GOP’s weight and heritage as possible. There is a small chance that, if Republicans mount a third-party response to a Trump nomination, the third party becomes the de facto “Real Republican Party” under whatever new name it carries for the 2016 general election.

        • How safe a bet? The current party alignment has survived for 150 years, but before that the Federalists and the Whigs died. So in a bit over 200 years we’ve had two parties die, or about once every 100 years. So a reasonable annual base probability of a party breakup is about 1%. I have to think it’s higher than the base rate at the moment.

          The operational realities of electoral politics were radically different 150 years ago. Most people today have no idea.

          Back then, there was ticket voting, which is to say, the parties provided pre-printed slates (government-printed standard ballots were a big reform that swept the nation in 1888), no expectation of voter privacy, no transparency in party organizations, the possibility of “secret candidates” not disclosed until Election Day, no ongoing national committee in either party before about 1870, local/state/national “rump” parties that required no infrastructure to start, etc. etc.

          I think what happened with political parties during the time before the last 150 years is not really relevant.

  8. Vox Imperatoris says:

    I just read Trump’s hilariously bad, rambling interview with the Washington Post editorial board.

    It does support the theory that the dude just really loves buildings.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Didn’t Tolkien have a rant about how the best form of government would be an autocrat whose autistic love for trains or buildings kept the government from interfering in the rest of society?

      • eponymous says:

        Hmm. I like this idea of autistocracy. I think I might prefer it to our current model of psychopathocracy.

        I also like this idea of classifying political systems by the psychological condition they select for in our leaders. Since it is logical that any selection mechanism that operates at the level of 300 million to 1 will produce someone who is not neurotypical along some dimensions, perhaps we should give thought to what sort of psychopathology we are selecting for.

        But I’m out of my depth here. I’m sure Scott would have some interesting comments.

  9. Caddyshadrach says:

    “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.”

    It’s no secret that Trump achieved what he did with the Wollman Rink by teaming up with the mob. He could not have done it by legitimate means.

    In the ’80s, the Genovese and Lucchese crime families had a death-grip on dozens of construction unions. Trump knew them well, hired their unions, and paid them cash out of his own pocket, under the table, to keep guys working around the clock on that skating rink. Then he made sure that the newspapers wrote all about it; writers hailed it as an example of the private sector achieving where the municipal government had failed. Anybody disillusioned with mayor Ed Koch (read: a lot of people) ate it up. Trump was a known name in NY before, but after that he became Donald Trump: The Brand.

    Trump spent his own money to get that rink done because he knew precisely how to exploit the reputation it would earn him. Once again, he knew exactly what he was doing. And he knew exactly who he was dealing with.

    Trump continued to work with the same mobsters over and over again throughout the ’80s. On the one hand, he didn’t have much of a choice; getting concrete poured in NYC without the mob back then would have been nearly impossible. On the other, illegal workers are illegal workers. And that doesn’t even include the Polish guys who worked on the Bonwit Teller building. He sure let the mob take the rap for that! Either way, Trump is lying through his teeth when he says he had no idea who he was working with.

    How am I so certain about all this? Let’s just say blood is thicker than water…but still not as thick as cement.

  10. Vox Imperatoris says:

    Here’s an interesting poll I was just linked.

    It’s got a lot of stuff in it, most of which looks very bad for the future of the GOP (51% of Republican voters have a favorable opinion of their own party vs. 81% of Democrats).

    But even though 46% of Republican primary voters say they’d support Trump (vs. 26% for Cruz and 20% for Kasich), it is important to note that all the Republican candidates have similarly low levels of “enthusiastic support”: much lower than the Democratic candidates.

    Bernie Sanders has the “enthusiastic support” of 56% of Democrats, and only 9% would not support him. Clinton is a lot lower in enthusiastic support, with only 40%—but still only 10% of Democratic primary voters oppose her (the other options are “support with reservations” and “support only because nominee”).

    In contrast, only 35% of Republicans enthusiastically support Trump—and 17% oppose him even if he’s the party’s nominee. With Cruz, 29% enthusiastically support him while 19% oppose. And with Kasich, 27% enthusiastically support while 13% oppose (fully 27% say they’d support him only if he were the party’s nominee).

    My father—who is an atheist, not an evangelical voter—voted for Cruz in the Alabama primary (which Trump won), and I would place him in the category of “supports Cruz with reservations” (with 33% of Republicans). But he’s definitely also in the category of “would support Trump if he were the nominee”. As he put it to me over the phone (paraphrasing):

    [After I jokingly ask whether he’s getting ready to move to Canada.] No, I would definitely vote for Trump over Hillary. She’s a crook! She and Bill are both crooks. Maybe this email thing isn’t the most significant, but there’s something new with the pair of them every damn year. All these people in Washington are corrupt, and we need to send somebody up there to clean out the system!

    [What about Ted Cruz?] I voted for Cruz, but you know the media’s going to go after him for being a crazy evangelical. They’re going to show his father speaking in tongues. He doesn’t really have much of a chance.

    And now the Republican establishment is trying to figure out how they can rig the convention to nominate [in a tone of disgust] Mitt Romney or somebody like that.

    [We go into talking about how Trump is, in many ways, just as bad if not worse than the Republican establishment.] Maybe Trump’s not the guy, but we need somebody to clean out this corrupt establishment in Washington.

  11. Murphy says:

    While I still think he’ll be a disaster…. there are probably worse strategies than hiring really really competent people and throwing them at the problems with the resources needed to deal with them.

  12. onyomi says:

    On the issue of Trump’s popularity and the recently-discussed “fundamental differences between Blue and Red” (which I still think are urban vs. rural), Bryan Caplan claims that the fundamental motivating force of the left (not claiming that is exactly equivalent to “Blue”) is antipathy to market outcomes; the fundamental motivating force of the right (not claiming that’s exactly equivalent to “Red”) is antipathy to the left:

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2016/03/my_simplistic_t_1.html

    Favorite quote:

    “In a sense, Trump’s main campaign promise is to keep liberals awake at night – and he’s already fulfilling it.”

    Thoughts? Though it makes the right sound unreasonably reactionary, it also makes a certain amount of sense even on a right-sympathetic view: the left thinks lots of things can be accomplished through government so they take an active view of politics; the right disagrees with this assessment and is basically just trying to get the left to leave them alone; but they’ll settle for pissing them off.

    This also makes sense of Trump’s still slightly mystifying success: of those running for the GOP nomination, none can come close to Trump for frightening and pissing off Democrats.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think the right frame to analyze Trumps success is populism.

      As to the two themes in the article, certainly the broad left wants the outcomes of the market to be moderated. The far left certainly can view any market outcome as evil, and will reduce that to a simplistic “capitalism is evil, and all evil comes from capitalism”, but it is not a view that has much power in the Democratic part of the last 50 years or so.

      The right is not defined solely as opposition to the left. But perhaps the current Republican party is defined solely by this tactic of opposition. If so, it’s because their populist inheritance from Dems of the 60s aren’t actually a great fit with fiscal conservative doctrine.

  13. stillnotking says:

    One thing that occurred to me after seeing Trump’s… questionable… picks for foreign policy advisers is that he may not understand how politics differs from the business world. In real estate, you can get the best people available just by having the money to hire them. In politics, reputation and ideology matter a lot more than money. People are very concerned with fealty to their parties, being associated with “winners”, and — less cynically — with supporting candidates who can accomplish their desired policy aims.

    He won’t attract the best by writing checks. It’s one of the problems with being anti-establishment.

  14. Oliver Cromwell says:

    I think the vast majority of honest people in politics view government the way Trump does, but aren’t interested in hiring the best people, rather the most ideologically similar people.

    Trump’s mindset is a huge improvement.

    The dishonest ones don’t want the best people or the most ideologically similar, just most useful to them.

  15. This should really wait for the next open thread, but since we are talking about Trump … .

    A number of people have suggested a way that, if Trump is nominated, anti-Trump Republicans could game the election rules to elect a different Republican. The trick is to run a third party slate designed to win a few states–Kasich and Cruz, say, to get Texas and Ohio. The result, if the major party race is close, is that nobody gets a majority of the electoral vote. The President is then chosen by the House from among the three top candidates, measured by electoral votes. The House chooses Kasich.

    Legally speaking it works, although actually pulling it off would be hard. But one interesting question is, if it happened, what the results would be. It would be an obvious abuse of the rules, although a legal one, since the elected President would have many fewer electoral votes than either of the other two candidates.

    Riots in the streets? The collapse of the American government?

    The closest historical example would be the election of 1824, in which Andrew Jackson got a plurality but not a majority of the electoral votes in a four way race and the House chose John Quincy Adams. Jackson supporters thought that they had been swindled. The system survived but the Democratic-Republican party, which all four had been candidates of, didn’t, and Jackson won the next election as the candidate of the (new) Democratic party.

    And that was a much less transparent gaming of the system than what I am imagining. Comments?

    I have a post on the subject at:

    http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-corrupt-bargain-of-2016.html

    • anoner says:

      In my opinion, that sort of strategy could not work–even in the “pick up a couple of key states” sense–without a sufficiently strong standard-bearer. Based on the very wide original R field, and its winnowing over the past several months, Ted Cruz is the only person who has demonstrated enough popular backing to even start the conversation.

      So you’ve got the R establishment trying to sell Cruz on this plan, and Trump arguing in his other ear that this is the purest form of bad-faith shenanigans. Cruz and the R establishment have a fairly hostile history; Trump has a few things he can (and arguably should) offer Cruz for his support; and to my mind, Trump would have the better argument on the merits. I can’t read Cruz’s mind, but my hunch is that he’d agree, based on my observations of his public behavior.

    • stillnotking says:

      That would be the end of the GOP. Even making the attempt would doom them. Far better just to deal with four years of Trump or Clinton.

      I doubt it would cause the collapse of the government; a renewed push to reform the electoral college, at most.

    • Jordan D. says:

      I’m going to agree with the people who say that this stratagem is pretty much doomed to fail for the general- tearing the Republican primary three ways seems unlikely to spur the kind of voting they’d need, though Kasich as an alternative candidate could do interesting things to the electoral maps.

      But assuming that it did. First off, I think you’d see two counter-movements rather than one. First you’d see the disenfranchised Trump voters tearing the House a new one, then you’d see the Democrats mobilizing to re-take the Senate and block every action from what they could reasonably call an ‘illegitimate and unelected President’.

      The GOP would almost certainly perish, and I think what replaces it would be uglier. I’m not sure whether the Democrats would move leftward as a reaction or if they’d get more centrist to try to pick up angry Republicans- it’s hard for me to see the second happening because the moderates they’re targeting would see President Kasich as the best option anyway.

      Would there be riots? Maybe, maybe not. I think there would certainly be a lot of protestors. I think, but am not entirely sure, that the government would survive but most of the elected officials involved would not.

    • Frank McPike says:

      Maybe the 1876 election could be a model? It seems roughly analogous in terms of how controversial it was. In that case, the result was compromise: the Democrats acknowledged the legitimacy of the Republican’s victory in return for the policy they wanted most.

      If Republicans were to pull off something like what you propose, I imagine they would try to strike some sort of similar deal with Clinton (appointing only liberals to the Supreme Court? leaving Obamacare intact?) in exchange for an acknowledgement of legitimacy. More realistically, they would be the ones to accede to either Clinton or Trump, in exchange for some guarantees of their own.

    • onyomi says:

      Though I don’t know about riots in the streets, if it came down to 45% of the general election vote for Hillary, 35% for Trump, and 20% for Kasich, I don’t know how the American people would accept President Kasich. And if they did, I do think it would spell the long-term doom of the GOP, because the GOP-controlled House would rightly be held responsible for thwarting the will of the voters, and President Kasich would be out in four, if not two years (midterms result in Dem landslide, Dems impeach–but what if everyone loves President Kasich? Almost impossible, because he’ll lack the sense of mandate needed to get anything interesting done). I think it would be significantly worse than accepting Gore’s defeat, and some people are still bitter about that.

      Early American history can’t be a very good guide, I don’t think, as things were much less democratic in general back then, so party finagling would not be seen as so illegitimate.

      • JayT says:

        I don’t know, not being able to do anything might lead to the American people loving Kasich!

    • John Schilling says:

      It probably wouldn’t work, because of the general difficulty of winning as a third-party candidate in the modern era, but it might be the least-bad alternative for the GOP anyway.

      It has to be Cruz fronting the effort; he might be able to win Texas, nobody else could plausibly get enough electoral votes to matter. It won’t be Cruz-Kasich; if either of those two were willing to cut a deal with the other, they’d have done it already. So, Cruz-somebody on a quixotic bid to win Texas and a few other Deep Red states.

      If they lose, it costs the GOP nothing because A: they didn’t really do anything of consequence and B: Cruz is deniable, everybody knows he doesn’t get along with the Republican establishment anyway.

      If they win, the House can give the Presidency to Cruz. Or to Kasich or heck Jeb Bush if they really want, but those would be perceived as wholly illegitimate. Cruz will be a close enough second to Trump in the nomination that when the House is called upon to decide which of Clinton, Trump, and Cruz “should have” won in an election not hobbled by the perverse refusal of all the real losers to quit when they were supposed to, Cruz isn’t obviously the wrong choice.

      Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters would be righteously and rightfully upset, but they’ll have until 2018 to get over it and even then they’ll only be able to give the House to the Democrats. Which they probably would do, but that leaves the GOP with the Presidency, the Senate, and probably the Supreme Court.

      The Democrats will use any such shenanigans to denounce the Republicans as a bunch of corrupt autocratic scoundrels. And that charge will stick, and it will hurt. But as Cruz can only steal electoral votes from Trump, not Clinton, it only comes to that if the alternative to a Cruz presidency is a Trump presidency. Which the Democrats would denounce as being a fascist cult-of-personality quasi-dictatorship checked only by steadfast Democratic opposition in Congress. That charge would stick too, and it would hurt more.

      Breaking it down:

      A – Trump doesn’t win a clear majority of delegates, he isn’t the nominee and none of this matters. President Clinton the Second has four to eight years to make the voters nostalgic for the GOP.

      B – Trump wins the nomination, but the electoral votes aren’t there for him to win the general election, which subdivides to:
      B-1, the GOP unites behind the fascist cult-of-personality loser in his defeat, or
      B-2, a deniable splinter faction of the GOP tries to stop Trump but makes no difference

      C – Trump wins the nomination, and there are enough electoral votes for him to win a two-way general election, which subdivides to:
      C-1, the GOP unites and propels Trump to electoral victory and Presidential disaster, or
      C-2, a deniable splinter faction of the GOP tries and fails to stop Trump, or
      C-3, the GOP unites behind President Cruz through dubious means

      All of these options are bad for the GOP. Probably option A is the least bad – but that’s out of their control, and it doesn’t matter whether they hedge their bets by planning a third-party bid just in case. Option B-2 causes less harm to the GOP than B-1, C-2 causes less harm than C-1, and unless Cruz is a remarkably bad president then C-3 causes less harm than C-1.

      Again, this is for the President Cruz version of the plan. The President Kasich variation would cost the GOP legitimacy and deniability, and get them, what exactly?

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Again, this is for the President Cruz version of the plan. The President Kasich variation would cost the GOP legitimacy and deniability, and get them, what exactly?

        It would get them the general establishment agenda on domestic policy and the neoconservative agenda on foreign policy, which a lot of people in the GOP apparently do want. Not to mention that the establishment agenda on domestic policy pretty much is the neoconservative position: “two cheers for capitalism” and all that.

    • AnthonyC says:

      One issue there is even if it worked, the House votes not by representative but by state, and it is not clear whether a majority of states would choose Kasich over Clinton even though the majority of representatives are Republican.

      Another possibility, more devious, also absurdly unlikely: the party picks the electors, and 21 states do not punish faithless electors, including a number of states likely to vote Republican. The GOP could try to appoint electors with the expectation that they would not vote for Trump in the event that not doing so would throw the election to the House.

  16. Forge the Sky says:

    “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.”

    @Scott

    If I read you right, your mind tends to work very well on the big picture, pretty well on the details, and not so well on the medium-picture. (That could be projection since that’s how I see my own mind working, but at the same time maybe that’s why I enjoy reading your blog.)

    It seems intuitive to big-picture types that big-picture leaders are best. Leave the medium-picture guys for middle management, and the small-picture types for detail work (whether high-level details like engineering or low-level details like say road repair).

    I think that big-picture leaders are important to have some – and quite possibly most – of the time. But perhaps the occasional medium-picture president is good to have just to optimize and streamline existing systems, instead of just jumping from one idea to another without ever really bringing any one set of policies to its fullest potential?

    Maybe I’m just making lemonade from our lemons though, heh.

  17. TheAltar says:

    If Trump wins the presidency, the ghost written autobiography he releases after it’s all over is going to be an astonishing deal-making read. One element of talking about his campaign that I think people have ignored is the fact that a President who is an amazing deal-maker can get a whole lot done. Congress may be split and uncooperative with one another, but Trump may end up far more effective at getting what he wants done than almost anyone is willing to consider.

  18. AnthonyC says:

    I believe that his 17 pages of actual advice probably are really vague. This seems to be the default mode for all the best guides to strategy of any kind. I’m thinking of The Book of Five Rings and The Art of War and Plutarch’s How to Profit from One’s Enemies. The Prince seems to be more in the mold of The Art of the Deal in that it has a lot of specifics about strategy in one domain, but pairs these with more vague and general lessons that are widely applicable. Not saying Art of the Deal is in the same league (I haven’t read it, nor am I any kind of master strategist) but I would say that *any* discussion of a field that is equally applicable to war, business, and even board games will necessary sound vague in natural language.

    Also, I think the point about the narrowness of Trump’s world is really interesting. Reminds me of Musashi, again. “To attain the Way of strategy as a warrior you must study fully other martial arts and not deviate even a little from the Way of the warrior. With your spirit settled, accumulate practice day by day, and hour by hour,” sounds like his commitment to keep going at deal making. “When you take up a sword, you must do it with the intent of cutting the enemy. As you cut an enemy you must not change your grip, and your hands must not flinch…Once you take a sword in your hands, you must be prepared to cut apart the enemy, whatever the means,” sounds like his commitment to winning and to getting the best deals.

    I also feel like it has the whiff of pure Moloch to it. If you don’t narrow your world as much as possible, someone else will, and then you’ll lose. Disneyland with no children indeed.

  19. JuanPeron says:

    This is definitely an interesting assessment of Trump’s book. I think there’s one point you’re underselling – Trump’s disinterest in reform of modifications to existing systems.

    You suggest that Trump is good at working within the existing system, and has no interest in reforming or modifying that system even when it’s very broken. I would suggest that Trump actually has a strong disincentive to reform the system. His book pretty much admits that his greatest strength isn’t his vision, but his dealmaking and negotiating skills. Reforming the system stands to increase Trump’s profits slightly (less money spent on lawyers and politicians), but increase his competition substantially (fewer capital or deal-making barriers to entry). This is bad for anyone, but it’s particularly bad for someone like Trump who’s greatest strength is operating within a broken system successfully.

    I’m not sure how this would play with Trump as president. There’s less incentive to maintain existing brokenness when you’re top dog, but it’s also a domain where Trump has no particular advantages or skills. Someone who’s excellent at operating within narrow constraints isn’t necessarily any good at manipulating those constraints.

  20. stillnotking says:

    Huh. This does explain a lot about Trump, especially the way he seems to have no ideology at all — a rare thing in a politician, most of whom are True Believers, or cynics who used to be. He talks about America constantly, but his use of the word seems more descriptive than aspirational: America as a land mass and a collection of people, not an ideal. This really defeats the Reagan comparison, among other things (“shining city on a hill” is as aspirational as it gets). His vision of making us “great again” doesn’t seem to extend beyond the material.

    It’s no wonder his rhetoric leaves me cold, because that’s the opposite of my own feeling of patriotism — loyalty to the ideal, even when the reality doesn’t deserve it. The weird thing is, I’d expect it to leave everyone cold. I wonder if the majority of his appeal is his audience projecting their own disparate values on a nearly blank screen, and if so, what that says about the fragility of his coalition.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      “I wonder if the majority of his appeal is his audience projecting their own disparate values on a nearly blank screen”

      If so, I’m reminded of a certain blank shirt….

  21. Adam says:

    Maybe this wasn’t true in 1988, but I was under the impression that most of what Trump has done since then isn’t even real estate development. He just licenses the Trump name to actual developers, who then get to put that name on their buildings.

  22. I just hope Trump doesn’t turn out to be the Comet King.

  23. Alexp says:

    Just a few comments, even it’s probably late enough that no one will even look at this post:

    The idea that Trump will be a competent administrator who won’t rock the boat is an interesting take, but does run counter to the way he portrays himself and what most of his supporters want.

    That said, being a competent administrator isn’t. Presumably, he’ll have competent administrators working for him. He needs to set the goals as President. He wants to make healthcare in this country better? What does that mean? Does he want to make it cheaper? Shorter wait times? Give access to as many people as possible? Improve life expectancy? Have the most cutting edge medical research? There are a lot of goals you could pursue in the name of making healthcare ‘better’ but you can’t do them all, and doing one might actually make another worse. A Presidential candidate should be at least able to articulate what general shape “better” means in a policy plan, even if the numbers don’t make sense (see Sanders, Bernie)

    While Trump does seem like a negotiating/real estate project managing Savant, this interpretation does come from a book that he wrote (or having ghostwritten), so I think that this might be the best possible view of him. Note, that whatever his critics may say about him, he’s is very skilled at self promotion.

    While the 4 bankruptcies might be a little overblown, and the thing about investing his inheritance in an index fund is very misleading, he did get very lucky. He not only got money from his father, but also a trusted name, and connections in a business that is dependent on personal relationships. And despite the comparison’s to index funds being dependent on timing the market, Trump did get lucky in that he was a player in the NY real estate market before it’s boom.

  24. Alsadius says:

    I also reread this recently(I got it when I was about 12 and had no idea who Trump was, and found it fascinating at the time).

    As a book, I still find it entertaining, in the same way I find any well-written book about some weirdly narrow topic interesting(and yes, it’s well-written – as you say, Schwartz, the ghostwriter whose name is actually on the cover he had such a big role to play in it, did a good job). But it’s an interesting look at Trump as well. A few passages about his relationship with the media and bad publicity in particular are fascinating(though sadly, I can’t find any to quote).

    As for your take on Trump’s philosophy, that makes a lot more sense than a lot of what I’ve read about him. I’m surprised that didn’t occur to me, tbh.

    • MawBTS says:

      (and yes, it’s well-written – as you say, Schwartz, the ghostwriter whose name is actually on the cover he had such a big role to play in it, did a good job).

      Whenever two names appear on a book cover, it’s safe to say that the less famous one did at least 90% of the work.

  25. Bettega says:

    From Olavo de Carvalho’s definition of the “revolutionary mentality”.

    http://www.olavodecarvalho.org/english/articles/070813dc_en.html

    “The “revolutionary mentality” is the permanent or transitory state of spirit in which an individual or a group believes himself capable of remodeling the whole society – if not human nature in general – through political action. As an agent or bearer of a better future, he considers himself to be above all judgment by present or past humanity, being accountable only to the “court of History”. But the court of History is, by definition, the very future society that this individual or group claims to represent in the present. So, as future society is only able to bear witness or to judge through this same representative, it is clear that he thus becomes not only the sole sovereign judge of his own acts, but the judge of all past, present and future humanity. Able to accuse and to condemn all laws, institutions, beliefs, values, traditions, actions and works of all epochs without being subject, in his turn, to the judgment of any of them, he lies so much above historical humanity that it would not be inaccurate to call him Superman.

    As the self-glorification of Superman, the revolutionary mentality is totalitarian and genocidal in itself, independently from its ideological content in different circumstances and occasions.

    By refusing himself to be accountable to anything except a hypothetical future of his own invention, and firmly disposed to destroy by cunning or by force every obstacle to the remodeling of the world to his own image and likeness, the revolutionary is the worst enemy of the human species, compared to whom the worst tyrants and conquerors of Antiquity impress us by the modesty of their aims and by a notable circumspection in the use of their means.”

    Donald Trump seens to be the opposite of that, the quintessential anti-revolutionary, who doesn’t want either to understand the world or change it, as Marx famously put on a dichotomy, but simply “deal with it”.

    I can appreciate that.

    • Dahlen says:

      The Art of the Deal with It?

    • SUT says:

      Extremely important point here. Thanks for posting the source, I intend to think for a little bit about this before writing, otherwise my comment would get too partisan, and too Godwin.

  26. Alex says:

    “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.”

    Scott, what you are describing here in a very roundabout way is more commonly and simply known as “pragmatism.”

  27. Tom Scharf says:

    Congratulations to the author here. Actually reading what Trump has to say before contemplating jumping on the Hate Trump bus commands my respect.

    If there is one thing that I grow so weary of is the group think assertions that spread like toxic mold. Nobody knows exactly where it came from, but it sure seems to be spreading and everyone is scared to death of it. Of course nobody actually investigates the mold, boring.

    If all you listen to is what activists say their opponents really think, I suggest you might be getting a tainted story. I’m not sure the activist vs activist TV pundit death match reveals much either.

    The WP did a long 4 part series on following the candidates around and interviewing their supporters and asking questions about what they thought about America. It was low on spectacle and high on insight. As far as I can tell I was one of maybe 3 people who actually read it all. Everyone else was reading “I went to a Trump rally and screamed “Black Lives Matter” and here’s what happened next”. Unfortunately it is impossible for someone who pays the bills at the WP to ignore these numbers. If the media is so disturbed by the Trump phenomenon they sure do spend a lot of time pouring gas on that fire.

  28. Hackworth says:

    What is the “Marcus Aurelius, eat your heart out” reference about? Not obvious enough for me.

    • Nita says:

      Marcus Aurelius has also authored a guide to self-improvement, which contains things like this:

      I hear you say, “How unlucky that this should happen to me!” Not at all! Say instead, “How lucky that I am not broken by what has happened and am not afraid of what is about to happen. The same blow might have struck anyone, but not many would have absorbed it without capitulation or complaint.”

      Not to feel exasperated or defeated or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human—however imperfectly—and fully embrace the pursuit you’ve embarked on.

      So what is left worth living for? This alone: justice in thought, goodness in action, speech that cannot deceive, and a disposition glad of whatever comes, welcoming it as necessary, as familiar, as flowing from the same source and fountain as yourself.

      But cast away the thirst after books, that thou mayest not die murmuring, but cheerfully, truly, and from thy heart thankful to the gods.

      Love the little trade which thou hast learned, and be content therewith.

      Mark how fleeting and paltry is the estate of man – yesterday in embryo, tomorrow a mummy or ashes. So for the hairsbreadth of time assigned to thee, live rationally, and part with life cheerfully, as drops the ripe olive, extolling the season that bore it and the tree that matured it.

      Although Trump sounds less stoic and more epicurean.

      • Protagoras says:

        Trump is hardly Epicurean. Epicurus thought a quiet life was the best way to achieve happiness.

        • Nita says:

          Well, the reasoning behind that was to avoid suffering, but Trump’s mind seems different enough to merit a different approach.

          For example, perhaps Epicurus, upon losing the US Presidential election, would go, “Oh no! I should have stayed out of politics,” — but Trump might be able to shake it off like Taylor Swift.

  29. Jack V says:

    That was really interesting. It actually makes me feel more positive about Trump, that he’s good at and enthusiastic about anything.

    And I sort of agree with two opposite viewpoints. One expressed in the comments, that as unfortunate as it seems, someone good about keeping the plates spinning while pulling together a deal, is a key skill in government, especially in today’s deadlocked house and senate.

    And one in your post, that it often takes a completely different skillset to *exploit* a system, as to *improve* a system. You can make real estate deals work well by faking it and doubling down on the successes and offloading the failures. But you only have one country, untrammelled optimism and pigheadedness may not always be the winning strategy.

    OTOH, if his plan is ACTUALLY hire an expert and listen to them, that would be pretty great. Government DOES hire experts, but… somehow the advice doesn’t always percolate through to actually happening. If Trump was like “Oh shit, I’ve actually won. Well, I’ll do the handshaking, but for the economy… can you all just phone Paul Krugman and do what he says?” that would be nice 🙂

    I’m more scared of him having pet theories he doesn’t want to let go of and finding experts to endorse them…

    • John Schilling says:

      One expressed in the comments, that as unfortunate as it seems, someone good about keeping the plates spinning while pulling together a deal, is a key skill in government, especially in today’s deadlocked house and senate.

      Agreed, but are we really taking as evidence that Trump is a master deal-maker, Trump’s own autobiography? Even if it is prefaced with seventeen pages of generic ghostwritten business advice?

      Trump is a master self-promoter, and part of what he promotes is his own reputation as a deal-maker. So far, I haven’t seen much evidence of this supposed deal-making expertise that doesn’t come straight from Trump himself. As a real estate developer, his performance is unimpressive by any standard other than number of buildings with his name on them, and his other Trump-branded businesses seem to be mostly failures. Indeed, I think the biggest part of what he brings to his deals is the expertly-curated Trump brand, which is legitimately worth millions in some markets and which he can do a good job of selling – in a way that lets him walk away with millions even if the project as a whole sinks into bankruptcy.

      I’m not sure how this, public self-promotion more than private deal-making, is supposed to be an asset in politics. If The Donald were to take politics seriously enough to form the “Trump Party”, with the Trump brand bringing credibility and possible electoral victory to candidates otherwise destined for third-party loserdom, then aside from the Herculean difficulty of that crossover marketing exercise there would at least be a path to success. But if it’s just Trump creating a cult of personality around himself, that’s a lot less promising in the political arena.

      So, again, and discounting all Trump-related sources, where is the evidence that Trump is a master deal-maker?

  30. piercedmind says:

    ” 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? ”

    I think you are not being too charitable. As far as I remember he did not write about the secrets of success, just persuasion.

    An apt analogy would be: “If this guy knows so much about IT-security and hacking, why is he using his knowledge to protect some corporate network instead of hacking into ISIS ?”

  31. Doctor Mist says:

    Trump is at serious risk of actually taking over a government, and such design still doesn’t appeal to him.

    I’m still against Trump, but this may actually be the most convincing endorsement I’ve heard. We have a design, folks. The fatal error of our time is to forget that, and decide that the President is supposed to come up with a new design.

    Still, I doubt that Trump’s lack of interest in government design really means he will accept the existing design and work within it, but rather that he is, if anything, even more results-oriented than other recent Presidents, and will charge full-steam ahead oblivious to the constraints earnestly set forth by that design.

  32. windmill tilter says:

    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.

    This book made me feel like I was learning some smooth techniques while I was reading it but I never actually figured out how to apply them practically.

    • Anonymous says:

      The advise that stuck with me was to never shy away from giving small gifts like paying for the coffee. Everything else, I forgot.

  33. Gonzalez says:

    I’m not sure I agree with your characterization of Cialdini’s _Influence._ Granted, it’s been awhile since I read it, but I remember the main thrust of the book—including most of the personal examples he used to illustrate the concepts—was that people are going to use these techniques on you, so it’s best to be prepared. In the foreword, iirc, he mentioned that his motivation for writing the book was getting suckered one too many times. That’s why he ended each chapter with a section on defensive strategies.

    This interpretation is also consistent with his observed behavior of founding an organization to spread awareness of these techniques.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I don’t know what he was thinking when he first wrote the book, but most of the people who read the book are in marketing. I don’t know what the organization does, but most of what Cialdini himself does is give talks to marketing departments.

    • piercedmind says:

      It’s a common theme in these kinds of books. The disclaimer “I am dispersing this information just so people can protect themselves, and I totaly dont know that the vast majority of people buying this book to practice these techniques themselves” is usually used to cloud yourself in the air of propriety, so you dont ruin your reputation by appearing Machiavellian. IIRC, even the mostly amoral “48 laws of power” claimed to only teach the techniques as a defense mechanism. I mean, what else are they going to say? “Oh please do use this stuff however you want, I dont care”?

      Books like “Influence” treat the topic of persuasion and its masters with thinly veiled admiration. Cialdini does not condemn any of the actual examples he cites, and never calls these techniques what they actually are: manipulation. My guess is that he is just fascinated by this topic, without actually planning to implent his knowledge, much like some people are obsessed with serial killers.

      That being said, it’s an entertaining book, probably as good as you can expect any pop-psychology-business book to be. The techniques are actually useful, it’s somewhat supported by research, and Cialdini does thankfully not fall into the trap of rephrasing the same point a hundred times or citing anecdotes of his friend Bob as conclusive proof.

      • suntzuanime says:

        She manipulates; you influence; I persuade. If you’re going to call things what they are, “interpersonal interaction” is plenty bad enough.

        • piercedmind says:

          I agree, there is probably somewhat of a bias in my claim that the only acceptable name for these techniques is manipulation, and that there might be no clear distinction. However, I still think “manipulation” is very appropriate, since the other terms are way broader.

          These type of books do not cover stuff like: “Try to see things from your opposite’s side and lay out your arguments calmly” or “Dont attack somebody personally if you want to convince them”.

          Instead it’s all stuff that I, and most people I assume, would not approve of being used on me, which is in general not true of persuading or influencing me. So manipulation is the word that captures the phenomenon most exactly, at least to me.

          • jimmy says:

            There’s plenty of room for the stuff in that book to be useful in ethical ways that you’d approve of being “used on you”.

            For example, one of the chapters is on commitment and consistency. If you don’t pay attention to this, people will take whichever stance they find convenient in the moment without caring to stay consistent with their other views on the matter. If you remind them of their other views, they’re more likely to stay consistent with it and make decisions from a broader and more informed perspective.

            If the narrow “convenient” thing is in opposition to what you want, then helping them make better decisions by offering them a chance to be consistent helps you get what you want by helping them get what they want.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            So, the decision of Gravatar to go with abstract shapes with small integer degrees of rotational symmetry is kind of looking like a bad idea, huh?

          • piercedmind says:

            @jimmy:

            “If the narrow “convenient” thing is in opposition to what you want, then helping them make better decisions by offering them a chance to be consistent helps you get what you want by helping them get what they want.”

            But being consistent is not a condition for making better decisions, right? Correct me if I recall the chapter incorrectly, but basically this technique involves asking people if they would do something before the actual decision occured, like asking if you would be theoretically willing to donate blood, and then calling two weeks later actually asking for blood donations.

            To me it seems that the existence of this technique itself proves that without using it people would have wanted to do something different.

            This might be a personal quirk, but let’s imagine a friend asked me if I would be willing to help him out financially if the need to do so ever occured, and two leeks later the need does actually occur. Finding out that my friend planned this all along, I would feel betrayed, or should I be happy that he helped me make a better decision?

            Steelmanning this technique, one could say that it improves System 2 decision making and social desirability of actions, but those things do not automatically make for better decisions.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “So, the decision of Gravatar to go with abstract shapes with small integer degrees of rotational symmetry is kind of looking like a bad idea, huh?”

            On the plus side, we now have a second guy we can liken to Hitler.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Jimmy Hitler, Brown Genius?

          • Jiro says:

            This might be a personal quirk, but let’s imagine a friend asked me if I would be willing to help him out financially if the need to do so ever occured, and two leeks later the need does actually occur. Finding out that my friend planned this all along, I would feel betrayed, or should I be happy that he helped me make a better decision?

            You should feel betrayed. “Would you help me if X happens” implies, absent further information, a default and low probability of X happening. He deceived you about this probability.

            It is true that the worst case scenario (X being true and you helping him) has the same cost regardless of the probability. However, think of it like a gamble: someone asks you if you’d bet on a coin coming up tails and forgets to mention that it’s a two headed coin. You were willing to lose some money if the coin was fair and came up heads. You’re not losing any more than the amount you already said you were willing to lose, so why should you complain?

          • jimmy says:

            I didn’t think people were going to be comparing me to Hitler quite so soon. Sigh, oh well. Lemme have it!

            Let’s run with the “would you help me financially?” example. There is definitely room to abuse commitment and consistency here but there’s also ways to use it ethically.

            If I were your friend and I were to ask that, I wouldn’t be trying to trick you into saying “yes” under the pretense that it’s unlikely. I’d be trying to figure out whether you’d actually be willing to help me out. Like, for reals, I’m in need, will you help me and be glad you did even with the costs to you? If so, great, I appreciate that and I’m more willing to return the favor if you’re the one in need.

            And when the time comes, you’ll have already thought about the problem and decided on an answer to cache away when there wasn’t as much pressure on it – perhaps without having to deal with the pressure of your spouse nagging you about your financial situation. As long as you can make a better decision the first time than you can the second time under stress, commitment and consistency can help you to make a better decision. You have to be careful with it, but that’s the case in general.

            However, if I just ask “will you help me?” and you say “yes”, and then resent me for it, *I* would feel a bit unfairly treated because I wasn’t actually pressuring you to say yes and it kinda looks like you were just trying to look nice when you thought it were cheap to do so! I’d take that into account and make sure you really would be happy to help, of course, but I don’t think the blame always falls on the “manipulator”, and it can actually fall on the “manipulated” sometimes.

            But that’s totally something Hitler would say, isn’t it?

          • suntzuanime says:

            I think they’re just commenting on the passing resemblance of your avatar to a swastika.

          • Adam says:

            These comments have started to make much less sense since Ghostery started blocking Gravatar.

          • jimmy says:

            yeah, I was just rolling with the joke

  34. onyomi says:

    Here’s a hypothetical: let’s accept the criticism of Trump’s most ardent critics and accept that he’s basically Hitler and all the bitter white people voting for him are doing so for the same reasons people voted for Hitler. My question is this:

    Imagine you are an unemployed German WWI veteran in 1932. Your country has been humiliated, your economy is in a shambles, your savings wiped out, and all the other parties seem to promise is more of the same or else even crazier sounding solutions (the Communists/Bernie on this analogy). Will you or won’t you vote for the Nazi Party, given that you don’t know there will be the Holocaust, etc.? And aren’t the people responsible for creating this situation (everyone involved in the Treaty of Versailles, for example) at least partially to blame?

    “But we have the benefit of hindsight,” you say, “so we should know better than to vote for a xenophobic strongman just because a lot of people are economically and socially disenfranchised and humiliated.” But what if, again, no other option but more of the same is on offer? And you never know that this particular strongman will become a Hitler as opposed to say, a Peter the Great or a Lee Kuan Yew. If you are the 2016 equivalent of the unemployed German war veteran will you or won’t you vote for the 2016 version of Hitler, which we’ll assume, for the sake of argument, is Trump? And if you were able to sit down and have a talk with 1932 German veteran or 2016 unemployed Trump supporter, what would you suggest he do?

    I guess what I’m saying is, I feel like we’ve learned the lesson of WWII insofar as we can say “don’t do that,” but not in terms of having a better response to a similar, if much less dire situation. If the problem is “large numbers of blue collar men feeling economically and socially disenfranchised by the status quo” there has to be a third solution besides “more of the same” and “elect a fascist dictator.” But why does it either never come up or, at least, never catch on if it does?

    That is, it seems we need to put less energy into just saying over and over: “don’t fall for a charismatic, xenophobic strongman just because you feel culturally and economically disenfranchised,” which doesn’t, in any case, seem to work, and a lot more time thinking how to prevent the situations from arising in the first place and/or offer better alternatives.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Onyomi, they do have an answer for this: vote for a charismatic internationalist strongman because you feel economically disenfranchised.
      “What if the internationalist strongman wants to destroy my culture? And what if his agricultural policy causes famine?”
      “And your candidate is lynching Negroes!”

    • hlynkacg says:

      The typical solution seems to be something along the lines of “round up all those men and put them in concentration camps“.

    • Well, I would say “Trump held the state governor at gunpoint, tried to overthrow the government, and was convicted of treason. We should have hanged the scrawny art school drop-out, not throw him in jail for 9 months.”

      Trump, not being Hitler, has not yet tried to launch a violent overthrow of any governments.

      On the other hand, Hugo Chavez did try to violently overthrow a government, and there are plenty of people who still support him (though Bernie recently denounced him).

      • onyomi says:

        Isn’t Hugo Chavez dead? You mean he denounced his posthumous legacy of leaving his nation a wreck? That was bold of him. I think I’m ready now to come out and denounce Kim Jong-Il.

    • blacktrance says:

      That is, it seems we need to put less energy into just saying over and over: “don’t fall for a charismatic, xenophobic strongman just because you feel culturally and economically disenfranchised,” which doesn’t, in any case, seem to work

      How do you know we wouldn’t have even more strongmen if we didn’t put so much energy into it?

    • blacktrance says:

      As for the original point, given that while most strongmen aren’t Hitler-level they’re still bad, if the choice is between that and more of the same, the latter is obviously correct. Even if you’re stuck at a dead-end job, taking your life savings to the casino is a bad idea, and the same principle applies here. But maybe the status quo needs better PR – people don’t know how good they have it.

      • onyomi says:

        “people don’t know how good they have it.”

        Thing is, you really can’t frame it that way. Worse, the usual way it’s done is to enlist statistics and experts to testify to the fact that the economy is great even when lots of people can’t pay their bills. You can’t get away with a disconnect like that forever. You could tell everyone they just need to have lower expectations, but we see how well that worked out for Jimmy Carter.

        • Nicholas says:

          I think that sometimes the leader of a nation speaks as Jimmy Carter did, and the people who are shone clearly the choice he outlined choose differently, but I don’t know why they do it.

      • onyomi says:

        Also, it all depends on how bad the status quo is for you. Nobody who isn’t a member of the disaffected group can effectively lecture the unemployed and disaffected that they should suck it up and deal rather than, in the words of Scott Baio, picking a guy “who speaks like me,” to “go to Washington and blow it up.”

    • Nicholas says:

      There are things you can do, which all involve in an unavoidable sort of way limiting the power of the rich, the well-connected, and the intellectual fashion-makers.
      Since you need at least one of these three groups to support the thing you do next, it very rarely happens that any of those things get done. I think maybe England did some of them in the 40’s and 50’s, but did they fail because Thatcher changed course, or did Thatcher change course because they failed?

    • Anonymous says:

      How about this for a solution:

      Rather than having national elections be multi year circuses where people gawk at candidates, we restructure the entire process (from the debates onward) so that it allows for reasoned debates and doesn’t favor extended shouting matches?

  35. eddie 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 such design still doesn’t appeal to him.

    Every successful leader of any enterprise worth discussing has been a manager of people and not a technician (although some have been technicians prior to becoming leaders).

  36. onyomi says:

    I do agree with Scott that I am very skeptical of people who say “the power of positive thinking can make you a huge success! Look at me: I’ve made millions telling people about the power of positive thinking!”

    • Nathan says:

      For those who haven’t seen it, Little Miss Sunshine is a movie featuring a character who is an unsuccessful motivational speaker. It’s funny.

  37. Hugh Charles says:

    It feels like people are giving a bit too much credence to the idea that this book was written as a sincere autobiography, designed to illustrate Trump’s honest view of the truth, the way the works works and his personal interest.

    If, instead, you start (as Scott starts, and as Trump himself explains in his Sixth Rule) that Trump is a guy who is awesome at self promotion, you should analyze the book from the perspective of “How does publishing this advance the interests of Trump”. How does it benefit Trump to make himself seem like the amazing, genetically endowed real estate savant with incredible attention to detail?

    One answer might be that demnstarting your breadth and detail of knowledge in this area will convince potential partners, financiers, co-investors, regulators, etc that you are the person to go to if you want to get something done in this field. It’s really a phenomenal marketing tool. Not sure if I would draw any lessons from this that could be applicable towards governing a country.

    • Anonymous says:

      Modeling people as antisocial automatons who do everything out of cold calculation aimed at advancing their interests doesn’t get good results I think. If I worked 20 years in real estate I’d want to tell everyone all about it too, even if I’m not a genius at self-promotion!

      • Hugh Charles says:

        Sure, I agree that it’s a bad universal presumption. But it would be equally unreliable to assume that people never act in a calculated self interested matter.

        So let’s analyze things on a case by case basis — here, we have a guy literally telling you that “Get the word out” is a major part of his modus operandi. Why not take him at his word?

        • Anonymous says:

          First, sorry about exaggerating your position with the whole automaton thing. It was rude and uncalled for.

          I haven’t read the book, so if he emphasizes “Get the word out” to the point it’s a major part of his modus operandi, your assumption is plausible. And he is a celebrity after all. Reading your original post I was left with the impression that Trump concocted a masterplan where he publishes a book saying great things about Trump and went off to execute it, but now I can see him working with a broad heuristic of doing things that result in publicity and look kinda easy to do anyway.

    • Anonymous says:

      Can you imagine if Scott read his patients as shallowly as he reads this book?

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ Hugh Charles
      One answer might be that demnstarting your breadth and detail of knowledge in this area will convince potential partners, financiers, co-investors, regulators, etc that you are the person to go to if you want to get something done in this field.

      A good perspective! But would this book have this good effect on potential partners, financiers, co-investors, regulators, etc? — a bad effect, I’d expect. So either the ghost writer, editor, publisher, (and Trump himself) blundered, or the purpose was something else. Like, maybe, making some money by the sales of an entertaining book?

      • Hugh Charles says:

        Why? If I’m a guy looking to invest some money in the real estate game, I want (a) a guy who knows the industry inside-out and (b) a guy who would get things done. It seems to me that writing 300 pages of minutiae about how well you understand the importance of parking setoffs and balcony designs, and how good you are at assembling a project, accomplishes those goals exactly.

        I suppose I also want to know I won’t get screwed over — but if I’m speculating on real estate boondoggles I also may not be the most risk averse person in the world. On top of that, as Trump says “[t]he 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.” So get people excited about some big projects and big payouts, and worry about the details later.

        • Anonymous says:

          Writing a pop-entertainment book with a silly name doesn’t seem like the best way to reach out to the bankers. If it’s a deliberate ploy with that specific goal the resulting book should be quite different; this one might even have negative effect if there’s any stuck-up finance guys out there. I can accept that Trump motivates his decisions with a publicity heuristic in part, but I doubt he went all “I need more contracts -> If I write a book the banks will be really impressed -> Time to write a book”.

          • Hugh Charles says:

            I don’t think we disagree. Ultimately it’s just the difference between direct sales and branding. The former is “Hi Banker, here’s my resume, let’s talk”. The second is more along the lines of “I will make a deliberate effort to build my public image as a dude who knows his real estate and gets things done — and once that message is out there further business will generate itself”.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Having a book to promote is a way to get on TV more.

  38. bbtp says:

    Trump freaks us out because he is Blindsight personified. He is very capable and intelligent, but from the perspective of the typical SSC reader, he has no self-awareness or inner life. And yet, in any domain of competition that he were to decide to engage us in, he’d probably win, and it would feel like getting beaten by a p-zombie who’d dropped the mask a little and revealed an actual absence of qualia, which is in some ways even worse than getting beaten by someone who was just plain evil in a way we could grok.

    Most of us here can’t imagine living without neurotic introspection. “Is it right to take a job caring for orphans instead of working on Wall Street to maximize my ability to purchase mosquito nets” is a question that a lot larger % of SSC posters have asked themselves than the gen. pop., for several reasons I don’t need to spell out, and it’s impossible to imagine interesting Trump in the question. Trump doesn’t seem to worry about consent issues in sapiosexual polyamory, he just lives out Big Man patriarchal alpha male tropes without noticing how clichéd they are. Despite actually being a postmodern, post-ironic figure, he appears to have no appreciation at all for such things and seems content to live life as though he were perpetually acting in a movie starring himself.

    This is what I’m getting at with the qualia thing. Obviously he perceives the color red, musical sounds, flavors, etc. within the normal human range, but there’s a kind of second-level qualia of intellectual experience that defines the lives of the educated MC/UMC today, and he doesn’t seem ever to have had any of the feelings that are so important to us here. I have to imagine this is part of why he *freaks people out* in a way that a straightforward thriller villain like Cruz just doesn’t.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      The funniest thing from a Canadian perspective is the fawning coverage of Justin Trudeau with the mockery of Trump, considering that Trump went to the Wharton School of Business and Trudeau was a drama teacher.

      From the point of view of the book Trump seems to be the exact opposite, of what bbtp describes, he is literally obsessed with real estate and wants to babble about the deals he makes, that is the exact opposite of a faceless automaton.

      • bbtp says:

        I think fascination with the technique of real estate development is entirely consistent with absence of what LW/SSC types would consider an inner life. The bluish-grey tribe people who read this blog, such as me, get bent out of shape about AI risk and altruistic outcome maximizing and sincerely wonder, like the XKCD comic, why less-than-abstract fields have their own journals when you should be able to deduce so much of the material from first principles of physics.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        The funny thing about Justin Trudeau is that he started his political rise a few years by … winning a boxing match over a Tory politician with a 3rd round TKO. That’s kind of like Trump smacking down on Vince McMahon at the 2007 Wrestlemania.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Plus, he was a 3-1 underdog.

          His opponent then went on to get in serious legal trouble due to domestic assault and substance possession, was suspended from the Senate, and now works as a strip club manager.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Trump freaks us out because he is Blindsight personified. He is very capable and intelligent, but from the perspective of the typical SSC reader he has no self-awareness or inner life.”

      Are you paying attention? Where on the internet, short of breitbart, could you find a less rigorous, or more credulous, pro-trump group consensus than is found in this here comment section?

      • bbtp says:

        “Where on the internet, short of breitbart, could you find a less rigorous, or more credulous, pro-trump group consensus than is found in this here comment section?”

        Good point, friend. I should definitely have taken into account that SSC readers, despite polls showing that LW is 90% left Democrats, are going to vote en masse for Trump.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yes, even though I live in a completely different country that is included in a completely different continent and have never and will never have a vote in an American election, I am a raving Trump supporter 🙂

          I love how we here are simultaneously all far right-wingers and loopy lefties, according to various critics. It could hardly be that people who follow and comment here have a selection of viewpoints which get represented, sure it couldn’t?

          • Vamair says:

            Some people can discuss near-political topics while holding different opinions without the whole place going down in flames? Impossible.

          • Nornagest says:

            I love how we here are simultaneously all far right-wingers and loopy lefties, according to various critics.

            I’m inclined to say that’s evidence we’re doing something right.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Agreed

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Are you paying attention? Where on the internet, short of breitbart, could you find a less rigorous, or more credulous, pro-trump group consensus than is found in this here comment section?

        Actually, I think the subreddit is more pro-Trump than the blog’s comment section.

      • jeorgun says:

        I take that more as a sign of metacontrarian signaling gone mad! than anything else.

        (assuming that is in fact what’s going on, can everybody please cool it with the metacontrarianism? being interesting is all well and good, but it’s still a good habit to try and be right as well)

      • Vaniver says:

        Someone has never been to The_Donald.

      • Nornagest says:

        Are we looking at the same comment section?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Dude, I’m a monogamous virtue ethicist. You may want to rethink equating an intellectual inner life with a boutique sexuality and subset of utilitarian ethics almost literally invented yesterday.

      • bbtp says:

        I myself am a practicing Eastern Orthodox Christian, but there’s no denying that to many in both the blue and grey tribes, boutiquey sexual diversity is considered intelligent, or at least co-morbid with intelligence.

    • anonymous says:

      Bravo!

      That was an absolutely pitch perfect parody of the rationalization that frequently goes on here!

      “Well, I would have gone to Wall Street and made millions but – unlike others – I have a complex inner life that makes me think about how sad it is that children in Uganda lack mosquito nets!” [never even has an interview for a position on Wall Street].

      “I have a complex inner life that results in me sharing 3 unattractive women with a dozen other guys – unlike those p-zombies who marry and have children with pretty thin pleasant women without ever thinking about why that’s wrong”

      Bravo!

    • hlynkacg says:

      Have you ever stopped to consider that perhaps “qualia” and having an “inner life” isn’t all that its cracked up to be? The intuitive capableness that you ascribe to Trump is basically Miyamoto’s Void.

      Did you really just suggest that Trump is a Zen Master 😉

      • bbtp says:

        “Did you really just suggest that Trump is a Zen Master”

        I think he’d be good at the no-mind and heckler-finger-amputation parts.

      • Acedia says:

        Have you ever stopped to consider that perhaps “qualia” and having an “inner life” isn’t all that its cracked up to be?

        That’s the main thesis of the book he was referencing.

    • Jeff says:

      I agree with your post. I think the only question is if he’s Chaotic Neutral or Chaotic Evil.

      I think Cruz is pretty clearly Lawful Evil.

      • Nornagest says:

        It might not be strictly accurate to say that if your analysis of politics includes a term for evil then you’re better off never reading a newspaper or a policy blog again, but it’s probably a lot closer to the truth than anything you can get out of the back of a D&D sourcebook.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I want to see a world where the D&D morality system is enforced by a theocratic hierarchy for a millennium.

        • Frog Do says:

          Sounds suspicously liberal to me, comrade! You’re just going to get a bunch of words that lose their original meaning and start translating to evil. Best to let people call a spade a spade. Besides, for nerds, that still a relatively high-information statement.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not saying that you shouldn’t call your political opponents evil if that’s what you see. I’m saying that if you find yourself seeing a lot of evil in your political opponents, then it might be a good time to start questioning your sources.

  39. Niklas says:

    Judging by the amount of people who have gained respect for Trump after reading this post, clearly something in those persuasion manuals you’ve been reading must be working.

  40. antimule says:

    What I found fascinating about Trump is that every time he says something outrageous that everyone thinks would end his presidency, his popularity rises. It is like everyone else is playing checkers, and he is playing kickboxing. I still don’t want him to win, as I have no idea what would he do if elected.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I initially misread your analogy as “everyone else is playing chicken”. I like your analogy, but I think I like my version more.

      • antimule says:

        It was supposed to be mixing of a saying “they are playing checkers, he plays chess” and a joke “If you can’t beat your computer at chess, try kickboxing”. I am saying that the Donald is simply playing vulgar bastard while everyone else is pretending that the GOP is not a total joke now.

  41. Kyrus says:

    I just wanted you to know that I read all the quotes in Trumps voice.

  42. BigSmartSmart says:

    Echoing several others who say this post increased their respect for Trump. Trump, as the supreme coordinator, is also the Anti-Moloch:

    “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.”

    This is not to say the same skills would necessarily carry over into his presidency.

  43. Yohannes says:

    Turns out the guy who likes solving problems by finding the best people ended up on a reality TV show where he tries to find the best people. What about that.

  44. Steve Sailer says:

    Trump put the name of his ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, right on the cover of The Art of the Deal.

    Schwartz is a successful guy but he’s probably not one of the greatest ghostwriters. The only other similar book he’s ghosted was with Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Granted, he might have ghosted books for more egomaniacal figures than Trump and Eisner where his contract didn’t give him public co-authorship.

    I used to know the prominent ghostwriter Mickey Herskovitz back in the 1970s. (Mickey was George W. Bush’s first ghostwriter for his campaign autobiography in 2000, but the project foundered.) He would complain that Dan Rather wouldn’t give him adequate acknowledgement for having written his bestselling autobiography for him, while most of his other clients had been gracious about acknowledging his help. (Eventually they got back together to write another Rather memoir and this time Rather gave him credit.)

    My impression is that tycoons and military men are less ego-threatened by admitting they collaborated with a ghostwriter than are media figures like Rather.

    Perhaps the best ghostwritten book I’ve ever read was “Skunk Works” by Lockheed executive Ben Rich (Kelly Johnson’s successor) and his ghostwriter Leo Janos, who had had a big hit earlier co-authoring Chuck Yeager’s autobiography. Both let Janos have his name on the cover.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      This is going to be a weird question, but do you have any interesting thoughts on Eisner? He’ one of those public figures I’ve always been interested in, but who has slipped completely off the radar.

      • bluto says:

        He seems like someone who had several outstanding ideas (the Disney vault and taking their musicals to broadway in particular) but who rested on his laurels/got too much hubris and got replaced in the typical boardroom coup after mishandling Pixar and the relationship with the Disneys.

    • hlynkacg says:

      The Dan Rather thing doesn’t really surprise me, I met the guy in Ache after the Boxing Day Tsunami and the impression that I got was that he was an arrogant ass who treated his underlings more like furniture than people.

      I also agree on the Yeager, and “Skunk Works” biographies good reads all around, and great if you’re interested in military history or aviation at all.

      • Anonymous says:

        What is the sneering frequency, Kenneth?

        • hlynkacg says:

          It wasn’t sneering so much as a casual disregard for those around him.

          It takes a certain cluelessness/feckless to complain about the lack of menu options in a Red Cross kitchen.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Trump’s a businessman. For him, delegating the writing of his books is, if not something to be actually proud of, just standard operating procedure. The same would apply to those in the military; if a general needs a report written, surely there’s a captain around to write it, and that would carry over to hiring a ghostwriter in the civilian world.

      Media figures, on the other hand, communicate with the public for a living; for them to pay someone else to do so, under their own name, is something they might consider to be a personal failure.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Presidents are kind of in-between. George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points doesn’t put the ghostwriter’s name on the cover, but the acknowledgments include a nice tribute to the ghost by name, enough to communicate to a sophisticated reader that if you are looking for a ghostwriter for your autobiography, check my guy out, he’s really good.

        In contrast, Bill Clinton’s last book is more poorly written than Bush’s (I found a 350 word sentence), and you have to read the acknowledgments very carefully to figure out who the poor ghostwriter is.

      • Deiseach says:

        Every celebrity (auto)biography is ghostwritten. How else could people churn out several books of memoirs? I still remember the gobsmacked review by the book reviewer in “Private Eye” magazine about a comedian/TV presenter who had not alone written his own biography, but that it was also well-done 🙂

        From the Wikipedia article on the person in question:

        It was given a positive review by Private Eye who noted that the book did not fall into the most common celebrity biography traps of being ghost written, settling scores or not sounding like it had been written by its subject.

    • Anonymous says:

      Working openly with a ghostwriter doesn’t make me respect a public figure less. Life is busy, writing is hard, specialists make better books, and cooperation makes the world richer. Now, if I learn they left the ghostwriter uncredited, that’s annoying. Putting the ghost’s name on the cover is great.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Robert Harris’s thriller novel “The Ghost Writer” about a journalist trying to write a Tony Blair-style retired PM’s memoir is pretty good, as is the movie of it shot by Roman Polanski.

        • keranih says:

          I went to see that movie not knowing that it was a Polanski film, and was well pleased. (Saw in an indie theater, and was gobsmacked by the crowd behind me that hissed and booed when the Connie Rice expy was on screen. Anyway.)

          Really a well done movie. Really disappointed that I enriched that child rapist in seeing it.

  45. Steve Sailer says:

    Thanks for the book review. Very informative.

  46. LCL says:

    This whole conversation seems way too credulous. Surely the key points are:

    – Someone (possibly Trump himself, or a publisher) hired the best ghostwriter they could find to “do a Trump book”
    – Trump would obviously require such a project to be flattering
    – In his interviews with the ghostwriter Trump evidently recounted details of past real-estate deals, with some bragging thrown in, and almost nothing else

    The fact that Scott says a somewhat coherent and positive view of Trump’s character eventually emerged from that situation is evidence of the skill of said ghostwriter at working to spec within some pretty serious constraints.

    But . . . taken at face value as an accurate – let alone complete – assessment? As strong evidence for Trump’s fitness to be president? Causing people to totally rethink prior beliefs?

    What’s going on here?

    • anon says:

      As any of the candidates are fit to be President? What would that even mean btw?

    • Nathan says:

      Personally I find it encouraging that Trump has an obsessive interest in ANYTHING other than himself. “People with borderline autistic fascinations” as a group are a less scary class to me than “People obsessed with their own greatness”. Trump still fits in the latter category clearly, but at least this seems to indicate that proving he is a Great Leader won’t be the only thing on his mind.

      Obviously no one knows what President Trump would actually do, but any Bayesian increase in the probability that he ignores the main amount of what the government does or can do and just devotes himself to Medicare drug price negotiations or whatever is a good thing in my book.

      • TheAltar says:

        Loving making deals, loving real estate, thinking about money as a way of keeping score, and generally doing all these things for fun is fairly positive in my book compared to all the alternatives I have suspected him of.

    • Alraune says:

      >What’s going on here?

      “The dog that didn’t bark.”

      Scott has, putting it lightly, a high moral standing with his readership. If Scott reads Trump’s bio and comes back NOT saying he’s the devil, he’s not the devil.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Scott is very good at steelmanning. He could probably find something decent in Mein Kampf and make it sound more coherent and eloquent than it really is.

      • TheAltar says:

        I’m not sure what this is attempting to imply. Are you reflecting on an inherent flaw of steelmanning or of analyzing a politician before the results of their actions are self-evident?

      • 27chaos says:

        One time I went into Mein Kampf with a contrarian eye trying to find something reasonable in it, but I totally failed. I don’t say that about just anything I dislike, there are interesting racist documents out there in the world. But Timecube is more steel-mannable than Mein Kampf. It’s boring as well as immoral as well as stupid.

        • Protagoras says:

          I concur. When I tried to read it myself, I couldn’t get very far in it because it was so horribly painfully badly written. Hitler could have used a good ghost writer.

          • DarkWing says:

            Hoffer apparently solved this problem when he wrote The True Believer. He quoted Mein Kampf a number of times, and Hitler indeed comes off as a very smart guy.

  47. MawBTS says:

    Speaking as someone who admires Trump and considers him a personal hero (lmao at voting for him as president though), this book was obviously going to just be him jacking off for hundreds of pages. Waste of time. I’d rather read Trump Temptation: The Billionaire & The Bellboy.

    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.

    Yes, Trump sometimes references genetics in his famed twitter account. Some of the HBD-sphere have claimed him as one of their own.

    But he somewhat misunderstands the topic. Recent tweet: “I truly understood the appeal of Ron Paul, but his son, Rand Paul, didn’t get the right gene.”

    http://i.imgur.com/AACXOpu.png

    Doesn’t he realise that most or all mental traits are heavily polygenic? Unless he’s talking about something like freckles, which Ron Paul has but Rand Paul does not. Freckles are monogenic. Although why a lack of freckles makes Rand Paul less appealing, I knoweth not.

    • Vita Fied says:

      This is a perfect example of “Poe’s Law” when it comes to autism.

      But that doesn’t quite fit. I’m not sure what does. This post is a masterpiece. Its a true masterpiece, since it is so whether it is intentional or not.

      • MawBTS says:

        This is a perfect example of “Poe’s Law” when it comes to autism.

        I meant it only half seriously.

        I really have seen HBDers on Twitter speculate that Trump is one of them. Were they serious? Who knows. The alt right has unusual discourse norms, inherited from 4chan, where joking and serious opinion becomes a weird sea of gray.

    • Adam Casey says:

      So the English language *as used by people without biology degrees* has a metaphorical concept called “genes” that are in no way similar to the “genes” that biologists talk about. Trump is utterly typical of English speakers in this regard.

      >Doesn’t he realise that most or all mental traits are heavily polygenic?

      Nope, he’s not heard that word, why would he have? Like 99% of humanity he’s never been in a situation here the concept of things being polygenic is useful. He’s not making a claim in the field of biology here, not even slightly.

  48. Jon says:

    It seems to me as if Trump’s main skills are general intelligence and a disposition to working with people. General, applicable real world intelligence and a willingness to use it to reach people on their level are so rare anymore that you would think those are not necessarily the best skills for a president, but he definitely has them. I’m trying to figure out a way to pretty up this insight and make it more appealing to even my own sensibility, but it is what it is. I can’t even refine it better than that. When we talk about general intelligence and people competence and the ability to cross convert experience, we seem to describe them as a divine gift rather than something that can really be learned. Trump is evidence we’re not wrong.

  49. Adam Casey says:

    Here’s my two versions of the Trump presidency, one most likely, one most concerning:

    1) Trump is a perfect centrist. He signs a budget every year, relying on Dem votes to pass it. He improves the management of Obamacare, Medicare, Social Security etc without really changing the broad sweep of them. He hires a Democrat as a cabinet member and a couple of others to run major programmes. He starts a couple of big boondoggle projects, a new highway system or space elevator or a new city the size of New York in the middle of Navada. He’s regarded by history as the man who ended the hyper-partisanship of the early 21st century.

    2) Trump decides that fixing America is important, and that the pantywaists in congress are in his way. Trump gets a deal through to end the gridlock of congress by giving much more unilateral power to the executive. He withdraws from NATO calling the other members “losers”. He does something utterly insane and unpredictable, like trying to deport all muslims, or ending all international trade, or declaring war on a Chinese ally. He’s regarded by history as the man who destroyed the USA.

  50. smocc says:

    Re: some people commenting that this makes them feel better about a potential Trump presidency:

    Sure, it’s important for a president to be a good manager / deal maker. But it’s just as important what kind of deals they try to make! And the better they are at getting things done, the more important it is that they are trying to do the right things.

    Suppose Trump and Scott Adams are right that Trump really is a master persuader and that he will be accomplish the majority of the things he sets out to do. Do we really want to accomplish the same things Trump wants to accomplish?

    What things does he want to accomplish anyway?

    • onyomi says:

      “What things does he want to accomplish anyway?”

      Why, winning, of course!

    • Dedicating Ruckus says:

      > What things does he want to accomplish anyway?

      Who the hell knows? I’m honestly torn whether it’s better to have a business-as-usual incompetent — and thus continue the general long decline, staking long-term hopes on the idea that the eventual collapse produces something more reasonable — or a highly capable wild card — thus accepting the risk that he does something outlandish and awful, in exchange for the chance he does something outlandish and great. The acceptability of the latter depends just about entirely on what the wild card in question wants to do. Oh, for the ability to read minds.

      Lacking this, the balance is tipped by the fact that Trump has all the right enemies.

  51. Outis says:

    I think this is the most convincing argument in favor of Trump I’ve seen yet.

    Yes, having the right set of rules is important. But it’s never *sufficient* to ensuring the desired outcome. Especially not in a liberal democracy. The system is not stable, and cannot be. If the people want, they are free to elect Hitler. The very survival of the system is not guaranteed by the rules, but is made possible by concrete choices out of a broad space of options allowed by the rules themselves.

    If that is true of the survival of the system itself, it is all the more true of its good functioning in ordinary circumstances. There is a full range of outcomes that are possible given the current rules. Getting a better outcome is often a matter of choosing better people to implement those rules, rather than changing the rules themselves while keeping the same people in charge.

    I still think Trump is going to be a bad president, but I can now see the possibility that he could make America great again.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      Hm. For a century or two we’ve noticed that money wins elections. But so far it’s been money from people who want more money (the 1% etc). Now here’s a black swan who has money but doesn’t want more money.

      Hmm….

      • onyomi says:

        I’m too lazy right now to look up studies, but based on what I’ve read, money is a proxy for election success (that is, the people who are going to win tend to get the most money), but not a big cause of election success (see, e. g. Linda McMahon).

        • 27chaos says:

          Whenever I am not in the comments section, everyone should just go ahead and feel free to assume that Onyomi’s opinion is my own, apparently.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I’m not sure what you’re saying.

          In terms of raw dollars, there doesn’t seem to be much of a correlation between spending and votes received.

          That said, fundraising success does seem to be a reasonable predictor of electoral success, presumably because they require similar skillsets. (convincing someone to contribute vs convincing someone to vote)

  52. Wrong Species says:

    I don’t understand the Trump supporters in the slightest. Do you realize he has said:

    “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

    The fact that he talks like an eight year old and doesn’t seem to have any awareness on the issues is insane. And he’s going to flip flop on the his controversial stances once he becomes the Republican nominee and that won’t bother any of his supporters. What would he have to say or do before you decided that maybe Trump isn’t the right person to be president?

    • Adam Casey says:

      He talks like someone with an IQ of 100 who thinks they are smart. Half the population thinks he talks like someone who is smart. Sounding like an ordinary person is sadly not a bar to the presidency.

      • 27chaos says:

        I feel more like he talks like someone who doesn’t have to give a shit about performing for the IQ 140s. Hate his candidacy and policy positions, but he seems like a nice person aside from his selfish ruthlessness. And I think the majority of people in the world would be selfish ruthless assholes if they could get away with it as easily as he does, so relative to the average person’s morality I’m not sure whether I score him better or worse.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Every time you grab one of Trump’s quotes and shout “this man is an idiot how can you vote for him”, ten people who are tired of people like you treating them like idiots decide to vote for him to spite you. You’d think you would have learned after GWB.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I have no illusions of convincing Trump supporters to stop supporting him. As he famously said, he could shoot someone in the street and they would still love him(maybe even more.) I just want to know what it would take to break that unyielding devotion, if such a thing is possible.

        • suntzuanime says:

          What it would take is for any other politician to take them seriously instead of sneering at them for not sharing elite tastes/opinions/educational qualifications/speech styles.

          After Trump’s win in Nevada, his victory speech included the line “I love the poorly educated” in reference to how he had done well with that particular demographic. Everyone jumped all over this howling with laughter at his gaffe, but if you’re poorly educated, or have a friend or a family member who is poorly educated, who are you going to support? The person who loves you or the person who thinks the idea that you’re deserving of love is a joke?

          • Protagoras says:

            From what I constantly read from the self-described red tribe people around here, it seems that one of the characteristics of red tribe is an ability to interpret almost any statement by someone they pattern match in any way to the “elite” as sneering, no matter what the statement might actually be saying.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Those idiot red tribers, too dumb to realize that I’m not sneering at them

          • TexasCapitalist says:

            +1 suntzuanime. I have some identification with red tribe but honestly I read grey tribe stuff the most and then red tribe blue tribe roughly equally. Also about half my family is blue tribe.

            Personally I don’t believe in Democracy. Yet when somebody is super popular with proles and the uneducated etc., usually rich people who love Democracy and moderate center right to left values hate the fact that somebody appeals to the proles and the proles are nazis or whatever. If we’re going to base our National Leader on essentially democracy, with sure a Republic factor, but everybody makes fun of the Electoral College for not being Democratic enough and that Bush stole the election from Gore. If you liberals/conservatives love Democracy so much, why do you hate it when people appeal to the average person? If you really believe in elitism you shouldn’t support a Democratic Republic System.

            Anyway Restore the Stuarts 2016 Year of Our Lord.

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, it’s pretty weird that the staunchest defenders of democracy are also the people who think regular people are too dumb to know what’s good for them.

            They get around this with never-ending emphasis on education, which is code for spending enough time in institutions to learn why the Blue worldview is right. Free PhD for everyone 2040!

          • Vita Fied says:

            However irrational it is, everytime I see an article like this(though it is in jest), or a reddit link like this, I feel “Fuck em, vote for trump”

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-steak-well-done-disqualified_us_56e8267be4b065e2e3d747ce

            Something about those just hit a chord in me.

          • Deiseach says:

            Vita Fied, that “haw haw he’s too dumb to have good taste buds” sneering got right up my nose.

            I like my meat well-cooked. So a chi-chi restaurant chef is clutching his pearls over it? Tough luck, matey: if I am paying you for the meal, you can damn well cook it so I can eat it.

            I don’t like rare or pink or bloody meat. “Oh, it’s all about the flavoooour!”

            Bollocks. It’s all about getting the stuff cooked as fast as possible and slapped on the plate to be served up so you don’t keep customers waiting, because people complain if they feel their meal is delayed. So you send them out half-raw meat and then tell them “If you can’t appreciate it, it’s because you have an underdeveloped palate. You’re not some burger-munching rube, are you?” and the Emperor’s New Clothes effect kicks in.

            “Why don’t you get a burger?” Well, why don’t you try eating the meat raw then and not bother cooking it at all, if barely-done meat is so yummy and the natural way it should be eaten?

            How would they navigate a menu at a nice meal out?

            The roaring snobbery and classism there, that goes unexamined in a publication that would doubtless claim it’s all for helping minorities and the poor and underprivileged, makes me roll my eyes.

            Yes, let’s talk about helping the poor – so long as we don’t have to treat them as equals. After all, you couldn’t take a “poor person” to dinner with you, they probably couldn’t read the menu French and would drink out of the finger bowls! It’s okay if they serve you or work as washers-up in the kitchen, though. That’s different. So what if the kid chopping vegetables for the commis chef knows a whole damn lot more about how the food should be prepared, served and paired with what wines than you do, simply because of where he’s working? His week’s wages are less than the price of this one meal! You certainly wouldn’t ask him to sit down with you for a nice meal out, now would you?

          • Esquire says:

            My roots are pure blue and I guess I’ve become mostly gray, but I find the open aggression / hate in my coastal blue metropolis toward the red tribe to be really jarring and upsetting. To be surrounded by people who believe they are tolerant and yet really see (e.g.) most Trump supporters as sub-human monsters… I feel like I’m the guy in “They Live”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Steak lovers have been denigrating people who like their steak “well-done” for a long time, and it’s cross-tribe. Anyone who would seriously think it’s relevant to whether someone should be President probably ought to be disenfranchised. (the same goes for the pizza-eating controversy over New York Mayor DeBlasio; apparently he eats pizza with a knife and fork, the horror).

            As for things like “I love the poorly educated”, I think a lot of the poorly educated know they’re poorly educated and don’t actually want people like themselves to rule. Instead, they want people who are basically like themselves, but smarter, to rule. If you go back to the Church classification, the L3s and L4s prefer to vote for the L2s and L1s rather than either themselves or the Gs or the Es. And Trump, despite being the E’st of the E, is talking like an L. So when he says he “loves the poorly educated”, they don’t take that as an insult, they take it at face value.

          • CatCube says:

            @Desiach,

            I can’t speak about the reasons for a chef wanting meat rare, but cooking time doesn’t seem like it would matter that much.

            For my own part, if I pay good money for a steak, it had better not hit the table in front of me any more cooked than medium rare or I’m sending it back. I can’t for the life of me understand how somebody would *like* well-done meat, as opposed to merely tolerating it. What’s the point of a good cut of meat if you’re going to cook all the good out of it?

            I can’t say that well-done is *wrong*, as it’s obviously a matter of taste, but it is mystifying.

          • Deiseach says:

            CatCube, that’s fine. You should have your meal cooked to your taste. I like meat cooked all the way through and can’t eat anything underdone, and if people are going out for a meal to anything approaching a fancy restaurant (for whatever level of “fancy” any particular person has), then the chef or restauranteur should consider that they are not alone guests, they are paying.

            This is not like a family meal or even a private party where you have friends over and you try out new recipes. This is a situation where someone is coming in and you are trying to sell something to them.

            Imagine buying a pair of shoes that don’t fit, and the sales person says “Well, your feet are too big, try having one of your toes cut off! Everyone else can wear these! This is the proper way to wear shoes!”

            Would you buy those shoes? Would you cut your toes off to fit? 🙂

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:

            All well and good.

            But if you are trying to formulate an understanding of steak-lovers who look down their proverbial nose at meat cooked well done, you might think about how you feel about literature and writing. If you overhear someone disparaging, say, Yeats, while praising Danielle Steele, you might have the same internal reaction as some do to a well-done steak.

          • Adam says:

            This makes it sound like Trump’s primary genius is that he has convinced his supporters he is not running against his actual opponents, but against media pundits who think he and his supporters are idiots. I might just not be paying enough attention, but I have never gotten the impression that Rubio and Cruz are sneering intellectual elitists. Certainly Carson and Christie were pretty far from that. His initial focus was against Jeb Bush, but definitely not because Jeb Bush was some holier lofty ivory tower type, but basically because Bush was insufficiently manly.

          • stillnotking says:

            Trump is very good at sussing out the weaknesses of his opponents and caricaturing them, but yes, a major and distinct component of his appeal is backlash against the tastemakers and cultural gatekeepers — aesthetic, and, more importantly, moral. (The two go together, as Crispin Sartwell has observed.) A lot of Americans, not just the Red Tribe, feel like they’re being preached at constantly, and no one likes that feeling.

            The GOP has been tapping into that resentment for a long time, but Trump is particularly good at it, probably because he comes off as more authentic than the establishment Republicans — who tend to kick dirt over the cultural lines without ever really crossing them.

          • onyomi says:

            “A lot of Americans, not just the Red Tribe, feel like they’re being preached at constantly, and no one likes that feeling.”

            As much as I love to blame the mainstream media, I think a lot of the blame for this goes to social media. I don’t even use much social media–mostly just Facebook and, occasionally Twitter, but even just reading those, I feel constantly bombarded by tribal virtue signalling and outright lectures of the nature: “10 Things White Guys Need to Understand,” “What to Say to Your Friends who Don’t Support Donald Trump,” and even original posts by friends telling me privileged everyone is. I consistently click “stop seeing posts from so-and-so,” “hide all links from moveon.org,” etc. and I still get a nonstop stream of such things.

            We used to just hear what the newspaper men and tv anchors and close friends and relatives thought about things; now every single person in your widest circle of acquaintance is his or her own little tv anchor broadcasting virtue into the ether 24-7. It can get extremely tiresome.

          • 27chaos says:

            In retrospect the “I love the poorly educated” remark almost seems like bait placed for a foolishly short term political opposition. I don’t think he actually planned it, because it seemed more off-the-cuff, but I think this is one reason he wasn’t afraid to say it at the time.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, I kind of suspect that it was bait too. But virtuous bait, because you only fall for it if you’re actually as big a piece of shit as falling for it makes you look.

          • Nicholas says:

            Steak is merely the delivery vehicle for delicious, innocent blood. I suppose as long as you have your blood on the side, it’s alright to scorch the tortilla chip a little.

          • Deiseach says:

            HeelBearCub, did we discover the use of FIRE!!!, that which puts us above the rest of the animals, merely to gnaw on blood-oozing lumps of underdone flesh?

            You might as well go the whole hog and adopt the suggestion below (the cutlets can be pinkly underdone to the perfection of the steak-lover):

            And Edward Carpenter was followed by James Pickie, D.D. (of Pocahontas College), who said that men were immensely improved by grazing, or taking their food slowly and continuously, after the manner of cows. And he said that he had, with the most encouraging results, turned city men out on all fours in a field covered with veal cutlets.

            You may crawl about on all fours in emulation of the predatory beasts that have no option but to chew on bones and stringy gristle if you so choose, HeelBearCub (and is not the name you adopted very suggestive indeed of where your true sympathies lie?), but as for me and my house, we shall use the Promethean gift snatched at such great cost from the jealous gods who would keep such divine knowledge and civilising influence for themselves, that secret of fire upon which we cook through until it is all brown and caramelised and tasty and chewy the flesh of the beasts to a fit state to be served to humans, who have the dominion over the beasts of the field, and are not lipping and mouthing at half-raw meat like unto those beasts 🙂

          • Nita says:

            Now I want to see a live debate between Deiseach and Gordon Ramsay.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            That comment about gristle and gnawing is actually right down at the heart of it.

            Steaks that taste good rare have no gristle. There is no gnawing. The very best ones are so tender that they have a sensation like melting in your mouth.

            Those cuts and grade of beef (and the aging that makes the steak from excellent to superb) are expensive.

            So, in a very real sense, the preference for rare vs. well-done (in the prototypical case) is but one more class marker that derives from socioeconomics.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            True, but cheaper cuts of meat are better served by slow-cooking them (to the point where they can get so tender they fall apart) than trying to grill them to a crisp.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            There’s also slicing [any] cut thin, marinating it, and briefly sauteing it with intelligently chosen veggies and soy or curry sauce, or simmering it all longer. Either way, minimizing fuel and clean-up.

          • onyomi says:

            All things equal, I will say I have more respect for someone who eats steak rare as opposed to well-done (though medium-rare is the correct level). And your eggs should be a little runny. I’m also supporting Ted Cruz because he likes The Princess Bride and My Little Pony.

          • Anonymous says:

            Medium rare would be the correct way to order if it was honored. But as it stands ordering medium rare will 8 of 10 times get you medium. Ordering rare most of the time gets you medium rare, and if it occasionally gets you real rare that’s preferable to erring in the other direction.

          • Anonymous says:

            I put people that eat steaks well done somewhere in between Hitler and a hypotetical being made exclusively of highly concentrated Hitlerium.

            So I guess I finally agree with the Salon crown in regards to Trump.

          • onyomi says:

            “Medium rare would be the correct way to order if it was honored.”

            That is, indeed, a very big problem! There is a similar problem with spicy food. I like food (that is supposed to be spicy) to be quite spicy, but not like, “food challenge” spicy. But when going to say, an Indian or Thai restaurant, one never knows what they really mean. In some places I want to chose the maximum spiciness available on the theory that their scale, like the steak doness at most restaurants, is for wimps. But if one gets a piece of raw meat or an inedibly spicy dish as a result of asking for it, one can hardly complain. Of course, it is always easier to cook a steak longer than to start a new one.

          • I have no idea what this means, but I prefer steaks medium rare (pink in the middle not purple) and roast beef cooked through because rare roast beef tastes funny to me. I enjoy steak tartare.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Nancy Lebovitz:

            I have actually only ever had steak tartare at Ethiopian restaurants (where it is served with a chili-based powder and called “beef kitfo”), but I like it.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Nancy
            If it’s pink in the center, it’s medium. Medium rare should be warm and mostly red with just some pink on the outside edges.

            http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/d3/f9/1e/longhorn-steak-house.jpg

            @onyomi
            There’s one Thai restaurant I patronize that I have to remember to order differently in person than I do over the internet. One look at me and my order gets downgraded a notch on the spicy scale.

          • I’ve had kitfo at Ethiopian restaurants, and I’ve also had the raw plate (hamburger, salmon with capers, egg) at a no-longer-extant German restaurant in Philadelphia.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            At the local Indian restaurant, my family always said we’d like dishes “Indian spicy”.

          • “I’m also supporting Ted Cruz because he likes The Princess Bride and My Little Pony.”

            I don’t know anything about My Little Pony. But Cruz not only likes The Princess Bride, he recites chunks of it to people, and I like enthusiasts.

            Not enough to vote for him, however–my candidate is Gary Johnson.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            I’m definitely also for Gary Johnson (unless we somehow get some other pro-liberty candidate in this wild ride). The way I see it, the calculus is clear: the odds that I’m actually going to change the outcome are ridiculously tiny, so I shouldn’t worry about tactical voting. I should just vote so as to maximize the apparent size of the pro-liberty movement.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            How many people here have eaten at a Golden Corral or some other all you can eat steak buffet? Rare or Medium Rare on those steaks isn’t necessarily a desirable culinary experience.

            The beef in those steaks may be the described as same cut as at Ruth’s Chris or your favorite local steak joint, but it’s not really the same.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            Is the well-done steak at Golden Corral a desirable experience? Compared to other items on the menu?

            My grandfather (who grew up during the Depression and was a very…frugal…guy) always ordered hamburger steaks, which seems like a better choice.

            On the other hand, my grandmother (his wife) always really overcooked her roast beef (and made it every Sunday). I always thought it was okay if you had enough gravy with it, but my father hated it from the time he was old enough to realize there was a better way. “Shoe leather” is how he described it. And that’s the thing, making it well-done doesn’t mean making it easier to chew or something.

            I don’t think that was part of some master plan on her part. I think she just wasn’t that great of a cook. Part of it is exactly what I was saying about the gravy (and other condiments). If you like to go heavy on the A-1 or (even more brazenly) ketchup, a well-done steak is not bad. The complaint by connoisseurs is that it masks the true flavor of the meat.

            I think it’s this way with a lot of things. For instance, most champagne you can get now and especially the fine ones are “brut”, which has minimal added sugar. So you can taste the full flavor of it. But I think it tastes terrible without sugar, so I like to buy “dulce” champagne (which, as I’ve come across it, is mostly Italian). For instance, I’m thinking of the Martini & Rossi Asti prosecco (~$15), which is very sweet in a way that I think tastes good. Yet I’m sure the sugar does mask to some extent the flavor.

            It’s the same thing with milk and sugar in coffee and tea. Or eating sushi soaked in a wasabi-and-soy-sauce mix. Or eating vegetables that have been boiled/steamed until they are very soft. All things I like.

          • onyomi says:

            It’s true that, the cheaper the meat, the more you want it cooked. The fanciest cuts from the best meat are soft and melt-in-your-mouth when rare, tough and dry when overdone. But the cheaper cuts of lower quality, conversely, are too sinewy to eat rare, and can become fall-apart delicious if cooked for a long time in a stew or what have you.

          • Anonymous says:

            So, I’m not so clear on this, if by some reason the Libertarian or the Green Party got 5% of the vote (from disgruntled Bern victims or whatever), would they get seats in the house of representatives? Or does it depend on the distribution of the votes?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            “Is the well-done steak at Golden Corral a desirable experience?”

            The only question is whether it’s a more desirable experience as compared to that same meat done rare when you have never had a “better” steak.

            Is a Big Mac a desirable experience? how tasty are fried crickets?

            I grew up eating medium-rare steak grilled by my Dad at home. I’m not sure I’ve ever consciously order a well-done steak.

            But I won’t presume to think that someone is wrong to like their steak well done. My sense is that this is just another cultural marker used to mark the out-group.

            Which doesn’t mean that there isn’t any real knowledge contained within the marker. Preferring not to cast near cover when fishing because you don’t like tangling your line is probably “wrong”, but if you still enjoy yourself while drinking beer and catching fewer fish, who cares? I mean, some people will care, but should they?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anonymous:
            They would have to get more votes than any other party for some particular elected office.

            And that isn’t correct either as we vote for the person, not the party. So the Green candidate in Vermont, US House District 1 (as a hypothetical example) would need to win more votes than any other candidate. Depending on the state in question, I think they might have to eventually get an outright majority to win the seat. Each State has some latitude in determining exactly the condition for a win.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            So, I’m not so clear on this, if by some reason the Libertarian or the Green Party got 5% of the vote (from disgruntled Bern victims or whatever), would they seats in the house of representatives? Or does it depend on the distribution of the votes?

            No, you get nothing.

            The system is known in political science as first-past-the-post, AKA plurality voting. Whoever gets the most votes wins.

            The country is split up into 435 (an arbitrary number not in the constitution, though no state can have more than one for every 30,000 people; quite irrelevant as the average population per district is now 23 times that amount) electoral districts, which are redrawn and reapportioned among states every 10 years as the population changes.

            Whoever wins the most votes in each district gets the seat. And then you have the senators, who are elected on a statewide basis in the same manner.

            There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits states from using multi-member districts with proportional representation. But there is a Congressional law, the Uniform Congressional District Act, which mandates single-member districts. This was mainly to stop possible Southern attempts at creating a block voting system that is almost guaranteed to elect only representatives from the most popular statewide party. (That would allow segregationist Democrats to continue denying representation for black voters.)

            Unless you win the most votes, you get no form of representation. The British Parliament uses the same system.

            With the president, it’s more complicated. There is a popular vote, but that is technically to pick a slate of electors in the Electoral College. They are only assembled every four years and pick the president. In practice (and by the laws of many states), they have to vote for whoever the voters in each state pick. Only two states (I think) allocate their electors proportionally. The rest are winner-take-all.

            If no one wins a majority of the electors, the House of Representatives (from the previous term) votes to elect the president. This has only happened one time, with John Quincy Adams beating Jackson in 1824 (the so-called “Corrupt Bargain”). But the House also has to choose the president with a majority vote. If they don’t choose anybody by January 20th, then the Vice President-elect acts as President until they do. If they don’t choose a VP either, then it goes down the line in some way I don’t know.

          • I’d use stronger language– I mistrust the judgement of anyone who thinks something important is shown by how well done someone likes their steak.

          • Frank McPike says:

            In the U.S., congressmen are elected on a first-past-the-post basis by district, and senators on a first-past-the-post basis by state. Some states hold runoff elections between the top two candidates for a particular seat under certain circumstances.

            If the Libertarian party got 5% of the vote in every district, they would get no seats. In order to get a seat in Congress, a Libertarian candidate would need to receive the largest share of the vote in his or her own district. Generally, third party candidates winning in any district is pretty rare. So, except under unusual circumstances, anyone who votes for a Libertarian or Green candidate knows for a certainty that they’re bringing that party no closer to gaining a seat in Congress.

            That said, if a Libertarian candidate gets five percent of the vote in a given district, and the election was closely contested between the two major parties, that might prompt either party to field a candidate who is a bit closer to the Libertarian party’s positions in the next election (or prompt prospective candidates to change some of their positions to more libertarian ones).

          • Jaskologist says:

            I heartily approve of the direction this thread has taken. SSC is finally tackling the important issues.

          • Anonymous says:

            Well, that looks pretty grim, I mean, that Libertarian Town project, expected to get around 20000 people, but even in a small state like NH, there’s over 1000000 for two representatives, so they probably couldn’t even influence that.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            They have very outsized political influence, though.

            As I recall, they have several representatives in the state legislature.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I have to say, things would be very interesting if we had 10,000 people in the House of Representatives, as the Constitution suggests we should have (riding the limit of no more than one representative per 30,000 people).

            The Supreme Soviet had 2250 members. We can do better!

            At the very least, bump it up to 500. I mean, why not? Round numbers.

          • onyomi says:

            It would be more do-able if we de-centralized the central govmt a la Jim Rogers’ “Govathome” idea.

          • Nita says:

            @ onyomi

            It’s an interesting idea, but have you actually participated in a teleconference between several people? They aren’t quite like face-to-face meetings yet. (Assuming your representatives don’t just watch speeches and vote, but also work in committees and such.)

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            It’s an interesting idea, but have you actually participated in a teleconference between several people? They aren’t quite like face-to-face meetings yet.

            100% agreed. In my experience, more work gets done in ten minutes of an in-person meeting than in an hour of video conferencing.

          • John Schilling says:

            100% agreed. In my experience, more work gets done in ten minutes of an in-person meeting than in an hour of video conferencing.

            And those ten minutes take place in the hallways outside the conference room. History is made by those who show up.

          • onyomi says:

            “more work gets done…”

            This assumes I want the federal govmt to be doing things.

          • John Schilling says:

            This assumes I want the federal govmt to be doing things.

            You are endorsing a plan that will result in the federal government doing lots of things, most of which will be decided on by a clique of insiders. Everybody else will get to participate in a pointless façade of transparency and oversight, leaving the real players undistracted to their work.

            If I didn’t know better, I would assume you were a clever, sneaky person who did want their federal government to be doing things.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            You are endorsing a plan that will result in the federal government doing lots of things, most of which will be decided on by a clique of insiders. Everybody else will get to participate in a pointless façade of transparency and oversight, leaving the real players undistracted to their work.

            I’m not seriously endorsing the “we should have 10,000 congressmen” idea.

            But I don’t see why it would be any more ruthlessly efficient than the current system, nor less democratic.

            Having 10,000 congressmen would almost be like creating a direct democracy of full-time informed citizens to vote on policies for the country. And if you really only had one congressman for every 30,000 people, individuals and small communities would have a lot more ability to choose someone who truly represents them.

            I’m sure the 10,000 congressmen would elect a leadership to coordinate them. It would be like a republic within a republic. But…they already do this.

            Having a lot more congressmen would mean each one has less power, sure. But it would also take a way a lot of the ability for the leadership to strongarm them, since you don’t need nearly as much outside funding to run an election campaign targeting 30,000 people.

            I do think that our current arrangement is the worst of both worlds: 700,000 constituents is way too many for the “personal connection” advantage of single-member districts. Yet we don’t have proportional representation, either.

          • onyomi says:

            Having 10,000 representatives (or a smaller number which is yet much bigger than we have now) and having them telecommute from their home districts are two distinct proposals, though it might make sense to implement them simultaneously.

            The purpose of both ideas is to make each representative more directly accountable to the people he represents–by decreasing the number he represents and/or by decreasing his literal physical distance from his constituents.

            The idea behind the latter proposal is that having one place where they all go to live encourages them to become career politicians more concerned with fitting in and getting ahead in their new home (DC) than with representing the interests of those who sent them there.

            The telecommuting congressman who was only one of 5,000 could and probably would have another job. And I think that’s a good thing, because having a team of full-time legislators who base their sense of career accomplishment on how much legislation they get passed incentives over-legislation. The part-time congressmen, conversely, might only be persuaded to tear themselves away from their other responsibilities when something important came up.

            Of course this would be logistically difficult, but it’s getting more and more plausible all the time, and the savings on travel and upkeep of government buildings would be large.

            Not that I think this is likely or optimal. I’d rather the US federal government just dissolve altogether. But since that’s even less likely, this is a theoretical solution which would allow the level of coordination among states we now expect, but with each representative more accountable to the interests of his locality and less incentivized to make a full-time career over-legislating.

          • Randy M says:

            If you want a do-nothing congress, have it be 10,000 people who have to meet in the same building (some remodeling required). By the time they are all seated, it will be time to leave.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Randy M:

            I support having Trump, with the support of Jeff Sessions, make Bryant-Denny Stadium the new Capitol Building. Then we could have 100,000 congressmen. Growth mindset!

          • John Schilling says:

            You all aren’t solving the problem you think you are. The objective, apparently, is to make the federal government more transparent and responsible to the people rather than to government insiders. Or, for onyomi, to paralyze the federal government so that it never does anything.

            Your terminal goals are your own, but what you are proposing to do is to make congressmen more transparent and responsive or maybe paralytic, in a manner that makes the federal government much less responsive to congress. Most of what the Federal government does, is done by the civil service without any help from congress. Most of what congress does is done by committees and subcommittees of maybe a dozen congressmen and their staffers. And most of what the committees do, is done by the staffers rather than the congressmen.

            One of five hundred or so congressmen living in DC, plugged into the system, can sometimes insert themselves into that process to either make the government do a good thing or stop the government from doing a bad thing, in the particular niches where they really care. One of ten thousand congressmen living in their districts and working mostly via Skype? Forget about it.

            In that scenario, you get an inside class of permanent staffers and a few old-school congressmen who actually make decisions that matter, but are harder to find in the crowd. A bigger class of permanent staffers whose job is to translate all of this into sound bites that keep the congressmen in the districts fat, dumb, and happy. Ten thousand congressmen who vote the way they are told and accomplish nothing. And the machinery of the civil service, cranking away as always but with less oversight.

            But the congressman in charge of telling you that everything is being done the way that you, the voter, demand, can tailor his story (well, his staffers’ story) to a narrower audience and maybe give you the random voter some actual face time. Maybe you’ll be happy with that.

      • merzbot says:

        You’d really have to be an idiot to vote for someone out of spite.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Lets try to avoid moving the discussion to straight out name-calling.

        • Anonymous says:

          Voting itself is kind of a waste of time, but once you’re committed to it, spite is as good a reason as any.

        • What if you realize that your single vote has something like one chance in five million of altering the outcome of the election? It then makes sense to think of voting as expressive behavior, like cheering for a football team.

          If someone watching the game on television cheers for his team, does he have to be an idiot?

          • Esquire says:

            +1 – since voting is fundamentally irrational, it’s pretty hard to imagine a world where you didn’t have a large % of people voting based on pure emotion.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          > You’d really have to be an idiot to vote for someone out of spite.

          Putting the insult aside, do you think that means it won’t happen?

          If you (you generally, not you personally) want to stop Donald Trump, you’re going to have to stop people voting for him out of spite, and among other things that’s going to mean a major course correction in how the anti-Trump effort, such as it is, has worked so far.

          • Jordan D. says:

            That’s… not clear to me.

            I mean, Donald Trump could very well win the Presidency, but the claims that he inevitably will are somewhat counter to the evidence that not many people want him to be President. The majority of the polls show him losing to Hillary Clinton (who most people also don’t want to be president, but a smaller number of most people), and while it’s true that he’s done a lot of surprising things in this election he’s never shown himself capable of breaking free and grabbing runaway vote majorities.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            In theory I’d agree, but as you said, he’s been surprising election prognosticators for a while now. If the idea of President Trump is really that terrifying, then it’s worth forsaking the brief emotional release of hurling insults at his potential supporters in order to have the best chance of stopping him.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I believe the game theory term for “spite” is “altruistic punishment.”

      • Anonymous says:

        Every time you grab one of Trump’s quotes and shout “this man is an idiot how can you vote for him”, ten people who are tired of people like you treating them like idiots decide to vote for him to spite you.

        I don’t get why it is dogma among a large subset of people on here that there are no idiots, or at least there are certainly not any right wing American idiots. Instead it is all deliberate misunderstanding by these asshole would be elitists who aren’t even that smart.

        Am I the only one on here that ever had a job working with the general public?

        • Nornagest says:

          The consensus, insofar as there is one, is not that there are no idiots but that idiots don’t vote as a bloc, and specifically that it’s misguided to treat working-class white Middle Americans as if they were a pack of cretins being led around by the promise of McMuffins and racist propaganda.

          But that’s a broader point, and suntzuanime’s point here would work just fine if every single one of the people he’s talking about was a blithering moron: idiots still get offended if you treat them like idiots. They might be more likely to get offended.

      • wysinwyg says:

        @suntzuanime:

        Sorry for cross-threading a little:

        What it would take is for any other politician to take them seriously instead of sneering at them for not sharing elite tastes/opinions/educational qualifications/speech styles.

        Suppose that Trump’s critics honestly think he talks like an idiot.

        You think it is taking Trump’s supporters more seriously to lie and argue against a Trump candidacy on some other artificial basis? Or is it taking them more seriously to do some “reverse psychology” and have the libtards praise Trump so that his supporters will turn away from him as a friend of their enemies?

        I think it’s fairly obvious that:
        1) Neither of those two strategies would actually work
        2) Neither of those two strategies constitutes “taking Trump supporters seriously”

        So what are you actually advocating for here?

        It doesn’t seem to me like you’re advocating for anything. It seems to me like you’re actually gloating: “Trump’s winning and there’s nothing you can do about it, libtards!”

        Furthermore, as Protagoras tries to point out below, it seems like pretty much any attempt by liberals to stand up for their actual values will be regarded as “sneering” at poor whites. Note that you immediately proved him correct by interpreting what he said as a sneer at poor whites.

        So you also seem to be accusing liberals of moral failings because they disagree with people whose political philosophy seems to begin and end with: “I hate liberals.”

        I’m trying to find some deeper insight or wisdom in your statements, but however much I dig, I just keep finding: “I hate the things that you like!”

        • suntzuanime says:

          If Trump’s critics honestly think he talks like an idiot, they’re honestly assholes. If I were criticizing you for being a racist, it seems obvious that “but I really do think blacks are subhuman, whaddaya want me to do, lie about it?” would not be a persuasive rejoinder.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Whether Trump is an idiot is questionable.

            Whether he talks like one is an unquestionable affirmative. How can you read this interview (or watch any of his debate performances) and say he doesn’t talk like an idiot?

          • Adam says:

            He talks like a person without much focus and really does seem a bit autistic. Honestly, I do the same thing where I ramble and go off-topic and take forever to get to the point, which is why I mostly communicate in writing rather than speaking (and even still do it when writing sometimes), and I’m pretty far from being an idiot. I don’t think it’s that uncommon. Contrast him with, say, Corrine Brown, an undisputed true idiot who is pretty much only known for being an idiot.

          • Vaniver says:

            Whether Trump is an idiot is questionable.

            In the sense that all empirical facts are questionable, sure. If by this you mean that you personally can’t tell whether or not Trump is intelligent, well, that reflects very poorly on your ability to read people. Trump is not merely one level higher than you. He’s probably three, maybe four.

            How can you read this interview (or watch any of his debate performances) and say he doesn’t talk like an idiot?

            He talks in a non-exclusionary way, so that he will be understood by as many people as possible, with telltale signs of master persuasion spread throughout. That’s how.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Adam:

            College professors are known to ramble, but people don’t (usually) say they are idiots.

            The problem isn’t really the rambling and lack of focus. It’s that he doesn’t give the impression that he genuinely knows what he’s talking about.

            I took a class from a guy who negotiated Israeli-Palestianian peace talks under Clinton. He was an awful lecturer and rambled on and on, going off on tangents. But all of the tangents were “this one thing Arafat did one time that disrupted everyone’s plans” and stuff like that. Stuff that gave you the impression that he knew the subject matter.

            Trump gives the impression that he knows about buildings, but not a thing about the things a president would be involved with. Or even with libel laws, which he has some experience with: “open them up” and no explanation whatsoever about what he means in practice beyond the vaguest of generalities.

            @ Vaniver:

            Yeah, okay. Whatever.

            He’s so many “levels” above me that I can’t grasp his “master persuasion”.

          • Anonymous says:

            ” … telltale signs of master persuasion …”

            What’s with rationalists and rationalist adjacents and the attraction to cults?

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not going to claim Trump is a genius beyond your comprehension (I mean, he might, but I have no way of knowing), but can you really make a defensible case for him being an idiot, so as to make the claim “Arguable”?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Anonymous:

            I don’t think he is an idiot in the literal sense of having a very low IQ. Certainly not by the old-timey “mental age of less than three”, ~30 IQ definition.

            I think he is within the normal range of intelligence.

            Perhaps I should have said that he is an ignoramus: I think he genuinely does not know much about the issues he talks about. Though he does pay people to write about them on his website. That doesn’t prove that he’s really too stupid to comprehend them; he most likely just doesn’t care.

            He’s like Ben Carson. I’m sure he’s not a literal idiot, if he became a famous neurosurgeon. But that doesn’t mean he knew anything about politics.

            On the other hand, I think people like Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton are familiar with the intricacies of the issues they talk about. They are just dishonest. Hillary more in the way of changing her positions all the time (not to mention the constant scandals). Cruz more in the way of making himself seem better than everyone else, in carefully framing his statements for maximum targeted ambiguity, and in pandering to nativistic sentiment.

          • “How can you read this interview (or watch any of his debate performances) and say he doesn’t talk like an idiot?”

            I read a good deal of the interview. He talks like a person talking, not like a person writing. I don’t know if you have ever given a talk and then seen a transcript, but it is a somewhat humbling experience.

            His debate performances were designed to get people to vote for him and appear to have succeeded pretty well so far.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            Point taken on the matter of transcripts. For that matter, it’s easy to make someone seem a lot less intelligent and informed just by inserting all the “ums” and “likes”, not to mention by spelling things funetiklee.

            Still, it did not come off to me like the dialogue of a person well-informed about the issues in question. If you have any examples of Trump talking like someone who knows the material, point me to them and maybe I’ll reconsider.

            I am comparing this to, e.g. personal experience watching Bill Clinton speak without a written script and answer questions off-the-cuff from the audience. He comes off as a genius. That’s not the same thing as saying he uses complicated “exclusionary” words that normal people don’t understand or bamboozles you with jargon and incomprehensible sentence structures. He just seems very knowledgeable.

            For what it’s worth, I’ve also heard Tony Blair speak and he came off as pretty dumb/uninformed, too. Not as much as Trump does, though.

            His debate performances were designed to get people to vote for him and appear to have succeeded pretty well so far.

            If that’s true and he really is a master wizard, then he has cunningly calculated that the best way to win the Republican primary is to “talk like an idiot.”

          • JayT says:

            I think that Trump is someone that is used to dealing at very high levels and has little patience for the details of any issue. At least, that’s how he comes across to me.

            I also think that a large part of the way he talks is an attempt to sound like he’s saying something without actually saying anything. He’s always almost leaving himself an escape hatch if the idea he floats doesn’t catch on. That adds to the impression that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when the viewer does know about the subject, but it’s less noticeable to a layman.

            He probably isn’t as smart as Bill Clinton, but judging from his successes, I don’t doubt that he is in the top 5% on IQ.

          • Nornagest says:

            If your schtick is all about convincing people (mostly of normal intelligence) that you’re a straight talker, it doesn’t take a genius or a dark wizard to figure out that you should use small words and hammer on your message a lot. This is not the only speechwriting style that gets votes, but it is the one Trump seems to be using.

            I’ve written a few docs for general consumption, and the standard advice there is to write at a sixth-grade level unless you absolutely have to introduce jargon. It’s hard advice for my dense and wordy ass to follow — left to my own devices, my documentation reads more like the Torah — but it is good advice.

          • Frank McPike says:

            On the subject of the differences between talking and writing, I was struck by just how much this editorial by Trump seems to exhibit most of the same qualities criticized (or praised, depending) in his spoken communications: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/donald-trump-central-park-settlement-disgrace-article-1.1838467

            (Of course, it’s possible that he hired someone to write it for him. If so, I sure hope he was able to get his money back.)

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Vox Imperatoris :

            It should be noted that “idiot” and “Red Triber” are interchangeable in this context, so your comment should read as “the best way to win the Republican primary is to talk like a Red Triber.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            No, they are not interchangeable.

            Unless you think that speaking in an sophisticated-sounding way is categorically a mark of Blue Tribe-ness? If so, then what about people like William F. Buckley? The kind of conservatives who go on and on about the wisdom of Classical civilization? The natural law Catholics who use all this jargon about Aristotelianism and natural ends?

            What about somebody like Dan Mitchell, who is politically libertarian but culturally conservative and a huge Red Triber? He’s says on his website: “I’m a passionate Georgia Bulldog, so much so that I would have trouble choosing between a low-rate flat tax for America and a national title for the Dawgs. I’m not kidding.”

            If it’s some kind of southern/northern, urban/rural thing, Trump talks like a Yankee city boy.

            There’s plenty of ways to talk like an idiot in a Blue Tribe way. From the stereotypical uneducated black accent (see Obama being infamously described as an exception because he is “clean” and “articulate”) to this meme.

          • hlynkacg says:

            In my experience talking in a “sophisticated-sounding way” has very little to do with the sophistication of the content and quite a bit to do with using the correct blue-tribe shibboleths and not speaking with a regional accent.

            Your own example has Dan Mitchell misspelling the word “Dog” Granted I know what you mean but lets agree that the intent is to make him sound less sophisticated and more “folksy” than he really is, in other words calling more red-tribe.

            PS:
            You might want to remove the reference to stereotypical black accents.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            All the people who matter are going to go on taking Trump for a big stupid stupidhead until he learns to talk more like this.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            Being sophisticated-sounding (independent of content) doesn’t mean using “blue-tribe shibboleths”. It means being able to clearly articulate ideas, having a wide vocabulary and, yes, not using a regional dialect. Those aren’t exclusive to the Blue Tribe.

            Having a super-heavy Southern dialect is mostly a class thing. It is not Blue Tribe to be upper or upper-middle class. You have people like my uncle on my mother’s side who say things like “I seen them jokers” vs. “I saw those people”. And then you have others like my father’s family (solidly middle-class) who would never speak that way, though they do have some accent.

            Anyway, that has nothing to do with Trump, who certainly doesn’t come off as some kind of hillbilly. His regional accent is associated with Blue Tribe people.

            The black accent is just its own version of that. It is perceived as lower-class—and certainly not Red Tribe. “Code switching” is the term employed for how black people who have been of a higher social class or education learn to speak in one way in a casual context and in a different way in a professional context.

            In any case, do Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio use “blue-tribe shibboleths”? Do they come off as dumb and unsophisticated?

            Sure, the left loves to say that conservatives are all stupid, and that’s the explanation for why they vote that way. But the right plays that game, too: how many things are out there calling “liberals” stupid and ignorant of human nature and the way the world works? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard variants on “wow, liberals are so dumb”. If something seems obviously right to you, the natural conclusion is that only an idiot or an evil person could oppose it.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Cerebral Paul Z:

            If Obama sounded that way all the time, people would definitely be saying that he sounds stupid.

            Maybe he really would sound that way all the time if he didn’t use a teleprompter (I kind of doubt it). If so, the teleprompter is doing its job in making him seem sophisticated.

            People have criticized Biden enough for his stupid gaffes, haven’t they? I don’t think Democrats are rushing to hold him up as an example of sophisticated eloquence.

            I think it’s unfair (though inevitable) that people make so much of individual gaffes. Who hasn’t ever said something really stupid by accident? Or even things like the Robot Rubio or “binders full of women” (as if there were even anything wrong with that). They’re just under the spotlight all the time.

            But with Trump, that’s just how he is all the time.

          • “(Bill Clinton) comes off as a genius.”

            Bill Clinton is a genius.

          • Frank McPike says:

            @hlynkacg
            Someone who professed to be a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs and in the same sentence referred to them as “the Dogs” would not sound sophisticated. “The Dawgs” is more obligatory than folksy.

          • Vaniver says:

            @Vox Imperatoris: Sure, if you had said that Trump comes off as unaware of the details of the issues, I would have agreed with you. He didn’t know what the Nuclear Triad is, he doesn’t have a detailed plan ready to go with libel laws, and so on. If you want details out of Trump, you have to be talking about buildings.

            But the idea that knowing the details is relevant to being the President is, I think, outdated by at least a hundred years. There are just too many details, and we’re much better off with a delegator-in-chief than ‘the smartest man in the room.’

          • Frank McPike says:

            In an alternate universe, where Donald Trump refrained from taking strong stances on any issue, you might have a point. If he answered questions about unfamiliar areas with a shrug and a standard response of “Others know a lot more than me, I can’t wait to find out what we should be doing,” then he would perhaps sound like someone whose ignorance was matched by his intellect.

            In this universe, though, he routinely expresses strong and controversial opinions on many matters of foreign and domestic policy. Further, he confidently derides those who disagree with him as idiots. If you’re prepared to concede that he doesn’t actually know very much about the things he’s talking about, and is unable to justify his beliefs when pressed, then I’m not sure what’s left to be contested. Unless you think that someone who transparently acts like he knows a lot more than he does doesn’t sound like an idiot?

            Now, perhaps Trump doesn’t actually believe many of the things he says. Or maybe he secretly knows a lot more about most policy areas than he lets on. If so, perhaps he is not an idiot in fact. But things hidden from the public seem irrelevant to the question of whether he sounds like one.

          • Adam says:

            Someone who professed to be a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs and in the same sentence referred to them as “the Dogs” would not sound sophisticated. “The Dawgs” is more obligatory than folksy.

            I was gonna say. “Dawgs” isn’t a misspelling of the nickname. That’s how the university spells it. Arkansas also calls their team the “Hawgs.” If you spell it the way the normal word is spelled and not the nickname, you just sound like you’re not really a fan.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            @Frank McPike

            How often do politicians actually say the words “I don’t know”? I remember a lot of politicians falling over themselves to promote bio-fuels and a gas tax holiday in defiance of expert opinion. Similarly we have issues like where Sanders gave what can most charitably be described as a massively simplified account of how the supreme court makes decisions.

          • Vaniver says:

            @Frank McPike: I think that doesn’t distinguish enough between “what” and “how.” Trump knows what direction he wants to go in (libel laws should be slanted more in favor of the libeled) but not how to get there. To say “I can’t wait to learn what we should be doing about libel from experts in libel law” is to delegate away the important part, which is the direction.

            Not committing to a mechanism means he has freedom of action; if it turns out that method A is best at opening up libel laws, he can take it; if method B is best at opening up libel laws, he can take that instead. There’s no face at stake in giving up the thing he promised on the campaign trail.

          • Frank McPike says:

            @God Damn John Jay
            Most politicians rarely say that. But I’m not sure how that relates to my point. Insofar as politicians try to act like they know more than they do, they tend to sound pretty dumb, or at least like stuffed shirts. Most deal with this by trying to stay genuinely informed of the key details of the main issues they’re talking about. When faced with a question they don’t know the answer to, they generally change the subject (What’s the old saying? “Better to dodge the question and be thought a fool, than to answer and remove all doubt”?). Occasionally even the best fail, but Trump seems to fail more than, say, Ted Cruz (who almost always comes across as pretty knowledgeable).

            I don’t think this is simply a question of agreeing with experts. If someone demonstrated familiarity with all the knowledge that experts had, and yet reached a different answer, I might think they were misguided, but they certainly wouldn’t sound like an idiot. Conversely, if someone supported a gas tax holiday, but was unable to respond to Econ 101-level counterarguments, I wouldn’t have a lot of faith that they knew what they were doing (even if I happened to agree with them).

            I don’t know whether Sanders is genuinely ignorant of how the Supreme Court works, or if he just misspoke in making the comments you’re referencing, but it sure didn’t make him sound smart. If he really doesn’t understand how the Supreme Court works, some trepidation over voting for him seems in order.

            @Vaniver
            I think you underestimate how relevant knowledge of the details is to the direction policy should take. There are exceptions; someone who believes government should never interfere with certain natural rights only needs to know that a particular policy does interfere with such a right in order to confidently oppose it. But if Donald Trump has such an underlying slate of hard rules governing his views, he has yet to reveal it.

            Otherwise, details matter. For example, in order to know whether the Iran treaty is a good thing, you need to know a fair number of facts about Iran, nuclear proliferation, regional balance of power, and international diplomacy generally. If someone pledges to tear up the deal, and is unaware of facts that make that an unequivocally bad idea, the assurance that he will leave the details to the experts is cold comfort, since the direction itself is a blunder.

            In order to know whether expanding defamation laws is a remotely good idea you actually need to know a fair number of details about defamation laws and their effects. There are areas of law that I’m relatively informed about, and I have some thoughts on the right direction for future policy changes in those areas. But, in all of those cases, it’s not very hard for me to imagine relatively technical facts that, if true, would cause me to abruptly reverse my position.

            I don’t see how you escape the fact that making a good decision on the direction of libel law requires being reasonably well-informed about libel law. How on earth do you make that decision well if you don’t know what you’re talking about?

            It’s not like Donald Trump is receiving some direct, infallible revelation about the direction things should change that’s somehow independent of the rest of his base of knowledge. I agree with you that he’s not delegating the important part of the decisions. But that’s precisely why ignorance of the details makes him sound dumb.

            Now, it is, perhaps, possible to speak at such a high level of generality that there are genuinely no details relevant to your position. If Trump had only taken the position that America should look after its interests and grow its economy, then perhaps he could credibly claim that he knew everything he needed to know in order to make those statements confidently. But, again, those would be the actions of an alternative universe Trump. In this universe, he’s taken many detail-dependent positions.

          • “How on earth do you make that decision well if you don’t know what you’re talking about? ”

            The alternative to making decisions correctly on the basis of your own knowledge is being good at figuring what people who do have the knowledge you can trust.

            Another thread has been discussing the question of whether one ought to simply accept whatever the current consensus on an issue is or try to figure out the answer for yourself. That’s a question relevant to presidents as well as voters. Nobody can be sufficiently knowledgeable to make an informed decision on the basis of his own knowledge on all the issues presidents face. Part of it has to be done by subcontracting the analysis to someone else.

            Someone who was good at picking subordinates and making use of their knowledge would be better qualified for the job than someone who tried to make all the decisions on the basis of his own knowledge. Whether that describes Trump I have no idea.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            Someone who was good at picking subordinates and making use of their knowledge would be better qualified for the job than someone who tried to make all the decisions on the basis of his own knowledge.

            Yes, but you can’t evaluate people independently of all standards and values.

            There is so such thing as completely neutral policy expert from the Platonic realm.

            Imagine having to pick your chief economic adviser. If you generally think that the way forward is to have more liberalization, privatization, and deregulation, you’d pick someone like your father. If you generally think that the problem is inequality and we need more redistribution, you’d pick someone like Thomas Picketty. There is no neutral party you can ask to tell you which one you ought to pick.

            Or imagine you’re picking your adviser on constitutional issues. You could pick a left-wing adviser who ascribes to the current two-tiered view where things like freedom of speech get strong protection while economic rights don’t really count. You could pick a conservative in the model of Robert Bork who wants more populism and “judicial restraint”. Or you could pick someone who thinks there should be strong protections for all rights.

            Nothing Donald Trump has said or done has indicated to me that he has anything like the correct standards and values for deciding questions like this. It would even be better if he were a complete cipher who, as Frank McPike said, “had only taken the position that America should look after its interests and grow its economy”; I guess such a person could take polls of economists and law professors (not that I would regard that as acceptable in a candidate!)

            But Trump is not a total cipher, even though his positions are vague. He has shown himself to be guided by an unprincipled sort of nativistic, protectionist populism, not to mention short-sighted pettiness and a disregard for the rule of law, that is a completely misguided departure point for addressing national problems.

            You’re right that intelligence and knowledge aren’t everything. I would rather have an unintelligent, unknowledgeable president whose “heart was in the right place”, i.e. who favored liberty, the free market, and so on, than a genius whose every impulse was socialistic or authoritarian. But Trump is not Warren G. Harding.

            The crux of the issue is: Trump has bad goals; he wants bad things. If he is incompetent at selecting people to implement those things, he’s bad. If he is competent, he’s even worse.

          • Frank McPike says:

            “The alternative to making decisions correctly on the basis of your own knowledge is being good at figuring what people who do have the knowledge you can trust.”

            I agree. I have some quibbles with the method you propose in the other thread. (I’m not as convinced as you are that the side with the most proponents who make weak or dishonest arguments is likely to be the wrong side, but that’s another issue.)

            Yet I suspect that most presidential candidates do when faced with a situation where experts disagree is at least roughly similar to what you propose. But I’d note that your method does require being reasonably knowledgeable about the area in question, at least knowledgeable enough to parse (if not evaluate) technical aspects of the best arguments advanced by each side. And to be at least cognizant of the easy-to-grasp details of that issue and adjacent ones, so you can tell when one side’s experts are sloppy about the basics. This argues that presidents should try to maintain a wide base of knowledge, but not worry too much about depth beyond a certain point. I think most candidates meet this standard on most issues.

            With that established, I don’t see much relevance to the instant case. If Donald Trump seemed as familiar with the details of any issue (real estate excepted) as you do with the details of global warming research, then I don’t think we would be having this conversation. (My point is not that presidents must be experts on everything, only that taking strong stances on a controversial issue while demonstrating ignorance of the basic details often makes a person sound like an idiot.)

          • @Frank:

            I wasn’t suggesting that presidents use the approach I sketched in the other thread—I doubt it would work for enough of the wide range of issues they deal with. I was imagining someone with good people skills, whose expertise was in judging the people, not the controversy.

            I read an account somewhere of the events leading to the abolition of the draft. At one point, Nixon, who was inclined to favor abolition, appointed Thomas Gates to run the advisory commission on an all volunteer army. Gates was pro-draft but, in Nixon’s view, honest and competent. So when the commission came out in favor of abolition, Nixon had good reason, aside from his own expertise, to think it was probably a good idea.

          • Frank McPike says:

            @David Friedman
            Oh, I’m much more skeptical of that method. I’ve met too many brilliant, intellectually honest people who profoundly disagree with each other.

            All else being equal, those are fine qualities in advisers, and being a good judge of people might at least save you from scoundrels. But I don’t think it’s remotely enough to make you confident that you’re choosing the right side.

        • Mikk Salu says:

          What David Friedman says, Trump talks like a person talking. As a journalist I can say that oral and written texts are very different. Straight transcripts make most people look stupid. From the other side, sometimes people ask for written interviews: lets conduct interview by e-mail. I personally avoid doing this. Readers usually get it (even if they do not know that interview was done by e-mail), they feel that it is “wrong”.
          When editing interviews I try to achieve smth between (not straight oral, not written), then interview feels “right”.
          Here is one Trump´s interview from 25 years ago. https://thecorporateculture.com/2015/playboy-interviewed-donald-trump-25-years-ago/ It still carries Trumpish style, but not stupid like Wapo straight transcript.
          And it is absolutely right that journalists/editors have lot of power to make interviewees “stupid” or “smart”.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Is talking like an 8-year-old supposed to be a problem?

      • Yes, that’s too complicated. Explain it to a 5 year old.
        The ability to communicate to a vast number of people is a skill, not a handicap. Particularly a useful skill for someone who needs to convince a large number of people to buy into his vision for the nation.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I could buy this if Trump gave some indication of being able to talk at a higher level. I highly doubt that. People who talk like an eight year old usually talk like that because they simply don’t know how to sound smarter. I don’t think Trump is a total idiot but when was the last time he read any kind of intellegient book?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “I went to an Ivy League school. I’m very highly educated. I know words. I have the best words”

            That sort of sums up Donald Trump’s usage of language.

            I really don’t begrudge him speaking simply. He clearly is effective at communicating what he wants to whom he wants.

            But he isn’t content with saying that he speaks simply so that he can speak clearly. The end result looks a lot like the guy in the Napoleon basketball league who boasts about how he is the tallest guy on the court.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Why would he need to talk a higher level?

            Ability to talk at high level is not the same as being able to operate at a high level and can actually be a handicap when communicating with those outside the cognoscenti.

            See my Feynman comment below.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “I went to an Ivy League school. I’m very highly educated. I know words. I have the best words” reads as much like the Gentry’s self-justification as it does Trump’s. Where would they be without those yuge, classy words?

          • Alright, well, let’s assume Trump really can only speak at a 3rd grade level: how’d he convince a bank to finance his combover, let alone buildings worth hundreds of millions of dollars?

          • Wanheda says:

            Eisenhower deliberately modulated his speech to appeal to the average voter, leading his opponents to castigate him as a dim bulb (even though he was smart enough to have commanded the Western Allied forces in World War II). I have to wonder whether Trump is doing something similar, because it’s hard to imagine him navigating the corridors of finance and power as he’s done if his mind were truly as simple as his campaign language would make it seem.

          • DarkWing says:

            >but when was the last time he read any kind of intelligent book?

            Actually, from what I’ve heard, he’s a voracious reader. Don’t have a source at hand to verify, though.

          • At a slight tangent … . Yesterday, listening to talk on an online game, I heard someone describe Cruz as stupid.

            Cruz clerked for the Supreme Court, the highest status thing that a recent law school graduate can do. That means that he graduated from a elite law school (Harvard, as it happens) at or near the top of his class.

            Believing that someone whose views you disagree with is stupid is a mistake for two different reasons. First, it lets you dismiss his views without considering the possibility that perhaps he is right and you are wrong. Second, assuming you are right in your views, it results in your underestimating your opponent, generally a foolish thing to do.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Cruz? Cruz doesn’t even act stupid, his whole selling point is to be the smartest guy in the room contrasted with a bunch of empty suits and lunatics. It’s a mistake I can see making about some candidates, but to make it about Cruz suggests a warped worldview.

          • 27chaos says:

            Cruz used to do debate in college. He reminds me of a lot of “debate-smart” idiots I encountered when I debated in high school. He believes and disbelieves his own rhetoric simultaneously. It’s eerie.

            I have no evidence for this because I don’t know how to provide evidence about things I can identify on sight due to personal experiences. Feel free to discount my opinion as heavily as you wish due to this.

          • Cruz won a number of national debate championships. I don’t know enough about the subject to guess how great the competition was for those particular events, but my impression is that he was viewed by contemporaries as impressively good at it. He was a student at Princeton and the Princeton debate team ended up naming their annual novice championship after him.

          • 27chaos says:

            There’s actually a really interesting article/hit-piece by the NYT where they interview former debaters who were on his circuit: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/23/us/politics/ted-cruz-honed-political-skills-in-princeton-debate-club.html. He was not well-liked. Some of that is not due to any fault of his own, I think, just a personality type that happens to not be very endearing to others.

            I also found this quora question, where similar remarks are made by some other former competitors of his: https://www.quora.com/What-was-it-like-debating-against-Ted-Cruz-when-he-was-at-Princeton.

            To answer your question, often debaters kind of hate judges and think they are biased or idiotic. Some of this is just sour grapes from losers, but some of it is justified. Smart people who are capable of impartially evaluating arguments are apparently really hard to come by. One person on the Quora page talks about how Cruz would lose the substantive line by line arguments but be able to trick judges into voting for him because of sheer persuasive skill. That is the sort of thing would cause fellow debaters’ opinions of him to be negative despite all his wins. It’s also the sort of thing I had in mind when I described him as matching the “stupid yet smart” people I encountered in high school. Although to clarify, while his bias is comparable, his degree of intelligence does noticeably exceed theirs.

            Unlike some people here, I don’t hate his worldview. I think it’s about as good as any other worldview, maybe even better at times (like when he bravely (not sarcasm here) argued against Iowa corn subsidies), but the problem is that it’s the only worldview he has. When you read an article about how sufficiently smart people suffer the worst from cognitive biases, imo it’s talking about people like Ted Cruz. He has done a lot of good and impressive things, but could have gone substantially further if he had a little bit of genuine self-reflexivity. There is something to be said for consistency and knowing what you are getting in a president, admittedly. Maybe to some extent his flaws seem exaggerated just because they are the opposite of the flaws of his opponents.

            I often find myself wishing this year that we could make a weird amalgam hybrid monster candidate that selectively takes some policy proposals and personality characteristics from all the prominent candidates. Sanders on opposition to financial corruption esp. money in politics, Clinton on all other aspects of the economy (except when she’s pandering to populists during the primary), Cruz on the Constitution (except religion), Trump on willingness to make threats and enemies if necessary, Kasich on bipartisanship and immigration. I suppose that with such a smorgasbord of positions it’s inevitable that I would feel this way no matter what my policy opinions, though.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ 27chaos:

            Pretty tame for a hit piece.

            I always found the “argue both sides of the issue” thing fairly distasteful, although I see the reasoning behind it.

            The debate club I was part of in college was a little bit different, and I liked it more. It wasn’t a competitive thing for the most part. We didn’t have judges or go to competitions. You just had keynote speakers on each side of the issue (who chose their own sides and prepared a speech ahead of time), then extemporaneous “floor speakers” who volunteered by raising their hands and were chosen in order of seniority, alternating between each side until the two hours were almost up, at which point the keynoters gave closing speeches.

            When the debate was over, the audience (including many of the floor speakers) would vote. But based on their opinion of the issue, not on the merits of the relative performances.

            In the spring semester, we would vote after each debate to award points to the top five debaters. The top four got to take part in a special debate where a panel of outside judges was invited. All sorts of people, including Ed Crane of the Cato Institute one time. It was pretty prestigious to win the associated medal, but people often disagreed with the judges’ choice.

          • Nita says:

            There’s actually a really interesting article/hit-piece by the NYT where they interview former debaters who were on his circuit

            Cruz sounds more conservative than the average ambitious parliamentary-style debater, but perfectly normal in every other respect. Except for this part:

            Letting opponents choose which side to take was one of his patented pieces of debate brinkmanship.

            That’s just weird. If I were judging, I wouldn’t want some smartass fucking with the format in my room.

            But the fact that he’s capable of competitive debating is a good thing, IMO. It means he has honestly tried to find good reasons to support policies he disagrees with.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Are we saying that that Trump can’t “communicate to a vast number of people”? Because that assertion seems at odds with the observed reality.

          I am reminded of one of the contemporary criticisms of Richard Feynman; “He’s a brilliant scientist but he talks like a bum.” The irony of course being that Feynman was really good at spreading his knowledge and is now well remembered where as the professor who made that critique is not.

          If Rationality really is Systematized Winning who would you be more rational to follow? The leader who demonstrates a practical ability, or the leader who discusses their theoretical ability in high-falutin’ terms.

          • Vamair says:

            “A favorite word of yours, tough. How do you define it?”
            “Tough is being mentally capable of winning battles against an opponent and doing it with a smile. Tough is winning systematically.”
            From a Trump interview to Playboy.

  53. grort says:

    In at least one place you say that Trump has this obsessive focus on making deals and hiring “the best people” and that this has worked out well for him.

    I’ve seen a number of claims that Trump actually is not that good a businessman. For example this link says: “…based on his own claims, [Trump] has barely outperformed the S&P since 1982.” There also seems to be a substantial likelihood that Trump is lying or exaggerating about his personal wealth.

    Has Trump’s deal-making actually worked out well for him? Or has he basically done nothing useful with the money he inherited?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Poiltifact rates this false, with some caveats. Basically we don’t know how much money Trump’s father gave him when, and how much control he had over his father’s company when it was making that money. But the stock market claim relies on an unsupported assumption that his father gave him his full inheritance while the father was still alive and Donald was 28, which makes little sense.

      Trump claims he started off with only $200,000 from his father in 1974, plus occasional loans and other help. It’s known that his share of his father’s inheritance when his father died in 1999 was $40M-$200M. Trump’s position would be that he leveraged that $200K into all the vast wealth he had before 1999; just based on what happens in the book, where he buys some very expensive property very early, that doesn’t seem reasonable. But AFAIK nobody has the records that would be necessary to prove him wrong.

      I’m also not sure it’s fair to compare someone to the S&P. The S&P is going up precisely because great businessmen are making money. It’s like saying “People think Steve Jobs was pretty great because he created Apple from a $100,000 investment, but if he’d just invested that $100,000 in Apple stock at the same time he would have done just as well.”

      I guess you could say that the S&P thing proves Trump was no better than the average CEO of a very big company, but those CEOs are themselves pretty talented. Also, I’m not sure whether other fields are easier or harder than real estate.

      • Max says:

        “I’m also not sure it’s fair to compare someone to the S&P. The S&P is going up precisely because great businessmen are making money.”

        As a matter of general equilibrium, the market goes up because investors require a certain return. Nothing to do with the skill of businessmen.

        If there’s an unfairness in the comparison, it’s because the stock market is fickle and end points matter a lot. It’s more fair the longer the time frame.

        • Ben J says:

          “As a matter of general equilibrium, the market goes up because investors require a certain return.”

          This is bordering on Not Even Wrong. Why do investors require a rate of return? What would make the market fulfill their wish? What conditions of what general equilibrium theory imply this?

          • Max says:

            Geez, you want me to write a book (which I’m totally unqualified to do in any case). Let me sidestep the hard questions and simply point out that if anyone could have effortlessly earned x% on their capital taking a reasonable amount of risk, then somebody who worked themselves ragged and took crazy risks to earn the same x%, didn’t do great. At least in retrospect.

            (The S&P 500 isn’t “the market”, but it’s an acceptable proxy. Apple stock isn’t).

          • That’s not what you said, Max. You said returns reach X% because investors demand it.

            Which is sort of like saying…I don’t know, the price of chicken is $1.99/lb because that’s what I am willing to pay, and has nothing to do with the actual skill of the business in delivering $1.99/lb chicken.

          • Adam says:

            What he’s saying is that equity investment generates a return because investors discount future expected value and pay what they expect will give that return. If the average CEO was significantly shittier and businesses generally performed worse, investors would just pay less and still earn a return greater than they would by investing in something less risky.

            I still don’t agree you can say Trump was bad at what he did because he underperformed a broad index fund, though, because that ignores what Trump actually values. I imagine having his name plastered all over a whole bunch of large buildings in major cities has greater marginal utility than having another few billion somewhere on a balance sheet and he wouldn’t trade lives with Warren Buffett even if he could.

      • MawBTS says:

        And is barely outperforming the field a bad thing?

        My understanding is that a large return on investment means accepting higher risk. If Trump prefers low-beta investments rather than high-stakes gambles, what does that prove about his business skills?

        • JayT says:

          Also keep in mind that barely beating the field would include him never spending a penny. While I realize that Trump is well known for his frugality, what with never spending money on giant yachts, divorces, or giant mansions, the man still had to eat.

    • Vita Fied says:

      I’ve seen a few of them, and they seem..sketchy. Quite a few quora posts I have seen basically are like “If he was smart, he would have invested in X company before it went up”. but dressed up to hide the flaws.

      I prefer a more basic analysis, though it might (and probably is)be wrong. Did he outperform general U.S. inflation, while never going so out of business as to stay out of the game?

      The second one is true clearly.

      In general, prices have gone up by 6 times since 1970, and trump increased his peak estimated inheritance of 200,000,000 from 1972 to 4 billion dollars, a 20x increase.

      http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=200&year1=1971&year2=2016

      I probably have a terrible understanding of which inflation to use. So there is that.

      There’s so many variables involved, and closed-doors deals at this level of money and power that I am not sure how good most so-called sophisticated analysis are. This may be a case where analyzing the market as a whole is easier, and more valid, then analyzing the outcome of a specific individual with all of the randomness.

      • MawBTS says:

        “If he was smart, he would have invested in X company before it went up”

        Yeah, I’ve seen that too. Penalising Trump for not having a crystal ball.

        There’s so many variables involved, and closed-doors deals

        For an example of this, in 2008 AirBnB’s CEO attempted to raise first round capital. He did this with a private email sent out to SEVEN PEOPLE.

        https://medium.com/@bchesky/7-rejections-7d894cbaa084

        This is something I’ve heard investors complain about – it’s not enough to be able to pick the winners, you also need to have access to the winners. Knowing something’s about to blow up doesn’t help you if that thing has already taken on all the financing it needs.

    • Chalid says:

      Without knowing any details about Trump’s business, if you look at real estate price trends it would seem to me that it would take epic incompetence to have *not* made a lot of money as an investor in NYC real estate these past few decades .

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        Krugman once said that the existence of economists as a whole is justified by how many masters of the universe finance types who are utterly and completely dumbfounded by every stock market crash.

  54. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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!”

      • 27chaos says:

        Expert consensus, then. I think that as long as you are smart enough to realize that experts as a group can be susceptible to truth-distorting incentives and try to somewhat compensate for it, expert consensus will be very a useful tool. I agree that mistakes will be made, but I think they will likely be smaller than the mistakes that would be made by someone who just tried to do whatever they personally felt was right. Cf Condocet’s Jury Theorem.

    • Aegeus says:

      My concern would be the platform – a President doesn’t just pick experts, he sets the direction for them. If Trump is promising to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, then he’s not just “Hiring the best guy on immigration policy and doing what they say,” he’s going to hire the guy who’s best at building a wall, regardless of if that’s a good immigration policy.

      There are analogous situations for every policy – if he wants to dismantle Obamacare and replace it, he needs to get rid of the current people who are saying “We just got Obamacare working and now you want to scrap it?” If Trump is promising to go after terrorists’ families, he needs to get rid of the current military leaders who are saying “You know that’s a war crime, right?” If Trump promises stupid policy, then he’ll end up choosing stupid experts.

      Granted, Trump could just ignore all the campaign promises he made, but that’s not really a point in his favor either.

      • Anonymous says:

        Considering he’s barely made any promises that’s not really an issue. Maybe he has a list of things he’ll do on his website or something, but in this very comment section we had like 5 different people ask what Trump’s platform even is, beyond building a wall.

        Hillary or Bernie may be stuck in the double bind of either ignoring the experts for the detailed plans they’ve already presented or ignoring their promises. Trump? He only promises to Make America Great Again and Make Mexico Pay For The Wall.

        So unless you think the great american wall will all by itself cause the downfall of america, you should be far more worried about Bernie ignoring the experts in implementing his educational reform or about any other politician of substance than about demagogue Trump.

        • Aegeus says:

          Trump does, in fact, have a list of promises on his website. I didn’t pull “dismantle Obamacare” out of a hat. Source: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions
          https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/healthcare-reform

          If you think that the wall is the only thing he’s promised, or that he hasn’t offered specifics on how he’ll make America great, you haven’t paid enough attention.

          And if you’re telling me to worry about Bernie’s college plan, you should apply ten times as much scrutiny to Trump’s tax plan, because he’s proposing about a trillion dollars a year in tax cuts, with nothing but the old saw about “closing loopholes” to explain how he pays for it.

          • Interesting–thanks. I didn’t read all of it, but what I read, aside from the immigration stuff, struck me as no worse than what other candidates promise. I didn’t read all the way through the tax proposals, so don’t know if he offered any calculations to support the claim that they were revenue neutral. I note that he wants to eliminate deductions now made unnecessary by lower rates but plans to keep the mortgage deduction and the charitable giving deduction, which are two big ones. That makes me a bit dubious about his claim, but I would have to see someone actually run the numbers.

        • Anonymous says:

          Will a majority of Trump’s supporters feel betrayed if he doesn’t dismantle Obamacare? Are people voting for Trump because they read the list on his site, or because of the Wall and the Great Deals and because he’s a working-class who will stick it up to the Establishment?

          You propose a general argument that the more a politician has promised, the more they’re likely to govern poorly due to ignoring experts in favour of pleasing their voters. But in that framework Trump fares best, because his voters are less likely than those of Hillary or Bernie to hold him accountable for those promises (as long as he builds the wall and offends the press every once in a while). And the man explicitly handwaves some issues by saying “I’ll get the best people to figure it out for me”.

          • Frank McPike says:

            “Will a majority of Trump’s supporters feel betrayed if he doesn’t dismantle Obamacare?”

            Yes.

            “Are people voting for Trump because they read the list on his site”

            I’m not sure what proportion of them have been to his site, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them have listened to a speech, tuned in to a debate, or otherwise listened to something Trump has said at some point. And he’s made the same promises in those other contexts. I imagine that they’re not entirely superfluous to his appeal. Do you really believe that he would be attracting the same support from the same quadrants if he supported Obamacare? Or if he wasn’t proposing to cut taxes for many of his supporters?

            “You propose a general argument that the more a politician has promised, the more they’re likely to govern poorly due to ignoring experts in favour of pleasing their voters.”

            No one has proposed that besides you (or some other anonymous, possibly). The argument being advanced against that position is not that Trump has made too many promises, period, it’s that he has made too many promises to do ill-advised things. If Trump had made numerous explicit promises to do things that Aegeus thought were well-advised, I doubt he would be making the same criticism.

          • Aegeus says:

            ^ Pretty much that. Trump’s campaign promises seem extremely ill-advised, which makes me doubt that they’re the product of hiring the best experts to come up with good policies, which in turn makes me doubt that he will, once in office, suddenly abandon all of his promises and simply hire the best experts to come up with good policies.

          • hlynkacg says:

            By what metric are we judging them to be ill advised?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “We will torture people” seems like one of many unequivically ill-advised putative policies of a Trump administration. Yes, if you are an autocratic state, this may work well for you. But otherwise, treating counter-terrorist operations like an episode of “24” fails on many levels.

    • Adam says:

      There are laws bounding what a federal agency can do, and putting the greatest expert ever in charge doesn’t change those bounds, and the president can’t make laws. That is overwhelmingly the greatest difference between the presidency and leading any normal business. A CEO doesn’t have a committee of hundreds of people, half of whom see their job as making sure the CEO can’t do his and gets fired, writing all of the budgets and restrictions to company policies.

      Of course, that is no specific critique of Trump. Every president will have this problem and it’s part of why I barely care who becomes president.

  55. 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.

    • piercedmind says:

      Particular if they are passionate about the cause in a way that they are not about their day job.

    • Loquat says:

      Also, for most of us, increasing the percentage of our leisure time we spend volunteering is a whole lot easier than increasing our income.

  56. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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).

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.”)

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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]

          • 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.

          • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.)

          • 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.

          • 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.)

          • 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.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        “Talent -> Money” != “Money -> Talent”.

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

    • 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’.

      • …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.

      • 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.

      • 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!

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

  63. 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.

    • 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 🙂

    • 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.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Perhaps pedantically, those aren’t the only two possibilities.

  64. Sarah Palin says:

    I thought the title was The Art of the Dill

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Then I saw when the Landlord broke one of the rent-controlled seals. I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Gentrify.” I looked, and behold, a green horse, and he who sat on it had a mason jar; and a fedora was his crown, and he went out pickling and to pickle.
      — Millennials 6:1, New Standard Greenpoint Bible (NSGB)

      http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-four-horsemen-of-gentrification

  65. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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 🙂

    • 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?

      • 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.

        • 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?

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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?

  66. 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.

  67. 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?

    • I don’t think anyone knows, with the possible exception of Trump. But a lot of people think they do.

    • 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!

      • 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?

    • 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.

  68. TIL Trump is some kind of deal-making version of a paperclip-maximizer, Thanks nice article.

    • Rick G says:

      I was about to say that Trump is a paperclip-maximizer, but had the good sense to Ctrl-F and find that someone beat me to it.

  69. 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.

    • 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.

  70. 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.

  71. 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.

    • 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).

      • 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.

        • suntzuanime says:

          What is “better” if not “more efficient”

          • 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?

          • 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).

      • ” 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?

  72. 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.

    • 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?

  73. 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.

  74. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

  75. 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.”

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

  76. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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 🙂

      • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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”

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

        • 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.

      • 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.

  77. Anonymous says:

    Extra, extra! Read all about it! Scott Alexander endorses Donald Trump for President!

  78. 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

  79. 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.

    • anonymous says:

      Read the sequences (yes, all of them – not just the linked one).

      That statement is indeed all caps WRONG.

      • 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

        • 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.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, indeed. Be a saint, not a communist.

          • 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.

          • 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?

          • 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.

          • 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! 🙂

          • onyomi says:

            Recently you can count on anon@gmail to come in and lower the quality the conversation.

          • 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.

      • 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.

  80. Lel says:

    Heh, should we interpret the aggressive rhetoric as your official endorsement?

  81. Anonymous says:

    >[note: this is WRONG]

    That’s just, like, your opinion, man.

  82. 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.

    • 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?

  83. Trevor says:

    Sounds like Trump solves coordination problems that have high transaction costs. And is rewarded for doing so.

  84. 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.

    • Michael Keenan says:

      It worked okay for the American founding fathers. The Federalist Papers got a lot of things right.

      • Alraune says:

        Average revolution creates zero freedoms. Washington George, who lived on his own continent full of natural law theorists, was an outlier and should not have been counted.

    • jeorgun says:

      Taking the bait, it worked pretty well for the Founding Fathers, Hammurabi, Suleiman the Magnificent, Peter the Great, Ashoka, Mongkut,

  85. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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?

        • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            The Groucho Marx effect? Any club that would accept me, I’d be unwilling to be a member of?

          • 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)

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah I don’t know how anybody looks at the current election and thinks mishandling classified material disqualifies you from the presidency.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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?

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • “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.

          • 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.)

      • 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.

        • 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.

  86. 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.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve added some of your wording to the post.

      • hnau says:

        Nope, I don’t mind at all. Thanks!

      • 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?

        • tern says:

          I suspect your pattern-matching modules have run away with you and are drawing scary dog-entities where none exist.

        • 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.]

          • 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.

          • 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?

          • 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.

          • wysinwyg says:

            So, what was Scott’s actual intent?

            Seemed to me like a: “thanks for making an interesting contribution to the discussion.”

          • 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.

          • 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.

    • jnicholas says:

      > hnau

      Great name. Out of the Silent Planet, right?

      • 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’.

        • g says:

          I forget whether it’s used in Perelandra too

          It is at least once, on Weston’s gravestone. (“He was born as a hnau in Thulcandra”.)

    • hlynkacg says:

      Other’s have already said it but I’ll throw my 0.02$ in as well.

      Good post! would read again.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  87. daronson says:

    This was a really insightful post — thanks!

    • Acedia says:

      http://i.imgur.com/MfyPBZj.jpg

      Trump fanart is tremendously enjoyable to me for some reason.

      • Randy M says:

        That’s awesome for the image of what American regalia would look like if they had the pomp to match the power.

    • Soumynona says:

      What’s worse, once he becomes the most powerful Trump, he will awaken the Endbringers.

    • 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 🙂

      • Alraune says:

        You know what Mount Rushmore needs? Gilding.

        • 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 😉

        • Sylocat says:

          I vote they add Trump’s face in brass, to more closely match his skin color.

    • Eli says:

      This! Is! HERESY!

      BLAM!

    • Simon says:

      Well that’s disappointing. I was expecting a monstrous human-sandworm creature.

  88. 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).

    • blazeeeeeit says:

      Is Tony Abbott part of the idealistic party you described?

      • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

  89. 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.

    • 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.

      • TexasCapitalist says:

        I did admit he was a genius. I just don’t know for sure whether he would be effective as President or not, just like Scott Adams. I won’t be voting this November, and don’t really plan to ever.

    • 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.”

      • 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.)

      • 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!”

        • 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?

        • 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.)

          • Deiseach says:

            to portray everyone involved as heartless and inhuman and downright crazy

            But g, they make it so easy for me!

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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?

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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”.

          • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

      • 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?

      • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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