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Trump And The Batman Effect

Today on Trump Twitter:

Here’s my concern.

When US companies do something that sounds good in the next few years, whether it’s hiring new people, or deciding to stay in the United States, or reporting high profits, some of them are going to credit President Trump.

First, because it’s going to get them good press. “Ford decides not to build plant in Mexico” is tenth-page news. “Ford decides not to build plant in Mexico because of President Trump” is front-page news.

But second, because it’s going to make the President like them. I don’t know whether Trump is secretly sending people to whatever conferences all of these people go to, saying “if you decide to do something good, give me credit, and I’ll do you a favor later”. I assume he isn’t. This is the sort of thing that coordinates itself, without any inconvenient documents that can get posted to WikiLeaks later. If you’re the CEO of Ford, and you notice you’re doing something that would make Trump look really good if you attributed it to him, why not attribute it to him for free, then remind him how much he likes you next time you need a tax cut or a subsidy or something? Trump has put a lot of effort into crafting his image as a person who repays favors (think appointing many of his earliest supporters to Cabinet positions) – you think businesspeople aren’t going to notice that kind of thing?

But also:

0.1% of the time a US company does something that looks bad, like close a plant or move jobs overseas, Trump is going to launch a media crusade against them. The Presidency has a big pulpit and he’s going to get a lot of people angry. Then Trump will offer them some kind of deal, and the company will back down. Not because they’ve learned the error of their ways. Not even because the deal was so good. But because making the President (and the public) happy is much more important to them than moving jobs to Mexico or whatever they were doing before.

Mother Jones mentions in passing that Carrier air conditioning, Trump’s biggest job “success” so far, is owned by a giant defense contractor who gets probably like 1% of their profits from air conditioning. Presumably the company would be happy to never sell another air conditioner again if it meant that the government chooses their fighter jets over the competing brand. Knowing Trump’s style of corruption, they have every reason to believe this will happen after they handed him a big PR victory.

This plan isn’t going to scale. Even Trump can only create so many media circuses. 999 companies will successfully move to Mexico in the amount of time it takes Trump to convince one company not to. But almost tautologically, the only ones we’ll ever hear about are the ones that become media circuses, and so it will look like Trump keeps winning.

So based on these two strategies, we are in for four years of sham Trump victories which look really convincing on a first glance. Every couple of weeks, until it gets boring, another company is going to say Trump convinced them to keep jobs in the United States. The total number of jobs saved this way will never be more than a tiny fraction of the jobs that could be saved by (eg) good economic policy, but nobody knows anything about economic policy and Trump will make sure everybody hears about Ford keeping jobs in the US. Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse, in the sense that these big companies will get taxpayer subsidies or favors they can call in later to distort government priorities, but nobody’s going to notice these either.

I think it’s important that we be prepared for this and send a clear message, before this gets any worse, that these aren’t to be taken seriously.

I also think it’s important to be prepared for the fact that this clear message won’t work. Imagine you’re a factory worker in Indiana, and every week you hear on the news that Trump convinced another factory to stay in the US. And also, you read an editorial by Paul Krugman or someone saying that this is all a trick. What do you end out believing?

And saving jobs isn’t the only way he can do this. Trump’s talent is PR, having his finger on the pulse of the media. He can spot things like that guy who raised the price of the toxoplasma drug 1000%, and then he can go in, make some corrupt deal, and get him to back down. He can spot all of those culture war things where the entire country is going to spend a month focused on the same small-town bakery, and by throwing around the entire might of the federal government he can probably make everyone back off and pose together for a nice group photo. If he can get all of these things right (and it will play exactly to his talents), then a majority of people won’t care what policies his administration passes. I think this is a big part of his plan.

There’s an old joke about Batman. Suppose you’re a hypercompetent billionaire in a decaying city, and you want to do something about the crime problem. What’s your best option? Maybe you could to donate money to law-enforcement, or after-school programs for at-risk teens, or urban renewal. Or you could urge your company full of engineering geniuses to invent new police tactics and better security systems. Or you could use your influence as a beloved celebrity to petition the government to pass laws which improve efficiency of the justice system.

Bruce Wayne decided to dress up in a bat costume and personally punch criminals. And we love him for it.

I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like, while leaving policy to rot. And I worry it’s going to work.

[prediction: highly-publicized stories about Trump successfully keeping businesses in the US on a case-by-case basis, which never add up to a significant number of jobs saved, will keep coming, and be a central point of how his administration relates to the public over the next year: 50%]

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812 Responses to Trump And The Batman Effect

  1. aldi says:

    http://www.salon.com/2017/01/03/general-motors-is-the-latest-target-of-donald-trumps-twitter-tirades-over-mexico/

    Of course, if Trump is factually wrong, major manufacturers can toe a careful line and retain the favor of those who want to boycott and obstruct his administration. So perhaps the process you fear is only favorable for a handful of manufacturers with strong brands that Trump already likes.

  2. Aftagley says:

    Scott,

    I’ll potentially take you up on the Trump bet if you think we’ve got a significant enough divergence of opinion. Your prediction for him several parts, I think most of them are spot on, but disagree with one of them enough to put money down.

    Your prediction:

    Highly-publicized stories about Trump successfully keeping businesses in the US on a case-by-case basis, which never add up to a significant number of jobs saved, will keep coming and be a central point of how his administration relates to the public over the next year. Probability: 50%

    I see this as a chain of predictions, basically:

    1. Highly-publicized stories about Trump successfully keeping businesses in the US on a case-by-case basis will keep coming…
    2. which never add up to a significant number of jobs saved
    3. and this will be a central point of how his administration relates to the public over the next year.

    I think the points one and two are correct, for the same reasons you outlined in your post.

    I disagree with your last point. I think there are only so many times the media will run with what is essentially the same story just with different proper nouns, I think there’s only so many times the public will tune into watch the same drama unfold, and I think there are only so many of these high-profile companies planning to move out of the US that eventually he’ll run out of worthwhile targets and start visibly scraping the barrel. Overall, I predict we’ll see this play out a few more times over the next few months, but eventually Trump will gravitate towards other topics more capable of keeping him in the public eye.

    It won’t be a central point of how his administration relates to the public, because his administration won’t be able to have the message discipline to even have a central point on how they relate to the public. The only central point his administration will have is Trump jumping from feud to feud, changing up his targets when the last one gets stops getting airtime. (85%)

    I realize that I’m picking a very particular part of your prediction to focus on, but if you think this is far enough removed from what you think will happen, I’ll put money down ($50? $100? I don’t really know the appropriate stakes for online prediction bettering).

    If you want to, here is how I think it could be measured:

    Of the public feuds he gets into, less than X% will be with companies over outsourcing (edge cases like the recent Toyota corolla plant where the company never planned on manufacturing in the US, but Trump gets involved anyway are more tricky. Maybe they only count only if the result of his involvement is some kind of concession from the company?) Cases where he gets in feuds with companies over reasons unrelated to keeping companies in the US, like with Boeing and Lockheed supposedly overcharging the government recently don’t count. Feuds are measured per overall instance, not per tweet or interview or whatever so, if, for example, he’s mad at 12 senators about some action they’ve taken, that counts as one feud for the purpose of the situation, unless it progresses to such a point where the nature of the disagreement has fundamentally changed.

    Anyway, if you’re interested, let me know.

  3. ktest098 says:

    “I think it’s important that we be prepared for this and send a clear message, before this gets any worse, that these aren’t to be taken seriously.”

    I’m pretty sure this is the exact line of thought that is going through the heads of those guys that stand on street corners with signs saying the end of the world is near, just the other end of the warning spectrum. How often do people listen to vague warnings for something that may happen some time from now… the warning will have left the mind long before the event occurs.

  4. jdwill07 says:

    And I worry it’s going to work.

    Don’t worry, be happy… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU
    And I really like the Batman analogy.

  5. Moon says:

    BTW, Trump’s punching of people he doesn’t like, will not work. Despite Scott Adams’ worshipful paeans to Magic Trump and his supposed Master Persuader skills to the contrary, Trump would have easily lost the election if it had not been for Comey, Assange, Putin, and favorable news coverage from Fox, Breitbart etc. Those helpers may be good for him in an election, but they can’t do anything about the reckless attempts at self-glorification, at great cost to the nation, that Trump is about to embark on now. It won’t work out well at all.

    When someone is a “winner” of something as big as a presidential election, people start being very impressed with his winning and all the power he now has, and thinking he must have a lot going for him. But it’s quite likely that he does not– at least as far as presidential skills are concerned. Time will tell.

    • ktest098 says:

      “Trump would have easily lost the election if it had not been for Comey, Assange, Putin”

      So you are saying that Trump would not have won if it were not pointed out with blinding clarity just how corrupt the Democrats are, that re-enforecd the message Trump and many others (Bernie supporters) even before Hillary’s nomination had been saying about her. I absolutely agree.

      “they can’t do anything about the reckless attempts at self-glorification”

      The great thing about being reckless is that if you are right often enough it builds a huge and devoted fan base. Which Trump already had, so that will only grow… and make Trump stronger. You said reckless like you imagine it to be bad in some way. Certainly not for Trump.

  6. Moon says:

    “I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like, while leaving policy to rot. ”

    Yes, that is what he is going to do, constantly for the next 4 years– except that it will be people that he personally doesn’t like. But since his supporters vicariously live through him, those will be people whom his supporters don’t like either. But the rest of us will wish he would quit punching, e.g. if he is pointlessly antagonizing world leaders.

    Here is Trump’s decision tree below.

    How can I make myself look good, with little focus, attention, knowledge or effort? Whatever that is, do it.

    Otherwise, watch the news and tweet on it. Sometimes some news or info will appear that involves Prima Donna Trump, or the U.S. government.

    Here is his decision tree for that:

    1) He asks the question: Do I look good in this?

    If the answer is Yes, he basks in his glory. E.g. he looks good in the light of things Assange says, and many things that Putin says. So he basks in the glory.

    If the answer to #1 is no, as in the Russian hacking scandal, he will ask himself each of 2 more questions.

    2a. Can I ignore it? If yes, he does ignore it. But he probably can’t put off getting the intelligence briefing forever.

    2b. Can I kill the messenger e.g can I at least discredit, and preferably fire, anyone who mentions the situation, or speaks the statement, that I do not look good in? E.g. can I fire the intelligence agency employees or get rid of the agencies themselves?

    He is trying to do both 2a and 2b right now. And probably every time a situation occurs, that he “does not look good in”, he will do the same.

    All the while, he is also going to look for and find situations that make him look good, so that he can bask in such situations. If he were a long term oriented and deep kind of guy, that might actually be good. But he isn’t. So he’ll look for superficial short term situations that will make him appear to look better than he is.

    Someone as self-centered as Trump does not evaluate evidence or try to determine the truth of some matter, or the wisdom of some policy. This is the guy for whom 69% of the statements checked by politfact during the campaign, were false statements– which was a ton higher than for any other candidate.

    So yes, we will be drowning in superficial situations that either make Trump look good, or that Trump mistakenly thinks will make him look good, for the next 4 years. We’ve never had a president more ignorant of the workings of government– a Dunning Krueger Effect on steroids type president– who thinks he knows everything about matters that he actually knows nothing about.

    This is going to be a bumpy ride.

    • q-tip says:

      I fear you are right. Nicely stated.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Here’s the thing though; Trump dressing up in a President costume and punching people we don’t like while people like Ryan, Tillerson, Mattis, et al… do the hard work of actually governing doesn’t sound all that bad to me.

      • Moon says:

        Works if you think crony capitalism and the slashing of the social safety net is good governance, I guess.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I can think of far worse outcomes that until recently seemed far more likely.

        • cassander says:

          Moon, the left has been accusing republicans of slashing the social safety net for decades. Social spending has never done anything but rise in the medium term.

          The left has been unambiguously wrong about this assertion for every previous republican president. The question I have for you now is simple. Does knowing this fact have any effect at all on your assessment of how likely it is to be correct now?

          • herbert herberson says:

            That’s a flat line which includes the growth of Medicare and Social Security, and does, indeed, show the slashing of aid to the poor.

          • cassander says:

            >That’s a flat line which includes the growth of Medicare and Social Security, and does, indeed, show the slashing of aid to the poor.

            First, both medicare and SS give a great deal of money to the poor. Second, it does not show a decline in aid to the poor. Why make blatantly false statements? And if you don’t believe my chart, you can look at the tables yourself.

        • Tekhno says:

          @cassander

          Is that just GDP, or inflation adjusted AKA Real GDP?

  7. behrangamini says:

    Alternative way of looking at this that takes the most charitable view of the other side:

    Growth and increased productivity mean job loss (http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2016/12/growth_or_jobs.html). Trump presumably knows this from business school, or someone who does told him at some point. But voters are irrational (even you and your tribe). Trump needs to keep his base quiet while he does things that actually help the economy and get him re-elected. These “saved” jobs, whether by his influence or not, do the trick nicely. The minuscule numbers are a feature, not a bug: the negative impact on the economy will be negligible.

    So, Trump gets 4 things for minimal effort: 1) His base is happy, while 2) the negative impact on the economy from their anti-market bias (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_the_Rational_Voter) is kept to a minimum. This gives him the freedom to pursue policies that actually have a positive impact on the economy and 3) win over skeptical voters and 3) get him re-elected.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If Trump actually succeeds in helping the voters who swung to him, he wins and his pointing out wins (regardless if they’re related to his successful policies or just token gestures like Carrier) helps him win.

      I agree with you that these token PR wins, whether helpful or harmful in the net, will be very small compared to the economy as a whole. What non-Trump voters really need to worry about is Trump executing a policy which helps — for real, not just in a token way, though possibly only temporarily — Red State and Trump swing voters at the expense of the urban Blues (whose vote he doesn’t have and isn’t going to get).

    • Deiseach says:

      So what is the point, then? The economy is doing well, but you Joe Smith don’t even have a crappy job because the robots took that over.

      What does the economy do when there is a growing pile at the base of the pyramid of the discarded and the unwanted? If the economy is doing so great that the big corporations have to divert their cash piles overseas to low tax regions, how does that help the people?

      Yeah, yeah: cheap electronics. But you still need money to buy those cheap electronics, and with no job, where do you get the money? The old model was that old methods of production were replaced by new (horses replaced by cars) and jobs switched to those areas (you work on a production line making cars instead of working making horse-drawn carriages). But the new economy isn’t going to be like that, we keep being told. It will be a combination of very low wage service jobs and high skills, highly paid (until the AI takes off) knowledge economy jobs.

      So how does the better economy benefit me, if I have to work three $5 an hour part-time jobs just to keep treading water, and there isn’t the good union job with benefits in the auto plant like there used to be?

      • behrangamini says:

        Yep. I agree 100%. When I hear people explaining how robots taking over and increasing productivity will be a net good, something feels off. I can’t really explain what. But then I hear the arguments, and I’m back on their side. Russ Roberts had a very good interview a while back with James Bessen, who argued that technological innovation takes a while to lead to higher wages from productivity increases. It’s been a while since I listened to it, but the example of ATMs leading to **more** bank teller jobs was initially counter-intuitive, but ultimately convincing to me (your mileage may vary). I don’t know if we can draw a straight line from that example to our robot-led futures, though.

        http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2016/05/james_bessen_on.html

        • psmith says:

          the example of ATMs leading to **more** bank teller jobs

          David Autor covers this quite well in his paper “Why Are There Still So Many Jobs?“, though contra Bessen he claims that bank tellers declined as a share of total jobs from 1980-2010. (I believe Besser’s endpoint was different.).

          I’m inclined to be a little more pessimistic than Autor is, mostly because of positional goods and hard-to-change IQ limits. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that he has a background in teaching very poor people how to work with computers (discussed in this interview, excellent throughout), so his conclusions are at least somewhat informed by practical experience.

          • behrangamini says:

            Thanks so much for the article. I really like David Autor and his work on the effect of Chinese imports on labor, but was not aware of this paper. Will definitely check it out! What I’ve read so far is nice, but will have to spend some time on it.

            You’re right. The time frame is key here. Initial bump in tellers is seized upon by pro automation side. Long-term slump is seized on by the anti-automation side. Depending on how gradual the phase-out of their jobs was and how they ultimately fared in the post-teller job market, one perspective may be more valid than the other.

        • Deiseach says:

          The example of ATMs leading to **more** bank teller jobs

          Does that still hold, though? In my local bank branch, there are now fewer tellers and fewer people on the desks generally; it’s been shifted to self-service machines (for making lodgments, withdrawals and printing statements) in-branch and heavy promotion of online banking, together with more and more restrictions on cashing cheques, lodging cash, etc. so that it’s a real pain in the neck trying to interact with a person re: your money in your account.

          I definitely see the bank teller job going (though whether that means the former tellers are all now in the back office or selling loans and mortgages over the phone, I couldn’t tell you).

  8. supermunchkin93 says:

    Have you considered that if his plan is really that ineffectual, the live’s of his base (uneducated, white working class) will continue to fall in quality. It doesn’t matter if Trump saved all those jobs at Carrier if I, Joe Smith, have lost my job at the [insert generic manufacturing product] factory. Eventually his tweets will lose sway when these people’s lives don’t personally improve. This is the same reason so many blue collar neighborhoods switched from blue to red in the first place.

    Aside: I can also see an entirely plausible scenario where these people’s lives continue to suck, but Trump is able to divert the growing discontent of blue collar voters to his political opponents (ie “I’m saving jobs, look at Carrier. It’s the Democrat’s fault that you, Joe Smith, lost your job!”)

  9. Moon says:

    With Trump, as with anyone, this rule of psychology applies: The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So he will continue to try to bring power and glory to himself. He will continue to tweet falsehoods, and to tweet things about foreign leaders that will antagonize them. And he will continue to be the Dunning-Krueger effect on steroids.

    In the U.S. we have a question we sometimes ask each other: “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” We never ask the reverse question though: “If you’re so rich, why aren’t you smart?” The reason is that we have a cultural myth that all rich people are smart. Donald Trump is the ultimate effect of this belief. He believes he is smart about everything just because he is very wealthy, and so do his supporters. He also surrounds himself with cabinet members, many of whom are totally unqualified for their positions, but he believes them to be qualified because they are rich.

    So we will continue to have president Ignoramus. And he will continue to be covered by the Infotainment industry– formerly the news business– that contains a lot of smart people. But their smarts are focused on the only thing that Americans think one should focus one’s smarts on– making money. So the Infotainment industry can be counted on to do whatever makes them money– or what they think will make them money– which is not necessarily going to be good in any way for the nation. Related study below.

    This Analysis Shows How Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook
    A BuzzFeed News analysis found that top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined.

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.ma2O7jENL#.uuZrm07x3

    • The Nybbler says:

      The reason is that we have a cultural myth that all rich people are smart.

      I don’t think you’re living in the culture I’m living in.

      (Donald Trump certainly thinks he’s smart because he’s rich. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has quite a few idiosyncratic beliefs)

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      This is not a rhetorical question, more genuine curiosity.

      You seem to broadly agree that the media is corrupt. That they care more about getting clicks and appeasing their Establishment patrons than they do exposing the truth. It seems like you’d like to see the swamp drained as much as anyone.

      So how would you do it? If we had elected President Moon last November how would you propose we rein in the mainstream media?

      (I’m not asking for a 50,000 word essay. Mostly curious because you have a different set of underlying assumptions from mine but want to attack roughly the same problem. It’s good to combine elements of different approaches since our systematic errors in reasoning are likely different.)

      • Adam says:

        Not Moon, obviously, but I’d agree the media is primarily a sensationalism driven click machine. That isn’t nearly the same thing as corrupt. I don’t think very many of them are explicitly being paid off to blatantly lie. If I was president, I wouldn’t do anything about it. I don’t think it’s the job of the president to interfere with the media. They provide what consumers demand. Clickbait dominates because it works. If people want better media, they need to consume better media.

    • Tekhno says:

      Listening to old interviews from the 80s, he seems fairly sharp and articulate. I wonder if Trump isn’t deeply deeply senile by this point. The United States needs to stop allowing dinosaurs to be President.

      • Well... says:

        Do you totally discount the possibility that Trump is putting on an Everyman act, or did it just not occur to you?

      • Tekhno says:

        Of course it occurred to me, but I gradually discounted it. He doesn’t need to say things like “global warming is a Chinese hoax” to appeal to the everyman. He says stupid things that should do nothing to help him. If he’s trying to put on an everyman act, then he’s clearly failing badly. He’s overshooting into blithering moron territory.

        Indeed, he won because Hillary is unpopular outside of the populated coastal states, and so the electoral college went to Trump because she underperformed outside of the popular vote, not because Trump was popular. Going into the Presidency, his approval ratings going in are lower than almost any President, just around 40%.

        Trump lucked his way in. We shouldn’t update to “he must be smart and pulling a strategy” just because he won.

        • Matt M says:

          How did he beat the 14 experienced republican politicians? Dumb luck there, too?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Experienced Republican politicians are like ninjas, not pirates; the more you start off with, the less competent they are.

        • Tekhno says:

          People’s desperation for something that wasn’t Neoconservatism? He was willing to say that the Iraq war and Libya were terrible ideas, and that we shouldn’t try a third time with Syria, because “democracy and freedom” just lead to Islamists taking power in the place of relatively secular if brutal dictators.

          He was willing to say that he’d engage in deportations with only IIRC Ted Cruz joining him on that – which shows in Cruz being the second runner – and a lot of the conservative base wanted to believe it after Bush granted amnesties and was tepid on it.

          Liberal media had been pushing this “don’t worry, they’ll die off soon” rhetoric since the later Bush years by my recall, and then conservative media joined in with the “demographics are destiny” argument that the Democrats are just importing voters to destroy the Republican party permanently, and so you had this increasing polarization where many conservatives thought that this was their last chance, so the guy who was making the most noise about immigration and pissing off liberals the most was their guy, moron or not.

          Plus, he’s memeable and charismatic. The one way in which he might be sort of smart is in coming up with quick zingers. You have a funny smug guy offering you everything you want, and then people will vote for him, even if it turns out he’s a bit thick.

          You also had an army of people making excuses for him and trying to re-interpret all the dumb things he’d say as being brilliantly intelligent examples of 4D chess. I have a friend who I proffered the “he’s just dumb” theory to, and he responded with something like “there’s no way that someone who had that much business success is a dumb guy”.

          “Trump is smart” has sort of become a self-reinforcing prophecy, because if people are willing to make excuses and then he wins because of that, they point to the victory as more evidence that he’s a genius. If you’re in a desert, and someone is offering you water, you’ll do anything for them.

          • Matt M says:

            Identifying things that, if said, will help you win (and that are being unsaid by everyone else currently running) seems pretty smart to me.

            Ben Carson had no establishment stench on him. He could have said all the things Trump said. Why didn’t he?

            Literally any other non-liberal celebrity could have run and said the same things Trump said. Why didn’t they?

            As an analogy, try this one out – “Einstein wasn’t that smart – he only won a nobel prize because he said a bunch of things about physics that other physicists were unwilling to say!”

          • tscharf says:

            Winning an election is not a SAT test. Different skills.

            It is “smart” or “lucky” to know to use a different tactic than the one 14 other people with an army of allegedly smart consultants think they need to use to win an election. A large number of politicians would say just about anything to get elected. Trump knew what to say, it is arguable why he knew this, but quite frankly I think reality TV experience gave him a better pulse on the American people. Instinct Trumped Data. (fill in your own theory here…).

            One part is he was smart by just being the one who stood out among 14 conservative clones. Sesame Street Logic: Which one of these people does not look the other…which one of these people isn’t the same…

            One part is he had the balls to challenge politically correct orthodoxy. I think he had the balls because he just didn’t care and had less to lose than lifetime politicians. How many “disqualifying” actions did he do, ten? He knew people didn’t care about these somehow.

            One part is he was “wise” or “lucky” to use the media against itself. He railed against the media, people hate the media. There was only one politician who was proudly standing in the middle of the street giving the finger to the media and the DC establishment. He didn’t respect what the electorate didn’t respect.

            This was all a “smart” way to get elected. If one wants to use the phrase “lucky guess” I am fine with that. But it worked. It is very very unclear if these same skills transfer to governing.

        • John Schilling says:

          Trump lucked his way in. We shouldn’t update to “he must be smart and pulling a strategy” just because he won.

          Trump has been at least intermittently considering a presidential bid since 1987, and actively pursued a bid once before only to drop out when it was clear he wouldn’t accomplish anything but damaging his own brand. Patiently waiting almost thirty years, keeping his options open while recognizing that much of what mattered was out of his control, and then recognizing that 2016 was the opportune moment, shows signs of clear and sound strategic thinking.

    • Well... says:

      I’m not a Trump supporter, but it seems obvious to me that he has a lot of smarts. That’s a different thing from being intellectual, which I think is what you’re confusing for smarts.

      By the way, you said the infotainment industry was formerly the news business. When was that?

    • tscharf says:

      Trump got elected President using an unconventional strategy. All the “smart” people laughed and jeered him the entire way while penning innumerable open letters and endlessly pontificating his faults. Who is the smart one?

      I would also submit that the continual underestimation of Trump’s abilities has only helped Trump succeed even more. Setting an incredibly low bar where Trump defies expectations by walking and chewing gum at the same time only sets him up for perceived success. When/If the excessive fear and doom that was predicted fails to materialize (as with Brexit) then expert credibility will drop even lower for the next round.

  10. konshtok says:

    Between the government actually doing something (ObamaCare,War on Terror) and the Government only seeming to be doing something what’s better?

    • Moon says:

      If you are a Libertarian, it does not matter what is better; you are committed to an ideology that has you believing that when the government does nothing, that is always better. To illustrate that, you can do a lot of lemon picking.

      If you are not a Libertarian, it depends on what the government does.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I think you’re conflating libertarians and anarchists.

        There are things that Libertarians believe that the government should do, namely enforce contracts, and see to the common defense. It’s Anarchists who believe that the government should do nothing or be abolished.

        • The statement isn’t even true for anarchists. A sufficient reason for being an anarchist is that you think the government will do more harm than good. That isn’t inconsistent with it doing some good.

          • hlynkacg says:

            anarchy
            NOUN

            1 A state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority

            2 Absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal.

            – Oxford English Dictionary.

          • The problem with that definition is the definition of “absolute freedom.” No anarchist I know wants a society where anyone is free to murder anyone he wants.

            The Merriam-Webster definition starts with:

            “Definition of anarchy. 1 a : absence of government “

      • John Schilling says:

        If you are a Libertarian, it does not matter what is better; you are committed to an ideology that has you believing that when the government does nothing, that is always better.

        Those would be the anarchists, actually. Libertarians are the ones who believe that when the government e.g. puts murderers in jail, that is better than the government not putting murderers in jail.

      • konshtok says:

        Is ‘libertarian’ the new ‘fascist’?

        I was making what I thought was a well accepted point that central planning failures are bigger and more numerous than central planning successes
        Remember the USSR?

        If Trump spends his presidency chasing individual cases of outsourcing while letting most companies and individuals go on he would probably do less damage to the USA than if he tried to fix manufacturing&trade as a whole (like what Obama tried with health care)

        • tscharf says:

          Not until they find a way to say the Nazis were actually libertarians, ha ha.

          • 1soru1 says:

            A key point of Nazi ideology was that the German people should be free from government regulation when they used violence, especially over matters of property. This applies to both smashing a shopkeepers window and annexing the Sudetenland; regulations against both were considered oppressive and fundamentally illegitimate, whether the source was the League of Nations or the Wiemar Republic.

            Of course, few US libertarians take things to the same extremes, most having some kind of ad-hoc rule like ‘we don’t apply libertarian principles to matters of violence’.

          • Matt M says:

            This salon piece is not QUITE “nazis = libertarians” but it’s probably pretty close….

  11. tscharf says:

    “I think it’s important that we be prepared for this and send a clear message, before this gets any worse, that these aren’t to be taken seriously.”

    Please let us know what you are going to take seriously, so we can’t accuse you later of making it up as you go along to fit a preferred narrative.

    I find it a bit batty (ha ha) that people are so eager to criticize Trump for pressuring companies to stay in the US when he campaigned on exactly this topic. People aren’t even using the most obvious defense which is: Yes this is great thing, thank Obama because he is actually the president now…

    Auto manufacturing is a huge deal, remember how saving the auto industry with a bailout was a big Obama success? I’m not sure what “not taking seriously” means here, the media should ignore it, criticize it? Every media outlet I read fell all over themselves to put this win in perspective, which is fine. One need not worry whether Trump Derangement Syndrome is in full force or not. If one is worried Trump is going to get fawning coverage anytime soon I think we can rule that out.

    Presidents are given way more credit and way more criticism than they deserve all the time. It is similar to a football coach. Obama is given credit for getting us out of Iraq and a recession, killing Bin laden, etc. I have never been a fan of presidential determinism with the economy. The economy runs itself and is much more subject to internal and external forcings than federal policy.

    I think it wise to give credit where credit is due, even if it is mostly perception or random luck. A sure sign of a partisan is one who dismisses all success and lays blame for all failures on the opposition. Ford expressed uncertainty about Trump policy as one reason for their move. It’s not wise to build a huge plant in Mexico if you have belief US imports will be taxed heavily. This is a trade policy working. You get to yell a lot later when this trade policy isn’t working because US exports to Mexico are cut because of a trade war that results in US jobs being lost, but you need to wait until this happens before declaring it a net loss and bad policy.

    • Matt M says:

      “People aren’t even using the most obvious defense which is: Yes this is great thing, thank Obama because he is actually the president now…”

      The really odd thing is that, four years ago, the Obama campaign literally ran ads bragging about how his tariffs on tires helped save American jobs and protected us from “illegal dumping by the Chinese” (e.g. getting to buy cheap tires). But that greedy capitalist Mitt Romney would lower tariffs, thus ensuring that good American manufacturing jobs would be shipped overseas by heartless corporations.

      • Adam says:

        I don’t really see what’s odd about this. Even Clinton herself pretty much pivoted her campaign to be against free trade. Scott Alexander does not agree with either Obama or Clinton about this, so he’s not being inconsistent in disagreeing with Trump. It’s not like he’s some shill for the Democratic party. His blog is not particularly partisan. Up until a few months ago, most of his posts were about psychiatry, the poor state of statistics mistakes in published social science, or picking on Vox for their misleading data graphics.

        • tscharf says:

          I would argue Scott is self serving in that keeping the status quo invariably benefits those on the high end of the meritocracy so resistance to change is expected. Any move away from this is a move towards “instability”…..for him and others on the good end. The losers of the meritocracy obviously don’t have a lot to lose in shaking things up and so the marketing of a fear of upheaval aren’t very compelling arguments.

          Chris Arnade made this argument here:
          Why Trump voters are not “complete idiots”
          https://medium.com/@Chris_arnade/trump-politics-and-option-pricing-or-why-trump-voters-are-not-idiots-1e364a4ed940#.gtmc2q8xc

          Disclosure: The meritocracy has served me well

          • Brad says:

            The losers of the meritocracy obviously don’t have a lot to lose in shaking things up and so the marketing of a fear of upheaval aren’t very compelling arguments.

            That’s certainly not necessarily true, and I’d argue not true in this specific case either.

            There’s a far, far distance between the bottom(ish) of the US meritocracy and the “worst that could happen”.

          • tscharf says:

            It’s a risk / reward thing. Seems like Trump voters are ready to invest in economy hedge funds, ha ha. An understandable case needs to be made that it will get worse with Trumponomics. The simplistic counter argument is that a business expert running the government will have better results than government bureaucrat.

          • Adam says:

            Is Scott really personally at any risk? I think I’ve done sufficiently well in the meritocracy and I don’t feel like I am. Trump is going to cut my taxes and I expect defense contractors to do very well, even if he bitches about our prices on Twitter. I still think he’s a blowhard idiot and would rather not have him as president and that trade restrictionism will be a disaster and would have been a disaster if it was Clinton doing it, too.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Adam

            Defense contractors had it good either way this election. Neither side looked likely to cut defense. I’d consider going back there myself if I could get a clearance and could stand the paperwork; I imagine it’s relatively free of culture warriors.

            A company like Apple which makes YUGE amounts of money by outsourcing manufacture to China is looking like it might be at risk. Other companies like Amazon which are dependent on people buying a lot of that made-elsewhere stuff are also at risk. As are the companies which advertise all that stuff, and provide services to the advertising industry. A move to protectionism could drasticly shrink much of the economy.

            On the one hand, this will create a lot of mental health problems, which could be good for psychiatrists. On the other… they won’t have any money to pay for it, perhaps especially if the ACA is rolled back.

          • tscharf says:

            Scott had a post a while back saying people shouldn’t vote for Trump because he represents higher volatility (major paraphrasing here).

            The Arnade description is more why people on the losing end of the meritocracy would logically vote for Trump. I think it was true that the high end of the meritocracy went for Clinton by a fairly large margin, although the reasons for that are arguable as always.

            As I stated above, I don’t think the president (assuming minimal competence) will produce major swings one way or the other in the economy. Red and blue are a lot more alike then different in reality. Big fights over little things.

          • Adam says:

            Yes, pretty free of culture warriors. Less dynamic than the bay, I guess, but I’d much rather live in Dallas than San Francisco and am pretty happy doing so, and we do actually get to work on some pretty interesting problems. We just can’t publicize them like the big tech giants do.

            @tscharf

            I’m assuming winners of the meritocracy is just a rough proxy for income. Clinton won the poor by a pretty sizable margin. Trump won the middle by a small margin. The top of the distribution was very evenly split.

            It’s interesting to look at the issues people cared about, too. Voters whose primary concern was the economy pretty overwhelmingly voted for Clinton. The issue with the greatest margin for Trump was immigration.

            It’s telling that people who think their financial situation is improving went for Clinton and those who felt their situation is getting worse went for Trump, in both cases overwhelmingly. Some of that needs to be controlled for age, though. You expect the incomes of younger people to be rising and that eventually stops as you get older and your purchasing power will continually decline if you’re retired on a fixed income.

            link

          • Brad says:

            @tscharf

            It’s a risk / reward thing.

            That’s a different, and much better, argument than “what have we got to lose”.

          • Deiseach says:

            A company like Apple which makes YUGE amounts of money by outsourcing manufacture to China is looking like it might be at risk.

            Okay. I do not want to be picking on Hillary Clinton here, I’m just using her campaign pledges to show that the opposition party would not be doing anything different had it gotten into power – or if it did, it would have broken the promises it made.

            I had this discussion in another comment thread about Apple relying on its Chinese sub-contractor to have the facilities and trained workers for the skills to produce the items it designs, and that they simply no longer have such facilities here in America. So where does that leave Hillary’s pledge that “When America’s incredible innovators come up with an invention or design, we should also build it here”? Because Apple ain’t doing it, and when they shifted back to their American plant, they almost immediately wanted to shift back again to China because, having outsourced production, it would take too much time and money to build up the factories and train the workers in America again.

            Manufacturing is coming back. … My job as your president will be to do everything I can to create more good-paying jobs, to get wages rising again for American workers and families.
            Hillary, November 29, 2015

            This approach will build up supply chains and “upward spirals” of production, good-paying jobs, skills, and innovation so that manufacturing communities across America are the first choice for parts production and assembly, in everything from steel, cars, and aircraft to wind turbines and clean energy products.

            A pledge by businesses to keep jobs and investment in America: Businesses participating in Hillary’s strategy would pledge not to shift jobs or profits gained from “Make it in America” incentives to other countries by outsourcing production, or “inverting” to move their residence abroad and avoid paying their fair share of U.S. taxes. Hillary’s plan embraces economic patriotism, and will support companies that invest in their workers and good-paying jobs here in the U.S. But it won’t support companies that walk out on America. When America’s incredible innovators come up with an invention or design, we should also build it here.

            America is not the “first choice for parts production and assembly”, so how would the Democrats reverse that? We’re scoffing at Trump for grandiose interventions, but to fulfil these pledges, President Hillary would either have had to make the same kind of grandiose announcements (“first new green energy plant opens in Smallville!”) and do the same kind of leaning (“After discussions between Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, the Secretary of Commerce, and President Hillary at a specially convened meeting in the White House earlier this month, Apple announced it would be keeping manufacturing of its prototypes here in the USA”) or row back completely (“Okay, when we said “Buy American” and “Made in America”, we only meant new industries and businesses setting up after the election, not the ones already established, so Apple will continue to outsource production to Foxconn”).

            Can the genie of outsourcing be put back into the bottle? The sentiment on here seems to be that it can’t, but the Democrats were making the same kind of noises about more jobs, more good-paying jobs, and building up American manufacturing industry to be #1 again. Or is it sure, you can keep the jobs here in preference to outsourcing if you have the Chinese conditions as well, which are not good paying jobs with benefits matched to the American standard of living but reduced rates of wages, no overtime, on call 24/7 to come in at 2:00 a.m. and work until 11:00 p.m. if the manufacturer wants a rush order to beat competitors, no pension or health care etc. ?

            So is Trump any worse, that he appears to be keeping/trying to keep his campaign promises? Or is the ugly truth that you make these promises to get the suckers to vote for you, but in power you break them because they are not how the modern economy works?

          • Brad says:

            AAPL is up about 5% since the election. I’m not an efficient markets fundamentalist, but billions of dollars bet the other direction should at least give one pause.

          • Adam says:

            No, the genie can’t be put back in the bottle, and even China itself isn’t shitty enough there any more that their labor costs and environmental regulations meet the cut and they’re losing unskilled assembly line work to Vietnam. Change happens and it sucks for some people. The same shit happened to farmers a century and a half ago. Hopefully, we can find something that replaces the stability and prosperity that uneducated unskilled people could enjoy in the past, but it isn’t going to be unionized assembly line work with a fixed payout pension.

            Unfortunately, it is a feature of elections that candidates pretty much have to lie to get elected. In retrospect, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that someone who spent most of the past 15 years on reality television and playing a heel in pro wrestling had the appeal he had. Without much indication that national politics is ever going to rise above the level of pro wrestling in the way it causes people to select and back a hero, we’re probably not overcoming this. It used to be that parties had a strong say in who got to the stage in the first place, but Trump was finally able to blast through that process thanks to his tremendous personal celebrity and all the street cred he’d built with pissed off InfoWars types thanks to spending years questioning Obama’s citizenship.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Deiseach

            Hillary’s pledge would have never been fulfilled and everyone knew it. Hillary was the candidate of the status quo, certainly as far as trade goes.

            Trump might actually do something, like put in tariffs and trade barriers. That’s what makes them different. Is it worse that Trump may try to keep his promises? That depends on the promises, of course. If trade barriers are bad, they’re bad whether or not a politician promised to enact them as a campaign promise.

            @Brad:
            AAPL is back to where it was… way back in October. I think you’re ascribing meaning to noise.

          • Brad says:

            If you want to say that AAPL’s share price is flat since whatever benchmark date you’d like to pick rather than up 5%, that’s still Bayesian counter-evidence for the hypothesis that Trump’s election is a disaster for AAPL.

    • This is a trade policy working. You get to yell a lot later when this trade policy isn’t working because US exports to Mexico are cut because of a trade war that results in US jobs being lost

      This sounds as though you think the only thing wrong with putting up a trade barrier is that other countries may retaliate in kind. The conventional economic analysis of trade, conventional since Ricardo worked out the principle of comparative advantage early in the 19th century, implies that a trade barrier generally makes the country that puts it up poorer even if nobody retaliates.

      • tscharf says:

        Don’t count me as a card carrying member of the economic policy experts group. The goal here may be for a politically “better” regional distribution of GDP at the expense of an optimized total GDP. Is that feasible and/or how would you get there?

        A lot of experts may have concluded these things don’t work but I don’t think it is obvious to many why that is so. I can see where potential protectionism in the 70’s may have prevented the auto manufacturers from fixing their quality issues sooner instead of competing straight up with foreign manufacturers and getting better faster.

        On the right (and maybe also the left) trade protectionism had exited the Overton Window until very recently so any “common man” justification for the no trade barriers is lacking. That combined with a distinct lack of faith in expert prognostications has resulted in an electorate that is willing to roll the dice regardless.

        I’ve always been a free trade guy, but I’m finding the recent (lack of) defense of free trade to be mostly an appeal to authority.

        • The defense of free trade isn’t an appeal to authority, it’s the combination of an appeal to logic and to evidence.

          On the logic, the standard protectionist story is internally incoherent, it’s what people believed–a variety of things different people believed–before Ricardo worked out the economics of trade. The fact that I say that isn’t a good reason for you to believe it–that would be an appeal to authority. But you can work through the argument for yourself. If you are sufficiently curious, there is a webbed price theory text I could point you at.

          On the evidence, we have some strikingly successful economies over the past two centuries that followed free trade policies. In the post-war period, the countries that tried to use protectionism to push economic development, most notably India, mostly ended up keeping themselves poor by doing so.

          • tscharf says:

            I defer to your wisdom on economic theory, and agree past performance indicate trade barriers are a bad long term strategy from the evidence. I was involved with import/export to India before and it was hugely painful.

            1. How does one explain to people in MI in concrete terms that Trump’s pressure (which hasn’t even imposed any barriers at all so far so its free, ha ha) which resulted in good things for their economy is ultimately bad policy? Their Walmart prices will go up? Their Chevy Cruzes will cost significantly more now? A rising tide lifts all boats? It seems really nebulous to me. I can’t verbalize a defense here.

            This is where I’m indicating there has been “no defense” as I haven’t seen this case made by the usual media suspects, although I don’t read The Economist and such.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            @tscharf

            This is not an easy question.
            Maybe you do to turn the conversation into a conversation about consumption and about purchasing power. So yes, talk about prices at Walmart. With trade everything we buy will be cheaper. China wants to give us free stuff, please go ahead and let them give us free stuff, they’re the dummies not us. It’s a never ending sale.

            Also, maybe shift the discussion to realms where we have the very opposite of free markets/trade and where we have seen costs skyrocket: education, healthcare & housing. You take the ire and redirect it into why is stuff so expensive. Every in-group needs an out-group and crooked politicians, elitist educators and conspiring medical organizations could be it.

            At the end of the day, a growing economy will assuage the fears of people in MI better than any argument. They will see their life getting better. Protectionism rears its ugly head when times are tough, but a growing economy is the perfect balm.

  12. onyomi says:

    Having a “doesn’t reward/punish any friends/enemies” president seems largely not to be an option since Coolidge. Given that, I’d rather have a “rewards companies which ostentatiously keep/create US manufacturing jobs” president than one who preferentially rewards weapons and security companies or punishes business with regulation and anti-profit rhetoric.

  13. The original Mr. X says:

    This plan isn’t going to scale. Even Trump can only create so many media circuses. 999 companies will successfully move to Mexico in the amount of time it takes Trump to convince one company not to.

    That assumes that Trump’s media circuses (circi?) only affect those companies which are actually targeted. I don’t think that’s a safe assumption. Generally speaking, if you see somebody suffering for doing x, you’re less likely to do x yourself, even if statistically speaking the chances of you suffering in the same way are rather slim, and there seems no obvious reason why this shouldn’t apply when “x” is “outsourcing jobs” and “suffering” is “the President publically names and shames your company and whips up a huge amount of bad press against you”.

  14. Mark Dominus says:

    The version of this that has been on my mind lately is: Suppose Trump directs the secretary of energy to sell off half of the strategic petroleum reserve. Taxpayers will love the sudden drop in gas prices. Big oil companies will love that they got billions of dollars of cheap oil with a big bow on top. Nobody will notice the downside, which is that the country is now exposed to a larger nebulous risk from an indeterminate future event.

    It’s not hard to think of a lot of ways for a president with a short time horizon to similarly pillage the future good of the country in exchange for a short-term political gain.

    • James Miller says:

      I doubt this would move the price of oil which is determined by speculators who themselves are willing to hold huge reserves of oil in anticipation of future price increases. The increase in oil wouldn’t be enough to significantly permanently lower the price of oil, and it couldn’t just temporarily lower the price of oil or else these speculators would buy up oil today and hold it until the price decrease went away.

    • Matt M says:

      Trump still has his private business to worry about, which is a long-term entity that will also be providing for his children and grandchildren. Intentionally tanking the country surely wouldn’t be a good strategy for someone whose day job is literally selling access to giant buildings that say “TRUMP” on them in huge letters.

      Trump probably rates better on this scale than MOST politicians do. He has LESS incentive to think short-term than those who come from no particular dynasty and whose “name value” is relatively low.

      • q-tip says:

        Mm, okay, but does Trump care about his Historical Legacy as much as other presidents have?

        In other words, would Trump, if given the choice, impoverish millions of Americans or himself, if there were a conflict between his personal business interests and the economic health of the nation as a whole?

        This is the first president in my lifetime whom I’m comfortable thinking the worst of, here.

        • Matt M says:

          if there were a conflict between his personal business interests and the economic health of the nation as a whole?

          My general point here is that this seems unlikely. How exactly can he help his business, long-term, by doing a bad job as President? That would destroy his business. How much money do you think he can steal or leech via corruption that would make it worth the risk of having his legacy become “worse than Nixon?”

          On the other hand, doing a great job as President would clearly be a huge boon to his brand, his business, and the economic prospects of his children and grandchildren.

          I think you could plausibly argue that Trump faces the most severe incentives to do a good job that any President has ever faced. Ever. He doesn’t gain all that much just by being President – he was already both rich and famous (the two big things the office gives you regardless of your performance). He only gains here if people see him as a successful and popular president.

        • cassander says:

          >Mm, okay, but does Trump care about his Historical Legacy as much as other presidents have?

          The Man is a huge narcissist, of course he does.

          >In other words, would Trump, if given the choice, impoverish millions of Americans or himself, if there were a conflict between his personal business interests and the economic health of the nation as a whole?

          that question is entirely orthogonal to your first question.

          >This is the first president in my lifetime whom I’m comfortable thinking the worst of, here.

          Then you’re naive. You should think the worst of all politicians until they prove to be better than that. The current occupant of the oval office burned down a country rather than get some bad press.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I suspect Trump believes that what’s good for America is good for the Trump Organization and vice-versa, so the question won’t come up in his mind.

          • Matt M says:

            And is it not somewhat plausible that this may actually be correct?

            A luxury hotel brand probably doesn’t do too well during a nuclear war, or during a huge economic depression, or during an organized international boycott or a fascist regime, etc.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Sure, a lot of the large scale bad things are bad for both the Trump Organization and for America. I think there’s still a lot of room for policy which helps the former while hurting the latter.

            Perhaps devaluing the currency, resulting in more tourist dollars, enriching the Trump organization more than the amount the currency is devalued but leaving sectors of the economy more dependent on paying for imports in dollars poorer. I’m sure there are others.

          • “Perhaps devaluing the currency, resulting in more tourist dollars”

            How does the President do that? Exchange rates are not set by the government but by the market.

            Perhaps Trump could persuade the Fed to inflate, but although that would shift exchange rates towards a cheaper dollar it would also make U.S. prices higher, cancelling the effect.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Perhaps it isn’t a good example; I’m sure there’s something Trump could do which would benefit the Trump Organization while harming America as a whole. Doesn’t really matter what it is.

          • Jiro says:

            I’m sure there is something that any president can do which would benefit himself or herself while harming America as a whole. Unless you think that Trump is particularly vulnerable to this compared to other presidents, and can name specific things that you think would not apply to other presidents, this isn’t a good criticism of Trump at all.

    • onyomi says:

      I don’t think oil companies would like it. They want oil prices high.

      • onyomi says:

        I just realized, for some reason, that all discussion of “oil” in the news would be much funnier if I personally took it to mean “olive oil.”

    • cassander says:

      >Taxpayers will love the sudden drop in gas prices.

      the SPR has 700 million barrel of oil in it. the US consumes about 7 billion barrels a year, the world 35 billion. I feel safe in saying that the SPR is incapable of moving oil prices significantly for any length of time.

      >big oil companies will love that they got billions of dollars of cheap oil with a big bow on top.

      why would they love that? The government would be lowering their prices.

  15. noonespecial says:

    So Trump adopts the left’s tacit of demonizing the job and wealth creators to promote his political agenda. The left has spent decades taking money from the productive more classes, who tend to be conservative and republican, and giving it to the less productive classes, who tend to be democrat and pretended doing so made them a hero, despite the fact that the left’s economic and social policies make people less prosperous. Please link to a post where you’ve condemned the left for this behavior.

    • q-tip says:

      I think you should reexamine sentence 1 in light of the full OP. The OP doesn’t say what you think it says.

  16. Walter says:

    I think it was Chris Sims who made the point that Batman’s money is just Scrooge McDuck’s money. However much you want him to put into fixing crime in Gotham he puts that much money in, buys a custom stealth jet and STILL has however much money it takes to get Bruce Wayne into fancy parties where he can muse about how he’d much rather be skulking on rooftops.

    The main point, though, is well taken. President Bread and Circuses coming up.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I find it interesting that ESPN’s ratings are in the toilet, though, surpassed by Fox News. It seems Trump put on such an interesting show people stopped watching the circus to pay attention to politics for a change. Isn’t that a positive development?

      • Adam says:

        Paying attention to the campaign season horserace and paying attention to governance are tremendously different things. If somehow CSPAN starts getting Fox’s ratings, that’s a positive development.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          We’ll see what happens. My hunch is that Trump will make the spectacle of governance so entertaining for his supporters (and infuriating for his detractors) that no one will be able to look away. It’s going to be a crazy 8 years.

  17. The Obsolete Man says:

    Trump may end up making a big show of caring about factory workers and do little policy substance to make it well, substantive. But, a lot of companies make these decisions on small margins (moving a plant, shutting down a plant, etc.). The exposure in the media will likely effect a much larger quantity of these decisions than you might expect. So, in aggregate, this PR campaign may end up being just as effective as directly taxing the trade deficit in some manner, i.e. Here’s a twitter compilation from the investment banker The Epicurean Dealmaker I found that touches on this:

    https://twitter.com/EpicureanDeal/status/816378553025449984

    “Factories are expensive, immobile, and start depreciating immediately. Global supply chains are volatile and changeable. So the notion that factory location is an easy or clear economic or business decision is silly. So yes, I agree with @DouthatNYT. And CEOs and Boards should welcome political pressure giving them air cover for simplifying their decision.”

  18. luispedro says:

    Job churn in the US is about 5 million per month [http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2016/05/10/job-openings-hit-highest-level-since-2001-but-churn-in-job-market-ebbs-in-march/].

    That’s over 150,000 people per day who start a new job (including week-ends).

    700 jobs is less than a rounding error.

  19. Roakh says:

    Tbf if you’ve watched any Yes Minister/Prime Minister then this stuff seems to make up >90% of the activity of a politician.

    • Walter says:

      Yes Minister is the best show ever. I still recommend it to friends if they are ok with laugh tracks.

      • Murphy says:

        yes minister was filmed in front of an audience, it wasn’t a canned laugh track.

        • suntzuanime says:

          That’s a point of ideological purity that showmakers use to tell themselves they’re not doing evil; it has minimal impact on audience experience.

          • Randy M says:

            As a fan of AD, it’s painful to go back to Seinfeld. If you’re not in the room with me, I don’t want to hear you laughing.

        • John Nerst says:

          People say this all the time whenever someone complains about laugh tracks*, as if it mattered.

          Ok, if your objection to laugh tracks is “they exaggerate how funny the show is by pretending that people laugh that much when they don’t” then yes, it does matter that the laughter is real. But hardly anyone hates laugh tracks for that reason, rather because it changes pacing and makes things feel like theater and breaks immersion when you’re not used to it. There is also a certain amount of snobbery about traditional, less sophisticated comedy, sure.

          *I use “laugh track” to mean (and I think almost everyone else does as well), “laughter is heard as a feature of the sound mix” not “laughter is added from scratch in post-production”.

          • Murphy says:

            Apparently there was another reason in the case of yes minister:

            The laughter also acted as a kind of insurance: Jay observes that politicians would be unable to put pressure on the BBC not to “run this kind of nonsense” if “200–250 people were falling about with laughter.”

  20. suntzuanime says:

    Batman might not be an optimally-effective altruist, but he’s better for Gotham than the Joker.

    • Fahundo says:

      I voted for Red Hood. He actually gets things done.

    • batmanaod says:

      https://youtu.be/hFTmCqq-rYc

      I actually do think some versions of Batman, for instance the TAS interpretation of the character, are in fact just about optimally effective. (One reason for this is that Bruce *also* does things like give to charities and make sure Wayne Enterprise is only involved with socially-beneficial endeavors. Another is that, since it’s a kids’ show from the 90’s, every potential casualty of Batman’s war on crime is carefully shown to survive–although my preferred reading of the movie Mask of the Phantasm is that the Joker is killed.)

  21. Tekhno says:

    Is this Russian style crony capitalism?

  22. batmanaod says:

    50%? That was a fairly persuasive post for a 50% prediction.

    • q-tip says:

      I think, given the recent prediction post, this 50% bit was some meta-humor. Except I think I remember SA saying he doesn’t like meta-humor, so it couldn’t have been that.

    • suntzuanime says:

      It’s a fairly specific prediction. 50% is much higher than the uniform universal zero knowledge prior (hallowed be his name) would have it.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Most things don’t happen. This is more likely to happen in a Trump presidency than elsewhen, but most things still don’t happen.

  23. TomA says:

    This is a legitimate concern about what might happen in the future and a vague, unspecific warning about how bad it may make things going forward. End result is anxiety.

    Conversely, from 1790 until 2009, our various elected officials used their authorities to take on about $10 trillion in public debt. During the past 8 years, this debt has been about doubled. This is tangible and past tense.

    Doesn’t this also deserve a little bit of consternation. Or is future blame a substitute for prioritizing reality?

    • Brad says:

      Doesn’t this also deserve a little bit of consternation

      No, not particularly.

    • Adam says:

      No. Intertemporal comparisons of nominal dollars is meaningless for an obvious reason. In terms of debt to GDP, while we’ve certainly gone up in the past ten years and recently passed the 100% mark, we’re still not at a historical high for our country and in the range of plenty of other countries that are not experiencing debt crises, just as we are not experiencing a debt crisis. You can see below we’re right there with Singapore and Belgium, and in general it doesn’t look to me like there is much of a strong relationship at all to where a country sits on that chart and how their debt is priced.

      link

      • cassander says:

        >we’re still not at a historical high for our country

        this is technically true, but only because the previous high was world war two. We’re closing on that high quite quickly, and if you count (as you should) the 40 trillion in debt our unfunded liabilities represent, we passed it decades ago.

        • Adam says:

          Those are of a much different nature, almost all Medicare and due to demographic changes and runaway healthcare inflation. If/when we get to the point that we can’t pay for all the care demanded by the elderly, we won’t. A few people in their 80s dying a couple months sooner sucks, but it’s nothing close to the national disaster that an actual public debt default is. Paul Ryan’s fixed-payout voucher plan pretty much solves the problem, but there’s almost zero chance it gets accepted as long as old people remain the nation’s most powerful voting bloc.

          • cassander says:

            >Those are of a much different nature, almost all Medicare and due to demographic changes and runaway healthcare inflation.

            13 trillion is SS, 27 trillion is medicare. And the fact that they’re due to demographic changes is irrelevant.

            >but it’s nothing close to the national disaster that an actual public debt default is.

            It’s precisely the same disaster, millions of people who were promised trillions of dollars either get pennies on the dollar, or dollars that or are only worth pennies on the dollar.

            >Paul Ryan’s fixed-payout voucher plan pretty much solves the problem, but there’s almost zero chance it gets accepted as long as old people remain the nation’s most powerful voting bloc.

            It would, as would many other plans. But all require politicians to accept pain now in exchange for benefit later, which is something they are disinclined to do. And the longer they wait, the more painful the pain now gets, which means that over time fixing it gets harder.

          • Adam says:

            I think you’re badly overstating that. Defaulting on actual debt cripples your ability to borrow again and fund further operations, hurting everything the government does, possibly trashing the national currency and leading to hyperinflation. The worst case for being unable to meet pension promises made in a much different era is Italy, which is doing worse than us but a lot better than Argentina back in the day. It’s not even pennies on the dollar. The fact we can’t pay for 40 MRIs a year doesn’t mean we can’t pay for negotiated-cost medications, or fuck, how about just a better diet? At some point we’re going have to figure out why Americans spend more and get worse health outcomes than other OECD nations, and the answer doesn’t have shit to do with how we fund anything.

          • The Nybbler says:

            At some point we’re going have to figure out why Americans spend more and get worse health outcomes than other OECD nations, and the answer doesn’t have shit to do with how we fund anything.

            It seems unlikely the reason Americans spend more has nothing to do with how we fund anything.

          • cassander says:

            >I think you’re badly overstating that. Defaulting on actual debt cripples your ability to borrow again and fund further operations, hurting everything the government does, possibly trashing the national currency and leading to hyperinflation.

            So does tanking your economy by abruptly canceling trillions of dollars in promised payments.

            >At some point we’re going have to figure out why Americans spend more and get worse health outcomes than other OECD nations, and the answer doesn’t have shit to do with how we fund anything.

            Something like half of american healthcare spending is done directly or indirectly by the government, the idea that that has nothing to do with the results our healthcare system generates is hard to credit. You might very well make the case that the US wastes trillions of dollars and cancelling all that spending won’t make people less healthy, but that doesn’t remove the economic consequences that would ensue from suddenly firing the millions of people currently feeding at the trough.

          • Adam says:

            Fair point on the overconsumption of healthcare being largely because of Medicare in the first place, but you’re totally equivocating between “not increasing spending to match projected 2040 obligations” and “reducing current spending by trillions, thereby firing half the healthcare labor force and tanking the economy.”

          • >but it’s nothing close to the national disaster that an actual public debt default is.

            It’s precisely the same disaster, millions of people who were promised trillions of dollars either get pennies on the dollar, or dollars that or are only worth pennies on the dollar.

            Are you assuming that default would cause hyperinflation? Why?

          • cassander says:

            @Adam

            >but you’re totally equivocating between “not increasing spending to match projected 2040 obligations” and “reducing current spending by trillions, thereby firing half the healthcare labor force and tanking the economy.”

            If you adjusted future medicare spending down today, you’d be absolutely right, the effects of that would be minimal. But you did state “If/when we get to the point that we can’t pay for all the care demanded by the elderly, we won’t.” And that strikes me as an abrupt cutoff.

            But even if that wasn’t your intent, I think an abrupt cutoff is more likely than not. The changes that need to be made now are relatively painless but electorally risky, so they aren’t happening. As time goes on they get more painful and thus even more risky. The worse the problem gets, the harder it is to solve, so solutions get less likely, until a solution is forced, at which point there’s an enormous catastrophe. I expect our handsomest politicians will spend the next 30 years swearing up and down that there’s no problem (except for the other party, of course, they want to murder your grandmother), and then when the inevitable crisis hits, they’ll be shocked, shocked, that nothing was done about this, then blame the bogeyman of the week.

            I base this assumption on it being exactly what they did when the housing bubble they created exploded on them.

    • TheWorst says:

      Doesn’t this also deserve a little bit of consternation.

      Anyone who didn’t care when Reagan tripled the debt or Bush doubled it again but claims to care about Obama’s share of the debt is not participating in good faith.

      If it’s okay whenever Republicans do it, then it is okay, and it’s okay when Democrats do it. This sentiment is shared by everyone who is not currently making an isolated demand for rigor.

      • Jaskologist says:

        If every president doubles the debt, they are not equally as irresponsible as their predecessor. Rather, they are as irresponsible as all of their predecessors combined.

        • TheWorst says:

          Exactly! And if all of their predecessors combined warranted zero criticism at the time, then what is two times zero?

          Criticizing Democrats and Democrats only for their spending, when Republicans do it dramatically more irresponsibly, is a massive red flag for someone who is purely engaged in tribal signalling and has zero concern about the national debt.

          I think it’s important to have this conversation honestly, and honesty means acknowledging that fake debt scolds are saying “I am Red Tribe, hooray” and not actually saying anything about debt. Unquestioning acceptance of Red Tribe-signifying lies is what makes a right-wing cesspool. This place could do with less of that.

          • It may depend on what circles you move in. I saw lots of criticism of Bush by people who were not Democrats on the grounds that he increased both spending and the deficit.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I feel it’s worth noting that the Tea-Party started as a “red tribe” split over the GOP’s spending policies.

      • Tekhno says:

        I’m told the reason Obama increased the debt so much is because he had to do the bailouts that Bush started.

        I’m not even sure the debt is this huge catastrophe that will bring down the economy. What really should matter for DOOOOM is not so much the size of the debt – since the economy can outgrow it – but the maturity on the debt, and the size of the interest payments on the debt. If the maturity is long and the interest payments low, then even if the debt is large, you have a lot of time to get rid of it, so there’s not so much need to panic. For some reason this is something that never gets talked about when the national debt is discussed. Even the establishment left never seems to bring this up as a counter-argument to conservative fear mongering, which they should, unless I’m wrong and this is a terrible counter-argument.

        • Brad says:

          If the complaints rooted in rational concerns about debt service that would be a valid counterargument. Since they are instead rooted in the Puritan notion that debt is per se sinful, that counterargument isn’t going to get you anywhere.

        • Iain says:

          Do you count Paul Krugman as the establishment Left?

        • John Schilling says:

          The US Debt-to-GDP ratio has been growing almost continuously since the early 1970s, at about 2% per year. A roughly 10% decrease during Bill Clinton’s tenure is the only exception to that trend, and was not enough to change the long-term trend. Short of miracles, the economy is not going to outgrow the debt.

          And since you ask, the interest rate on the national debt is about 2.2%, but most of the debt comes due in the next four years. Unless our new dealmaker-in-chief negotiates some sort of blanket debt forgiveness, we are going to have to roll it all over at whatever rates we can get in a Trumpian economy – and then roll it all over again under his successor. And on and on and on. Even at 2.2% interest, payments on the debt come to $430 billion per year, though $160 billion of that is intragovernmental payments that we can pretend we don’t have to make if we are either flaming hypocrites or willing to stop pretending we are going to pay people their promised social security benefits in twenty years.

          This is not a problem that can be handwaved away by saying that we borrowed the money cheap and can easily pay it back when the economy grows. We borrowed the money cheap, but we will still have to pay it back, with approximately the economy we have now, and approximately the budgetary environment that has been consistently driving us to take on new debt rather than pay down old debts. We do have, and will use, the option of taking on still more new debt to pay down the old debts; you are welcome to imagine that nothing could ever go wrong with that plan.

        • Matt M says:

          “I’m told the reason Obama increased the debt so much is because he had to do the bailouts that Bush started.”

          Yes, he “had to” do the thing that he openly and consistently advocated be done while on the campaign trail.

          AFAIK, the only criticism Obama ever levied against the Bush bailouts, either before, during, or after them, was that they weren’t nearly large enough.

        • Tekhno says:

          @Ian

          Krugman isn’t bringing up the maturity on government bonds and interest payments though. I wonder if I’m missing something.

          @John Shilling

          Short of miracles, the economy is not going to outgrow the debt.

          What if the miracle is automation/artificial intelligence?

          And since you ask, the interest rate on the national debt is about 2.2%, but most of the debt comes due in the next four years.

          That’s exactly the kind of thing I wanted to know. Thanks. If the interest rates did end up higher than GDP growth, that’s bad, right?

          This is not a problem that can be handwaved away

          I’ll admit I have a fantasy of the world US government saying “Nu-uh. Go fuck yourself.” but I know that no one would ever buy US bonds again. On the other hand, infinite growth is impossible, so we could just kick the can down the road until no more debt based financing was needed, and then spring a “go fuck yourself” on the bond holders.

          This handwaving plan is getting a bit wacky I concede.

          We do have, and will use, the option of taking on still more new debt to pay down the old debts; you are welcome to imagine that nothing could ever go wrong with that plan.

          Maybe we can increase taxes on the rich in order to pay the debt. Will that work?

          @Matt M

          No, I meant he had to or the banks and autocompanies and x? would have collapsed.

          • John Schilling says:

            That’s exactly the kind of thing I wanted to know. Thanks. If the interest rates did end up higher than GDP growth, that’s bad, right?

            Interest rate times debt-to-GDP ratio, I think. We’re right on the edge there, give or take an error bar.

            Maybe we can increase taxes on the rich in order to pay the debt. Will that work?

            To even just pay all the interest, we’d have to increase tax revenues from individuals earning over $1M/year and corporations earning over $10M/year(*) by 65% over current levels. That would require a top personal income tax bracket of 65% and a corporate tax rate of 59%, with current deductions, and the part where this doesn’t drive down the incomes available to be taxed is another “here a miracle occurs” step.

            We’ve had personal income tax rates of >70% in the past, but that was an era with far more in the way of deductions/shelters/loopholes and almost nobody actually paid the full rate.

            If you’re willing to hit up all corporations, and all personal incomes of $50K or greater, you “only” need to increase tax rates by 35% while holding deductions and income constant. Good luck with that.

            *Including corporations owned mostly by middle-class people via the mutual funds in their 401(K)s, but we can pretend they are rich so long as they are tucked safely away behind the corporate veil.

          • Tekhno says:

            I don’t know what to believe anymore.

          • That’s progress.

        • I’m told the reason Obama increased the debt so much is because he had to do the bailouts that Bush started.

          I could be mistaken, but my impression was that the Obama deficit was driven by his stimulus program, not by bailouts–that he was deliberately increasing the deficit and spending on the theory that doing so would help get us out of the recession. “Shovel-ready jobs” wasn’t about bailouts.

          • Tekhno says:

            That sounds right actually, but I remember also being told that the stimulus was necessary to get the economy going again. Keynesian style deficit spending that is supposed to then be paid off in the boom time with high taxes and spending cuts.

          • You might also remember that the prediction by Obama’s people of what unemployment would be without the stimulus was lower than what it ended up being with the stimulus. That doesn’t prove the theory was wrong, but it might make you a bit dubious of the confidence with which its claims were being offered.

            Possibly also relevant is Sargent’s comment at the time, in response to Obama’s claim that all economists agreed with him. Sargent’s Nobel, unlike Krugman’s, was in macro.

          • Tekhno says:

            Sargent’s comment at the time

            “In early 2009, President Obama’s economic advisers seem to have understated the substantial professional uncertainty and disagreement about the wisdom of implementing a large fiscal stimulus. In early 2009, I recall President Obama as having said that while there was ample disagreement among economists about the appropriate monetary policy and regulatory responses to the financial crisis, there was widespread agreement in favor of a big fiscal stimulus among the vast majority of informed economists. His advisers surely knew that was not an accurate description of the full range of professional opinion. President Obama should have been told that there are respectable reasons for doubting that fiscal stimulus packages promote prosperity, and that there are serious economic researchers who remain unconvinced.”

  24. NatashaRostova says:

    Scott, the power of charismatic leadership can have very strange and highly-complex/dynamic effects throughout a populous. It’s a political-science meme that fascism is ‘more efficient’ in some scenarios and for some definitions of the word efficient.

    The strange thing is in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, the author noted how while technically many working class Germans were making less money or had a lower standard of living, having a job and excitement for the future made them happier. (I do not make this reference as a comparison between Trump and Hitler).

    I don’t predict or think Trump is *the* leader to do this, but I do predict that transformative leadership from Trump is going to make prediction in the coming years *very very* hard.

  25. meltedcheesefondue says:

    How about creating minor memes ridiculing this tendency – “The sun thanks president Trump that, due to his diligence and attention, it is rising today.”

    “The Michigan air continues to be breathed mostly by Americans, Trump claims credit.”

    Those are for his tendency to claim credit for anything. More directly, you could go for “Grateful nation spends $100K to save $10K job, unveils $1000K plaque thanking Trump.”

  26. IvanFyodorovich says:

    The SoftBank deal was the epitome of this. A Japanese CEO trying to give Trump credit for a $50 billion investment plan four weeks after the election. It was just too absurd to get much notice, because there was no plausible way they could have thrown together a plan that fast, because SoftBank clearly wanted to curry favor with anti-trust regulators . . . and because they had made a preliminary announcement in October. But when something similar happens in six months or a year, it will be impossible to disprove.

  27. Jack Lecter says:

    I don’t know how common this is, but for me, this has always been part of what I love about Batman- he’s got this crazy-scary-psycho quality that really lends depth to the narrative.

    (Usually, ‘psycho’ is a sub-optimal term, both in tone and information, but I think it’s the only word that really works here. There’s something wrong with him, something ambiguously between mental illness and demonic possession, and its ambiguity is part of what makes it work so well.)

    There are a bunch of different conflicting interpretations of the character, and I don’t want to privilege any particular one, but one thing they all have in common is that in none of them is dressing up like a bat to punch muggers a sane and rational act. In (what I think are) the better ones, this is lampshaded pretty heavily.

    I met Batman for the first time when I was two or three years old. ‘Bad guys’ were a new and interesting concept to me at that point, and I had no experience with them outside Disney movies. I understood immediately and intuitively that Batman was a ‘bad guy’. (The other word that would have fit was ‘monster’.) He was dark and mean and scowly, like a bad guy. He was a bad guy, but for some reason he was doing good things.

    (My teenage self would update the terminology to ‘a bad guy doing sub-optimally good things for really creepy reasons. My current self would update it further by adding that he’s ‘Not A Consequentialist’, and suggesting that he’s got a mental age of about eight.)

    Obviously, this isn’t who you want running a country, but he’s a hell of a good storybook character.

  28. Dr Dealgood says:

    A lot of this essay’s weight rests on loading fairly sensible economic policies down with negative affect.

    Trump will cut corrupt deals to keep jobs in America. And we know that’s bad since it’s Trump’s style of corruption to create sham Trump victories. America will be worse off because this sort of corrupt sham comic-book deal could never possibly work on a large scale.

    After all, protectionism and corporatism just don’t work to create strong economies. Unless you’re an Asian Tiger economy. Or one of the Nordic countries. Or America itself less than a century ago. Anyway the point is that just because it worked here in the past and works in other places now doesn’t mean that it would work if Trump tried it. Because it’s corrupt.

    • Just because relatively successful countries do something doesn’t mean doing that thing isn’t stupid. Even if every successful country does something doesn’t mean it isn’t stupid.

      Some pro-athletes go to the chiropractor. Sometimes the very best athlete in his/her field goes to them.. and every chiropractor is a scam-artist, though perhaps some unknowingly.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        But the argument of free trade is that chiropracty is actively harmful. Were that the case, you would not expect to see many pro athletes, especially the ones at the top of their game, undergoing this procedure, and remaining pro athletes.

        And yes, obviously, they could still be the best even if chiropracty was actively harmful to that goal. But at some point, if enough thriving and healthy economies are doing it, it puts a big hole in the idea. Not totally defeating it, mind, but then, what really could? Sadly economics is far from a science.

        • But the argument of free trade is that chiropracty is actively harmful. Were that the case, you would not expect to see many pro athletes, especially the ones at the top of their game, undergoing this procedure, and remaining pro athletes.

          There are two halves to this argument. One is the question of why countries have protectionism if it harms them. That’s easy. A concentrated interest group can do a better job of influencing its government than a dispersed interest group. A tariff transfers to a concentrated interest group, the protected industry, from two dispersed interest groups, their customers and all export industries. So even though the cost is larger than the benefit, the political benefit is larger than the cost–the government gets more campaign contributions by supporting the tariff than by opposing it.

          The second part of the argument seems to be the claim that countries with trade barriers have done well, and I don’t think it is true. Hong Kong is the great success story of the post WWII world and it had free trade. Singapore, according to a little googling, has free trade for most goods. Britain had free trade for most of the 19th century and was very successful.

          India, on the other hand, had protectionist policies since independence and did poorly.

          What are the examples of economies with unusually high trade barriers and great economic success?

          • Deiseach says:

            Professor Friedman, as an economist, could I get your opinion on this excerpt from a submission by the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland?

            Competition for FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] remains intense as investment, rather than trade, emerges as the key driver of the global economy in this century.

            So is investment, rather than trade, going to be the big factor? If so, how does that work and does it affect the cash reserves/profits held overseas by large businesses?

          • The simple answer is that the higher the ratio of capital to labor in an economy, the higher the return on labor and the lower the return on capital. So foreign investment in Ireland tends to make Irish workers richer and Irish capitalists poorer. That’s complicated by the fact that I am treating capital and labor as undifferentiated stuff. In a more complicated world, the Irish capitalists might have special skills that they can sell to the foreign capitalists to balance the loss from their capital becoming less productive.

            How productive trade is depends on whether you have potential trading partners whose relative costs are very different from yours. If it takes the same amount of Irish capital and labor to make a pound of potatoes or a pound of Aluminum, and it takes the same amount of Icelandic capital and labor to make a pound of potatoes or ten pounds of aluminum, Ireland and Iceland can both end up with a lot more of both potatoes and aluminum if the Irish produce the potatoes, the Icelanders produce the aluminum, and they trade. On the other hand, if all your trading partners have about the same relative costs as you do, the gains from trading are small.

            I’m not sure if that helps answer your questions. I’m not a specialist in economies but in economics, so have no expert knowledge in the state of the Irish economy at present or how much it can benefit by either trade or investment.

            If you had asked about early Irish law, on the other hand, that’s a subject I’ve been looking into. I don’t know much about it, but neither does anyone else, unfortunately. If your ancestors had only been considerate enough to invent the time capsule about when Saint Brendan showed up and used it to preserve lots of written legal texts things would be much easier.

      • NatashaRostova says:

        There is an overlooked amount of hubris in the argument that because we lack a clearly causal/counterfactual explanation for *why* chiropractors often do things that improve their patients perception of well-being, that it is in fact all a scam.

        Similarly, economics doesn’t have a clear causal/counterfactual explanation for how protectionism can benefit societies with stratified or politically separated groups of people, because it’s fucking hard to classify and measure the recursive utility functions of thousands of clustered groups.

        Gotta be careful in how casually you dismiss differing views on complex systems as stupid.

        • Murphy says:

          Improving perception of wellbeing is much easier than actually improving health.

          Dancing around and chanting in tongues might improve someones perception of wellbeing but people have been doing that for hundreds of thousands of years, often charging a ruinous price to do so and we’ve only made any progress when we’ve started looking at real outcomes in a rigorous way.

          chiropractors actually can treat persistent lower back pain. There’s evidence for that. Of course they can’t do so better than an actual physio but it’s something. Turns out pulling your back around can help with some back problems. For pretty much everything else they’ve got nothing.

          Perhaps a better comparison would be homeopathy.

          • Last time I looked into it, it seemed that for any good chiropractors did, it wasn’t any more *good* then what a massage artist can do. Both seem to help for some types of back pain.

            And with all their spinal manipulations, there is a much higher chance of doing serious *bad* then any massage artist can do.

  29. Douglas Knight says:

    I think it’s important that we be prepared for this and send a clear message, before this gets any worse, that these aren’t to be taken seriously.

    I also think it’s important to be prepared for the fact that this clear message won’t work.

    Sure, be prepared for the possibility that your plans won’t work. But you seem to go farther. If it is a definite fact that it won’t work, why are you bothering? Is it really a “message,” let alone “clear”? Why is it “important” to go through the motions of pretending to send it?

    • Well... says:

      By articulating a prediction and watching it come true, you build credibility for your model. That model can be useful later, perhaps in a surprising way.

  30. Sniffnoy says:

    Interestingly, here’s the CEO of Ford explicitly saying, no, it wasn’t due to Trump. So I’m not so sure about the part where companies will try to say “Yes, it was due to Trump”. But Trump’s followers may not even notice such disavowals, to the extent they even matter.

    • gbdub says:

      If, as Scott worries, the problem is that Ford is going to demand an economically negative favor from Trump in the future, wouldn’t they be doing the opposite – explicitly crediting Trump to curry favor?

    • Z says:

      Yeah, I get Scott’s concern here, but the Ford thing doesn’t seem to be an applicable example. He should have checked to see what Ford actually did in response to Trump claiming credit, rather than assuming what they would do.

      It’s actually kind of funny in that it seems like Scott is falling for the New CEO Move, in a different way. Trump doesn’t deserve any credit for Ford, but Scott’s giving it. Still love you, Scott. <3

      • gbdub says:

        When US companies do something that sounds good in the next few years, whether it’s hiring new people, or deciding to stay in the United States, or reporting high profits, some of them are going to credit President Trump.

        Ford’s actions here seem to go directly against Scott’s prediction.

    • tayfie says:

      From the same article:

      Fields also pointed out that the company could do well with a more positive U.S. manufacturing business environment under Trump. “We see the pro-growth policies that he’s proposing. So, this is a vote of confidence in what we think the president-elect is going to pursue and it’s right for our business,” he said.

      Saying that “Trump wasn’t the biggest factor” is not the same as “Trump had nothing to do with it”.

  31. dwietzsche says:

    It is possible that this sort of thing does scale up though, right? Business owners can be gotten to feel a sense of national obligation that leads to less offshoring. Whether Trump can make that happen is an open question but it doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch. That may be suboptimal compared to some economically more sound inducement, but whenever a person suggests that there’s a “better way,” it’s not to get people to adopt a better solution, but just to get them to stop doing what they were doing in the first place, which might actually be better than nothing.

  32. NIP says:

    I see so much hand-wringing on this site from Scott and other progressive intellectuals over how Trump is going to be terrible for everyone, but especially for the white working class people who voted for him. What I never see is solutions to the problems of white working class people from these same intellectuals. They seem much more concerned over the welfare of third-worlders, minorities, and their own social class. So I have devised a test. If you pass, you can proudly say that if you personally were President, you could do a better job than Trump, *and* more importantly, that you could take WWC votes away from him in a general election. Here’s the test:

    I want you to pretend for the sake of this test that you are a presidential candidate. It doesn’t matter for which party. Your task is to explain to me, a white working class person, why your economic policies will help me, my family, and my local community. There are several rules you must abide by during this explanation:

    1. If you resort to charts, graphs, statistics, scientific reports or journals, expert authority, or use any economic jargon a person with a public high-school education can’t understand perfectly, you are automatically disqualified. Assume for the sake of this test that you’re on /r/explainlikeimfive, and that I don’t trust the media, academia, or basically anyone outside my social circle, including you. (Or just pretend that you’re C.S. Lewis. Remember, you’re not being penalized for length, just for density of intellectual jargon. If you absolutely cannot dispense with it, I’ll allow it if you can explain it to me very slowly and patiently, in small words and with analogies.)

    2. If you make any appeals to the welfare of anyone other than me, my family, and my local community, you are automatically disqualified. Assume for the sake of this test that I do not have your enlightened concern for third-worlders I’ve never met (or even for other parts of the country, for that matter!).

    3. Any explanation that involves me or my kids getting a job programming, or putting myself into debt to buy an education for a completely new career, automatically diqualifies you. Assume for the sake of this test that I am not only dumb, but poor and can’t afford college both in terms of time and money, as I live paycheck to paycheck. Exceptions will be made if you can somehow come up with a plan that involves free or subsidized education/job training, and make me believe it will actually result in a new job.

    4. Any explanation that involves me or my family going on welfare automatically diqualifies you. I am a prideful creature and derive self-worth and social status from my work. I simply won’t listen to anyone who says they can’t find anything for me to do.

    (EDIT: 5. You are allowed to lie, and your explanation doesn’t have to be objectively correct. This is a test of persuasion. You have to convince me that you are not only capable of solving my problems, but also that you are on my side. Arguably the latter is far more important.)

    If you can manage to convince me to vote for your hypothetical candidacy based on your explanation of your economic policy under these constraints, then congratulations, you might just have a shot at helping your faction regain control of the country in four to eight years.

    Try your best! And remember, Donald Trump managed to do this. You’re not dumber than dumb ol’ Mr. Trump, are you?

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Notably absent from your requirements: Telling the truth, or giving an explanation that’s correct. You say

      If you pass, you can proudly say that if you personally were President, you could do a better job than Trump, *and* more importantly, that you could take WWC votes away from him in a general election.

      but your test would seem to only test the latter.

      • NIP says:

        …I did say that the latter was more important, did I not? It doesn’t matter if your policies would work if you can’t implement them because you can’t convince anyone to vote for you, because they don’t trust you. So allow me to clarify: for the purposes of this test, I am explicitly saying that telling the truth or having an objectively correct explanation are not requirements, since for the purposes of the test, I am a person who cannot distinguish either.

        EDIT: I have updated my OP with this clarification.

    • TenMinute says:

      What I never see is solutions to the problems of white working class people from these same intellectuals.

      I don’t know, I have seen progressive intellectuals talk about taking our right to vote away “for our own good”, which is a kind of solution.

      • q-tip says:

        I have seen progressive blog commenters muse about a turnabout-is-fair-play scenario of disenfranchising white males for a time – as a mental exercise/reductio.

        Which intellectuals were you talking about?

    • Buckyballas says:

      Err.. mandate enslavement of all non-white Americans and redistribute non-white wealth via giant tax cuts? Invade Mexico and enslave Mexicans? Does that count? There’ll be a lot more jobs (especially military jobs) and a lot more money to go around.

      • NIP says:

        Good start, given the rules, however you’ll need to go in far more depth. Also, remember that while I am entirely self-interested in this scenario, I’m not some sort of mustachio-twirling racist strawman. You have to convince me that this plan will work, that it’s the best plan, that it’s the only worthwhile plan. Actual white supremacists haven’t managed to do this. You can’t do it by assuming I’m a white supremacist.

        Also, while this is SSC and therefore it’s impossible to tell for sure, I get the impression that you’re being facetious. I assure you that I’m putting this test forth completely seriously, and expect at least one serious answer.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        Presumably you were being facetious, but I find it amusing/annoying when people make facetious suggestions like this (with the implication of “this is clearly what you must want, you evil person”), because even the obvious ethical issues aside, they wouldn’t actually work!

        Enslavement of all non-white Americans? Even assuming some sort of really extreme racism (not to mention an ironclad way of drawing the boundary around “white” that doesn’t —good luck with that one), how the hell would you even do this without plunging the country into utter chaos?

        Redistribute non-white wealth via giant tax cuts? One-time redistribution doesn’t work (cf. the Soviet Union, etc.), and then further wealth doesn’t get created.

        Invade Mexico, enslave Mexcians? Sounds extremely expensive, not to mention the massive piles of casualties on the American side.

        And so forth.

        Or is it simply your opinion that the hypothetical white working person does want all of these things and is too stupid to realize that they won’t work?

        • Buckyballas says:

          My opinion was that some solutions that are ostensibly good for the white working class (and pass NIP’s rubric) would actually have terrible consequences for the white working class, as you point out. I just proposed some extreme ones to illustrate the point. Trade protectionism is a more typical one that has been discussed a lot on these boards. I guess I just oppose the idea of the question. Sometimes you need some further examination (including charts and academic papers) to gauge what works and what doesn’t work. Sorry, I should have said this in the original post.

          • NIP says:

            >I guess I just oppose the idea of the question. Sometimes you need some further examination (including charts and academic papers) to gauge what works and what doesn’t work

            If you read what I wrote carefully, you’ll see that nowhere did I say that you shouldn’t have a cogent argument based on the facts that you know. I merely said that for the purposes of what is effectively a Trumpian Turing Test, you can’t *explicitly reference* academic material.

    • Anaxagoras says:

      My honest opinion is that rural poverty is an incredibly hard problem, and quite possibly unsolvable.

      Things that could address it:
      1. Catastrophe or eucatastrophe — In case of nuclear war, rural poverty is no longer a problem! Conversely, the singularity would likely also resolve it.
      2. Obviously evil things — The hypothetical WWC fellow may not share my enlightened concern for third-worlders, but they would not be comfortable with things like Buckyballas’s suggestion of mass enslavement or wars or conquest against random other countries. Even expelling city-dwellers en masse and forcing them to live in the country would probably be too gratuitously cruel.
      3. Plans that don’t match the requirements — UBI might help, but that’s welfare. Free relocation to cities and initial housing support once there doesn’t feel too welfare-y, but seems a lot like the retraining; even if it were propped up financially, it’s still gambling one’s roots.
      4. Bullshit — I might be able to come up with something intuitively appealing that matches the requirements and is complete nonsense politically and economically. I’m not interested in doing that right now.

      On the other hand, although this is something I have thought about, I’m far from an expert on this. The problem looks intractable to me, setting aside your requirements but adding the one being even vaguely political viable, but perhaps some researcher has a solution. I do understand this doesn’t really present an answer to your question, but this is just my thoughts on it.

      • NIP says:

        Thank you very much for your honest reply. The purpose of my test, among other reasons, is to provoke soul-searching of this kind. It very well may be an unsolvable problem given the constraints I’ve put down (which are intended to reflect the current political climate which won Trump the presidency); but that is no reason to simply give up, I’m sure we can both agree.

        I have to point out that poverty among the working class (and not just the white working class) is not merely a rural problem; there are plenty of suburban and city-dwelling folks of my social class, including myself, who are having extreme difficulty holding on to work, and the prognosis for the future looks grim.

        >2.

        I agree completely with you that the WWC is not a demographic inclined to cruelty or bigotry, and you’d have a very long row to hoe if your intent was to convince them of solutions that counteract the current narrative of the U.S. as a benevolent and tolerant place that (at least tries to) allow a fair playing field for everyone. It’s not impossible, but you’d need Hitler levels of charisma and an even worse economic situation than we’re already in.

        >4.

        I can understand not being interested in using dishonesty, but as the test is calibrated to determine who can defeat a Trump-esque candidate at persuasion (since no policy would succeed which can’t get any votes), I had to allow it in the rules.

        • Anaxagoras says:

          Regarding 4, “I’m not interested in doing that right now” literally means right now. I felt that bullet point, as something allowed by your rules was too important to ignore, but I didn’t feel like taking the time to come up with something that would fit it, since it seemed so expansive that almost anything could fit. I guess I’ve spent more time defending that decision than coming up with something for that would be, but I guess use my charisma to claim that I’m in contact with aliens (Space aliens! Not the other kind!) who can bring about something under 1.

          I definitely agree that poverty among the working class is not merely a rural problem. Nonetheless, I think that rural poverty is a significantly different problem from urban poverty, and requires different remedy. Take my following claims with a grain of salt, as I am not an expert and am not very confident in them:

          1. There’s a lot of money in cities; it’s just not especially evenly distributed. Conversely, in rural areas and small towns, there may be very little money after the main employer up and left.
          2. Cities are geographically very small. This means that it’s easier to get between locations and less necessary to own a car, but also much more expensive to live in or near, which may result in a longer commute.
          3. Generally, there is much greater selection of goods in a city, but prices are also higher.
          4. Urban communities are more heterogenous, culturally and ethnically.
          5. It’s easier to work more independently in rural environments.

          I think at least some of the differences between urban and rural areas are relevant to addressing poverty. To use a mildly contrived example, a resume-assistance program might well help the urban poor be more competitive for jobs, but would do nothing for someone in Log Mills, MI, where the lumber company which was the source of all economic activity closed up shop a decade ago.

          • NIP says:

            >I didn’t feel like taking the time to come up with something that would fit it, since it seemed so expansive that almost anything could fit

            It’s cool mang, don’t sweat it. That rule is just there for realism’s sake, and because I thought it would be interesting to see if anyone would actually try to bullshit their way throught the test (which could totally work; I’m actually working class and not terribly well-educated).

            I agree with your points about urban vs. rural areas, though I’m not an expert either. I see now that solutions to poverty among the working class may differ depending on where they live, and it’s something that would have to be addressed in any proposed economic relief plan.

    • BBA says:

      Let me step back from your exercise for a moment. What is the “white working class”? Is it defined by income or by education? If the latter, Republicans dominated the WWC back in 2012, with that firebrand populist Mitt Romney, and still lost.

      From the same author a few months later: considering “southern white” as an identity-politics voting bloc. In this mindset it’s as futile for the Democrats to try to win back the (largely southern) WWC as it is for Republicans to try to win the black vote.

      This is all a cycle old, but Tuesday shouldn’t change the narrative.

      • NIP says:

        >Let me step back from your exercise for a moment

        Well okay, but you haven’t even stepped up to it, yet 😉

        >Is it defined by income or by education?

        A good question, as there are naturally plenty of whites who are employed but who aren’t of the same social class as what I’d call “white working class”, and who don’t vote the same. If there was any tolerance for Nuevo-Knee Actionary terminology around here I’d just call the WWC “Vaisyas”; but in the absence of such a common lexicon, I’d say that the main distinguishing feature is education rather than income. They are people who on average have a high school education, on the low-end are dropouts or have GEDs, and on the high end have trade certifications or vocational training that took at most two years to complete. Business school graduates are at the very tippy-top.

        Of course, if we’re only deciding who belongs to this class based on one factor, we’re going to miss a ton of people. In truth, “white working class” is more of an anthropological than an economic category, which is why I like the term “Vaisya”. They attain social status through sacrifice: working long hours, making lots of money, and using that money to support a nuclear family, and help out their extended family. Conspicuous consumption is also a marker of status, but doing so at the expense of family is considered trashy. If they’re lucky, their children will be smart and upwardly mobile and get a fancy college degree, which they’re convinced will be used to help out the family with even more money and perpetuate the cycle of prosperous nuclear families, but rarely works out that way in practice, as the smarter and more upwardly mobile a demographic is, the less they care about family. They generally work with their hands, even if they’re the owner of their own business, and if they do intellectual work it’s in the realm of facts and figures rather than ideas.

        It’s a rough sketch, but that’s generally who I mean when I say “white working class.”

        As to your other points, you seem to be saying that depending on how you define the white working class, this exercise in trying to win their votes may be pointless. Am I correct? If so, I don’t see how that is; no matter how you slice it, they’re citizens with legitimate concerns, and if someone can legitimately answer them in a way they can understand and sympathize with, they’ll vote for that person whether they have an R or a D next to their name.

        • Deiseach says:

          on the high end have trade certifications or vocational training that took at most two years to complete

          Hey! It takes four years to complete an apprenticeship as an electrician and become a journeyman! 🙂

          Depending on the trade and how far you want to go re: qualifications level, an apprenticeship can take between one to five years.

          • Adam says:

            Yep. My uncle, cousins, and brother-in-law are all glaziers and that’s a four-year apprenticeship.

            This discussion is kind of muddied, though. Skilled trades were hurt in the immediate after-effects of the housing crash because construction tanked for a few years, but they’re doing pretty well now. They’re not the same as single-industry towns and factory work. You can’t offshore construction, but it mostly happens in cities that are already doing well. Nobody is building 80-story high rises or putting in new suburban subdivisions every six months in the rust belt or coal country and they’re not going to.

            In general, I think skilled trades are still a great bet, but you have to move to where the work is if you don’t already live there. My dad has been a plumber since he was 19 and has never been out of work a day in his life.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You can’t offshore construction

            My uncle is a construction union rep in Illinois. I once said that to him and he responded that more and more construction is happening with pre-cast concrete sections, said work, in fact, being done offshore.

            I’m not sure how much of an issue this, but apparently it is a concern for those in the trades.

          • Adam says:

            Well yeah, huge caveat that unskilled labor is still subject to offshoring, automation, immigrants doing the work cheaper. It’s the plumbers, electricians, glaziers, etc that are going to be fine for a while. If all you’re doing is carrying wood and swinging hammers, probably not.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            There’s a good possibility that even skilled construction can be done away with in the future. Some kind of pre-built modular housing type thing with the modules built in Mexico or China and shipped over could potentially take off. Probably at least a few decades away though.

          • Adam says:

            Not all skilled trades are reliant on construction. The glaziers kind of are. Plumbers and electricians, not really. Modular houses still require maintenance and modification. Glaziers being dependent largely on office buildings as well, nobody has yet built a modular office building.

            But sure, in a far enough future, all human manual labor is quite possibly gone.

          • On trades and rural employment …

            One possibility is that the growth of telecommuting, VR, and similar developments might substantially reduce the advantages of urban living, causing a population shift out to areas with much less expensive housing. In which case the lawyers and professors and financial types now living a hundred miles from the big city instead of ten miles will want to hire people to babysit their kids, and build their new houses, and … .

          • Adam says:

            Yeah, good point and I definitely hope that happens soon. Geographic concentration has a lot of benefits, but it’d be a better world for everyone if it wasn’t a prerequisite to gainful employment with a decent long-term prospect.

    • mitigatedchaos says:

      Lower the minimum wage to a dollar, make up the difference with per-hour wage income subsidies. It’s real American work, by real American companies, not just government make-work digging in a ditch somewhere and filling it back in. We will get the money by digging into welfare programs – everyone that isn’t like Aunt Jemma in her wheelchair is going to show up to work each day and contribute to making America great again. Businesses will love it. Workers will love it. Communists will scream and cry as it forestalls the “revolution” they so desperately long for and SJWs will hate it since they’ll actually have to do a job.

      It isn’t a handout. It’s a promise to keep the American dream alive and accessible to everyone in America – that if you work hard and believe, you, too, will have a seat at the table.

      Simultaneously, penalize the unfair trade practices of nations such as China and Indonesia, where big government Communists cheat by subsidizing their industries, stealing American ideas and making knock-offs of them, forcing their workers to live in dorms while they dump toxic waste into the rivers. It isn’t fair that anyone should have to compete like that. We will apply tariffs on all goods coming from these cheating foreign industries so that you get to compete on fair terms.

      • NIP says:

        5/10, good first try. Gold star for the jingoism, but you can’t rely on that alone. It’s a tad sparse and needs some more explanation.

        Some questions which might raise your score if you can answer them:

        1. What is a wage income subsidy?
        2. Why are you lowering the minimum wage?
        3. How do those two things work together, explicitly, to give me and my friends and family jobs?
        4. Which welfare programs will you be cutting into to pay for these subsidies?

        Note that real-life me may perfectly understand what you just said, but test-version me may not.

        • mitigatedchaos says:

          That’s the true difficulty.

          Hourly wage subsidies with a relatively low minimum wage are really one of the only few effective methods to (potentially) greatly increase employment in an era of both outsourcing and automation. (We’re already subsidizing companies such as Walmart by issuing state-funded healthcare to their employees.)

          The question is how to sell it to them. I think it could be the “conservative” answer to forestall Basic Income when trucking employment hits the wall in the next decade or so, but a shift is needed so that they either won’t realize it’s a “government handout”, or will no longer care.

          Probably focusing on how it will get rid of “welfare queens” (regardless of how much those even exist) and other supposed ‘leeches’ (not that they use that term) by forcing them to work and normalizing an attitude of work (which actually could help the inner cities) may help. But I’m not a PR guy or advertiser.

          The thing is, the Democrats should have realized all this, but I think they just plain don’t like the WWC anymore, so a plan like this, or any plan to buy off the WWC to prevent Trump, was never formulated.

          • NIP says:

            I tentatively agree with everything you just wrote.

            The real problem is, stated crudely, “What the hell are we going to do with all these people?” In an age of automation and outsourcing, and in a country with a democratic tradition where even economically irrelevant people get a say in government (no matter how symbolic and innefectual in practice), what in the world are you going to do when they start demanding things that you can’t realistically give back to them? Especially when they have a recent memory, at least cultural if not personal, of a much more prosperous time for those of their social class? You can’t do *nothing*; besides being morally objectionable, you’re asking for major unrest if you ignore their concerns.

            …which is why I framed this test the way I did. There may not be a solution they want. But you’re going to have to frame your solution as one that they’ll want, unless you’re willing to dispense with democracy.

          • Randy M says:

            The real problem is, stated crudely, “What the hell are we going to do with all these people?”

            I haven’t read it in a long time, but this reminds me of the background demographic situation in Nancy Kress’ Beggars in Spain series.
            I’m not sure she had an answer, I think it was more dystopian.

            I’m pretty Red Tribe background (not uneducated, though), but the idea of automation’s increasing capabilities making employing people economically inefficient despite the willingness to do so, and a skill set that matched a fairly recent cultural/evolutionary environment definitely opens me up to the morality of providing UBI.

            But, I don’t think people (all or maybe just mine) are well-suited for abundance. Even if it could be assured to continue and a diminishing of human capabilities didn’t matter, I think a great many would fall into depression and indolence rather than a creative and joyful fellowship. And then there’s the resentment of a structural inequality; I don’t think it is as much of a problem now as there is still some perception of equality of opportunity, but when everyone can take the attitude of either “I’ll never have what you have” or “You’ll never have to do what I have to do” seems apt to be quite unstable.
            tl/dr: I expect it is a hard problem likely to get worse.

          • gbdub says:

            Are we subsidizing WalMart… or is WalMart subsidizing us? On the one hand, WalMart doesn’t have to pay the full cost of their employees healthcare. On the other hand, if WalMart vanished (or replaced their existing workforce with fewer but higher paid employees), we’d be stuck with a bunch of unemployed people (and the full cost of their welfare and health care, without their meager but existent WalMart wages).

            “We are subsidizing WalMart!” relies on the belief that WalMart can just pay everyone twice as much with no negative consequence other than a slightly shallower cash swimming pool for the Waltons to swan dive into. But that seems like magical thinking, with the actual relationship much more complex.

      • hlynkacg says:

        A note to others, and hat-tip to mitigatedchaos, this is how you sell the “red tribe” on welfare.

      • Deiseach says:

        It’s a promise to keep the American dream alive and accessible to everyone in America – that if you work hard and believe, you, too, will have a seat at the table.

        That’s the problem, though: the minimum-wage/no longer a minimum wage jobs were always seen as stepping stones – start off in one of these, work really hard, and either work your way up to be foreman/supervisor or even one of the bosses, or move on to a better job with good pay and conditions.

        In the future that is not going to be the case. There will still be the need for the (non-automated) low-skill labour jobs which are the minimum wage and below, but there is no longer the “work your way up to something better” (not unless you have a particular skill or talent). Joe at the plant could put in his years and get promoted via seniority, but we don’t do that anymore. If we’re moving to a “knowledge economy”, are you smart enough to get one of the jobs that do take skills and technical knowledge? If not, then you’re stuck in the ‘under minimum wage + income supplement’ trap.

        The old way of work has changed and we’re still struggling with what will replace it.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      Seems like the Japanese model might qualify, relatively high price floors on rural products combined with rigorous quality control (so buyers get something for their high prices paid and producers can take pride in their high quality to justify their expensive prices) and state level zoning to reduce the prices of real estate in and around cities (making the rural urban switch not a one time decision where not leaving leaves one relatively far behind peers who came earlier).

      • NIP says:

        Could you elaborate? I’m not really familiar with the history of the Japanese economy. Was this combination of high price floors + quality control and use of zoning to lower urban real estate prices the way that the Japanese handled their transition to an urban-focused high tech economy? Did it succeed? How would it work in the U.S.?

        • massivefocusedinaction says:

          Well for example melons are like $50 in Japan. Apples are several dollars, etc. Wood is also quite expensive.

          There you’ll find £12 apples; wooden boxes of 12 strawberries, each lovingly encased in a satin padding, for nearly £40; and sumptuous-looking gift medleys priced at £97, each item meticulously protected with tissue paper and foam padding. Then there’s the ‘king of fruit’, the musk melon, wrapped in a ribbon and set on a special stand with soft lighting, for more than £100 apiece – here a mere pittance compared to the most expensive on record, sold at a whopping £14,000 for a pair.

          http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/why-is-fruit-so-expensive-in-japan-9605105.html

          Many of the examples in the article are relatively extreme, but all produce is much, much more expensive in Japan, which means their rural urban income divide is smaller than in the US. This cites lower inequality than Germany, but only 1.7% of the population is on public assistance.

          On Housing policy Tokyo had more houses constructed in 2014 than the entire state of California, or the Nation of England. Which kept rents flat there even as they rose rapidly in housing constrained cities.

          One of the issues, that I suspect is happening in the US is that too much investment in relatively low productivity housing is constraining investment in dynamic small businesses that would otherwise be creating jobs that are destroyed in other segments of the economy.

          • Jiro says:

            Melons are not $50 in Japan. The $50 melons and £12 apples are special gifts whose value comes from being a gift; those are not the normal prices of apples and melons. It’s like looking at the price of a greeting card and saying “pieces of paper are $5 in America”.

            It isn’t hard to look up prices of food in Japan. Compare the apple prices on that list to the special gift box apples you quote. It turns out that melons are indeed expensive, but still a fraction of $50.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Even if it worked, the suggestion is relatively socialist. You’d need pretty good PR to sell it. You’d also have to deal with trade restrictions otherwise people could just buy imported produce.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      I campaigned for Bernie Sanders in multiple states and for reasons that would take a while to explain we talked to tons of Republicans and Independents as well as Democrats. I feel like it would be easier to argue for why someone should vote for Sanders than for me personally, mainly due to me not having a long voting record and decades of consistent opinions as well as a working class background. However, I’ll give it a shot since I’ll have the benefit of improving some of the Sanders arguments I thought were weak and also being able to add in some new stuff. Plus you said I didn’t have to be strictly honest and I’d never disrespect Bernie by trying to lie about his beliefs for votes. I’m a bit burned out from work but ah well. Here we go:

      The most important group of people in the world are Americans. I think this because I’m an American. If I had to choose between helping a fellow citizen and anyone else I’d pick my fellow citizen. Assuming I wasn’t doing anything morally wrong I’d pick a fellow citizen over multiple foreigners. I’m campaigning to be the president of the United States. I don’t have enough power over other countries to even be confident that my taxpayer funded intervention wouldn’t be undone as soon as my back was turned anyways. Look at all the money wasted in the Middle East just to bog us down in a war with Isis. America first.

      As someone who is going to put all my focus on the people of my own country, a strategy which may have lessened the instability of the central American countries whose citizens are all illegally crossing our border, I feel like it would be perfectly reasonable to create a moratorium on illegal immigration and to increase deportation. If the people are telling me that they feel that immigration is harming their communities and job options I owe it to them to make a sincere test of their belief. Furthermore if in fact the liberals are right and immigrants are necessary to fill a certain class of jobs because they are the only ones desperate enough to do them, I want to know that that is the case and then figure out why my country allows a job market like that to exist. Liberals always talk about accepting the lived experiences of others and I’m going to take them at their word and accept the lived experience of people who feel threatened by illegal immigration.

      Most experts agree that NAFTA has not been the economic boost that was promised. Its either been a negative or a negligible positive and furthermore that is only when you look at pure GDP. In the instances when global trade works, it requires fair play. China doesn’t play fair. They cheat. The reason America has so much trouble being competitive is that we attempt to make businesses pay a fair wage. Countries like China and Mexico have much lower living costs as well as fewer worker protections. If China can exploit their hundreds of millions of poor citizens to do a job for almost nothing, American productivity per worker means nothing.

      Since many average citizens are unable to get good jobs, due to outsourcing, they can’t even benefit from the cheaper goods from other countries. When you live paycheck to paycheck because Apple outsourced your factory job, having 100$ shaved off the price of an iPhone is worthless. Of course the liberal, coastal, city oriented “middle class”, cause lets be real they don’t consider you to be middle class, has jobs that aren’t easily outsourced and so they get all the benefits but none of the costs. During Brexit London had a massive majority to Remain while nearly all the rural parts of the country voted to Leave. I wonder why that is.

      When someone arguing for free trade and immigration calls you a dumb racist for your opinion do they ever offer to give away half of THEIR paycheck to a company they have no stake in in order to help people in the third world get out of poverty by working 12 hours for a dollar a day? No? Well, dressing up in a 1000$ evening gown and going to a 5000$ a plate dinner with George Clooney and writing a check for 5% of their income, MAX, is almost as good right? Sure they had a choice and can brag with all their friends about how generous they are but, you can sorta maybe feel good about all those poor people you helped when you can’t take your kid to the doctor, right? Gotta be positive.

      Oh also, all that coal we stopped burning to save the environment? China produces and consumes as much coal as the rest of the world combined. Boy maybe that helps how competitive their manufacturing is.

      Luckily when we aren’t wasting our money on wars halfway across the globe we can improve our own lives. We can create a program where we pay people to do actual work. We can fix our bridges, our roads, our dams, and our public transit infrastructure. We can even fix our plumbing. Contrary to popular belief, Flint isn’t the only city that has water quality issues.

      Liberals love to talk about the education assistance programs in Germany. College for everyone! What they never tell you, except for maybe some of the far left groups, is that part of that is Germany paying for people to learn trades. Carpentry, plumbing, construction, electrical work, etc. The reason the lefties say it and liberals don’t is because liberals look down on the trades. Except every 4 years when they tour union halls trawling for votes.

      Germany has even tighter industry restrictions than we do but somehow their manufacturing sector and construction sector are thriving. Paul Ryan says we can compete with Mexico by lowering the minimum wage and taking shortcuts with our safety. Over 20% of Germans work in manufacturing jobs. Less than 10% of Americans do. But their workers have more rights and better wages.

      Why do we pay tons of money in taxes in order to subsidize liberal arts degrees? Why don’t we focus funds on trade schools and other programs that result in productive jobs? Germany does this and their results are amazing. Are Germans just better than us? I think we decided that about 70 years ago. Why aren’t we doing this? Because it doesn’t produce citizens who support liberal policies and thus Democrats don’t like it. The part of the middle class that values liberal arts degrees over a steady, good paying job are reliable Democratic voters.

      Meanwhile, Republicans don’t support it because a government policy that actually worked well would contradict their entire belief system. Republican politicians and mega donors LIKE the Democratic focus on useless four year degrees. Both parties have been focusing voter attention on non-economic issues because it creates a system where their party can’t ever die out. Solved problems mean you have to find something else to use in your negative ads about the opposing party.

      Another similar tug of war issue both parties love are guns. A prosperous society has less violence, gun based or otherwise. Democrats love gun control and Republicans love crime. Democrats say guns cause violence and Republicans say guns protect you from dangerous minorities. Either way lower crime rates would hollow out their arguments.

      What America needs is a candidate focused on sincerely solving problems for all citizens without insulting the intelligence of their opponents. We need actual jobs making real, concrete goods that pay enough for everyone to buy those goods. We need to help our own poor instead of putting on galas whose main purpose is to attract TV cameras into which we brag about our generosity towards the rest of the world to impress our friends. Anyone who WANTS to work should be able to find a job worth doing.

      • NIP says:

        Dude, real talk: if I had heard what you just put down from the Sanders campaign during election season, I’d have voted for him instead of Trump. Let’s take some notes here for others and explain why what you wrote kinda gave me a hard-on:

        >The most important group of people in the world are Americans. I think this because I’m an American. If I had to choose between helping a fellow citizen and anyone else I’d pick my fellow citizen.

        Good, good start. I mean, you’re preaching to the choir in this scenario, but it’s important in a climate where nobody trusts anything out of a politician’s mouth to unmistakably come out in favor of your constituency at the very start so that there’s absolutely no doubt.

        >I don’t have enough power over other countries to even be confident that my taxpayer funded intervention wouldn’t be undone as soon as my back was turned anyways. Look at all the money wasted in the Middle East just to bog us down in a war with Isis. America first.

        Amen. If there’s anything a working class person hates, it’s wasting their own money on people who aren’t part of their ingroup, especially if they’re seen as ungrateful or a lost cause. Charity they’ll support, if it’s voluntary and they can afford it; the hope that “maybe, someday, a foreign government might treat its citizens less crappily if we pay to bomb some tinpot dictator and arm a bunch of insurgents who probably hate our guts anyway” is somewhere around 999 on the list of things they care about, between intrigue in the British royal family and the latest sanctions passed by the U.N. This is why Trump’s comments on Iraq and Afghanistan may have confused a lot of liberals but resonated with working class people; they’ll only support a war with a clear, obtainable goal that benefits either them or their sense of charity. And then, only if they feel everything is fine at home. Pretty much any Middle Eastern conflict at the moment doesn’t fulfill those criteria, except maybe “bombing the shit out of ISIS”, and then only because ISIS is so cartoonishly evil that paying a few extra in taxes to send some planes after them sounds like the least a self-described superpower can do.

        >If the people are telling me that they feel that immigration is harming their communities and job options I owe it to them to make a sincere test of their belief

        Take note here, as this is very important. Being willing to support a policy that your constituency supports even if you personally don’t is key in building trust. They understand that not everyone agrees all the time, but they still expect their elected officials to respect their wishes, because that’s why they voted for them. If a policy they supported turns out to hurt them, they’ll be the first to let their officials know and support its change.

        >Furthermore if in fact the liberals are right and immigrants are necessary to fill a certain class of jobs because they are the only ones desperate enough to do them, I want to know that that is the case and then figure out why my country allows a job market like that to exist

        Something I never hear said. Fuckin’ A. You think working class folks don’t sympathize *at all* with immigrants? Of course they do – but if their interests are opposed, they’re not going to side with foreigners, that’s nuts. I’ll tell you, if I was ever offered a job picking fruit for some farmer, I’d take it in a heartbeat, no matter how hard the work or how low the pay, because some work is better than none. I know there’s probably hundreds of thousands of American teenagers, among others, who’d take that offer over competing with retirees to be somebody’s bitch all day at McDonald’s or Walmart. That being said, of course nobody *wants* to do a crappy job, and if picking fruit is shittier than it has to be because of the dishonest labor practices of businesses who hire illegals, then there’s a simple solution: stop those dishonest practices and let legal citizens do the job under honest conditions.

        >Since many average citizens are unable to get good jobs, due to outsourcing, they can’t even benefit from the cheaper goods from other countries. When you live paycheck to paycheck because Apple outsourced your factory job, having 100$ shaved off the price of an iPhone is worthless.

        Something economists don’t seem to understand very well.

        >Of course the liberal, coastal, city oriented “middle class”, cause lets be real they don’t consider you to be middle class, has jobs that aren’t easily outsourced and so they get all the benefits but none of the costs. During Brexit London had a massive majority to Remain while nearly all the rural parts of the country voted to Leave. I wonder why that is.

        Another thing that nobody talks about. GDP may be going up, but a rising tide does not lift all boats in a real economy, and there’s a real sense of class divide starting to grow in the U.S. Trust me, the working class doesn’t enjoy having this new feeling, as it contrasts with everything they’ve ever learned about how America is supposed to work, but it’s there.

        >Oh also, all that coal we stopped burning to save the environment? China produces and consumes as much coal as the rest of the world combined. Boy maybe that helps how competitive their manufacturing is.

        A small part of why the average working class American doesn’t give a shit about global warming even if they accept it’s happening. Who cares if Bangladesh or some shitty islands halfway around the world get flooded, or a coral reef dies – I need a good job. I can’t pay my rent. My kids can’t go to the fucking doctor.

        >All that stuff about Germany and free trades education

        Honestly, why *can’t* we do that? I’ve never heard someone relatably articulate an argument for why America should be more like a European country before, and I’m getting a funny feeling in my pants because of it. If that’s socialism, then slap my ass and call me Ivan Pinkovich, because I like it.

        >A prosperous society has less violence, gun based or otherwise. Democrats love gun control and Republicans love crime. Democrats say guns cause violence and Republicans say guns protect you from dangerous minorities. Either way lower crime rates would hollow out their arguments.

        I agree completely that fixing poverty and unemployment in the inner cities would basically make the whole culture war brouhaha over gun violence completely moot.

        >That last paragraph

        10/10, crying manly tears of freedom, you pass the test. Anyone else giving it a shot, take notes. There’s honestly a lot more I could comment on about what you wrote, but overall my main reason for passing you with flying colors? Simple empathy. You followed all the rules, don’t talk in abstracts, paint a picture of working class life that’s authentic of their “lived experience”, as they say, and offered at least one concrete solution (which turned out to be “let’s be more like Germany”, that surprised the hell out of me) delivered in a non-condescending way that highlighted how things could be better for us. If you want to help the next Bernie Sanders win, it’s easy if you try.

        • the anonymouse says:

          If that’s socialism, then slap my ass and call me Ivan Pinkovich, because I like it.

          This sentence makes me unreasonably happy.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @NIP

          Honestly, why *can’t* we do that? I’ve never heard someone relatably articulate an argument for why America should be more like a European country before, and I’m getting a funny feeling in my pants because of it. If that’s socialism, then slap my ass and call me Ivan Pinkovich, because I like it.

          Education in Germany is basically about streaming heavily and early, putting a stronger emphasis than a lot of other countries do on getting people ready for blue-collar jobs, and making education affordable or free. It’s a lot more complicated than the North American model, and there’s more consequences based on how kids are doing early on.

          The streaming probably puts a lot of people off. It means that far fewer people get into university. Where three- or four-year degrees are a status symbol, this would be a hard sell. Back when I was a student I remember the student union types agitating for tuition cuts talking about “free German university” but somehow none of them ever mentioned that far fewer people go to university in Germany. It’s kind of crappy for late bloomers.

          It is also relevant that blue-collar workers in Germany have a lot more say in things like company management, etc.

          • psmith says:

            streaming heavily and early

            Yep. Disparate impact.

          • tscharf says:

            College being a requirement / status symbol is what needs to disappear. How many people work in jobs that utilize a large degree of what they absorbed in college? Most of what I absorbed in college was THC.

            A college degree seems to be used in place of an IQ test. Why sit in a boring lecture for 4 years when you can get IQ / physical skills tested and learn on the job like people do anyway?

          • Randy M says:

            A college degree seems to be used in place of an IQ test. Why sit in a boring lecture for 4 years when you can get IQ / physical skills tested and learn on the job like people do anyway?

            You are going to be in the minority if you frame it this way. I don’t think I knew anyone in college who didn’t enjoy themselves. I also don’t think I knew anyone doing a careful cost-benefit analysis of their time there, especially not versus a contrafactual world in which the degree held no signaling power.

            But, of course, that is sampling from the group of people who went to college. Still, I don’t think it is generally looked at as four years of boredom by and large, nor would that be accurate. Especially once it is mandatory and free!

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think people talk down university educations too much here. There are general skills that one learns in university that aren’t necessarily connected to what is actually studied. Additionally, the social side of things is really, really important. As tscharf notes, most of what he absorbed was THC – but the person who meets friends, romantic partners, people who can get them jobs, etc while absorbing THC, ethanol, whatever, is getting something of the experience. At least, this is how I rationalize my time in university to myself.

            The people who get a bad deal out of university are the people who can’t afford it and who would be better off going into a trade or something but have been conned into thinking that a degree in whatever is the is the road to upward social mobility. I know plenty of people from affluent families with degrees from a good school who are currently working crappy jobs they are way overqualified for. Is someone from a lower-middle-class or lower-class family who had to take on loans (or, heavier loans) and maybe didn’t go to as good a school going to be in a better position? Probably not.

        • multiheaded says:

          Man, actually, you know what? Fuck the white working class. It stole the land fair and square, time for people with more pressing need to steal some for themselves.

          /not endorsed but seriously fuck that. saying this as an immigrant myself, you understand. (and probably taking up a Jerb, although working remotely from a different country)

          • Jiro says:

            I am not particularly inclined to want immigrants coming in to steal from me, on the grounds that the stealing is morally justified.

          • John Schilling says:

            One could make a coherent case in many ethical systems for the thesis that immigrants are entitled to whatever land they can steal and hold. In the contemporary United States of America, that case will run up against the hard reality that immigrants can’t actually steal and hold much of our land, certainly not the good parts, without triggering overwhelming retaliation.

            And, given the balance of power, any plan for stealing what bits of land might be reasonably up for stealing, is almost certainly going to involve step 1: come up with an excuse less likely to alienate allies and infuriate bystanders than. “it’s time for us to steal some land”. If it’s time for you to steal some land, then it’s time for you to come up with a plausible justification for why you don’t need to steal it.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Literally no country on Earth is inhabited by its original people. Why are Americans special just because they were the last ones to do it? In fact they weren’t. The majority of immigrants coming to America are also descendants of a people who stole their land. The Aztecs don’t rule Mexico do they? No, its the descendants of the Spanish.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Most economic migrants from Mexico are mostly of Native American ancestry.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Bad news about those Native Americans… there were several waves of immigration from Asia to the Americas in pre-Colombian times. The groups that were here when Columbus got here weren’t the first.

          • Jiro says:

            Why are Americans special just because they were the last ones to do it?

            That is an argument that the stealing by immigrants is morally justified (because it is no worse than stealing by Americans).

            I am still not particularly inclined to want immigrants coming in to steal from me, on the grounds that the stealing is morally justified.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Very good. That sort of rhetoric would make me actually consider voting for a Democrat if it were backed by substantive policy stances. Biggest problem I saw were some language/phrasing stuff which can be workshopped (e.g. the ‘protect from scary minorities’ bit. If you want to take a shot at establishment republicans with this audience on the subject of gun control/crime, my suggestion would be pointing out Republican “Tough On Crime”/”Zero Tolerance” approaches just make life shitty for everyone without actually making anyone –safer-. That sort of approach)

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Well neither Sanders nor I are Democrats so you don’t even need to deal with that part.

          As far as work shopping, this is mostly a rough draft. I had an argument like this with more finesse written out somewhere, maybe on Medium?, during the campaign but after Sanders was out I dropped all of my social media accounts.

      • Mr Mind says:

        >The most important group of people in the world are Americans. I think this because I’m an American. If I had to choose between helping a fellow citizen and anyone else I’d pick my fellow citizen.

        All hail Moloch, our new Lord.

        No, I understand the tone and intention of the exercise. I also understand the post-ironic frame under which this discussion is happening.

        But that is naked, unadulterated Moloch staring directly into your eyes.

        The sooner we dissolve the idea of nation the better.

        • Deiseach says:

          The sooner we dissolve the idea of nation the better.

          And when will you tackle culture, which is what is going to replace it? You expect African-Americans and Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans to act like whitey, you racist?

          I agree that the cosmopolitan ideal is one of a Westernised secular culture where everyone wears business suits and speaks (American-accented) English, but if you overcome the idea of “The Nation”, I wish you good luck with tackling AAVE and that insisting on keeping a separate dialect, way of dressing your hair, foods, etc should all be junked in the name of non-differentiation: anything that sticks out as unique or that you claim is part of your culture not shared by others is, after all, the same class of thing as claiming a nationality that is unique and special.

          • Mr Mind says:

            I believe that culture is co-created, rather than imposed. I also prefer when culture is the result of people aggregating rather than imposed to people.

            That said, technology is advanced to a point that is presenting us with threats / opportunities that rapidly scale to global level. We are already doing poorly on things like global warming, there’s no reasong to think we are going to do better with incoming crysis.
            I firmly believe that if we want to survive, as a species, the next two centuries we are going to need a mean to coordinate to a global level, that is much much better than current trans-national organisms.

            This does not necessarily means imposing the same culture everywhere, a global coordination can work with ports and translations. It means though that the part of the culture that counter coordination must go, whatever they are.

          • I firmly believe that if we want to survive, as a species, the next two centuries we are going to need a mean to coordinate to a global level, that is much much better than current trans-national organisms.

            We don’t even have a very good way of coordinating at the national level. My conclusion is that if we are going to survive as a species, we need ways of dealing with change that work on the small.

            One of the arguments for dealing with AGW by adaptation rather than by trying to prevent it is that my keeping down CO2 output by using expensive solar power instead of inexpensive fossil fuel only works for me if everyone does it. My dealing with warming by switching to crops that do better in a slightly warmer climate or with sea level rise by diking or by building structures a few hundred yards further inland than in the past works for me if I do it, for me and my neighbors if we do it.

          • Tekhno says:

            @Mr Mind

            to coordinate to a global level, that is much much better than current trans-national organisms.

            Coordination isn’t free. When someone asks you to cooperate, you should always wonder “Whose cooperation”. There are 50 different versions of what a “cooperating” humanity looks like, which we’d have to fight over.

            The team of no team is still a team.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Its just scaling up the social bonds of family/friends to a national level. How many people do you know who would save someone else’s kid instead of their own all things being equal? Also I’d be the president of America. Its basically the same as fiduciary duty. I was clear about a limitation based on moral grounds also.

          • Mr Mind says:

            I understand about your own child / family member with respect to another one’s child, because it’s about deep emotional bonds. But why would you prefer, given the option, saving someone (you’ve never met and never will) say from Chicago instead of Kinshasa is beyond me. It seems illogical and immoral.

          • Jiro says:

            The person from Chicago has, on the average, a lot more cultural commonality with you than the person from Kinshasa.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            The person in Kinshasa doesn’t care about me. A person in Chicago has a stronger motivation to help me just as I would them. That’s the whole point of a nation. Also since I was making a case for being elected President of America, the argument is not the same as being a private citizen.

          • Tekhno says:

            But why would you prefer, given the option, saving someone (you’ve never met and never will) say from Chicago instead of Kinshasa is beyond me. It seems illogical and immoral.

            It’s highly logical. There’s a higher probability that someone from a polity that has at least a reasonably shared cultural basis is going to be someone who is compatible with me and someone I’m going to be able to form emotional bonds with, versus someone who grew up in a culture founded on common premises I find incompatible with my own values.

          • There’s a higher probability that someone from a polity that has at least a reasonably shared cultural basis is going to be someone who is compatible with me and someone I’m going to be able to form emotional bonds with, versus someone who grew up in a culture founded on common premises I find incompatible with my own values.

            With the communication and transport technology of two hundred years ago that was likely to be true, although even then you had groups, such small religious sects, whose members had more in common with other members in other countries than with their neighbors.

            But wouldn’t you expect the effect you describe to get weaker and weaker over time due to technological change? The people my daughter does online gaming with and views as friends live in three or four different countries on at least three different continents. The people who comment here live in considerably more countries than that–but I have more in common with them than with the random American.

          • Tekhno says:

            @David

            The effect might get weaker based on technological factors, but at least at the current moment, Africa, India, and much of the Middle East might as well be full of space aliens as far as I’m concerned. Anyone extremely religious I’m also going to be less compatible with than an atheist. The number of devoutly religious people in my country is very very small, but in some other countries it’s very very large.

            The people my daughter does online gaming with and views as friends live in three or four different countries on at least three different continents. The people who comment here live in considerably more countries than that–but I have more in common with them than with the random American.

            There are certainly cultures which transcend borders, but this may be largely due to history and the shadow of empires. A lot of countries are “westernized” now, so I can assume to have more in common with a random person from South Korea or Australia than I can with a random person from Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of Congo. An example that’s less extreme is that I’d assume a typical person from Hong Kong to be more compatible with my value system than a typical person from mainland China.

            If you introduce a filter like a website or a game, then you go to far higher levels of accuracy that would preclude countries. I might be more compatible with a highly selected elite of people from Somalia than I would with a random person from my town, but that would be different from the typical example.

        • hlynkacg says:

          The sooner we dissolve the idea of nation the better.

          I could not disagree more. In fact I would go so far as to say that this an inherently dangerous and misanthropic goal. Do you really think that eliminating the concept of “nations” would stop people from sorting themselves into in-groups and out-groups? I sure as hell don’t.

          Thus far the most effective and reliable way we’ve found to convince people from diverse racial, religious, and ideological backgrounds to play nice with each-other is to give them a shared identity/goal that can be appealed to. You’re proposing we throw that out.

          Take White Americans and Black Americans, Urban Americans and Rural Americans, Catholic Americans and Protestant Americans, remove the shared “American” identity and what do you have? You have multiple culturally distinct groups who have centuries of grievances against the other. Do you want to start a 30 Years War? because this is how you start a 30 Years War.

          Diversity does not unite us, unity unites us.

          • Randy M says:

            “Diversity is our strength weakness that may have some positive side effects.”

          • Mr Mind says:

            Thus far the most effective and reliable way we’ve found to convince people from diverse racial, religious, and ideological backgrounds to play nice with each-other is to give them a shared identity/goal that can be appealed to. You’re proposing we throw that out.

            No, I’m proposing we enlarge the ingroup until it contains all human beings.
            I understand what you’re saying. Nations are a wall against even smaller tribes. But those wall have moved over time, I hope we can move them out of the horizon.
            If you want to play ingroup vs outgroup we have plenty of games and sports that allows this.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            No, I’m proposing we enlarge the ingroup until it contains all human beings.

            Pretty much every attempt to do so has either been restricted to a comparatively tiny group of people (some religious sects), or caused suffering and death on a massive scale (communism, the French Revolution). What makes you think that your attempt will fare any better?

          • Tekhno says:

            @Mr Mind

            No, I’m proposing we enlarge the ingroup until it contains all human beings.

            But I don’t like allhumanbeings! He’s a jerk!

        • The original Mr. X says:

          The sooner we dissolve the idea of nation the better.

          And replace it with what, choosing our ingroups on the basis of whether they hold the right views? Because that’s what attempts to transcend nationality usually end up leading to.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean, it’s certainly more logical than choosing them based on the physical location your mother happened to be in when you exited her birth canal, is it not?

            As nasty as partisan conflicts can be, at least they make a certain amount of sense. More sense than “I was born on this side of the river and you were born on that side of the river!”

          • onyomi says:

            Everyone who believes in niceness and community and seeking truth.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Matt M

            It seems to me that you are suggesting that the current state of the Middle East or sub-Saharan Africa is preferable to that of the US or Singapore. Having experienced all of these first hand, I disagree vehemently.

            Edit:
            @ onyomi

            Good luck setting that up with out a contiguous boundary. After all, you can’t have a “walled garden” without a wall.

          • onyomi says:

            Or ostracism. Or a system of reputation. Also, geographical location is becoming less and less important?

          • Randy M says:

            I mean, it’s certainly more logical than choosing them based on the physical location your mother happened to be in when you exited her birth canal, is it not?

            Nations have not traditionally defined themselves this way. The political & geographic entity was defined by the tribe that occupied & ruled it, not vice versa.

          • hlynkacg says:

            geographical location is becoming less and less important?

            I disagree, barring a “rapture of the nerds” style singularity, meat-space will always take precedence.

          • onyomi says:

            I disagree, barring a “rapture of the nerds” style singularity, meat-space will always take precedence.

            Meatspace is still important, but in determining whom you identify with, socialize with, buy and sell with, it’s a lot less important than in the past, and all signs point to this trend continuing.

            I am not 100% against actual walls, and am much more of a believer in the “melting pot” theory than the “salad bowl” theory. But one could conceivably have a melting pot labelled “niceness, truth, and community.”

            In the United States we sort of experimented with having a melting pot labelled “freedom and self determination and separation of church and state and…”

          • hlynkacg says:

            one could conceivably have a melting pot labelled “niceness, truth, and community.”

            Sure, but that pot still needs a physical (meat-space) boundary that can be defended against the neighboring theocracy that thinks you’re a bunch of decadent heathens. Otherwise your ability to tele-commute will be trumped by their ability to burn you at the stake.

          • Adam says:

            I think part of the point is many of the people who buy into niceness, truth, and community are stuck in those theocracies being burned at the stake and it’d be nice if it wasn’t anathema to a nationalist to help them just because they had the poor luck to be born in the wrong part of the world.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            It seems to me that you are suggesting that the current state of the Middle East or sub-Saharan Africa is preferable to that of the US or Singapore. Having experienced all of these first hand, I disagree vehemently.

            You could have added old Soviet Russia to that list. “Not sufficiently pro-revolution? No food for you, comrade!”

          • hlynkacg says:

            it’d be nice if it wasn’t anathema to a nationalist to help them just because they had the poor luck to be born in the wrong part of the world.

            It’s not anathema, it’s Imperialism.

          • It’s not anathema, it’s Imperialism.

            Only if you go there. If you let them come here, it’s immigration. During the period just before WWI, we were rescuing a million people a year–or, more properly, letting them rescue themselves.

            One advantage of doing it that way is that you only rescue the ones who want to be rescued.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t think that was the sort of “help” Adam had in mind, if it were, it wouldn’t follow as a criticism of nationalism.

          • Adam says:

            No, immigration is a form of assistance I meant. If contemporary American nationalists don’t oppose the immigration of people from war-torn regions, I guess campaign season fooled me. Free trade and labor mobility are two of the more important things to me. I don’t think purchasing consumer goods from countries where labor is cheap, thereby making their labor less cheap, is imperialism either.

          • hlynkacg says:

            No, immigration is a form of assistance I meant. If contemporary American nationalists don’t oppose the immigration of people from war-torn regions, I guess campaign season fooled me.

            I think you are making the classic mistake of conflating legal and illegal immigration. From a nationalist perspective a “Mexican” who comes to the US legally, renounces their Mexican citizenship for US citizenship, and adopts American cultural norms is not “Mexican”, they are an “American” and thus “one of us”. Nationalist actually like this. After all, people wanting to be on your team is solid evidence that your team is good/winning.

            Problem is that this is not the vision of “immigration” that open borders advocates and the wider American left have in mind when they talk about “immigration”. To them “assimilation” is a dirty word and as a result we have a situation where we can liberal immigration policies or we can have multi-culturalism but we can’t have both, because in a multi-cultural society you have to be very carful about which cultures you let in.

            I assume you remember the brough-ha about “screening muslims”. Do you remember the corollary? American nationalists were quite willing to offer asylum to Syrian Christians, Jews, and even Shia, Kurds and Suffi. But they were as painted despicable racists for failing to accept everyone unconditionally.

            If you tell people that not only are they forbidden from discriminating between potential head-choppers and potential head-choppees, but that they are horrible people for wanting to do so, the Nationalists will reply (quite reasonably IMO) with “Fuck This” and then vote to build a wall around the entire country which is exactly what they did.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Contemporary American nationalists may feel the people in the war-torn regions are the reason it’s war-torn. A rather different situation than the Cold War where few thought the escaping South Vietnamese were the cause of their plight, for instance.

            That aside, there’s also the problem of the welfare state and the fact that the country’s policies are no longer assimilationist. The first means there’s a much better chance immigrants will be a burden rather than a boon, the second means that immigration means the natives have to adapt to the immigrants rather than the other way around.

          • Problem is that this is not the vision of “immigration” that open borders advocates and the wider American left have in mind when they talk about “immigration”. To them “assimilation” is a dirty word

            You are writing as if open borders advocates are a subset of the left. I suppose there probably are some people on the left who take that position, but the position I mostly see there is only for more immigration, especially of refugees, and a path to citizenship for current illegals.

            The open borders advocates I’m familiar with are libertarians such as Bryan Caplan and myself.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @David Friedman,

            Bryan Caplan is a particularly bad choice of example here given that one of his big arguments for open borders explicitly depends on leveraging ethnic tension between un-assimilated immigrants and natives.

            Unbelievably horrible immigration schemes are unfortunately not the sole province of the Left. Plenty of people on the right are willing to betray the American people as well.

          • Mr Mind says:

            How about giving up the idea of an ingroup being necessary?

            The beauty of global coordination is that every sub-global coordination is suboptimal.
            Once you form a coalition with 50%+1 of the power available, the incentive is toward assimilation.

          • Adam says:

            I don’t know much about Caplan’s plan and don’t endorse it, but I’m also not on the left, don’t think people should be accepted unconditionally, they currently are not, I believe in assimilationist policies, every immigrant I personally know after having grown up in the city that was the top entry point of immigration for the past 30 years assimilated pretty well, including the illegal ones, and a fair number of southeast Asian refugees from the 70s actually were quite a burden and assimilated somewhat poorly, most notably the Hmong, though they are a small group and the Vietnamese themselves mostly did much better.

            I understand perfectly well that there are reasonable arguments to be made prescribing precaution, and most of what I see on SSC is of that variety, but when I refer to campaign season, I’m referring to the new president himself. I did not see any particularly reasoned or reasonable appeals from him. I saw pure reactionism, pretty much starting off his campaign saying most Mexicans (which includes me, by the way) are rapists and drug dealers, or responding to the San Bernardino shooting by proposing a total Muslim ban. That says to me that Trump himself has not sufficiently assimilated American values, which includes free practice of religion, including religions I don’t particularly like, of which Islam is certainly up there.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ DavidFriedman

            The fact that libertarians and a few others on the right share it, does not change the fact that advocating open borders/unrestricted immigration is primarily a “left wing” position in contemporary American politics.

            @ Mr. Mind

            Just how do you expect to do that? Are you seriously proposing that we do away with concepts like “love”, “family” and “friendship” because that is what it would take.

            Any idea that encourages someone to value the feelings or well-being of a particular human over that of the species in aggregate is going to be at direct odds with your goal.

            @ Adam
            This conflict goes a back years before the election. Trump is “the reaction” rather than “the cause”.

            Like I said above…

            If you tell people that not only are they forbidden from discriminating between potential head-choppers and potential head-choppees, but that they are horrible people for wanting to do so, the Nationalists will reply (quite reasonably IMO) with “Fuck This” and then vote to build a wall around the entire country.

            Trump was quite clearly the “Fuck this, let’s build a wall” candidate.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @hlynkacg:

            I think you are making the classic mistake of conflating legal and illegal immigration. From a nationalist perspective a “Mexican” who comes to the US legally, renounces their Mexican citizenship for US citizenship, and adopts American cultural norms is not “Mexican”, they are an “American” and thus “one of us”. Nationalist actually like this. After all, people wanting to be on your team is solid evidence that your team is good/winning.

            Civic nationalists like this. Ethnic nationalists, not so much.

          • Adam says:

            Okay. I don’t know who was telling you this. Obama deported more people than any president ever and expanded the fuck out of border patrol and ICE alike. People act like Trump was running against Twitter mobs, not Hillary Clinton. Or against the 17 or so other Republicans he beat who I don’t think were telling anyone it’s bad to distinguish between ISIS and refugees.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @DavidFriedman/hlynkacg:

            “Open borders” in the right-wing sense that I have seen is a laissez-faire economic argument saying that both people and capital should be free to move around as they please, usually going hand in hand with getting rid of public services, or whatever. It’s very much a “guys, I’ve crunched the numbers, and it turns out that in spherical cow land, this is the best possible policy choice, there will be no problems because free market” thing.

            “Open borders” in the left-wing sense tends to be more of the “don’t enforce existing laws, no one is illegal, stop the deportations, don’t keep people out who want to get in” variety. They generally support heavy public services. (As an aside, I’ve never seen an explanation of how the two can be combined without problems, and if someone can point me to one I’d be grateful). Their arguments for getting rid of or not enforcing immigration law are generally not based on having crunched the numbers and concluded that allowing anyone to go anywhere will mesh fine with the brave new ancap future, as they are rarely ancaps. The arguments that I have seen tend to fall along the lines of “it’s nice here, and it is morally awful to keep people from less-nice places who want to be here from coming here.”

            There are a lot more of the latter than the former, because ancaps only exist on the internet. As do ancoms, I think: the only anarchist I have met in real life somehow simultaneously believes that there should be no states, and also that there should be the sort of a system that has only ever existed within the purview of a state, or within very small groups.

            (To put a more serious spin on it, people who make “I have sat down and crunched the numbers, and…” arguments are extremely rare).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Adam, maybe Obama increased border patrol, but he decreased the rest of ICE.

            It is not clear that Obama has increased border patrol at all. The increase in deportations under Bush was from switching from catch and release to formal deportations. Is Obama’s increase from completing that transition or did his border patrol really catch more people than Bush’s?

            (The increase in formal deportations is an increase in severity, even if it is not the increase in raw number that it is widely portrayed as.)

          • @Dr. Dealgood:

            What you describe as an unbelievably horrid immigration scheme is pretty much what the U.S. had prior to the 1920’s–open immigration and little redistribution. It was the system that made it possible for my grandparents to come here.

            Which part of the argument do you disagree with:

            1. A major barrier to open immigration is the worry that poor people will come here to live on welfare.

            2. Open immigration without welfare is enormously better for the people who would come, in the millions a year judging by past experience, than closed borders with welfare inside them.

            3. Hence your position amounts to preserving your preferred welfare state for people who are, by world standards, relatively rich, at the cost of keeping many millions of poor so unfortunate as to be born in the wrong place from coming here and ceasing to be poor.

            The idea that free immigration is a good thing and incompatible with a generous welfare state that includes new immigrants is not original with Bryan nor likely to shock me. I made the argument in a chapter arguing for free immigration in a book published the same year Bryan was born.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            >(As an aside, I’ve never seen an explanation of how the two can be combined without problems, and if someone can point me to one I’d be grateful).

            I believe the argument is that allowing in the immigrants will make those programs more sustainable because immigrants are typically younger and the vast majority of the US welfare spending is re-distribution from young to old, not rich to poor. I’ve not seen rigorous math to this effect, but given that only a relatively small minority of people end up being tax positive over the course of their lives, I’m skeptical.

          • Randy M says:

            I wish we could have a test earth for this kind of question. If western libertarians set up global elections, I suspect we’d see something like:
            Year 1: Be it resolved, there are open borders and no welfare. Passed, 6 billion to 1 billion
            Year 2: The people vote to rescind the “no welfare” part.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ adam

            Do you remember President Obama saying that considering the religion of an applicant for refugee status was “shameful and un-American”? Are you familiar with the slogan “no one is illegal”? I don’t think I’m that far out in the weeds here.

            @ dndnrsn

            Agreed, which is why I view the “I’ve crunched the numbers” crowd as a subset of the wider “we need to make immigration law more permissive, or eliminate it entirely” crowd.

            @ DavidFriedman

            This only seems to reinforce my claim that you can have multi-culturalism or you can have liberal (as in permissive) immigration policy. But you can’t have both. The existence of a modern welfare state doesn’t change the equation so much as it raises the stakes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @hlynkacg:

            It is relevant, though, that they arrive at that conclusion for wildly different reasons, and usually do not get along much.

          • Brad says:

            “Open borders” in the right-wing sense that I have seen is a laissez-faire economic argument saying that both people and capital should be free to move around as they please, usually going hand in hand with getting rid of public services, or whatever. It’s very much a “guys, I’ve crunched the numbers, and it turns out that in spherical cow land, this is the best possible policy choice, there will be no problems because free market” thing.

            “Open borders” in the left-wing sense tends to be more of the “don’t enforce existing laws, no one is illegal, stop the deportations, don’t keep people out who want to get in” variety. They generally support heavy public services. (As an aside, I’ve never seen an explanation of how the two can be combined without problems, and if someone can point me to one I’d be grateful). Their arguments for getting rid of or not enforcing immigration law are generally not based on having crunched the numbers and concluded that allowing anyone to go anywhere will mesh fine with the brave new ancap future, as they are rarely ancaps. The arguments that I have seen tend to fall along the lines of “it’s nice here, and it is morally awful to keep people from less-nice places who want to be here from coming here.”

            One of these groups are actually advocating “open borders”. The others are victims of a smear campaign. Yes, they are in favor of looser immigration rules but, not generally being a certain personality type they don’t routinely subject every one of their opinions to a ruthless reductio analysis. They do not ever advocate for open borders and so to call them open border advocates is strikingly dishonest.

          • Randy M says:

            Eh. It’s going to take more than pique to convince that people opposed to any enforcement of immigration law are actually in favor of some unspecified other immigration law.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ dndnrsn

            In some contexts? Yes. For the purposes of the current debate? Not really.

            @ Brad

            I don’t see how the whole “no one is illegal” slogan or the push to refer to them as “undocumented immigrants” rather than “illegal” can be interpreted as advocating anything less than open borders.

          • Brad says:

            @hlynkacg
            Have you ever talked to one of the people that say such things? Just sat down and talked about how they envision the overall system working?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad:

            There’s a reason I used scare quotes – the left-wingers arguing against enforcement of immigration law, relaxation of immigration law, etc do not use the term “open borders”, for the most part. You are correct that they do not call themselves open borders advocates, and I did not say that they were uniformly open borders advocates. I should have been more clear with my phrasing, as I was mixing up two distinct groups.

            There is a line between those with clear policy proposals for relaxing immigration law, providing amnesty or suspension of enforcement to are (eg DACA, DREAM), etc and those who seem hostile to any border controls, immigration restrictions, deportations, etc. It is unfair to call the former open borders advocates – but is it unfair to apply that to the latter? Even if they do not call themselves open borders advocates – if that should be limited to the people of a certain personality type who have crunched the numbers – it is hard to see that they are advocating for anything but open borders.

            Analogy: someone who says that an illegal act should not be punished is essentially saying that act should be legal, or regarded as such.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Brad

            Yes, and what those I’ve spoken to envision is de facto open borders even if it’s not de jure. See dndnrsn’s analogy above. A law that is not uniformly enforced is effectively not a law.

          • Brad says:

            @dndnrsn
            What about marijuana? There are those that are for decriminalization and those that are for legalization. Is it fair game to collapse that distinction even though the two policy approaches end up producing different outcomes?

            @hlynkacg

            A law that is not uniformly enforced is effectively not a law.

            Then we have not even a single law and are living in an anarchist paradise.

          • dndnrsn says:

            No, and I acknowledged that it was a screwup on my part to conflate the two.

            EDIT: I’m not sure if decriminalization vs legalization is an apt analogy, though. In the case of immigration you’ve got multiple shadings:

            -relax the rules, but keep rules, and keep enforcing them
            -just don’t enforce the rules
            -get rid of the rules
            -bonus option: get rid of the rules, but forget about problems with people going wherever the welfare state is nicest, because we got rid of the government, now get off my property before I have my security firm fight your security firm

            Whereas decriminalization basically boils down to ordering police to stop hassling anyone over recreational personal use, instead of the current situation, where whether or not the police hassle you depends on whether or not they want to hassle you (which could be for any number of different reasons), versus legalization, which is treating weed like booze, probably (I live somewhere with relatively restricted and highly taxed booze, and how to deal with weed now that it looks like it’s going legal is a topic of debate).

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @David Friedman,

            Your points are utterly nonsensical to me.

            Yes, a poor foreigner might reasonably prefer that America have open borders so that they could immigrate at will. They might also reasonably prefer that Americans don’t lock the doors to our houses and leave our car keys in the ignition. In both cases the situation is much more convenient for them so by your logic it must be morally obligatory.

            American immigration policy does not, and should not, revolve around the interests of non-Americans. That goes against the express purpose of the United States of America:

            We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

          • Year 2: The people vote to rescind the “no welfare” part.

            That’s why libertarians who argue for open borders and no welfare generally propose a long delay before new immigrants become voting citizens.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Brad

            If you really believe that, why are you wasting your time making forum posts when you could be making pipe-bombs?

            You made it quite clear in our previous encounters that you view Trump’s supporters as an existential threat and that you feel little compunction about using violence to achieve political goals.

            @ the rest

            See Dr Dealgood’s comment above.

            Edit:

            @ DavidFriedman,

            I don’t think I have ever seen a prominent libertarian, other than you just now, suggest that there should be anything less than immediate universal suffrage. I am extremely skeptical.

          • Brad says:

            @hlynkacg
            What the fuck are you talking about?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I’m saying that your observed behavior is at odds with previously expressed beliefs. If we are indeed living in anarchy, why aren’t you acting like it?

          • I don’t think I have ever seen a prominent libertarian, other than you just now, suggest that there should be anything less than immediate universal suffrage.

            Have you seen any prominent libertarian suggest immediate universal suffrage for new immigrants? I haven’t. Perhaps you could point at a relevant quote?

            So far as “just now,” the book where I offered my arguments on open borders was published more than forty years ago.

          • hlynkacg says:

            No, what they advocated was universal suffrage for all adults living under the government’s jurisdiction. I don’t recall anyone saying anything about “recent immigrants” being an exception to that rule.

          • “No, what they advocated was universal suffrage for all adults living under the government’s jurisdiction. ”

            Who are “they?” Can you actually point at a prominent libertarian arguing that we should have open immigration and instant citizenship? So far you are making an assertion but offering no evidence.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            hlynkacg banned for one month unless they can present me with evidence that Brad actually endorses violence against Trump supporters

        • gbdub says:

          America unilaterally giving up on “the idea of the nation” is probably suicide. It’s like nukes – sitting on a huge pile of bombs is suboptimal, but unless everyone throws theirs away at the same time, disarming makes you worse off.

          Basically, we have a choice between maintaining a walled garden containing us and everyone we actually care about, or accepting “a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity” to borrow a phrase. If the former is Moloch worship, then all hail our demon overlord.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            The whole point of Moloch is that he sets you up so that you can’t unilaterally give up on him. That’s how he traps you.

            Not that there is much that can be done about it at this point.

          • Basically, we have a choice between maintaining a walled garden containing us and everyone we actually care about …

            We managed for about a hundred and fifty years without the wall. During which period most of the ancestors of most of the people I care about came.

          • Randy M says:

            The wall in this case was not the literal Yuge Wall, but the concept of a distinct nation. This has most certainly existed from the inception of the country.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            “We managed for about a hundred and fifty years without the wall. During which period most of the ancestors of most of the people I care about came. “

            That was before the modern welfare state.
            Incentives matter?

          • This has most certainly existed from the inception of the country.

            The idea that there should be serious restrictions on who could come into the country has existed from very early, but the actual restrictions only became serious, with the exception of the case of oriental immigration to the West Coast, in the 1920’s. Hence my hundred and fifty years.

          • Randy M says:

            Rate of immigration is not solely relative to laws or artificial barriers; a change in any of ease of transportation, relative population densities, relative wealth, relative stability, etc. could present a situation not analogous to those prior years.

            For a reduction to absurdity (sorry, my latin is poor), there are no laws about immigration from Mars. In 300 years, there may be.

          • gbdub says:

            Yes. The “wall” consists of laws, behaviors, shared values, etc. all of which are made easier to implement by the idea of a “nation” (and all which have been part of the concept of “The United States of America” for a long time).

            A walled garden doesn’t mean you don’t let anyone in – it just means you make the people you let in agree to a set of rules, and that you care more about the inside than the outside. It means that you don’t let other gardens with bigger walls take advantage of your open-garden policy in ways that help them at your expense.

            It’s worse than a world without walls, but probably better than a world where you’re the only one without a wall. So get back to us when you solve the coordination problem, but until then rebelling against Moloch makes us worse off.

          • John Schilling says:

            We managed for about a hundred and fifty years without the wall.

            We did, to be fair, have a moat.

          • We did, to be fair, have a moat.

            Until the rise of railroads in the mid-19th century, water transport was always cheaper than land transport. The Atlantic wasn’t a moat, it was a highway.

            And a million immigrants a year used it, coming into a population a third what ours now is.

          • It means that you don’t let other gardens with bigger walls take advantage of your open-garden policy in ways that help them at your expense.

            Could you expand on the metaphor a little? In what sense are other countries with bigger walls taking advantage of our policy? If you are talking about immigration, is it your argument that countries that had immigration restrictions back when the U.S. didn’t were somehow gaining at our expense? If you are talking about trade, the same question, more with regard to Britain in the 19th century and Hong Kong in the post WWII world, the U.S. never, far as I know, having gone all the way to free trade.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Of course, back in the old days worse communications meant that it was harder for immigrants to keep in regular contact with the old country, whilst most of the immigrants came from countries with reasonably similar cultures to the US. This made assimilating these immigrants much easier. I don’t think, therefore, that it’s valid to compare the situation now with the situation in the 19th century.

          • Mr Mind says:

            America unilaterally giving up on “the idea of the nation” is probably suicide.

            It is, indeed. If something like what I’m proposing is doable, it must have a coordinate ignition, or it would fail before reaching critical mass.

            Basically, we have a choice between maintaining a walled garden containing us and everyone we actually care about, or accepting “a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity” to borrow a phrase. If the former is Moloch worship, then all hail our demon overlord.

            It is Moloch worship indeed. But I think we (are going to) have a third option, thanks to technology.

      • Deiseach says:

        The whole question of illegal immigration is “why is our economy based on the necessity for cheap labour that can be denied rights and deported once their seasonal work is no longer required?”

        What little I read about it a few years back seems to go “The apologia for this is that farm labour needs seasonal manual labour, needs it to be very cheap, therefore needs to pay less than Americans would work for*, and that’s because Americans have become used to cheap food that is in season all year round. To pay a living wage would mean hiking up the cost of food, not just in the whole-food/organic/fair trade stores, but in the chain grocery stores – and there’s a separate problem there with large chains having the power to squeeze wholesalers on prices that are set artificially low – so we can’t afford to pay wages attractive to Americans so we rely on disposable labour – people who will come over the border, work for peanuts, have no right to any benefits, and can be dismissed when we don’t need them any more”.

        That’s a big problem and one nobody is willing to tackle, because it’s a huge upheaval in the economy of food production and, while agriculture may not be the biggest sector in (say) the Californian economy, disruption to the food supply will affect the whole of the nation.

        While it’s easy to demonise the Republicans as being xenophobes and racists, I think the Democrats also have a romanticised view of the ‘undocumented’ that they promulgate: feisty, zesty Latinos and Hispanics with a colourful, vibrant culture setting up neighbourhood bodegas or ethnic restaurants, working in blue-collar/pink-collar jobs like nurses etc and being settled in as respectable citizens – not the reality of immigration, particularly if you’re an illegal.

        *This is not simply greedy, lazy Americans who expect huge paychecks; there’s a cost of living in being a First World country that needs a certain level of income to support. You still have to pay the same rates for water, power, etc. whether you’re a millionaire or working on an assembly line.

        EDIT: Wikipedia has figures from 2006 – agriculture is not the largest employer, illegal immigrants work in:

        (A)bout 4 percent work in farming; 21 percent have jobs in service industries; and substantial numbers can be found in construction and related occupations (19 percent), and in production, installation, and repair (15 percent), with 12% in sales, 10% in management, and 8% in transportation

        Why does it exist? (Bolding mine):

        Because the United States education system creates relatively few people who either lack a high school diploma or who hold PhDs, there is a shortage of workers needed to fulfill seasonal low-skilled jobs as well as certain high-skilled jobs. To fill these gaps, the United States immigration system attempts to compensate for these shortages by providing for temporary immigration by farm workers and seasonal low-skilled workers, and for permanent immigration by high-skilled workers. The third cause of illegal immigration — the ineffectiveness of current employer sanctions for illegal hiring — allows migrants who are in the country illegally to easily find jobs. There are three reasons for this ineffectiveness — the absence of reliable mechanisms for verifying employment eligibility, inadequate funding of interior immigration enforcement, and the absence of political will due to labor needs to the United States economy.

        • Matt M says:

          “The whole question of illegal immigration is “why is our economy based on the necessity for cheap labour that can be denied rights and deported once their seasonal work is no longer required?””

          I mean, the obvious answer is that there exists a clear market demand for such labor, that the government has made it illegal, but that it’s sufficiently easy to get around and/or penalties are not sufficiently severe to discourage people from finding the easiest work around, which is illegal immigration.

          Repeal the minimum wage, all various mandatory “workers rights” statutes, and all welfare programs, and suddenly you’d find a whole lot of white Americans working as strawberry pickers for $3/hr. But most people wouldn’t really see that as an improvement….

        • Brad says:

          What little I read about it a few years back seems to go “The apologia for this is that farm labour needs seasonal manual labour, needs it to be very cheap, therefore needs to pay less than Americans would work for*, and that’s because Americans have become used to cheap food that is in season all year round. To pay a living wage would mean hiking up the cost of food, not just in the whole-food/organic/fair trade stores, but in the chain grocery stores – and there’s a separate problem there with large chains having the power to squeeze wholesalers on prices that are set artificially low – so we can’t afford to pay wages attractive to Americans so we rely on disposable labour – people who will come over the border, work for peanuts, have no right to any benefits, and can be dismissed when we don’t need them any more”.

          That’s a big problem and one nobody is willing to tackle, because it’s a huge upheaval in the economy of food production and, while agriculture may not be the biggest sector in (say) the Californian economy, disruption to the food supply will affect the whole of the nation.

          Why is it a big problem exactly? Most Americans get access to fresh fruits and vegetables year round at prices they can afford. People that are actually picking the fruits and vegetables are happy to have the jobs and with the compensation they get. The farm owners are happy. The seed sellers are happy. The people that work transporting and selling the fruits and vegetables are happy.

          The other equilibria where many fewer fresh fruits and vegetables were sold at much higher prices, would leave almost everyone worse off. Not just anyone that wants to eat fruits and vegetables, but all the people that currently benefit from the fruit and vegetables economy.

          What’s so special about the few people (tens of thousands at most) who would be better off under that alternate scenario that their welfare should outweigh that of so many others — the overwhelming majority of which are American citizens?

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Of course a change in isolation won’t do much. You have to make major changes in the entire system. Its an issue of local maxima.

          • Brad says:

            It isn’t a matter of a local maxima. Every one of the proposals makes many more people worse off than it makes better off. Each incremental one only destroys more value. There is no shining global maxima on a hill that protectionism is climbing towards.

          • Adam says:

            I don’t see what change you can make. Fruit grows where it grows and it’s mostly not where people live. Americans who have graduated high school typically don’t want jobs that only last a few months in the middle of nowhere unless they pay the wages of a shale roughneck or king crab fisherman and fruit picking is not going to pay that. It makes perfect sense to import a migrant workforce, ideally legally but the system has to be able to legally import a sufficient number of people. This dynamic doesn’t really apply to all industries with a large illegal labor presence and migrant farm work is very far from the majority of the illegal labor force, but this really does seem like the perfect use case for temporary guest workers.

          • Matt M says:

            ” unless they pay the wages of a shale roughneck or king crab fisherman”

            And these wages are what they are because that’s basically the going rate for seasonally variable, physically demanding, low-skilled, American labor.

          • Deiseach says:

            People that are actually picking the fruits and vegetables are happy to have the jobs and with the compensation they get.

            Because it’s not sustainable. The farm owners don’t want the seasonal labourers around when the harvest is over. The seasonal labourers have to either go back home or try to find other work. What work they get is probably scab work, they have to put up with unsafe conditions and are at risk (and construction accidents do happen, for one, and people regularly get killed.) All year round cheap food relies on (for instance) things like California and its wasteful use of irrigation water.

            It’s a circle of exploitation that everyone is locked into and it is not sustainable. Maybe if you rely on a continuing source of cheap labour coming over the border because there are more people than jobs in Mexico, but that then relies on Mexico being a comparative hell-hole that people are anxious to leave for the United States, even if they will have to work for less, have no rights, and live in uncertainty. Not sending people back means you keep expanding your population year-on-year beyond natural birth replacement limits. If the idea of “the American dream” is having a better life than back in the Old Country, that works for the first generation – but then the second generation who are born in America and don’t know what it’s like to live in the Old Country look around and want that better life, and it’s not available to them – they’re supposed to be the cheap labour that drives the economic engine of the better life for everyone else.

            How temporary are temporary guest workers who stay in the country year round for the rest of their lives? Would those campaigning against anti-immigration policies compromise on a programme that allowed temporary seasonal workers or temporary stay for a limited period but not permanently, would mean you had to return to your home nation when your work was finished, and could not bring family members in with you or settle permanently?

            You’ll either end up with a permanent helot underclass, or something has to give, generally violently.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Deiseach

            So it sounds like it IS sustainable as long as Mexico sucks. Which I think Mexico can probably keep up for quite a while. If Mexico gets better, food in the US is going to get more expensive, no doubt about it.

          • Brad says:

            It looks as just about as sustainable as anything else in this world.

            Some workers go back and forth every year — both those in official guest worker programs (i.e. H2B) and those that enter illegally every year. On the other hand, some settle down and have US citizen kids. Neither of these things turn out to be the disaster you are trying to make them out to be.

            I don’t see any reason we should all suffer today because you see a “sustainability crisis” no sooner than a few decades away. At least not without far better evidence than you have provided. The system has been in place for longer than any of us have been alive (google “bracero”) and there don’t seem to be any clouds on the horizon.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I’ll second Trofim in say that, with some minor changes, this is precisely the sort of rhetoric that would convince me to switch parties.

        Well done.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          To Democrat or independent? The Democrats shit all over Bernie for a political stance that was much less extreme.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Democrat, assuming this came from a Democrat.

            I would be slightly less inclined to “cross the aisle” for an independent, but that has more to do with the weakness of 3rd parties than the content of the speech.

      • BourbonWaltz says:

        (another attempt as the candidate debating your candidate, same rules laid out by NIP)

        When you live paycheck to paycheck because Apple outsourced your factory job, having 100$ shaved off the price of an iPhone is worthless.

        Would you mind paying double for your food? Would you mind paying a heck of a lot more for your TV, washer, dryer, AC? Trade will affect how much you pay to put sneakers on your kid’s feet and whether you have a 40″ TV of a 15″ TV. If you want to keep corporate jobs in America and keep paying the same amount for your kid’s sneakers you need to reduce the costs of doing business in America, this means less regulation and less taxes. There are trillions of dollars waiting outside the country to come in that are currently stopped at the border by our robber-baron-government; this is money that could be invested here at home. If you want to keep and grow skilled-trade and small business jobs in America you need to get rid of ridiculous licensing regulations that keep hard working folks from earning an honest living. And we need to stop subsidizing degrees in psychology and allow trade high schools to flourish without the technocrat’s Common Core.

        Germany has even tighter industry restrictions than we do but somehow their manufacturing sector and construction sector are thriving. Paul Ryan says we can compete with Mexico by lowering the minimum wage and taking shortcuts with our safety. Over 20% of Germans work in manufacturing jobs. Less than 10% of Americans do. But their workers have more rights and better wages.

        Germans spend twice as much of their hard earned cash on food as Americans do. Germans live in houses 2/3rds the size. Median income in Germany is lower than in the US.

        You can’t eat money and roofs made of cash don’t last. The only purpose of the money you earn is to support you and your loved ones, which is why the cost of toys at Walmart and ACs at Sears matters.

        As president I would focus on the purchasing power of everyday Americans. I want every kid to have their own room, for Americans to be able to afford 2 cars and 2 TVs and to run their ACs. I would make sure healthcare was affordable by focusing on increasing the supply of medical professionals and allowing drugs to be imported from abroad, where pharmaceutical companies charge a fraction of the cost for the same medication.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Your first paragraph is actually pro-Germany regarding liberal arts degrees and trade schools. That’s how Germany does its education program.

          Also you likely wouldn’t be paying double for everything. That’s not how that works. For example if you double the minimum wage for instance you wouldn’t double the cost of groceries or fast food. It would get higher of course. But people would have more money from better wages. Certainly richer people would lose out since their incomes would be the least affected by raising the wage floor.

          As for your second paragraph:
          Germany has a population density of 593 people per square mile. In the USA its 85. Our country is massive. Of course they have less living space.

          Germany spends about 10.6% of their income on food. Americans spend 6.5%. That’s 63% more on food, not 200%. Plus its a relatively small difference in total income. Meanwhile the cost for college and health is drastically lower.

          Also, we are on the same page regarding drug prices. The USA literally subsidizes the drug prices of the rest of the world.

          • But people would have more money from better wages.

            Or less money because they are not worth the higher minimum wage to any employer.

            Germany has a population density of 593 people per square mile. In the USA its 85. Our country is massive. Of course they have less living space.

            That might be a reason why they have smaller yards. Do you think houses occupy a significant fraction of the land area of Germany? 593 people/square mile is a little more than an acre per person.

        • Deiseach says:

          I want every kid to have their own room, for Americans to be able to afford 2 cars and 2 TVs and to run their ACs.

          Why 2 cars and 2 TVs? How many kids – maximum 2 to a family? How about not needing a second car so your spouse can go to work because (a) there’s good public transport to take people to work (b) a single job can be a living wage?

          Whatever you do, you are going to run into the need for interventions – are you going to have seven bedroom houses for working class people with six kids? Or are you going to say “every kid should have their own room but you can only have two kids for that to work”? And every household having two cars is going to bump up carbon emissions.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Public transport is un-american, at least in the tradition those desires come from (“A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”, from Republicans in 1928)

            No reason you can’t have a seven-bedroom house, provided you accept that they’re small bedrooms. There are several (relatively) small houses with many bedrooms in my area; usually some bedrooms are quite tiny.

            Mean number of cars in operation per household in the US is already more than two (2.1 as of 2014).

    • James Miller says:

      Members of your community with an IQ below 80 are going to be desperately needed in a future military campaign and we will pay them to train which will consist of staying off drugs and alcohol, exercising, respecting the legal authority, and, um, playing combat-based video games.

      • Deiseach says:

        Members of your community with an IQ below 80

        I don’t know if James Miller is being serious, tongue-in-cheek, or snarking with this. But if there is one thing wrong with comments on this site, it is the constant sneering about the stupid, i.e. people with IQs of 100 and below.

        We’re not all that smart. Some of the people, indeed a lot of the people, on here probably are, but that is no excuse to mock people who haven’t scored that high on a test which is probably not really measuring anything other than ‘how good are you at taking a test?’

        There is also this tendency to equate “not in the same line of work as I am”, especially anything without a college degree (Masters on upwards) with “must be really dumb, i.e. IQ 80-90”.

        First, to be a grunt in the armed forces takes more of an IQ than 80. Believe me, in the modern army, “hayfoot strawfoot” is no longer good enough. Secondly, wipe that sneer off your face about your fellow citizens because how the hell am I to believe you when you say you want to make a better world of human flourishing where every single person will be valued and have a chance to contribute, when you can’t even care about the people you deem a subclass?

        • Creutzer says:

          It’s true that people are quick to bring up low IQ populations here, but I don’t think that’s sneering. The impression I get is that everybody is supposed to know that low IQ is nobody’s fault, and so the idea is that acknowledging the problem as real and trying to seriously account for those people is more compassionate than pretending everybody is the same.

          James’s comment has interpretations that are compatible with this general attitude.

          • Deiseach says:

            The assumption too often on here is that “person not in a comparable job to mine” must be “person too dumb to get comparable job to mine, hence low IQ” and, hand in hand with that, “job not comparable to mine = job for dumb people, i.e. low IQ people”.

            There’s also way too much talk about “IQ 80 and IQ 90” people, as though they’re the human equivalent of dogs standing on their hind legs and too stupid to do more than manage to tie their shoelaces.

            If people want to plume themselves like the Pharisee that “I thank thee, Lord, that I am not as this man!”, they can do so without making remarks about IQ. I see nothing compassionate in these discussions, I see a lot of “I guess we’ll be left with these useless dumb clogs on the productive rest of us because the bleeding-heart liberals won’t let us machine-gun them by batches, so something must be done to keep them out of our way”.

        • James Miller says:

          The part about “desperately needed in a future military campaign” was a lie (as allowed by NIP’s rules). I agree that in a modern army combat troops need above average intelligence (I’ve read McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War and know how bad it turned out for the troops that were commonly known as McNamara’s Morons.) I think our economy is reaching a point where low IQ people (and as Creutzer writes “low IQ is nobody’s fault, and so the idea is that acknowledging the problem as real and trying to seriously account for those people is more compassionate than pretending everybody is the same.”) won’t be able to do useful work and if we don’t give them welfare we will have to come up with pretend jobs and I think a solution might be to have these pretend jobs be ones where the low IQ person is having inexpensive fun (video games) and not causing trouble for others.

          • antimule says:

            So you are in favor of Basic Income, then?

          • James Miller says:

            antimule,

            Not for the general population, at least not yet, but perhaps for people who through no fault of their own won’t be able to earn at least a subsistence wage.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @James Miller:

            What do you think it feels like, to have to be labeled as “not capable of earning even a subsistence wage, so we have to give you free money forever”?

          • James Miller says:

            Said Achmiz: Bad, which is why my initial proposal was to disguise this fact by pretending that the people are in training for something important.

          • Brad says:

            @Said Achmiz
            Can we permanently exclude anyone that ever made snarked about “obama phones” from the welfare system that is exquisitely tailored to fluff special snowflake egos?

            I can’t be the only person that’s noticed that there is a demand for programs that paper over the difference between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor from some of the very same people that insist the distinction is crucial.

          • the anonymouse says:

            @Said Achmiz

            Pretty good–at least, not too terrible–considering the number of people applying for disability.

            ETA for—no pun intended—charity: There is a substantial number of people for whom being labelled economically unproductive, in return for a stable if not generous check every month, is not cripplingly demeaning. At least not enough as to prevent them from taking that check. I know—and have known—many of them, and you probably do too. I’ll hazard to presume you won’t find many of them discussing policy on places like SSC, but they exist, and in not-inconsiderable numbers. Just because you or I would find such a determination incredibly insulting doesn’t mean everyone does.

            Some genuinely can’t trade their skills on the marketplace for an amount of money sufficient to live on. Some, for whatever reason, prefer not to. And some will go to herculean efforts to never undertake gainful employment. (The numbers of each are certainly not equal.) But my point being, there are people for whom receiving payments from the government is a net benefit even if those payments come with an explicit determination of “your skills are not worthwhile in this economy, and we don’t think you have the ability to ever gain such skills.”

          • antimule says:

            Thanks for clarification. Makes sense.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @Brad:

            It would seem that I’m unusually dense tonight, because I can’t quite grasp your point. Would you mind elaborating?

            @the anonymouse:

            There are two distinct classes of people here, between whom we must carefully distinguish.

            One sort of person is quite happy to take free money from society, give nothing in return, and live an indolent and work-free life indefinitely. We need not argue about how many such people there are, but clearly they exist. That many of them receive their free money under the guise of “disability” is not for their benefit—it’s for the benefit of those employed members of society whose taxes support them. Theodore Dalrymple has written about this phenomenon, as has The Last Psychiatrist. To such people, it will never matter what you call the money they get or the reason they get it.

            Another sort of person is not, fundamentally, interested in being a moocher or burden, but has been unfortunate enough to suffer some turn of fate that leaves them unable to do enough useful work to support themselves. They acknowledge this fact, and the fact that they must now get free money in order to survive. Bound up in their identity are these facts: that they would work if they could (and indeed do work to the extent that they can, generally—possibly including volunteering, etc.); that (in applicable cases) they indeed did work when they could (prior to the onset of their disability); and that they are part of a category of people who do useful work if possible, unless betrayed by fate.

            To this second kind of person, we (it would seem) propose to say: “The world has changed. Now, you and all those like you cannot be useful—ever. You have, in some sense, a disability; this disability is only and simply the fact of being who and what you are. This disability is no twist of fickle fate; it is certain, it is inescapable, it begins at birth and is incurable, it will be passed on to your children and your children’s children. You cannot do useful work. The world doesn’t need you. There is no possible world, no what-could-have-been life where you might’ve, by luck, avoided this fate; it’s inextricable from you. And not you alone, but all (or near enough) those whom you consider ‘people like you’: you are all useless. But we, the useful ones, the able ones, take pity on you. We could leave you to die, but we are gracious and high-minded; and thus—although there really is no sense in which you (unlike the useful worker who has been struck by an unfortunate disability) deserve any support—still we give it. Take it, live, and do whatever you like with your useless lives.”

            I do not think that this is likely to be well-received.

          • Brad says:

            @Said Achmiz
            We are being asked to create special welfare programs for those too proud to take welfare, wherein we all collectively pretend it isn’t welfare.

            It’s not a prospect I’m super thrilled about, but I can deal with it. However, if the recipients are going to continue to spew ignorant rants about welfare queens vs hard working ‘mericans while being on welfare — well that’s just a bridge too far.

            I’m not down with separate and highly unequal programs for the inner city poor and the rust belt poor.

          • Matt M says:

            “However, if the recipients are going to continue to spew ignorant rants about welfare queens vs hard working ‘mericans while being on welfare — well that’s just a bridge too far.”

            I think a lot of this has to do with (the perception of) whether or not someone has “paid in” to the system.

            Someone who worked blue collar jobs from age 18 – 40 fairly continuously, suffers an injury, and spends the rest of his life on disability is categorically different from someone who becomes a single mom at age 18, immediately starts collecting welfare from that, only gets occasional minimum wage jobs just long enough to qualify for unemployment again, etc.

            We distinguish between “someone who has never been productive at all and has given us zero reason to think they could be absent welfare” and “someone who has, at one point, proven capable of contributing to society in a net positive way” and that’s probably reasonable.

          • Adam says:

            Someone who works productively from 18-40 and suffers an injury that prevents them from ever working again is already covered by existing disability programs. This doesn’t seem to be what is being discussed when asking what to do about future unskilled labor that is displaced by automation and how to not make them feel like welfare queens.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @Brad:

            I think a key point is: who is asking us to create these alleged welfare programs? Is it the people who are opposed to them, who’re doing the asking?

            If so, then indeed that’s hypocritical. If instead it’s third parties, saying “give these people welfare; oh, but be careful not to make it seem like welfare, since they don’t like that”, then that’s… something, surely, but not hypocrisy, at least. I think it’s useful to distinguish between these two things.

          • tscharf says:

            The defense department is the biggest engineering welfare program in the world by far. Lots of good paying hi tech government supported jobs.

            Is it useful? Almost certainly. Could we live with spending half the same budget? Probably.

            So all they need to do is make sure the new fighter planes and manned space programs run on coal, everyone wins, ha ha.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Alternately, we could laterally transfer the coal miners to Uranium, Thorium, and concrete manufacture production and then commit to making the US power grid 100% nuclear by 2030.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think our economy is reaching a point where low IQ people …won’t be able to do useful work and if we don’t give them welfare we will have to come up with pretend jobs and I think a solution might be to have these pretend jobs be ones where the low IQ person is having inexpensive fun (video games) and not causing trouble for others.

            Why don’t you contemplate that in such a future, “low IQ” might pan out to mean “below IQ 120” or “130”, then?

            These hypotheticals always assume that I’m all right Jack and will continue to be in the future because I’m at least one standard deviation above average. Nothing says that will hold true, as white collar jobs increasingly become automated, higher level white collar jobs become automated, AI gets off the ground (not God-Emperor AI, smart as a human AI) and unless you are very specialised talent and/or very very smart, you’ll be in the position of someone who knows twenty ways to turn out buggy whips in the age of automobiles.

            It’s entirely possible IQ 95-100 athletes will still be millionaires (because people will still watch sports and entertainment) and IQ 115-120 former software writers will be scrabbling by on whatever part-time temp work they can pick up while the company is transitioning from partly-human to fully automated.

          • psmith says:

            Why don’t you contemplate that in such a future, “low IQ” might pan out to mean “below IQ 120” or “130”, then?

            Can’t speak for Miller, but this is a huge worry of mine.

            The broadest goal is a society in which people throughout the functional range of intelligence can find, and feel they have found, a valued place for themselves. For “valued place,” I will give you a pragmatic definition: you occupy a valued place if other people would miss you if you were gone. The fact that you would be missed means that you were valued. Both the quality and quantity of valued places are important. A beloved spouse is that someone who would “miss you” in the widest and most intense way. But to have many different people who would miss you, in many different parts of your life and at many levels of intensity, is also a hallmark of a person whose “place” is well and thoroughly valued. One way of thinking about policy options is to ask whether they aid or obstruct this goal of creating valued places.

            It used to be a lot easier than it is now.

            The specific policy failings that Murray was talking about here applied mostly to low-IQ populations, but these issues are also worth thinking about because sooner or later they may well affect everyone.

          • Brad says:

            @Said Achmiz
            How do you we account for the nebulous gray area consisting of ignorance, fantasy, and lying to oneself?

            People realize there’s something not quite above board about jobs that only exist because of protectionism. That’s why you so often see the notion that other countries are somehow “cheating” and tariffs just “leveling the playing field”.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          “hayfoot strawfoot”

          Off-topic, but – whoa! I just googled, and – you guys had this in Ireland too?! I knew this as a Russian thing…! (It’s mentioned in one of Aleksei Tolstoi’s works, in fact…)

          • Deiseach says:

            Learned it from my mother, she told me it in a joke, not from my father who actually was in the army – but yeah, the Irish Army was a bit… behind the times when he was in 😉

            Peasants is peasants the world over, it would seem.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Obligatory opening sentence to demonstrate that I’m aware the comment I’m responding to was condescending snark and not a serious proposal.

        The overwhelming majority (~91%) of non-hispanic white Americans have an IQ above 80. And of the tenth who do fall below that cutoff, I’d bet good money most of them are still more than capable of doing jobs like custodial work or landscaping that produce real value for people.

        The meme that working class whites are economically useless and need some sort of covert hillbilly welfare to keep them alive and distracted is bizarre because it’s so obviously wrong. Do you think the factory workers in Guadalajara are all a bunch of geniuses? I hate to burst your bubble but the people doing those jobs overseas or illegally aren’t any brighter or more productive, often it’s quite the opposite, just a whole hell of a lot cheaper.

        If we had put in just a fraction of the effort that northern European countries like Germany did into keeping manufacturing in the country and training skilled tradesman, we wouldn’t have Trump today. A massive chunk of that blame rightly falls on the R’s but the D’s haven’t moved us any closer to that either.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Its almost like people don’t understand that globalization could have gone many different ways and the USA picked one of the dumbest choices…

        • James Miller says:

          Yes, I didn’t mean to imply that a large number of people in the relevant class had an IQ below 80. My bet is that in the United States each year the minimum IQ you need to earn a subsistence living is going to continually go up so figuring out now what to do with low IQ people will help us a lot in the long-run.

          I voted for Trump and am extremely grateful to the U.S. white working class for saving us from Hillary.

          “Do you think the factory workers in Guadalajara are all a bunch of geniuses? I hate to burst your bubble but the people doing those jobs overseas or illegally aren’t any brighter or more productive, often it’s quite the opposite, just a whole hell of a lot cheaper.” Most of these workers’ marginal product is well below the subsistence level wage in the United States.

          • My bet is that in the United States each year the minimum IQ you need to earn a subsistence living is going to continually go up so figuring out now what to do with low IQ people will help us a lot in the long-run.

            Does that assume that the definition of a subsistence living keeps going up?

            To first approximation, stupid people can do the same things today they could do a century ago, hence can live as well.

            The second approximation takes account of the fact that most things people do involve a mix of inputs. If every ten stupid people needed a smart person making ten dollars an hour to work with them producing thirty dollars an hour worth of goods, giving the stupid people a wage of two dollars an hour, but now the smart person can make a thousand dollar an hour programming robots and the stupid people still need an hour of his time, they have a problem.

            On the other hand, what they really needed wasn’t one smart person, it was the services produced by one smart person, and smart people now produce about a hundred times as much per hour, which is why they get paid a thousand dollars an hour, so with luck they can continue to pay ten dollars to the smart person, and use it to buy .6 minutes of his time instead.

            That’s a very rough sketch of a very complicated system, but I think it is enough to show why I don’t think you can take it for granted that technological progress means people who were moderately poor in the past will be desperately poor in the future, unless you are scaling up your definition of poverty to match how much richer everyone else is getting. If anything, my guess is the other way around–that in a much richer society there will be enough things relatively stupid people can still do so that they will be better off, not worse off, in absolute although not relative terms.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            “If anything, my guess is the other way around–that in a much richer society there will be enough things relatively stupid people can still do so that they will be better off, not worse off, in absolute although not relative terms.”

            I agree with you. Unfortunately, as you point out stupid people will not be better off in relative terms. Increasing inequality should be unimportant if it happens concurrently with (and perhaps as a result of) being absolutely better off.

            Should, unfortunately, doesn’t always pan out especially given human nature (status seeking)…. so practically speaking “subsistence living” does keep going up. Now it includes a washer/dryer and AC, 200 years ago it did not.

    • q-tip says:

      My fellow Americans —

      Aw, fuck it.

      I mean, I do have some pride and integrity, and am also actually interested in making America better – so, all due respect, Mr. & Mrs. Sizable Fraction Of The White Working Class*, I think I’ll try to win without jumping through your dumb-ass hoops.

      My sister-in-arms came pretty darn close this year, don’t forget!

      * And show me your tax returns before you claim salt-of-the-earth status – I have a sneaking suspicion you live closer to Newport Beach than Santa Ana.

      • NIP says:

        …are you talking to me, the person-behind-the-keyboard, or me, the hypothetical Joe/Jill Sixpack?

        Because in either case, lady, let’s get one fuckin’ thing straight:

        I appreciate you sharing your opinion, and hope you have a very good night <3

        • q-tip says:

          If the answer doesn’t matter, why ask?

          But yes, I was talking to your hypothetical voter with all those ridiculous deal-breakers. I am, indeed, challenging their claims of working-class credibility. I doubt they’re as poor, relative to the population as a whole, as they think they are. (Since they’re hypothetical, we’ll never know!)

          My point was: your voter is asking for a surrender on things that matter very deeply to much of the Democratic Party. Why, in the aftermath of a very close election, would the DP agree to such concessions? Chances are good that their votes will not be necessary next time around.

          PS: I’m not a lady – men have sisters too, as do all people, metaphorically – but rest easy: I won’t be contacting your employer to get you fired for misidentifying me. #notalldemocrats

          • nyccine says:

            Absolutely nothing was ridiculous about the criteria presented.

            That you think so, and are offended by the very suggestion, is likely the best summation as to why Clinton lost.

    • Clabber Branch says:

      You are a white working class person. Here is how I want to help you, your family, and your community.

      Currently, you probably work for a company, doing some thing. The details don’t matter right now, the point is that you doing that thing creates more money than it uses up. Some of that money is paid to you as wages. Another portion is kept by the company, as profit.

      There are ways to change that portion to be more favorable to you. They are proven, quick, and easy to implement. They involve higher taxes on rich people, lower taxes on you, and unionization. This is the way things were done back when America was great. It can be great again.

      First, I’ll cut your taxes- income, FICA, everything federal. Maybe state and local too. Instant boost to you, your family, and your community.

      Second, I’ll raise taxes on rich people- income, capital gains, estate, everything federal.

      Third, I’ll make it easier to unionize. With a union looking out for you, the company you work for will pay you higher wages, give you better benefits, be unable to fire you, and the union will do all the negotiating for you. From time to time, you may have to participate in various picket lines, walkouts, sit down strikes, mob violence, and/or full scale battles with private security forces, the police, or the national guard.

      My plan will change lots of things. The key thing to keep in mind is that you will be paid more of the surplus that your work creates. This will come out of what used to be the bosses’ share. They won’t be happy about that and it will take some effort to get them to accept it, but accept it they will. Its been like this before and it will be like this again.

      Benefits to you: Higher wages, better job security, strong sense of working class solidarity and community, joy at seeing your so-called betters taken down several notches.

      Note: A lot of people, including me, would doubt the objective correctness of some or all of this plan. Nevertheless, it is plausible, and the sort of things that some the Democratic party stood for in the past and stand for today.

      • NIP says:

        7/10, would probably vote for. Had to dock three points, one for this –

        >From time to time, you may have to participate in various picket lines, walkouts, sit down strikes, mob violence, and/or full scale battles with private security forces, the police, or the national guard

        – which frankly doesn’t sound very enticing, one for this –

        >Its been like this before and it will be like this again

        – which while straightforward and confident, has less of the impact it used to since the old unions have a reputation of being corrupt and ineffective; and one point for the fact that a lot of people don’t even have any industries in their town anymore big enough to unionize.

        But overall, pretty good. Short, concise, and on-target. I myself can’t say anything about the feasability of your plan or its effectiveness, but that wasn’t part of the test anyway.

        • Clabber Branch says:

          That’s better than I expected, thanks!

          Industrial violence and corrupt and ineffective unions are clearly drawbacks of my plan. There are others- for instance the need for industries to exist which you raised- but your post didn’t call for them to be acknowledged, so it was probably a mistake even to mention the few I did.

          In other words, I’d never make it as a politician.

      • Deiseach says:

        Third, I’ll make it easier to unionize.

        But isn’t that the point of the “right to work” laws – that they deliberately acted to weaken the power of unions? How do you get around those? If a company is saying “we don’t want unions” (and a lot of American multinationals coming into Ireland in the 80s and 90s had explicit anti-union policies) and a state has passed “right to work” laws, how do you tell the state it has to junk those laws?

        • Iain says:

          You work to repeal the laws? This does not seem complicated. With a sufficiently pro-union Supreme Court, I’m sure you could pass a federal law eliminating right-to-work everywhere and have it upheld under the Commerce Clause.

          • Rob K says:

            State-level right to work is actually specifically permitted by Taft-Hartley, which suggests that it’s not particularly controversial that it’s a matter where the federal government has jurisdiction.

            Over the past 6 years Republicans have passed Right to Work laws in a variety of northern states, which could be vulnerable to state-level repeal efforts.

            A broader revival of the labor movement, though, I think would require federal action. It seems completely conceivable to me that you could have a world where the service industry has the kind of unionization rates that manufacturing did in the immediate postwar period – but only in an environment where unionization has the kind of federal support that it had under FDR.

      • multiheaded says:

        Pretty good, that’s a 19th century classic for a reason.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I want to take a stab at this, but it may end up being a new top-level comment in a subsequent open thread. Figuring out the right way to sell NIT/UBI to the public in terms other than “welfare” is tricky. Profit-sharing on the American economy (connect to American Exceptionalism, Alaskan oil payments, universality. Profit-sharing in companies is actually something that’s popular with a lot of front line employees and isn’t thought of as creeping socialism)…something like that.

    • Tekhno says:

      How about welfare cleverly and persuasively disguised as infrastructure jobs? Some value would probably get put back in then. Build loads of bridges, monuments, to glorify the country and make it great.

    • Murphy says:

      hmm.

      So, instrumental goal: get into power. That has to be dealt with before I can enact any other plan.
      Since a large fraction of my target are going to be hostile to arguments presented in a coherent way like graphs, math etc I could try explaining that at length and simply but if that worked it would have worked already.

      So, if I was really power hungry and a bit evil with a fair bit of cash resources to amplify my message I’d probably go with something like this:

      1: Wait until there’s some terrorist attack, some kind of incident with a foreign nation or some kind of internal instability related to a minority group like riots or excessive crime. Something notable enough will happen sooner or later on the scale of hundreds of millions of people. I just have to wait for it.

      2: Tell the people they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger. Stir up lots of ingroup-outgroup animosity, make sure that my target voters consider themselves on “my” side against the out-group.

      3: Accuse my opponents of being soft and risking the lives of your children to the outside threat.

      4: Promise to keep the out-group OUT and to inspect/survive/expel those already here to keep you and your children safe.

      5: Blame the out-group for why you and your kids can’t get jobs, promise that everything will be better when I’m in charge and can prevent them from screwing up your life.

      As a bonus this also works on people who aren’t white males too, no need to lose voters I don’t need to lose.

      The out-group can be any convenient group, to minimize problems it works best if I pick a group who are already unlikely to support me anyway and are aligned with another political faction.

      Of course this is a fairly classic set of steps, Trump followed it with Muslim immigrants and a vague barely defined “the elite” as the out-groups so it would be a tough battle since I’m not using intrinsically more effective tactics.

      Downside: After achieving the instrumental goal of getting into power I’m still stuck with the animosity I’ve stirred up against the out-group and it’s hard to avoid treating them like crap without appearing weak and I then have to apply myself to the second instrumental goal: remaining in power. Which is likely to take a lot of my time and resources as well.

    • 1soru1 says:

      To save time, I’ve just copied someone else’s answer:

      Launch our country’s boldest investments in infrastructure since we built the Interstate highway system

      Make audacious advancement in research and technology, creating the industries and jobs of the future

      Establish the U.S. as the clean energy superpower of the world—with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of the first term and enough clean renewable energy to power every home in American within ten years

      Strengthen American manufacturing with a $10 billion “Make it in America” plan

      Cut red tape, provide tax relief and expand access to capital so small businesses can grow, hire and thrive

      Ensure that the jobs of the future in caregiving and services are good-paying jobs, recognize their fundamental contributions to families and to America

      Pursue smarter, fairer, tougher trade policies that put U.S. job creation first and that get tough on nations like China that seek to prosper at the expense of our workers – including opposing trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that do not meet a high bar of creating good-paying jobs and raising pay

      Commit to a full employment, full-potential economy and break down barriers so that growth, jobs, and prosperity are shared in every community in America, no matter where you live and no matter your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability

      Appoint Fed governors who share the belief that maximum employment is an essential prong of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate

      https://www.hillaryclinton.com/briefing/factsheets/2016/06/22/stronger-together-hillary-clintons-plan-for-an-economy-that-works-for-everyone-not-just-those-at-the-top/

      Pretty sure it meets at least points 1 to 4; it no doubt contains lies and bullshit too, but I’m not in a position to confirm. I rather suspect if the author had campaigned along those lines, rather than burying the details two links deep in a web-site, then things might well have turned out different.

      • gbdub says:

        The especially sad thing is I live in a state that was blanketed by Hillary ads, has people who would probably be amenable to much of that message, and yet I heard essentially none of it. All we got was “How will you explain the big meanie Trump to your kids?”

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Clinton believed, perhaps rightly, that no one would buy that coming from her after her well known positions on trade. Everyone knows she only flip flopped on the TPP once word started coming in from her polling that Sanders was gaining on her.

          She wrongly decided people cared about Trump’s personality more than jobs. Also a lot of that stuff is just fancy words and she can’t pull off soaring rhetoric like Obama could.

      • Deiseach says:

        I want to know how the “Why do you big meanies not care that a poor Chinese rice farmer is now better off?” opinion columnists would handle “Hillary is gonna get tough with China on trade! Hillary is gonna put American jobs first!”

        It may be mean of me but I want to see them twisting in the wind on this – if it was racism and xenophobia and white supremacy when Trump supporters were lapping up this message, how is it not the same when Hillary was peddling it? But Hillary is pro-minorities unlike Trump! But Hillary is anti-poor Chinese white farmers! That’s racist! But Hillary is a Democrat and Democrats are not racists!

        • Adam says:

          Which ones? I’m of the “lifting half a billion Chinese out of abject poverty in which cretinism was still widespread largely offsets the hit taken by a few hundred thousand rust belt workers whose sons don’t get to be factory workers” and I hated Hillary for her reversal on trade. Not for racism, mind you. I don’t think people fail to consider the tremendous gains to trade in the developing world because they’re racist but because they just don’t care about populations invisible to them.

        • Brad says:

          No one gives a toss about Hillary Clinton anymore except you. America has moved on. You should too.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m still seeing too many posts here with the phrase “Hillary won…”, to believe that. Well, OK, maybe these people don’t care about Actual Hillary Clinton, just Hypothetical POUTUS NeverTrump who happens for historical reasons to be linked to the Hillary Clinton name, but so long as people insist on using the name, the person is fair game.

    • tscharf says:

      I’m going to tax the hell out of [insert things the blue economy does that the red economy doesn’t] and give huge tax breaks to [insert things the red economy does that the blue economy doesn’t].

      Anything that redistributes income from the coasts to fly over country is a winner.

      tscharf wins in 2020.

    • Spookykou says:

      This implies way too much agency on the part of too many voters/the wrong voters, you and people like you(the you of the test) are not the people who need to be convinced of anything because you always vote republican anyways. The vast majority of people who voted Trump, always vote republican. Democrats have the demographics they need, as long as they don’t run someone so generally reviled as H.C. they will have a good chance of winning.

      As per programs that will actually help working whites, just give them more welfare, no they won’t like it, but it costs more money to institute the kind of protectionism policies needed to actually hold onto their jobs This problem will just get worse as time goes on, so might as well get started on it now. If they really push back then have them sort beads for the government.

      • hlynkacg says:

        …This implies way too much agency on the part of too many voters.

        …Democrats have the demographics they need.

        I disagree. First off, we saw a lot of traditionally “blue” areas swing “red” in this election. Secondly, the nature of the electoral college and fptp voting is such that winning LA or Chicago in a landslide doesn’t mean shit if you end up loosing the rest of the country to do it.

        Can Democrats still win? Sure.

        Can they win with the candidates and tactics they’ve been using? The fact that Republicans currently hold both houses, the executive, and something like 2/3rds of the state legislatures is strong evidence that they can’t.

        You’d do well to remember that opposition (and the voting public) is not a potted plant.

        • Spookykou says:

          Show me the numbers on all the really impressive demographic shifts the Trump election caused. Every authority that I put any stock in who has looked at this question has turned up little evidence that the Trump election represents any kind of significant change in the electorate, despite the hand-wringing and jubilation by people on the left and right of blog comment sections.

          The republicans hold both houses despite losing the popular vote for both as well. There are certainly systems in place, often intentionally put in place by republicans, to try and help them hold onto power in face of the demographic shifts and the majority of Americans being against them, but rule by a minority political faction is far from the forgone conclusion of the post I am responding to. The confluence of circumstances necessary for them to remain in power are more complex than the circumstances necessary for them to lose it.

          • bean says:

            The Republicans won the popular vote for the House this year. It would be fairly hard not to, given the way the House is structured. They lost the Senate, but that’s sort of to be expected, given that California had two Democrats on the ballot. I didn’t even bother voting in that election, and I suspect a lot of Republicans did the same.

          • tscharf says:

            Identity, identity, identity….repeat infinity.

            Your fatal assumption is thinking that people will vote blue just because they fall into one of your well designated little blocks. People are not monolithic.

            What team blue needs to be worried about is a fundamental restructuring of the electorate from identity based to class based politics. All the decades of identity cultivation will be thrown out the window. Curiously team blue now seems to be the party of elites and proud of it. Good luck with that.

            Another fatal assumption is that you believe political parties are rigid when they are not. You just saw team red reinvented (by being dragged kicking and screaming all the way…) and that process will continue on both sides. When one side starts losing…they change.

            The third fatal assumption you make is governing is very hard and that the party out of power always regains it by simply being an alleged change agent. They over promise and then under deliver and power changes hands. This happens every single time (hope and change!).

            At the moment team red is in their best governing position since the 1920’s so team blue would be foolish not to adjust the way it runs things (hint: get rid of Pelosi and other blue fossils).

          • Iain says:

            The Republicans won the popular vote in the House this year, but lost it in 2012 while winning only seven fewer seats. They won the 2016 popular vote by 1.1% but have a 10.8% edge in seats. The 2008 election appears to be the only time this millennium that the Democrats got a higher percentage of House seats than the popular vote.

            The Republicans have a clear structural advantage in the House.

          • Spookykou says:

            @ Bean I was wrong about the house this year, I didn’t actually look up the numbers for 2016, see Iains comment for a more detailed run down of where I am coming from.

            @ tscharf Please actually link me to polling information or something that actually shows a significant change in 2016 from previous elections.

          • TheWorst says:

            I think your House figures are off, (Edit: as you noticed, I see) but this is important. It seems like everyone above is operating from the assumption that Trump’s voters were the economically-impoverished voting for change, or a shift in class lines with the lower classes moving to Trump.

            They weren’t. Hillary won the lower income brackets by a large margin.

            Poverty isn’t a good predictor of a Trump vote, since the poor voted Clinton. The biggest correlation, by far, ended up being racial resentment.

            If we’re just talking about the comparatively tiny group of people who swung the swing states, we should say that. A handful of Rust Belters voted for Trump, and that’s why he won.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        The Democrats would have the demographics they need if only the groups who support them actually showed up at the polls at anything like the numbers in which the general population does. They came out of the 2008 election thinking they’d solved that problem, but this election has confirmed what the midterms should already have led us to suspect: Obama got his turnout not by using Big Data and GOTV-fu, but by being Barack Obama, and the magic isn’t transferable.

        • Spookykou says:

          I agree.

          My position is basically that there are more democrats in america then republicans, significantly more. Poor organization, poor leadership, etc etc might result in a party that represents a minority population being in control, but it should not be considered a forgone conclusion that they will hold power forever unless the democratic party makes some massive changes.

          These general population politics ideas are based on my understanding that the demographics that are most democrat are also the least likely to vote, and yet, democrats still consistently get popular vote wins. This implies, at least to me, a total population of democrats being significantly bigger than the total population of republicans.

          • TheWorst says:

            My position is basically that there are more democrats in america then republicans, significantly more.

            This is the absolute truth. Hillary won the vote, by millions. The only problem is that Democrats aren’t distributed evenly across the mostly-empty square miles where every vote counts for much more. If 100,000 Democratic voters moved from urban areas to rural parts of swing states, there would never be another Republican presidency.

          • hlynkacg says:

            If 100,000 Democratic voters moved from urban areas to rural parts of swing states, there would never be another Republican presidency.

            If those people move out to the styx will the party really be able to depend on their support in the next “fuck the styx” vote? Or will a large number of them “defect”.

            In a hypothetical 2016 where this happened, I suspect that Hillary would be bigger joke than “Jeb!” and we’d all be talking about how the Webb/Sanders campaign managed to flip traditionally red constituencies blue.

          • Adam says:

            Not sure why TheWorst specified “rural.” Cleveland and Miami getting a bit bigger would do it.

          • Spookykou says:

            @hlynkacg

            What generic anti-styx policy are you thinking of here.

            I can’t imagine they would suddenly develop any deep feelings of entitlement to union manufacturing jobs.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            You guys are assuming that hundreds of thousands to millions of Democrats moving to these areas would maintain the opinions they derived from their lives in the cities and on the coasts. This isn’t reasonable. Its totally possible that in a few years they’d be in the same position as the locals and have the same opinions on Hillary’s vaunted trade deals.

          • The only problem is that Democrats aren’t distributed evenly across the mostly-empty square miles where every vote counts for much more.

            You are confusing two different issues. The fact that an electoral vote represents fewer voters in Nevada or Alaska than in Texas or California had a fairly minor effect on the outcome of the election. The big point is the “evenly distributed” one. If Democratic states are 90% Democratic and Republican states are 55% Republican, the Republicans can win with considerably less than half the votes.

          • TheWorst says:

            Not sure why TheWorst specified “rural.” Cleveland and Miami getting a bit bigger would do it.

            Voting in urban areas tends to be more difficult (longer wait times, Republican restrictions on voting hours, etc), so for maximum efficiency a voter needs to be located in the places where voting is easy.

            If Democratic states are 90% Democratic and Republican states are 55% Republican, the Republicans can win with considerably less than half the votes.

            That is exactly the issue I was talking about. What were you thinking I said, and what do you mean “if?”

            Right now, Democratic votes are concentrated in areas where one vote counts for little, and Republicans have (often narrow) majorities in states where one vote counts for a lot. That’s why Republicans won with considerably less than half the votes.

          • What were you thinking I said

            I thought, from the way you put your point, that you were making two different points. One was that each vote counts for more in states will low population. The other was that the distribution of votes between states matters.

            My point was that the former effect was real but small, the latter real and important.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Spooky et al

            See axiomsofdominion’s post above.

        • Adam says:

          I see where you’re coming from. The young and the poor are the two most consistent Democratic blocs and also the two least likely to vote. A few small changes, like measures making it much easier to vote, lowering the voting age to 16, or migration patterns turning Texas blue, would make it almost impossible for the GOP to ever win another national election, but they still have big structural advantages in the House and in most states and none of these things have happened and I don’t know how likely they are. Heck, if we just didn’t have an electoral college, we could be looking at 30 consecutive years of Democrat executive rule (assuming Bush doesn’t win in 2004 if he’s not the incumbent). Some of the confidence should be at least a tad bit tempered by the fact the GOP candidate has won the popular vote once since 1988. Trying to rely forever on less support, but in the right places, seems like a poor idea.

          • cassander says:

            >, like measures making it much easier to vote

            Is there any evidence that the poor don’t vote because it’s “too hard?”

          • Adam says:

            It’s kind of just a hunch that if you allowed voting by smartphone or something, more young and poor people would do it. If you think that’s a wrong hunch, fine.

      • Deiseach says:

        Democrats have the demographics they need

        A lot of socially conservative church-going black voters were turned off by the “gay marriage, hell yeah! trans rights, hell yeah!” stuff. They voted for Obama in spite of that because he was black. They stayed home or voted for Trump because Hillary was a white middle-class woman and that was asking too much of them.

        Relying on demographics came badly unstuck this time round. First black president? I’m going to get my backside out there and vote for that. First woman president? White woman, part of the establishment for the last forty years, same old same old, why should I care? Appeals to “vote for her because she’s a woman and you’re a woman” didn’t work either.

        Nobody can rely on “This bloc will vote for us because they’ve always voted for us and where are they going to go if they don’t vote for us?” That’s how the Democrats lost a big chunk of the white blue-collar vote to Reagan: they took it for granted the union guys were in the bag and chased after women, college-graduates, and minorities with their campaign appeals and ignored the working class issues.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      (Or just pretend that you’re C.S. Lewis. Remember, you’re not being penalized for length, just for density of intellectual jargon. If you absolutely cannot dispense with it, I’ll allow it if you can explain it to me very slowly and patiently, in small words and with analogies.)

      Hey, I’ll take three servings of that, or subscribe to your newsletter.

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      4. Any explanation that involves me or my family going on welfare automatically diqualifies you. I am a prideful creature and derive self-worth and social status from my work.

      To get past the emotional reaction against anything that sets off the ‘welfare’ alarm (and has too many letters to try to explain), you could name it “drawing on your Social Security Account”, because SS is not welfare, it’s your own money that you earned at your job/s.*

      People who think SS is a scam or will fail soon, would have an extra reason for getting their share out of SS as soon as possible.

      For those old enough, this money for special purposes only could be compared to the GI bills.

      * disclaimer – that is what I believe too

    • I don’t think I can do it for the whole range of issues or for all of the white working class, but here is the version on free trade for rural voters.

      We have two ways of producing cars in America. We can build them in Detroit or we can grow them in Iowa. Everyone knows about how we build cars. The way we grow cars is to grow the raw material they are made out of, called wheat. We load the wheat on ships, send them into the Pacific, and they come back with Hondas on them.

      A tariff on auto imports isn’t protecting American workers from the competition of Japanese workers. It’s protecting American auto workers from the competition of American farmers. And the only reason the auto companies need it to compete is that American farmers can grow cars cheaper and better than the auto companies can build them.

      That’s my (old) attempt to put the principle of comparative advantage in terms ordinary people can understand.

      • NIP says:

        This discussion is too old at this point for my reply to matter, but I have to make this note anyway:

        You’d be making a great argument if what ordinary people in this scenario wanted was cars, instead of jobs ;^)

        • My argument was directed at rural people, the ones who would be growing the wheat with which we got the cars. Hence my reference to “the competition of American farmers.”

      • Jiro says:

        Ths analogy would work if someone who grows wheat has as much control over how and when the cars are built as someone who builds cars, which isn’t true.

        Also, by your reasoning, there is also the third option of growing wheat, exchanging it for foreign money, and using the money to buy cars made in Detroit. When you compare this third option to the idea of growing wheat and exchanging it for foreign cars, it turns out that it is indeed a case of American auto workers versus foreign ones after all.

        • “Also, by your reasoning, there is also the third option of growing wheat, exchanging it for foreign money, and using the money to buy cars made in Detroit. ”

          When you exchange your yen for dollars, there is someone on the other side of the transaction exchanging dollars for yen, which means that he is now buying something from Japan instead of from the U.S., which means that there are other goods being traded.

          I was describing trade in the simple case of only two goods. And I was trying to explain the logic simply enough so that the hypothetical layman would understand it.

          • Jiro says:

            The simplest way to look at it is to look at the net outcomes. If a customer buys a car from Detroit, the net outcome is that the US worker has dollars (and one less car) and the customer has a car (and less dollars).

            If you grow wheat, sell it to Japan for yen, exchange the yen for dollars, use the dollars to buy a car in Detroit, then sell it to a customer, the *net* result is that you have less wheat and more dollars, Japan has more wheat and less dollars, the customer has less dollars and one more car, and the US worker has more dollars and one less car. (This is equivalent to combining the two separate transactions of you selling wheat to Japan and the US worker selling a car to a US customer directly.)

            If you grow wheat, exchange it for a Japanese car, then sell the Japanese car to a US customer, the net result is that you have less wheat and more dollars, Japan has more wheat and one less car, and the customer has less dollars and one more car.

            Comparing that to either of the two previous scenarios shows that the US worker is left out of the loop and has lost a sale.

            It is true that in the middle scenario, if you don’t want to assume a redistribution of dollars between countries (changing the relative value of yen and dollars), the Japanese must then buy something in Japan instead of in the US. However, the middle scenaro (compared to the first) already added the Japanese buying your wheat. In other words, for the reason you describe, one transaction for American goods is lost, but that only balances out the fact that one US transaction for American goods was added.

          • ” Japan has more wheat and less dollars”

            And since dollars are not good to eat, those are dollars the Japanese would have used to buy American goods, employing American workers.

            It’s easier to see the logic of trade if you leave out the money, which is only an intermediary, and look at it as goods for goods. If you imagine a scenario where one side or the other ends up holding more of one country’s money than before, you haven’t run the transaction through to the end.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            If you imagine a scenario where one side or the other ends up holding more of one country’s money than before, you haven’t run the transaction through to the end.

            People can refuse to “run the transaction through to the end” indefinitely, though.

          • Jiro says:

            And since dollars are not good to eat, those are dollars the Japanese would have used to buy American goods, employing American workers.

            As I just pointed out, although that is true as it goes, in that scenario you also sold wheat to Japan for yen. By the same reasoning which suggests that the Japanese getting dollars is the loss of an American sale to the Japanese, this is a loss of a Japanese sale to the Americans, so it balances out.

  33. vV_Vv says:

    When US companies do something that sounds good in the next few years, whether it’s hiring new people, or deciding to stay in the United States, or reporting high profits, some of them are going to credit President Trump.

    Companies like to be on the good side of powerful politicians. Nothing special about Trump here.

    This plan isn’t going to scale. Even Trump can only create so many media circuses. 999 companies will successfully move to Mexico in the amount of time it takes Trump to convince one company not to. But almost tautologically, the only ones we’ll ever hear about are the ones that become media circuses, and so it will look like Trump keeps winning.

    While Obama single-handedly reversed global warming with his deals with Solyndra and the like, didn’t he?

    Some amount of demagoguery and cronyism and borderline corruption are the unfortunate but likely unavoidable side effects of representative democracy.

    Or you could use your influence as a beloved celebrity to petition the government to pass laws which improve efficiency of the justice system.

    Or you could use your influence as a beloved celebrity to run for office on a platform of enforcing law and order and providing jobs to the unemployed. Wait a minute…

  34. AnonEEmous says:

    Just to be clear, Ford also cited things like reduced corporate taxes, and better regulatory structure. How do you know that these type of policy moves won’t just…keep jobs here? Trump didn’t even offer Ford a specific deal at this point in time – just broadcast his economic policy moves. I see no reason why this shouldn’t continue.

    Edit: Reading through this comments section, everyone seems to be citing this as some type of “batman face punching”. No, Ford explained pretty clearly that Trump’s economic and regulatory policies are what changed their minds, and though they might be lying to cover up an already-made decision, they weren’t strong-armed or bribed into making that decision, and there’s every reason to think that other companies might make that decision in a genuine way. If those policies apply to everyone, then this is “batman improving the legal system”, not “batman face punching criminals”.

    • gbdub says:

      Yeah, Scott’s analysis rests on the idea that Ford 1) will expect a quid pro quo 2) will actually get a quid pro quo 3) the quid pro quo will be net bad for America compared to letting Ford move to Mexico.

      So obviously there’s a potential failure mode there – companies threaten to leave just to get a sweetheart deal, Trump allows himself to be taken advantage of this way in order to get a PR “victory”.

      But Trump seems to be offering both carrots and sticks (he can get good PR from delivering either) – how many face punches and special deals do you actually have to dole out before companies naturally start modifying their behavior to be in the potential carrot recipient bucket rather than the possible stick victim bucket?

      Ford seems to have taken this action without any particular promise from Trump, except the implied promise of reduced regulatory / tax burden. But as long as that reduced regulatory burden applies to everyone (not just Ford), isn’t that just making the US generally more attractive for manufacturing?

    • Two separate points on the threads about exporting or not exporting jobs:

      1. If Trump keeps companies in the U.S. by imposing high import taxes or similar restrictions, that makes the U.S. and the world poorer. If he does it by reducing corporate taxes to something more like the level of our competitors or eliminating regulations that increase the cost of doing business without producing corresponding benefits, that makes the U.S. and the world richer. It isn’t clear what mix of the two approaches we should expect.

      2. People talk as if we could export all jobs. But trade is trade–foreigners expect to get something back from the U.S. in exchange for the goods they send to the U.S. If, at current exchange rates, producing everything is cheaper abroad, the result will be a shift in exchange rates until that is no longer true.

      That’s elementary trade economics, the working out of the principle of comparative advantage in a world of floating exchange rates. In a world with a single commodity money–the gold standard in the 19th century–the same thing happens through the mechanism of changing prices.

      • Brad says:

        It isn’t clear what mix of the two approaches we should expect.

        Which way does it make you update when Trump tweets “Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!”

  35. moridinamael says:

    Scion (from Worm) is a much more obvious comparison than Batman. I will leave the implications of that comparison as an exercise.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      “Obvious”? Really?

      Batman is a tremendously famous character from the most popular of American popular culture, known the world over. My grandmother, who barely speaks English, knows who Batman is.

      Scion is… I have no idea who Scion is, and I’ve even read part of Worm. Most people haven’t even heard of the thing.

      Perhaps this sort of thing is one of those “bubble” things I hear people talking about? There’s “writing for your audience”, and there’s “writing for such a small subset of your audience that they can fit in your kitchen”.

  36. TenMinute says:

    “Here’s my concern” uh oh.
    “if it meant that the government chooses their fighter jets over the competing brand.” How much power does Trump have over this process? None.

    “Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse”.
    I’d put more credit in this prediction if you hadn’t already made it clear any victory for Trump counts as “making the world worse” to you.
    You went full partisan. Good look getting your credibility back.

    • Nicholas Carter says:

      Scott’s entire thing is that Trump is good at things he doesn’t care about, and bad at things he does care about. So logically, anywhere Trump can win Scott doesn’t think it matters, and anywhere it matters Scott thinks Trump can’t win. And he thinks disagreeing with the first clause of that last sentence is jut a distraction from the second part.

  37. Deiseach says:

    When US companies do something that sounds good in the next few years, whether it’s hiring new people, or deciding to stay in the United States, or reporting high profits, some of them are going to credit President Trump.

    But every politician does this. If Ford had done this a year ago, Obama would be using it in speeches as proof that the recovery was here to stay and his policies of good jobs for American workers were making this possible. If Hillary had won the election, her team would be using this as “confidence restored thanks to the safe pair of hands that are going to be in charge for the next four years”.

    Trump is just particularly obvious about banging on the drum of blaming businesses for overseas investment and outsourcing. My own country tailors corporation tax and other goodies to attract foreign direct investment (because we are so reliant on that as a source of employment) and, at least a couple of months ago, there was some concern that if Trump’s tax policies are put into practice, they genuinely will draw back American companies – not so much because of jobs, but that it would “make it less financially attractive for companies to hoard money offshore”:

    US multinationals have an estimated $2 trillion in cash held offshore, profits earned in markets outside the US which have not been returned to headquarters, as doing so would expose them to US corporation tax. Trump has proposed a special once-off tax rate of 10 per cent on such cash, to encourage companies to bring it home, and raise cash to fund his investment programme.

    As to defence contractors keeping an air conditioning factory open because they’re hoping for juicy government contracts, well, don’t they do that already? Isn’t that the whole point of lobbying? Anyway, it’s not United Technologies (owners of Carrier Air Conditioning) you need to worry about, it’s Lockheed Martin which gets 88% of its revenue from defence contracts and so is most vulnerable to the need to suck up to the president.

    Trump is a stone thrown into the pond. The splash and the ripples are still being felt and nobody knows what it is going to be like when it settles back down.

    • tscharf says:

      The media uses this technique constantly with their never ending anecdotes about the cultural narrative du jour. They use it because they find it an effective story telling technique to persuade their readers who typically nod off when presented with “boring” data.

      Example: It I didn’t know better I would have thought cops have been maliciously hunting people based on color for the last several years and the primary threat to young black men was cop killings. There were no calls for movements to make sure people knew the correct facts and for repetitive anecdotes to be banned from violent crime stories. Articles didn’t make it a point to remind the reader cops account for a very small percentage of all killings. The misleading PR here was for a “good cause” so the big picture didn’t matter.

      Trump didn’t invent this technique, but he’s pretty good at it, and the isolated demand for rigor here seems to be politically motivated.

  38. Rusty says:

    Loved the article and the Batman analogy was new to me at least. But isn’t part of the argument hopelessly round the wrong way?

    You seem to be arguing that the problem with Trump is that he will still let lots of US companies go overseas. What is wrong with that? Mexicans have equal value to Americans don’t they. Why shouldn’t they get good jobs and make cars?

    And if your answer to that is that Mexicans (and other foreigners) do have equal value but Ford is an American motor company ask yourself where this ends. Are all US firms worldwide to relocate to the US? All British firms to the UK, German ones to Germany? And don’t stop there – all Californian firms should make everything in California. And if not all firms, which? Who decides? The Department of Making America Great? That will work just about as well for America as it did for the Soviet Union. (Whatever happened to these guys??)

    There was a great article I saw the other day where the author asked how we should feel if a new pill was invented that gave people immediate perfect health until they drop dead suddenly at 120. Of course that pill is going to put all the doctors, nurses, pharma company workers, psychiatrists etc etc out of business. Millions will be out of work overnight. Do you ban this pill? Does it make a difference if the pill is made in China? Or in Mexico?

    The article makes the point that once you have this pill you not only have great health, all the money you would have spent on health you can now spend on other stuff. So America is much, much richer than before. And has great health. It seems a good deal to me.

    Of course Scott’s point that the rest of his policies will pass by unnoticed may be the real point of the post but I just wanted to make the point that free trade is worth fighting for and if Trump hangs on to that while playing some kind of three card trick that isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. If he does it for real lots of people in America and rest of the world will get poor fast.

    Here is the article I mentioned. Its much more enjoyable and illuminating than my post.

    https://medium.com/@russroberts/the-human-side-of-trade-7b8e024e7536#.olc7745mp

    • Matt M says:

      ” Mexicans have equal value to Americans don’t they. ”

      Not according to U.S. voters they don’t.

      • Rusty says:

        That is a fair point. I guess who can and can’t vote is part of what makes a country a country. So my post was muddling things a bit because the rest of my post was trying to make the point that if you put Americans first it makes sense to let Ford make the cars in Mexico.

        • Matt M says:

          Yes, and from an economics standpoint you are 100% correct.

          But the average person doesn’t understand economics, or even if they do, doesn’t necessarily care to follow its logical conclusions.

          • gbdub says:

            Part of the issue is that, economically sound though it may be, individual cases of outsourcing tend to have distributed benefits and concentrated harms.

            Ford moving a plant to Mexico will make every Ford stockholder a little richer and/or every Ford car cost a little less. Which is nice but not life-altering. But for the people now suddenly unemployed, it’s extremely bad.

          • shmohawk1 says:

            The average person has different metrics for measuring the economy than economists do. An economist might say that outsourcing the plant will be better for the the GDP, maybe even so much so that they can put the laid-off workers on welfare for exactly the same amount they were making at the plant. In the abstract, that makes sense.

            And the blue-collar guy who lost his job will say “f* your abstract, f* your welfare, and f* you. I want a job.”

            The desire to be self-sufficient and to do meaningful labor are core values for most people. The economy was made for man, not man for the economy.

        • Antistotle says:

          because the rest of my post was trying to make the point that if you put Americans it makes sense to let Ford make the cars in Mexico.

          If all we’re talking about is *a* car plant, yes.

          But workers outside of farm labor and factory work, are not fungible, and there is a limited amount of work that *cannot* be exported overseas, those mostly being jobs that require a physical presence.

          There is a non-zero likelyhood that in March I will be firing 3 people whose jobs are going to go to India, because they can be done slightly worse over there, but at 1/4th the price. Which is, in the minds of the people running this project a win, because we can fix things another way.

          While it makes economic sense to out an American out of work and hire a Mexican to do the same job at 1/3rd or 1/2 because the *rest* of Americans can then buy the results cheaper, the extreme of that is that we move everything off shore that can be.

          I bet when we start outsourcing our Economics Analysis to economists at Chilean and Bolivian universities–who will do the work at 1/4th the cost–that Economists start to object 🙂

          • Bugmaster says:

            To be fair, at my company, we fired a couple of our American programmers and hired 4 Ukrainian ones (not all at once, though). They request about 1.5x less pay, but they are also about 4x as productive as the average American programmer. We would’ve hired them even if they were more expensive than Americans. YMMV, of course.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            That’s interesting. Why are they more productive? Better training? More work ethic?

          • Rusty says:

            I guess you move everything to where it can be done best. The Indians and Mexicans are happy and the Americans are getting their stuff cheaper so have money to spare to do more things they want to do. Maybe pay more on employing US health workers who are happy because they now have more/better paid jobs.

            Of course as you say in your last paragraph its easier to take a lofty view if it isn’t your industry being disrupted.

  39. beleester says:

    I also think it’s important to be prepared for the fact that this clear message won’t work. Imagine you’re a factory worker in Indiana, and every week you hear on the news that Trump convinced another factory to stay in the US. And also, you read an editorial by Paul Krugman or someone saying that this is all a trick. What do you end out believing?

    On the other hand, imagine you work for one of the 999 other companies that Trump didn’t stop, and you’re now unemployed. Suddenly, Krugman’s claim that you’ve been tricked sounds a lot more plausible. Even if the media is running 24/7 coverage of Trump’s big wins, that can’t stop you from noticing your own lack of a job.

    The Democratic answer to this strategy is the classic question: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

    (If the voters say that they’re happier watching Trump metaphorically punch bad guys even when they’re worse off economically, well… we learned something about what makes people happy, I suppose.)

    • Deiseach says:

      The Democratic answer to this strategy is the classic question: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

      And if the answer to that is “Sure, because if Hillary won, Ford would have moved that plant to Mexico and I wouldn’t have a job now”?

      You’re arguing about the 999 other companies that Trump didn’t stop. But for the people in that one town who are now working for the 1 company who stayed, they don’t see it as a trick. They see it as “1,000 companies out of 1,000 would have moved and I’d be worse off”.

      If the voters say that they’re happier watching Trump metaphorically punch bad guys even when they’re worse off economically, well… we learned something about what makes people happy, I suppose.

      Let me turn it around on you: can you imagine someone saying “I live in a small town, we were dependent on one major employer that shut down the factory and moved to Mexico, and now I have no job and am economically much worse off. But I’m so glad Mexicans have a job instead of me! That’s why I voted for Hillary, because she wants to bring up the global standard of living!”

      People keep saying that voting for Trump/the Republicans is voting against your economic interest, and maybe that’s so. But eight years of a Democrat president and you’ve no job because manufacturing industry is dying on its feet, do you think people would still vote Democrat even though they’re worse off economically because they’d enjoy seeing Hillary stand up to Putin?

      That’s the kind of argument I think is in bad faith; it’s a very simplistic model of “the Republicans are all rich and evil who want to make money by grinding the faces of the poor and minorities, but the Democrats love everyone and have a preferential option for minorities so voting for one and not the other is against your economic interest”. But if the global movement of economic development is against traditional industries and there are going to be people left behind inevitably?

      I don’t see any response to “voting for the Democrats doesn’t make me any better off than voting for the Republicans, and at least the Republicans share some of my values” except “you’re only jealous that POC are doing better now” and “to the privileged, equality feels like oppression”.

      • beleester says:

        You’re arguing about the 999 other companies that Trump didn’t stop. But for the people in that one town who are now working for the 1 company who stayed, they don’t see it as a trick. They see it as “1,000 companies out of 1,000 would have moved and I’d be worse off”.

        If 999 people lost their jobs, and 1 person kept their job, you’ll win more votes by appealing to the 999 than to the 1.

        I don’t see any response to “voting for the Democrats doesn’t make me any better off than voting for the Republicans, and at least the Republicans share some of my values” except “you’re only jealous that POC are doing better now” and “to the privileged, equality feels like oppression”.

        You pull out this strawman, and you accuse me of arguing in bad faith?

        The simple argument goes like this: “Voting for the Democrats will make you better off. You’re being left behind, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ll help you through the hard times and get you the training you need to compete. We’re going to get you a better job than the one you lost. We’re going to start up green industries and they’re gonna be yuuuge.” Etc, etc.

        This is the standard, Econ 101 policy position – Reap the benefits of free trade, use them to offset the losses, help displaced workers move into more productive jobs.

        Clinton didn’t sell that argument, she came off as not caring about the Rust Belt. But don’t mistake “Clinton couldn’t sell it” for “Democrats don’t have it in their platform.” Sanders probably could have sold it – he tapped the same populist streak as Trump. And more importantly, whoever the Democrats run in 2020 can sell it, because the Republicans are in power and they’ll get blamed for everything by default.

        I don’t know if they will sell it, it’s possible that they try to repeat their current strategy with someone more charismatic than Clinton. But if Trump’s “Batman strategy” fails to improve the Rust Belt (probable), and if the Democrats think the Rust Belt is worth appealing to (toss-up), they have a pretty good case they can make.

        • gbdub says:

          Well that is the problem – saving one job out of 1000 is still more appealing to the 999 than saving zero jobs out of 1000.

          “Don’t worry, it makes the GDP go up and that’s good for everyone!” isn’t winning over the 999 – Democrats have been mocking “trickle down economics” for decades, and ultimately that’s the same argument as “globalization is good for everyone”.

          Your “simple argument” is fine, but that’s not the one Sanders made – he was all about protectionism and punishing outsourcing fatcats etc. He just wanted to be protectionist AND pro-undocumented-immigrant (not sure those are really compatible…)

          • Anaxagoras says:

            Well that is the problem – saving one job out of 1000 is still more appealing to the 999 than saving zero jobs out of 1000.

            Sure, but the people in the 999 aren’t comparing their situation to the one they’d be in under Clinton. Republicans may claim that all 1000 would have lost their jobs without their actions, and they may even be right, but an appeal to the hypothetical will not be persuasive.

          • gbdub says:

            Basically, Trump has saved one job and is loudly proclaiming it as a Yuge Victory, in order to give hope to the 999 that there jobs will also be saved (and bolster his image, natch).

            Scott asserts that there is no way that Trump can save the 999, and that furthermore the way he saved the one job is a net negative, so Trump’s hope is false – but people will buy the hope and we’ll be stuck with meaningless grandstanding and cronyism instead of effective policy.

            You seem to basically agree with Scott but think Trump won’t be able to sell the hope anymore and will be exposed as a fraud.

            I’m not sure which of you is right. But what is Trump’s alternative? He can either:
            a) Do what he’s doing, save the jobs he can by any deal necessary and attempt to mercilessly spin them into Yuge Victories and false hope.
            b) Save the jobs he can but not try to spin a big PR win out of it and be honest that 999 jobs out of 1000 are screwed.
            c) Not save the jobs but try to convince everyone that the 1000 jobs were doomed either way and ultimately we’re all better off because Economics
            d) ???? policy that is somehow better than a) or c) (that neither you nor Scott have really proposed).

            a) Seems like the obvious best choice for Trump. The existence of d) is uncertain, c) will definitely get unemployed factory workers pissed off at him, and b) is just a) but giving up a chance for good press.

            If the worst that can be said for Trump’s approach is that it’s unsustainable, and people will ultimately catch him on it… I’m not sure it bothers me that much? Every president is going to try to gin up sympathetic press and photogenic “wins”.

            Scott hasn’t done enough to convince me that these deals will be all that bad – false hope is bad, but no hope is worse. I don’t like suboptimal economic policy, but I’m not convinced any politician is going to implement optimal policy and in any case the local-losers of said policy are always going to be righteously pissed. I can’t really blame an unemployed guy for not being sufficiently comforted by the thought of a Mexican getting a job and a Californian getting a $500 cheaper AC unit.

          • Anaxagoras says:

            My conclusion isn’t necessarily that Trump won’t be able to sell the hope. It’s that if he succeeds or fails, it will have very little to do with the fact that he saved one job of the thousand (nor with the true costs of doing so, whatever they may be). The Carrier deal and the like fade fast from the news.

        • Antistotle says:

          The simple argument goes like this: “Voting for the Democrats will make you better off. You’re being left behind, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ll help you through the hard times and get you the training you need to compete. We’re going to get you a better job than the one you lost. We’re going to start up green industries and they’re gonna be yuuuge.” Etc, etc.

          Except that we’ve been hearing that shiznit since the 1970s[1], and it’s NOT happening. Government “retraining” is often…not impactful. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/02/03/Time-Fix-Failed-18-Billion-Job-Training-Programs.

          [1] There’s been government training for longer, but it’s in the 1970s that we started getting our asses handed to us in the factory work sector and that was when the promises of job re-training took off.

    • shakeddown says:

      So the democrats get the votes of the guys who’ve been fired, but soundly lose the bloc of voters who are just at risk of being fired. Unless Trump turns out much worse than even I expect, the second bloc is way larger. “Are you better off than you were four years ago” works with widespread low-grade economic downturn (which could well happen, but is independent of specifically factory workers losing jobs), but not on high-variance damage.

    • cassander says:

      >On the other hand, imagine you work for one of the 999 other companies that Trump didn’t stop, and you’re now unemployed.

      I’d bet you’d be a lot more annoyed at the company that fired you than trump. If anything, you’ll start saying “Damn if only the czar trump knew, he could have helped us. we need more trump!” Or at least, my just so story is as plausible as your just so story.

  40. Jiro says:

    Doesn’t most of this apply to all presidents who say they are going to do X and have one or two highly publicized incidents of them trying to do X?

    If so, then relative comparisons between Trump and other presidents may still be valid, since the other presidents are made to look better just like Trump.

    • q-tip says:

      Mm, it isn’t unusual for presidents (et al) to choose photogenic examples of the people helped by policy X or Y to trot out in front of the cameras or invite to sit next to the First Lady at the SOTU.

      I read Scott’s concern as: under our new president, the photogenic examples may be the ONLY people helped by policy X or Y. Which is to say, it wasn’t really a policy, just a one-time deal. And quite likely a fake deal at that.

      • Jiro says:

        Just like “Trump’s election will be good for SJWs” (that prediction of Scott’s pretty much failed, and anyone who voted against Trumpo because he listened to Scott on this ought to feel foolish), the argument is basically “here’s a plausible-sounding scenario. I guess it’ll happen”.

        • Spookykou says:

          I don’t think enough time has passed to know if Scott was right or wrong about Trumps influence on SJW.

          Also I think it is important to remember the mechanisms that he was talking about in that particular case. It was his opinion that Trump would be fuel for the SJW fire, and justify their positions by providing a more credible oppressor. As far as I can tell that is exactly what has happened in the SJW community, see fear of death squads and Trump assisted suicide. The long term influence of this ‘real oppression’ obviously can’t be accounted for yet.

          The only meaningful way that SJW has been ‘hurt’ by Trump is the particular post election narratives that blame identity politics for pushing people to vote for Trump. Even if the narrative is overblown( or at least I think it is) the fact that nominally liberal/left/democrats are coming out stronger against SJW could in theory have a chilling effect on SJW. Again, the long term impact on the SJW movement is far from clear at this point, as far as I can tell the post election democratic autopsy is far from a settled matter.

          I think it is also important to keep in mind that even if the second point is correct, even if we assume there is a strong and maintained backlash in the liberal/left/democratic party against identity politics (not because it is wrong, but because it alienates working whites, or what ever) and that lowers the broad appeal of SJW, the first point, about a true oppressor might also be right, resulting in a smaller but even more radicalized SJW movement. It is unclear if this would be considered good or bad for SJW.

          Again, it’s hardly been long enough to know for sure what will happen to the SJW movement and what Trumps election will do to it, he hasn’t even had time to oppress anyone yet.

          • John Schilling says:

            As far as I can tell that is exactly what has happened in the SJW community, see fear of death squads and Trump assisted suicide.

            I’ve been explicitly told by defenders of the SJ community here that fear of death squads, etc, is not really a thing and I am being unfair when I attribute such beliefs to anyone but the lunatic fringe.

            Can we get an official ruling on this somewhere?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @John Schilling,

            I don’t think anyone is going to mistake me for an SJW, but at least here in the Big Apple you do see people expressing those fears in the wild.

            It was a lot worse immediately after the election. Since then people have had time to calm down and enjoy the holidays. I expect to see a resurgence of Trump hysteria post-inauguration though.

          • Spookykou says:

            I would assume their position is not that literally no person ever expressed fear of death squads, but that it does not represent a main stream (their stream?) or consensus concern.

            Ultimately I am only using it as an example of a possible mood shift, so I think that if you accept that it happened at all, then even if the idea hasn’t reached fixation it could still hint at subtler but broader mood shift, the top part of a large piece of ice in the ocean thats true size remains hidden, or something.

          • Matt M says:

            Has Scott not explicitly stated he has seen patients who are suffering severe anxiety related to a fear of Trump-inspired death squads?

          • Spookykou says:

            I am not sure if it was death squads exactly, but thematically similar fears after the Trump election yes. I am inclined to believe our host.

        • q-tip says:

          Except there are some examples of Trump doing what he is predicted to do in the future. It isn’t a “plausible scenario, therefore it’ll happen” situation at all!
          The new prediction could be wrong, but I don’t see how bringing in the past prediction invalidates the new one.
          (Also, I don’t think we fully know what Trump’s election will do to SJWs yet, but maybe you just mean “it made them upset?”)

  41. lliamander says:

    A lot of comments have already questioned whether a Super Trump[0] is really as bad as you think it might be (or even bad at all) but I’ll just add a few additional observations in.

    I’ve been watching a lot of superhero shows lately, and they all pretty much come out in favor of the role of superheroes as PR champions who give the people hope. Of course, there is an obvious financial incentive for the producers of superhero fiction to support the idea, but it’s worth considering whether the arguments in favor are sound.

    Is it really the job of a Chief Executive (whether in government, military, or business) to deal with policy details? Isn’t that the job of the President’s cabinet? My observation in business is that the job of the CEO is to set the strategy and hire the right people, but their *life* becomes being the figurehead of the company and marketing it in the public square. I think Trump has already established himself as someone who listens to his advisors; so if you have concern about his policies then it makes more sense to criticize his cabinet than to criticize how he spends his time.

    Obviously, I think using good PR to hide bad policy is a Bad Thing. It’s good to provide arguments against those policies, but if you want to make a change you’ll also have to look at countering his PR. Many prominent news agencies attempted to do just that [1] but in such a comic-book-villain move by collectively abandoning journalistic ethics that they probably secured him a two-term presidency. A different strategy will be needed in the future.

    [0] Trump has too much positive energy and public recognition to be a Batman. He’s more of a Superman. Peter Thiel is more of a Batman (working in the shadows by, e.g. supporting Hulk Hogan against Gawker). Jeff Bezos or George Soros as Lex Luthor? Discuss.

    [1] Perhaps most notably the Washington Post, owned by Bezos. Hence the Bezos/Luthor connection noted above.

    • Randy M says:

      I thought you were mixing your metaphors before remembering that Hulk Hogan is a real person.

      • lliamander says:

        I am very careful about delineating my comic book universes. I thought about referencing Watchmen, but even that is only “sorta” in the DC comic-verse.

    • shakeddown says:

      I don’t see how Trump can be Superman. Trump’s thing is “Unleash our power and throw away those pesky self-imposed limitations.” Superman’s whole thing is having self-imposed limitations, since they’re the one thing that stop him from turning into Zod.

      • lliamander says:

        Metaphors can certainly be tricky things. I do not wish to make an ethical comparison, but rather one of “energy” and “tone”.

        Trump, to his supporters, is a positive, inspirational (“Make America Great Again”), larger than life figure who operates out in the open. Trump, like Superman, can be associated with American exceptionalism and middle-American values (despite the fact that he, unlike Clark Kent, was born into Big City culture). He also presents himself as someone who likes to turn enemies into friends. Furthermore, Trump is the point-man for this right-wing resurgence (if that is what is indeed happening).

        Thiel, in contrast, comes across as grim, serious, perhaps even bitter. He prefers to work in the shadows (his support of litigation against Gawker) and who seems motivated by vengeance (or at least likely to hold grudges). I would say this makes him similar to Batman. He’s not the point-man of the resurgence, but he’s arguably still a major player (considering his role in the Trump campaign and beyond).

        • LHN says:

          You might be able to make a case for the Golden Age Superman, who was pretty much a bully. (Though unlike any real person, and trebly unlike Trump, he had the superpower of never bullying anyone who didn’t deserve it. Just as Batman never holds someone over the edge of a building to extract information and later realizes that he was just an innocent bystander.)

          But Superman since probably the early 40s isn’t like that. There are superheroes who taunt their enemies, shout insults, etc. But Superman (at least when he’s not engaged in sadomasochistic secret identity games with his friends) is a genuinely nice guy who doesn’t need to endlessly prove he’s the best. Because of course he is.

          As someone once said, “‘Don’t tug on Superman’s cape?’ You know what happens if you tug on Superman’s cape? He asks you to stop doing that, please. And you will.” Heck, even if you tug on Batman’s cape the worst you’ll get is a look that’s sufficiently intimidating that you’ll relocate.

          It’s the Guy Gardners and Quicksilvers of the superhero world who’ll actually get into it over simply being made to look bad. Or if his targets really look universally just and proportional to his fans, then maybe a quipping hero like Spider-Man or a crazy-like-a-fox one like the Creeper.

          But Superman, whether it’s Christopher Reeve or George Reeves or any of the print incarnations (that haven’t gone round the twist and declared themselves Emperor or something) doesn’t roll that way.

          • lliamander says:

            You’re distinction about Golden Age Superman is well taken. Again, metaphors have their limitations, though some (including Scott Adams) would debate whether Trump bullies the undeserving. Adams’ argument was that, at least during his campaign, Trump did not attack US citizens, singularly or collectively, except for public figures who openly attacked him first. I don’t know if this 100% true, and that doesn’t mean that Trump’s attacks were moral or justified, but in so far as it is true it reflects a certain degree of respect and chivalry towards the all citizens equally in a way that was absent in Hillary’s “deplorables” comment (for example).

            Every metaphor has a specific purpose, a specific property of it’s subject that it is highlighting by means of comparison with the object. When I say a boxer has a “glass jaw”, I do not mean that it is transparent; I simply mean to highlight the boxer’s fragility by comparison to the fragility of glass.

            The purpose of Scott Alexander’s original metaphor was to highlight (and criticize) Trump’s property of being a wealthy magnate who uses his resources to make symbolic victories and self-mythologize, versus the ostensibly rational alternatives. The purpose of my metaphor was to contrast Trump with Thiel in the Trump campaign mythology. Likewise, your comparisons with the likes of Quicksilver highlights Trump’s bravado.

            Incidentally, I am sincerely pleased that the only replies so far have been in response to my one footnote. It’s an indulgence of high-geekery to engage in discussions of super-hero metaphors sadly often lacking in most meatspace discourse.

          • haljohnsonbooks says:

            And this is why we should be grateful that neither Quicksilver nor Guy Gardner wear capes.

          • Jiro says:

            The purpose of Scott Alexander’s original metaphor was

            The purpose of a metaphor is to convince someone of a conclusion while skipping the whole “use logical reasoning” step. As such, unintended aspects of the metaphor are no worse than intended aspects of the metaphor in searching for truth, and you have little grounds to complain when someone uses them.

        • shakeddown says:

          Trump, like Superman, can be associated with American exceptionalism and middle-American values (despite the fact that he, unlike Clark Kent, was born into Big City culture).

          This is actually a really good comparison. Superman was born with small-town values but moved to be a big-city reporter, but still keeps some of his Kansas Farmboy image. Trump’s grandfather started out working-class, and Trump tries to play his image like superman (with somewhat less justification, but enough to be excusable if you like the guy) – “I may live in a city, but I’m a working-class guy at heart.”

  42. Lawrence D'Anna says:

    “I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like.”

    I think that’s just about the most benign thing I’ve ever heard someone worry that Trump might do as president. Four years of policy inaction and costumed shenanigans almost sounds like a best case scenario.

    • Randy M says:

      Agreed, I was thinking that this was a useful and reasoned critique but so far from the professed worries about Trump that it is almost praising with faint condemnation.

    • cassander says:

      You think that now, just wait till you see how much presidential batmobiles cost…

      I was being facetious, but now that I write it, I realize that it’s not a half bad metaphor.

      • bean says:

        But he’s already punched someone over that. It won’t make a bit of difference, and it annoyed everyone who knows about that project, but I’m sure it made it him feel good.

    • Deiseach says:

      “I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like.”

      Isn’t that the complaints about the alleged Russian hackers? Trump is too weak against the evil mastermind Vlad the Terrible, we needed Wonder FirstWoman who would have given him a black eye and sent him scowling back to the steppes!

      As an aside, any thoughts on how Putin handled the US expulsion of Russian diplomats? Everyone was expecting tit-for-tat as is usual in these cases, and then he came back with “We’re not going to disrupt people and their families during the holiday season taking breaks in their dachas” and inviting the American diplomats’ kids to New Year’s Eve celebrations. Even the Mail on Sunday was scoffing that one of the 35 alleged spies was actually a chef; this is not how you would expect a Tory newspaper to react to the US making a move against the (former) Reds.

      I mean, as PR (and importantly as PR tactics inside Russia), this looks very clever. To the Russians, this makes Obama look both petty and mean, kicking out people in a fit of pique where it wasn’t anything to do with them and disrupting their lives (having to pull kids out of school, pack up and move back, etc. all during the holiday season). And instead of the hothead macho bully, Putin looks like he can keep his cool and not be manipulated into a response.

      And if we’re talking about presidents making big gestures just to show the public that Something Is Being Done, even if it’s just cosmetic, isn’t this kind of expulsion exactly that sort of move?

      • Randy M says:

        Even the Mail on Sunday was scoffing that one of the 35 alleged spies was actually a chef;

        I don’t think Russia is necessarily doing anything out of the ordinary, but this seems silly–is it that implausible that a spy could have a cover job?

        • Aapje says:

          Also, the Russians are known for poisoning their enemies and traditionally, poison is often put in…food.

          To quote Dr Strangelove: I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I think he knows that Obama is a lame duck and that he’s simply waiting to see what the new administration will bring. In the mean time he gets an opportunity to appear magnanimous and paint himself as “the adult in the room” and form what I’ve been able to glean from Russian language media that is precisely what he’s been doing. As far as I’m concerned this is further evidence that Putin is far more competent and astute than our own political class gives him credit for.

        TL, DR: I agree with your assessment

      • Antistotle says:

        > …this makes Obama look both petty and mean, kicking out people in a fit of pique …

        Which is pretty accurate.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I wasn’t going to say it but…

        • wintermute92 says:

          Particularly since he knows Trump won’t be continuing his policies here. As part of a larger Cold War II (Cold War Harder) strategy, it might be justified. But as a one-off tantrum that he already knows won’t see any follow-through?

          That just looks sad.

      • wintermute92 says:

        Sure: I think Putin won this one bigtime.

        First, inaction helps build the “we didn’t do nothing” narrative. A diplomatic catfight makes everyone look guilty, while this helps him cast America as paranoid and dishonest.

        Second, it’s a pretty clear moral win. These diplomats weren’t being accused of meaningful spying or cyber-ops, they just got kicked out because doing that to diplomats is a way to show you’re angry at someone. Not responding makes the whole thing look petty and sordid.

        Third, I think Putin’s responses have been clearly enabled by Trump’s victory. If the fight is going to escalate indefinitely, refusing to engage makes you look weak and forces you into a reactive role. But it’s not: in ~2 weeks, Trump takes office and Cold War diplomacy goes out the window. I don’t especially think that’s a good thing, but I do think it makes this a case of the American policy establishment “getting in one last dig”, which will achieve absolutely nothing.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Obama gave Putin the rare chance to look like the bigger man, and Putin rather gleefully took it.

        It’s not that this makes Obama look petty and mean; Obama did that himself. I can’t imagine what he expected to accomplish; there’s no possible positive outcome I can come up with. The only thing I can think of is it’s a version of Sarah Hoyt’s “roll left and die”; Obama was making gestures to signal to people on his side domestically that he’s still with them, either because he thinks it will help his “legacy” or get him better speaking engagements or something.

        (however, just because someone’s a chef doesn’t mean he’s not a spy; he could even be a commando as well
        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105690/ )

      • gbdub says:

        Expelling the diplomats seems especially petty, because otherwise it is laughably weak.

        If we actually have a smoking gun that the Russian government conspired to alter the outcome of our presidential action, then this is a pointless underreaction.

        If we don’t (which seems increasingly likely, given we’ve still heard nothing but anonymous leaks from the CIA), then it’s a tantrum.

        Either way, Putin can just smile and do nothing – we’ve already admitted we’re either helpless or childish.

  43. Bugmaster says:

    I realize this may be an ignorant question, but:

    What specific economic policy measures could our government implement in order to prevent companies from moving jobs to Mexico — without creating too many negative side effects ? Assuming, of course, that companies are moving those jobs because this is the most efficient way to do business, and not because they hate America or something.

    As for Batman:

    What’s your best option? Maybe you could to donate money to law-enforcement, or after-school programs for at-risk teens, or urban renewal…

    I can sort of see Batman’s point of view, though. Presumably, all of these techniques have been tried in Gotham already. You donate money to law enforcement, but the corrupt police force just pockets it and keeps going. You create after-school programs for at-risk teens, but most of that money ends up stuck in administrative costs, and there’s no clear way to measure success of such programs in any case. You invent lots of new police tactics and security systems, and tomorrow Falcone is using them to secure his warehouses against Maroni. You make lots of press conferences intended to shame the government into action, but they have no shame, so there’s no action; and besides, on paper, your justice system is already super-efficient anyway.

    So, you can keep doing all that until you run out of time and money; or, you can dress up as a bat, and start punching people in the face until you can punch your way up all the way to the people who actually make the decisions. You will never stem the tide of endemic corruption, but perhaps you’d at least get to steer it a little…

    • hlynkacg says:

      …and If you’re lucky you become a symbol that the people don’t have to be afraid of the villains. People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy. A man can be ignored or destroyed but a symbol…

    • Buckyballas says:

      What specific economic policy measures could our government implement in order to prevent companies from moving jobs to Mexico — without creating too many negative side effects ?

      It depends on how many negative side effects are “too many”. Nearly all economic policy changes will create winners and losers. Even if some policy achieved the goal you suggest, there would ipso facto be fewer jobs in Mexico, which is a negative side effect if you happen to live in Mexico.

      However, for your information, some ideas that are currently being debated are a tax deduction for domestic production (e.g. the Domestic Production Activities Deduction) and modifying our corporate tax system to tax where the sales are made rather than where the profits are made (a “destination based cash flow tax”). I am no expert, but I think the idea is that American companies will no longer be incentivized to keep their profits overseas and more likely to invest those profits at home (please correct me someone if this is a bit off). Both seem like they would slightly change the calculation on whether or not to “move jobs to Mexico”. The GOP would like to get rid of the former (too bureaucratic and ripe for abuse) and replace it with the latter. I am not really qualified to judge the downsides of the latter, and would be interested in the analysis of a more economics-inclined contributor.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Right, I’ve heard the former idea, but to me it sounds like a hack. This hack could work in the short term, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a stable solution.

        The second idea has been floating around for ages, IIRC; is there a reason that no one had tried it ? Or, if some other countries had tried it, do we have any data regarding the outcome ?

        • Mouth says:

          Let me google copy and paste the link above for you.

          “destination based cash flow tax”

          • Bugmaster says:

            Yeah, I skimmed the link originally, but I was looking for something like, “Finland implemented this model and we are 85% confident that this resulted in a 1% GDP improvement” or something like that, not just an explanation of the proposal.

        • Fossegrimen says:

          I think the main thing with the second idea is to repeal the repatriation tax. The repatriation tax is uniquely American and afaik was introduced by FDR to prevent people moving gold abroad during the depression. (My source on the introduction bit is weak and I’m really curious if it’s correct, so please correct me if possible.)

          The way it works is that if I am a major manufacturer and earn money abroad, I will have to pay 35% tax when I move the money to the US.

          This means that if I have a billion sitting in Ugland House and I want to build a factory, I can build it in Mexico and get a billion worth of factory, or I can build it in Texas and get 650 million worth of factory.

          I can’t see any substantial negative effects of just removing the tax. It doesn’t bring in substantial revenue, since companies just let the money sit abroad forever and if they desperately need cash in the US, they can just borrow against the cash held abroad. Removing it would make all investments in the US from foreign money more profitable.
          (and it is enough money that it could make a difference by being invested in the US, currently about 2.5 trillion)

          Whether Trump does something about this is my main criteria for whether he means what he says or not.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      What specific economic policy measures could our government implement in order to prevent companies from moving jobs to Mexico — without creating too many negative side effects ?

      An axe to the minimum wage?

      Depends on what you consider “too many” and “negative side effects”.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Depends on what you consider “too many” and “negative side effects”.

        If our ultimate objective is to improve the economy and decrease unemployment in order to maximize quality of life; and our solution ends up harming the economy, employment, or directly reducing quality of life; then I’d say it had too many negative side effects — despite being nominally effective at its stated goal (preventing some jobs from moving overseas).

        An axe to the minimum wage?

        What does this mean ?

        • ashlael says:

          He means cutting the minimum wage drastically, to reduce labor costs in the USA and encourage firms to continue producing there.

      • shakeddown says:

        An axe to the minimum wage?

        Would that even have a meaningful effect? We’re pretty near full employment right now as it is, and part of the point of factory jobs is that they’re generally pretty well above minimum wage, so I don’t see how it would have a significant effect.

        • Antistotle says:

          https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000

          https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000

          The unemployment rate is understated by a small, but significant amount.

          Gallup does this, but I don’t know the numerical validity:

          http://www.gallup.com/poll/189068/bls-unemployment-seasonally-adjusted.aspx

          Where some of the workers have gone:

          https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/dibGraphs.html

          http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/04/08/after-decades-of-decline-a-rise-in-stay-at-home-mothers/
          http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/06/05/growing-number-of-dads-home-with-the-kids/
          (I think that overall having a stay-at-home parent is good for the family and the children, and generally if it’s the least-significant-breadwinner staying home it’s not a huge impact on family finances)

          So no, we’re not at “near full employment”. There are a lot of people who are either un-employed who could be employed, or under employed.

          However I strongly suspect that minimum wage being lowered won’t help create jobs now, it will just prevent losing jobs later.

          Note that this is distinct from *raising* the minimum wage by any significant amount (in a given year) which WILL drive entry/subsistence level jobs out.

          • Bugmaster says:

            If we lower the minimum wage, what happens to people who are currently barely scraping by on their minimum-wage jobs ? I can foresee some options, but I don’t know their likelihoods:
            * The markets (housing/food/medical/transportation) adjust to accommodate the lower purchasing capacity of such consumers, so nothing much changes
            * These people end up homeless and on the streets, thus straining our public service budgets even further (also, maybe they’ll die off eventually, and the problem will take care of itself)
            * Nothing much, people with jobs can always scrape by, even on lower wages (by cutting out frivolous expenses, say)
            * We implement some other solution to take care of those people (but if so, what solution ?)
            * These people leave the country for better life elsewhere
            * Revolution ! (ok, I admit, this one is pretty unlikely)

          • Skivverus says:

            If we lower the minimum wage, what happens to people who are currently barely scraping by on their minimum-wage jobs ?

            Don’t think I saw this listed in your options, but what about “they keep the wages they had before the law changed; those wages just happen not to be ‘minimum’ anymore”?
            Horribly optimistic, I know. Though you could probably temper that by noting that they’d have to watch out for pay cuts (as opposed to just getting fired).

          • Randy M says:

            We don’t do pay cuts, we do “Don’t have enough to give you a cost of living increase this year.” I’ve been told here that inflation is a virtue because average people won’t see this as a pay cut. Combating sticky-wages.

        • quanta413 says:

          We have low unemployment; considering how people who aren’t searching for jobs don’t count as unemployed and part-time is still employed I don’t think “we’re near full employment” follows. Especially considering unemployment is high variable by group.

          On the other hand, I also don’t buy that axing the minimum wage would necessarily have a meaningful effect (in the short term). Too much stickiness in people’s behavior.

    • Brad says:

      What specific economic policy measures could our government implement in order to prevent companies from moving jobs to Mexico — without creating too many negative side effects ?

      I’m not a libertarian but I’ve been influenced by libertarian thought enough that talking about a job or jobs as if they were an entitlement or a piece of property that someone owns rather than ongoing voluntary exchange seems somewhat strange to me.

      It’s unfortunate that at least in the places I’ve been reading libertarians have chosen to keep whatever opinions they have about protectionism to themselves for the sake of their alliance with conservatives.

      • Jiro says:

        The problem is that we don’t control the government of Mexico, but the government of Mexico, by controlling Mexico’s economy, can create incentives which affect how Mexicans and companies act, which in turn affects us. Just because the final step of the process (the activity of the Mexicans and the companies) is voluntary doesn’t mean that the whole process is.

        • Brad says:

          Spell it out. This manipulation which you write about so darkly, if it exists, amounts to allowing U.S. entities including consumers to get goods and services for less than they otherwise could have. In other words the allegation is Mexican government is subsidizing U.S. consumption.

          That doesn’t exactly sound hostile until and unless you buy into this “our jobs” framework wherein a job is something that is yours, to have and to hold forever and ever amen, rather than an ongoing, and ultimately contingent, trade of value for value.

          It’s remarkable to hear Republicans sound like Wobblies. Like I’m living in a Twilight Zone episode. I’d think it’d be even stranger for self professed libertarians, but apparently not.

          • Jiro says:

            No manipulation is needed. Ordinary self-interested policies and ordinary incompetence will do it.

            Mexico’s government doesn’t need to be in a consipracy in order to have lots of poor people and otherwise make it attractive for companies to move to Mexico and Meicans to move to the US. It just needs to act as a lousy government.

          • albertborrow says:

            I don’t think the idea is that America strictly possesses those jobs – rather, the idea is that the companies that create those jobs possess them, and it is their fault for taking things overseas.

      • Antistotle says:

        Where is that?

        Because most of the Libertarian stuff *I* have read has been pretty anti-protectionism as just bad policy.

        This is distinct from creating a business friendly climate here in the US, which is not protectionism, or taking the position (which I do) that our policy towards a foreign state should mirror that state’s position on us (for example if Elbonia were to slap a 100 percent tariff on American Lefthanded De-frobinators, we should put a 100 percent tariff on vertically polarized geegaws).

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        It’s unfortunate that at least in the places I’ve been reading libertarians have chosen to keep whatever opinions they have about protectionism to themselves for the sake of their alliance with conservatives.

        I mean, as far as Libertarianism on the internet goes, you can’t get more mainstream than Reason, and I sure don’t get that vibe from them at all.

      • Adam says:

        I haven’t, but frankly, I feel like a bit of a pioneer on when I gave up on ever having a real alliance with conservatives. Not that I expect one with liberals either by any stretch. All I really care about at this point is continued tech progress and the costs of large-scale war outweighing the benefits enough to keep it from happening. We’ll wring our hands at distribution changes in perceived status, but mostly be fine. I guess it’s easy for me to say because I’ll almost certainly be fine regardless of what the government does or doesn’t do. I’m not on any particular margin.

        It is disappointing to see in my friend group, even more the support for immigration restrictions than trade restrictions, but Trump is a blip. He’s not a watershed like people are acting. He has historically low approval and won with the largest margin of defeat anyone has ever won an election with. He’s not representative of our country. He won because we have a bizarre way of selecting presidents that no other country uses and the majority who don’t support him cluster too tightly in a small number of places that have their votes underweighted because of a compromise we had to make 250 years ago to get slave states to sign the constitution. Sometimes a thing you need to do that seems fine at the time comes back to bite you in the ass.

        That said, if all he does is get rid of the repatriation tax and corporate tax or just lowers it, I’d totally support that, but also don’t think it will make much of a difference in terms of saving or creating middle class jobs for uneducated workers in single-industry towns or whatever it is the fabled white working class is supposed to want. Americans are never going to be the best bet for low-skilled labor and human labor is going to become increasingly less necessary to build anything anyway, independently of anything the government does. Trump can put band aids on a couple hundred people every now and again, but he can’t stop this. Even with drastic tariffs, manufacturing jobs still moved and will continue to move from the rust belt to the American south anyway and coal/steel country is done in the long run. I’m sure it sucks to live there and be told there isn’t shit we can do for you, but oh well. Gold rush boomtowns are now ghost towns. It happens. My grandparents had to move to Los Angeles and now their grandkid is an engineer, not a factory worker. Join the club. Your grandkids might be service workers, creative, artisans, god knows what in 2050, but they aren’t going to be earning above median salary plus a pension to pull coal out of the ground.

      • Spookykou says:

        Huh, this seems to be assuming that ‘property rights’ are some sort of real or true right that are fundamentally different from say, the right to have a job.

        Could you explain where this right to own property comes from?

        • BourbonWaltz says:

          The right to property comes from the right to self-ownership.
          It is a right to the fruits of your labor.

          The entitlement of a job is the entitlement to confiscate someone else’s property against their will.

          They are opposites

          • Spookykou says:

            I guess I was not clear.

            I was not asking for a, rather inventive, ‘origin of rights’.

            Rather I was calling into question the common and, to my mind, some what strange assumption that property rights are somehow elevated above all other rights for no apparent reason.

            I know at first blush ‘right to the fruits of your labor’ sounds all noble and proper and ‘right to steal’ doesn’t, but that is just a matter of preference.

            To put a finer point on it, ‘right to the fruits of your labor’ is largely meaningless without ‘right to the shit I need to apply labor to in order to produce fruit’ and by the time you get to that right, you have lost all semblance of profound human truth.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            “To put a finer point on it, ‘right to the fruits of your labor’ is largely meaningless without ‘right to the shit I need to apply labor to in order to produce fruit’ ”

            If what you make has value beyond the “shit” you need, you create property and that is what you own. You do not own said shit without paying for it. If your labor uses “shit” whose value is less than the product of your labors, then you have not created property, you’ve only stolen “shit” (or lost money), and you do not own anything.

          • Spookykou says:

            Edit: Removed snarky comment

            Imagine a hypothetical prehistoric man, comes across a fine looking tree, he cuts the tree down and carves some nice wooden sticks out of the tree.

            What right did he have to the tree?

            None.

            What right does he have to the sticks he made out of the tree?

            Does he have property rights? Why?

            Lets move forward in time, a man owns the forest that the tree is in this time.

            Another man comes along and wants to cut down a tree to make some sticks. He will need to pay one money to get the tree, should he pay the money?

            How did the other man come to own the forest? Was he just the first person to say that the forest belonged to him, or was he the first person to be able to enforce his claim on the forest?

            The divinity of property rights.

            If I buy a tree from his forest, that he didn’t really own, do I then really own the tree, in any meaningful way?

            Property rights are just the extent to which you can extend your will to claim things around you and defend them. Our society insures your property rights because they are useful. If society decided to defend the right to a job, or not, that does not change the fact that your right to a job is just as artificial a construct as your right to property. It is a useful tool for a civilization, or it isn’t. It is not a grand universal truth.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            You are putting words in my mouth. I never claimed that property rights are elevated above other rights. You also didn’t ask for some universal truth.

            You only asked the difference between property rights and the “right” to a job. I responded that one is a protection from coercion and the other is a license to coerce.

            With your tree analogy you appear to claim that all property rights come from a 1st coercive act (the taking of the tree) and are therefore just as coercive as the entitlement to a job? The entitled job creates no net positive because no one wants the product of the job. The work that results in property creates a net positive by definition: someone makes sticks because sticks have value. This is a fundamental difference.

            In a world full of trees, why do some prehistoric men lay claim to unclaimed trees and others do not? You claim that they simply are able to enforce their claim…. I claim that the prehistoric man who takes that 1st tree recognizes that it can be converted into sticks while others do not. There is no coercive act involved, because the tree is not of value to anyone yet, as it is unclaimed. Years later, that 1st insight has been built on with the ability to create a process for stick making, a stick making factory and a distribution network.
            The man has property because he made sticks out of trees and was able to make them in such a way as to create tremendous value, not because he took a tree. The origin of his property right is not the tree, it is in the ability to turn the tree into sticks.

            He did in fact build that.

            Or if you prefer, another important distinction: without a man owning the forest the tribe would end up with no trees (see tragedy of the commons), so there is an overall economic positive. Job entitlement has no such net positive.

          • Spookykou says:

            Huh, this seems to be assuming that ‘property rights’ are some sort of real or true right that are fundamentally different from say, the right to have a job.

            I guess real or true are not technically the same as universal…

            I am not sure, given you start with the comment about universal truth, if you actually disagree with me at this point or not?

            In the event that you do.

            You seem to think that the trees thing is about theft, but it isn’t, theft is still just implying ownership. There is no mechanism by which anyone can have a ‘right’ to anything, rights are constructs enforced on the world, not properties of it. We decided what rights we wanted to protect, and we protected them. Property rights are not ‘special’ in some fundamental way.

          • Jiro says:

            Imagine a hypothetical prehistoric man, comes across a fine looking tree, he cuts the tree down and carves some nice wooden sticks out of the tree.

            If the tree is unowned by anyone, then he gets to own the sticks. You’ll need some rule about distributing unowned property (if he carves a branch, does he get the branch only or does he get the whole tree?)

            If the tree is owned by someone, you need some rule about how to distribute ownership in the result (If I steal your pencil and use it to write a million dollar novel, you don’t get the million dollars).

            But in neither case does exactly what you use for the rule affect any conclusion you want to make about property ownership in general.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            “I am not sure, given you start with the comment about universal truth, if you actually disagree with me at this point or not?”

            Yes I certainly disagree. I make a distinction between a natural right and a legal right that you are missing. There is no such thing as a natural right to a job.

            “There is no mechanism by which anyone can have a ‘right’ to anything”

            Yes there is. But I will grant you that you have to begin from an axiom: the right to your life is a natural right. The mechanism for a right to property is labor: part of a person’s life is used to produce the property. If the person owns their life they own the product of their labor.

            What is the mechanism for the “right” to a job? In fact, what exactly do you mean by a “right” to a job? Do you mean (a) individuals have the right to earn a living by selling their labor, or do you mean (b) individuals have the right to a portion of someone else’s production?

            “We decided what rights we wanted to protect, and we protected them. Property rights are not ‘special’ in some fundamental way.”

            Property rights are not more special than other natural rights, such as the right to life, etc.

            Is your claim that we arbitrarily (culturally) decided that we own the production of our labor?

            That we arbitrarily decided that the right to life is a right?

            That we could just as easily have decided everyone has a right to a pedicure once a week, or to kill every third person they come across?

            Do you claim that human nature is culturally constructed or doesn’t exist?

            Dogs growl when you take their bone and toddlers cry when you take their toys. Both have an innate sense of property. We have to use culture to teach them to share.

            If you answer just one question, answer this:
            Can you explain to me where the right to not be murdered (or enslaved) comes from, and how is it fundamentally different from the right to a job, if it is at all?

          • Spookykou says:

            Just because it is culturally/socially derived doesn’t mean it is arbitrary.

            I am not trying to say that a right to property is not a useful right, I think it is a very natural growth from the needs of society, couldn’t be farther from arbitrary.

            My whole complaint is the assumption implicit in Brad’s comment that the right to property is better implicitly, or is more true, implicitly.

            He is not trying to argue that a right to work or a right to a job is less useful than a right to property, he is saying that a right to property is a ‘real’ right and a right to a job isn’t. But this distinction is totally artificial, there are no real rights, just more or less useful rights that get codified into law or norms of society.

            Societies then tend to maintain the right to infringe on your rights if they feel they need to, even your right to life isn’t safe. If you want to define some rights as more or less natural, that is fine, but not really useful, because it relies heavily on where we are in time. It might be that the right to work becomes a codified right that naturally arises from automation in a way that killing every third person never would, we don’t know yet how natural any new right might be, but we can probably assume it isn’t totally unnatural, if people are seriously considering it.

            If you want to argue that a right to work or a right to a job is less functional than a right to property go ahead, but that is an argument on the merits of the right you want to protect, not an argument based on the deontological truth of property rights.

        • Brad says:

          Could you explain where this right to own property comes from?

          No. I decline to be diverted into a discussion of what ‘is’ is.

    • cassander says:

      >What specific economic policy measures could our government implement in order to prevent companies from moving jobs to Mexico — without creating too many negative side effects ? Assuming, of course, that companies are moving those jobs because this is the most efficient way to do business, and not because they hate America or something.

      You move to Mexico because Mexican while Mexican workers are less productive, they also cost less, so the numbers work out. The solution is whatever you think will lower the cost of production in the US without hurting productivity. The red answer is get rid of bad labor laws, excessive regulation, high taxes, the blue is better education, healthcare reform, and a third thing.

    • Nicholas Carter says:

      There’s only one thing I’m aware of that actually would affect that too terribly:
      You create the five-year prison sentence for corporations.
      If it is determined that a corporation is employing (or an onsite vendor of the corporation is employing) undocumented workers or that the company has moved jobs out of the United States, on the first offense it is now illegal for a period of five years to buy, sell, or disburse a dividend on stocks, bonds, or credit vehicles of that company. During this period, it is considered Securities and Accounting Fraud to report the value of these holdings as anything other than $0.
      If there is a second offense in the five year period, the company is entered into Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings against the Federal Government, which liquidates the company.

  44. I think you are correct about what he is doing. It’s worth noting that this is one example of a much more general approach to PR.

    The climate version appears on both sides of the fence. Any time something bad happens due to weather, post a big story implying that it is due to global warming. I quite recently, in a FB exchange, had someone quote a chunk of the IPCC report about bad things due to extreme weather–pretty clearly without noticing that there was no claim that the particular extreme weather causing those things was due to AGW. On the other side, any time the weather is unusually cold, put up a story implying that it shows that AGW is bunk. When research shows arctic ice surprisingly low, one side trumpets it, when it shows antarctic ice surprisingly high, the other side does.

    As I like to put it, everyone agrees that weather is not climate, half the people when the weather is hot, half when it is cold.

    In the climate case, you at least get some balance because people on both sides are using the same strategy. I’m not sure how that plays out with Trump. Are there equally effective bits of news that can be trumpeted by his opponents as evidence he is doing a bad job? Short of Russia invading the Baltics, which very likely would be his fault, I can’t think of any.

    • yodelyak says:

      Does this become a case of you-break-it-you-own-it?

      What if blue-tribe-land finds small and mid-size businesses and sends them to the Drumpf transition webpage, to post requests to please re-negotiate their business obligations or tax burdens so they can stay in business? One of the hazards of being a monarch is that when a citizen petitions for relief from a problem, you really do have the power to solve the problem for them. Just not all of them.

  45. johnmcg says:

    It seems this is a converse of the narrative problem economic conservatism has versus liberalism, in general.

    Economic liberalism generally has an appealing narrative — this sympathetic person didn’t have health care coverage before; she does now. If you have a debate, and one person shows up with that story, an another person shows up with a spreadsheet showing that overall costs are going up, the person with the story is going to win. (Which is why I don’t think we’ll see a real repeal of ACA). The beneficiaries of liberal economic policy have names and faces; the negative impact is nebulous and diffuse.

    Somehow this has shifted. Trump supporters were saying that things were getting worse, and liberals were responding with charts and graphs about how awesome everything was.

    There’s a whole comic book franchise around Batman, not so many about technocrats. Even in business, someone like Trump with a decidedly mixed record is who we elected president instead of any number of business leaders with more generally impressive records.

    So, I don’t think the narrative will be countered by charts and spreadsheets, or “one map that explains” or calling those unconvinced by these tools stupid. There’s probably going to have to be a compelling counter-narrative.

    • albertborrow says:

      You may not be cognizant of the left-wing economic narrative, but it’s always been there. Regulating economy and slapping down big business has been a meme for as long as there has been capitalism. If you’re arguing for an incoherent, anecdotal narrative about the left side of the economy, look no further than the fear mongering about oppressive mega-corporations. If you think Batman is somehow indicative of a pro-laissez faire narrative, and that the right’s opinion is more prevalent, look no further than, say, Robocop. Or the Terminator movies. Or any number of works written by poor, starving students of literature.

      There is already a compelling counter narrative – a narrative that has moved mountains ever since Sinclair’s The Jungle. It isn’t personal, anecdotal narrative that swung this election – or, if it was, you’re not going to be able to swing back by escalating that narrative further.

  46. eighty-six twenty-three says:

    I’ve always thought of Trump as someone who specifically does *not* repay favors.
    For example, he’s known for not paying his contractors on the grounds that he “didn’t like their work”.

    Arguably many companies will still try to do him favors, on the grounds that a 50% or 25% or 10% chance that Trump will pay them back is still worth the effort.

    • The Nybbler says:

      For example, he’s known for not paying his contractors on the grounds that he “didn’t like their work”.

      That was said during his campaign, but since he’s clearly been able to continue operating (rather than having everyone refuse to do business with him), I suspect it’s exaggeration. Most likely he _usually_ pays up and _usually_ repays favors. Perhaps he’s even estimated the optimal amount of betrayal he should engage in, on the theory that if you’re too honest, people might think you’re a pushover.

      https://xkcd.com/325/

      • Matt M says:

        Also, refusing to pay a vendor is not really the same as “repaying a favor.” Vendors aren’t doing him a favor. That’s a business relationship and Trump has never shied away from the fact that he sees business as a zero-sum competition with winners and losers.

        For the record, ANY company who thought they could short-change a vendor without suffering any serious legal or PR penalties would absolutely 100% do it.

        • Randy M says:

          I think there are plenty of independent contractors or small businesses that wouldn’t, but once you get beyond that level, most likely. This is also the kind of thing that’s more easily moved at the margins by culture than law.

  47. In many of the versions of the Batman mythos (comics, movies, TV, etc.), Bruce Wayne and his corporations and foundations do engage in a good deal of philanthropy, however. The bat-costume stuff might just be a hobby of his.

  48. notacc says:

    (Reader for some months, first time commenter here)

    I’d like to offer a bit of a different viewpoint on these tactics and the Trump presidency as a whole that perhaps helps a few readers see current events from a slightly different perspective.

    The main points I’d like to suggest:
    1. The incoming government is not particularly reliant on Trump and does not exist because of Trump.

    The evidence for this: since the Citizens United verdict changed campaign financing in the United States, the Republican / conservative parties have dominated 3/4 of the past national elections – 2010, 2014, and 2016. It is entirely possible that the only reason the Democrats held on in 2012 is because of an unusually skilled national politician (Barack Obama, his GOTV campaign, and his ability to get African-Americans to the polls) combined with a Republican presidential candidate that had unusually low appeal to blue dog working-class democrats.

    Combined with the fact that Trump seems to have had not much of a coattails effect (perhaps with the exception of helping Pat Toomey hang on to his senate seat in PA), clearly had a negative effect on Republican fund-raising efforts, and that other Republican candidates often polled better than him in early head-to-head polls with Hillary Clinton, it seems highly likely that we were in for yet another conservative wave year at all levels of government.

    In other words, in a slightly different world, it could easily have been President-elect Kasich or President-elect Rubio, and we’d be stuck in a similar situation, merely minus the (a) effect of empowering racists / nationalists unique to Trump, and (b) the low but worrisome chances that Donald Trump will do “truly unhinged” things while President.

    2. However, with the rise of Trump, the right wing capitalist class has found a narrative that “works” at cementing their control better than any in the recent past.

    Trump is no outsider – as a multi-billionaire who made money in real estate and media, and with close friends and connections at the top of real estate, the media, and politics, he is a better example of any meaningful definition of “the establishment” than any DC politician. However, he has been successfully cast as such, and this has helped cement the control the “establishment” (the hyper-capitalist class, a government that works for them more often than against them, and their political allies) now has over every branch of government. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Trump’s proposed cabinet, which is essentially a team of capitalist millionaires, billionaires, and lawyers who have largely opposed the government programs they are now in charge of. While government law and lawmakers already significantly favored and allied with these people, the proposed administration has the direct appearance of being a quite blatant capitalist take-over of the executive branch.

    3. There is another enormous payoff for these companies in supporting these Trump-esque political shows that makes them even more likely to continue.

    This final point is an important aspect to understanding the current political environment that I think Scott has ignored. There is another enormous incentive for these deals to continue: if they are popular, they help keep the current capitalist-class government in power, allowing it to continue to follow through on their plans to deregulate dozens of industries, lower taxes for the uber-wealthy, and decimate the power and rights of labor, workers, and environmental protections. The plans for doing these things that the incoming administration has already outlined are unprecedented, and even if they are only able to follow through on a few of these plans, the benefits to corporate America and the corresponding losses for workers and the environment will be enormous.

    Even if the direct quid-pro-quo corporate benefits and positive press from deals like the Ford or Carrier deal didn’t pay off the meager corporate losses from keeping a couple hundred jobs in the US, the true corporate benefits come in the form of keeping a hyper-capitalist government in control and all of the deregulation corporate welfare that will result from that. Dismantling protections for and rights of workers and the environment is the end goal of this corporate administration and it is likely that these shows exist to help keep them in control to achieve these goals as long as possible.

    4. (Edit) A final point that offers some hope – I’m not sure that there is yet evidence that the working class will buy into these shams and similar Trump PR. In general, I believe the working class is much more intelligent than professionals/intellectuals (and odd-ball racist quacks like Scott Adams) often give them credit for. Working Americans are entirely capable of understanding that 700 jobs is a worthless sham of a deal; they are often unionized and rely on and understand the importance of existing labor rights; their kids go to local public schools and they want those to be as good as possible. Most of the evidence that people will continue to buy into the Trump administration, even as it acts directly against their interests, is reliant on pseudo-scientific abuse of psychology and quakery in the vein of Scott Adams, or a nonchalant disdain for working class people that probably put us in this political position to begin with.

    • cassander says:

      >The evidence for this: since the Citizens United verdict changed campaign financing in the United States, the Republican / conservative parties have dominated 3/4 of the past national elections – 2010, 2014, and 2016.

      Citizens united changed campaign financing…..by more striking down one aspect of the BPCRA and returning the law to where it was in 2002. Unless you think 2004-10 was some golden period of american democracy, this doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

      >Trump is no outsider – as a multi-billionaire who made money in real estate and media, and with close friends and connections at the top of real estate, the media, and politics, he is a better example of any meaningful definition of “the establishment” than any DC politician.

      In New York, maybe. But he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous.

      >clearly had a negative effect on Republican fund-raising efforts, and that other Republican candidates often polled better than him in early head-to-head polls with Hillary Clinton, it seems highly likely that we were in for yet another conservative wave year at all levels of government.

      Wait, which is it? Are republican donations up or down?

      >2. However, with the rise of Trump, the right wing capitalist class has found a narrative that “works” at cementing their control better than any in the recent past.

      That you think such a thing exists, or that trump is anything like some sort of hyper-capitalist, is further proof of a fundamental unwillingness to actually examine what the other side is thinking.

      >the hyper-capitalist class, a government that works for them more often than against them, and their political allies)

      and this cements it. Hyper capitalists working with governments!

      you claim to have been reading here for months. Have you read none of the arguments the many right wing commentators have made that are not the caricatures you address here? If you haven’t, why not? If you have, why did you not address them rather than these fantasies?

      Our shtick here is trying to make good faith efforts to understand the arguments our ideological opponents make, to steelman them, not strawman them. You appear to have made zero effort to do that.

      • herbert herberson says:

        For a self-appointed epistemological gatekeeper, you’re really twisting notacc’s words. He didn’t say Trump was part of the “DC establishment,” the conflict you see between your first and third grafs can easily be understood as the difference between soft-money and direct donations to the Republican party/politicians (not to necessarily endorse the Citizens-United-is-the-Root-of-all-Evil framing, but that’s actually secondary to the larger point), and the whole second half of your post is so dependent on your own assumptions that I can’t even tell what exactly it is that you find so ridiculous (although I do appreciate you editing out the part where you outright told him to go away)

        • cassander says:

          >For a self-appointed epistemological gatekeeper, you’re really twisting notacc’s words. He didn’t say Trump was part of the “DC establishment,”

          He said, “he is a better example of any meaningful definition of “the establishment” than any DC politician. ” I’m taking establishment and insider to be more or less equivalent here, do you dispute that assertion?

          >first and third grafs can easily be understood as the difference between soft-money and direct donations to the Republican party/politicians

          Well first, I disagree that there’s a much of a meaningful difference (in terms of buying influence) between soft money donations and donations to “third party” entities. But even if you accept that there is, the fact is that corporate entities could make unlimited donations to third party organizations prior to the BPCRA, they chose not to, presumably because they preferred giving soft money. So even if we accept that there’s a difference, the practice is still more restricted than in the past.

          >and the whole second half of your post is so dependent on your own assumptions

          Pointing out that he’s addressing left wing caricatures instead of actual arguments in no way depends on my assumptions. You don’t even debate the point.

          • herbert herberson says:

            As to the first part–I don’t know where insider comes into play. He’s saying a NYC billionaire is more of an establishment figure than a DC politician, and you’re replying with “But he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous.” That phrase doesn’t appear in the post you’re responding to. Reasonable minds can differ on whether Trump’s wealth makes him as much a part of the establishment as a politician, but you’re not differing, you’re putting words he didn’t say in his mouth and saying it makes him ridiculous.

            As to the second part, I don’t debate the point because you’re not making one. You’re Jon Stewarting–simply repeating what he says as if it is self-evidently absurd… apparently because you think he’s talking about the motivations of regular people on the right instead of a small section of high-level elites

            Neither of those alone would have been enough to make me comment, but doing it in a post where you accused him of doing the same sort of thing got my eyes rolling (particularly when combined with the part you edited out).

          • Spookykou says:

            ‘Trump is no outsider’ is I imagine, a reference to the popular campaign message that Trump is not a DC insider, I don’t think cassander is being unfair in assuming that is what OP meant.

            I am inclined to agree with cassander here, I think there is an important difference between ‘wealthy business class’ and ‘political class’ and being one does not make you the other.

          • herbert herberson says:

            @Spookykou It’s entirely reasonable to think what you do in the second paragraph, but it’s entirely unfair to put facially absurd words into someone’s mouth when they didn’t say them and call them ridiculous for saying the things they didn’t say.

            And, most of all, it’s ironic to accuse someone of being in a bubble when you yourself are so far in a bubble that you hallucinate words that aren’t there by virtue of not comprehending a fairly clear and simple restatement of a commonplace position held by one’s political opponents (i.e., that the capital-E-establishment is more characterized by the extremely wealthy than by politicians)

          • Spookykou says:

            I take that to mean you disagree with my first paragraph.

            I am not sure what bubble I need to belong to or not belong to, in order to draw a, in my opinion, reasonable connection between ‘Trump is no outsider’ and the fact that one of Trumps campaign slogans was functionally ‘Trump is an outsider’.

            Trump uses the phrase ‘Drain the Swamp’ as I understand it, to refer to the political corruption he feels has taken hold of the American government. DC insider is, as I understand it, a common idiom to refer to the exact kind of corrupt politicians that Trump is referring to in his ‘Drain the Swamp’ slogan.

            Taking all of the above, when notacc says that ‘Trump is not an outsider’ because Trump is a Hyper mega Capitalist, they seem to be(see above for my bias) conflating the concepts of a corrupt political oligarchy with a corrupt economic oligarchy. *edit* oops

            Ignoring for a second the reality of those two groups, conflating them into the same group is, in my opinion(and I imagine cassanders) wrong. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is obviously ridiculous, but I also don’t think cassander is being obviously ridiculous(what you seem to be going for) by stretching wrong to obviously ridiculous.

            Basically, do y’all got any more of that charity?

          • herbert herberson says:

            I feel like I’m living in crazy town? All I object to is that one guy said:

            “Trump is no outsider – as a multi-billionaire who made money in real estate and media, and with close friends and connections at the top of real estate, the media, and politics, he is a better example of any meaningful definition of “the establishment” than any DC politician.”

            and another guy replied:

            “In New York, maybe. But he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous.”

            One guy said: “He’s an A, and that makes him more of a B than any C”
            The other guy said, “He’s not a C, and claiming he is makes you look ridiculous.” I object to this because the first guy very specifically, and I thought clearly, state that Trump was not a C.

            He did, indeed, “conflat[e] the concepts of a corrupt political oligarchy with a corrupt economic oligarchy.” That was his entire point–that thinking those are two separate things is a false dichotomy. You don’t have to agree with it (personally, I do, but you don’t!), but the reply didn’t disagree with it, it twisted it into being practically the opposite, and did it in the context of a condescending post whose main theme was “you shouldn’t mischaracterize your opponents’ views” which originally told the OP to not post here.

          • Spookykou says:

            Well I think I understand where some of the confusion is coming from.

            I read the first quote not as some configuration of A B and C.

            My reading looks more like

            Trump is A, he is very A, he is more A than this other guy you normally think of as A.

            They are conflating ‘not an outsider'(insider) and ‘part of the establishment’, where the establishment is general power brokers, economic leaders, and insider is(at least how I have heard the term used) political leaders and power brokers.

            They are responding to the general campaign claim that Trump is an outsider(political outsider) with ‘Trump is not an outsider(political outsider) because he is part of the establishment(economic insider).

            So taking the above interpretation, when I see you write out,

            As to the first part–I don’t know where insider comes into play. He’s saying a NYC billionaire is more of an establishment figure than a DC politician, and you’re replying with “But he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous.”

            I, first, think you are being uncharitable by insisting that somebody who said ‘not an outsider’ didn’t technically use the word insider.

            You then seem to double down on the fact that they never technically mentioned insider

            but it’s entirely unfair to put facially absurd words into someone’s mouth when they didn’t say them and call them ridiculous for saying the things they didn’t say.

            Second I think Cassander is making the same point that I am making, that Trump being part of the economic establishment is totally irrelevant to the broader political question of Trump being a political insider or not, and claiming that he is shows a fundamentally poor understanding of those terms as they are used in the broader conversation, or, “makes you look ridiculous.”

            I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

          • herbert herberson says:

            It’s certainly an interesting case study in communication errors. I definitely wasn’t trying to parse any distinction between “not an outsider” vs. “insider.” It didn’t even occur to me that that was what you thought, I was just totally confused by that part. And, certainly, as I tried to say, it’s okay to respond to “Trump, as a billionaire, is an insider” with “yeah but he’s not a DC insider and I think that matters” (although I certainly don’t agree). If that’s what cassander was trying to do, though, I think he did it very poorly both on the merits (didn’t give us any reason to distinguish the two) and on pure communication (still can’t read the line “he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous” as anything other than falsely alleging that the OP stated “Trump is a DC insider”)

          • cassander says:

            @herbert

            >(didn’t give us any reason to distinguish the two) and on pure communication (still can’t read the line “he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous” as anything other than falsely alleging that the OP stated “Trump is a DC insider”)

            Let’s review the claim. Trump is no outsider – as a multi-billionaire who made money in real estate and media, and with close friends and connections at the top of real estate, the media, and politics, he is a better example of any meaningful definition of “the establishment” than any DC politician.

            the establishment (which I consider synonymous with insiders) is being defined as people with connections in real estate, media, and politics. I think we can agree that real estate is the least important of these. That leaves media and politics. Trump is unquestionably well connected in the media. He’s definitely well connected in New York politics, but not in DC prior to 6 months ago.

            The connections that one needs to get buildings built in New York are important and powerful, but they aren’t the same connections one needs to affect national policy. The media trump is connected to are the people who make reality TV shows, not capital hill journalists. I stand by my assertions that trump is unquestionably part of the New York establishment, that there’s a difference between that and the national, that distinction is important, and that using his wealth and NY connections to assert his membership in a national establishment is patently silly.

          • herbert herberson says:

            It’s “patently silly” to think that a billionaire who invites former presidents to his wedding and has been a nationally known public figure for 30+ years counts are part of the national establishment? Not just something you disagree with, not just something that is wrong, but something that is self-evidently absurd?

            Bubbles within bubbles, I think. Not everyone sees the clear line between the economic and political spheres that you do–to most of the left, they’re two sides of the same coin. There are millions and millions of people, myself included, who think that way, and the amount of digital ink I apparently had to spill to make that clear is actually kind of startling.

          • cassander says:

            >It’s “patently silly” to think that a billionaire who invites former presidents to his wedding and has been a nationally known public figure for 30+ years counts are part of the national establishment? Not just something you disagree with, not just something that is wrong, but something that is self-evidently absurd?

            fame and celebrity are not power. Neither is wealth. The measure of being an insider is not if you can get an ex-president to come to your wedding, but if a the ex-president invites you to theirs.

      • notacc says:

        >Citizens united changed campaign financing…..by restoring the law to where it was in 2002. Unless you think 2004-8 was some golden period of american democracy, this doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

        No, that’s a highly limited view of the full impact of the decision. While the specific court case was in response to a 2002 law, the ruling was more generally applicable- it made all government restrictions on independent political spending unambiguously illegal. This means that several laws and regulations from different times in American history (1947, 1970s, 1990) were overturned or voided, along with eliminating the chilling effect that being a legal grey area had on independent political spending.

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/jan/22/charles-schumer/campaign-finance-ruling-united-citizens-historical/

        This helped open the door to the huge increases in independent political spending by year that we’ve seen since.

        https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/cycle_tots.php

        Because you were so accusatory towards me of being intellectually dishonest, I feel like it is only fair that I am able to ask you: were you truly unaware of the full effects of the ruling? Should you not spend some time learning more about it before commenting on it further?

        >In New York, maybe. But he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous.

        I wasn’t claiming that he was a “DC insider” – note that I never used that term, and this was for a reason- plenty of people with an enormous impact on political and economic conditions live outside of DC – perhaps even the majority of people with a significant impact on these conditions. It is on the face quite obvious that he was part of a political and economic establishment that is largely responsible for creating many of the economic conditions and many of the political laws of the United States. I don’t think you’ve disproven that by pointing out that he lives in New York.

        >Wait, which is it? Are republican donations up or down?

        In general since 2010, political donations from hypercapitalists have skyrocketed, as can be seen in the data above. (Of course, in order to use the law to their best advantage, labor and environmental advocacy groups have also had to increase spending)

        What I was referring to was that many of the usual right wing players in that scene reduced their usual funding directly because of Trump’s actions:

        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/23/sheldon-adelson-trump-super-pac-donation-25-million
        http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-no-koch-brothers-money-486610

        >That you think such a thing exists, or that trump is anything like some sort of hyper-capitalist, is further proof of a fundamental unwillingness to actually examine what the other side is thinking.

        I don’t particularly think it is unreasonable to believe that there are a number of extremely wealthy people in this country who work with and support to conservative politicians to further capitalist ideology to continue to protect their own wealth and power, and that Donald Trump is one of those people. I’m not quite sure what evidence or links I should provide to support that claim, because it is extraordinarily obvious to me – perhaps you should describe what evidence you’d link to see so you can accept the existence of wealthy people who contribute to self-beneficial capitalist politics?

        >and this cements it. Hyper capitalists working with governments!

        But surely it is obvious that elite capitalists work with government all of the time; again, I can provide numerous examples of this as evidence, but it is so obvious to me that I am not sure what you’re looking for me to provide, so please elaborate on what sorts of evidence would convince you that elite capitalists work with the government. Large industries receive enormous subsidies and tax-breaks from government all of the time; they also consistently lobby for laws and lawmakers that support their own self-interests. They lobby for self-beneficial restrictions on and eliminations of workers rights and environmental protections. They wine-and-dine government officials for contracts and quid-pro-quo arrangements. Donald Trump’s own businesses received enormous support from government and lobbied to change government policies, and closely associated with government officials.

        You were quite brief in your response, and I feel like I’m left to be forced to infer what you’re attempting to say (which I am hesitant to do, because you seem to already be angry at me for what even though I wasn’t responding to you or anyone to begin with!), but perhaps you think that a “true capitalist” eschews the existence of the State, and that all of this “crony-capitalism” is merely corrupt government run amok?

        But why would a good capitalist not want there to be a state that they control? If there was no state, it would be in the immediate and direct interests of elite capitalists to create one and control it as much as possible- to protect their assets, to gain corporate welfare and mandated contracts, to limit the powers of workers to organize, and even to ensure themselves a monopoly, as many industries have done.

        These people I’ve referred to are indeed hyper-capitalists, because they are making significantly more money than they would if they decided to leave the government alone or vouch for its complete elimination!

        >you claim to have been reading here for months. Have you read none of the arguments the many right wing commentators have made that are not the caricatures you address here? If you haven’t, why not? If you have, why did you not address them rather than these fantasies?

        A few things – (a) my post was, as initially stated, to put forth my own views on the subject, not to attack, debunk, or even in any way address someone else’s perspective, which you seem to think I was doing. (b) I honestly don’t believe that you’ve successfully (err, in all honesty, I’m not quite sure what you were attempting to accomplish, but here goes) “debunked” or shown the invalidity of anything I put forth, because you were quite cursory and dismissive in the sort of way that you seem to be so critical of.

        • cassander says:

          >were overturned or voided, along with eliminating the chilling effect that being a legal grey area had on independent political spending.

          You’re actually coming out in favor of government having a chilling effect on speech? Well, at least you’re bold. But you miss the point, prior to 2002, anyone who wanted could donate as much soft money as they wanted, with basically no restrictions.

          >This helped open the door to the huge increases in independent political spending by year that we’ve seen since.

          Spening was increasing by huge amounts every year prior to CU. All CU did was shift that spending from one accounting box to a different accounting box, there’s no evidence it meaningfully changed the amount. And even politifact says that chuck’s claim was mostly false.

          >I wasn’t claiming that he was a “DC insider” – note that I never used that term,

          No, you said “DC establishment”. but feel free to explain how you think insider meaningfully differs from establishment.

          >I don’t think you’ve disproven that by pointing out that he lives in New York.

          I wasn’t talking about where he lived, I was talking about where he was politically connected. I have no doubt he’s very connected in New York, as a real estate dealer he’d have to be. But New York is not DC.

          >Wait, which is it? Are republican donations up or down?

          In general since 2010, political donations from hypercapitalists have skyrocketed, as can be seen in the data above. (Of course, in order to use the law to their best advantage, labor and environmental advocacy groups have also had to increase spending)

          No, you can’t. You have to look at total spending, which has been skyrocketing for decades, and not just cherry picking one category of spending.

          >What I was referring to was that many of the usual right wing players in that scene reduced their usual funding directly because of Trump’s actions:

          So which is it? are the plutocrats pouring their money in to elect one of their own, or pulling out? You’re still selling two narratives.

          >I don’t particularly think it is unreasonable to believe that there are a number of extremely wealthy people in this country who work with and support to conservative politicians to further capitalist ideology

          That much is reasonable.

          >to continue to protect their own wealth and power,

          this much is not.

          >and that Donald Trump is one of those people.

          and this much is absurd. As you just pointed out, many of that tiny clique hate trump, who is anything but a model capitalist ideologue.

          >I’m not quite sure what evidence or links I should provide to support that claim, because it is extraordinarily obvious to me –

          Yes, that’s the problem. It’s very easy to assume that people we disagree with are bad people entirely in the absence of evidence. The Koch brothers campaign against higher taxes and for prison reform. the latter cannot be explained by any desire for gain, so why do you assume the former is? and why do you not assume that left wing billionaires who donate to progressive causes aren’t in it for gain?

          >Large industries receive enormous subsidies and tax-breaks from government all of the time; they also consistently lobby for laws and lawmakers that support their own self-interests.

          Large industries, yes. Capitalists, no.

          >You were quite brief in your response, and I feel like I’m left to be forced to infer what you’re attempting to say (which I am hesitant to do, because you seem to already be angry

          lazy argumentation annoys me. You’re literally positing a secret cabal of plutocrats trying to subvert american democracy. It’s laughable.

          >But why would a good capitalist not want there to be a state that they control?

          A good capitalist believes in capitalism. All he wants is the state to be a neutral arbiter, hence the old joke “fear the libertarians, they’re conspiring to take over the world so they can leave everyone alone.”

          >A few things – (a) my post was, as initially stated, to put forth my own views on the subject, not to attack, debunk, or even in any way address someone else’s perspective, which you seem to think I was doing.

          Again, that’s the problem. You should be taking the perspectives of others into account because the positions you’re articulating involve assumptions about their goals and motives. The portrait of the right you’ve painted here looks like it could have come from Nancy Pelosi’s facebook feed. There are quite a few right wingers around here, maybe even too many. If you want to know what they’re thinking, you could just ask them.

          • Gaelen says:

            lazy argumentation annoys me. You’re literally positing a secret cabal of plutocrats trying to subvert american democracy. It’s laughable.

            As misstating arguments does me. He proposing K street, and our campaign funding system.

          • herbert herberson says:

            You’re literally positing a secret cabal of plutocrats trying to subvert american democracy. It’s laughable.

            It’s laughable that you find this laughable. Not to say you have to agree with the straightforward quasi-Marxist version of American history that sees the conflict between capital and more populist impulses as a driving force–but trying to label it as absurd on its face doesn’t do anything besides reveal which bubble you occupy.

          • cassander says:

            @herbert herberson

            For how long does marxism and quasi-marxism have to be wrong about all of its predictions, and many of its factual claims, before we’re allowed to laugh at it?

          • herbert herberson says:

            I disagree with your assessment, particularly as you apply it here.

            And you’re certainly allowed to laugh at it. You’re just not allowed to laugh at it while simultaneously posturing as some kind of dispassionate crusader for fairness and objectivity.

      • qn1 says:

        I think the comment about Trump being “the establishment” is saying that The Real Power is in the hands of the rich capitalists/bankers/media types and not DC insider politician types. So the fact that Trump isn’t the latter doesn’t refute it.

        I think that solid chunks of the right think that The Real Power lies more with the DC insider politician types, while solid chunks of the left think it’s with the rich capitalists/bankers/media types.

        I’m not sure which of these, if either, are true.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I think that solid chunks of the right think that The Real Power lies more with the DC insider politician types, while solid chunks of the left think it’s with the rich capitalists/bankers/media types.

          I’m not sure which of these, if either, are true.

          Some people like the idea of working for unelected rulers.

          Other people like the idea of elected rulers controlling others.

    • since the Citizens United verdict changed campaign financing in the United States

      Citizens United was decided in 2010. It found unconstitutional part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. So it “changed campaign financing in the United States” only in the sense of undoing a change in the rules that had occurred eight years earlier.

      And all it changed was the restriction on expenditures by organizations, such as corporations and labor unions. If the case had gone the other way rich individuals would still have been free to spend as much money as they wanted in support of political causes, as long as they didn’t coordinate with candidates.

      Two possibilities:

      1. My description of the case is wrong.

      2. You have been fooled into parroting a Democratic talking point.

      Feel free to choose between them or offer a third alternative.

      • notacc says:

        Hi, here’s what I wrote in response to a similar claim above:

        “That’s a highly limited view of the full impact of the decision. While the specific court case was in response to a 2002 law, the ruling was more generally applicable- it made all government restrictions on independent political spending unambiguously illegal. This means that several laws and regulations from different times in American history (1947, 1970s, 1990) were overturned or voided, along with eliminating the chilling effect that being a legal grey area had on independent political spending.”

        I believe this politifact description is a reasonable description of what changed, legally speaking, due to the 2010 cases. Let me know if you find a better roughly non-partisan summary from another source, I am genuinely interested.

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/jan/22/charles-schumer/campaign-finance-ruling-united-citizens-historical/

        Note that I was actually unaware of the exact differences between Speechnow.org v. FEC and the Citizens United case, but because they occurred so close to each other and the rulings were highly related and dependent on each other, I’ll keep referring to the outcomes of both as due to “Citizens United”.

        Edit: More on the impact of Speechnow.org v. FEC: While the Citizens United case itself was not concerned with individual donations, the ruling was used as legal precedent to decision the Speechnow case, which *was* concerned with limiting individual contributions.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/us/politics/27campaign.html

        Here’s some decent empirical data on how campaign finance has practically changed since the ruling: (tl;dr: more independent spending, less disclosure of that spending)

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2014/01/21/how-citizens-united-changed-politics-in-6-charts/

        What I do see is that political spending was on the rise pre-2010, which is why I will only say that Citizens United was likely just a large contributor to this rise, not the sole cause. Needless to say, I don’t think Citizens United is completely responsible for all electoral outcomes in the last 6 years – Republicans would still have won these midterm elections, for example, and political spending would have continued to increase – but I do think it is not a coincidence that it has occurred correspondingly with a sharp turn to the right wing for the country.

        I also don’t think that most kinds of “campaign finance reform” are some magical fix to what I see as the US’s political problems, as some Democrats seem to – there are plenty of countries in the world with very different electoral rules and financing laws that also have ruthless capitalist classes and right wing political support, such as the UK and Australia.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Individual expenditures are almost the opposite of individual contributions. CU and Speechnow were both about speech by organizations and contributions thereto. Neither had any effect on individual billionaires, who could always do whatever they wanted. Raising the limit on contributions made it easier for small numbers of millionaires to coordinate, though.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Neither had any effect on individual billionaires, who could always do whatever they wanted.

            Not quite “always”; a law restricting spending on one’s own campaign was passed in 1974, but struck down in 1976.

            The idea that CU is responsible for Trump’s victory given the Clinton campaign’s connection (and co-ordination; few campaigns actually _follow_ those election campaign finance laws, because no fine is worse than losing) with more such money than Trump, seems unlikely.

        • Thanks for the additional links. I note, at the top of the page you link to:

          “Editor’s note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.”

          That’s a reference to Schumer’s claim that Citizens’ United overthrew a century of prior regulation.

          I agree that the case, as precedent, could affect things other than the law part of which it overturned. But is it your claim that, prior to 2002, corporations or unions were forbidden to spend large amounts of money pushing laws or candidates, not in the form of contributions? Is it your claim that, after 2002 and before Citizens United, wealthy individuals were so limited?

          If you are not willing to make either claim, I don’t see how you can argue that Citizens United produced a sharp change in the working of the American political system. If you are making the first claim but not the second, then is your point that the case shifted power away from the Koch brothers and Soros and towards Google and Apple and the UAW?

          • ashlael says:

            I believe his claim is partially that prior to citizens united there was a legal grey area which discouraged political spending because of the risk of ending up in court. After, certain things have been declared unambiguously legal so they are done more.

            Further I believe his claim is that that grey area did not originate with the 2002 legislation.

  49. cassander says:

    >I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like, while leaving policy to rot. And I worry it’s going to work.

    Isn’t that basically what all Presidents do? Certainly it’s what Obama did bailing out the auto industry when he first got into office, is doing now with Russia, and did so for much of the time in between.

    That said, responses like this are one of the main reasons that I came to desire that Clinton lose to Trump. Everything Trump does will be examined far more circumspectly by blue tribe because they loathe him, even when it’s no different that what his predecessors did. Had Hillary cut the carrier deal, then ford made this announcement, it would be celebrated as a triumph and proof of Clinton’s virtue. Not by Scott, but I doubt Scott would have written a piece worrying about Hillary dressing up as president and punching people she doesn’t like while letting policy rot.

    • nelshoy says:

      Saving the US auto industry from bankruptcy is a much larger deal than ensuring the geographical location of single factories. I also don’t see how the Russia situation is in anyway comparable. Better point to examples like Solyndra, as mentioned by someone else in the comments, but that was still a much larger deal than anything Trump is bragging about. I think Scot is right to draw attention to Trump stooping so low to make deals. It’s still not a good thing to the extent it’s precedented.

      I also don’t know how the blue tribe is supposed to keep Trump accountable, since he clearly doesn’t do what academics and media outlets say and Republicans will control all the relevant branches of the government.

      Hillary wouldn’t have made these deals, especially before coming into office, and even if she did she probably wouldn’t be tweeting them.

      • cassander says:

        >Saving the US auto industry from bankruptcy

        The US auto industry wasn’t saved from bankruptcy. the bankruptcy settlement was adjusted in favor of democratic constituents.

        > I also don’t see how the Russia situation is in anyway comparable.

        expelling diplomats is the textbook example something you can do to “do something” without actually doing anything.

        >I also don’t know how the blue tribe is supposed to keep Trump accountable, since he clearly doesn’t do what academics and media outlets say and Republicans will control all the relevant branches of the government.

        Quite a few of those republicans are blue tribe or fellow travelers, but it’s quite a claim to say that negative media coverage will have zero effect on moderating trump.

        • Wency says:

          The US auto industry wasn’t saved from bankruptcy. the bankruptcy settlement was adjusted in favor of democratic constituents.

          Thanks, this is too seldom pointed out.

          Chapter 11 bankruptcy doesn’t mean “everyone is fired and everything is destroyed”. Most people here have probably flown on an airline that went through bankruptcy.

          The crux of Obama’s intervention is that the unions, which played a key role in the automakers’ decline, ended up owning more of GM at the expense of the bondholders. We can predict that the bondholders would have pushed for an arrangement that was crueler to the working man but resulted in a leaner, more profitable and efficient company.

          Which sounds nasty, but if lean, anti-union Tesla takes market share from GM and costs the jobs of those legacy union laborers, it’s cool and hip.

        • nelshoy says:

          >The US auto industry wasn’t saved from bankruptcy. the bankruptcy settlement was adjusted in favor of democratic constituents.

          I don’t know details about that, but from what I understand the “big three” automakers were in danger of bankruptcy and received many billions of bail-out money from the federal government. That’s still a big deal and had a discernable effect on the American economy writ large, unlike these Trump deals.

          >expelling diplomats is the textbook example something you can do to “do something” without actually doing anything

          My wording was too strong and I agree that the expelling diplomats is posturing. But posturing against a foreign power doesn’t have to be PR. If you’re maintaining a boundary you need to match transgressions with a big response. I believe Obama’s message is primarily a response to what he sees as Russian sabotage, not PR with his party members.

          You could argue that Trump is sending a message to other companies that try to export American manufacturing will get in trouble, but I doubt anything he’s done to the companies thus far has been punishment, but has rather had the opposite effect by rewarding them with publicity.

          >Quite a few of those republicans are blue tribe or fellow travelers, but it’s quite a claim to say that negative media coverage will have zero effect on moderating trump.

          Not zero effect, but not much more than that. Trump’s pivot to the center that he obviously needed to do to win the election didn’t really materialize. I don’t see much reason to think that after election season is over he’ll start responding MORE to the media when they barely matter instead of just calling them “totally biased and unfair” on twitter.

          • gbdub says:

            GM and Chrysler did in fact file for bankruptcy and went through Chapter 11 reorganization. The government provided several billion dollars in financing in exchange for a final deal that was better for the unionized workers and their pension funds at the expense of secured bondholders of the companies.

            You seem to be saying this was better than Trump’s actions, mainly because it was bigger? But in both cases, a company got a “special deal” in order to benefit its workers despite that deal not necessarily being the economically ideal / fair solution.

          • nelshoy says:

            Yes, I am pretty much saying it is better because it is bigger. A president shouldn’t personally intervene every time a minor company wants to offshore just so he can look good. There are too many little companies!

            as for the object level comparison, Obama’s actions need to be seen in the context of an large American industry potentially going under and a shrinking 2009 economy at large. You don’t have to be a big fan of corporations to realize that decisions like the auto bailouts and TARP were needed to keep things from getting even worse. Might there have been more optimal ways to handle things? Undoubtably, but coordination is hard and time was short.

          • gbdub says:

            Well, the economy’s in better shape than it was in late 2008 / early 2009. Should president-elect Trump sit on his laurels until a sufficiently large company is on the verge of collapse?

            You’re arguing that the auto bailout was more impactful than the Trump Carrier deal. I don’t disagree.

            But you haven’t provided a convincing argument for why the Trump deals are bad.

          • cassander says:

            >I don’t know details about that, but from what I understand the “big three” automakers were in danger of bankruptcy and received many billions of bail-out money from the federal government. That’s still a big deal and had a discernable effect on the American economy writ large, unlike these Trump deals.

            gbdub’s response is correct. The effect on the US economy was not measurable. GM and Chrysler did not avoid bankruptcy, and even if they had filed chapter 7, the vast majority of the people working for them would simply have had their divisions sold to other companies and kept working.

            >My wording was too strong and I agree that the expelling diplomats is posturing. But posturing against a foreign power doesn’t have to be PR.

            Expelling diplomats is purely PR. those diplomats will be replaced by others in a short period of time, with just as many spies among them as the previous batch.

            >Not zero effect, but not much more than that. Trump’s pivot to the center that he obviously needed to do to win the election didn’t really materialize.

            Trump radically re-organized his campaign in August

            >I don’t see much reason to think that after election season is over he’ll start responding MORE to the media when they barely matter instead of just calling them “totally biased and unfair” on twitter.

            Even if you think the media has no effect on him, it has an effect on everyone else and that means it affects him.

      • Deiseach says:

        Hillary wouldn’t have made these deals, especially before coming into office, and even if she did she probably wouldn’t be tweeting them.

        Nah, she’d have used them as campaign pledges.

        1. Let’s break through the dysfunction in Washington to make the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.

        2. Let’s make college debt-free for all and transform the way we prepare Americans for the jobs of the future.

        3. Let’s rewrite the rules so more companies share profits with their employees and fewer ship jobs and profits overseas.

        4. Let’s make sure that Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes.

        5. Let’s put families first and make sure our policies match how you actually work and live in the 21st Century.

        No shipping jobs overseas? Good paying jobs for Americans? College for everyone? Part of that big jobs surge was going to come from “connecting every household to broadband by 2020; building a cleaner, more resilient energy grid; recommitting to scientific research that can create new industries; and cutting red tape so that small businesses can get off the ground.”

        Some green energy company gets a government grant and sets up a plant in Nowheresville? You bet this would have been tweeted as “Hillary delivers on what she promised”. Obama’s (or his administration’s) use of social media such as Twitter has set the direction; Hillary (or her social media handlers on her behalf) would have to be tweeting and be seen to be visible and active in the ‘new media’. You can’t turn the clock back on that one.
        Everyone does this, everyone makes big promises and uses anything to say that they achieved their aims and goals.

        • nelshoy says:

          So your criticizing Clinton for having policies?

          I think there’s a difference between “I enacted this policy and X company was able to stay as a result, this is a specific good example of what my policy is doing” and “I personally called up the CEO of X company and sat down with them until they kept this factory in America”. Trump’s doing the latter, that’s the weird new thing.

          Reductio ad absurdum:

          “Thanks to the Affordable Care act, Julie, a single mother of two, was able to purchase healthcare for her children.”

          “Me and Julie just had a fantastic, productive meeting. She’s agreed to sign up for a private, AMERICAN healthcare plan.”

          • q-tip says:

            Thanks. Nicely stated.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m not criticising any politician for having policies, I’m saying that what Trump is doing in a crude, personally boastful way is what all politicians do.

            The campaign portrayed her as personally intervening, personally making her voice heard, personally getting involved in a range of issues. Sure, this is meant as “Thanks to the policies I implemented and will implement”, but there is also the portrayal of her personally standing up and fighting and vetoing and arguing with the other side:

            As our nation’s chief diplomat, Hillary didn’t back down when the stakes were high. As Hamas rockets rained down on Israel, Hillary went to the region immediately. Twenty-four hours after she landed, a ceasefire went into effect—and that year became Israel’s quietest in a decade.

            I particularly like the bit about rockets raining down, don’t you?

            They all do it. It’s standard boilerplate: “I, Mickey Joe McMadden, went out there as your public representative and fought for your rights, the fine citizens of Ballygobackwards. I stood up and argued your case. Thanks to me, the new slurry pit in Tonelehgwee is due to come on stream in 2017!”

            Local politicians take out ads in the local papers to announce “I have done this, that and the other”. I was very amused last year to see three representatives of three different parties all laying claim to the credit for new social housing project being built in our town (none of them had a damn thing to do with it, but if you believed what you read in the paper…)

    • ashlael says:

      Trump letting policy rot is on the more optimistic side of my expectations for what he would do to policy, so personally I’m pretty happy if he spends all his time as President Man punching evil CEOs. Much better than him tinkering with things that matter!

      I’m still half-expecting him to add his own face to Mount Rushmore.

      • wintermute92 says:

        With all the Batman metaphors around here: punching muggers is a shitty way to fix crime, but if your baseline for rich people is “lobbying to cripple public healthcare and education” then Bruce Wayne comes out smelling like roses.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        “I’m still half-expecting him to add his own face to Mount Rushmore.”

        I’ve said since the beginning that’s what he really wants. He’s got money, fame, women. Doesn’t have immortality. But you only get your face on Mount Rushmore if you *actually* Make America Great Again and everybody loves you for it.

  50. Wency says:

    Carrier air conditioning, Trump’s biggest job “success” so far, is owned by a giant defense contractor who gets probably like 1% of their profits from air conditioning.

    Maybe this is pedantic, but let’s try not to spread journalistic mischaracterizations too far. UTX is 50/50 a building equipment and aerospace parts company, with the aerospace sales being primarily non-military, though they are involved in the F-35.

    Specifically, a quick look at their SEC filings indicates that the HVAC + building security segment of UTX, which includes Carrier, generated about 28% of 2015 revenues (and 31% of operating profit). The two Aerospace segments (UTC Aerospace Systems + Pratt & Whitney) together generated just over 50% of revenues, of which about 20% (i.e. 10% of the total) were sales to the U.S. government. The rest of the revenues were from Otis Elevators.

    UTX was a bit more aerospace/defense-heavy before they sold Sikorsky to Lockheed.

    • shakeddown says:

      This is a good point. That said, we need to look at potential margins – a big government deal could *make* them into a company that gets huge profits from defence contracting (not sure how easy it is to pivot, but with the leg-up over the competition you get by having a president owing you a favour I suspect it’s doable to the required degree).

      • bean says:

        Not as much as you’d think. P&W is one of the major engine suppliers, but it’s going to be hard for Trump to tamper with airplane engine choices from the White House. (Doing that requires cooperation from a certain former Marine, if nothing else. Good luck with that.) Also, they currently produce the engines for all of the big upcoming aircraft programs anyway.
        UTC Aerospace is a big second-level subcontractor. They’re involved in everything, but not on any specific thing in a big enough way that Trump is going to be able to do much for them. Every airplane in the world probably carries something of theirs, but it’s one of a couple dozen different things, all of which are bid competitively on any given aircraft.

        • Wency says:

          Thanks for the color. I’m only passingly familiar with UTX — I just know how to read SEC filings. But your characterization rings true to me of their being involved in a bit of everything.

      • Deiseach says:

        a big government deal could *make* them into a company that gets huge profits from defence contracting

        They have a long way to go according to this table – United Technologies Corporation (the owners of Carrier) are 13th in the Top 100 defence companies, with only 12% of their business coming from defence contracts. Number One is Lockheed-Martin which gets 88% of its revenue from that sweet, sweet government contracting, and No. 3 is BAE which gets 92%.

        As Wensky says, selling off Sikorsky took a lot of their purely defence contracting away, so whatever pull or favour they might have with the Trump administration is small potatoes by comparison.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          That looks to me like it becomes even easier to reward or harm them. Smaller contracts make up a bigger chunk of their defense revenue.

          • bean says:

            It’s not just how much of their revenue is from defense, it’s how they get it. The big aerospace companies are rather boom or bust. The B-21 contract was very close to being a decision as to whether Northrop Grumman or Boeing would stay in the combat aircraft business. NG won, and it’s not certain that Boeing St. Louis will survive as more than a shell.
            P&W makes a lot of money on engines from people outside the US government, and isn’t likely to suddenly branch out into other fields. Also, they make the engines for both the JSF and B-21, so it’s not like Trump is going to be able to grow their business that much. UTC Aerospace makes lots of small parts for airplanes. Things like landing gear and propellers. They don’t make complete airplanes, or even big parts of complete airplanes (like, say, BAe does) which means that any attempt to funnel money to them is going to be really difficult and raise a lot of eyebrows. The situation would have been different before they sold Sikorsky. UTC is, of the people high on that list (which, BTW, is global, not just US) uniquely poorly suited to receive preferential treatment by government officials. Everyone else above it makes end-item products that a government could plausibly choose over their competitors. UTC doesn’t.

          • gbdub says:

            The issue is that UTX is, in the defense world, almost exclusively a subcontractor. They don’t really get contracts direct from the government – they work from the Boeings and Lockheeds of the world to make widgets in support of Boeing/Lockheed contracts.

            So Boeing and Lockheed might have a big competition over the next fighter contract – and UTX will support both proposals because either fighter is going to have some UTX bits in it. One or the other might be offering UTX a somewhat better deal, but it’s not a big swing for UTX either way.

          • bean says:

            The issue is that UTX is, in the defense world, almost exclusively a subcontractor.

            UTC Aerospace, definitely. Engines are a big enough deal that P&W might be able to gain some business from political points scored with Trump. Except that they’ve already won the engine contract for all three big upcoming aerospace projects (F-35, B-21, and KC-46). If the F136 hadn’t died, then maybe there would be some moral hazard remaining for them. But there isn’t.

          • Deiseach says:

            The point about global list is very good; BAE gets a lot of custom from Saudi Arabia, for instance, and there is a murky connection between British government ministers cutting favourable deals with Saudi Arabia in order that defence contracts go to BAE, including blatant massive bribes funnelled into the pockets of minor members of the Saudi royal family who were ministers, directors, etc in charge of such procurement.

            That’s the kind of problematic relationship you need to be worrying about. By comparison, Trump giving good publicity to an air conditioning plant owned by a small scale (when talking on this level) sub-contractor is peanuts. The US government pulling all deals with them – or rather, with the companies they work for – would hurt, but 12% means they’re not as vulnerable as, say, Lockheed who would get very damaged if Trump announced by fiat they were never selling anything to the US military ever again (not that that is ever going to happen). UTC could probably just try winning a supplier deal with whomever was picked instead of Lockheed to provide US military aircraft, and they’d probably have a good chance. Lockheed can’t try selling planes to its direct competitor.

    • dkdunkirk says:

      I came to post this. Two more comments on the quote from the article…

      First, this the kind of thing you take away from the situation when your “news” comes from hard-left publications like Mother Jones.

      Second, the reason the administration-elect started with Carrier is because it was big news in the state of which Pence is the governor, where he knew the players, and carries influence. So I hardly think this can be ascribed to some deep government back-scratching with the defense industry. Again, see point 1.

      • Matt M says:

        “Second, the reason the administration-elect started with Carrier is because it was big news in the state of which Pence is the governor, where he knew the players, and carries influence.”

        Not only that, but the announcement that Carrier was GOING to relocate to Mexico came during the GOP primaries, shortly before the Indiana primary, and Trump made a big deal about it at the time saying “If I was President, this wouldn’t happen!”

        So this was a logical follow-up to a specific narrative that Trump supporters were already familiar with.

        Edit: IIRC, when Trump was campaigning in Indiana, he met with Carrier workers specifically to discuss how his plans could save their jobs.

        • Deiseach says:

          Trump made a big deal about it at the time saying “If I was President, this wouldn’t happen!”

          Politician keeps campaign promise? I’m shocked, I tell you! 🙂

      • herbert herberson says:

        Mother Jones is not hard-left. It’s center-left. It’s the equivalent of something like National Review on the right. Hard-left would be, at most, something like Democracy Now (whose equivalent would be something more like Breitbart in terms of slant, although I’d maintain it is more rigorous and reputable in terms of substantive reporting).

        • gbdub says:

          Are the two of you perhaps using a different version of “hard”? On the one hand, I agree that Mother Jones is “center-left” rather than “far-left” in their point of view. On the other hand, I find them very biased toward that point of view.

          I find this to be a common fault in media analysis: we tend to treat “unbiased” and “centrist” as synonyms, when “biased-unbiased” and “centrist-partisan” are at least in theory independent axes. (I could be a very open minded right-winger who considers and engages left-wing arguments despite mostly coming down in favor of the right. I could also be a very biased centrist who summarily rejects any information that might support far-partisans of any stripe.)

          We also tend to confuse “depth” with lack of bias, when that’s not strictly true. I can cover all the arguments for my side in great detail, but if I ignore the other side, I’m still more biased than a Post-It note with a slogan for both sides.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Agreed, on all counts, although I do think that a multifaceted analysis like that would end up making MoJo look pretty decent. It has an agenda, but it doesn’t hide it, it does some very good in-depth reporting (http://www.motherjones.com/authors/shane-bauer), and doesn’t seem to in the habit of excluding or being misleading about important facts–the actual link is entirely consistent with the facts Wensy supplies (“Carrier is a big company, but it’s owned by United Technologies, a gigantic defense contractor that does a lot of business with the federal government—soon to be headed by one Donald J. Trump.”).

          • herbert herberson says:

            I’d add that the author of that link is also one of the most prominent public proponents of the leaded-gasoline-crime-theory, which undermines some fundamental assumptions of both sides of the political spectrum in the way that true unorthodoxies so often do

        • Deiseach says:

          Mother Jones reads to me definitely more left than “centre left”, if not precisely “hard left” (my standards for “hard left” are, admittedly, something like the Morning Star). Perhaps Mother Jones is something like the New Statesman, which has softened its stance, after many turbulent years, post-Blair and New Labour?

          “Carrier is a big company, but it’s owned by United Technologies, a gigantic defense contractor that does a lot of business with the federal government—soon to be headed by one Donald J. Trump.”

          Can’t say if Carrier is a “big” company as these go, but United Technologies is not a “gigantic” defence contractor (it got 12% of its revenue from defence contracts in 2015 and it acts mainly as a sub-contractor supplying parts to the bigger fish) and while it may do “a lot” of business with the federal government, it does not do the majority of it. It’s a lot less reliant than the big defence contractors who live or die by government contracts; yes, more government business would be nice, but it’s more likely to get that via contracting for the big cheeses in the defence world who get more contracts from governments (and it’s a global business, so they’re also interested in selling abroad) than directly from the US government.

          Unless Trump mandates that every army base at home or abroad has to use Carrier air conditioners? 🙂 (Their refrigeration units seem to be commercial, not domestic).

      • Deiseach says:

        because it was big news in the state of which Pence is the governor

        Mmm-hmmm. Just like the way the Minister for a neighbouring county announced all sorts of goodies for his constituency (that came at our expense when moving headquarters for the vocational education committee out of our county into his) when he was in the government in power, or the Minister for Health preceding the previous Minister for Health preceding the current Minister for Health announced a spiffy new health clinic opening up in his constituency.

        Politics as usual.

  51. Cerebral Paul Z. says:

    Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse, in the sense that these big companies will get taxpayer subsidies or favors they can call in later to distort government priorities,

    Also in the sense that cars will be more expensive than they need to be.

    • Schmendrick says:

      Wait, isn’t that already true? Don’t big companies already get significant concessions from government, and aren’t cars already more expensive than they “need” to be? Isn’t this just a question of who’s handing out the concessions in exchange for what, and who’s piling on the regulations to what end?

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Change it to “even more concessions” and “even more expensive” if you like; doesn’t change the point.

    • Deiseach says:

      Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse, in the sense that these big companies will get taxpayer subsidies or favors they can call in later to distort government priorities

      Ahem.

      As president, Hillary will:

      Strengthen American manufacturing through a $10 billion investment in “Make it in America” partnerships that bring together workers and labor, business, universities, community colleges, and government at every level to harness the strength of manufacturing communities across America. Businesses that take part will pledge not to shift jobs or profits from these partnerships overseas. And we will support strong “Buy American” standards so we make things here.

      Prevent countries like China from abusing global trade rules and reject trade agreements that don’t meet high standards. Hillary will strengthen American trade enforcement so we stand up to foreign countries that aren’t playing by the rules–like China is doing right now with steel—and fight for American workers. She will say no to trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that do not meet her high standard of raising wages, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing our national security.

      Revitalize the hardest-hit manufacturing communities by creating tax incentives to encourage investment in communities that have faced or are about to face significant manufacturing job losses.

      Crack down on companies that ship jobs and earnings overseas and create incentives for companies to bring back jobs to the U.S.

      Invest in America’s manufacturing workforce to ensure that it will always be the best in the world. Hillary will expand apprenticeships and training so our manufacturing workforce is always the best in the world.

      And the money to do all this is going to come from…. the public purse, via grants, subsidies, programmes, tax cuts, tax breaks, incentives… Or are the leprechauns going to turn over their pots of gold to make up this $10 billion? This is politics, Scott. Trump is particularly egregious, but he’s so very obvious about it because he’s an outsider and doesn’t do things the neat, smooth way of professional politicians.

      I am damn cynical about politics and politicians. I liked Bernie Sanders but I didn’t think he had a snowball in hell’s chance of getting elected, precisely because he was too old-school Labour. Independents and small third parties will struggle on, but it’s always going to be the two big beasts who dominate (even if the Republicans do implode, as the Liberals in the UK eventually did; they got replaced by Labour who became the second Big Party to be Tweedledum and Tweedledee with the Conservatives) and those parties are too tied in to the existing networks of financial, political, and social custom.

      • albertborrow says:

        I need to study more UK politics – it’s both politically relevant, interesting, and probably portentous of where American politics are going. Not only that, but the UK is a great case of smaller-scale politics, which I usually advise for.

        It certainly feels like it would take heaven and hell to dethrone either of the two main parties, but I don’t know how imploding would feel from the inside. The Republicans seem to be on edge, but the Democrats are also split between supporting identity politics and supporting left economic policies (which are not mutually exclusive, but appeal to different groups). Who knows.

        • Deiseach says:

          There was a lot of gleeful prophesying prior to the election result that this was it, the Republicans were going to fall apart.

          Now, since I don’t believe the Democrats thought they were going to pick up a good chunk of ex-Republican voters (nor wanted to), I think they thought this left them in an unassailable position of power with the (anticipated) Democrat president in office, a rump Republican party not able to mount a coherent opposition and (with the two-yearly elections for Congress and Senate coming up), the Democrats winning back a majority either in 2016 or, at worst, in 2018.

          Now, plainly they thought that monoparty control would be a good thing since they are the Party of Rainbows and Kittens, but I do wonder. Even if the Republicans had fissioned, there would still remain that rump party. The more extreme would have set up some new very right-wing national party, some moderates would have drifted to the Democrats. I think a strong centrist third-party might have emerged, and even if it did split the (formerly) Republican vote, that still would have encouraged some on the left to think “Hey it doesn’t have to be the Democrats or nothing! We could run our own People’s Party!”

          A broken Republican party might also have led to a broken Democratic Party, is what I’m saying 🙂

          • The Nybbler says:

            They didn’t expect the Republicans to fission. They expected the Republicans to become a permanent minority, say 60/40. So the Democrats would be able to do whatever they wanted and the purpose of the Republicans would be to mount a futile protest so dissenters could feel represented (and not take the Second Amendment option, perhaps)

            This was just a pipe dream of course. Eventually (and not a long “eventually”) an issue would come up that divided the Democrats, and the 40% “designated losers” would look like really convenient possible allies to one side or another.

          • BBA says:

            To whoever Deiseach has been reading:

            Anyone who expects the Democrats to take the House in 2018 is a damned fool. The electoral map puts the Democratic party at a strong disadvantage, and besides which Democrats don’t vote in midterms. (Modulo 2006, and I don’t expect Trump to fuck anything up that quickly. Rome wasn’t burnt in a day.)

            Anyone who figured “under Hillary we’d be poised to take the House” is especially foolish since the President’s party typically loses the midterm. Which makes sense – the opposition is furious while the party in the White House is either complacent (if things are going well) or despondent (if they aren’t) and in either case has little motivation to vote.

            Yours,
            A realistic Democrat (yes, we exist)

        • po8crg says:

          Several things:

          First, electoral systems affect party systems, so looking at European countries other than the UK – all of which use proportional system