Donald Trump Is The Republican Obama

I remarked to my mother a few weeks (a month or so?) ago, that Donald Trump is “The Republican Candidate for the Low Information Voter.” In retrospect I believe I’ve underestimated him. Trump is something even more insidious than that. Donald Trump represents, I now believe, two distinct phenomena in the modern Republican Party, neither of which seem like good developments no matter how you look at it-at least, assuming you come at it from a perspective that cares even a bit about either the Republican Party or the Lockean political tradition in America (I care increasingly more about the latter than the former). The first, I do not wish to dwell on here, except to make a quip of it: Donald Trump is, for some on the American Right, their “Then Let Me Be Evil” moment. The second is more interesting, and disturbing. Dilbert comic creator Scott Adams, who seems to be a bit of Trump fan, has highlighted what I want to note specifically:

Now review Trump’s empty sentence: We need to take America back.

From whom? Notice the intentional lack of detail? In this case, the lack of detail is the powerful part of the sentence.

The media’s political filter automatically goes to immigration, and that interpretation is probably somewhat right. The problem is that it is only 10% of the explanation. The other 90% is what is happening in voters’ heads when they get an open-ended suggestion that someone has somehow stolen the country.

Who did this awful thing???

Is it the top one-percenters who stole all the country’s money?

Is it the liberals?

Is it the politically-correct people?

Is it the immigrants who are taking jobs?

Is it the wrong-headed people in general?

Is it the minorities? The women?

Is it just our reputation in the world that we lost?

Was it our former greatness we lost?

See how the open-ended suggestion works? Every voter is free to fill in the topic of their own greatest fear. Your brain is a movie that creates your personal history, and when the movie finds a gap, your imagination fills it in. It happens automatically and bypasses rational thought. As with the salesperson who has already made the sale, Trump says nothing you can dislike while giving you the freedom to fill in the blanks in the way that influences you the most.

Frighteningly true. But doesn’t this pattern sound eerily familiar? It should. This was the exact implicit strategy behind the “Hope and Change” campaign of Obama in 2008. Adams doesn’t point this out, and I’m not sure he’s even realized it (probably hasn’t?) but the Obama strategy was pretty much exactly to say things that allowed people to impute to Obama all their own grievances and preferred solutions, to imagine that what he meant by change was changing the things they felt needed changing. To fill in the blanks in the way that influences them the most while saying nothing they can dislike.

As it turns out the average Republican voter has nothing to be smug about over the libtards and low-fo voters after all. Trump is the Republican Obama, and Republicans are as effectively duped as everyone else. Doubt me? There’s some disturbing proof.

As noted by Hotair’s Allahpundit, polling proves that the mere imprimatur of Trump is all that it would take to turn a sizeable portion of the Republican electorate on to the non-existent merits of socialist medical care-among rather a lot else. In this respect Trump is like Obama in yet another way. For Trump’s supporters, his positions and policies, what he is actually after are unimportant, in much the same way it isn’t important what Indiana Jones is after in Raiders or Temple of Doom. For Trump’s supporters he is the protagonist, the hero of the great epic of our time, and it’s more important that he’s fighting the “bad guys” and winning than it is what he’s actually fighting for. To criticize Trump, even from the perspective of one who disdains “The Establishment” is to be, in the eyes of his supporters, part and parcel thereof. And why, exactly? Well, because The Establishment is also against Trump. Well I suspect the Republican Establishment-The “Washington Cartel” to borrow the phraseology of Senator Ted Cruz-is opposed to many people. That the enemy of thine enemy is ipso facto thy friend is in fact a very dangerous fallacy.

I want to say something else, though, too. There is something to be said for having this effective of a political entrepreneur on the Right. Donald Trump is not on the Right, but nevermind that. If Donald Trump is the only person who has learned anything from the Obama strategy, then the shame is on the rest of us, not on him. Sure he’s a clownish buffoon, and worse than that, a Leftist, but rather than play “ain’t it awful” about the stupidity of the American electorate imagine what other Republicans might have accomplished if they’d realized what he has-how to manipulate people. Oh, sure I can hear some of you thinking, it’s morally wrong to manipulate people. And I agree. But morality is not a suicide pact. Some on the Right should at least consider the idea rather than ride the moral high ground straight to abysmal depths-if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor. And here’s the problem I have with some of the smartest observers on the Right: they have either been taken in by Trump completely (See Ann Coulter, who, in 2011, seemed to recognize Trump as, at least, a political non-starter on par with Newt Gingrich) or they reserve for him such a degree of vitriol-combined unfortunately with an understandable singlemindedness that nevertheless recalls Churchill’s definition of a fanatic-as one scarcely sees from even them for all but the most contemptible of Democrats (See, for example, in an otherwise good column by Jonah Goldberg, the er, colorful suggestive that Trump has a reversed digestive tract, almost anything written lately by Kevin D Williamson (even though again, these are usually quite good), or George Will’s virtual paean to open borders which makes essentially zero effort to disguise basically calling Trump a Nazi-a piece of essentially no redeeming value whatsoever, from the Elder Statesman of Libertarian Conservatism no less). To me this seems the entirely wrong approach to dealing with the Trump phenomenon, but I sadly admit to not knowing the right way. The more unhinged Trump’s opponents on the Right sound, the more desperately the flail to bring their friends and fellow travelers back to sanity, the more they raise suspicion in the eyes of Trump supporters, and the less they listen. Again, the right way to deal with this I do not know.

On an un-Trump related note, kind of, but giving you more reason to be pessimistic: I don’t think the Republicans are going to win this next election. Not just that there’s an out-sized chance they won’t deserve to (though there is, since if ever there was someone who deserves to join the esteemed ranks of failed Presidential Candidates it is Jeb Bush) but that the prediction markets seem to be fairly confident that the odds favor the Democrats at this point, and they have been confident and consistent on the degree to which this is true for some time. Why exactly? If I had to guess it looks like the markets believe the Republicans are more likely to nominate a candidate with poor chances of winning than they are someone with good chances of winning. I say that because there are candidates individually that the markets think could, if nominated, win (unfortunately, Jeb Bush is, in fact, one of them, which suggests a good mantra for the Republican Establishment: vote for the least conservative candidate who can win-but on the other hand, Rand Paul’s odds of winning on the slim chance he is nominated are also better than not, which suggests he is, in fact, the Most Conservative Candidate Who Can Win). What candidate who can’t win might they think the Republicans likely to nominate?

Oh yeah.

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In Praise of Libertarian Cosmopolitanism

While I have no patience whatsoever for those libertarians who advocate for unrestricted immigration into the United States of the present day, I want to be clear that I am not opposed to freedom of human movement in general. In fact I quite support it. Communist China in the present and the Soviet Union in the not to distant past are countries that would have benefited greatly-if not their governments-from open borders. Indeed, any country which does not have some form of democratic government-whether a representative republic or a direct democracy-never has any good reason for not permitting essentially totally free migration across its national boundaries. And my patriotism is not nationalism, I am instead fundamentally loyal to a set of philosophical ideas-the closest to the platonic ideal of which ever extant in this world is more or less embodied in the Constitution of the United States of America. I call this “Conservatism”-but not because I am a Status Quoist. The most direct cause for my insistence on using “Conservative” to describe a set of ideals which at their earliest articulation in the English Language would have been called “Liberal” is that is what my mother taught me to call them. Who taught her? Ronald Reagan. There’s a chain of such usage I could probably trace back through many people, among them Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley. But I think only my mother uses “Conservative” in precisely the sense I mean it. But I strongly identify with many libertarians or libertarian leaning individuals who prefer to call themselves “liberal” or “classical liberal,” harkening back to an older use of the term. And I believe that sound economic reasoning has proved for centuries that the restrain of trade in the name of National Wealth improvishes both the nation exercising it and the people of the world as a whole. More than that, I agree with the libertarians in their economic cosmopolitanism-their moral critique of economic nationalism; attempting to gain as a nation at the expense of the people of the rest of the world is morally wrong. The economic well-being of all human beings has equal claim on our attention, morally and as a matter of thoughtful analysis. So can only respond to Mr. Dinerman’s call for a little less internationalism, a little more “pro-America” interventionism, on the part of “Conservatives” with open contempt. Protectionism, f**k no.

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Let’s Teach Michael Barone How To Rig A Majority Vote

I tried to read this article, I really did, but I couldn’t make it past this huge non sequitur:

Why do Republicans have so many candidates and Democrats so few? That’s directly contrary to the conventional wisdom that Republicans nominate the next guy in line, while Democrats tend to have multi-candidate brawls.
Mr. Barone seems to be under the impression that a field with a large number of candidates is somehow more difficult for the Republican Party Establishment to rig in favor of the one guy they want to win, and will get to win. Let’s teach him how to rig a majority vote.
Imagine for a moment that I have two friends. Let’s call them my Establishment Friend and my Low Information Friend. We’ve decided we want to all pitch in to pay for dinner for the three of us. We all agree to hold a series of votes between each of our preferences in pairs. But my Establishment friend is devious and clever: for some reason, I’ve given him the power to decide in what order we vote on our options. Moreover, he knows that I most prefer Hamburgers, but prefer Pizza to Tacos, but my low information friend prefers Pizza, but prefers Tacos to Hamburgers. Here’s how he insures that Tacos wins: First of all, the rule will be that we will vote on two pairs of options, and the loser of each vote drops out-notice that this is more or less how the primary process works. So he says we’ll vote on Hamburgers versus Pizza first. He votes with me and Hamburgers wins out over Pizza, so Pizza drops out of the race. Next we vote on Hamburgers versus Tacos. This time, my establishment friend votes against Hamburgers in favor of Tacos, knowing that this is my low information friend’s preference if he can’t have Pizza, who has already dropped out of the race. So, naturally Tacos wins. This is called the Condorcet Paradox, but the important thing that Michael Barone needs to know about the Condorcet Paradox is this: The Minimum Necessary Number Of Candidates For This To Occur Is Three. In other words, a greater number of candidates increases the ability of the savvy vote order setter to rig the outcome, because no candidate has a clear majority of support as anyone’s top preference.
If irrefutable mathematics and logic is a little too abstract for Mr Barone, however, perhaps I can lay out a highly probable real life scenario: suppose that in the first several primaries, Donald Trump runs away with the Low Information Republican vote, and gradually the better conservative alternatives drop out of the race, having divided their support. The Establishment simply tells their preferred candidate to hang in there, make solid showings in these early states but they don’t really need to win them. Once all the better alternatives have dropped out, the Republican party is faced with a choice: Donald Trump, or the Establishment candidate. The vast majority of Republicans can’t stand Trump, the predictable result will be that the Establishment candidate defeats Trump and secures the nomination. Gosh, does that sound a little plausible? More than a little really.
Mr. Barone: The notion that Republicans simply nominate the Next Guy In Line is based on strong observational evidence and historical precedent. It’s based on actually examining the outcomes of the primary processes! You are evidently very impressed with the sideshow of the process itself. When the Establishment nominates it’s preferred candidate, however, you will deny that your mental model of how the primary process works (“We had a lot of options! The system works!”) has been proven wrong, using the same arguments you’re making now. You’ve already decided the process isn’t rigged and will be impervious to evidence, since you clearly are already. But sadly, you’re just wrong. The primary election process is nothing but elaborate legerdemain, and it always has been.

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A Chart That Should Speak For Itself

The Economic Freedom (weighted average based on 2014 population) of the Core Anglosphere countries compared to the world’s Spanish speaking countries:


(But just in case it doesn’t speak for itself, the core Anglosphere countries have population weighted average freedom score of about 76.7 and the Spanish speaking countries have an average score of 60.5, a difference of over 16 points)

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Beyond Reproach; On Questioning “Patriotism”

Strictly speaking, the word “Patriot” cannot apply to modern American progressives because the word “Patriot” actually means someone of Whig persuasion. To say that Progressives are not Patriots is merely to affirm the obvious fact that Progressivism is an Anti-Liberal political philosophy, and is obviously not meaningful. I do not “question the Patriotism” of American leftists, as that would be akin to questioning the Christian Faith of a Hindu. The American Patriots that fought for their rights as Englishmen were not Patriots because they “loved their country.” That would be nonsense: America was not yet a country, and most people would question whether you love a country you try to separate from. No, the Patriots loved an idea. To be sure, a fairly uniquely English idea, but certainly not one the British Government believed in, since the denied it to those in their colonial dominions. That idea was freedom, but in particular it was freedom in what Schumpeter called “the bourgeois sense.”

But the recent controversy over Rudy Giuliani’s remarks is not, contrary to the abuse of the term, over him “questioning Obama’s Patriotism.” In reality, Giuliani questioned whether Obama has the same kind of love of America, or whether he has the love of America, that people like Giuliani do.

I mean really, how dare he! You Republicans, you’d probably question Lenin’s love of Russia, or Robespierre’s love of France. Outrageous! Everyone’s Nationalism is beyond reproach: who would want to lead a country he did not love? Surely no one.

Do you see the rhetorical point I’m trying to make here? I think it’s actually obvious that American progressives cannot love American-at least, not as America is or has been. Democrat Nationalism-not Patriotism, that would be an oxymoron-is love of America as it could be, if only they could make it so. But a love of what the country could be if only you were in charge, implies a hatred of the country as it has been, if how that country has been, has been in a recalcitrant state, standing athwart your march toward Utopia. This is I believe what Giuliani has rightly observed appears to be a feature of Obama’s worldview in particular. And in some sense, if you love America you ought perhaps look askance at those who would see her transformed into something very different before they could truly be proud to call her home. I know that I would-that I do.

But far more important, I think, than whether one loves the country as it is or has been, is the question of whether what one wants for the country, for the people that inhabit our polity, is truly good for them. And this, not whether Democrats are Nationalists or not, is the truly damning indictment of their entire ideology. Robespierre loved France: he loved to see it terrorized. Lenin loved Russia: he loved to see it suffer. Of course, there are also those who love their country, in that they love to see the boot of their country on everyone else’s throat-think Mussolini or Hitler-but the left in America is relatively uninterested in directly oppressing foreigners. Contrast all of those with Patriotism, a love for what is actually good for the people of our country, love of things that would be good for everyone. The love of the American idea as such, neither a love for a people, a geographic location, or a government, but a love of American freedom.

I have absolutely no doubt that Obama has no such love for the American idea. No one should really be surprised by that. And I suspect most people criticizing Giuliani would understand that if only they wanted to. But they don’t want to.

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Some people are confused

I have often wondered at the fact that Libertarians are so prone to smug finger-wagging at Conservatives who allegedly fail to consistently apply skepticism about government, who moreover consider the American Conservative a strange alien creature they do not recognize. For my own part I recognize my cousins, most of the time, and merely feel they fail to grasp some important aspects of the Right-Radical world view. But every now and then I see that Libertarians allow antipathy to the State, even when justified, to distract them from reality. And at no time in my recent memory has this been clearer than reading a recent reaction to the now infamous cause celebre in Ferguson, Missouri. As usual when this happens, out of respect for the commentator in question, someone whose opinion I usually regard as quite worthwhile, I will not say who they are nor will I quote them directly. And in fairness to this individual, they primarily quoted someone else, rather than giving in depth analysis of their own. In even greater fairness, I believe we would agree on the substance of all their concerns, about police violence and the police state in general. I only disagree with the desire to tie a worthy cause to a case to which it bears no relation: Michael Brown was not killed by a police officer in a tank provided by the US Federal Government. Nor was he killed by Asset Forfeiture. Nor drug laws. This was not a result of over-empowered Police authority at all-though such a thing surely exists. An anarcho-capitalist Private Security Firm worker would have done the same thing Darren Wilson did.  Brown was killed by his own foolishness. About the only thing that could have saved his life would have been to disarm the Police entirely, and the result would have been that Darren Wilson would be dead, rather than Brown.

For the record I endorse wholeheartedly the idea of agents of the state having to have their activities in that capacity monitored by surveillance. Therefore I have no objection to requiring Police Officers to wear cameras, apart from questioning how those suggesting it intend to pay for this expense. But let’s face reality, here: if Darren Wilson had been wearing a camera, all that would have resulted would be that he would have been exonerated of any wrong doing immediately. The reality challenged protestors in the streets of Ferguson with their violent thuggery, and the peaceful, free speech exercising, lie promulgating Football players and Congressmen and women, to say nothing of the President of the United States or the Attorney General, would still have forced him out of his job and ruined his life through their “protest” against the facts. It is embarrassing to see Libertarians I respect participate in this, and of all things to wag their fingers at Conservatives for believing in the Police! More than that they do themselves and their beliefs a disservice by associating their cause with a hoax.

Libertarians like to speak of why they are not conservative. This sort of foolishness is why I am not a libertarian.

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Filed under Common Sense, Conservatism, Liberals

Estimating The State of Labor Markets (Unemployment Statistics vs. Economic Realities)

Here is my elaboration on the work I mentioned here.

Let’s begin by downloading historical monthly official unemployment rates according to the St Louis Fed website. We’ll be using the series UNRATE, M0892AUSM156SNBR, M0892BUSM156SNBR, and M0892CUSM156NNBR. The first thing we want to do is turn these into a single, monthly series. To begin with, we will take M0892AUSM156SNBR for granted in the early part of the data. Subsequently, when it overlaps with M0892BUSM156SNBR, we will favor that latter series. During the first month of the latter, the two series agree, but they diverge thereafter. It’s not clear why, but M0892BUSM156SNBR seems more realistic. Finally, we have the issue that no seasonally adjusted series covers the year 1947. M0892CUSM156NNBR covers that year, but is full of seasonal noise. Fortunately, M0892CUSM156NNBR overlaps with UNRATE, so it is possible to estimate a seasonal cycle in M0892CUSM156NNBR and remove it. By removing the estimated average monthly differences, I can bridge the gap between the series. Now, using the series GPDIA and GDP data, I can find out what portion of spending in each year, back to 1929, was investment. This is significant because during normal times, there seems to be an inverse relationship between changes in the unemployment rate, and changes in the “investment rate.” As it turns out, this works fairly well through the entire period, except for one glaring discrepancy:


Four years, from 1942-1945 inclusive, fall off the general pattern of this relationship. Why? Simple. During World War II, the forcible removal by conscription of ten million able bodied young men (I assume they would have been young men?) from the labor force into the armed forces, the volunteering of many more who wished to avoid the high likelihood of assignment to infantry associated with the draft, the movement of people into draft exempt war production industries, all naturally led to a reduction in the official unemployment rate. To quote Robert Higgs:

Between 1940 and 1944 unemployment fell by either 7.45 million (official measure) or 4.62 million (Darby measure), while the armed forces increased by 10.87 million. Even if one views eliminating civilian unemployment as tantamount to producing prosperity, one must recognize that placing either 146 or 235 persons (depending on the unemployment concept used) in the armed forces to gain a reduction of 100 persons in civilian unemployment was a grotesque way to achieve prosperity, even if a job were a job.
So, clearly, the unemployment rate during those years does not accurately reflect the actual state of the economy and the ability of people to get a job-it was easier for those not fighting in the war to get jobs only because the supply of labor was artificially contracted. Based on the above relationship, the level of private investment at the time would have supported an unemployment rate of about 20%. But that relationship is a little noisy, I mainly mention it because it fairly starkly illustrates the unreliability of the unemployment rate during that period. I used such relationships with investment and the the private economy’s deviation from long term trend, to estimate, with a multiplicative adjustment, and an additive adjustment, what the unemployment rate would have looked like had there not been so many people simply removed from the labor force. With respect to the investment rate, I appear to have made a conservative (in the sense of err on the low side for an upward adjustment) estimate. I only menti0n this because I cannot, unfortunately, remember exactly how I arrived at the adjustment? I realize this is the sort of comment to invite a great deal of skepticism. I can only comment that I recall that I had some method at the time, and there are defensible methods whereby I know I could arrive at an even stronger answer. I was reconstructing work I did a couple of years ago in the course of writing this post. If you’re disappointed that I couldn’t reconstruct the origin of this adjustment, your disappointment cannot match my own. I think it was based on the private output gap? Either way, you can trust me or not on my final numbers for this period, I’ll leave that up to you. Now, I end up with a monthly record like this:
But…Something kind of extraordinary is going on at the end there. During the alleged recovery from the recent recession, the labor force and the working age population, between the ages of 16 and 64, have diverged in a noticeable way:
We see that, in spite of the growth of the working age population, the labor force began to stagnate in 2008. If we assume an alternate scenario, in which the labor force, but not the number of people actually employed, had continued to grow from 2008 on at the 2000-2007 linear trend, the following happens to the unemployment rate:
I can go further, though, and estimate annual unemployment rates for the US back to 1790. Using my estimates of the private economy and it’s deviation from it’s long term trend, accounting for mismeasured inflation during WWII, based on the relationship between the two:
I chose a quadratic curve to prevent the formula from outputting negative values, and the point at which the relationship would output values going in the “wrong” direction, never occurred in the historical private output gap data. This allows me to extend unemployment estimates back to 1790:
It is on this basis that I find that the unemployment rate was lower, significantly so, during the Classical Gold Standard, than it has been recently, under the Federal Reserve.
Ceterum censeo Subsidium Foederati esse delendam.

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