Posted by on May 21, 2017

I was going to write a piece about how the Democrats and the media are goading Trump over the Russia issue, and how Trump is dumb and egotistical enough to fall for it, just like when he was debating Clinton.  The whole thing reminds me of Lt. Kaffee leading Col. Jessup down the path to self-destruction in this scene from A Few Good Men.

But then I came to a resolution.  Decrying Trump is a full-time job that is making me shrill and tedious.  So my present to myself for my recent birthday, and probably to all of you, is no more Trump.[1]  If I must refer to him in the future while discussing another topic, I will do so without commentary.

But before leaving this subject, I want to emphasize three points.

A tremendous number of people voted for Trump because they were #NeverClinton or because they were focussed on the SCOTUS nominations.  This was an understandable position, but I think a short-sighted one.  The risk of Trump has always been his ability to lay waste to the Republican Party and usher in a Democratic monopoly.  Trump may produce a generation of Elizabeth Warrens, bearing gifts like like single-payer healthcare.  This remains my biggest concern.

In retrospect, a President Clinton blocked by Republican majorities in Congress would have been a much better outcome.  We wouldn’t have Neil Gorsuch, that is true, but the need for Senate approval would have meant nothing worse than a Merrick Garland.  I fear that the bill for the Gorsuch nomination will come due in the 2018 and 2020 elections, and it will be very high.  The Republicans own Trump now.

The second point is that we should all watch the reactions of the sane members of Trump’s administration.  Having once been in similar circumstances, I empathize with the predicament of someone like Rex Tillerson.  As David Axelrod recently said, working for Trump means that “you wind up looking like a fool or a liar, neither of which is particularly attractive.”  To flatter his ego, Trump has chosen to populate his administration with the wealthy.  This may backfire.  Unlike the relatives and sycophants in his private business, they won’t long tolerate the public humiliation of working for Trump.

The last thing that someone like a Tillerson needs, in the twilight of a long and successful life, is the kind of grief that comes from not being consulted, for example, about Trump’s first immigration ban.  Particularly when, after the treatment that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has just received, Trump has proven that he doesn’t have anyone’s back but his own.  A Tillerson won’t want to publicly admit that he made a mistake by joining Team Trump, but if an opportunity to leave with honor presents itself, he won’t let the screen door hit him.

Lastly, let there be no doubt: Trump isn’t just unqualified, ignorant, infantile, obnoxious, duplicitous and lazy.  He is mentally ill.  This has been my opinion since I first forced myself to watch one of his speeches and it hasn’t changed.

My definition of mental illness has always been acting against your own best interest, but being powerless to stop yourself.  No one can tell me that Trump’s recent behavior – such as his tweet about James Comey and the “tapes,” the senile dick-measuring contest in which he probably disclosed too much to the Russians, and the quick succession of lies and contradictions about the firing of Comey – does not fit this definition.

So, let this be my final judgement: Trump is nuttier than a squirrel turd. [2]

Passing The Baton

Although I will no longer be discussing Trump, it is only fair that I nominate replacements.  I have three.

The first is the incomparable George F. Will.  Will has had Trump’s measure since the very beginning and he isn’t slowing down.  These are his words from a recent Cato podcast:

…the problem with [Trump] isn’t that he doesn’t know this or that….The problem with him is that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know this or that….The problem is that it’s not clear that he knows what it is to know something.  What it is to have an opinion, a good judgment based on adequate evidence, sustained by good reasoning.

The next replacement is Bret Stephens, who was scathing about Trump for the editorial page of the WSJ and who remains scathing for the NYT.  Here is a recent passage which points out that the best hope we have for Trump’s administration is more delegation (like his out-sourcing of judicial nominations to The Federalist Society, which produced Neil Gorsuch):

Now the hope of the president’s dismayed supporters is that this moment of near-political bankruptcy will lead to a reinvention and a turnaround.  Perhaps Trump can delegate his executive authorities in the same way as he used to license his name, pretending to be president just as he once pretended to be a real-estate tycoon.

Finally, there is Justin Amash, the libertarian RINO in the House of Representatives.  Amash was the first Republican to state that, if Trump truly pressured Comey to back off in his investigation of Flynn, then this was obstruction of justice and grounds for impeachment.  Unlike the Democrats, however, Amash also pointed out that even Trump is entitled to a fair trial in America.

Obama has just received a JFK Profile in Courage Award.  He can put this in his trophy room, on the buckling shelf reserved for undeserved accolades, like his Nobel Peace Prize.  Or he can do the right thing and give it to Amash.

Political Correctness and Trump

I first expressed the view that Trumpism was an anti-PC backlash in December 2015 in this posting.  Here were my words:

I am convinced that this is another thing for which we can thank the political correctness movement.  The PC crowd has so stifled discussion that Trump’s willingness to talk trash is seen as a refreshing outbreak of honesty.

I got huge pushback on this from liberal friends and in the blogosphere.  But I was right.  We now have the evidence.

A recent survey from ClearThinking.org found that support for the statement “there is too much political correctness in this country” was the second best predictor of support for Trump.  The only higher predictor was being a registered Republican.

Remember, folks, before it’s in the popular media, it’s in Economic Man Blog.  Tell your friends.

Paul Krugman

It is sometimes hard to remember that, before he prostituted his Nobel Prize to become a partisan political hack, Paul Krugman was once an economist.  That is why listening to the podcast Contra Krugman is such a pleasure.  Ignore the often infantile Austrian economics and relish the contradictions and hypocrisy as Bob Murphy uses his encyclopedic knowledge of Krugman’s prior writings to refute Krugman’s current writings.

Last week’s episode featured a recent Krugman defence of French social democracy, directly contradicting Krugman’s writing from his Macroeconomics textbook and this 1997 rant about French economic incoherence:

To an Anglo-Saxon economist, France’s current problems do not seem particularly mysterious.  Jobs in France are like apartments in New York City: Those who provide them are subject to detailed regulation by a government that is very solicitous of their occupants.  A French employer must pay his workers well and provide generous benefits, and it is almost as hard to fire those workers as it is to evict a New York tenant.  New York’s pro-tenant policies have produced very good deals for some people, but they have also made it very hard for newcomers to find a place to live.  France’s policies have produced nice work if you can get it.  But many people, especially the young, can’t get it.  And, given the generosity of unemployment benefits, many don’t even try.

How I yearn for the Krugman of bygone days.

On My Lack of Viral-ity

Sometimes I come up with a tweet that I find so clever that I think it must go viral.  It never happens.  Here is a recent example.

If someone can explain my lack of viral-ity, I would be much obliged.  Perhaps I am being too obscure?  (Hint: The boss of the guy on the left has often been hyperbolically compared to the boss of the guy on the right.)

Roger Barris

Weybridge, United Kingdom

 

[1] However, I will continue to vent my spleen on my Twitter account: @EconomicManBlog.

[2] This includes the possibility that he is suffering from dementia, for which, if you believe this article, there is some evidence.

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Comments

  1. Hans van der Weide
    May 21, 2017

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    Dear Roger,

    For me as Libertarian (and hope you and Artus agree) it is wonderful to see how the “state and statist” making a joke out of the whole system , it is a circus and Trump the top clown! the crazier it gets the better. Hope it opens people’s eyes that this is the wrong path!!

    Keep up the good work and get your self ready to lead the Libertarian Party.

    Hans van der Weide

    • Roger
      May 21, 2017

      Leave a Reply

      Hi Hans:

      Yes, this is definitely one of the upsides of electing a complete clown like Trump. It should discredit the entire proposition of government. But will people see this? I doubt it. They will still fall prey to the reformist fantasy that the only problem is who is running the circus and not the circus itself. Even though the circus hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.

      Roger

  2. Charles
    May 21, 2017

    Leave a Reply

    Top predictors of being vehemently anti-trump:
    1) obsessive compulsive disorder
    2) desire for faux-celebrity status (modern media, Facebook addicts)
    3) financial security

    • Roger
      May 22, 2017

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      Well, I guess that’s the trifecta for me.

  3. Matilde Meyer
    May 21, 2017

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    Great blog post as always… you are being unkind to squirrel turds but I agree on many points made (especially on the PC backlash sadly). Keep up the thought provoking writing.

    Matilde

    • Roger
      May 22, 2017

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      You’re right. The squirrels in my back yard have stopped talking with me. They are insulted and want me to pick on the pigeons instead.

      Be well.

  4. Anonymous
    May 22, 2017

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    In answer to your question about your lack of viral-ity… I personally like your posts because they are a brave, eloquent articulation (perhaps one of the last before that increasingly mad republican house of cards folds forever) of an ever more indefensible support for a republican party, for a good idea that does not seem to be able to manifest itself in real, actual politics in any sensible way, in a very, very long line of republican presidential hopefuls: crackpots (Trump, Dubya), mental retards (Trump, Dubya, Reagan), crooks (Nixon) and third rate nobodies (Bush and Ford). More than half a century of clownery should have been enough to have anyone with an ounce of intelligence and decency abandon any allegiance to this embarrassing farce. But I admire your allegiance to the idea. Personally I have less patience with ideas, with theory that never manages to manifest itself in practice. The latter invalidates the former after a while.

    But that does not explain your lack of viral-ity. I think your lack of viral-ity is, paradoxically, attributable to what got your party elected: by and large, no-one really cares about intelligent political debate anymore. There is the (dwindling) inertia of people who read the usual partisan “quality” press, but that small segment more than saturates the market. Trump figured this out before everyone else. He’s a true businessman, i.e. a thoroughly ordinary man, in the unflattering (i.e. in the politically ‘right’) sense of that term: he figured out that after half a century of ordinary people just like him making up electoral majorities that vote for programs they do not really understand and are invariably disappointed by, by the time they have been executed, the client is asking to treat politics just like (real estate) business: try to sell them something real, a house financed by a sub-prime loan, because even though that will turn sour, in the meantime it will have satisfied the ordinary economic man’s desire for something tangible. Afterwards, when that will turn out to be the usual painful majority mistake, they will rail against Trump, as expected, and elect someone else, etc. Politics, in the serious sense of that term, is over for now. Blogs like this will continue to attract only the dutiful, polite approval of friends and family. Unless you go all out populist, which I doubt you will do, or you do something genuinely innovative, like develop genuine bi-partisan editorial debate and comment, rather than preach to the converted, which no-one has the courage to do.

    • Roger
      May 23, 2017

      Leave a Reply

      I am not a Republican. I have never registered as one nor voted for the party. In fact, I find both major parties idiotic, with the Democrats slightly in the lead. Yes, Dubya and Trump are uneducated morons, but Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are educated morons. And Obama was the anti-Bauhaus president: the victory of form over function. They are both wrong, but in different ways.

  5. Anonymous
    May 24, 2017

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    Well then there is your answer about lack of vira-lity: mere critique of everything that is politically on offer, however eloquent, will not find many buyers when it’s 5′ to midnight.

    • Roger
      May 25, 2017

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      Libertarianism is on offer. Justin Amash is on offer. Thomas Massie is on offer. Rand Paul was on offer in the Republican presidential nomination. The problem isn’t supply; the problem is demand. And, in the world of politics, additional demand would definitely create more supply.

  6. Anonymous
    May 24, 2017

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    I believe that careful analysis of your posts would reveal that, although selected members of the republican party come in for critique on occasion, the party as such hardly ever does. With the democrats the picture is very different: the party as such, in addition to selected members, come in for regular harsh criticism. It led me to conclude that the democrats were not just ‘slightly in the lead’ as you say, but very much so. That led me to assume you very much lean the way I indicated above. Again, it may account for the lack of viral-ity, as the animal farm analogy is never far away: equally critical of all, but slightly less so of some.

    • Roger
      May 25, 2017

      Leave a Reply

      I certainly criticize the foreign policy adventurism of the Republican Party. And I detest its social agenda, and the hypocrisy of it, and the role of the religious right in the Republican Party. But it is true that I am more critical of the Democrats. I take as an operating assumption the definitions of economist Bryan Caplan: “Liberals (Democrats) are against markets. Conservatives (Republicans) are against liberals.” Since I am very much for markets, I find myself siding with Republicans more than Democrats. It is also true that the Republicans periodically produce someone like a Justin Amash, whereas the Democrats never do anything this good.

      Anticipating an objection, it is also important to realize that the Republican Party did not produce Donald Trump. In fact, the party did everything possible — short of assassination — to avoid Donald Trump. He was also elected on the strength of votes from a bunch of former Democratic Party, working class voters, along with a large contingent of #NeverClinton voters. Now that Trump is in office, the Republican Party is doing its best to bury the parts of Trump’s agenda that are most noxious. You don’t see a lot of Republicans in Congress rushing to provide funding for the The Wall, do you?

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