Posted by on October 27, 2016

I said that I would follow up the third presidential debate with another Fantasy Debate.  I even planned this time to feature “Pseudo Johnson” as the sane participant.  But after reading the transcript and seeing how little substance was covered, and how repetitive the limited substance was, I realized that I couldn’t subject you or me to this.

So, instead, I have decided just to make a few brief comments:

  • Chris Wallace, the moderator, really should not have asked a question like “where do you want to see the [Supreme] court take the country?” This is called begging the question.  The Supreme Court should not be taking the country anywhere.
  • Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama should really stop taking credit for killing Osama Bin Laden. It’s not like either one pulled the trigger.  They just happened to be around when someone else found Bin Laden and yet another person shot him.  It didn’t take any particular courage or judgment to authorize the hit.
  • Hillary, also please stop taking credit for the economy during your husband’s presidency, and his turning a $300 billion budget deficit into a $200 billion surplus. Bill Clinton followed policies radically different from the ones you are proposing, many of them forced on him by a Congress that was controlled by the Republicans and Newt Gingrich.  Remember that Bill said “the era of big government is dead” during his 1996 inauguration speech, which is not exactly the theme of your policy proposals.  And why is Donald Trump too ignorant to mention this?
  • Hillary, I love the stirring rhetoric you used in the debate when discussing Roe v Wade: “I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making these most personal of decisions….And I can tell you the government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith, with medical advice. And I will stand up for that right.”  This tells me that the only thing that stops you becoming a good libertarian is a striking lack of consistency.
  • No, Hillary, 17 different US intelligence agencies did not say that the Russians have hacked emails from the Democratic Party and your campaign. It was two.  And even these two only said that the hackings were “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.”  And, yes, the rest of us have noticed how you and the Democrats have been employing misdirection on this entire issue.  It is clear that you have no intention of addressing the content of the emails and the incompetent media have no intention of making you do it.
  • The Supreme Court case in Heller had nothing to do about with saving toddlers from gun accidents. It, conversely, had everything to do with banning handguns and making long guns unusable for home defence.  As a lawyer, you have to understand this.  So this is a deliberate lie.
  • And if you are going to talk about Citizens United, then you should at least mention that the case was about a corporation’s First Amendment right to broadcast a documentary highly critical of you. And that the amount of “dark, unaccountable money” in US elections, as opposed to fully disclosed money, is negligible.  And that, finally, no one has benefited more from the financing allowed by Citizens United (and related decisions) than you.
  • Hillary, how much longer do you (and President Obama) plan to blame George Bush for the weakness of the economic recovery? Despite all the historical evidence that deep recessions tend to produce stronger, not weaker, recoveries?  And, Donald, why don’t you ever make this obvious point?
  • Donald, your attempt to display your foreign policy “chops” by discussing the fighting in Mosul, and the conflicting currents and rivalries in the Middle East, reads like a passage from Ulysses. And it is total gibberish there, too.
  • The award for “Whooper of the Evening” again goes to Hillary: “I also will not add a penny to the debt.” Although, as many people have pointed out, adding trillions of pennies (or dollars) to the debt will technically not violate this pledge.

The latest polls show the turd sandwich pulling safely ahead of the giant douche.  But they also contain some very good news.  There appears to be a growing movement to split tickets and vote Clinton for the presidency, but also to retain a blocking majority of Republicans in Congress.  Avid readers will remember these words from one of my earlier blogs:

The proper response to this Hobbesian choice [ie, Clinton versus Trump] is tactical voting:  a Clinton presidency held in check by a Congress dominated by Republicans.

I think that we could count on a Republican-controlled Congress to blunt Clinton’s worst instincts for four years, after which time a number of today’s Republican candidates will have the experience necessary to make them truly viable.   Conversely, a Trump candidacy could cripple the Republican Party for years.  So, I would choose four more years of gridlock with a Democratic President and a Republican Congress, over Democrats as far at the eye can see with a crippled Republican Party.

If this happens, then America’s voters will deserve a lot more credit than they are usually given.


It appears that the hackings of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign were the result of a phishing email requesting a password reset.  The request was sent to 108 members of the DNC and the campaign, and 20 geniuses clicked on them.

It is so comforting to know that a self-proclaimed, and self-exonerating, technophobe like Clinton will be able to draw upon such a clever group of people when forming her government.  I mean, it is not like she is expected to govern in a technological era, right?


With all the talk about inequality, there is one form of it that rarely gets mentioned: in any given year, 10% of the population accounts for 67% of the healthcare expenditures.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, about 50% of the population accounts for 4% of the healthcare expenditures.

I have to believe that a big part of the problem lies here.


I have mentioned before that Italy bears very close watching.  The Renzi government has set December 4 for the date of the referendum on constitutional change.  The current polling is very close.  A loss by Renzi could be an earthquake for Italy and the Eurozone.

Renzi has tried to fortify his position by an endorsement from President Obama.  He obviously saw how well this worked when Obama came out against Brexit.  The Italians are reacting the same way as the Brits: You no play’a the game, you no make’a the rules.

Meanwhile, Euros are leaking out of Italy at an accelerating pace.  They are primarily heading for Germany.  As with the similar flows that occurred from Greece, this is a strong vote of no confidence in the Eurozone.  In the event of a break up, Euros in Germany have a fair shot of being converted to appreciating Deutschemarks (or staying Euros in a smaller zone where stronger economies will have a greater weight.)  Euros languishing in Italy, conversely, have a fair chance of being converted into free-falling lira.  If I were an Italian, I know where I would be keeping my spare change.

How Far the Mighty Have Fallen

Greg Ip at the Wall Street Journal has recently written on the future of banking.  The article contains a chart, lifted from some recent research done by Larry Summers.  The numbers are striking.  Goldman Sachs is trading at almost exactly book value.  Since book value is a pretty meaningful number for a firm like Goldman, which is on a mark-to-market accounting basis, this means that shareholders basically don’t care if Goldman lives or dies: the firm is worth the same liquidated as a going concern.  The market is saying that the Goldman Sachs franchise is worth nothing!

As a further example of this collapse, Goldman, which has recently started taking deposits from the plebs, is now trying to lend to them.  It has started an online lending platform.  They have named it “Marcus” after the founder of the firm.  I am sure that he is rolling over in his grave.

Occupational Licensing

This issue has been creeping up the policy agenda, but Reason magazine has recently pointed out why it probably deserves even more attention.

More than one-third of all jobs in America are now subject to some form of occupational licensing, up from 10% in 1970.  This includes such things as the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology’s requirement for a least 300 hours of instruction in the “practice and theory of shampooing” by an approved school is required before a shampooer is unleased on a vulnerable public.  A recent study by the Brookings Institution points out that this growth has contributed to the lack of labor mobility, since licensing is frequently not transportable over state lines.

Occupational licensing has been implicated in unemployment, in inequality and poverty, in slow productivity growth, and, now, in reduced labor mobility.  If Donald Trump weren’t such a policy ignoramus, this would be a natural point for his campaign.  Maybe he could claim that the Chinese or Mexicans are responsible?

Some Great Video Watching

Here are some great videos to watch.

The first is an EconDuel between Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok on the subject of robots.  This touches upon some of the major policy issues of our day: inequality, wage stagnation, unemployment and labor force participation, income shares of capital and labor, and education, re-training and social safety nets.  It’s about ten minutes long and worth a listen.

The next is Sam Harris[1] talking about Milo Yiannopoulos and the Alt-Right movement.  Although I don’t agree with Harris on everything, particularly economics, I find him to be an incredibly clear and incisive thinker and speaker on a whole variety of topics.  Here, the really good stuff about the errors of identity politics starts just before the three-minute mark.   Seven minutes in total and worth all of that time.

Campaign Funding

Another great talking point if Trump were running even a half-way competent campaign: The Hill reports that, based on an analysis of campaign financing reports, 95% of the contributions from federal workers are going to Hillary Clinton.

The funny thing is that the leftwing media takes this as a sign that the experts are all-in for Clinton.  For Economic Man, conversely, it is simply a case of the pigs knowing who will keep the trough filled to the brim.

New Entrant to the Class of Great Schlock Movies

Economic Man has mentioned before his guilty secret about liking schlocky movies, such as Kelly’s Heroes, Vertical Limit and Con Air.  There is another one to add to the list: Collateral with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx.

This is the story of an I Ching-quoting contract killer (Cruise) who first hires, and then coerces, a milquetoast, mommy’s-boy taxi driver (Foxx) into driving him on a night of carnage in Los Angeles.  There is a great cameo appearance by Javier Bardem playing a Mexican drug lord.  The movie is worth watching if only for this scene, where Foxx realizes that he is going to have to grow a pair if wants to survive the night.

Roger Barris

Weybridge, United Kingdom


I Wish That I Had Said That…

“Democracy without respect for individual rights sucks.  It’s just ganging up against the weird kid, and I’m always the weird kid,” by Penn Jillette, who certainly is a very weird – and wonderful – kid


[1] Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the dearly departed Christopher Hichens are best known for their assaults on theism.  Some of their debates with theists are so lopsided that you almost feel bad for the religious folk.  Almost.  There a lots of them on YouTubeHere is a particularly brutal, but very long, example.

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2 Comments on "Fantasy Debate (The Third Debate)"

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Mark B. Spiegel

Dude, “Collateral” is Michael Mann, and Michael Mann doesn’t do “schlock”! (He can, however, do “boring” as in “Black Hat.”) “Collateral” is an excellent film, albeit a bit of a credibility stretch at times.