Posted by on December 21, 2016

I started commenting that the social justice warriors and their PC nonsense were enabling Donald Trump almost a year before the election in this blog.  Here are some of the words I used:

I have frequently written about the “law of unintended consequences,” particularly as it is consistently demonstrated by the Left.   It turns out that the rise of Trump is another great example.  The comment that I am most often receiving from Trump supporters is that, despite all of his manifest failings, he at least is willing to “tell it like it is….”

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 have repeated this observation numerous times to liberals, either in person or in the blogosphere.  It has universally been met with derision and hostility.  Maybe the mindless herd will start to change directions, however, with some guidance from their lead steers.[1]  President Obama has attributed Clinton’s loss partly to the perception that the Democrats are “coastal liberal latte-sipping politically-correct out-of-touch folks.”  And Bernie Sanders chimed in with “people are tired of the same old politically correct rhetoric.”[2]

The point is also making it into humor.  I have already posted this hilariously accurate video from the leftist UK comedian Tom Walker (aka, “Jonathan Pie”).  Now, Saturday Night Live has joined in with this “bubble” skit.

But one of the best pieces coming out of the left on this subject is, as is often the case, from Sam Harris.  Harris is that very rare thing: a liberal who combines brainpower with unflinching intellectual honesty, courage and an abhorrence of hypocrisy.  Here is his podcast on the presidential election, which identifies political correctness and identity politics as major causes of the Trump victory.  At about the two minute mark, Harris takes on a left-wing simpleton who attributed Trump’s victory to racism:

You can be sure that every white racist in America voted for Trump.  But there are millions of other people who have reasonable concerns about a movement like Black Lives Matter and most of these people probably voted for Trump, too.  These people are not racists.  They were simply recoiling from charges of racism and from a toxic brand of identity politics.  Much of what has been coming out of the left, not everything but much of it, particularly about race and law and order and Islamophobia and terrorism, about issues that are fundamental to the security of our society, has had all the moral clarity and intellectual honesty of the OJ verdict.  Which is to say, none at all.  And I am confident that many who don’t perceive Trump to be a dangerous conman in the way that I do, probably voted for him out of sheer exasperation….So millions of these people, along with real racists, told all of you [whining] social justice warriors at Yale and Brown to go fuck yourselves.

This podcast is pretty long (about 17 minutes), but Harris is always worth a listen.  He has a great analogy about the Trump presidency, which he likens to being on a plane where the real pilot has died and the controls have been seized by an inexperienced but aggressive passenger; we had better all wish him well and hope that he is listening to the guys in the control tower.  He also expresses the wish that Trump turns out to be a thorough-going conman, who is as much a policy cipher as he appeared to be on the campaign trail.  This opens the possibility that his administration will be formed by others, making his cabinet nominees especially important.  I am happy to say that these have generally been better than I would have expected, although further comments on this point will have to await an upcoming post.

Charles Koch and Warren Buffett

Charles Koch is, along with his brother David, the ultimate liberal bogeyman.  Although I have not studied him or his company closely, and therefore I cannot say whether there is any truth to the accusations of crony capitalism, immorality and lawlessness, this certainly is an a priori case for liking him.

That case just got stronger after reading an article on him in The Economist entitled “The tycoon as intellectual – Charles Koch is a rare thing, a businessman besotted by ideas.”  The Koch of this article is highly sympathetic.  An MIT-trained engineer who is surrounded by books and who lives by the “spontaneous order” thinking of Friedrich Hayek, the Nobel-winning libertarian economist.  In fact, he has so fully imbibed this thinking that it forms the basis of his own management style, which he has termed “Market-Based Management,” under which he tries to push market forces and spontaneous order as far as possible into his company.[3]

Koch also appears to be the type of down-to-earth hero that Americans normally love.  His company is based deep in the heartland, in Wichita, Kansas.  Despite his $40 billion fortune, he “lives in a nondescript neighborhood in one of America’s most boring cities.”  Complimented on his company’s art collection, he seems uninterested, but “[t]he bookshelves in his office are stuffed with works of history, biographies, and the latest titles with big ideas.”  He has populated his company with first-class engineers and technicians from places like Murray State University and the University of Tulsa, not exactly the stuff of bragging rights.

He has also been immensely successful.  Koch estimates that, since taking over their father’s middling oil and gas business, he and his brother have multiplied its value by 4,500 times since 1960.  This is a compound annual return of over 16%, beating the S&P 500 by 30 times and approaching the record of the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett.

The comparison with Buffett is instructive in other ways, too.  On the face of it, there are a lot of similarities.  However, instead of eliciting death threats and near universal condemnation from the media, Buffett is viewed as the wise and kindly uncle of capitalism.[4]  And this despite that fact that his investment activities have frequently been, as he particularly showed in the financial crisis, pretty predatory and far from immune to cronyism.

Looking at this difference between the public perceptions of Koch and Buffett, it is impossible not to attribute it to the PR failure identified in the article: “The ultra-rich, particularly those who made their original fortunes in oil and gas, are supposed to make amends by giving their money to liberal causes.”

Another case where truth has turned out to be every bit as strange as Ayn Rand’s fiction.

Roger Barris

Weybridge, United Kingdom



[1] Although some Republicans might view this as a mixed blessing, preferring that the Democrats dig their graves deeper, for those of us who think that both parties are severely flawed and who have an interest in good policy rather than partisanship, this is an improvement.

[2] However, if you listen to the video, you will see that Sanders was deliberately obtuse about political correctness, trying to switch it to a discussion of trade policy.  The interesting part is not so much his weaselly answers, as it is the refusal of the questioner from MSNBC – a notoriously leftist media outlet – not to let him get away with them.

[3] Economists will recognize that this is an interesting exercise in the “theory of the firm,” another area where Ronald Coase, the Nobel-winning economist, was a pioneer.  Basically, Coase asked the question of why companies, which are in many respects command-economy islands of socialism, with all the problems attendant therein, exist in a capitalist sea.  Coase theorized that the shoreline between island and sea depended on transaction costs.  Koch obviously believes that it is possible to push market forces, and therefore economic rationality and incentives, deeper into corporate structures.

[4] I have to admit that I used to belong to this camp.  Lately, however, I have started to view Buffett as just a particularly PR-savvy and clever hypocrit.

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5 Comments on "PC and the Election: The Left Catches a Whiff of the Coffee"

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Neil Winward

I read most of your posts. I agree with Harris on many things though not his atheism. I am a fan of Road to Serfdom but recommend – if you have some reading time over Christmas – Polanyi’s Great Transformation.

Hans van der Weide

Dear Roger & Artus,,

Thank you for your inspirational articles this year and we wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2017!!!

Love and regards from Sylvia, Carmel & Hans xx


Hello Hans,
thank you for reading us throughout the year. I hope Carmel, Sylvia and you will have a great Christmas and a happy new year!