Thursday, June 02, 2016

My fellow Republicans: don't support Trump

Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, has a post claiming a Trump presidency wouldn't be as bad as people fear. It's a good post. But it's wrong.

Trump is certainly not as bad as his haters claim. Trump not only disables the critical-thinking ability of his supporters, but also of his enemies. In most conversations, I end up defending Trump -- not because I support him as a candidate, but because I support critical-thinking. He's only racist sometimes, most of the time I love his political incorrectness.

But with all that said, he would indeed be a horrible president. As a long-term Republican, I'd prefer a Hillary Clinton presidency, and I hate Hillary to the depths of my soul. She's corrupt, and worst of all, she's a leftist.

But there's a thing worse than being a leftist (or right-winger) and that's being a "populist demagogue". Populist demagogues tell you that all your problems are caused by them (you know, those people), and present unrealistic solutions to problems. They appeal to base emotion and ignorance.

When nations fail because of politics, it's almost always due to populist demagogues. Virtually all dictators are a "man of the people", protecting the people's interests against the powerful (somehow, the dictators themselves are never part of the "powerful", since by definition, they are "of the people"). We see that in Venezuela right now, whose economy has crashed with oil prices (50% of their GDP was oil exports). The leader is making everything worse by running the playbook of bad populist policies. For example he's printing money, which first year economics textbooks tell you causes inflation, then blaming the resulting inflation on the United States and the CIA manipulating prices. That's the essence of populism: they pursue horrible policies, but blame the consequences on them.

In a Trump presidency, bad results that educated people know is caused by the government policy will instead be blamed on Mexico, China, and so on. The worst things get, the more crowd will cheer on Trump's and congress's bad policies, the more they punish Mexico and China, and the more they make bad policies worse.

Consider the $15 minimum wage promoted by Bernie Sanders, a hateful populist demagogue who is, if anything, worse than Trump. Hillary wanted $12.

Why not $18? Why not $25? Why not $100/hour minimum wage? Presumably, there are some negative thingies that happen the more you hike minimum wage. Presumably, there are some educated people out there who have studied this problem and can measure these things.  And there are. An example is this non-partisan, Congressional Office of Management and Budget (OMB) analysis of raising minimum wage to $10.10. It describes numerous positive and negative effects, none of which fits in a demagogic sound bite.

Raising the minimum wage has broad popular support, even among Republicans, because few are educated enough to appreciate the downsides. But yet, it doesn't get raised. The only explanation by populists like Bernie, or Trump, is that there must be some conspiracy (such as by Wall Street billionaires) that prevents the minimum wage from being raised. The truth is that our political leaders are basing their decision on things like the OMB report. They are basing their votes on an educated analysis of the policy, not on corruption and bribes from Wall Street. Note that there is no right or wrong answer to raising the minimum wage. There are reasonable people on both sides. It's just that this true debate based on education is far different than the public debate, which is based on emotion and ignorance.

Trade, which both Bernie and Trump oppose, is the same way. Educated people are for it, because it's such an obvious benefit to the population as a whole. Yet, special interests exploit the ignorance of the populace, which is why most people oppose trade.

Again, since anti-trade policies are so obviously a crowd pleaser, populace demagogues explain why such policies aren't adopted by blaming the vast conspiracy of the powerful, like Chinese lobbyists and Wall Street executives who want to move factories to Mexico.

Again, there's really no right and wrong answer. I oppose the latest "trade" deals like TPP and TTIP because they expand regulation rather than reduce tarifs, for example. I also appreciate that while benefits of trade exceed the costs, the costs of the change are often born unfairly by some groups.

The point isn't that you should support trade and oppose raising the minimum wage. Instead, the point is that populists present things as moral issues that transcended educated thought, and that when these policies are opposed by reasonable, educated people, the populist creates conspiracy theories explaining their opposition. Their power rests on the quality of their conspiracy theories.

All politicians are a little populist in this regard. The current one is President Obama. Yet when Obama has failed at his populist policies, like closing Gitmo, he blames the Republicans only a little bit. He hasn't gone scorched-earth populist-demagogue on them.

The only danger to a Democracy is such populist demagoguery. We see how Alexis Tsipras was elected on a wave of populism, and proceded to make the Greek debt crisis much worse. We see how the populist leader of Venezuela is making his oil crisis much worse. When the educated opposed policies for smart reasons, ignorant crowds overran them. The educated soon learned to keep quiet.

The same will happen with a Trump presidency. When a crisis happens, and a crisis will always happen, his will revert to populist demagoguery. He'll sweep aside any informed, rational debate on the issue. And as we've seen with the Republican politicians who have meekly agreed to Trump's candidacy, very few politicians will have the backbone to stand up to him. Republicans are already mute on criticism of Trump, and Democrats so frothing at the mouth in hatred Trump that nobody listens to them, either.

Trump is unforgivably racist (though barely so, not the white supremacist his enemies claim). Trump is a crappy businessman, not nearly successful as he claims. The few successes he's had are based on flim-flam, the faulty belief in his success. He's a con man, not a good manager. He's not the negotiator he claims, international politics works much different than negotiating price for building materials. On the world stage, everyone will laugh at him.

But all of these things can be forgiven, because most candidates suck just as much. Instead, the thing that makes Trump dangerous is his populist demagoguery. Historically, it this more than anything else that destroys democracies and make people's lives worse off.


pithom said...

Which president of the U.S. was the most demagogic? How did he turn out? The least demagogic one was George Washington, who was pretty good for a first president.

John Thacker said...

Even the TPP does reduce tariffs, on a wide range of agricultural goods and manufactured goods, some of which have very high tariffs. Some of the complicated regulations are the schedules to lower the tariffs; while I would rather have tariffs at zero instantly, I can't agree that a five year schedule is worse than not lowering them at all. Similarly, some of the regulations are absolutely understandable, because it's necessary to distinguish between environmental or health regulations that are neutral and those are applied in a nationalistic way, and you need rules to adjudicate that. (For example, when the US bans flavored cigarettes, including cloves that mostly come from Indonesia, but makes a special exception for menthols, mostly made by American companies, that's suspicious.)

It's just that it also contains provisions regarding intellectual property that I dislike. But it is also misleading to pretend that the TPP is all bad. I can understand people who truly favor low tariffs and free trade coming down on either side.

The most demagogic President was probably Andrew Jackson. Woodrow Wilson would also be up there in his own way. I have to admit that many historians and American people love the demagogues, even if I don't.

RLM said...

Nowhere in this blog entry do you offer any substantive argument against renegotiating trade deals, which is the only real point you make against Trump. Worse, on Twitter you opined that "All the trade deals have already been good deals" which is blatantly untrue. The US-Korea trade agreement of March 15, 2012 is the most recent example of a terrible deal for the US.

Instead, you prefer to imply that economic nationalists--people like Jeff Sessions and Pat Buchanan to name a prominent few--never existed before Trump, or if they did they're uneducated and have not thought this through. You're completely wrong. Many current Trump supporters supported Trump's positions before Trump and not just because they want to (falsely) blame others. You're being smug and condescending, much like the disgusting media, by implying Trump is simply being a populist demagogue manipulating people and no-one would have wanted his policies after a thoughtful process beforehand. There is some persuasion involved to be sure, as Scott Adams excellently documents, but that's not really Trump's base.

You are also an economically illiterate Dunning-Krueger sufferer if you did not know that the majority of educated economists on this planet dealing with the subject openly discuss mercanilist tactics in trade, including in the making of international agreements expanding such--just fewer in the Western world. The framework is not that free trade deals are automatically an economic positive based on discredited 19th century economic theories, but that they're what's on the table in the global order.

All trade deals which expand global trade also expand unaccountable international regulation of domestic markets. The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), which the US is a signatory to, obliges all members to favor any international standards to local standards. Domestic regulation of everything is then snuck in, which people falsely believe comes out of the diseased minds of Congress when in fact it usually comes from unaccountable international bodies, which Congress people are essentially stenographers or translators for. By the time it reaches Congress it had already been negotiated and it cannot be easily modified. Where TPP and TTIP aim to gnaw at, it will be gnawed at anyway as international regulation ever-expands under the current system.

Regarding one of your minor but hard hitting points, the idea that Trump is a con man or a bad manager is not borne by anything--unless you mean going over the top with branding, in which case "Advanced persistent cybersecurity" could be called a con too. It's like the BS about him hating women (because he attacks very specific women). If the media could find droves of former employees and collaborators who are unhappy with his performance, they would have paraded a big crowd of them by now. They could only find few willing to say it.

The sooner there is a realignment of the parties and free trade fanatics join the SJW scum in the Democratic Party, the better. And why don't you admit that you're being a pussy, too freaked out by him trolling the media too hard, instead of offering faux defenses of free trade as the reason you oppose Trump?

P.S. I do not come from Scott Adams' website. I regularly read your blog for years and will continue to do so but prefer the non-political pieces.

ThingFish said...

Does copyright, or worse, "intellectual property" count as increased regulation?

How about the Investor-State Dispute System that's in TPP, and I think TTIP? Is that increased regulation?

George said...

Didn't everyone feel the world was going to end when George w Bush got elected? Where's the difference with Trump? Same old garbage with a new face.

Ultimately Americas's path is the same in both domestic and international realms. The only thing that changes is which party gets to drive it, both do a terrible job (wars, assassinations, bas health care...etc.) it's just a matter of who gets to reap the benefits of being in office and holding power.

Simon Majou said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RLM said...

A bit more on the matter of free trade agreements. Here is the government page advertising the agreement with South Korea of March 2012:

"The Agreement is the United States' most commercially significant free trade agreement in almost two decades. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the reduction of Korean tariffs and tariff-rate quotas on goods alone will add $10 billion to $12 billion to annual U.S. Gross Domestic Product and around $10 billion to annual merchandise exports to Korea."

Crooked Hillary said while negotiating it: "We consider KORUS a model agreement" and as it took effect called it "a historic milestone that will lead to even more trade and investment between our two countries."

Here is what actually happened: Comparing 2011 to 2015, the exports stagnated at about the same level whereas the imports and trade deficit increased by about $15 billion. But conservative-minded people can't complain about a bad trade deal lest it is dirty, base populism and not true conservatism with vaunted "principles?"

What economic nationalist pundits advocated at the time was simply not to conclude the bipartisan deal, rather than punish South Korea or boil alive smug free-traders; you can google it.

So from another perspective, conservative free trade purists are in denial when trade deals they advocate for materialize as bad and attack people for noticing it. What you said about populists, that "they pursue horrible policies, but blame the consequences on them [their own target]," is precisely what National Review did when it called for free trade, then later the death of working class communities, as if only that 'lowly' class could disagree with them.

Because the media does not want to talk about important bipartisan failures such as the South Korea trade deal, even though Trump opened the trade subject wide for exploration, and instead tries to lie and smear, Trump has the moral permission to troll the media from petty nontroversy to nontroversy until the failed institution is fully discredited.


I wouldn't call ISDS a regulation as the term of art is usually understood, but it does affect regulation in important ways. It is a legal instrument meant to place arbitration outside of distrusted national court systems and into a gray area of international law more to the liking of major investors.

It works like this. Countries sign international investment agreements with other countries. The people involved in drafting them sit in obscure committees and democratic oversight is difficult. Lobbyists for the foreign investors sometimes get considered stakeholders with input. You usually only read about it after it's concluded. These international investment agreements do contain or pertain to regulations.

This is when the ISDS comes in. If one of the countries introduces new legislation that is somehow supposedly contrary to the obligations undertaken through the investment agreement, or tries to nationalize/expropriate an investment or passes laws that have the effect of making it worth less (or worthless), then an affected investor can directly shake down the country for compensation in an arbitration tribunal.

Some say this creates a chilling effect on modifying legislation because (1) this will increase the research cost and time for lawmakers to avoid the minefield and (2) though laws can be changed even in violation of the investment agreement, the taxpayer is held financially responsible for the privilege. It definitely circumscribes a country's ability to maneuver painlessly.

The upside is offering the foreign corporation the best chance to redress a legitimate grievance, meaning good karma and investment attractiveness. Another possible upside: you anticipate being able being able to screw over other countries better and faster.

pkx said...

This post is hilarious.
"As a long-term Republican, I'd prefer a Hillary Clinton presidency, and I hate Hillary to the depths of my soul. She's corrupt, and worst of all, she's a leftist."

give me a freaking break. I've been following your blog for a while, and every post has more progressive than the one before. Every paragraph has some some obvious virtue signaling going on. Frankly, it's quite exhausting, not to mention annoying. At the end of the day I still read each and every one of your posts because your technical analysis is spot on, and despite your incessant need to shove your political opinions down the viewer's tailpipe.

unfortunately, you're not first tech blogger in my RSS feed to go out of their way and make a "don't support Trump" post. that said, at least those guys had the intellectual decency not to pretend to be right wingers.

pjt said...

I recall when Ronald Reagan was elected. The European press and left in general sounded very much like they now do about Trump. A B-class actor has the nuclear button, horrible!

So, I'm not scared, even if I don't care much about the way Trump acts. Wolf has been cried out too many times.

tom said...

Let me suggest that you all take a serious look at Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Candidate.

This year it's really hard to simply ignore the LP based on the same old tired and trite arguments that have rendered us irrelevant in the past. Gary Johnson is far more qualified to be President than Trump, Hillary & Bernie combined. He has actual executive branch experience as a very successful two-term Governor of a border state, which beats Hillary & Bernie's Senate & State Dept "accomplishments" hands down. He also has extensive private-sector business experience. He built a multi-million dollar business from scratch, which trumps Trump who did it with inherited money and government hand-outs.

He's currently polling at 10-11% nationwide and will soon break 15% (the criteria used by the Bipartisan Debates Corporation to exclude anyone that isn't a Democrat or Republican from the Presidential debates). He may not win, but he will have an impact on the outcome of the election, unlike 3rd party candidates in the recent past.

And let's face it--most sane people hate Trump and Hillary both personally and politically. No vote is more wasted than one cast for a person you loath and whose policies you disagree with, just because they represent the party you think you prefer and/or scare you marginally less than their opponent.