• Nicholas Weininger

    One thing your limits of legalism piece omits, as far as I can tell, is a positive, evidence-based account of how majoritarian politics can succeed in protecting and expanding the institutional implementation of a classical liberal conception of liberty. You need that, I think, if you’re going to persuade classical liberal legalists not to disdain politics. I think most such folks would agree with your assessment of the limits of legalism’s efficacy; but if politics is useless and doomed, or nearly so, then doing as much as we can by legalistic means is still the best available alternative.

    Similarly, you ignore the alternative of seeking to influence political institutions by focusing on elite opinion and/or the opinion of concentrated minority interests, rather than persuading the broader electorate. This too has limits, but is at least somewhat effective in most actually existing political systems, even the ones where the civic religion of majoritarianism is strongest. There’s an article by Dani Rodrik et al, I forget which one but I found it through Marginal Revolution awhile back, that models societies as divided into masses, elites, and minorities, and models traditional leftism as an attempt to unite masses and minorities against elites, and traditional rightism as an attempt to unite masses and elites against minorities. I think many libertarians at least implicitly think of the libertarian project as uniting elites and minorities against the masses, and as obviously challenging as that project is, it has a certain appeal– an appeal which is, by the way, fully compatible with your defense of identity politics.

    The electoral success of illiberal populists tends to strengthen that appeal, by providing reason to lower one’s estimate of both the cognitive capacity and moral worth of the bulk of the electorate, at least in their capacity as voters. It brings home viscerally the import of the Brennan and Caplan discussions of voter ignorance and irrationality; it tends to discredit the moral and empirical postulates of egalitarianism and resonate with those already influenced by liberal-minded anti-egalitarians. I would put in that category H.L. Mencken and Robert Heinlein, for example, who are certainly important intellectual influences on a lot of American libertarians.

    So if you want libertarians to have a greater commitment to democracy you’re going to have to address those reasons for less commitment. Yes, it’s bad public relations to show contempt for the general public and for the messy, endless political processes of convincing and re-convincing that general public. But why should we think it’s a moral and/or empirical, rather than just a prudential, mistake– why isn’t that contempt justified, even if socially undesirable and impractical to act on effectively? And why indeed should we be _permanently_ married to democracy, as a marriage of convenience or not, rather than open-mindedly exploring possibilities for institutional arrangements that might defend liberty better? What convenience does liberty gain from the permanence of such a marriage?

  • stevenjohnson2

    Having read Richard G. Wilkinson’s Poverty and Progress the year it came out, none of this is news. Marvin Harris for another incorporated these ideas in his popular survey Our Kind, for one. What seems to be novel in Scott is tendentious folly about politics. But perhaps I have been overly prejudiced against Scott because of his insane claim early in his weird artifact The Art of Not Being Governed that tribal societies were less violent than states. There are after all many people who really do say provocative things they don’t really mean because they are all excited. Although there are people who do make absurd claims directly contradicted by their own evidence and arguments too. Someday I’ll get to Seeing Like a State and find out which is which.

    But I can say there is no reason for reading this book other than a congenial political message that may or may not even be supported by the facts. Without some hint of what Scott thinks should have happened to the excess people who desecrated the world with agriculture, it is very unlikely the book is worth reading. The review does give the distinct impression the question never even occurred to Scott, who attributes agriculture and the state to, fundamentally, human wickedness. That is, the history of the world is the history of how Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable, but Cain’s was not.

  • Sean II

    This Russia thing is another one of those tricky double standards that makes current year social signaling such a fun game. As best I can make out, it works like this:

    Worried about Chinese influence = Xenophobia/protectionism
    Worried about Saudi influence = Islamophobia
    Worried about Israeli influence = Anti-Semitism
    Worried about Russian influence = Noble defense of democracy

    The emoluments bit is considerably simpler, and seems to work something like:

    Trump raises resort fees = unprecedented abuse of office
    Clinton Foundation openly peddles influence for 20 years = nothing to worry about

    (Or maybe the rule is: if you enter office poor (read: net worth < eight figures), it's okay to get rich during and especially after. But if you enter office rich, you shouldn't get any richer. I dunno.)

    Sometimes the two stories collide amusingly. In Jake's piece, for example, we're supposed to have two concerns about Mar-a-Lago – 1) that Trump is making it easy for foreign agents to reach him there, and 2) that Trump is raising prices. But the ruble-to-dollar exchange rate is murder! Shouldn't he have lowered prices for the sake of those hard pressed Russian operatives working under closely monitored expense accounts?

    In any case, we get it. The only principle you need = Trump is always wrong, and always in some new shocking way. Even and indeed especially when he’s doing the same things his predecessors did, and the same things his opponent surely would have done (except more often, and more effectively).

    And that’s fine, I guess. Trump is wrong amazingly often, so it’s easy to see why his critics would take such a great head start and run with it, all the way to always.

    But on the other hand, maybe having a figurehead who can never be right (or even just not guilty) is a problem similar to having a leader who can never be wrong.

    Culturally, it’s sort of like 1984 if there was no Big Brother and Goldstein was president, but the official orthodoxy still required everyone to hate him. Or at least everyone in the party.

    The trouble is: a mindless frenzy is still a mindless frenzy. Yes, mindless frenzies are much worse when orchestrated by the state and directed in accordance with its aims. But a mindless frenzy against this one particular statist carries dangers of its own.

    If you have to choose, I’d rather have people driven mad with loathing of the president than see them ecstatic with admiration. It’s weird that we’ve witnessed both in less than a decade. The initial Obama love fest in 2009 was a mirror image of the overblown Trump hate in now.

    That’s the problem with overbidding. It was almost inevitable that Obama would disappoint his fans, and now it’s almost inevitable that Trump will disappoint his enemies, by being less than the perfect villain they’ve sketched out.

    But the real punchline is this: one of the main things Trump haters hate about Trump is that he overstates everything. Things are always “yuge” or “wonderful” or “disasters” or “the worst”, etc. His reputation as a dangerous fascist is based on his intemperate speech.

    And yet his opponents can’t stop responding in kind. Every boring little thing is “shocking”, “unprecedented”, a “major new revelation”, a “threat unlike any we’ve faced”, etc.

    This doesn’t just make them look like dicks, it makes them look like the same type of dick he is. Whatever happened to shaming the other guy by modeling behavior opposite to his own.

    Surely, the real antidote to Trumpism – or rather I should say, to all forms of current year hysteria – is to offer a live demonstration in the art of thinking while calm.

    • King Goat

      It’s amusing to see those on the Right, who, years ago would throw apoplectic fits if anyone dared say anything that might, possibly, maybe, be kind of construed, in some way, as a defense of anything remotely Russian, now so consistently and loudly dismiss any concerns over the proven Russian influence in our polity.

      It’s also amusing to see Sean II’s consistent ‘nothing to see here’ comments re: Trump which you can see from the campaign through the election here. Look all these comments up. They’re always ‘yeah, Trump so crazy, I’ll admit it briefly before I move on in detail to the next point’ but then ‘but, hey, don’t be alarmed, nothing to see here!’

      Do you think it could be because our resident racialist, as one would expect, thinks Trump’s normalization of racialist rhetoric that beforehand would have been seen as violating a consensus of social norms, and the subsequent empowerment of racialist on our social scene, makes a more comfortable world for him and his ilk?

      • R.Levine

        “Trump’s normalization of racialist rhetoric”

        … wait, what? I’m aware Trump gets called racist in the context of the general animosity directed toward him, but when has he “normalized racialist rhetoric”? Has this happened in some way that violated any norms beyond the general norms of good taste / decorum that he violates all the time? And how far back does “beforehand” go? I don’t think I’ve heard anything worse than, for example, HRC’s “superpredators” comment from 20 years ago – what have I missed?

        • King Goat

          We could debate how you find “Just as in a previous generation we had an organized effort against the mob. We need to take these people on. They are often connected to big drug cartels, they are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called superpredators — no conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first, we have to bring them to heel.” to be > than ““When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” But why waste time on that? White supermacists *themselves* are very upfront about how they feel Trump has normalized and empowered them.



          • Sean II

            That’s the usual thing.

            When asked for evidence that Trump supports white nationalism, people usually offer evidence that white nationalists support Trump.

            Not the same thing, although not totally unfair either. The question of why those WN’s support Trump IS well worth asking.

            And really the answer isn’t hard to figure out.

          • King Goat

            There’s very fine people on both sides, you know?

          • R.Levine

            Well ok, point taken – it seems beyond dispute that Trump’s election has at least emboldened these people (I could quibble about whether that really qualifies as general “normalization”, but that might just be splitting hairs over semantics).

            Also agreed that while it may not be someone’s fault per se if a bunch of noxious people happen to support them, it should probably give you pause if a bunch of Nazis seem to be finding common cause with you. I’m honestly not sure what the thresholds there should be for alarm, though. For example, say we discovered that 90% of hardened criminals (murders, etc) supported some particular party and/or candidate – how much skepticism of said party/candidate’s policy positions would that justify?

            Similarly (and more relevant to the example at hand): I live in New York and I have several friends that claim to be avowed socialists and/or communists… yet I tend to regard them as “well meaning but tragically misguided”, whereas I’d probably regard a self-described Nazi as just evil. This doesn’t seem like a consistent judgement on my part, and it seems like it has the tell-tale signs of ingroup preference (so maybe if I lived in Kansas I’d have the opposite judgement?)

            Of course maybe my socialist friends are just signalling that they’re coastal elites (they’d never *really* want to overthrow the government and seize private property and impose central planning), whereas the Nazis in question are really sincere Hitler-ists who want to murder all the non-Aryans… but then that seems like exactly what someone like me would say to defend his ingroup.

      • Octavian

        Racialized rhetoric was not only normalized prior to Trump, it was practically mandatory. Our previous attorney general condemned ‘color blindness.’ It takes a great deal of selective memory to think racialized rhetoric wasn’t common well before Trump.

        • Sean II

          The Obama presidency was itself an identity-based affair.

          Geraldine Ferraro was right: if Barry has been a white man or a woman of any color running with that resume, he would never have made it out of Iowa and New Hampshire. At best he could have made the short list for VP.

          Obama was nominated because he was black. He got favorable press coverage during the campaign and throughout both terms because he was black. He got the Nobel Peace Prize because he was black. All the while his supporters used the fact of his blackness as a weapon of first resort against his critics, quickly labeling any opposition as racist.

          It’d be really weird if people didn’t notice that.

          For young people especially, those who came of political age and went to college after 2008, it must seem like the natural order of things that the president’s race is one of if not the most important things about him.

          Of course that’s just a writ large version of the dilemma which has plagued affirmative action at levels lower than the presidency of the United States.

          A: You can force the pace of history to achieve representation, but that takes a bit of cheating, and people who run on straightforward notions of procedural justice will notice and resent your breaking of the rules.

          B: You can let history takes its course, in which case representation will come slowly or never, and people who prefer distributive justice will definitely notice and increasingly resent your adherence to the rules which lock them out.

          We chose option A. On the big stages and the little ones. And so here we are.

          • King Goat

            “running with that resume”

            1. Obama was a state senator for seven years then a US Senator for three before he became President. Abraham Lincoln was a state representative for eight years and then a US representative for two before he became President. Interestingly, another thing the two have in common is that both got their national careers started by giving what fans saw as a rousing speech-Obama the 2004 convention speech, Lincoln the Cooper Union speech.

            2. Long political resumes are bugs, not features in today’s candidates.

          • Rob Gressis

            I’m a bit wary of comparing political situations in 1860 to ones in 2008.

          • King Goat

            Fair point, but if anything the trend away from a long resume of experience works in the other direction (compared to previous Presidents of his time Lincoln had a *really* sparse resume).

            Of course, if you want a more recent example of someone with a politically sparse resume winning, look at our current WH resident, who is the first ever one with no elected experience at any level.

            Obama’s ‘lack of resume’ is relatively not something much important and so one doesn’t need to nod to his race as ‘overcoming’ that.

          • Rob Gressis

            That’s very surprising to me. I would have thought that in Lincoln’s day, there were many more citizen-politicians, as opposed to political lifers.

            I don’t know the history, though; this is just a gut reaction.

            So let me make sure I understand your point. Are you saying:
            (1) Back in around 1860, the typical *nominee for president* had more political experience than the typical nominee around now;
            (2) Back in around 1860, the typical *politician* had more political experience than the the typical politician now

            I suspect you’re asserting (1) and but would deny (2). Is that right?

            And also: do you have a study for this, or is this just an impression you’ve formed from your reading of political history? (For the record: I think impressions are a tad underrated and studies are overrated, but if it’s a study, then you can point me to it.)

          • King Goat

            Remember, Sean’s argument hinges on: Obama had little experience, that’s unheard of, so his success must have hinged on something else, he points to his race. By offering my example I’m saying, ‘no, it’s not unheard of, when a guy can give a good speech he can win the Presidency, even if he’s inexperienced, it’s definitely happened before.’ If there’s this alternative example, one historically verified, then race loses it’s explanatory value.

          • Sean II

            What matters in a modern primary is name recognition. Standing in a room with ten “hopefuls”, you need to be the guy with all the cameras pointed at you.

            There was only one reason why Obama got that kind of attention in the early going for 2008.

          • Rob Gressis

            I’d say at least four: the color of his skin, the speech he gave in 2004, his political views, and his obvious intellectual abilities.

          • Sean II

            1) Skin color is the sine qua non. Take that one variable away, the rest don’t matter.

            2) Can’t be that. Lots of people can give speeches. It’s a cheap talent. One easy proof of this is: it doesn’t pay much. More supply than demand. Indeed most of the people who make real money on speaking fees are famous for something other than oratory – like Hillary, or Buzz Aldrin.

            Show me a guy for whom oratory is his main talent, and I’ll show you…a substitute teacher.

            (Personally, I never thought Obama was good at speech-making. Too much of a slow talker. No passion. Very narrow register of emotion. Goes off the rail without a prompter.)

            3) His political views were a liability. It was crazy stupid of the Democrats to run such a polarizing leftist in what should have been a virtually uncontested election. Under normal circumstances (like 2016) the DNC would have plotted to freeze out a hard lefto like Obama. That’s why they did Sanders dirty.

            4) Obama is probably about as smart as W, 125 to 135ish maybe. Nothing special in that class of people. Can’t be a reason why he stood out.

          • King Goat

            It’s laughable to say “Lots of people can give speeches.” How many recent presidential candidates could speak that well? Reagan, Bill Clinton…that’s it.

            “Personally, I never thought Obama was good at speech-making. Too much of a slow talker. No passion. Very narrow register of emotion. Goes off the rail without a prompter.”

            This shows you Sean’s depth.

            A ‘good speech maker’ is one that moves a lot of people with their speech. That person might not be you, of course! Lots of people, especially deep partisans, are unable to credit anyone on the other side as being good at speeches, because as they disagree with the person they naturally, if not deeply, conclude ‘ah, that’ guy’s stupid!’ But the thing that communications experts can tell you is that there is an ability to deliver a speech, even one that you think is full of nonsense, that definitely is more or less effective at moving a lot of people. And, that delivery might not appeal to you (regardless of partisanship), but one can recognize it does more effectively move many.

            You can not be a liberal or Democrat and yet see that liberal Democrat Obama was significantly better at giving speeches than liberal Democrat Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Walter Mondale, etc. The fact that Sean won’t even give this credit betrays him as a pretty simplistic partisan despite his feints at being something more sophisticated.

            Sean’s comments on his leftism (it’s interesting that in nearly every recent election partisans like Sean like to proclaim whatever Democrat nominee as clearly the ‘most liberal’ ever!) and intelligence (heck, let’s say rather ‘perceived intelligence,’ even if Obama was ‘really’ no smarter than W (!), he certainly worked to cast a *perception* that he was, which would serve to attract many intellectuals) betray the same.

          • Sean II

            “A ‘good speech maker’ is one that moves a lot of people with their speech.”

            He moved a lot of people, just not with the power of his speech. What mattered was the power of his identity.

            One way you can tell is by looking at the content of those speeches, or rather the lack of content. He did a lot of “I sincerely believe…that there is no problem we can’t solve…if we solve it together [hand clasp gesture]. And that is why…”

            It’s the sort of empty drivel people don’t really buy anymore. But they did buy it from him. Because of who he was.

            The role he stepped into was already scripted. The “cool black president” had been a trope of American movies and television for about a decade going back. That tells you how badly everyone wanted to believe in someone like Obama, before Obama came along. Frankly, all he had to do was not fuck it up.

            And he didn’t. To his credit, he let the pre-written story play out with minimal interference from his own thoughts, beliefs, personality, etc. But of course that entailed being intentionally boring, trudging through speeches carefully crafted to say nothing. Which he did rather well.

            But that’s not usually what people have in mind when they say someone is a good speaker.

          • Sean II

            I went back and watched that 2004 speech. It was pretty damn good. Much better than anything he did later. I wonder why that is.

          • Rob Gressis

            I think his speech disavowing Jeremiah Wright was also good. As for his skills as an orator, I agree that I’ve rarely liked his speechifying, but I figure he’s like John Cena. John Cena is an OK wrestler and a good talker, but it’s just unclear to me why he’s the only non-part-timer in professional wrestling who moves the needle as far as affecting viewing numbers.

            Also, re: your response below: I don’t think skin color is the sine qua non. I think all 4 of them together are. Take away 4, and he’s just another black radical. Take away 3, and he’s just Cory Booker. I also should have added: 5 not obviously corrupt.

            It’s like racial profiling. No one ever looks for a black guy. They look for a (1) black (2) male (3) with tattoos (4) who is young and (5) was in the area of the crime while (6) having a known gripe with the victim.

          • CJColucci

            Geraldine Ferraro was right: if Barry has been a white man or a woman of
            any color running with that resume, he would never have made it out of
            Iowa and New Hampshire. At best he could have made the short list for

            Irony is not dead.

        • King Goat

          Indeed! And even before that there was a national association for the advancement of *colored people* running around!

          • Octavian

            Do you imagine you’re making a point?

          • King Goat

            I’ll stop and explain it to you.

            Do you think the existence of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People shows a normalization of ‘racialized rhetoric’ in the same way that Richard Spencer’s sudden rise to prominence does? Or, in other words, would the existence of the NAACP in 1920 America and the simultaneous existence of a National Association for the Advancement of White People show equal ‘racialized rhetoric?’ I submit that would be goofy: it would ignore the important historical and socio-economic facts that are important context to such a claim. Likewise, AG Holder saying ‘As it stands, our society is not yet color blind nor should it be given the disparities that still afflict and divide us. We must be color brave and must never forget that all are made better and more prosperous if all are given equal opportunities” is not = to Trump saying “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

      • Rob Gressis

        I haven’t followed the Russia thing very closely. From what I know, here is what happened:
        (1) the Trump campaign and representatives from the Russian government met a few times, despite the fact that members of the Trump campaign denied it. So, the Trump campaign has been lying about its having met the Russians. The fact that they have lied, over and over, about their connections to the Russians suggests that they think they did something bad.
        (2) The reason the Trump campaign met with the Russians is that they wanted dirt on Hillary Clinton. They didn’t get any dirt, but if they had gotten dirt, they would have used it.
        (3) The Russians hacked the DNC and sent that information to Wikileaks, which then leaked the information to the press, who publicized it. The Trump campaign was very happy about this.
        (4) Paul Manafort, who was campaign manager of the Trump campaign for a few months, has been receiving a lot of $$ from the Russians.
        (5) Trump is notably “softer” on Russia than any major political figure in the USA.

        I gather that some people claim that (3) was an inside job (e.g., The Nation), but if I had to bet, I would bet that the Russians hacked the DNC (that’s what a November 4 AP story claims).

        So my question is this: what is the worry about the Russians’ connection to Trump? Is it that the best explanation for (5) is that the Russians have something over on him? Or that he promised to be soft on the Russians in exchange for their hacking the DNC? If that’s true, then that seems to me to a major scandal, one that demands impeachment of Trump (though I already think he should be impeached on grounds of obstruction of justice). But if (5) is due to Trump just believing that, and (1)-(4) are all that has happened, then I don’t see why the Russia thing is such a big deal.

        • King Goat

          Rob, I think a lot of people think an important thing is just that a foreign government, especially one that’s considered somewhat hostile to us, involved itself in our elections, and to the extent Trump and his campaign were or are connected to that (as either accomplices, willing and/or cooperating beneficiaries, what have you) that rubs off on them.

          • Rob Gressis

            OK, but it can’t just be a foreign government involving itself in elections; from what I recall, there was a connection between the Clinton campaign and Ukraine (or maybe that was made up?), and no one cared about that because the government was not hostile to us. And surely Israel involves itself in our elections to some degree? At least, they have a lobby and the lobby tries to ensure that our candidates are friendly to Israel. (I’m probably in the minority here, but I tend to think that the USA *should* support Israel, but I admit I don’t know very much about the issue.) But maybe a lot of people do care about Israel or the Ukraine or Germany, etc., and I just haven’t heard about it (I’ve heard about people upset about Israel, but not from anyone who has any influence).

            So it’s a government that’s unfriendly to us wanting to involve itself in our elections. OK, I can see why that’s worrisome. But a couple of things here:

            (1) If the Russian government exposes wrongdoing on the part of the Clinton campaign but not the Trump one, I can see why you’d get mad if you think the exposure was done to support the Trump campaign (as it surely was). That said, I’m still glad I know about the wrongdoing.

            (2) If the Russian government tries to intervene in our election, but doesn’t do a very good job of it (it doesn’t seem to me that the Podesta hack had a large impact, but maybe I’m wrong about that), and the Trump campaign wants to work with them, but fails due to its incompetence, that doesn’t seem to me to be worth the ink spilled on it. That said, it certainly is worth *some* ink, and the Trump campaign’s behavior seems to me to suggest that *they* think they’ve done something very wrong, although, knowing them, they’re probably wrong about that or are just morons. As usual.

            Overall, though, I do think there’s something worrisome about a semi-hostile government intervening in our elections, and the Trump campaign welcoming its support. Not sure if it’s impeachable, though. I’d have to think harder about that. And actually, now that I think about it, I kind of wonder about the propriety of a friendly foreign government involving itself in our elections. If the EU sent lots of money to Clinton, in the hopes of swaying US public opinion, I’m a bit worried about that.

          • Sean II

            “…the Trump campaign’s behavior seems to me to suggest that *they* think they’ve done something very wrong, although, knowing them, they’re probably wrong about that or are just morons.”

            It’s morons.

            Although it might be more precise to say “rank political amateurs who entered the game at its highest level with predictable results”.

            BTW – the source to follow on this story is Michael Tracey.

          • Rob Gressis

            I’ve followed Tracey, but only on Twitter. Has he written a longer piece where he ties his observations together? Right now, they’re too scattered for me to make them coherent.

          • Sean II

            Twitter is what I had in mind. Tracey’s account is basically an exclamation point removal service, where he takes the Russia news of the day, strips it of the manufactured sensationalism, renders it back into the words journalists would use if not shaken by Trump derangement, in order to reveal the banality of whatever kernel of truth there is to the story.

          • King Goat

            Yeah, I honestly don’t see this one as hard… A hostile government works (and by ‘works’ we include here breaking our laws-hacking the DNC computers for example) to get a candidate they prefer (you have to imagine they have their reasons and those reasons will be based on achieving their interests, which, as we stipulated are likely hostile to ours) elected…That’s a big deal even if they did a sloppy job of it or even if in doing so they sunlighted some things that are good to know.

            There was a charge in the last Israeli election that Obama and the State department coordinated with NGO’s to influence the election in Israel away from Bibi. To put it mildly, Israeli’s, especially Bibi’s supporters were *pissed.*

          • Rob Gressis

            Assuming the Israeli charge was true: Do you think what Obama did was immoral? I can see the issue going either way:

            (1) It’s immoral: Israel is, more or less, a democracy, and one that is friendly to US interests, so, to the extent that the US interferes with Israel’s election, it’s thwarting the will of the people.
            (2) It’s moral: Bibi is a dangerous candidate whom we have good reason to think will create instability in the Middle East. Therefore, the US should have tried to sway the Israeli election.

            I’m personally pretty wary of democracy, for reasons of the sort that Brennan and Huemer offer. So, I find myself skeptical of will of the people stuff.

            I also believe that Clinton was far more emotionally fit for the presidency, though I’m not sure whether her administration would have in the end been better or worse for the world than Trump’s. (We’ll see!) Pretend you thought that the Trump administration would, warts and all, be better than a Clinton administration. If you did, would that change how you felt about Russian meddling?

            Also: if you thought the Russian meddling was irrelevant to the election’s outcome, would *that* change how you felt about Russian meddling?

          • King Goat

            “Assuming the Israeli charge was true: Do you think what Obama did was immoral?”

            I think any good Israeli should be incensed at it…Think of it this way: you and your wife make a lot of decisions together about the best thing for your marriage and your family. One issue you two have to decide involves a boundary with your neighbor…You find out that your neighbor has been meeting with your wife, and heavily trying to influence her in regards to you and your judgement (not specifically about the boundary issue let’s say, though we don’t know that’s apt here, I’m being generous).

            Now, maybe your view of the boundary issue, or others involving the neighbor, are objectively wrong in some sense. And the neighbor’s view is correct.

            Aren’t you still mad about her meddling? Isn’t it *natural*? And *rightfully* so?

            Now let’s say your wife thought the meddling was ineffective, would you say you’re not mad about it therefore?

          • Rob Gressis

            Two things:
            (1) If Trump had been leading the whole way, but then shockingly lost on election day, and if you learned that the Chinese meddled in the US election with the intent to defeat Trump (but such that it wasn’t clear how much the Chinese meddling had to do with Trump’s loss), would you be furious at the Chinese? Be honest. From my perspective, I don’t think I would be. In fact, I can imagine raising a glass of champagne to them.

            (2) I was just reading a NYT piece about the Flynn development in the Russia thing (“Michael Flynn’s Guilty Plea: 10 Key Takeaways”), and here was the nut graf: “The charge Mr. Flynn is pleading guilty to is a stunning one. … He is admitting that last December, before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, he asked the Russian ambassador at the time, Sergey Kislyak, to refrain from reacting aggressively to sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia. Russia reportedly agreed and Mr. Kislyak told Mr. Flynn later that it had chosen to moderate its response to the sanctions to make nice with the Trump team.”

            I don’t understand why this is a big deal. Can you explain it to me? I figure I must be misunderstanding it. Here’s how I understood it:

            1. The Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia.
            2. Kislyak wanted to react aggressively.
            3. Before the Trump administration was in power, Flynn told Kislyak not to.
            4. So, Kislyak didn’t react aggressively.

            Isn’t 4 a really good thing? Is this impeachable because it means Flynn (with Trump’s knowledge) tried to do foreign policy before having the remit?

            Consider the following parallel case:
            1′. The Obama administration shoots a missile at Russia.
            2′. Russia wants to shoot a missile back at us.
            3′. Before the Trump administration was in power, Flynn tells Russia not to.
            4′. So, Russia doesn’t.

            4′ seems like a really good thing. Would that still be impeachable too?

            I’m so confused here!

          • Rob Gressis

            Sorry about not responding to the meddling. I’d probably be mad (so it’s natural) but I’m not sure it’s rightful. I have to think about it more. I suspect it is rightful, but now I’m trying to figure out why.

          • Octavian

            Since I’m basically a libertarian and an individualist, I don’t see it as a particularly big deal that a rival government meddles in US affairs. Frankly, I don’t think it’s self evident that what Russia wants for me is worse than what my own government wants for me.

            In fact, I what Russia wants is for the US to ignore Russia, then that may be much better. Suppose Saddam Hussein had gotten Al Gore elected and prevented US intervention in Iraq? Would we be better off for it?

            The bottom line is, there are far worse things than corruption.

          • King Goat

            You say ‘we,’ aren’t you Australian? No offense, since I like many things Australian, but you’re not we, friend.

            My government isn’t perfect, by any means. But in theory if it’s the result of the choice of all the mes in this society it will better look out for all of those mes, more so than some government that has no accountability to the mes. To the extent that second government is involved, it’s a bad thing.

    • alzhu4

      > “In fact his reputation as a dangerous fascist is based on his intemperate speech.”

      Hmm, I don’t think so. Maybe instead: “In fact his reputation as a dangerous fascist is based on his _illiberal_ speech.”

      > “Besides, whatever happened to shaming the other guy by modeling behavior opposite his own?

      Hear, hear!

      > Surely, the real antidote to Trumpism – or rather I should say, to all forms of current year hysteria, including anti-Trumpism – is to offer a live demonstration in the art of thinking while calm.”

      Surely, the real antidote instead would be *not* reacting to illiberal non-white identity politics with… illiberal white identity politics.

      I mean, the people incentivized towards collectivist identity politics are presumably just those whose abilities rank _below_ the median for the group they identify with.

      If you were actually _more_ able than the median identity-political activist in your collective group, why would you let all _those_ people hold you back?

      I wonder if Akerlof ever thought his paper would apply to humans.

    • alzhu4

      Maybe instead his reputation as a dangerous fascist is based on his illiberal speech?

      And surely the real antidote instead would be not reacting to illiberal non-white identity politics with illiberal white identity politics.

      I mean, the people incentivized towards collectivist identity politics are presumably just those whose abilities rank below the median for the group they identify with.

      If you were actually more able than the median identity-political activist in your collective group, why would you let all those people hold you back?

      I wonder if Akerlof ever thought his paper would apply to humans.

      • Sean II

        “Maybe instead his reputation as a dangerous fascist is based on his illiberal speech?”

        Call it what you like, the point is simply that people are responding to words rather than actions.

        As I said many threads ago: if Trump merely knew how to mouth the words “diversity is our strength” and “we’re a nation of immigrants”, he could deport Mexicans by the bushel with hardly anyone noticing, much less complaining.

        Likewise if he knew how to say “kinetic military action” instead of “fire and fury”, and so on down a long list of euphemisms and verbal smoke screens.

        So it’s like this: if A and B can actually do X and no one seems to mind, you conclude that people don’t strongly object to the doing of X.

        Now if C comes along saying “we should do X” and people go crazy like this is the end of the world as we know it, you conclude that people strongly object to the saying of X.

        Which is weird, right? Because in politics words are a famously poor predictor of actions.

        So if you see people basing their politics on an acute sensitivity to ugly words, combined with a persistent numbness to ugly actions, you’d have to say that’s odd.

        The last twelve months have been very odd.

    • Peter from Oz

      Strap line: The best revenge is to live well.
      But don’t you get the feeling that the “wordsmiths”who are so hysterical about Trumps M.O. are in truth scared witless that their belief system is wrong?