Comments on: “The weight of the words,” and some talks Free Markets and Social Justice Sat, 24 Feb 2018 16:12:00 +0000 hourly 1 By: MARK_D_FRIEDMAN Wed, 14 Feb 2018 06:23:00 +0000 Just have time to note a couple of howlers in the Levy piece:
“With his words threatening to subordinate the collective self-defense commitment of NATO to his desire to get a better deal on shared defense spending, Trump undermined the most longstanding pillar of American foreign policy.” Wait, what…do all libertarians desire to go to war with Russia to save (say) Estonia? Also, is there something sacred about the existing spending allocations. I guess my copy of the “Libertarian Bible” is missing those pages.

“Trump’s theory of North Korea is, roughly, “an angry crazy man has nuclear weapons, so let’s go out of our way to make him angrier and crazier,” and it remains a live possibility that this will get us to the obvious, awful conclusion.” Maybe Trump’s idea is to scare that crazy f*cker as much as he scares Levy.

“I don’t just mean that career civil servants leave because they disagree with the stated policy preferences of the administration, though in some agencies (the EPA, the civil rights division of the Department of Justice) that might be the more important effect. They leave because they hear and understand that they’re not wanted. And of course, those most able to leave are those who are either most experienced (and able to retire) or most skilled (and able to move into the private sector).” Well, when we no longer love and honor our civil servants like we do our favorite Aunt, we as a society are doomed.

“The absurd drumbeat to “release the [Nunes] memo,” by its very absurdity, reveals Trump’s current power over Congressional Republicans. A year ago, more of them would have objected to delegitimizing the FBI. But Trump has successfully communicated to his voters that being on their team means not being on the FBI’s team. He’s changed what being a Republican means.” And nobody, and I mean nobody, protects our liberty like the FBI. I mean old J. Edgar was a regular Patrick Henry. The very last thing libertarians should want is to cause the great unwashed masses to question the intentions and good faith of our federal law enforcement officials.

By: Ryan P. Long Wed, 14 Feb 2018 02:09:00 +0000 Thanks for the link. I don’t think Romney would have done those particular things, but I’m not affected by that number much because even the all-time high under Reagan is a mere 200K. Compared to the actual number of refugees in need of placement, the number is a rounding error.

Anyway, I wonder why you say what you say about neo-nazis. Do you know any? I keep hearing from people about what’s happening with neo-nazis, but truthfully I’ve never met one. I saw one in a gas station once, but I didn’t talk to him. That was back in 2001 or so. So it’s always surprising to me when I hear people talk about what’s going on with nazis. I’m very out of that particular loop.

By: King Goat Wed, 14 Feb 2018 01:02:00 +0000 I got the figure here:

I’ll have to say I disagree on all three, though this is another area where I guess neither side could definitively ‘test’ it to see who is right. For example, I think Neo-Nazis are plainly emboldened by Trump and his success; there’s more activity there, they’re not shy about telling people this is why and it’s completely plausible.

By: King Goat Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:57:00 +0000 My thought about how to control for the Olympics is just that, we can’t draw any conclusions from the North’s behavior during them, they’re by themselves an obvious reason for why North Korea might be playing nice, perhaps in spite of any Trump effect.

It’s like you have an abusive, harassing neighbor, and you decide to take a different tack with him by getting shitty with him and he actually responds more mildly than he usually did before you took that tack. But then you find out his elderly mother was visiting from far away at the time.

As to the ‘liberalism in the balance’ rhetoric, I think the problem is that even those that are known for their observations on how liberalism loses out, people like Arendt or Orwell, they tend to see it being lost over a process, over a period of time, with mileposts along the way that, from the vantage of them, especially the early posts, it doesn’t look ‘that bad.’ It’s only after you get to the later mileposts, or more usually even the end of the road, that you can see an unbroken path from whence you came. And I think that’s what Levy et al., can claim they are saying.

For what it’s worth, when Trump was first elected I posted here that I think he’s less Mussolini and more Berlusconi. Now, I think Berlusconi was terrible for Italy and Italians, but he was pretty far below Mussolini.

By: Ryan P. Long Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:46:00 +0000 My answers, in order: Yes, Yes, Maybe.

I think that last statistic is an odd one, and I don’t know a lot about how it was generated. There are probably fewer total refugees seeking admittance this year than there were two years ago, and I think this influences how many get admitted.

By: Ryan P. Long Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:42:00 +0000 This is the whole problem with Levy’s mushy language. I like, good, clean, precise language that constrains an issue to things we can talk about.

Here’s an example: I disagree with Levy when he says that Trump’s diplomacy takes us closer to war with North Korea because the North Korean government is currently courting diplomatic opportunities — the opposite of what we’d expect.

You could say something specific, such as, “When the Olympics are over, North Korea will stop behaving this way and go back to banging war drums.” That’s a testable hypothesis, and we will see. But so far, according to the evidence we have, my conclusion is a sound one. You didn’t say how we’re supposed to “control for” the Olympics, so I’m stuck with my original position.

If Levy used this kind of language, we’d all be better off. He could say something like, “I disagree with President Trump when he takes Position XYZ, because _____________.” Then we’d have something to discuss. Instead, he merely insinuates that Trump’s words have a magic power that will invisibly tip the balance to authoritarianism. Do remember, the context is the BHL blog, where previous posts have claimed that liberalism itself is “in the balance” thanks to Trump. But we never here concretely how or why, and no new evidence seems to change the hypothesis or the urgency with which it is presented.

It reminds me a lot of how certain Austrian economics fans are always trumpeting about how we’re on the cusp of the next recession. And we’re always on the cusp, it’s always just around the corner.

But, come on. Trump is a buffoon. He’s a troglodyte. And even despite all that, we haven’t seen the doom that the BHLers have foretold. They ought to come clean about this, or risk losing their credibility.

By: King Goat Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:22:00 +0000 If all a person wants to point out is apparent hypocrisy then labeling it a tu quoque does no work.

By: King Goat Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:20:00 +0000 I don’t think so, I think it’s just ‘the Olympics is a pretty rare and major event in North Korea’s backyard and so it has to be controlled for.’ That North Korea isn’t acting expressly hell bent on war during that time period just tells us what’s in the first sentence.

As I read that paragraph from Levy I don’t get much more than ‘Trump’s personalization of the situation and his undiplomatic language bring us closer to a war.’ I’ll grant ‘closer to war’ would be a hard state to pin down on someone who didn’t (or did) want to see it. But it’s got a common sense appeal. I mean, reportedly even Trump’s own people seem to see it as unproductive at least and dangerous at worst, spending a lot of time to publicly walk it back.

By: King Goat Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:15:00 +0000 Do you think Charlottesville goes down how it did under a President Romney?

Do you think we get the ‘Muslim’ travel ban (it’s in effect, albeit partially right now)?

Do you think the number of refugees admitted to the US would have been at it’s lowest since 2002 under Romney?

By: Ryan P. Long Tue, 13 Feb 2018 23:45:00 +0000 The more I think about this, the stranger it is. When we use the TV’s “mute” function, President Trump is giving us everything we would have expected from a President Romney. If any conclusion is to be drawn from this, it’s that words matter far less than anyone like Levy ever imagined. Levy is actually drawing the opposite conclusion than the evidence suggests he should!