Sentence of the Day

As you know, I love a good polemic. Although I don’t necessarily endorse it, I wanted to bring a passage from Andy Kessler’s most recent Wall Street Journal column to your attention:

Is he a disease or a cure? Like him or hate him, there’s tons of spilled ink trying to assess President Trump’s governing style. To me, the key to understanding Trumpism is remembering why he was elected.

What do I mean? Voters chose Donald Trump as an antidote to the growing inflammation caused by the (OK, deep breath . . .) prosperity-crushing, speech-inhibiting, nanny state-building, carbon-obsessing, patriarchy-bashing, implicit bias-accusing, tokey-wokey, globalist, swamp-creature governing class—all perfectly embodied by the Democrats’ 2016 nominee. On taking office, Mr. Trump proceeded to hire smart people and create a massive diversion (tweets, border walls, tariffs) as a smokescreen to let them implement an agenda of tax cuts, deregulation and originalist judges.

I’m not entirely convinced that Trump’s bluster is a strategy. I think it’s Trump being Trump. I also think he’s giving increased investment following the cut in the personal and corporate income taxes more credit than they deserve. He may be right about deregulation. I wish that better statistics were kept about the effects of specific regulations and their removal. Most of what we have now is just partisan bickering.

I continue to hold the naive beliefs that persuasion is better and longer-lasting than power politics, that honesty is the best policy, that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and you should model in your own behavior the behavior you’d like to see from others. It’s sad that those homely policies don’t attract bands of ardent followers.

15 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    Agree that is just Trump being Trump. Also, if the author was honest he would have noted that Trump hired smart people then got rid of them quickly. However the author is correct that they have done tax cuts and put in place judges who will push the conservative agenda. (I am sure he just made a typo error when he said originalist.)

    Deregulation/regulation is an interesting and understudied topic I think. There are studies showing that regulations save us lots of money overall, like the one from the libertarian Mercatus Institute. Others claim they cost money. Given the fairly large increase in our deficit spending and the fairly small increase we have seen in growth, I am inclined to believe that deregulation has had minimal effects. Also, the costs of the negative externalities will take a while to show.

    In particular, the effects of particulate pollution are pretty harmful and may take a while to show up. (If you read Cowen’s blog then you know his co-blogger Tabarrok has been writing about this.)


  • Deregulation/regulation is an interesting and understudied topic I think.

    Effective management would require that this stuff be measured.

  • jan Link

    I think it will take a retrospective analysis of Trump’s presidency to honestly decipher how strategic, effective, or smart/dumb his time in office really was. Currently, people’s opinion of him is just too clouded, by their own ideological POVs, to give an unbiased and objective analysis .

    Ironically, Lincoln’s presidential tenure was very similar to what Trump is experiencing today. Lincoln was “hated” by both the North and South, accompanied by their partners in crime, the MSM, where they smeared and persecuted him, implying he was “unfit, unintelligent, cowardly.” The press questioned Lincoln’s sanity as well, proceeding to twist much of what he said. Sound familiar? Another similarity was that Lincoln was considered the most hated man in America. Trump now has that onerous distinction.

    Even the Gettysburg Address was belittled with some saying it was “ the ramblings of an unintelligent ox,” comprising “silly remarks.” One of the news papers authoring such criticism was the Harrisburg Patriot and Union. Years later, in 2013, a descendent of that paper submitted a retroactive, reflective apology for ”lacking the perspective history would bring.” Maybe the future will render another historical perspective, revising some of the current day rhetoric spilling over on today’s POTUS.

  • Guarneri Link

    “It’s sad that those homely policies don’t attract bands of ardent followers.”

    Perhaps, but don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, Dave.

    “Effective management would require that this stuff be measured.”

    Of course it would, but after the vested interests finished the measurements would be essentially worthless.

  • Guarneri Link

    “I’m not entirely convinced that Trump’s bluster is a strategy. I think it’s Trump being Trump.”

    Those who know him will say that its 80% strategy, the balance his personality. I don’t know him, so I can’t say, but I think the detractors need to believe the opposite to make themselves feel better. OK by me. Because he’s running circles around them, and the Dem Party is shooting its unit off.

  • steve Link

    As Drew points out, I am not sure whom we would trust to make the measurements about regulations. I like the Mercatus study since libertarians are in general more opposed to government interference than conservatives. Their bias should have lead them to show that regulations cost us money, but they didnt find that. Anyway, if we cant find measurements we agree upon, then at the least we ought to see the positive effects of deregulation in the short run. We arent seeing significant growth change from before deregulation that cant be accounted for by deficit spending.


  • TarsTarkas Link

    Persuasion as an effective tool in changing minds is sadly overrated. To give an example, Adam Schiff’s week of swivel-tongue spellbinding, non-stop polemics, rhetorical tricks, unfounded accusations, and special pleading for his anemic case may have changed the mind of perhaps 1/2 a senator. Self-interest held the day in the Senate, as it usually does nowadays in the legislature on important matters. Persuasion is better at reinforcing already held beliefs both pro and con than the opposite, because hate and fear are more strongly held emotions than love. Eric Hoffer and many others have discussed the role of propaganda in changing minds and reinforcing opinions.

    Regulation pros and cons: Measuring of the effects of regulation and its absence depends entirely upon the regulation, measurement(s) of it, who measures it, and who reports the measurements (or an edited version of them) to the public. In other words, almost entirely subjective. Generally one has to back away from what was being regulated and observe and measure the effects over a period of time before they can acquire a true idea of the effect. Static analyses made at the time rarely capture enough detail to provide an accurate prediction or measurement.

    I think a great deal of the ‘Trump’ economic ‘boom’ was because a huge chunk of the business community were waiting with bated breath to see if they would be subjected to another eight years of ever-increasing red tape and industry bashing versus at least no worse an economic environment. IMO the relief at a HRC defeat was so great that the expansion started even before the swearing in.

  • We arent seeing significant growth change from before deregulation that cant be accounted for by deficit spending.

    That’s not quite true. Implicitly, that’s a claim that there’s a natural rate of growth. It might be that, without the deregulation, growth would have halted. And deficit spending does not necessarily produce growth. That’s what I refer to as “folk Keynesianism”. In the absence of a shortfall of aggregate demand, deficit spending should produce inflation. There is inflation right now; it’s just not in consumer prices but in assets.

    I guess that’s why I’m willing to give Trump more credit for a growing economy than you are.

  • steve Link

    First of all, we haven thad a boom. If memory serves, now that we have in the 2019 numbers we are seeing about 0.3% increase in growth.

    ” In the absence of a shortfall of aggregate demand”

    I withheld judgment because I couldn’t find another example of a large tax cut when the economy was already performing well and growing. So as I said, I dont think we know for sure what happens when we cut taxes in this situation. There are a number of Keynesian economists, not folkies, who thought it would prove growth, bout it would be temporary. So we had growth peak at 2.9% the year of the cut and back down to 2.1%.

    ” Implicitly, that’s a claim that there’s a natural rate of growth.”

    I dont really think so, but concede the stuff is hard to prove. All I am doing is looking at the growth rate for Trump and the 3 years preceding him. If we had deregulation, and all the business people were waiting to go wild with Trump (then why dont they increase their investment?) why do we end up with such a small increase. The fundamentals of the economy did not change.


  • jan Link

    I guess so many people polled feeling good about the future, saying they are better off than before, having small business optimism soaring, are delusional, lying, or simply feeding off of “animal spirits.” It must simply be another example of “lying eyes syndrome.” And, of course statistics are always to be seen as the Bible of realty.

  • Dave and Commentariat,

    In lieu of adding a too-long comment here, I’ve just posted my own framing of our “partisan bickering” problem at Medium:

  • It’s an interesting take but you might want to check your assumptions. Half of Democrats vote Democratic for reasons other than that they are left partisans, some for affiliational, some for other reasons. I am one of those.

    Also, not fitting into the left-center-right dichotomy neatly does not equal non-voter. Under your classification I’m an anti-partisan but I have voted in every election over well over the last half century. Additionally, being left-partisan or right-partisan does not translate into voter. It’s more complicated than that.

  • Piercello Link

    Certainly, Dave.

    Following the work of Douglas Hofstadter, I tend to think of mental categories as “defined centers with widely overlapping analogical haloes” rather than as discrete bins. I doubt any of us inhabits just one of my five categories exclusively. Political orbits are complex.

    Even as a gross oversimplification, however, my take suggests a new way of thinking about the turnout strategies of the current campaigns; perhaps one that is more effective than the usual three-way filter. To whom, and in which categories, are they pitching their appeals?

    Carried to its logical extreme, I could imagine a system with a one-to-one mapping between categories and individual voters. But such a system would only be useful if it reduced to an elegant handful of consistent rules, like limits in calculus.

    While there are some hints that this might actually be the case, I can’t yet put them into words. I’ll keep trying.

    Thanks for reading.

  • I think that a network or cloud diagram is a more accurate way of describing political positions rather than the dichotomy or even the grid used by the Political Compass (in that grid I am smack dab in the middle).

    Interestingly, based on a network analysis Bernie Sanders’s supporters are VERY divergent from other Democrats.

  • Piercello Link

    In terms of “within person” preferences, where each of us is struggling to balance competing priorities and beliefs, I’m in full agreement. Network/cloud/something equivalent is the way to go.

    But in terms of operational strategies, where we must deal with the actual voting preferences that emerge from those internal struggles, my “quintile” approach *might* have some utility.

    My non-networked intuition agrees with your network analysis about Bernie supporters! Something different seems to be going on there.

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