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Five Things I Like About Trump (and Five Things I Don’t)

Five things I like about Trump

  1. He will hold media accountable.  For too long they have been able to mislead intentionally with no pushback.
  2. He comprehends that the inequality in power is a greater problem than the inequality in wealth.
  3. He stands with Israel.
  4. He proposes to reduce friction costs: taxes and regulations. This is critical.
  5. He respects few sacred cows in the federal bureaucracy.

Five Things that Concern Me About Trump

  1. Trade.  His statements are inaccurate, and his understanding of the role it plays is poor.  He oversimplifies the dynamic and the effect on the parties involved.  It plays well with his populism and trade is often the first refuge of the populist, but it can play havoc on our economy if handled recklessly.
  2. The Debt.  Little has been mentioned about any realistic means to enact his programs and to reduce the debt.
  3. Populism.  He speaks too fondly of the seductions of democracy and too little about the constraints of the Constitution. He may be a progressive with a different haircut, a nicer suit and a more attractive wife.
  4. NATO.  He has spoken more harshly of this great peacekeeping alliance than the Soviet threat it was formed to counter.
  5. Words matter. His unfiltered Twitter feed and his boorish rhetoric may sound like a breath of fresh air to his populist constituency, but words are not easily forgotten and can prove quite damaging in diplomatic circles.  Think what the word “deplorables” did to Hillary.
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Campaign in Poetry, Govern in Prose

from Jonah Goldberg at National Review, The Unwisdom of Crowds:

I guess my point is that I don’t like crowds. I don’t trust them. Good things rarely come from them. Not all crowds are mobs, but all mobs start as crowds, and I’m a little allergic to the vibrations within in them. The heroic unit in the American political tradition is the individual, not the mob. The crowd is what makes the cult of personality a thing. Without the crowd, it’s just a person.

Elias Canetti notes in his book Crowds and Power that inside the crowd, “distinctions are thrown off and all become equal. It is for the sake of this blessed moment, when no one is greater or better than another, that people become a crowd.”

“But,” Canetti adds, “the crowd, as such, disintegrates. It has a presentiment of this and fears it. . . . Only the growth of the crowd prevents those who belong to it from creeping back under their private burdens.”

In other words, bubbles pop. The sort of aesthetic or transcendent enthusiasm of the crowd is by definition unsustainable. The concert must end, the rally must stop. The old cliché about how politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose gets at the same point. Barack Obama nearly destroyed the Democratic party by thinking he could translate the transcendence of the crowd into a governing style. Donald Trump would do well to learn from Obama’s mistake.

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Breaking the New Deal Bond with the Heartland

from The City Journal, Trump and the American Divide by Victor Davis Hanson:

As the nation became more urban and its wealth soared, the old Democratic commitment from the Roosevelt era to much of rural America—construction of water projects, rail, highways, land banks, and universities; deference to traditional values; and Grapes of Wrath–like empathy—has largely been forgotten. A confident, upbeat urban America promoted its ever more radical culture without worrying much about its effects on a mostly distant and silent small-town other. In 2008, gay marriage and women in combat were opposed, at least rhetorically, by both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in their respective presidential campaigns. By 2016, mere skepticism on these issues was viewed by urban elites as reactionary ignorance. In other words, it was bad enough that rural America was getting left behind economically; adding insult to injury, elite America (which is Democrat America) openly caricatured rural citizens’ traditional views and tried to force its own values on them. Lena Dunham’s loud sexual politics and Beyoncé’s uncritical evocation of the Black Panthers resonated in blue cities and on the coasts, not in the heartland. Only in today’s bifurcated America could billion-dollar sports conglomerates fail to sense that second-string San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests of the national anthem would turn off a sizable percentage of the National Football League’s viewing audience, which is disproportionately conservative and middle American. These cultural themes, too, Trump addressed forcefully.

HKO

This is a critical observation.  The New Deal and its infrastructure spending benefited the heartlands and made them loyal Democrats for generations.  With this election that bond is broken and the hammer was identity politics.  It will not be easily restored.

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The First Duty of Intelligent Men

hkoisrael

The 24-hour news cycle and its ubiquitous media brings every detail of every issue and policy to us.  Debates limit responses to critical issues to two minutes. Congressional hearings for cabinet nominees are similarly limited.  This precious time is wasted asking irrelevant questions for the purpose of political grandstanding. Otherwise why would Mike Pompeo of the CIA and Ben Carson of HUD be questioned about climate change?

What is lost is any sense of perspective or the larger issues. Occasionally it slips through. When questioned about free college by Bernie Sanders, Betsy Devos responded that nothing is truly free. Orwell noted, “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

In isolation, every expense is easily justified, but Congress works in total and every expense is relative in its importance.

The big ideas do not happen in news cycles and sound bites. If anything, the daily news is a distraction that allows people to be engaged without thinking.  It misleads with only a part of the truth, feeding outrage without understanding or perspective.  It slays vaporous demons.

Henry Ford adopted the assembly line from an observation of a slaughterhouse.  His innovation reduced the time to produce a car from 12.5 hours to 93 minutes, an eight-fold improvement.  This process was demanding on his workers and he dramatically increased their wages to $5 a day, a very high wage at the time.  The increase was not altruistic as history so often attributes it, but was driven by a dramatic increase in productivity which came from an innovative idea.

Nucor Steel propelled technologies in continuous casting for steel production into a 400% reduction in the man-hours needed to produce steel.  Its guiding leader Ken Iverson saw labor costs dropping below the cost of transportation from overseas.  Technology and innovation secured American steel jobs, not protectionist trade policies. Iverson is deceased and Nucor’s current management no longer shares Iverson’s opinion on trade protectionism, but Nucor remains a largely nonunion company with a high paid and happy workforce.

We all struggle for marginal improvements, but great progress comes from ideas and innovation.  Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Equality and Bourgeois Dignity illuminates the source of our progress but emphasizes the magnitude. The improvement in human betterment in the last two centuries is so enormous by historical standards, an increase of at least 15-fold, that understanding its source becomes an important line of inquiry.  That this happened in the face of two world wars, multiple genocides, and several depressions makes it more stunning. If our most destructive global events did not stop the march of progress, what effect will trivial Congressional and political bickering have?

If we keep our liberal institutions functioning, our markets flowing, and respect the liberties of everyone this progress will continue.  It will not be consistent or equal and it will certainly not be painless. To the extent that we try to control these three factors (consistency, equality, or discomfort) we tend to retard growth and innovation, but not by much if we retain respect for liberty and dignity.

Our concerns about the cost of health care, pollution, and other social ills are mired in the marginalism of the present.  When we make leaps in the treatment of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease- and we will- health care costs will plummet; not because of government policy but despite it.

We can watch the news and cheer our side, and feign outrage at the other, but the net effect is little different than if it was a football game. The choice is not between being uniformed or misinformed; but between big ideas and marginal ones.  You are not likely to find the former on the news.

 

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Hillary’s Loss Continued a Trend

from The City Journal, Trump and the American Divide by Victor Davis Hanson:

Trump’s election underscored two other liberal miscalculations. First, Obama’s progressive agenda and cultural elitism prevailed not because of their ideological merits, as liberals believed, but because of his great appeal to urban minorities in 2008 and 2012, who voted in solidarity for the youthful first African-American president in numbers never seen before. That fealty wasn’t automatically transferable to liberal white candidates, including the multimillionaire 69-year-old Hillary Clinton. Obama had previously lost most of America’s red counties, but not by enough to keep him from winning two presidential elections, with sizable urban populations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania turning out to vote for the most left-wing presidential candidate since George McGovern.

Second, rural America hadn’t fully raised its electoral head in anger in 2008 and 2012 because it didn’t see the Republican antidotes to Obama’s progressive internationalism as much better than the original malady. Socially moderate establishmentarians like the open-borders-supporting John McCain or wealthy businessman Mitt Romney didn’t resonate with the spirit of rural America—at least not enough to persuade millions to come to the polls instead of sitting the elections out. Trump connected with these rural voters with far greater success than liberals anticipated. Urban minorities failed in 2016 to vote en bloc, in their Obama-level numbers; and rural Americans, enthused by Trump, increased their turnout, so that even a shrinking American countryside still had enough clout to win.

HKO

Obama won with fewer and fewer counties and electoral votes.  Hillary’s loss was not revolutionary, but a continuation of Democrat deterioration that was still visible, if ignored, in Obama’s thin victories. In 2012 Obama won withe the fewest number of counties ever- 693 vs 2420.  Hillary lost with 489 vs 2623.  By  comparison Bill Clinton won in 1996 with 1526 vs 1587 and by a similar split in 1992.