Trumpism in Canada

The Economist reports that a number of Trumpian politicians are on the rise in Canada.  Interestingly, the Trumpian issues there are not immigration and trade.

Meanwhile the same issue says that Republican politicians report that their constituents couldn’t care less what Trump’s views are on the issues, they just want to know if their elected representatives support Trump.

I know that my commenters will never believe me, but the global rise of anti-intellectual, tribal, populist, right wing authoritarianism is not about the “issues”, it’s about something much deeper.  Because it has no appeal to me, I’m completely blind to the attraction.  So are all the liberal pundits who write articles claiming to understand Trumpism.  Maybe it’s about how the rise of the internet and cable TV mean that the elites are no longer gatekeepers for information.  “Hey liberal pundits, it’s not about the issues, it’s about the fact that voters despise YOU.”  (But then there’s China, which doesn’t fit that theory.)

I suspect this means Trump will be re-elected, if his health holds up.  (And his health is said to be absolutely spectacular.)

Off topic; I was glad to see that sports betting is going to be allowed at the state level.  (I have no opinion on the legal aspects of the Supreme Court decision, which seems to have been based on a technicality.  I don’t know how I would have voted, but I like the policy outcome.)



15 Responses to “Trumpism in Canada”

  1. Gravatar of Nathan Taylor Nathan Taylor
    14. May 2018 at 10:52

    The vestiges of east coast patrician privilege were still hanging on when I went to college in the early 1980s. I would pick George HW Bush (Reagan’s VP) as a prime example. HW Bush was an elite, but he also had a moral code of what a Yale man was allowed or not allowed to do with his elite status.

    Meritocracy winners are the new nobility. But that class (ok, includes me, so let’s call it our class) has yet to develop a complete moral code around our privilege. Yes, certain classes of oppressed, in particular by racism, we want to look out for. But the populist surge is about those who have lost the meritocracy grab for status, but don’t belong to any protected class.

    That is to say, completely agree with your point about populists hating YOU. But I’d argue the causal arrow runs through the heart of the new privilege system, meritocracy. And the response we need is to have a moral code similar to what the old aristocracy had, a sense of obligation to all the losers in the meritocracy race. Not just a subset. Lest they go populist in feeling despised.

  2. Gravatar of Rajat Rajat
    14. May 2018 at 12:48

    As a non-American, I think Nathan’s explanation makes sense.

    I work as an industry and regulatory economist in Australia, and all I see is more calls for regulation to protect people from the consequences of their decisions, such as when they take out loans, choose retirement savings funds, choose energy suppliers, decide what to eat, etc. I think of this as the growing infantilisation of the adult population. In a way, Trump is an extension of that – telling people that whatever they think is right or okay, and saying you’ll give them what they want without any consequences.

  3. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    14. May 2018 at 14:20

    I like your gateway theory. I think you finally hit a nail there. This theory seems to fit very well, especially for Europe. The last rise of populism in the 20s and 30s was also accompanied by the rise of new means of communication. But soon radio and TV was controlled by the current regimes, for example through the gatekeepers you mentioned.

    I think your permanent slander about issues not being relevant is partly because you don’t understand the issues. You simple cannot imagine how that somebody would think that Obama’s treaty with Iran was completely absurd (it was). Or that the embassy of the US must be in Jerusalem (where else). Or that Kim Jong Un must be dealt with exactly how Trump dealt with him (I predicted huge progress between North and South Korea, you jabbered about a nuclear war, oh Jesus, the end is near.) The list goes on. It really is about the issues, at least in parts.

    I also don’t get why you talk about China all the time. It’s not even proven that the Chinese became more nationalistic during the last years. Besides: It’s a grotesque totalitarian dictatorship, that cannot be compared to democracies.

  4. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. May 2018 at 15:41

    Nathan, Good points, but don’t forget that lots of upper middle class and rich people support Trump, Brexit, Modi, etc.

    Rajat, Agreed.

    Christian, You may care about issues, but the Trump voters do not. When Trump does a 180 on an issue like North Korea or DACA, his voters go right with him.

    And of course I never predicted a nuclear war–another Trumpista lie.

  5. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    14. May 2018 at 18:01

    Yes, Trump is loathsome, perhaps even more so than establishment pols like Hillary Clinton or Mike Pence.

    On the other hand, perhaps “globalism” has some of the intellectual Potemkin Village about it.

    A house in Seattle costs $820k?

    But globalist Byran Caplan says open up US borders to unlimited immigration?

    So, since Seattle does not build housing (like everywhere on the West Coast) where do the immigrants live? Do you see more-cramped, and lower living standards in this picture?

    And foreign capital is flooding into US residential property.

    “Between April 2016 and March 2017, foreign buyers and recent immigrants purchased $153 billion in residential property. This is an increase of 49% from 2016’s $102.6 billion, and surpasses 2015’s $103.9 billion as the new survey high.”

    Total real estate sales (including non-residential) in 2017 US were about $467 billion.

    So current account trade deficits come back as foreign ownership of a artificially scarce asset, that being housing. Some Fed studies conclude nations that run current account trade deficits have exploding house prices.

    But globalists are careful to never express this truth: “For globalism to work, we must eliminate local control over property zoning. The imperatives of globalism require it.”

    Really, are concerns about globalism, as practiced today in real life, so hard to fathom?

    Globalists, within current law and context, appear to pimping for higher US house prices, lower wages and living standards, to benefit a global upper-class.

    Sure, there are racists, Luddites etc. among the “nationalists.”

    But that is not the whole story.

  6. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    14. May 2018 at 19:32


    “the global rise of anti-intellectual, tribal, populist, right wing authoritarianism is not about the “issues”, it’s about something much deeper.”

    I completely agree, and also on the new media aspect (no popular immunity yet against these particular new media’s own unique deficiencies).

    That said, one unique aspect is generic tribalism as a response to a loss of perceived “identity”. When I visited Berlin a few years back I suddenly understood why Nazism had it easy there. Not because it had been so traditionally repressed in its history, but because it had been so liberal and open – and Nazism was the reaction against that. A bit in the same vein as, interest rates are low when money has recently been tight 😉 . And due to the new media, the perceived threat to identity was replicated pretty world wide, a meme reproducing like a fashion even in places where the “threat” is low.

    You and I are blind to that “threat” because our identities are already cosmopolitan. To you and I, the threat IS nationalism (i.e. the opposite of cosmopolitanism).

  7. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    14. May 2018 at 20:26

    I wonder how much of the anti-intellectualism is a rebellion against growing complexity in the world. This could plausbly dovetail with some also losing meritocratically. Increasingly, the winners in the economy are those who best deal with complexity and change.

    I have the feeling at times that some people want a break from making choices, especially when they don’t feel they understand those choices. And, I think some people genuinely want protection from themselves.

    I recall the usual reaction I get when I tell people they shouldn’t have income taxes withheld from their paychecks, but invest the money instead. Many say they don’t trust themselves to save or invest, so they prefer the withholding!

    While I’d like a much more libertarian world, perhaps good deal less libertarianism will ever be tolerated than I sometimes realize.

  8. Gravatar of Matthias Görgens Matthias Görgens
    15. May 2018 at 05:46

    Benjamin, the orthodox response to high real estate prices is just land value taxes and fixing zoning. Either of them will help, both of them is even better.

    Not sure whether high real estate prices are as prevalent as populism, though. Populist popularity seems to be higher in parts of the countries with comparatively lower prices, doesn’t it?

  9. Gravatar of Effem Effem
    15. May 2018 at 06:29

    I don’t think this is that hard. A sizable percentage of the population has been on the wrong side of globalization (particularly in relative terms, which I believe drives utility more so than absolute). Another group has benefited from globalization but has seen their local communities suffer badly (e.g., any child with talent has to move away).

    On it’s own, I think that’d be tolerable. However the “winners” of globalization have not only done nothing about the problem but actually ignored it. The government cared far more about things like bathroom choices than the misfortune of millions. Instead of viewing their success as the result of good fortune, the winners of globalization took it upon themselves to claim the moral high ground and resist any effort to change the situation as culturally-backwards and anti-intellectual. In essence, they won a semi-random lottery and called the losers backwards. Further, the losers were told that the problems of certain oppressed groups are their fault as well.

    Imagine if instead of breaking down tradeable goods barriers, we broke down real estate zoning, IP, copyright, credential, and licensing barriers? We’d have a very different set of winners (and possibly just as good aggregate economic outcomes globally). Success is far more the result of political choices than the winners would like to admit.

    Yes, the “rational” reaction is to push back on certain issues. But in practice that fails miserably as long as the system is firmly entrenched in the hands of the “winners” of globalization. The only choice is take a radical departure from the norm. Trump isn’t ideal but he was the only credible anti-establishment choice. It’s a deliberate first-move in a multi-period game. It may accomplish nothing short-term but it hastens the disruption of the entire system (which i believe is happening).

  10. Gravatar of B Cole B Cole
    15. May 2018 at 06:34

    Mattias G.

    According to Scott Sumner it was the higher income ZIP Codes in Massachusetts that voted for Trump.

    I think many people on the coasts know that the American dream is over, that they cannot buy a house. Maybe people in the middle country figure it they are next on the chopping block.

  11. Gravatar of B Cole B Cole
    15. May 2018 at 06:45


    You banged into the bleachers with that one.

    And ponder why pushcart vending is criminalized in the US.

    Free-trade for the multinationals, BUT the guy with the hamburger stand is just not that important.

  12. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    16. May 2018 at 09:07

    Good post and some good comments. This comment I’m saving however:

    “I predicted huge progress between North and South Korea,…”

    Wow, that’s some gargantuan scale wishful thinking. Don’t forget that one Scott! I think the idea that “I know Trump cares for us” is along the same lines (a sentence from an auto-parts factory owner who can’t understand why Trump did what he did with his tariffs, because she’s confident that if he only know how much he hurt her business, he’d be overcome with ‘care’ I guess.)

  13. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    18. May 2018 at 11:56

    Truth is, Americans live and toil under the boot of a powerful and remorseless oligarchy. Trump, as Lenin and his Social-Revolutionariss frenemies in 1917’s Russia, is the expression of the despair of restless “peasants”.

  14. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    19. May 2018 at 14:22

    Sometimes the current government has something to do with a choleric reaction by the public. Note that Canada’s current leader is a man who has outlawed refusal to parrot other people’s non-conventional gender pronouns and admires Fidel Castro. Or take Britain, where the (selective) enforcement of hate speech laws leads to people being arrested for obvious jokes on social media.

    The characterization of these movements (or whatever they are) as illiberal revolts against (classical) liberalism is facile. The government’s were already illiberal and poised to become more so. Illiberalism, however, loves company, so one’s opponents follow suit. (I’m not saying, as most try to claim, that one side ‘started it;’ it’s a positive feedback loop imo)

    Moreover, the media and intelligentsia are not precious bastions of liberalism (again in the classical sense) that need to be defended from the right wing barbarians. They are part of the problem. I think any sane person who listens to what comes out of the academic humanities or social sciences these days would be sorely tempted toward “right wing anti-intellectualism.”

  15. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    20. May 2018 at 07:40

    @Nathan, one man’s meritocracy is another man’s unearned privilege and system of oppression. The fact that you refer to it as a meritocracy implies that you believe that that hierarchy is valid, fair, and righteousness and that you dismiss criticisms that it is unjust or oppressive.

    @Rajat, “regulation to protect people from the consequences of their decisions” is generally a pattern of the political left and not so related to Trump.

    @Sumner, you refer to Trump as part of a pattern of “right wing authoritarianism”. The office of POTUS is authoritarian by definition. It’s arguably the most authoritarian office on the planet. It’s extremely authoritarian. What makes one president, specifically Trump, more authoritarian than others? I’d argue that Trump is even anti-authoritarian as one of his main initiatives is tearing down regulation and shrinking federal authority. And even rhetorically attacking the entrenched authority of legacy media seems anti-authoritarian.

    And politics has always been inherently tribal. When do you claim that politics was this non-tribal utopia?

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