Archive for November 2016


About those Supreme Court picks

One argument for Trump was that he’d promote Supreme Court choices that would do a better job protecting our liberties (compared to the sort of people that Hillary would have nominated.)  That remains to be seen.  But one thing is clear, if Trump’s Supreme Court picks are to protect our freedom, they will have to rule against Trump on many, many issues. Here’s a list of items from just the past two days:

1.  Trump proposes jailing flag burners.  (Yes, Hillary also voted for the idea, but probably had no interest in advocating it as president.)

2.  Trump made it very clear that business leaders in America are no longer free to locate production facilities in places that make the most sense from an efficiency perspective.  He will use the power of the presidency to punish those who defy him.

3.  Trump will make the already Orwellian NSA even worse:

The FBI, National Security Agency and CIA are likely to gain expanded surveillance powers under President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress, a prospect that has privacy advocates and some lawmakers trying to mobilize opposition.

Trump’s first two choices to head law enforcement and intelligence agencies — Republican Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Republican Representative Mike Pompeo for director of the Central Intelligence Agency — are leading advocates for domestic government spying at levels not seen since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

I don’t want to oversell the importance of these three issues—the flag comments were probably just red meat for his base, and the other two items merely worsen the current governmental overreach in those areas.  But these are just a small indication of what will come next.  There will be dozens more such repressive initiatives, as Trump has never shown the slightest interest in classical liberal ideas, either before or during his campaign.

Will Trump nominate Supreme Court justices that will rule against him on a wide variety of issues?  I doubt it.


Mercatus interest rate colloquium

The Mercatus Center has a new colloquium on the issue of low interest rates. There will be a series of 12 essays discussing the causes and consequences of low rates, as well as the outlook for the future. The papers will be released one at a time between now and mid-December.  David Beckworth has the first post—here is an excerpt:

On the basis of regression of the two series in figure 5, the risk-free real interest rate should return to 1.65 percent once the output gap reaches zero. If one assumes that this estimated relationship holds up, then the only other drag on the 10-year Treasury is the term premium. As figure 2 shows, the term premium has plummeted since 2013. Why has it fallen so sharply?

There are several answers. New regulations requiring financial firms to hold a greater amount of safe assets have increased the demand for long-term Treasury bonds. The aging of populations in advanced economies has also increased the demand for long-term Treasury securities. Large-scale asset purchases by central banks may also be a factor. Additionally, both ongoing policy uncertainty caused by Brexit and the rise of populist political forces raise the demand for safe assets.

Read the whole thing.

Stay away from conspiracy theories

[Tuesday afternoon I will be in London on a panel at the NIESR, with Roger Farmer.]

My views are much more consistent than people assume.  I now have almost the exact same view of Trump, and Trump voters, as I had 6 months ago. Commenters often think they spot inconsistencies, because they read more into a post than is actually there. (No, I never said Trump = Hitler).

One area where I am especially consistent is in my skepticism of conspiracy theories, concocted by both the left and the right. I always thought that right wing conspiracy theories of Obama being born in Kenya, or secretly being a Muslim, were utter nonsense (in the latter case I’d add that it wouldn’t matter if he were a secret Muslim.)  I don’t believe that global warming is a Chinese conspiracy (as Trump claims–or used to claim).  Nor do I believe any of Trump’s other nutty conspiracy theories. BTW, a president with his finger on the nuclear trigger who believes bizarre conspiracy theories?  What could go wrong?


I am also skeptical of talk of widespread cheating in elections, which the right uses to justify tighter voting regulations (and which tend to reduce minority turnout.)

Unfortunately, now you have Paul Krugman engaging in the same sort of conspiracy theorizing as he used to mock:

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-10-32-52-pmAnd this:


To his credit, he doesn’t say the conspiracy theories are necessarily true, but he gives them far more credence than they deserve.

Of course this stuff has a long history in American politics.  When I was young, people frequently claimed that Nixon lost in 1960 because Mayor Daley delivered lots of phony votes to Kennedy.  This is simply a lie. Not that there wasn’t cheating in Chicago, but rather the claim that this is why Nixon lost.  He would have lost the election even if he had carried Illinois.

Conspiracy theories almost always turn out to be false.  When conspiracies do occur (the 1972 break in at the Watergate Hotel, the 1991 Russian coup attempt, the recent Turkish coup attempt) they tend to be clumsy and ineffective.  All three ended up hurting the plotters.  It would be very foolish for one political party to try to steal a national election.  The conspiracy would have to involve lots of people, and when that occurs the secret almost always leaks out.  It would end up hurting the party that attempted to steal the election far more than the other party.

HT:  Caroline Baum

Reasons to be thankful

In previous posts I’ve suggested that many people take politics waaaaay too seriously.  And yet I’m still seeing lots of articles about how people are depressed because of the recent election.  People, stop thinking with your reptilian brains!

1.  I didn’t see lots of people going around the US moping when Duterte got elected in the Philippines.  That country only has 1/3 of the US population, but Duterte is easily three times worse than Trump.  So that election result was just as bad.

2.  And don’t say, “but the Philippines is not my country.”  That’s Trump talk.  Stop being so nationalistic and start viewing every human being as having equal worth.

3.  And don’t say that you are going to personally suffer because of Trump.  If you are reading this blog then you are probably not homeless, which means your living standards are among the highest the world has ever seen.  That won’t change. Your happiness will depend on how you get along with your friends and family and co-workers, plus your disposition (upbeat or melancholy) and your physical health. Trump doesn’t affect that.

4.  You are depressed because you are engaging in primitive thought.  Trump upsets you much more than that maniac governor of Maine, because you wrongly think that Trump is “your leader”.  That’s the kind of thinking I expect from uneducated peasants in Turkmenistan or New Guinea.  He’s not your leader and he’s not my header, he’s a public servant who works for you.  A government employee.  Stop thinking of Trump as your leader and start thinking of him in the way the average Swiss person views the faceless bureaucrat who happens to have the top government job in that lucky country.

5.  “But the alt-right . . . “.  Look, you are upset because you (correctly) think that Trump will be a lousy President.  That failure will tend to discredit the alt-right.

6.  “But didn’t you say the election of Trump was a disgrace?”  Yes, I did, but disgraceful things happen every day in politics. Arizona voters refused to legalize pot. You don’t get upset by all the other disgraceful things, so why are you so upset about Trump?

7.  “But the Supreme Court . . . ”

Please, just stop.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and don’t argue with your relatives at the dinner table.


Tell the truth? Why would anyone want to do that?

People that are dishonest, corrupt, criminal, etc., often justify their flaws by suggesting that everyone’s a crook, it’s just that some (phony) people won’t admit it.  Obviously I don’t agree, but I seems possible that they are quite sincere in their cynicism.  The world really might look that way, through their eyes.

Of course Trump is a pathological liar, and now we have evidence that he sees himself as normal:

And his reason for largely ignoring the hate might be buried in yet another tweet attacking the New York Times:


In other words, Trump doesn’t seem to understand why you would “announce” negative or unpleasant truths about yourself.

It reminds me of economists who scratch their heads and wonder why people vote.  “After all, it’s not in their self interest.”

PS.  Complaints about my blogging (in the comment section) are now at an 8 year high.  Add some more below, if you wish.