Archive for July 2020


What’s so bad about identity politics?

Some progressive commenters were critical of my statement that I oppose identity politics. And when you read the following, it’s not hard to see why:

Both with a zest for the controversial, the litigious, and the troll, Kobach and Thiel have also each collected enemies in their political crusades. They both inveigh against identity politics, the Washington establishment, and a globalism that doesn’t put America first.

That makes it seem that opposition to identity politics is a hard right position. But are these people actually opposed to identity politics, or do they have their own form of identity politics?

Kobach has since advised Trump’s administration on implementing a “Muslim registry” that would have specifically tracked immigrants to the US from Muslim-majority countries. He’s also weighed in for the administration on voting issues, was considered for Cabinet posts by a transition committee on which Thiel served, and earned Trump’s endorsement during his unsuccessful bid for governor of Kansas in 2018.

A lot of people who say they oppose identity politics are actually white nationalists, and Kobach certainly seems to fall into that camp:

But part of their alliance can be explained by more personal reasons. A key lubricant binding Thiel to his new candidate is Ann Coulter, the conservative provocateur who last week called Democrats the “antifa party.” She is close with Thiel, and is a Kobach super-fan.

In case you don’t know, here are some of Coulter’s views on immigration:

“This is a whole different kettle of fish we’re getting now, and I just don’t understand, there are these silicon chips in people’s brains, where they have to say, ‘Diversity is a strength, we’re a nation of immigrants.’ Obviously false, but Republicans have this silicon chip saying, ‘Oh, we’re fine with legal immigration, it’s illegal immigration.’ Well, who do they think blew up the Boston Marathon? Who’s flying off to fight with ISIS? Who are all of these Hmong immigrants raping little kids? … Sacrificing animals, who’s doing the genital mutilations? These are legal immigrants, Republicans! Wake up!”

So when I say I’m opposed to identity politics I don’t mean the same thing as many conservatives mean when they oppose identity politics. Indeed I consider white nationalists to be a far greater threat to America than “woke” young people. Immigration is a core American value; it’s what built this country. With all their flaws, at least woke people and I share that value.

HT: Matt Yglesias — And yes, let a billion flowers bloom.

The President of the Red States of America

All presidents are probably a bit more sympathetic to their supporters than their opponents. But I’ve never seen a president so obviously relish the suffering of people in states that voted against him, even though that suffering includes many people in blue states that did vote for him. Trump positively gloats over any piece of news suggesting the virus hit blue states harder, or stories of crime or homelessness in blue states.

But karma’s a bitch, and that attitude may come back to haunt him:

But until recently, the president was largely unreceptive to that message, they said, not fully grasping the magnitude of the pandemic — and overly preoccupied with his own sense of grievance, beginning many conversations casting himself as the blameless victim of the crisis.

In the past couple of weeks, senior advisers began presenting Trump with maps and data showing spikes in coronavirus cases among “our people” in Republican states, a senior administration official said. They also shared projections predicting that virus surges could soon hit politically important states in the Midwest — including Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the official said.

In case you don’t know, “our people” doesn’t refer to Americans. Trump’s not patriotic; he’s a nationalist. “Our people” means Trump voters.

He may still win, but his decision to stick his head in the sand for 6 months is certainly making that task more difficult.

Perhaps I should have more compassion for Trump, who is the biggest victim of Covid-19:

Trump also maintained such a sense of grievance — about how the virus was personally impacting him, his presidency and his reelection prospects — that aides recount spending valuable time listening to his gripes, rather than focusing on crafting a national strategy to combat the pandemic.

Alberto Mingardi on Europe’s “Hamiltonian moment”

I thought this was quite perceptive:

In short, we see a profound institutional transformation of the nature of the Union, with the main aim of kicking the can down the road. It is profoundly paradoxical that Italians are so happy about that. Italians have evidence in the South of their country that showering a territory with aid won’t do much for economic development. And yet they seem determined to become, for the whole of Europe, what the Mezzogiorno is for Italy.

The truth of racism

Before explaining the truth of racism, I need to explain the truth of truth. People might say, “He’s accused of racism, but is it true that he is a racist?” That’s clumsy wording, so let’s first figure out what we are talking about.

Various statements are regarded as true by various people, with various degrees of confidence. I believe it’s true that drugs should be legalized. Most experts believe it’s true that CO2 is warming the Earth. All experts believe it’s true that 2+2 = 4.

All humans are regarded as racists by at least one other group of humans. If you favor “reverse discrimination” (affirmative action), then some conservatives view you as racist. If you oppose affirmative action, then some on the left view you as racist. Don’t bother trying to live a life where no one views you as racist; it’s not possible.

Nor does it help to say, “X is viewed as racist, but actually he’s not racist.” All you are saying is that one group of people regards someone as racist, and you disagree. So say so!

I have a set of views that many 60s-style liberals would put in the “non-racist” basket:

1. A colorblind society is best.

2. One race is not innately superior to another.

3. There is structural racism in America, relating to drug laws, occupational licensing laws, zoning rules, education system, the legacy of Jim Crow and slavery, etc.

4. Free speech is very important.

But I also hold other views that would cause many young woke people to label me “racist”:

1. I oppose all identity politics (right and left-wing.)

2. I oppose all identity epistemology.

3. I strongly support cultural appropriation.

4. I treat oppressed minorities as if they have personal agency (i.e. dignity).

5. I don’t view inter-ethnic income differences as ipso facto proof of racism.

So there’s no need to out me or cancel me. I already acknowledge everything. I acknowledge that 60s-style liberals and moderates and conservatives would regard me as non-racist, and I acknowledge that today’s woke people would regard me as racist. There is nothing more to say on the “truth” of my racism.

But there is more to say on how a person should regard these perspectives. Should you be concerned if others call you racist? Speaking for myself, I’m concerned when people I greatly respect on other grounds point to a specific flaw in my behavior.

If bloggers I respect warned me that my views were racist, I’d be very concerned. If black intellectuals like John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Kmele Foster, Coleman Hughes and Thomas Sowell (who range from left wing to moderate to right wing, by the way) viewed me as racist then I’d be very concerned.

But when I look around the Twittersphere I see a group of extremists that combine stupidity, dishonesty, self-righteousness, cruelty, and humorlessness. If that group ever reads this blog (God knows why they’d even bother) and then calls me a racist, then all I can do is to respond, “Yes, you are right that by your standards I am a racist. But I don’t respect you and I hold a different set of values.” Ditto for white nationalists who call me a cuck.

The woke Twittersphere is to anti-racism what the McCarthyites were to anti-communism and the Red Guard was to anti-capitalism—fanatics that are mostly attacking their own side, damaging their own interests.

You can tell that I don’t live in fear of being canceled. As far as I’m concerned I’ve just cancelled myself in the eyes of left-wing identitarians. They need not even bother.

Yes, it’s easy for me because I basically live isolated from the broader society. I understand that people like David Shor and Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias live deeply enmeshed in our intellectual culture and have a much more difficult time navigating these waters. I’m not naive about these complex human realities. I have it easy.

Call it loneliness privilege.

PS. The Straussian reading is that this post is not about race at all; it’s a defense of Richard Rorty.

Things could be worse

When all the news seems bad it helps to think about earlier periods of history, such as 1913-14. Imagine if I had been blogging back then and saw this news play out over 18 months:

1. The US makes narcotics illegal, and launches a war on drugs in 1914. A horrific disaster.

2. The US passes an income tax in 1913—another disaster.

3. The US creates the Federal Reserve in 1913. I’m not in the “abolish the Fed” camp. But dear God, don’t combine the Fed with a gold standard regime!

4. Europe launches a completely, 100%, useless World War in 1914, and the US joins soon afterward.

5. Wilson assumes the presidency in 1913. Wilson was a near perfect mix of someone being wrong on civil rights, wrong on civil liberties, wrong on economic policy and wrong on foreign policy.

So while it’s hard not to be depressed by two buffoons running for president, or the US sleepwalking into an insane cold war with China, or the global rise of nationalism and statism, things could be even worse.

The world has made lots of progress in social policies since 1912 (more rights for women, blacks, gays, etc.), which I certainly don’t want to discount. But 1912 was a sort of golden age for economic policy. My dream monetary system is basically 1912 plus NGDPLT:

1. Abolish reserve accounts at the Fed. Make the base 100% currency, as in 1912.

2. Abolish FDIC and TBTF and 100% deregulate the banking/financial system.

3. Use open market operations to adjust the currency stock, using my NGDP futures “guardrails” approach, to keep one-year forward NGDP expectations on target.

And that’s it. The government’s role in our entire monetary/banking/financial system would boil down to just one item. Adjust cash to keep NGDP expectations growing at 4% a year. That’s all. A libertarian paradise. (Of course Bob Murphy would probably regard my proposal as socialism.)

My broader proposal is that we go back to treating people like grown-ups, and see if that makes them act more like grown-ups. Two weeks ago, I was told that one needs a photo ID to buy a 6 pack of O’Doul’s beer. This “beer” is less than 1/2% alcohol. (At this point my European readers are trying to decide whether they are more shocked that Americans would not allow a 20 year old military veteran to drink non-alcohol beer, or by the fact that their favorite cranky blogger has taste in beer that is appalling even by American standards.)

Saudi Arabia now allows women to drive. The Chinese can now have more than one kid. But America still doesn’t allow 20-year olds to buy O’Douls beer. I’m praying for a dino-asteroid to put us all out of our misery.

PS. I sometimes paddleboard in an 11-foot long inflatable device that could support a football player. Last week I was scolded by a patrol boat for not carrying a life preserver on my paddleboard, while on a “lake” where one is never more than 100 yards from shore. I’m 64 years old.

Just shoot me.

PPS. Remember when we were warned that Bernie Sanders would bring us trillion dollar spending increases?

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told CNN he’s a “hell no” on a $1 trillion package, while Rand Paul of Kentucky told another reporter that Republicans were acting like “Bernie Bros” behind closed doors as they discuss among themselves how many hundreds of billions to spend, a reference to ardent supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.

PPPS. Where does North Carolina go to get its apology?