Author Archive


Conservative follies

1. Once dueling was banned, masculinity was gone forever. It’s not coming back. Nonetheless, the always out of date National Review has a piece discussing Senator Hawley’s futile attempt to revive masculinity:

Trump, it must be said, is the most prominent bearer of the reputation of manliness at this time. He is surely the model today for male aggressiveness, the one who dares to risk the dislike of women. He does have the support of those women who do not care for sensitive males with too much education but prefer rougher, more manly types willing to take on the responsibility of insulting their enemies. But he is happy to abandon and destroy the conventions of normality, which, unbeknownst to feminists, are so protective of women. Why should women with their newfound independence remain in need, indeed have greater need, of barriers against harassment by pushy males? But it seems that they do, and that they feel they have reason and at long last power to defend themselves, or in practice to be defended by law and government. “Women for Trump” are thus, it appears, a fading minority the senator cannot count on.

And does Trump merit the badge of manliness? Should he carry the flag? Returning to the description of manly man we began with, one cannot say that Trump does not notice microaggressions. He notices nothing more than slights of any size, especially small ones, and makes a policy of constantly complaining of those done to himself, above all the crowning injustice of not being reelected. His idea of standing tall makes him willing to stoop to say anything to defend his fragile dignity. In sum, he gives manliness a bad name. But is it necessary for a Republican politician in a difficult situation, like Senator Hawley, always and in every regard to speak frankly like a man? Manliness is not the whole truth of a human being. Sometimes womanly silence is prudent, if only to preserve the deference manly men always show to women, though not always for their prudence.

I’ll hold back my manly urge to mock, and instead maintain a womanly silence.

2. A website entitled “Law and Liberty” has a piece defending Putin’s war on Ukraine:

Of course, it is conventional wisdom in western capitals that Vladimir Putin is an imperial monster, and he is always ready to brutalize his neighbors with military force.

Um, isn’t that because it’s true?

But what if conventional wisdom is wrong? What if Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are legitimate spheres of influence for the Russian nation, with deep cultural, language, and religious ties going back to the 10th century when Ukraine converted to the Eastern Orthodox religion?

And what if the Czech Sudetenland has deep historical ties to Germany? What if northern Romania has deep historical ties to Hungary? What if Taiwan has deep historical ties to China? What if the Rio Grande Valley has deep historical ties to Mexico? So many questions that can be asked!

What if NATO and the West are the imperialists, attempting to bully Russia from involving itself in a nation whose historical ties to Russia are far deeper than the United States’ ties to Canada?  

Would it be OK for the US to invade Canada?

3. In a new Atlantic piece, David Brooks looks at modern conservatism and is appalled.

Trumpian Republicanism plunders, degrades, and erodes institutions for the sake of personal aggrandizement. The Trumpian cause is held together by hatred of the Other. Because Trumpians live in a state of perpetual war, they need to continually invent existential foes—critical race theory, nongendered bathrooms, out-of-control immigration. They need to treat half the country, metropolitan America, as a moral cancer, and view the cultural and demographic changes of the past 50 years as an alien invasion. Yet pluralism is one of America’s oldest traditions; to conserve America, you have to love pluralism. As long as the warrior ethos dominates the GOP, brutality will be admired over benevolence, propaganda over discourse, confrontation over conservatism, dehumanization over dignity. A movement that has more affection for Viktor Orbán’s Hungary than for New York’s Central Park is neither conservative nor American. This is barren ground for anyone trying to plant Burkean seedlings.

He’s ready to jump ship:

I’m content, as my hero Isaiah Berlin put it, to plant myself instead on the rightward edge of the leftward tendency—in the more promising soil of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

But for every David Brooks, there will be 100 working class Hispanic voters going in the opposite direction.

We are a banana republic, a place where elections are fought over the issue of the fairness of elections. In countries such as Canada, Germany and Denmark, elections are fought over policy issues. In countries such as Venezuela, Russia, and the US, the issue is the election itself–each side accuses the other of stealing the election. In Canada, Germany and Denmark, politics revolves around political parties. In Venezuela, Russia, and the US, politics revolves around personality cults. All that matters is loyalty to the “man on horseback”. (And it must be a man. Kamala Harris? I’ve got more chance of being president.)

So which group of countries is best described by the term “banana republic”?

BTW. When I first compared Trump to Orban, conservatives were outraged. “How dare you suggest that Trump is a authoritarian populist!” Now Orban is the poster child of modern American conservatism.

4. I’ve been tough on Trump, but today I wish to praise his wisdom. On the night of the 2012 election it looked like Romney might have received more votes. Trump responded appropriately:

In additional tweets since deleted, Trump asks why Romney should lose if he received a greater number of votes. Upon the final tally, President Barack Obama defeated Romney in both the popular vote and electoral college.

“He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!” said Trump in one deleted tweet, and “More votes equals a loss … revolution!” in another.

Yes, a revolution. In 2016 we all should have stormed the Capitol for Hillary.

5. A few weeks later, Trump had a thoughtful postmortem on the election:

Donald Trump: Mean-Spirited GOP Won’t Win Elections

The Republican Party will continue to lose presidential elections if it comes across as mean-spirited and unwelcoming toward people of color, Donald Trump tells Newsmax. . . .

Romney’s solution of “self deportation” for illegal aliens made no sense and suggested that Republicans do not care about Hispanics in general, Trump says.

“He had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal,” Trump says. “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump notes. “He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”

So true!!

6. Ever wonder why China’s Communist Party likes Donald Trump? Read this tweet. No American has done more to advance China’s technological development.

7. Why was Trump better in the old days? Kevin Drum cites evidence that cognitive ability declines after age 62. BTW, I’m 66, so that explains a lot of what went wrong with this blog about 4 years ago.

8. Former NJ Governor Christie was put into intensive care by Trump’s selfishness:

“I would have worn a mask if I knew that,” Christie said. “We knew everybody in that room, except for the president, was getting tested every day. We didn’t know what the president’s testing regimen was.”

“So if Mark Meadows knew that somebody that I was sitting across from for four days had popped the positive test, [he] should have told us,” he added.

“He didn’t tell us,” Christie said. “I went into the hospital in the intensive care unit. He didn’t call and tell me. So I think that’s inexcusable.”

I wouldn’t wish Covid on anyone. But did Christie not know what kind of person Trump was? If you play with snakes, don’t complain if you get bitten.

QE, or not QE?

To say the labor market is “strong” would be an understatement. The unemployment rate is now 4.2%. Only 3 of the previous 50 years saw lower unemployment rates (2000, 2018, 2019). Firms are desperately short of workers, despite fast rising wages. Service sucks almost everywhere I go.

Inflation is also above target, whether you look at a 1, 2, 3 4, or 5-year time frame.

So why is the Fed currently doing QE? What is the goal of this program?

PS. David Beckworth directed me to a Skanda Amarnath tweet showing the amazingly quick recovery in the job market, compared to the Great Recession (for prime age workers):

PPS. Total employment in the US remains nearly 4 million below pre-Covid levels, while in Canada the previous peak has already been surpassed:

The unemployment rate fell to 6% — very near pre-pandemic levels — from 6.7% in October. Employment is now 186,000 jobs beyond where it was in February 2020. Hours worked rose 0.7%, fully recouping Covid losses for the first time.

Whatever factors are depressing US employment do not seem to be operative in Canada.

How to avoid a recession

This comment in the WSJ caught my eye:

Fed officials will have to decide whether or when to raise interest rates to restrain inflation. If they move too little or too late, they risk letting inflation get worse for longer. If they move too much or too soon, they risk causing an economic downturn.

Actually, the bigger risk is that moving too late will cause a recession. Right now, the labor market is quite strong and the economy has a lot of upward momentum. Inflation expectations remain modest. Modestly slower NGDP growth will not raise the unemployment rate. The economy has a lot of upward momentum. Inflation expectations remain modest. Thus it is a good time to slow inflation.

Recessions tend to occur later in a cycle, when growth has slowed and inflation expectations have risen to unacceptably high levels. The biggest risk is not a recession in 2022, it’s a recession in 2024 or 2025.

You don’t respect people by killing them

This story caught my eye:

The trailer for Tucker Carlson’s special about the Jan. 6 mob at the U.S. Capitol landed online Oct. 27, and that night Jonah Goldberg sent a text to his business partner, Stephen Hayes: “I’m tempted just to quit Fox over this.”

“I’m game,” Hayes replied. “Totally outrageous. It will lead to violence. Not sure how we can stay.”

And this:

The reality of Fox and similar institutions is that many of their leaders feel that the tight bond between Trump and their audiences or constituents leaves them little choice but to go along, whatever they believe. Fox employees often speak of this in terms of “respecting the audience.” And in a polarized age, the greatest opportunities for ratings, money and attention, as politicians and media outlets left and right have demonstrated, are on the extreme edges of American politics.

Carlson became the network’s most-watched prime-time host by playing explicitly to that fringe, and “Patriot Purge” — through insinuations and imagery — explored an alternate history of Jan. 6 in which the violence was a “false flag” and the consequence has been the persecution of conservatives.

I’d expect anyone with half a brain to know that you respect people by telling them the truth, not by lying to them. But if you’ve watched Fox News . . .

Fox has peddled conspiracy theories about Covid, and as a result their viewers are now much more likely to die of the disease than CNN viewers. That’s not treating them with “respect”; that’s catering to the ignorance of a segment of Fox viewers (not all).

Meanwhile the Democratic Party is making an all out push to elect Donald Trump president in 2024. They seem to be operating with the political theory that, “Meals are especially tasty when you eat the dessert first and the vegetables at the end.”

Have a nice day.

PS. Powell was reappointed. Yawn. Trump will dump him in 2026.

Why I don’t post on crypto

Tyler Cowen recently noted that monetary economists don’t have much useful to say about crypto:

But take [monetary economics] in general — has it had anything interesting to say about crypto developments? I don’t expect it to have predicted crypto, or its price, any more than I expect macroeconomists to have predicted recessions (see Scott Sumner on that one). But surely monetary theory should be able to help us better understand crypto? And its price.

Money is one of the most ambiguous terms in the English language. What does it mean to say, “Bill Gates has a lot of money”? That he has a fat wallet full of dollar bills? Or a lot of Microsoft stock? The field of “monetary economics” might better be described as the field of “medium of account economics”. Because crypto is not a medium of account, our models are not very useful in explaining changes in its value.

Some people might say, “Wait a minute, crytpo has many money-like attributes. It is often used as a store of value. Like fiat currency, it has no intrinsic value. Occasionally, it is even used as a medium of exchange.” Yes, all that is true. And any true “theory of money” should have something useful to say about crypto.

But the field that economists call “monetary theory” is not a theory of money, it’s a theory of the medium of account. And crypto is not a medium of account. Sorry.

PS. What about stablecoins? Well, we do have models that explain changes in the value of stable coins. Those are the models that explain price inflation (not always very well, but no worse with stablecoins than with other media of exchange.)