Bryan Caplan and Trump’s lawyers

This story caught my eye:

During a Pennsylvania court hearing this week on one of the many election lawsuits brought by President Donald Trump, a judge asked a campaign lawyer whether he had found any signs of fraud from among the 592 ballots challenged.

The answer was no.

Bryan Caplan says that a good way to ascertain whether people are sincere in their claims (rather than just bullshitting) is to bet them on the issue at stake. Most people won’t be willing to put money on the line for something they don’t truly believe.

Lawyers caught lying in court can face some pretty severe penalties, so Trump’s lawyers have a strong incentive not to lie about claims of electoral fraud. Thus it’s likely that Trump’s lawyers are telling the truth when they say they have no evidence of fraud.

PS. And now even Fox News is a part of the anti-Trump conspiracy. Sad!



47 Responses to “Bryan Caplan and Trump’s lawyers”

  1. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    12. November 2020 at 15:54

    so trite has sumner become he stoops to absence of evidence is evidence of absence. what is his agenda? goal? who is he in a folie a deux with?

  2. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    12. November 2020 at 16:12

    Even a part of the federal DHS affirms that “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

  3. Gravatar of XVO XVO
    12. November 2020 at 19:12

    But they weren’t trying to say these ballots were fraudulent they were trying to have them invalidated on a legal technicality so it’s an irrelevant question.

    It would be like if you sue someone for violating a contract and the judge asks you if you think the defendant is a murderer. Chewbacca defense but weird because it’s the judge performing the defense.

  4. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    12. November 2020 at 19:50

    agrippa postumus,

    Why is it so difficult to understand that court complaints require evidence? Why go to court if you don’t have evidence for a claim, unless the claim is filed in bad faith? Judgements are supposed to be based on presented evidence. And frivalous lawsuits are supposed to be illegal.

    If Trump’s lawyers have legitimate complaints, then why file illegitimate ones?

  5. Gravatar of Bob OBrien Bob OBrien
    12. November 2020 at 20:24

    “Why is it so difficult to understand that court complaints require evidence?”

    Is a signed statement by a postal worker or an employee of Dominion evidence? Are hundreds plus other signed statements evidence?

    I am not a lawyer but it seems to me this is evidence! To deny this is evidence seems to me to be pure propaganda.

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. November 2020 at 20:27

    agrippa, You said:

    “so trite has sumner become he stoops to absence of evidence is evidence of absence.”

    Of course that just shows you can’t read. But even if it were as you claimed, that’s better than those who claim the absence of evidence is evidence of the existence of evidence!

    XVO, Trying to invalidate non-fraudulent ballots is what most people would call “not a good look”

    In any case, regardless of the judge’s motives it’s pretty funny when Trump’s lawyers (implicitly) call Trump a liar.

  7. Gravatar of ann ann
    12. November 2020 at 21:22

    I read the lawsuit filed by Trump’s legal team in federal court, and it’s a superb piece of legal craftsmanship.

    Over the last few days, there have been allegations, followed by hundreds of affidavits, claiming conservative poll watchers were denied access. Typically, this is filed through the state courts; however, since PA has one of the most activist and progressive Supreme Courts in the country the legal team chose to file in federal court under equal protection, due process, Privileges and Immunities.

    In other words, if one allows democrats to witness ballot counting but refuse republicans that same privilege, then one is violating several federal statutes.

    I imagine they will also file similar federal cases in MI, NV and WI where the allegations are piling up.

    Despite what the media pundits are saying, this is far from over folks. If he can prove the claims filed in the suit, and I imagine he can — otherwise why file — then the Supreme court is almost certainly going to invalidate votes, or invalidate entire results in these states.

  8. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    12. November 2020 at 21:27

    Indeed as Agrippa says, just because the lawyer is not aware of fraud doesn’t mean anything, and as another commentator pointed out, Wisconsin has a history of irregularities, see here:

    I do hope for the sake of democracy that Trump litigates everything related to the vote, for the benefit of future generations. Stuff like whether it’s even legal to cast an absentee ballot if you don’t have a good reason to (and no, Covid-19 is not a good reason, I voted in person–for Trump–on election day with hardly anybody in line, with no fear). Do I think Trump lost a fair election? No, if you throw out the absentee votes he did not in fact lose (fact, he was even winning in Virginia with his Red Shift). Perhaps a runoff election with the rules clarified would result in a Trump victory? Perhaps. But the chances of the US Sup.Ct. alienating the Democratic Party by doing that are about zero. All in all, if you strip out the Trump lies, the bluster, the bogus and unenforceable Executive Orders, the undiplomatic tone, what do you have? Trump is no worse and in fact a lot better than many other presidents (fact). You’ll see this in action with Biden, after he fails with his grandiose promises, as Sumner seems to acknowledge (fact).

  9. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    13. November 2020 at 04:17

    sumner, the beta Manchurian Candidate of the FED that was junked, but not before “tools” became a mutating synecdoche in his mind for “I’m gonna fudge it here” applies that mutant gene of speech to offer:
    “But even if it were as you claimed, that’s better than those who claim the absence of evidence is evidence of the existence of evidence!”

    completely doxing himself by confusing “NOT A, DOES NOT MEAN A DOES NOT EXIST” TO “SAYING NOT A, MEANS YOUR ARE SAYING EXISTENCE OF A IS PROVEN”. Quite a tool, in all senses of the word.

  10. Gravatar of Kirk Kirk
    13. November 2020 at 04:33

    You have such a sensible blog here; I hate that the comment section has been taken over by conspiracy theorists. The paperwork filed by the president’s lawyers so far has been entertaining at least.

  11. Gravatar of sty.silver sty.silver
    13. November 2020 at 04:36

    Absence of evidence IS evidence of absence; always. This fact is immediate from first principles of probability; you can prove it in a paragraph.

    How much evidence is a different question.

    Imo, this phrase is one of these things that’s really useful to weed out bad thinkers. Anyone who says this is apparently capable of saying mathematically false things without realizing that anything is wrong. It shows that they don’t think about whether things are true before they say them; rather, they just say what sounds convincing.

  12. Gravatar of sty.silver sty.silver
    13. November 2020 at 04:39

    “this phrase” meaning “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”

  13. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    13. November 2020 at 05:33

    @ sty.silver, indeed. I think people confuse it with proof. Absence of evidence is not PROOF of absence, but it is evidence of absence, quite clearly.

    @ agrippa postumus, I don’t think you know what the word ‘synecdoche’ means, but nice attempt at looking intelligent. Of course you took your nom de plume from a plebeian.

  14. Gravatar of J Mann J Mann
    13. November 2020 at 06:14

    IMHO, the Trump campaign has some concerns worth discussing – it sounds likely election officials in some counties didn’t grant Trump observers reasonable access, and I think there’s a larger discussion to be had about whether mailing unsolicited absentee ballots to all voters encourages fraud.

    *However,* it’s increasingly obvious that none of this has any reasonable possibility of shifting enough votes to turn the election.

    If Trump had some reasonable endgame – obtaining some kind of electoral reform or making some point – then you could at least argue this is worthwhile, but he’s going to spend a lot of other people’s money, then shut down.

  15. Gravatar of Nick S Nick S
    13. November 2020 at 07:36

    But Sumner, somehow you will find a way to discredit sworn affidavits under oath & under penalty of perjury by over 100 Michigan citizens confirming voter fraud… what say you?

  16. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    13. November 2020 at 08:01

    @ Nick S, Affidavits like the one expressing surprise that members of the military voted for Biden? What a sad joke this is.

  17. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    13. November 2020 at 08:44

    Scott is bored. He is hunting for anti Trump arguments on recounts etc. One lawyer on one issue is not very convincing. However, I have a hard time developing a fact based opinion on the validity of Trumps challenges. The primary reason is my belief that virtually everything written on the topic ranges from very biased to outright lying. And I cannot tell which is which. Further, “opinions” with no evidence one way or the other are not persuasive at all.

    So why am I for an aggressive recount? One reason is the Dems said they would have done this too. Not just Hillary, but Biden saying the campaign had the best group of lawyers available to hunt out fraud—-why would they have that? Just to defend against Trump—I don’t think so. To protect against Trump fraud. I am surprised there are no accusations about Trump fraud.

    Also, there may be a 10% chance—-meaning a huge surprise— (like the “back door” boxes on Biden ballots—which sounds absurd—-but who knows) it will change.

    Finally, mass mailings to all for the first time—-if there were ever a condition where fraud could happen, this is one. I do remember listening to the Washington State official discussing their 28 year history of mail-in ballots with NPR. He said it took 5byears to get it right.

  18. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    13. November 2020 at 08:48

    Sty-dweller and not-Tacitus: you are worthy of the Scarecrow award.

    Not-Tacitus: no, wrong on where Agrippa Postumus is from, again, Scarecrow award.

    Not-Tacitus: here’s an apt synecdoche: You a$$hole.

    Under both Scarecrows’ reasoning (is it?), absence of evidence of any mental activity demonstrated here by both of you is proof, maybe just a little, that you are both idiots. do i have your concurrence?

  19. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    13. November 2020 at 09:23

    There is only one Agrippa Postumus, Marcus Agrippa Postumus, who was a plebeian – sorry.

    No, you do not have concurrence. Proof is always complete or incomplete; it can never exist ‘just a little.’ Your logical skills leave much to be desired, I’m afraid.

    Congratulations on successfully thinking of a synecdoche, however!

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. November 2020 at 10:03

    ann, Those charges are not true. The poll watchers were not denied access. In any case, go ahead and recount, the result will be the same.

    Ray, The MacIver Institute? Well, OK then!

    agrippa, It’s not complicated. Trump says there was fraud. Trump’s lawyers say he’s lying, that there’s no evidence of fraud. Why make things complicated?

    You claimed I asserted proof of no fraud, whereas I merely asserted no evidence of fraud. Are you one of those people too proud to admit when they are wrong? It’s not hard—just say “I’m sorry”

    Nick, Provide a link or I’ll ignore you.

    Michael, You said:

    “One reason is the Dems said they would have done this too.”

    So why didn’t they do this in 2016?

  21. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    13. November 2020 at 10:14

    Prof., Nick is referring to these, uh, allegations:

    You can download the entire 234 pages of such nonsense from the Trump website if you really wanted to.

  22. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    13. November 2020 at 10:26

    Not-Tacitus: Rest easy though, soon you will have enough Scarecrow awards to buy a trip on the NYC subway.

    Is one flake of snow as much proof of it snowed, as understood when discussing the weather locally(not your weekend diversions) as one foot on the ground as far as your eye can discern? I will hold this Scarecrow award for your misbegotten grandchildren.

    Sumner: Scarecrow award for you too, as well as the postumus-Hal award by the Hollywood prop room. This caught my eye: Sumer: I am an economist.” Ghost of Keynes, directly questioning Defender of the Faith Agrippa Postumus in the court of Make it Count: “Do you have any evidence based on your review of Sumner’s blog that he is as he claims.” DOFAP: “No.” Do you concur i have proven, without complication, you are not an economist?

  23. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    13. November 2020 at 11:27

    Yes, Marcus Agrippa Postumus, son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, of the plebeian Agrippa family. Do I need to educate you about Roman history as well as the rules of logic? This is, to quote Trump, ‘sad.’

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. November 2020 at 14:27

    agrippa, Next time please proof read your comment, to make sure it’s intelligible.

  25. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    13. November 2020 at 16:00

    Not-Tacitus and Sumner: you both are humble men w ample reason for finding your home in that disposition.

  26. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    13. November 2020 at 17:45

    I like Caplan’s approach. Does anyone here care to bet against Biden taking office as President in January of next year?

  27. Gravatar of Nick S Nick S
    13. November 2020 at 20:53

    Sumner – links below.

    Click the top one and navigate to the bottom of the page, where you can read the official complaint that was filed (also listed below under “Complaint Filing”) which states the alleged fraud, supported by the sworn affidavits in Exhibit 1 (also linked below).

    Main Page:

    Complaint Filing:

    Exhibit 1 (Sworn Affidavits):

  28. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    14. November 2020 at 07:47

    Have you actually read those affidavits, Nick? Just because they’re ‘sworn’ and ‘witnessed by a notary’ doesn’t mean they aren’t ridiculous. How any rational lawyer could agree to represent Trump with the support of such ‘evidence’ is as ridiculous as Pseudo-Agrippa’s logical skills.

  29. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    14. November 2020 at 08:21

    Nick S,

    If there’s validity to these complaints and they’re substantial enough to affect the outcome of the election, then you should take me up on my bet. I bet that Joe Biden will be sworn in as US President in January.

    How much money will you risk here? Put up, or shut up.

  30. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. November 2020 at 09:09

    Agrippa, Nothing sadder than a person who thinks they are clever, but is not.

    Nick, That’s your evidence? A claim made by Trump? LOL.

    Trump’s own lawyers admit they have zero evidence of fraud. Just give up.

  31. Gravatar of Nick S Nick S
    14. November 2020 at 10:29

    Sumner – The whole point of your main post is the assertion that people tend to tell the truth when they have strong incentives not to lie, such as the incentive to avoid perjury. I agree with your assertion. However, if you can use your logic to support your view, you must allow others to use your same logic to support theirs. If you read the link under Exhibit 1, you will see the sworn affidavits filed along with the complaint. I’m not saying that all of these affidavits necessarily prove the existence of fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. But I am saying that they are just as valid as the trump lawyers comments that you reference, all else equal, under your logic.

    Secondly, your framing of the trump lawyers statement is very misleading, and I don’t think you did any homework before posting. You took your assertion and used it to support your view, which I surmise is that the voter fraud alleged by the trump legal team is non existent. I don’t disagree with this logic, and your point would be compelling if the judicial proceeding that you referenced, in which a trump lawyer stated he was “not aware of any voter fraud,” was actually about voter fraud. The trump campaign’s petition to the court in said preceding was focused on whether certain mail-in ballots should be included in the count. The petition (linked below) claimed that these ballots were not in compliance with 2 specific sections of the PA election code. These sections describe how mail-in ballots are required to be mailed, received, time cutoffs, etc. This specific petition did not assert the occurrence of voter fraud, so it is not surprising that the lawyers did not have evidence of voter fraud. The presence or absence of voter fraud as it relates to the petition is irrelevant to what the petition is alleging. Your point would be much more valid if the petition in scope alleged voter fraud.

    Case Detail HomePage Link:

    Petition To Court Link:

  32. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. November 2020 at 12:27

    Nick, This is mostly evidence of poll workers acting like jerks—which is inexcusable—but I’d wager that a recount would change the results only very slightly. Trump won by a wide margin in Michigan. Wayne County was about the same as in 2016; it’s the suburbs that shifted strongly toward Biden.

    I’ve never said there are zero fraudulent ballots in a country of 330 million–there is a bit of fraud in every election—but there’s zero evidence of any sort of widespread conspiracy to commit fraud that would be required to materially effect an election.

    If I mail in my wife’s ballot without her permission that’s fraud, but that’s not what we are talking about here.

    I actually hope there’s a recount in all these states, to refute all these conspiracy theories.

    BTW, if you read left wing sites they are full of claims that the black vote is suppressed by authorities in conservative areas, so it cuts both ways. Check this out:

  33. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    14. November 2020 at 14:05

    Nick S,

    If you really believe what you say, you should put money on the line.

  34. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    14. November 2020 at 15:38

    poor sumner, reduced to “nah nah nah” retorts. Maybe he is the junk dna of Malvolio, transported through the black hole of literature into real life. Say it sumner, with a little verve:

    “Nothing that can be can come between me and the full prospect of my hopes.”

    Feel better?

  35. Gravatar of Nick S Nick S
    14. November 2020 at 19:26

    Michael- My posts simply pointed out the faulty logic of Sumner and the fact that the article headlining his topic is misleading. So if you want me to throw money on whether or not I can continue to spin up a so called “economist,” I’d be happy to do so. Although, this really doesn’t interest me… if i really wanted to take more money from the 99% (which I presume you’re a part of given your lack of reading comprehension skills), I would have voted for biden.

  36. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    15. November 2020 at 05:02

    Nick S,

    You seem to lack even the most rudimentary critical thinking skills, and apparently can’t do basic arithmetic, or you would be embarrassed to post the nonsense you offer.

    Will Biden be sworn in as President in January 2021? If you don’t think so, then accept my offer to bet. Otherwise, you don’t even take your own silly opinions seriously.

  37. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    15. November 2020 at 06:48

    Nick S, your argument if faulty because the consequences of a lawyer in court lying to the judge are much higher than the consequences of a poll watcher lying – even in a sworn affidavit. They are not equivalent. That’s ignoring the fact that the ‘evidence’ of the poll watchers is hilariously stupid.

  38. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. November 2020 at 08:04

    agrippa, You said:

    “reduced to “nah nah nah” retorts.”

    pot, kettle.

    Tacitus, Yeah, reading those reports reminds me of the literary term “unreliable narrator”. Yet I actually have some sympathy for these people, as they seem well-meaning and it sounds like they were treated badly by poll officials. I’ve been treated badly by city officials in big cities who were acting like jerks, and I didn’t like it. But they don’t sound like experts in spotting voting fraud.

    Nonetheless, I hope they do thorough recounts to dispel any doubts. I’d guess the Michigan vote (a 147,000 margin), is less than 1000 off.

  39. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    15. November 2020 at 09:32

    not-tacitus-who-believes-the-grandson-of-augustus-was-a-plebian: if you have any legal training besides traffic court infractions, you are a classic mountebank, albeit that insults the mountebanks, most grievously.

  40. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    15. November 2020 at 09:34

    sumner: you debase yourself more than you are worthy. do we have a new proof of negative numbers?

  41. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    15. November 2020 at 10:43

    @ Prof. Sumner, Yes, very much unreliable narrators. I have a hard time feeling sympathy for people who support Trump, however.

    @ Pseudo-Agrippa; Yes, a MATERNAL grandson of Augustus. Unfortunately, Rome was an AGNATIC society, so Agrippa Postumus had the status of his father and his father’s father, viz. the status of the Agrippa / Vipsania family. Who were plebeians. New money. Sorry. As I said earlier, this is sad. You are a loser at logic and a loser at history. Do a little more research before taking a nom de plume next time.

  42. Gravatar of Nick S Nick S
    15. November 2020 at 10:48

    Tacticus- I’m not an expert on the specifics of perjury penalties, but this is besides the point. The lawyers in the example cited in sumners main post, were not claiming that said ballots were fraudulent. They were trying to prove that they were not in compliance with PA mail in voting procedures. Therefore, any questioning of voter fraud as it pertains to those ballots are NOT relevant. What is disgusting is the fact that the Judge knows this and still asked anyways as a matter of political posturing, which is reprehensible for a so called judge.

    This is just one case of many that has been filed. I’m sure others DO in fact claim voter fraud. If a lawyer in one of these cases said that they have no evidence of voter fraud, then that would be a story. The main post is misleading and irresponsible.

    Michael – I don’t believe that I did any arithmetic in my posts so how are you to judge? Also, I think it is likely that Biden will be sworn in, as the establishment political machine is too large to overcome. Although, I do believe the chance of him not being sworn in is larger than the market is pricing in, which is why I’ve picked up some very cheap bear put spreads on some pro-biden names. I’m sure you don’t know what these are, but it will allow me to make some real bucks as opposed to any chump change sized bet you could offer. So go back to your little shanty and continue to let me occupy the minimal space in your pea sized brain.

  43. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    15. November 2020 at 11:08

    @ Nick S,

    No, it’s not besides the point. Caplan/Sumner are saying individuals do a cost/benefit analysis, and clearly the cost analysis of lying is higher for lawyers than poll-watchers.

    Also, why are you bringing up PA when all of your evidence was re: Michigan?

    How is it irresponsible to say, on a niche monetary policy blog, that Trump has no evidence of voter fraud and his lawyers have admitted this in court?

  44. Gravatar of Nick S Nick S
    15. November 2020 at 19:27

    @Tacticus – I really don’t know how I can make this any clearer.

    1.) The Trump campaign has filed various suits in multiple states and not all of them allege fraud.

    2.) The suit referenced in the main post, does not allege fraud, but instead alleges non compliance with PA mail-in voting protocol.

    3.) Given this, why would a judge ask the lawyer in this specific case if they have evidence that the votes are fraudulent if the lawyers are not alleging fraud in the first place?

    4.) The article is misleading because it uses a quote from a trump lawyer who stated he doesn’t have any evidence of fraud with respect to a case in which he was not alleging fraud in the first place. Furthermore, the article attempts to apply this quote to mean that any other claims of fraud by the trump administration are invalid. This is like asking a lawyer who is prosecuting someone for murder, if he has evidence that the defendant was a thief. The lawyer would respond that he does not, as I am alleging murder, not theft. However, this does not necessarily mean that the defendant is not a thief.

    5.) I used the Michigan affidavits as an example that uses equivalent logic to sumner, in that people are incentivized to tell the truth when they make statements that if proven false, are punishable under perjury.

    Does this make sense, or does your brain hurt?

  45. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    16. November 2020 at 03:44

    Nick S, this is embarrassing. That is not equivalent logic. That is the fallacy of false equivalence. It’s literally elementary school logic – apples to oranges.

  46. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. November 2020 at 09:40

    Nick, So there is no evidence of widespread fraud and the compliance issues have been rejected by the courts. What else you got left?

  47. Gravatar of Nick S Nick S
    17. November 2020 at 04:15

    I don’t got anything else Scott. Like I said earlier, I think that Biden will be the next pres. I also never stated that I think widespread other fraud was significant enough to flip the election. However, as an educator and as someone who I am sure is versed in mathematics and logic, I think you have a responsibility to examine both sides instead of deducing conclusions that fit any bias you may have. These articles are generally not “fake news,” as they often state facts (I.e. lawyer said he had no evidence of voter fraud), however the facts are often out of context, such as this one (lawyer wasn’t alleging fraud). That’s all I’m sayin.

Leave a Reply