Innumeracy drives me nuts

One thing that frustrates me is that I have to go through life listening to tiresome arguments from the 99.9% of people who are innumerate.  Here are a few recent examples:

1.  “The polls were wrong about the election.”  That’s true of some of the state polls, but the national polls were roughly correct.  They predicted that Hillary would gain about 4.5 million more votes than Trump.  We still don’t know where it will end up (her margin widens daily), but it looks like she’ll end up nearly 3 million ahead. If you had told most pundits that Hillary would have won 3 million more votes than Trump, most would have assumed that she would win the election.  The mistake was not so much the polls, but rather the assumption that a comfortable margin in the popular vote would be enough.  That’s not an unreasonable mistake; in the past 120 years there was only one other split decision (in 2000), and in that case the popular vote was exceedingly close.  It’s like the housing price collapse of 2006-09; we all knew it was theoretically possible for someone with a multi-million popular vote margin to lose the electoral college, but didn’t expect it because we had not seen it in modern times.

2.  “If elections were determined by popular vote, Trump would have campaigned differently and most likely would have won the popular vote.” Of course that’s theoretically possible, but the odds are overwhelmingly against.  First, because the new strategy for both candidates would have involved more emphasis on getting out the vote in the non-swing states.  But the non-swing states went for Hillary by nearly 4%.  So if increased campaigning had boosted the turnout in places like California, then Hillary would have very likely won by even more.  Thus the big popular vote margin actually understates what that margin would have been in a direct election of the President.  And second, people don’t seem to understand how massive a popular vote margin of nearly 3 million actually is.  It would be extremely hard to generate another 3 million votes for Trump, or more precisely an amount of additional votes that’s 3 million more than the other campaign generated.  Face facts: Hillary didn’t lose because people didn’t like her; she was more popular than Trump on Election Day.  Trump won because the election was rigged by the Founding Fathers.

3.  “Neoliberal economists who promoted free trade are to blame for Trump.”  This is wrong for all sorts of reasons.  First of all, the direct loss of jobs due to imports is largely offset by jobs created in other sectors like exports and construction. Furthermore, automation costs far more jobs than trade.  And finally, the actual loss of jobs due to neoliberal policies like Nafta and GATT are only a tiny fraction of jobs lost to imports in general. Even if we had not liberalized trade in recent decades, we’d still be importing lots of cheap manufactured goods from East Asia and Mexico, and have a huge CA deficit.  If you take 10% of 10% of 10%, you end up with a really tiny number, and yet a commenter recently sent me an article by Notre Dame economist David Ruccio claiming that neoliberal economists were to blame for Trump:

Are mainstream economists responsible for electing Donald Trump?

I think they deserve at least part of the blame. So, as it turns out, does Dani Rodrick

My argument is that, when mainstream economists in the United States embraced and celebrated neoliberalism—both the conservative and “left” versions—they created the conditions for Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election.

We are 0.001% to blame, at most.  If economists don’t have a sense about what sort of numerical claims are plausible, who will?

4.  I could cite many other examples.  The claim that greater infrastructure spending would significantly boost US economic growth is absurd.  It might boost it, but the US economy is far too large and diverse for a $550 billion infrastructure package to make much difference, especially during a period of 4.6% unemployment and monetary offset.  Tax reform and deregulation are more promising, but even here the claims of 4% to 6% RGDP growth are ridiculous, at least over an extended period of time (I suppose one or two quarters are possible.) Trend RGDP growth during the 20th century averaged about 3%, under wildly different policy environments.  I’m not saying policy had no impact (I’m a moderate supply-sider), but people tend to overrate the impact.

To give a sense of how hard it is to dramatically impact the macro economy, consider that the Trump people (wrongly) claim their Carrier victory will directly save 1000 jobs.  Obama “created” about 6000 or 7000 jobs every single day over the past 7 years.  A thousand jobs is not a drop in a bucket, it’s a particle of water vapor in a bucket.  If Trump had that sort of “victory” every single day of his 8-year presidency, he’d still probably create far fewer jobs than Obama.  James Pethokoukis had this to say about the banana republic-like Carrier deal:

American Enterprise Institute scholar Jimmy Pethokoukis told CNBC on Thursday that President-elect Donald Trump’s speech about his deal to keep Carrier jobs in the United States was “absolutely the worst speech by an American politician since 1984 when Walter Mondale promised to reverse Reaganomics.”

“The idea that American corporations are going to have to make business decisions, not based on the fact that we’ve created an ideal environment for economic growth in the United States, but out of fear of punitive actions based on who knows what criteria exactly from a presidential administration. I think that’s absolutely chilling,” he said.

He continued: “[Companies should not make decisions] based on fear that there are going to be tariffs, that they are going to have contracts taken away from them, or the president will attack an American corporation for trying to create a valuable product.”

He also suggested that if the Democrats had done something similar, the GOP would have freaked out.  I can imagine Republicans complaining about this being a left-wing anti-business abuse of power, if Obama had done it.

Commenters often wrongly claim that I equated Trump and Hitler.  Now “analysts” are indirectly comparing Trump and Hitler:

A source who has advised Trump’s transition team on security policy told Reuters last week the president-elect would start a “clean slate” with Duterte, and analysts see some similarities in their blunt style. . . .

Sometimes called the “Trump of the East” because of his mercurial ways, Duterte has threatened repeatedly to sever U.S. defense ties, saying he “hates” having foreign soldiers in his country.

Here’s an example of Duterte’s blunt style:

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday compared his campaign to kill criminals to the Holocaust, saying he would like to “slaughter” millions of addicts just like Adolf Hitler “massacred” millions of Jewish people.

“Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there are 3 million drug addicts. … I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he told reporters early Friday, according to GMA News.

“You know my victims, I would like to be, all criminals, to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition,” he said.

No wonder Trump is anxious for Duterte to be one of the first heads of state to visit the White House:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump invited Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte to the White House next year during a “very engaging, animated” phone conversation, a Duterte aide said on Friday, amid rocky relations between their two countries.

They have so much in common.  Trump likes reading books of Hitler’s speeches and says:

You know I’m proud to have that German blood, there’s no question about it. Great stuff.

And Duterte sees mass murder as the “final solution” to the drug problem.

PS.  But I’m not equating Trump and Hitler-loving dictators; I leave that to the “analysts”.

PPS.  Last time I mentioned the Duterte quotation, a commenter defended him by pointing to his high approval rating in polls.  And he didn’t seem to be kidding.


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84 Responses to “Innumeracy drives me nuts”

  1. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    2. December 2016 at 19:34

    “Thus the big popular vote margin actually understates what that margin would have been in a direct election of the President.”

    -Nonsense. Millions of conservatives didn’t vote in CA and NY because their vote would count for nothing, as they lived in safe states. The Senate race in California was between two Democrats -thus, higher Democratic turnout in California this year than in 2012. Trump also tailored his strategy to appeal to rust belt swing states. Had the sunbelt been more relevant to a national election, he would have tailored his message to attract more sunbelt voters.

    The road was to 270, not to the popular vote.

    The rest of your post is boring crap.

  2. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    2. December 2016 at 19:41

    “It’s like the housing price collapse of 2006-09; we all knew it was theoretically possible for someone with a multi-million popular vote margin to lose the electoral college, but didn’t expect it because we had not seen it in modern times.”

    -Oh, BS:

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/youll-likely-be-reading-one-of-these-5-articles-the-day-after-the-election/

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-odds-of-an-electoral-college-popular-vote-split-are-increasing/

  3. Gravatar of Justin Justin
    2. December 2016 at 19:42

    Boring crap? I guess it’s boring to point out that a president illiberally bullying businesses into making decisions that aren’t in their own interest is dangerous?

    Businesses shouldn’t have to worry if their decisions are going to anger the president. That’s really going to create an environment where people want to start businesses here…

    Not to mention offering sweetheart deals to companies like Carrier makes other companies likely to try to please the president in order to earn their own sweetheart deals.

    Very dangerous precedents being set, and the guy isn’t even in office yet.

  4. Gravatar of Rob Rob
    2. December 2016 at 19:48

    I like the post. But on the polling point, much of the election analysis and prediction was based on state-level polling (e.g. Wang, Upshot, Silver). There was a large correlated error in the Midwest. It was just largely cancelled out in popular vote terms by opposite errors in other locations

  5. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    2. December 2016 at 19:54

    “but didn’t expect it because we had not seen it in modern times.”

    -Maybe you didn’t. But even someone as generally clueless about tho world as Krugman did:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20120409084402/http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/08/opinion/08krugman.html

    A solid majority of Americans thought housing was in a bubble in late 2005.

    “I guess it’s boring to point out that a president illiberally bullying businesses into making decisions that aren’t in their own interest is dangerous?”

    -You’re talking as if government intervention in the economy is somehow unique to Trump. You live in a strange universe.

  6. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    2. December 2016 at 19:59

    “Trump likes reading books of Hitler’s speeches”

    -[citation needed]. Evidence shows Trump doesn’t read books, unless it’s The Art of the Deal.

    “A thousand jobs is not a drop in a bucket, it’s a particle of water vapor in a bucket.”

    -That’s the point. It’s being done on a small scale now to try it out on a massive scale later.

    “Face facts: Hillary didn’t lose because people didn’t like her; she was more popular than Trump on Election Day.”

    -Face facts: Hillary lost because people didn’t like Her. That’s why she got far fewer votes than Obama in such key states as Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. December 2016 at 20:04

    Harding, You said:

    “Nonsense. Millions of conservatives didn’t vote in CA and NY because their vote would count for nothing, as they lived in safe states.”

    That’s very unlikely. Third party votes were similar in swing states and safe states, suggesting that voters do not vote strategically.

    You said:

    “Oh, BS:”

    Actually the articles you link to support my claim, not yours. But you are too dumb to understand that, aren’t you?

    You said:

    “You’re talking as if government intervention in the economy is somehow unique to Trump.”

    So this will be the Trumpista strategy, point out that other people do bad things, every time your guy makes a fool of you.

    Rob, I agree about the state polls, as I mentioned in the post.

  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. December 2016 at 20:06

    Harding, Trump got far fewer votes than Hillary in Michigan?

  9. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    2. December 2016 at 20:38

    Scott,

    The Carrier deal and assorted speeches is interesting insofar as Trump starts to sound like Chavez.

    [I know Harding will now come out with a few pages comparing Trump’s and Chavez’ underwear suppliers to prove me wrong].

    We’ve seen such times before. The problem you and people like me are having is this: it bothers us when things don’t make sense. But most people don’t run on sense, they run on belief. The whole modernity, rationalist programme since the 1500s just doesn’t seem to stick. Barbarism and idiocy keep on coming back periodically just in case we forget. Times of the Da Da.

    Witness Trump himself, I imagine he’s high on power by now, with his Duterte invite and Taiwan phone call. He’s testing the waters in the way of “gee, let’s offend everyone internationally now, and see what happens”.

    The nuclear explosions are going to be yuuuuge.

    In case someone comes out again and says it was the same with Reagan and how well that turned out, I’d have to say, part was luck, part was a much weaker China and Russia in those days, and the US economy was a much larger part of the world economy. And let’s not forget, to me the times of Reagan were terrifying. From outside the US, Reagan looked like a lunatic. The inflammatory rethoric, the bizarre conspiracies a la Iran-Contra, the nuclear posturing. I was a teenager then and I expected nuclear annihilation any day. Anyone remember Richard Perle, the “winnable war” etc. ? I do. And the counter propaganda a la nuclear winter hysteria etc. Interestingly when the Russians shot down the Korean airliner I expected the worst, but nothing happened. Apparently (from his autobiography), Reagan apparently was quite unfazed. He didn’t really care, sound asleep on the wheel. Still, from outside the US, international policy wise, Reagan looked like an ongoing freak show, and so did half his domestic policies (the moral majority etc). The deregulation was what he got right but it almost looks like the accidental good thing that happened in an otherwise very sketchy administration.

  10. Gravatar of Anon39 Anon39
    2. December 2016 at 20:51

    Dr. Sumner,

    It’s going to be a rough 4 years for us. For some reason these Midwestern people won’t listen to our arguments about raising wages in Mexico and China. Any utilitarian could see with their own eyes, ending crushing poverty around the world is worth some blue collar jobs. Plus, they disagree with us on gay marriage and transgender bathroom rights. And they’re nationalists, which is basically Hitler’s Germany.

    There’s a global backlash against us globalists. I’m not sure how we can sell it. We’re, right, but selling long run wage equalization between India and Indiana is tough.

    They need to understand that being American gives them no extra loyalty or rights compared to a foreigner. Especially when that foreigner is having trouble feeding his family on poverty wages.

    They also need to understand that people like us will earn our salaries because we have human capital they do not have. Free trade will increase our earning power, as now I can manage even more people across the globe. But for them, they have no special skills that an Indian or Chinese person does not have. Supply and demand, it’s not going away.

    Maybe if we give them free wifi they’ll shut up and stop voting.

  11. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    2. December 2016 at 20:53

    “Third party votes were similar in swing states and safe states, suggesting that voters do not vote strategically.”

    I rate this partly true.

    McMullin and Stein both received roughly double the vote share in Minnesota (perceived as non-competitive) vs Iowa (perceived as must-win for Trump). But we’re talking 1.5% vs 3.0% combined, with a sharp cutoff on the state line. So the effect is small.

    MN vs IA is a good test thanks to cultural similarities, the fact McMullin and Stein were on the ballot in both, and that McMullin and Stein voters have unambiguous party preferences. (In contrast, Johnson voters swing both ways.)

  12. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    2. December 2016 at 21:03

    Harding is partly right that CA had two Democrats running for Senate, hence there was no point for Republicans to even vote. But it’s hard to make the case that this could be more than 100k or 200k net votes.

    A much better argument is a multi-period equilibrium argument. To wit, with a PV president, rural and current swing state voters would be much more radicalized by the threat of coastal city domination. This would eviscerate the Democratic party in red states (people like Manchin or Heitkamp would become Rs).

    As a result, the nation would become *even more* sectionally polarized, and the media and punditry would be infuriated that the Senate isn’t allocated by popular vote. And Dems would do *even worse* in rural swing states since the voters would have no influence on the presidency or ability to moderate the Democratic party.

  13. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    2. December 2016 at 21:30


    suggesting that voters do not vote strategically.

    Voters do vote strategically. End of story.


    Taiwan phone call

    I read some articles by the media about this topic (take Vox.com as an example). They pretty much go like this: “Oh no Trump talked to the leader of a democracy that actually values human rights close to the Western standard, now the dictators of China are very unhappy. Damage has been done, damage!”

    And to make things worse he called the President of Taiwan…wait for it: “President of Taiwan.” (You can’t make this stuff up, they are really writing this).

    What happened to the media? What happened to Western values? It can not get more hypocritical and Orwellian than this.

    They did the same when Trump called out Castro for what he was: An evil dictator.

  14. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    2. December 2016 at 22:42

    Christian List,

    here I would be on your side, if it wasn’t for his concurrent disturbing chumminess with Duterte and the general pattern of “let’s try this and see what happens”.

    What Trump seems to be about is to blow up old orders with sledgehammers. Sometimes this can be warranted. Sometimes this can yield good results, even absent a good strategy. The pieces can fall together in a better order than before. But to start this absent an existing war is just an incredible risk. The pieces may not fall together at all.

    Witness the Iraq invasion. The logic was the same. Blow up an existing order to see what would happen because, you know, situation’s bad and how much worse can it get. We have the answer for the Middle East. Now if in part 2 of the emerging 21st Century story the US tries to blow up East Asia… just because, you know, how much worse can it get… I just don’t see how this is a good idea.

  15. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    2. December 2016 at 22:44

    Oh I forgot the logic was the same too for the Arab Spring. And Brexit. It seems every few decades, people just get bored.

  16. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    3. December 2016 at 00:10

    You make fair points in most of the post, but I can’t agree with point #2. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that Trump’s whole campaign and strategy were based on trying to win the electoral college.

  17. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    3. December 2016 at 01:00

    Not convinced that a popular vote election would have made Hillary’s lead larger. The campaigning would have been different is the most one can reliably say.

    The polls weren’t wrong about the national popular vote, but got a lot of state ones way wrong. As Nassim Taleb has pointed out, Nate Silver’s probabilities were innumerate, because they ignored the volatility in the undecideds. (Though, to be fair, were less innumerate than a lot of other pollster probabilities.)

    And pointing out the rarity of popular vote winner losing the Electoral College does not really sit with “won because rigged by founding fathers”. It was originally designed to up the Southern vote (or, at least, appear to do so), and it worked so well at that, that there was no Southern president between the Civil War and Carter, apart from LBJ–and Texas is different. (Starting with being the only bit of the South that won its Civil War.)

    Glad you had a go at the “neoliberal economists to blame” piece I drew your attention to. There is quite a “economists are pernicious and get the important things wrong” push on at the moment, centred around David Sloan Wilson and Peter Turchin. (I admire Turchin’s historical writings but wish he would get over that bee in his bonnet.)

    Where I would critique economists is on the implications of immigration. Borjas, using as far as I can see standard economic assumptions, estimates that migration in the US is about a $500bn hit on return to (resident) labour and around the same gain to capital, with the benefits to migration overwhelmingly going to migrants (which is why they keep coming). The dynamics of who voted how is just about explained by that — migrants, urban folk, and big capital mostly voted Hillary (look at the counties she won that Obama didn’t–big capital and the military-industrial complex clearly liked what they saw of her). Workers and local business dependant on their spending mostly voted The Donald.

    If this is the new gilded age, then The Donald is leading us to a Republican Party that looks like its gilded age equivalent — the Party of the northern working class, protection and assimilation. The Democrats don’t seem to have noticed that their period of dominance (1930-1972) was based on a low migration period (1920-1965) when convergence of norms and expectations made Washington-based expansive programs look sensible. The more diverse the society gets, the less and less plausible trust-Washington-competence looks. (With its Northern charm and Southern efficiency, as JKF called it.)

    The previous period of high migration (to 1920) was a period of Republican dominance. The more diverse the society gets, the more appeal the politics of national identity but central government reticence. (Austrian economics was born in the Danubian Monarchy, the most wildly ethnically diverse of the major Powers: not an accident methinks.)

    Polls regularly show very low popular confidence in the US Federal Government and steadily trending downward trust therein. Yet the Democrats keep pushing that this increasingly distrusted level of government should do more and more and the society should become more and more diverse. Methinks there is some contradiction in their politics …

  18. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    3. December 2016 at 01:12

    Robert Fogel’s “Without Consent or Contract” is all about how the disagreement over slavery combined with mass migration destabilised American politics and polity leading to the Civil War. Post-Civil War protection (and Union veteran’s pensions) can be seen as a way of compensating resident workers for continuing migration.

    Muslim migration is destabilising the EU. Palestinian migration destabilised Lebanon. Jewish migration destabilised Palestine. Muslim migration is destabilising Swedish politics and the Nordic policy regime. Migration can be made to work (Australia waves at the world, so does Canada) but you have to work at it. And pretending it is all sweetness and light, and anyone who raises any problems is a racist xenophobe that should be shunned and shamed, is actually a great way to ensure problems don’t get tackled and so that it goes bad …

  19. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    3. December 2016 at 01:19

    Oh, and The Donald’s rhetoric attacking corrupt liberal elites? That’s just the equivalent of mid C19th Republican attacks on Slave Power. And, while slavery was clearly an evil for which there is no modern US equivalent, (well, apart from prison workers due to the war on drugs, but that lacks comparative scale and by-birth-and-kidnapping viciousness) there is also a wealth of contempt-for-others and smug self-interest to be kicked at.

  20. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    3. December 2016 at 01:59

    Scott,
    I’ve been trying to avoid commenting on your political posts, but this time you are so far off base it feels like you’re channeling Major Freedom

    1. The Polls – “The mistake was…the assumption that a comfortable margin in the popular vote would be enough. That’s not an unreasonable mistake.” Come on. It’s not in any way reasonable. The NYT had an extremely accurate forecast model down to the precinct level that had Trump the winner by 8pm on election night. The media and pollsters’ understanding of the model was perfect, their polling was crap. (The interesting question is why their polling was so awful.)

    2. Popular vote – It’s not just turnout or where the candidate campaigns. If the rules are different, the candidates will run totally different campaigns. Different positions. Different tenor. Etc. Honestly your argument is just ludicrous.

    3. Trade – “First of all, the direct loss of jobs due to imports is largely offset by jobs created in other sectors like exports and construction.” Sure there’s a benefit in the aggregate. But the same people who lose jobs are not the same ones who get new jobs. The growth of trade has been disastrous for a lot of people. The cruelty and arrogance of people who fail to recognize this is just astounding. No wonder a big chunk of the electorate hates the liberal (and moderate) establishment.

    4. Philippines, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, etc. – You don’t think this has anything to do with putting the screws on China over North Korea. Discussion about a new naval base in Cam Ranh Bay will be next. Thank god we’re getting rid of the naive clown currently occupying the White House.

    5. Carrier was about marketing the President and his policies.

    Sorry for the strident tone, but I just think you’re quite a bit off on all of this.

  21. Gravatar of Engineer Engineer
    3. December 2016 at 05:43

    Interesting…it appears that the man from Oz has the most impartial look at the election. Good points.

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. December 2016 at 05:59

    mbka, I was an adult when Reagan was President and it didn’t seem at all that way to me. He clearly believed that we could avoid war by having a strong national defense, and other than a tiny invasion of Granada he keep the US out of war. Indeed the 1980s were the only peaceful decade of my entire life.

    Anon39, It’s even worse. Even if we adopted the nationalist agenda we would not “save” those blue collar jobs.

    Steve, In non-swing states, third parties received 5.9% of the vote, whereas they got 5.1% in swing states. But even that overstates the difference, as third parties traditionally get more support in the western half of the country, and most of the swing states (by population) are in the east. So it was essentially identical.

    Your second point is more defensible, in a universe with popular vote elections lots of other things would be different. But as of election day, Hillary was clearly more popular.

    Christian, I have no problem with his Taiwan call.

    Lorenzo, Thanks, I was traveling and I forgot who sent that to me.

    Borjas’s studies of immigration are hotly contested by Card, and others.

    Very good points about the history.

    dtoh, On the first point, I didn’t say it wasn’t a mistake, i said it was a black swan type error, similar to the housing bubble. You telling me that it was a mistake in no way contradicts that claim. Perhaps you misinterpreted my claim.

    Your second point is completely without content. Are you claiming that Gary Johnson might have won if the rules have been different, and people campaigned differently? Obviously not, the numbers make that claim implausible. I’m claiming the same about Trump, for the same reason–the numbers make the claim implausible. You haven’t addressed my innumeracy argument.

    You said:

    “The growth of trade has been disastrous for a lot of people. The cruelty and arrogance of people who fail to recognize this is just astounding.”

    This is just a bizarre comment. Why would it be cruel to oppose policies (protectionism) that do much more harm than good? Aren’t the people who favor protectionism the ones who are cruel? I have no idea what point you are even trying to make here, I had always assumed that you also opposed protectionism. Previously your comments suggested you were a supply-sider.

    4. I never even mentioned Taiwan and Kazakhstan in the post, so how could I have possibly been wrong about those countries?

    5. I agree about point 5.

    “Strident tones” are fine, but get your facts right first. Again, I never mentioned Taiwan and Kazakhstan, and indeed have no problem with Trump’s phone call to Taiwan. I’m not sure what the Kazakh issue was even about.

  23. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    3. December 2016 at 06:52

    Last I looked, Hillary won California’s popular vote by over 4 million votes. Which means that Trump won the popular vote in the other 49 states.

    Which happens to be the exact thing the Founding Fathers guarded against; one large state picking the President contrary to the wishes of the rest of the country.

  24. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    3. December 2016 at 07:29

    Scott,

    interesting, and I do now also see Reagan in a more measured way from back then. BTW I may have been a teenager but I devoured international news from all sorts of sources, not just leftist ones (back then the majority). And I meant every word above: At the time and seen from outside the US, Reagan came across as a lot more martially strident than Trump (so far). Mid range missile prop up in Europe, Star Wars, talk of winnable nuclear first strike (Perle)… He came across as an uncaring intellectual lightweight with scary advisers, who had the good luck of getting a Gorbachev as a near partner, rather than a Stalin as an adversary.

    It took me a long time to see how he might have done some good outside the US and even now I think he mainly got lucky with Gorbachev. You’re right about keeping the US itself out of war but propping up Saddam Hussein and having him attack Iran had consequences we still suffer from, in Latin America he was as ineffective as it gets, and in Africa the Cubans happily invested in all sorts of wars with Reagan propping up the eventual losers (Savimbi et al.). Finally the far Middle East, or rather South Asia: propping up the Taleban against the Soviets in Afghanistan. I rest my case.

  25. Gravatar of Scott Sumner: Hillary Lost Because the Election was Rigged | Scott Sumner: Hillary Lost Because the Election was Rigged |
    3. December 2016 at 08:13

    […] Innumeracy drives me nuts […]

  26. Gravatar of dw dw
    3. December 2016 at 08:38

    while there might be some jobs created by globalization, there are lots of them lost. and many of those who lost their jobs didnt get an help, but they still remember that and took their revenge. now its not all the votes that made the difference

  27. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    3. December 2016 at 08:42

    Scott, overly aggregated 3rd party votes are meaningless.

    In the Northeast, Johnson outperformed in rural uneducated areas, but underperformed in the cities and college towns.

    In Texas, the exact reverse happened. Johnson outperformed in Austin and San Antonio, did ok in Dallas, but underperformed everywhere else.

    In the midwest and west, Johnson generally did best in suburbs and collar counties, but poorly in both cities and rural areas.

    In short, Johnson was a centrist protest vote–he did well among people who didn’t care to choose evils, and better in swing counties.

  28. Gravatar of dw dw
    3. December 2016 at 08:47

    the electoral college isnt the way it was supposed to be set up,and i suspect that the like we have it, with winner take all. so in theory, that means founders never expected the electoral college to be set up so that a Candidate with just a mere plurality gets all of the states votes (meaning that with 4 candidates, one could win it all with just 26% of the vote)

  29. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    3. December 2016 at 08:47

    In contrast, Stein and McMullin did best in the most partisan of places. They were the candidates for people who thought Clinton and Trump weren’t extreme or pure enough.

    That’s why the IA/MN border is an interesting natural experiment. In the 20 border counties, 3rd party got 7% on the MN side, and 5% on the IA side. But Johnson got 3% on both sides; the 2% drop off stepping across the border into IA came from cutting McMullin and Stein votes in half.

    Clearly extreme partisans felt differently in IA than in MN…the Stein and McMullin voters came home to Mommy and Daddy in IA, but registered their protest votes in MN.

  30. Gravatar of Slouching Towards a Banana Republic | Slouching Towards a Banana Republic |
    3. December 2016 at 08:57

    […] Innumeracy drives me nuts […]

  31. Gravatar of Njnnja Njnnja
    3. December 2016 at 10:03

    The polls were definitely wrong. Closely predicting the overall vote share to the 2 candidates is not a good metric to declare the polls correct, except in a very limited sense.

    The joke about the statistician who drowned in a river with an average depth of 3 feet is supposed to be a warning, not advice. The stratifications were bad, and any pollster who takes any comfort whatsoever that the polls were “right” because the errors cancelled out should go find another profession. Correlation and heterogeneity is not some minor second order effect to be dismissed with some hand waving when you have basically a 50/50 population. It is important to get that sort of thing right, and critiquing pollsters for getting the election winner wrong is not only acceptable, but necessary.

  32. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    3. December 2016 at 10:07

    Sumner you wrote:

    “Commenters often wrongly claim that I equated Trump and Hitler.”

    They were not wrong. You have indirectly and insinuatingly been comparing Trump to Hitler for many months.

    Proof:

    https://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=32136#comment-1411850
    —————-

  33. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    3. December 2016 at 10:12

    Voterfraud.org conducted a study and they estimate that approximately 3 million illegal votes were counted in the general election.

    I am going to go out on a huge limb and assume that almost all of those votes were for Clinton.

  34. Gravatar of Negation of Ideology Negation of Ideology
    3. December 2016 at 10:20

    E. Harding – “Nonsense. Millions of conservatives didn’t vote in CA and NY because their vote would count for nothing, as they lived in safe states.”

    I’m not saying your statement is wrong – turnout is higher in swing states, but that is evidence of Scott’s argument that most people are innumerate. The chance that an individual’s vote is going to be the deciding vote is essentially zero in both swing states and safe states. And it would be even lower in a popular vote contest. In a popular vote, wouldn’t people be just as likely to stay home if the popular vote polls weren’t close?

    And why is it that only the State losing side’s votes “count for nothing”? People who vote for the winner of a State also don’t count, unless their state is exactly tied except for that person’s vote.

  35. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    3. December 2016 at 10:46

    Here’s another data point:

    3rd party vote share
    6.3% Vermont
    5.2% New Hampshire
    7.0% Maine
    5.7% Massachusetts

    There’s no way New Hampshire is less independent than either Vermont or Maine and especially Massachusetts. Every Masshole I spoke to loved their witch.

    It’s obvious that several percent extra New Hampshire voters felt the weight of the election and were obliged to pick an evil (above and beyond the several percent who probably did the same in other states).

    The polls were wrong precisely because they overestimated the independent/undecided vote, and assumed voters would stay 3rd party or stay home–but voters didn’t, and they broke toward Trump.

  36. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    3. December 2016 at 12:00

    There’s a similar dynamic on the PA/NY border.

    From Erie to Susquehanna is ~4% third party, but on the adjacent NY side, every county is ~5.5% third party.

    Election analysis is hard, because non-swing states are heavily minority and heavily partisan, and neither minorities nor partisans vote independently. (Except California and Utah where

    For example third party vote share was,
    PA 3.6%, but Philadelpha 2.1%
    NY 3.7%, but New York City 2.4%

  37. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    3. December 2016 at 12:12

    Stein cleaned up in California, and McMullin in Utah. But that’s a function of comfortable partisanship, not being torn between evils.

    Stein got much lower vote share in IA, OH, PA, and NH than in adjoining states, even though third party appeal in general was much higher in white and rural states than in urban and Southern states.

  38. Gravatar of Bob Murphy Bob Murphy
    3. December 2016 at 12:36

    Scott wrote:

    “Tax reform and deregulation are more promising, but even here the claims of 4% to 6% RGDP growth are ridiculous, at least over an extended period of time (I suppose one or two quarters are possible.) Trend RGDP growth during the 20th century averaged about 3%, under wildly different policy environments.”

    Scott, are you saying that over the whole period (which includes wildly different policy regimes), trend growth averaged 3%? Because if so, then that has nothing to do with whether achieving 4% growth is possible, right? Your argument would be, well, innumerate, so I’m guessing that’s not what you mean.

    Instead, you must mean that regardless of policy regime, trend growth in each subperiod was always about 3%.

    In that case, I wonder why you went into economics, as a utilitarian? Shouldn’t you be (say) picking up litter or doing something else that’s actually useful?

  39. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    3. December 2016 at 13:08

    I also would like to argue that point number 2 in the OP isn’t very good. Obviously if we had discarded the Electoral College before this election, Hillary probably would have won. But given the EC, each party is going to pursue its optimal strategy over time in a way will either be positive, neutral, or negative with regards to its popular vote totals. If the Republican Party is (not just this year, but over time)maximizing its chances of winning by doing things that hurt it in the popular vote, it seems a little unfair to say that they only won because of the EC.

    It’s like saying Golden State only won a title because the changes in defensive rules (e.g. no hand-checking) made its offensive strategy (and/or players) a lot more effective than it would have been without those rule changes. Uh, yeah, but so what? You can’t fault them for playing the game as it exists, or claim that another team “deserved” to win that title. (Or maybe you can, I guess, but I think it’s somewhat pointless).

  40. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    3. December 2016 at 13:39

    That is a great comment from “Lorenzo from Oz” above, but I don’t get this part:

    “As Nassim Taleb has pointed out, Nate Silver’s probabilities were innumerate, because they ignored the volatility in the undecideds.”

    Silver, just before the election, said this:

    “[T]he number of undecided and third-party voters is much higher than in recent elections, which contributes to uncertainty.”

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/final-election-update-theres-a-wide-range-of-outcomes-and-most-of-them-come-up-clinton/

    Both before and after the election, when Silver was explaining why his models were giving Trump a better chance than other models, he consistently brought up this point. If Lorenzo is characterizing what Taleb said correctly, it seems that this just means Taleb wasn’t reading very carefully.

    Also, as to the “innumerate” point, I’m pretty sure he tried to intentionally leave the impression that his 65/35 number was not very solid, that there were too many unknowns to have much confidence in a particular number, that it was something along the lines of a best guess perhaps. I looked a bit for a quote along these lines but didn’t find one, but do believe that a more energetic searcher of Silver’s pre-election posts would find one….

  41. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    3. December 2016 at 13:58

    “So if increased campaigning had boosted the turnout in places like California, then Hillary would have very likely won by even more. Thus the big popular vote margin actually understates what that margin would have been in a direct election of the President.”

    This doesn’t seem necessarily true. One hypothesis is that with direct election, voter turnout would be higher in non-swing states, and the vote percentages in each state would stay the same. But another hypothesis is that the vote percentages would change; for example Hillary might do better in the states Trump won easily, and Trump might do better in the states Hillary won easily. That is actually my belief, because of the strong pattern of Trump out-performing his polls in the red states and under-performing his polls in the blue states (and of course vice-versa for Hillary), as shown in the scatterplot found here:

    http://andrewgelman.com/2016/11/09/explanations-shocking-2-shift/

    And then what if the changes that would result are asymmetric in favor of Trump? I wouldn’t want to bet my life that he couldn’t have won (don’t forget also he gets to change his campaign strategy and maybe would choose to narrow his spending disadvantage), although I would be willing to bet something.

  42. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    3. December 2016 at 13:59

    “Hillary…was more popular…the election was rigged by the Founding Fathers.”

    The founding fathers set up the country as a collection of independent states. Does it make sense for the most populous states to consistently and perpetually determine the President of all the other states as well?

    Imagine if the world was a democracy under one government. Would it make sense for China and India to always determine the world government for everyone else?

    This may shock you to consider, but the founders were smarter than you.

  43. Gravatar of Anon39 Anon39
    3. December 2016 at 14:44

    Bottom line, we need a way to sell globalism. I’d prefer not to have to live in London to manage several worldwide factories, just because of incredibly stupid potential laws restricting global production.

    We need to cut a deal with the deplorables. Give them some make work nonsense so they don’t shut down human progress. Maybe we can say, okay no more foreign aid. But free trade with every country.

    Some genius needs to sell to the American middle class: you’re replaceable, nationalism is evil incarnate, and any welfare payments should go to people literally unable to afford food or HIV medication. Your worth to the world is your marginal productivity, and uhh…it’s not that high.

    Racism aka Americanism, it’s time is over. Global citizenship demands truly open borders, freedom of capital, and a recognition that we will tolerate anyone (noncriminal) who comes here.

    Also, it’s time to recognize that people aren’t coming here for our values. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Muslim Americans using Sharia law for family courts. It’s essentially privately agreed arbitration practices. The resistance is based on racism and fear.

    And, if we are truly globalists, the long term solution is to allow Islamic courts for religious Muslims even in criminal law. Multiculturalism demands respect for different views and practices. You can’t say “Okay, you can move here but not your culture.” A mutlicultural country is a good country, able to synthesize and take advantage of the perks of diverse thought. Rome was a multicultural City and the envy of the world.

  44. Gravatar of Bob Murphy Bob Murphy
    3. December 2016 at 15:01

    MF wrote: “This may shock you to consider, but the founders were smarter than you.

    MF, as one wiseguy looking at the attacks on another, let me say: Scott was just making a joke with that line.

  45. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    3. December 2016 at 16:02

    “As Nassim Taleb has pointed out, Nate Silver’s probabilities were innumerate, because they ignored the volatility in the undecideds.”

    It’s not clear if Nassim Taleb was inattentive or if he’s being an intellectual fool.

    Nate Silver modeled:
    Standard Sample Error
    + Poll Design Error
    + Stochastic Volatility of Voter Preferences

    The volatility of voter preferences doesn’t have strong empirical founding since it is really event risk (just like the stock market) rather than a well-defined random process.

    That said, Nate Silver attempted to model this volatility, too, by looking at voter shifts in prior elections. It’s data mining (which Nassim Taleb doesn’t like), but it’s still the best way to handicap an election. Nate also estimated inter-state correlations; basically he did everything right, subject to the philosophical limits of putting a probability on a one-time event.

    It would be cool if one of them weighed in, but I don’t think Scott is that famous
    🙁

  46. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    3. December 2016 at 16:13

    I know it was merely a joke, but all jokes reveal some modicum of truth, and I don’t think it is a stretch to say that during the month of Nov only, Sumner to some degree wishes the vote was not electorate based, but popular vote based.

    Nobody goes out of their way to repeat the emphasis on the popular vote unless it was desirable.

  47. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    3. December 2016 at 16:14

    I am a “hopeless” wise guy, meaning there is no hope in me ever becoming a non wise guy.

  48. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    3. December 2016 at 16:20

    “First of all, the direct loss of jobs due to imports is largely offset by jobs created in other sectors like exports and construction.”

    Not according to this study?

    “The reality of adjustment to the China trade shock has been far different. Employment has certainly fallen in US industries more exposed to import competition; however, overall employment in the local labor markets in which these industries were concentrated has as well. Offsetting regional employment gains either in export-oriented tradables or in nontradables has been difficult to detect in the data. Input-output linkages between sectors appear to have magnified rather than dampened the employment effects of trade both within regions and nationally.”
    http://www.ddorn.net/papers/Autor-Dorn-Hanson-ChinaShock.pdf

  49. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    3. December 2016 at 16:42

    Sumner is wrong.

    Most election forecasts of the 2016 presidential election were wrong. BTW, people casually refer to election forecasts as polls. When someone says, “the polls say X will win”, “the polls” is shorthand for the election forecast models based on polling data.

    Huffington Post’s final election day forecase gave 98.0%/1.7% odds of a Hillary/Trump win. And a Trump victory by itself doesn’t make that wrong, a 1.7% even will still happen 1.7% of the time, but they were wrong.

    Nathan Silver and his site fivethirtyeight.com were not wrong. Their final forecast on election day was 71.4%/28.6% Hillary/Trump. Maybe Sumner agrees with this article from Huffington Post explaining why fivethirtyeight.com’s forecasting model was wrong (written before the election):

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/whats-wrong-with-538_us_581ffe18e4b0334571e09e74

    Sumner’s nonsense about the popular vote. David French at the National Review has this right:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/442170/hillary-clinton-popular-vote-victory-meaningless

    The electoral college vote is the only vote that mattered and everyone knew that. Both Hillary and Trump ran their campaigns to win the electoral vote, not the popular vote. The election prediction models all worked on the electoral college vote, not the popular vote. The electoral college system was no surprise to anyone.

    If Hillary won the electoral college vote, but lost the popular vote, Sumner and the leftists would celebrate it. Since Trump won the electoral college vote but lost the popular vote, the Hillary sore losers can whine about the popular vote.

    “Innumeracy” is a Bryan Caplan sleight of hand. You have a political disagreement with your opponent so you invoke the objective authority of mathematics and insult your opponent’s arguments with a smarmy word.

  50. Gravatar of Steve J Steve J
    3. December 2016 at 19:36

    Surprising to me the number of anti-capitalist commenters on here. Why can’t I buy the cheapest goods I can find? You want to protect your job by making me pay extra to buy from you? The claims that restricting trade protects American interests make no sense. There are many more consumers than producers. Crazy times when we are now telling the conservatives to move to Europe rather than the liberals.

  51. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    3. December 2016 at 19:36

    Massimo Heitor I have to quote from that HuffPo article on election eve. I would note that Hillary got 232 EVs, which was in the outright “impossible” range of the model (below 240), not just statistically unlikely.


    The outcomes in blue are the ones that occur 95 percent of the time. This shows that in Wang’s model runs, Clinton gets between 265 and 340 EVs almost all of the time, and never has a scenario where she gets fewer than 240 EVs or more than 380. This passes the smell test, since whatever his assumptions, the model produces plausible output.

    As a financial analyst at an investment bank, or a research analyst at an economic consulting firm, your job would be in serious jeopardy if you produced 538’s model output without a clear explanation of how those fat tails that represent an inordinate number of close to impossible scenarios could actually occur. A model like that just isn’t client-ready. Time to re-think those assumptions!

  52. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    3. December 2016 at 20:32

    Massimo wrote:

    “If Hillary won the electoral college vote, but lost the popular vote, Sumner and the leftists would celebrate it. Since Trump won the electoral college vote but lost the popular vote, the Hillary sore losers can whine about the popular vote.”

    This.

    I would only add “rest of” before the word “leftists”

  53. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    3. December 2016 at 21:28

    Major, you are one joyless, pedantic, miserable man. There’s not one ounce of humour, or any life in you.

    You’re also an odd libertarian who revels in people putting up restrictions on their fellow men and women, such as borders.

  54. Gravatar of Bob Murphy Bob Murphy
    3. December 2016 at 21:29

    John Taylor is also innumerate when it comes to forecasts of GDP growth. It’s Sumner vs. the world. Just like Scott likes it.

  55. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    3. December 2016 at 21:52

    It took me a long time to see how he might have done some good outside the US and even now I think he mainly got lucky with Gorbachev. You’re right about keeping the US itself out of war but propping up Saddam Hussein and having him attack Iran had consequences we still suffer from, in Latin America he was as ineffective as it gets, and in Africa the Cubans happily invested in all sorts of wars with Reagan propping up the eventual losers (Savimbi et al.). Finally the far Middle East, or rather South Asia: propping up the Taleban against the Soviets in Afghanistan. I rest my case.

    You never read the news with any care. Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, before Reagan ever entered office. We had no dealings of any kind with Iraq from 1967 to 1985. We had fairly mundane diplomatic and trade contacts after that. By 1992, the Reagan Administration’s political aims had been achieved across Latin America, Colombia, Peru, Cuba, and Haiti excepted. Angola is the only country in Africa in which Cuba ‘invested’ wherein Soviet projects did not fail. The United States financed a number of insurrectional groups in Afghanista, which succeeded removing the Soviet client government in 1992. The Taliban was not among them.

  56. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    3. December 2016 at 21:54

    You’re also an odd libertarian who revels in people putting up restrictions on their fellow men and women, such as borders.

    Libertarians are commonly arrested-development cases or denizens of the autism spectrum. He isn’t, so he doesn’t begin with ‘assume people are widgets’.

  57. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    3. December 2016 at 22:26

    Art Deco,

    once again great on detail but missing the forest for the trees.

    The encouragement of Iraq vs. Iran was palpable even though the US did not “tell” Iraq to attack at the time. Rumours abound that it was the US that provided Iraq with the poison gas, maybe this was why they were later so convinced Saddam must be having. True or not, I cannot say. Same rumours about providing weaponry and other military equipment, plus intel. Therefore cementing Iran’s hatred for the US and the West, and its determination to keep engaged in the region, a problem we are still living with today. What is known for sure is that Rumsfeld went to meet Saddam in 1983 as Reagan’s special envoy. e.g., http://intelwire.egoplex.com/2008_08_05_exclusives.html

    How the Reagan administration achieved its aims in Nicaragua, to take just one example from Latin America, is beyond me, except for creating suffering. Or maybe that was the point? Ortega is still in power today. The propping up of other nasty dictatorships in Latin America can be chalked up to “creating problems we still live with”.

    Africa, again just one example, not just Angola, right down to Upper Volta/Burkina Faso you could find Cuban military advisers (under Thomas Sankara). Afghanistan, no Taleban under Reagan but support for the islamist resistance to the Soviet invasion, they were called muhajeddin, the words for fighters of the jihad if that rings a bell, with the most famous amongst them, Osama Bin Laden. As we know the country did end up in the hands of the even more extremely islamist Taleban. Some smashing success indeed.

  58. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    3. December 2016 at 22:31

    @Steve, good quote. It’s safe to say the Huffington Post and similar election forecasters were not just improbable but definitively wrong.

    @Major, agreed. Sumner is like a Larry Summers leftist, maybe?

    @mbka

    “You’re also an odd libertarian who revels in people putting up restrictions on their fellow men and women, such as borders.”

    This statement is so outrageous and I suspect mbka knows it which makes it more obnoxious provocation.

    Every law or rule of any kind is by its very definition a restriction on fellow men and women. Property rights, contract enforcement, rules against violence are all restrictions that are unanimous among libertarians.

    Many famous libertarian icons support immigration restriction. Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Murray Rothbard for example. And arguably Milton Friedman.

    Even our professor host Scott Sumner while advocating increased immigration from China, fully supports full national rights to restrict immigration in their interest.

    And more broadly in this libertarian pop-econ blog circle, Bryan Caplan is the shout-it-from-the-rooftops open border fanatic, Alex Tabarrok is ideologically similar, but all the other professors have been critical despite being personally pro immigration and pro immigrant.

    David Henderson famously cautioned regarding immigration, “the dose makes the poison” despite being generally pro increased immigration.

    Greg Mankiw cites immigration skeptic George Borjas.

    Garett Jones is a more full blown immigration skeptic.

    Arnold Kling stressed it’s not a strictly economic issue and economic expertise is not particularly relevant in advocating policy.

    Tyler Cowen has repeatedly expressed skepticisms while being extremely pro immigration and cosmopolitan.

  59. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    3. December 2016 at 23:16

    Massimo Heitor,

    you overlooked my qualifier “revels”. It’s one thing to consider the many practical issues of migration, culture, race etc. and how there may be good reasons to keep the world divided up in the administrative units we call “countries”. It’s another one entirely to revel and gloat when people remain stuck in miserable places which they cannot escape from, or to encourage restrictions on freedoms of trading or hiring from whichever source.

  60. Gravatar of Thiago Ribeiro Thiago Ribeiro
    4. December 2016 at 05:31

    I think it is legitimate that the American people — through its elected officials — have a say on how American business invest, which profit greatly from being under the American flag. As the Brazilian Constitution, for instance, points out: “Profit must fulfill a social role.” One should not worship money-making for the sanke of money-making, but rther verify how it affects the socil fabric.

  61. Gravatar of Whatever Happened to One President at a Time? | Whatever Happened to One President at a Time? |
    4. December 2016 at 06:22

    […] Innumeracy drives me nuts […]

  62. Gravatar of Marty Bormann Marty Bormann
    4. December 2016 at 07:12

    @mbka

    Tell us, please, how you can detect “reveling” in an Internet forum. You should definitely try to market that.

  63. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    4. December 2016 at 07:43

    mbka,

    I accept your apology for those churlish, not to mention false, accusations.

    First, I do not “revel” in what you asserted I “revel” in thank you very much. The ethics I “advocate”, and “support”, as well as practise, is completely individualistic. It does not put nation or state or any collective as superior. What that means is that the actions people take that I “revel” in are any and all actions you or anyone could possibly take that respects the individual property rights of others, i.e. non-aggression. This does not take into account or include state borders, but rather individual land owner broders. The ethics I “revile” are any and all actions that disrespects the individual property rights of others, i.e. aggression. This does include and take into account people enforcing “state” borders. Google the term “anarcho-capitalism”.

    Second, I would like to address and wipe the floor with your fake, activist virtue signaling prattling about “restrictive borders”. A person would be “restricted” by the border enforcement that protects your home and/or place of business. For humans to live with each other peacefully, and to be able to live productively, requires and presupposes an ethic of protecting borders as justified. Now the question is WHAT determines those borders? Again, the individualist ethic is that all land borders are established by the homesteading principle.

    It is bad enough when states enforce borders established by naked aggression and conquest (all country borders have been established in this way, either by states warring against other states, or by warring against the previously established homesteaders), under this rubric comes “popular votes” and “electoral college” votes. It is even worse when those same states engage in what you with your fake rhetoric call “open borders”, where not only is the individual prevented from defending their property from domestic aggressors, but now they are forced to live near people from all over the world who they have little to no control in vetting for whether they are good people, including people who want to kill them, rape them, and steal from them. There is of course nothing wrong with individuals deciding to allow anyone they want onto their own lands. That can be encouraged.

    But when you have these evil globalists who have the resources to build walls around their own homes, to protect their own lives, use those resources to get states to force immigration of criminals, and then to top it off mock anyone who have no other choice within the framework of statism but to support the building of walls to protect innocent people, I find people like you to be the intellectual dregs of civilized society. Joyless? What kind of propagandist are you? What is that, “There there, you are going to accept this, and you should be happy. What, you don’t find joy with all the “diversity” of states forcing thousands of wife-beating, bomb blasting aggressors into your neighborhoods?

  64. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    4. December 2016 at 07:58

    Dear Major Freedom,

    your logic is too confused to critique. It is also self contradictory and full of straw men and hysterical hyperbole. And your naive, primitive libertarianism that seems to predate anything Adam Smith would have stood for (homesteading?? seriously?). It also contains a healthy dose of authoritarianism and paternalism coming in from nowhere (let us homestead away from those evil states but please let the government protect us from those evil bomb throwing immigrants). You are obviously angry, that much I get, but it seems that you’re a good example of much reading not doing much good in understanding how the world works.

  65. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. December 2016 at 09:43

    Massimo, You said:

    “If Hillary won the electoral college vote, but lost the popular vote, Sumner and the leftists would celebrate it.”

    Congratulations for winning the “most moronic comment of the day” award. I’ve always been against the electoral college, and was against it in 2000. That’s not because I favored Gore. If I live long enough, readers might eventually learn that my views are based on principles, not expediency.

  66. Gravatar of Bob Murphy Bob Murphy
    4. December 2016 at 10:52

    Scott wrote: “If I live long enough, readers might eventually learn that my views are based on principles, not expediency.”

    And *that’s* why Scott is a utilitari– oh crap.

  67. Gravatar of Larry Larry
    4. December 2016 at 11:05

    The popular vote argument only works if you add “ceteris parabis”. American history, parties, campaigns…all would have been much different.

  68. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    4. December 2016 at 13:00

    The encouragement of Iraq vs. Iran was palpable even though the US did not “tell” Iraq to attack at the time.

    No, you’re just bloddy wrong. Ronald Reagan was not in office in 1980 and the U.S. had no diplomatic relations with Iraq at the time. Iraq was a peripheral Soviet client with some dealings with France.

    Rumours abound that it was the US that provided Iraq with the poison gas,

    Yeah, and ‘rumors’ abound that mbka is a child molester. La di dah. After 1985, the U.S. provided some agricultural credits to Iraq which they used to buy pesticides which had dual-use capability. That’s it. The war had been ongoing for six or seven years at that point.

    How the Reagan administration achieved its aims in Nicaragua, to take just one example from Latin America, is beyond me, except for creating suffering.

    Its aims were to kick out a Soviet client government and replace the seedy Sandinista machine with an elected administration. Which they succeeded in doing. This isn’t that difficult.

    Africa, again just one example, not just Angola, right down to Upper Volta/Burkina Faso you could find Cuban military advisers (under Thomas Sankara). Afghanistan, no Taleban under Reagan but support for the islamist resistance to the Soviet invasion, they were called muhajeddin,

    Sankara was assassinated in 1987 and his successor had no time for Afro-Marxist tripe. How’d that work out for the Cubans?

    You said ‘the Taliban’, which hardly existed during Mr. Reagan’s time in office and were mortal rivals of the organizations the CIA did finance.

  69. Gravatar of President Obama Created 6000 Jobs Every Day for at Least 7 Years | President Obama Created 6000 Jobs Every Day for at Least 7 Years |
    4. December 2016 at 13:13

    […] Innumeracy drives me nuts […]

  70. Gravatar of Bob Murphy Bob Murphy
    4. December 2016 at 14:22

    mbka wrote:

    Witness Trump himself, I imagine he’s high on power by now, with his Duterte invite and Taiwan phone call. He’s testing the waters in the way of “gee, let’s offend everyone internationally now, and see what happens”.

    The nuclear explosions are going to be yuuuuge.

    In case someone comes out again and says it was the same with Reagan and how well that turned out, I’d have to say, part was luck, part was a much weaker China and Russia in those days, and the US economy was a much larger part of the world economy. And let’s not forget, to me the times of Reagan were terrifying. From outside the US, Reagan looked like a lunatic. The inflammatory rethoric, the bizarre conspiracies a la Iran-Contra, the nuclear posturing. I was a teenager then and I expected nuclear annihilation any day.

    mbka, it seems like an odd argument for you to say, “The reason you guys should trust me when I say I’m worried Trump is about to start a nuclear war, is that I felt just like this back when Reagan was in power too.”

    Wouldn’t it make more sense for you to tell us when your gut instinct was *right*?

  71. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    4. December 2016 at 18:27

    Bob Murphy,

    while I didn’t say or mean what you implied in your 2nd last paragraph, sure, I notice the parallels. A lot of people said this before, mind you, that Trump, like Reagan, is the unconventional outsider candidate, and since Reagan worked out well in the past, we shouldn’t worry about Trump. So I shared what Reagan looked like from outside the US, and I related how 1- I believe Reagan’s biggest international success, winning the cold war, probably had a large dose of luck to it and 2- in other areas the record is quite mixed, including unresolved issues that drag on to this day.

    And seriously: saying that Reagan’s sabre rattling wasn’t dangerous, because post fact, nuclear war didn’t start then, is about as logical as saying prediction markets were “wrong” because they only predicted 25% chance for either Brexit or Trump. It’s about probabilities and taking risks.

    Trump may well get lucky too if China / Russia do themselves in from self-inflicted wounds. It just appears unlikely since both these countries are governed by seasoned elites with decades of governing experience, something which you cannot say about the pending Trump administration.

  72. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    4. December 2016 at 21:20

    Scott, I am in favor of international trade generally. I personally benefit from it immensely. However, it is non-Pareto optimization. Society benefits in aggregate, but some individuals are badly hurt by it. I don’t think profiting at the expense of others is really mainstream morality. The failure of the mainstream elite to even recognize the harm is one of the reasons a lot of people are really angry. And even for someone like me who favors trade, this failure to acknowledge the cost of trade causes me to question both the competence and morality of the governing class.

  73. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    4. December 2016 at 21:24

    Scott,
    As for Trump and the popular For all we know if the Presidency was decided by the popular vote, Trump may well have run as Democrat.

  74. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    5. December 2016 at 04:15

    Scott & engineer, glad you liked my comments (mostly).

    Re, the subsequent comment discussion on Taleb v Nate Silver, I was basing my comment on this post.
    http://gene-callahan.blogspot.com.au/2016/11/why-polls-were-wrong-undecideds.html

  75. Gravatar of Questioning Scott Sumner’s Numeracy Questioning Scott Sumner’s Numeracy
    5. December 2016 at 07:25

    […] a blog post titled, “Innumeracy drives me nuts,” Scott Sumner lists several examples of people (allegedly) being innumerate. I definitely agree with […]

  76. Gravatar of Anthony McNease Anthony McNease
    5. December 2016 at 08:31

    “Trump won because the election was rigged by the Founding Fathers.”

    That’s excellence in trolling right there.

  77. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. December 2016 at 08:39

    Bob, You said:

    “And *that’s* why Scott is a utilitari– oh crap.”

    Oh, I forget, If only I was a sociopath with no morals and lied constantly to benefit myself, then the world would be a happier place.

    If you are going to try to be clever, it helps to be . . . clever. And to know what utilitarianism is.

    Larry, You said:

    “The popular vote argument”

    There is no popular vote argument, except in your mind.

    dtoh, Pick up any EC101 textbook in the past 50 years. They all acknowledge there are losers to trade. Look at any long article on trade in the elite media over the past 50 years, they all mention that there are losers from trade. This idea that the losers are ignored is just a figment of your imagination.

    You might have a slightly stronger argument on automation. There the losers are vastly more numerous, and also more likely to be ignored in the discussions. Importantly, Trump also completely ignores the losers from automation, which shows that his anti-trade position is pure xenophobia, not any sort of principled defense of “losers”.

    Lorenzo, FWIW, I think Silver did a better job than most pundits, including me.

  78. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    5. December 2016 at 08:55

    And seriously: saying that Reagan’s sabre rattling wasn’t dangerous, because post fact, nuclear war didn’t start then,

    Reagan’s public diplomacy was ‘dangerous’ only in your mind. It bothered two sorts of people: fatuous opinion journalists like Anthony Lewis, and Foreign Service cookie pushers. Who cares about them?

  79. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    5. December 2016 at 16:56

    Scott,
    But you’re not willing to consider that harming individuals in order to achieve greater aggregate utility might not be an acceptable trade off.

    Regarding automation….maybe some losers you can’t save. And would you vote for a candidate that is so inept that they campaign on an issue that is of no interest to anyone.

  80. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    5. December 2016 at 23:29

    Yes, Nate Silver did better than most pundits, but not than the academic models.

    “Borjas’s studies of immigration are hotly contested by Card, and others.”
    In such arguments, the person using bog standard economic analysis is usually to be favoured. A point, after all, that generally works in your favour 🙂

  81. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    6. December 2016 at 05:18

    Arthur Lewis would appear to be on the Borjas side too …
    http://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/07/weekend-reading-from-w-arthur-lewis-1977-the-evolution-of-the-international-economic-order.html#more

    “This is the fundamental sense in which the leaders of the less developed world denounce the current international economic order as unjust, namely that the factorial terms of trade are based on the market forces of opportunity cost and not on the just principle of equal pay for equal work. And of course nobody understood this mechanism better than the working classes in the temperate settlements themselves, and in the United States. The working classes were always adamant against Indian or Chinese immigration into their countries because they realized that, if unchecked, it would drive wages down close to Indian and Chinese levels…”

  82. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. December 2016 at 11:17

    dtoh, You said:

    “But you’re not willing to consider that harming individuals in order to achieve greater aggregate utility might not be an acceptable trade off.”

    Sure I’ll consider it—provide some evidence please. Given that your views on economics are generally more laissez-faire than mine, it’s a strange argument to be making against me.

    And automation is the “tell” that protectionists are either stupid or evil. Sorry, but there is no third choice. Either they don’t understand that their arguments are essentially Luddite, or they do understand it but prefer to demonize foreigners.

  83. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    6. December 2016 at 19:04

    Scott,
    Why don’t you do a post on it. I think there are some significant differences between trade and automation.

  84. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. December 2016 at 06:10

    dtoh, Here’s a recent one, and I’m doing another one at Econlog soon:

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2016/12/who_will_save_c.html

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