It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity

Wouldn’t you know that California’s mild summer climate would be ended by global warming just about the time I move here. During the dog days of summer, I’ve been thinking about the political situation. I always start with an international perspective, as I don’t believe you can understand America unless you understand the world.

I’m a bit dense, so it took me a while to figure out that we aren’t living in the 20th century anymore. I’m going to argue that 21st century politics is dominated by stupidity and tribalism, but first a long digression, explaining how I reached this conclusion.

In the early 21st century, I recall being astounded that a buffoon like Berlusconi could be elected in a major Western European country—on a vacuous platform of making Italy great again. The European media was also astounded, and quite annoyed. (Berlusconi even sued The Economist for libel, a very Trumpian move.)

When Chavez came along in Venezuela, I initially assumed he was a sort of Fidel Castro-type figure. One of my Venezuelan students set me straight. “You don’t understand, he’s a complete buffoon. He goes on TV and rambles incoherently for hours on end.” Whatever you thought of Fidel Castro, he was a serious man with serious objectives.

I recall when places like the Philippines started electing empty headed soap opera stars, merely based on personality. (No Reagan comparisons please—Reagan was a two-time California governor who was well read in politics.) I thought to myself; “What’s wrong with voters in these banana republics?” Now I know it was I who was stupid—missing the bigger picture.

I’ve always been as anti-communist as anyone, but at the same time I viewed international communism as a serious enterprise. The goal was to spread Marxist ideas all over the world, to covert the global proletariat and intellectuals. Then North Korea became simultaneously the most stupid and the most racist regime on Earth. Their Dear Leader puts out numerous statements that are laugh out loud idiotic, when not being appallingly racist. (“Koreans are the master race”, “Obama is a monkey”, etc.)

I couldn’t process any of this. I had assumed the communists were trying to subvert other countries, to make communism sound appealing.

How did all of this happen? Maybe neoliberalism is to blame. But not in the sense that the left assumes. Voters throughout the world are not embracing socialism.

Start with the stupidity. Younger readers can’t even imagine the media environment I grew up with. Imagine that almost 100% of Americans rely on only three sources of information. There were called “CBS”, “NBC” and “ABC”, but you might just as well have called them NPR-1, NPR-2 and NPR-3. All were serious, sober news outlets that tried to be impartial but ended up with a center-left bias simply because most people interested in becoming journalists are left of center.

[That doesn’t mean that everything was different back then. Trump’s likely to win in 2020 for exactly the same reason that Nixon won in 1968. The white backlash to race riots, the “silent majority”, the “tough on crime” rhetoric. History does rhyme. But despite his corruption, Nixon was a highly intelligent man with serious ideas and respect for the presidency. Nixon became corrupt, he didn’t start out that way. And he was certainly no buffoon.]

So how did we end up with our mind-bogglingly stupid media (and politics) of the 21st century? The market gave viewers what they wanted. When I was young the content of news was determined by the elites; there was no market. It was a government-controlled cartel. Now we get what we want. Most of us (left and right) want stupid.

Neoliberalism also ended the socialism/capitalism split of the 20th century, and replaced it with tribal splits. No longer do white and black working class people see themselves as being on the same side.

The GOP understands how the world has changed, and is running a campaign on that basis. The Dems still think we are in the 20th century. They’ve brought a knife to a gunfight.

It’s not that Trump himself is highly popular. He won in 2016 because America is one of the least democratic rich countries, the only one where the guy getting the most votes for president can lose. He’s not even popular enough to win the electoral college (i.e. lose the popular vote by less than 3%) without the incompetence of the Democrats.

The single event that best encapsulates the woeful Dems is the firing of David Shor for tweeting an academic study that shows how racially triggered riots help the GOP. First, the study is obviously true. And second, the firing of Shor advertised the self-righteous intolerance of the modern American left. Yes, this single event isn’t going to tip the election; most voters don’t even know it happened. But you can be sure that most voters do know in a general sense about the PC excesses of social justice warriors.

The Dems also miscalculated on the demographics. Years ago, I pointed out that America is not becoming a majority minority country. The Dems wrongly used California as the model— a state where whites became the minority and the left took over. But the real reason this occurred is that the whites in California became increasingly liberal. The actual model for 2070 America is Texas, the other big state where whites are in the distinct minority. In Texas, the GOP continues to dominate.

The left is right about one thing—race is a social construct. What they don’t realize is that in a country where 14% of the population is black, and that percentage is stable, race will never be a winning issue for the Dems. All the GOP needs to do is persuade enough Hispanics and Asians and mixed race people to associate themselves with the “successful” white tribe and they can keep winning elections. That’s a lot easier to do than the Dems realize. It becomes even easier if there are riots in the streets, and easier still if SJWs go around demanding that whites admit their privileged status, and even easier when Asian students are discriminated against by mostly Democratic college officials.

Given a choice between white nationalism and anti-white nationalism, voters will choose white nationalism.

Fifty years from today, most Americans will be officially “non-white” and yet 75% of Americans will continue to self-identify as white. (My Chinese daughter will be white.) And the GOP will still be winning 50% of elections, representing the “white” tribe.

PS. As far as I’m concerned, Trump has already won. Given the appalling condition of the country, the fact that the betting markets have this a close race is an indication that the GOP dominates US politics. Indeed the appalling condition of the country (riots, etc.) actually helps Trump. This is no longer the 20th century, when presidents were held accountable.

PPS. I know it’s stupid for intellectuals like me to write about stupidity. I do understand that people are people, and that all that’s changing is that stupidity is being empowered. The Roman Empire was incredibly stupid (read Suetonius). The late 20th century was smart. Now we are again empowering stupidity. People don’t change; it’s society that changes.

PPPS. Beyond stupidity and tribalism, there is also an aging global population. In the 21st century, politics almost everywhere will increasingly become dominated by the very old. A world of stupid grouchy old tribalists.

PPPPS. I’m proud of my Bucks, even though their recent action will probably help Trump in the short run. The arc of the moral universe is long . . .

HT: Razib Khan



59 Responses to “It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity”

  1. Gravatar of David David
    28. August 2020 at 09:23

    You may like the book Amusing Ourselves to Death:

    I certainly see parallels between what you’re saying here and Postman’s ideas.

  2. Gravatar of Tsergo Ri Tsergo Ri
    28. August 2020 at 09:33

    Here’s my case for Trump 2020, even though I agree with all his negatives that you point out.

    He is the first president since Carter not to start a new war. He has dropped far less bombs on innocent Muslims than any of the recent presidents.

    He does insult immigrants, Muslims and Mexicans. He even insinuates that Mexican men are drug dealers and rapists. But what is more racist: cursing out-groups or killing innocent out-groups?

  3. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    28. August 2020 at 09:37


    On the subject of Castro, I have to disagree to some extent. Maybe your memory is a little clouded here. Castro was known for his annoyingly stupid hours-long speeches; he got on everybody’s nerves with them. But of course one couldn’t just get up and leave either, because the sadistic almighty dictator was speaking, so you had to somehow get through these hours of stupidity.

    Of course Castro was still more intellectual than Chavez, but doesn’t exactly this difference scare you so much more? That really terrorizes me.

    In resulting policy, there are not much relevant differences to Chavez, Castro turned Cuba into a destitute country. My brother was recently there and told me first hand. It’s so sad, and this is post-Castro, after at least some tiny reforms.

    I honestly find idiots like Trump and Chavez reassuring to some extent. They don’t scare me at all, because I always have an explanation when they do something really stupid. Stupid people do stupid thing, who would have thought so. Besides, people like Trump talk without using many filters, I find that actually more pleasant as well.

    With Castro I find it much more difficult. “Intelligent” people such as Castro sometimes put my mind in a state of restlessness, maybe even in a state of terror, because it is frightening when an actually, at least on paper, intelligent person does incredibly stupid and evil things. Because what is the explanation then? It is so much more scaring.

    With Obama it was quite similar to some extent. I felt really uncomfortable with him in parts, for the same reasons. Since Trump rules, my mind is in a state of relaxation and security; I’m not worried anymore, because at least there is always an explanation.

  4. Gravatar of Cartesian Theatrics Cartesian Theatrics
    28. August 2020 at 09:43

    Protestors were putting up guillotines with a fake Trump in it Yesterday. Some even put up a guillotine in front of Jeff Bezo’s house demanding a $30 minimum wage. Lord help us.

  5. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    28. August 2020 at 09:54

    Ever read Martin Gurri’s “Revolt of the Public”?

  6. Gravatar of Garrett Garrett
    28. August 2020 at 09:58


    I respect your ability identify economic and political trends. Your confidence in a Trump win is in stark contrast to the forecasting models of Nate Silver and Andrew Gelman, two statisticians I also respect:

    If you’re correct I think it should raise your credibility in peoples’ eyes.

  7. Gravatar of Becky Hargrove Becky Hargrove
    28. August 2020 at 10:05

    “Given a choice between white nationalism and anti-white nationalism, voters will choose white nationalism.”

    This framing is really helpful for me. Thanks.

  8. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    28. August 2020 at 10:23


    In a past thread you responded to my feeling that 2020 feels a lot like 1968 by saying Nixon and Humphrey were much smarter than Trump and Biden. I agree, but that wasn’t really my point.

    Yes the world seems dumber now (social media?), but I was just noting that history does “rhyme” just as you did in this post. 2020 seems like a close rhyme with 1968: the racial and social unrest, the divisive election based on issues you mention, the Asian flu, the rise of socialist and “revolutionary” rhetoric, etc.

  9. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    28. August 2020 at 10:28


    Nate Silver got it “wrong” in 2016 too (not really as he doesn’t do predictions, he does probabilities, and he had Trump with a 30% shot in 2016. He has Trump with a……30% shot this time too)

    Do you also think Scott Adams deserves high credibility for picking Trump in 2016 (and again now) for similar reasons to Scott Sumner?

    The Dems had this one in the bag with Covid, but nominating a fossil and encouraging the unrest is going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    @Cartesian T:

    They had Nixon burning in effigy and so on back in 1968, and young people trying to levitate the White House. We somehow survived that moment.

  10. Gravatar of Gene Frenkle Gene Frenkle
    28. August 2020 at 10:29

    My wife was just complaining about WiFi and I had to remind her that TV was initially wireless and people were always adjusting “rabbit ears” and complaining about TV reception. So that is why the era of 3 TV networks was a golden age of seemingly objective news—the government owned the airwaves and licensed those airwaves to those broadcast companies. So the current media market is actually the norm and not the anomaly as distributing media content is much more democratized like the pamphlet and newspaper era of American history when you apparently had kids on city street corners yelling “extra extra read all about it!” So Andrew Jackson and Lincoln shared a top adviser who was a newspaper publisher—FP Blair. Unfortunately with democratization apparently comes tribalism and people immersing themselves is echo chambers…so much for the golden age of information.

  11. Gravatar of Dems are bringing a knife to a gun fight Dems are bringing a knife to a gun fight
    28. August 2020 at 10:39

    Bill Maher: “They’re bringing a COVERED DISH”

  12. Gravatar of Gene Frenkle Gene Frenkle
    28. August 2020 at 10:39

    msgkings, a 30% probability means Silver got it right because Trump clearly had a chance to win.

    Pollsters and pundits got several things wrong in 2016. First off Bernie’s apparent popularity was more anti-Hillary votes than pro-Bernie support…so that means Hillary was very unpopular among even Democrats. Second, they focused on Hillary’s polling “lead” instead of focusing on the fact Hillary had a ceiling of 45.5%…no candidate in a head to head race can win with 45.5% of the vote regardless of their “lead”. So undecideds and shy Trump voters would most likely vote for Trump. Third, demographics matter in American politics. So Biden winning overwhelmingly shows the power of demographics in American politics and Hillary had a problem with the blue collar whites which is a very important demographic in multiple swing states. So that means even though PA and WI are different states with different people the fact someone is a blue collar white on some level matters more than the fact a person is a resident of PA or WI.

  13. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    28. August 2020 at 10:51


    I know, that’s why I put “wrong” in quotes. Silver doesn’t do predictions.

  14. Gravatar of Garrett Garrett
    28. August 2020 at 11:31


    “[Silver] doesn’t do predictions, he does probabilities”

    I think putting a >50% probability on something is an implicit prediction of it occurring. The probability assigned is a measurement of confidence.

    “Do you also think Scott Adams deserves high credibility for picking Trump in 2016 (and again now) for similar reasons to Scott Sumner?”

    I don’t follow Adams so I can’t comment on his credibility. Making a correct prediction should increase one’s credibility, but one’s current level of credibility is dependent on past predictions. Besides predicting that Trump would win, has Adams demonstrated an ability to make correct predictions? Or given his overall track record does it seem more likely that he got lucky?

  15. Gravatar of Nathan Taylor Nathan Taylor
    28. August 2020 at 11:35

    Speak the truth Scott. I also felt this week was a tipping point.

    If election is about COVID, Biden wins. But if the election is about about looting and homicides, Trump wins. The 1968 election as farcical repeat.

    The deep irony here is the New York Times was so sure of Clinton winning in 2016, they spun up the emails scandal to show balance. Which helped throw the election to Trump. Now, in 2020, they learned their 2016 lesson. So avoided ever criticizing their own team in 2020. Which allowed tribal looting and violence to grow past the point of hiding it. Ironically once again assisting Trump get elected.

  16. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    28. August 2020 at 11:41

    Fun essay! Twice I tried to comment and somehow I hit a magic button and before the essay is done it disappeared! I don’t have the energy to try a 3rd time. I almost think you are messing with me for fun!!!This has been happening a lot on your sight. I use an Imac. Somehow a button gets tapped by accident–cannot tell which –and poof its gone. Too bad, I was having fun too.

  17. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    28. August 2020 at 11:59

    Sports teams shouldn’t turn themselves into political pressure groups.

  18. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    28. August 2020 at 12:19

    Wow! Great old cranky white guy “get off my lawn” energy.

    “California’s mild summer climate.”

    Uh, if you live within 1000 feet of the water, it’s pretty tolerable. (Part of why “there’s no life East of Sepulveda”). But anyone moving to Socal because of the *summer* weather is nutty. You move to Ecotopia if you want great summer weather. (Also just to demonstrate things like “class” and “panache”). You move to Socal if you want great *winter* weather (like Florida), surely? This has been true since maybe the last ice age, has been my impression.

    “…I viewed international communism as a serious enterprise. The goal was to spread Marxist ideas all over the world, to covert [sic – or Freudian slip?] the global proletariat and intellectuals.”

    Of course they weren’t trying to (or going to) convert the proles, just the intellectuals, which (as I’m sure you know) they did in reasonably swift fashion – check out books 4 – 6 of Anthony Powell’s “Dance” novels for a wry take on the vacuity of 1920’s upper class intellectual milieu in the UK. This happened for (no doubt) the same reason we have all these highly educated – but utterly kooky – “intellectuals” now, the ones who find profundity in the likes of Ibram X. Kendi or Christopher Caldwell. (“Intellectuals will believe anything”).

    “Imagine that almost 100% of Americans rely on only three sources of information.”

    I’d like to see some data on this. I’ve always thought this was a bit of a myth. My impression was that people (still) read the newspaper just as much as they watched the news. Then again, I grew in up a relentlessly white and middle to upper middle class suburb.

    “….simply because most people interested in becoming journalists are left of center.”

    I’d like to see some data on this, too. I think the answer is more complicated. There was a formal/informal regulatory “contract” and in this era the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress continuously. I think profit maximizing behavior may have had a whole lot more to do with this than the views of people studying to become journalists.

    “He won in 2016 because America is one of the least democratic rich countries, the only one where the guy getting the most votes for president can lose.”

    This is lame BS. Yes, we’ve always had this odd Electoral College quirk, but it’s no big deal. It’s endogenous, hence the contest is fair, and we’re roughly as democratic as any other rich country.

    The real reason democracy is so limited is that voting translates preferences into outcomes so poorly, for all kinds of reasons. Look for instance at all the ways Congresses and Parliaments shield themselves from voter oversight, or the “intensity of preferences” problem.

    If you wanted to “restore democracy” in America, surely the EC’s about the 15th thing you’d fix….

    “The single event that best encapsulates the woeful Dems is the firing of David Shor….”

    Actually we get something better than this on an almost daily basis. I think the CNN headline “Fiery but peaceful protests” from the other day is much better. I think “arson is not a violent crime” better encapsulates their woefulness than “if we say something “harms” us, this is really about harm, and not about power.” (But I grant that it’s close).

    (For that matter, how many people on the Left ever ponder the question, has the year 2020 seen a greater level of destruction of the property of non-white people by white people than any other year in American history?)

    “As far as I’m concerned, Trump has already won.”

    This is ridiculous. Biden is going to win, probably very easily. Just read Josh Barro’s twitter feed; he’s not panicking and he’s right. Anti-Trump people who drank the “Hillary is certain to win” Kool-Aid in 2016 seem to feel that drinking the “Trump has a very good chance” Kool-Aid in 2020 is some sort of restorative, or something. I don’t get it at all. Why not just swear off the Kool-Aid altogether?

    “I’m proud of my Bucks, even though their recent action will probably help Trump in the short run.”

    Hey, Nate Silver just tweeted a poll, 57-28 in favor of what the NBA is doing. Wrong again! “Wrong from the beginning” should be the motto of this post!

    Anyway, they should have boycotted the whole season after Brogdon was let go, am I right, people?

    (Sorry, take this entire sorry-ass comment in the spirit of great appreciation for all TMI postings).

  19. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    28. August 2020 at 12:29


    You misunderstand what Nate Silver is doing then. If he has Biden at 52% chance to win, that means he runs 10,000 simulations and in 5200 of them Biden wins. It does not mean he is “predicting” a Biden win.

    It’s similar to a weather forecast. If the weatherman says there’s a 30% chance of rain, and it rains, was he “wrong”?

  20. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    28. August 2020 at 13:19

    Did you just theorize that the collapse of the US government controlled news cartel led to the rise of neo-liberalism which fragmented the formerly binary worldwide camps of socialists and capitalists into their pre-modern tribal groups and that we are now caught in a bathetic cycle of deepening tribal ignorance as, having become consumed by our tribal prejudices, we demand more media confirming those prejudices?

  21. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    28. August 2020 at 13:34

    Weird you write thoughts I have a few times lately right after I had them. After the gop convention as a white male I said I can vote for the party that says I’m a bad person or the party that says I’m a good person. The one that says America is good or the one that says we are bad. Seems like an easy decision.

  22. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    28. August 2020 at 15:27

    Sadly, this post rings true. I fully admit I’m becoming concerned about Trump’s continued resurgence in polls and betting markets. I still think it’s probably too little, too late for Trump, with early voting starting now in just a few weeks. I think Biden wins even if close, but I don’t want it to be close. I want a thorough repudiation of fascism and this personality cult and it looks increasingly unlikely I’ll get it.

    I think Trump Jr. is a potential threat in the next cycle. The personality cult element is real, So Tom Cotton will not be President, but evidence suggests dynasties are possible. Just witness Le Pen in France, for example.

  23. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    28. August 2020 at 15:33

    One thing Obama and most establishment Democrats don’t understand is the importance of projecting an image of strength in politics. This is an historic, tragic mistake.

    Particularly, voters want leaders they see as strong during crises. This is one thing that separated FDR from every Democratic President since. Sure, he had the empathy thing down, as Obama and Clinton did, but the right could not out-macho him. His very demeanor and manner of speaking conveyed s strength of character and purpose.

    And yes, the Democrats are terrible at politics otherwise too.

  24. Gravatar of Alan Goldhammer Alan Goldhammer
    28. August 2020 at 15:35

    Scott – what you write in your post has been a recurring theme in America since the beginning of the country. Perhaps the best chronicler of this was Richard Hofstadter. If you are in the mood for a longish read, “Anti-Intellectualism in American LIfe” is excellent. The shorter read is his essay in Harpers, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” The latter is at: It is just as apt today as when it was published in 1964!

  25. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    28. August 2020 at 15:59

    Christian, As usual, you just totally missed the point. None of your comments have any bearing on this post. You see the word “Castro” and are like a student who doesn’t understand a question and just dumps everything he knows on the subject onto the test.

    Garrett, You shouldn’t trust me on this, as I was wrong in 2016.

    anon/portly, Before I moved here I read that the daily average high in Mission Viejo was 80 in the summer. (Ideal for me.) That has not been the case since I’ve lived here.

    Most people got their national news from TV. I’d say 80% at least.

    You said:

    “This is lame BS. Yes, we’ve always had this odd Electoral College quirk, but it’s no big deal. It’s endogenous, hence the contest is fair”

    This is bad logic. Were the Jim Crow literacy tests for blacks also “endogenous”? What isn’t endogenous? (And I never said the EC was the biggest problem, or even in the top ten.)

    Sean, Trump’s the one that says America is bad. His twitter feed is nonstop bashing of blue states and relishing any tragedy that strikes blue state. Trump says the cities ruled by Dems are cesspools. That’s 90% of our cities! He says our government is a deep state. He says torture is fine. He praises war criminals. He said we should have stolen Iraq’s oil. When people talk about Putin’s murders Trump says America does the same stuff. Trump has a very low opinion of America.

    Trump most certainly doesn’t want you to feel good about your country.

    I’ll vote for a foolish liberal over a bigot any day.

    Michael, Trump Jr. is not going to win anything major.

    Alan, Yes, but it’s 10 times worse today than in 1964. Look how many votes Goldwater got.

  26. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    28. August 2020 at 16:42

    Nixon could plausibly run in 1968 claiming everything was terrible and we need him to swoop in an save the day. Trump is president in 2020 – he’s essentially running against his own record.

  27. Gravatar of Andrew Andrew
    28. August 2020 at 17:47

    Trudeau lost the popular vote in 2019. First time ever that a prime Minister was elected with less than 35% of the vote. The US is not the only example of this.

  28. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    28. August 2020 at 17:49

    “In the 21st century, politics almost everywhere will increasingly become dominated by the very old.”–Scott Sumner

    Some people say this explains C19 policies.

    We older people are forcing young people to stop schooling, stop gathering, stop having fun, even stop working so that we feel less threatened.

    Young people are immune to C19. They should go on with life.

    Besides that, the lockdowns are wrecking the economy and have a closed-door for an exit strategy.

    Pray for a vaccine. Are the Russians taking the right course—dispensing with clunky protocols in an extreme situation? Interesting question.

  29. Gravatar of Rajat Rajat
    28. August 2020 at 17:55

    So how did we end up with our mind-bogglingly stupid media (and politics) of the 21st century? The market gave viewers what they wanted. When I was young the content of news was determined by the elites; there was no market. It was a government-controlled cartel. Now we get what we want. Most of us (left and right) want stupid.
    Neoliberalism also ended the socialism/capitalism split of the 20th century, and replaced it with tribal splits. No longer do white and black working class people see themselves as being on the same side.

    It seems like you’re saying it was neoliberalism in two ways:
    1. Democratisation of news media through the internet
    2. Prosperity reducing economic class divisions and allowing them to be replaced with tribal or identity divisions.

    If so, I have three questions. First, Italy, Venezuela and the Philippines were hardly at the forefront of the internet and neoliberal economic policy, so why did all this craziness start there? Second, how do we – ever – get past this? I presume you don’t think we can or should return to a government-run news media cartel or limit economic opportunity on class lines. What is the new (good) equilibrium and when do we get there? Third, despite being pessimistic on the big picture, you’re much more optimistic on progress in monetary policy and dismissive of the prospects for the adoption of MMT (subordinating monetary policy to fiscal). Aren’t institutions like the Fed downstream of all this societal-political upheaval?

  30. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    28. August 2020 at 18:29


    None of that matters to the Trump cult. Everything bad is the Dems fault and everything good was his doing.

    They really think this way.

  31. Gravatar of Anonymous Anonymous
    28. August 2020 at 22:21

    @Benjamin Cole, No, young people are not “immune”, they are just far less likely to die or have severe cases. Their is growing evidence of serious longterm side effects even among mild cases. Some recent studies are showing significant numbers of mild cases with heart damage though more study is needed to get better estimates. Either way they are not immune – I personally know 2 people in their thirties who are not recovered months after infection.

  32. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    28. August 2020 at 23:47


    Singapore has had 56,666 recorded C19 cases and 27 deaths. How is that possible?

    The infections have been confined to densely-packed immigrant worker dorms, which are now ring-fenced and quarantined. The guest workers are not supermen, merely non-elderly workers, often South Asian. In short, an ordinary group of guys.

    OK, sure, there may be complications of a C19 infection for any age group.

    The public health sector must be thought of like any other group of public agencies, whether the Pentagon, Ag Dept, or HUD. A “crisis,” even if manufactured, is something to be exaggerated and milked for money.

    I googled around, and saw a few fear-mongering headlines regarding young people, C19 and non-lethal complications, but the hard numbers just do not seem to be there.

    I am sorry for your two friends, and I wish them recovery.

    BTW I am more than 65 years of age. Rather than lockdown young people, if I am concerned, I should sequester myself. In my case I have have so many kids, niece and nephews and their friends running around it is hopeless. They recently went back to school, got colds, and I immediately caught a cold.

    Let’s hope for a vaccine. Maybe the Russians have a working option.

  33. Gravatar of Joseph Joseph
    29. August 2020 at 05:05

    It is pretty shocking to keep reading about Trump’s fascism from the side which walks around in groups forcing people to comply.

  34. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    29. August 2020 at 06:05


    In Hong Kong, who do they think is a fascist?

    In Hong Kong, what do they think of the NBA (No Balls Association)?

  35. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    29. August 2020 at 06:06


    Which groups are walking around and forcing people to comply?

  36. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    29. August 2020 at 06:15


    “So how did we end up with our mind-bogglingly stupid media (and politics) of the 21st century? The market gave viewers what they wanted. When I was young the content of news was determined by the elites; there was no market. It was a government-controlled cartel. Now we get what we want. Most of us (left and right) want stupid.”

    This is the most insightful thing I have read this whole sorry year of 2020. It never occurred to me to look at it this way. I’ve been wary of the issues with pure democracy from a classical-liberal angle but it never occurred to me that since 1. markets are the purest form of democracy (no Ken-Arrow type of aggregation problem, individuals simply pick what they like) and 2. media are (now) completely market driven and individualized, it follows that 3. media now deliver the flaws of pure democracy in exquisite purity.

  37. Gravatar of maynardGkeynes maynardGkeynes
    29. August 2020 at 07:52

    Very interesting insight on California, Any thoughts why whites in California became so liberal relative to whites in other states? Granted, we do talk about the liberal coastal elites, but I’d say that California tops the East coast states, with the possible exception of Mass.

  38. Gravatar of Tacticus Tacticus
    29. August 2020 at 08:18

    I really hope you’re wrong about this. I’m not sure I can survive four more years of this insanity.

    Your point about who identifies as white is a really great point, which I wish more people understood. (Especially people on the left.)

    I don’t understand how the left/Dems have become so obsessed with race, especially Black/White, over the past decade or whatever. I remember being at a party in the Pacific Northwest in 2014 where I was called racist for suggesting that perhaps other people in the world, such as Native Americans, have had a worse lot in life than African Americans. What I’ve read of some of this ‘anti-racist’ stuff is equally insane. ‘Cause and effect’ are somehow white ideas?

    They really need to find a new tribal foundation.

  39. Gravatar of Joseph Sudman Joseph Sudman
    29. August 2020 at 08:40

    Michael, do you really need links to appalling videos of people “asking” to kneel, to display “black power” signs under the common theme of “silence is violence”? Yep, and black is white or vv. Fascism is not really associated with words, it’s associated with violence to those who do not conform and this has been coming in droves from one side.

  40. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    29. August 2020 at 09:06

    Andrew, I believe we are the only country where a directly elected president is not determined by popular vote. Trudeau is not president; he is the leader of a party that has the most seats. Having said that, I agree that there are similar flaws in the Canadian/UK first past the post systems.

    Rajat, Berlusconi basically controlled Italy’s newly privatized media, didn’t he?

    As for the others, suppose we assume that in some sense the culture in Venezuela and the Philippines is less advanced than the US. Then they are more likely to fall into a politics dominated by demagogues, relative to the US. (Perhaps they are less educated.) Here it needs a trigger to push us over the edge, and neoliberalism was the trigger. Obviously I’m still a huge fan of neoliberalism, but this does seem like one downside.

    MMT is a fringe cult with no support among serious economists or policymakers. Why do people keep talking about it?

    Maynard, It even tops Massachusetts, which voted to abolish rent control a while back, and voted against a progressive income tax.

    Tacticus, I feel the same way.

  41. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    29. August 2020 at 09:09

    “anon/portly, Before I moved here I read that the daily average high in Mission Viejo was 80 in the summer. (Ideal for me.) That has not been the case since I’ve lived here.”

    I Bing’d “average temperature by month Mission Viejo” and it says 88, 90 and 88 for July, Aug and Sep. I think it would have said roughly the same thing 5, 10, 20, 40, 80, etc. years ago. I didn’t understand why moving south and inland in greater LA would make things cooler and apparently it doesn’t.

    Meanwhile check out Nov – Apr: 6 months between 67 and 75! Holy crap, how nice is that? Where some people live it’s high of 51 and “damp” or drizzly (feels like 41) every single day during that period.

    But really, what kind of person thinks they can get those 67 – 75 temps for the six cooler months – surely something like this was anticipated – *and* get highs of only 80 in the summer? Talk about arrogant and entitled!

  42. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    29. August 2020 at 09:21

    You’ll find the same atomization in any receding empire in history. The news cartel just happened to coincide with the period America was in the ascendancy. Now that we have been exhausting ourselves militarily and fiscally for a couple of generations, we are losing some of our cohesion and some of the ability to silence our discontents.
    Were we more tribal when Americans received their news from local newspapers?

  43. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    29. August 2020 at 09:53

    “(And I never said the EC was the biggest problem, or even in the top ten.)”

    Your formulation – “America is one of the least democratic rich countries, the only one [with EC]” – made it seem like you were at least strongly associating, if not attributing, our lack of democracy with the EC. Maybe I was reading without thinking.

    “This is bad logic. Were the Jim Crow literacy tests for blacks also “endogenous”? What isn’t endogenous?

    There’s a big difference between a “wedge” like the EC that is small and geographic and a “wedge” like Jim Crow that is targeted at a specific group of voters. One can – at least in theory (or in theory at least in theory) – meaningfully “wash out” over the long run and the other can’t!

    The Senate is a bigger deal, but do we really observe long-run systematic negative outcomes for the people in the more populous states?

    (Maybe we do, I haven’t really thought about or studied this issue much, I admit).

  44. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    29. August 2020 at 09:59

    The “is the US really one of the least democratic rich countries” seems like a question that could be answered in a whole bunch of ways, depending on one’s preferences and methodology (and preferences for methodologies). Did the EU advance “true” democracy or thwart it? Left-wing academics seem to love it to death….

  45. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    29. August 2020 at 10:00

    Me: “Malcolm Brogdon.”

    Sumner: [silence]

    Hah! I didn’t whiff on all my points!

  46. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    29. August 2020 at 10:38

    This source says 81:

    This one says 79:

    And who cares about Brogdon?

    BTW, Didn’t we have a debate a few years back about whether teams should take guards or bigs? I predict that Ja Morant will eventually be seen as better than Zion, just as Luka and Trey are better than the two bigs than went ahead of them.

  47. Gravatar of Les Cargill Les Cargill
    29. August 2020 at 11:01

    We get stupid media because media is always a failing enterprise compared to innovative firms. CBS News was always subsidized by CBS-at-large as a prestige enterprise ( and to have input into the national idea-tank , the ideas of the slightly-lefty white-shoe crowd ).

    It all only lasted until Walter Cronkite turned on the Vietnam War.

    It is not that people are universally stupid; it is that people will understand what is being said differently and to get the point to everybody, you have to dumb it down to the part everyone understands. It takes decades for specialist who actually understand things to learn how to present it to a mass audience. Fred Friendly did this with econ; Sagan with physics.

    Look at Rush Limbaugh’s “Shatner’s Raw Nerve”; RL invented his character to stay on ( failing ) radio. Now open the phone lines to whoever wants to call in. ClearChannel used Harris Broadcast gear to automate radio. Now that’s via narrowcast satellite or streaming. My joke for a while was that the cell phone is the world’s most expensive transistor radio; it’s no longer a joke.

    But even behind that is the continuing culture war, the two myths that dominate. There’s the “teacher” myth that is consonant with the classic Hollywood films ( present-day Hollywood tries to escalate this with mixed success ) and the “be sober and like the old stock” myth that the Right somewhat embraces. The Rigth ends up in self-parody and snake oil ( don’t underestimate snake oil ; it’s the central fact of American enterprise ).

    They are culture *wars* because they’re about #WINNING. So escalation is the order of the day. The problem now is that YouTube is a time capsule for any video from the past that anyone decides should be on there; this means that the myths now have competition from the past. And meanwhile, Joe Rogan does what he does on there, with a carefully crafted temperament and the ability to listen. Imitators of that bloom.

    Media as an enterprise will always have enough winners to keep it afloat, even as it declines in the aggregate. It’s “a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.” – HST.

  48. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    29. August 2020 at 13:15

    ‘”Trump hasn’t started any new wars!”: yes, but he’s maintained or expanded every existing one (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen), launched a coup/economic war on Venezuela (on top of the ones on Cuba & Nicaragua), and done every thing he can to start a war with Iran.’

  49. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    29. August 2020 at 13:21

    “He won in 2016 because America is one of the least democratic rich countries, . . . ”

    This is why H.R.C. ‘lost’?
    “And it’s deadly. Doubtless, Crosscheck delivered Michigan to Trump who supposedly “won” the state by 10,700 votes. The Secretary of State’s office proudly told me that they were “very aggressive” in removing listed voters before the 2016 election. Kobach, who created the lists for his fellow GOP officials, tagged a whopping 417,147 in Michigan as potential double voters.”

    “In 2016, no fewer than 5,872,857 ballots were cast—and never counted.
    Does it matter? In Detroit, 75,355 ballots were never counted because of 87 broken scanning machines. And Trump supposedly won Michigan by 10,700 votes — really?
    And, no fewer than 1,982,071 legal voters were denied the right to vote. Told to get the hell out of the polling station. Can you guess their color?
    Add it up. That’s at least 7,854,928 legitimate votes and voters tossed out of the count.
    So God Bless America. By the way, these numbers are from the raw data supplied to me by the US Elections Assistance Commission.

    Oh, and how can it be called ‘a democracy’ after these findings?

    “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens
    Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
    Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics—which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism—offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented. A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. We report on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues. Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism. “

    A plutocracy?

  50. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    29. August 2020 at 13:50

    “For the first time in its modern era, Venezuela has almost 100% literacy. This achievement is due to a national programme, called Mission Robinson, designed for adults and teenagers previously denied an education because of poverty. Mission Ribas is giving everyone a secondary school education, called a bachillera. Mission Madres de Barrio, a programme aimed specifically at poverty among single mothers. Under the constitution, women have the right to be paid as carers, and can borrow from a special women’s bank. The poorest housewives will get about £120 a month. The democratically expressed will of the Venezuelan people. They have clearly chosen President Hugo Chávez and his government in nine free, transparent and internationally observed elections and referenda, during the seven years since he was first elected. President Bush supported the 2002 bloody coup against the government of President Chávez, financed and supported a devastating oil lockout that cost the country $13-14 billion in export revenues {10% 0f GDP} and numerous opposition maneuvers, disturbances and a recall referendum. And they continue to finance the opposition there. Oil revenue is now used for universal health services, education at all levels, clean water, food security, micro credits, support for small and middle range industry, land distribution and deeds for de-facto owners, worker co-operatives, infrastructure, such as roads and railways and support for independent community radio. Most importantly, there is promotion of citizen participation in all government programs including policy consultation. This has never been done before in Venezuela and is rare throughout the developing world. Venezuela has been declared free of illiteracy by UNESCO
    Infant mortality has been significantly lowered 70% of its citizens previously marginalized now have free health services in their community
    Almost half the population is studying.
    Poverty has dropped to 37% in 2005.
    The economy in Venezuela has grown 17.3 per cent in 2004 and 9.3 per cent in 2005.”
    Yes, Chaves is ‘a complete buffoon’?

  51. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    29. August 2020 at 16:18


    It occurs to me that perhaps one reason social conservatives have become so openly fascist, is because liberals are so much better at fighting the culture wars since the rise of the internet.

    Particularly, the rise of social media has made organizing mass protests, and particularly, boycotts, much easier, and liberals are much better at spurring large boycotts than social conservatives, though social conservatives try hard.

    Liberals have definitely been winning the culture war overall, even as Democrats blow most of their political opportunities. Democrats are terrible at winning and keeping governing majorities, but the underlying social progress continues.

    So, this has increased the incentives for social conservatives to prefer authoritarianism, as they can’t win on social issues at the ballot box or in the free markets.

  52. Gravatar of mpowell mpowell
    30. August 2020 at 06:03

    I am mostly in agreement with this. Especially about the general level of stupidity and the specific stupidity of the left making everything about identify politics in a majority white country. The most dangerous part though is the clear embrace by the US political right in the rule of party/person over the rule of law. The upshot of this is that when Trump runs this close to Biden, regardless of the outcome in Nov, the end of the US as a democratic country is on the table. Once you cross that threshold, there is no chance in the short or medium term for correction of bad policy or bad politics. One side will lock in their program for a generation. And most likely, it will be highly corrupt white nationalism. If not under Trump, then with whomever the next Republican leader turns out to be.

  53. Gravatar of Tom Tom
    30. August 2020 at 15:33

    Why are you proud of the bucks for boycotting a 100% justified shooting? He fought police, escaped, told police he had a weapon, went for said weapon and got shot.

    I appreciate your blog but please think critically about these issues. You can’t try to stab police and expect zero self defense.

    All this does is diminish actual unjustified use of force

  54. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    30. August 2020 at 16:47


    The NBA boycott and BLM in general isn’t about one specific incident. That might have been the trigger, but the people involved are pushing for a bigger change. It’s about recognizing the unfair experience of being black in America.

    That’s part of why BLM and the NBA players are finding it hard to make specific requests for what has to change. They are just fed up with the difficulties of being black.

    It’s better today than in decades past of course, but the message is, there’s still work to do.

  55. Gravatar of ee ee
    30. August 2020 at 18:02

    Tom, every single assertion you made about the Blake event is disputed. You may want to tone down the criticism until more is known.

  56. Gravatar of Tom Tom
    30. August 2020 at 19:00


    We can’t treat every use of police force as evidence of racism. The message the NBA is sending is that they don’t care about context, black people are exonerated immediately (taking away their agency, and diminishing the importance of actual use of unjustified force.)


    It’s perfectly reasonable to wait for all of the facts to come out on a case, but a lot of these things (the non-compliance, resisting arrest) are on video and indisputable. Also, the DOJ confirmed that there was a knife found in the car, and you can hear the officers in the video clearly command him to “drop the knife.”

    More importantly, you are asking me to turn down the criticisms until the truth becomes clear, while at the same time hypocritically applauding the Bucks for boycotting well before even now. I get that people believe this is cumulative, but lumping in a potentially (and at this point, most likely) justified shooting with Floyd and Taylor just diminishes the importance of those cases. You may want to listen to your own advice.

  57. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    31. August 2020 at 07:57

    Tom, Yes, it’s perfectly normal to shoot someone SEVEN times in the back as they are climbing into a car.

  58. Gravatar of Tom Tom
    31. August 2020 at 10:54


    I’m extremely disappointed that you’ve taken the side this rhetoric. The rumor that he was shot 7 times is disputed. It’s also irrelevant, the officer could have shot him 15 times and it wouldn’t be important. Officers are taught to shoot until the threat is neutralized. If it’s 7 (despite reports that it’s actually 4), then so be it.

    You are adding to the stupidity. I’m done with this silliness.

  59. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    1. September 2020 at 14:23

    ‘Another familiar aspect of subordination to prevailing orthodoxy is the casual appropriation of orthodox demonization of official enemies. To take an almost random example, from the issue of the New York Times that happens to be in front of me right now, a highly competent economic journalist warns of the populism of the official demon Hugo Chavez, who, once elected in the late ‘90s, “proceeded to battle any democratic institution that stood in his way.”
    Turning to the real world, it was the US government, with the enthusiastic support of the New York Times, that (at the very least) fully supported the military coup that overthrew the Chavez government – briefly, before it was reversed by a popular uprising. As for Chavez, whatever one thinks of him, he won repeated elections certified as free and fair by international observers, including the Carter Foundation, whose founder, ex-President Jimmy Carter, said that “of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” And Venezuela under Chavez regularly ranked very high in international polls on public support for the government, and for democracy (Chile-based Latinobarómetro).

    There were doubtless democratic deficits during the Chavez years, such as the repression of the RCTV channel, which elicited enormous condemnation. I joined, also agreeing that it couldn’t happen in our free society. If a prominent TV channel in the US had supported a military coup as RCTV did, then it wouldn’t be repressed a few years later, because it would not exist: the executives would be in jail, if they were still alive.
    But orthodoxy easily overcomes mere fact.’

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