Reasons to be thankful

In previous posts I’ve suggested that many people take politics waaaaay too seriously.  And yet I’m still seeing lots of articles about how people are depressed because of the recent election.  People, stop thinking with your reptilian brains!

1.  I didn’t see lots of people going around the US moping when Duterte got elected in the Philippines.  That country only has 1/3 of the US population, but Duterte is easily three times worse than Trump.  So that election result was just as bad.

2.  And don’t say, “but the Philippines is not my country.”  That’s Trump talk.  Stop being so nationalistic and start viewing every human being as having equal worth.

3.  And don’t say that you are going to personally suffer because of Trump.  If you are reading this blog then you are probably not homeless, which means your living standards are among the highest the world has ever seen.  That won’t change. Your happiness will depend on how you get along with your friends and family and co-workers, plus your disposition (upbeat or melancholy) and your physical health. Trump doesn’t affect that.

4.  You are depressed because you are engaging in primitive thought.  Trump upsets you much more than that maniac governor of Maine, because you wrongly think that Trump is “your leader”.  That’s the kind of thinking I expect from uneducated peasants in Turkmenistan or New Guinea.  He’s not your leader and he’s not my header, he’s a public servant who works for you.  A government employee.  Stop thinking of Trump as your leader and start thinking of him in the way the average Swiss person views the faceless bureaucrat who happens to have the top government job in that lucky country.

5.  “But the alt-right . . . “.  Look, you are upset because you (correctly) think that Trump will be a lousy President.  That failure will tend to discredit the alt-right.

6.  “But didn’t you say the election of Trump was a disgrace?”  Yes, I did, but disgraceful things happen every day in politics. Arizona voters refused to legalize pot. You don’t get upset by all the other disgraceful things, so why are you so upset about Trump?

7.  “But the Supreme Court . . . ”

Please, just stop.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and don’t argue with your relatives at the dinner table.




38 Responses to “Reasons to be thankful”

  1. Gravatar of Chris Chris
    24. November 2016 at 09:07

    Disagree with #1, simply because the president of the US has a whole lot more power to impact other countries outside of his own.

    Agree with your overall point though.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. November 2016 at 09:09

    Chris, That’s true, but it’s also true that peoples’ living standards in a developing country like the Philippines are much more sensitive to public policy fiascos.

  3. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    24. November 2016 at 09:10


    And Happy Thanksgiving.

    Now… that nuclear trigger could affect me. You. everyone on the planet.

    Then again, no one wants to go down labelled worst president in history. Certainly not Trump.

  4. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    24. November 2016 at 10:13

    But Duterte won by a landslide, while Trump lost the popular vote… another TURKEY of a post by Sumner.

  5. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    24. November 2016 at 10:14

    Happy Turkey day to US readers. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe a prominent economist? Platonic dialogue from a slightly redacted passage from Arnold Kling: “Memoirs of a Would-be Macroeconomist” follows:

    Moderator: What do you think of the policies that were enacted to try to deal with the financial crisis and the recession?

    Schumpeterian Adjustment: … Monetary stimulus is based on the theory that you have some sticky price somewhere, usually the nominal wage. What I am suggesting is that the challenge is to figure out the pattern of comparative advantage. Monetary policy does nothing about that.

    Moderator: What if monetary policy targets nominal GDP?

    Schumpeterian Adjustment: That might not be so easy to do. Our financial markets are very big, and when the Federal Reserve swaps one type of asset for another, the financial markets can absorb that without causing a change in nominal GDP. Fischer Black, who came to economics via finance, gave a talk in which he said the following:

    I believe that monetary policy is almost completely passive in a country like the U.S. Money goes up when prices go up or when incomes goes up because demand for money goes up at those times. I have been unable to construct an equilibrium model in which changes in money cause changes in prices or income, but I have no trouble constructing an equilibrium model in which changes in prices or income cause changes in money…

    I think that the price level and the rate of inflation are literally indeterminate. They are whatever people think they will be. They are determined by expectations, but expectations follow no rational rules.[64]

    Moderator: So you don’t believe traditional monetary theory, where if you double the money supply you double the price level?

    Schumpeterian Adjustment: What does it mean to double the money supply? Suppose that people use $20 bills as a medium of exchange and they use $100 bills to store wealth. We measure the money supply as the amount of $20 bills in circulation, and we measure velocity as the ratio of GDP to the volume of $20 bills in circulation. Next, suppose that the Fed exchanges $100 bills for $20 bills, pulling $20 bills out of circulation. According to traditional monetary theory, that should cause a proportional contraction in nominal GDP. But what will happen in practice is that people will write more checks, use credit cards more often, and so on, in order to make the same purchases without using $20 bills. There will be some minor loss of convenience in the short run, but you will not see anything like a proportional contraction in nominal GDP.

    What I am suggesting is that from the perspective of payments and transaction processing, exchanging Treasury securities for currency or bank reserves is the equivalent of exchanging $100 bills for $20 bills. I do not think it will affect the ability of people to make transactions. What you will observe when the Fed changes the amount of money is nearly an equal and opposite shift in velocity, as people adapt by using different transaction media.

    Moderator: What about the effect through interest rates?

    Schumpeterian Adjustment: As you pointed out earlier, a lot of theory and empirical work shows that most interest rates are determined in financial markets. The Fed is a relatively small player in those markets. Open market operations by the central bank are like somebody dipping a cup to pour water into or out of the sea.

    Moderator: But surely the Fed can affect nominal variables. What if it just printed endless amounts of money?

    Schumpeterian Adjustment: Yes, by making extreme moves, the Fed could change the way people form expectations about prices and generate hyperinflation. However, short of that, it may not be able to fine-tune an inflation rate. It could be that any policy that does not result in a complete debasement of the currency allows for multiple equilibria in inflation. I suspect that prices are highly path-dependent. People expect the configuration of prices tomorrow to look like the configuration of prices today. However, if for mysterious reasons prices rise consistently by, say, 5 percent per year, then expectations of inflation that high will become embedded in people’s behavior.

    Moderator: Most economists would not say “mysterious reasons.” They would say “faster money growth.”

    Schumpeterian Adjustment: They would say that. But Fischer Black suggests that we do not know how inflation expectations are formed or how they change. Perhaps the original theory of the Phillips Curve, in which labor market conditions affect nominal wage changes, is correct.

    Moderator: How do you explain what happened in the 1970s? Why did inflation go up and then come down when Paul Volcker changed monetary policy?

    Schumpeterian Adjustment: I might argue that it was not Volcker who made the difference. Instead, I would say that the economy was not able to cope with double-digit inflation. The stock market became very undervalued, perhaps because of confusion about real and nominal interest rates[65]. Housing demand also was curtailed. As inflation goes up, the 30-year amortizing mortgage becomes more “front-loaded” in that the initial payments are higher relative to income than when interest rates and inflation are lower. Also, as of 1980, interest-rate regulations created a scarcity of mortgage credit, because savings and loans could not raise deposit rates to compete with money-market funds. What I am suggesting is that the high inflation of the late 1970s may have been self-correcting. It resulted in weakness in the stock market and in housing, which then created severe recessions—remember, the unemployment rate climbed over 10 percent in the second half of 1982. Yes, most economists say that was due to monetary tightening, but I am suggesting that it was due to financial dynamics that were playing out regardless of what the Fed was doing.

    My views on the impotence of monetary policy can be summarized as follows. First, in the realm of payments and transaction processing, there are enough substitutes for currency that the actual quantity of money is not a controlling factor. Second, in the realm of financial markets, the central bank is not a large enough player.

    Over the last several decades, the effect of the Fed on financial intermediation almost certainly has declined. One can argue that reserve requirements are no longer binding, due to innovations like sweep accounts. The ratio of required reserves to deposits declined to less than one-half of one percent in 2007.[66] In addition, we have had the growth of “shadow banking,” or financial intermediation that takes place outside of the traditional banking sector.

    The sheer size of credit markets is daunting. Deirdre McCloskey pointed out that in 1999, the U.S. monetary base rose by $40 billion, while she estimated the total volume of world assets (real and financial) at $280 trillion. She argues that this made unlikely that the Fed could affect interest rates.[67]

    Finally, even if these arguments about Fed impotence are wrong, and the Fed can fine-tune nominal GDP, I would suggest that real GDP is determined by the ability of the market to discover patterns of sustainable specialization and trade. So what you would get at higher nominal GDP would be almost entirely higher inflation, rather than more real GDP and employment.

  6. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    24. November 2016 at 10:35

    Happy Thanksgiving Scott!

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. November 2016 at 10:48

    mbka, Agree about the nuclear trigger. But you could say the same about Putin, and I didn’t see people going around and moping that Putin was elected.

    Ray, Thanks for the long post arguing that money is not neutral.

    Thanks Tom.

  8. Gravatar of dw dw
    24. November 2016 at 11:38

    i get why folks are depressed (since i am in the same boat). not sure it will get better). it might (hopefully). but i dont expect it too (sort of sounds like how the gop felt in 2008. &2012). but i dont expect that it will repeat for us. i had hoped we were better than we turned out to be. but it is what is

  9. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    24. November 2016 at 11:59

    Thank you for some cheering perspective and happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

  10. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    24. November 2016 at 12:00

    “mbka, Agree about the nuclear trigger. But you could say the same about Putin, and I didn’t see people going around and moping that Putin was elected.”

    -Scott, you remain utterly ignorant and delusional outside your area of expertise.

    Make America Great Again!

    Happy Thanksgiving. Even to all the losers and haters.

  11. Gravatar of dw dw
    24. November 2016 at 12:11

    what would be the point of Americans being moping about Putin? its not like we could do any thing about it is there?

    and i dont expect Trump to make us great. thats the very last thing i expect to happen.
    i just hope we survive this. not much better than that

  12. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    24. November 2016 at 13:06

    I’m not depressed, I’m totally pumped. What a year.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  13. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    24. November 2016 at 13:44

    Great post, Scott. Sums it up. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

    dw: I guarantee we will survive ‘this’. Relax. He’s just a weird president. He will make the usual Republican mistakes and possibly do a few good Republican things.

  14. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    24. November 2016 at 14:16

    I’m thankful that Hillary Clinton will not be appointing anyone to the U.S. Supreme Court.

  15. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    24. November 2016 at 14:22

    This is gold:

    “Jill Stein, the Green party’s presidential candidate, is prepared to request recounts of the election result in several key battleground states, her campaign said on Wednesday.”

    First they take a few thousand votes away from Hillary through competition. And now they demand a recount because Hillary lost by a few thousand votes.

  16. Gravatar of B Cole B Cole
    24. November 2016 at 15:21

    And be thankful that Trump is a real estate developer reality-show host. How long until he wants easier money, tax cuts and some protectionism? Which will roughly work.

    Reminds of another GOP entertainer turned President, Ronald Reagan.

    The stock market is hinting positives…though a loooooong waaaay to go…..

  17. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    24. November 2016 at 15:36

    Then again, no one wants to go down labelled worst president in history. Certainly not Trump.

    Best to be sure there are no survivors then. …You know, if it should come to that.


  18. Gravatar of B Cole B Cole
    24. November 2016 at 16:14

    BTW today’s light-hearted message was brought to you by Scotty Sumner.

    The Scott “Trump=Hitler” Sumner is on holiday.

  19. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    24. November 2016 at 17:29

    Add on: Be thankful for the Electoral Collage.

    Clinton won by a couple million votes and 1.5% of the vote.

    The legal “result” (read: “Gong Show”) of the national election insures the president will have all the moral authority of the Duchy of Andorra or the Chief Booga-Booga of Upper Volta.

    This may be good. A weak government may be good, from some perspectives. A laughing-stock President may be better than one worshipped.

    On the other hand…the last time we had such a weak president—elected by fewer votes than the real winner—he arguably engaged in multiple military adventures to recapture lost authority….

    Maybe we should re-name Thanksgiving as “Rue Day.”

    We may come to rue this day. Time will tell.

  20. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    24. November 2016 at 19:01

    It is blogs like this, with the almost daily inflammatory Trump bashing, and not “everyone is equal” bashing, that are significantly responsible for the tremendous divisiveness and animosity among Americans.

    While you bash people for being “nationalistic”, you yourself are being tribal and inciting tribalist “us against them”.

    Sumner ought to be ashamed for now blaming the very people his unitended clan incited and encouraged to be so hostile and depressed.

  21. Gravatar of Sam Sam
    24. November 2016 at 19:36

    Notably, the Philippine economy has been booming since Duterte took office.—-ua&p&id=136754

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. November 2016 at 20:22

    Harding, You said:

    “Happy Thanksgiving. Even to all the losers and haters.”

    Haters? Yes, Happy Thanksgiving, even to you.

    Ben, You said:

    “The Scott “Trump=Hitler” Sumner is on holiday.”

    He only existed in your overactive imagination.

    And Hillary will end up winning the popular vote by close to 2%, roughly what the polls predicted. The polls were right!

    Sam, Not for all the Filipinos that he’s murdered.

    “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.”

    But heh, if GDP is up then who cares if he’s engaging in mass murder. Let me guess, you are a Trump supporter. Gee, how did I know?

    And don’t you think you should wait until the boom actually occurs, until claiming that he caused a boom?

  23. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    24. November 2016 at 22:16

    “The Scott “Trump=Hitler” Sumner is on holiday.”

    He only existed in your overactive imagination.

    Sumner, there are many posts by you on this blog making innuendos and suggestive comparisons of Trump to Hitler.  Your readers are not buying this feigning of ignorance.


    These are but a few:

    E.g. 1

    “So Trump has paranoid delusions of being persecuted by America’s tiny non-Christian minority.  Heh, what could go wrong?

    (That link goes to a google search of “Hitler”)

    E.g. 2

    “PS.  No, if Trump came out favoring NGDPLT tomorrow I would not change my view of him.  It’s not about his views on this or that issue, it’s about what he is.  He’s ignorant, he’s a bully, a demagogue, a nationalist, a bigot, a xenophobe, a sexist, a buffoon.  He’s trying to remake the GOP in his image. NGDPLT would not change any of that.

    You say Hitler was a vegetarian?  That’s nice, but I’m not changing my opinion of him.”

    E.g. 3

    “In the 2001 film “The Believer“, a character named Daniel Balint joins a neo-Nazi group.  The other members of the group are pretty dumb, as you’d expect.  But Daniel (played by Ryan Gosling) is brilliant, and also Jewish.  At one point in the film, the other neo-Nazi’s are denying the truth of the Holocaust, and Daniel fires back at them:

    If Hitler didn’t kill six million Jews, why in the hell is he a hero?

    That’s the irony at the center of the film; the only true neo-Nazi turns out to be a Jew.  I’m often reminded of that scene when I read the comment section.  Lots of Trump people (in my comment section) seem to believe that whites are a superior race.  They constantly tell me how awful other groups are.  And yet when I point to all the racist dog whistles put out by Trump, they use arguments that are too clever by half to insist that I’m delusional.  I almost want to grab them by the shoulders and scream, “If you don’t think Trump’s a racist, why in the hell do you like him so much?”

    E.g. 4

    “Trump has perfected the “big lie”, which he learned from his bedside reading of Hitler’s speeches.  (And admit it, isn’t that 1987 speech right out of Hitler’s playbook?)  But you neo-Nazis should not get your hopes up, Trump’s no Hitler. He’ll double-cross you just like he double-crossed the anti-immigration people in North Carolina.”

    (Here Sumner is not only juxtaposing Trump with Hitler, but is suggesting Trump is literally WORSE than Hitler)


    And no, the excuse of “It was just a prank bro” does not erase all these comparisons.

    The more credulous people rioting in the streets, and killing people, all with images of Hitler 2.0 in their minds, is in part the fault of people like Sumner who have been inciting this stuff ad nauseum.

  24. Gravatar of Gabriel Chavez Gabriel Chavez
    25. November 2016 at 00:16

    You always say that talking about politics reduces your IQ by 30. Thanks for also reminding us that caring too much about it reduces your utility.

  25. Gravatar of The Fool The Fool
    25. November 2016 at 00:19


    I think the Losers and Haters thing is a slight misrecollection of a Trump tweet from 2013:

  26. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    25. November 2016 at 06:03

    Trump is at least antagonizing some of the right people;

    President-elect Donald Trump has tapped for U.S. Education Secretary “a ‘reformer’ who does not hide her contempt for the public schools,” according to historian Diane Ravitch.

    Of conservative billionaire Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García said, “her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students.”

    “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding, and destroying public education in America.”

    Similarly, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten called DeVos “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education.”

    “In nominating DeVos,” Weingarten said, “Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding, and destroying public education in America.”

    Indeed, Chalkbeat earlier this week listed “a few things we could reasonably surmise from a DeVos pick.” Among them was that Trump is now likely to go through with his plan “to use federal funds to encourage states to make school choice available to all poor students, including through vouchers that allow families to take public funding to private schools.”

    Imagine that; trying to help poor kids get an education!

  27. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    25. November 2016 at 07:25

    Thanks Gabriel and The Fool.

    Patrick, That sounds like a good choice.

  28. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    25. November 2016 at 16:45

    Sumner: “Ray, Thanks for the long post arguing that money is not neutral.” – lol, you don’t know how to read. FYI Fisher Black was a money is neutral advocate, that should have been your clue, Mr. Clueless.

  29. Gravatar of Robert Robert
    26. November 2016 at 10:25

    “Just stop.”

    Ha! Yes. Americans have much more for which to be thankful than most of the people on earth. I admire the strive for perfection but…. no, sometimes “just stop” is the best advice.

  30. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    26. November 2016 at 11:45

    Ray, If money is neutral then the price level rises in proportion to the money supply.

    Thanks Robert.

  31. Gravatar of David David
    27. November 2016 at 10:59

    While I absolutely agree with the main point of this post, I have a few quibbles:

    – The United States may only have three times the population of the Philippines, but it has way more than three times the influence and power over the world.

    – While the point about caring as much about a citizen in another country as one does about a U.S. citizen has some merit, it is more of an argument for being more upset about Duterte than being less upset about Trump. Besides that, changing an aspect of human nature that has been ingrained from millions of years of evolution is a tall order.

    – There is indeed a high risk of our standard of living being adversely affected; the fact that it will still be quite high compared to the rest of the world and/or historical levels is little comfort. One may as well not worry about preventing a depression because we’d still be “ahead” of the vast majority of civilizations that have ever existed.

    But to reiterate, I absolutely agree with the post’s conclusions. The overreaction of so many to Trump’s election has been ridiculous.

  32. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    27. November 2016 at 16:20

    One of your colleagues (i.e. American academic economists) want mainstream neoliberal economists (I believe that includes you) to take the blame for the election of The Donald.

    Just so you know …

  33. Gravatar of psmith psmith
    27. November 2016 at 16:32

    Duterte has an 86% approval rating according to the recent New Yorker hit piece; I’d say they’re pretty thankful for him over there.

  34. Gravatar of James Hanley James Hanley
    29. November 2016 at 18:36

    I think you’re not looking at foreign policy closely enough. That’s where the rral danger is. And I don’t mean the Middle East, where we probably could do only marginally worse than we are now, but how we deal with a resurgent Russia and with the liberal (relatively) economic order. The Baltics and Eastern Europeans are not so sanguine, and I suspect that disciplinary focus is leading you and Bryan Caplan to focus on the less worriesome issues.

  35. Gravatar of Major.Freedom Major.Freedom
    29. November 2016 at 18:42


    Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Kim Jong Il had 100% approval ratings.

  36. Gravatar of James Hanley James Hanley
    29. November 2016 at 18:42

    “I didn’t see people going around and moping that Putin was elected.”

    Respectfully, that may be because you’re not traveling in circles of foreign policy experts and international relations scholars? Putin has been a matter of deep convetn for

  37. Gravatar of James Hanley James Hanley
    29. November 2016 at 18:43

    Argh, can’t handle phone typing.

    A matter of deep concern for a long time.

  38. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    29. November 2016 at 18:51

    Psmith, How is that relevant to this post?

    James, I strongly oppose Trump’s NATO policy and have said so many times. I think you missed the point of this post. There is no one on earth with a lower opinion of Trump than me.

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