The question is the problem

You: What do you think of the Gaza situation?

Me: That’s the problem.

You: What do you mean? I asked for your view on the situation.

Me: My view is that the question you asked is the problem. The problem is that we are asking questions about Gaza. If we were not asking those questions, there would be no problem.

You: Please explain.

Me: You asked me about Gaza because your mind is infected with “identity politics virus”. If you are a leftist, it takes the form of oppressor (Israel) — oppressed (Palestinians). If you are a rightist, it takes the form of civilization (Israelis) — barbarism (Palestinians). Either way it’s bad. Identity politics is the cause of the crisis. The model for a successful world is Switzerland, which is (mostly) free of both right and left identity politics, at least compared to most other places. The German, French and Italian speakers mostly get along fine.

You: But why can’t I ask you for your views on Gaza?

Me: Because you should be asking me about more important conflicts, such as Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen, Burma, etc. The Arab-Israeli conflict has been going on for my whole life. It’s tragic, but nothing new. It’s boring, and relatively small. The fact that you asked me about Gaza shows that your view of what’s important has been distorted by identity politics, which is exactly the same factor that causes the problem. Hence your question is itself part of the problem.

It’s easy for Americans to look at a country like India, and say, “Tsk, tsk, the caste system is obviously bad, why don’t they get rid of it and treat everyone equally?” But Americans fail to see the problem in their own country. Indeed, we are constructing our own caste system, which is just as evil as the Indian system.

White, black, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, gay, straight, trans, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc. People are people. Stop viewing them as part of a group. No Muslim travel bans and no affirmative action for Muslims. And no shaming of people for switching race, gender, religion, etc.




29 Responses to “The question is the problem”

  1. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    3. May 2024 at 17:05

    I’ll be more contrarian. If not for identity politics, why not have a one-state solution? It would not be a “Jewish” state, but why should we want a state defined by ethnicity? It isn’t the American way.

    I’m not saying a one-state solution is practical, or even possible, but identity politics really is the problem.

  2. Gravatar of Peter Peter
    3. May 2024 at 17:05

    Says the guy who can’t go two posts without defending his Chinese bride lol. China that, Chinese this, etc. And I’m sure her “differences” had nothing to do with anything.

  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. May 2024 at 17:19

    Peter, Further confirming my view that racists are morons. In 15 years I don’t recall doing a single post “defending my Chinese bride”.

  4. Gravatar of Matthias Matthias
    4. May 2024 at 03:37

    Michael, a one-state solution might indeed be a good way forward. But I don’t think our armchair speculation would have any impact on what’s going to happen.

  5. Gravatar of Tsergo Ri Tsergo Ri
    4. May 2024 at 06:15

    I think Scott is having a cognitive dissonance when he says there has been Israeli-Palestinian conflict all his life. It’s more American+Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    I think I agree with you if you say US should not be giving aid money and bombs to Israel. It should also not be shooting down bombs raining on Israel. We should let Israelis, Palestinians, Iranians and rest of the Middle Easterns figure out their solutions among themselves. We should instead be sending all the aid that we give to Israel to Ukraine.

    But I don’t think that’s what you are saying.

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. May 2024 at 08:32

    Everyone, One state, two states, whatever. The real solution is for everyone in the world to stop being nationalistic. Nationalism is profoundly evil; it’s the cause of most wars.

    Tsergo, You said:

    “We should instead be sending all the aid that we give to Israel to Ukraine.
    But I don’t think that’s what you are saying.”

    Huh? I didn’t say anything on aid. But I have no problem with moving the aid from Israel to Ukraine. I’m not anti-Israel, but Israel is rich and doesn’t need our aid like Ukraine does.

  7. Gravatar of jensen jensen
    4. May 2024 at 12:27

    Not sure I agree about the relatively small aspect. The current Gaza conflict is probably deadliest ongoing conflict in terms of intensity right now/in terms of people being killed.

    Sudan, Ukraine, Myanmar – some come close but don’t eclipse for the last 6 months or so.

  8. Gravatar of viennacapitalist viennacapitalist
    4. May 2024 at 13:38

    you say stop viewing them as a group!
    these people see themselves as a group.
    the swiss-about whom you do not seem to know much- are famously in- group. not necessarily along linguistic lines, but swiss/non swiss is definitively an issue- much more than in Austria.
    groups, or tribalism, exists because it is evolutionary useful, of course. under adversity (war, famine, natural disasters, lawlessness,etc..) a cohesive group trumps the individual by a mile. ask any anthropologist (there are other interesting social science fields besides economics)
    even economists are famously tribal: some call themselves market monetarists, others keynesians or communists….
    it is human nature to form groups…

  9. Gravatar of agrippa postumus agrippa postumus
    5. May 2024 at 04:24

    as would be expected, sumner has never really understood history,let alone hericlitus:
    “War is father of all, and king of all. He renders some gods, others men; he makes some slaves, others free.”

  10. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. May 2024 at 08:51

    Jensen, I strongly disagree. It’s nowhere near as bad as the other conflicts.

    Viennacapitalist: “it is human nature to form groups”

    It’s also human nature to rape and murder and enslave, and these things have been going on for millennia. But we need to stop.

    You also seem to have trouble with reading comprehension:

    “The model for a successful world is Switzerland, which is (mostly) free of both right and left identity politics, at least compared to most other places.”

    Do you not understand the meaning of “mostly” and “compared”, or are you trying to argue that Switzerland is as tribal as say Northern Ireland or Syria or Rwanda?

  11. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    5. May 2024 at 22:16

    This is actually the MAGA position.

    Nobody cares if you get plastic surgery to change your genitals, just don’t ask me to pay for it, or ask me to call you by a certain name. And don’t try to transition children. That’s creepy and disgusting.

    Retard Mom’s and low i.q. “social workers” on social media talking about how they convinced a boy that’s he’s really a girl. That’s disturbing, and it has to stop.

    You refer to Trump as dumb: Trump actually has a high I.Q. he’s just not very well educated when it comes to things like Philosophy and politics, and he doesn’t give a damn about your refined sensibilities. He doesn’t care, and neither do I, when litle Sumner gets all worked up about calling an immigrant illegal. You can go fuck off with your P.C..

    Talk about a beta. You’re definetly a beta.

    And that swiss town you referred to is super creepy. We need more wild west, and fewer apparatchiks like you.

  12. Gravatar of viennacapitalist viennacapitalist
    5. May 2024 at 23:04


    “…It’s also human nature to rape and murder and enslave, and these things have been going on for millennia. But we need to stop…”

    These things were eliminated (in certain parts of the world), once they became evolutionarily counterproductive. As larger states developed interaction with strangers became more common and rulers – seeking to become more powerful- (violently) stomped out undesirable traits. Sucessful rulers could form larger states and became more powerful.
    You might want to make yourself familiar with Ian Morris’, “War, what is it good for” and Joseph Henrich’s “WEIRD” – these give a good overwiew.

    This logic does not, apply to “group formation” as the evidence shows that a cohesive group (the larger the better!) has an evolutionary advantage over the individual (or smaller groups). IMHO the incentive to form groups is as powerful as ever – especially in democracies, where the number of heads count. So I do not expect it to stop, on the contrary…

    “…You also seem to have trouble with reading comprehension:..”

    Don’t think so, for I think the “mostly” is also wrong. Indeed, if you read carefully, you will notice that I described the Swiss as “in-group” a much broader and flexible concept than “tribe” which is characterized by the fact that members barely cooperate outside their kin-network (Dunbar number).
    Neither the Swiss, nor the MAGA or Israel supporters are “tribal” in the scientific sense (or like the countries you mention, although I know nothing about Northern Ireland). I used “tribal” not as a description of Switzerland but to highlight that the core logic, “group cohesion pays” applies to both concepts across the spectrum of human evolution.

    If we exclude truly tribal societies from our analysis, I believe that your “compared” is also wrong: I can tell you from my own experience that (I had a business in Switzerland) that the Swiss are much more in-group compared to Americans, Austrians or Russians.
    This is not a critisism of the Swiss whose culture of punishing “free riders” and “direct democracy” I admire, but I just want to make this clear, as I sense you have a somewhat biased view of the place.

  13. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    6. May 2024 at 03:42

    In terms of global politics, and the potential for a world war, Israel/Palestine conflict is right up there at the top. That could quickly escalate into something much broader.

    As could Ukraine.

    The other wars you mentioned have also been occuring for decades.
    Yemen has been unstable since the 70’s. Sudan has had internal conflict for over 100 years.

    In every war people die. All wars are horrible, and important no matter where they are. Trying to claim Israel/Palestine conflict is not important is absurd. Of course, it is important.

    And once again, you misunderstand the right. The right isn’t pro-israel with no sympathy for Gaza. Indeed, MAGA has been criticizing Israeli actions when fire on non-military targets. But unlike the nazi youth in the democrat party, we believe that Israel has a right to exist. And we don’t go around chanting “from the river to the sea palestine shall be free” and spit in the face of Jews as they try to attend class.

    Those ignoramuses don’t even know what that quote means. They cannot even tell you what river. That’s how stupid they are, and some attend Ivy league schools which just shows how pathetic our universities have become.

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. May 2024 at 08:08

    Viennacapitalist, If you think Switzerland is nationalistic then you are just playing word games. Nationalism led to WWI and WWII, and to almost all of the wars since then (including Ukraine and Gaza). It’s every bit as obsolete as slavery.

    Yes, people can join groups such as educational institutions, clubs, corporations, churches, sports, etc. Patriotism is also fine. But not nationalism.

  15. Gravatar of Camden Camden
    6. May 2024 at 08:44

    I suggest you ask a Palestinian for their views. The US is supporting Israel and financing the Gaza war and is directly responsible for the genocide there. Gaza is different in this respect from Burma, South Sudan, Ukraine, etc.

  16. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. May 2024 at 09:11

    Camden, The term genocide is like “racism”, it’s been so watered down as to be almost meaningless. Did the US commit genocide against Germany in WWII? Or is the term genocide more appropriately reserved for things like what Germany did to the Jews and Roma?

    And are you saying we didn’t support Saudi Arabia in their war on Yemen? Where were the protests?

  17. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    6. May 2024 at 12:18


    Great post right above…would use like button if you had those here

    It does no one any favors to keep misusing the word, including the Palestinians.

    And yeah, it’s a lot easier to get people riled up when the bad guys are DA JOOZ

  18. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    6. May 2024 at 12:21

    Let me add, the Israelis are pretty bad guys in general, especially Netanyahu and Likud. They are the nationalist faction and they are the ones who keep encroaching and stealing what little land the Palestinians still have.

    Until Israel changes how they operate, there will be flareups like this every 15-20 years. They have a right to defend themselves and counterattack for sure. But this situation is as much on them as anyone. No good guys over there.

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. May 2024 at 13:49

    msgkings, I mostly agree with both comments, but would replace

    “the Israelis are pretty bad guys in general”

    With “Netanyahu and his far right allies are pretty bad”

  20. Gravatar of TheMoneyIllusion » Nationalism rots your brain TheMoneyIllusion » Nationalism rots your brain
    6. May 2024 at 14:13

    […] think people realize how profoundly nationalism distorts their view of the world. Consider a recent comment in response to my complaint about people’s obsession with the Gaza […]

  21. Gravatar of jensen jensen
    6. May 2024 at 14:42

    > Jensen, I strongly disagree. It’s nowhere near as bad as the other conflicts.

    By what metric? At least in terms of publicly available death counts, it is significantly worse in terms of 2024 intensity? [0] I’m truly not trying to overstate because of the current cultural prominence, just looking at the public data.


  22. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    6. May 2024 at 15:00


    That’s why I added “especially Netanyahu and Likud”

    I think we’re pretty much in agreement on this

  23. Gravatar of viennacapitalist viennacapitalist
    6. May 2024 at 22:41

    I did not call them nationalist, to some people patriot are also nationalist. Hence I try to avoid such diffuse politically tainted terms (same for Fascism). Tribal and in-group are well defined terms not used in politial discourse.

    I do not believe that wars have single causes (natinalim). For instance, the “youth bulge” theory applies to WW1 (as well as Syria and Gaza, more recently) and WWII certainly was a consequence of WWI.

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. May 2024 at 07:42

    Jensen, OK, for a brief period at the beginning the death rate was probably very high. But many of these other conflicts have 100,000s of deaths (direct and indirect.) In any case, the focus on the Gaza war is all out of proportion. Our financial support of Israel is not the cause of the war. It’s ineffective woke politics moved to the international stage. (And the American right is also wrong in defending Netanyahu.)

    BTW, It would be nice if the protesters showed some awareness of how the antiwar protesters of 1968 put pro-war Nixon in the White House, after focusing all their attacks on Humphrey.

    Have the young ever considered directing their protests against the quasi-fascist Trump, who is likely to be our next president? On several occasions he advised the Chinese government to keep building concentration camps for Muslims.

    VC, I think we define nationalism differently, and hence are unlikely to ever agree. And no, patriotism is nothing like nationalism. Hitler was not a German patriot.

  25. Gravatar of Tom M Tom M
    7. May 2024 at 09:32

    Israel is a liberal, democratic, free speech oriented, rights oriented state in the middle east.

    It’s enemies, hate liberalism, hate women, despised minority groups (kill them) and wish to impose the most tyrannical forms of government on those around them.

    I’m confused- this may be the most obviously conflict of ideas that exists in the world today and the fact that this is even up for debate stuns me.

    How do you define “cosmopolitanism”? If is is the textbook definition: the belief that all people are entitled to equal respect and consideration, no matter what their citizenship status or other affiliations happen to be.

    I have a massive problem with the second part of that definition “other affiliations happen to be”. Not all ideas and group affiliations are equal, and groups that call for the removal of rights from other individuals do not deserve the same respect or consideration as others.

    All people are equal, all ideas are not equal. This should be a very basic concept we can all agree on.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. May 2024 at 15:11

    Tom, “Israel is a liberal, . . .”

    Compared to its Arab neighbors, it’s obviously pretty liberal. Compared to Denmark or New Zealand, it’s pretty illiberal.

    And yes, I am aware of the history and the difficult situation Israel is in, so I’m not saying Israelis are bad people. But I wish the Israeli government was less nationalistic. I’d probably vote for the Labor Party.

  27. Gravatar of viennacapitslist viennacapitslist
    7. May 2024 at 22:35

    agree, which is why I try to avoid the term. Everybody, not just you and me, defines these terms differently..

  28. Gravatar of Tom M Tom M
    8. May 2024 at 05:30


    Israel is MUCH closer to Denmark and New Zealand in terms of liberalism than Gaza is to Israel. Calling it “pretty” liberal compared to literally any of it’s Arab neighbors is stunning.

    The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a very important conflict, the “holier than though” attitude you seem to project with this post seems like a way for you to obfuscate your opinion on the issue.

    I would like to know why the Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen and Burma conflicts are “more important”? It is a matter of body count that determines a conflicts importance? Per capita body count? Land involved? How do you define “important”.

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. May 2024 at 08:41

    VC, OK, but my claims are based on my definition.

    Tom, I think you are overreacting to terminology:

    “Calling it “pretty” liberal compared to literally any of it’s Arab neighbors is stunning.”

    By pretty liberal, I mean much more liberal. I thought that was your view?

    “How do you define “important”.”

    I’m a utilitarian. Body count is a factor. So is prospects that it could lead to WWIII.

    Let’s assume for the moment that Palestinian-Americans and Jewish-Americans in some sense “should” care more about this issue. They are roughly 2% or 3% of the US population. It still doesn’t explain all the media focus, the massive campus protests, etc, etc. Something else is going on. This post explains my views in more detail:

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