The Trump of their imagination

Some conservative intellectuals have been able to convince themselves that Trump is making some important points, albeit in a less than perfect fashion.  The problem here is that they are not describing the actual Trump, but rather the Trump they wish were running:

1.  They say that he’s a useful corrective to political correctness.

Nope, just as Joe McCarthy weakened anti-communism (a fine cause), Trump is weakening anti-PCism (another fine cause).  A helpful opponent of PCism would offer the alternative of common courtesy combined with frank talk.  Trump offers crude insults combined with frank talk.  He’s discrediting the movement.

2.  They say he’d offer an alternative to our recent militarism.

Nope, someone like George McGovern would offer that alternative.  Trump talks about rebuilding the military, bombing our enemies back to the Stone Age, bringing back torture, assassinating the families of terrorists.

3.  They say that at least he’s focused on the plight of the working class.

A fan of the working class would be promoting free market policies, not protectionism and higher minimum wages and massive government spending increases.  How’d Argentina’s working class do under Peron?

4.  They say he’s an alternative to Obama’s imperial overreach.

An opponent of overreach would not cite numerous foreign dictators as role models, would not promise to imprison his opponent after the election, would not promise to stop the media from printing lies about him, would not promise to drag corporate CEOs into the Oval office and tell them where they can or cannot invest in new factories.

5.  They say he’ll Make America Great Again, by boosting growth:

A fan of growth would not promise a crackdown on immigration, or attempt to expel millions of productive workers doing jobs (like picking grapes in the hot sun) that most Americans are unwilling to do.

The Trump of their dreams exists only in their imagination.  He’s not on the ballot. The man on the ballot would hurt their cause in all sorts of ways. Conservative intellectuals are much better off with a Trump loss, after which they can start rebuilding their movement.  A good first step would be expelling the alt-right, just as W.F. Buckley expelled the John Birch Society:

In the 1960s, Buckley, largely through his position at the helm of National Review, displayed political courage and sanity by taking on the John Birch Society, an influential anti-Communist group whose members saw conspiracies everywhere they looked.

PS.  That’s not to say people can’t vote for Trump if they think Hillary is worse.  But please, stop writing op eds defending Trump.  He’s terrible.

PPS.  Question for fans of PCism.  My daughter is half white/half Asian.  Does that mean she’s half privileged and half oppressed?  I’m trying to decide how big her reparations allowance should be.



31 Responses to “The Trump of their imagination”

  1. Gravatar of Brett Brett
    8. November 2016 at 07:44

    How’d Argentina’s working class do under Peron?

    Pretty good, at least for the first decade and a half. Not the fastest growth, but the country did get a broad middle class and income per capita was high even if not rich country high. The main problem was that they did hard-core Import Substitution Industrialization instead of the Export-Led Industrialization that Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan were doing, so productivity growth eventually petered out and inflation grew stronger.

    PPS. Question for fans of PCism. My daughter is half white/half Asian. Does that mean she’s half privileged and half oppressed? I’m trying to decide how big her reparations allowance should be.

    Depends on what the Truth and Reconciliation Committee decided upon, assuming it ever happens. There’s precedent for this – Oklahoma had one in the 1990s for the families and still surviving victims of the 1920 Tulsa Race Riot.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. November 2016 at 07:55

    Brett, Populist policies often look good initially (recall Chavez) but in the long term the Argentine working class was screwed. By the 1970s, Argentina was lagging far behind other developed countries.

  3. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    8. November 2016 at 08:01

    Brett, Franco’s Spain was growing much, much faster than Argentina during the 1950s and 1960s.

    “But please, stop writing op eds defending Trump. He’s terrible.”

    -Less so than Kasich or any other GOP candidate.

    I voted straight GOP, voted on judges and other nonpartisan officials based purely on how their names sounded, and voted no on all tax hikes.

    Trump’s not going to win MI. He probably will win New Hampshire, if the midnight voting is any indication.

  4. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    8. November 2016 at 08:09

    Sumner: ” My daughter is half white/half Asian” – that would be illegal to say in France, if it was an official communications (they do not collect racial data in France). BTW, I’m trying to have kids with my Asian gf, and we notice how often girls come out rather than boys with mixed race couples, who are always so cute, but the boys, when mixed race, always look gay. It’s weird but true.

    PS–I have a chance to vote Trump today. If I drive my mom (I’m in the USA at the moment) to the polling place, I’m pretty sure here in Virginia she’ll vote anti-Clinton thus pro-Trump. Should I do it? Hehe. She’s ambivalent about voting. But VA is not a swing state so I guess it does not matter.

  5. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    8. November 2016 at 08:23

    Of course VA’s a swing state! Closest state to popular vote in 2012.

    Vote Goldman Sachs! Vote for war with Russia! Vote for regime change in Syria! Vote Hillary!

  6. Gravatar of Don Don
    8. November 2016 at 08:24

    I think you are playing semantic games. If one person says “growth” and they mean “inflation-adjusted per-capita median after-tax income”, it is unfair to redefine “growth” to be “NGDP” when you disagree. Immigration has effects. There are winners and victims and it is not helpful to call the victims names, because they complain.

    As for trade creating prosperity, that depends on Ricardian gains in productivity. Most of the trade deals now are simply taking advantage of wage and regulation arbitrage. Again, there are winners (eg, capitalists, Chinese workers) and victims (eg, US workers).

    I bet the professor class will be complaining, when price controls are applied to tuition. What happens to faculty at schools like Bentley, when tuition is capped at $10K/year? It can happen. Perhaps at the federal level or maybe like a prop 61.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. November 2016 at 08:35

    Don, I didn’t define growth as “NGDP” and I didn’t call victims names, and price controls are a bad idea, whether you are at a university, or (like me) you are not.

  8. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    8. November 2016 at 09:01

    ope, just as Joe McCarthy weakened anti-communism (a fine cause), Trump is weakening anti-PCism (another fine cause). A helpful opponent of PCism would offer the alternative of common courtesy combined with frank talk. Trump offers crude insults combined with frank talk. He’s discrediting the movement.

    A few more trips outside the bubble would hurt only your pride.

  9. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    8. November 2016 at 09:09

    A good first step would be expelling the alt-right, just as W.F. Buckley expelled the John Birch Society:

    The alt-right is demographically unimportant and not influential. The Birch Society was fairly novel in 1964 (organized six years earlier) and it’s plateau was uncertain. The alt-right has a number of normative judgements and biases people find distasteful. It’s doubtful they’re much more inclined to traffic in fiction than partisans of other dispensations (and quite a lot of nonsense memes come at you from every direction). The Birch Society was a collection of fantasists, not analogous to the alt-right (they were retro-libertarian in their inclinations), but to 9.11 truthers.

    You don’t have anyone with Buckley’s stature in the world of opinion journalism any more, so there’s no one to do the expelling in any case. While we’re at it, Buckley ca. 1961 was not inclined to criticise the Bircher rank-and-file, just their boss, Robert Welch. He shifted gears when he came to the conclusion that there wasn’t much of a distinction in world views there. Prominent starboard opinion journalists as we speak have never had anything to do with the alt-right to begin with, with the partial exception of Steven Sailer.

  10. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    8. November 2016 at 09:40

    Prof. Sumner,

    If the Democrats take control of the Senate, would President Hillary have the ability to appoint doves to the FOMC despite Republican opposition?

    Of course that assumes Hillary would appoint doves. But remember: Larry Summers has a lot of influence and has become more dovish in recent years….

  11. Gravatar of Jay Taylor Jay Taylor
    8. November 2016 at 10:16

    Scott, you make it sound like the PC-police don’t think Asians are white. In reality, they rarely consider Asians “people of color”. Read one article about Silicon Valley not being diverse enough and you will see that it is true.

  12. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    8. November 2016 at 10:23

    I don’t get why you bring W. F. Buckley into play here. I’d say the Buckley rule is pretty obvious here: Vote for “the most right, viable candidate who could win.”

    Trump is more right than Hillary. There are surely more adequate politicians imaginable than Trump – but they are not on the ballot, so it’s just wishful thinking. Buckley’s rule is clearly against wishful thinking. He would have not supported Trump during the primaries but according to his own rule he would voted for him now.

    Anyways: You can still get rid of the John Birchers until after the election is lost.

  13. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    8. November 2016 at 10:24

    Good read Scott. I agree.

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. November 2016 at 10:41

    TravisV, Yes, but I doubt she would. In any case, it doesn’t make much difference whether the FOMC is composed of hawks or doves, given the 2% inflation target. What would be nice is appointing some people favorable towards NGDP targeting. But even there, change will come very, very slowly. First the profession needs to change–one funeral at a time.

    Jay, Good point about Silicon Valley. But they definitely consider Asians to be non-white in some contexts. Asian Americans are part of the “victim class” that have been oppressed by whites throughout American history (in some ways more than Hispanics).

    Christian, You think Buckley would have recommended that we vote for Birchers?

  15. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    8. November 2016 at 11:13


    Can you give specific examples of pro-PC types claiming Asian-Americans are currently suffering from past oppression?

    Oh, and what evidence makes you think liberals favor drug decriminalization because they have an unconscious bias toward wanting disparate sentencing for blacks and whites?

  16. Gravatar of engineer engineer
    8. November 2016 at 11:22

    The election is almost over!…let the impeachment begin!

  17. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    8. November 2016 at 11:26

    @engineer: indeed, no matter who wins!

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. November 2016 at 11:54

    Scott, The drug thing is based on many personal conversations. Here’s a quote from Vox, on the Asian thing:

    “I think that because this particular debate gets so much attention, folks tend to assume that a large [number] of Asian-American college students are at the Ivies, are at the Stanfords, when in actuality about half of them attend community colleges. They face similar challenges that many other students and students of color face, but that often doesn’t get much attention. That’s probably my biggest concern around the fact that [affirmative action] gets centered as the key concern.

    The other thing is that [as] part of this conference that my colleagues and I were thinking about doing, we were raising the point that affirmative action is not just about higher education. That it may operate in one way in higher education, which has been very limited and is controversial perhaps among some Asian Americans. But affirmative action is also in employment, and public contracting.

    I raised the point in 2009. I worked on a research study with a professor at UCLA where we compared San Francisco, Chicago, and Atlanta, and we compared how well Asian-American businesses were doing in these different regulatory climates, with the different ways affirmative action was implemented. And you would assume that in San Francisco, Asian-American businesses would be doing the best of the three cities, and in actuality they were doing the worst. Asian-American businesses in Atlanta were actually doing better than in San Francisco. And they were doing best in Chicago, where they had the most aggressive affirmative action policy.

    Of course, in San Francisco, because of Proposition 209, in business contracting, affirmative action was banned — at least at the public county, state, city level. And Asian-American businesses were getting near zero public contracting dollars. Which is shocking in San Francisco, the Bay Area, knowing the demographics. So I was engaging in dialogue with these folks about how perhaps some of them want to start up small firms that, without affirmative action, we know for a fact these businesses suffer in and are hindered from accessing public contracting dollars, which contributes to wealth and asset development and the development of businesses.”

  19. Gravatar of H_WASSHOI (Maekawa Miku-nyan lover) H_WASSHOI (Maekawa Miku-nyan lover)
    8. November 2016 at 11:59

    Every single political move in US makes me uneasy

  20. Gravatar of Bob Murphy Bob Murphy
    8. November 2016 at 12:04

    Scott wrote: “PS. That’s not to say people can’t vote for Trump if they think Hillary is worse. But please, stop writing op eds defending Trump. He’s terrible.”

    I have no problem with the above. (Sorry, E. Harding.) You and I disagree strongly on which candidate is worse, Scott, but I agree that people are only seeing what they want to see in Trump. I think you are downplaying how awful the status quo is, though. (I hope I didn’t just type something anti-Semitic. I’m sure you will let me know.)

  21. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    8. November 2016 at 12:17

    David Glasner at his blog: “So You Don’t Think the Stock Market Cares Who Wins the Election — Think Again UPDATE”

  22. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    8. November 2016 at 12:18

    Excellent graphs!

  23. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    8. November 2016 at 13:36

    “A few more trips outside the bubble would hurt only your pride.”

    Remember, kids, your *own* experience is *definitely* representative of the vast mass of the rest of your fellow citizens, but the experiences of those who disagree with you are *definitely* reflections of life “inside a bubble” (whatever that means).

  24. Gravatar of Art Deco Art Deco
    8. November 2016 at 13:59

    Remember, kids, your *own* experience i

    Trump successfully put the issue of immigration control on the map (something Rick Santorum had been unable to do and something the other candidates were too unimaginative to do) and survived multiple episodes of the media attempting to inflict show-trial humiliations while lying through their teeth. It’s about the only major blow issued to the language police in the last five decades. You’d only say he’s ‘weakening’ the anti-PC cause if you’re only listening to people kvetching in the faculty rathskellar (and, while we’re at it, the Mercatus crews lack the cojones to do anything about the degradation of academic life).

  25. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    8. November 2016 at 14:06

    To Ray Lopez: I don’t think you meant anything nefarious about “mixed race” males, but I still found your comment bizarre. I have two young “asian/white” nephews who are quite handsome. I have no idea whether they will be “gay” or not, primarily because their looks do not tell me so. What an odd comment. My kids are so-called “mixed” (latino-white) and I cannot tell by their looks if they are “gay” either. They are married, so probably not. At least you cannot be accused of being politically correct—so I give you points for that! But I still find your comments bizarre.

    Speaking of which: To Scott. I actually found Shelby Steele’s essay pretty good (I assume you were referencing him). I agree with his main message, as I know you do too. You just refuse to give Trump ANY credit for his contribution. I do think Prof Steele was trying to squeeze an Octagon into a straw, but I am sympathetic to his apparent belief that Trump is not just a comic book character.

  26. Gravatar of Bill Ellis Bill Ellis
    8. November 2016 at 14:51

    Scott asks…
    “My daughter is half white/half Asian. Does that mean she’s half privileged and half oppressed? ”

    Depends on how she looks. Does she pass for white ? If not maybe you should have an open mind about what she might experience. Some people will treat her poorly because of her ethnicity.
    If you actually think she will be treated the same as a white person, I think you are providing her with unrealistic expectations… (Unless she lives her entire life in a cocoon of an elite’s lifestyle )

    Im’ half Arab and half white. My dad was fist generation from Lebanon (My grandfather was an orthodox priest ) …Dad was 5 when he came to America in 1915. He was a typical model American immigrant of the time…He rejected everything about being Arab …He refused to teach us or ever speak Arabic…He had nothing good to say about the old world…
    Growing up, He frequently told me that I was White… It was very important to him that I understand that I was white…( I was the darkest of 5 kids ) As a Kid I didn’t doubt him…I thought it was kinda weird he kept telling me… All my friends were white…we lived in white neighborhoods… I didn’t see myself as standing out much, despite being called a “dirty spick”, “a wetback”, “a smelly Mexican” by some of the kids…
    So even though I thought I was white..the world was already trying to tell me I wasn’t..

    I won’t go into the details…but…
    The world has never stopped reminding me I’m not white… maybe the world won’t single out your daughter…

    SO daddy Sumner….maybe we have come far enough…maybe we are at the point where a half Asian half white woman won’t be less privileged than a white male… But just in case… Maybe you should consider she may face a harder road…

    With respect… All my best wishes to you and your family.

  27. Gravatar of Bill Ellis Bill Ellis
    8. November 2016 at 15:05

    By the way…even though statistically I have been treated like a brown person… My dad telling me I was white, and growing up in white neighborhoods worked… Inside I’m a white guy. I act like a typical white guy from Toledo Ohio…

  28. Gravatar of B Cole B Cole
    8. November 2016 at 16:07

    Good post but then this canard…

    “workers doing jobs (like picking grapes in the hot sun) that most Americans are unwilling to do.”

    Gee, maybe higher wages would solve “labor shortages”?

    Why is it orthodox economists toss out the price signal…when it pertains to unskilled labor?

    We are told the minimum wage is bad, but paying higher wages (or better working conditions) won’t attract Americans to bucolic labor.

    I would be “unwilling” to teach freshman economics at $8 an hour…should we import college profs from Hyerdahl?

  29. Gravatar of BC BC
    8. November 2016 at 18:30

    Trump may not be useful for promoting conservative policies, but he seems useful for tainting bad policies. Trump is the face of anti-immigration and protectionism and, thus, taints those causes by association. I sense that Democrats are more pro-immigration now, whereas some like Bernie Sanders were more ambivalent before. I’ve never seen Democrats more supportive of NATO and standing up to Russia than when Trump chimed in. Trump even got Democrats, who were enamored with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren just a few months ago, to declare that it’s dangerous to our democracy to insist that our political system is rigged. “The system is rigged,” was a *Sanders* meme that Trump just appropriated. Also, thanks to Trump’s most recent ad, he has also tainted the entire class warfare agenda of Sanders and Warren. Every sentence in the ad could have come from Sanders’s mouth, and Democrats insist that the ad is anti-Semitic. Finally, Trump has managed to do what was once unthinkable: convince the Left that criminalizing politics is a bad idea by threatening to send Clinton to jail. So, Trump has tainted all efforts to criminalize politics such as threatening climate change skeptics with legal action, campus PC speech codes, and using the IRS to target conservative non-profits.

    Godwin’s Law prevents one from comparing people to Hitler. However, comparing people to Trump is still fair game!

  30. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    9. November 2016 at 07:34


    Okay, so the supposition about latent desires within liberals for disparate outcomes based on race is not empirically-based. It’s entirely anecdotal. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with anecdotes or intuition being a starting point regarding a hypothesis, but obviously I can’t have any confidence in such an opinion, unvetted. I was guessing there would at least be a revealed preference argument.

    On your second point however, okay, it looks like you have some empirical evidence to support your claim, so point taken.

    I strongly support affirmative action, but that doesn’t mean the approaches we take today are perfect. And I favor affirmative action for white males, where needed.

  31. Gravatar of Floccina Floccina
    9. November 2016 at 08:30

    I think you are wrong on

    #2. They say he’d offer an alternative to our recent militarism.

    He offers a masculine muscular non-interventionism that might be the only way to do that.

    On #3 we may see the start if a US slide and China rise to where China is more influential.

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