Welcome to the gerontocracy

Ross Douthat has a good piece on structural problems with the US political system (and, I would add, many other countries.)

To grow in age is supposedly to grow in wisdom, and in theory one might imagine that what an aging society lacked in dynamism and innovation, it would make up for in the sobriety and seriousness of its leaders.

Instead in our would-be presidents we see the weaknesses of age — the debilitation of Joe Biden, the instability of Donald Trump, even the paranoia of their potential third-party challenger, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (who if elected would be the second-oldest American to begin a first presidential term).

While in our younger leaders, instead of counteracting virtues, we have chaotic vices that threaten to make everything ungovernable — the Republican Party, the House of Representatives, the country as a whole.

But this is not accurate:

The irony is that in that moment Trump was mostly right on the merits: Neither 2012 nor 2016 was an ideal time for fiscal retrenchment, given the sluggish comeback from the Great Recession and the resilience of low interest rates.

We accomplished substantial fiscal retrenchment in late 2012, and the economic recovery actually sped up. By 2016, we were already raising interest rates. Fiscal retrenchment would have been an ideal policy at that time.

Now we are a banana republic and it’s too late to fix the fiscal mess. I’m afraid we need to expect some really bad news in the years ahead. Banana republics don’t end well.

Years ago, I was a contrarian when I claimed we were becoming a banana republic and our fiscal situation was out of control. Now both claims are close to conventional wisdom.

[Of course the Washington clown show is great news for Vladimir Putin. Now he can look to the future with increased optimism.]

PS. I’ve sort of come around to Trump’s view of things. Back in 2016, I was skeptical of his claim that we should “lock up” government officials who were sloppy with classified material. Use of a private email didn’t seem like that big a deal. But giving away secrets regarding our nuclear subs? Yeah, I can kind of see how Trump might be correct. Lock them up.

I am also coming around to his view that it’s outrageous when a president’s child earns vast sums of money from foreign entities trying to curry favor with the president.

He’s also correct about it being a big mistake to elect a president who is old and senile.

Strange new respect—we share more and more opinions.



16 Responses to “Welcome to the gerontocracy”

  1. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    9. October 2023 at 02:33

    FYI, Russia in 2023, is a republic employing capitalism as its mode of production. Their fiscal position is strong. They have very low debt, and they have been living within their means, which makes it an attractive place to invest.

    Yes, putin is a corrupt gangster. But Putin doesn’t own Russia. It’s not a kingdom; it’s a republic.

    Donbas seceded, not because Putin wants to control the world, lol, but because the people in that region voted for Yanukovych who was violently overthrown. If Texas votes Trump, and he’s overthrown by a woke mob, then of course Texas will secede. There is no logical difference.

    Couple that with the AZOV battallion’s Nazi roots, and Nazi insignia, along with shelling for eight damn years along the Russian border, and you suddenly have a reason to engage. It’s not Putin propaganda to say that. It’s not “putin puppets commenting;” these are facts, whether we like them or not.

    If anyone is gloating at the American decline, it’s not Putin. Putin doesn’t care about America. It’s not on his radar. He is only concerned about his people, and particularly NATO expansion, because NATO doesn’t look healthy. It looks disgusting. It looks banana republic, and you don’t want a big totalitarian behemoth at your doorstep, especially when that behemoth cannot tell the difference between a man and a women, or when that behemoth is in massive debt, and lashing out at everyone. He also doesn’t want multiculturalism in Russia because he knows that a rapid influx of immigrants can destroy the precepts on which a nation was founded. Russia totally rejects that open border view.

    Russians recognize woke idealogy, because that’s the ideology that sent them to the gulags. They don’t want any part of the western collapse into neomarxism.

    China has a lot to gain from western collapse too, but unlike Putin, Xi Jinping is smiling from ear to ear. He likes the idea of a weak and pathetic west that he can control. They want the farmlands in Amercia. They’ve spoken about this publicly.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. October 2023 at 07:51

    “Donbas seceded”

    In 1938, you would have been saying “The Sudetenland seceded”.

    “They want the farmlands in America.”

    LOL, you really are insane.

  3. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    9. October 2023 at 12:15

    I don’t think age is an issue.
    RFK jr. is doing 50 pushups at 70.

    Problem is that Nietzsche’s herd has arrived. The immoral nihilists and utilitarians captured most of academy and goverment, went to the far left, and are now leading the country.

    America will survive in one form or another, as Rome did, but she will never return to the greatest generation, or to that beautiful victorian era of innovation and liberty.

  4. Gravatar of Solon of the East Solon of the East
    9. October 2023 at 15:26

    The US does seem bananafied, but minus a warm and pleasant culture.

  5. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    9. October 2023 at 15:42

    I wonder if our fiscal bananafication was the result of our extended period of low inflation and low interest rates and whether things will start to be become more sane as higher interest on the debt and inflation increase the marginal cost of fiscal profligacy.

  6. Gravatar of Edward Edward
    10. October 2023 at 06:37

    We are like John Gotti and Al Capone, flexing our muscles around every corner of the globe.

    The Mexicans just issued a normal statement from a sane leader. They said: “we will not take sides in this conflict. We hope both sides can resolve their differences and continue to advocate for a two state solution.”

    That’s what America used to be.

    But are we reasonable anymore? Did we make that kind of statement, then return to our daily lives?


    Our degenerates light up the sky with Israeli flags, then without any congressional vote oddly send warships to Israel.

    Israel is a military powerhouse. They have nuclear weapons. They have some of the best technology in the world. They could win against Jordan, Palestine, Iran and Egypt by themselves. The only country in that region that poses any threat is Saudi Arabia, and MBS won’t get involved.

    American warships to palestine? To bomb rickety buildings, and impoverished men and women hiding in UN shelters. Really?

    Our leaders are going to singlehandly start WWIII. And this time, we are the bad guys.

  7. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    10. October 2023 at 09:22

    Debating the appropriate response is reasonable. Calling us the bad guys, whoever you think “us” is, after what Hamas just did, is quite something else. And, as for this being the start of WWIII, I think it’s going to be more like a replay of Black September.

  8. Gravatar of Solon of the East Solon of the East
    10. October 2023 at 17:07

    As the US economy becomes globalized, the political culture becomes more bananafied.

  9. Gravatar of Kangaroo Kangaroo
    14. October 2023 at 19:05

    Oh my, you’re agreeing with Trump? WT heck?

    As I said before: “progressives” are the problem, not the solution. Do you still think Trump will be the Republican nominee? At this point even you must be thinking that his chances have declined substnatially. My position is the same: there is no chance. He will not be the Republican nominee. Who will??

    Right now Scott the best we can hope for is that Biden doesn’t croak before the election and leave Harris in the oval office for the outbreak of WWIII and that someone who’s not a complete crank will emerge from the Republican field and win the election.

    Fingers crossed man.

  10. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    15. October 2023 at 06:28

    I assume your “pro-Trump” comments are satire—-e.g., he may have been right—-but later I believe you think he did similar things.

    I no longer am able to follow these issues closely due to some unfortunate personal issues——so I am not really sure what you think.

    I do believe there is something very strange about our country—-weird beliefs, and an absurd media, (preventing us from getting a clear handle on “facts” versus “fantasies”).

    Banana Republic does not quite capture my sense of things——but it is bad.

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. October 2023 at 13:43

    “the best we can hope for”

    There is no hope.

  12. Gravatar of Carl Soane Carl Soane
    16. October 2023 at 09:43

    “There is no hope.”

    Well, that’s bleak.

  13. Gravatar of Jeff Jeff
    16. October 2023 at 14:04

    Sumner is a very good economist.

    He’s also extremely misinformed.

    He said in post that the reports of violence in SFO and Chicago were just a big “conservative conspiracy theory’.

    Meanwhile youth gangs now terrorize passengers on their way to work.


    The one silver lining is that Twitter has the chance to set America free, and to loosen big tech and the mainstream media’s grip on the flow of information.

    Independent journalism, citizen journalism, is what will save America.

    And as long as Elon Musk survives the globalist onslaught led by Brussels, and RFK jr. or Trump capture The White House, then we have a good chance to avoid being a Banana Republic.

    I would also like to see Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others that attend the WEF forum once a year, labeled as terrorist organizations. Any company that plans an anti-democratic agenda (globalist agenda), and works together to install puppet politicians on a global scale to serve their interests, without the support of the people in those countries, is an enemy of the people.

    If the leaders of that organization ever set foot in this country, including the mastermind Klaus schwab, they should be arrested for crimes against humanity.

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. October 2023 at 15:36

    Carl, Check out who the next speaker is likely to be.

    Jeff, You said:

    “He said in post that the reports of violence in SFO and Chicago were just a big “conservative conspiracy theory’.”

    When you come on here and lie about what I said, don’t expect to be taken seriously.

  15. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    18. October 2023 at 09:13

    Fair point. Jim Jordan isn’t exactly Henry Clay.

  16. Gravatar of Effem Effem
    25. October 2023 at 12:42

    Any thoughts on how the fiscal situation resolves?

    The knee-jerk answer always seems to be “it gets inflated away” but I don’t think that works given the large magnitude of inflation-driven liabilities (TIPS, social security, healthcare, etc).

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