What is my outgroup?

A commenter recently claimed that I bashed the new China deal because Trump is in my “outgroup”.  Commenter anon/portly responded:

However, just because the rest of his comment is a blizzard of misunderstanding the ideas of two Scotts, doesn’t mean that the first sentence is untrue:

“Scott’s posts are really a vindication of Scott Alexander’s outgroups theory from “I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup”.

Well, since much of what we observe in the world – and especially the blogging world – is a vindication of that, this may well be true. But what *is* the (or a) Sumnerian Outgroup (hereafter “SO”)?

Anyone reading this blog for long would know that you can’t assign this based on the other Scott’s ur-example, the “blue” tribe’s attitude toward the “red” tribe. SS doesn’t belong to either the blue or red tribe. (It helps to remember that in criticizing Trump on trade, he’s criticizing ideas that in the past were much more closely associated with specific Democratic party politicians, e.g. Dick Gephardt, than with specific Republican party politicians; and if not closely associated with any non-crank economists on either the left or right, at least closely associated with one crank Democrat economist, Trump advisor Peter Bellamy).

So what is the SO? I’m not really sure, but one thought that occurs to me is what I have always taken to be the outgroup of engineers. By “engineers” I don’t mean the people they call engineers nowadays who do coding and use software and aren’t (necessarily) really all that great at math, I mean the old-style guys (and occasional gals) who were really good at applying various forms of math to the real world. I always thought their outgroup was something like “people – especially other smart people – who can’t or won’t do math, or use math creatively.”

Trump is certainly in my “outgroup”, as I dislike everything about him.  But I also root for the US to succeed.  So I root for Trump to succeed in areas where his success is good for America (say a cut in interest rates, labor market deregulation, or a corporate tax cut) and I root for him to fail where it’s bad for America (trade barriers, immigration restrictions, war on drugs, big budget deficits, etc.)

Anon/portly’s comment got me thinking about what sort of thought process distinguishes me from other analysts.  The following is highly subjective:

1.  I believe that I rely more on classical economic theory, and also general equilibrium theory.

2.  I try to pay a lot of attention to statistical data, with a focus on whether data is accurate and economically meaningful.

3.  I try to avoid “mood affiliation”.  My views tend to cut across all sorts of ideological lines, and I don’t see myself as either “left” or “right”.  I’m one of the very few people who have been strongly pro-monetary stimulus during much of the last decade, and also strongly anti-fiscal stimulus.  I see many people form into pro and anti-stimulus camps, and adopt the various other views of people in those camps.  I’m fine with very high tax rates on billionaire consumption, but am opposed to minimum wage laws.  I like carbon taxes but oppose wealth taxes.  I think we should be tougher on some criminals and softer on others.

Let me illustrate these points with the example of how the media reports on the recent Chinese agreement to buy more US farm products, which embodies all three problems.

Trump’s original motivation for the trade war was the large US trade deficit, which he wrongly thought was due to unfair trade practices in foreign countries.  Later his agenda was hijacked by foreign policy conservatives who worried about China threatening US hegemony with an alternative (illiberal) model.  Much of the news coverage of the China deal focuses on the promised food purchases, even though they are unrelated to either complaint.  Before Trump took office, almost no one was claiming that the problem with China was that they were not buying enough US farm products, or that they had unfair barriers on our farm products.  Indeed farm exports are one of America’s big success stories.  Trump has “fixed” a problem that did not exist.

I attribute that to “mood affiliation”.  Once you decide that China is a Bad Country, then any concession we can wring from China becomes a US “win”.

This policy is also based on a lack of understanding of general equilibrium theory.  The China deal will not affect the US current account deficit, which is determined by factors influencing US saving and investment.  I get annoyed reading endless commentary by people who seem oblivious to this point, and hence provide the sort of useless analysis you could get from just talking to the average man on the street.

Socialism and statism sound good to the average person, at least when the laundry list of proposals is presented one item at a time.  That’s why losers like Jeremy Corbyn keep insisting that the public agrees with them.  Even Republican voters often support socialist ideas when polled on the subject.  It sounds good if you tell average Americans that China will buy more US farm products.  Less good if you point out that the trade balance won’t be impacted, which means we will lose manufacturing exports and jobs as a side effect.  Sort of like how people support almost every spending proposal until you tell them that it requires higher taxes.

There’s also a problem with innumeracy.  Pundits often talk about how German fiscal stimulus could boost the Eurozone economy, whereas the German government spending a few more percentage points of GDP would have almost no discernible impact.  Similarly, the effects of Chinese promises to buy US agricultural products are trivial, for several different reasons.  First, the Chinese won’t buy $50 billion, as even Lighthizer admits.  Second, the extra sales to China will be mostly offset by fewer US exports to other areas, as displaced Brazilian exports to China seek out other markets.  Global commodity prices will rise by a trivial amount, and it’s global commodity prices that matter.  The net gain in US exports will be very small, relative to our $2.5 trillion in total exports.  Maybe zero to $5 billion.  It’s a “nothingburger”.

People who disagree with me on the trade deficit often point to the empirical work of Fred Bergsten and Joe Gagnon, which is the best defense I’ve seen of the alternative view, the view that we need to worry about foreign currency manipulation boosting our current account deficit.  But the Bergsten/Gagnon study says that every $1 increase in our budget deficit will boost our current account deficit by 52 cents.  That means that Trump’s reckless fiscal policies have “worsened” our current account deficit by nearly $200 billion.  And yet the press ignores this. (To be fair, I don’t think the current account deficit is a problem, but I do believe the budget deficit is a problem.)

The media is full of people with contempt for Trump.  Thus it’s ironic that most of the reporting on Trump’s policies is actually far too generous.  The new NAFTA and the China trade deal are discussed on the press in his terms, in terms of what the US “won” in the negotiations.  Tyler Cowen recently linked to a Christopher Balding post that is a nice example.  You’ll see very few news articles pointing out that Trump’s reckless fiscal policies have made the trade deficit much worse, and that none of these deals will do anything to fix this “problem”.

I’m sure a critic could look at my blog and see all sorts of biases that I’m blind to.  All I can say is that everywhere I look I see bad economic theory, inability to interpret economic statistics, and mood affiliation.  My in group is not Democrats or Republicans (both of which I dislike) it’s people who know how to rationally evaluate an issue and have good intuitive common sense when interpreting data.

PS.  Some will argue that I had already decided the trade deal would be a dud even before it was concluded.  That’s a fair criticism; so let me explain why I had this preconception.  I think I know enough about economics to know just how disruptive an actual Steve Bannon-style (i.e. nationalistic) trade policy would be.  Any policy that significantly moved the needle away from globalization would be highly disruptive and very unpopular with large segments of the public.  And I think I know enough about politics to know that Trump would not go that route.

Thus for the past three years I’ve simply been bidding my time, waiting for these meaningless symbolic deals to be announced as huge wins for America.  And now it’s happened.  So yes, I did pretty much have my mind made up long ago, although if Trump had actually done something dramatic I would have said so and predicted that it would greatly harm our economy.  The actual deals will have only a trivial impact on the economy, which is a relief.

And maybe this is actually good.  Before Trump, we were told we needed economic nationalism to bring blue-collar jobs back to America.  We were told we needed massive government infrastructure programs.  We were told we needed to crackdown on illegal immigration, and expel those who are already here.

Let’s say that people foolishly believe Trump did all that.  They believe there’s a shiny new wall on the border. That would be great!  Then the electorate would move on to other issues, as these issues have been “solved”.  If we have an actual policy of neoliberal cosmopolitanism, and yet people wrongly think that Trumpism has won, then no one will get any political mileage in attacking neoliberal cosmopolitanism.

The very worst thing that can happen to any policy agenda is to take office and then not implement your policies.  The public will think you have implemented the policies, and any problems will be blamed on your announced policies, not what was actually implemented.  No one will vote for a future Republican who says, “I’ll do what Trump promised but failed to do”.  Yeah, sure.

Remember that, “all political careers end in failure”.  The goal should be to avoid ever winning an election, rather to focus on getting the other side to implement your policies.  In Australia and New Zealand, it was the left that implemented neoliberalism.  Let them “own” neoliberalism and there’ll be no one to take it away.



30 Responses to “What is my outgroup?”

  1. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    15. December 2019 at 16:24

    Some orthodox macroeconomists relate national fiscal budget deficits to current account trade deficits.

    Of course, we have the example of Japan which has run large national budget deficits forever and also run current-account trade surpluses.

    No doubt, the classic answer is that Japan can fund its fiscal deficits through a very high domestic savings rate.

    But when a nation exports more than it imports, that creates savings within that nation.

    In fact, any economic entity that produces more than it consumes is creating savings.

    Free trade theologians may be confusing ying with yang.

  2. Gravatar of Matthias Görgens Matthias Görgens
    15. December 2019 at 16:48

    > Remember that, “all political careers end in failure”. The goal should be to avoid ever winning an election, rather to focus on getting the other side to implement your policies. In Australia and New Zealand, it was the left that implemented neoliberalism. Let them “own” neoliberalism and there’ll be no one to take it away.

    Alas, the Germans just reintroduced some more mandatory occupational licensing, despite a booming job market. See Meisterzwang.

    (Thankfully, they are good Europeans, so non-German EU citizens living in Germany do not fall under the new rules.)

  3. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    15. December 2019 at 16:57

    Given how much the market has moved on other days when trade news has come out, subdued equity volatility is indicative of the deal’s insignificance.

  4. Gravatar of Keenan Keenan
    15. December 2019 at 17:49

    SS outgroup is the willfully uninformed/unresearched. Economics is a field where everyone feels qualified to have an opinion, however well researched they are on it (usually ~0). I sympathize with Scott lashing out against uninformed/unresearched/illogical opinions.

  5. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    15. December 2019 at 18:23

    Headline from Bloomberg:

    Lighthizer Scores Trifecta of Wins for Trump’s Trade Agenda
    By Jenny Leonard”


    The story is gushy too.

    And they are other headlines more or less the opposite in sentiment.

    So, the public is in favor or not in favor of Trump’s trade policies?

    Can a baseball umpire officiating a football game in the dens fog make the “right call”?

  6. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    15. December 2019 at 18:37

    Speaking of budget deficits, here is a headline from the WSJ

    “Fed’s Control Over Rates Tested by Growing U.S. Budget Deficits”


    So, can you tell when this headline was printed?

    The 1960s?






    Answer: Today.

    So…we have global pools of capital, liquid and fungible. Can the Fed control interest rates?

    How does the Bank of Japan control interest rates?

  7. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    15. December 2019 at 20:17

    Fresh from Reuters—

    “U.S. officials say China agreed to increase purchases of American products and services by at least $200 billion over the next two years, with an expectation that the higher purchases will continue after that period.

    The purchases include manufactured goods, agricultural goods, energy and services, and are expected to reduce the $419 billion U.S. trade deficit with China, officials said. China bought $130 billion in U.S. goods in 2017, before the trade war began, and $56 billion in services, U.S. data show.”


    Well, if one believes this, then Beijing has agreed to about double imports from the US.

    Scott Sumner says this just means the US will run a larger trade deficit in some other area. But there are a lot of structural impediments in the global economy, so that may or may not be true.

    An interesting question is, will China use US imports to substitute for inefficiently produced Sino goods?

    For example, Japan has kept out US grown rice from domestic markets forever.

    Suppose China cuts back on inefficient production and substitutes us Imports instead?

  8. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    15. December 2019 at 20:48

    Scott is being much too accomodative to the pro-Trump crowd. The idea that anything he expresses will matter to them strikes me as fanciful, at best. These are people who are thoroughly tribal, and project their silliness and lack of even basic logic onto Scott, who isn’t ideological. Anyone with a brain can see Scott isn’t ideological.

    Scott’s strength is in getting basic, conventional economic theory correct, and following the theory to its logical conclusions. This makes him provocative on even very basic topics, such as EMH, which he takes more seriously than even most economists. This is also true of market monetarists, in general.

    Even most elite economists, including Larry Summers, Ken Rogoff, Joseph Stiglitz, and the late Martin Feldstein, have very publicly made obvious critical errors in applying even very basic economic theory. The most common one I see is what Scott calls “reasoning from a price change”. Robert Shiller is the most guilty of this, among economists of any stripe. He often openly wonders why the economy isn’t stronger with historically low rates, for example.

    Scott is a very good economist, and is exactly the sort you would want educating students, to provide them with solid foundations in both theory and empirical evidence. He would also be a good economic policy advisor.

    The weakness Scott has, in my view, is shared by market monetarists generally. They don’t seem to advance economic theory. That’s not a particularly tough criticism, since most economists don’t advance the theory, but unless I’m missing something, their strength is in getting established theory and economic history correct.

    For what it’s worth, I think there’s some low hanging fruit available to advance economic theory, and most economists are asleep.

    Market monetarists are simply wrong about interest rates, for example. They are correct that even most economists read too much into rates in the wrong ways and they are correct to always talk about interest rates in the context of the supply and demand for money. However, they ignore what seems to be considerable evidence that rates offer more information than they claim.

    For example, notice that r simply doesn’t sustainably stay above NGDP growth, and when it is above it, growth slows. Also, their discussions about effects of savings inflows due to gluts in places like China strike me as incoherent.

    And, they don’t seem to harvest much of the information in yield curves, including implied expected economic growth rates, given related discount rates, etc. I’ve never even seen them talk about such things.

    But, that’s not the point here. The point is, you’re very unlikely to best Scott on basic economic theory and basic theory said that any gains from a trade war wouldn’t be close to the obvious predictable costs. In m my view, it’s a waste of time to consider views to the contrary on this topic.

  9. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    15. December 2019 at 20:55

    I should clarify to say that market monetarists do talk about yield curves, but not as explicitly as they could. They typically just talk about changes in the steepness of the curve, inversions, how steep the curve should be in normal times, etc. I never see explicit calculations of the implied discount rates, given expected NGDP growth, etc. Yield curves can obviously predict recession without being inverted, for example.

  10. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. December 2019 at 22:19

    Ben, You said:

    “Scott Sumner says . . .”

    No, not what I said. I don’t believe the Chinese promises to buy and extra $200 billion in goods. I doubt they even made that promise.

  11. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    16. December 2019 at 00:04

    I think there’s some terminological confusion. Trump himself cannot constitute an outgroup and you cannot say whether Trump is in your outgroup or not simply on the basis of whether you like him or not. The whole idea of outgroup, if I understand it correctly, is that some people are not worthy of consideration simply because they belong to that group. If you examined Trump as he is and found him unworthy, outgroup doesn’t come into it. But if you hear that someone is Trump supporter and despise them for that without any additional information, than it is an outgroup.

    Scott Alexander is a very keen person, but this whole outgroup business is applicable to a very limited range of partisans. Most people IMHO are perfectly capable of saying that those who disagree with them might have a point and that any number of their fellow travelers might be wrong on any particular question.

  12. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    16. December 2019 at 02:31

    Scott Sumner. I apologize if I flubbed a quote.

    Scott Sumner, you suggest that Beijing will not double imports of US goods and services in next two years. You could be right.

    But Reuters played it this way:

    “WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s top trade negotiator praised a “phase one” U.S.-China trade deal which is expected to nearly double U.S. exports to China over the next two years, while China remained cautious ahead of the signing of the agreement.

    U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program on Sunday, said there would be some routine “scrubs” to the text, but “this is totally done, absolutely.”


    That is Lighthizer talking, not Trump. Lighthizer seems like quite a serious guy and earnest in his beliefs, which may be different from my beliefs.

    The guys at Reuters are no Trumpers, and if the phase one deal is particularly suspect, they give no hint of it.

    My guess is if China reneges, the tariffs get slapped back on.

    So, I think this deal is a deal, as for as far as foreign-trade deals go.

    I guess China will buy another $200 billion of US goods and services annually, possibly substituting US goods for the least-efficiently made Sino products.

    This looks like a Trump win. And may be a win for Sino residents too.

  13. Gravatar of Albert Albert
    16. December 2019 at 05:52


    I’m curious what you think of the following article.


    It seemed pretty reasonable and says that the deal was about way more than farm sales. I’m not trolling. I’m always curious when two smart people see the same situation completely differently.

  14. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    16. December 2019 at 05:59

    I agree with much of what you say and mostly favor free trade on Econ 101 grounds, but maybe the point is to let people feel like the big shots are at least aware of the dislocations and challenges these policies can force on people, and make gestures to try to ameliorate these impacts in some small ways. Perhaps this is better than “Look, free trade is a great thing over all. Check out this graph. Get on board and quit bitchin’.” (This is basically the attitude of a younger, more naive, me.)

    As you suggest with Trump, the policy outcomes aren’t that different from a straightforward pursuit of free trade, but people feel like at least their leaders are aware of and care about local difficulties this produces.

    In other words, just reciting Econ 101 is kind of tone deaf and ignores that political psychology is a very different thing from economic understanding.

    P.S. This: “Remember that, “all political careers end in failure”.” Damn, Joe Biden is learning this in spades. He thought he was riding into the sunset as Obama’s trusty deputy, but 30% of Democrats keep pulling him back in for what is shaping up as an awful final chapter.

  15. Gravatar of Todd Ramsey Todd Ramsey
    16. December 2019 at 06:43

    Scott, are you oversimplifying when you write: “The China deal will not affect the US current account deficit, which is determined by factors influencing US saving and investment.”?

    Is there not SOME two-way causation in the current account deficit and the capital account? Isn’t it possible, or even likely, that U.S. consumers FIRST chose to buy cheap Chinese goods, and THEN Chinese people and/or the Chinese government used the obtained resources to buy (metaphorically) U.S. government debt and houses in Los Angeles?

  16. Gravatar of Cameron Blank Cameron Blank
    16. December 2019 at 07:13


    I’ve almost never heard an argument for free trade that didn’t mention that job training and/or some sort of re distributive policy was probably needed to ensure there we’re no losers. Even “dogmatic” free traders mention these policies and then dismiss them by pointing out it wouldn’t make sense to train/compensate those who lose to trade and not also compensate those who lose to technological/industrial changes. A good point.

    Politically it’s irrelevant now anyway. For the foreseeable future, all candidates will support protectionism or the appearance of protectionism.

  17. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    16. December 2019 at 08:42


    Often “learn to code” comes off as adding insult to injury, just look at the flap re: journalists this year.

    It’s obvious to me that we are WAY more sensitive to the downside of globalization than we were in 2001 when China joined the WTO, even if it’s largely lip service or just slowing down the pace of change enough to give people a chance to adjust.

    And as Scott demonstrates, this is mostly “the appearance of protectionism”. Anything like real autarky would be devastating, thus a political loser.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. December 2019 at 09:15

    D.O., Could I say that white nationalists like Trump are my out group?

    Ben, I don’t believe anything this administrations says, unless confirmed by the Chinese. Have they publicly promised to double imports from the US? Where is that reported in the press? If you show me a link where China promises to buy another $200 billion annually from the US I’ll admit I was wrong. If you can’t, will you admit you were wrong?

    Albert, I find that completely unconvincing. For instance, he says that China has been opening up its financial sector in anticipation of US demands in trade negotiations. That makes no sense to me. Why would you unilaterally agree to US demands without getting anything in return? If China had done what he suggested it would have weakened their position in the current negotiations.

    Lots of other stuff like IP promises have been made before, and are essentially meaningless. The extra imports will be meaningless if they are commodities like coal and natural gas, which are fungible. It’s mostly smoke and mirrors, and doesn’t fundamentally change our economic relationship.

    Krugman’s also a smart guy, and sees things the same way I do.

    Todd, They are jointly determined. The key question is whether anything in the agreement is likely to move the needle on domestic saving. I see nothing. Can you name something? In contrast, Trump’s fiscal policies are boosting the deficit. People who claim they care about trade should be up in arms over the budget deficit, but they are mostly silent. Why?

  19. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    16. December 2019 at 09:50

    Scott Alexander’s original article was very insightful, but a big hole in it was that there is a difference between making people an outgroup based on factors outside their control such as race versus ones within their control, such as being innumerate or a white nationalist. (The Red Tribe/Blue Tribe distinction would fall between those two extremes as many people are born into one or the other, but people also frequently change their political affiliation from childhood). It can be legitimate and rational to make people an “outgroup” based on their voluntary choices such as becoming a white nationalist, as those choices reveal a lot about people’s individual character in a way that involuntary social group membership does not.

  20. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    16. December 2019 at 10:52

    D.O., Could I say that white nationalists like Trump are my out group?


  21. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. December 2019 at 14:20

    Scott, you have a very autistic view of politics. But nevermind.

    There also remains the old problem of the Trump critics, which was there from nearly the beginning. It began with accusations of his almost diabolical quasi-omnipotence. Trump as the devil who plunges the world into the abyss, but for that he would have to be really influential. Directly followed by accusations of impotence, how ridiculously ineffective Trump is, zero influence at all. At this point one might ask: so which way is it? You can’t have it both ways. And why do you shit your pants like that when he can’t achieve anything anyhow? Why don’t you just relax?

    From my point of view the CCP propagandists are so angry at Trump and so edgy because he changed the view towards China by so much.

    Before Trump, the rise of this new totalitarian superpower was hardly an issue in American politics. Trump changed this. Today, almost all politicians on both sides agree that China is a huge problem. And that’s the real reason why people like Scott are so pissed. Trump let the genie out of the bottle and now Scott slowly begins to realize that there is no way to get the genie back in.

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    16. December 2019 at 15:22

    Christian, You said:

    “It began with accusations of his almost diabolical quasi-omnipotence.”


    You may be right about my autistic view of politics, which I read as “being able to see through framing effects”. That’s something you most certainly can’t do.

  23. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    16. December 2019 at 15:46

    From my point of view, China is neither totalitarian nor a superpower. A totalitarian country is one where the government has total control of everything. This is not the case in China–the whole reason for their economic success is that they started allowing private enterprise and ownership. Most estimates put the total government footprint in the Chinese economy at 20-40% of GDP, lower than most European countries. When it comes to foreign policy, the Chinese government is significantly less controlling than the US government–the US has overthrown many foreign governments, while China has overthrown none.

    China is not a superpower either. Comparisons to the US here are instructive. US sanctions have caused the Iranian economy to shrink by over 15% over the last two years. US sanctions have been causing food rationing in Cuba for decades. Chinese sanctions have never caused any other country’s economy to shrink. At most, Chinese sanctions are targeted against rich corporations and cause them to make a bit less money. Unlike American sanctions, Chinese sanctions are also completely ineffective against foreign governments. For example, the American threat of trade sanctions quickly caused Turkey to release the American pastor Andrew Brunson and even Sweden to release the rapper A$AP Rocky, while the Huawei CFO is still under arrest in Canada.

    It should be concerning to everyone when domestic politicians stir up hatred of foreign countries–as that hatred will only be used to justify greater government control over what Americans do. That’s a classic totalitarian move, as portrayed in 1984. The worst thing the Chinese government can do to you is to not let you visit or do business in China, but the American government can subject you to far more regulations in the name of “national security” (now there is even talk of the American government censoring Tik Tok). And one should feel indignation when our domestic politicians are doing this to a far poorer country–I consider it malicious to tell 20% of humanity they have to stay poor because we don’t like their form of government. Our government should not have that kind of power (it really is totalitarian for the US government to dictate the economy and prosperity of other countries, none of whose people ever voted for a US politician).

  24. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    16. December 2019 at 16:12

    “Ben, I don’t believe anything this administrations says, unless confirmed by the Chinese. Have they publicly promised to double imports from the US? Where is that reported in the press? If you show me a link where China promises to buy another $200 billion annually from the US I’ll admit I was wrong. If you can’t, will you admit you were wrong?”–Scott Sumner

    Well, I have to concede that nothing the US government says should be trusted, and that goes double for anything Beijing says.

    Beijing could say we have a deal or Beijing could be mute. So what? We will just have to wait for the pudding.

    I will also concede that after a deal is crafted, special interest groups will persistently work to reform it in their image, and will heavily ladle grease money into Washington DC.

    In such a case we will see that multinationals become the most influential reformers of any trade deal signed.

  25. Gravatar of BlahBlah1234 BlahBlah1234
    16. December 2019 at 16:47

    Great article. I disbelieve that China’s theft of IP is so bad however, as they did not compensate Western companies that they subsequently priced out. Trump should go for compensation.

    Also, I read your econlog article and had some questions. How many immigrants will we need to have the world’s largest economy, beat China? Also, don’t you think that a larger population density will hurt America’s standard of living?

  26. Gravatar of bob bob
    17. December 2019 at 06:32

    I don’t know what your outgroup is, but from reading you for many years, I believe that saving money for the future is a core feature of your identity, along with many other things. Your commitment to your wife’s culture seems central as well. My guess is that your out group does not value saving.

  27. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    17. December 2019 at 15:34

    You may be right about my autistic view of politics, which I read as “being able to see through framing effects”. That’s something you most certainly can’t do.

    Scott, yes, sure, you can think that. But it’s actually about your context blindness. Your inability to see the big picture. Your inability to think politically. Your colleague Tyler Cowen has this ability, check him out now and then, you can still learn a lot from him in this area.

    Don’t be so arrogant and think that you are the only one who can see through something as simple as a framing effect.

    I always judge politics by what it is supposed to achieve and by what it ultimately does, independently from the people behind it. It could have been Hillary who waged the trade war, I don’t care at all, my evaluations would not change. I also have enough examples in my mind where I think Trump has done things that are that are not particularly wise (to put it mildly). I just don’t have to publish a blog entry about it every week to signal my environment what a great guy I am after all.

  28. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    17. December 2019 at 15:59

    The word from Tyler Cowen, regarding that Sino-US trade deal:

    “The key here is to set aside your political views, and spend a lot of time talking with national security people.”

    Sure, I’ll stroll through the Pentagon for the next few weeks, and inveigle passerby into conversation.

    We are seeing a fascinating tension between the national military and intelligence apparatus, which has a stake in amplifying fears about national security, and the multinationals, who want access to the cheap manufacturing platform run by the Communist Party of China, and China’s growing consumer market.

    Curiously, I think Trump’s stated goal of a lowered national current account trade deficit is a worthy one, and in fact is even backed by the International Monetary Fund which has advocated the US cut its current account trade deficit in half, at least for starters.

  29. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    18. December 2019 at 09:25

    I guess to be a good utilitarian you shouldn’t have an outgroup. But it does raise the question of what to do with the fact people get utils from feeling like they belong to an exclusive group.

  30. Gravatar of Negation of Ideology Negation of Ideology
    18. December 2019 at 15:16

    “SS outgroup is the willfully uninformed/unresearched. ”

    Examples of uninformed include the authors of this hilarious article:


    “But bringing back an asteroid of this value could completely wipe out our global economy.”

    I don’t know if the authors are in Scott’s outgroup or not.

Leave a Reply