When even the toilets don’t work

Eighteen months after leaving office, I don’t recall continuing to see 3 or 4 Gerald Ford stories a day in the media. But Trump is not a Ford-like mediocrity, he’s special. The news media is now like one of those TV black comedies (say Better Call Saul), except it’s real life:

An apparel company known for inflammatory apparel championing the Second Amendment and Donald Trump has been fined after the Federal Trade Commission found the company falsely claimed its imported apparel is made in the U.S.

Utah-based Lions Not Sheep and its owner, SeanWhalen, were slapped with a $211,335 fine last week after the FTC found the company removed “Made in China” tags, replacing them with fake “Made in the USA” labels, according to a FTC news release.

Or how about this:

President Donald Trump once told a top adviser that he wanted “totally loyal” generals like the ones who had served Adolf Hitler — unaware that some of Hitler’s generals had tried to assassinate the Nazi leader several times, according to a new book about the Trump presidency.

Trump complained to John Kelly, then his chief of staff and a retired Marine Corps general, “why can’t you be like the German generals?” according to “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021” by journalists Peter Baker and Susan Glasser.

When Kelly asked which generals he meant, Trump replied: “The German generals in World War II.”

It’s absurd when people compare Trump to Hitler. The German Führer had much more loyal generals.

Or how about this:

Trump had been bothered by a picture he saw of the teenaged children of Kleefisch and state Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn attending prom together, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Hagedorn is a conservative who sided with the court’s liberals on various 2020 election-related cases.

So let me get this straight. Trump hates the former Republican lieutenant governor because her children once went to a prom with the children of a conservative judge who failed to rule his way on an election case? I always knew Trumpism was a personality cult, but this is a North Korean level of paranoia.

And this:

“Here’s some reporting from the book’s later years — White House residence staff periodically found papers had clogged a toilet, leaving staff believing Trump had flushed material he’d ripped into pieces.”

And this from the Donald himself:

After all these years, Trump has now come around to my view. When the Donald and I look at America, we see exactly the same thing:

When even the toilets are all clogged up, then you know you are not in a first world country.

I look forward to 6 1/2 more years of this reality TV show.

PS. So I see that lots of Republicans now wish to defund the (federal) police. But they wish to do so for totally different reasons from those of the left. The left wants to defund the police because the police abuse people in the left political coalition. In contrast, the right wants to defund the police because the police abuse people in the right political coalition.



36 Responses to “When even the toilets don’t work”

  1. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    9. August 2022 at 11:24

    In fairness to the left, not all the “defund the police” advocates favor complete defunding, though using the slogan is still stupid. And those who do want to completely defund police departments make up a pretty small, though loud portion of the left.

    I think the portion of the right who would choose Trump over the rule of law is significantly larger than that on the left that favors defunding police.

    That’s not to defend defunding the police, no matter the reasoning. It’s an extraordinarily dumb idea. Lowering funding would make sense if we cut down the number of laws to enforce, however. For example, repeal anti-vice laws.

  2. Gravatar of MSS1914 MSS1914
    9. August 2022 at 11:51

    I realize that James Madison is a well-known founding father, but he is still underrated. If America avoids becoming a true banana republic in the coming years, it will largely be due to the ideas Madison laid out in Federalist 10 and were adopted in the constitution.

    I’m pessimistic about the future of this country, but I hold out hope that Madison was right that diffusing power between the federal government and the states, in addition to diffusing it within the federal government, offered the best long-term protection against tyranny.

    (PS. the founding father that everybody loves these days seems to be Hamilton. His model of government, which was to abolish the states and have the federal government hold all powers of sovereignty, would have been a disaster multiple times in our history – including the Trump presidency)

  3. Gravatar of Sarah Sarah
    9. August 2022 at 12:08

    X person wrote a book and claims this happened; y person writes a book and says this happened.

    No testimony under oath. No cross examination. No hard evidence.

    You are like Amber Heard’s pathetic, third-rate, low budget, attorney. Saul Goodman would destroy you in court, because you continue to make false claims predicated upon what someone out there is saying about someone else. You have no idea if its true.

    Hearsay is not evidence. Only totalitarian creeps say it is. These folks generally pretend they “know what you are thinking”, and try to impeach you because they “know what you are thinking”. You are in CCP /Soviet Union territory now.

  4. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    9. August 2022 at 13:04

    Goodman vs Sumner could be a great comedy.

    Sumner: Trump loves Hitler. He is a Nazi.
    Goodman: How do you figure?
    Sumner: An advisor fired by Trump wrote a book in which he states that Trump wants “loyal” generals like Hitler.
    Goodman: Judge, it should be clear that Mr. Sumner has no evidence. His only charge is a disgruntled adviser, who was fired, and who wrote a for profit book making wild accusations. It’s not uncommon to make things up if it means selling more books.
    Judge: Mr. Sumner, do you have any other evidence that Trump is a totalitarian Nazi?
    Sumner: Bolton. Bolton told me that he wants the CCP to kill more Uighers.
    Goodman: Objection, who the hell is Bolton.
    Sumner: Another adviser.
    Goodman: Was he also fired?
    Sumner: Yes.
    Goodman: So two disgruntled employees write for profit books netting them millions after they were fired. These two men have a history of making false statements. They are known for having poor reputations. And this is all you have? This is what you bring to court?
    Judge: Do you have any other evidence Sumner.
    Sumner: I know what he’s thinking.
    Goodman: Objection, how does this man possibly know what someone else is thinking.
    Judge: Sustained. Sumner I must ask you to refrain from lying. What else do you have?
    Sumner: I have superior intelligence. I’m better than everyone. I’m smarter than everyone. I’m the greatest person in the world. I tell myself that everyday in front of the mirror. I’m what the government calls a “trusted expert”.
    Judge: Anything else Sumner?
    Sumner: I don’t like him.
    Judge: I see.
    Sumner: He’s a loser.
    Judge: Okay.
    Sumner: He doesn’t treat woman with respect.
    Judge: Interesting, but where is the evidence he’s a totalitarian Nazi.
    Sumner: I just told you.
    Judge: That is not evidence. What else?
    Sumner: Goddamit. You are all Nazi’s.
    Judge: Don’t raise your voice in this courtroom, and do not use profanity either.
    Sumner: You are a Nazi.
    Judge: You said that.
    Sumner: Nazi.
    Goodman: Your honor, I have more important things to do, can we please wrap this up.
    Sumner: Nazi.
    Judge: Case dismissed.
    Sumner: Nazi.
    Judge: Sumner I will not tolerate that kind of —
    Sumner: Nazi. I’m a trusted expert. Trusted I say.
    Judge: Get him out of here.
    Sumner: Nazi. Nazi. Nazi.
    Judge: drag him out of you have too.
    Sumner: Trusted Expert. Nazi. Nazi. Nazi. Expert. Trusted. Trust me. You are all beneath me. I’m better than you. Expert.

  5. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    9. August 2022 at 13:26

    Andrew C. McCarthy:


    “Trump raid not about classified documents — it’s about Jan. 6”

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. August 2022 at 13:44

    I’m surprised by how many commenters don’t understand when I’m joking.

    Maybe I’ll try again.

  7. Gravatar of Rajat Rajat
    9. August 2022 at 13:51

    The bipartisan desire to defund police reminds me a bit of the bipartisan desire to regulate big tech. The left supports the American Innovation and Choice Online Bill because it will regulate the behaviour big tech platforms towards smaller firms while the right supports it because it could limit platforms’ content moderation policies: https://truthonthemarket.com/category/administrative/truth-on-the-market/

  8. Gravatar of David S David S
    9. August 2022 at 14:26

    I’m inspired by the unity displayed by the Republicans on this matter. Christopher Wray is a dangerous, politically motivated loose cannon–a classic Deep State sociopath who owns a stake in Satanic pizza parlors that traffic children and provide abortion medication. Who hired this nut to run the FBI? We need an investigation.

    I bet the raid turned up Hillary’s email server.

  9. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. August 2022 at 14:37

    Rajat, Excellent analogy.

  10. Gravatar of Aladdin Aladdin
    9. August 2022 at 15:28


    It appears that every single advisor Trump hired is a vicious liar that hates Trump. I mean they all said the same thing. Every book on the matter says exactly the same thing. And Trump didn’t even deny any of it!

  11. Gravatar of John S John S
    10. August 2022 at 05:16

    Off-topic: Are you watching Better Call Saul? Just wondering, since you said you didn’t like Breaking Bad.

    Even if it’s not your cup of tea, I think the combined 12 seasons of BB + BCS is the best American TV series ever. The Sopranos is mentioned a lot, but I don’t think it’s even close (the last few seasons were dreck).

    Re: Trump — by actuarial tables, there’s around a 10% chance he’d die before being inaugurated in 2025. If that did happen, how do you think it would affect the bananafication of the republic?

  12. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2022 at 08:23

    John, Yes, I’ve been watching BCS. The first season was good. After that just OK.

    Twin Peaks was the best TV series, nothing else comes close.

    “how do you think it would affect the bananafication of the republic?”

    Not at all. This isn’t about Trump. It’s about the country.

  13. Gravatar of John S John S
    10. August 2022 at 10:56

    Ok, so what factors of the country are causing bananafication? Any guesses at all?

    It’s been a long time since I saw Twin Peaks. But I do recall that it was quite short. I think the best TV differs from the best films in the sense that quantity matters a lot. While TP may indeed have higher “peaks” (sry), I’m pretty sure the total amount of entertainment I got from BB + BCS is much higher. I guess it’s like “Who’s better, Koufax or Carlton?”

    Btw, if you’re looking for a short series, you might try Happy Valley (UK). I think it’s better than the HBO remake, Mare of Easttown (which was also very good). You might need subtitles; I had trouble understanding some of the northern English slang.

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2022 at 14:29

    John, I don’t know what’s causing bananafication. One factor might be fading memories of WWII and the Cold War, and another might be the weakening of the power of the elite media (due to cable TV, the internet, etc.)

    I can’t even imagine a US politician defending nationalism back in the 1960s, when the term was associated with the fascists we had fought in WWII.

    Twin Peaks is 48 episodes, not much different from BCS. But you are right that it has peaks and valleys—the best parts are directed by David Lynch.

    I’m not looking for more TV series; I’m trying to avoid being roped into watching TV series. I much prefer films.

  15. Gravatar of John S John S
    11. August 2022 at 03:40

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the possible causes.

    Yes, I think the devolution of media power has played a big part, as people like Martin Gurri (Revolt of the Public) and Jonathan Haidt have emphasized. Trump certainly couldn’t have won in the 80s.

    As for WWII/Cold War distance, I think it’s more than just fading memories — precisely because of the decades-long nuclear stalemate, today’s public feels almost 100% certain that a recurrence of nationalist Great Power wars is impossible. In the 60s, I suspect the general mood was far more skittish due to being in uncharted waters and the ongoing “limited” wars in Asia.

    So in game theory terms, WWIII is no longer a credible threat in the minds of most voters, many of whom now feel it’s safe to indulge in nationalistic impulses. Similarly, an opportunistic candidate was able to “bluff” with impunity (w/o being “called” by a risk-averse public, which no longer cares) by using nationalist rhetoric to court the ever-present nationalist segment (even back in 92, Perot get 19% via pure economic nationalism).

    I guess my question is this (and I’m genuinely, honestly not trying to be a jerk): what’s the point of these banana republic posts? I clearly see the goal of your monetary policy posts; I’m sure they have had more than a small impact on Fed policy over the past decade. You are doing the Lord’s work. But w.r.t. politics, you seem to believe the banana is so baked into the cake that even Trump’s passing couldn’t remove it. So what’s the motivation? Venting? “I told you so?” Self-amusement? Please help me to understand.

    Re: TV — I forgot about the Twin Peaks add-on season, good catch. But I consider BB/BCS (plus the movie El Camino) to be one long series of 125 episodes, since BCS is too tightly linked to call it a spin-off. Anyway, I won’t mention other series.

  16. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    11. August 2022 at 03:57

    “The left wants to defund the police because the police abuse people in the left political coalition. In contrast, the right wants to defund the police because the police abuse people in the right political coalition.”

    There’s a difference between the abuses claimed, e.g., killing people v. investigating people.

  17. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    11. August 2022 at 07:46

    A recession isn’t a recession.
    A raid isn’t a raid.
    A man is a woman, and a woman is a man.
    Pedophilia is now a “sexual preference”, not a crime.
    A man can be pregnant.
    All white people are oppressors.

    If you are part of the “establishment” you can acid wash your hard drive, enrich yourself by sitting on the boards of corrupt foreign corporations, launch a billion dollar hedge fund despite having no financial track record, establish an NGO that pockets 78% of its donations, and of course the mainstream media will ignore it.

    But if you are not with the party, your house will be raided, your wife’s underwear will be sniffed by a pair of dorky, nerdy, woke, low IQ agents, and nobody will no what the hell they are looking for three days after. You will also be called a misogynist, a racist, a xenophobe and a Nazi.

    Judges are corrupt. (at least the judge who issued the warrant)
    Media is corrupt.
    Sumner is corrupt.
    NATO is corrupt.
    UN is corrupt.
    The establishment party is a corrupt.

    We are beyond a banana republic. A banana republic is weak and pathetic country that is horribly corrupt at home but has no influence abroad.

    We, on the other hand, are a mentally sick, totalitarian country, with the power to crush every other country in the world except for perhaps China who is even worse!

    Scary! REALLY SCARY!

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. August 2022 at 08:47

    John, Does anyone actually know their motivation? Obviously I enjoy writing them. Whether they have any effect is hard to say. I doubt it.

    BTW, it isn’t just the US; most of the world is trending this way. It is THE story of the 21st century. Why wouldn’t I be talking about it?

    Foosion, That makes my point even stronger, doesn’t it?

    Sara, LOL. How about: “And Putin isn’t a warmongering dictator.” That’s your view, right?

  19. Gravatar of John S John S
    11. August 2022 at 11:34

    “It is THE story of the 21st century. Why wouldn’t I be talking about it?”

    Yes, I get why you would write about it. But what I don’t understand is the fatalism. You said above that Trump keeling over today wouldn’t affect bananafication at all. In another post, you wrote that the world seems destined to repeat the great wars of the 20th century. Even if you’re right (which is certainly possible, if current trends continue), I’m left with a feeling of “Ok, so now what?”

    Other bloggers/writers who touch on these issues are at least putting out some proposals to address them. Haidt has written some Atlantic articles on the need for preemptive restrictions on social media to prevent further polarization. On war, Noah Smith’s latest message seems to be “Get Ready” (e.g. use industrial policy to reshore high-tech manufacturing). I’m still undecided on these suggestions, but I appreciate their efforts.

    You wrote that you’re not sure if these posts “have any effect.” But it’s quite difficult for me to figure out what “having an effect” would even mean from your point of view. For macroeconomic stability, you promote NGDPLT. When you’ve addressed climate change, you’ve endorsed carbon taxes as part of the solution. So what are the corresponding ideas for reversing bananafication? Or do we just pass the time with sudoku and crosswords until doomsday?

    I know it’s unfair for me to demand a tidy solution to a set of very complex problems. But I respect your thinking on a broad range of issues, so it would be nice to see a somewhat deeper discussion of these issues besides — apologies — the daily dose of misery porn. For example, Kling doesn’t put out many solutions on his blog either, but he does put a lot of effort into describing and creating the conditions that could lead to potential solutions.

    Sorry for the rant. But I wouldn’t comment if I weren’t a fan of the blog.

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. August 2022 at 11:44

    John, On war, I’ve suggested that we move toward freer trade and more openness to immigration. I’ve argued that the cold war with China is a big mistake, making war more likely. I’ve argued we should be doing more to help Ukraine, as Russia is the biggest threat to world peace. So I’ve had plenty to say on how to arrest the drive toward WWIII.

    I don’t use social media, so it would be silly for me to offer suggestions in that area.

    I’ve had many posts on process, the need for both sides to avoid cutting corners to achieve their objectives, whether that be discouraging people from voting or packing the Court.

    When a politician is caught lying about something consequential, that should end their political career. Our standards for politicians are much too low.

    Not sure what more you want me to do.

  21. Gravatar of Phil H Phil H
    12. August 2022 at 04:35

    I’m still more optimistic than you, for more cynical reasons. I don’t think Trump will be re-elected because the media will have found a new toy by then. He’s not fun any more.

  22. Gravatar of John S John S
    12. August 2022 at 06:46

    First, I’m sorry for coming across as being uncharitable w.r.t. your idea generation ability, and it’s entirely my fault since I’m very bad at communicating in this medium.

    (It occurs to me now that, b/c of the unspoken context in the head of each party and the lack of facial/verbal cues, conversing via blog comments is like two people playing catch while throwing with their off-arms — it’s more remarkable when the ball ends up in someone’s glove than when it doesn’t.)

    Let me back up and provide some more context to what I’m trying to say.

    If I were to ask you, “What’s the best way to prevent recessions?” you could tell me a convincing story about hot-potatoes, cash balances, sticky wages/debt, SRAS, and musical chairs. This story would explain a wide range of macroeconomic episodes as well as suggest a remedy, stabilizing the growth of NGDP.

    To a layman like me, this proposal is credible not so much due to its internal logic but primarily b/c of the accompanying story’s explanatory power (i.e. “predicting the past”). The story is both elegant and highly nuanced — it can tell me what other stories miss and even why one solution (NGDPLT) is preferable to another (inflation-targeting).

    On the other hand, if I were to ask you, “What’s the best way to keep nationalism from fouling up domestic and international politics?” you might give me a list of ideas such as in the previous comment, but I can’t give them much credence b/c there is no accompanying story of how we got into this mess in the first place.

    Indeed, I asked you directly a few months ago and this week what factors are fueling global and domestic nationalism, and both times you essentially answered, “I don’t know.” You even wrote an entire post (“What happened to good news?”) describing your bewilderment at how we got here in spite of decades of neoliberal reforms.

    I realize, of course, that you are not a political scientist, and I don’t expect you to have the political equivalent of the musical chairs model in your back pocket. But I think you will agree with me that a key step — perhaps the key step — to solving a problem is to thoroughly understand what caused the problem in the first place. As you stated elsewhere, Trumpism is now a problem which has outgrown Trump. But I don’t think there can be an effective response to Trumpism w/o understanding what led to it, and I don’t recall seeing any discussion of that question on this blog.

    So in response to “not sure what more you want me to do,” I say: perhaps there should be more reflection on what’s causing Trumpism in addition to focusing on its negative effects.

    (Again, sorry to seem like I’m picking on this blog. My main motivation is that I, too, wonder what has happened to good news.)

  23. Gravatar of John S John S
    12. August 2022 at 07:17

    I’ve had many posts on process, the need for both sides to avoid cutting corners to achieve their objectives, whether that be discouraging people from voting or packing the Court.

    This is interesting, I guess I missed these posts. I will keep an eye out for these in the future.

    When a politician is caught lying about something consequential, that should end their political career.

    This is admirable, but it seems rather platitudinous. How could it be implemented?

    I’ve argued we should be doing more to help Ukraine

    I searched, but I couldn’t find a clear statement about this (my Google-fu needs work). What exactly are your suggestions?

  24. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. August 2022 at 07:39

    John, You said:

    “I guess I missed these posts.”

    Keep in mind that this is my bad blog. All my good posts are at Econlog.

    “How could it be implemented?”

    By voters.

    “What exactly are your suggestions?”

    Send more effective weapons to Ukraine. Drive down the price of oil and gas. (The later can be done in many ways. Remove the trade embargo on Iran. Put tariffs on Russian oil. Restart nuclear power plants.

    The attack should have been viewed as another Pearl Harbor. The US and EU should have woken up and gone into overdrive helping Ukraine.

    As far as your first comment, keep in mind that almost the entire world is swinging in a nationalist direction. That suggests very deep seated causes that are hard to address. Whenever some tells you that X caused Trumpism, ask them if it also caused the same thing in Brazil, India, Hungary, China, Turkey, Russia and a host of other countries.

    For instance, Brexit is part of the trend, but resentment about free trade is simply not a factor in the UK. Worries about immigration are not a big factor in Brazil or Russia or China or India. But it is in Hungary. So what’s the underlying factor?

    It’s the zeitgeist—and there’s no easy answer.

  25. Gravatar of John S John S
    12. August 2022 at 10:34

    “All my good posts are at Econlog.”

    I skim most of your Econlog posts. Could you give me the link or keywords for one of these process posts so I can search for it?

    “By voters.”

    This is like a new head coach saying, “We’re going to win by playing harder.” It’s a non-answer; if we could rely on voters to weed out all dishonest and venal politicians, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Re: Ukraine, oil/gas — these are reasonable ideas, esp. expanding nuclear power. Not sure how much of an impact they would have on the final outcome.

    “The attack should have been viewed as another Pearl Harbor.”

    Given that Ukraine has already been attacked, what should the US stand be on Taiwan?

    “the entire world is swinging in a nationalist direction. That suggests very deep seated causes that are hard to address. Whenever some tells you that X caused Trumpism, ask them if it also caused the same thing in…. there’s no easy answer.”

    This is why I narrowed my question from the world to Trumpism. An explanation that covered all countries would be ideal, but even a US-centered story would be useful for two reasons:

    1. It could serve as a building block for a global theory.

    2. As citizens of the US, we (you and most readers of this blog) have an infinitesimal impact on domestic politics, but we truly have zero influence on other countries.

    And even if there is no easy answer, there does lately seem to be an absolute tidal wave of research coming out on global populism (e.g. “National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy”). Perhaps a book review could lead to an interesting discussion. Also, IIRC Haidt’s research shows growing polarization in many countries along two distinct “moral foundations” profiles; maybe social media is allowing these groups to coalesce in new ways.

    So while it will be hard to uncover the underlying factors of the global story, I don’t think it’s impossible. It’s taken 90 years to refine fiat monetary theory — I doubt it will take that long, and the stakes are higher.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. August 2022 at 13:44

    John, You said:

    “This is like a new head coach saying, “We’re going to win by playing harder.””

    When someone tells me my solution is unlikely to be implemented, that doesn’t mean there is an alternative feasible solution—it might mean that things are hopeless. Is that your view?

    As for Taiwan, I favor a similar approach to Ukraine. If they are attacked, supply weapons but don’t get our military directly involved. But I see Russia as the bigger threat, as they have designs on many countries. Taiwan is technically part of China

    BTW, I expect the Taiwan situation to play our very differently from Ukraine.

    I also have trouble finding my old posts, but here’s one example:


  27. Gravatar of John S John S
    12. August 2022 at 16:01

    “When someone tells me my solution is unlikely to be implemented”

    But you didn’t offer a solution. When I asked how your proposal to end the careers of politicians who lie about consequential issues could be implemented, you cryptically answered “by voters.” Surely I don’t have to explain how this doesn’t answer my question; for one thing, how is it to be decided if something is “consequential?” But I don’t want to get bogged down in word games — it’s a waste of time.

    “it might mean that things are hopeless. Is that your view?”

    No, that’s not my view. I think there are potential reforms which, while falling short of eliminating all lying politicians (too high a bar), could foster more competition and less polarization in elections. For example, Andrew Yang’s Forward Party is pushing “Final Five Voting,” a ranked choice system with two stages:

    1. Single-ballot primary with all candidates (regardless of party), open to all voters (party registered or not)

    2. General election of top 5 vote-getters, with ranked-choice voting determining the winner (first over 50% as last-place candidates are eliminated one by one)

    Final Five would greatly improve access for Independents and force candidates to appeal to the center of the electorate from the start, rather than being cloistered in party primaries. It would also give minority parties a more realistic path to exposure and growth, since they wouldn’t have to pass through the party primary bottleneck to reach the general election.


    The best thing is that this idea isn’t a pipe dream; Alaska just held its first ranked choice House election (Top 4, not 5) yesterday after passing the reform in 2020. (Yang is helping to push a similar initiative in Nevada.)

    Re: no direct military involvement in Taiwan — I heartily applaud your open-mindedness on this issue. I’m not sure if I agree (it’s a complicated issue), but I think all options need to be considered. (Esp. since I feel an invasion is increasingly likely; Metaculus has it at 40% by 2035, fwiw.)

    The court-packing post seems to have promoted a nice discussion in comments, which I think is great (I don’t know enough abt the Court to have an opinion). I do find your short comment that the problem lies in banana republic culture rather than a BR system to be extremely intriguing. I hope someday you’ll expand this into a full-length post.

  28. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. August 2022 at 10:53

    John, I’m not opposed to voting reform, but when the culture is rotten to the core then papering over the problems with reforms won’t do much to help. Voters need to make better decisions.

    As far as Taiwan, there is only one thing of which I am certain. It makes no sense to refrain from using our military in Ukraine while using it in Taiwan. Maybe use it in both places. Maybe in neither. But the case for US military involvement is an order of magnitude greater in Ukraine than Taiwan.

    But the actual motivations here have little to do with national security. The US government is hell bent on starting a cold war with China, which they view as a threat to our status as number one.

  29. Gravatar of John S John S
    13. August 2022 at 15:31

    “when the culture is rotten to the core”

    Wow, I am very surprised by the intensity of your feelings on this subject. What specific examples do you have in mind?

    “Voters need to make better decisions.”

    Yes, but as the saying goes, “Incentives matter.” W/o any changes to the structure of incentives — for voters and esp. candidates — I see no reason to expect a change for the better.

    Ex: All NBA fans hate foul-baiting, but as long as it worked, no amount of complaining could make it stop. But once the refs actually started to enforce the league’s “points of emphasis” (as they did for the first couple months of last year), the grifting quickly dried up.


  30. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. August 2022 at 08:56

    “What specific examples do you have in mind?”

    The GOP is in the process of purging anyone with an ounce of integrity, and replacing those people with demagogues. On the left, you have the woke madness.

    The betting market favorite for 2024 is an authoritarian leader who tried to abolish democracy in America.

    You don’t think we have a major problem?

  31. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    14. August 2022 at 09:04

    John, This sort of thing is increasing common:


  32. Gravatar of John S John S
    14. August 2022 at 10:46

    “You don’t think we have a major problem?”

    Of course I think there’s a major problem, that’s the point of this entire conversation. (Once again, we’re playing catch with wrong-handed gloves.)

    The phrase “the culture is rotten to the core” could be interpreted in numerous ways, so I wanted to drill down exactly what you meant before proceeding.

    Now that I know you’re specifying the current (anything-but-normal) norms of political behavior, let me ask again: Given the pathology driving abhorrent behavior on the left and (much more so) on the right, why would voters suddenly start to “make better decisions” as you suggest?

    Or do you think the situation is hopeless? (I really can’t tell from your responses.)

    This is why I believe trying to uncover the roots of the current mess is so vital. And I think it’s quite plausible that the closed primary system, which forces candidates to cater to the whims of the most extreme members of both parties, is one of those roots.

    (You might ask why this wasn’t a problem in the past. Well, to some extent it was; by many measures, polarization has gotten much worse since the 90s. Limbaugh and Fox News surely played large roles, but social media has likely been the primary accelerant over the last decade. I know little about foreign systems, but I do believe the UK still uses FPTP, which allows for plurality rather than majority wins — also not ideal. Final Five would help there as well.)

    Don’t you think it’s reasonable to expect that nonpartisan open primaries would make it much more difficult for extremist candidates to get through to general elections (where they often face far less resistance)?

    I don’t think Final Five is a silver bullet, but I’d rather support a good idea now than wait too long for a perfect one. If you have a better solution I’m all ears, but I don’t put much faith in passively waiting for voters to “make better decisions” on their own.

  33. Gravatar of John S John S
    14. August 2022 at 10:54

    Here’s an interview with Katherine Gehl, who I believe is the originator of Final Five Voting (with Michael Porter).


    Key quotes:

    “Our free market system continues to deliver innovation, results, and accountability. We don’t have much of that in our political system because… we have an anti-competitive market and unhealthy competition in our political system.”

    “What is better than two [parties] is what we call in business the threat of new entrants, this mechanism that pushes marketplaces to do better for customers. We need this in our political system.”

  34. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    14. August 2022 at 17:42

    @John S:

    Just want to say I really enjoyed reading your posts in this thread, well reasoned, good questions, openness and good ideas. I wish all blog discussions were like this. Won’t speak for ssumner but yes he does seem to feel things are pretty hopeless. He often describes himself as a grumpy old-ish man.

    And I love the Final 5 idea, and I’m rooting for Yang’s new party. So many people complain about how bad the 2 party duopoly is, how crappy the candidates are, how they want a moderate party not beholden to their respective nutty wings, and then when someone tries like Yang they get laughed at.


    Just want to say you’re the best blogger on the net, even when we don’t agree you make reasonable opinions.

  35. Gravatar of John S John S
    15. August 2022 at 05:28


    Thanks, I enjoyed the dialogue as well.

    I’m glad you like Final Five, I think it has tremendous potential. However, I now wonder if Yang is the best spokesman for it. I saw a recent interview he did on CNN where he was absolutely incapable of giving direct answers** to yes/no questions abt whether the Forward Party would play a spoiler role in 2024.

    He should have adamantly stated that Forward has no plans to nominate a pres candidate in 2024 and furthermore that Final Five prevents third-party candidates from being spoilers (e.g. if ranked-choice had been used in FL in 2020, the majority of Nader’s 97,000 votes would have gone to Gore, which would put him comfortably ahead of Bush who won by just 537).

    Fortunately, Final Five is bigger than Yang, and there are a lot of encouraging signs (I hope NV passes it in Nov).

    ** I’ll play armchair pscyh (based on a theory I saw on Reddit): I think Yang might be completely burned out emotionally at this point. He has said that he’s a natural introvert, so I can’t imagine how tough it was for him to go from having an email list to appearing on Joe Rogan and making 100s of campaign stops before appearing on the nat’l Dem debate stage (not to mention his NYC mayoral campaign, when he was viciously attacked by the NY press). Speaking as an introverted person myself, I’m sure that much rapid stress and exposure would leave me in a wheelchair babbling at the TV.

    Yang’s got a good heart, but I think he should take a step back and let another Forward member like fmr Rep. David Jolly (R, FL) or fmr. Gov. Christine Whitman (R, NJ) do most of the media appearances.

  36. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    15. August 2022 at 19:22

    I don’t think things are completely hopeless, but I’d say they are very unlikely to improve much in the next few years. Longer term, who can say.

    Maybe those voting reforms would help a little, but I doubt they’d be game changers.

    When I first began suggesting America was becoming a banana republic, Republican commenters said I was hysterical. Now they are using the same phrase. That’s progress. The first step to reform is admitting that you have a problem.

Leave a Reply