Why modern leftism and modern conservatism are both evil

During the 1990s, neither leftism nor conservatism were evil. Now they both are. How did this happen? Let’s start with leftism:

During the 1980s and the 1990s, neoliberal policy reforms led to the greatest improvement in human welfare in global history. Indeed nothing else even comes close. Billions of people moved out of extreme poverty. And no, don’t tell me that “correlation doesn’t prove causation”. The neoliberal policy reforms actually caused the sharp reduction in extreme poverty, and places that didn’t reform (like North Korea) remained mired in misery while reformers like India and China and Bangladesh saw huge reductions in poverty.

To modern leftists, ‘neoliberalism’ is a dirty word. A very bad thing. Perhaps the greatest evil of the modern world. Any ideology that views the most wonderful thing that ever happened in the past 4.6 billion years as being a great curse is a truly evil ideology.

Of course left-wingers won’t go down without a fight, and they try to concoct arguments in defense of their peculiar views. “Of course we all agree that markets must play a role, it’s just about market fundamentalism”. Oh really? Just where are the market fundamentalists screwing things up?

The most neoliberal regime in Europe is Switzerland. Did they go too far? Would they be better off like the least neoliberal regime (Greece)?

The most neoliberal regimes in Asia are Hong Kong and Singapore. Would they be better off with a mixed economy like Vietnam or China?

The most neoliberal regime in Latin America is Chile. Would they be better off with the sort of Latin American regimes frequently praised by Sanders and Corbyn?

The most neoliberal regime in North America is Canada. Would they be better off with the Mexican regime? Here you might argue that the US (lower in the Heritage rankings and higher in the Fraser rankings) is more neoliberal than Canada. On health care yes, but not on many other issues. In any case, if the US is such a neoliberal hellhole, why do so many people want to move here?

The most neoliberal regimes in Africa are Rwanda and Botswana (and Mauritius, if that’s considered Africa). Would they be better off with Zimbabwe’s socialistic “land reform”?

The most neoliberal regimes in Oceania are Australia and New Zealand. How many better places to live are there in the entire world?

So where are all these regimes that “went too far”. Maybe the US on healthcare, but even our health care system is pretty socialist, with government spending on healthcare at higher levels than in Europe as a share of GDP. It’s just extraordinarily inefficient socialism.

As I look around the world, I see countries like Ethiopia moving toward freer markets, and that’s a good thing. I really don’t see any countries “going too far” toward free markets. If you find one, please let me know where it is. As far as welfare, even the more extreme neoliberals (Friedman, Hayek, etc.) never rejected a safety net, and more moderate neoliberals like Brad DeLong were even more supportive.

As bad as modern leftism is (and I haven’t even mentioned the fanatical “Chinese Cultural Revolution” aspect of modern PCism), it is still the lesser of evils when compared to modern conservatism.

During 2016, most thoughtful conservatives were appalled by Trump. Recall the “Against Trump” issue of the National Review, which laid out all their objections. Now conservatives (with a few lonely exception) have swallowed the kool-aid.

Conservatives often quibble that this isn’t really fascism, because no one is talking about eliminating elections and tearing up the Bill of Rights. True, and that’s certainly very important. But that merely means that we aren’t in the mid-20th century anymore. Today’s leftist aren’t going to kill millions of people and send even more to work in the countryside. They aren’t even going to nationalize big corporations and install Nixon-style wage/price controls on the entire economy. This isn’t the mid-20th century–I get that.

But in most other respects this is fascism, at least as I learned about it in high school. It’s authoritarian, exalting the power of the “great man” who is cruel (Putin, Kim, etc.) It blames our problems on unpopular minorities and foreigners. It’s deeply sexist, with more sympathy for men who are proven sexual predators than women who are victims. It engages in the big lie, day after day. It demonizes the media. It’s xenophobic, hostile to multinational institutions like NATO, the EU, the UN, the WTO, etc. It rejects modern science, and indeed any form of expertise, substituting a faith-based reality. It dismisses examples of police brutality against the poor, while whining when their own members are investigated for corruption.

Conservatives knew all this in 2016, when most preferred a more principled (or at least less unprincipled) conservative. Someone who believed that Congress should make decisions on federal spending, not the President. Now they’ve made a pact with the devil.

So I completely reject modern leftism and modern conservatism. I want nothing to do with either ideology. That doesn’t mean I reject the people–some of my best friends are conservatives and leftists. That’s fine, they are merely misguided. But their ideology is truly evil.

PS. Feel free to leave comments telling me that my ideology is also evil. I’m not a leftist or a fascist, so I won’t delete them.


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43 Responses to “Why modern leftism and modern conservatism are both evil”

  1. Gravatar of JG JG
    12. March 2019 at 15:01

    you are a utilitarian. By definition utilitarianism permits evil. Just relax and take it easy. You need some rest. JG

  2. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    12. March 2019 at 15:06

    I still think leftism is way more evil in reality. Modern conservatism is just bla bla, they don’t get anything done ever. It’s completely different with leftism. They actually get things done. A lot of things.

    I don’t think your ideology is evil. But Talleyrand might say: It’s worse than evil, it is naïve.

  3. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    12. March 2019 at 15:24

    Sigh, the fascism thing again. There are other forms of right wing authoritarianism and nationalist populism than fascism.

    At the heart of fascism is the fetishisation of violence and military virtues. That is why proper fascist movements have paramilitary wings and why fascism in power is destructive of international order.

    The “fascist! fascist!” game is all about moral grandstanding ( https://philarchive.org/rec/JUSMG ) and poisoning public debate via the status-mongering slur in replace of argument.

  4. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    12. March 2019 at 15:24

    Sigh, the fascism thing again. There are other forms of right wing authoritarianism and nationalist populism than fascism.

    At the heart of fascism is the fetishisation of violence and military virtues. That is why proper fascist movements have paramilitary wings and why fascism in power is destructive of international order.

    The “fascist! fascist!” game is all about moral grandstanding ( https://philarchive.org/rec/JUSMG ) and poisoning public debate via the status-mongering slur in replace of argument.

  5. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    12. March 2019 at 15:25

    Got no idea how I double posted. Should read: The “fascist! fascist!” point-and-shriek game is …”

  6. Gravatar of Russ Abbott Russ Abbott
    12. March 2019 at 15:42

    You don’t usually do this, but in this post you create extreme positions and then label them as if they represent the positions of large well-defined portions of the population. For example, Elizabeth Warren is generally considered to be relatively far left. Yet she agrees with most of neo-liberalism. On the other side, Republicans don’t have an ideology at all. They simply represent greed, either their own or that of their donors. They say whatever they think will further that objective. But what they say has nothing to do with what they believe or want to achieve.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. March 2019 at 16:23

    JG, I am extremely well rested.

    Lorenzo, They are certainly not fascist in all respects, but they are fascist in certain obvious ways.

    Russ, How often do people on the left use “neoliberalism” in anything but a negative fashion?

  8. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    12. March 2019 at 17:13

    There’s neoliberalism, the word, and neoliberalism, the policies. Politicians on the left might use the word as a dog whistle, but I don’t see them push away from actual neoliberal policies. Where the left has moved left in practice is social issues, and it’s a matter of debate whether that’s good or bad. The two major economic concerns of the left today are healthcare and the environment, and I don’t see them going in unreasonable places on either: If anything, I’d argue that leftist approaches to healthcare don’t go far enough on intervention.

    You could then argue that this is the equivalent of the Obama-era right, where people said things, and later we got a candidate that might mean them, but I’m not seeing anything like that yet.

  9. Gravatar of JG JG
    12. March 2019 at 18:16

    Scott is a very clever guy in a Trumpian sort of way. Look at the subterfuge in his comments and assumptions. I think he is an atheist; yet, he discerns good and evil like God. He doesn’t believe in objective truth; yet, he writes as if there is no truth outside his personal opinions. He accuses the right of being xenophobic and racist; yet, he lives in one of the whitest communities in OC and I presume is pro-choice. Abortion has resulted in the extermination of most black babies in NYC. On top of all the contradictions, why should I listed to anyone who doesn’t speak the truth?

  10. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    12. March 2019 at 18:53

    I agree with the thrust of this post, but this is just a canard:

    “The most neoliberal regimes in Asia are Hong Kong and Singapore.”

    Egads, where to start on Singapore? It is a dirigiste economy, and pro-business (often crony capitalist), but not pro-market and not “neoliberal.”

    The government if Singapore owns all the land in the city-state, built 80% of the housing, owns all the hospitals. Regulates much, including prices charged at food stalls. The Singapore government built an entire island, Jurong Island, where it houses petrochemical plants in which it is part-owner. The government owns Singapore Airlines and the airport—this list could be extended for pages.

    Here is an interesting paragraph from the peer-reviewed Singapore Economic Journal:

    “Singapore is known for strong government intervention [in the economy] while Hong Kong is famous for its positive non-intervention policy that minimizes the power of government in influencing the market. The comparison shows that innovation activities in Singapore are largely policy driven and dominated by big players, while in Hong Kong industry innovation is less active but the local industry has a dynamic innovation base contributed by small firms. Using a difference-in-differences analysis of USPTO patents filed by Singapore and Hong Kong, we find evidence for the effectiveness of government intervention on enhancing the technological significance and scope of innovation. The findings could shed light on the implication of government involvement in innovation.”

    —30—

    https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/respol/v47y2018i2p399-412.html

    here is another tidbit:

    “As a small city-state lacking in both natural resources and a
    hinterland, Singapore has from its independence relied on
    government policy interventions, whether to ensure efficient
    and functioning markets, grow and develop emerging industries
    and sectors, or attract major multinational corporations to
    supplement what was then a relatively weak domestic sector.
    This led to the characterisation of Singapore’s state-centric
    approach to economic governance as ‘Singapore, Inc’.”—-Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

    —30—

    I happen to prefer free markets for nation-sized nations, although tariffs might be worthy. But the citing of Singapore as an example of free markets at work is off-base. You know, like the dugouts are off-base. Or the parking lots.

    Singapore did what it had to do as a city-state, and it worked.

    But if Singapore is an example of the Shining City on the Hill, then the US should have a national industrial policy, and nationalized hospitals and healthcare, and a national housing program that builds 80% of the homes, among other examples.

    AOC loves Singapore!

  11. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    12. March 2019 at 19:21

    “while reformers like India and China and Bangladesh saw huge reductions in poverty”

    Far more men than just neoliberals advocated for India and China’s reform and opening up. BTW neoliberals also advocated the reform and opening up of the USSR, which had decidedly mixed effects.

    “Any ideology that views the most wonderful thing that ever happened in the past 4.6 billion years as being a great curse is a truly evil ideology.”

    This is dumb. Yes; neoliberalism did lead to improvements in Britain, Chile, etc. But it cannot hold the exclusive claim to originating those reforms. And, regardless, Yugoslavia and Hungary also grew fast under socialism.

    “The most neoliberal regime in Europe is Switzerland”

    Probably Denmark.

    “The most neoliberal regime in North America is Canada.”

    No; that’s unquestionably the USA. And MX, CA, US are all pretty neoliberal by world standards.

    Neoliberalism is not just “free markets”. In my opinion, it is somewhat worse than an actual free market.

    “During 2016, most thoughtful conservatives were appalled by Trump. Recall the “Against Trump” issue of the National Review, which laid out all their objections.”

    All of which were hypocritical.

    “It demonizes the media. It’s xenophobic, hostile to multinational institutions like NATO, the EU, the UN, the WTO, etc.”

    You are truly an idiot, Sumner. The only man in Congress who wants out of the UN is also by far its most libertarian on both social and economic issues. You fucking idiot. Also, comparing a truly multilateral institution like the UN to an imperialist one like NATO is insane. International organizations are, as a rule, no friends of freedom. The E.U. is a vampiric organization that has held back both economic and personal liberty.

    “It dismisses examples of police brutality against the poor, while whining when their own members are investigated for corruption.”

    There is nothing whatsoever wrong with this.

    “It blames our problems on unpopular minorities and foreigners.”

    Correctly.

    You are incredibly dumb.

  12. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    12. March 2019 at 19:23

    The only actual “fascism” in the world is in Brazil. And it’s turned pretty neoliberal.

  13. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    12. March 2019 at 19:29

    by “originating those reforms”, I meant the Chindian ones, not the Angl-Chilean ones.

  14. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    12. March 2019 at 23:57

    Interesting question:

    Singapore has a per capita GDP about 50% higher than that of the US.

    Here is a description of the Singapore economy and government from Singapore Management University, School of Economics:

    “Much has been written about the pervasive presence of the state in the Singapore economy and the various forms that government intervention in the economy takes.1 The government played a pivotal role not only in mapping out the strategic direction for the economy, but also in driving much of its structural transformation over the past 50 years. Hardly any major strategic or structural change in Singapore in the past five decades took place without the involvement of or a strong push from the government. Unlike other economies,
    the presence of the state (which includes not only the public sector but also the various statutory boards and government linked companies or GLCs) in the Singapore economy has remained pervasive over time, even as the economy became more mature and markets and institutions became more developed.”

    —30—

    So why don’t Western economists seize upon Singapore as a successful example of what a nation can do when it engages in national industrial policies, and nationalized health and housing markets?

    The Fraser and Heritage studies make no sense.

    Singapore also has a national policy if obtaining current-account trade surpluses.

    Is the best option for a nation a “pro business” government, but not a pro-market government, and one that actively aids business in reaching national goals?

    The Singapore model is interesting, but I think will not work in the USA. Although it is interesting that the US business sectors regarded as world class—defense/aerospace, medicine, agriculture, some tech—are heavily intertwined with government, even creatures of government.

    Just by chance?

  15. Gravatar of Uday Uday
    13. March 2019 at 00:56

    As usual, I agree with almost everything you said. I don’t like modern leftism and conservatism either and seeing people flock to these ideologies leaves a sick feeling in my stomach. My only minor objection is when you say that leftism is still the lesser of two evils when compared to modern conservatism (at least modern American conservatism); I’d argue it is the lesser of two evils *right now* with Trump in power and the GOP/conservative moment fully behind him. However the demographics do not favor this movement as it is mainly boomers and old retirees who will be dead within 20 years. On the other hand, leftists seem to populated by younger millenials who will be around for quite some time (unless they change their views). Over time, as the leftists start gaining more political clout, their awful ideas could turn the Democratic party into a leftist cult, the same way that authoritarian/fascist ideas turned the GOP into a Trump cult. AOC/Warren/Sanders are only the tip of the iceberg in the party. At least they haven’t chanted “Death to America” yet.

  16. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    13. March 2019 at 06:28

    Scott,

    +1

    Benjamin Cole,

    as usual on Singapore it’s hit and miss. Yes, housing is built to a large part by government – but the flats are sold to the occupants. Yes, industrial policy shaped Singapore much more than it shaped Hong Kong – yet, one’s the day to day experience is free-market in Singapore (and the economic results are remarkably parallel to Hong Kong). You want to open a business? Go right ahead, with few regulations to observe and government won’t tell you a thing. Top tax rate for individuals? 22% kicking in at incomes above ca. US$ 240,000. Corporate tax rate? 17%. You want to buy a private condo? Go right ahead if you have the cash. You want private health care? Tons of it available. etc. The point is, if you want to live outside the realms of government policy making, you can do so in Singapore, and the government lets you keep most of your income. Sounds pretty liberal to me, neo or otherwise.

  17. Gravatar of felix felix
    13. March 2019 at 09:40

    I advocate for free market socialism because worker cooperatives make more sense for most businesses. It’s the wealth-generating power of the free market combined with the wide distribution of equity of socialism. No state-controlled industry necessary

  18. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    13. March 2019 at 10:29

    The limits of US leftists’ compassion for the common man is revealed by their complete lack of interest in how the market economy just helped hundreds of millions of people escape poverty in Asia. It has no effect on their support for socialist and progressive policies.

    And, I agree that Trump is by nature a fascist. Many of my conservative friends will hold their noses and vote for him again, trusting to the strength of our institutions to survive him, happy that he reduced regulations and terrified of the increasing radicalism in the Democratic party. It’s a dangerous cycle. Trump’s divisive fascistic tendencies are increasing the power of the radical collectivists in the Democratic party.

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. March 2019 at 10:40

    Bob, I’ve never denied that in the 21st century almost nothing ever changes, in substantive terms. I am critiquing certain ideologies.

    JG, You said:

    “Scott is a very clever guy in a Trumpian sort of way. Look at the subterfuge in his comments and assumptions. I think he is an atheist; yet, he discerns good and evil like God. He doesn’t believe in objective truth; yet, he writes as if there is no truth outside his personal opinions. He accuses the right of being xenophobic and racist; yet, he lives in one of the whitest communities in OC and I presume is pro-choice. Abortion has resulted in the extermination of most black babies in NYC. On top of all the contradictions, why should I listed to anyone who doesn’t speak the truth?”

    Atheists cannot spot evil?
    Deniers of objective truth don’t have personal (subjective) views on truth?
    I’d much prefer to live in diverse LA, but I can’t afford this sort of house in that sort of area. We constantly have to drive up north to the “diverse areas” for dining and entertainment.
    You presume I have certain views on abortion, and then tell me what’s wrong with those views?

  20. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    13. March 2019 at 11:24

    I notice that Scott champions a lot of countries that subvert democracy. What to make of that?

  21. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    13. March 2019 at 12:20

    Scott,

    I think what I see is your peculiar philosophy about intensions at work here.
    I don’t see the anti-neoliberal left as evil. I see them as ill-informed. I do see the fascist right as evil, because they have evil intentions, in addition to being ill-informed.

    I think you only look at actions, which is a mistake, in my view. I think it led you to make some positive statements about people like Paul Ryan and Scott Brown, to list two examples, that don’t look so great in retrospect. I couldn’t stand either of them for many years, because I doubted their sincerity.

    Elizabeth Warren is very ignorant on economics, but I think she at least has some good intentions and is more principled.

    To further illustrate my point, you might enjoy this interview with Bill Gross about why he turned down Warren Buffett and Sam Walton for loans in the 70s. He discusses the importance of judging character in borrowers.

    Of course, one is always guessing about intentions and character, particularly with regard to public figures you don’t meet, but that doesn’t mean the speculation is useless.

  22. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    13. March 2019 at 12:29

    Scott,

    Is there a left-wing equivalent of your commenter Harding?

    Sure , Maduro’s evil, but not that’s because he’s a lying, anti-democratic crook who only seems concerned about holding onto power. That doesn’t describe many American leftists.

  23. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    13. March 2019 at 12:30

    That should read that Maduro is evil, because he’s a lying, anti-democratic crook.

  24. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    13. March 2019 at 13:18

    @Carl

    Trump’s divisive fascistic tendencies are increasing the power of the radical collectivists in the Democratic party.

    Omg, it’s exactly the other way round: The Democrats becoming extreme leftists is perfect for Trump.

    But this is not an automatism at all. Why would the Democrats have to move to the left because of Trump? This doesn’t make much sense. They would win the elections easily if they’d just move to the center. Let’s see if they manage to lose again, they are on a “good” path.

    @Michael Sandifer

    Maduro is evil, because he’s a lying, anti-democratic crook.

    You missed to add the usual left-wing denial: “This has nothing to do with socialism as at all”…

    I don’t see the anti-neoliberal left as evil. I see them as ill-informed. I do see the fascist right as evil, because they have evil intentions,

    Elizabeth Warren is very ignorant on economics, but I think she at least has some good intentions

    Every political side thinks of themselves has having only the best intentions. You must be really naïve (and/or blinded by political bias) to write something like that. Grab a basic work on the subject and read it.

  25. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    13. March 2019 at 13:24

    Lorenzo,

    Perhaps you missed Trump trying to organize military parades down Pennsylvania Avenue.

  26. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    13. March 2019 at 13:26

    Christian List,

    Socialism isn’t necessarily evil. Trying to force socialism on the majority of a population is. If voters vote for a democratic socialist system, it is evil, or merely misguided?

    The Bolsheviks were evil. Bernie Sanders is not.

    Fascism, on the other hand, celebrates authoritarianism and always involves attacks on democracy itself.

  27. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    13. March 2019 at 13:52

    Christian List:
    My point is that Trump’s fascistic tendencies embolden the far left and make it harder for the moderate Democrats to speak up for fear of being painted as collaborationists. It is far worse among Democrats to be seen as weak on Trump than to be seen as skeptical of the socialists.

  28. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    13. March 2019 at 14:12

    Carl,

    That is a good point. Trump has definitely increased polarization, feeding the fringe left.

  29. Gravatar of Zamba Zamba
    13. March 2019 at 14:23

    In Latin America everything that makes sense, even the sort of intelligent social-democracy of Scandinavia, is quickly labeled neoliberalism.

    – Let’s improve education
    – How?
    – What about a bonus for teacher performance linked to a standardized test.
    – Hell no! That’s neoliberalism. We need to pay better wages and make school easy so that students don’t feel discouraged.

    – Let’s tackle economic growth. We could open to trade, fix the draconian tax code, control deficits, etc…
    – Neoliberal… just free the Central Bank from banking capture and lower interest rates.

    – Let’s reduce the deficit so that interest payments fall both because of reduced equilibrium interest rate and reduced debt.
    – Neoliberal! Lower interest rates, now!

    – Let’s stop doing industrial policy, we are diverting capital that could be better allocated to inefficient firms.
    – Neoliberal, that’s a fairy tale… look at South Korea.

    – Maybe Educational Vou…
    (interrupts abruptly) – NOT ANY RIGHT LESS!!! NOT ANY RIGHT LESS!!!

    – Look, our pension system will consume 25% of GDP pretty soon. We need to reform it. Benefits for public employees are outrageous.
    – Tax the rich.

    – Our labor laws are inspired by Mussolini’s carta del lavoro and barely changed since 1940s. We need more flexible labor laws.
    – So you want to return to slavery?

    I could point to much more examples. This is Brazil I’m talking about, and that’s our left-wing.

    An interesting fact: the left wing economists here are trained in the post-keynesian tradition, along with the Latin-America developmentalist approach. Not only our left-wing believe in these sort of magic, but also old-style right-wing. If there is any suggestion of what this new MMT inspired left could make the US look like, it’s not Scandinavia… more like Argentina.

    A decade ago, when I was in undergraduate, I thought that the initial years of Lula were a kind of convergence to the world norm. Typical orthodox economic policies shaped by philosophical disputes around redistribution of income. Now, not only Brazil was not converging to the world norm (it was only a small abnormal left-wing period), leaving populism behind, but the Western society seems to be looking increasingly like Latin-America. And I was almost buying the end of history story…

  30. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    13. March 2019 at 15:16

    @Zamba

    People like you show why anti-neoliberals succeed: your anti-neoliberal strawman’s suggestions re: schooling reform are actually FAR smarter than your own. The only issue you’re definitively better than the “leftists” on is the debt.

  31. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    13. March 2019 at 18:15

    Carl,

    okay, I get what you mean now and I guess you have a point.

    But remember that the Democrats radicalized even before Trump. Sanders was before Trump, or at least not a reaction to Trump, at best they were more like a tandem moving into similar directions at the same time.

    I also read that Pelosi was coming out against the impeachment of Trump. So you can be more moderate if you want to. There’s always a choice. Just do the right thing, no matter what.

    Also: The primaries are the same as always. Last time Hillary won 3 out of 4. And then Super Tuesday 8:4. I assume Iowa, and especially Nevada and South Carolina, could favor Democrats who are more moderate.

  32. Gravatar of Wonks Anonymous Wonks Anonymous
    14. March 2019 at 08:25

    Since it’s not the early/mid 20th century there’s less evil (fascism/communism) and more lousy & stupid (vague socialism/authoritarianism).

  33. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    14. March 2019 at 11:15

    I love this post for the most part, as I love every TMI post for the most part. But I don’t totally understand it, probably because I make an effort to not pay too much attention to current events. Still….

    “Now conservatives (with a few lonely exception) have swallowed the kool-aid.”

    I’m a little unsure which “conservatives” this is referring to. Republicans in Congress? Conservative intellectuals? Media types?

    “But in most other respects this is fascism, at least as I learned about it in high school. It’s authoritarian, exalting the power of the “great man” who is cruel (Putin, Kim, etc.) It blames our problems on unpopular minorities and foreigners. It’s deeply sexist, with more sympathy for men who are proven sexual predators than women who are victims. It engages in the big lie, day after day. It demonizes the media. It’s xenophobic, hostile to multinational institutions like NATO, the EU, the UN, the WTO, etc. It rejects modern science, and indeed any form of expertise, substituting a faith-based reality. It dismisses examples of police brutality against the poor, while whining when their own members are investigated for corruption.”

    I take it from the context that this is mostly referring to Trump and his statements, but it does seem to be partly about conservatives in general.

    I certainly agree strongly with the points about “science” and “expertise,” which is why, I, as I think someone who was always a true “liberaltarian,” even when I didn’t have a name for it, have for some time been no longer indifferent to who wins and have been voting for the Democrat for president, even an obvious third-rater like Hillary or Kerry. Conservatives are obviously guilty in this area.

    But some of the other points seem mainly about Trump and his statements and tweets and the idea that many people on the right support him in various ways, either voters who are still willing to say they will vote for him or various members of Congress and the Media who carry his water.

    There I think things are a lot more complicated. For example when criticizing anyone vis-à-vis sexual predation, I personally think this whole issue goes far, far, far beyond Donald Trump. Consider the implications of the whole Harvey Weinstein story – whatever you think of Trump, he’s no Weinstein and nothing in his background illuminates this issue the way the Weinstein saga does. Or consider the way that the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill and Brett Kavanaugh/Ford stories became huge “#MeToo” things and the Clinton/Broadderick case was completely ignored – not by people on the right, by people on the left. To me, it’s actually unfair to Trump to single him out on this issue, and when people do, I think they’re often being a little slimy themselves.

    Consider also the idea that Trump is special in “dismiss[ing] examples of police brutality against the poor.” Well, is there anyone who really exerts themselves on this issue? I know there’s a lot of talk. But if we were to look at a graph of “total police brutality against the poor” for the US from say 1919-2019, what would it look like? My guess: declining somewhat. What has kept it from declining farther? I would start with Alex Tabarrok’s point about Ferguson, where he pointed out that the average resident pays about $250 per year in various fines, e.g. a huge amount of “taxes” are collected by harassing the poor now, which inevitably leads to a lot of poorly trained policeman interacting with poor (and understandably aggrieved) young males.

    This is not something that Trump invented or that he is making worse, or for that matter that conservatives have invented. Conservatives may not be helping this problem much, sure. But even liberals seem to like the tax money more than they hate the inevitable problems that come with collecting it.

    Anyway on this very blog, not long ago, there was a post I think on “America’s top ten problems,” or something like that, and inner-city African-American poverty was not on the list! It should have been #1! We’ve seen the economic development we’ve seen in China and India and we still have ghettoes in the US? That is to me by far the greatest disappointment in America in 2019. On most issues Scott Sumner >> [economist chosen at random] but on this issue Scott Sumner << Glenn Loury.

    "It demonizes the media." Yes, here Trump (and his media supporters) are of course guilty. Trump lashes out, his tweets are who he is. But is that "Fascistic?" Hmmm. I think his tweets are borderline pathetic. Were Hitler and Mussolini pathetic? Is Putin? If Trump is fascism, it's fascism with an all too human face.

    Anyway I would dispute that in truth anyone has really swallowed very much Kool-Aid. Sure, Trump has his toadies – didn't a bunch of the worst Congressional ones just lose their seats in Orange County?

    And there are some media types who have truly embarrassed themselves – I think Victor Davis Hansen will live to regret being such a moron, for example, But most of Trump's most avid media supporters (like Hannity or Carlson) have always been morons. A lot of these conservatives have been bad for a long time. It's just now they have a president who's as bad as themselves. I don't see the "Fascist" angle here though.

    And personally I think when explaining why the Republicans in Congress have been so quiescent s simple "Public Choice" explanation suffices – they view Trump as weak and unstable, and prefer to mostly ignore him (notice how none of his policy preferences – i.e. the ones he ran on – have really gotten any sort of significant Congressional stamp of approval), since drawing attention to him would obviously hurt their re-election chances.

    Are they countenancing Fascism or just being the same old weasels they've always been? I think it's far more the latter than the former.

    I think using the "F" word against Trump is somewhat off when for the most part he's just being the same old unstable rich guy he's always been. He's spent his whole life basically managing an inherited fortune, and not being very good at it, but at least having a strategy, which is to leverage the advantage the person with deeper pockets has in our legal system in an almost creative fashion.

    That some people like him and support him is not really evidence of Fascism, I see it more as an indictment of our political and economic system in general. Much worse to me than Trump's "Fascism" is the indifference of our political system to systemic problems. I've mentioned the persistence of economic problems in the inner cities but I would add the persistence of structural unemployment in many areas of the rural US. To the extent that increased immigration has gone hand-in-hand with economic stagnation, I don't think it's an accident that people in these areas – including many recent immigrants themselves, I believe – have negative views about immigration.

    I am ultra-pro-immigration and think in general nothing but good comes of it, but at the same time I think the support for Trump in the rural US should be seen not as incipient Fascism but more as a "canary in the coal mine" that should cause US elites to maybe wake up and look in the mirror a little bit. We need to hear a lot less about the "deplorables" and "racism" – to me, simply statements of bigotry directed by upper class types against lower class types – and a lot more about how about various policy failures. Beginning of course with monetary policy being overly focused on inflation and allowing the persistence of high unemployment!

  34. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    14. March 2019 at 11:19

    Hey sorry the last comment was so long, but according to Commenting Theory, it’s better to get all the Commenter Stupidity in one big “Lump Sum” instead of the drip, drip, drip of having to read (or okay, ignore, sure) stupid comments all the time.

    Anyway to make it up here’s a link, in honor of the late, great Bruno G:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLC7Q3DTzi4

  35. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    15. March 2019 at 09:33

    I love it. Very entertaining read Scott. I can see that’s it’s stirred up a good volume of comments.

  36. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    15. March 2019 at 13:02

    You say that neoliberals are not averse to a “safety net”. A safety net is what the evil Mr. Corbyn is attempting to put in place. I struggle to think offhand of the neoliberal politician or policymaker who has used any of their political capital to do likewise.

    Is the key part the US plays in international finance incidental to neoliberalism, or integral to it? I ask because the US makes frequent use of its position as the key player in international finance to impose sanctions on states it disapproves of (Iraq, Iran, Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela…), and its sanctions, by its own admission and as reported by the UN, kill thousands of men, women, and children. “A price worth paying” say some US policymakers. Truly evil, I would say. What do neoliberal true believers say? I hope neoliberalism can be separated from US imperialism.

  37. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    16. March 2019 at 00:36

    Here is some reasonable pushback against neoliberalism. One could question whether these are the most relevant arguments to make at the current time, but they are reasonable: https://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/dani-rodrik-rescuing-economics-neoliberalism

    Also I think “rightism” is a better word for what Scott is talking about than conservatism. Scott may also enjoy this interesting post by John Nerst on the fundamental differences between left and right: https://everythingstudies.com/2019/03/01/the-tilted-political-compass-part-1-left-and-right/

  38. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    16. March 2019 at 00:38

    It’s also striking how non-resounding the opposition to Trump was at the link Scott gave.

  39. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    16. March 2019 at 01:51

    I thought I would take you up on your invitation to uncensored comment.

    Neoliberals have no objection to a safety net, you say. I struggle to think of any making an effort to put one in place. Putting a safety net in place is what the evil Mr. Corbyn is about.

    Is the key role of the US$ in international finance a crucial constituent of neoliberalism or just an historical accident? The US uses it to sanction whomever it pleases. One consequence as Mr. Pompeo has said of Venezuela is “no food, no medicine, no power”, one consequence of which is the death of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of children – a “price worth paying” – or evil?

    Is it neoliberalism specifically that has lifted millions from poverty over the decades or economic development?

  40. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. March 2019 at 11:01

    Benny, You said:

    “I notice that Scott champions a lot of countries that subvert democracy. What to make of that?”

    Name one.

    Michael, You said:

    “Sure, Maduro’s evil, but not that’s because he’s a lying, anti-democratic crook who only seems concerned about holding onto power. That doesn’t describe many American leftists.”

    Who said American leftists were evil?

    You said:

    “Elizabeth Warren is very ignorant on economics, but I think she at least has some good intentions and is more principled.”

    Then Scott Brown? Sure. As for Paul Ryan, I’d say she’s about equally unprincipled.

    Zamba, Good comment.

    Anon, You said:

    “whatever you think of Trump, he’s no Weinstein”

    Fine, but why does Trump keep defending the sexual predators? I saw an article that listed many examples of him praising men accused of sexual harassment (in cases where there is no doubt), and not a word of sympathy for the victim.

    You said:

    “Anyway on this very blog, not long ago, there was a post I think on “America’s top ten problems,” or something like that, and inner-city African-American poverty was not on the list! It should have been #1! ”

    I’m sure there were multiple things on the list that contributed to that problem. I don’t do identity politics.

    As far as fascism, as I said there are no plans to bring it to America. Trump clearly likes fascism as a style of politics, which is very different from liking it as a policy agenda. He won’t cancel the next election. I think you need to read that part of my post more carefully. (I recall someone claimed that Trump used to read Hitler’s speeches, to learn how to do demagoguery. Don’t know if that’s true.)

    Let’s talk about the media. As you know, there is currently a global war on the media, with many reporters being murdered. Many of these murders are due to the influence of right wing politicians like Putin, who Trump praises for being a tough guy. Putin likes to make jokes about violence against reporters. Trump doesn’t have reporters killed, but also likes jokes about violence against reporters. I guess it’s a matter of taste, as they are “just jokes”. Would jokes about violence against blacks have been OK during the era of lynchings?

    GOP politicians have almost universally rallied around Trump, which is despicable. It’s like the way they were too afraid to criticize Joe McCarthy, in the early 1950s.

    Saturos, Do those critiques of neoliberalism acknowledge that it’s the best thing that’s every happened in human history? If not, why should I read them?

    All ideologies have flaws–that’s not what I’m talking about here. The left views neoliberalism as a great evil of the modern world. It’s like a swear word to them.

    Ewan, You said:

    “Putting a safety net in place is what the evil Mr. Corbyn is about.”

    I see. So that’s why he praises the Venezuelan model, and surrounds himself with Marxists and anti-Semites. Because he likes the Danish model!

    Government spending in the UK is 40% of GDP. To say there’s no safety net is laughable.

  41. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    18. March 2019 at 09:59

    “Fine, but why does Trump keep defending the sexual predators? I saw an article that listed many examples of him praising men accused of sexual harassment (in cases where there is no doubt), and not a word of sympathy for the victim.”

    In the greater scheme of Donald Trump things, does this even rank in his “top 100” offenses against propriety and logic? I think singling him, of all people, out in this is pretty thin. (“Pretty thin, Rooster, pretty thin” as Robert Duvall says to John Wayne in True Grit).

    Look, my comment above was pretty crappy, and I probably shouldn’t try to make this point, but I think as a society we are deeply conflicted on the sexual harassment thing, and this is not something that DJT has really contributed very much to. I mention the Clinton/Broaderrick because even though for example Vox has published a piece saying, in essence, “you know, Broaderrick’s rape charge against Clinton is actually pretty strong,” what has been the reaction? Almost nothing. Has there been even the slightest effort among those on the left to in some way punish or disdain Clinton, the way they would have us punish or disdain say, Al Franken, for much (much much much) less serious offenses?

    I don’t want to single out the left, I think society as a whole is conflicted and hypocritical on this particular issue, and now basically all we get is a lot of “gotcha” games, which I hate. Right now I think the attitude of society in general on this issue is “we really care about this issue, when it’s convenient, when it’s not convenient we don’t” and until society gets better or more principled I’m giving Trump a pass on this one.

    The Harvey Weinstein thing, that he was able to get away with that kind of behavior in such a high profile setting for so long, that is important, that really is telling us something about the world we live and how people really think and act. That Donald Trump happens to praise a few know sexual predators, well, whoopee. It’s not like this alters our already massively negative view of Trump even one whit.

  42. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    18. March 2019 at 10:18

    Me: “Anyway on this very blog, not long ago, there was a post I think on ‘America’s top ten problems,’ or something like that, and inner-city African-American poverty was not on the list! It should have been #1!”

    Response: “I’m sure there were multiple things on the list that contributed to that problem. I don’t do identity politics.”

    Huh? African-American poverty is not an “identity politics” issue. It’s a “development” issue.

    I mentioned Glenn Loury already; I will just say that Loury tears his hair out over the way this point is ignored and obscured much the same way Sumner tears his hair out over the way things like monetary offset are ignored and obscured.

  43. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    18. March 2019 at 10:25

    “Let’s talk about the media. As you know, there is currently a global war on the media, with many reporters being murdered. Many of these murders are due to the influence of right wing politicians like Putin, who Trump praises for being a tough guy. Putin likes to make jokes about violence against reporters. Trump doesn’t have reporters killed, but also likes jokes about violence against reporters. I guess it’s a matter of taste, as they are “just jokes”. Would jokes about violence against blacks have been OK during the era of lynchings?”

    This is a strong point, but I don’t think you really need the “F” word here. When Donald Trump says or thinks something stupid, and people tell him he shouldn’t say it, he thinks it’s a good idea to say it again, and amplify.

    This to me is just his life-strategy. It’s really just elevated childishness, not Fascistic impulses, that drive it.

    To call Trump a Fascist strikes me as a little unserious, because he’s not really a Fascist, real Fascists have ideas, and he doesn’t really have those, except for a few quirky things he picked up back in the 1970’s maybe, like his views on trade. If those count as “ideas,” maybe “notions” is the better term.

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