Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).

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Thursday, July 28, 2016
 
Blogging note
I'm on the road today. Blogging will probably be light to non-existent over the next four or five days.


 
We could mitigate some problems with elitism by lowering the status of politics
Jason Brennan makes a phenomenal point at Bleeding Heart Libertarians:
I recently had a conversation with a reporter that went roughly as follows:
Reporter: “You say some people know better than others. Isn’t that elitist?”
Brennan: “Yes, in the same way that it’s elitist to say that plumbers know more about plumbing than I do.”
Reporter: “Oh, that makes sense.”
Of course we recognize that for most topics–baseball stats, Pokémon lore, carpentry, typing, nursing, shredding– some people know a lot, some know nothing, and some know less than nothing. No one thinks anything of that.
But for some reason, when we get to political and social scientific knowledge, we tend to pretend that everyone is equal, even though we have massive amounts of empirical evidence, collected over 60 years, showing otherwise.
My suspicion here is that this is because we treat political participation as a high status activity, while we treat nursing or Pokémon knowledge as low status. To say my plumber understands plumbing better than I do–and, accordingly, that the government should consult his opinion about plumbing rather than mine–doesn’t seem to connote that he’s a superior person overall to me. But to say that I understand economics better than my plumber and and all that does seem to connote, to most people, that I’m superior overall.
But the problem here isn’t with thinking some people know more about politics than others, or that some people’s opinions about politics are more sensible, reliable, or valuable than others. Rather, the problem is that we imbue political participation with such high status. One thing I’ve been trying to do–e.g., in “Civic Virtue without Politics” (chapter 2 of The Ethics of Voting); “For-Profit Business as Civic Virtue,” Journal of Business Ethics; “Political Liberty: Who Needs It?,” Social Philosophy and Policy; and “Politics Is not a Poem,” (chapter 5 of Against Democracy)–is lower the status of political participation. I have an elitist view of political knowledge–I think some know much better than others–but a populist view of civic virtue–I think that political participation is nothing special and should have no more status than plumbing or carpentry.


 
Clinton hypocrisy
Victor Davis Hanson has a long but good essay on the influence-peddling of the Clintons, which goes hand-in-hand with their decrying of greed:
Some have suggested that Bill Clinton’s impoverished upbringing accounts for his near-feral ambition to get rich. But he also seized a unique moment in which to do so. Globalization of the early 21st century and a rather new phenomenon of progressive Silicon Valley and Wall Street families’ having fabulous fortunes certainly made the idea of being a multimillionaire many times over hardly embarrassing in the fashion of the old caricatures of the robber barons in the days of J. P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller. Banking, investment, and high technology seemed a less grubby route to elite financial status than did the old pathways of oil, minerals, agriculture, railroads, steel, and construction. The Clintons discovered that one could become very rich from a host of sources and still be considered quite progressive; indeed, liberal pieties both assuaged any guilt about one’s privilege and in a more public manner provided exemption from the logical ramifications of one’s own redistributionist rhetoric ...
[U]nlike other presidents, Bill Clinton never quite entered emeritus status. Hillary Clinton was no Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, or Barbara or Laura Bush but, while her husband was still in office, sought a U.S. Senate seat from New York in an undisguised trajectory designed for the 2008 presidential campaign and predicated on the idea that a mature Bill would de facto be back in the Oval Office as well. Indeed, well before Hillary Clinton’s failure in the Democratic primaries in 2008 and her subsequent appointment as secretary of state, the Clintons had found a way to exploit the idea that both of them would return to the White House. That reality gave them access to quid pro quo opportunities, often funneled through a philanthropic foundation, of a sort unknown to any past American president. Most important, the Clintons had long since discovered that public outrage at their impropriety could be dismissed as the empty and vindictive charges of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” ...
But if the Clintons’ opportunities for lucre were unique — in both what the couple had to sell and the huge resources of those who wished to buy — and if they could peddle myths that they were perennial victims of right-wing witch hunts, still, what accounts for their inordinate greed? Why not settle for a fortune of $50 million — in Obama’s formulation that “at some point you’ve made enough money” — rather than risk the public opprobrium of Bill’s globetrotting shakedowns or Hillary’s efforts to hide personal e-mails that were tangential to her job as secretary of state? Their previous embarrassments, from the mundane to the existential (Whitewater, the Clinton Foundation troubles, writing used underwear off as IRS deductions, the all-but-impossible odds of making a $100,000 profit in cattle futures from a $1,000 initial investment, etc.), all reflect a nonstop drive for lucre.
Hanson says the Clintons saw themselves as entitled to the elite life of fortune and power because they were just so darned good. Their pursuit of wealth may seem hypocritical to the untutored eye of the plebes, but to the smart set, it is their just reward.


 
EU's new Brexit negotiator
Former French EU commissioner Michel Barnier, who has held numerous cabinet posts in various French governments, is Brussels' new chief negotiator. The Daily Telegraph reports that he blames Britain for losing his foreign minister's job in 2005 after the French government lost a referendum on the European constitution. I'm sure there are no hard feelings. The paper also reports:
Diplomats have said he is "far from a soul mate for Britain" and is hostile to the “Anglo-Saxon” free market model of capitalism.
In 2010 the Telegraph described him as “the most dangerous man in Europe” ...
Mr Barnier is likely to be a tough negotiator and take a hard line on EU rules.
Speaking after the referendum vote, Mr Barnier said that shouldn't be "prisoner to the British question" during Brexit negotiations.
He has insisted that Britain will have to accept freedom of movement - "without exception or nuance" if it wants to retain access to the single market.
This is important:
Jacques Lafitte of the Avisa investment advisory group said: “After all these years that the City has demonised Michel Barnier, often unjustly, the commission could not have sent a firmer message to the English.”
There was some hope the EU would try to ensure a smooth transition and maintain a good relationship with the United Kingdom. That hope became dimmer with the appointment of Barnier.


 
No greater divide between elite and the masses than on Islamic terror The Spectator's Douglas Murray: "Europe’s terror summer: will politicians now accept the reality of Islamic terrorism?" Murray writes:
It is now a fortnight since Mohammed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ploughed a truck along the Nice seafront, killing 84 people. The following Monday Mohammed Riyad, who said he was from Afghanistan but almost certainly came from Pakistan, screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’ while hacking with an axe at his fellow passengers on a Bavarian train. The next day another Mohammed, this time Mohamed Boufarkouch, shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and stabbed a Frenchwoman and her three daughters (aged eight, 12 and 14) near Montpelier. Mixing things up a little, that Friday’s shooter in Munich was a child of Iranians called Ali David Sonboly. Skip forward a couple of days and a ‘-Syrian asylum seeker’ with a machete was hacking a pregnant woman to death in Stuttgart. The next day another ‘Syrian asylum seeker’, Mohammad Daleel, carried out a suicide bombing outside a bar in Ansbach, Bavaria. And a little over 24 hours later two men shouting the name of Isis entered a church in Rouen during Mass, took the nuns and congregation hostage and slaughtered the priest with a knife.
Although the public know what is going on, the media seems loath to find any connection between these events.
Pundits and politicians rather focus on childhood bullying or city planning deficiencies (really?) than obvious cultural explanation.
Murray observes:
Sections of the media and political class seem determined to stop the public coming to any conclusions. But most of us probably did that a long time ago, and these conclusions are being reinforced on a daily basis.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016
 
Thiel's case for smarter government spending
It is possible to be both insightful and wrong at the same time. Bloomberg's Noah Smith is a tad too cute in his column on Peter Thiel's speech at the Republican convention last week, which Smith describes as making the case for Big Government. Smith is indeed perceptive to notice that Thiel implicitly endorsed government spending on infrastructure and research, but that is hardly the same thing as endorsing Big Government. There is a difference between big government projects and the project of Big Government.
Thiel is no fan of the Welfare State, in part because governments cannot just print money at a time of negligible productivity gains in order to pain for entitlements and welfare. He wants more economic growth and concedes that government could, with the right spending, help make that a reality. Smith says that with Thielian conservatism, the "debate over redistribution versus growth is a much healthier debate than redistribution versus dysfunction." Indeed, moving the debate from the optimal size of government to growth vs. redistribution would help more people. Thiel's wager is that economic growth -- even the kind torqued with infrastructure and research spending -- will lead to a government significantly smaller than the one we have now as redistribution will be less "necessary" that in today's stagnant economy. This vision is hardly a brand on conservative Big Government.


 
The Brexit economy
Bloomberg's Mark Gilbert says the economic crisis predicted immediately after the Brexit vote hasn't materialized, and while a month is not long enough to gauge what will happen long-term, 1) the first over-reaction is correcting itself, and 2) there are reasons for optimism.
Regarding the over-reaction: the FTSE 100 dipped 3.15% in the day after Brexit but is up 6% since then. The British pound fell from $1.50 (US) to $1.30 overnight a month ago, but has since stabilized.
Meanwhile, the future still looks bright. Despite some land deals going south in the Brexit aftermath -- more over-reaction -- various financial institutions including Wells Fargo are committing to London:
Wells Fargo is going ahead with plans to spend about 300 million pounds on a new London headquarters. The U.S. bank currently employs about 850 people in London; it says it will occupy all of the new building, which can house about 2,600 workers and is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of next year. If a bank with a market capitalization of $245 billion trebles its City workforce, that's quite a vote of confidence in the financial capital's post-Brexit future. With the cost of moving a financial staff member abroad coming in at about 50,000 pounds per chair, according to consulting firm Synechron, maybe the feared stampede of departing bankers won't materialize.
The City is safe.


 
My thoughts on CPC leadership race
I have 26 tweets about the Conservative Party leadership race in reaction to Don Martin's CPC leadership odds piece he wrote for CTVNews.com.


 
Cowen's conversation with Michael Orthofer
If you have an interest in literature, don't miss Tyler Cowen's interview with Michael Orthofer of The Literary Saloon. You can read, watch, or listen.
I really like Orthofer's advice for parents looking to guide their children's reading (in this case, a 12 year old, but it applies to younger children, too):
I think you want to let them loose in a book environment, in the library, in the bookstore. And you want to give them the freedom to explore for themselves, because I think reading is very much a personal thing, especially in childhood and especially when parents are often tempted to — “Well, is this a book that’s good for the kid?”
I think you want to avoid that, because the child has a completely different perspective and really has to want to read the book. I think by letting them make their own choices, their own selections, finding their own way, and not really pressuring them. I don’t think you want to say, “Reading is good for you. You have to read whatever it is.” Just make it easy for them to read whatever they want to read.
Also, Cowen says that sometimes you can judge a book by its cover (effective signaling from the publisher) although Orthofer dismisses covers in favour of texts. And talking about The Canon, he says, "I’m not a big fan of Dostoevsky."


 
Best line of political punditry of the year. So far.
Kevin Williamson in NRO:
The Democrats deride the GOP as the party of tired, old, out-of-touch white men living in the past . . . and then introduce Paul Simon for one last warbling and off-key rendering of “Bridge over Troubled Water.”
The column is about celebrities in politics. No, not the presence of Sarah Silverman or Pat Sajak at a convention, but the presidential candidates themselves. It's worth reading.


 
Brexit book
The Guardian reports that Craig Oliver, former prime minister David Cameron’s director of communications, has signed a deal with Hodder & Stoughton, which will release his insider's account of the Brexit vote this fall. Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of the EU Referendum is based on Oliver's detailed notes while advising Cameron and will cover everything from the decision to call the referendum to the aftermath of the vote, and will include private conservations with foreign leaders, political opponents, and fellow Conservatives including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. Of course, Oliver will probably still be spinning for his former boss, but even so it will inevitably provide interesting tidbits about the fateful decision to call the Brexit vote and the subsequent campaign.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016
 
Cruz vs. Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said in Beijing: "After all, that's the purpose of government — to represent the people and to meet the needs of our people, both of us — even though, as President Xi said, we have different systems, different culture, different history. We acknowledge that. We respect that." Senator Ted Cruz wrote a column in the Dallas Morning News criticizing Kerry's remarks, noting:
The call by Kerry to respect China, and the suggestion that the Communist Party of China "represents the people" and "meets their needs," were devastating blows to the hundreds of political prisoners languishing in China today.
One such prisoner is Yang Maodong, better known as Guo Feixiong. Guo is serving a six-year term in Yangchun Prison for organizing peaceful protests against press censorship. Currently on the 78th day of a hunger strike, he has lost at least a third of his body weight.
While China has a nominal constitution, there is no corresponding rule of law. Still, brave souls there have given and are giving their lives to change this harsh reality. Guo began his advocacy on behalf of religious minorities, providing legal counsel to incarcerated Christian pastors and Falun Gong-affiliated attorneys. A founding member of the "rights movement" in China, he has defended thousands of Chinese citizens who did not know they were theoretically entitled to civil rights.


 
Could Michelle Obama's performance backfire?
There is a downside to Michelle Obama's widely acclaimed speech last night:


 
Watching terrorists isn't enough
The Daily Mail: "Jihadists storm French church during Mass chanting 'Allahu Akbar'." Three Muslims entered a Catholic church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen and slit the throat of 84-year-old Fr. Jacques Hamel. The Daily Mail reports that "the Catholic church was on a terrorist 'hit list' found in the apartment of a suspected ISIS extremist last April." And:
One of the extremists who stormed into the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen during mass was a French 19-year-old, who was being monitored by electronic tag after twice attempting to join fanatics in Syria. Unbelievably, his bail terms allowed him to be unsupervised between 8.30am and 12.30pm - the attack happened between 9am and 11am.


 
Apocalympics 2016
The Wall Street Journal reports: "Olympics organizers on Monday rushed to fix bad wiring, broken plumbing and other problems in the athletes’ village after several foreign teams complained that accommodations were dirty and in disrepair less than two weeks before the start of the Games." Before the games started. The Australian contingent got hotels, the Dutch haven't decided what they're doing, and the Italians have hired contractors to repair the problems themselves. Olympic organizers in Rio admit they are "behind schedule" on the athlete village, some two weeks before the Olympics open.


 
Despite the fact that President Obama has 'fulfilled most of his major progressive policy goals' ...
The Wall Street Journal says he "is leaving to his successor a world of spreading disorder and a country as economically anxious and more politically polarized than he inherited." The paper editorializes that for the most part, Barack Obama got what he wanted:
Even opponents of Mr. Obama’s agenda have to admit that he has achieved most of what he campaigned on. With a Democratic supermajority in 2009-2010, he passed the largest stimulus spending bill in decades, pushed through ObamaCare, nationalized the student-loan industry, and turned the banks into public utilities answerable first to government.
Democrats resisted him on cap and trade and union card check, but he has since achieved by executive fiat most of what he wanted on climate change and labor organizing. As the Bush tax rates expired in 2013, he insisted on and won a huge tax increase. His one major unfulfilled ambition is immigration reform, but that hangs on who nominates the next Supreme Court Justice.
And yet:
As Mr. Obama leaves office, the national mood is more sour than at anytime since the 1960s. The polls say some two-thirds of the voters think the country is on the “wrong track,” and a majority say they expect their children to do less well financially than they did. This reflects the historically slow economic recovery and incomes that have only recently begun to return to where they were when the recession ended ...
These frustrations also reflect an American politics that is increasingly divided by ideology, age, race, class and gender. This is in no small part the result of Mr. Obama’s governing strategy. When Democrats ran Congress with supermajorities, he settled for passing his agenda on partisan votes. He thus built no durable consensus for ObamaCare ...
As for the world, U.S. retreat has produced the opposite of Reagan’s pax Americana. His premature departure from Iraq and abdication on Syria created a vacuum for Islamic State. A refugee crisis threatens Middle East stability and torments Europe with terror attacks on trains and family outings to view fireworks. Authoritarians in Iran, Russia and China are advancing to dominate their regions.
It is hard to see the Obama presidency as anything but a failure.


Monday, July 25, 2016
 
Taube is officially a grumpy old man
Michael Taube doesn't like Pokemon Go. And get off his lawn.
In all seriousness, this is a weak column. Instead of joining the moral panic over a game, a so-called distraction -- and dismissing the importance in "escaping" the daily grind of everyday life -- there is space for a column examining the costs and benefits of augmented reality. Taube concludes wondering if we'll ever look back at this phenomenon and find that it was beneficial. Of course, he doubts we will, but his column never considers the possibility of an upside. Instead, he falls prey to the familiar but tired trope that people have the right to play this game if they want, while sneering at their choice. I'd add that his essential argument is also an argument against watching television or reading most non-fiction.
For a different view see Jack Karsten and Darrell M. West in the Brookings Institute TechTank, who say that augmented reality has important applications beyond gaming:
Though it may be just a game, it’s a brief insight into the technology our world will wield ten or even five years from now.
Augmented reality of the future means instead of seeing a Charizard in front of your apartment building, a fireman can see the structural vulnerabilities, temperatures, and exit routes. The internet of things (IoT) adding billions of sensors means that instead of tracking down virtual monsters, wearables will help emergency services track down victims or your house will automatically call 911 if it’s on fire.
Fifth generation (5G) wireless networks and the IoT will be transformative to healthcare in the near future. For example, wearables will allow doctors to proactively treat and diagnose patients, and 5G networks will enable the instant transfer of high quality imaging, letting patients receive quality care from specialists around the world and breaking down barriers built by cost and geography.


 
Sanders supporters boo Sanders
The Washington Examiner reports that at a rally in Philadelphia, Bernie Sanders was booed by his own supporters after he encouraged them to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.


 
Unasked questions
Arnold Kling: "I wonder how much of the trend toward industry consolidation and loss of dynamism in the past twenty years is due to regulation and rent-seeking." This is worth examining in-depth.


 
Brexit-lite is EU-lite which is still too much EU
The Daily Mail reports that pro-Brexit MPs are not happy with the idea being floated in Brussels that Britain will maintain access to the single market, still pay hundreds of millions of euros, and only regain partial control over immigration. Not good enough. As former Tory MP John Redwood says: "The UK did not recently vote for a slightly beefed up version of Mr Cameron’s attempted renegotiation with the EU." Redwood explains: "We voted to leave, to take back control of our laws, our money and our borders. Those phrases were repeated throughout the Leave campaign, heard and understood by many, and approved by the majority of voters."
The story also reports that some MPs are no so crazy about the idea of staying within the single market, saying out means out. But pro-Brexit leaders were consistent in their messaging about not allowing Brussels to set rules for Britain and needing to regain control of migration, but they were not of one mind about free trade with Europe.


 
Donald Trump was right
Donald Trump has repeatedly said the Democratic primaries were rigged to help Hillary Clinton and screw over Bernie Sanders. The Washington Post reports that the Wikileaks dump of 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee reveal that the DNC tried to hinder the Sanders campaign and cooperated with the HRC campaign in doing so:
Many of the most damaging emails suggest the committee was actively trying to undermine Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign. Basically all of these examples came late in the primary -- after Hillary Clinton was clearly headed for victory -- but they belie the national party committee's stated neutrality in the race even at that late stage.
The Post then lists nine examples of the DNC's violation of their supposed neutrality in the primaries, including "A Clinton lawyer gives DNC strategy advice on Sanders," and "Wishing Sanders would just end it."
My two cents: party leadership/establishment has every right to work for favoured candidate. Just don't pretend to be neutral.


 
Is 'cool' presidential
The Washington Post says that First Lady Michelle Obama should help the Democrats open their convention, rallying the base (read: blacks and young people) behind Hillary Clinton because of fears among party leaders that the former first lady hasn't been able to close the deal with these segments of the population. The Post's Krissah Thompson writes:
As it happened, Michelle Obama’s most visible appearance last week was her instantly viral “Carpool Karaoke” segment with “The Late Late Show” host James Corden, in which she sang along to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” and rapped along to Missy Elliot’s 2001 hit “Get Ur Freak On,” accompanied by Elliot herself. Vanity Fair, upon seeing this, dubbed her the “Coolest First Lady.”
Good grief.
The celebrity-obsessed Left gobbles this stuff up and the Right (perhaps jealous that their star power shines much dimmer) hates it. To conservatives, this is proof of the vapidity of not only Michelle Obama but her adoring fans and a not insignificant portion of Democratic voters.
Hillary Clinton doesn't do cool, and maybe that's fine. Karen Yuan wrote at Bustle a few months ago about candidate Clinton trying too hard to be cool and failing miserably. HRC doesn't need to be cool, she needs to be presidential. If she needs cool to win over young voters, better to outsources it, like she is to the current First Lady on Day 1 of the Democratic convention.


 
Apocalympics 2016
All the latest horrible stories from Rio at Reddit's Apocalympics 2016. Some recent stories include the Australian Olympic team skipping the Olympic residences because of faulty toilets and, well, "The Media Village at the Rio Olympics Is Built on a Mass Grave of Slaves."


 
It's still early, but there are reasons for optimism among Brexiteers
The Observer reported:
Plans to allow the United Kingdom an exemption from EU rules on freedom of movement for up to seven years while retaining access to the single market are being considered in European capitals as part of a potential deal on Brexit. Senior British and EU sources have confirmed that despite strong initial resistance from French president François Hollande in talks with prime minister Theresa May last week, the idea of an emergency brake on the free movement of people that would go far further than the one David Cameron negotiated before the Brexit referendum is being examined. If such an agreement were struck, and a strict time limit imposed, diplomats believe it could go a long way towards addressing concerns of the British people over immigration from EU states, while allowing the UK full trade access to the European market.
That's not just Boris Johnson optimism, but eurocrat acceptance of the obvious: having Britain tied to Europe with strings attached (no pun intended) is better than Britain falling away from Europe because of continental stubbornness.


 
Euthanasia is incompatible with the medical profession and U.S./state constitutions
Writing in the Wall Street Journal Dr. Phillip Dreisbach, director of the Desert Hematology Oncology Medical Group at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., makes two essential arguments against euthanasia. The first is very straightforward:
Killing is never medical care. There is no circumstance when any compassionate, competent physician would prescribe a deadly drug to any patient. If “medical practice” has any meaning, it definitely does not include using drugs to willfully kill a patient or for a physician and pharmacist to supply a lethal drug so that a patient can kill himself.
The American Medical Association has spoken for all physicians by stating: “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”
It should be noted that the aggressive treatment of pain that unintentionally results in the death of a patient is not euthanasia or assisted-suicide.
The second reason is constitutional:
Equal protection is not a mindless bumper-sticker slogan. It is a pillar of state and federal constitutions and must not be corrupted. Under the law, equal protection must apply not only to the healthy and able but to the most vulnerable — the unhealthy, the disabled, the elderly — and all who might fall victim to those peddling physician-assisted killing.
A somewhat novel argument and one that should be taken seriously by lawmakers and judges.


Sunday, July 24, 2016
 
Will on Trump and Pence
George Will wonders if Donald Trump can increase the non-college-educated white turnout enough to win the election and whether Mike Pence will flip-flop from former positions on entitlements and trade to those of his running mate's. If I were a betting man I'd want 3:2 odds in favour of Trump increasing non-college-educated white turnout to 66-67% (which could be enough to win unless college-educated white turnout increases by more than 1%). I'd have to give 10:1 on Pence flip-flopping, but I'd still take that bet.


 
The cost of subway delays
Alex Tabarrok on transit delays in Washington DC:
I had to take the Metro to DC earlier this week and due to track closings for safety improvements it was miserable, at least 45 minutes of delays for the roundtrip. Some 700,000 people ride the metro every day and if each is delayed by just 15 minutes total (7.5 minutes each way) then at $15 an hour that’s 2.6 million dollars worth of delay every day.
Politicians and bureaucrats do a lousy job accounting for citizens' time in determining the benefits of any particular public policy.


 
Why Thiel is supporting Trump
Peter Thiel, says the Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins, thinks the status quo of unproductive economic growth and a growing welfare state is unsustainable, and is looking for someone to "blow-up" Washington to challenge the way things are. As Jenkins says, despite differences on immigration and trade, for Thiel, "Trump is a wrecking ball at a time when Washington needs a wrecking ball. It needs a candidate whose very existence forcibly disrupts its ways and patterns." Jenkins explains:
You had to know where Mr. Thiel was coming from to know where he was going with his support of Mr. Trump. Few voters did. Yet the job Mr. Thiel gave himself is an important one. The Republican convention has now wrapped up. Those immune to histrionics and heavy breathing have only one question: Will Mr. Trump mount a fall campaign equal to the task of returning a Republican majority to both houses of Congress?
Even voters sensitive to the many ways that Donald Trump has given lip to an agenda that likely would do more harm than good can see him as a gift of providence. He’s here to scare the bejesus out of the establishment.
Mr. Trump fulfills this role even if he loses by a smidgen to Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton and the GOP House and Senate leadership of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will be left acknowledging a near-run thing. Mrs. Clinton will have no second term, no legacy; Mr. Ryan will have no hope of the presidency; Mr. McConnell will finally fall to the Tea Party types who have been gunning for him so long—unless they make the deals that begin America’s renewal.
Thiel was a strong supporter of Ted Cruz. Now he's backing Trump. What Thiel is hoping to do is not win the election, necessarily, but change the Republicans, to get them moving away from the Big Government-supporting party it has become.


Saturday, July 23, 2016
 
Politics is personal
The Sun reports that Boris Johnson is in no hurry to mend fences with Michael Gove, a former ally. At a meeting between the two, according to sources, Gove did most of the talking but maintained he was right to put his own name forward for the Tory leadership. Another source said of the meeting, "Boris could barely bring himself to look at Gove." It is understandable. I'm not sure this relationship was ever as close as people assumed, or if it can be fixed. A successful stint as Foreign Secretary might make Gove irrelevant to Johnson's future.


 
May government to cut taxes?
The Daily Mail reports that economists and political watchers are reading Phillip Hammond's comments that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Autumn Statement could be an opportunity to "reset fiscal policy if we deem it necessary to do so in light of data that will emerge over the coming months" means the Theresa May government could accelerate the corporate tax cuts promised by Hammond's predecessor George Osborne and that the government could cut the VAT. This is thought to be necessary to calm post-Brexit economic jitters.
No one knows how the Brexit negotiations will go, but one reason to be optimistic is that European stakeholders will press pro-EU ideologues to ensure a smooth transition. German corporate heads and Luxemburg officials are open to Britain limiting migration and maintaining access to the common market. Shutting British business out of Europe is in no ones interests (except those who want to make an example of Britain to thwart others from leaving).


 
Tim Kaine has a lot of flip-flopping to do
The Washington Post has highlighted three areas in which Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's running mate, doesn't follow the standard line for Democrats: trade, banks, and abortion. HRC -- and increasingly the party -- does not tolerate any dissent on their no-limits-on-abortion position. Kaine has supported the Hyde Amendment, parental consent, and pro-life license plates.


Friday, July 22, 2016
 
Brexit, the convenient explanation for everything that is bad
Ed Conway in the Times (of London):
Brexit is Britain’s great gift to the world: a giant pre-cooked excuse for absolutely everything. The French have an alibi if their economy falters; the Italians can blame the UK when their disastrously undercapitalised banking system goes under; the Germans can point the finger when Deutsche Bank loses its battle with financial gravity. And when the single currency finally implodes or the broader European project disintegrates, you can be sure that as the ship goes down, one curse will be audible above the gurgling: Brexit. Little matter that the vast majority of these problems existed long before David Cameron cooked up the idea of an in-out vote.
The same is true of Britain's economic problems.


 
Against 'radical' and 'extreme'
Tyler Cowen, as he often does, makes an excellent point:
In general, I am suspicious when someone dismisses a view for being “radical” or “extreme.” There is usually sloppy thinking behind that designation. Why not just say what is wrong with the view? How for instance are we supposed to feel about “radical Christianity”? Good or bad? Does it mean Origen or Ted Cruz or something altogether different? Can’t we just debate the question itself?
Furthermore:
More generally, when that term “radical” or “extreme” is introduced, there is a presupposition that no external argument or perspective can be so strong to counter what one’s own swarmy group takes for granted.


 
How is a conservative to vote in 2016?
Matthew J. Franck, director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute, has a thoughtful reflection on why conservatives cannot vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Choosing the lesser of two evils only works when one is not evil, but, says Franck, both HRC and The Donald are evil. His advice -- and it is what has guided my voting post-1996 -- is beautifully simple: "Vote as if your ballot determines nothing whatsoever — except the shape of your own character. Vote as if the public consequences of your action weigh nothing next to the private consequences."