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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Sunday, June 30, 2019
Happy Birthday Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell turned 89 today. Mark Perry of The American Enterprise Institute pays tribute to economist and columnist who has influenced several generations of conservatives:
In my opinion, there is no economist alive today who has done more to eloquently, articulately, and persuasively advance the principles of economic freedom, limited government, individual liberty, and a free society than Thomas Sowell. In terms of both his quantity of work (at least 46 books and several thousand newspaper columns) and the consistently excellent and crystal-clear quality of his writing, I don’t think any living free-market economist even comes close to matching Sowell’s prolific record of writing about economics. And as I’ve mentioned previously on CD, as a writer Thomas Sowell is truly the “Master of Idea Density” – he has the amazing talent of being able to consistently pack more ideas, insight, and wisdom into a single sentence or paragraph than what typically takes an entire essay or book for even the best writer!
As Perry notes, 22 of those books have been published since 2002. Sure, some of those books get a tad repetitive, but that's still impressive. Perry has 15 of his favourite Sowell quotes in the aforementioned tribute, including (probably) my favourite:
The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.
I also like Jeff Jacoby's favourite Sowell quote: "Intellect is not wisdom."
Four of my most heavily marked up books are Sowell's A Conflict of Visions, The Vision of the Anointed, Knowledge and Decisions, and The Quest for Cosmic Justice, and I strongly recommend young conservatives read the first two.

Thursday, June 27, 2019
The Democratic presidential debate (Part 1)
I didn't watch it. I might get around to it later, but it seems like it was precisely what one would expect it to be. Some of the commentary on the debate -- or as Roger Kimball calls it, the "debate" -- worth reading is highlighted below.
John Podhoretz in the New York Post:
Section 1325! Section 1325! For a few crucial minutes in the middle of the first Democratic presidential debate, Julián Castro (polling average: 0.8 percent) took over the proceedings by challenging his fellow candidates to endorse the repeal of Section 1325 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.
What’s it about? Don’t ask.
He yelled at Beto O’Rourke about it and expressed his deep disappointment that O’Rourke wasn’t joining him in supporting the repeal of Section 1325.
O’Rourke is at 3.3 percent in the Real Clear Politics polling average, so you can see why Castro thought it was so important to nail him. If he really cuts into Beto’s support, Castro might rise to a whole 1.5 percent.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren — poll average 12.8 percent — could barely get a word in edgewise.
Later, Tulsi Gabbard (0.8 percent) got into a kerfuffle with Tim Ryan (0.6 percent) on whether we should even have gone into Afghanistan in the first place. Gabbard, who seemed to be bidding for the goth vote with her dramatic shock of gray hair, said the Taliban didn’t attack us, al Qaeda did. Ryan’s expression was like Mugatu in “Zoolander” asking if he’d been taking crazy pills.
Meanwhile, Warren — remember, with a poll average of 12.8 percent — still wasn’t getting a word in edgewise.
And Roger Kimball in The Spectator:
The best comment I heard tonight came from my 11-year-old daughter. Walking into my study at one point and overhearing something Elizabeth Warren said about ‘corporations’ or ‘Medicare for All,’ she asked ‘does she know about a thing called money?’ We exchanged a meaning glance because it was clear that neither Sen. Warren nor her Democratic colleagues know the first thing about money, a prerequisite for the job of president of the United States. Which is a major reason why none of them will have that title on their resumes, and thank God for small mercies.
More Kimball:
Because the entertainment that was beamed out tonight from NBC was not a debate. It had nothing to do with debate. It was an exhibition — partly pathetic, partly amusing in a surreal sort of way — of sclerotic virtue-signaling.
At The Bulwark, Jonathan Last comments on every Democrat's performance. This is disappointing, or at least should be for Democrats: "Amy Klobuchar: Was she even there?" This, too, was disappointing because it is such as Bulwarkian comment: "John Delaney / Tim Ryan: Any chance one of these guys wants to switch up and go as a Republican running to primary Trump? Because they’d get a lot more votes that way." According to Last, last night's winners were Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Mitch McConnell. The big loser: America.
Lastly, a headline from The Corner: "Democrats Lurch Left on Abortion, Immigration, and Health Care in First Debate." that seems to capture what happened (gleaned from the coverage I've read). This is hardly news. The party seems to be drifting leftward so it is hardly news that the party's "debate" for the party's activist and voter base. In other words, Bernie Sanders won the 2016 Democratic primary.
That said, progressives don't think the candidates are Left enough, at least on the environment. See Emily Atkin's New Republic essay, "The First Democratic Debate Failed The Planet." (Psst: a debate cannot save the planet.)

Saturday, June 22, 2019
Thank God for polls
A ComRes poll for the Sunday Telegraph finds that Conservatives like Boris Johnson and Brexit and dislike Jeremy Corbin:
Boris Johnson is more than 20 points ahead of Jeremy Hunt among grass-roots Conservatives, a new poll suggests.
A ComRes survey for The Sunday Telegraph found that 61 per cent of Tory councillors intended to vote for Mr Johnson in the party's leadership contest, compared to 39 per cent planning to back the current Foreign Secretary.
The poll also reveals an overwhelming preference for a no-deal exit from the EU if the next Conservative leader fails to secure a better deal with Brussels.
Some 83 per cent of councillors said the next Conservative leader must deliver Brexit on or before October 31, when the extended Article 50 notice period is due to expire, while 80 per cent said that if the EU refuses to make any further concessions the UK should leave without a deal.
Some 77 per cent disagreed that the next Tory leader must extend Brexit if the alternative is a no-deal exit, compared to 23 per cent who agreed. Meanwhile, 62 per cent said they would support an electoral pact between the Conservatives and Nigel Farage's Brexit Party if it was likely to keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street.

Grade 8 student didn't know about Hitler
The Toronto Star reports on an incident involving a school's graduation display:
A Catholic elementary school has removed a quote attributed to Hitler that was part of a Grade 8 graduation picture display — after it hung in the gym for nearly two days.
Staff at Holy Rosary Catholic School were made aware of the quote — “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. (Adolf Hitler)” — after basketball players, who use the gym for evening games, complained ...
She said staff at the school, located near Bathurst St. and St. Clair Ave. W., spoke with the student who is “deeply apologetic,” adding, “We believe the student made an honest mistake.”
I think this is pretty innocuous. Probably shouldn't use a quote from Hitler in school displays, but the quote itself wasn't offensive or reflective of Hitler's actions or ideologies. But I find the explanation deeply problematic:
The boy had searched online for an inspirational quote and didn’t know who Hitler was, the board spokesperson said. He didn’t know Hitler’s German Nazi regime was responsible for the murder of 6 million Jews — and millions of others, including Gypsies and homosexuals — in the Second World War.
This is quite the indictment of the school.

Friday, June 21, 2019
BoJo controversy
The Daily Telegraph reports:
Police were called to the home of Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds in the early hours of Friday morning after a neighbour heard screaming during an apparent row between the couple.
Miss Symonds was reportedly heard telling Mr Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat”.
A neighbour living next door to Mr Johnson made a recording of the row before dialling 999, saying they were concerned for Miss Symonds’ safety.
Of course we don't know what really happened but I wanted to note that the neighbour was so concerned about Carrie Symonds safety that he or she made a recording of the altercation before dialing for help.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Conservative leadership vote
Boris Johnson has 143 votes -- as much as the next three combined. Jeremy Hunt has 54 MPs supporting him, Michael Gove has 51 and Sajid Javid won the backing of 38. Rory Stewart fell off the ballot with 27 votes. Stewart lost 10 votes between the second and third ballot and 14 of Dominic Raab's 30 supporters publicly declared for BoJo. It is fair to assume that Stewart's backers will not be going to Johnson. With talks between Stewart and Gove to combine forces becoming public, it is probably fair to assume the Environment Minister will get most of the International Development Minister's backers (indeed, some of Stewart's backers probably jumped ship while he was still on the ballot) and that Gove will leapfrog Hunt to face Johnson in the vote by party members. I think Johnson will have a slightly harder time against Gove than he will Hunt.
Two quick Tweets that are wise observations, one about why Conservatives (I would add, particularly Johnson) needs Stewart and the other about why the (I think now inevitable) Gove-Johnson race is bad for the party.

Ratcheting up the rhetoric
The New York Post editorializes on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's recent comments on the US border, invoking memories of the Holocaust:
Democrats don’t like the camps but refuse to OK funds to upgrade them or to expand the immigration courts to speed up resolution of the claims — and won’t even think about updating laws that never anticipated this situation.
The only “answer” that leaves is to just wave the migrants on in — and, presumably, allow them to collect public assistance just like citizens or legal immigrants do.
If you won’t go along with that, AOC believes you’re just like Hitler.
Fascist. Concentration camp. Never Again. “I don’t use those words to just throw bombs,” the congresswoman insisted. Yet that’s exactly what she’s done.
Many on the Right want to focus on the appropriateness of comparing detention of illegal aliens to genocide, and that's a fair discussion to have. But what seems to be lost is the way in which AOC and some of her allies on the Left are trying villainize political opponents by turning a legitimate and complex policy difference into something that cannot be debated because one side is literally Nazis. This not only cheapens the historical analogy, but is fundamentally anti-democratic by placing some topics off limits in what should be a deliberative democracy.

Conservative leadership race
I agree with the Daily Telegraph's Daniel Capurro that Sajid Javid won the debate yesterday, but disagree with his notion that Michael Gove performed poorly because he was making his pitch too directly to his fellow MPs; that's who Gove must win over immediately. Can't campaign for the votes of the membership before you make the final two, and he's in a three-way race for that privilege. BBC is reporting that Gove and Rory Stewart are talking about joining forces. Gove would probably lead the ticket with Stewart promised a plum post, although perhaps Gove shouldn't be trusted. The BBC quotes an unnamed source that Stewart wants to lead the combined forces of the two. Perhaps any deal is dependent on who finishes ahead in the next round (that would make sense). Stewart admitted on TV that they are talking although Gove sources initially denied the reports. Key sticking point in negotiations according to Stewart is how to approach Brexit negotiations. Of more than 1200 respondents of Conservative activists to the ConservativeHome poll, more than 61% want Boris Johnson as leader. That looks like a prohibitive favourite now (Gove is a distant second at just under 15%), but will look less so once he faces a single opponent in a poll.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Tory leadership vote
A lot of the coverage says that Rory Stewart had a good result, jumping ahead of Dominic Raab, with 37 votes compared to 30 for the Member of Parliament for Esher and Walton. Stewart nearly doubled his vote among his colleagues (from 19 to 37). As ConservativeHome's Andrew Gimson noted, that's a real bandwagon. Two others gained at least 10 votes: Boris Johnson (14) and Sajid Javid (10). Michael Gove gained four MPs and Jeremy Hunt three. Those are small but real gains but the story might be that they lack momentum which could become self-fulfilling. The Daily Telegraph has good snapshots of each candidate, and it reports that bookmakers put BoJo at an 88% chance of winning the leadership -- to be decided by the Conservative Party membership after the MPs whittle the field down to two candidates -- followed by Stewart (10.3%), Hunt (6%) and Gove (3%). The bookmakers may like Stewart (10.3%) more than anyone but BoJo, but that percentage takes into account the fact Stewart has a difficult path to facing the membership vote. It seems unlikely he will jump ahead of Hunt to get on the final ballot. Most of Raab's votes -- which are hard Brexit votes -- are going to go to Johnson and it's highly unlikely any will be headed toward Stewart, who is only nine votes behind second-place Hunt, but has two others he must also jump ahead of. Indeed, it is hard to imagine Stewart picking up more votes from either Sajid Javid's suporters (33 votes) or Gove's (41), than would Hunt, who is currently at 47 votes. Stewart will have to gain four more MPs from Raab and Javid voters in the next two rounds than does Gove to remain on the ballot. I'd bet against that happening.

Leadsom backs BoJo, and other Tory leadership news
The (London) Times has the report. No surprise here. That makes three former opponents. That is a bit of surprise and takes the wind out any Stop BoJo campaign.
Of note from the Times report:
Mr Johnson’s camp deny that he will seek to manipulate the contest by “lending” votes to Jeremy Hunt, the candidate he is said to be most confident of beating when Tory members choose between a final two selected by the parliamentary party.
Of course, Boris Johnson would say that. It might even have the virtue of being true. As strategic as it might be to face Hunt, it is also a good strategy to have as strong a victory going into membership portion of the campaign.
The second round of the Conservative MPs voting is this afternoon.

Monday, June 17, 2019
Because Sweden and Canada are not socialist
Toby Young: "Socialism always begins with a universal vision for the brotherhood of man and ends with people having to eat their own pets." Great quote, but that describes Venezuela and Ethiopia, not Scandinavia and Canada. Ego Sweden and Sweden is not socialist. Nor is the mixed-economy, fundamentally Western European, vision of Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Boris Johnson promises to tackle the digital divide
Conservative leadership contender and Daily Telegraph columnist Boris Johnson uses his perch in the esteemed paper to do some politicking:
I was speaking to some Lincolnshire Conservatives the other night, and there was one thing those farmers wanted me to do to improve their lives – and they wanted it done as fast as possible. Yes, they want a good Brexit by October 31, and if I am elected, that is certainly what we will do. Yes, they want a government that will champion British farming and British food production; and as someone who partly grew up on a family farm (milked cows, dipped sheep) I am totally committed to supporting farming and rural life.
But when I mentioned another priority of mine – almost casually – those farmers smote their weatherbeaten hands together and roared their assent. They want better broadband. They are indignant at the current failure to provide it – and they are absolutely right.
A fast internet connection is not some metropolitan luxury. It is an indispensable tool of modern life. You need it for your medical prescription, for paying your car tax, for keeping up with the news and with your family and friends. It is becoming the single giant ecosystem in which all economic activity takes place. It is the place you find bargains. It is the place you find customers. It is not only the place you can find a job. It is the means by which you can be interviewed, and your talents uncovered, without incurring the cost of a rail ticket. If your area has a truly fast broadband connection, that area will be a better place to live, to invest, to set up a business; and that area will have a better chance of retaining talented young people, and allowing them to start up businesses and bring up their families.
It is therefore a disgrace that this country should suffer from a deep digital divide, so that many rural areas and towns are simply left behind. They can’t rely on teleconferencing. They can’t skype properly. Sometimes the coverage is so bad that they can’t even email properly. This is 21st century Britain – the country that helped to pioneer the very idea of the world wide web – and yet we have only seven per cent coverage of full fibre broadband.
To fully participate in modern life -- or more accurately, for the opportunity to fully participate in modern life -- people must have access to high-speed, reliable internet. The private sector has determined that it is not worth the cost to bring high-speed to rural areas at a cost that people are willing to pay. Free market purists would say that is the end of the story, and it might very well be. But if there was a public utilities case for state interference in delivering electricity and indoor plumbing to the masses outside major cities, it might be applicable to high-speed internet. It might well be in the public's interest to bring the opportunities of the internet to isolated or otherwise economically depressed areas. As parts of England -- and Canada and the United States -- reap the economic and cultural rewards of a deep and rich internet, other parts have only meager access to components of the digital world while being excluded (by technology) from the experience. That is why BoJo vows "full fibre in all the towns of Britain" by 2025:
It cannot go on like this. The government has just set a new target for the 100 per cent roll-out of full fibre broadband – by 2033! Tell that to rural Lincolnshire. As a deadline, that is laughably unambitious. If we want to unite our country and our society, we should commit now to delivering full fibre to every home in the land not in the mid 2030s – but in five years at the outside ...
It is outrageous that places such as Boston and Mansfield and Bishop Auckland and Newcastle-under-Lyme are currently being asked to wait until the mid 2030s to have a speed and richness of internet connectivity that, say, Londoners take for granted.
In some ways, BoJo is pandering. He wants to win over rural voters to his leadership bid and the Conservative Party. But in other, more important ways, he is trying to bring those back-row, left-behind, outsiders closer to the front and inside. A digital divide is a wall separating modern haves and have-nots. BoJo wants to tear down that wall and strengthen the bonds of community amongst groups that haven't felt them in a while. Also, while Esther McVey did not address internet access, this fits nicely with her Blue Collar Conservatism.

Cowen on the Balkans
Tyler Cowen likes Marie-Janine Calic's new book The Great Cauldron: A History of Southeastern Europe and concludes his brief post thusly:
I think about the Balkans a great deal (and enjoy visiting there), if only because they are one simple alternate scenario for what the rest of world history will look like.
Cowen's eccentricism sometimes gets the better of his analytical side, and this might be one of those times.

Thursday, June 13, 2019
Conservative leadership: First round to BoJo
The Daily Telegraph reports:
Rory Stewart, who had been expected to fall short, scraped through with 19, followed by Matt Hancock on 20 and Sajid Javid on 23.
Jeremy Hunt, Mr Johnson's closest rival, appeared to fall short of expectations, securing 43 votes, whilst Michael Gove finished third with 37.
Dominic Raab, initially expected to challenge Mr Johnson as a hard Brexiteer candidate, secured 27 votes.
Commenting on the result, Mr Johnson said: "Thank you to my friends and colleagues in the Conservative and Unionist Party for your support. I am delighted to win the first ballot, but we have a long way to go."
At the next round of voting on June 18, candidates will need 33 votes to remain in the contest.
Before the vote, ConservativeHome estimated Johnson had 84 MPs backing him followed by Hunt with 37, Gove 34, and Dominic Raab with 23. Johnson exceeded expectations by quite a bit, while the others were pretty close to the estimated level of support.
It's too bad that Esther McVey, a principled and articulate conservative, finished last with nine votes, just behind Mark Harper (10) and Andrea Leadsom (11). Some of McVey's potential supporters certainly were backing Johnson and Raab on the first ballot. That might have been true for Leadsom, too. I assume that some commentators will note that the only two women in the 10-person race were eliminated on the first vote. Contra the Telegraph description Rory Stewart did not merely "scrape through" but finished well ahead of the trio at the bottom.
Henry Zeffman of The (London) Times explains what is likely to happen next, with the next round of MP balloting coming June 18:
It is probably fair to assume that Ms McVey’s nine votes will head towards Mr Johnson, although some of them might take a detour via Mr Raab. Backers of Mrs Leadsom, who received 11 votes, are likely to flow to one of those two Brexiteers too, while Mr Harper’s ten backers are fairly diverse and will move in different directions ...
The game for Mr Gove and Mr Hunt is to jostle with each other for second place in Tuesday’s ballot, while the rest will hope to catch light and surge ahead of them.
Matt Hancock, a distant sixth with 20 votes, and Sajid Javid, fifth on 23, face the dilemma of whether it is better to stay in the race and risk their supporters abandoning them for more obviously viable candidates or to pull out and endorse another candidate quickly in order to exert influence and display clout. The fear for Mr Javid and Mr Hancock is that if they stay on to the second ballot they could be embarrassed by a poor performance below the threshold of 33 votes required to advance in the process, diminishing their claim to a top cabinet job under the next prime minister ...
Rory Stewart will want to use the debate to engender public pressure on Conservative MPs to put him through.
Dominic Raab finished with 27 votes, good for fourth, but his position might be the weakest. He is in direct competition with Boris Johnson as the most stridently anti-EU leadership contender and presumptive leader for the ready-for-No-Deal-if-necessary contingent of the party. He is also economically and culturally conservative, maybe a little more so than BoJo. Johnson's better-than-expected showing probably means he has little chance to gain traction and he should probably drop out quickly and endorse the front-runner. It could prevent this from dragging on any longer than necessary and put him in the future leader's good graces. That does not mean, as James Forsyth reported in his Sun column last week, that some in the party want the MPs to just coronate Johnson if he is far ahead:
There is increasing talk among senior figures in the party that if the former Foreign Secretary comes out on top in the parliamentary rounds, it would be best to skip the members part of the contest and make him Prime Minister straight away.
The argument goes that the polling shows that Johnson is the members’ choice, and so they wouldn’t mind him being crowned.
Also, by ending the contest early, the new Prime Minister would have a chance to get cracking on Brexit.
Theresa May never faced a vote from the membership. Boris Johnson is not Theresa May. He has political skills and intelligence that allude her. But it is a good exercise for a leader to go through and the party deserves to have its say. It can only help the eventual winner and his legitimacy to face the membership for a vote.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019
On the genocide label
Writing at PJ Media under the pseudonym Nathan S. Roseman, "an untenured professor working in the field of mental health and behavioral science somewhere in Canada," dissects what is wrong with using the term genocide to describe the problems facing Canadian indigenous people. The essence of the argument is:
There is no question that Canadians of First Nation, Inuit, and Métis descent — particularly those living in remote areas — continue to face many daily stressors from economic marginalization that places them at high risk for poor physical, psychological, and nutritional health. The ongoing discrimination and racism faced by many indigenous Canadians certainly contribute to these problems. Framing primarily cultural and socioeconomic issues in terms of "genocide," however, promotes the false notion that active perpetrators of organized murder are to blame, and encourages indigenous people to adopt a counterproductive and divisive victimhood narrative.
As it stands, our Government’s official invitation to conspiratorial hatred and victim ideology will further impair a vulnerable community and plant the seeds of division our already polarized nation.
I recommend reading the whole article.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Tory leadership race
There are ten official candidates for the Conservative Party leadership in the UK. Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is the early favourite and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt looks to be the likely ABB candidate (Any But Boris). Michael Gove desperately wants to be that candidate, and is trying to change the page from the story about sniffing cocaine to an all-out assault on Johnson. The Daily Telegraph reports:
In a further blow to Mr [Michael] Gove, Penny Mordaunt, the Defence Secretary, chose to back Jeremy Hunt instead of him, as the Foreign Secretary overtook Mr Gove as the main challenger to Mr [Boris] Johnson.
Asked whether he should now “call it a day” after three days of headlines about his cocaine snorting, Mr Gove instead taunted Mr Johnson by suggesting the former Mayor of London does not “believe in [his] heart” he is up to the job of prime minister.
Having betrayed Mr Johnson by sabotaging his 2016 leadership run, Mr Gove mocked him by saying: “Whatever you do, don’t pull out - I know you have before.”
That is not only a reference to Johnson's abandoned 2016 leadership bid, but his extra-marital affairs (although the Environment Minister denies that was what he was alluding to). Gosh, British politics is fun. Relatedly, there was an accidental use of the c-word on TV in relation to the Tory leadership race, thanks to Victoria Derbyshire.
I'm terribly torn between wanting Boris Johnson to win and wanting to see Michael Gove lose. Fortunately these are not mutually exclusive, but if I had to chose, I would probably abandon my two-decade wish to see BoJo become PM to stop Gove from becoming leader and Prime Minister.
Also high on my list of what I want/don't want, is keeping Sarah Vine out of 10 Downing. Again, thankfully none of this is mutually exclusive.
Telegraph columnist Andrew Mitchell says there are only four real contenders: Johnson, Hunt, Gove, and Dominic Raab. The brilliant and principled Tory Ian Duncan Smith has endorsed BoJo. IDS says that the Tories risk the sort of repudiation that the Kim Campbell-led Canadian Progressive Conservative Party faced in 1993 if they do not deliver on Brexit. IDS writes:
We have to leave the EU by October 31 or I fear the British people will finally leave us, once and for all.
That is why I have decided to vote for Boris Johnson in the Conservative Party leadership election. I believe of all the candidates he is the most likely to deliver on the requirement to leave the EU by October 31. He has grasped that imperative. While there are other good candidates standing, too many speak of how damaging this would be. How, I wonder, will the EU take their discussions seriously if they see frightened negotiators from the UK sitting in front of them?

Monday, June 10, 2019
Donald Trump's view of exchange
Donald Boudreaux at on President Donald Trump's view of international trade, and the market:
Trump has pontificated on trade for decades, and every word out of his mouth clearly reveals a man who knows nothing about the economics of trade and who is as clichéd an economic nationalist as can be imagined.
Behold this line from a 1990 interview he did in Playboy: “The Japanese double-screw the US, a real trick: First they take all our money with their consumer goods, then they put it back in buying all of Manhattan. So either way, we lose.”
Let’s examine this unalloyed gem of economic witlessness.
Overlooking Trump’s outrageous exaggerations, such as his claim that the Japanese buy up “all” of Manhattan, we start by stating an obvious truth: the voluntary purchase of a good is not a transaction in which the buyer is “screwed” or has his or her money “taken.” Instead, the buyer’s money is voluntarily spent. While every person of good sense sees a foreign seller who makes attractive offers to domestic buyers as someone who improves the well-being of each buyer who accepts the offer, Trump sees this seller as a con artist or thief.
Perhaps because that's how he behaved as a seller.

Friday, June 07, 2019
Fox News reported a few days back:
NBA teams reportedly have had multiple conversations over the last year about moving away from the term “owner” when describing the person who controls the majority of the franchise.
The conversations over whether to do away with the term “owner” center around the racial connotations in a league where the majority of the players are black, TMZ Sports reported Monday.
Talks gained more traction when several athletes and celebrities discussed the connotation of the word “owner” on an episode of HBO’s “The Shop” in September, according to TMZ Sports.
“The fact that they still call people with those teams owners, when does that change?” comedian Jon Stewart asked in the episode.
While Snoop Dogg insisted he wanted to be called an owner if he owns his own team, product or brand, Stewart responded: “When your product is purely the labor of people then owner sounds like something that is of a feudal nature.”
Good grief. They team owners do not own the players, they own the team. The players play for that team. They are not owned by it. FFS.
Also, it's sad that comedians are so influential in driving the national discussion on issues.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019
Global cities are not becoming the same
Contra Megan McArdle ("London is now New York, with better scones"), Tyler Cowen says, "I don’t find all global cities increasingly the same." Cowen notes:
Even central London and central Manhattan have fundamental differences, and that is without bringing Harlem or East Harlem into it. I almost always feel pleasant and relaxed walking around London. In central Manhattan, I often feel a bit stressed. I go to Manhattan to hear jazz, to visit contemporary art galleries, to soak up the energy of the streets. When I am in London (less frequently), I visit well-stocked bookshops, eat Indian food, and absorb a very different vision of government and politics.
To be blunt, if the two cities are so similar, why do I much prefer spending time in London?
Among the more populous cities I have visited are Lagos, Tokyo, Mexico City, Delhi, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Cairo. I can find very real similarities among their gyms, coffee shops, hotels and smart phones used by the locals. Still, it is hard to argue they are converging on some common set of experiences or cultural memes.
Read Cowen's full Bloomberg column.

Generation gap in American politics
New York Times columnist David Brooks notes:
For much of the 20th century, young and old people voted pretty similarly. The defining gaps in our recent politics have been the gender gap (women preferring Democrats) and the education gap. But now the generation gap is back, with a vengeance.
This is most immediately evident in the way Democrats are sorting themselves in their early primary preferences. A Democratic voter’s race, sex or education level doesn’t predict which candidate he or she is leaning toward, but age does.
In one early New Hampshire poll, Joe Biden won 39 percent of the vote of those over 55, but just 22 percent of those under 35, trailing Bernie Sanders. Similarly, in an early Iowa poll, Biden won 41 percent of the oldster vote, but just 17 percent of the young adult vote, placing third, behind Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Notice that young Democrat voters are not backing Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg or Robert "Beto" O'Rourke or Corey Booker. They are supporting Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Elizabeth Warren. The average age of the three favourites among younger Democrats is 74. Both ideology and strategy are driving this divergence, but more of the former. Polls show that older Democrats want someone who can beat Donald Trump while younger Democrats want, in Brooks' words, "a more progressive candidate who they think can bring systemic change."
This generational divide is even worse for Republicans. Putting aside turnout rates amongst younger voters -- Justin Trudeau in Canada showed that if you give them a reason to come out, they may not vote at the same rate as seniors but their turnout increases -- the numbers show millennials favour Democrats. As Brooks writes, "The generation gap is even more powerful when it comes to Republicans. To put it bluntly, young adults hate them." In 2018, 67% of those under 30s voted for Democrats for the House of Representatives and polling shows that nearly six in ten millennials identify of lean Democrat; fewer than one in three identify or lean Republican. Ideology explains why. 57% of millennials call themselves liberal or mostly liberal while only 12 of them identify as consistently or mostly conservative. Gen Z (those under 23) are even more liberal.
These ideological leanings could change over time, but my guess is that the parties will change to chase these voters: the Democrats and Republicans both moving leftward and/or emphasizing/de-emphasizing certain issues. That might work, it might not. Younger people tend to be more liberal generally and then they grow up (become employed and pay taxes, have kids, take on a mortgage and the responsibilities of car ownership). The Peter Pan Generation might change that, though. More importantly, the slight skew toward the Left is now a hard skew toward progressive politics and politics is not just something voters dabble in as much as becomes part of their identity. It might all be too much to overcome over time.