WATN: Trump

In Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight / Where ignorant armies clash by night I made some brilliantly prescient predictions on how Trump's presidency was likely to go. But my overall prediction was "minor". I'm still defending that for now; wake me up when the nukes start falling. Regrettably, it looks like I got "Opposition" spot-on.

I was going to attempt a review of economist's reviews, but got bored at one but I liked it, so: Trump's Mixed Report Card - Richard A. Epstein at the Hoover Institute starts As we come to the end of 2017, it is perhaps appropriate to take stock of the ups and downs of the Trump presidency. For progressives, this is a simple calculation. They despise the man and his policies, so it is easy for them to mount a full-scale denunciation of both. Many populists admire the man for his bravado and have a guarded acceptance of his policies, so their sentiments run in the opposite direction, which most people will sign up to. Of his own assessment, For classical liberals like me, however, the calculations become difficult. The bad news is the man. The good news is his administration. The overall picture is a tricky composite. The President’s oft-manifested indifference to managing the executive branch allows his able subordinates to work diligently to undo many of the misguided initiatives of the Obama administration and to propose useful reforms. But the moment the president gets involved, anything can happen.

On the "minor" note, I put forward as an example Trump-appointed regulators reject plan to rescue coal and nuclear plants (arch). This was a witty and amusing attempt to feed some subsidies to the coal folk. I thought it was quite funny the way everyone reacted to the very idea that anything other than things that they like could possibly be subsidised. But, after a pile of words and much wasted time and effort, it all comes to nothing.

As I said in Dover BeachAll the stories about Trump deleting data will turn out to be nonsense. All the people squirrelling data away will look stupid, and will do their best to quietly forget they ever did it or suggested it, or pretend it never happened. The second bit of that certainly hasn't happened; CHANGING THE DIGITAL CLIMATE (h/t MM via fb) is more of the same. Does it, conversely, prove me wrong? Not obviously. I didn't read the entire thing - obviously - but the Key Findings start with The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) removal and subsequent ongoing overhaul of its climate change website raises strong concerns about loss of access to valuable information for state, local, and tribal governments, and for educators, policymakers, and the general public. So I think I'm entitled to assume that's important for them. And if you follow that section you find "The most significant reduction in access to an agency’s climate change information occurred when..." so yeah, this is key for them. But then reading on I can't find any actual real datasets that have been removed. Can you? I'm not interested in stuff like them removing "Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change" which was probably pointless anyway; just read Global Warming (why must everyone have their own wheel?).

May / Brexit

This is a convenient place for me to quote the Economist about how useless Theresa May is: Theresa May adds a botched reshuffle to her growing list of botches The prime minister’s latest failure to relaunch confirms her as an unsafe pair of hands... her most conspicuous defect—the fact that she had never knowingly said anything of any interest about anything... her biggest problem is more fundamental: she doesn’t have any ideas... Mrs May is locked in place, because her party is terrified of provoking a civil war over Brexit. And booting out the Tories would mean electing an opposition that has been captured by a neo-Marxist clique.


* A Rough Guide to Climbing at Dover
The one-year-old Trump presidency - the Economist is not keen on him either.
* No discredit where none is due: Donald Trump’s economic policy has not been as bad as expected: Meanwhile, the economy is booming - the Economist.
* Has President Trump Been Very Consequential?David Henderson- econlog; points to Inside the new trade arguments Trump is hearing.
* Ha ha told you so: Buzzfeed pretty well admits I'm right. fb'd by MM, too.
That GOP 'tax scam' is putting money in millions of workers' pockets.
Trump's Punt On Fake News Awards: In The End, He's Got Nothing.
* Yet another end-of-year-one assessment.
Bombardier wins fight against huge tariffs on aircraft imports
* Carbon Monitoring Restored in Congress, for Now. May 19, 2018


CapitalistImperialistPig said...

You were silent when they came for the "Student's Guide," because you weren't a student.

Andrew said...

Climbing on chalk, or, why jet-packs were invented.

John Bowles said...

Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection, says the German economist and IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer. The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated.

-– Ottmar Edenhofer, November 2010

William M. Connolley said...

You *are* trolling. Nice to have it confirmed.

Anyway, as to Edenhofer, I'll let that stand because google only finds the thing I wanted with some difficulty so it's convenient to link it here:

https://wmconnolley.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/peabody-coals-contrarian-scientist-witnesses-lose-their-court-case/comment-page-1/#comments in the comments.

See-also http://variable-variability.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/ottmar-edenhofer-climate-politics-redistribution-wealth.html.

Phil said...

Back to Trump. Some required background reading.


Phil said...

Does the USA have more Otto Wels?
Or more Paul von Hindenburg?

Andrew said...

Trump is more Mussolini than Hitler, without the competence or oratory skills.

So far, that lack of basic competence seems to be protecting the US.

Anonymous said...

Hello Wikipedia man William Connolley

I vandalized https://en.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=mulce&action=history

what I wrote was absolutely true but maybe wasn't very helpful

Phil said...

Trump, Mussolini and Hitler are (of course!) all rather different.

History doesn't repeat, it rhymes.

Like most people, Trump has his strengths and weaknesses. There are several things Trump is very good at. There are other things that Trump is very poor at.

Trump has a harder job to overthrow the US Republic than Hitler had with the Weimar Republic. Reichstagsbrandverordnung wouldn't be as acceptable to a majority of House and Senate, the Supreme Court, and much of the public at large.

Paul von Hindenburg (and others near him) wanted to restore a Monarchy.

"When I look back on these youdiful impressions I am thankful
to have seen the German Empire in all its power and majesty. The
House of Hohenzollem was forced to give way to a republic which
at best had only uncertain roots, and whose processes were never
fully understood. The German nation, brought up in monarchist
traditions of authority, obedience and a sense of duty, was to learn
how scandalously these characteristics could be misused by un-
scrupulous leaders. If we had been allowed to retam the institution
of the crown there would never have been a Hitler. If President
Wilson and his advisers had known Europe better and had had a
greater appreciation of the historical processes that had formed it,
we might have been given an opportunity to develop our own
form of modem democracy, instead of having forced on us a
parliamentary system which, by 1932, had reduced itself to


Hmm. Paul Ryan? Paul Ryan's Republican House has strong elements of absurdity in it... And Fancy Bear is playing with the Senate.


William M. Connolley said...

> vandalized

Your vandalism lasted a few minutes, as one might expect.

> Godwin

Do you really believe that stuff? It doesn't seem at all plausible to me.

Phil said...

Did Hitler seem like Godwin law applied to most Germans in 1932?
(How would you define Godwin's law to a German in 1932?)

How about Castro to Cubans in 1959?

How about Chávez to Venezuelans in 1999?

How about Putin to Russians in 2000?

What does a powerful politician need to do to make Dr William Connolley think about it?

Andrew said...

Phil -

I could envisage the US becoming a right wing dictatorship/autocracy, given the right personality. But it would take a far brighter personality than Trump to make it happen; Trump can't get any legislation of his own passed. Indeed, he has no program to speak of. Putin, Chavez, Castro, Mussolini - they all had very strong ideas of what they wanted to do and were capable of doing it.

William M. Connolley said...

> need to do

I think it need some coherent argument rather than just wild speculation. Questions are cheap, thinking is much harder. Russian civil society in 2000 was weak, with no history of rule of law, independent judiciary, and so on. Trump is, as Andrew says, weak not strong. In any kind of direct *personal* battle: physical or mental - it is hard to imagine Trump beating Putin. You have a curious lack of belief in the resilience of the USA. If it was as weak as you seem to think it is, it would have died long ago.

William M. Connolley said...

You might like Donald Trump’s judicial appointments may prove his most enduring legacy Everything else could in theory be reversed. His effect on the law will be profound from the Economist. It doesn't support your thesis because it is about appointing judges and implicitly assumes rule of law; but you won't like the judges, and you might like that, so to speak.

Not to be confused with Full-court press the last time they used that headline.

Phil said...

@W Rather than argument, try experience. Share a lunch table for a few months with a Real Trump Supporter.

@Andrew, do not underestimate the Donald. I don't think his message travels well.

Trump understands how to deal with the press very well. Probably better than Putin does.

Trump understands how to get people to hate, or express/admit the hate that they have always had and never voiced. I am not sure which, in general. Trump is good at this. This is scary.

Trump isn't hurt by failure to pass legislation, Congress is. Especially the Republican side of the House and to a lesser extent the Senate. Trump has them squeezed, and hard. So what happens if the Republicans lose both the House and the Senate in the 2018 elections, as seems possible? Trump will scream "election fraud", seems very likely. It could not possibly be that the voters were rejecting Trump. Oh, never. Many of his followers will repeat "election fraud". "Illegal aliens voted." And so on. What happens next? I don't know. I doubt it in advance if you claim to know.

Trump is tearing down the government agencies. Sure, the EPA. The State Department. The NSA. The CIA. Soon, very soon, perhaps the FBI.

At the same time, do not overestimate the Donald. Trump does not have a coherent ideology. This is a serious weakness, as an ideology is an important weapon for a budding Fuhrer. He wants to be the big boss, and can't write down why in a way that can be guidance to his followers. He needs to tell them who to hate next.

For that matter, Trump isn't a very coherent thinker or speaker. Listening to his rally speeches is one thing, reading the transcripts rather something different. Word salad.

Personally Trump is reported to be a very weak and needy person. That is why he disdains a critical press and any other source of criticism. No moral compass. No fact based framework.

I'm betting that Trump loses in the end. I don't think that Trump's odds are zero. Even a Trump loss might be expensive and bloody. Even in the best case Trump will damage the Republic.

Politics isn't a zero sum game, sometimes everyone loses.

@W You might really like one of the Donald's appointments for Judge. Wouldn't you like someone of quality like this deciding whether to jail you or not?


@Open question: How would you define Godwin's law to a German in 1932?

William M. Connolley said...

> deciding whether to jail you or not?

You mean https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_S._Petersen#Failed_nomination_to_district_court? Then I don't understand your question: he failed his judginess test, so won't be deciding on anyone. This is an example *agianst* your thesis, not for it.

Phil said...

Which thesis is that? I said you would like it.

@Open question: How would you define Godwin's law to a German in 1932?

Phil said...

Oh, and I'll bet you like this as well.


Phil said...

@Open question: How would you define Godwin's law to a German in 1932?

William M. Connolley said...

Why is that a useful question? It clearly means something to you, in an encoded way, but I con't decode it.

Phil said...

So how would you dismiss concern about Hitler by quoting Godwin's law to Germans in 1932? How about this attempt:

"The good news is his administration. The overall picture is a tricky composite. The President’s oft-manifested indifference to managing the executive branch allows his able subordinates to work diligently to undo many of the misguided initiatives of the Obama administration and to propose useful reforms."

Did "able subordinates" prevent Hitler from doing evil?


The NY Times from 1922:

"Several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler's anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes."


Trump isn't identical to Hitler, or Putin, or ... History doesn't repeat, it rhymes.

William M. Connolley said...

Ah, I see. But I think you haven't understood. To take your points:

"The good news is his administration. The overall picture is a tricky composite. The President’s oft-manifested indifference to managing the executive branch allows his able subordinates to work diligently to undo many of the misguided initiatives of the Obama administration and to propose useful reforms."

I presume you intended to replace "Obama" with some suitable figure from German history. But even with that done, that para doesn't apply. Hitler was not indifferent to managing the executive. His administration was, as far as I know, one with his policies. This is a major difference from Trump vs the GOP.

Your concerns appear to me to be overblown. If you want to be convincing, you'll need to make a case. So far you haven't, all you've done is say "Hitler. Trump. See?"

Phil said...

"Your concerns appear to me to be overblown."

Because you live in the USA, with friends, relatives and neighbors that are real Trump fans.

Why is your opinion interesting, again?

crandles said...


"On Monday, Trump approved duties of as much as 30 percent on solar equipment made outside the U.S., a move that threatens to handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80 percent of its supply.

they’ll increase costs for large solar farms by less than 10 percent and for residential systems by about 3 percent. "

Unimportant, or mildly bad or a good way for US govt to raise revenue or appropriate measure to protect US domestic manufacturers or ?

William M. Connolley said...

That's certainly stupid, but entirely in line with Trump's standard merchantilist viewpoint. See multiple posts at Cafe Hayek.

Possibly this is his idiot way of changing the coal-solar differential? In the end, it will be minor, because the cost of solar will fall by 10% within not-very-long.

crandles said...

At some point on solar price plunge, I think you can get to argue that solar is a good investment even with a 10% tariff so the investments are going to happen anyway. Then it becomes a good tax on those with the ability to pay much like stamp duty on property ownership change. Indeed stamp duty may tend to stop properties being put to better use whereas this is a tax on when property is put to better use.

Environmentalists will, of course, want solar to become more of a no-brainer before such tariffs start to be applied, but maybe solar might already have reached the point (perhaps only in countries with lots of land easily converted to solar farms) for it to be sensible to start to apply such tariffs?

Your response seems dogmatically pro trade, but if investments make sense even with the tariff, is it going to curb trade much, and if not, might other considerations be more important?

Anonymous said...

I share you confidence in the resilience of the American political system. It has survived Civil War, Jim Crow segregation and McCarthyism.

The rise in infant mortality, the fall in life expectancy and the reduction in access to healthcare, education and public infrastructure may indicate that individuals are less resilient than the institutions they live within.

William M. Connolley said...

> The rise in infant mortality

{{cn}}. http://humanprogress.org/f1/2386/1960/2015/United%20States says otherwise.

> dogmatically pro trade

I would prefer to say "ideologically", if you're unwilling to accept "logically".

Anonymous said...

My apologies, the US infant mortality rate has not increased overall, but has effectively stalled at 148th in world rankings (below Latvia and Chile) while the world rate has continued to fall.

This in in part because of the differential rate between black/white populations.


William M. Connolley said...

The USA has many problems with its health care system, but then so do we in the UK. I'd be cautious about interpreting short-term trends though.

Anonymous said...

" Hitler was not indifferent to managing the executive. His administration was, as far as I know, one with his policies."

Historical accounts indicate the opposite. His administrators competed for personal access because he could be persuaded to support whatever policy THEY favoured. The variation in the treatment of the ubermensch in the occupied East (Koch v Rosenberg) reveals this well.

Anonymous said...

" I'd be cautious about interpreting short-term trends though."

Long term trends indicate that without a Government regulated health care system that is re-distributive, inequality of outcomes follows the Gini index.

crandles said...

> I would prefer to say "ideologically", if you're unwilling to accept "logically".

I accept there are many situations where it is logical to be pro trade. But this seems to be playing with descriptive words rather than addressing the question posed. (Or is it your way of saying trade is most important above all else?)

William M. Connolley said...

You're drifting away from what I care about. But "becomes a good tax on those with the ability to pay much like stamp duty on property ownership" reads wrong to me: what makes you think stamp duty is good? Like any tax, it discourages the thing taxed; in this case, buying and selling property; thereby discouraging mobility. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimal_tax

crandles said...

Maybe it does read wrong. There are good and bad aspects. From Govt POV stamp duty is good because easy to levy and takes from those with ability to pay. This may well not be the only measure of whether good or bad nor even the overriding consideration. Discouraging mobility and also change of use to a slightly better use are disadvantages. However you cannot really say good or bad without having some alternative tax to compare against.

If tax changes behaviour to less optimal behaviour then it is distorting and this should be considered bad. However what I was pointing out was if solar farm cost have fallen dramatically such that tax is not going to make a difference to decision to proceed with most investments then it is less distorting and therefore has has same/similar ability to pay advantages and less of the distorting disadvantages making it even better (or is that less bad) than stamp duty. So better to remove some stamp duty tax and replace with tax on solar panels.

IOW much as environmentalists might prefer there to be no such taxes, solar panels do make an attractive target for taxes (but only so long as it is small and doesn't change many investment decisions).

William M. Connolley said...

I'm suspicious of this "attractive target" kind of stuff. Also it is far too fiddly. Govt should impose rules based on broad general principles. Not on micro-management.

crandles said...

>Not on micro-management.
Well if you want to live in that fantasy land, I am not going to stop you.

> impose rules based on broad general principles
In what way is what I am saying (that govt should seek to widen the tax base to keep rates and distorting effects down) not a broad general principles based approach?

(Also note I don't like the outcome arrived at, I would prefer faster transition to renewables so I am not arguing for doing something fiddly to get an outcome I want. So this seems a strange objection to raise.)

William M. Connolley said...

> not a broad general principles based approach?

Because it has the words "solar panel" in it; that is specific, not general.