Thursday assorted links

1. “But in our situation we’re all powerless. I mean, we pretend we’re run by people. We’re not run by anybody. The secret of modern Britain is there is no power anywhere.” Some commentators, he says, think we’re run by an oligarchy. “But we’re not. I mean, nobody can see power in Britain. The politicians think journalists have power. The journalists know they don’t have any. Then they think the bankers have power. The bankers know they don’t have any. None of them have any power.”  That is Rory Stewart, who is more interesting than most American politicians.

2. Bryan Caplan responds on immigration backlash.

3. Indonesian markets but not menus in everything.

4. Louis Sarno, collecting music among the Bayaka.

5. What Peter Thiel plans to say tonight.

6. Margalit Fox obituary for John Gruen (NYT).

7. A marketing perspective on why Leave beat Remain.  Recommended.

8. Details on the Turkish coup.


1, 5. Isn't that the problem in America, that the country isn't run by somebody, and Trump's answer is that it needs to be run by Trump. Thiel supports Trump because Trump is the best hope for . . . . destroying America, and not just America, but democracy itself.

...America is not supposed to be "run by somebody", if one subscribes to quaint notions of Constitutionalism.

The problem for the naive is the genuine distinction between the visible government and the invisible government. The invisible "Deep State" government exerts immense arbitrary power over the populace 24/7. The visible government is a superficial circus of Presidential & lower elections and musical-chairs of officeholders.

I thought today's talking point was that Trump wanted to be more Chairman of the Board than CEO. That he was looking for a good COO VP. And this is bad because he doesn't really want the job; he just wants to win. And he probably won't even run for his second term.

It's so hard to keep track of which inane criticism I'm supposed to be making. Is there a mailing list I can subscribe to?

That he didn't want to do the job would have been an inane criticism, if it hadn't, impossibly, been confirmed by the campaign.

I assume you are the same 'anon' as below. You got Trump exactly right:
- His campaign will implode, as I have been predicting for a year now.
- He is a total fool who doesn't know what he is doing, and he has already elimiated 16 competitors
- His popularity in the polls just shows how unpopular he is
- The science has proven that electing Trump would cause proton decay and the destruction of the universe. Which means he is a new Hitler.

Did I sum up your position correctly?

Why does not work on this page???

You have identified the tension in my position. I believe democracy is good, but democracy seems to be producing Trump, who I believe is bad.

But actually it is not such a tension. I believed in 2004 that Bush was bad. More would agree with that now, but he won.

The true strength of democracy is, at the end of the day, that a country can change its mind without bloody revolution. As long as we keep the democracy, we can come back. We went from Bush to Obama without bloodshed.

Of course the more you flirt with authoritarians, the more you risk not coming back. It has happened to seemingly solid democracies before.

The true strength of democracy is, at the end of the day, that a country can change its mind without bloody revolution.

Yes, that's it. A lot of people dump a whole lot of other things onto the democracy wagon, though, and claim they must be good "because democracy."

In the US we schedule a revolution every 4 years, count which side has the most soldiers, and declare the side with more soldiers the winner. Pretty convenient and efficient, but also very limited.

I think Thiel's real position is probably that Trump will provoke a crisis (ideally, this would only be a crisis of thought among the left and cosmopolitan right rather than an actual catastrophe) that will lead to major shifting and, more importantly, redefining of political/tribal alignments. Although I would welcome such a realignment, I think this strategy is unattractively risky and don't think that a Trump-fueled realignment would actually be productive.

There are precedents for rich guys favoring risky strategies to achieve worthwhile goals.

5. My quick observation would be that Thiel comes across as smart, but not super well balanced, and that he supports Trump, who seems the same. Two peas, in similar, if not exactly the same, pods. You don't have to be a conservative to have higher respect for institutions of government than these two. To a moderate, they look outlandish.

(Peter Thiel wrote, on April 13, 2009, in the Libertarian 'Cato Unbound' blog, “Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”)

I predict a ruckus on the floor, which while amusing to Trump foes, actually will again reinforce bad management from the would-be Chairman of the US Board. As many have noted, the first purpose of a convention is unity. The second is to sell the brand to the mainstream. How does Thiel do either?

Will Mr.Eastwood be there?

Could similarly apply your keen, non-partisan insights to the expected DNC speakers?

I am not a Dem, but I can predict that someone will say something stupid about free college for all as a cure for all our problems.

Good God, just on that level .. who puts "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible" guy on an American convention stage?

It has long been noted that there is danger in believing your own BS.

This honestly seems a case in point, people who think "things are terrible" use that to justify radical changes. They even use it to question democracy itself. We've seen this thread in back MR threads, and now it is full featured at a US national political convention.

I used to think you were a parody commentator, but now you've got me authentically scared. This is too real.

That humor is just too dark for today.

Not a Trump supporter by any stretch of the imagination, but this is hardly heresy -- it was a belief widely held by the founders and was a main motivating factor in the design of the U.S. government. The whole point of the bill of rights is to protect individual liberties from potential threats from majoritarian democracy:

If we brought all the great minds of history together to hash this out, it would not be as one-sided as you seem to think. But I guess we moderns have figured out all this political stuff via SCIENCE!

Don't tell me you're back to the idea of democracy as your woobie though. Not this far along the Trump Experience. He might win, you know. Yay democracy?

Anyone who is okay with the Supreme Court overturning laws that have popular support feels the same way.

No, they don't. People who favor legal security and abiding immunities from state power adhere to the view that elected officials cannot always be trusted, not that 'freedom and democracy are incompatible'. The trouble is, we live at a time when the culture of the elite bar is such that judicial review and democratic deliberation are incompatible.

I think there are many countries in the world where neither "freedom" nor "democracy" (as understood by most of us) are possible for the foreseeable future. Syria? Afghanistan? Zimbabwe? Even if these countries were conquered by an outside power and then you were given 10 years with unlimited power to plant "freedom" and "democracy", "freedom" and "democracy" would wither away within a few years.

And in the American context, whether "freedom" and "democracy" are compatible depends a lot on that you mean by those words. For Thiel, "freedom" apparently includes the right to conduct business without a huge amount of government interference. Is there any realistic possibility of convincing a majority of American voters to drastically cut back on the regulatory state? It sure does not look like it to me.

I'm a staunch libertarian, so I am okay with Thiel getting rid of the EPA so long as we all have perfectly defined property rights re: our environment, and the ability to costlessly pursue an unlimited amount of property rights infringement lawsuits on businesses in a perfectly efficient and unbiased court system. (Probably forgetting some levels of idealism here...)

In the meantime, though, I guess I'll take the EPA?

"In the meantime, though, I guess I’ll take the EPA?"

I'm perfectly fine with keeping the EPA. But perhaps we could perform a cost benefit analysis on new rules and then require the EPA to either a) retire old rules with lower cost per benefits or to b) compensate those effected for the cost of new rules.

How do you prevent 1000s of people from claiming damages because they would like to have a polluting factory but cannot? Do we only give damages to already existing factories? Perhaps this actually is fair, since these investments were made under different rules, but it makes one worry about perverse incentives (your factory should pollute as much as possible in order to get the biggest damages payout, or even more profitably, to force the creation of a regulation that will result in compensation!).

Actually curious.

"How do you prevent 1000s of people from claiming damages because they would like to have a polluting factory but cannot? Do we only give damages to already existing factories? "

The EPA would compensate per the actual incurred cost of pollution abatement equipment or in lost production. And only to facilities currently in operation.

"your factory should pollute as much as possible in order to get the biggest damages payout, or even more profitably, to force the creation of a regulation that will result in compensation!"

The existing body of law of the EPA would still be in effect. And if it was a blatant attempt at extortion you'd just take it to Congress for them to deal with it.

As I say, I am shocked and dismayed that democracy has become a bad thing for so many.

And sadly I think the puppet is right, it comes down to people without sufficient humility trying to puzzle out why elections don't go their way.

Democracy wouldn't be quite so bad if we shared the values and history of our co-citizens. Now a bunch of carpetbagging foreigners get to decide elections. No Bueno!

Must we do this again? You are just now learning that most thoughtful people have always regarded democracy as an instrumental good rather than some kind of Nirvana and you are mistaking this dawning awareness for a sea change in attitudes.

Must I remind you of the litany of ugliness that can be laid at the door of democracy in this country? Jim Crow for starters.

I am actually too sad to argue with you. A basic humility is a basis for self-determination. Democracy is a hard fought achievement in an ancient quest for self-determination.

Sure, bells and whistles have been added, representatives and courts, but those do not actually damn democracy, self-determination, humility, or the natural rights of man.

Must I remind you of the litany of ugliness that can be laid at the door of democracy in this country? Jim Crow for starters.

A crucial component of instituting Jim Crow was shoving blacks off the voter rolls and out of public office in the Southern United States via intimidation and legal chicanery. A crucial component of maintaining it was the U.S. Senate's parliamentary rules, which allowed Southern Senators to block any kind of federal legislation permissible under the Civil War amendments.

Must I remind you of the litany of ugliness that can be laid at the door of democracy in this country?

If I can remind you of the litany of ugliness which can be laid at the door of rule by cadres: abortion on demand, for starters.

That's good. The next time someone runs around arguing that 'rule by cadres' is the best thing ever, I'ma drop this bomb on 'em.

Still sad, but not too sad to outsourceto The Guardian:

I hope I can get a job as a tea lady at the country club then

OK, but see that you don't dress provocatively

At 74 year's Old my days of provocative dressing are well behind me

That, folks, is my dreary "double" proving yet again that he can't write British English.

You're accused of wanting to be a tea lady in a Trump golf course and your only response is that the other guy doesn't use "British" English. I guess the only British thing that makes a good come back is the cuisine.

Tyler should have endorsed Hilary! by now. What's the hold up?

re#1. The idea that somebody 'runs' an entity like America is stupefying.

But I guess that's how most people think.

More Hayek, less Alexander Haig.

Well they were talking about the UK, but your point is well taken, no liberal democracy should be "run" by anybody. And none really are.

The thing is to embrace that fact "a government of laws an not men" and all that. But under the misunderstanding that democracy means that the officials rule, people (and I am talking about judges here) seem to think its OK to let beurocrats make up the laws as they go along.

The result is not that the elected government has any real responsibility or ability to steer. But it does give power to a largish elite class to tweak their own patch as they see fit. In this sense, there really is an oligarchy. Or at least a class system.

#7, The author is trying way too hard. The reason that Remain lost was that it *was* a marketing campaign. For all the dire predictions - very few of which have panned out - I never once got the impression that Remain actually believed what they were saying. They just had a "fact sheet" to speak from. There was zero passion because they did not really believe their own predictions.

And the pattern continues. All the people who were insisting that X, Y and Z horrible thing would happen the day after the vote, are now pushing those dire thing off into the indeterminate future. Remain is a lot like Peter Schiff. No matter how often he is completely inaccurate, he just insists he is "early, not wrong".

I agree - I think this article would have been a lot more convincing if it had been written before the results of the referendum. I am not "in the business" so a lot of what was written in the article sounded like high level marketing BS. The Remain logo was rubbish but the Leave one was great and deserves an award??? Is there any way to be objective about this statement? Marketing is like medicine 100 years ago, it's all about the gravitas of the professional and zero science.

#1. There is a lot of the Rory Stewart stuff going on in the UK at the moment. A lot of people are trying very hard to be "interesting" about Britain. Some of them are stand-up comics, like Russell Brand, and some are at Westminster, like Stewart and Owen Jones.

What they all have in common is that they have a belief in a "system", and if only they could reform the system, things would be so much better. Now, considering that it's the UK they are talking about, that is really, really, stupid.

Nobody reforms the UK. MPs do not write blueprints for reform. Reform just drifts in over the transom, and MPs write down what has already happened.

Stewart is clearly a posh guy dabbling in politics as a hobby. He complains he has no power, but that's because he became an MP for fun, not because he had a cause or a drive. People are powerful when they have a cause or want to make changes to society - many times this is a bad thing (Mao, Pol Pot), but it can be a good thing (Richard Cobden, or William Wilberforce). But if you prefer to be cool and detached and ironic, it is unlikely you will have such an impact.

Scott Alexander recently had a good column on this,
where he contrasted following a process as a goal versus using a process to achieve a goal. Stewart clearly is in the first of these categories as an MP. I wish him well, but don't expect any great things from him.

You are right that the British constitution evolves organically over centuries unconrolled by anyone. But some of the things which drive that evolution are MPs etc. conciously reforming thing. They never quite get exactly want, but the push things in certain general directions.

#8 - Turkish coup- links in article don't work. Not much information in the article except assertions from anonymous sources. Still not clear to me the entire coup was not staged, or led on by Erdogan.

For example, this entire paragraph is unsourced (link\ doesn't work): "The planning for the coup appears to have begun months ago, but was implemented hastily, after MIT learned of the plot at 4:00 PM on Friday. Despite this, the putschists were able to marshal air and armor units to carry out a near synchronized attack on pre-designated points in Istanbul, Ankara, and the Mediterranean resort of Marmaris, where Erdogan was on holiday. The leader, according to Sabah, was Muharrem Kose, a retired colonel. General Mehmet Disli, a retired two star general in the land forces and the brother of an AKP member of parliament reportedly ordered the start of the military operation, setting in motion a complicated operation that involved air and ground units and a number of current and retired senior officers. "

If you delete this paragraph, there's hardly anything of substance in the entire article. Seems the author might be unwittingly a tool for Erdogan's propaganda machine.

1. "If things are going wrong in a country, it's not usually that we don't have enough foreigners. It's usually that we have too many."

If only he'd apply that logic to his own country.

Censoring the press?! Why, that's outrageous! No Democrat party candidate for President would ever support prior restraint on films made about her within a certain time period of the election! I mean, censoring such press would never be the number 1 or 2 issue for Democrat party voters.

Meant as a response to JAMRC who is too stupid by half with his comparison of taxes and press. Dummy, HRC and the Citizen's United tears of you and your friends are demand prior restraint of the press.

I just want to know who schedule Peter Thiel to speak directly after Jerry Falwell.

Maybe Jesus has a cruel sense of humor after all.


Caplan is saying a backlash indicates the host population is still present in large enough voting numbers to register a backlash. With more mass immigration you can dilute the pre-existing host population so that their backlash is not politically relevant.

"People who experience true mass immigration first-hand tend to stop seeing it as a problem."

This is true, if you mainly refer to the migrants and dilute opposing host populations. And especially if you shame and censor opposition.

It seems that even TC was thrown off by this rather extreme viewpoint.

The corollary is that government might feature a policy to redistribute the wealth and property of a minority group. That group would oppose and try to backlash unless the beneficiaries outnumbered them in which case a majority opinion would overrule any dissenting backlash.

#1 "Power: A Radical View" by Steven Lukes. From my point of view, S.Lukes wrote the best book on modern power conceptualization. Defenetly it explaines apparent invisibility of power.

In 1992 Buchanan gave a rousing speech denouncing the "militant homosexual rights movement". In 2004 Bush ran on a platform of pushing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. There were many conservative pundits denouncing the Lawrence V Texas decision.

And what did we witness last night?

Peter Thiel was applauded for stating that he was an openly gay man AND a conservative. His wasn't a speech thrown into some dark corner of the convention, it came just minutes before Ivanka's speech introducing her father.

"As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology."

Donald Trump didn't ramble about traditional values and Christian supremacy. He made a direct pledge to protect the LGBTQ community from the violence of a "hateful foreign ideology". He directly characterized homophobia as un-American. We didn't see boos, we saw loud and sustained cheers. He then thanked the audience for supporting him on this.

Say what you will about the party's platform but last night was a yuuuuuge step forward for acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Republican Party. We shouldn't dismiss the symbolism here.

This is the right answer.

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