What is the essence of Trumponomics?

Regionalism, and redistribution through the medium of job creation, says I, in my latest Bloomberg column.  Now, I don’t think that will work, given the current configuration of ideas and personnel and the weakness of the procedural in recent times.  Still, I think people are underestimating how much the underlying policies pose a potential danger to the redistributive program of the Left.  On the border adjustment tax:

As a libertarian-leaning economist, I don’t favor either of those changes, or their combination, but still there is a logic here worth considering. Think of this policy as taxing the consumption of elites and throwing that money, and more, at job creation, in this case through corporate subsidies. It’s a bigger and bolder gamble than just making some marginal adjustments in current transfer payments. In essence Trump has outflanked the left by packaging plans for redistribution of wealth with a revamped mercantilism, combined with a macho mood, media-baiting and incendiary rhetoric about who deserves what. It is an underlying fear of the left that a right-wing-flavored redistribution might prove more popular with voters than the left’s preferred egalitarianism and identity politics.

There are further points, including a discussion of why the Obamacare replacements are not nearly as stupid as they sound.  But here is my summary:

I still think Trumponomics won’t work. It is too divisive; it will be applied politically, targeting favorites and enemies, rather than in accord with the dictates of efficiency; it may destroy rather than create jobs on net; and most of all it badly damages the U.S.’s global reach by cooperating less on issues of trade and migration. I think of the program as a whole as cashing in on the capital asset of America’s foreign reputation and redistributing some of those rents to Trump-supporting regions. That is a form of shortsightedness, and a sign of the decay of our republic.

Here is a recent comment to the FT by Peter Navarro:

Mr Navarro said one of the administration’s trade priorities was unwinding and repatriating the international supply chains on which many US multinational companies rely, taking aim at one of the pillars of the modern global economy.

Stay tuned…

Comments

Excellent column, indeed 'local is the yocal' is the first rule of real estate (along with the 0th rule: 'location x 3') and this resonates with Trump, a real estate guy.

Trump is a professional heel.
here he is in training:
http://linkis.com/giphy.com/gi...

http://giphy.com/gifs/6lRu4YHp...

Bush/Obama/Hillary bombed the 7 mid east countries 25,000/yr and Trump has shown no intention of changing course

He said he wanted to bomb the shit out of ISIS, as if we weren't already doing that. Maybe he thinks the current baseline level is just bombing the piss out of them.

Actually no, the US is not bombing the sh!t out of anyone. The Air Force is engaged in an entirely token bombing campaign in Syria. Some of which may be hitting ISIS. Much of it clearly is not. The rules of engagement are so strict it is meaningless anyway.

Well, I think it depends on your definition. Obama and Co. dropped something like 26,000 bombs on ISIS last year. That accounts to 71 bombs a day. That seems fairly high to me. I guess at the end of the year, we'll see how many bombs Trump and Co. drop in comparison. ISIS is dead anyhow---Obama pretty much has them finished off.

@Not So Fast: try not to let your facts get in the way of a good SMFS bullshit post

Trade and specialization are literally why we don't live in caves anymore. I had hoped most of the anti-trade stance was bluster. Oh well, gotta have a recession sometime. Read some Matt Ridley and despair, Trumpkins.

If this is what you believe, msgkings -- and since I share your view, it should read what "we" believe -- then you have enemies on the right (Trump nativists) and on the left (Marxists, hard core academic lefties, know-nothing Corbynites), in short the anti-globalization / anti-trade crowd.

Yep. I am very pro-trade and pro-globalization. Frankly the old left/right divide seems to be morphing into this new global/nativist divide, and not just in the US

National socialists vs. international socialists, as I am putting it.

Yeah the anti-socialists don't really stand a chance

What do you propose to do about losers that vote? Your gods of globalization are indifferent to human suffering. Suppose the losers decide they don't want to stay home all day in the favela eating tortillas, taking opiods, playing video games, and masturbating while watching free porn? What if the brutes want to fight?

When the losers turn the tables and create even more different losers, the new losers will out number the old ones and turn the tables back.

In other words, when people start seeing the inflation and unemployment that will inevitably result from Trump's trade policies, he will get booted out on his ass.

Replace minimum wage and more welfare with an hourly wage subsidy?

BTW as the costs of manufactured goods approaches $0 a very low wage will suffice and the costs of services will take up a larger percent of people's spending. Also small run products too small to out sourced/mechanized will become more popular (for 1 example craft beer).

Much of the problem looks temporary, caused by China's starting with low wages and growing so fast.

It is worse in the United States and it isna sign of a rotting regime that will fall like a ball.

Can one have the benefits of trade and globalization without the downsides -- one does not have to be a Trump to see that there are some -- of immigration? That is, can one have trade with some restrictions on the "free movement" of people?

There already are some restrictions on the free movement of people.

Perhaps there are optimal levels of trade and specialization, like there are optimal levels of taxation, given certain goals and values.

If there are we haven't reached them yet. Every time the world pulls back from globalizing bad things happen (the 1930s and 40s being the most recent example). Autarkies suck. Trying to be a generalist sucks too. In 1800 everyone had to pretty much grow their own food, make their own clothes and tools, and maintain their own hovel. There was no economic growth and hardly any increase in living standards. Then trade and specialization started, and here we are. Let's keep going. Matt Ridley covers this well. www.rationaloptimist.com

"Every time the world pulls back from globalizing bad things happen (the 1930s and 40s being the most recent example)"

There was the whole Great Depression thing. Also Hitler.

"In 1800 everyone had to pretty much grow their own food, make their own clothes and tools, and maintain their own hovel. There was no economic growth and hardly any increase in living standards. Then trade and specialization started, and here we are."

There was also something called "technology."

Read Eamonn Fingleton:

www.forbes.com/sites/eamonnfingleton/

"There was the whole Great Depression thing. Also Hitler. "

There was the whole Great Recession Thing. Also Trump.

Dude, are you even aware you are agreeing with me. The Depression and WWII WAS a retreat from trade and globalization, and in many ways they were CAUSED by same. Technology is another word for specialization, spread by trade. So we agree.

The Great Depression was caused by monetary policy. It had nothing to do with trade, that's a libertarian myth.

@Anonymous. You are correct that monetary policy was a big part of the causes, but trade was definitely a factor. And it was certainly concurrent with the GD, as global trade plummeted drastically during the 1930s. You are saying this was a good thing? Or not harmful at least?

@msgkings

trade=good vs trade=bad is a strawman

@Anonymous: not to Trump it isn't

Material living standards are only a segment of existence.

The revealed preference in the advanced economies seems to be that life isn't even good enough for us to fully replace ourselves in this world.

"The revealed preference in the advanced economies seems to be that life isn’t even good enough for us to fully replace ourselves in this world."

That looks interesting, but I don't understand". Would you explain please?

Do you really think that a couple that decides to have one child instead of two or more is doing so because life isn't good enough for them? That's not a revealed preference argument but something much more unusual.

Now I get it.

Sure. If life is great, we should want to give more life, and in particular give that life to those we love (or will love) the most.

That would be children. But we aren't doing that. As our material standard of living grows we produce fewer children. Even below the level of simply replacing ourselves. Yes there are many potential factors. But I think part of it is that this world just isn't quite doing it for us.

No it isn't quite revealed preference. I don't know what it is. It is some kind of conscious or unconscious consideration though. I considered it consciously because I am that type of ruminating person. I wondered if I was doing evil to my children by creating them. I hope not, because two are here. But I still don't know.

I thought you were saying we were dissatisfied because we hadn't entirely automated ourselves away (replaced ourselves) in the workplace. ;-)

It's been explained: http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2014/09/according-to-oswald-spengler.html

I would argue that every time the world accelerates globalization too quickly you get inequality, bubbles, and culture wars. The "pull back" you fear is a process of normalization.

I hope it's a short period, and not unduly harsh like the 1930s

"Every time the world pulls back from globalizing bad things happen (the 1930s and 40s being the most recent example)."

That's a very euro-centric perspective. For the inhabitants of the non-European world, the globalization period from 1492 through the mid 20th century was pretty much one unmitigated disaster.

There are optimal levels of taxation because it results in a dead weight loss in the particular transaction, which is weighed against the cost of running programs that (allegedly) have positive externalities. Trade and specialization result in very large and obvious value creation in the particular transaction, so you would need to demonstrate some very strong negative externalities for this to make sense. I don't think I buy it, but I guess it's not the craziest thing I've read in the comments.

A 100% tax rate is a bad idea.

Therefore, the ideal tax rate is 0%.

Read and despair, cucks.

That may be so but it is interesting that economics played little role in this election. Obama has been bad for Blacks. They still won't vote for a Republican. I think it is a question of who is on your side. The Democrats have been determined to show they hate anyone who is White or heterosexual or Christian or, you know, normal. Naturally that alienates those voters. Nothing the Republicans can do can persuade Black voters that the Party of Segregation and the KKK isn't on their side.

Your average voter may not understand Trump's economic plans. The average voter may not approve. Or care. There is a whole range. But in the end the average White voter understood Trump was on their side. He did not hate them. Hillary did.

We will see how stupid Trump's policies turn out to be. But oddly enough the Democrats - long standing opponents of what everyone here now insists they support - haven't been blamed for an incipient world depression. Only Trump. Who here had any harsh words to say about Bernie?

Re: KKK - tonight on Twitter David Duke crowed that everything he's fought for is coming to fruition:

https://twitter.com/DrDavidDuke/status/826624215864508417

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/01/12/democrats-cant-win-until-they-recognize-how-bad-obamas-financial-policies-were/?utm_term=.a476a26ed674

I sold all my stocks two weeks ago and am buying real estate in South America. As far as I know none of the nuclear powers have missiles aimed in that direction.

Are you sure its the consumption of elites that will end up being taxed?

I had the same thought. Increasing the cost of imported goods would seem to impact middle income consumers most of all. If anything, the elites are more likely to buy more specially made local goods that won't be hit.

Elites might be hit when buying expensive foreign cars (BMW/Mercedes), otherwise the Walmart stuff( toys, clothes) will hit the poor most

The cheapo Walmart stuff is often described as disposable and lacking quality. Is this disposable economy where it is often cheaper to replace an item than to fix it or properly care for it, think televisions/electronics, cookware, toys and fashion even, an ideal economic situation? Could the externalities be more harmful than the cheap goods?

If a room in a house gets a remodel every 8 years instead of every 6, who are the losers? Perhaps we've reached a point where we're questioning the marginal value of "quality of life".

Exactly, things like produce will be much more expensive, especially in the winter. Elites are buying the local organic Whole Foods goods that wont see too much of an increase. Its the cheaper imported goods that the middle to lower class rely on which will increase.

I

Yes, the poorer the person is, the more likely it is that they spend close to 100% of their small income on consumption, just to survive. Richer people have the option to save or invest a large percent of their income. A consumption tax is extremely regressive.

Well, saving is just future consumption so a consumption tax will eventually hit that too. A consumption tax is only regressive with respect to income. It can be made progressive with respect to consumption (the wealthier one is and the more one consumes, the more one is taxed as a percentage of that consumption). Consumption is what matters.

You're assuming trumps policies will last 50-100 years from now, when current saving turns into consumption?

People with lower incomes spend a larger portion of their income on housing than those with higher incomes. it is the largest expense category.

"However, the typical lower-income household spent far more on housing as a share of income (40 percent) than those in the middle (25 percent) or at the top (17 percent)."

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2016/03/household-expenditures-and-income

In Tyler's defense, he may be talking about the full border adjustment tax, which he believes is equivalent to a VAT and not protectionist. Even then, though, I agree that it's strange to characterize a VAT as taxing "consumption of elites" rather than consumption of everyone.

On the broader topic of trade, one of the most misleading fallacies that has emerged is that somehow free trade benefits elites while protectionism protects middle and low income workers. Imported goods from low-wage countries tend to be cheap and, hence, bought by middle and low income consumers. On the export side, the top US exports are (1) machines, engines, pumps, (2) electronic equipment, and (3) aircraft, spacecraft [http://www.worldstopexports.com/united-states-top-10-exports/]. Those strike me as industries that provide plenty of good jobs. The top exporting state is Texas, which has been greatly helped by NAFTA. Is Texas a coastal, cosmopolitan elitist state now?

In dollar terms, who spends more on imported goods, someone with a $30,000 income or someone with a $150,000 income?

Someone with a $150,000 income can afford to "buy local" in boutique stores.
it is almost certainly the poor who purchase the most cheap plastic crap from China.

Buying local helps local workers. The elites spend more money, and at home, driving up local wages. The worker pays 5% more at Wal-Mart, but has a 10% larger paycheck.

"Are you sure its the consumption of elites that will end up being taxed?"

So, this is what we've come to - cannibalism?

:)
If you can't beat 'em ... eat 'em!!!!
Soylent greenies?

This sounds really Tyrone-y, Tyler; I would have preferred it written in his voice without the hedging at the end (and occasionally during) that you don't really think what you've just written. I realize Tyrone doesn't yet have a contract with Bloomberg (I assume he's hiking in Cambodia somewhere), but perhaps they would allow him to guest blog if you wrote an introduction for him.

Tyrone needs no introduction.

I had also been hoping that Trump's bluster on trade was just some 'Art of the Deal' pre-positioning to soften the battleground for new bilateral free trade agreements that would get rid of even more preferential tariffs and subsidies.

But if he seriously wants to break the global supply chain, we are all in a world of trouble. He has no idea how much economic efficiency we derive from global trade, and how finely tuned modern supply chains are. Screw with them and risk massive dislocations of capital and a global recession.

Help us Paul Ryan, you're our only hope.

That'd be funnier if it wasn't more or less the truth.

Meant it mainly as serious.

I was fantasizing the other day that Pence resigned in a scandal and then Trump was impeached, causing Paul Ryan to become President.

Literally anyone looking for a Trump-out model, looks back at Nixon/Agnew/Ford model and wants Pence out before Trump. The only thing more depressing than a trump presidency is a Pence presidency.

A Pence presidency would be predictably depressing. At any given moment Trump has the potential to make things two standard deviations more depressing.

Yeah, a Pence presidency would be OK. It would be the usual run-of-the-mill Republicanism. It would not be epically dangerously stupid like Trump is shaping up to be.

But maybe the voters need a little of taste of what they deserve first. Let's give them the trade policy they want for a short time and see if they like it.

@Hazel: the problem is the collapse in trade Trump causes will be blamed on Obama/China/Mexico/Schumer. Anyone but the guy who made it happen.

Sounds like a good reason to disrupt them. If a minor glitch in the global supply chain causes a catastrophe, then there will be a minor glitch that will cause a catastrophe.

This was going to happen one way or another.

You're against global trade too?

No. What is described is a profoundly fragile system. Anyone with a notion of causing a catastrophe simply does something to disrupt the chain.

When 9/11 happened and the US Canada border slowed down substantially, a local auto electronics manufacturer had to stuff the chain with a couple week's worth of production.

I suppose it has a MAD quality to it. China wouldn't dare cripple the US economy because it would cripple theirs. Unless they were facing situations like they are facing right now with instability in their economy and a gradually increasing ineffectiveness of their policy levers.

Of course the Fed could simply print a few trillion dollars like the last time a fragile system collapsed. It was so long ago, a bit more than 8 years ago.

Minor glitches happen all the time--see Japanese tsunami. This is much more then a minor glitch

This. It's not a minor glitch when you systematically smash all of the microchips in your motherboard.

Because if the entire supply chain is in America we're suddenly insulated from glitches? Looks more like concentration risk to me.

One of the big problems with Trump, which showed itself well with the immigration ban, is that he promised his base certain sound bytes, and now he wants to deliver them. But governing, and trade, are far more complex than sound bytes are. For some of it, you need an army of lawyers to figure out what is happening and what the effects are likely to be, if certain things are changed.

But Trump is the Dunning-Krueger effect on steroids. He mistakenly believes he understands government, trade, and international relations. And he is absolutely certain that they are no more complex than the little sound byte campaign promises he made.

" But governing, and trade, are far more complex than sound bytes are."

No, they're not. They are relatively simple things that are made complicated by cronyism and rent-seeking. Trump's blustery rhetoric is different only in style from that of Pelosi, Ryan, Schumer, et al.

Complaining about cronyism and rent-seeking making things complicated is like complaining about the tide coming in. It's part of its very nature.

I'm still leaning toward the idea that it's a negotiating tactic. Domestically - where he can act rather than negotiate - he's hacking away at regulations, taxes and other impediments to business activity.

So he must understand the logic of companies being able to complete across borders.

At the end of the day, he's a businessman and those are the instincts he's brought to the White House. It may be a mistake to try and understand him as a politician through the prism of ideology and rhetoric.

He'll do what he thinks will work. And change if it doesn't.

That's the optimistic take anyway.

Here's hoping. That's where I was, now I'm wavering.

People imagining that Trump is playing 9D chess are just clinging to their belief in meritocracy, despite lack of evidence for it. Trump is stupid about government, and about everything except selling real estate, and selling himself to voters in an election. He didn't rise to the presidency because he is smart, but because voters are stupid. Well, that and fake news, gerrymandering, voter suppression, hacking and releasing of documents by Putin and Assange, help from Comey, and possible electronic voting machine fraud.

There is no strategy. He is just clueless about government but thinks he's smart about it. The people who helped him win just wanted to use him as a Trojan horse to get someone with an R behind their name into the White House, except for Putin, who wanted to exert his own influence on U.S. policies. And Trump doesn't give the other R's what they want, they will make sure we get President Pence soon.

He's just the Dunning-Krueger effect on steroids, on the subject of how government works.

You know The Nation website is thataway, right?

This is a beautiful defense of oligarchy/despotism. Clearly the American system cannot be trusted. Either can democracy, since voters can be deceived. Also, without a despot the FBI will be taken over by (your political opposites) so their words have no value.

Also this is absolutely fantastic in its postmodernism. Facts are literally propaganda. Anything released by wikileaks is truthful but still lies (the lies are in the motivation) If the emails are real it just adds to the dishonesty and illigitimacy.

We've hit peak retard.

Just to tell you what I am thinking - I thought Trump was incompetent, a narcissist, but not mean. Bits and pieces of his history showed some sensitivity to the hopes and dreams of others.

Then that Schumer "fake crying" thing. I saw the clip. Schumer was with a family split by the ban. He had empathy as any normal human would. He got a little choked up. Add that Jews were turned away in the 40's and Schumer's grandmother died in the Holocaust. Trump had to belittle that.

I now worry that there is some cruelty, along with the incompetence, along with the authoritarianism.

A sad combination.

Did Schumer cry at any of the following: 1) when Obama banned Iraqi visitors for 6 months, not 3 as Trump has; 2) when Obama chose these same 7 countries for restricted access; or 3) when Obama ended a two-decade policy of not returning Cuban refugees to Havana.

Thousands of Iraqi women have been sold into sex slavery since Obama and Schumer abandoned Iraq. They've shed some tears too.

I will take False Equivalence for $500, Alex.

Only now you realize he's mean?! His entire career is about settling scores over petty crap.

The Billy Bush tape is not just shocking because of what he said. It's shocking that a grown-ass man feels the need to brag about his sex life on a bus full of people he doesn't know.

Sometimes an insecurity is accompanied by a sensitivity that others might have their own burdens .. but sadly, you are right.

Sometimes it is just the son of a man arrested at a Klan rally, making fun of human suffering.

1. When it comes to economics, Trump is not very sophisticated (illiterate if you prefer);
2. He acts based on his flawed views of the world;
3. He wants to show people he will do what he promised, that's why he demanded a "light version" of the Muslim ban and he can't go back because in his world that would be "weak and sad";
4. Trump will push reforms in order to say: "I did what I told you I'd do" regardless of its predictable bad results, he's that stubborn (stupid, if you prefer).

>As a libertarian-leaning economist

Now THAT is comedy.

I always assumed this was a Marxist blog, the authors seem to obsessed with Equality

Don't tar Alex with the same brush.

LOL, funny, these Alt Right people. Calling moderate Right Wing folks Marxists. Nobody else is far Right enough for the Alt Right.

The alt-right is far more Marxist than the moderate right, they're the ones who think that the welfare of working class white men Trump the liberty interests of everyone else.

I wouldn't call that Marxist, at least not the way the Alt Right does that. Fascist maybe. And very tribal-- white working class tribal. Where the rules are:

My tribe good, no matter what we do or say.

Your tribe bad, no matter what you do or say.

Even when both tribes say or do the same things.

My tribe gets granted our every whim, even when it’s not possible in reality because it’s contradictory.

Your tribe gets nothing.

No compromises allowed, or the politician making them will lose their next election.

I've always thought Trump was more like Mussolini than Hitler.

I was thinking Juan Peron, personally. But close enough.

Tyler warming up more and more to Trumponomics, holding his nose notwithstanding.

In the US, economic development is a state and local matter. I don't understand Tyler's comment about Trump doing more to solve the opioid epidemic. If you look at the regions that are largely hit, it is Republican states. We well know that states use a variety of tax incentives and other payoffs to attract industry. Is it that Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky have not done this? What is going to bring industry back to these regions that were once vibrant with manufacturing (though Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia were primarily a mineral extraction economy). I'm pessimistic for the citizens of these regions in that I don't think the Federal government has much of a role to play here at all. I found it interesting that JD Vance of "Hillbilly Elegy" fame (and it is a very good book outlining the sociological problems in the region) is moving back to see what he can do to help out. He's a pretty smart guy but I wonder what the chances for success really are. I seem to remember President Kennedy campaigning on Appalachian issues back in 1960. What goes around comes around.

We also know a little more about Trumponomics after today's meeting with pharma company representatives. Beat them over the head until they give up and negotiate lower prices.

Balanced budget requirements in some states may be a limiting factor for attempting to attract businesses with subsidies and tax breaks. I don't know if that is a major part of the problem in some of these states but it certainly suggests a role for the federal government.

Perhaps, but one only needs to look at the Kansas experiment to see how radical tax cuts can bankrupt the state. Governor Brownback thought that he would totally show the world that supply side economics would work. The state is in such trouble right now because the predicted business expansion never happened and there is no big jump in revenue.

The Rust Belt's biggest problem is the non-union South.

Fundamentally, people still want status and dignity within society, and the primary way this is felt and apportioned is through dignified labor. Their culture still mostly tells them handouts are bad and working is good.

So they prefer their redistribution through dignified work rather than direct transfers. Or, they would rather forego the increased economic efficiency in the first place and maintain greater economic equity and perceived dignity, even if it makes everyone poorer in materials terms.

It would be a shame if we've reached the point where living standards can no longer advance so that every yokel has a make-work job to feel good about themselves.

Maybe once people reach a certain point in material living standards, their primary concern becomes their psychological living standards.

So, time to stop the bus here then?

Maybe. Or at least to allocate far more of any incremental gains to psychic standards than to material standards.

Which actually raises an important consideration. How we feel about ourselves and our place in the world is largely a function of what we compare it to, particularly our past, our parents and families, and our expectations. So we may want to avoid sacrificing a current level of material wealth to try to increase psychic wealth, because the decline in material wealth will itself cause a decline in psychic wealth.

So basically you're a leftist, right?

I'm wondering if you care about how all people feel about themselves and their place in the world, including poor black people, for example, or just working class white guys who have lost their manufacturing jobs over the last 30 years.

I'm just someone trying to understand life and the world. But I deeply appreciate your willingness to identify me as a racist. It speaks well of you.

Did I say you are a racist? I'm just asking whether you really care about inequality for everyone, or just certain people. Do you?

You could have made your argument at any point in history. "Let's stop material progress here, and just focus on making everyone happier." Bhutan would be a good place for you to raise your family, they actually track national happiness rather than GNP.

On an individual level, I'm with you. You can't take your money to heaven, so maximizing happiness is more important than maximizing wealth. But on an aggregate basis, where trade and specialization = rising living standards, there's still plenty of room for advancement especially in the poorer parts of the world (including the slums and trailer parks of the US).

If you don't think you are implying racism, you are lacking self-awareness. You are using it primarily as a rhetorical weapon, as I have seen you do elsewhere. If your goal is to convince people of the rightness of your worldview, rather than to simply try to shut down argument or feel the power of your own moral righteousness, I suggest abandoning it.

I think inequality is a problem for everyone regardless of race.

Perhaps. Or perhaps the poor will always be among us.

Sure, and Somalia would be a good place for anyone who wants lower taxes to go, and Soviet Russia would be a good place for anyone who wants higher taxes to go.

So TV, what exactly are you advocating? Maybe I misunderstand but you are saying stop economic growth so we can be happier? There will always be the poor, so stop trying? All those billions raised from poverty in the last couple of decades, just a waste of time?

Maybe you are just being argumentative. No crime that, I do it too.

You are really a mess in this thread. Maybe take a few plays off.

@msgkings:
The thing is that in a modern, specialized economy such as ours, money does allow you to tailor your purchases to specific desires. It's not all just about material goods. Money can buy you a massage at a spa, or a trip to a beach resort. Indeed many people have pointed out that millenials tend to spend their money on intangible experiences like dining out, or participating in (say) Native American sweat lodge rituals, rather than purchasing physical things. So maybe money can buy happiness - and the next level of specialization will focus on delivering those goods, having already solved the problem of providing people with basic food and shelter.

Plus there's still endless room for improvement in the area of health, too. maybe the next stage of economic development will add another 20 years of healthy life to everyone's lifespan.

I think inequality is a problem for everyone regardless of race.

So then you would favor policies that redistribute wealth from whites to blacks, right? Because black people have suffered from economic and social inequality for many years and that has to create a tremendous amount of spiritual unhappiness.

As with most things, I don't know what I believe and I don't have a solution. Per Mencken, I suppose "My notion is that all the larger human problems are insoluble, and that life is quite meaningless—a spectacle without purpose or moral."

I don't think pure faith in Progress is warranted. It is worth being skeptical of the "let's get richer" solution to life, as it is to be skeptical of any other.

I'm taking a play off to procrastinate from work, so I will probably stick around. Besides, creativity comes from looseness, not from everyone here just battling back and forth with their convictions. But I'll get some posting ADHD meds so I can at least follow one train of thought.

Hazel Meade,
I would prefer to make the ex ante rules of the game such that less inequality is created in the first place, rather than trying to redistribute the pie ex post. People get very defensive when you take a piece of "their" pie. This is the fundamental problem with the economic efficiency solution to the world: the people who you could theoretically redistribute from to make everyone better off don't actually want to give up any of their pie, and consider it "unfair" to do so; and the people who you theoretically could make better off by redistributing pie to them really don't want to be getting pie handouts, they want to have more pie to start with.

So better that when people first see their pies, they look more even.

the people who you theoretically could make better off by redistributing pie to them really don’t want to be getting pie handouts, they want to have more pie to start with.
So better that when people first see their pies, they look more even.

Wow, so you favor a REALLY radical redistribution of existing wealth so that the pie starts out equally. Shall we start by siezing all the yachts and mansions ?

"Wow, so you favor a REALLY radical redistribution of existing wealth so that the pie starts out equally. Shall we start by siezing all the yachts and mansions ?"

That isn't at all what I was saying, but high inheritance taxes aren't such a bad idea in theory, thought they may be too inefficient in practice.

I mean structuring the rules of the game such that the initial output from the economic system is allocated more to the poor and less to the rich. I am not addressing currently-extant wealth (except to the extent that any change in the rules can change the value of an asset).

So, suppose our patent system is relatively economically efficient and somewhat increases innovation. But suppose it also tends to give a small number of people a big chunk of economic output, and a large number of people a very small share. If a weaker (or non-existent) patent system was less economically efficient and led to less innovation, but led to a more equal initial distribution of economic output, I might favor that (depending on the extent of the lost economic efficiency and innovation, and the extent of the increased equality in the initial distribution of output).

What's your preferred alternative? The Left's redistribution does little for the working man. "Redistribution" is directly entirely to women with children, the elderly, and, last but not least, workers employed in make-work jobs in government. Their other idea is a much increased minimum wage with no action to create anymore jobs.

Personally, I would prefer a gradually increasing basic income.

+10

msgkings will likely not respond to this comment, as he has no response.

Wrong again, Robot.

... so that every yokel has a blog to feel good about themselves.

FTFY

The Work Projects Administration was a good thing. And there is lots of infrastructure work that does actually need to be done. Seems like Trump just wants to reward his crony companies though, and have them feed at the public trough.

Sure, this type of redistribution can be done badly. Just like direct transfers can be done badly.

So, you're basically a leftist then?
Inequality is more important than absolute welfare, so absolute welfare should be sacrificed to decrease inequality?

Is that an exclusively Leftist belief? It doesn't matter if the pie is growing by X% if the entirety of that increase is going to a few people and you aren't one of them.

"Absolute welfare" is a measure that, properly done, would factor in inequality.

I guess that's a "yes" then.

Turkey nailed it!

Honestly I'm surprised I'm not hearing more of the Ron Paul libertarians' outrage.. I mean isn't Trump the antithesis of libertarianism, what with him picking winners and losers in the economy etc.

I'm not surprised at their silence. They were all just regular conservatives preening on some imaginary moral high ground after the disaster of the Bush years. Now they are all MAGA chanters.

Yes, it's said that Libertarians are just Republicans who smoke marijuana.

Example?

The important part of the statement is simply that Libertarians are Republicans.

The problem for libertarians is that Trumponomics is a mix of the libertarian and the authoritarian. For example, his commitment to reducing regulations and taxes is more libertarian than anything we've seen since Reagan, but Reagan didn't actually manage to enact serious regulatory reform.

Trump's ideas are an incoherent mix that do not fit the old political patterns, so we are all trying to figure out who he really is and what he will actually do. Social conservatives love him, but then he claims to be the most LBGT friendly president ever elected. He wants to cut regulations by 75%, but also acts like an authoritarian. He claims that he wants to dramatically reduce the size and scope of government, but promises a trillion dollar stimulus plan. He wants to cut businesses loose from the shackles of regulation, but also seems to want to manage a national industrial policy. He claims he is there as a representative of the people and that this is not about him at all, but then he wants his inauguration to be declared a day of celebration or worship or something.

The only coherent thing to do in this situation is to support the 'good' Trump, and strongly oppose the bad one. And hope that the good outweighs the bad.

It is redistributive, but it's not a tax on the elites and redistribution away from them. The redistribution is primarily to local private sector rent-seekers who are "elites" themselves and who will employ the new job holders.

On thing I forgot to mention in the earlier post. Tyler wrote, "On key issues such as health care and taxes, the new policies will sound terrible, but they will utterly outflank the left by being radically redistributive and choosing some new ways to measure policy success." I can get this about taxes and I think Mnuchin wants to do the right thing but I'm not certain that the Republican Congress wants to be 'radically distributive.' However, what really puzzles me is what the 'new ways to measure policy success' mean regarding health care. At least Obama care had solid metrics and the number of uninsured did come down. However, the central tenet of what I have seen from the various proposals is 'improved access.' Now this does not mean the same thing as actually getting insurance. Does Tyler believe that 'improve access' (forget for the moment that it might be immeasurable) is one of the new ways to measure policy success?

The real story is how Trump is just coopting decades-long leftist ideas about how globalization is bad, free trade is bad, modern capitalistic structures and supply chains are bad. Interesting to see how the left will respond, whether they'll try to criticize him for not being left enough on economics, or cling to the identity politics attack route. My bet is on the latter.

Thoughts from the resident MR leftists: Prior_test, mulp, Jan, Free Market is not God, carlolspn and whoever goes by the moniker MIOVPT?

I didn't think it is his trade policy that is getting liberals riled up, thought it was some other discriminatory authoritarian things

Well, considering that my politics are essentially Pirate Party oriented, I'll take a shot at the idea that the U.S. needs to be finally improve its position compared to its competitors.

It does.

But that would involve the United States changing itself to a degree that apparently is no longer acceptable to people concerned that America's middle class won't be able to afford low quality clothes made by semi-slave labor.

Maybe it is time to bring up Vimes's law in this regard - 'The Sam Vimes "Boots" Theory of Economic Injustice runs thus:

At the time of Men at Arms, Samuel Vimes earned thirty-eight dollars a month as a Captain of the Watch, plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots, the sort that would last years and years, cost fifty dollars. This was beyond his pocket and the most he could hope for was an affordable pair of boots costing ten dollars, which might with luck last a year or so before he would need to resort to makeshift cardboard insoles so as to prolong the moment of shelling out another ten dollars.

Therefore over a period of ten years, he might have paid out a hundred dollars on boots, twice as much as the man who could afford fifty dollars up front ten years before. And he would still have wet feet.' http://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/Sam_Vimes_Theory_of_Economic_Injustice

If Americans started buying quality goods made in America (Wigwam socks come to mind as a concrete example), the profits of all those dependent on Americans buying cheap crap would plummet, while Americans would rediscover the advantages in owning things that are not intended to be thrown out.

But a return to such time honored New England traditions (why yes, L.L. Bean used to represent this idea too) is unlikely in any near term future.

And definitely not under the leadership of our glorious proclaimer of the National Day of Patriotic Devotion.

I don't know what most people on the Left will do. This is complex and there may be lots of different views on the left. Certainly most people on the Left are not willing to overlook the crony capitalist welfare queens in Trump's cabinet and their eagerness to gorge at the public trough.

It may depend on what Trump actually does, how people react, whether they are Right, Left or Center. Even many Right of Center people think his immigration ban EO was poorly thought out and that it created chaos in numerous ways, partly because he suddenly sprang this on government employees, who didn't necessarily understand how it was meant to be applied.

Trade is another one of these issues where he wants to just do something to carry out his sound byte campaign promises, but he has no idea of the complexities in that area. So this may be another area where many people Right, Left, and Center will be pissed at him for creating unnecessary chaos.

Are Trump and his staff all impulsive people, incapable of giving any forethought to their decisions? So far it looks like it.

If he gets us into unnecessary trade wars that make both us and our trading partners worse off, in order to deliver on some sound byte promises, then no one is going to like that.

Interesting how the right will respond, suddenly embracing fundamentally leftist ideas about globalization and trade because the person spouting them has an "R" next to his name.

It's all part of the shuffle. 'Left' and 'right' don't mean nearly as much as they used to.

I don't think there has ever been much evidence that free market ideas are popular with rank-and-file Republican voters. I pointed to Pat Buchanan's (admittedly failed but influential) run for President in 1996 as one piece of evidence. Another is opinion polls and the actual behavior of Republican elected officials when it comes time to put theory into practice. George W. Bush imposed steel tariffs right after getting elected -- elite conservative and libertarian opinion disapproved, of course, but the whole point was to shore up votes in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. In other words, the same states that would propel Trump into the White House sixteen years later. Bush's Social Security plan wasn't that far removed from a typical Cato policy whitepaper but it was a total failure when it came time to work with Congress. Etc.

You're right it's all much more about tribal identification than ideology. The right continues to scream "socialism" over things like the ACA even as they embrace centralized government control of the economy - as long as the government control favors the right group of people. It's absolutely schizophrenic out there right now.

Although it may seem schizophrenic out there to people who have ideologies, it is not. It is just 100% tribal. Here are the rules:

My tribe good, no matter what we do or say.
Your tribe bad, no matter what you do or say.
Even when both tribes say or do the same things.
My tribe should be granted our every whim, even when it's not possible in reality because it's contradictory.
Your tribe should get nothing.
No compromises allowed, or the politician making them will lose their next election.

It's just like capitalism, except with political power, in addition to money. Winner takes all, gets to crush everyone else, gets to make the rules from the point at which he wins and on forward,. And he gets to feel incredibly moral and superior about doing so. After all, he is exhibiting the highest virtue, according to St. Rand-- selfishness.

Kind of a capitalist dictatorship. "Free market" capitalism inevitably leads to monopsony, cronyism, and concentration of power and money in a few hands anyway. "Them that has, gits" So it's not particularly compatible with democracy or even meritocracy.

If free market capitalism inevitably leads to monopsony and cronyism (and I don't agree with that statement) then all politics is ultimately just about which group of people get to use the power of government to favor themselves - because a neutral system is impossible. At which point the tribalism makes complete sense. If a genuinely just society of universal, equal, mutually compatible, rights is impossible, then identity politics makes sense - you might as well just fight for the policies that will benefit you and your group the most. It is essentially the Will to Power at that point.

The libertarian project, free market included, is essentially an attempt to establish a set of normative principles of justice based on the idea idea that all individuals are equal and entitled to as much individual autonomy as can be achieved in a mutually compatible way. The free market derives from that idea. If two consenting adults wish to exchange goods or services for money, and they are not harming anyone by doing so (failure to engage in trade not counting as a harm here), noone else may interfere with that. (And I'm sure you're aware of Coase theory and the concept of internalizing costs via liability etc, so I'll skip that part).

My point is if you really think that letting people be free to exchange goods and services voluntarily to their mutual benefit inevitably leads to merchantilism, then you basically believe that the government should always be in control and should be adjusting things to someone's benefit or other. At which point, politics really is just all about which group gets the benefits, and not about universal justice at all.

These exact same ideas were at the heart of Pat Buchanan's run for President in 1996. Trump tapped into a right-wing reaction to globalization that had already existed for decades on the right and among a segment of rank-and-file Republican voters.

I agree that "it" won't work, and approximating it into a rationalized policy ..

As recently as 15 days ago Trump still talked of a 35% tax on cars made in Canada and Germany.

http://www.nbcnews.com/business/autos/trump-now-threatening-automakers-canada-germany-n707531

Is that "it?"

Trump wants to tax foreign goods coming from countries that he has designated as threats to Americans jobs, notably China and Mexico.

What kind of goods are these two countries producing? Low cost consumer goods.

This will be a tax on cheap Chinese t-shirts and Mexican tomatoes, not a tax on imported French wine.

I think the working poor (e.g., single moms waiting tables at Denny's) will be hit hardest by Trumponomics.

In some ways such a policy would be the mirror image of raising minimum wage.

When you raise minimum wage you get less low skilled workers but they have more money.

When you raise tariffs to Mexico and China you get more low skilled workers but their money doesn't buy as much.

So, you might consider Trump's plan similar to lowering minimum wage.

Interesting point. Except the more workers part, reducing trade doesn't result in net job gains. Jobs gained from restricting imports are offset from jobs lost from fewer exports.

Yes, this too. Not to mention that many manufacturing jobs rely on international suppliers for parts. Repatritating the entire supply chain would make our exports more expensive. We would create jobs making lower-level inputs at the cost of jobs making complex finished products. And ultimately that would kill even the domestic supply chain that Trump wants to create. If we can't sell our products for export, they aren't going to be purchasing parts for those products.

I don't think it's quite analagous, as the workers and the consumers are not the same groups of people.
The people who have jobs that are threatened by Mexican and Chinese trade are generally not minimum wage workers. They are middle-class or lower middle class workers in manufacturing jobs. Those jobs pay more than the minimum wage. When you raise tarriffs to Mexico and China, you get more mid-skilled workers but the minimum wage workers can't buy as much.

Given modern voting patterns, this could amount to a net transfer from poor Democrats to middle income blue collar Republicans.

That might be an acceptable tradeoff for Trump's base.

Yes, taking anything from anyone and giving it to Trump's base is highly acceptable to Trump's base. He has a very tribal base that is as narcissistic as Trump is. That's why they identify with Trump so strongly.

That is exactly my point. These are politics designed to favor working class white guys. What we are witnessing is "white privilege" in action. And not just the kind of white privilege entailed by white people just happening to like white people better. We're seeing white people using their power in the voting booth to vote themselves government-enforced benefits.

There are fundamental problems with the economic efficiency solution to the world, which usually expresses itself as "design the most economically efficient system ex ante; we can redistribute things ex post so that everyone is better off than they would have been."

The people who you could theoretically redistribute from to make everyone better off don’t actually want to give up any of their pie, and consider it “unfair” to do so. If economic resources bring political power, they can even subsequently alter the rules of the game to make sure their share of the pie stays large, or grows.

Moreover, the people you could theoretically make better off by maximizing efficiency and then redistributing pie really don’t want to be getting pie handouts, they want to have more pie to start with. They want to feel like productive, self-sustaining pie-makers, not charity cases.

The answer, then, may be that the ex ante rules of the game need to be set sub-optimally (in a narrow economic sense) in order to produce greater overall utility ex post. Do not just offer solutions that maximize the pie, and then assume proper redistribution of the pie and the happiness of those receiving pie handouts.

They want to feel like productive, self-sustaining pie-makers, not charity cases.

Nothing makes you feel like a productive self-sustaining pie maker more than a make-work job that wouldn't exist if not for a protectionist trade barrier.

So surely they'd rather be unemployed and getting free pie!

And a lot depends on what you assume the natural state of the world is. If the natural state of the world is stateless free trade, sure that person should perhaps see it as a handout. But that isn't the natural state of the world.

All jobs exist because of some restraint on complete liberty.

In they are unemployed at least they can spend their time working on learning a new skill, instead of wasting it doing something that doesn't need to be done.

Most don't.

Ultimately nothing needs to be done. It is all meaningless. But we like to feel useful in our time here, and our culture tells us that it is good to be useful. Employment feels useful.

Though of course it also helps if the culture doesn't belittle the job. Yes, all those Winners with their Super Fancy Useful Job pushing papers, making reports, shopping on Amazon and reading blogs. They will make sure to shit on the people with make-work jobs below.

Nothing needs to be done.
because human society has reached the pinnacle of economic and technological development. There are no problems left to be solved.

It would seem to be incumbent on you to establish that solving the problems you identify will make humanity happier, more satisfied, more in love with life.

Otherwise you're just asserting economic and technological development as an end-in-itself.

And actually, to correct my previous statement, you would need to argue for why any given goal for humanity (say making it "happier, more satisfied, more in love with life", or any other you choose) is the proper goal.

Then you would need to establish that your proposed system is a means to that end.

Then you would need to justify to any extent that we make current people worse off than they could be to try to achieve that future desired end.

I see (at least) two significant technological problems that would provide people with meaning and purpose:

1. Health care - life extension and quality of life in old age. It's pretty clear that there is lots of room for improvement here. Sickness is an obvious cause of human suffering and the ability to lead longer healthier lives would directly contribute to greater happiness, not just for the elderly themselves, but for their children and grandchildren , and maybe even great gandchildren. Moveover, jobs in the healthcare industry provide meaning and purpose far beyond what is obtained through punching holes in sheet metal in a factory.

2. Space travel - as an overarching project, the idea of extending human life (and actually life itself) to other planets provides a profoundly meaningful objective that can employ tens of millions of people, including people in low-skilled manufacturing occupations. And this is one industry where globalization is critical as the industry demands economies of scale, specialization, and trade, to create the efficiencies that make space travel financially feasible.

That's at least two examples of problems not solved yet which can provide meaning to millions of people's lives. Compared to that it's rather baffling why anyone would think that jobs producing steel pipe are so meaningful that they must be protected by subsidies and trade barriers.

1. An extended meaningless life is still meaningless, and making "I want to live longer" an end-in-itself doesn't seem particularly appealing to me. I still die.

And what if the conditions of extending that life - say, increasing globalization, or a culture emphasizing self-interest - has a side-effect of destroying family ties to an ever-greater extent? We are richer, live longer and healthier than we have ever lived before. But now it is ever-more-commnon to stick old relatives into homes where they get the privilege of decaying, ignored and forgotten.

2. We still die. Our civilization can span the galaxy and it will still eventually be nothingness. All great endeavors are ultimately in vain.

And for each of these proposed ends, you are asking people today to be miserable to achieve the greater, long-term Utopia for as-yet-unborn people. The option for the sheet-metal worker isn't (1) work on sheet metal, (2) explore space. It is (1) or (2) be unemployed, miserable, maybe pick up a prescription drug habit.

What makes those goals better than, say, producing a Heaven on Earth through denial of the need to accumulate wealth and possessions, and a complete focus on the spiritual? Or attempting to extinguish suffering through extinguishing desires and negating the birth-death cycle? Or simply living as little familial-based tribes completely ignorant of the existence of a larger humanity?

Pretty dark vision there, TV. I'd say you have to make your case, not Hazel.

TV, I will chip in one point that I have some experience with. I "retired" 4-5 yrs ago when I was about 41-42. I had accumulated "enough" and think my savings will be sufficient once we get to retirement, my wife is self employed as a writer and her modest income should carry us to that point, but we are in no way what would be considered well off judging by appearances. I can say with a high degree of certainty that beyond a certain point more stuff and greater happiness are not the answer. And I can say I'm mostly very happy, but agree with others who say it's not all about happiness. Once basic physical and psychological needs are met, with the right mindset, happiness is not difficult. I am of the school that much of happiness is a state of mind.

But. BUT. Despite my happiness/contentment and high level of interest in many things that I've pursued since then, there's an aimlessness and purposelessness that's difficult to explain outside the normal structures (companies/organizations), because economic value is created much,much more easily within complex organizations than outside of them as a generalist. I didn't feel that work was very important and don't miss it, but it still "felt" more important, if that makes sense. I don't know if we're wired that way - for external validation - but maybe.

I've read some say that life most centrally is about "the struggle." And I think that might be part of what is missing. I wonder if we need a system that encourages and supports the struggle, even after we've won the game? I agree with your comments about the meaningless of it all - and that I think is trouble behind finding motivation in a world of abundance. (Abundance being more than I need). But part of the motivation is that it's more difficult (at least for me) being a generalist and at the same time learning new things. It often feels so less productive than working in an organisation that allows you to take your best skills and put them to work. Meaningful non-work organisations could be helpful, but I'm unsure how they hold together absent economic incentives.

Anyhow, I enjoyed your conversation above on this topic.

I will add that I think the possible aimless and purposeless feeling you describe is the potential fate even of those who are toward the right-tail of intelligence and a variety of other useful attributes in our economy (self-discipline, persistence, focus, etc). These are the people who we would most expect to react to unemployment (by choice or not) as an opportunity to pursue hobbies, gain skills, self-actualize. But even for that type, as you are describing, a feeling of aimlessness could grow.

For those more towards the middle or left-tail of the latter traits, the feeling of aimlessness or purposelessness can be much more immediate. For someone lacking self-discipline and focus, unemployment probably means boredom, watching TV, feeling bad about squandering time, about not being a productive member of society, about not having a dignified position in society. It leads to dissatisfaction with life, and potential self-destructive behaviors to try to alleviate the boredom (hard drinking, stupid gambling, hard drugs).

I think the people who tend to get deeply interested in policy discussions and proposals on this general topic are of the former, right-tail type. For them, paid unemployment seems like a great opportunity. And it probably is. But they are generalizing their own tendencies to the rest of the population, and that is where they may err.

My relatively comfortable position is entirely a matter of the luck of the intelligence draw, and not due to many of those other good traits. So I see in myself what I see in other average or below-average people, and so I see how a system that eliminates their jobs (or the dignity of their jobs) and replaces them with transfer payments can potentially make for misery.

I say this with highest humility: being your own god is hard.

For a bit of humor on the subject from Office Space:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lmW2tZP2kU

Great wisdom. It has been well over a decade since I watched that movie, I should probably revisit it.

Most of my philosophy is pieced together from Rick and Morty episodes.

Once a person is 'done' working and striving, and finds themselves without a purpose, and excellent choice is to give to others. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or a battered women's shelter. Build houses for the poor. Take care of others now that you are all set. There's no better feeling than giving to others who need it.

Agreed. What we're talking about is someone forcing actual, involuntary struggle upon other innocent human beings so that someone can feel a sense of purpose in his make-work job. We're talking about raising consumer prices for everyone, including the relatively poor, including people who have goals that rise beyond feeding and clothing themselves, so that a relatively well-off person won't be bored and feel purposeless when he reaches his personal comfort level.

One can certainly argue that people have special obligations to fellow citizens, but I personally don't feel those obligations should entail making life worse for other people so that working class white guys won't feel bored and purposeless. There are also people out there who want to solve economic and technological problems that will be made harder by impeding international trade. Some things only become feasible at the economies of scale enabled by a global market.

No, we are primarily talking about relatively worse-off people. The problem described by Shane M just shows that even for well-off people, the absence of external requirements to struggle to get by can create aimlessness and purposelessness. The issue applies with far greater force to someone on the low end of our societal ladder.

You seem to have some racial hostility built up. I suspect there are some bored and purposeless black guys who would be happier with a dignified job and a sense of purpose.

The existence of excellent choices doesn't mean they will be taken.

If one does not take the excellent choices available, then one has no standing to complain about their purposelessness and ennui. Your thesis seems to be everyone needs a job to be satisfied and have purpose, and we should structure society to provide that even at the expense of greater growth and efficiency for the whole. When I say there are other ways to find purpose and meaning besides a job, you say people won't choose that. How does that advance your argument? Those who don't take the easy way to meaning deserve their fate.

You also have swerved a couple of times into 'it's all meaningless' nihilism. Not much we can do about that, so let us focus on improving the world and you can go off and be spiritual and meaningless. You are just being argumentative now.

"Those who don’t take the easy way to meaning deserve their fate."

Why? What if they have no real choice, just like an 80 IQ guy can't just choose to be a rocket scientist?

Your views seem to rest on particular assumptions about humanity, ones which aren't necessarily (or even probably) true.

Why does no one have a choice to forego worldly striving and focus on the spirit, and self-denial, as you are advocating? Even the poorest can do that.

Different inclinations, abilities, cultural limitations. Lack of ability to be self-reflective. Screwed up childhood. Not believing in the proffered alternative as a means to a desirable end.

I believe in some type of freedom of will (as a matter of faith), but it is certainly a constrained one.

OK, TV, in the end what is your damn point? I don't think you have one, you are just arguing to argue now. "This" is better than "that", unless this isn't possible, so then maybe that is better, and also it's all meaningless. Clown move, bro.

My point is: here (and in Hazel Meade's health care/space exploration goals above), you're just making up "something people should like" or "something people do like" or "something people will love to strive for" and then building your worldview on it.

Maybe people should just devote themselves to bettering the world through volunteer work as a means of feeling fulfilled once their basic needs are satisfied and they start to feel aimless, hopeless, and worthless. But they usually don't. Maybe an unemployed person getting public assistance should do so as well. But they usually don't. That should indicate to us that people don't function that way. That they won't actually do what you say they will or should.

You are at least implicitly making a moral judgment about people (they should want to do this thing and it should be a route to satisfaction with life), and then faulting them when they don't, even if it is just how they are. So you are defining a sin, perhaps acknowledging that many are innately sinful on that metric, but then continuing on to construct a world in which the sinners deserve their fate. Why do they deserve it? Why construct a system that makes them sinners?

The same for these larger goals (life extension, space exploration). Why must that give the kind of meaning and purpose to an individual's life that I am talking about, and why should anyone assume it does?

I don't think the need for purpose, for direction, for dignity needs to be associated with some grand scheme for most people. They don't want to just be a cog in a great machine, whatever its purpose. They want their existence to be meaningful in itself, they want their role in society to feel like it has an immediate purpose, like they are useful, like they have dignity. And the main way they achieve that is through some social role that is given dignity and respect, and that allows them to do things granted dignity and respect (such as raising or supporting a family) which they already have an innate inclination to do.

"There’s no better feeling than giving to others who need it."

I doubt, really really doubt, that this is true.

It may be nice to think it is true, and to want it to be true, but that is a matter of faith or idealism.

It's subjective of course, there's no better feeling to me than helping others in need. Maybe you're not into that sort of thing.

A lot of people are going to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday rather than volunteering at X, Y, or Z. If there were really no better feeling than helping those in need, I'd think they would be jonesing for a hit of that sweet, sweet volunteer work rather than drinking beer, eating food, and watching football in their free time.

I was of course explaining that there are ways to find meaning outside of going to work at a job. That was supposedly your point here, how important it was for lives to have purpose and meaning and that it can only come from having a job. The people going to Super Bowl parties presumably aren't wracked with hopeless ennui and lack of purpose. If they are, I have suggested a way to have purpose that anyone can do. You are just arguing for arguments sake, which is fine, but silly.

"how important it was for lives to have purpose and meaning and that it can only come from having a job"

I don't think I have argued at any point that that is the only source of meaning.

I'm sorry that, unlike you, not all of us have the whole world and existence figured out. Enjoy.

Here, I will try to be focused and make my point.

You (and Hazel Meade, and many others) are taking a certain goal for humanity as a matter of faith (or idealism). This is a version of the faith in Progress that has been popular in Western thought for at least a few centuries now.

I don't think it is self-evidently the "right answer" to existence. I am skeptical of it, just as I am skeptical that the right answer is faith in God as a means to attaining eternal life in Heaven.

So I am trying to poke at that faith. I've adopted it at times, so in part I am fighting with myself. But I am hoping to encourage deeper examination of the underlying issue by all thoughtful people.

Perhaps the best answer is, instead, a denial of the importance of the material world, and embrace of poverty and self-denial, and awaiting the Kingdom of Heaven. Or perhaps it is extinguishing the desire that brings suffering, and escaping the cycle of birth and death. Or perhaps it is for most of us to do one of those, civilization to collapse, and isolated segments of life-lovers to reconstitute themselves as tiny family-based tribal groups, knowing only of the existence of small numbers of other humans and forgetting entirely about this little experiment with "civilization."

Lots of other answers have been offered. It is worth stepping back and seeing that part of the willingness to accept Progress as the answer is that we were born into a world where it was a common answer, and so we absorbed and accepted it. That doesn't make it right.

You are pretty much a Buddhist, TV. Nothing wrong with that. But most of us aren't.

Most of you here, who comment on MR, and probably among the upper classes in the Western world. Worldwide? Throughout human history? My kind may have the upper hand.

Kurt Vonnegut kind of covered this too, claiming human evolution was a mistake, we were better off as animals. He might have been right.

Kevin Costner too, TV seems to think we'd be better off as Native Americans in 1491.

What 'upper hand' are you talking about?

Numerical superiority.

Certainly not the upper hand in gaining power or expanding their civilizations. In line with the Native experience.

Vonnegut said something like "I don't think people will be happy again until we learn how to live in small tribal societies." Or I thought he did, and that was what I was thinking of, but I can't find it so I may have made it up.

I am not a committed member of any group. For most of my life, at most moments, the idea of humanity expanding through space has seemed pretty awesome to me.

But it is worth being skeptical of ourselves, and trying to understand why other people view the world as they do. Part of truly understanding another perspective is to assume that it may actually be a valid one.

Maybe we can explore space and just toss small bands of humans onto random, terra-formed planets with Natives-in-1491 level technology, and similar mythologies for where they came from. Then there can be trillions of humans spread across the galaxy, all living as small tribal bands.

Or maybe - twist! - that is the Origin of Earth Man?

OK TV, I get it now. We'll work on actual problems and you do whatever it is you are doing in this thread.

Ah, I thought I was trying to address a fundamental issue of human existence. But I will yield to your knowledge and ability to address the "actual problems" in the world.

Thanks, good idea.

First world problems, right here.

Well, building infrastructure sure seems a lot more meaningful than sitting home watching TV. So I'd like to see some infrastructure. But without selling or leasing public property to private corporations, so that you end up paying tolls every time you drive 50 miles or so on a highway.

Here is an interesting article, making the case that it is not Trump's intent, but the strength of our institutions that will determine how much damage Trump does.

Trump isn’t an evil genius
And that’s not what matters anyway.
http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/31/14442190/trump-is-no-evil-genius

Vox is a fake news org.

Trump is really taking things to wrong ways, as the travel ban is really wrong and is putting everyone at worry. I believe such decisions should be taken back as it’s harmful for everyone! It also playing it’s part of Forex markets, as I love to trade on Dollar and currently, it’s pushing down but I always trade with sharp approach, it’s easier with OctaFX. They help a lot due to tidy spreads, bonuses and even swap free account helping through not having to pay overnight charges.

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