Saturday assorted links

1. Brendan Nyhan reading list on the authoritarian turn and U.S. politics.

2. Ben Casnocha put a lot of time into this blog post on why people work as much as they do.  And I know why he did it.

3. In San Francisco, sometimes even the renters support NIMBYism.

4. Survival is Syria’s strategy.  And what’s behind the flare-up in eastern Ukraine?

5. “Influential Mexicans are pushing an aggressive and perhaps risky strategy to fight a likely increase in deportations of their undocumented compatriots in the U.S.: jam U.S. immigration courts in hopes of causing the already overburdened system to break down.” (WSJ)

6. “The U.S.-educated Mexican economists who negotiated the trade pact in the 1980s are worried more about their own country’s protectionist tendencies than about Donald Trump.” (WSJ)


2. As a psychiatrist, people like Ben come and see me and my colleagues at $400/hr all the time; they usually start in their late 40s. Unfortunately, all that we offer them can be found for pennies from an old Bible or Plato.

Really? They try the Buddhism and then the psychiatry?

How does these people not understand that it is through working that we serve others? That working, not 'enjoying' oneself is how one betters society?

Did you read the article? He talks about why he and others like him work all the time.

I don't think status is the answer. I think it is a mixture of training and malthusian driven genetics, which creates workaholics that have no choice but prioritise working. Consider that from small children there is constant pressure on the smarter set to work, there is a constant cultural promotion that hard work is good, parents, teachers and other authority figures are encouraging when you work hard and scathing when you don't. Of course most people are able to ignore this training to some extent, but there is a small set who are unable to resist. Ironically these are the people who will be successful generally speaking at work. So you get the paradox that the richest people are often the least able to enjoy their wealth, as the reason they have their wealth is that they are very hard workers.

5. Wow. Influential Mexicans sure seem determined to keep their compatriots out of Mexico.

Perhaps they're determined enough that they'll pay for the wall!

It's true. Walls can keep people in, as well as out.

The nice things about walls is that they can be designed to emphasize one feature or the other. So when you and Ron Paul make whinny arguments like people roll their eyes.

And guns can be used for murder as well as self defense. Hand over your guns.

1. That looks like a heavy duty list. I'll suggest something else for light readers or skimmers. It is by Paul Gowder, whose "research has been focused on understanding the rule of law as an ideal at the nexus of normative political theory, constitutional law, and social science; this has culminated in a book, The Rule of Law in the Real World, which will be on shelves, courtesy of Cambridge University Press, around the end of January 2016."

It is hosted by a hated liberal site, but try to get beyond that.

The “Constitutional Faction” versus the “Authoritarian Faction.”

At this point I think libertarians, real libertarians, will come down on the Constitutional side, because they must.

There is zero consensus on what the Constitution means. The Constitution is a ghost shirt, waved around by Whigs to bring back the old gods and drive the devils into the sea.

Strangely, The Constitution does not create a government managed or limited by consensus.

The Constitution presumes the common law, private property, and a conception of rights as enumerated by Enlightenment philosophers. These are neither universal values nor even concepts.

It doesn't make them bad values or concepts either. Ideally we should want a system that allows people with different values to coexist, however. that's why liberalism has pushed for more generalization of enlightenment values so as to achieve greater universality.

Now, one might argue that there will never be one universal set of principles, one conception of rights, which is general enough to encompass universal tolerance of all values systems. There may be fundamental incompatibilities, and by fundamental I mean not just that we disagree, but that there is no possible system in which we could leave peaceably without killing or enslaving each other (because if there is then by definition, there is some universal value system that can be articulated). But if that's true then we're really fucked because then Enlightenment values can't survive without literally killing or enslaving people with incompatible values.

I don't know which side you fall on, but I'm going to believe that a universal, mutually compatible set of rights is possible, because the alternative is too horrifying to contemplate.

The alternative being Eriterians and Somalis and East Timoreans and Hondurans stay in their own countries. That's too hard for widdle Hazel "tough talk" Meade to contemplate.

Technically "stay in your own country" might be a principle of an overarching metastate government in which, "don't kill people in other countries" is a universal principle. But if the Hondurans can't live with that, we'll have to kill them.

Personally, I'm not really afraid of Hondurans having fundamentally incompatible values though. There are certain Muslim sects that I worry about, but Spanish Catholics, not so much.

No, people have a pretty good idea of what the constitution means. It's just that what it means is bloody inconvenient to the judiciary, the law professoriate, the public interest bar, the gay lobby, &c.

Unemployed gadflies on the other hand know everything.

I'm not a lawyer. I worked with many good (even though they were still breathing) lawyers. One told me that the first thing you learn in LS1 is the answer to every "issue" is "It depends."

Anyhow, re: the dreaded US move to authoritarianism, it depends on the definition you ascribe to "authoritarian:" who's ox is being gored; and whether you girls want to continue to "debate" in the fact-free paradigm.

When I saw Tyler's list this morning, I expected the main game would be to NOT understand "authoritarianism" in what is actually an established and historic sense

I have not been disappointed.

Yes, this comment board is often a fact-free and history-free channel.

Just like College these days. Or the media.
Or religious institutions for that matter.
Welcome to post-Modernism.

Then, again, what if everything YOU know is actually wrong? Or everything that know is wrong?
See Chuck Klosterman link above.

Everything anon knows, he knows he knows. Hillary AND Buzzfeed can't both be wrong. It's how you can tell that anyone who has a different opinion than the NYTimes, CNN, MSNBC, and Hollywood etc. groupthink is an authoritarian.

I have a link to Merriam Webster and am not afraid to use it ?

"Authoritarian" in the general sense of "policy choices that I dislike"?

No, in the sense of an ancient and recognized political axis.

The only "ancient and recognized political axis" I recognize dates from 1776 and more specifically 1789. The ninth circus clowns and the lunatic left ought to read the Constitution and desist from inventing Constitutional law out of gases from their hairless asses.

Which POTUS was the first to tell the Supreme Court to go to hell?

"The only 'ancient and recognized political axis' I recognize dates from 1776 and more specifically 1789. "
I guess -it is true then that ignorance is bliss, but I am not interested.

You're a sovereign citizen?

Heorogar, you forgot 1984. This gets a lot of use in today's law.

It hardly seems that weakening the institutions of the Federal Government is authoritarian. There is little evidence of a reduction in freedom nor demands for strict obedience. What we are seeing is nationalist policy, as well as a confused approach to the world, but hardly any increase in the power of authority. If anything, the actions of Trump are serving to weaken the presidency.

One of the reforms America needs is a weakened executive, and this pushback is one of the reasons I voted for him. It's win-win in my book. Oops! I guess wanting a weakened executive branch makes me an authoritarian! Booga booga!

Connected to a personality trait.

So we just went from timeless, ancient classification to some BS Adorno made up one day in 1947. All in the span of one comment response.

It's Frankfort School all the way down with leftists.

I am a 2.5 on the f-scale. I consider many of the questions tricky though. For instance "The wild sex life of the old Greeks and Romans was tame compared to some of the goings-on in this country, even in places where people might least expect it." All I know for sure is that I am not invited to those parties.

You do know that the sign of more education than brains is the desire to put everything into little tidy slots.

It might be fun for some of you to take the test. Secretly, even. If your score is low, you might be more wary of Trump. If your score is high, well, you might then understand why other people are wary.

Per that test, I am less authoritarian than you, so you must be a grave threat to the nation.

But it is a pretty dumb test. It conflates many ideas that are not usefully called "authoritarianism."

It calls policy preferences authoritarian rather than the preferred system to achieve those preferences. That is a bad approach.

And it takes sides on policy choices based on whether they are seemingly more "traditional," rather than if they are motivated by traditionalism or something else. The idea that throwing someone into prison for decades rather than whipping them for a sex crime is somehow less "authoritarian" is ridiculous. Properly done, the preferred system to arrive at that punishment is what matters, not the punishment itself. Besides, imprisonment, to me, is a greater imposition on human freedom and dignity than corporal or capital punishment. We all die, but we don't all get put in cages like animals before we die.

Civil forfeiture. For or against? And should someone against convince themselves that Trump's support is one big accident?

No idea how this is relevant, but I am glad that your Trump hatred has led you to become aware of an issue that a broad range of civil libertarians have been advocating against for a long time.

Which is actually stranger, for me to stick with my longstanding concern about civil forfeiture, or for you to lash out like that?

I am not the one conflicted. Not like someone pretending to be libertarian, or pretending to be a constitutional originalist, is when defending Trump.

What were your candidate's views on civil asset forfeiture?

Hillary was campaigning on justice reform, rather than the pro-forfeiture position you now defend.

Hillary never mentioned doing anything about civil forfeiture. It's a bipartisan action happening in many states.

Right static, but would you admit "justice reform" sounds less authoritarian than building up a phony threat for the state to solve with force?

Hillary said some extremely vague criminal justice "reform" BS. She never mentioned civil asset forfeiture.

Where have I defended it? You're the one who voted for a candidate who never said anything about it, yet you now believe it to be a grave threat because Trump might support it. I voted for a candidate who had spoken out about the practice and called for its end.

Civil asset forfeiture policy will be the same under Trump as it would have been under Clinton. You are a ridiculous partisan hypocrite.

I, too, am sorry he's gone with the status quo on this issue.

The 'test' he is promoting is an antique discredited decades ago.

Of course it has flaws, but a 1940's reference is good for a number of reasons. Not least the funny "Authoritarianism? Never heard of it. Must be something the liberals invented in 2017, to malign our new supreme leader."

It is not a good test or a good reference. It looks to have been created as a weapon against those with policy preferences the creators disagreed with. As with most such creations.

People they were against in the 1940s? Fascists? I'm sorry, I can't put that 2+2 together.

There is no 2+2 to put together. You aren't making a point.

You said this 1940s test was to oppose "their enemies."

And in 2017 you find that unfair.

That a Nazi test might produce a new positive.

Does "authoritarian" include those neo-fascists who riot at Berkeley and the places?

It would be interesting to know their f-scores. I am certainly willing to stipulate that they are bad people, creating public disorder, and setting back political debate.

But then, so are the dumb asses who think they are the most important thing that happened in the last month.

Rioters and people who comment on rioters are both bad peoples. To be a good person, one must not comment on the antics (and assaults) of anon's black-clad fellow travelers.

But what is your f-score damnit. Answer the question.

The parallel would be someone who, presented with anything about Trump, keeps going back to Alexandre Bissonnette. Did the mass shooting happen? Yes. Tragedy? Yes. Actually the thing that is driving politics in a meaningful way? No.

Not at all.

So Portland, Seattle and NYU all within a couple weeks had similar events, and they were all random? Those nice little reassuring personality tests are comforting when faced with reality. Conspiring to prevent someone from exercising their First Amendment rights is a crime isn't it?

Bissonnette doesn't surprise me at all. Neighborhoods in Montreal are unrecognizable to anyone who grew up there. The changes have been very quick, not gradual and not for the better. And french canadian young men are crazy. It is a reflection of the tensions that large numbers of immigrants create in a society. But I take my queues from the CBC who insist that isolated acts of violence by one or two individuals have no bearing at all on the characteristics of the larger population.

It would be interesting to know their f-scores. I

It would not be interesting. See Stanley Rothman on the essential fraudulence of the F-Scale.

Can they throw people in jail? Deport people? Deny entry despite a green card?

"“Authoritarian” in the general sense of “policy choices that I dislike”?"

Yep, define authoritarian? Apparently it's become the new word to replace "fascist" because too many people pointed out that "Facist" isn't an apt description for Trump.

How often do people refer to FDR as Authoritiarian?

We worry much less about authoritarians buried before we were born.

Anon, interesting to see you trying to argue facts and logic with traibalists. Facts and logic are not relevant to today's politics.

Here are today's rules:

My tribe is good no matter what we say or do, and I can create all kinds of justifications for it.

Your tribe is evil, incompetent, weak etc., no matter what you say or do, and I can create all kinds of reasons why that is so.

The above is true even when both tribes are doing exactly the same thing.

Your tribe is attacking mine by focusing on authoritarianism. That embarrasses my tribe, because our leader is an authoritarian and many of our followers are authoritarian. So this means that your tribe is evil all over again, and it has to mean your test is worthless. Because these are the reasons I have come up with to make my tribe good and yours bad.

tribalists, I meant to type.

I am mostly amused, but when they say:

"Authoritarian? That sounds like a word you just made up!"

We have to stay on them.

facts or meaningless labels you can rally around with your tribe?

anon, we know the word. It is it's definition you have seemed to have made up.

rather than slapping on incorrect labels, perhaps you would be better served addressing particular actions you disagree with, rather than your opposition to a concept which most people don't agree with.

civil asset forfeiture is a good example. it's been government policy for years, is not a Trump invention, and he has issued no specific policies to expand it. It doesn't even look like he knows what it is: Yet you happily label it as evidence of his authoritarianism. Perhaps you should consider another line of argument beyond label making.

Geez dude, dig out any dusty old dictionary you have in the house.

"jam U.S. immigration courts"

This is a court created problem. The courts have decided/interpreted that illegals deserve/require legal counsel and that citizens must pay for it. All that is necessary to counter this is for the congress to write law specifically preventing this. This is a benefit/right of citizens only and not due to anyone here illegally.

An alternative is to simply give each potential deportee a choice. Either they agree to be deported and permanently barred future entry or they are charged with everything they did illegally while here and prosecuted vigorously and jailed for years. Given this choice especially after a few examples of people going to jail a smart illegal will opt to be deported.

A third option is for the president to declare a national emergency and use executive power to cut through a lot of the red tape.

3 makes you pop wood, don't it?

Pop wood. Popwood. Pa p wuud. Paaaaahpwud

I first read "poop wood". Sure confused me.


Of his strong daddy fetish? No.

So it seems that for renters NIMBYism is motivated by opposition to gentrification. If their neighborhood can be 'maintained' as run-down, it may remain affordable. New developments -- unless specifically targeted toward low income renters -- will tend to make a neighborhood fancier, more attractive and may set off a gentrification cascade.

re #2: Yeah, I bet you do.

What is the over/under for how long it takes Tyler to recommend a re-reading of Mein Kampf?

Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot must really be peeved in their respective chambers of Hell. I mean, what does a guy have to do to rate the appellation "literally Stalin" or "literally Mao," or "literally Pol Pot?"

"Literally Genghis Khan." Can't even get that trending.

The Atlantic Council article about the situation in Ukraine is, unsurprisingly, totally biased against Russia. As I noted on my blog (, even RFE/RL, which can hardly be suspected of a pro-Russia bias, made it clear that Kiev was responsible for the outbreak of violence. The Atlantic Council piece quoted only a very short passage from the RFE/RL article and didn't even give the link, in case their readers might want to actually check the rest of the article themselves...

Well said, Philippe. I posted my sarcastic comment below before seeing your more argumented rebuttal.

#3. So basically, renters are stupid.

No, actually you can construct a rational basis for their preferences. One would be that they intend to renew their leases indefinitely and can afford to, so they have neighborhood preferences much like those of an owner. One of those is not to have too much "affordable" housing nearby.

By the way, calling housing affordable does not make it affordable. Since the article uses the term to mean subsidized housing, "affordable" housing is that which you cannot afford. Thank you George Orwell.

In places where renters have the legal protection to rent at a price indefinitely, they effectively have all the incentives of owners, without the responsibilities.

4.Sure, to get objective information on the Ukraine conflict no source can beat the Atlantic Council, Tyler's link.

1- I remember having a dispute in 2013 with a tenured Ivy League Professor, an Ivy League trained doctor, and a government lawyer (undergraduate Ivy League). They were all telling me why it was perfectly OK for the government to destroy a 150+ year old charity because it didn't want to sign an agreement with an insurance provider that paid for certain forms of birth control that the charity's management believed were abortifacents. And the same with all Catholic Hospitals.

Note that this wasn't even a passed law-- that businesses must include birth control in their insurance was a new regulation decided solely by the executive branch. Yet this new regulation was supported by these very smart, educated, and trained people to the point that it was OK with them to end Catholic hospitals and charities.

So I welcome the new interest in Authoritarianism by Professor Cowen and the academia at large. I'd give it more credibility if I had heard a peep from any of them when Obama was forcing traditional religious people out of their businesses en-masse. Because the last few years were absolutely terrifying for people of faith and why they turned out against Hillary in droves.

#1...Could you elaborate on the case of the charity? They didn't want to purchase insurance from this particular insuance company. What happened then?

Much of the news on the Little Sisters of the Poor was biased in the 'Groseclose' way, i.e., true but omitting this or that fact which many readers might consider important. I recommend reading from a variety of sources.
Note that they faced a fine of $70M a year, which easily would have put them out of business.
Here is a legal brief:

It does seem onerous. But what happens if I have the same objection but not based upon religious beliefs?

Nothing, Your objections are not included in the constitution. This is very basic First Amendment stuff.

In the brief it states, "it is not the job of the judiciary to tell people what their religious beliefs are."

I am not an attorney so I don't really understand your legal reasoning, but isn't it the job of the judiciary to do pretty much that? There are plenty of examples whereby an individual or group claims that their belief should be legal, and the law and the courts say otherwise. Most of the time it doesn't result in the destruction of an organization or charity, but I'm not sure that should sway the court's reasoning.

My point is, the courts are there to adjudicate issues just like this and they've been doing it for years. It doesn't strike me as a new frontier in authoritarianism.

gab -you missed the point. not by a little but by a lot. One does not know where to begin.

Did I not call it, that Tyler would suddenly notice there is fighting in Ukraine after Jan 20?

I'll tell you - I did that exact thing.

Next up for him? Not sure, but I think I'll go with "Oh my God do you know how many US troops are in Africa??? And the Chinese are there now too!!!"

"Authoritarianism" is being discussed in far too broad of terms, and the great majority of people discussing it are doing so because they want to use it as a term of abuse, not because they legitimately wish to understand history or the present. The term has become so loaded (though not to the extent of "fascism") that any usefulness it has in terms of taxonomy is likely outweighed by the prejudice its use creates.

That said, in the broader "authoritarian" sense which has become popular in the discourse, the Trump phenomenon can readily be seen as Anti-Authoritarian.

His rise and success (despite expert and elite opinion declaring its impossibility) were due in no small part to his (and his supporters) rejection of a portion of currently-constituted authority: the media, "political correctness" as a limit on what people and politicians can say, the "elite" in many realms. Despite idiotic claims to the contrary, these supporters (outside of fringe cases which will always exist) were not hoping for The Great Leader Trump to replace these prior sources of authority with his own benevolent dictatorship. Instead, they simply wanted these current sources of authority to fall, or, more realistically, to get a punch in the nose to show that not everybody is willing to fall in line under them. They were not seeking someone to rule over them, but someone to take shots at the authority that they believe to be dominating them.

There were other causes, of course - his taking up policy positions neglected by the political establishment (though this relates to the prior point as well), the incompetence of his opponents, his relative competence despite the desire to dismiss him as nothing but a clown, the fact that the judiciary has become a pivotal political battleground which can lead voters to hold their noses and vote for a candidate based primarily on his likely judicial appointments (as these will likely be the longest-acting decisions most Presidents make).

Constructing these grand theories about authoritarianism and the like completely misses the mark. It makes it difficult for those indulging in such theorizing to appreciate the reality of what is happening. It leads them to predict great dangers peculiar to Trump, when any "authoritarian" dangers we face exist separate from the identity of the President. It leads to insanity in the discourse. This insanity is itself a great danger to the republic - at its extreme, it justifies anything to stop the budding tyrant from solidifying himself in power.

"They were not seeking someone to rule over them, but someone to take shots at the authority that they believe to be dominating them."


Yes, they did want to take shots at the authority that they believe to be dominating them-- the opponent political party. And they wanted to hurt their political opponent party, and were willing to throw a Molotov Cocktail at their government and society, in order to hurt that party, and to hurt liberals and minorities. These are the scapegoats that Right Wing media has encouraged them to rage at, to hate, and to desire to harm, for decades on end now. In exchange for seeing these scapegoats hurt, they are quite willing to be ruled over-- as long as they believe that their scapegoats suffer even more than they do.

Similarities to the Third Reich here.

You can try to make that association and keep failing forever. Trump is just looking like he's in over his head thus far, and mostly interested in his personal image, and looking inward, not taking over the world to re-unite the American people. We'll see how long he can stay out of trouble with other countries, but this exaggeration by the left is making them look foolish.

Please. Trump's innovation was to abandon truth, shame and decorum. There proved to be a market for it. Many people were shocked by his success because they expected better of their fellow man. His pitch was explicitly to give a middle finger to anyone who might think they were better than you. Any specific position was icing on that cake.


Yes, to give a middle finger to anyone who might think they were better than you-- including people who actually ARE better than you, such as scientists, and people who are better than you in terms of amount of knowledge or education. People better than you in terms of money, like billionaires, big bankers and crony capitalist welfare queens though, are given a free pass.

"Trump’s innovation was to abandon truth, shame and decorum."

It's not innovation if you're not the first to do it.

Turkey Vulture nails it!

Funny that the deposed are suddenly interested in Orwell and yet they don't realize what side of the 1984 fence they are on! It is amusing to watch. I just hope they keep on doing what they have been doing - pink pussy marches, ninja riots at Berkeley, Washinton State actually bragging (shouldn't they keep that quiet?) they have standing because Microsoft has 5,000 H1b visa immigrant employees, it all plays so well in the former blue wall states. I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming!!!

1. The use of Chavez and Putin as comparative examples and not one entry on the conduct of the judiciary, or on delegation to administrative agencies, or on Eurotrash speech codes, or on turning public institutions into sandboxes for their employees (because when professors traffick in crap it's not 'propaganda'), or on gelding local government. As a bibliographer, Brendan Nyhan is an incompetent or a fraud.

5. If immigration were a good thing you would think that mexican officials, legislators, governors and public figures would welcome back all these people who left their country as a huge positive event that will help them all grow and become more prosperous.

Equilibrium is the good thing, not movement for the sake of movement.

#1...What's your solution to the judiciary problem?

That article on Syria is actually very good. One of many on that site.

It is, and the tragic part about it is that you could easily ctrl-r the word "Syria" in it with a number of other places along the eastern and southern shore of the Med for the last 20 years...

Regarding authoritarianim:

A top Putin critic on how to oppose Trump: “making him look like a loser is crucial”
A conversation with chess champion Garry Kasparov.

Kasparov interview was good

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