Category Archives: Politics

My two cents on Trumpism

At the risk of wading into a swamp, here are a few thoughts on the phenomenon. We’ve seen lots of smart analyses trying to figure out how we got here, but if I were to distill my own analysis and intuition, I’d say the most important factors in the rise of Trump to around 35-40% of the GOP primary vote are:

1. Celebrity – I think it’s hard to overstate how important fame is. Most politicians try to spread their names with commercials, town hall meetings, and parades, even as they are taking tough votes that diminish their popularity with half the electorate. Donald Trump, on the other hand, spent 30 years in the public eye and the last 10 years on one of TV’s most-watched shows. Tens of millions of people, many with no connection to politics, got to know him on his terms – and they liked him. He then leveraged his celebrity into a reported $2 billion worth of free media over the last year, which was nearly twice the total of all other GOP candidates combined. How’s Bobby Jindal (who?) supposed to compete with that?

2. Anti-Washington fervor – Trump voters, so far as we know, do not much care about the usual anti-government policy ideas on regulation and taxes, for example. But what’s animating them, I believe, is a profound astonishment at Washington’s bipartisan incompetence. Think about the last 15 years: under Republicans, we got the Iraq War and WMD intelligence fiasco, and then the Financial Panic, Wall Street bailout, and Great Recession. Under Democrats, we got the ineffectual economic response that has led to a stagnant decade of sub-3% economic growth; the legislative centerpiece, Obamacare, which began with the failure of the government to build a functioning website, and resulted in a tumultuous upheaval in the health care market, with exploding premiums and less access to care; and a foreign policy that led to even more chaos in the Middle East, from Syria to Libya. Under both parties, they see a total failure to enforce existing immigration laws or to formulate better ones. Throw in the Katrina response, which was a bipartisan federal-local disaster. In Washington, they see very smart people producing utterly pathetic results. Trump calls them “our stupid leaders.”

When Trump critics argue, correctly, that he is an ignorant and dishonest buffoon, Trump backers scoff, “Buffoon? Dishonest? Look at Washington. It can’t get any worse.” (more…)

The Real Deal

We Hoosiers are lucky:

Perhaps most appreciated was the governor’s overhaul of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It’s gone from one of the worst in the country—a place, he says, “where people would take a copy of ‘Crime and Punishment'”—to one of the best, with an “average visit time of seven minutes and 36 seconds.”

I had my own experience about four years ago, before the BMV was overhauled, where I made some seven trips to the license branch and various other government offices over a period of weeks just to renew my driver’s license.

But as Kim Strassel tells us in her interview with Mitch Daniels, this is only the very tip of the iceberg. In a state challenged by our reliance on the automobile industry in particular and manufacturing in general, instead of imploding like Michigan or profligate California, we had a governor whose common sense, hard work, business savvy, and courageous budgeting has left Indiana in a much better spot than many other states. Especially given our special old-economy obstacles.

Will science restore the vibrant texture of American life?

Charles Murray asks whether America’s unique character, and its freedoms, can be preserved. He’s worried but, looking toward scientific rumblings that bear witness on crucial social and economic questions, tilts toward optimism.

The possibility that irreversible damage will be done to the American project over the next few years is real. And so it is our job to make the case for that reawakening. It won’t happen by appealing to people on the basis of lower marginal tax rates or keeping a health care system that lets them choose their own doctor. The drift toward the European model can be slowed by piecemeal victories on specific items of legislation, but only slowed. It is going to be stopped only when we are all talking again about why America is exceptional, and why it is so important that America remain exceptional. That requires once again seeing the American project for what it is: a different way for people to live together, unique among the nations of the earth, and immeasurably precious.

The Three-week Collapse

Larry Lindsey with a good summary of the quick confidence collapse in Obama’s new economic plans.

The Geithner announcement was repeatedly put off while each of the options was publicly discussed. In the end the political decisionmakers decided there was no politically acceptable decision. But expectations had been building, stoked higher with each postponement of the speech. When Geithner finally spoke and by omission essentially admitted that the Obama administration hadn’t come up with a solution, the stock market plummeted.

But it wasn’t only the stock prices of America’s publicly traded companies that collapsed. So did the stock of the Obama administration. A discredited stimulus package followed by an overly hyped but largely vacuous bank-rescue speech proved to be too much. The mainstream media, which had given Obama a free ride since the election, turned on their choice. In the space of just over three weeks, Obama and company squandered the greatest stock of political capital any president since Lyndon Johnson had inherited from an election.

The Blago Revolt

Rich Karlgaard with a modest proposal: Pay politicians more!

Give these takers the chance to become rich legally.

Here is how. Let’s put every elected federal official and appointee and bureaucrat on a stock option plan. The value of these options would be tied to the health and wealth of America. Half the options would vest over two years so as to spur politicians to make immediate changes. The other half would vest over 20 years, so politicians could build a framework for enduring success and be rewarded for it.

The options would gain or lose value based on these criteria:

1.    Noninflationary GDP growth
2.    Job growth
3.    Vitality of the small-business sector
4.    Wealth growth of American households in all four socioeconomic quadrants
5.    Educational achievements of American K-12 kids versus the world
6.    Health and longevity of Americans
7.    Prevention of military or terrorist attack
8.    Reduction of the national debt

As Rich himself says, this proposal might not be exactly the way to go, or even close, but he gets at a very real and big problem in our representative democracy, one that modern public choice theorists like James Buchanan described. And which those older public choice theorists like Madison and Hamilton wrestled with as well as anyone ever has. They put a system in place that survived and mostly prospered for more than 200 years. But it does seem we need some big tweaks or even more fundamental changes to secure, once again, the blessings of liberty.


Here at Maximum Entropy we focus on delivering “more signal, less noise,” and so this analysis of Sarah Palin’s unusual and incomprehensible speech really hits the mark:

What we have to do instead is decrypt her message by filtering out all of the confusing chatter that keeps her statements encoded and difficult to follow. . . .

If you just cut out about 60% of what she says, it hangs together. . .


Is Paul Ryan the future?

After two straight electoral defeats, it is time for a substantial party shake-up. We don’t need a feather duster; we need a fire hose.

We need to be honest about the root causes of our current financial crisis: loose money, crony capitalism and a lack of market transparency and information.

Obama’s Entrepreneurial Lesson

From my article in Friday’s Wall Street Journal:

If Barack Obama ran for president by calling for a heavier hand of government, he also won by running one of the most entrepreneurial campaigns in history.

Will he now grasp the lesson his campaign offers as he crafts policies aimed at reigniting the national economy? Amid a recession, two wars, and a global financial crisis, will he come to see that unleashing the entrepreneur is the best way to raise the revenue he needs for his lofty priorities?

Read the whole op-ed here, and listen to a brief radio interview here.