Some Thoughts from Don Trump

I am “friends” with Ivanka Trump on Facebook.   From her page, I found her father’s Facebook page and as I read his posts, this one caught my eye.

“I went to Wharton, made over $8 billion, employ thousands of people & get insulted by morons who can’t get enough of me on Twitter!”

I am not sure what point he is making here but you have to admit that he is concise and witty.   Presidential Timber?

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

31 thoughts on “Some Thoughts from Don Trump”

  1. This won’t be the first time that I’ve asked what exactly Matthew E. Kahn is doing as a front-page poster on this blog. I remember a comment of Mark’s from a very long time ago that he never added posters unless they raised the average quality of members of the blog. Does anyone—particularly Mark or any of the other old-timers here—think that is within light-years of being true with Kahn?

    Last time I mentioned this, it was on some crypto-rightwingery that he posted and was roundly criticized for. Keith kindly explained to me that there aren’t ideological litmus tests here for membership. Despite my not really believing this (everyone here but Kahn is, at a minimum, broadly sympathetic to a center-left approach to politics and policy), fine, whatever. But this is actually a much better example of how strangely out of place Kahn is on this blog: he just is awful at blogging. What does this post contribute? It highlights a pathetically stupid and un-funny quip from a wildly overexposed megalomaniac we all got much, much more than enough of last year. And does so as if there were anything new or witty about it. (“Presidential Timber”! Are you kidding?)

    Come on. Outside of any ideological considerations, Kahn is reliably awful at producing punditry or enjoyable blog content of any kind. I continue to be amazed that he’s been allowed to stick around.

  2. Ah, the dazzling wit of the racist blowhard and perpetual liar. I mean Trump, of course. Matthew E. Kahn is apparently just an idiot.

      1. Yes, I think I can explain it. Prof. Kahn is a libertarian who is pretty smart, so he must be very frustrated by the dearth of high-quality folks of his philosophical persuasion(s) who choose to pursue lives in politics.

        His question “Presidential timber?” is simply a wistful irony, for obviously, a man who is bothered by being insulted by morons has no possibility of surviving at that level of politics.

      2. Anytime I see the Donald’s name I think it’s the punch line of a joke. Don’t you?

          1. I also have always thought so but, in all seriousness, the House of Trump was apparently teetering and it seems to have been saved by a combination of extreme litigiousness, the willingness of bankers to squander other people’s money and, mainly, by his popularity as the boorish nouveau riche host of a truly awful game show. So, I suppose the question of whether the Donald is the joker or the joke depends on his degree of self-awareness.

      3. The juxtaposition of “I am not sure what point he is making” with “concise” and “witty” denotes irony and sarcasm. It was a pretty flat joke though.

  3. I know Republicans who are pretty smart. I know Democrats who are pretty smart. I know out-and-out Socialists who are pretty smart. I don’t know any Libertarians who fail to appreciate that libertarianism is not much more than an irritable mental gesture that cannot be taken to any sort of logical conclusion that is remotely acceptable to anyone not in the thrall of Alisa Rosenbaum. I also realize this is a personal failing on my part, but I have been unable to read Professor Kahn since that day he opined here that some “superstar from MIT” was on the case, whatever it was, so all was good. Maybe that was a joke, too, and I missed it? Wouldn’t be the first time. Something coming from Chicago by way of UCLA?

    1. “I don’t know any Libertarians who fail to appreciate that libertarianism is not much more than an irritable mental gesture that cannot be taken to any sort of logical conclusion that is remotely acceptable to anyone not in the thrall of Alisa Rosenbaum.”

      A quintuple negative!

      1. What kind of person thinks that it’s more damning to call Ayn Rand by her birth name? What kind of blog is this, anyway?

        1. It would be hard to find anything specifically Jewish in Ayn Rand’s thinking. But here’s a lot that Russian: she’s a poster for the attraction of the Russian intelligentsia, cut off from civic responsibilities and human contact with the Russian peasantry, for wild and half-baked political ideologies.

    2. KLG,
      You might want to look at the “Unqualified Offerings” blog. I believe that the proprietors still consider themselves libertarians. And they are about as far from Randroids as one can get. Or try Julian Sanchez, or Radley Balko. Ayn Rand was a power-worshipper. Many libertarians are quite the opposite.

      I’m not a libertarian myself, and couldn’t play one on teevee. But they’re members in good standing of Team Enlightenment, along with the Marxists. Sometimes, they’re worth listening to.

      1. Libertarians do have a loony fringe, though, as much if not worse than the Marxists. The ones who go “Taxation is theft! Therefore global warming is not happening!”

        And many have sold out to the corporate, creationist right … well, for the money. I suppose that is the best reason.

      2. Ebenezer, Jim Henley describes himself as a “lapsed libertarian turned social democrat”. Thoreau describes his utopia as a mix of “libertarianism, marxism, the Gospels, and sci-fi”.

        I suspect that one could describe both as social liberals (or at least something close), if the term had any meaning in modern American English.

        Libertarianism, the way it is practiced in the United States, is a “pure” (for lack of a better) version of classical liberalism, generally putting dogma before pragmatism. You will often encounter libertarian arguments such as the one Jonathan Adler discusses here (not Jonathan Adler’s own argument); you will notice that they often are reduced to the libertarian principle of government non-interference (which is taken to be axiomatically true), rather than whether a policy actually, well, works. Ideology over evidence-based reasoning, so to speak.

        One way that manifests in practice is that a lot of libertarians argue from first principles a lot (see, e.g., Megan McArdle on a bad day [1]). There’s nothing inherently wrong with arguing from first principles. For example, either you believe in human rights, or you don’t; human rights are a value system, not a testable scientific theory. But if practically everything becomes a matter of first principles, one is most likely observing a person in possession of a figurative hammer who sees the world as one big nail.

        As a consequence, I consider libertarianism (as currently practiced) to be an extremist political philosophy. It is to classical liberalism or social liberalism roughly what communism is to social democracy (including some of the odd social phenomena associated with it, such as the love that a lot of ivory tower professors have for one or the other). I can even sympathize with adherents, to a degree: Communism and libertarianism have a certain abstract beauty, like a crystal formation, and without a lot of the real-world warts other political philosophies wrangle with; unfortunately, this abstract beauty also tends to limit their practical applicability.

        Yet, even though as a social liberal I should have a fair amount of common ground with libertarians, I find the espoused ideological purity off-putting. Health insurance is a prominent example. While I’d like it if health insurance could be run without a complex regulatory system, the historical evidence is pretty unambiguous in that government-regulated monopsonies (or their rough equivalents) outperform free-market solutions by a fair margin. Continuing to believe in the superiority of an unregulated free-market solution for health insurance as a matter of principle is no different than in continuing to believe in a planned economy over a free market despite all evidence to the contrary.

        Which is why I regularly snark about the free market fairy that libertarians seem to believe in, even though I’m a free-market proponent myself; the difference is that I don’t consider the free market to be a magical solution for all that ails humanity, but a widely applicable principle that can be disproven or modified in some cases and think that the role of government needs to be evaluated on the merits (with a bias towards non-involvement) rather than as a matter of ideology.

        [1] I don’t want to bash Megan; she writes a lot of interesting stuff, too, but when she gives in to that, I find her writing often very … skippable.

        1. Katja,
          I stand corrected on “Unqualified Offerings.” Otherwise, I mostly agree with you.

          I wouldn’t accuse the smarter libertarians of being blinkered ideologues or stupidly axiomatic. My disagreement with them is more fundamental: their ends are too often my means. I think that liberty (as the libertarians define it) is generally a great way to get lots of people in a complex society to live decent lives together. So do they, but they tend to think that liberty is worthwhile even when it hinders this goal, and they tend (I believe) to minimize the conflicts between liberty and decent lives in a complex society. I suppose we disagree slightly here. You view the smarter libertarians as too axiomatic; I view them as too deontological.

          Of course, too many so-called libertarians are really glibertarians: a noxious mix of propertarians, Randroid power-worshippers, apologists for the plutocracy, and conservatives who wish to distance themselves socially from the yahoos. I would not judge libertarian thought by the goons who flock to the banner; just as I wouldn’t judge Marxist thought by Soviet communism, or conservative thought by Rush Limbaugh. (Well, I suppose that there is an organic connection between El Rushbo and conservative thought, but pace Robin Corey, I think that at least some strands are separable.)

          1. The underlying problem is of course how one defines libertarianism.

            Generally, when you do get people to extensively define what they mean by libertarian, it’s generally a platform that minimizes government involvement in some sort or form, such as the official platform of the Libertarian Party. I’m basing my critique of libertarianism on such platforms where people actually commit themselves to certain political stances.

            But, to be frank, these platforms seem to suffer from a certain detachment from reality. Consider this following howler from the LP’s platform: “Governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection.” I mean, seriously? Stuff like this why I snark about libertarians believing in the free market fairy and using evidence-free reasoning (and think that they fully deserve the scorn). Whatever you may think of the track record of government, to be oblivious to businesses routinely externalizing environmental costs where they can so that society at large has to carry them (in fact, often out of necessity so that they can stay competitive) doesn’t say much about the LP’s connection to reality.

            Now, I happen to think that it is possible to get a lot of environmental benefit with very little government involvement by internalizing externalities, but I can back that up with actual programs that have worked (such as the the German packaging ordinance, which does little more than set recycling targets and leaves the implementation up to the recycling industry). The LP seems to believe that if you just remove all government regulation, then the magic of the free market will fix everything. This is evidence-based vs. evidence-free reasoning.

            Of course, there are self-described libertarians that differ from this or other libertarian platforms, often considerably. But the problem with them is generally that they aren’t very specific about their political philosophies. The statement: “I’m libertarian” is not very informative if you aren’t willing to commit yourself to more than general principles. In the immortal words of Buffy: “Gee, can you vague that up for me?” When, e.g., I describe myself as a social liberal, I am saying that I am in broad agreement with the Oxford Manifesto 1997 (taking into account that I am somewhat more tolerant of government involvement in the pursuit of social justice than a classical liberal). I may quibble with details and specific policy prescriptions, but will agree with the general tenor. I am not seeing generic libertarians (for lack of a better term) defining themselves sufficiently. I don’t really blame them: working out a functioning political platform can be challenging. But you also can’t nail a pudding to a wall.

            Part of the underlying problem is that libertarianism is a fairly new political philosophy; the underpinnings of social democracy, classical and social liberalism, and the various brands of conservatism go back centuries. These political philosophies had a long time to test themselves against the real world and refine themselves. Libertarianism, in contrast, is often still amateur hour: ad-hoc philosophizingbased on the general principle of lean or minimal government. The problem is that they are reinventing the wheel: Lean government already is a core principle of classical liberalism, and classical liberals, going back to the days of John Locke, have plenty more experience in what works and what doesn’t and have adjusted their political philosophy accordingly to work in the real world. I am not yet seeing libertarians taking the same steps to test their theories against the real world (as I said, you see a lot of libertarians still arguing from first principles).

        2. You confused me for a moment, Katja.

          I thought you meant Henry David Thoreau, and I could not figure out for the life of how HDT could know of libertarianism and sci-fi.

          Then I clicked your link and got it.

          1. Yeah; I didn’t even think of that, I’ve been reading UO for so long.

            That said, now that I think of it, it’s probably more accurate to describe the UO Thoreau as an anti-authoritarian trapped in a tenured professor’s body than having social liberal leanings. 🙂

      3. Marx went dramatically off the rails (as compared to Socialists before him) when he convinced himself and his acolytes that what he was saying was not merely morally valid, or insights worth considering, but was science, and not just science but SCIENCE as theology — all the modern populist connotations of science (progress, infallible, omnipotent and omniscient) without that messy business of allowing for the possibility of error, changing your mind, performing and then accepting the results of experiments and so on.

        Libertarianism is the EXACT same mindset, only updated to social science one hundred years later. There is the same insistence that everything they think is based on SCIENCE, the exact same ignorance of what’s actually known in science (even what was known at the time of the founders, and certainly what has been learned since then) and lack of interest in learning, the exact same indifference to new experiments or insights because, once you know the truth why waste time with ideas that are clearly false?

        Compare what’s being done by people like Gintis or Bowles or E O Wilson — the range of evidence they work with, the way they change their minds, their eagerness to find situations that don’t seem to fit their models and try to resolve the discrepancy. THAT’S what science looks like.

        I’m not sure exactly what Team Enlightenment means, but I’d like to think it demands more of its members than hatred of the Catholic Church; and I don’t see how Libertarians or Marxists deserve to be members.

    3. So you don’t think that the Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman was smart enough to not be “in thrall” to Ayn Rand?

      And you think that the Nobel Laureate James Buchanan was also a slavish follower of the second-rate philosopher?

      The Nobel Laureate Gary Becker is sometimes thought of as a smart guy. As is his (former) U. of Chicago Richard Epstein, a colleague of the sainted Barack Obama whom members of the left ensure me has, in hi 51 years on this planet, yet to make his first mistake.

      Some people think the Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek wasn’t a complete moron who took his cues from an immigrant who turned her talents to Hollywood screenwriting.

      I guess it’s pretty clear that none of these intellects could hold a candle to World-Historical Intelligence that is “KLG.” Good to know.

      1. You are assuming that “smartness” consists of PURELY the ability to perform long strings of sophisticated deduction.
        However that is not all there is to it. If you choose to ground your deductions in axioms that are KNOWN to be false, then your conclusions are worthless. And if you devote your time to generating conclusions about the world that are not actually relevant to the world, how is that a smart thing to do?

        I don’t know why Gary Becker or Milton Friedman chose to base their lives on a set of clearly false axioms. But they did; and the fact that they did makes them substantially less smart than you seem to think.

      2. No, Milton Friedman was not in thrall to Ayn Rand. To wit:

        “I really don’t know how to answer that. I was basically trained in economic science. I was interested in the history of thought and where it came from. I thought I was going back to some fundamentals rather than creating anything new. Ayn Rand had no use for the past. She was going to invent the world anew. She was an utterly intolerant and dogmatic person who did a great deal of good. But I could never feel comfortable with her. I don’t mean with her personally–I never met her personally. I’m only talking about her writings.”

        As to Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand, they actually didn’t like each other very much; Rand pretty much hated Hayek for what she saw as his willingness to compromise and his collectivist tendencies (calling him a “god damn fool” and worse in her margin notes to the Road of Serfdom); incidentally, her opinion of Friedman wasn’t much higher. Hayek, conversely, thought that Rand was a poor writer and admitted that he couldn’t even get through “Atlas Shrugged”.

        As an aside, Friedrich Hayek wasn’t a libertarian; he was a classical liberal. He not only had no problems with, but approved of the principle of a social safety net and was fine with necessary government regulations to counter negative externalities etc. Remember that he wrote “The Road to Serfdom” in opposition to ideas of a centrally planned economy, not in opposition to the ideas of a modern social market economy. What several libertarians, including Ayn Rand took objection to were statements such as: “Probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rough rules of thumb, above all the principle of laissez-faire.” (“Liberal” in this sentence of cause refers to classical liberalism, not the modern American use.)

        I haven’t looked at the other putative endorsements that you mentioned, but color me skeptical that they are as unequivocal as you seem to imply (or exist at all), given the above two examples.

        1. I should add that Ayn Rand’s vocal condemnation of Friedrich Hayek is a good example of why few people outside her worshipers think much of her; it’s dogmatic criticism for lack of ideological purity rather than a substantive critique on the merits. This approach is something that you find in religions, not in the sciences (even the social and political sciences).

  4. Presidential timber? Pffft.

    The 1% has run this country into the ground for most of the rest of us. If you’ve gotten rich off screwing your workers, pandering to the basest of emotions, and scammed billions in tax-breaks, grants, and other government support while decrying the “welfare” state doing anything for people other than you and your buddies…

    People like that should be disqualified from running for office.

  5. As to Donald. No.

    As to libertarianism, like Communism, it has a number of useful insights/critiques that get mostly ignored because they are mixed with ideas which are obviously wrong to just about everyone, but get loudly pushed by their respective adherents.

Comments are closed.