Groupish, not selfish

From Jonathan Haidt (made known to me by a friend’s Facebook post):

Despite what you might have learned in Economics 101, people aren’t always strictly selfish. In politics, they’re more often groupish. When people feel that a group they value — be it racial, religious, regional or ideological — is under attack, they rally to its defense, even at some cost to themselves. We evolved to be tribal, and politics is a competition among coalitions of tribes.

The key to understanding tribal behavior is not money; it’s sacredness. The great trick that humans developed at some point in the last few hundred thousand years is the ability to circle around a tree, rock, ancestor, flag, book or god, and then treat that thing as sacred.

People who worship the same idol can trust one another, work as a team and prevail over less cohesive groups. So if you want to understand politics, and especially our divisive culture wars, you must follow the sacredness.

Trump’s secret plan

From the genius mind of Jeffrey Tucker:

Because Trump is the only one who speaks this way, he can count on support from the darkest elements of American life. He doesn’t need to actually advocate racial homogeneity, call for a whites-only sign to be hung at immigration control, or push for expulsion or extermination of undesirables. Because such views are verboten, he has the field alone, and he can count on the support of those who think that way by making the right noises.

What’s distinct about Trumpism, and the tradition of thought it represents, is that it is non-leftist in its cultural and political outlook and yet still totalitarian in the sense that it seeks total control of society and economy and places no limits on state power. The left has long waged war on bourgeois institutions like family, church, and property. In contrast, right fascism has made its peace with all three. It (very wisely) seeks political strategies that call on the organic matter of the social structure and inspire masses of people to rally around the nation as a personified ideal in history, under the leadership of a great and highly accomplished man.

Trump believes himself to be that man.

On Donald Trump

From RedState’s Erick Erickson:

There is also a reality about Donald Trump’s candidacy that you should also not underestimate. People hate Washington, they hate politicians, and they are perfectly happy to champion a candidate who tells politicians to go to hell and provides creative directions on the path there. Donald Trump’s candidacy does not exist in a nation where people think the politicians actually care about making the country great again. It only exists in a nation of cynics who think the powers that be want to manage decline and profit from it.

Some predictions for 2016

I’ve learned that more than a few people enjoy my political commentary on this blog. I’ve also discovered that writing about political figures (or, to be more precise, citing political figures as keywords in my posts) draws more traffic to the blog. So here are a few thoughts (and predictions) on the 2016 election.

1. Hillary Clinton is going to lose ground in the primaries simply because she has nowhere to go but down. Bernie Sanders will make her look too stiff and too calculated. Martin O’Malley will have a similar effect and make her seem old and uncharismatic. But she’ll win the primaries by more than a little (as long as she stays healthy, which isn’t something I’d bet on), and Martin O’Malley would make a great running mate.

2. Scott Walker will struggle in New Hampshire. He’ll also bore Republicans of all stripes as he tries desperately to appeal to all of them (which is impossible). He’ll struggle in the debates, too, which is never good for Republicans.

3. Rand Paul will place a consistent second or close third everywhere, no matter the state and no matter what happens in the rest of the field. In this way, he’ll be just like his dad.

4. Jeb Bush’s popularity will rise, slowly and surely and without hiccup, through 2015. He’ll shine in the debates. Skeptical Republicans will realize that he’s really about as conservative as they come, and he’ll win Iowa and New Hampshire and, therefore, the nomination.

I’m a big believer in the power of party—I think at least half of voters choose a candidate based on who they think has the best chance to beat the other party, and not based on candidates’ specific views or policies. In 2015, this effect will only be magnified on the Republican side because the opponent is already known. The drive to simply “beat Hillary” will work in Jeb’s favor since he’s the only one (I think) who has a chance at beating her. I also think Jeb believes this, which is why he doesn’t (and won’t) pander to the far-right.

So Jeb vs. Hillary in the general election, assuming no major scandal or health issue for either of them.

Now, some mysteries in this election are: Marco Rubio (almost impossible not to like, but I don’t think anyone believes he can beat Hillary), Chris Christie (if he runs, could either shine or bomb), and Rick Perry (perfect candidate on paper, with a record to back it up, but no support). Non-mystery, definite losers are: Carly Fiorina (too boring) and Santorum-Huckabee-Carson-Cruz (you know why).

One weird scenario would be if something happens to Hillary–health issue, major scandal, etc.–and she can’t run. No other Democrat has enough clout to put up a serious general election fight. That is, except for Joe Biden. He’s always wanted to be president, and Democrats love him. His campaign could amass in a matter of days. Heck, maybe he’ll run anyways, which would change everything.

Scott Walker the socialist (on immigration)

Last month, Scott Walker explained to conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity that immigration policy should be based, first and foremost, on “protecting American workers and American wages.”

The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal-immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages. It is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today, is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that to be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.

Presumably, he means that immigration drives down wages and hurts Americans in low-wage jobs. At least, that’s what any intelligent person should take away from such comments. I suspect he’ll deny he said all this in the coming months.

But even so, I’m not content to believe this is his actual view. That’s changed a few times in past years. For all the good he’s done in Wisconsin, Walker’s sure panders hard when faced with the prospect of a presidential campaign.

All that aside, though, what frustrates me most about this has nothing to do with Walker himself, but with the blatant, ignorant stupidity of such a view—the idea that immigrants drive down wages and hurt lower-class Americans and that we need government to make sure this doesn’t happen.

I’ve written about all this before after David Brat made a similar argument last year. He was just as wrong. I’m not going to rehash my whole argument here (you should read it, though), but here’s a few quick questions for Walker:

  1. Why is it bad that immigrants drive down wages? Isn’t it good to have a flexible and diverse supply of labor?
  2. Socialists have, for a century, made the same argument you’re making. Are they wrong? Are you a socialist on immigration?
  3. Instead of limit immigration, why not raise minimum wage by a few dollars? It will have the same effect—it will keep wages high and make many illegal immigrants virtually unemployable.

In case anyone doesn’t get me, I’m not arguing in that third question that minimum wage is good. Minimum wage is bad (as I explained here), and I think Walker would at least lend lip service to that idea. I only frame the question that way to show that Walker is all confused.

In this vein, here’s a great meme I came across today. Pardon the French.

Louis C.K. on

A new piece, and a great interview

Here’s my new piece at on interest-sensitive investments — a handy little read, I hope, for anyone concerned about how an interest rate hike might affect their portfolio. Then again, I still stand by my prediction from last December: The Fed won’t raise interest rates in 2015. Inflation is just too low. In fact, I don’t think raising rates in 2015 was ever a serious possibility when rate-hike-talk began last fall.

Switching gears…

Here’s great interview with some great thoughts on immigration (and other things) from someone who could very well be the next President of the U.S. At the least, it’s encouraging to know that someone running for president actually believes his message is robust enough to convince millions of people (i.e. Republicans) that they are wrong on a big issue (immigration).

Jeb Bush speaks truth on immigration

“It just seems to me that maybe if you open up our doors in a fair way and unleashed the spirit of peoples’ hard work, Detroit could become in really short order, one of the great American cities again. Now it would look different, it wouldn’t be Polish…But it would be just as powerful, just as exciting, just as dynamic. And that’s what immigration does and to be fearful of this, it just seems bizarre to me.”-Jeb Bush