[UPDATE: I intended this post for humor value, for the regular readers who know the history of my exchanges with Scott Sumner. Let me clarify for newcomers: I am very wary of what could happen with civil liberties under Trump. (In the piece we discuss in this post below, I mentioned that if he builds a wall, it could be used to keep dissidents in.) If there’s another attack on US soil, I would not be surprised if Trump starts rounding people up, FDR style.]
A few weeks ago, Scott Sumner at his blog quoted a news story about voter stress and then responded in this manner:
And talk about “first world problems:
David R. Henderson was surprised by this, and said over at EconLog that “[t]his shows that Scott and I have very different views about the importance of politics and government in people’s lives. He appears to think that they matter very little. I think they matter a lot.”
In the comments at his original post, Scott clarified in response to David’s objection:
David, There are 1000s of awful things in the world. Most far more awful than this election. I can’t even imagine being stressed out by everything in the news. Yes, intellectually I know it’s important. But so is drug legalization and kidney market legalization and ending the war in Syria. But I can’t get stressed out over everything wrong in the world, or I’d go crazy…I’m resigned to the fact that the next president will likely be worse than Obama. But that’s a first world problem, not like Aleppo. Life goes on–the NBA season starts tonight!!
OK that’s fine, but then you can imagine my shock when I see Scott has devoted an entire post to my inadequate denunciation of the Holocaust, when I wrote a blog post for the Independent Institute where I explicitly said upfront that since I’m an economist, I would be talking about economics. Here’s a taste of Scott’s reaction to my post:
Bob Murphy (who doesn’t support Trump) has a post reflecting on the lessons of the election. I disagree with much of it, but I suppose all the points are defensible, taken one at a time. Unfortunately, the overall impression is that libertarians are tone deaf.
No discussion of the vile racism, misogyny, anti-disabled, anti-POW or anti-Muslim bigotry, beyond an allusion to Trump’s “boorish comments about women”. Nothing on his pandering to the alt-right, or hiring the publisher of a leading alt-right outlet to be his campaign manager. Nothing about his support for much worse types of torture than waterboarding. Nothing about his comments that we should steal the oil of countries when we conquer them. Nothing about his support for assassinating the family members of terrorists. Nothing about his embrace of brutal authoritarians like Putin. Nothing about his promises to stop the media from printing anti-Trump stories. Nothing about his bizarre embrace of numerous nutty conspiracy theories. Or his comments in favor of nuclear proliferation. Or his contempt for facts, which I’m afraid goes far beyond the lies we see with even Hillary/Nixon-level politicians.
Look, I’m also opposed to tariffs on Mexican goods. But when people read posts like Bob’s they are going to think that libertarians just don’t get it. One defense is that Hillary is also horrible. I agree, she’s much worse than Obama. So put in a, “To be sure, Hillary also has many faults like militarism and support for the war on drugs” or something like that. But Trump’s outrages go far beyond anything I’ve ever seen in American politics, and if we write posts mostly attacking his critics and then throwing in a few lines about tariffs, we are just giving ammunition to the people who troll libertarians as insensitive on issues such as race and gender (I don’t recall specific examples, but I’m thinking of people like Noah Smith, Brad DeLong, Paul Krugman, etc.) Lots of female GOP intellectuals (who earlier criticized Bill Clinton) are disgusted right now with the GOP, and their reasons go far beyond “boorish comments”. They don’t understand why the men in their party don’t get it.
Moving beyond Bob’s post, I’m glad those “sore losers” are out in the streets protesting Trump; I wish there were millions of people protesting (peacefully of course.) I’d be disgusted with this country if people simply bowed down to Trump because he won. The fact that he won more states than Hillary doesn’t magically transform him into another person; he’s still the appalling, disgusting, evil person he was on November 7th. A man with literally no good qualities (with apologies to Musil). All that’s changed is that he’s now a government employee.
Sometimes I wonder why we even have a public education system. When I think back to all the “social studies” classes I took in high school, there were lots topics covered. But much of the history (back in the 1960s and 1970s) we covered actually boiled down to one basic point: “Do not ever, ever, ever, ever vote for a demagogic politician who engages in the big lie, is contemptuous of civil liberties and demonizes minorities and foreigners. Just don’t do it.” And if we can’t even get that one basic point, then can someone tell me what these civics classes are for? What’s the point? And please don’t tell me that all politicians are demagogues, of course that true to some extent. But Trump’s a textbook definition of what we were warned to shun at all costs.
If libertarianism doesn’t rise to the occasion and loudly proclaim that Trump is completely beyond the pale, then we are going to make the same mistake those leftists made in the 1950s and 1960s, when they spent more time criticizing anti-communists than they did criticizing the unprecedented evil of global communism. Of course Trump’s not that sort of threat, he’s probably too incompetent to do much harm (one key difference from Hitler), and our democracy is quite strong (another key difference). Maybe he won’t even impose those tariffs—I have no idea what he’s going to do. But in symbolic terms the issues are just as stark, and we need to reject Trumpism without any qualifications, even if Trump were to bring about small government and NGDP targeting. Otherwise libertarianism will be tarnished by this sad episode of American history. [Scott Sumner, bold in original.]
So, can I just explain that I would have done all that, except the game was on?
P.S. Does anybody actually want me to address the substance of Scott’s post? I get the sense that his regulars in the comments think I’m either crazy or a Nazi, and I get the sense that most of you guys think Scott is crazy and/or a Social Justice Warrior (the bad kind). Is there any point to this argument? I personally don’t think one needs to point out that trying to placate Krugman, DeLong, and Noah Smith is a huge mistake, but is this obvious to all of you?