Writing about public policy in Trumpistan

Whatever policy emerges from the federal government in this climate, it will be guided by delusions, written by morons, and crafted to solve problems that don’t exist using mechanisms that don’t work. We are going to live for an extended time under a grand national experiment in Idiocracy. The tough, interesting, intellectually challenging work of crafting useful policy has lost any immediate relevance. Policy only matters to some potential future that looms out beyond the horizon.

Milton Friedman makes the case for a basic income

Fifty years later, this explanation of the case for a basic income laid out by Milton Friedman is more relevant than ever. Friedman was describing his plan for a negative income tax, a plan actually introduced and promoted by Nixon, but the skeleton of that case applies to just about any system of universal needs-based support. Also interesting in this clip is the quality of the interaction. Can you imagine any major conservative media figure of William Buckley’s profile engaging in such a smart, thoughtful interaction on a complex subject today?

When whiteness fails

Thanks to generations of progress in civil rights, race, and more specifically “whiteness,” is failing. Being white is losing its meaning, its privileges, its social and even religious significance. As it fades, it has weakened a load-bearing wall in our democracy. Our goal of transcending race, encoded as a distant aspiration in our founding documents, threatens to undermine the “classless” assumptions that make the rest of our system work. Stripped of race as a reference point, and of whiteness as a marker of special privilege, we are left to cope with class as our main expression of identity.

Fake news, evolution, and political failure

We embrace fake news because it is easy, because it confirms what we want to believe about the world. Fake news is folklore; comfortable, mentally soothing stories about things that did not happen. Fake news may be pleasant, but it is an inferior evolutionary adaptation. Institutions built on fake news will underperform fact-driven institutions until they are eventually swept away in failure.

A couple of thoughts from Fukuyama

Fukuyama’s End of History did a pretty good job of anticipating Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. It did a pretty good job of anticipating the anomie and aimlessness that might drive people toward self-destructive political choices. Almost thirty years after his original thesis, he still seems to have a better read on our political situation than either the Marxist theorists he was skewering or the emerging culture-warriors like Huntington who most fiercely opposed him. It may be a mistake to dismiss Fukuyama out of hand.