Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Time to rehabilitate a pejorative?

At Revealed Preferences I muse some more on the unremarkable roots of 20th century fascism compared to today's politics and whether the word is worth the effort of rehabilitation.
"While today ‘fascism’ is associated with state racism, warmongering, the dissolution of impartial courts, and the end of free elections, the fascist system didn’t intend to pursue any of these goals. Yet that’s where it led, and not only in Europe: When FDR tried to adopt near, if not outright, fascist economic policies in the U.S., he began the erosion of the independent judiciary to implement his plans in spite of the U.S. Constitution, and though the war derailed these efforts, by the time he died in his fourth term in office, he had held the position so long that some voting adults had no memory of any other president.
"That might all be ancient history, but it is very popular to have a government that can ‘get things done’, rather than being tied up in gridlock, and to direct private activities toward national goals, both on the left and the right (neither of which fascism fits neatly into, as Villari reminds us) today. The fascist system as it was developed, and before it ran into the constitutional limits on power, is really not that radical compared to contemporary politics."
You can read the whole thing here.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Not to praise, but to bury Castro

Adam, one of my co-bloggers at Revealed Preferences has a fitting obituary for Fidel Castro.
"By any reasonable standard, Castro was a disaster for his country. He leaves behind an impoverished land virtually devoid of freedom, where the most banal opening constitutes a major reform. His party won praise for Cuba’s education system, even as it imposed strict censorship, banned private libraries and cut its people off from the world. It won accolades for a healthcare system in which infant mortality is reduced by aborting “substandard” fetuses and doctors are rented to foreign governments like chattel. Castro’s recklessness came close to triggering global nuclear war. His destruction of Cuba’s economy left people on the brink of starvation when Soviet aid collapsed. Many Cubans preferred to float through shark-infested waters on precarious rafts rather than endure his socialist paradise. And not once did Castro give Cubans an opportunity to choose a path different from the one he imposed on them.
"But while his plaudits were thoroughly undeserved, the intense hatred he received from some quarters was bizarre. Obviously, it’s normal that his victims and their families would despise him. But how did the ruler of a small country with only modest strategic importance become the great bogeyman of the conservative movement? By the undemanding standards of dictatorships, his was not an unusually harsh one. Never mind Hitler, Stalin or Mao; he was not even a Saddam or a Pol Pot. Why did his tyranny merit so much attention?"
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Much of the right abandoned trade long ago

Over at Revealed Preferences, I suggest that the right abandoning trade shouldn't be so surprising to globalist conservatives. After all, support for trade on the right has been brittle for some time, and there's been no demand that it be deepened within their ranks. 
Either trade is always positive sum and worthy of support, or it is not and it should be analysed and managed. The former leads us (and nearly all economists) toward a presumption in favour of free trade, while down the latter path lies a presumption of protectionism. There are many examples that could have warned conservatives they were on that protectionist path...
Again: either trade is positive sum, or it is not. Conservatives and progressives have together hollowed out the support for trade that would have explained to them whymarkets are effective, and a trading world is a freer, richer, and more peaceful one.
You can read the rest here

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Bridging gulfs

Over at Revealed Preferences, I share some of my thoughts on the importance of civil discourse, how conservative political parties and left-wing crusaders are making things worse, and how we might start to make them better instead.
It’s true that Republican candidates were able to win elections by focus grouping their statements so that they don’t scare away voters who are worried about immigration, trade, or the many other changes ongoing in a great society. But by failing to spend the resources to engage those voters and supporting their fears, the party has found itself floundering when it comes to explaining the limits of what American governments can do, actual facts on the ground about immigration, and an economic understanding of trade now that those fears have become worse. 
Likewise in Canada, Kellie Leitch might be able to win votes, and Ezra Levant might be able to scrape together subscribers, by playing to the worst fears of the populist wing of the electorate. They are helping to congeal those who share those fears into a distinct, separate voting bloc of people who aren’t questioned (lest their votes be risked) and whose fears are elevated, rather than engaged (lest they disappear, along with the motivation to stick with the candidate). 
An alternative is to engage fearful people. As Ilhan Omar points out in the podcast, people are allowed to be afraid – but how we react to that fear matters. Political fortress building isolates valid concerns from correction and refinement by facts, experience, and different perspectives. This is why progressives who immediately write off those same concerns as deplorable are just as culpable for the faltering pillar of societal tolerance as the conservatives who refuse to listen to the ‘MSM’. The left fears Donald Trump and what his victory today might mean. The right fears ‘social justice warriors’ who want to rewrite society. Neither talks across the gulf between them. Both contribute to the problem.
Read the whole post here.