Best If Argued By: Socialism Edition

Socialism is the reason that Venezuela is a hellbasket? Capitalism caused the 2008 recession? Maybe if the groundhog saw it shadow, it’s sixty more years of arguing about Socialism/Communism/Capitalism, and if the groundhog did a Fortnite dance, moving on to something useful is just around the corner.

Socialism versus Capitalism was best-if-argued-by 1969, at the latest.

Some people never grow out of the phase of thought that dictates that “my -ism is better than your -ism,” failing to recognize the inherent framework-as-map-is-not-the-territory-reality of the thing.

If you’re socialist, but you think that people aren’t going to want a medium of exchange and therefore some level of commerce, shame on you. If you’re a wallet-toting capitalist, but you believe that victims should pay jails to hold their assailants, I nod and smile and look for the nearest exit.

Socialism, writ-large, is a non-starter for the USA. That’s not the point. Unfettered capitalism is also a non-starter. But cries of “Socialism!” are worthless. They avoid the policy discussion.

We keep having the same silly arguments that have no impact on anything. They are often stand-ins for the real arguments we should be having (anybody whose interacted with humans should recognize that phenomena). Arguments about tax rates, improving regulation while lowering regulatory burdens, about different structures that hold corporations accountable through insurance requirements rather than per-se regulation.

Of course, the anti-tax folks don’t want to have a reasoned argument about tax rates. They want to kill the discussion with a cliche reference to socialism. But the rest of the world doesn’t have the luxury of ignoring reality in favor of a soundbite. The same goes for climate issues, where the GOP has no policy, hasn’t begun to formulate a policy, and rejects the very existence of climate policy.

The pattern is there, of one party either adopting a wholly inadequate solution or simply ignoring the problem. Immigration is the same thing. Until there’s a spaceship-style airlock on the southern border, passing immigration reform is impossible for the GOP. Good luck with that.

And that’s the problem with American politics. The conservatives still think we’re having an argument about these things. The liberals know we’re past that, and we’re on to finding the right policy to address the issues. Climate, healthcare, taxes, paid family leave, take your pick. Society has recognized the need, but one party is still back at the starting line arguing about whether the go-shot has been fired.

Sure, you can bait a liberal into arguing about capitalism versus socialism, but if you ask them about an actual policy position, they won’t start with, “Socialism dictates the correct choice is …” They aren’t dyed-in-the-wool about it. They want a better society, not one that adheres to some fantasy government league regime. They aren’t beholden to the meta-game. They just want sick people to get better, poor people to have a fair shake, and for the oceans not to engulf all of Florida.

Economic Problems

We see it on education. On healthcare. On climate. On recreational drugs. On abortion. On practically every issue our nations face.

Our debate isn’t really about any issue, per se. It’s all come down to the economic structures we use to do work.

Take education. We know how to teach people things, more or less. While there are challenges, the fundamental question of education is one of funding. The conservatives want to have McSchools pop up across the land, where you go in and order a number six with cheese and you learn how to do algebra (with cheese). The liberals want to continue to have school lunch: you go to school and the meal is the meal.

In both scenarios, the mechanism of learning is basically the same: read, hear, watch, then practice. The idea that we need to undercut the fabric of education, that this has to be a debate rather than an experiment, is silly, but for scarcity of time and money.

The same is true on healthcare. There’s nobody saying we need to trepan patients’ skulls to let the demons out. The medical science is advancing as it is, more or less on schedule. The argument is over how much money should be made, and how should it be allocated. The courts are currently blocking the march to private-single-payer with their rulings on anti-trust actions by the DOJ.

And climate, where the oil companies aren’t arguing that global warming isn’t real (not really), that the disasters aren’t coming, but that we should pay for it by enduring its effects, rather than mitigating it. Or, as some Republicans now push for a carbon tax over regulation, maybe there can be a market structure.

Reduced to this high-level view, our problems are fundamentally about who profits and how much, a frank discussion that is sorely needed but that is continually obfuscated by pretending it’s about healthcare or abortion.

We should not be fanatical about which side of the imaginary public-private line a service like education or healthcare resides on. But, more importantly, the people should demand high-quality and low-cost with protections and rights retained wherever the service lives. That includes representation, due process, fiduciary duties, and the like.

The politicians need to stop having fake arguments about issues and start having the real argument about the monetary structures of society.

In unrelated news, 1.5% of the current presidential term is already over. Just remember, every fortnight is 1% more of the term gone.

No More Trump Resets Left

Donald Trump is currently wandering around the country, in search of his version of the American Dream. The idea that with a little luck, a lot of money, and way too much ego, a man can become the dictatorial ruler of a free country. Just promise you’ll mess with the segments of the population that your base doesn’t like, and they’ll crowd-surf you into the White House.

From POLITICO: 3 August 2016: “Trump: ‘I don’t know why we’re not leading by a lot'” (bracketed portion theirs):

“We go to Oklahoma, we had 25,000 people. We had 21,000 people in Dallas. We had 35,000 people in Mobile, Alabama. We have these massive crowds,” the Republican nominee said. “You’ve got thousands of people outside trying to get in [today], and this is one hell of a big stadium.”

Donald Trump apparently doesn’t understand how elections work in the US of A. And nobody has explained it to him, either. Oklahoma, Texas, and Alabama, massive crowds, but not representative of the general election.

Until yesterday, he was still refusing to endorse Paul Ryan. Apparently he didn’t understand that those sorts of shenanigans were supposed to end with the convention. That it’s now time for the general election, where you knuckle down and do what you can to bring it home. Disunity is not part of that, yet there’s Trump, his tiny thumb in the eye of Ryan.

Now, the plausible explanation for that is that Ryan might lose the primary to a Trump-backer, and Trump was trying to stay neutral for that scenario. But the speakership does not pass to the challenger, so it made little sense. If Nehlen, the challenger, wins, Trump doesn’t gain much by being loyal. But if Ryan wins, Trump loses something for not backing a leader in his party.

Trump is unfit to be a nominee, to say nothing of the presidency. He’s unfit to enroll in a non-entry-level course in political science.

This seems like the third or fourth time they want to do a reset on Trump, but a Trump-reset only lasts until the smoke clears, then he’s his same old self. They got him to use a teleprompter a few times. They fired people, cleaned the stables. He went and met with the legislative leadership at least two or three times in reset-type attempts. And yet there they are, back where they started.

The reset they need isn’t even on the table. They should be looking at reaching out to non-base voters (in ways other than trying to convince African-Americans that immigrants are the source of their woes (i.e., attempting to foment more racism)), but at this point, about three months out, they just want a reset that will stem the bleeding. They just want the candidate to stop the self-harm. They want an intervention.

The candidate they have is still crowd-testing new nicknames for his opponent. Still fascinated with his adoring crowds and watching cable news rather than the bootstrapping rapid-learning he said he would be able to do to be ready to be president in 2017. Still saying the dumbest first things that pop into his head. Taking issue with the debate schedule. Claiming the election will be rigged.

But that’s not to write Trump off entirely. It’s just to say that we can write off any notion that Trump will ever be presidential, whether or not he succeeds in being elected president. We can mark down that he will not be fit for office, will not become fit. We can close the book on any real pivot or reset.

The Daily Beast: 5 August 2016: “How Paul Krugman Made Donald Trump Possible” tries to make the case that Democrats said the same things about Mitt Romney, and therefore they helped create the mess that is Donald Trump. But Mitt Romney, without defending every whit of criticism, was fit to be president (had experience, understood politics). Some of his policy choices would have been bad news, and his business record sat firmly in the area of parasitic capitalist, at least on some deals. He was far from an ideal choice, hence the clothes-shopping primary of 2012 where the voters tried everybody from Herman Cain to Rick Perry before settling on Romney.

The reason for the Democratic rhetoric is that the Republicans keep picking candidates reflective of bad policy. So long as the policies remain the same (and Trump is at least 60% Republican in policy), including anti-women, regressive taxation, and the rest, the same rhetoric applies. If you want to see a real reset in Democratic rhetoric, you must first have a reset in Republican policy. Like a Trump reset, that seems implausible. They read the autopsy of the 2012 race, and they did zero—nothing—to address it. Then they went out and picked someone who makes Romney look reasonable in comparison. The Democratic rhetoric was spot on in 2012, the Republicans just picked someone even worse in 2016.

Expectations for the 2016 GOP Convention

Following on the heels of Donald Trump announcing Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, the GOP will be in Cleveland, Ohio, next week to formally nominate Trump. Donald Trump, of course, has run a few pageants in his day, so one expects that the result will be well-polished and featuring corresponding displays of the candidate’s ability in areas from evening wear to Q&A…

The convention will feature a series of speakers from the worlds of sports, politics, and religion, including the Vice President of the Evangelical Football League… All the vice presidential hopefuls that didn’t make the cut will also be speaking, as will the Trump family (family singalong to be confirmed).

The main thing to watch, as conventions are typically boring and pointless affairs, is whether there is any real traction to block Trump’s nomination. Although efforts with the rules committee have been a bust so far, any remaining effort should become apparent as the first votes begin to take place. If all the delegates are seated, and the rules are adopted, it will be less likely to see a challenge to Trump. But the actual nomination will take place on Tuesday, with the roll call. At that point (if all goes well), Trump will be legally wed to the Republican party, and then they go off together on a honeymoon.

As a casual observer of politics, I would expect at least some at-convention effort to challenge Trump’s nomination. There is enough risk in the candidate that to lack at least a showing of dissent among the delegates would be to embrace Trump, and if he burns out in November, the party would take a bigger hit for it. If some of them can at least point back and say, “see, toldyaso,” it gives those party members a leg up in the future. On the other hand, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nightmare comes true and Trump wins the election, those who opposed him will be harmed by their dissent, at least a bit.

Their possibility of success in blocking the nomination is low. The will of the people being a sacred phrase in America, they have to convince the delegations as a whole both that nominating Trump is going to be very bad and that there is someone else they can convincingly run. They’re also fighting a battle against both Trump’s delegates and the RNC, who has allied with Trump due to optics. Worse, if they blocked the nomination and run someone who gets beaten as badly as Trump might, they probably still take the hit for it. So, the expectation is that they will merely have a swing-and-a-miss attempt.

Other than that, the usual expectations of Trump remain. He will probably stick to the prompter for his speech, but some of the other speakers may go off the rails from time to time. And we will likely see some extra-conventional loud-mouthery from Trump all the same.

The other thing that comes out of the convention is finality. Although the unexpected could always happen, once Trump is formally nominated, we have to expect things will probably stay the same, ticket-wise. That means we’ll get to see if he can actually get elected or if he is defeated, running as disreputably as he has.

Other things to watch for:

  • A second golden elevator, with a wax dummy of Trump that attendees can ride down with to recreate his ride down to his announcement of running (wealthy donors also get a brief private meeting with said wax dummy)
  • The unveiling of a Pokémon GO-styled Pokey GOP app that lets you hunt down cartoons of witches, atheists, and other reviled figures, and then you can banish them by reciting Bible verses
  • A bizarre one-act play reinterpreting Reagan’s famous “Tear down this wall” speech, in which the President of Mexico tells Trump to tear down the border wall (which is constructed out of air conditioners and Oreos®) and then the Trump character moons him and farts “The Star Spangled Banner”
  • Confetti and balloons

The Politics of Trust

The Brexit, now affirmed by referendum, was about trust. Issues of immigration, terrorism, and gun control are trust issues. Trust is a very tricky thing.

How can we trust immigrants to be positive additions to our countries? How many can we afford to misplace trust in before it is our undoing? It’s the same question as how the hell can we trust someone with a dangerous weapon they could use to harm us.

The Democrats wonder why we trust people to buy guns when we don’t trust them to fly on airplanes. The Republicans counter that we can’t trust the government to make those decisions without due process.

The Brexiters don’t believe they can trust their country to retain its character in the face of both European and other immigration. They voted to leave behind their associates on the Continent because they do not trust them. In turn, Scotland and Northern Ireland will undoubtedly attempt to leave the UK, because they feel betrayed by a country they thought was smarter than to abandon the union.

The United States has a system of government built upon the idea that trust is hard. Rather than trusting one authority, the Constitution spreads power among three branches, to protect against the abuse of power. And ever since, we’ve sought to improve our ability to create institutions that can be operated without relying too much on blind trust.

But, again, the problem with guns and immigration is that they’re the same issue talking past itself. How can we trust the individual, be they a refugee of war or someone seeking to buy a weapon?

The Democrat’s answer is that we can’t trust either one blindly. Trust, but verify, they say. Background checks and block purchases for those who appear to pose harm. Background checks and block immigration for those who appear to pose harm.

The Republican’s answer is that we can’t trust one group, refugees and immigrants, but we can and should blindly trust the other group, gun buyers.

In the UK’s case, the remain folks believe that they can trust Europe, and that the EU’s binding ties ultimately set up the incentives to enforce trust. If the EU screwed the UK, it would hurt the rest of the EU, and vice versa. The leave position inherently says that Europe can’t be trusted to look after themselves, that they would screw everyone, and that the UK is better off alone with less influence on its neighbors.

It’s also important to recognize how much damage the intentional souring of trust has done. From the beginning President Obama was painted as untrustworthy by the right, and the country has suffered for it, through a strengthened executive and less functional courts and legislature. In the UK the UK-first tripe has set up a series of obstacles going forward that will strain relations both inside the UK and with Europe for decades to come.

How can we trust a terrorist to buy a gun? Are other citizens not owed due process in firearm sales? How can we trust an immigrant to not be a terrorist? How much vetting is sufficient? How can the British betray the Continent and expect the world to respect them?