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.

Seven people to watch in 2017

From chaos comes opportunity. Prepare to see new faces and hear new voices. As we begin what will likely be a long, painful struggle toward the Third Republic, these seven people may have interesting roles to play.

Questions for 2017

Happy New Year. Celebrate safely. Thank you for all you’ve done to make this such a thoughtful, smart, challenging community over many long years and into the next one.

The best things that happened in 2016

In short, 2016 was a pretty amazing year. A Trump Administration is dedicated to undoing much of the progress we achieved in the years to come. With a hearty resistance and a little luck, they may fail. Enjoy the holidays.

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.

Why fake news wins (and how to beat it)

Though grifters find ample opportunity in fake news, dismissing the genre as mere deception is an error. There is a philosophy of fake news, a populist ethic of folklore versus facts. That ethic doesn’t legitimize fake news, but it provides an explanation for its reach and its persistent appeal, even in the face of consistent failure. Fake news is never defeated by fact-checkers. You overcome the power of fake news by delivering a better story.