My score card accords the winner of each segment 3 points, the runner up 2 points, the third-place-finisher 1 point - with cumulative points behind candidates' names:
I do not necessarily agree with the candidates' views, so my judgement is a mixture of assessing reasonableness (even in a person of different opinions), coherence, communicative effectiveness, and, where applicable, concurrence.
Introduction : McAfee (3), Petersen (2), Johnson (1)
When to go to war? : Johnson (5), Petersen (7), McAfee (6)
Dealing with Welfare State : Johnson (8), Petersen (9), McAfee (7)
Terrorism, ISIS : Johnson (11), Petersen (11), McAfee (8)
Foreign aid : Johnson (14), Petersen (13), McAfee (9)
Personal Questions : Johnson (17), Petersen (15), McAfee (10)
Appeal to Democrats : Johnson (20), Petersen (17), McAfee (11)
Abortion : McAfee (14), Johnson (22), Petersen (18)
Death Penalty : McAfee (17), Petersen (20), Johnson (23)
Gay Marriage : McAfee (20), Petersen (22), Johnson (24)
Gender Pay Gap : Petersen (25), Johnson (26), McAfee (21)
Vote For Other Pres. Candidate : Petersen (28), McAfee (23), Johnson (27)
If my counting is right, the winner by a small margin is Petersen, one point ahead of Johnson.
Nonetheless, if I had to decide who I would vote for, ultimately, Gary Johnson would have my support. McAfee strikes me as a bit of a black horse. He leaves me with the impression that some of his views are not too well thought through. Petersen is personable, a good communicator, with an aura of deep conviction, but his palpable faith comes with the downside of rather a mechanical approach to the issues. Johnson is the one who convinces me that his principles do not cut him off from reality and people with other beliefs.
The late Sir George Martin [producer and arranger of The Beatles] created substantial British exports. Had the import of his music to America been banned to save the jobs of US musicians, Britain would have missed out on some revenue but the American consumer would have been the biggest loser, missing out on the music. Trade benefits the importing country: that’s why it happens.
Frankly, we might as well be living in the 17th century, so antiquated are our current debates over trade, both here over Brexit and in America over the presidential nominations. Many current assumptions about trade were debunked more than two hundred years ago and then tested to destruction in the mid-19th century.
In the 17th and 18th centuries European governments were in thrall to “mercantilism”, the belief that the purpose of trade was (roughly) to push exports on to other countries in exchange for cash and so build up a surplus of treasure with which to pay armies to fight wars. So they sought to restrain imports with tariffs and bans, while encouraging exports with monopolies and gunboats. Britain’s Navigation Acts after 1651, and the chartering of companies such as the East India Company, were part of this policy.
Along came Adam Smith and made a different argument, that mercantilism punished consumers and the poor, while rewarding producers and the rich; that imports were a good thing because they raised people’s standard of living by giving them what they wanted at lower prices. With money to spare, consumers bought more things from producers, creating jobs and generating prosperity. If bread was cheaper, people could afford more textiles. Gradually, with the help of David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, Britain was persuaded of this and by the time Robert Peel, William Ewart Gladstone and Richard Cobden were in charge, Britain had declared unilateral free trade and dared the world to follow.
It is true that unilateral declarations of free trade, while benefiting everyone as consumers, can hurt those producers who have previously been protected from competition by tariffs and other barriers. Because the pain is more concentrated than the gain, their voice is louder, and Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been amplifying it. (America has never been as convinced by the free trade case as Britain: its infamous Smoot-Hawley tariffs of the 1930s worsened the depression and hastened war.)
Yet the effect of trade on jobs is no different from the effect of innovation. Just as imported Chinese goods have destroyed the jobs of British manufacturers, so threshing machines destroyed the jobs of farm labourers, washing machines destroyed jobs in laundries and Uber will destroy the jobs of taxi drivers, yet everybody was net better off.
Governments should certainly compensate people for locally destructive effects of changing trade or technology, but not by raising barriers against imports. That just punishes consumers and stifles economic growth.
Ridley denies that the
... European single market is a free trade area. It’s not: it’s a customs union — a fortress protected by an external tariff. And it’s shrinking as a share of world trade.
Ridley thinks, the UK would be better off after a Brexit:
Professor Patrick Minford of Cardiff Business School argues in a recent study that the single market distorts Britain’s economy, making us “produce more of what we are worst at and less of what we are best at, while our consumers have to pay excessive prices”. If Britain left the EU it would gain about 4 per cent of GDP as a result, he calculates.
Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, research fellows at the CATO Institute, have written an article entitled Politics Makes Us Worse. Below I shall comment on each of the thirteen paragraphs of which their article consists. Powell and Burrus are making many valid points, but they spoil their take by over-generalisation, which is the cardinal defect underlying the libertarian presumption against politics. In that way, the arguments displayed in Politics Makes Us Worse are almost a mini primer containing many of the central misconceptions of politics entertained in libertarian circles.
First, it is in order to comment on the title the authors have chosen: Politics Makes Us Worse. It can be inevitable, and in some cases even useful, to introduce phrases that come over more strongly than the wider message they are intended to support - such as, say, in a socially well-understood and accepted exaggeration (like "Americans are great people.")
Such is the case with the title of my present post - I do not believe that politics makes us better; rather I think politics can make us better, but it also can make us worse. Moreover, politics can have functions and effects that do not relate to the issue of people becoming better or worse. Hence, in the text I qualify the title's bait.
The authors do not make any such qualification whatsoever. I am therefore entitled to take the statement - politics makes us worse - as an absolute. And precisely therein lies the difficulty with their position, which is representative of the attitude maintained by a large number of libertarians. In the below text, the authors' phrasings are
indented and completely in italics,
followed underneath by my comment (without emphasis):
Increasing the sphere of politics leads to bad policy and increased vice.
By and large, the freer a country, the more likely it is to allow political engagement by any citizen interested in such activity, increasing the sphere of politics compared to a closed access society where the privilege of participating in politics is reserved to a small ruling elite. It appears that the absence (as in Mabutos's Kongo) or the retraction (as in Nazi Germany) of such freedom leads to increased vice, rather than the other way around.
An interesting special case might be provided by a class of countries that do not have a democratic political order, yet enjoy the status of favourites in the eyes of many libertarians, such as Hong Kong or Singapore. To begin with, the absence of a Western-type democratic political order does not mean that politics, with all its pluses and cons, is not happening in such countries. The relevant processes may be less familiar to the Westerner, naturally more opaque, or it may be the case that in order for the political goings-on to become more transparent to an observer, she must seek intimate and enduring participation in the social life of the respective countries.
Furthermore, I strongly suspect that Hong Kong and Singapore have benefited from other people having done politics in their stead - namely the British people, who exported practices and institutions of a modern civil society to these two places. Excellent conditions for commercial advancement (enabled by the imported model of a modern Western civil society) combined with an impoverished population eager to take advantage of the opportunities to grow materially more comfortable, the people of Hong Kong and Singapore may have had low demand for democratic politics for a number of decades. They certainly had strong governments whose political orientation and political decisions were decisive for the economic success of both places. Indubitably, politics has made Hong Kong and Singapore better (places to live in).
Even if we try to ignore it, politics influences much of our world. For those who do pay attention, politics invariably leads in newspapers and on TV news and gets discussed, or shouted about, everywhere people gather. Politics can weigh heavily in forging friendships, choosing enemies, and coloring who we respect.
What the authors want their readers to focus on is a part of politics fraught with problems and unpleasant challenges: the divisiveness in politics, the ways in which politics creates division, and enhances or exploits it.
What the authors do not see is that politics is the only way in which we can hope to deal with issues that drive us apart.
What the authors do not see is that we cannot ignore politics - understood as dealing with the inevitable fundamental disagreements that the social order of a viable community must come to grips with.
Politics communicates, resolves or attenuates strife resulting from the manifold sources of significant disagreement among human beings. Bashing politics in total is like rejecting tragedy and drama in human affairs as a needless luxury willfully created by the bored and playful.
Of course, try as we may, we cannot ignore politics - it is part of the human condition. Of course, politics influences much of our world - which is full of dissent and potential for oppression and violence that needs to be kept under control. The compromises of politics will tend to be imperfect, because the more fundamental disagreements among human beings will not go away, when our political arrangements help us to avoid the crassest, bloodiest, and especially destructive forms of battle.
It’s not difficult to understand why politics plays such a central role in our lives: political decision-making increasingly determines so much of what we do and how we’re permitted to do it. We vote on what our children will learn in school and how they will be taught. We vote on what people are allowed to drink, smoke, and eat. We vote on which people are allowed to marry those they love. In such crucial life decisions, as well as countless others, we have given politics a substantial impact on the direction of our lives. No wonder it’s so important to so many people.
Does political decision-making really increasingly determine so much of what we do and how we're permitted to do it? Can we do less and are we more regimented and patronised than in 1965, in 1912, or in 1860? By what metric?
Is it not the case that we are living in zones of reduced freedom and other zones of increased freedom, many of which may not be easily netted, if this is possible at all? I suppose, as drivers we may be considerably more regulated today than in 1912 - but is this not largely an appropriate response to mass transportation, and a large contribution to personal freedom? Have the regulations to which mass transportation has led been brutally imposed upon us by political decisionmaking, or is it not rather the case that countless institutions of a free society, from the legal world, to the media, to the many events and practices that make up our political order have allowed millions of us to exercise influence on the process by which such regulations get formed?
What do we gain in denying a role for politics in improving our lives?
I wonder whether what is happening in America parallels the social democratisation of the dominant parties long prevalent in Germany. If the below author is right, cannot what he argues be interpreted to mean that the political system of the US is effectively shedding the non-social-democratic fringe? Democrats and Republicans are vying for support by the social democratic majority. That, of course, assumes that the author's statistical estimates of the number of anti-establishment Republicans are exaggerated:
The Republican Party died during the struggle over Obamacare. Its most vital elected officials chose to represent their voters. This left their erstwhile leaders to continue pursuing acceptance by the ruling party, its press and its class. The result is a new party that represents the roughly three fourths of Republican voters whose social identities are alien to those of the ruling class and whose political identity is defined by opposition to the ruling party. These voters are outsiders to modern America’s power structure. Hence the new party that represents them is a “country party” in the British tradition of Viscount Bolingbroke’s early eighteenth century Whigs, who represented the country class against the royal court and its allies in Parliament. The forthcoming food fight over the name “Republican” is of secondary importance. [...]
This has been a long time coming. Obamacare was a trigger, not a cause. While a majority of Democrats feel that officials who bear that label represent them well, only about a fourth of Republican voters and an even smaller proportion of independents trust Republican officials to represent them. [...]
Rather than defending their voters’ socio-political identities, they ignore, soft-pedal, or give mere lip service to their voters’ concerns. It chooses candidates for office whose election only steadies America on a course of which most Americans disapprove. [...]
The issue groups’ joint endeavor to de-fund Obamacare, their joint rejection of the Republican Party’s leadership, and the collaboration of Republican legislators who had been endorsed by some but not others of these groups, effectively forms a new party. The question is not what the Republican Establishment will do with these dissidents but what the dissidents will do with the Establishment.
While the affordability of immigration may be waning in the recipient countries, it is increasing precipitously among the people prone to emigrate.
When a poor country starts to become richer, its emigration rate soars – until it’s a middle-income country, like Albania. Only then does extra wealth mean less migration. [...]
‘As the benefits of economic growth are spread in Mexico,’ Bill Clinton once assured Americans, ‘there will be less illegal immigration because more Mexicans will be able to support their children by staying home.’ When José Manuel Barroso led the European Commission, he made the same argument, saying that third world development would tackle the ‘root causes’ of migration. In fact, the reverse is true ... [...]
[G]lobal poverty has halved over 25 years. The poor world is becoming richer, so people are on the move. War acts as a catalyst; far more of those affected by violence have the means and inclination to flee. But globally, there is less war and less poverty than at any time in our history. The Great Migration should be understood as the flip side of the greatest triumph of our age: the collapse in global poverty.
Study after study shows this to be the case. When aid was given to poor rural Mexican villages in exchange for occupants attending school and health clinics, it led to them leaving rather than staying.
Theresa May is right in saying that when middle-income countries become richer, the migration rate falls. But even the politicians who make this caveat talk as if this process a short-term thing. In fact, it takes generations.
In 1948, the UK government passed the British Nationality Act allowing all 600 million of Commonwealth subjects to live and work in Britain. Here’s Andrew Marr, in his superb History of Modern Britain:-
“It was generally assumed that the Black and Asian subjects of the King would have no means or desire to travel to live in uncomfortable, crowded Britain. Until the fifties, so few black of Asian people had settle in Britain that they were often treated as local celebrities. Officially, it was not even considered worth while trying to count their number.”
Indeed, hardly anyone took up this offer; even during the partition of India, which claimed a million souls and displaced ten times as many, there was no clamour to seek refuge here. The Indians and Pakistanis were far, far poorer than they are today – but that’s the point. They were so poor that not many could afford to come to Britain, not many had means of finding out that a better life was available. Why go to this cold, wind-battered island – which itself was losing people to the New World?
In 1951, the UK signed the UN Refugee Covention saying that we’d shelter anyone–anyone!—with a well-founded fear of persecution. Such offers were easy to make, then, because no one really had been showing up [...]
Official policy in Europe is based on a misdiagnosis. The migrants are treated as refugees, [they hail] from countries that we never bombed — except with aid money.
Vast as the numbers are, this is just the start. More than a million settlers — some estimates say a million-and-a-half — entered Germany in 2015. [...]
The European Commission says that 60 percent of those entering the EU illegally are economic migrants rather than refugees; but it has no idea how to return hundreds of thousands of sans-papiers — or where to return them to. Sweden admitted 163,000 entrants last year. Its interior ministry now says that more than half of them are not genuine refugees.
The above image might be entitled "The Innocence of the Dinosaurs". Are the times always so kind as to march lock-step with us? We live in an era so free and therefore so dynamic that we are just as prone to be ahead of the curve on some issues as we are likely not to keep pace with the times on other matters. A circumstance not to be taken personally. After all, it is unexpected, and not rarely unpleasant, things that remind us of the need to adapt, to change, to rebuild. I am in no way suggesting that the political protagonists discussed below deserve support when I simply recognise that they are instrumental in expressing and bringing about changes that affect all of us.
However unpalatable the candidates in question may appear to some of us, it is more helpful to analyse the conditions that make them catalysts of changing times, than to focus on the scandal of their holding views wildly different from ours.
Say what you may, it strikes me as a healthy sign that the American political system remains prone to be shaken up thoroughly every once in a while by outsiders like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Do not jump to conclusions as to how I think about the mavericks in question. Having said that, I feel the below thoughts are well worth reading:
Yet if nothing were politicized, there would be no civilization. Precisely because we live together, there are issues on which policies must be adopted that will affect us all, even if satisfying everyone perfectly is impossible. Examples include national defense, controlling epidemics, and traffic rules. On such matters, finding the best balance among many tradeoffs requires everyone to be open about their knowledge, aspirations, apprehensions, and expectations. Disappointments are easier to accept if everyone has been heard and conflicting agendas have been reconciled through meaningful compromise. When these ideal conditions are met, the imperfections of adopted policies will be viewed as the costs of accommodating diverse constituencies fairly. Even individuals who dislike specific policies will consider the political process legitimate.
Politics loses legitimacy insofar as it excludes from consideration certain preferences and thoughts. When the fear of being ridiculed, belittled, and stigmatized makes certain groups censor themselves, disappointing policies are no longer acceptable. Yes, open conflict may be avoided, at least for a while. It may seem to groups with a voice in the political process that social problems are being solved through the triumph of superior ideas. In certain cases, the apparent harmony might even become genuine over time; absent public support, the concealed preferences may wither away. The American “melting pot” is replete with examples of old-world preferences that gradually lost appeal after disappearing from public view under pressures to appear “American.” To fit in, immigrants grudgingly gave up authenticity; their children would not even contemplate living differently from their native peers. For the second generation, authenticity meant living like an American, not clinging to ancestral customs.
But when core economic and social interests are involved the truncation of public discourse is unlikely to end as happily. Consider jobs, government subsidies, or wealth redistribution. On such matters, preferences are far more resilient, and disappointments are felt far more deeply than on those involving ancestral customs. Because perceived indignities and injustices are relived repeatedly, excluding them from public discourse breeds sustained anger, and political insiders draw growing resentment. Conspiracy theories that demonize some conception of the “establishment” start to circulate more or less clandestinely, usually through media that the politically connected scorn as backward, reactionary, and misinformed. On the surface, politics will seem relatively calm, but this situation cannot last forever. At some point, the frustrations will spew out, like lava from a long-dormant volcano. When that explosion occurs, the elites accustomed to ignoring the masses will be unprepared to counter the populist leaders who emerge to fill the void. The fates of many so-called establishment candidates in the 2016 Republican primary illustrate the point. So does the degree to which establishment candidates in both parties have had to pander to newly energized constituencies.
Whatever one thinks of the stands Donald Trump has taken on the issues, they have resonated strongly with a large enough fraction of the GOP primary and caucus electorate to make him the presumptive nominee. Establishment candidates are not united, and GOP orthodoxy has proved to have too little appeal.
Like Willkie, Trump has run as an insurgent populist, challenging the elitist wing of the GOP that has long dominated the nominating process.
And like Willkie, Trump will find winning enthusiastic support from Republicans who supported establishment candidates very difficult, because they denounced him as an unqualified interloper during the primaries and caucuses.
Neither the Willkie nor the Trump candidacies has destroyed the GOP, but both disrupted it. The consequences were lasting 76 years ago, and I would predict they will be so this time around also.
In Willkie’s case, his nomination helped reorient the GOP away from a strongly anti-New Deal position to one that accommodated the most popular New Deal stands on matters foreign and domestic, such as support for Social Security and aid to Britain during World War II.
Trump appears to be doing something similar, in the sense that his nomination will likely push the GOP to do more to improve life for working- and lower-middle-class Americans, who have seen their quality of life decline in important ways over the past generation.
Paul Solman: But how are negative interest rates supposed to work?
Mohamed El-Erian: Let me tell you the theory, and let me tell you what happened in reality. The theory is that if you take interest rates negative, people like you and me are going to say, “That’s a silly game! I’m not going to lend my money to governments who want me to pay them. I am going to go into the stock market where I can get positive returns!”
Paul Solman: Or if I’m a company, “I’m going to invest in some new technology or factory or something.”
Mohamed El-Erian: Correct. The idea is to push households and push companies to take on more risk. In one case, financial risk — the stock market — in the other case, economic risk. Economic risk is investing in, say, plants and equipment. So let’s look at the first one. You take financial risk, you push up the price of stocks.
Paul Solman: Of which has certainly happened.
Mohamed El-Erian: Which has happened. You and I then open a 401(k), and we say, “Wow, we’re richer!” In theory, we trigger what economics call the wealth effect. Because we feel we’re wealthier, we go out and spend more.
As we spend more, and as companies are pushed to invest, they say, “Hey wait a minute! There’s more demand in the system. Let’s invest more.”
And then the third element is that if you happen to be the only one with negative interest rates, you also weaken your currency, which means you make your exports more competitive.
Quite a useful survey. Continue to read at the source. For another Q&A on negative interest rates see here.