Republicans Versus Conservatives

We came down hard on The Donald for his tariff increases and rightly so.  We also said that we are happy he won in 2016 and we are even happier that his predecessor is gone.  Jonah Goldberg in his G-file tries to make it a problem with populism:

The funny thing is that this move toward protection is celebrated or condemned as a fulfillment of Trump’s “populist” agenda. I get that we label protectionism “populist” these days — though I’m old enough to remember when protectionism was a technocratic cause. But populism is supposed to mean putting the interests of “the people” first. (The problem with populism is that populists never mean all the people; they only mean their people.) And this move isn’t in the interests of most people.

It isn’t.  It is a problem with elections and Republicans in particular.  Reagan and W are the two most conservative presidents since Coolidge and he was not a free trader either.  Almost everyone remembers that W did some backsliding on tariffs:

The temporary tariffs of 8–30% were originally scheduled to remain in effect until 2005. They were imposed to give U.S. steel makers protection from what a U.S. probe determined was a detrimental surge in steel imports. More than 30 steel makers had declared bankruptcy in recent years. Steel producers had originally sought up to a 40% tariff. Canada and Mexico were exempt from the tariffs because of penalties the United States would face under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Additionally, some developing countries such as ArgentinaThailand, and Turkey were also exempt. The typical steel tariff at the time was usually between zero and one percent, making the 8–30% rates seem exceptionally high. These rates, though, are comparable to the standard permanent U.S. tariff rates on many kinds of clothes and shoes.

Holman W. Jenkins, jr. in the WSJ reminds us that Reagan made much more extensive choices than W:

Reagan slapped import quotas on cars, motorcycles, forklifts, memory chips, color TVs, machine tools, textiles, steel, Canadian lumber and mushrooms.

Holman argues that it didn’t matter because they were negotiated.  Perhaps.  What does matter is that Republicans backslide on tariffs because there are intense big winners and widely dispersed small losers.  Sadly, protectionism is a good political game and our most conservative presidents including Reagan have played it.  The Donald does too.  We are rightly worried about The Donald continuing to play it because he is not a conservative.  We will continue to encourage him towards free trade while reminding everyone that free trade was not supported by either presidential candidate in the 2016 general election.  Yes, it would be better if this was Mitt’s second term but that was not a choice in 2016.




Priorities are critical.  As department chair, we have lots of nodding agreements supporting this, that, and the other thing.  Chairs have a long list of goals but because of the regular demands of the office like budgeting, scheduling, and students and the difficulty of creating coalitions only a few priorities ever get addressed.

Sidebar One: We recollect it was Woodrow Wilson used his experience to compare politicians to college faculty and administrators.  We found the quote here: “As compared to the college politician, the real article seems like an amateur.”  We don’t have Woodrow’s experience but tend to agree.  End Sidebar One.

The same is true of formal politics at every level, especially the national level.  The recent State of the Union speech was criticized because it, like most of it predecessors, was a long laundry list without priorities.

Sidebar Two: Well, it seemed to us that immigration was the priority.  We think that one priority, especially immigration, is OK. End Sidebar Two.

We are interested in what to push.  We had mused about the possibility really free trade rather than the mixed results of agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Michael Brendan Dougherty’ polemic against free trade helps us see the difficulty of such progress. To his credit he recognizes that his position on taxing assets (nonproductive property) puts off folks but then he tries to lump the free traders with him.

First, he tries to link open borders with free trade:

We should not fool ourselves that somehow some authority out there called “the market” wants no limits on the supply of labor and then open our borders in response. Doing so against the consent of the people would jeopardize the democratic character of our society and doom what’s left of the egalitarian ethic that makes democracy possible.

The Venn Diagrams of folks for free trade and open boarders do overlap, especially on the WSJ editorial page, but they are two different things.  We are in the part that doesn’t overlap.

Next, he tries this:

Governments have a right and sometimes a duty to inspect what comes into their ports, not only for security reasons but to enforce the rules of the market that entrepreneurs depend on.

This is certainly a duty and great opportunities for cronyism and graft.  A small example of cronyism is when Irish butter was banned in Wisconsin.  It is part of the argument for thousand-page agreements. The US would like other countries to limit non-tariff issues to security and market concerns.  The problem is the agreements expand into questionable areas.

[Ron] Paul [as an example of a doctrinaire libertarian] thinks that if Japan’s government subsidizes the manufacture of a car to the tune of $4,000, then American consumers should just rake in the free gift from Japanese taxpayers. I do not. I think mercantilists can erode the support for worthwhile trading arrangements in both countries at once. I similarly fear it will be deleterious to a liberal system if these nations succeed in creating monopoly pricing power for their firms.

We support the American consumers as Paul does.  Part of the reason is the accounting problem of what is a subsidy?  Another part is the difficulty of creating monopoly pricing power.

Lastly, Michael gets into a double dose of security.  First, we need military stuff and we can’t depend on other counties for it and second, the US Navy is critical to maintaining the freedom to trade.  The first part seems like a good argument to support fracking but at least some military stuff will need to be imported.  From whom seems to be the interesting question. We agree on the importance of the US Navy but fail to see any connections with tariff policy.

If conservatives are this far apart on priorities it is easy to see why political progress is hard.  It is not clear what priorities Michael has other than never Trump although he seems to be on the social and international beat.   He tried humor, we think, in Anthony Kennedy Can’t Be Allowed To Die.  Arguments matter but it will be hard to support any of Michael’s political priorities ahead of ours.  Baseball is another matter entirely.


A Great Phrase

Here is Sam Altman discussing how China has become more open than San Francisco.  He starts out:

Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me.  I realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco.  I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China, after all—just more comfortable than at home. [Emphasis added]

Sam has put it nicely.  China isn’t free as the bold phrase makes clear but San Francisco is worse.  It is like picking The Donald over Herself.  Then he comes up with the sentence we all hope to write.  We need to set it up with another:

Political correctness (PC) often comes from a good place—I think we should all be willing to make accommodations to treat others well.  But too often it ends up being used as a club for something orthogonal to protecting actual victims.

We don’t find the often in the first sentence convincing and the second sentence shows how PC can be the opposite of accommodations but the second sentence is sublime.  It makes a great point in a pithy manner.

We have been working on a piece about how leftist nasty has infected conservative writers.  We know there are reasonable leftists out there but that the nasty on both sides can drown the analysis.  It is nice to find one like Sam.

Appropriate Comments And Not

Some time ago The Donald stirred the pot by commenting on the kneelers in the NFL.  He said:

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, “That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.” And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.

The Donald is right.  People would love it.  We are not big fans of these comments in the manner of The Donald’s immediate predecessor but we recognize the nature of politics.  We would like presidents to be more presidential but the events of the last 25 years have argued against it.

Meanwhile, in India, Vidhi Doshi in the WaPo reports:

The release of a highly anticipated Bollywood blockbuster has been delayed after a politician from India’s governing party offered a bounty of $1.5 million for the heads of the movie’s star and director amid outcry that the film distorted Hindu legend.

Others have threatened to break the legs of the actor who plays the Muslim villain.  Two things:  First, and obviously, the comments of The Donald and the Indian politician are entirely different.  It does’t matter if the latter’s speech constitutes fighting words or not.  This is not a legal issue.  It is an issue of appropriate behavior.  The Donald is OK and the other is not.

The other point is how the WaPo categorized this outbreak of incivility.  Was it intolerance, racism, or something else?  Here is what they said:

The violent reaction to the film’s release further suggests a groundswell of conservatism in Modi’s India.

It appears that conservatism is consistent with calling for cutting off heads and breaking legs.  We are not sure how Vidhi came to that conclusion.  We would be interested to hear Vidhi’s description of conservatism.

Conservative Faculty

At least some students at Georgetown University want more conservative faculty.  Mark Judge at Acculturated (also published on NRO) reports on an editorial in the official student newspaper, the Hoya:

Instead, they make a straightforward case that the dearth of conservative professors at Georgetown is leaving students unprepared for the genuine diversity—that is, the diversity of thought—that is part of the real world. Georgetown’s homogeneity, they argue, is leading to an atrophying of their skills for debate and reasoned argument. In other words, without conservatives, they have no one to test their ideas against.

They also review the evidence that that there are fewer conservative faculty members.  The Hoya, Mark, and NRO are all correct to say this but they miss the big structural problems that make diversifying faculty so hard.  The structural problems might be organized as graduating, teaching, and publishing.

Most faculty positions require a terminal degree, usually a Ph.D., and that is what we mean by graduating.  To get a terminal degree you write a thesis and that is largely controlled by your senior professor.  Graduating provides a bigger challenge if you are a conservative because few of those senior professors are.

Faculty members need to teach.  The problem is that the curriculum is controlled by folks who are not conservatives.  Thus we have Peace Studies

Sidebar: Here is the search for Peace Studies:
It is one example of how new leftist programs are crowding out traditional, and often, more conservative programs.  End Sidebar.

and many otherprograms that designed by and staffed by the Left.  We talked to a military historian (we don’t know if he was a conservative but we suspect it) who said he had to leave because there was nothing for him to teach.  One data point is limited evidence but all of the programs suggest the problem more strongly.

Publishing is one of the things faculty need to do to get promoted.  Specifically, they need to publish at a level appropriate for their school.  Major programs require “A hits” while comprehensives like our school are less impressed by prestige but require that you be active in reasonable journals.  It is our judgment that leftist oriented journals have flourished to provide more outlets for them.  We were happy to see them (leftists) succeed because it was good for the department and the college.  There have been a couple of instances where folks have got a joke article published in those journals.  So there is concern about the intellectual quality of such journals but more troubling is the report by Andy Ngo in Quillette about an article, The Case For Colonialism, by associate professor Bruce Gilley in Third World Quarterly (TWQ).  It seems to us that the author was pointing out the obvious when:

[Bruce] argues that nations who embraced and built on their Western colonial legacy, for example, Singapore, have fared better than those who followed anti-colonial nationalist ideologies.

Instead, Bruce created a firestorm.  There were 17,000 signatures from two petitions and 15 resignations from the TWQ editorial board.  Seriously! You must read the whole thing.  Andy leads with the most astonishing part:

An academic journal [TWQ]l that published a controversial article making a case for Western colonialism has withdrawn the piece after its editor received “serious and credible threats” of violence.

Bruce is lucky to be an associate professor as associate usually indicates tenure, but he might remain one for a long time as publications will be hard to come by.

Bruce’s situation is exactly why conservatives are not drawn to academia and exactly why it is difficult for them to survive.  The Hoya is right about the need for diversity but it will take more than student editorials to bring more conservatives into the faculty ranks.


Facebook Foolishness

We woke up this morning and checked our Facebook feed. The percentage of nasty was especially high out there today.

Being nasty to conservatives:

Bret Stephen is one of the NY Times’s conservative columnists, but he sure gets it.  [Here is a better link to Bret.]

Supporting beauty pageants twice:

Miss America 2018 makes history: She says the US withdrawal from the Paris accords was a bad decision.
Miss Texas tears into Trump in a blistering 15-second takedown on live TV.
[We are old enough to remember when the left didn’t like beauty pageants.]

Being nasty to FoxNews:

Weatherman interviews random person, turns out he’s the smartest person to ever be on FoxNews.  [We suppose these folks watch FoxNews so much that they would know.]

And it is the morning of 9/11.  To be fair there was one post on 9/11 expressing love to the survivors and another by a Congressman supporting Kate’s law.  Neither were nasty.  It continues to escape us why many folks think conservatives are mean.




Oh Canada!

Kyle Smith discusses the left’s infatuation with Canada and Justin Trudeau at NRO. As part of the suggestion that these folks take up permanent residence there he says:

It’s not as if there’s no room. Canada is a land of 36 million people spread out over 3.9 million square miles. Among the 100 largest countries on earth, it ranks 99th in population density. Canada is empty.

Unlike Kyle, we are unwilling to start or donate to a Kickstarter campaign to send these folks north.

Sidebar: Well not necessarily north.  One of them lived in Detroit and if you go south from Detroit the first country you enter is?  Yep, Canada.  End Sidebar.

We agree that Canada has lots of room to welcome folks but we wondered about the data.  Our first question is: What country is number 100?  Our second question is: How did Kyle determine the largest 100 countries?

It is hard to answer the first question without answering the second although it seems likely that Kyle has Australia at 100.  It is much like Canada: Big and with a lot of people but very low population density.

It sounds like Kyle means area when he says the 100 largest countries on earth.  If that is correct then he is mistaken and there are some interesting definitional problems.  Canada is number 230 in population density on this list and second in area on this list.   Botswana (231/47), Mauritania (232/29), Nambia (236/34), and Mongolia (239/19) (in addition to Australia (235?/6) are all below Canada and it the top 100 of area.  The Aussies get a question mark because they are listed as 236 but they should be 232 by the data presented.

But the results work for population,  See this list.  It takes a bit of work but Canada is 99 and Australia 100.

The definitional problems are Greenland and Western Sahara.  Greenland is:

Greenland is a Danish-occupied territory of Denmark, but Greenland is not a member of the European Union. It is part of the North American continent, and Greenland is the largest island in the world, excluding Australia and Antarctica, which are continents. The prime minister of Greenland is Kim Kielsen.

It is large and if you think it is a country it is by far the one with the lowest population density and it would be the 12th largest country.

Western Sahara:

has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since the 1960s when it was a Spanish colony.[7] The Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement, with its Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) government, both want control of the territory.

If you think it is a country it is 238/78.  That makes it less dense than Canada and still in the top 100 in area.

Three lessons: First, be careful with wording.  The 100 largest counties will be interpreted as area. Second, cite your source.  Third, it is easy to dispute data and lead to confusion about the point.  Whether Kyle’s data is exactly right or not, his point that Canada has lots of space is right.  Sensitivity is important.