Saturday, July 2, 2016

On Populism and all That

Ron Grossman chides liberals: stop calling Trump a populist. This is because Grossman thinks a populist is something very good. A populist is the best thing you can be, the only thing you should be if you're in any way a decent person.

"If for some perverse reason liberals want to throw the presidential election, they should go right on denouncing Donald Trump as a "populist."

"If I thought he really were a populist, I'd vote for him. And I'm as far from being a supporter as you can get."

For myself there are some less positive connotations with the word populist.

Chris Hayes sorts of frames the issue in my mind.

"It's a question that has two related, but distinct, sub-components: Do democracies produce optimal policies for its citizens? And do democracies produce policies that accurately reflect the will of the majority?"

If anything, Hayes is more on Grossman's side, I believe. I don't know that populism is as negative in his mind as mine. But Hayes does acknowledge that the public is not always right.

At it's worse, populism seems to suggest that any idea is right just because it's popular.

This has been the year where I've decided to violate Godwin's Law with impunity. But if the orange hair fits...

Ok, I warned you the violation is coming. In 1932 Hitler was elected on opposing bad trade deals and getting other countries to stop laughing at and taking advantage of Germany. Also that there was something going on'-with the Jews. Trump's obsession is more with Muslims but let's not kid ourselves, the same aesthetic is at work.

Jared Bernstein on the whole fraught debate over trade.

"For decades, political and economic elites have arrogantly explained to people who believe that they and their communities have been hurt by trade that they simply fail to appreciate the benefits of globalization. If they didn’t like that last trade agreement, the next one was going to be much better! "

I have to ask something. Why is it necessarily arrogant to tell someone they're wrong? These folks believe this to be the case. Beliefs can be right or they can be wrong. Why-if they are wrong-is telling them so, arrogant?

It seems to again be this whole populist thing. The people believe it and even if they're dead wrong, you can't criticize it. If the public all want bad or even horrible policies, that's what they should get.

Same thing with Brexit. Chris Hayes admitted it was a bad decision but still didn't like people criticizing the Brits even though they were googling what the EU is and what Brexit means after they had voted to do it.

I notice that Shadi Hamid, a Middle Eastern scholar, makes the same argument from a different direction.

My objection to him is he argues that if Trump wins, we must all respect the legitimacy of the process. But this makes us go back to 1932 again. Hitler's election was totally legitimate. The process was, I mean. No one has ever shown that it was stolen.

Hamid is coming from a different standpoint-his experience in the Middle East makes him sensitive to overturning democratic results as in the Middle East that's the rule rather than the exception.

Point taken but there is no rule that's absolute.

If you admit that there is a gap between Hayes' one and two: the best policies and the democratic will of the public then for me populism will always be at least something of an ambivalent impulse.

Is there a difference between democracy and mobocracy? According to populism, maybe not.

P.S. Chris Hayes also notes this in the same article:

"Behavioral economists at UC San Diego recently conducted a study in which tokens were distributed among experimental subjects, with a few getting a concentrated chunk of the wealth and a majority getting little. They offered the “poor” subjects the opportunity to pay a price to take money away from the rich. The catch was that rather than being redistributed, the money would simply disappear. Economic orthodoxy predicts that few would snap at the chance, since they'd be paying for something that would confer no direct benefit. But they did. In spades."

"Though only one data point, it suggests that people have a profound sense of economic fairness, that we are all, more or less, intuitive socialists. As far back as Edmund Burke, conservatives have suspected as much and feared democracy for that very reason. Read James Madison in the Federalist Papers and it's clear that many of the Constitution's undemocratic elements were designed to prevent the expropriation of wealth from an outnumbered elite."

So 'fairness' and envy are indistinguishable? Wasn't this the basic impulse of Stalinism? If one peasant has four cows and the other has two, then the first is a class enemy?

If everyone could keep their same income level now but destroy 25 percent each of the top 1 percent this would improve everyone's life how? Sure you could say income was more equal. But those without enough income would still be without enough income. 

Beyond that this would likely cause a recession. 

No comments:

Post a Comment