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4 Reasons Why Socialism Is Becoming More Popular

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The newfound openness of large numbers of Americans to socialism is, by now, a well-documented phenomenon. According to a Gallup poll from earlier this year, 43% of Americans now believe that some form of socialism would be good thing, in contrast to 51% who are still against it. A Harris poll found that four in ten Americans prefer socialism to capitalism. The trend is particular apparent in the young: another Gallup poll showed that as recently as 2010, 68% of people between 18 and 29 approved of capitalism, with only 51% approving of socialism, whereas in 2018, while the percentage among this age group favoring socialism was unchanged at 51%, those in favor of capitalism had dropped precipitously to 45%. The same poll showed that among Democrats, the popularity of socialism now stands at 57%, while capitalism is only at 47%, a marked departure from 2010 when the two were tried at 53%. A YouGov poll from earlier this year showed that unlike older generations, which still preferred capitalist candidates, 70% of millennials and 64% of gen-Zers would vote for a socialist.

The question is why socialism now? At a time when the American economy under Trump seems to be chugging along at a nice clip, why are so many hankering for an alternative? I would suggest four factors contributing to the situation.

Factor #1: Ignorance of History

The first cause of socialism’s popularity, especially among the young, is an obvious one: having grown up at a time after the end of the Cold War, the collapse of Europe’s Eastern Bloc and China’s transition to authoritarian capitalism, “these kids today” — those 18 to 29 year-olds who were born around the last decade of the 20th century — don’t know what socialism is all about. When they think socialism, they don’t think Stalin; they think Scandinavia.

Americans’ — and especially young Americans’ — ignorance of history is well-documented and profound. As of 2018, only one in three Americans could pass a basic citizenship test , and of test-takers under the age of 45, that number dropped to 19%. That included such lowlights as having no clue why American colonists fought the British and believing that Dwight Eisenhower led the troops during the Civil War. Speaking of the war during which he actually led the troops, many millennials don’t know much about that one either. They don’t know what Auschwitz was (66% of millennials in particular could not identify it). Twenty-two percent of them had not heard of the Holocaust itself. The Battle of the Bulge? Forget it. Go back further in time, and the cluelessness just keeps deepening. Only 29% of seniors at U.S. News and World Report’s top 50 colleges in America — the precise demographic that purports to speak with authority about America’s alleged history of white supremacy — have any idea what Reconstruction was all about. Only 23% know who wrote the Constitution. So much for any notion that this is the most educated generation ever.

Closer to the theme — socialism — the same compilation of survey results includes the attribution of The Communist Manifesto’s “from each according to his ability; to each according to his needs” to Thomas Paine, George Washington or Barrack Obama. Moreover, among college-aged Americans, though support for socialism is pretty high, when these same young adults are asked about their support for the actual definition of socialism — a government-managed economy — 72% turn out to be for a free-market economy and only 49% for the government-managed alternative (yes, it looks from those numbers like there are a lot of confused kids who are in favor of both of the mutually exclusive alternatives). As compared to about a third of Americans over 30, only 16% of millennials were able to define socialism, according to a 2010 CBS/New York Times poll. And though I haven’t seen polling on this, I’d be willing to bet that a good bunch of these same students, if asked to say what the Soviet Union was, would have no clue or peg it as some sort of vanquished competitor of Western Union.

Compounding the problem still further is that the history that students are being taught increasingly falls into the category of “woke” history , America’s history of oppression as imagined by the influential revisionist socialist historian Howard Zinn . When socialists are writing our history books, the end result is preordained.

Given such ignorance and systematic distortion of history, is it any surprise that millennials who never lived through very much of the 20 th century don’t think socialism is all that bad?

Factor #2: Government Bungling

When we try to explain the socialist urge, we cannot lose sight of the fact that our government keeps interfering in the economy in ways that give people every reason to think the system is corrupt and needs to be trashed.

Take the skyrocketing cost of college, for instance. On the surface, this looks like greedy capitalist universities just keep on raising tuition, and since most college kids and their parents can’t pay the sticker price, almost 70% take out loans , saddling young people trying to start their careers with a mountain of debt (almost $30,000 on average). This results in all those socialist promises of free college or loan forgiveness sounding dandy. Underneath the surface, however, a huge part of the problem is federal grants and subsidized loans. If the government stopped footing a large part of their bill, more students and parents would be forced to pony up, which would mean, in turn, that colleges would not be able to keep hiking their prices without seeing a precipitous drop in enrollment. They would, instead, be forced to price themselves at some level that applicants could realistically pay, making college more affordable for a large segment of the American middle class.

Another simple example of the problem is Obama’s Emergency Economy Stabilization Act of 2008, colloquially known as the big bank “Bailout.” When kids grow up seeing government tossing out free lifelines to businesses that get themselves in dire straits, cause a massive financial crisis and, in the process, lose ordinary folks lots of jobs and homes, we can’t blame them for concluding that the system is rigged.

There are many more examples where these came from — our government frittering away trillions on foreign wars that increase instability throughout the world and end up costing us even more as we scramble to clean up our own messes is one expenditure that comes readily to mind — but the point is this: the more the government interferes in the economy to help out vested interests, the more reason many of us will see to ask government to interfere in the economy to help out the rest of us. The more reason we give anyone to think that capitalism means crony capitalism, the more they’ll clamor for socialism.

Factor #3: Universities’ Ideological Monoculture

The supporters of socialism are not simply the young, but rather, disproportionately those among the young who are college-educated. And the more college they have, the hotter for socialism they get. According to a 2015 poll , support for socialism grows from 48% among those with a high school diploma or less to 62% among college graduates to 78% among those with post-graduate degrees. Those on the left probably stop thinking hard about now and jump immediately to the conclusion that support for socialism is just a natural outgrowth of big brains and elite educations. But there is, in fact, a less obvious but ultimately far more compelling explanation that also manages to account for the general fact that more education correlates with more leftism: something — something bad — is happening at universities themselves to pull students toward the (far) left.

We have already seen above that what’s not happening at universities, even elite universities, today is a whole lot of education in important subjects like history. What we are getting instead is a lot of groupthink and indoctrination. Universities have always skewed a bit left. But beginning in the early to mid 1990s (for reasons I’ve explained in some detail elsewhere ), ideological diversity began to vanish entirely, as the leftward deviation turned tidal. As documented in a 2005 paper from Stanley Rothman et al., as of 1984, 39% of university faculty were left/liberal, and 34% were right/conservative. By 1999, those numbers had undergone a seismic shift: faculty was now 72% left/liberal and 15% right/conservative. Since 1999, the imbalance has become starker still. A comprehensive National Association of Scholars report from April 2018 from Prof. Mitchell Langbert of Brooklyn College, tracking the political registrations of 8,688 tenure-track, Ph.D.-holding professors from 51 of U.S. News & World Report’s 66 top-ranked liberal arts colleges for 2017, found that “78.2 percent of the academic departments in [his] sample have either zero Republicans, or so few as to make no difference.” Predictably, given the composition of the professoriate, survey data also indicates that students’ political views drift further leftward between freshman and senior year.

In light of this data, it should not be a surprise to us that students who have gone to college in this age of ideological extremism have come out radicalized and … socialized.

Factor #4: Coddled Kids

The young have always been more inclined to embrace pipe dreams — a lack of familiarity with the complicated way in which the world actually works, coupled with the college fix described above, will do that to most anyone — but there is a reason the mindset of today’s young’uns is particularly susceptible to the red menace. In last year’s The Coddling of the American Mind, the prominent social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff describe the species of overprotective parenting and instilling of baseless and uncritical self-esteem by parents and educators alike that came to prevail as kids were growing up in the 90s and 00s. When we are raised in the belief we are wonderful just as we are, we never learn the critical life skills of self-soothing, working through anxiety, facing obstacles and overcoming adversity. The predictable result, as Haidt and Lukianoff observe, is a demand to be safeguarded — safe spaces, free speech crackdowns and so on. The state appears to many as the appropriate institution to provide this sort of “safety.”

If these four are the primary causes of socialism’s rapid surge in our midst, then the next logical question is what to do about it. There is no easy answer, of course, but I would suggest that the radicalization of academia is the lynchpin issue. If we could succeed in reversing that tsunami, many dominoes would fall: we would be addressing the university monoculture that systematically distorts research, sends students veering hard left and graduates generations of left-orthodox clones who find their way into journalism, government, education, entertainment and other influential sectors driving public opinion and shaping the other three downstream issues factoring into socialism’s rise: government policy, educational philosophy and the manner in which history is taught. Many have observed that our universities are in crisis, but that crisis also represents an opportunity to avert the much larger socialist cataclysm that threatens to engulf us all.



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Economy

It's Trump vs. the Deep State vs. the Rest of Us

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One of the best side effects of the Trump presidency has been the hostility of the so-called “deep state” or “intelligence community” directed at the president.

This, in turn, has led many Americans to realize that America’s powerful, un-elected secret police agencies serve an agenda all their own. Consequently, polls show one’s views of the CIA and the FBI depend largely on one’s ideological bent. Polls from Fox News and NBC news in recent years show that as various government bureaucracies have ratcheted up their hostility to Trump, more Democrats and Hillary Clinton voters have said they trust the CIA and the FBI.

Why the president and this deep state should be at odds has never been obvious to casual observers. Last month, however, in an article titled “Trump’s War on the ‘Deep State’ Turns Against Him,” the New York Times at last explained that there is indeed very real enmity between Trump and agencies such as the CIA and the FBI. The Times contends that Trump “went to war with the professional staff” of the intelligence agencies and the State Department.

The Times notes Trump has condemned “deep state bureaucrats,” and claims Trump’s “hostility toward government was strong from the start. He blamed the leak of the so-called Steele dossier of unverified allegations against him on intelligence agencies and never trusted their conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 election on his behalf.”

Trump was right to be defensive, of course. But that controversy over Russia was never really about what the Russians were up to. The focus was always largely about how much Trump colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election.

Ultimately, the evidence was so non-existent, that after a nearly-three-year investigation, Robert Mueller was unable to establish evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians. As Glenn Greenwald has noted: “not a single American  — whether with the Trump campaign or otherwise — was charged or indicted on the core question of whether there was any conspiracy or coordination with Russia over the election.”

But this lack of evidence did not stop John Brennan, for example, from claiming for months that he had special secret knowledge of the matter, and that Trump — or at least many around him — were going to be indicted for colluding with the Russians.

Although Brennan is a “former” CIA director, he nonetheless clearly remains well ensconced within the world of his fellow spooks. He is, as ABC News correspondent Terry Moran put it, “cloaked with CIA authority.” Brennan even insisted that he ought to retain his security clearance, presumably forever, even though he is accountable to no one. Such is the mindset of the deep state bureaucrat. They live in a world where they deserve special privileges just for being government employees.

Moreover, Brennan has been joined in his attacks on the president by other former high-ranking members of the deep state, including former FBI chief James Comey and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Those currently employed by the deep state have joined the anti-Trump campaign as well. Much of the current campaign against Trump is being orchestrated by CIA agents, and according to Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday, CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella is supplying much of the prosecution’s information. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer and bureaucrat with the National Security Council, has testified to Congress in order to fuel impeachment efforts against the president as well.

Fêting Deep-State Bureaucrats as Heroes

None of this is to say the Trump administration lacks any taint of corruption. Like all presidents, it is likely the Trump administration expects favors for favors. The only thing different about Trump is he is not skilled at keeping the everyday corruption of the White House a secret.

But what is especially problematic for him is the fact that so many of his critics coming out of the bureaucratic woodwork are from intelligence agencies and from the military.

Unfortunately, in the United States there is a well-established bias in favor of employees from national security agencies. Even the very language used by the media speaks to this favoritism. In the Times piece, for example, the authors speak of one of Trump’s critics, one “William B. Taylor Jr., a military officer and diplomat who has served his country for 50 years.” Note the implied selflessness of Taylor’s work. An equally accurate description of Taylor would be “he was employed by government agencies for fifty years” or “the taxpayers paid his bills for fifty years.” Instead, we’re told he “served his country.” The propaganda value of the media’s pro-military bias is not lost on the officers themselves, and it’s no surprise Vindman, a Lt. Colonel, testified to Congress in his military uniform.

Other examples can be found every time Trump fires a lifelong bureaucrat from the upper echelons of the various “national security” agencies. For example, last summer, when Trump fired director of national intelligence Dan Coats, the Atlantic portrayed Coats as a principled idealist who “spoke truth to power.” Coats was fired, the author tells us, because of his devotion to the truth, even if it undermined Trump’s agenda. The best proof of Coats’s honest determination, we’re told, was the fact he “won praise from former intelligence officials.”

[RELATED: “19th-Century Americans Didn’t ‘Support the Troops‘” by Ryan McMaken]

In real life, of course, Coats is a lifelong politician and bureaucrat who prior to his dismissal had collected a government paycheck for four decades. As a politician he lobbied for gun control and supported the disastrous 2003 Iraq War. The idea that his post-Congressional career was marked by dogged devotion to the truth ought to strike one as rather fanciful.

A Slipping Facade

But even the New York Times is no longer pretending that the deep state doesn’t exist, and that it doesn’t have its own political agenda. In fact, as noted by Robert Merry at the American Conservative, the Times article even “portray[s] the current impeachment drama as the likely denouement of a struggle between the outsider Trump and the insider administrative forces of government.”  This is especially significant since it is also increasingly clear that, “American foreign policy has become the almost exclusive domain of unelected bureaucrats impervious to the views of elected officials — even presidents — who may harbor outlooks different from their own.” Merry concludes the past three years of investigations of the president, conducted by government bureaucrats, is “the story of entrenched government bureaucrats and a president who sought to curb their power. Or, put another way, the story of a president who sought to rein in the deep state … that sought to destroy his presidency.”

Some of these deep-state agents even admit their willingness to subvert the official chain of command to suit their own purposes. Vindman, for example, told the impeachment committee he actively sought to subvert Trump administration relations with the Ukrainian government largely to preserve Vindman’s own vision for American policy. In the mind of this mid-level bureaucrat, American foreign policy is set not by elected officials in Washington DC, but by the bureaucrats themselves.

Why Take the Administration’s Side?

Back in 2017, the battle lines between Trump and the deep state were already being drawn, and at the time I wrote:

This isn’t to say that Trump is the “good guy” here. As with the US military establishment overall, the deep state is by no means monolithic. Like any group of self-serving institutions, there are competing factions. Trump clearly has allies within some areas of the deep state, as can be reflected in Trump’s attempts to massively expand military spending at the expense of the taxpayer.

But the fact he’s considered an outsider in Washington by so many should suggest there are reasons to support him over the entrenched bureaucracy.

Indeed, as Greenwald pointed out in a 2017 interview, it’s not a coincidence that former and current members of the deep state clearly preferred Clinton to Trump during the campaign. The deep state bureaucrats prefer an insider like Clinton who who can be trusted to not upset the national security status quo in any way.

Although Trump is no true friend of peace or human rights, he commits his sins largely out in the open. As such, his presidency is relatively transparent, and Greenwald prefers that to the hidden (and extensive) crimes of the deep state.

After all, deep-state agencies face virtually no scrutiny of — and even less real opposition to — their many misdeeds. These, of course, are so numerous as to be impossible to list. But just for starters we might refer to a 2017 article by Sharyl Attkisson in The Hill titled “10 times the intel community violated the trust of US citizens, lawmakers and allies.” It’s a laundry list of illegal, immoral, and blatantly unconstitutional acts which well illustrate the near total impunity with which these agencies operate. Abuse of spying powers is so rampant within the FBI, for example, that even the lopsidedly pro-spying FISA court was forced to conclude the FBI routinely overstepped the bounds of legal surveillance. And, of course, without the heroic whistleblowing of Edward Snowden, the NSA would still be falsely insisting that it doesn’t routinely spy on virtually all Americans, whenever and however it likes.

In response to these facts, one might still insist “but presidents lie a lot and break laws too!” That’s true, but the difference between presidents and deep-state bureaucrats is well illustrated by the current impeachment controversy. It’s the president who’s facing indictments, public attacks, and the prospect of removal. On the other hand, the deep-state bureaucrats who oversee many counts of corruption, illegal spying and leaking, remain safely hidden from public view. Those who routinely lie, deceive, and abuse their power often go on doing so for decades. As the years pass, they become ever more entrenched in the federal bureaucracy, invisible to the public, and — as we are now seeing — often answerable to no one.

Presidents come and go, and they often face fierce opposition from the other party or from the media. The deep state, meanwhile, is said to be full of national heroes who “serve their country” and “speak truth to power.”

It should be easy to see, in the battle between the president and the deep state, which side is the most dangerous. 



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Economy

Cautionary Tales Ep 2 – The Rogue Dressed as a Captain

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One crisp Berlin morning, in 1906, a small group of soldiers were led on an extraordinary heist by a man they believed to be a captain. So how did an ageing nobody in a fake uniform trick them into taking part in the crime of the century? Some say we humans will obey orders from anyone who dresses the part… but the real reason why we fall for tricksters time and again is far more interesting. Fraudsters and charlatans reel us in slowly by using psychology against us.

Featuring: Alan Cumming, Russell Tovey, Rufus Wright, Melanie Gutteridge and Ed Gaughan.

Producers: Ryan Dilley and Marilyn Rust. Sound design/mix/musical composition: Pascal Wyse. Fact checking: Joseph Fridman. Editor: Julia Barton. Recording: Wardour Studios, London. GSI Studios, New York. PR: Christine Ragasa.

Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, Heather Fain, Mia Lobel, Carly Migliori, Jacob Weisberg, and of course, the mighty Malcolm Gladwell.

 

Further reading

The best English-language account I could find of the Kopenick story is by Benjamin Carter Hett. “The ‘Captain of Köpenick’ and the Transformation of German Criminal Justice, 1891-1914,” Central European History 36 (1), 2003.

I first read about the story in Nigel Blundell’s The World’s Greatest Mistakes. Other accounts are at Strange History  and The Rags of TimeKoepenickia offers various contemporary German newspaper accounts. There are many small differences in the accounts but the overall story remains just as remarkable.

The definitive account of Stanley Milgram’s experiments is Gina Perry’s Behind the Shock Machine and Alex Haslam was interviewed by Radiolab in a great episode about the same topic.

An overview of the evidence on tall presidents is Gert Stulp, Abraham P. Buunk, Simon Verhulst, Thomas V. Pollet, “Tall claims? Sense and nonsense about the importance of height of US presidentsThe Leadership Quarterly  Volume 24, Issue 1, 2013.

The study of gubernatorial elections is Daniel J Benjamin & Jesse M Shapiro, 2009. “Thin-Slice Forecasts of Gubernatorial ElectionsThe Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(3), pages 523-536, 02.

Daniel Hamermesh’s Beauty Pays looks at the overall evidence that appearances matter – including in politics.

 

 

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Economy

Market Talk – November 14, 2019

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ASIA:

China is insisting that the US retract any tariffs as a part of “phase one” of the trade deal. “The trade war was begun with adding tariffs, and should be ended by canceling these additional tariffs. This is an important condition for both sides to reach an agreement,” China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Gao Feng said. Still there seems to be other sticking points such as the farm required purchases from China each year as well as US demanding China stops opioid sales into the US.

The Japanese economy showed signs of slowing in the third quarter as newly released data shows the annualized rate of growth was only at 0.2%. This is a sharp drop from the previous quarter, which saw the growth rate at 1.8%. One of the main reasons for the bad performance was the weak exports, with China being a large trading partner slowing down.

Singapore has created a nationwide AI initiative to become a “Smart Nation” by 2030. There will be five projects, which will touch on areas such as logistics, healthcare, border security, estate management, and education.

Asian Market Closings:

  • Shanghai advanced 4.63 points or 0.16% to 2,909.87
  • Kospi advanced 16.78 points or 0.79% to 2,139.23
  • ASX 200 advanced 25.50 points or 0.38% to 6,759.80
  • NIKKEI 225 decreased 178.32 points or -0.76% to 23,141.55
  • Hang Seng decreased 247.77 points or -0.93% to 26,323.69
  • SENSEX advanced 170.42 points or 0.42% to 40,286.48

EUROPE/EMEA:

In the UK, the Brexit Party and Conservatives are trying to make a deal that would put the Conservatives into power and grant the Brexit Party many Labour seats. However, they failed to reach a deal. The Brexit Party wanted the Conservatives to remove any candidates running in certain areas, while the Conservatives said they would put in “paper candidates” instead.

Germany narrowly avoided a technical recession in the third quarter as the economy grew by 0.1%. Many analysts expected a negative rate, meaning a month-over-month negative contraction as a technical recession. However, the growth brings growth to 0.5% from July to September. Still, this is no means an indicator that the economy is doing well, as there are many areas in which the economy is weak such as the auto industry which is a key driver for the German economy.

The EU is planning on revising the introduced Mifid ii to the industry. Reports are showing that the industry is getting increasing frustrated with the introduced regulations. “No decision has been taken so far on the review of Mifid II, though the commission acknowledges that some adjustments may be required,” a spokesperson told citywide.

European Market Closings:

  • CAC 40 decreased 6.0 points or -0.10% to 5,901.08
  • FTSE 100 decreased 58.45 points or -0.80% to 7,292.76
  • DAX 30 decreased 49.84 points or -0.38% to 13,180.23

US/AMERICAS:

John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, believes that the current monetary policy will enable the Fed to further stimulate the economy if needed. “Monetary policy should not get caught up in ups and downs on trade,” Williams noted, specifically mentioning both China and Brexit. The bank president admitted that the Fed needs to conduct additional research to understand the resilience of the repo market. “Reserves are now at levels that are consistent with ample reserves,” he stated. Despite claiming that reserves are “ample,” the Fed accepted a $73.59 bid on Thursday and has no concrete plan for when the repurchasing will cease.

Robert Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, voiced that he does not foresee the US economy entering into a recession despite sluggish growth. The strong labor market and increased consumer spending should negate the downturn in business investment and manufacturing, according to Kaplan. Kaplan expects the economy to expand by around 2% this year.

Banxico, Mexico’s central bank, lowered its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 7.5%. This is the third consecutive time that the bank has decided to lower rates. The bank cited “stagnant” economic conditions as a main reason for the cut. Banxico members made it clear that they plan to gradually decrease the target rate and expect it to reach 7% before the end of the year and 6% by June 2020.

“China is becoming more and more part of Brazil’s future,” President Bolsonaro said after meeting with Chinese President Xi. Russian President Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will come together in Brazil for the BRICS Business Council. China is currently Brazil’s largest trading partner, and Bolonaro is hopeful that China can help Brazil “diversify our trade relations.” President Xi voiced optimism as well, citing that stronger ties with Latin America could help China “build an open world economy.”

US Market Closings:

  • Dow declined 1.63 points or -0.01% to 27,781.96
  • S&P 500 advanced 2.59 points or 0.08% to 3,096.63
  • Nasdaq declined 3.08 points or -0.04% to 8,479.02
  • Russell 2000 declined 0.39 of a point or -0.02% to 1,588.79

Canada Market Closings:

  • TSX Composite advanced 14.19 points or 0.08% to 16,972.18
  • TSX 60 declined 0.35 of a point or -0.03% to 1,015.68

Brazil Market Closing:

  • Bovespa advanced 496.93 points or 0.47% to 106,556.88

 



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