In Lorillard Tobacco Company v. Reilly, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts ban on tobacco advertising on First Amendment grounds. In his concurring opinion, Clarence Thomas writes:

The State misunderstand the purpose of advertising. Promoting a product that is not yet pervasively used (or a cause that is not yet widely supported) is a primary purpose of advertising. Tobacco advertisements would be no more misleading for suggesting pervasive use of tobacco products than are any other advertisements that attempt to expand a market for a product, or to rally support for a political movement. Any inference from the advertisements that business would like for tobacco use to be pervasive is entirely reasonable, and advertising that gives rise to that inference is in now way deceptive. [Emphasis added.]

There’s so much—from the history of political thought, conservative thought, and free-market libertarianism—packed into these three sentences, one might be forgiven for missing the breadth and power of what Thomas is arguing.

First, notice the explicit comparison, the affinity, that Thomas draws between commercial advertising for a commodity or product and political advocacy and action for a cause. [click to continue…]

At the moment, I’m reading my way through David Miller’s new *Strangers in our Midst* and also getting very exercised about the UK’s Brexit referendum (to the point where I’m waking at night and worrying about it). My siblings and I have all benefited from the EU’s free movement rights, my children both have non-British EU partners, we think of ourselves as Europeans. So for me, the threat of Brexit is a threat of lost identity, of something that has been there all my adult life just disappearing overnight. And so I’m feeling pretty resentful towards my fellow citizens who might vote to cut that tie and thereby endanger the security and family life of millions of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens elsewhere in the EU.

One of Miller’s arguments is a familiar one about social trust, about how welfare states depend for their stability on such trust and that the increasing diversity that immigration brings tends to undermine support for redistributive programmes. This lack of trust gets expressed in anger about stories that immigrants are ahead in the queue for social housing, that they are a drain on health and education services, that they are getting “something for nothing”, and so forth. Needless to say, most of such stories are false. Nevertheless, there may be elements in the design of the UK’s welfare state and its relatively non-contributory character that fuel such anxieties.

Here’s the thing. Those voting for Brexit out of resentment against immigration are disproportionately the elderly poor whites who don’t pay much in but who benefit from those public services. A predictable consequence of them getting what they want is that the fiscal base for those services will be eroded and that either they will have to be cut or taxes will have to be increased. This is because those EU immigrants are, in fact, paying more in taxes than they are taking in services. (Actually, the UK is free-riding in a big way, as it never paid for the cost of educating and training those workers.)

When I take those political affiliation surveys, I always say I’m willing to pay higher taxes. But now the devil on my shoulder is saying “why should you pay higher taxes to replace the taxes that were paid by EU migrants? Those idiots have brought it on themselves, let them now suffer the consequences”. An ugly thought, but I’m guessing that if I’m having it then I’m not alone. The UK’s EU referendum has eroded social trust more than immigration per se ever did. It poses the question of what citizens owe to one another in pretty stark terms. If people could mitigate the need for higher taxes by accepting immigrants and they choose not to do so, why should their wealthier fellow citizens bear the cost of their choices?

Trump and Political Correctness

by John Holbo on June 10, 2016

There’s a chance the wheels come off the Trump Train in a spectacular, generally-acknowledged way between now and the election. But probably not. And if not, negative partisanship means that, by November, almost all Republicans will be solidly pro-Trump. That means: Republicans (and conservatives, to the extent that there is a distinction) will have talked themselves into this thing making a crazy kind of sense, after all. A lot of this will be pure negative: crooked Hillary, crooked Hillary, crooked Hillary. Or anti-establishment: burn it down! But some of it is going to be negative-spun-as-positive. There’s a good chance Trump will make conservatives not-unhappy with Supreme Court picks. Beyond that, the only Trump-is-actually-good line that makes sense – even as confabulatory spin – is that Trump is going to be proudly politically incorrect. Anti-PC is standard conservative rhetoric and has been for decades. But this bubble is going expand, massively, in the vacuum of Trump’s lack of any agenda. I don’t think anyone really believes in that wall. No one knows where Trump would go, so how can you say you are in favor? Answer: it’s not the destination, it’s being a jerk on the journey! The three-legged stool – social conservatism, fiscal conservatism, strong military – is going to be whittled down to one leg – anti-PC. Before we can make America great again, Job #1 is smashing the tyranny of PC, the hegemony of the SJW’s! Conservatives and Republicans are going to talk themselves into this, because what other leg have they got to stand on? I predict that, by November, we’re going to hearing an awful lot more like this. Republicans are going to tend towards somewhat novel alt-right-lite postures under a broad ‘stop the PC madness!’ banner.

What do you think? Trump won the nomination because a solid plurality of Republican voters liked him best. Now that he has got it, the rest – many of whom recently liked him least – need to think themselves into liking him best, after all. Negative partisanship demands it! What sorts of confabulations do you predict will prove necessary/psychically efficacious, to achieve this realignment, over the next 5 months? What sorts of changes to the Republican Party and the conservative mind will it mean, even if Trump loses? How permanent will they be?

Of course, if Trump flames out, like, next month, all bets are off.