The Man with the Two-Storey Brain

by Henry Farrell on July 25, 2018

By Source, Fair use, Link

Since Holbo is encroaching on my territory by writing about Dark Web Intellectualism, turnabout is fair play. Paul Krugman’s knowledge of science fiction is vast and impressive. Still, I can’t imagine that when he tweeted this:

he knew that he was invoking one of the great (if sadly little known in this Age of Bronze) recurring characters from 2000AD’s Tharg’s Future Shocks. Alan Moore’s Abelard Snazz was the Man with the Two-Story Brain, or, as we’d say today, a Very Stable Genius, who specialized in handling “complex problems with even more complicated solutions.” For example – Snazz’s More Robots Less Crime approach, as described by Wikipedia:

On the planet Twopp, crime is so rampant that even the Prime Minister, Chancellor, and Commissioner are robbed down to their underwear on their way to visit double-brained, four-eyed “Mutant Supermind” Abelard Snazz, President of Think, Inc. The officials of Twopp ask Snazz for a solution to the planet’s crime problem. Snazz’s answer is to create a race of giant police robots, heavily armed and programmed to make unlimited arrests. Snazz is hailed as a genius by his sycophantic robot assistant, Edwin. Unfortunately, the police robots are so efficient that they arrest all of the criminals on the planet, and continue to fill out their arrest quotient by arresting citizens for minor offences, such as breaking the laws of etiquette, good taste, and grammar. With everybody getting arrested, the officials return to Snazz for help. Snazz creates a race of giant criminal robots to keep the robot police busy, thus saving innocent people from being arrested. However, the perfectly matched conflict between the robot police and robot criminals creates an all-out war which kills scores of innocent bystanders. After another visit from the officials, Snazz’s latest solution is to create a race of little robot innocent bystanders to suffer in the humans’ stead. This saves the people from harm, but it also leaves the planet Twopp overcrowded with robots. The humans abandon the planet, and when Snazz announces his idea of building a giant robot planet for them, the enraged officials have had enough and eject Snazz and Edwin into outer space.

Wikipedia fails to mention the arrests of children for removing the “do not remove” tags from mattresses, which particularly impressed me as a child. Still, the proposal for building a giant robot planet is pretty good.



BruceJ 07.25.18 at 3:26 pm

Hah, SMBC explored a similar conundrum recently.


Kenny Easwaran 07.25.18 at 4:56 pm


Salem 07.25.18 at 4:59 pm

No, that’s the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.


bekabot 07.25.18 at 5:14 pm


Foster Boondoggle 07.25.18 at 5:32 pm

I know an old lady
Who swallowed a fly…


Lee A. Arnold 07.25.18 at 5:43 pm

The bailout was entirely foreseeable, and the next steps ought to be, too: China will bail out its own industries which are losing in the trade war, and, since China is essentially one big corporation, China can do it much longer than the US can. Thus a trade war could push us into a shooting war, as I summarized here over a year and a half ago when Trump’s bozo shenanigans started. And another thing I predicted: Trump’s policies would reduce multinational business investment in the US, because businesses will not care to risk this much idiocy in US economic and trade policy. In turn, this will decrease long-term incomes and standard of living in the US. Adam Posen just verified that net foreign business investment in the US has dropped to zero:

What Posen doesn’t point out is that this makes it more likely that US domestic investors will try to get out of the US too, just as soon as better ROIs present themselves abroad. At some point along this logic the Trumpublicans will be forced to institute capital controls…



Lee A. Arnold 07.25.18 at 6:36 pm

“Trump pushes 25 percent auto tariff as top advisers scramble to stop him” — new Washington Post headline, moments ago.


ph 07.25.18 at 10:06 pm

This seems appropriate:

“On the left if you’re consuming fake news you’re 34 times more likely than the general population to be a college graduate,” says Green. “If you’re on the right,” he says, “you’re 18 times more likely than the general population to to be in the top 20 percent of income earners.”

And the study revealed another disturbing trend: the more you consume fake news, the more likely you are to vote. It’s “fascinating and frightening at the same time,” says Green.

Buckle up!


Jake Gibson 07.25.18 at 10:44 pm

There is also the plot Robert Sheckley’s Watchbird. (Available on Project Gutenberg).


mclaren 07.26.18 at 4:34 am

Wildly funny to watch the diehard neoliberal cheerleaders condemn Trump’s lunacy while giving the even more demented lunacy pushed by Larry Summers/Brad DeLong/Tim Geithner/Bill Clinton/Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton and the rest of their “globalization forever!” coterie a pass for the last 30 years.

Flip the Wayback machine to the late 1990s: Bill Clinton and his team of Harvard-trained genius economists decide to crank up globalization. Don’t worry about those tens of millions of high-paying jobs that’ll get shipped overseas, they tell us…we’ll substitute “knowledge workers” for those factory jobs! Right? Riiiiiiiiiiight.

Who really benefits from free trade AKA offshoring every jobs that pays a living wage to overseas sweatshops? The CEOs and rich shareholders of giant monopoly corporations whose profits soar when they can build iPhones using workers who get 50 cents/day. These CEOs use the fantastic profits from free trade to buy back the shares of their stock, boosting share prices and making the rich people who own stocks and CEOs who get paid in stock options obscenely wealthy…but the average worker gets nothing from free trade. Nada. Zip. Dick. Squat. Zilch. Bupkiss.

Fast forward to 2018 and the entire midwest of America has collapsed into a deindustrialized fentayl-addicted wasteland, while Chinese are buying up luxury homes and condos at a staggering rate on both East and West coasts even as our biggest American companies are shipping high-paying jobs (or automating ’em out of existence) even faster.

Now along comes Lee Arnold to explain to the audience of Crooked Timber (advanced degrees all, smug ‘n cozy with their bullshit jobs that pay $150K/yr like “Tittle VI compliance officer” and “supply chain consultant” and “HR diversity coordinator” and “foreign investor realty purchase liaison”) that Trump’s insane policies will destroy America:

“And another thing I predicted: Trump’s policies would reduce multinational business investment in the US, because businesses will not care to risk this much idiocy in US economic and trade policy. In turn, this will decrease long-term incomes and standard of living in the US. ”

This actually sounds great for the average person. Bad for the people with PhDs and bullshit jobs who post on Crooked Timber…because “multinational business investment in the US” mostly boils down to wealthy Chinese buying up luxury homes and apartment buildings in major coastal cities in America, Chinese princelings (grandsons of Mao’s surviving compatriots on the Long march) driving American businesses into bankruptcy by predatory-pricing service industries that pay American workers far-below-minimum wage temp part-time “gig” jobs, and Chinese state-owned industries snapping up American startups to crush competition before it starts.

Trump is demented and his policies are insane. Still, massive tariffs will be great if they shut down globalization. Because either globalization ends, or America does. If globalization isn’t shut down, the country will burn. You’ll see cities in flames. Because the only people who benefit from globalization today in America are the parasites with bullshit jobs like “supply chain consultants” TRANSLATION: “We show you how to offshore you entire operation to China and substitute Chinese slave labor that gets paid 50 cents per day for workers who get paid $7.25/hr in America” and realtors who will lose those sweet sweet commissions on those million-dollar condos all the wealthy Chinese are buying in San Francisco and Seattle and Los Angeles and Portland OR and Boston and New York as a way of laundering their Chinese currency.

Lee Arnold claims Trump’s tariffs “will decrease long-term incomes and standard of living in the US.” What unbelievable tripe. The only long-term incomes that will be decreased by tariffs on predatory dumping industries in China are the long-term incomes of the predatory job-offshoring CEOs of Apple, Google, GE, IBM and the rest of the parasites, along with their wealthy shareholders. The rich people who own Apple stock will wail and gnash their teeth and tear the hair, but the average worker won’t notice a damn thing. You know why? Because 94% of all the new jobs created since 2005 are low-wage temp gigs that pay far below the minimum wage. Jobs like Uber driver, 96% of whom stop working for Uber within a year. Jobs like Amazon warehouse worker, that last just until you’re injured badly enough you can’t continue (or until you can’t make the payments on the car you’re living in while you work there). Jobs like part-time Starbucks barista and part-time Deliveroo driver.

Explain to me how lack of foreign direct investment in America will destroy jobs like Uber driver or Starbucks barista or Deliveroo driver. That’s obvious claptrap. The sh*te jobs of average Americans won’t be affected in the least by a collapse in foreign direct investment in America, the only jobs that will be affected nowadays are the parasite realtors and the supply chain consultant leeches and the rest of the bullshit jobs by people with advanced degrees from the Ivy League who profit from the decay of American society.

The best and brightest in America now make Himalayan mountains of cash from the forces that are destroying our society — the privatization of government services by offshoring ’em and automating ’em, the sale of local and municipal assets like turnpikes and parking meters to overseas investors in China and Dubai and the UAE, the sale of insanely overpriced luxury cars and luxury jewelry and yachts and grotesquely overpriced luxury mansions and condos and high-end apartment buildings to sex traffickers and drug smugglers and conflict diamond exporters in China and Colombia and Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast of Africa who need to launder their dirty money.

Meanwhile, even highly educated Americans now live in their cars and turn to part-time sex work to survive:

The reality is that Trump got elected for a reason: the average person realized that either globalization dies or America does. Obama’s crazy effort to ram through the corporate-coup TPP, Hillary’s adoration for endless unwinnable foreign wars and limitlessly offshoring of U.S. jobs offer the prospect of world where the average American lives in a favela driving part-time for Uber while rich foreigners own all the penthouses and all the decent-paying jobs have been offshored or automated out of existence.

Of course the Ivy leaguers with advanced degrees and bullshit jobs work overtime to deny this, claiming it’s all about racism. People on the ground understand the brutal equation of early 21st century: better to live in an America where laptops cost $4000 due to tariffs but Americans have high-paying jobs to save up to buy ’em, than to live in an America where laptops cost $400 but your part-time low-wage temp “gig” job pays $1.37/hr and you can’t even afford to buy food to eat, let alone a laptop.

Yes, Trump is insane and a fascist. Yes, his cabinest is infested with corrupt sociopaths. Yes, the Trump administration’s policies promise to do for America what the Black Plague did for Europe.

That said, if Trump inadvertently succeeds in shutting down globalization, every American (except the parasites with bullshit jobs that depend on shipping high-paid U.S. jobs overseas or automating ’em out of existence) will benefit.


John Quiggin 07.26.18 at 5:05 am

@8 “On the left if you’re consuming fake news you’re 34 times more likely than the general population to be a college graduate”, Given that around 35 per cent of the general population are college graduates, this claim is a mathematical impossibility. Presumably, there is some meaningful claim intended here, but I don’t see what it can be. It seems as if we have fake news about fake news here, with the underlying falsehood being the supposed balance between left and right

@10 The overlap between Trump voters and Romney voters is close to 100 per cent, which makes nonsense of the idea that people who voted for the former were motivated by opposition to (economic) globalisation. What Trump and Romney had in common on globalization was opposition to foreigners coming to the US.


ph 07.26.18 at 6:29 am

@11 first, congratulations on the book deal. I wouldn’t know good stats from bad and I’m always unlikely to believe any claim that begins with a variation of ‘4 out of 5 users contacted report…’ I do believe that academics too often treat other academics as a kind of morally-superior priesthood – free of quacks, grifters and other charlatans .

Which leads to mclaren’s magnificent @10. Thank god there’s at least one person who understands that fear of tech and outsourcing (plus the opioid addiction) is what’s driving Trumpism/Sanders support, and other manifestations of ‘enough already!!’ Contra JQ 30 percent of Hispanics supported Trump, many of them Cubans. Are they afraid of brown people, too, and just don’t know it?

Japan is suffering just like America. Regions that once hosted factories have been hollowed out, young people leave, and millionaires from China and Russia arrive to buy the best stuff as they can. The elites are based in Kanto with exactly the same operating procedures and contempts as their American aristocratic peers.

And, as mclaren points out, there’s nothing at all new in all this. One of my first teaching gigs was working with a planning group for a large Japanese electronics company in 1994. Their entire agenda was trying to figure out how to close as many factories in Japan as possible, as quickly as possible, and move them offshore where worker conditions are as bad, or worse as described in @10.

So, now I ask my students from hollowed-out economies whether they’d like to see someone stand up and demand Japan’s factories move back to Japan. Three guesses the response. Yes, I know the next part – export economies etc. That’s not the point.

Globalization and automation are the hammer and anvil crushing the hopes and lives of ‘just folks.’ And thank god ‘just folks’ have decided to back Trump. Sanders would have been the better option, but her majesty and 44 helped kill that possibility.

Why did it have to be Trump? That’s a great question. So, let’s not ask it. Let’s talk about Russia! The short answer is that nobody else could be bothered to make the trip to Wisconsin and even pretend to give a shit. The good news? Lots of just folks on the left and right are awake. Very much contra JQ, it’s about getting screwed by corporations, elites and slave labor at home and abroad – not ‘race.’

McLaren was too nice, however. I’d like to think that teachers’ unions and other big fund buyers aren’t buying Apple stock, etc. But many are! Some folks might not know that many of the larger, most horrific, slave plantation in the Antilles in the 18th-century were owned by elites and by groups of investors based on the other side of Atlantic (hat-makers, e.g..) in regions across France, and Europe.

Good times! Check out my 401k!


John Quiggin 07.26.18 at 7:16 am

“Contra JQ 30 percent of Hispanics supported Trump, many of them Cubans”

Cubans were, until very recently, reliably Republican, for obvious reasons. The increasingly overt racism of the Republican party is changing that, but processes of this kind are slow
And, obviously, those who stayed with their long-standing allegiance to the more capitalist of the two parties weren’t doing so because they had suddenly acquired a dislike of globalization.


John Quiggin 07.26.18 at 7:19 am

PS, thanks for congratulations!


ph 07.26.18 at 10:45 am

@13 et 14. Cheers, and thx for the link. I looked at some for 2016 and post. Trump has changed the GOP. Would be nice if Sanders could do something similar for the Dems. This piece from the Atlantic is quite interesting because it examines Americans of Cuban background in Florida (n.b.) who chose the shit-disturbing interloper from NY over the professional GOP turd and proudly Cuban-American Rubio in the GOP primary. Trump got a fifth of those votes. The hot button was cultural assimilation. Quick informative read.

I’m not seeing race driving elections. Tis a different world. The GOP president has been married what? 3 times? Countless relationships with women who are so ‘off-limits’ as to taint any ‘normal’ candidate. Nobody cares, including the evangelicals. Something like 70 percent of Americans are afraid of losing their jobs to technology. That’s more of a driver than any other from what I can tell.

I like Henry’s visuals better than John’s. Didn’t think much (at all!) of the Frankenstein illustrations. Blake’s Inferno illustrations are better than Dore’s if a thrill is what you’re after. IDW – can we work dullsville into that? Boring.


Lee A. Arnold 07.26.18 at 11:10 am

@McLaren — “diehard neoliberal cheerleaders… advanced degrees all… high-paying jobs that’ll get shipped overseas… Who really benefits from free trade…? …the entire midwest of America has collapsed… The reality is that Trump got elected for a reason… deny this, claiming it’s all about racism…”

Boy do you misunderstand me. I live in a sea of Trump voters and I know exactly why Trump got elected. I’m a bluecollar college dropout and you should study more. You’ve got the right problem but the wrong solution. Globalization/neoliberalism has accelerated the unemployment which would be happening IN ANY CASE. Question is what to DO about it. The factory jobs are disappearing everywhere on earth: all new factories in the US will be largely automated: there are going to be less high-paying jobs in manufacturing. “Knowledge jobs” didn’t pan-out for enough people, yet even now some economists (not all, thank god) are still pushing them as part of the solution; I think that’s also a lost cause, since software is going to be automating itself, and ALSO because consumers do not have unlimited infinite wants (contra the bullshit in textbooks) particularly for knowledge goods; and the knowledge goods they have time for, don’t employ a lot of people (e.g. Facebook, around 25,000 employees). Little-known fact: the “theory of free trade” since the 1830’s has mandated “compensation” INSIDE each country (i.e. the winners of free trade living inside a country would compensate the losers living inside the same country), doing this either by 1. gov’t redistribution or else by 2. the invention of NEW goods and services, so the disemployed losers to free trade could be re-employed and get back in the market game, whether that’s local markets or international. Well, THAT doesn’t happen — gov’t redistribution is a socialist no-no to the no-nothing libertarian freemarket maniacs; and the other solution, inventing new goods and services? –for some reason yet to be plumbed, the entire capitalist midwest of America did NOT invent new goods and services to get back in the market capitalism game when globalization stole their jobs. Wait a minute, why did THAT not happen? Don’t bother asking them, you’ll get a blank stare like deer caught in the headlights. Because it refutes their OWN favorite midwestern individualistic freemarket theory that capitalism can work. …So, somebody here ain’t thinking right, and it’s not me. What you COULD do, is think beyond all that stuff you linked to, and consider the obvious conclusion, that capitalism is so successful that it is putting itself out of business. And we are lurching in the throes. The people who are benefitting financially during this transition — multinational capitalists who profit financially from globalization — are controlling the political debate in most countries and and they have so much money they don’t even know what to do with it all, even in the international setting, it’s been going into debt assets for 40 years, most recently and spectacularly into real estate prices (via mortgage derivatives) almost everywhere and even that didn’t work to get the whole thing going again. Because it turns out that, once again, capitalist economists were wrong about how to prime the pump successfully. What we NEED are gov’t redistributions from the richest sectors, targeted to certain specific ends (health, education, environment, a UBI or jobs guarantee) for everybody regardless of their income, at the same time as the whole global economy moves into an new era of arts, crafts, learning, travel and more leisure. What we are going to get instead, particularly if a higher R.O.I. appears in a global freemarket that shuns the banana-Trumpian US, is a sudden massive move of big money out of the US. And THAT, in turn, will cause a fascistic response inside the US. So “shutting down globalization” is the DUMBEST IDEA EVER, particularly because we have entered the historical moment in which China wants to dominate world trade, and can cook its books forever to make it work. The Chinese will present a higher R.O.I. somewhere which will even lure Trump & his cabinet to abandon the US… etc. etc. –Which is how I got to my comment in #6 that you take such indignant exception to, though I had to leave out a bunch of details that you haven’t learned about.

P.S. Such as, wages are partly separated from the standard of living. For example, wages could go down, and the standard of living could go up at the same time. One of the biggest obstacles for students just learning economics.


casmilus 07.26.18 at 1:18 pm

As a long-term reader of AmericanConservative (for the laffs, of course), I have to wonder: how much of Trumpism is just the stuff Buchanan advocated since the mid 90s?

Obviously the man himself is claiming various bits were his idea all along, but could a dispassionate observer with nothing better to do scrutinise and compare in detail, please.


Sebastian H 07.26.18 at 2:16 pm

John, the way your using statistics on 11 and 13 is a common mistake, so I can’t blame you for falling into the trap, but it isn’t helpful.

The best indicator of how someone will vote is always “how did they vote last time?” It is a much better predictor than education, or gender, or income level, or geography, or race, or anything else that we talk about on a regular basis. (Who your parents voted for is also better than most of those). Call it tribalism or whatever you want, but people change the party they vote for on a particular type of high level candidate (president, governor, legislative representative) about once per lifetime, and often not that often. So “how did they vote twenty years ago” is also more predictive than almost any other measure. That’s also true for self labeled independents, who may split on minor down ticket candidates but are very reliable on the big ticket votes.

But in close elections the action is on the margins. So essentially all talk about everything that “motivated the voters this election” is really about “given the fact that almost no one changes, this is what changed…”

Also, since almost no one ever changes who they vote for, when something does motivate them to change, that can be important to note. So if globalism concerns motivate enough people in 2016 that it causes a change in a tiny minority that used to very reliably vote for Democrats, that really can swing elections even if the vast majority of people just went with “who I always vote for”. You’re correct that we shouldn’t say that Cubans voting for Republicans can be attributed to concerns about globalism. Like everybody on both sides they vote for whom they’ve always voted for motivated by whatever sociological reasons motivate that behavior.

But when people change sides, often for the only time in their lives, and statistically speaking often not coming back, that can often be traced to specific concerns because they broke with the strongest statistic—that people vote for whom they ‘always’ vote for. So when people attribute the Trump victory to racism for example, that looks odd because the key places he won are also places that Obama won. You can say all sorts of things about racism and Republicans in general, but those are about people who have been voting for Republicans their whole lives. In Clinton’s loss a few key states that had reliably voted for Democrats, and had voted for Obama twice, had a few tens of thousands of people who switched sides. Attributing that to racial animus seems at least a relatively hard thing to justify. If race concerns were going to animate a switch, they had one of the best opportunities ever—just one and two elections before they could have voted against a black president.

The biggest statistical fact in elections is that people almost never change who they vote for. As a result of that fact, people who change that once or twice in their lifetime create intense interest. It makes no sense at all to dismiss that with “well most other people voted for the side they always vote for”. It’s statistically true, but not helpful.


Orange Watch 07.26.18 at 2:31 pm

<a href=""mclaren@10:

It’s interesting how your anti-globalization rant (which is in broad terms ofc accurate) manages to call out pro-globalization and permanent war policies ranging from WJC to Obama… yet manages to skip right over the eight years in between them. When that’s coupled with your “Well, Trump is insane, but he’s at least doing stuff that helps the masses rather than the elites” lines… it looks suspiciously like you’re not advocating for the masses, but rather attempting to twist populist rhetoric into support for one camp of the elites.


b9n10nt 07.26.18 at 4:12 pm

I think mclaren and ph grossly exaggerate the material suffering of the US population. The vast majority of Americans live long healthy lives, do their shit jobs but have leisure time, disposable income, good health care…they’re satisfied with their schools, satisfied with their congresscritter, they’re living longer, they live in communities with less crime, they have unprecedented access to consumer goods…they’re conventionally okay in a way that takes a steady drip of anxiety and hurriedness as given.

The implication of their critique is that, short of the promise of 80% of Americans living in affluent suburbs with an annual 2 week time share, there’s a revolution brewing.

This misdiagnosis of the nature of widespread social hardship, which is only tangentially related to personal income and wealth, feeds the narrative (inadvertently, I trust) that what we really need is more consumption.

It is remarkable, however, that in the midst of one of the largest economic expansions in history, it is apparent that Dems and R’s increasingly win elections by going populist. That’s pointing at something, but it isn’t pointing at the absolute material hardship of the populace.

[congrats on the book JQ, looking forward to reading it]


Orange Watch 07.26.18 at 6:08 pm


That would be a much more useful observation if JQ was talking about individuals or generational cohorts, not ethnic populations, especially since the cited sources make clear that a driving force in the changes in Cuban voting patterns is the voting pool adding Cubans who were previously too young to vote and hence don’t have prior voting patterns to judge them by.


PatinIowa 07.26.18 at 9:24 pm

ph @ 12

Sitting in a bar in San Juan once during the 70s, I said to a New Yorker who identified as Cuban, “It must be nice to be in a place where you hear Spanish all the time,” and got the response, “That’s not Spanish. Puerto Ricans are animals and the language they speak is from the gutter.”

Pretty sure she didn’t see herself as a “brown person,” and that she saw a lot of other people as such.

I have no idea how generalizable this is, but I suspect that many of the people who fled Castro thought of themselves as white, and were perfectly okay with Republican efforts to keep the darker people down, as long as they were also refusing to normalize relations with Castro’s Cuba and as long as Cubans automatically went to the front of the immigration line.

I do know that I’ve read that in Cuba itself, even decades after the revolution, there’s still considerable prejudice against Afro-Cubans.

I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that younger Cuban-Americans are moving beyond that in ways that lots of young Americans seem to be. Hope so, any way.

The point is that racism s is multi-dimensional and can be deployed in a multitude of ways. Pretty much all Americans (both continents and everywhere between) have something going that way. That conservative racism is more overt and nasty than some other kinds is no reason to suppose that it’s the only kind. (Remember Biden calling Obama “articulate” in that condescending liberal way in 2008?)

I’m hoping that someone on this thread as a better grip on Cuban and Cuban American racial attitudes, and can instruct us.


ph 07.26.18 at 10:53 pm

Quick reply and comment. @20 re: ‘material suffering’ you make a fair point, but context is important. The decline of the ‘just folks’ – that’s me making between 50 and 90k in real terms has been decades long with no sign of improving under the current system. The material side is not so much (in my case) about me, but about our kids. In most respects, however, you’re quite right. For those of us in top tier re: the world, we’re laughing. The cultural side is somewhat different, but carries a great deal of weight, too. After being ignored and sneered at by the Versailles liberals and the crap GOP for decades we can now happily hurl turds at the smug and self-satisfied above us.

I do my best to do just that and more.

@17 Yes, re: Buchanan but with a big but – Buchanan promises nothing but despair and is too bound up in GOP orthodoxies. It’s important to recall that Trump hammered the GOP establishment candidates by loudly declaring from the podium that he’d protect social security from the rapacious GOP ghouls. That, other bullshit, and MAGA turned out to be the winning ticket. Most important: telling just folks that America was built by them, for them, and for their kids and nobody is going to be allowed to take that away. Trump made that promise his own ‘just folks’ and their kids are worth fighting for – and protecting against globalization, folks who refuse to assimilate, and corrupt elites selling ‘us’ out.

The great irony is that the best the Dems have come up as a response is ‘foreigners stole our election.’ Huh? Anyway, grading and other joys await. Enjoy the heat.


MFB 07.27.18 at 7:19 am

Fredrik Pohl’s The Midas Plague and The Man Who Ate The World are both about much the same issue — although both are concerned with the crisis of robot overproduction, which is eventually resolved by producing robots which consume enough to resolve the crisis. Pohl doesn’t mention what happens when the resources run out — although Pohl and Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants gives a clue.

Incidentally, the rant about globalization reads pretty well, but I don’t think global trade is going to be democratised any time soon.


faustusnotes 07.27.18 at 9:09 am

As usual ph is talking bullshit about Japan. Japan is not suffering from globalization but benefiting. It is still possible to support a family on a median one-person income here, and companies still maintain special privileges for people who marry and have children – increased salary and rental support, for example. Companies often still provide very low rent dormitories for young workers, and they also are legally required to provide a very good maternity leave program. None of this is a mystery, it’s easy to learn public knowledge, but as usual ph knows nothing except what he invents in his own fevered imagination. I doubt ph has ever met a working man in Japan, let alone asked him about his conditions.

Unemployment is very low in Japan and work is easily available, and most people who graduate from university go straight into a good corporate job with stable employment and conditions. CEOs salaries are a much lower factor of workers’ salaries than in the west. It is still possible to live alone in a major city while working in a basic service job or on a minimum wage, and there are career progression opportunities in the big companies (and annual bonuses and raises even for ordinary workers outside the financial sector). As a matter of routine every company pays your commuting costs. Japan has a universal health coverage system that is widely supported and not under threat, and its social security system is still good. This is despite offshoring a lot of factories, and despite decades of low or zero growth. Japan also has excellent infrastructure, which makes the lives of its poorest residents easier, and it still has many publicly funded community services such as community activity centres, libraries, advice bureaus and so on.

Ironically ph makes all his silly assertions about how Japan suffers from offshoring while himself being a part of a protected class of foreign workers – native language english teachers – who despite their incompetence and abominable public behavior remain a privileged class of foreign worker due to the lack of credible Japanese alternatives. Of course Japanese English teachers don’t complain about this and about how foreigners are stealing their jobs (though restaurant owners certainly complain when young, drunk ELTs trash their facilities), even when (as was the case for example in NOVA) the ELTs are paid more than the Japanese staff and worked much shorter hours.

One day ph will say something that is actually factually correct. I’m not holding my breath for that day.


ph 07.27.18 at 10:22 am

Things that aren’t happening in Japan:
Good graphics and commentary.
One of many, plus scholarly studies – Google keyword search: ‘japan regional inequality’
NYT possible pay-wall
– …search: ‘japan offshoring factories’ Yes, just like in America.
“In 2017, household spending dropped 0.1 percent and real wages decreased by 0.2 percent. Wages have fallen 9 percent in real terms since 1997.”
-… ‘Japan two-tier economy’
-…’Japan wants factories’

The last key word search in English confirms that Japanese companies prefer to manufacture offshore. The tensions I’ve described are those detailed first-hand in English by students from various regions studying at three universities in the Tokyo region.

Many of these students would prefer to return to live with/close to their families; many would prefer to live and work in Tokyo. You’re welcome to ignore anything I write on Japan, and any other topic. Unlike my fan-boy I have family in Japan, own a home here, and have a number of Japanese family members who provide me with their own reliable information, not too mention countless friends, former students, and contacts in various governments and companies, some at a very senior level. I don’t drink or smoke myself, but I can attest to the fact that excessive alcohol consumption and throwing-up in public are both very Japanese things to do.

I’m frankly astonished anyone would suggest that regional inequality is not a factor in Japan, as it’s probably the most important and potent issue facing all the Japanese folks ‘unlucky’ enough not to live in Tokyo, or Osaka, and has been for some time. There’s plenty of literature in English on the topic. Not everyone wants to live in London, or New York. Hard for some to believe, it seems.

Finally, an article on how this regional depopulation is affecting universities:


Lee A. Arnold 07.27.18 at 11:22 am

The U.S. Democratic Party is on the slightly better path to the future. Unfortunately they don’t know anything other than the Miltonian Friedmannian economics of “individualism” and so their conceptual tools are abysmal in the argument for redistributive fixes to automation and globalization to help actual individuals succeed in newer local markets for new craft goods and services.

But the Trumpublicans are in far worse mental shape, because Reagan’s calls 40 years ago for smaller government has engineered an eventual rote-ideological collision with reality. The fun game now is to see how far they can continue to push their tribal factlessness into new and more amusing forms of propaganda.

Accordingly! — At present the Trumpublicans appear to half-believe that the “jobs are coming back”. And as a result, they (i.e. Fox et al.) must tout Trump’s jobs and GDP numbers as great strides, even though those numbers are not inflected upwards from Obama’s growth rates, ergo we are on the same Obama growth path — which now looks like it is beginning to lose steam, as the business cycle finally downturns after the financial crash’s long slow recovery.

Examples: Trump has created LESS jobs in the last 18 months than Obama created in the 18 months prior to the election. Today’s quarterly GDP growth will be trumpeted as proof positive for Donald’s policies even though it will be meaningless — and also, not so exceptional: Obama saw 4.6%, then 5.2% growth in the 2nd & 3rd quarters of 2014 for example. (This was followed by a world-wide equities crash which hit real investment everywhere and so brought down the growth numbers everywhere — and just in time to exacerbate frustrations before the 2016 US presidential election.)

The two big numbers TRULY attributable to Trump are: 1. the US stock market (in expectation of the tax cuts) which is just an upper-class gambling casino although it helps some small retirees who own stocks (and who believe that is proof of the virtues of their “individualism”) although the stock market has now retrenched to where it would’ve been in just about any case; and, 2. the US annual budget deficit as percentage of GDP.

Obama got the annual budget deficit, as percentage of GDP, down from 10% to 2% over his 8 years (therefore the total fed debt did continue to grow, but at a decreasing rate). Trump is exploding the annual deficits (via the tax cuts) back up to 5% of GDP over the next few years (see the latest CBO projections, and that’s the rosy scenario). Big Trump Change! Winning!

Now I personally don’t care about the fed debt at all, although in an era when another hegemon (China) is vying for world dominance with a new world reserve currency, US debt may one day in the future become spooky and dangerous. For now though the Trumpublican promise is, we will see increased GDP growth to pay it off. This is the old false mantra — it’s just as Reagan promised, just as George W. Bush promised. (In both cases there were paper bubbles instead — Reagan is the historical start of exploding gov’t debt, moving into the savings & loan bubble & crash. Dubya of course the mortgage derivative bubble propping up residential assets until the housing crash.)

Thing is, right now we SHOULD be seeing increases in the rate of real business investment as a result of the Trump Tax Cuts. It is 7 months since they went into effect. Ain’t happening. Where are the extra Trump GDP growth and extra Trump jobs growth going to come from?

The usual way this played out before, was to move the propaganda into the “starve the beast” strategy: “We got to get those deficits down — by shrinking government, by cutting Social Security and cutting Medicare.” Thus Reagan, thus Bush. And Trump is ready to play it too (and Ryan, until he wisely decided to jump ship). But this didn’t go anywhere before, because elections intervened.

No mention that their tax cuts really didn’t work, so, why the hell not raise taxes to fix it? They left that to Clinton and Obama. But the Democrats were hobbled by the Miltonian Friedmannian baloney…


Faustusnotes 07.27.18 at 5:49 pm

Yes pH there is regional inequality in Japan. Well done, for once you almost got something right! Now if you really try you might be able to identify the causes, and assess whether there are any govt or corporate solutions in place in Japan that are not in the USA. I don’t look forward to your efforts though.


ph 07.28.18 at 12:18 am

@28 Congratulations!

Practically every sentence of your @25 is either an ad hom, a facile generality devoid of context or meaning, and/or badly out of date. You make no mention whatsoever of ‘black companies and their impact,’ no mention of endemic corruption which complicates the reconstruction of the Tohoku region while gifting corporations a massive handout at the taxpayers’ expense called the ‘Tokyo Olympics,’ corporations that create sub-companies that allow all big players to tier wages, pensions, promotions, and benefits – such as access to dormitories, etc. Contra you the tax system is under enormous pressure, as you would have known had your read the linked CFR article on Abenomics. The healthcare system (a mixture of private and public) is also under enormous pressure. Cultural insularity continues to make Japan one of the most immigrant-hostile environments in the world even as birth rates plummet. In short, there’s an enormous bill coming due.

Re: our relative ignorance. I’ve published one piece on Japan on the Meiji period – and only under some pressure. Once in a while I’m asked, but generally refuse. I do not consider myself an expert on Japan, offer only general observations, and would take a back seat to almost anyone on the topic of Japan, including one of my wife’s relations who elected to go into work rather than high school. But not you. You’re demonstrably indifferent to even basic fact, cannot resist the temptation to insult (in direct violation of CT rules – useful only when trying to get others banned), and generally do little other than clap, whine, or stamp your feet as the occasion dictates. You might as well bark.

Henry, this piece from Michael Massing in the Nation is the best thing I’ve read on the information environment in the US. His work is exemplary.


John Quiggin 07.28.18 at 5:35 am

Sebastian @18 You have the argument back to front. Precisely because elections are (mostly) decided by small changes, interpreting narrowly decided election outcomes as representing massive shifts in public attitudes (as McLaren and ph want to do in this thread) is a mistake.


ph 07.28.18 at 6:16 am

@30 If I’ve given the impression that I believe there’s been ‘a massive shift in public attitudes, I apologize. I’ve tried to state that there have been major and significant changes in the behaviors and attitudes of different communities. Case in point: evangelicals choosing for the first-time to support the GOP candidate least likely to embody their core beliefs. That’s significant. Small but critical numbers of Democrats crossing party lines to vote for Trump in the Republican primary in Pennsylvania helped turn make Trump president.

To be clear(er): the entrenched interests at the top of the GOP remain hostile to Trump, but have largely made their peace with him. As you note, the GOP voters came home in large part. The entrenched interests at the top of the Democratic party remain hostile to Sanders and have definitely not made their peace with the ‘progressive’ wing of the Democratic party. The problems facing the Democratic party are much more profound for this reason.

Obama decimated the party at the national, state, and local level to historic lows. It’s unlikely things could get any worse, so progressive Dems should feel good about their chances. Unfortunately, their bench is extremely weak in large part because of the DNC over the last 8 years. That moribund gang of old wrinklies isn’t about to relinquish power, and they’ve still got control of the purse strings.

Very much contra-Corey Robin I have zero faith in anyone under the age of 35 with practically no experience at doing anything but self-promotion doing anything but more self-promotion this time under brand DSA. Dems still lack clear policies, especially on economics, taxes, and immigration. There’s a good piece (in the Nation?) indicating that the only people interested in ‘Russia’ are elites. Had the Obama economy delivered as promised and more of the same seemed the better choice, Hillary would have won warts and all. Too many people wanted something different. Krugman et al lowered the Trump performance bar so low that any success would have made Trump look competent. Now, with 4.1 growth, Democrats are going to have to provide voters with concrete arguments about how they’d do a better job. Not saying that can’t be done, just saying that ‘style’ isn’t going to get people to give up what they’ve gained.

There must be some real socialists in America somewhere.


Faustusnotes 07.28.18 at 6:50 am

Of course I make no mention of those things pH, because your original comment was drawing parallels with America’s experience of globalisation, not contrasting life in a one party semi-socialist state with a two-party oligopoly. Of course you shift the goalposts now because you’re not here to advise or to learn but to do a gish gallop of bullshit. It is no surprise then that you don’t even understand your own comment that I was objecting to, because as we have seen repeatedly here you deal with generalities, stereotypes and lies, not facts.


Faustusnotes 07.28.18 at 6:51 am

Also please try and learn what ad hom means. You’re wrong and you’re stupid is not the same as you’re wrong because you’re stupid.


Hidari 07.28.18 at 9:38 am

Fun facts about Japan.

‘ The CIA secretly sent money to the Liberal Democratic Party in the 1950s and 1960s to help stabilize the LDP-led government and prevent a leftist administration from emerging, according to a U.S. document released Tuesday.

The document, titled “Foreign Relations of the United States, Vol. XXIX, Part 2,” also suggests that some of the CIA money went to moderate members of the now-defunct Japan Socialist Party, the LDP’s rival at the time, apparently to help them form a moderate breakaway.

It is the first time the U.S. government has formally admitted having a covert financial program for Japanese politicians, a State Department official involved in compiling the document said.

The LDP has denied the CIA give the party financial support.

The document says the U.S. government approved “four covert programs to try to influence the direction of Japanese political life” from 1958 to 1968.’

CF also


Lee A. Arnold 07.28.18 at 11:56 am

It ought to be obvious to anyone paying half a whit of attention that the US Democratic Party has very clear policy proposals on taxes and immigration. Reverse the tax cuts for the top 1%. A comprehensive immigration deal that trades increased border security for a path to citizenship for Dreamers etc. — essentially the Kaine-Graham compromise (like a half-dozen other compromises, going back over a decade) which was loudly praised by President Two-Storey Brain at his first ridiculous “round table” for the TV cameras last year, and then ditched by him the VERY NEXT DAY, after the Freedom Caucus got to him.


DrSteveCruel 07.29.18 at 5:44 am


Sebastian H 07.29.18 at 3:49 pm

John, you write “Sebastian @18 You have the argument back to front. Precisely because elections are (mostly) decided by small changes, interpreting narrowly decided election outcomes as representing massive shifts in public attitudes (as McLaren and ph want to do in this thread) is a mistake.”

Maybe I’m misunderstanding how you’re using the argument. Let me sketch the background where I see arguments like “The overlap between Trump voters and Romney voters is close to 100 per cent, which makes nonsense of the idea that people who voted for the former were motivated by opposition to (economic) globalisation.”

Minor digression, but since I’m doing background anyway I might as well, but “opposition to (economic) globalization” isn’t a particularly good mental shorthand for what I’m talking about. For about 40 years the political shorthand is things like “further integration is good for the country” or “globalization makes both sides more prosperous” or “the jobs lost are replaced by better jobs”. And for the most part the country has trusted the experts in that and gone along. But at some point a bunch of the people who have been going along have notice that “good for the country” has never translated into “good for their lives”. At some point they noticed that “both sides more prosperous” never really benefited them. At some point they noticed that the jobs they lost were never replaced by better jobs for them. They’ve lost trust in the experts that the politicians claimed to rely on, and have begun to suspect that the experts were just lying to them.

Digression level 2. The experts will tell us that they of course had caveats even back in the 90s. Quiet caveats, but they were never so simplistic as to believe that ALL of the people would get better jobs. They were never so simplistic as to believe that ALL of the new wealth would be shared. This strikes me as self serving. At the time Krugman et al, was certainly not thinking (and if he was he certainly was not saying) that pretty much none of the people who lost their jobs to globalization would get better jobs. At the time they were not saying that essentially none of the new wealth would be shared with the general population. And even if they were thinking such things, they seemed content enough to let the politicians coalesce around the idea that the wealth would be shared and the job losers would be better off.

End digression.

In the circles I read, statements like “The overlap between Trump voters and Romney voters is close to 100 per cent, which makes nonsense of the idea that people who voted for the former were motivated by opposition to (economic) globalisation.” are used to dismiss the idea that FOR THOSE WHO CHANGED the problems of globalization might have been at the fore. The Rust Belt (the area of the country that ended up changing from Democratic to Republican after going for Democrats since the 80s, and completely reliably post Bush I) is the area hardest hit by the dynamic I sketched above. It has also been slowly drifting toward Republicans but still was very solidly Democratic as of 2015. (I would argue that the slow moving realization about the continued lack of payoff for globalization had its part there). Whether or not Republicans IN GENERAL are motivated by racism, those people specifically took the opportunity to vote for a black president twice. They may be racist in the sense that most people in the world are racist, but they are clearly reachable. Writing them off as “they are racist anyway so we shouldn’t bother trying to appeal to them” is politically foolish since they were willing to vote for a black man for president, so clearly at least some appeals can get them to vote for Democrats. And since they live in an electorally pivotal area, writing them off is doubly silly.

Now, if we are lucky, Trump will have caused enough of a mess that it won’t be close. In that case maybe we don’t ‘need’ those voters. But when Trump is gone we might well need them. The electoral college isn’t going anywhere and many of those medium sized states have just enough EC votes to be pivotal. And since globalization really has caused a bunch of nasty problems that we would be well advised to address, reaching them doesn’t seem like such a chore anyway.

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