Saturday, May 13, 2017

Coming Home To America

This is a personal observation at an odd point in time.  I just spent nearly four months out of the US, mostly in Florence, Italy, but also in China, Israel, Malta, Spain, Croatia, Ireland, UK, Poland, and France.  I gave talks at various universities; I saw and talked with many people, and I read newspapers in local languages in several of these nations as well as experiencing their media.  I lived abroad long enough to get a strong feel for how people in many nations abroad think, even if arguably my sample was skewed to some extent.  However, I have now been back long enough to see what is going on here in the USA, to experience it, especially after this past week, while still not fully back into the groove here, still having as a short term memory of these perspectives from abroad. So I want to share how that is.

It is not pretty, as most reading this will not be surprised to learn.  Even among conservative foreigners who do not know one, if you are an American and you are speaking with them at all seriously for more than a few seconds, one of the first things they will want to know if if you are "one of  them," you know, supporters of Donald J. Trump.  They were all relieved when I informed them that, no, I was not.  Now I know that there are many people in other countries who are sympathetic to  him, and he has been sympathetic back, those who support authoritarian nationalism, and some countries contain many such types. But since Trump won in the US, these people have been losing elections pretty much all over, with the exception of Erdogan's referendum in Turkey, which Trump congratulated him on, even though it was close with allegations of fraud, and, of course Erdogan celebrated his victory and Trump's congratulations by arresting and torturing several more thousands of people.

There are some contradictory polls out there. So one poll from last year claimed that 77% of the world's people supported Trump over Clinton. Maybe, but probably not.  Specific polls in some nations supported that, especially in Russia, where Trump was definitely popular, maybe more so than anywhere else in the world, big surprise.  He also appears to have been quite popular in Poland according to one poll. Certainly various authoritarian leaders supported him, with Hungary's Oban and Egypt's al-Sissi and Turkey's Erdogan on the list along with Putin, of course.  The Saudi leaders have and continue to support him, although polls suggest their enthusiasm is not shared by their populace.  Likewise in Israel, Netanyahu has been all for him, even though prior to the election more people supported Clinton than him. In most other nations he has had terrible poll ratings, with one poll from last year showing only 9% of Europeans as a whole supporting him.  And it looks like he has gone down hill in support in most places, just as the polls show as well in the US.  Thus to go to his once most supportive nation, Russia,  a poll at the end of April had only 13% supporting him against 39% against.  No wonder their foreign minister appears to view him with contempt as exhibited by his reaction when SecState Tillerson told him before he met with Trump that Trump had just fired the FBI director: "You're kidding."  This is a man who played the ultimate role in helping the Iran nuclear deal negotiations come to a successful conclusion, not a fool.

And of course in our neighbor and major trading partner, Mexico, only 3% support him, with even that level surprising given his behavior toward that nation, long a US friend and ally, if not always.

I also checked polls for the Most Admired Person In The World, finding the most recent one from slightly over a year ago on May 7, 2016 from yougov.  The top three men were Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Xi Jinping.  Putin was 6th, with the Dalai Lama at 8th, Pope Francis at 13th, and Bernie Sanders at 20th, the farthest down they went. Trump was not on the list.  The top three women were Angelina Jolie, Queen Elizabeth, and Hillary Clinton, with Angela Merkel at 8th and Marine Le Pen at 20th.  A Gallup poll of Americans in December had Obama as the most respected, far ahead of Trump.  In any case, all of  this just reinforces that Trump is viewed very negatively around the world, even in countries where the leaders are making friendly noises to him, such as in Japan.

 So how do  I feel about all this?  I must say that I am glad to have been out of the country for the last few months, to have some distance from the grind of partisan media and social media that is here, which I am now experiencing full blast, and seeing how it just sucks one in.  I pay attention to Fox and some other rightist outlets, but I see how the bubbles are really strong, how one just gets caught up in the scandal  of the moment and so on.  Heck, just to note, so many think this is it for Trump, but so many thought that a year ago after his "grab 'em by their pussies" remark came out, and here he is president.  Those of you seeing him about to be impeached, sorry, no, his support is hanging in there at well over 30% and the GOP in Congress remains more afraid of Trumpist primary challengers than of Dem opponents doing them in, although the health care issue may yet change all that.  But that is not an impeachment issue, that is a midterm election issue, and it is normal for an incumbent president to lose badly in midterms.  Reagan did so in 1982, and he took 49 states two years later, not that I am predicting that for Trump in 2020.  But a lot of you need to step outside of your bubble, and I am addressing those I agree with.

What really concerns me is the bubble of the hanging-in-there Trump supporters.  I must confess that my long absence where everyone I have met has viewed them as people beyond belief and utterly beneath contempt has affected me, and that is how they are viewed, like they are no better than Nazis, really.  Yes, I recognize that Trump has not done many bad things he promised he would do (and is not a Nazi), but from what the rest of the world thinks, he looks like a total disaster of an incompetent and unpredictable president, profoundly frightening because he has his finger on the nuclear trigger and can end the world in a flash of fitful anger.  I know that support for him has been drifting downward in the US, and the opposition/Resistance to him has been ferocious here.  But his core supporters in their Fox News/alt-right media bubble continue to hang on, although it seems that they may be becoming somewhat desperate.  I have been watching Fox and I am astounded at how much time they are spending conjuring up how the new FBI director will restart the investigations of Hillary Clinton, and how Trump goes to  rallies where these people continue to chant "Lock her up,"when he is clearly the most criminal and corrupt president in the history of the nation. They are getting further and further disconnected from reality in their desperation to believe in their man.

If anything has shocked me it has been how ferocious and bitter these people have become, viciously and wildly attacking others they disagree with on social media in a frenzy unlike what I saw before I left, before Trump became president.  It is clear that many of them are seriously disillusioned and upset, but those hanging in there are lashing out irrationally at those criticizing their hero.   I am deeply worried about this and where it could lead.  I sort of intellectually realized this might be the case before I returned, but seeing it after I got here is really upsetting.  I do not see how this is going to end, and I fear it will be very hard for these people ultimately.

Objectively I have to say that anybody still supporting Trump is one of at least the following three, or three and a half things: stupid, crazy, or a fascist racist.  I might have said that before I left, but no, I would not as I knew many loyal and reasonable Republicans who supported him out of party loyalty, if without enthusiasm.  But after what has gone down over the last few months, which my absence has made me see very clearly, this sort of view is no longer acceptable.  The only possible excuse now is that one has simply gotten totally ensconced in the media bubble supporting him and pays no attention to anything else.  So, yes, I recognize that there are still at least semi-intelligent and not insane or totally socially awful people who continue to support  him sitting in these bubbles.  But the bubble is getting really stretched out and thin, and pretty much the rest of the world can see it, even in places like Russia where they once liked Trump.  They now view him as seriously dangerous for the whole world, and chanting "America First" will not change that reality.

Barkley Rosser


Peter said...

Krugman recently wrote this about France's election:

"But we should also be worried that a Macron victory will be taken by Brussels and Berlin to mean that Brexit was an aberration, that European voters can always be intimidated into going along with what their betters say is necessary.

So let’s be clear: Even if the worst is avoided this Sunday, all the European elite will get is a time-limited chance to mend its ways."

Center left parties across the West have been failing these past 40 years and we're seeing the results. Globalization needs to be reworked as does the welfare state. Mainstream economists have failed us.

What gives me hope is that there is a lot of opposition to Trump here in the U.S. and across the globe. His upcoming visit to the UK will probably see the largest protest there we've seen in a long time.

AXEC / E.K-H said...

Economists ― blinded by political balloons
Comment on Barkley Rosser on ‘Coming Home To America’

In 1935, Indiana Jones sits with Lao Che, a crime boss in Shanghai, at a large round table in a night club.#1 Indy takes a drink, then he is told by Lao Che that he just drank poison and is shown a vial with the antidote. Indy jumps over the table to grab the vial but it falls to the ground and is kicked crisscross over the floor by the dancing crowd. Finally, in growing panic, Indy completely loses sight of the vial because the whole room is flooded with balloons. The chances of finding the vial among the balloons being almost identical to zero, anyone else would have given up.

This is a good metaphor for the situation in economics. All one has to do is to equate vial with true theory and balloons with political economics. The main differences between the two being: (i) The goal of political economics is to successfully push an agenda, the goal of theoretical economics is to successfully explain how the actual economy works (= true theory). (ii) In political economics anything goes; in theoretical economics scientific standards are observed.

Economics is a failed science but for the general public this is hard to see. Political economics has filled the room with colorful balloons up to the ceiling, i.e. with models, SS-DD-crosses, and good-guy-bad-guy stories. Independent of their color ― Walrasian, Keynesian, Marxian, or Austrian ― the content of the balloons consists of tepid exhaust air.

Fact is that theoretical economics (= science) has vanished from sight. Under the false flag of economics, the general public is incessantly flooded with political balloons.

A case in point is Barkley Rosser’s story ‘In four month around the world’, which starts and ends with musings about Mr. Trump. The surrealism of the story consists in the fact that an incompetent economist scans non-american newspapers and polls non-american people about a hitherto unknown businessman/entertainer who claims to represent the american people. Barkley Rosser, of course, is not alone. A lot of other economists cannot hold their political farts and relieve themselves in their blogs.

Blinded and paralyzed by a cloud of political balloons, the general public has lost sight of the fact that Barkley Rosser’s opinion about Mr. Trump has nothing whatsoever to do with economics. Economics is the science that deals with how the economy works. Science is knowledge, while non-science is opinion and storytelling. Knowledge is valuable, opinion is worthless. There is a scarcity of knowledge in economics and an abundance of opinion.

Economics urgently needs a heavy dose of scientific knowledge and not the political opinion of failed economists like Barkley Rosser, who cannot tell until this day what profit is.#2 It is a rather boring repetition since 200+ years that economists who do not understand how the economy works dabble in politics where they understand even less.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 YouTube

#2 See also ‘What is so great about cargo cult science? or, How economists learned to stop worrying about failure’ said...


Econospeak and its predecessor, the earlier version of Maxspeak, have always involved lots of political commentary, some of it connected to economics, some of it not. I have always commented on a regular basis about foreign policy matters not directly connected to economics because I happen to know a lot about it.

So, your whining about some of us commenting on politics or political economics is just out of place and silly.

But then, what can one expect of somebody who denies that if wages fall, holding prices and everything else constant, profits rise?

Sandwichman said...

Egmont: "Knowledge is valuable, opinion is worthless."

Well that is just your opinion, Egmont. And you are correct -- it is worthless.

AXEC / E.K-H said...

Barkley Rosser

You argue: “… what can one expect of somebody who denies that if wages fall, holding prices and everything else constant, profits rise?”

Nobody ever denied this junior-consultant wisdom. Partial mom-and-pop-store economics, though, stands under the proviso of ceteris paribus. Ceteris paribus in turn PROHIBITS generalization. For the economy as a WHOLE there is NO ceteris paribus. Partial analysis is methodologically dead since Marshall.*

For the economy as a WHOLE holds that a reduction of the wage rate does NOT affect monetary profit under the standard conditions of budget balancing and market clearing. To understand this elementary economic theorem is as hard or as easy as to understand a^2+b^2=c^2.

Mom and pop did not need an economics professor to understand that they can increase their profit if they lowered the wage rate CETERIS PARIBUS. The fact of the matter is that in the past 140+ years economics professors NEVER rose above mom-and-pop-store wisdom. Or, as the iconic businessman Mr. Trump likes to tweet: SAD!

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

* See ‘Marshall: a monument of scientific incompetence’

Thornton Hall said...

In France, there are no racial demographics for the express reason that they do not trust themselves not to use them to round people up.

Meanwhile, the US is on the verge of becoming the first majority minority democracy in the history of the world. (You may disputes this b/c of your academic bubble. See Rorty, "Achieving Our Country")

If you asked the Florentines to live in a country run by Sicilians, that might have some bearing on our present situation.

Self-esteem is a pre-requisite for self-improvement. The academic left is the base of resistance to this.

Find a country that could create Johnny B Goode, Pulp Fiction, and Beyoncé and then tell us what they think of Trump. said...


You have two very serious problems with your profit theory that render it so vacuous as to be a joke. The first is your claim that when wages change prices change also and by just as much in the same direction. Not only is this not in true in general, it is almost never true. This is a patently false claim for many reasons. Funny that someone claiming to be "scientific" bases his theory on something utterly empirically false.

The other involves your "common sense" assumption of "market clearing." Perhaps you have another meaning for this term, but to most people "market clearing" is the same as equilibrium, supply equals demand, which occurs when there are no changes in inventory. Likewise, this does not hold in general, although it happens a lot more than the totally ridiculous business of prices and wages supposedly moving in tandem. Many markets do clear, but many do not. And of course the problem of the existence of equilibrium is in fact a deep and difficult one, not one to be just assumed based on "common sense." This is why far from common sense fixed point theorems got dragged into it by one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, the late John von Neumann, along with John Nash, not to mention Arrow and Debreu.

I am sorry, but science is not based on common sense. There is nothing remotely common sensical about quantum mechanics or relativity. And those who claim the earth is flat or that all species were specially created generally rely on "common sense" for their arguments.

Your theory is utterly empty and useless, based on outright false assumptions. Everybody knows it. Deal with it.

AXEC / E.K-H said...

Barkley Rosser

You say: “I am sorry, but science is not based on common sense.”

No need to be sorry, I have NOWHERE argued pro common sense, just the opposite.#1

You say: “You have two very serious problems with your profit theory that render it so vacuous as to be a joke. The first is your claim that when wages change prices change also and by just as much in the same direction. Not only is this not in true in general, it is almost never true.”

The elementary Profit Law Qm=-Sm is UNIVERSAL, that is, it does NOT AT ALL depend on any specific assumption about market clearing or budget balancing.#2

Under the ADDITIONAL CONDITIONS of market clearing and budget balancing for the economy as a whole follows the Law of Supply and Demand as P=W/R, that is, the market clearing price moves with the wage rate and inversely to the productivity. Market clearing and budget balancing are the standard assumptions of Econ 101 and I have explicitly stated what happens if these assumptions do not hold.#2

Note that the Profit Law and the Law of Supply and Demand are two different things.

What you also do not get is that, for a start, two logical LIMITING CASES (market clearing, budget balancing) are analyzed. NO claim has been made that the limiting cases are realized because it is pretty OBVIOUS that reality lies between the logical limiting cases.

Limiting cases are ANALYTICAL tools and almost everybody understands that physicists who analyze friction-free motion as a limiting case DO NOT claim that motion on earth is friction-free.#3 It is the privilege of morons/common sensers/realists to brainlessly repeat again and again that limiting cases are “almost never true”. Yes, and just because of this limiting conditions are always lifted in the sequel.

You say: “And of course the problem of the existence of equilibrium is in fact a deep and difficult one, not one to be just assumed based on ‘common sense’.”

The problem of equilibrium is neither deep nor difficult but nonexistent because equilibrium is a NONENTITY.#4 Equilibrium is introduced as the 5th axiom of the Walrasian axiom set,#5 which in turn is as a WHOLE pure proto-scientific garbage and forever unacceptable.

This is common knowledge since 20 years: “At long last, it can be said that the history of general theory from Walras to Arrow-Debreu has been a journey down a blind alley, and it is historians of economic thought who seem to have finally hammered down the nails in this coffin. It has been a dead alley because the most rigorous solution of the existence problem by Arrow and Debreu turns general theory into a mathematical puzzle applied to a virtual economy that can be imagined but could not possibly exist, while the extremely relevant ‘stability problem’ has never been solved either rigorously or sloppily. General theory is simply a research program that has run into the sands.” (Blaug)

Nobody, except scientifically incompetent blatherers at Trump University or at blogs like EconoSpeak or at peer-reviewed quality journals applies the concepts of equilibrium or partial profit maximization any more. Scientists know: If it isn’t macro-axiomatized, it isn’t economics.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 See ‘The bigots of common sense’

#2 See ‘True macrofoundations: the reset of economics’

#3 See ‘Complexity and stupidity’

#4 See ‘Ground Control to David Glasner’

#5 “HC1 economic agents have preferences over outcomes; HC2 agents individually optimize subject to constraints; HC3 agent choice is manifest in interrelated markets; HC4 agents have full relevant knowledge; HC5 observable outcomes are coordinated, and must be discussed with reference to equilibrium states.” (Weintraub) said...

This is hilarious, Egmont. You denounce nearly all economists because they supposedly accept various axioms that you declare not to be true, even though many do not accept those axioms. However, when it is pointed out that the axioms you assume are also not true in general, with one of them almost never true, you suddenly move to declaring them to be "limiting cases" and that you are so brilliantly operating in some intermediate zone where you have it all solved, unlike all the other economists who study models that rely on axioms that they know are not true in general, but you denounce as being "unscientific."

Your hypocrisy is boundless, Egmont, boundless.

BTW, I apologize to other readers that I am wasting time putting it to Egmont, but I figure somebody should. This will be all for this round. Of course he will provide another round, but I doubt it will be any more coherent or consistent or logical than what he has already said. Enough for now, anyway.

Thornton Hall said...

In the future people will wonder how anyone could have been so stupid as to treat physics as the paradigmatic science when the subject was biology.

AXEC / E.K-H said...

Barkley Rosser

You say: “You denounce nearly all economists because they supposedly accept various axioms that you declare not to be true, even though many do not accept those axioms.”

Standard economics is defined by the Walrasian axiom set. Whether the representative economist is aware of it or not, methodological fact is that ALL of economics from the Econ 101 textbook to the fixpoint theorem to DSGE is built upon this set. Or, as Krugman so aptly put it: “most of what I and many others do is sorta-kinda neoclassical because it takes the maximization-and-equilibrium world as a starting point.”

You, too, argue with maximization and equilibrium. Obviously, you are not clearly aware that you subscribe to the Walrasian axioms, just like people who write down 2+2=4 are not aware that they are applying the Dedekind–Peano axioms.#1

To take the maximization-and-equilibrium world as starting point, though, is sheer stupidity since 140+ years. There can be NO argument about this, either one realizes it by looking at the axioms or not. The vast majority of mentally retarded econ students realizes nothing, swallows this proto-scientific rubbish and cling to it for the rest of their lives.

Keynes draw the correct conclusion from the manifest failure of standard economics: “The classical theorists resemble Euclidean geometers in a non-Euclidean world who, discovering that in experience straight lines apparently parallel often meet, rebuke the lines for not keeping straight ― as the only remedy for the unfortunate collisions which are occurring. Yet, in truth, there is no remedy except to throw over the axiom of parallels and to work out a non-Euclidean geometry. Something similar is required to-day in economics.”

Here you have it since 80 years: economists have to abandon the Walrasian axioms. Obviously, economists failed to work out a non-Walrasian economics, while mathematicians/physicists were successful in working out the non-Euclidean geometry. This is why physicists proceeded to quantum mechanics while economists do not know since 200+ years what profit is.

The Keynes quote tells you in simple words what has to be done and makes it clear that economics is still a scientific failure because it has not yet been done. Krugman and the rest of mental retards still live in the maximization-and-equilibrium world, more precisely, in one of the pointless variants of this proto-scientific hallucination.#2

From the fact that the Walrasian axioms are provable false and that Keynes’s move from microfoundations to macrofoundations failed follows that economic policy proposals NEVER had a sound scientific foundation. Economics in its four variants ― Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism ― is just brain-dead political blather.

Your comments are another instant of the substandard level of economic discussion: “The currently prevailing pattern of economic theorizing exhibits the following three characteristics: (1) a syncopated style of argument fluctuating back and forth between literary and symbolic modes of expression, (2) naive translation, or the loose paraphrasing of formulae into sentences, and (3) loose verbal reasoning for certain aspects of theoretical argumentation where explicit symbolic formulation is lacking.” (Dennis, 1982)

Both microfounded Walrasian economics and macrofounded Keynesian economics is proto-scientific rubbish. The truth-value of economics is zero or less. Because economics is axiomatically false it cannot be repaired only abandoned. This means practically that the whole bunch of what Joan Robinson called the ‘throng of superfluous economists’ has to be retired. To do this voluntarily and as fast as possible is the only thing that the representative economist can do for the welfare of humanity.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 Wikipedia

#2 See ‘Mr. Keynes, Prof. Krugman, IS-LM, and the End of Economics as We Know It’

Sandwichman said...


Eggbot is a Turing machine.

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