“opinion leaders create narratives about how the world works—and then voters essentially buy into one that suits their biases. They pick a team. Social media reinforces each side’s thinking habits. As the election arrives, most voters aren’t doing a cost-benefit analysis—but embracing the candidate who touts the story their team tells (whether it’s true or not).
“Narratives … provide a rich source of information about how people make sense of their lives, about how they construct disparate facts and weave them together cognitively to make sense of reality,” explains a 1998 UC Irvine study. They can be helpful for understanding the world, but they can also send people down a rabbit hole.”
“fewer people can be persuaded by evidence. If you subscribe to the narrative that your opponents want to destroy everything that you find holy and dear, then you’ll put up with anything from a candidate from your tribe. During the 2016 election, Republicans embraced the “Flight 93″ theory—it’s time to rush the cockpit because a Hillary Clinton presidency would crash democracy.
Democrats believe something similar about a Donald Trump re-election, although they’re on more solid ground given that he did indeed try to steal an election and his election-denying acolytes filled the GOP ticket this year. Polls show most GOP voters have bought into that denialism narrative—and no evidence likely will sway them from their vote-stealing fantasies.”
“Jumping on the narrative bandwagon can take you to some morally dubious places. I don’t expect voters to adopt my balls-and-strikes voting strategy. But unless there’s a movement back in that direction, the story of our democracy might not have a happy ending.”
“With Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva’s narrow victory over president Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil—the two-time former president defeated the incumbent by a 1.8 percent margin (50.9 to 49.1)—the Latin American left has completed its strategic dominance over the region’s seven largest countries.
In the 2000s, much was made of Latin America’s so-called “Pink Tide,” which began with Hugo Chávez’s first electoral victory in Venezuela (1998) and da Silva’s first term in Brazil (2002–2006). There followed an unprecedented rise of left-wing governments across the region. However, there were still important holdouts at the time; Mexico and Colombia didn’t veer left at all; Chile maintained its post-Pinochet social democracy; Peru’s original “Pink Tider,” Ollanta Humala, initially scared the markets in 2011 but proved to be mostly moderate in power.
By late 2022, however, hard leftists—often in cahoots with local communist parties—had handily won the last elections in each of these countries and in Argentina, which returned to Peronist Kirchnerism in 2019. Bolsonaro was the last right-winger standing”
“The free market’s price system, along with competition by sellers for customers and by consumers for good deals, play an essential role in gathering and processing the information about our economy that is dispersed among millions of buyers and sellers. The resulting prices are a measurement of how much people value goods and services.
In a well-functioning competitive market, this argument continues, these critical price “reports” tell us the most advantageous ways to use finished goods and services, intermediate goods, raw materials, and—importantly—human time and talent, and lead entrepreneurs to produce what we want most intensely as efficiently as possible. In economics terms, prices convey information about scarcities and about wealth-creating incremental substitutions.
It’s a mind-blowing system where, as French political scientist Frederic Bastiat reminded us decades ago, although no one plans it, “Paris gets fed daily.”
Enter Samuel Gregg and his wonderful new book, The Next American Economy. Gregg’s case for the free market goes beyond the classic economic argument.
He writes that “the case for free markets involves rooting such an economy in what some of its most influential Founders thought should be America’s political destiny; that is, a modern commercial republic.” He adds that “politically, this ideal embodies the idea of a self-governing state in which the governed are regularly consulted; in which the use of the state power is limited by strong commitments to constitutionalism, the rule of law, and private property rights; and those citizens consciously embrace the specific habits and disciplines needed to sustain such a republic.”
Yes! I like to believe I’m a great advocate for markets, but whenever I omit these last points, I sabotage my own case. For one thing, terms like “competitive markets” give the impression of a heartless process. But the most important aspect of this competitive process is cooperation.”
“No serious free marketer believes that markets are perfect. We aren’t utopians. Unfortunately, perfect markets and perfect competition are often the starting point of economic textbooks. This rosy starting point leads many to conclude that when conditions are less than perfect, the best course of action for a correction is government intervention. It’s wrong.
Not only is government itself imperfect, as anyone can plainly see, but the market is a process to find and fix errors. A market imperfection is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to profit. As Arnold Kling recently wrote, “Markets fail. Use markets.” That’s because, Kling adds, “entrepreneurial innovation and creative destruction tends to solve economic problems, including market failures.”
This isn’t to say that the government plays no role aside from protecting property rights. But it means that faith in government intervention should be tempered with an acknowledgment of government’s own flaws, including a tendency to favor one group of people over another and an inability to adapt when policies fail or circumstances change.
The bottom line is that when we talk about the “free market,” it is a shorthand for a combination of institutions that allow people to cooperate, tolerate one another, live in peace, and flourish. As Gregg reminds us, all these elements are a quintessential part of what President George Washington envisioned for the new nation he led and described as “a great, a respectable & a commercial nation.””
“Alito is not just a conservative. He’s not a consistent “originalist” in the vein of Scalia or Justice Clarence Thomas, only a “practical” one. The key to understanding Alito is not judicial philosophy or ardent conservatism: it’s his anger — an anger that resonates with the sentiments of many voters, especially white and male ones, who feel displaced by recent social and cultural changes. If you want to understand what to expect from the post-Roberts Court, paying attention to that anger pays dividends.”
“Alito’s anger consistently sounds in a register of cultural decline, bemoaning the growing prominence of women and minorities in American life. Writing the majority opinion in Hobby Lobby, which endorsed a company’s right to deny employees contraception coverage, Alito waxed lyrically about the “men and women who wish to run their businesses as for-profit corporations in the manner required by their religious beliefs.” The women denied medical care that facilitates participation in the labor market, in contrast, weren’t a concern. Examining a Washington state regulation of pharmacists, Alito was quick to detect “hostility” to conservative religious beliefs. And in an opinion repudiating New Haven’s effort to promote more Black firefighters, Alito alone trawled the history of the case to complain about the role played by a Black pastor who was an ally of the city’s mayor and had “threatened a race riot.” Black involvement in municipal politics, for Alito, appears as a sinister threat to public order.
In stark contrast, when the charge of discrimination is made on behalf of racial or religious minorities, Alito expresses no such solicitude. He does not search for evidence of bias. Instead, he takes an impossibly narrow view of job-related discrimination that demands women somehow instinctively know they are being paid less than male counterparts. Despite his claim to a “just the facts ma’am” approach, Alito has a distinctively constricted take on what the “facts” are. To read his opinions is to inhabit a world in which it is white Christian men who are the principal targets of invidious discrimination, and where a traditional way of life marked by firm and clear gender rules is under attack.
When it comes to the criminal justice system, Alito is a reliable vote for the most punitive version of the state. In 2016, when the Supreme Court invalidated Florida’s death-penalty scheme on Sixth Amendment grounds, only Alito dissented. When the court, a year earlier, found a federal sentencing rule for armed offenders unconstitutionally vague, only Alito voted for the prosecution. It’s difficult to think of cases where Alito has voted for a criminal defendant, or any other litigant that elicits liberal sympathies.”
“In November 2020, Alito gave a keynote speech to the conservative legal organization the Federalist Society. Much criticized at the time for its partisan tone “befitting a Trump rally,” in the words of one critic, those remarks are useful because they prefigure where a court on which Alito is a dominant voice might go.
In that speech, Alito criticized pandemic restrictions by bemoaning the rise of “scientific” policymaking. He complained about the “protracted campaign” and “economic boycotts” of Catholic groups and others with “unpopular religious beliefs” (self-identified Christians make up some 63 percent of the American populace). And he (falsely) warned of “morning after pills that destroy an embryo after fertilization.” If that speech is any guide — and there is no reason to think it won’t be — the future of the Supreme Court will be increasingly one of religious censor: keeping women in their lane, standing up for Christian rights, and making sure that uppity “scientists” in the federal government don’t get their wicked way.”
“The country many times over has witnessed dissent and disruption far more violent than anything seen in recent years. But earlier episodes featured profound ideological and moral questions — easily visible to the naked eye, in the present and to historians afterward — that lay at the heart of the matter.
The real Civil War was about slavery — at the start, to restrict its territorial expansion, by war’s end to eliminate it entirely. Capitalists opposed to the New Deal knew why they loathed FDR — he was fundamentally shifting the balance of power between public and private sectors — and FDR knew, too: “They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.” The unrest of the 1960s was about ending segregation and stopping the Vietnam War.
Only in recent years have we seen foundation-shaking political conflict — both sides believing the other would turn the United States into something unrecognizable — with no obvious and easily summarized root cause. What is the fundamental question that hangs in the balance between the people who hate Trump and what he stands for and the people who love Trump and hate those who hate him? This is less an ideological conflict than a psychological one.”
“in many ways, the Supreme Court’s conservative revolution is already here: The court hasn’t been this ideologically tilted in almost 100 years. Capturing the full breadth of this shift is difficult because the metrics we use to measure the court’s ideology are driven by hard-to-track factors like the types of cases the court takes up. For the first time in decades, too, a single justice isn’t holding the reins. The conservative justices can now assemble a majority more easily, giving them the power to push the court even further right.
That power may take some adjusting to — for both the public and the justices. The past term showed that there will still be plenty of room for disagreement on the precise path forward. One example was a high-profile religious liberty case where the most conservative justices took their fellow GOP appointees to task for issuing a ruling they saw as too timid. And the main priority of the liberal justices, now distinctly in the minority, appeared to be damage control. Moreover, some big decisions were taking place outside the public eye.”
“According to the Supreme Court Database, 60 percent of all decisions last term went in a conservative direction, as well as 59 percent of close decisions — which is to say, decisions in which the minority side had three or four votes. That makes the court’s previous term the most conservative term since 2008”
“Increasingly, too, the justices are making big decisions without fully explaining their reasoning, through cases that have emerged through the court’s “shadow docket,” where the justices are asked to rule quickly, without the extensive legal briefing or oral arguments that happen in normal Supreme Court cases. Sometimes, these orders are only one sentence long. And the justices don’t have to say how they voted or why.
Normally, this swiftness and secrecy isn’t especially newsworthy because the rulings that come out of the shadow docket just aren’t that significant. But that has changed in recent years. Some of the court’s biggest rulings in the past year — including its decision to strike down COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings and its decision to allow a highly restrictive abortion law to go into effect in Texas — came out of the shadow docket.
The shadow docket is very difficult to track, for obvious reasons — it’s hard to know what the justices are even doing.”
“The battle in Peru is no longer about who won the election; it’s about preserving the country’s constitution. Drafted in 1993, the current constitution underpins the free market policies that helped the country reduce its poverty rate by roughly one-half, nearly triple its per capita income, and even slash inequality (as measured by a 12-percentage-point reduction in the Gini coefficient between 1998 and 2019). As Ian Vásquez and Ivan Alonso write for the Cato Institute, during the last decades, “Peruvians have experienced dramatic and widely shared improvements in well-being.”
Peru’s economic success is a rather new development. As recently as August 1990, the country experienced a 397 percent monthly inflation rate. Previously, dictator Juan Velasco Alvarado, a military officer who led a coup d’état in 1968, had nationalized key industries, creating state monopolies in oil and mining, fisheries, and food production, among other key sectors. He also expropriated large tracts of land and severely restricted imports, all according to a five-year plan of national production. Economists César Martinelli and Marco Vega argue that Velasco Alvarado’s statist program cost Peru “sizable losses” in economic growth during two decades, leading to the hyperstagflation of the late 1980s.
Once in power, Alberto Fujimori, who won the presidential election in 1990, took drastic measures to stabilize prices, mainly by restricting the money supply and government deficits. Meanwhile, he deregulated markets and shrank the state’s size by privatizing state-owned companies.”
“Today, the constitution is the only obstacle in the way of President-elect Castillo’s party platform, which praises Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro while promising a back-to-the-past agenda of nationalizing the mining sector and other major industries, expropriating land, and getting rid of Peru’s successful private pension system, which administers approximately USD $40.7 billion in citizens’ savings. Much like Velasco Alvarado, who nationalized news media companies, Castillo’s “Free Peru” party plans to “regulate” the press, claiming that a “muckraking” media is “fatal” to democracy.”
“Castillo’s “Free Peru” party calls for a new constitution to replace the one in place, which it rejects as “individualist, mercantilist, privatizing, and defeatist” in the face of foreign interests.”
“According to a recent poll, 77 percent of Peruvians are against doing away with the current constitution. As YouTuber Mirko Vidal remarks, this suggests that a good portion of Castillo’s vote wasn’t pro-Marxist as much as anti-Fujimori.
It remains to be seen whether Peru’s institutions can withstand Castillo’s certain onslaught once he is in power. It would be no surprise if he tried to get rid of term limits, a classic recipe of 21st century socialists such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, caudillos who, like Alberto Fujimori, won an election and changed the rules of the game so as to hold on to power. Another similarity with Chávez and Morales is Castillo’s blend of anti-capitalist dogma with a strong sense of social conservatism; he opposes same-sex marriage, a “gender-focus” in education, and large-scale immigration. Repeatedly, he has promised to expel all illegal immigrants—meaning many of the 1 million Venezuelans who arrived in the country as they fled from Chavista socialism—just 72 hours after taking office. While these stances are electorally savvy, they make Castillo an odd bedfellow of the foreign progressives who praise him with titles such as son of the soil.”
“In 2004, Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Toomey was the face of the conservative insurgency. An anti-taxes, anti-spending hawk, Toomey was one of many conservative upstarts who primaried a more moderate fellow Republican; in Toomey’s case, longtime Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter.
The Republican president at the time, George W. Bush, sided with Specter, who ultimately won by less than 2 percentage points. After Specter switched parties in 2009 when polls showed Toomey defeating him in a primary, Toomey won the seat in 2010.1
But despite the conservative bona fides that helped Toomey get elected, he experienced backlash from the GOP after becoming one of seven Senate Republicans to join Democrats in voting to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.
Toomey’s transition from conservative insurgent to a pariah among certain factions of his party is not unique, though.
Sen. Mitt Romney called himself “severely conservative” during his 2012 presidential bid and planned to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But when he became a senator years later, he often bucked Trump’s agenda and twice voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trials, facing a drumbeat of criticism from Republicans in response.
To be clear, Toomey, Romney and now-ousted GOP party leader Rep. Liz Cheney have not abandoned the policy views that a decade ago flagged them as conservatives. But in the interim, Trump and his presidency may have shifted the ideological ground beneath their feet.”
“looking just at our 2021 survey data, a politician’s support for Trump has come to define who party activists think of as conservative. Romney, Toomey and Sasse were all rated as fairly liberal Republicans despite their conservative voting records in Congress”
“Staunchly pro-Trump politicians (or Trump-adjacent politicians), like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Sens. Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and Lindsey Graham, and Trump were all clustered together on the more conservative end of the spectrum, even though there is quite a bit of difference, ideologically speaking, between these men.”
“despite his ideological heterodoxies, Trump was rated as more conservative than all but 10 of the 114 politicians we asked about. Ideology, in other words, isn’t just about policies.5”
“the GOP has embraced many policy positions—and attitudes—that have little to do with advancing human liberty. Throughout my career, conservatives and libertarians have been allies on many issues and at odds on others, but now we’re like residents of different planets.
For instance, both groups agreed on the dangers of Soviet expansion. Libertarians, however, warned that giving American security agencies too much power would undermine liberties at home. Conservatives and libertarians worked together to fight progressive assaults on property rights, but libertarians wondered why conservatives couldn’t see how the drug war undermined those goals.
Still, we had many opportunities to work together. Whereas conservatives in Europe never had a problem using big-government to achieve their ends, American conservatives were about “conserving” America’s particular traditions. Our nation’s founding fathers were classical liberals, so conservatives often defended libertarian ideals.
The Trump era solidified long-brewing changes in the conservative movement, as it moved toward a more European-style approach that wasn’t concerned about limits on government power. Trump wasn’t a political thinker, but a marketing savant who tapped into popular and often-legitimate resentments of the increasingly “woke” Left.
Republican politicians mostly stood by Trump, even as he shattered democratic norms and reshaped conservative policy prescriptions, less out of fear of Trump himself and more out of fear of the conservative grassroots voter. What does it even mean to be a conservative these days?
In 2020, the GOP dispensed with its platform and passed a resolution stating its enthusiast support for the president’s agenda. Party platforms are unenforceable, but they provide the faithful with an opportunity to create a mission statement. Apparently, being a conservative now means supporting whatever the leader happens to believe.
Such an approach is temperamentally and philosophically non-conservative, as are many of the goals of the Trumpiest wannabes. Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), best known for giving a fist pump to MAGA protesters before some of them stormed the Capitol, recently introduced a plan to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.”
“MAGA conservatives want libertarians to join their tribe, but their publications offer frequent attacks on the free market. The populist right wants to boost federal spending, impose draconian immigration controls, expand the power of police and spy agencies, step up the drug war and, well, stop when you see something of value to libertarians.
Since Reagan, conservatism has revolved around four concepts, explains Jonathan Last in The Bulwark, a right-leaning anti-Trump publication. There was “temperamental conservatism,” which worried about the consequences of progressive social engineering. There also was “foreign-affairs conservatism,” “fiscal conservatism” and “social conservatism.”
“‘Conservatism’ as it is now viewed by the majority of people who identify as conservatives—and who once believed in all or most of those four precepts—is now about one thing and one thing only: Revanchism,” Last wrote. Sure, I had to look it up, but “revanchism” means “a policy of seeking to retaliate, especially to recover lost territory.”
Yes, that “own the libs” approach has muscled out principled discussions about long-held conservative ideals and goals.”
“slow change rather than dramatic progress, a focus on prudence, trust in human liberty and variety, respect for societal norms, love of virtue, and commitment to social peace—are at odds with the nihilistic bomb throwing of a conservative populist movement that seems as radical at times as its progressive enemy.”