Steven Pinker: what can we expect from the 2020s?
by Steven Pinker
As “9” on the calendar rolls over to a fresh “0”, many people are desperate for a ray of optimism to pierce the gloom of the daily headlines. Having published a hundred graphs documenting human progress, I’m often asked for reassurance that we will overcome our problems and that the coming decade will not just bring intensifying crises and declines.
Progress is a historical fact. The numbers show that over the past seven decades humans have become (on average) longer-lived, healthier, safer, richer, freer, fairer, happier and smarter, not just in the west but worldwide.
Progress is not, however, a natural force. The laws of the universe are indifferent to our wellbeing, with vastly more things that can go wrong than go right. And our species evolved for advantages in the struggle to reproduce, not for happiness or wisdom. The first step in thinking about the future is to reconcile human progress with human nature.
The progress we have enjoyed has come from empowering the better angels of our nature. We are a cognitive species, with the wherewithal to solve problems and the linguistic means to pool solutions. We are a co-operative species, joining forces to achieve outcomes we cannot achieve individually. And we are an intermittently empathetic species, capable of concern with the wellbeing of others.
These gifts were amplified by ideas and institutions advocated during the Enlightenment and entrenched after the second world war: reason, science, liberal democracy, declarations of rights, a free press, regulated markets, institutions of international co-operation.
But this progress is invisible to most people because they don’t get their understanding of the world from numbers; they get it from headlines. Journalism by its very nature conceals progress, because it presents sudden events rather than gradual trends. Most things that happen suddenly are bad: a war, a shooting, an epidemic, a scandal, a financial collapse. Most things that are good consist either of nothing happening — like a nation that is free of war or famine — or things that happen gradually but compound over the years, such as declines in poverty, illiteracy and disease.
On top of this built-in pessimism, market forces add layers of glumness. People dread losses more than they appreciate gains, so prophets can stoke their vigilance by warning them about looming disasters they may have overlooked. Popular forecasters are not actuaries who extrapolate and adjust medium-term trends but playwrights who titillate our imaginations with high-concept tragedies and horror stories.
So for every Age of Aquarius with electricity too cheap to meter, there are a dozen dystopias. In my lifetime I have survived a thermonuclear third world war, a population bomb, depletion of oil and minerals, a civilisation-ending Y2K bug, weekly 9/11-scale terrorist attacks, and a mushroom cloud from Saddam Hussein. Those who recall the fall of the Berlin Wall as opening a window of optimism have bad memories. Experts at the time warned of revanchism in a unified Germany, a rising sun in Japan and a longing for the stability of a bipolar world. A 1994 Atlantic cover story foretold a “coming anarchy” of world wars, spiralling crime, exploding Aids and the break-up of Nigeria, China, India and the US.
So how can we think about the 2020s without melodrama? Progress does not literally have momentum, but many of its drivers are not going away. Science and medicine continue to explore their endless frontiers and should keep delivering increments of understanding that lengthen and enrich our lives. It’s true that the parent ideal of reason is under assault by fundamentalism, fake news and conspiracy theories, as it always has been. But the reach of reason is also expanding through online resources for education and fact-checking, and in movements for evidence-based medicine, policy and philanthropy.
In the moral sphere, the concept of human rights is self-expanding, since mistreatment of arbitrary categories of people withers under scrutiny. Successive generations have applied the ideal to ending religious persecution, despotism, sadistic punishments, legal slavery, callousness towards workers and discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and gay people. Recently it has been extended to sexual harassment, mistreatment of transgender people and oppressive laws in illiberal regions. (In the past decade 13 countries decriminalised homosexuality.) Even the most backward will face pressure to abandon archaic practices that keep girls out of school and women from driving.
By adopting the Sustainable Development Goals, the 193 countries of the UN committed themselves to audacious targets for slashing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, gender inequality, war and other scourges. Progress toward these goals (other than climate) is continuing and can be tracked on sites like Our World in Data, Gapminder, Human Progress, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Future Crunch. It is unlikely to do a sudden U-turn.
But — as the sustainable goalkeepers emphasise — “progress is possible, but it is not inevitable”. Poverty, disease and conflict are natural, not unnatural, parts of the human condition, and only the concerted application of reason, science and humanism can push back against their creep.
Progress can be threatened not just by complacency but by tribalism, authoritarianism and science denial. Populists such as Donald Trump embody these threats; he treats public discourse not as a means of collectively pursuing an objective reality but as a weapon with which to project dominance. He has blown off the scientific consensus on climate change and suppressed dissemination of data on public health and the environment. He has sown ethnic hostility at home while rejecting international co-operation in favour of zero-sum economic or political combat. These insults to Enlightenment ideals are not just philosophical; they undermine concrete measures that have driven progress in the past, including democratic checks, free trade, environmental regulation and international agreements.
Though we cannot know how much damage authoritarian populism will do, there are reasons to think it is not the face of the future. Its support is greatest among rural, less-educated, ethnic-majority and older cohorts, all in demographic decline. And even countries that try to hide in a nationalist fortress will increasingly be besieged by crises that are inherently global and cannot be solved without international co-operation, including climate change, ocean degradation, pandemics, migrants, cyber crime, terrorism, piracy, dark money and nuclear proliferation.
Democracy, repeatedly declared moribund by schadenfreudian pundits, may be more resilient than they acknowledge. Everyone has read about backsliding in countries such as Turkey, Russia and Venezuela — but fewer have read about the gains in countries such as Georgia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Armenia, Malaysia and Ethiopia. According to the Varieties of Democracy scorecard, during the past decade the number of democracies in the world has hovered in a record-high range, with 99 (55 per cent) in 2018, compared to 87 in 1998, 51 in 1988, 40 in 1978, 36 in 1968 and 10 in 1918. And in the past year, pressure for democratisation has heated up in protests in Venezuela, Bolivia, Russia, Algeria, Sudan and Hong Kong.
Peace, too, may have staying power. Despite recent scares from Putinism and the Arab Spring, the long peace since the second world war keeps lengthening. Wars between great powers, once chronic, have vanished: the last one pitted the US against China more than 65 years ago. Wars between states continue their slide toward obsolescence, with no more than three in any year since 1945 and none since 2003. Though civil wars persist, the overall rate of deaths in wars of all kinds plunged a hundredfold between 1950 and 2005, from 22 per 100,000 people per year to 0.2. After rising to 1.5 in 2014 during the horrific Syrian civil war, it halved to 0.7 in 2018. And for all the warnings of a rising China that will inevitably fight its rival hegemon, that country has rested its fortunes on trade, contributed to UN peacekeeping, joined global and regional organisations, kept North Korea on a leash, assisted poor countries with infrastructure rather than weaponry, and not fought a war in 32 years.
Past performance is, of course, no guarantee of future results. Though history is not cyclical, it can be knocked backwards by nasty surprises. It’s happened before: the two world wars, the Spanish flu, the outbreak of Aids in Africa, surges in crime and civil war from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, 9/11. The coming decade will surely bring more, though by definition we cannot know what they are. Of course, we know what some of the catastrophic threats to gradual progress are. As the bumper sticker notes, one nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day. Contrary to almost 75 years in which doomsday has supposedly been minutes away, no nuclear weapon has been detonated in war since Nagasaki. This suggests that the norms and safeguards against accidental and impulsive launches have done their job.
Still, the possible destruction is so horrific that we would be foolish to push our luck indefinitely. The low but disconcerting odds can be pushed still lower by putting the weapons on a longer fuse, and by reducing their number below the threshold of a nuclear winter and eventually to zero. Today’s leaders of nuclear states are not exactly moving in this direction, and it’s inexcusable that the future of civilisation is a non-issue in an electoral arena obsessed with minor gaffes and scandals.
Also possibly calamitous are pandemics that could hop continents and cybersabotage that could bring down the internet. Here too the safeguards have worked so far, but experts say they must be strengthened.
In a category of its own is climate change, which is more of an approaching asteroid than a spinning roulette wheel. It would be irresponsible to predict either that everything will turn out OK or that we’re cooked. Climate salvation, if it comes at all, will not primarily come from shaming oil companies or making personal sacrifices. It will require breakthroughs in policy and technology.
The atmosphere is a global commons, where no individual or country has an incentive to stint on emissions because it would suffer all the cost but no benefit unless everyone else makes the same sacrifice. Policies that put a price on carbon are necessary to avert this tragedy, but we have learnt that people react to them not by weatherstripping their windows but by donning yellow vests and setting cars on fire. Such policies must be sweetened with rebates or hidden in dark layers of the economy.
But I suspect that it will be more effective to make clean energy cheap than dirty energy expensive. In the short term this could involve a rapid buildout of nuclear power, as France and Sweden did in the past. In the longer term it will require breakthroughs in storing the intermittent energy from wind and sun, in bioenergy, and in a new generation of small modular fission or fusion reactors. Technological advances will also be needed to electrify industry, reduce greenhouse gases from agriculture, and capture the CO2 already in the atmosphere.
You can’t worry about everything, and my appreciation of the complexity of human nature leaves me sceptical about another common fear: that the 2020s will see a brave new world of high-tech mind-hacking.
Predictions from the 1990s that yuppie parents would soon implant genes for intelligence or musical talent in their unborn children seemed plausible in a decade filled with discoveries of the gene for X. But these findings were destined for the Journal of Irreproducible Results, and today we know that heritable skills are the products of hundreds of genes, each with a minuscule effect, and many with deleterious side-effects. Micromanaging an embryo’s genome will always be complex and risky. Given that most parents are squeamish about genetically modified applesauce, it’s unlikely they would roll the dice for genetically modified children.
Brain-computer interfaces, except as treatments for paralysis or other disabilities, also strike me as dubious, like trying to adjust your iPhone settings with a soldering gun. Our thoughts are embodied in intricate patterns of connectivity in networks of millions of neurons, using a code that neuroscientists have not cracked. Since we already come equipped with pinpoint interfaces to our neural networks — eyes, ears, fingers, tongues — I doubt that healthy people will see the need for another hole in their head or for a foreign object lodged in their brain.
Some tech prophets sow fear about an advanced artificial intelligence subduing its creators. Others warn of an AI laying waste to the world while single-mindedly pursuing a goal, like inducing tumours in human guinea pigs to find a cure for cancer or asphyxiating us all to de-acidify the oceans. But the first fear projects human sins like greed and dominance on to the concept of intelligence. A human-made intelligent system is a problem-solving tool, not a rival primate. And the second refutes itself. It assumes that engineers are so smart that they could invent a system that can cure cancer and undo pollution but so stupid they would forget to give it any other conditions or test how it works before granting it omnipotence over the planet. Moreover, a system that monomaniacally pursued a single goal may be A, but it’s hardly I.
And then there’s the prospect that fake news and targeted political ads will hijack people’s minds and obliterate democracy. Though the spread of disinformation must be combated, research on political messaging shows that it’s not so easy to change people’s minds. Even traditional TV and direct-mail ads are surprisingly ineffective, and in the 2016 American election fake news and bot-generated tweets made up a tiny fraction of online political traffic and were mostly consumed by zealots. (Few swing voters made up their minds upon reading that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex ring out of a pizzeria.) For that matter online advertising, for all its claims to data-driven microtargeting, is dubiously effective, serving readers with ads for products they have already bought and ads for products they would never buy (like the trunnion tables and high-tech dreidels regularly interpolated into my daily news).
Prudence and experience compel me to hedge these reflections on the next decade. Like soothsayers before me, I will surely be wrong in some of my expectations about continuing progress and the threats it does and does not face. But I am confident in one thing: the 2020s will be filled with problems, crises and discord, just like the decades before and after. Some people are surprised to hear this champion of progress abjure any hope for a future free of trouble and strife. Why can’t we build on our accomplishments and aspire to utopia?
The reason is that we are not blank slates. The hard-won knowledge that has allowed us to marginalise our superstitions and biases must be relearned every generation in a Sisyphean struggle, never perfectly.
Also, human nature imposes permanent trade-offs among the things we value. People differ in talent and temperament, so even in a fair system they will end up unequal, and what pleases some will inevitably anger others. People are not infinitely wise, so when they are given their freedom, some will use it to screw up their lives, and when they are empowered in a democracy, they may choose leaders and policies that are bad for them. And people are not infinitely selfless. Any policy that makes most people better off will make some people worse off (say, coal executives), and they will not sacrifice their interests for the good of the group.
Yet the fact of progress shows that these trade-offs do not pin us to a constant level of suffering. Knowledge and technology can bend the trade-offs to give us more of each good. Education, a free press and civil society can remind us that the compromises of democracy are better than the alternatives. And (as physicist David Deutsch has noted) problems are inevitable, but problems are solvable, and solutions create new problems that can be solved in their turn.
Trump goes to Davos
Get out of the way.
They are everywhere!
“Alternative facts” strikes back (again)!
Sean Spicer just said President Trump wasn’t referring to wiretapping when he tweeted about “wires tapped”. According to the White House Press Secretary, “wire tapped” doesn’t have anything to do with wiretapping.
It’s just a mere “alternative fact”, one with the potential to become a fake news.
Furthermore, despite having used the following expression “Bad (or sick) Guy!”, he (Trump) also wasn’t referring Obama personally. No, Trump meant to say the Obama administration. In both cases!
Two observations must be made:
First, if Trump doesn’t know how to correctly write what he wants or desires, I wonder why he still uses twitter? If he isn’t capable of doing it in 140 characters …
Secondly, what is the extent of Sean Spicer’s linguistic knowledge? And why does he persists in pushing “alternative facts”?
Fake news! And the source is … ?
Yesterday, at Florida rally, the US President mentioned that Sweden was shaken by a terrifying terrorist attack which was carried out by immigrants and refugees.
No terrorist attack happened in Sweden.
Most likely, Trump mistaken Sweden with Sehwan, in Pakistan. But, be that as it may, as no correction was made, Trump was the real source of fake news. Is it irony or plain stupidity?
Within the US administration, “alternative facts” are really kicking in.
All the way to the top!
To President Trump, as it was to his predecessors, all that is, or should be, obligatory are decisions in accordance with his own conscience and within the limits of the law. Nothing more is required. He is entitled to decide as he sees fit and not as we would prefer.
I do accept his democratic victory. However, such acceptance does not mean that I must endorse his decisions. In fact, regardless of my political affiliations, I consider my foremost duty not to blindly accept every political decision.
Question our elected leaders, either the President, Senators, or Congressmen, is a fundamental prerequisite of democracy. And especially the leaders of our own political party and/or affiliation should and have to be questioned.
So, when facing a decision with which I disagree, I will always express my viewpoint without ever trying to impose it.
Ao Presidente Trump, tal como com os seus predecessores, tudo o que é, ou deve ser, exigido são decisões de acordo com a sua consciência em conformidade com os limites da lei. Nada mais é exigível, pois ele pode decidir como entender e não como nós preferiríamos.
Eu aceito a sua vitória eleitoral. Contudo, a minha aceitação não implica um apoio às suas decisões. Na verdade, independentemente das minhas posições políticas, considero ser o meu maior dever não aceitar cegamente toda e qualquer decisão política.
Questionar os nossos representantes eleitos, seja o Presidente, o Primeiro-Ministro ou os Deputados, é um pré-requisito essencial da democracia. E devem particularmente ser questionados os líderes do nosso próprio partido ou afiliação política.
Assim, perante uma decisão com a qual discordo, expressarei sempre a minha opinião sem nunca a impor.
Judging by Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway reactions
as well as Steve Bannon´s attitude,
nowadays these are the ruling commandments!
Trump inauguration – The same as it ever was!
Trump inauguration address was no surprise to me. Unlike many of my friends, I always paid close attention to non-verbal language and to psychologic profiles. As such, and as expected, President Trump will be just plain old Trump. Nothing more, nothing less.
In its core, Trump’s speech is not new. Every President’s primary concerns are internal and not external. Should we strange a patriotic speech? Of course not. Similarly, an isolationist speech is not a novelty. Although being rarer among republicans discourses today, there are many historical moments where patriotism and isolationism were the main republican topics. However, what is really innovative is Trump’s willingness to a closer relation with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, none of the past republican Presidents expressed such will or desire.
Donald Trump is not a Republican. He never was. And he is not a Rino either. Like most things throughout his life, the Republican party is simply an instrument, a tool to achieve a goal or to close a deal. Trump is a “Trumplican”. In fact, as he himself would say: “I’m the real trumplican, the only real trumplican. Which is yuge and bigly!”
Does Trump embody what we understand as a bully, a nationalist, a populist, a xenophobe? Yes, he does. However, the question must be: Is he aware of that? You see, sometimes is not just about perception. And if by any small probability Donald Trump is mindful of his own behavior, he simply does not consider such characteristics as negative and/or reprehensible.
As a political science and international relations researcher, in a certain way and to some extent, I’m looking forward to see what Trump’s presidency will bring. Both internally as externally.
Despite we can safely affirm that Trump will not fulfil most of his campaign promises, avoiding, to a certain degree, clashes with the Senate and the House of Representatives, we also can assert that unpredictability will be the rule. As such, the relation between the executive and legislative branches will be very interesting to follow. Furthermore, the same can be expected about Trump’s international stances.
Lastly, but certainly not least, in a significant reversal, Wall Street took over the White House. What’s next? What will happen to the balance between the political and economic spheres? What will happen to democracy?
For better or for worse, a new spectrum of possibilities emerges.
[If, in a sense, Trump is the same as he ever was, should we let the days go by?]
We Are the Last Defense Against Trump by Daron Acemoglu
We Are the Last Defense Against Trump: America’s institutions weren’t designed to resist a modern strongman. That leaves civil society.
In the second half of the 20th century, the main threat to democracy came from the men in uniform. Fledgling democracies such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Thailand, and Turkey were set back by dozens of military coups. For emerging democracies hoping to ward off such military interventions into domestic politics, Western European and American institutions, which vested all political authority in the hands of elected civilian governments, were offered as the model to follow. They were the best way to ensure that democracy, as Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan famously put it, became “the only game in town.”
Far from most thinkers’ minds was whether Western institutions might be inviting a different threat to democracy — personal rule, in which civilian state institutions such as the bureaucracy and courts come under the direct control of the executive, and the lines between the state’s interests and those of the ruler begin to blur. Most believed personal rule was something that applied only to the worst of the tin-pot dictatorships, such as that of Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, Daniel arap Moi in Kenya, or Sani Abacha in Nigeria. The checks and balances built in the fabric of Western institutions, the thinking went, would withstand any such usurpation.
Yet today we are coming to discover that contemporary democracy has its own soft underbelly — not so much a weakness against a cabal of colonels conspiring a violent takeover of government, but the gutting of state institutions and the incipient establishment of a variant of personal rule. Examples of personal rule include Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, Russia under Vladimir Putin, and Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These differ from the Mobutus, arap Mois and the Abachas of the world, because they are engineered by democratically elected leaders and maintain a much higher degree of legitimacy among some segments of the population But they still showcase how this process can irreparably damage institutions and hollow out democracy. Now, these examples are poised to include America under Donald Trump.
Trump appears to share several political goals and strategies with Chavez, Putin, and Erdogan. Like them, he seems to have little respect for the rule of law or the independence of state institutions, which he has tended to treat as impediments to his ability to exercise power. Like them, he has a blurred vision of national and personal interests. Like them, he has little patience with criticism and a long-established strategy of rewarding loyalty, which can be seen in his high-level appointments to date. This is all topped by an unwavering belief in his abilities.
What makes America vulnerable to being blindsided by such a threat is our unwavering — and outdated — belief in the famed strength of our institutions. Of course, the United States has much better institutional foundations and a unique brand of checks and balances, which were entirely absent in Venezuela, Russia, and Turkey. But many of these still won’t be much help against the present threat. Not only are America’s institutions particularly ill-equipped, in this moment, to stand up against Trump; in some cases they may actually enable him.
The first bulwark against any sort of personalizing threat to U.S. institutions is the country’s vaunted separation of powers. The legislature, elected separately from the executive, is supposed to stop in its tracks any president attempting to exceed his authority; it has indeed acted in this fashion during frequent periods of divided government, and when lawmakers on the Hill could follow their own constituencies’ wishes and their own principles.
Their capacity to do this, however, is much less true today, thanks to a historic rise in polarization between Republicans and Democrats and a pronounced shift toward party discipline. Consequently, as political scientists Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal document in their book Polarized America, House members and senators are now very unlikely to deviate from their party line. Such a rise in partisanship comes at the worst possible time, just as these protections are needed most. But given how quickly the Republican Party has regrouped around Trump on most issues, it would be optimistic to imagine a principled resistance to his appointments and most policy initiatives from a Republican-dominated Congress.
And so it follows, in turn, that the check on presidential power from an independent judiciary, the second leg of the separation of powers stool, is also unlikely to hold up. In truth, judicial independence in the United States has always been somewhat precarious, dependent on norms much more than rules. The president not only appoints justices to the Supreme Court and top federal judges (a prerogative Trump appears set to fully utilize), but also controls the Department of Justice through his attorney general. Any institutional resistance to inappropriate nominees would only be offered up by Congress, which, as discussed, seems poised to take Trump’s machinations lying down. And so the judicial institutions, too, are headed toward pliancy.
America’s weakest point when it comes to resisting personal rule may lie in the executive’s unique relationship with the institution that makes up the very heart of government: the bureaucracy itself.
But America’s weakest point when it comes to resisting personal rule may lie in the executive’s unique relationship with the institution that makes up the very heart of government: the bureaucracy itself. In many other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, where most of the bureaucracy and high-level positions in the judiciary are non-partisan civil servants, state institutions can go about the business of governing while remaining mostly immune to executive attempts to establish personal rule. Not so much in the United States, where Trump is appointing his people to oversee 4,000 high-level posts in the civil service and the judiciary, essentially shaping a bureaucracy ready to do his personal bidding. This is the sort of power that the likes Chavez, Putin, and Erdogan had to acquire more slowly. (Erdogan, for example, is still locked in an epic struggle to change the Turkish Constitution to officially assume the powers of an executive presidency, even if he has already acquired many of those powers in practice.)
Why is the United States so defenseless in the face of the Trump threat? Because, to a large extent, the Founding Fathers wanted it this way. As Woody Holton recounts in Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution, despite the emphasis on the separation of power in the Federalist Papers, the main struggle that Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and George Washington were engaged in was to build a strong federal government and reduce the excessive powers granted to the states in the Articles of Confederation, which had left the country in close to complete chaos. The separation of powers was meant only as a counterbalance to this strong presidency.
In this, they succeeded, but only partially. The U.S. president is indeed hugely powerful in the extent to which he can shape not only foreign but also domestic policy, especially if he can get Congress behind him. However, his hands are tied when it comes to the states’ rights, a concession that the framers had to give to powerful state representatives to garner enough support for the Constitution. This is the reason why some of the strongest resistance shaping up to Trump’s policies is already coming from states like New York and California, where governors have pledged to stand against his immigration policies.
But over time, the federal government has grown, as it has accrued, by necessity and choice, ever more responsibility in domestic and international politics. States, by contrast, have far less power than they did at the end of the 18th century. Massachusetts and Vermont can resist federal policies, creating, perhaps, little liberal policy bubbles. They can have very little impact, however, on the personalization of the country’s most powerful levers of government, including the federal judiciary, dozens of major agencies, trade and fiscal policy, and foreign affairs. Nor can they do much to influence the perception of the new direction of U.S. politics in the minds of Americans and the world.
This leaves us with the one true defense we have, which Hamilton, Madison, and Washington neither designed nor much approved of: civil society’s vigilance and protest. In fact, this is not unique to the United States. What is written in a constitution can take a nation only so far unless society is willing to act to protect it. Every constitutional design has its loopholes, and every age brings its new challenges, which even farsighted constitutional designers cannot anticipate.
The lack – and in fact active discouragement — of direct social participation in politics is the Achilles’ heel of most nascent democracies. Many leaders of newly emerging nations in the 20th century, who professed as their goal the foundation of a democratic regime, all but prevented the formation of civil society, free media, and bottom-up participation in politics; their only use for it was mobilizing core supporters as a defense against other leaders seeking to usurp or contest power. This strategy effectively condemned their democracies to permanent weakness.
We saw this at work in Venezuela, Russia, and Turkey, where decades, if not centuries, of unfree media and prostrate civil society ensured there was no effective defense against the rise of personal rule. The U.S. tradition of free, rambunctious journalism, exemplified by the muckrakers and vibrant protest movements going back to Populists and Progressives should help us.
Yet there are reasons to be concerned that this last brake on executive power may, too, fail. Trump is in the process of being accepted and legitimized by American elites and the wider public. Just the knowledge that he will be the country’s next president confers upon him a huge amount of authority and respect. We avidly follow his appointments, his interviews, and his stream of consciousness on Twitter. Many pundits and public intellectuals are trying to see the silver lining, hoping against hope that he will govern as a moderate Republican. Many of my fellow economists are eager to give him advice so that he does not follow through on his disastrous pre-election economic plans.
When the previously unthinkable becomes normalized, it is easy for many to lose, or at the very least ignore, their moral compass. How quickly Trump’s brand of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, off-the-cuff foreign policymaking, and systematic mixing of family and state are becoming accepted is more than a cause for passing concern.
We have to keep reminding ourselves that we do not live in normal times, that the future of our much cherished institutions depends not on others but on ourselves, and that we are all individually responsible for our institutions. If we lose them to a would-be strongman, we have only ourselves to blame. We are the last defense.
Trump is not going to govern.
He is going to TWIVERN!
(which is much more yuge!)
On the trapeze!
No words needed!
The day after the day after
Trump’s election, which must be respected as it is a democratic manifestation, does not offer a sense of security.
However, my main worries are related with the day after the day after.
This may just be the beginning of a even more profound change. Much worse will be Trump’s impeachment. And the hypothesis is not implausible.
Mike Pence is a committed creationist and an tea party element. Can you imagine his type of presidency?
45th US President
I was not a Trump supporter. Actually, I also wasn’t a Hillary supporter. But I will always be a supporter of democracy.
The US will change. Particularly, internally. That seems clear. I only hope that US foreign policy will not change much.
With this election, the Republicans control the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Trump has the possibility of making Tea Party affiliates and the like irrelevant. Let’s see if this possibility materializes.
Must read – “What ISIS really wants”
“Non-muslims cannot tell Muslims how to practice their religion properly”
Reality shock / Choque de realidade
Varoufakis and Tsipras are on the verge of learning (at least, one can expect), how easier and more comfortable is to be opposition.
It is the government that the really tough decisions must and have be made. And usually, the idyllic promises made during election campaigns can not be fulfilled.
Every so often, a shock of reality is indispensable.
While these “Syrizans” characters are being struck by reality, their supporters still were not. Nevertheless, my sympathy goes to all them.
Varoufakis e Tsypras estão prestes a aprender (pelo menos, esperamos), que é muito mais fácil e confortável de ser oposição.
É no governo que as decisões realmente difíceis devem e tem de ser tomadas. E, normalmente, as promessas idílicas feitas durante as campanhas eleitorais não podem ser mantidas.
De vez em quando, um choque de realidade é indispensável.
Embora as personagens “Syrizanas” estejam a ser atingidas pela realidade, os seus partidários ainda não foram. Seja como for, a minha simpatia vai para todos eles.
Prisoner dilemma / Dilema do prisioneiro