70 Comments
Dec 5, 2023Liked by Arnold Kling

Eliminate NFP altogether. We’d get used to no tax deductions. We had charities long before they needed their 501c3 status. Doubt it’ll happen, as foundations would be livid.

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Richard Hanania had a great comment recently. "Conservative media and writers like Christopher Hitchens used to do glowing profiles of American soldiers who were motivated by the idea of bringing democracy to Iraq. Just a decade later, no American knows or cares whether Iraq is a democracy, and we don't even think of the country at all. It's quite sad."

I think that's one useful way to think about our intervention. Spending $2 trillion and thousands of American lives implies that this is something that is VERY important to our national interest or even to humanity as a whole. But I don't think anyone in America cares about Iraq and whether it is a democracy. I am reasonably well-versed in current events and geopolitics and I have no idea if it is a democracy. You could use that same logic for eg. Vietnam, Eastern Ukraine, etc. And I think you would still conclude that Taiwan and Israel are on one side of the equation and Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine are all on the other side.

I also think that campaign finance reform was a major mistake and that Citizens United was the wrong decision, but the first amendment issues are complicated.

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Dec 5, 2023Liked by Arnold Kling

I'm pretty close to aligning with EA but I don't necessarily disagree with your proposal about nonprofit donations. It's probably true that large donations are mostly worse in terms of their consequences than private sector investment, although I think that's not the case for e.g. donations to Givewell and might not be the case for catastrophic risk management donations (if there were an asteroid heading for the earth, investment in the private sector would not be the most beneficial way to spend our money).

I've said this before here, but I would be very curious to see a specific argument that stacks up the benefits from a marginal dollar of private sector investment as compared with something like Givewell's top charities.

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Dec 5, 2023·edited Dec 5, 2023

"But if you don’t put up any barriers to individuals buying elections, you end up with a two-party system where the two parties are George Soros and Peter Thiel."

I think this is wrong, in the sense that it solves an entirely theoretical problem ("buying elections") by implementing cumbersome and onerous procedures that can stifle democracy.

It's worth recalling that "campaign finance reform" started as a reaction to the 1968 presidential candidacy of Gene McCarthy, who was able to mount a campaign that threatened the preferred Democratic nominee thanks to contributions from a couple of donors who thought he had something worth listening to. The resulting rules consist of innumerable traps for the unwary, forcing all potential candidates to start their organization with a legal team that can sort through all the requirements. This is probably not a great difficulty for serious presidential candidates, who will need significant campaign organizations in any event, but can be prohibitive for self-starting candidates for lower office. These rules also empower an unaccountable bureaucracy that can target disfavored candidates - the 1996 senatorial campaign of Al Salvi should serve as a cautionary tale.

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Misses the mark. Soros and his kind can structure bequests to their vehicles while the Red Cross wastes money trying to come a dollar under your tax limits.

Better end the corporate tax entirely for example. And let's expose government TOTAL take from economy, direct and indirect. Such clarity lets voters curb pols and bureaucrats more effectively.

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"If you don’t put up any barriers to individuals buying elections, you end up with a two-party system where the two parties are George Soros and Peter Thiel"

Do you, though? Evidence for that seems very weak.

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"My goal is to expand the for-profit sector and shrink the non-profit sector." I'll second that. But your suggested way to accomplish this, while (I presume) not meant seriously, makes you sound cranky.

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The Vietnam War against communism was significantly weakened in the 1956 election where the US refused to allow an evil but victorious WW II General Ho Chi Minh to become the elected leader. Evil popular leaders are a real problem for democracy, in theory and practice.

By the 1973 Peace Accords, with Henry the K getting a Nobel for, S. Vietnam was on it's way to be an Asian Tiger like South Korea. Look at NYT articles about Saigon in 1974, before the Democrats won in Congress and, as the N. Viet commies attacked, with USSR support, those Dems refused to allow Pres. Ford to send US planes or troops back to save the corrupt yet slowly getting more competent S. Viet army. Fighting then to maintain a S. Vietnam similar to S. Korea is what we should have done -- and NOT allowed the 25% civilian massacre of the Cambodian Killing Fields. The US didn't do a great job at nation building.

I remain outraged at Dems accepting commie takeover and genocide - including many Dem supporting Jewish Holocaust survivors. Tho in 1976, that genocide barely registered for me, and at the time I was upset at Ford pardoning Nixon as well as him ... falling down getting off planes. (My only Dem vote was for Jimmy Carter).

The evil Saddam should have been deposed in the 1992 Desert Storm campaign, rather than allowed to "win" by fighting against the US and surviving. From that point on, he violated his agreements so often there were 16 UNSC resolutions condemning his actions. The US being bad at nation building was a reasonable reason to leave Saddam in power, so as to avoid the kind of post-Gaddafi chaos in

Libya.

Reasonable, but a mistake - had the US occupied Iraq in 1992, with some chaos & problems but with more Iraqis alive willing to help rebuild, it's likely the Middle East would be better. Not necessarily more peaceful, tho possibly.

In the later invasion to get rid of Saddam, we tried to do nation building, instead of leaving (a mess). How many readers can, without googling, mention when the last Iraq election was? It's not clear that Iraq is a failure; merely not a clear success.

Maybe a 3 state solutions would have been better there? Shite, Sunni Arabs; plus Kurdistan (25 million Kurds remain the largest "nation" without a state).

What should have been done Iraq? remains very very relevant for Israel today - what should be done in Gaza?

Islamic peace with Israel can only come when the Gaza leaders view Israel as the strong horse.

Israelis should continuing to fight until Hamas surrenders, or is absent/ runs away from Gaza; that's the most likely way to dominate Gaza. Only an Israeli occupied Gaza will be a non-Jew killing Gaza.

Arnold's reduction of contributions to non-profits is great.

(update) Along with Iraq issues was this good one from Jonah:

"The shah of Iran gets a bad rap. "

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"In the case of Vietnam, the governments we tried to stand up were just not good enough to be worth all the blood and treasure we spent on them."

Just a few reminders: The Vietnamese, North and South, lost about 1 million dead each - out of a total population of about 40 million - out of the belief that their respective national visions were worth dying for. To be fair, the northerners were subjects of a dictatorship, but the southerners certainly weren't. And whenever war came to a southern town or city the populace voted with their feet for the nearest South-held territory, even though in some cases they could reach the North and essentially escape the war with a 1-2 day walk. No one ever fled *toward* the Communists.

I would be less dismissive of the southern governments we "tried to stand up."

Ken

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As far as I can tell from digging up one of his opinion pieces, Goldberg reasons backward from his dislike of Trump to the position that "reasonable reformers ... propose a national compact by which states agree to direct their electors to vote in accordance with the national popular vote." So like all the electors vote in unison?

But the EC in his view must be retained because to get rid of it openly would be messy and it has the potential to be the needed "mediating process designed to filter out demagogues or the unfit."

The reason he gives for disliking Trump is that he failed to move "beyond the coalition that elected [him]" to "at least [pretend] to lead the whole country ... Trump went a different way, effectively putting his thumb in the eye of the majority that didn’t vote for him."

Then he nods, but only nods, at urban areas getting to decide the presidency every time. But I guess in his cosmopolitan view urbanites would only ever pick urbane demagogues, so that's alright.

The thing is, Trump governed pretty moderately as far as I can recall. He did at least one thing I absolutely hated, revoking the recently-established national monument status of Bears Ears. But I certainly can't argue that being anti-environment, anti-wilderness (which monument status isn't, anyway) is not the straight-down-the-middle position in America, and will only become more irrelevant as the left lets in all its preferred utterly indifferent, purely materialist newcomers.

He didn't do a war and for some reason nobody else really started one. He talked the right talk on immigration and suppressed it somewhat. Again, Goldberg is not actually conservative so in some recess of his mind he may mean, as the left would, that Trump thus "stuck a finger in the eye" of all those people who didn't vote for him *because they haven't even gotten here yet or if they have, we haven't allowed them all to "vote" yet*.

He appointed a couple vaguely conservative people to the SC? - which perhaps dismays Goldberg. I doubt Trump had thoughts of abortion in mind particularly - there is no reason to think he is anything other than pro-abortion.

That backward reasoning is unsatisfactory.

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‘Like’ as means of appreciating the opportunity to chip in. How about the proposition that our fearless leaders and their corporate puppet master pals consider the ultimate status of their immortal souls before pressing us members of the great unwashed into service for their ‘ideals’ - you know, the high-minded principles Dick Cheney leaned on? Maybe some of the revisionism would run thusly: a nice, thorny defensive perimeter around Saigon (and one up north around Da Nang, one of the great Asian ports) that would make any attempt by the VC and NVA too costly to bother with? It would’ve probably saved the lives of thousands of GI conscripts and the irony of us trading for products made with cheap Vietnamese labor decades down the road. Iraq? Simply stay out and preserve the ardent patriotism of our now volunteer armed forces for better uses, should the need arise; count a plus for the blunted Islamic extremism as a result. (And hundreds of thousands of innocent lives preserved as a nifty side bonus.) The Electoral College? Make it, on a state-by-state basis, reflective of the vote in individual congressional districts instead of winner-take-all. Two states -Maine and Nebraska - already do this. If every district was as valuable as every other electoral politics and campaigning would be fundamentally shifted toward more genuine representation, an obvious improvement over what we have now, no? The non-profit stuff I grant you - am on board, particularly after having witnessed the way that ‘sector’ has grown in recent times - kinda like a tapeworm.

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A not so well known fact about Florida is the paucity of non-profits. It may have been a factor with regard to the pandemic response in various ways and probably has some significance to migration flows into and out of Florida as well. Lots of people have dreams of living near Disney World or the beach and even move to Florida and then are unable to find gainful employment at the level commensurate to their education. "Still, as of 2000 Florida had only eleven of the nation's four hundred largest nonprofit charities/philanthropic institutions. In contrast, Atlanta alone boasts eleven such organizations." - Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida.

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Given how terrible and evil most governments (especially in the third world) are, we can't really use the "these guys are bad" metric for determining when the US should intervene. After all, the people we end up supporting can (and often are) bad too, or turn out that way eventually.

There probably is some value in deterring outside aggression if the aggressor is a clear threat to our interests (and I think of communism as very bad). I can see the argument that we should defend Vietnam the way we defended Korea. But that was a conventional war fought against another army and ended with a secure border zone. Vietnam was never that, it was a guerrilla civil war. There are a lot of parallels between Iraq War I and War II between Korea and Vietnam.

I've always considered the GOPs inability to move on from Iraq as a big reason that Trump broke though in 2016. He was the only one against it. The rest appear to have learned nothing from that.

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Dec 6, 2023·edited Dec 6, 2023

I see very little evidence that the 2023 edition of Jonah Goldberg "goes against the crowd". That might have been true of the one who correctly diagnosed back in 2008 that "liberal fascism" would take over the Democrat party but not the more recent versions.

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Limiting charitable contributions as recommended can only increase the bureaucratic power of said regulators, and subsequently the reliance on approval of nanny-state regulators.

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Vietnam was a campaign of the Cold War. The Soviets paid to equip three armies that they couldn’t afford, and got _nothing_ for it. The fall of Saigon was a pyrrhic victory.

The USA took a lot of damage, but it was not as easy to point out.

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