Friday, September 27, 2019


The fragrance of autumn is in the air, and some of the leaves are beginning to fall. At this time of year the grass is full and green, and in the morning it glistens with heavy dew. Again it is impossible for me to imagine voluntarily living somewhere that lacks four distinct seasons.

Finally it looks as if Donald Trump is being brought to justice. Incredibly, he was too imbecilic to change his behavior when he only recently came close to impeachment by encouraging foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election and then obstructing its investigation. In those instances, a number of fortuitous elements converged for him, and he improbably both won the election and avoided censure. This time, in a move that can only be considered incredibly stupid under the circumstances, he exposed himself by directly soliciting a foreign power to provide information on the activities of Joe Biden and his son and immediately attempted to cover up the event. This was a major blunder in several respects: the phone call was soon reported, as was the effort to hide it, and, in any case, there was little chance of revealing improprieties by Joe Biden or his son, since those were most likely fabrications to begin with. One might add that targeting Biden may itself have inherently been a mistake, since there is a good chance that Biden will not win the Democratic nomination regardless.

Though the immediate problem is that Trump doesn't know or care what his responsibilities are as president, about forty percent of American voters either can't see that or don't understand the ramifications. The division between Trump supporters and non-supporters is often portrayed as a rural-urban divide, with rural people believing Trump's rhetoric about getting them jobs and supporting their biases. However, recent polling indicates that educational attainment may have more to do with it. Vermont might be a good example, because, despite being one of the most rural states, the population is relatively well-educated. Trump is unpopular here even among Republicans. The small number of Trump supporters in this state probably live in isolated pockets and have below-average schooling. I think that low educational attainment may be the primary cause of Trump's ascent. Generally, well-educated voters, including those who are Republicans, can identify Trump's particular pathology: he often doesn't know what he's talking about and routinely uses obfuscation and lies to distract from the fact that he has little interest in anything other than self-aggrandizement. To the extent that he has any policies, they are exclusively directed at maintaining and expanding the Trump status quo, or, more specifically, his brand. As commentators are increasingly saying, history is not going to be kind to him or his associates.

I recently found a book that may well be worth reading, and it's on its way in the mail. The author is Richard Thaler, the economist, who has an interest in how behavioral economics can be used to shape public policy. This is still a relatively new field, and I am hoping that at some point it will converge with biology and address some of the points that I've been making on this blog, though, as I've said, economics is usually only used as a tool for capitalism.

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