Robert Alan Goldberg on American Conspiracy Theories

Historian Robert Alan Goldberg discusses the history of conspiracy thinking in the U.S. and explains how “new” conspiracy theories such as that involving QAnon recycle and embellish old themes. This is the Self in Society Podcast #20. This episode also is available on iTunes.

Buy Goldberg’s book, Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America (paid link), via Amazon.

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Continue reading “Robert Alan Goldberg on American Conspiracy Theories”

Trump’s Joint Session Speech: Good and Bad

Whatever we might say about the policies that Donald Trump discussed during his February 28 speech to a joint session of Congress, we can grant that Trump sounded more like a statesman than he has in the past.

Trump opened by condemning the recent vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, the threats against Jewish centers, and the attack on two Indian men in Kansas—apparently ethnically motivated—that left one dead. He stressed common American values and invoked optimism about America’s future. He highlighted some American heroes, including a disease survivor, a succeeding schoolgirl, people in law enforcement, and fallen Navy operator Ryan Owens. In all, it was a presidential speech.

Policy-wise, Trump’s speech was a mixed bag from the standpoint of liberty, as expected. Continue reading “Trump’s Joint Session Speech: Good and Bad”

What Trumponomics Shares with Progressivism

If you asked most Progressives and most supporters of Donald Trump, they’d tell you that members of the two camps are diametric opposites. That’s why Progressives are protesting Trump’s presidency, right? But the reality is that Trump’s economic policies share fundamental assumptions with Progressivism.

An essential feature of Progressivism is to confuse voluntary trade with force. Continue reading “What Trumponomics Shares with Progressivism”

Ayn Rand Is the Anti-Trump

Recently the Washington Post has published numerous stories that worry about “fake news” (see a first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth example out of many articles on the subject). It seems odd, then, that the paper also published the ludicrous claim that Donald Trump is an “Ayn Rand-acolyte” and an “objectivist” who follows Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. In fact, there is zero evidence that Trump understands any aspect of Rand’s ideas and much evidence that in the main he flatly rejects them. Continue reading “Ayn Rand Is the Anti-Trump”

The Trouble with Donald Trump’s Nationalism

President-elect Donald Trump is explicitly an “America first” nationalist. Stephen Bannon, one of Trump’s key advisers, calls himself an “economic nationalist.” But what does nationalism mean? Is it compatible with American liberty or inimical to it?

A source of confusion is that “nationalism” can mean very different things. Trump mashes together two essentially conflicting versions of nationalism, making his views and policies hard to sort out. Continue reading “The Trouble with Donald Trump’s Nationalism”

Crony Fallacies and Trump’s Carrier Deal

Recently President-Elect Donald Trump intervened in the business of Carrier, an Indiana manufacturer of furnace and air conditioner units, by cajoling the Indiana government to offer the company $7 million in tax breaks to keep hundreds of jobs in the state rather than move that work to Mexico.

Trump’s Carrier deal is cronyist in nature, not capitalist. But what are the ways in which it is cronyist? Here I seek to cut through widespread confusion about this. I begin with a basic review of the key concepts, then discuss two main fallacies pertaining to cronyism. Continue reading “Crony Fallacies and Trump’s Carrier Deal”

Trump’s Enablers

Some people find it strange that so many Americans voted for Donald Trump. As I’ve argued, that’s not as strange as it might seem. But what is truly bizarre is that so many people who saw Trump as a deeply flawed candidate—including people who were horrified by the prospect of him winning—worked so hard to keep him in the race. Continue reading “Trump’s Enablers”

The Political System is Rigged—But That’s Not Our Main Problem

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each have their cheerleaders. Most of us, though, regard these candidates as horrid and this year’s presidential race as an “international embarrassment,” as Vincent Carroll puts it. How did we get here?

Part of the problem is that our political system really is substantially “rigged,” meaning that the rules are inherently unfair in certain ways. Continue reading “The Political System is Rigged—But That’s Not Our Main Problem”