My email to David Cole

Firstoff, I fully agree with the main argument of your recent article, “Twilight of the God Emperor,” that the alt-right has been a dumpster fire. But I would like to address a point you made in the article, the head-scratching about why it is that Trump supporters are warming to socialism. As a former Trump supporter who has been warming to Left-wing economics, here’s my take.

First, I was struck by your description of the Tea Party as “effective.” It might be effective relative to Richard Spencer & Co., but that’s a very low bar. All it can really say accomplishments-wise is that, in the string of Republican victories which occurred after 2010, it stopped Obama from implementing even more socialist policies. More than anything it was wedded to stopping Obamacare, which is still here. And it couldn’t even come up with a plan to repeal Obamacare, what was proposed in 2017 was in essence a renaming of Obamacare, instead of subsidies for plans paid to the insurance companies, it would give tax credits to people which could only be used to buy insurance plans. Medicaid expansion and the requirement to cover pre-existing conditions would have been retained, at least in theory. It might be able to claim the Trump tax cut as a victory, though without any spending cuts it is merely a shift in the tax burden from the present into the future.

You then make an argument common among conservatives and libertarians, that socialism will be dysgenic:

So by all means, rightists, grow that welfare state and get more babies from folks who can’t afford to have ’em! And when you’re robbed and stabbed in an alley by one of those kids sixteen years from now, as you lay dying you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that paying for your murderer’s upbringing at least helped to “soak the rich.”

But is that narrative really true? There is a crude way to measure this by looking at the test scores of children and then comparing them with the number of siblings they have. If duller pupils report more siblings, it means that dull families are having more kids. Anatoly Karlin did this with the PISA test, and found that this is true almost everywhere, but the magnitude of it differs, and America is worse than most of Europe. Some of the “best” countries in this measure are the Nordic social democracies.

Why is this? Part of it, I think, is that when you have a barebones welfare state like the US does, a poor woman can only get the benefits if she has kids. In Europe, where everyone who is poor gets the benefits, there is less of an incentive to have kids to get them. Furthermore, socialists will unlike libertarians and conservatives be willing to provide subsidized abortion and birth control to members of the underclass. Perhaps as an alternative you’d rather have no welfare state and pre-sexual revolution morality, but the conservative movement isn’t going to accomplish the former and long ago gave up on the latter. That’s why I support a policy of what Peter Frost calls “tactical liberalism” as the only realistic alternative.

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