Delete Über? No, please.


BY SPENCER SLAGOWITZ || JANUARY 30TH, 2017

If you have been on the internet at all the last three days, you will be undoubtedly aware of the grassroots campaign (of sorts) to boycott the transportation network service, Über. Since Saturday, calls to #deleteÜber have grown in number and in fervor following the company’s ‘decision’ to not strike with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance  and a tweet sent by the company which was taken by many to be an effort to break the strike. If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, read these good overviews here and here. For those who support the boycott, “deleting Über” is a foregone conclusion, but the reality is invariably much more nuanced.

As I understand, people are angry with Über for four reasons:

  1. They believe that Über intended to break the strike or undermine the efforts of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
  2. Following this belief, many individuals believe that Über or at least CEO Travis Kalanick—who is on President Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum (an advisory body for business matters) along with Elon Musk—was collaborating with the Trump administration.
  3. Furthermore, activists allege that at minimum Über intended to immorally profit off the strike.
  4. Finally, people believe that Über ought to have protested with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, regardless of whether they intended to break the strike or take advantage of it to make money.

We’ll address each of these in turn, but ultimately I do not believe they hold up under close scrutiny.

Did Über intend to purposefully counteract strike through social media?

Many took a tweet posted by the company that stated “Surge pricing has been turned off at #JFK Airport. This may result in longer wait times. Please be patient.” to, according to Vox, “suggest that  Über was trying to break up or counteract the strike and acting in support of…[the Muslim Ban].” By this interpretation, the announcement of Über’s availability, publicly undermined the strike and thereby attempted to break it. However, the tweet was posted at 7:36pm, more than a half an hour after the strike (which lasted from 6pm to 7pm) ended. The tweet could not have been attempting to break the strike because it had already ceased. Moreover, Über immediately backtracked, explaining that the post was not meant to undermine the protest (which had, again, already ended)—though its natural to be skeptical of the company.

Is Über and Kalanick in cahoots with the Trump Administration?

Let’s first preface this part by stating unequivocally that there is no conclusive evidence whatsoever to suggest that Kalanick and/or Über coordinated with the Trump Administration to break the strike (which, for the third time, HAD ALREADY ENDED). There are only circumstantial conjectures, which many have overstated. These conjectures rest on a single shaky foundation: Kalanick is on President Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum. Thus, detractors allege, that means he was colluding with Trump. However, the Strategic and Policy Forum works with the Administration on business matters purely on advisory grounds. Other members of the board included Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi and Tesla and SpaceX’s Elon Musk. To imply that a business leader’s membership on a business advisory board with many other business leaders means that his company is coordinating with Trump is unfounded. One does not presuppose the other.

Not only is there no good reason to believe that Über coordinated with Trump to break the strike and support the ‘Muslim Ban,’ but there are also many reasons that contradict allegations of crony-esque coordination and support the null hypothesis in this case. Über and Kalanick, in both word and deed, oppose the Muslim Ban and have made a considerable to effort to help workers affected by it.

Conceivably, detractors could respond by suggesting that Uber and Kalanick do not actually oppose the ban, but are only doing so predicated on business interests.

Well, Kalanick sent the following letter to his employees on Saturday at 1:20 PM—4 hours and 40 minutes before the New York Taxi Workers Alliance strike and 6 hours before they posted the tweet that thrust them into a gauntlet of criticism and outrage. It is a letter that reflects the company’s unvarnished point of view before the scandal. So what does it say? Does it reveal Über’s nefarious support of the muslim ban? Does it expose Kalanick’s coordination with the Trump administration or words of praise for the decision? Not in the slightest.

sub-buzz-32084-1485717730-1-1

In the email Kalanick promises:

  1. Assistance for those impacted by the ban through immigration@uber.com
  2. To compensate, pro-bono, Über drivers who are unable to return to the U.S to get back to work.
  3. To bring up the issue of the Muslim ban and pressure the administration using the access granted to him through membership on Trump’s economic advisory group.

Moreover, Kalanick’s focus on the ethical implications the ban has on, indeed, thousands of innocent lives suggests his opposition is based on humanitarian concerns. This is reinforced by this statement released in the blog post on Sunday which detailed exactly what Über is doing and castigated the muslim ban as unjust.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-8-25-25-pm

Clearly in both word (public and private statements, that is) and deed (making a considerable effort to address those impacted by the ban even before the #deleteÜber craze, as well as promising to lobby the administration to revoke the ban), Über demonstrated a clear opposition to the ban and the Trump administration’s actions which preclude coordination and cast doubt on allegations of cronyism.

Did Über intend to profit off the strike?

If anything Über’s decision to suspend surge pricing demonstrates a willingness to avoid the appearance that they were taking advantage of the strike to make money. Under the conditions of a strike, the reduced availability of taxi cabs would boost demand for Übers and automatically set off the surge function. In this state of scarcity, Über can charge more because people are more willing to pay to travel. If Über truly meant to profit off the both the lack of taxi cabs and the influx of protestors and lawyers, it would have allowed the surge pricing function to operate as it is programmed. But Über has been continuously and rightfully criticized on this sort of practice in the past, especially in the cases of natural disasters. However, Über purposefully did not raise prices and at 7:36pm, let protesters and travelers alike know that they could travel back without having to pay exorbitant fees.

Should Über have participated in the strike in the first place? Was it a good idea?

Some might suggest that it doesn’t matter whether Über intended to take advantage of the strike, the important point is that they refused to join in the strike. So it begs the question, did Über bear a moral obligation to participate in the strike? Was the strike a good idea at all? Examining the protest critically, it appears that while incredibly well intentioned, it cannot be portrayed as a bold moral stand that Über should be punished for refusing to take part in, because it was ineffective, and ultimately counterproductive.

Firstly, striking in this manner does not put any pressure on the Trump administration or local authorities in any sort of capacity. Strikes are effective when they are leveraged against those who are impacted by them on the negotiating table. But how does a 1 hour strike disadvantage the Trump administration in the slightest?

Secondly, protest is an incredibly useful tool for its optics. Mass demonstration mobilizes the populace against the object of protest and encourages others to join in on the activism. It also continuously casts in doubt popular support for a policy and prevents a leader from claiming a popular mandate to support a policy like the muslim ban. However, the brevity of a one hour strike undermines its own symbolic value. Given the massive protests at JFK, the regional cab union strike would have been likely drowned out in the news cycle if not for the #deleteÜber scandal. Even if you believe there is a kantian moral imperative to strike in these cases: it is rule worship to follow the rule where the end is not served, like in this case.

Thirdly, this form of protest disadvantages innocent third parties completely unrelated to the “Muslim Ban”. The people who suffer as a result are those who are just trying to get home to their families after a long travel day, not the Trump administration, nor any of the parties involved or who are culpable. One cannot simply ignore the “double effect” produced by decision to strike. Given that JFK’s AirTrain shuttle had been closed by the Port Authority (until Governor Cuomo reversed the decision), if Über had joined in on the strike, travelers would have had little other option.

Lastly, most importantly, the strike is counterproductive insofar as it inconveniences those who went to the rally and makes it harder for them to find transport back home. Moreover, it disadvantages the lawyers who rushed to JFK to draft legal briefs, who ultimately were able to acquire a court order granting a stay on the ‘muslim ban’ by denying them transport too.

Ultimately, the era of Donald Trump demands disciplined and directed protest. We can no longer afford to waste protest capital on issues that do not materialize into results. Moreover, we ought not encourage protests that are both counterproductive, ineffective, and inconvenience innocent third parties. This era of progressive wilderness-wandering does not give us license to abandon our core commitments to the truth and evidence-based decision making. Über never intended to break the strike (or counteract it on social media), did not collaborate with the administration, and purposefully took measures to not profit from the strike. The #deleteÜber movement demonstrates that we cannot surrender our individual judgement to that of the crowd.

I say these things not because I am some corporate apologist nor because I am trying to equate trivial suffering of Über with the thousands of people and families who will be adversely affected by the ban—I say these things because in the age of Trump we must resist the urge to submit to the knee-jerk reaction of backlash when we have only little information on hand. Because, in the era of fake news and anti-intellectualism, we must prize evidence-driven policy making and truth, above all.

Mourning In America: What are the roots of Trump’s populist rise?


BY SPENCER SLAGOWITZ || NOVEMBER 10TH, 2016

 

Any electoral defeat will provoke some sort of unofficial post-mortem self-reflection. With the election of the first orange neophyte as president, the soul-searching (and the soul-crushing feeling of despair) set in. It seems to be a pretty fundamental human instinct. The first thing we do is react. Then we try to find who is responsible. This second part has come in several different forms. Anger is directed at third-party voters, the politically ambivalent, the state of Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton herself, Bernie Sanders, and, obviously, Trump supporters. Insults are exchanged. Tempers flare. Issues and gripes are litigated several times over. But through the madness, the suffering, and the noise—the question persists: how did the Trump phenomenon happen? What is the root of the populist fervor that Trump seized upon?

For the hard left and very progressive this was the failure of the “neoliberal corporate-friendly” policies that enriched the elites at the expense of the poor. This election is thus the failure of the democratic party and establishment “liberal” politicians who were either too accommodating of conservatives, manipulated by corporate interests, or hopelessly wrong. The backlash towards elites and ‘globalism’, a mere expression of economic distress: the symptoms of a post-industrial rural decline wholly driven by the pro-globalization and free trade agenda promulgated by— as The Jacobin’s Luke Savage articulates—”the transactional relationship between moneyed interests, politicians, and party machines [that] produces a rigged economy that serves and enriches a tiny, insular elite at the expense of everyone else.” This positions says strongly: we cannot write this election off as a function of racism and sexism, we ought to examine the underlying economic causes and take robust, if not radical, steps to address economic inequality.

For your center-right moderate conservatives, liberals, progressives, weak-tea pro-market egalitarians, center-lefters, and so on—this was the product of racism and nationalist inclinations that Trump seized upon to make his case. This was a struggle over the changing character of America. As our country gets less white, those who see their way of life under attack (and even culture) will lash out. An election “full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing,” at least nothing when it comes to the economic roots of the Trumpenproletariat. This is not to say that this view necessarily endorses the idea that Trump supporters do not deserve your empathy or pity. This opinion is actually two. The first is more of a middle ground approach that says that we have a duty to listen to those who supported Trump and we ought to respect them while castigating the racism that accompanied his rise. It goes, “Many decent, sincere people who feel disregarded, disrespected, and left behind — in ways that I do not feel and have never felt — can disproportionately embrace political opinions that I view as bigoted or paranoid.” The second position is nearly indistinguishable from the first, accept for its vitriol and intolerance of perceived racism. The second rejects that your core Trump voters are decent or necessarily sincere people.

The reality of course, is much more complicated.

The instinct to call Trump supporters racist is incorrect, or at the very least, completely unproductive. Furthermore, the broad idea of this explanatory dichotomy between economic anxiety and racism as prime motivators for Trump isn’t academically honest in the slightest. Here’s a wonderful exchange between the influential moderate libertarian economist Tyler Cowen of the Mercatus Center and Ezra Klein of Vox (aka bae) which makes sense of a lot of the scholarship, political science and confusion surrounding this issue.

Cowen: [Robert] Putnam almost says as such, and do you think there’s currently a language in the media where you have readers who are themselves diverse, where it’s possible not to just be blaming the bigots, but to actually present the positive view, “Look, people are imperfect. A society can only handle so much diversity, and we need to learn this.” What’s your take on that?

KLEIN: I strongly agree. We do not have a language for demographic anxiety that is not a language that is about racism. And we need one. I really believe this, and I believe it’s been a problem, particularly this year. It is clear, the evidence is clear. Donald Trump is not about “economic anxiety.”

COWEN: A bit, but not mainly, I agree.

KLEIN: That said, I think that the way it’s presented is a choice between economic anxiety and racism. And one I don’t think that’s quite right, and two I don’t think that’s a productive way of having that conversation.

COWEN: Why don’t we have that language? Where did it go, or did we ever have it?

KLEIN: I don’t know if we ever had it. We probably did have it. We have properly been working very, very hard in this society to make racism socially intolerable. We have a society that continues to have a lot of racism, a lot of sexism, a lot of bigotry of different kinds. But I do think that as a by-product of that debate and that effort, there isn’t a good way to have people discuss slightly more inchoate feelings of losing power that aren’t necessarily in their view, about taking it away from other people. It’s more about losing it themselves. I think that’s a big difference in this.

KLEIN: Arlie Hochschild talks about in her book that there is this kind of deep story that she found among — she’s a sociologist who spent five years with tea party folks in Louisiana — she talks about this deep story of feeling like they’ve been waiting in line, and now other people are getting in front. It’s not so much that they don’t want those other people to get ahead, it’s that they want to get ahead themselves. They are feeling a loss in a zero-sum competition, and they may actually be correct about that.

There are probably types of advancement in society that is zero-sum, particularly when you begin really trying to open up the floodgates. So I think that’s correct, and I think that we don’t have a good language for it. I don’t know what it would mean to get one, but one thing that has annoyed me this year is I really dislike the use of political correctness as a language for it.

One, it doesn’t explain very much. But two, I think that something that has happened a lot of the time here is people have somewhat either unconsciously — or I think at times cynically — mixed up an elite debate and a non-elite debate.

I generally buy the conclusions of Klein in this case. Demographic anxiety isn’t the same thing as racism. And as a community we should broadly reject this approach that says look: my economic and political prescriptions are actually what is going to solve this trend. And the approach that uncritically accepts stated reasons for the Trump phenomenon and kinda strangely denies that it can be a complex issue, is woefully misguided.

Furthermore, there are several reasons to doubt that economic concerns are the main motivating factors behind the rise of right wing movements. A Gallup study conducted in early July by Jonathan Rothwell concluded that, “Trump’s popularity cannot be neatly linked to economic hardship. Those who do not view Trump favorably appear to have been just as exposed as others, if not more so, to competition with immigrants and foreign workers, and yet are no more likely to say they have a favorable opinion of Trump than others.” Over at 538, Nate Silver brings more analytical weight to bear on this question:

Trump voters’ median income exceeded the overall statewide median in all 23 states, sometimes narrowly (as in New Hampshire or Missouri) but sometimes substantially. In Florida, for instance, the median household income for Trump voters was about $70,000, compared with $48,000 for the state as a whole. The differences are usually larger in states with substantial non-white populations, as black and Hispanic voters are overwhelmingly Democratic and tend to have lower incomes. In South Carolina, for example, the median Trump supporter had a household income of $72,000, while the median for Clinton supporters was $39,000.

These findings are echoed by political scientist Philip Klinker’s Vox analysis of an ANES (American National Election Studies) pilot survey which observed that, “Attitudes about race, religion, and immigration trump (pun intended) economics.” In any case, a lot of recent evidence suggests a plausible disconnect between economic anxiety or loss from trade and support for Trump. The exit polls tell us that 52% of voters cited the economy as the most important issue. But as the Washington Post exit-poll analysis demonstrated, “Among those economy voters, Clinton beat Trump by 10 points.” This trend is additionally reinforced by looking to Scandinavian societies, who have enjoyed robust and equitable growth, but still experienced a similar right-wing populist backlash.

So we are left with this alternative approach that both embraces the economic rationale minimally (while rejecting that is a consequence of the perceived flaws of the center-left economic consensus) and the demographic change rationale far more broadly, which both accepts that the two are related. Michael Tesler, over at the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, is a invaluable resource in this regard, suggesting:

One reason is that perceptions of the economy are often not objective and depend on people’s political leaning. A large body of research shows that party identification strongly colors people’s beliefs about how the economy is doing. Democrats and Republicans both think that the economy is performing better when one of their own is in the White House.

Partisan identities aren’t the only thing that matters. In my book, Post-Racial or Most-Racial?, I show that racial attitudes have increasingly structured public opinion about a wide array of positions connected to Barack Obama, including subjective perceptions of objective economic conditions

He continues later on, expanding upon his original concerns:

The results below show that this is precisely what happened.  Racial resentment was not related to whites’ perceptions of the economy in December 2007 after accounting for partisanship and ideology. When these same people were re-interviewed in July 2012, racial resentment was a powerful predictor of economic perceptions. Again, the greater someone’s level of racial resentment, the worse they believed the economy was doing.

In fact, multiple studies, using several different surveys, have shown that overall levels of racial resentment were virtually unchanged by the economic crash of 2008. Some data even suggests that racial prejudice slightly declined during the height of economic collapse in the fall of 2008. The evidence is pretty clear, then, that economic concerns are not driving racial resentment in the Obama Era.

The causality, seems to be primarily one way. It is not economic nor material issues that are necessarily driving anxiety over demographic change, but the former and latter both play a role in engendering the feeling of neglect and being left-behind that Trump seems to have seized upon. And while demographic change appears to be a more powerful factor, its important we do not overlook those who have disproportionately lost from trade or the symptoms of post-industrial decline even if they are unrelated to the populist phenomenon that is, was, and will unfortunately continue to be, Donald Trump.

Some phenomenal sources and further reading on this question:

 

 

 

 

In Preparation for November 8th


By ETHAN GELFER || November 6. 2016

 

It’s finally almost over. Over two years of campaigning, grandstanding, arguing, scandalizing, and hating will finally resolve itself at thousands of polling places around the United States. For the sake of some semblance of sanity I’ll assume that the inevitable loser(s) of this presidential contest will concede when a winner becomes clear. As long as that holds, America will wake up on November 9th to a new president-elect. And no matter who it is, over half of the country at least will be disheartened at the result. A new cycle of partisanship and punditry and grandstanding and hating will begin.

That’s for next time. Let’s for now reserve the politicking for the transition team, the 45th President, and the 115th Congress. The reality is that what we do in the United States on a quadrennial basis is a special thing. Our system of government, for better or for worse, is pretty much unique around the world. And remarkably it works, over and over again. Our social system is preserved through the goodness, doggedness, and determination of hundreds of millions of people before us, contemporary to us, and after us.

In solemn fidelity to the rule of law and our civic democratic religion, despite our differences, despite the shouting and the hating, in spite of inevitable despair, time and time again we accept that politics is an activity that fundamentally is always our own. Our representatives in government reflect who we are, the direction we want to take, the world we want to live in, the image we present to the rest of the world.


This election is no different. In spite of our radically different views, in spite of our polarization and banal playground insult-driven campaign, even through the madness and race to the bottom politics we still live in a country that is our own. There is no procedure save that which we lay out for ourselves. Our binding, founding document may drive us but the decisions we make are fundamentally our own. Every American knows that, even if that idea may be suppressed. America is great because despite the fighting and opposition when the sun sets and the day is over we all come back in service of our nation, in dogged remembrance that our country is fundamentally an idea, a beacon that has lit the world for centuries. A project that none of us are exempt from, one that, whether for better or for worse, is an example for all to follow and measure up to.

So let us not be an example of what not to do, of whom not to follow. The election is over in just a little more than 48 hours. Until the final set of polls close, until the results are tabulated, I and the Popular Discourse board stand with Secretary Clinton. We believe she is easily the best choice for President. Our support for her and the ideas and ideals she represents will not end on Tuesday.

Yet as soon as we have a result, as soon as the day ends, we will stand behind the decision made by the American people. Because all we have left when all is said and done is each other; we have a President of all of us, not of some of us. We have a government that represents all of us, not some of us. And disagreement is certainly good, and we think that there is no world in which that disagreement will end. That disagreement, however, functions in the service of making our country better. We will not disparage the new President-Elect, we will not hate the Americans who did not see eye-to-eye with us.

For we are ruled by the same binding principles, and we are all Americans today, tomorrow, and always. This election has been grueling, exhausting, and demoralizing. It has touched people’s lives in ways we didn’t think were possible before setting out on this campaign. For me personally, this campaign has been as much of a crash course in my personal philosophy and the principles I hold fundamental as anything else. 2016 is truly a seminal year in American politics, and this ranks among the most important elections in American history. November 8th is the day the dissonance ends. On November 9th we hope that all of America can stand together to congratulate the 45th President of the United States on his or her election, and re-focus ourselves on the transition, new agendas, and preparation for the Oath of Office in three months. It is all we can do. On the eve of the election, let’s say a prayer for our country and our people, and dedicate ourselves to continued pursuit of something better, together.


Ethan Gelfer is the Managing Editor of Popular Discourse and a student in the College at the University of Chicago.

Unoriginal Campaign Hot Take #25

It is perhaps axiomatic that often, a group of individuals rationally pursuing their immediate self-interest undermine the interests of the group as a whole. That is to say, the actions of those individuals, while rational, produce sub-optimal results for society as a whole. I do not mean to posit that this is a universal truth or to naively extrapolate from this position to construct an un-nuanced worldview—I present it merely as a common trend, one that we see poignantly when it comes to the issue of voting. “My vote doesn’t matter,” is the common refrain of the politically ambivalent or disenfranchised. It is an opinion that is hard to alter, since for the most part it is 100% accurate. One’s vote does not, indeed, matter. Political science and economics both tell us that voting is not necessarily a rational act. Public choice theory, popularized by economic God-emperor Kenneth Arrow and Anthony Downs among others,  gives us the concept of rational ignorance which refers to the perfectly rational tendency of individuals to refrain from voting (or specifically educating themselves about political issues) given the cost of acquiring such information. It goes without saying that this produces undesirable outcomes for society in subverting the ability of society to make decisions concerning governance and policy. 

So, to those who refuse to vote, who self-righteously cling to their rationality and good judgement as moral justification: just because you’re right, does not mean you are not part of the problem. I have never disguised my political affiliations or my opinions—so those who know me will not be surprised when I posit that this election presents a…remarkable choice. So surrender yourself to the unabashed romanticism of the democratic process—“Let your voice be heard”, “exercise your civic duty,” and so on and so forth. This election cycle, don’t let your rationality get in the way of positive democratic outcomes.

please please accept the results, Donald.

Here at Popular Discourse, we aren’t big fans of brevity. But events over the past few weeks have called for at least some kind of response. So even though it’s Fourth Week at the University of Chicago and midterms are afoot, here comes yet another article. 


By ETHAN GELFER || October 21, 2016

“I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election, if I win.”

Those were actual words that exited an actual presidential nominee’s mouth in the day following a debate that self-destructed inside half an hour. We’ve documented Donald’s scandals in what we believe is its entirety here, but in reality its not even the obscenely inhuman force of offense and criminality (see: unconstitutional Muslim bans, sexual assault, etc), but rather the threat to institution that Donald Trump and his candidacy represents that scares me the most.

Much like every other nation, and to the consternation of many, the United States government and Constitution is not infallible. The republic is a socially constructed phenomenon that relies on continuous social agreement and cohesion to function. Authority, the rule of law, and power of the state are all derived from reification as a result of such socializations. In essence, we only have a government because we say we have a government.

That’s what makes Donald’s casual affronts to the pillars of democracy so dangerous. Traditions and customs affirm our commitment to the continued social reification of abstract institutions. Why do we refer to our chief executive solely as Mr. (and soon Madam) President? Why is it that when the President stands, no one sits? I submit that these aren’t random exertions of power that have become accepted, but rather these and other small traditions are vital to the perpetuation of our social fabric.

Unfortunately, Donald drags the Republican guard down with him as he goes. John McCain has suggested that the new Congress will still refuse to consider any Supreme Court nominees. Donald suggests that his supporters could seek Second Amendment remedies if Secretary Clinton were elected. He supports and encourages foreign intervention in the American election system. He suggests that subverting federal law makes him smart. He threatens to throw his political opponent in jail. And to top everything off, he suggests that he may not concede the election if he loses.

Trump apologians have already begun spinning the story by claiming that Al Gore, a Democrat, also refused to concede an election. Yet that situation is monumentally incomparable. To entertain the subject for a minute- Gore actually had a reason to contest the result, given that he won the popular vote  (Donald has as good a chance as not to lose by double digits in the popular vote), and the margin of victory in Florida amounted to .009% of the vote in the state. Yes, there was a constitutional crisis in 2000. But when it became clear that the mechanisms of our government had not worked in his favor, Gore said the following:

“Other disputes have dragged on for weeks before reaching resolution. And each time, both the victor and the vanquished have accepted the result peacefully and in the spirit of reconciliation. So let it be with us. I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am, too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country. And I say to our fellow members of the world community: Let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome.

Al Gore was gracious even in the face of heartbreaking, unfair defeat. He signaled faith in our political process. Donald Trump is preparing to present himself as the polar opposite. I’m reminded of a quotation from The West Wing, a show that might as well now be considered fantasy; “This country is an idea, and one that’s lit the world for two centuries and treason against that idea is not just a crime against the living! This ground holds the graves of people who died for it, who gave what Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion, of fidelity.”

Yes, we can, and we should complain and protest Donald’s monumental disrespect for ethnic, racial and gender groups. Yes, we can, and we should complain and protest Donald’s inflammation of violence and violent rhetoric. Yes, we can, and we should complain and protest Donald’s utter lack of experience, understanding, or demonstration of education on anything remotely representing governing. But in my mind if there is one issue to protest, if there is one truly disqualifying factor for this candidate, it is this flagrant disrespect for the guardrails of democracy. Our country only exists because we agree that it will. By suggesting that it doesn’t have to be that way, it won’t.

Donald, I hope I saw a human side of you at the Al Smith dinner yesterday. I hope you were as uncomfortable and embarrassed of yourself as I was of you. I hope you understand what you are doing to this country. I hope you understand that you are quite literally the greatest threat to the structure of the world’s oldest democracy at present. Because if you understand that, there’s still time to salvage some of your dignity and some of this country. Please, for the sake of our country and our future, stop challenging these pillars of our existence.

Note: normally I try to refer to people I’m writing about by their proper titles. I hope to signal the rift I pointed to once again by referring to Mr. Trump in this article solely by his first name. I firmly believe in the need to reinforce and continually reify our social structure. Mr. Trump operates outside that social structure and thus I refuse to refer to him in the manner that operates in a world he seeks to destroy. 


Ethan Gelfer is the Managing Editor of Popular Discourse. He is a first-year student at the University of Chicago. 

Glimpse Talks Trends: a (handwoven) Cornucopia of Deplorables

I sat down two weeks ago with Luke Philips at Glimpse From The Globe to talk about liberal internationalism, charges of globalism, international trade and the TTP, climate change and collective action problems, the proliferation of far right populist movements, and the motivating factors behind Trump’s rise and support.

Please find the podcast here:

I hope you enjoy!

-Spencer Slagowitz

Scandal: Donald Trump makes the case against a Trump presidency.

We here at Popular Discourse have furiously penned self-righteous polemics and thinly veiled academic invectives at Donald Trump and the particularly noxious strain of far-right authoritarian populism that he champions. As election day approaches swiftly, we had another idea. We realized that the compelling argument against Donald Trump, comes from Donald Trump himself. Surely Donald Trump’s policies are vague, ill-defined, or non-existent (ISIL strategy, how he would revamp trade deals, foreign policy?) and those he has outlined are outright laughable (tax plan, the wall, etc.) or plainly unconstitutional. Indeed, for us, it is taken prima facie that Donald Trump is woefully unprepared for the office of the Presidency of the United States in nearly every capacity. Yet, leveling criticisms of Donald J. Trump’s policies and grasp of policy issues is rendered moot insofar as Trump fails to meet the most basic of thresholds: fundamental fitness. Please don’t take it from us, take it from the Donald’s ever-pursed lips. The following list is a non-exhaustive accounting of nearly every major scandal (the list comprises 47) that the Republican nominee for President has been implicated in, since he announced his candidacy. I would only offer this one caution to our readers: it may cause you to long for the sweet old days of Romney’s ‘binders full of women’.

 

Conspiracy Theory Mongering (The Greatest Hits!)

  1. Birtherism: Obama wasn’t a U.S citizen
  2. Claiming that thousands of muslins cheered in New Jersey after 9/11
  3. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in Kennedy Assassination
  4. Vince Foster: suggested several times that the Clintons were involved in his death
  5. President Obama “Complicit in Orlando Attacks”
    1. “People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.”
  6. Obama and Clinton were “founders of ISIL”
    1. There is a legitimate claim of facetiousness on the part of Mr. Trump, however his history of conspiracy mongering casts serious doubt on that position.
  7. Scalia Was Assassinated
    1. According to Trump, “They say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”
  8. Vaccines Cause Autism
    1. “The child, the beautiful child, went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever. Got very, very sick. Now is autistic,”
  9. Climate Change is a hoax (created by the Chinese)
    1. Has since walked statements back, but asserted in numerous times fairly recently
  10. The Unemployment Rate is a “phony number” and “one of the biggest hoaxes in American modern politics”
  11. The Fed is political and Janet Yellen is keeping interest rates low to help Democrats
  12. Hillary part of an international banking cabal
    1. “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty.”

 

Sexism, Sexual Assault, and The Donald’s View of Women

  1. Bragging about sexual assault: “Grab them by the P***y”
  2. Corroborating cases and accusations of attempted sexual assault
    1. Great rundown by Vox: here
  3. Sexist remarks toward Megyn Kelly “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her, wherever.”
  4. Comment to Philip Johnson “Women, you have to treat ‘em like shit.”
  5. Punishment for women who get abortions

 

Encouraging Violence and Undermining Democratic Institutions

  1. Has suggested repeatedly that the election will be rigged
  2. Assertion that the Media is dishonest, in the pocket of the Clinton’s, and rigged against him
  3. Threatened violent riots if he had lost the primary
  4. Repeatedly encouraged violence against protestors at rallies
  5. Implication that his supporters should use violence against her if Clinton appoints judges…
    1. “If she gets to pick her judges — nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know.”

 

Authoritarian Don’

  1. Praise for Vladimir Putin: ‘more of a leader than Obama’
  2. Proposal to censor media outlets critical of him through altering libel laws
  3. Institution of campaign blacklist for media outlets that delivered critical reporting of Trump
  4. “I alone can fix it”: Trump’s fearmongering and authoritarianism at the RNC
  5. Implication that Trump would jail his political opponents and especially Hillary
    1. Suggested that he would appoint a special prosecutor to try Clinton, “Lock Her Up”
  6. Praise for Saddam Hussein
    1. “Saddam Hussein throws a little [chemical] gas, everyone goes crazy, ‘oh he’s using gas!’”

 

Engaging with and flirting with racism

  1. Mexico is sending “rapists”, “criminals”.
  2. History of housing discrimination against African Americans
  3. Racist comments surrounding suggestions that an Indiana born ‘Mexican’ judge’s heritage would influence his decisions and is unable to impartially adjudicate the situation
  4. To minority communities, “What do you have to lose!”
  5. Muslim Ban
  6. David Duke scandal

 

Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, The Military, and Veterans

  1. Insulting John McCain, and by extension POWs, for being captured.
  2. “The generals have been reduced to rubble,” “I know better than the generals”
  3. Insulted a gold star family—Khizr and Ghazala Khan scandal
  4. S should specifically target the innocent families of terrorists
  5. Repeated calls for use of torture, worse methods than waterboarding
  6. Disbanding NATO
  7. “‘Its not so bad for us if Japan [and Korea] have nuclear weapons”
  8. Asking an expert three times: “If we have [Nuclear Weapons], we can’t we use them?”
  9. Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

 

General Impropriety

  1. Mocking a disabled reporter
  2. Tax Returns
  3. Trump University Scandal
    1. Pam Bondi bribery scandal
  4. Trump Foundation Scandal—improper use of charitable money for personal reasons

 

As voters we are compelled to draw conclusions from the actions and public statements of candidates to piece together an idea of how they would perform as President of the United States. Any of these scandals, during a past election cycle, would completely render the presidential aspirations of a politician unrealizable. If any of the above 47 scandals cast doubt on Trump’s ability to meet the most basic requirements of public office, we urge that you take that into account when considering who to vote for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here Fishy Fishy…

How the territorial dispute in the South China Sea is all about fish, and what that tells us about world order and American foreign policy.

           A nuclear-aspirant North Korean lobbing No Dongs into the Sea of Japan, Vladimir Putin’s Russia testing the willingness of the self-appointed custodians of the post-Cold War settlement to defend it, and the inescapable imperative to implement an international agreement that halts the progression of climate change—clearly, the United States faces a plethora of foreign policy challenges in the status quo; it is not with a single great threat with which the United States must contend but a whole slew of problems that each impel action. So one must ask—what are the nature of these problems?  Are there higher-order commonalities between them that may inform our grand strategy?

To answer these questions, we ought to look to the Pacific, most specifically to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. This conflict is emblematic of the type of international issue that presents the greatest challenge to the United States. On one hand, China seeks to expands its territory, through force and, well, semi-clever island building.  It’s a zero-sum conflict between regional actors, resembling the traditional geopolitics of yore—an exercise of power in the name of self-interest at the expense of other states. In this matter, one might say it cleanly fits a neorealist model.

Yet, at the same time the South China Sea is the site of a separate but interrelated problem: overfishing, illegal fishing, and—as a result— declining fish stocks.  Fishing is a core component of the Chinese economy, accounting for 3 percent of GDP and employing ~8 million fishermen.[1] As coastal stocks have dwindled, Chinese fisherman have moved into contested water to compete with the fishing industries of several other nations. As a consequence, fishing has been conducted at an alarmingly unsustainable rate—fish stocks have declined from 95% of their 1950s levels, and might soon be exhausted due to illegal fishing. Furthermore, the decline of fish stocks has severe regional implications—the average person in China and South East Asia consumes a remarkably large amount of fish, around 24.2 kilograms of fish a year, and fishing is a massive component of regional economies.[2] It merits, then, to pose the central question of how regional governance of common pool resources can be established for the fisheries of the South China Seas? This is a question of both international and regional import given that regional food shock may have significant consequences on international food prices and contribute to regional instability. Indeed, as the example of the Syrian refugee crisis highlights, regional problems no longer have strictly regional consequences.

The example of territorial disputes in the South China Sea has two fundamental strategic dimensions: a quasi-realist imperative to balance China and protect the international order, and the neoliberal necessity of inviting China to the negotiating table as a necessary stakeholder in the fish stocks of the South China Sea. The second imperative is as important as the first— without Chinese cooperation, the US simply does not have the power, nor the mandate to prevent Chinese illegal fishing. Without a permanent resolution that all stakeholders assent to, the only potential Nash equilibrium, to borrow from game theory, that could result will be either total control on the fish stocks by one or more states to the exclusion of others or instability and infighting that leads to the depletion of the fish stocks entirely. In both cases, conflict is likely to erupt as dwindling resources provoke even more aggressive competition that, in turn, reduces fishery capacity even further.  The situation necessitates, then, the implementation of some sort of multilateral diplomatic settlement like a Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) that has proved effected elsewhere at managing fish stocks. Yet a necessary precondition for regional cooperation of this nature is the external balancing of Chinese aggression and provocation in the South China Sea.

This type of challenge—which require both an oppositional relationship in one respect but a cooperative one in another characterizes many of the international strategic challenges the US faces in the status quo. For example, the U.S vehemently opposes Russia’s territorial ambitions vis a vis Crimea and its military support of Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Syria. Yet, the United States must cooperate and cooperates with Russia on several other fronts: counter-terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, space exploration, counter-narcotics efforts, climate change, combating piracy, and scientific advancement—just to name a few. It would not be within the U.S’ best interest to simply abandon cooperation in these mutually beneficial areas due to Russia’s revanchist tendencies.

All this shows that a ‘flat’ word characterized by interdependence and interconnectedness ensures that regional challenges have international implications; the proliferation of global challenges that necessitate collective action demand a strategic emphasis on multilateral cooperation and international institutions. The greatest long term threats to global order all necessitate such internationally coordinated responses: climate change, global health crises, and nuclear proliferation. The international network of institutions and agreements that constitute the ‘international order’ all help to facilitate global cooperation through dialogue, reduced transaction costs, international norm creation, economies of scale, and massive efficiency gains. Thus, challenges to the international order must be met with appropriate resistance, yet the United States must cooperate with those same revisionist actors on matters of mutual interest. Truly, the greatest foreign policy challenge the United States faces is the question of structuring a grand strategy that considers these twin, perhaps antagonistic imperatives.

[1] http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/the-south-china-sea-is-really-a-fishery-dispute/

[2] http://blogs.wsj.com/briefly/2016/07/19/5-things-about-fishing-in-the-south-china-sea/

A Conversation with Kourosh Ziabari

The Global Conversations project is a Popular Discourse initiative to bring together voices from various countries, backgrounds, and areas of expertise to discuss issues that matter. This week, we are fortunate enough to bring you a conversation with Kourosh Ziabari, a correspondent at Fair Observer, Iran Review, Middle East Eye, Your Middle East, and other outlets. Ziabari has won several awards and fellowships for his work, including the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellowship in Cultural Journalism, the East-West Center’s Senior Journalists Seminar Fellowship, and the Iranian National Press Festival’s first prize for political journalism. In July 2015, Ziabari was awarded a Chevening Scholarship by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to pursue his master’s study in the UK. The scholarship is granted to gifted students with leadership potential from more than 140 countries around the world. Currently, Kourosh is a MA International Multimedia Journalism student at the Centre for Journalism, University of Kent, Medway Campus.


By MEGHAN BODETTE || September 30, 2016

Popular Discourse: The nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 was signed over a year ago, and the future of the US-Iran relationship is a topic of discussion and disagreement in both countries. How do you envision the future of this relationship? Do you think it is likely to improve?

Kourosh Ziabari: If we look at the troubled history of Iran-U.S. relations and grasp the delicacy of their mutual engagement over the course of the past 40 years, it turns out that what was achieved in July 2015 was an extraordinary  step forward. Whereas for a period of four decades, even the lowest-ranking officials and diplomats of the two countries would hysterically evade each other in public, and rush to deny the rumors that they had accidentally run into each other, met each other, shook hands or simply exchanged a few words of greetings – even when those rumors were true – one can dare call it a revolution that the presidents of the two countries had a 15-minute phone conversation back in September 2013, and the two foreign ministers became the most intimate friends that would simply call each other on first name basis. Some reports even went so far as to claim that the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif spent more time together in 2014 and 2015 than any other two foreign ministers in the world! So, even though such a development appears to be symbolic and unsubstantial, it carries a lot of weight after four decades of absolutely non-existent mutual relations between the two countries on any political and diplomatic front. You may want to call it a jump!

The nuclear agreement, as the officials of both countries have emphasized, was not meant to solve all the differences keeping Iran and the U.S. apart. That’s true. But I think everybody agrees the two adversaries should have started from a certain point to ease the tensions. It’s really impossible, impractical and unrealistic to expect this huge bulk of misunderstandings, animosity and grievances accumulated between the two nations during such a long period to go away in a jiffy. And moreover, the differences between the two nations have been so entrenched and extensive that they either remain there forever, or are simply settled through dialog and a sustained commitment to realize constructive dialog.

I’m hopeful about the future of Iran-U.S. relations, because history has proven that animosity won’t last forever, even if it’s so deep-rooted. Countries are practicing how to talk to each other even when they don’t agree on everything. Even sometimes, they totally differ in terms of ideology, nature and ideals, but they have come to terms with each other, and it means the limits of international relations are defined in accordance with facts on the ground, neither fantasies, nor vague mottos.

Take, for example, Saudi Arabia. The UK firms have sold around £5.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since 2010. Saudis do not resemble any of the values that the British society characterizes. They’re each literally standing on the two most extreme ends of the spectrum. Even the UK Home Office considers the Saudi Arabian students as “high-risk students” needing to register with the police within 7 days of arriving in the UK to study there. But you can see they’re getting along quite well, enjoying a mutually benefiting relationship, and at times, maintaining their differences and arguing over them. This is how international relations work – which is putting national interests above anything else, and I really hope Tehran and Washington will learn to practice some tolerance and pragmatism and understand that even the closest, most loyal allies have their differences at times, and just try to minimize or conceal them. Again, look at the U.S. and Israel, think of their affectionate, special relationship and consider how much conflict they’ve had in the recent 3-4 years. So, here we go! Iran and the United States should not expect themselves to embrace each other as true lovers after forty year of unremitting enmity. They have to take the steps one by one, and I’m confident they’ll move to the stage of full normalization one day. Maybe that day will happen 100 years later. I don’t know. But could anybody imagine President Obama paying an official trip to Havana and taking those fancy photos with President Raul Castro after half a century?

 

PD: Iran’s next presidential election will occur in 2017. What issues do you think will be most important in this election?

KZ: The most important development affecting the next year’s election, which has just been unfolded, is the strong warning by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against the ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a well-known demagogue and hardliner, dissuading him from running for president. Ahmadinejad, who ruled Iran from 2005 until 2013 for two consecutive terms, had ambitiously planned to try his chance for a third time – after losing the chance to do so immediately due to constitutional limits, and had been going on lecture tours across the country apparently for no good reason, and while the campaign season has not officially kicked off yet. The Leader recognized that another term for Ahmadinejad in office would be tantamount to the aggravation and enlargement of national splits and divisions, renewed tensions with the outside world after the breathtaking efforts by President Rouhani and his team to get the nuclear controversy settled, and a new shock to domestic economy now that relative stability has started to rule Iran’s troubled market. Ahmadinejad’s record during his eight years in office was one of mismanagement and cluelessness on domestic and foreign policy.

Ahmadinejad is literally obsessed with power and has been long fancying running for the upcoming presidential election in 2017, launching a controversial campaign, winning the vote even with a narrow margin by every possible means and then starting to entertain the same experiences that exceptionally boosted his confidence to the point that he never apologized to his constituency, even once, for the grave mistakes he committed, including drowning the country in an erosive conflict with the entire world over the nuclear issue and virtually leaving Iran’s economy in ruins. Nothing could have stopped him from running, because it’s not the Iranian people or the future of Iran he cares about. It’s his power greed and publicity lust that keeps him stuck to the nation’s political panorama, even four years after his retirement. Only the Supreme Leader could have prevented him from seeking a comeback. And when he got that stern public caution, he didn’t comply out of affection for the Supreme Leader or obedience to him – what Ahmadinejad’s fans falsely believe, or simply pretend to believe he characterizes perfectly, that is unconditional submission to the Supreme Leader. He wrote a reluctant letter of homage addressed to Ayatollah Khamenei, saying that he doesn’t have plans for the next year’s polls. He didn’t mention anything about the future elections, nor did he make any reference to his possible withdrawal from politics. Perhaps he just felt compelled to oblige, or he would have faced a crisis in his fan base.

However, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being cast out of the race, I don’t think of any major rival challenging Rouhani seriously, even though I cannot guarantee he will be able to secure an unproblematic reelection. Rouhani’s disappointing performance on a number of issues the people wanted him to fix quite quickly after coming to office, and his inability to fix them even while he’s nearing the end of his first term, has proven to be a challenge for the moderate cleric, and a disillusionment for his supporters. However, I’m confident the next year’ election will be a competitive, vibrant and exciting race, regardless of the outcome.

PD: As a journalist, you have had the opportunity to travel the world and cover key figures and events in various countries. What is the most important lesson you have learned from this international perspective? 

KZ: Thankfully, since I finished my undergraduate studies, I’ve been able to travel to quite a few places across the globe and gain new experiences. The most important thing these trips have taught me is that a good journalist cannot be confined to his newsroom and expect to become a trained, seasoned and proficient media personality all of a sudden. One has to interact with people of diverse, different backgrounds, grasp the nuances of various cultures that at times appear to be inconsistent and totally dissimilar, learn about what matters to people here and there, and understand the delicacy of global civilizations. I cannot really claim that traveling to a dozen of countries has made me such an erudite and progressive journalist, but I know it’s essential that thriving journos break the barriers that segregate them from the outside world and make them unable to establish long-lasting ties and explore new universes.

Sometimes, journalists are stuck in their preconceptions, and it prevents them from giving a realistic and fair coverage to the current affairs, as well as issues of historical nature that still matter to the public. Again, it’s almost impossible to say journalists do not take sides or are absolutely impartial, because it’s not really the responsibility of the journalists to be totally unbiased – but it’s their responsibility to be honest and adhere to integrity. When they produce stories that are consistent and predicated on honesty, then it’s quite inevitable that the level of impartiality in their coverage will ascend accordingly.

I’ve been contributing to international media organizations since 2008, and I’ve been learning and practicing fresh methods all the time, trying to acquire new knowledge to embellish and uplift my work of journalism. I aspire to become a leading, distinguished media personality respected worldwide – actually it’s my long-term plan, or maybe wishful thinking, and I’m sure these trips have given me a better picture of how the world works, even though with over 200 countries and territories distributed in five continents and some 7.4 billion people living across these regions, it’s almost impossible for any journalist to be able to “completely” discern and understand the subtleties of the entire world. However, we can try and move in the direction of becoming more comprehensive and more understanding media people and narrow down our ignorance. Being able to understand the differences between people and accommodate them is what distinguishes successful and failed journalists, I think.

On Global Growth Trends, Right-Wing Backlash, and Political Economy: Shouting into the Ether


BY SPENCER SLAGOWITZ || SEPTEMBER 19TH, 2016

Nils Gilman, a historian at UC Berkeley, wrote a medium length piece last Monday on the ‘Economic roots of populist rage’, in the America Interest that suggested that the ‘technoglobalist’ consensus of the elites failed repeatedly failed the same segment of society, most poignantly demonstrated by the populist rage of this election cycle, thus necessitating a new socio-economic compact. What follows is my response to that argument, my proverbial rant into the ether.

I am easily in agreement with the premise of this piece—an economic system (or more accurately a whole regime of economic policies that comprise such a ‘system’) that repeatedly leaves the same sector of the population behind is not a socially optimal economic system. Yet, Gilman’s piece is more historical/political analysis than policy proposal—and it is Gilman’s analysis, not his conclusions nor his premise, that ultimately proves faulty.

Firstly, Gilman suggests that economic anxiety is the prime motivator for the current quasi-populist, anti-globalist backlash, in order to argue that failed economic policies have engendered serious ‘political economy’ concerns. This argument seems to suggest that through economic ends may we seek to quell the backlash of the so-called ‘Trumpenproletariat”. Gilman asserts:

In other words, the populist class-based anger we see has a basis in economic reality, and what it means politically is that the United States (and, indeed, almost all the advanced Western countries) needs a new social-political compact

Yet, there are several reasons to doubt that economic concerns are the main motivating factors behind the rise of right wing movements. A Gallup study conducted in early July by Jonathan Rothwell concluded that, “Trump’s popularity cannot be neatly linked to economic hardship. Those who do not view Trump favorably appear to have been just as exposed as others, if not more so, to competition with immigrants and foreign workers, and yet are no more likely to say they have a favorable opinion of Trump than others.” These findings are echoed by political scientist Philip Klinker’s Vox analysis of an ANES (American National Election Studies) pilot survey which observed that, “Attitudes about race, religion, and immigration trump (pun intended) economics.” In any case, as the previous examples show, a lot of recent evidence suggests a plausible disconnect between economic anxiety or loss from trade and support for Trump. This is additionally reinforced by looking to Scandinavian societies, who have enjoyed robust and equitable growth, but still experienced a similar right-wing populist backlash.

Secondarily, at the heart of Gilman’s argument is his presentation of the “empirical economic basis for populist economic-based anger” and his explanation of the roots of current economic trends.To answer the second principle, Gilman poses two questions: “First, why are the gains of the economy so poorly distributed? Second, why has productivity growth slowed so much over the past ten years?” In an effort to answer the first question, Gilman appears to rely on the second’s answer—he asserts:

There actually is a well-known (though not uncontroversial) historical explanation for why we should not be surprised that the past few years have been a period of slowing productivity growth in the old industrial core of the North Atlantic…we have entered the declining-growth stages of the current phase of global capitalism…the theory that capitalism at the technology frontier operates in higher- and lower-growth cycles was originally developed nearly a century ago by the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev.

Gilman proceeds to use Kondratiev’s theory of “K Waves” to justify his indictment of ‘turbocaptialism.” But to answer easily what is one of the most contentious and important questions of modern macroeconomics— what has caused current growth patterns & stagnating wages/productivity?— the article compels the reader accept the “K-Waves” hypothesis based on authority alone. This is quite troublesome given its centrality to Gilman’s analysis and the total dearth of supporting economic evidence found in the piece; indeed, instead of providing an economic argument, a large part of the article is simply an historical analysis that, instead of justifying the theory and its applicability in this case, explain how it has played throughout the preceding few decades. An interesting and dare I say, captivating intellectual exercise, but one that is far from compelling.

Thirdly, the article does not respond to or address any of the other predominant theories that concern the roots of current global growth patterns. Given how contentious the debate is and how diverse the promulgated arguments are—the failure to rebut any other theory that could possibly invalidate Gilman’s central thesis raises serious question. From Kenneth Rogoff’s argument about debt overhang, or Larry Summer’s secular stagnation theory—alternate expressions remain wholly ignored, save one exception; in an effort to respond to the most compelling counter-argument to the K-Wave hypothesis, Robert Gordon’s theory of current technological development slowdown, Gilman effectively shrugs and dismisses it as “premature.” Even after conceding that economically significant developments need to be platform technologies, (and, mind you, Gordon suggests that those sorts of technologies simply aren’t being developed), Gilman could have at least fulfilled the necessary burden of proving that the technologies he identifies—additive manufacturing, CRISPR-enabled biotechnology and precision medicine— in order to respond to Gordon, are indeed platform technologies.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fascination exploration of an important topic and brings very interesting historical context—and I’ll eagerly second the final conclusion of the article that we cannot simply separate the disciplines of political economy and economics—the two are not only intertwined but directly impact each other. In isn’t enough to say that they are simply related, it is more so that they look at different sides and aspects of related phenomenon—that phenomenon being governance and society. To loosely paraphrase John Kenneth Galbraith, one cannot separate the discipline of economics, political economy/political science, sociology/anthropology, philosophy and psychology. But, while the article is fascinating, articulate, and poignant—as an argument, it leaves much to be desired. It gives readers a faulty impression of the relationship between U.S economic policy and the current sociopolitical trends of right-wing backlash, it misidentifies the causes of current global growth, and as a consequence, concludes by giving faulty policy prescriptions