Why I'm Not Freaking Out
By Bryan Caplan
Until recently, I thought I’d steered clear of what Scott Alexander calls, “the toxoplasma of rage.” Now, sadly, I’m at the point where people are getting angry at me for failing to be properly angry about Trump’s election. This will probably only make them angrier, but in case anyone’s genuinely curious, here’s my thinking.
1. Policy will be terrible under Trump. But in my view, policy is always terrible.
2. Policy will probably be even more terrible under Trump than it was under Obama, or would have been under Clinton. As a champion of open borders, he has given me many reasons to fear he will make U.S. immigration policy even more draconian than it already is. And as a pacifist, Trump’s odd blend of dovish and hawkish statements, combined with his extreme inexperience, make me fear he will murder an unusually large number of innocent people for a U.S. president.
3. But I could be wrong – and not in a cop-out, “I can’t be absolutely sure” kind of way. I think there’s a 20% chance Trump will, in the end and overall, be noticeably better than Clinton would have been.
4. How can I say such a thing?
For starters, there are the generic reasons: Presidents promise a lot more than they even try to deliver, the U.S. political system has severe inertia, the world is complex. Furthermore, disasters are very rare, and our ability to forecast them is poor.
For Trump, we have more specific doubts: He’s a reality t.v. star who adopted most of his political “convictions” quite recently. If he’d promised to adopt policies I favor, I would not trust such a man fulfill his promises. So why should I trust him to fulfill his promises to adopt policies I oppose?
5. If you think I’m in denial, I’m open to bets. Indeed, if you want to change my mind, the mere offer to bet is vastly more persuasive than emoting on me.
6. But how can I be so blase? To repeat: In my view, policy is always terrible. So I have to choose between being miserable all the time, or striving to be happy when policy is terrible. I have long made the latter choice. I will continue to make this choice even if additional very bad things happen to mankind.
7. How can anyone with my bleak view of the world possibly be happy? By creating a Bubble – a small corner of the world that works the way I think the whole world should work. Futile anger has no place in my Bubble, but nobility does.
8. What if very bad things happen to me or my family personally? Then I’ll cope as best I can, taking concrete actions likely to protect my family. Getting angry about U.S. politics plainly doesn’t qualify.
9. But don’t I sympathize with the potential victims of Trump’s policies – the immigrants he’ll deport, the would-be immigrants he’ll exclude, the Middle Eastern civilians he’ll kill? Of course I sympathize. If I could save them, I would. But I almost certainly can’t. All I can do is hope for the best.