The Most I'll Admit
By Bryan Caplan
Since I think that most news is overblown fluff, I have little sympathy for the endless pieces about “What we’ve learned about the world in 2016.” Against the background of all of human history, 2016 taught us next to nothing. If you just discovered that horrible people often gain vast political power with widespread popular support, you’re in dire need of remedial history. If you’ve just discovered that politicians’ personalities matter at
least as much as their policy views, you’re in dire need of remedial
political science. If you’ve just discovered that demagogic appeals to national identity work, you’re in dire need of remedial psychology. I am only a messenger.
Still, if you compelled me to articulate what I learned in 2016, here is the most I’ll admit.
1. American voters are at the moment even more irrational than I thought they were in 2015.
2. Republicans are at the moment even more nationalist than I thought they were in 2015.
3. Democrats are at the moment even more socialist than I thought they were in 2015.
4. My ability to discern human nobility is markedly worse than I thought in 2015. I’ve probably always been this bad, but 2016 helped me see my limitations clearly.
5. While I’m confident we’ll muddle through, my odds of a major disaster (nuclear war or something comparable) have risen from 1% to 2% for 2017-2021 (cumulative, not annual).
Since tomorrow is a major news day when people are even less interested in serious thinking than usual, I’ll delay my next post until Monday.