David R. Henderson  

Highs and Lows of the Republican Convention

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Watching and analyzing the Republican convention so that you didn't have to.

I watched more of the Republican national convention than I usually do, mainly because it promised to be more interesting than the usual. It was.

Here are some highs and lows of the convention. I'll focus mainly, though not entirely, on economics. I'm judging entirely by content, not by how good-looking or good a speaker each speaker was. And my focus is on good or bad per minute spoken. By my standards, there weren't many highs. I'll start with the highs:

Best Speech:
The one on gun control by Chris Cox. I had never seen him speak before or even heard of him. He's not the Christopher Cox who was a Congressman in southern California and later chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He's the chief lobbyist for the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association. He pointed out that it's easy for Hillary Clinton to advocate making it harder for people to have guns because for the last 30 years (actually, it's 24 years) and for the rest of her life she will be surrounded by people with guns, people paid by taxpayers, who will be there solely to protect her.
He made this point and others quite succinctly.

Second-best Speech:
The one by Peter Thiel. I liked much of it and I especially liked the positive, and somewhat surprising, crowd reaction when he proudly announced that he was (is) gay. He emphasized nonintervention in other countries' affairs. He overdid his stagnation thesis and he seemed to imply that it was a good thing for the government to spend taxpayers' money to land a man on the moon.

Now the lows.

Tie for the Worst Speech:
The one by former astronaut Eileen Collins in which she called for increased funding for NASA. One of the few pro-freedom policy accomplishments of President Obama and Congress is the decline in funding for NASA and the reduction of barriers to private firms investing in space. [I can't quickly find the links to articles backing up my claim in the previous sentence: I think it's true. Regardless, Ms. Collins wants more and I want less.]

Other Worst Speech:
By Ivanka Trump.
Here was the worst part:

As President, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality childcare affordable and accessible for all.

In context, she seems to be saying that Trump would push for laws requiring paid leave for people taking care of children. Otherwise, it's hard to see why she discussed labor laws. One could charitably interpret her point about making childcare affordable to refer to deregulation so that the real cost of child care falls. I think that's unlikely. The more-likely interpretation: subsidies to child care.

And the second-worst part:

He [Trump] is the single most qualified [to]serve as chief executive of an $18 trillion economy.

Trump is not running to be CEO of the economy. Fortunately, there's no such job. He's running for President. If he wins, he will be head of the executive branch of the federal government, which is one of three. It's understandable why Ivanka would make that mistake: Donald seems to also.

Third-Worst Speech:
Donald Trump's Speech
I watched the whole speech, but didn't watch enough of the other speeches to rate this one third-worst overall. I have no idea, for example, what the guy from Duck Dynasty said. But it's the third worst of the many ones I did watch. (Although Reince Priebus's speech comes close.)

As many commentators have pointed out, Trump sketched a much more dismal view of life in America than is justified by the facts. Crime, which apparently has blipped up, is lower than it was even 10 years ago, and so much lower than it was 40 years ago. The fact is that the vast majority of us are incredibly safe.

Also, on foreign policy, which, in my view, is Trump's relative strength, he said:

Iran deal, which gave back to Iran $150 billion and gave us absolutely nothing. It will go down in history as one of the worst deals ever negotiated.

Actually, it gave "us" a few more years in which the Iranian government will not be able to develop nuclear weapons. Given the fear many had before the deal that the Iranian government could have nuclear weapons within a year or two, this was a "huuuuuge" benefit. Of course, it also gave us another trading partner, although, in Trump's view, if that causes us to actually buy things from Iranians, that's bad. Even he would have to admit, though, that the deal was good for Boeing exports.
When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country.

This could signal an attempt by Trump to federalize responsibility for law and order that, under the Constitution, rests largely with state and local governments and with private people.
As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me. And I have to say as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.

I don't think he should do much because most of those issues, as noted above, are not federal responsibilities. But I did like his stopping and noting how far Republicans have come in a short time to applaud someone's pitch for protection of gays.
I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences.

That's a huge assault on economic freedom.
Excessive regulation is costing our country as much as $2 trillion a year, and we will end it very quickly.

This is good. One or two specifics would have been nice.
We will completely rebuild our depleted military.

Seriously? It's arguably the best large-country military in the world.


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CATEGORIES: Economic Philosophy




COMMENTS (14 to date)
BorrowedUsername writes:

Woah woah woah. Careful with all your sensible facts there. Hopefully they're contagious though.

fnn writes:

[Comment removed pending confirmation of email address. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring this comment. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog and EconTalk.--Econlib Ed.]

JK Brown writes:

Actually, Hillary has had armed men looking out for her 24/7 for 33 years if we include here stint as wife of the governor of Arkansas. Whether the state trooper provided full protection as the Secret Service does is a factor but there were armed men looking to her personal security at taxpayer expense. So 30 years is a nice round number.


I agree, Ivanka's expansion of government wasn't the best, but as for the president running the economy, that is a common sentiment about presidents since FDR. And of all those Trump is probably the most qualified to be the "CEO". He may even be one of the best to be the "super-mayor" the office of the President has become with the increasing federal provision of services formerly done by local officials.

But the fact of the matter, Trump used the language of those who get elected. Perhaps he can be swayed when in office. But the election is no time to try to up the grade level of political rhetoric. That's how you lose.

Years ago, I read a book that I cannot remember the name of on the thought processes at different ages. Things like 5-yr olds are very black and white, teenagers are in the grey to the level of danger or bad behavior because they see past his "bad boy" rep, etc. The book pointed out most political rhetoric for the public at large was at about the 5-yr old level. This year they are calling it 4th grade, but effective rhetoric is very black and white. Any high-brow political discussion attributed to a campaign is pure self-deception fed to the political rags the public will never see.


Mike Rowe made an interesting observation regarding political performances, I mean, speeches, and Donald Trump.

Whatever you think of him, Donald Trump is not in Cleveland tonight because he’s richer, smarter, meaner, shrewder, or more ambitious than any other contender. He’s there, in my opinion, because talking without the aid of a Teleprompter made his opponents look like performers in some ridiculous charade, waiting for someone else’s carefully crafted words to appear before them on a magical screen, so they can speak while pretending not to read. The Teleprompter is in insult to thinking people. It’s also the enemy of authenticity, and if I were King of the World, I’d melt them all down and have the residue molded into a giant Trojan Horse.
john hare writes:

Parabolic Arc, transterrestrial musings, and the other blogs they are linked to would be a good place to find more evidence than you want about the rise of private space. Also about the almost criminal waste of resources congress forced on NASA via SLS and Orion as pork projects.

Michael Byrnes writes:
He pointed out that it's easy for Hillary Clinton to advocate making it harder for people to have guns because for the last 30 years (actually, it's 24 years) and for the rest of her life she will be surrounded by people with guns, people paid by taxpayers, who will be there solely to protect her.

Why is this viewed as a serious point rather than just a cheap shot?

The vast majority of those, both in government and out of it, who espouse views on gun control that are similar to those of Hillary Clinton do not have lifetime secret service protection. Whether one agrees with her position or not, it is a mainstream political position in the US that is in no way driven by its proponents access to secret service protection.

My attitude when watching Trump's acceptance speech may have been a little like your attitude, David, when listening to Tom Friedman last month. I know I'm not going to agree with him. But to get all this fame he must be doing something right; I might learn something from his style and demeanor.

I was struck that Trump does not hold grudges. He does not seem to carry anger or hate anyone. He seemed surprisingly considerate of and interested in Ted Cruz. His practice concerning attacking opponents may be like the tit-for-tat strategy which works in the prisoners' dilemma; he starts out pacific and attacks back only after attacked (assuming the press reports I've seen teach me the truth).

Thomas B writes:

I don't know about this "three branches" thing. As FDR demonstrated so compellingly, the Supreme Court is a branch of the Executive. And it has been, ever since.

Greg G writes:

Let's remember that the fact that Hilary Clinton has long been guarded by armed Secret Service agents does NOT mean she is safer than most Americans from gun violence.

More than 10% of all American Presidents have been shot while in office. And if you start counting with the first one shot, the percentage is a lot higher than that.

She gets the protection because she is at much more risk being shot than the average American. It does not follow that the Secret Service protection makes her at lower risk than the average American. Almost anyone who wants to kill her can easily get a gun.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Greg G,
She gets the protection because she is at much more risk being shot than the average American. It does not follow that the Secret Service protection makes her at lower risk than the average American.
True, and irrelevant to the argument, at least the argument that I think Chris Cox is making.
He’s arguing that it’s personally costless for her to advocate making it harder for many Americans to get guns. It is. Let’s say Hillary Clinton got a gun. Is it really plausible that she would be safer than she is? Hard to believe. So gun control has no effect on her ability to defend herself--because she has people defending her.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Richard O. Hammer,
I know I'm not going to agree with him. But to get all this fame he must be doing something right; I might learn something from his style and demeanor.
Good point, and I agree. Indeed, my first post on Trump after he declared his candidacy, last July, was motivated by my observation of many of my FB friends posting on his FreedomFest talk, showing themselves unwilling to learn from his style.
As I mentioned in my post, I was focused solely on content, not on style.
I was struck that Trump does not hold grudges. He does not seem to carry anger or hate anyone. He seemed surprisingly considerate of and interested in Ted Cruz. His practice concerning attacking opponents may be like the tit-for-tat strategy which works in the prisoners' dilemma; he starts out pacific and attacks back only after attacked (assuming the press reports I've seen teach me the truth).
Good observation. I’ve been noticing that too. And while virtually all the pundits criticized him for his attack on Cruz last Friday morning, and I agreed with their criticism at the time, this can also be seen as tit-for-tat because of Cruz’s speech to the Texas delegation. We often (or, at least, I often) criticize Trump for his undisciplined style. But on the tit for tat, he has been very disciplined.

tjames writes:

@David. R. Henderson

You wrote
"So gun control has no effect on (Clinton's) ability to defend herself--because she has people defending her."

Gun control does have an effect on Hillary Clinton's ability to defend herself. To the extent that it works, it makes her less likely to be shot by someone. I think this was Greg G's point.

David R. Henderson writes:

@tjames,
Gun control does have an effect on Hillary Clinton's ability to defend herself. To the extent that it works, it makes her less likely to be shot by someone.
True.
I think this was Greg G's point.
I don’t think so.

Mark Bahner writes:
Let's remember that the fact that Hilary Clinton has long been guarded by armed Secret Service agents does NOT mean she is safer than most Americans from gun violence.

Indeed. So she has all the more reason to make sure only the Secret Service has guns.

Whether one agrees with her position or not, it is a mainstream political position in the US that is in no way driven by its proponents access to secret service protection.

How does anyone know what drives other people? And why does what drives other people to propose policies even matter?

This reminds me of the film, "Hero." (Spoiler alert for this 1992 film. ;-)) In it, Dustin Hoffman saves people from a burning airplane while stealing their purses and wallets. His motives and actions of stealing were bad, but he did save several lives.

So it seems to me the best question isn't "What are Hillary Clinton's motives?" Instead, better questions are something like, "Will her policy proposals follow U.S. law?" , and "Will her policy proposals, on net, make the U.S. a better place?" (Then there are a huge number of follow-up questions about what makes the U.S. a better place.)

Mark Bahner writes:
Watching and analyzing the Republican convention so that you didn't have to.

Thanks! (I didn't watch it...but I didn't know that I had the good excuse that you were covering it for me. I just didn't want to be depressed.)

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