Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - June 26, 2016

Brian Gongol

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Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.

This week

If you're laughing at this colossal screw-up, stop for a moment and consider that Trump wants state secrets.

— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) June 24, 2016

Some voters follow politics in real time, and some make up their minds at the last minute. Votes count the same.

— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) June 24, 2016

.@briandean I think 25% to 50% of the market shock is actually due to pricing-in the risk that Donald Trump gets elected. Surprises happen.

— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) June 24, 2016

Europe was never up for a strong constitution, so I guess no surprise its bureaucratic Articles of Confederation are falling apart #Brexit

— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) June 24, 2016

"The estimated depletion date for the HI trust fund is 2028, 2 years earlier than in last year’s report" [!]

— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) June 22, 2016

@briangongol Sounds like a great idea to me!

— Clare Thornley (@clare_thornley) June 22, 2016

.@mandajeanne I'm also fairly sure we've managed to weather the Sacagawea dollar without a great Constitutional crisis.

— Brian Gongol (@briangongol) June 22, 2016

But first...

A comment on George Will, in response to a comment made by a left-of-center friend of mine. He demanded that Will acknowledge his own culpability in laying the groundwork for a person like Donald Trump to win the GOP primary.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, and the first-past-the-post voting system makes it inevitable that we will all share our party identities with people we don't like and don't agree with.

Being right for the right reasons and right for the wrong reasons have to get along if you want to get the right things done. Doesn't make it more appealing than being wrong for the right reasons, but it does mean you have to agree to overlook your disgreements on theory sometimes.

Obama needs critics because he has made mistakes. Inevitable. He's human. But those critics need to be honest and "right for the right reasons" to the best extent they can. That there are some who criticize for the wrong reasons doesn't indict those who criticize for the right reasons.

On the elites

One of the developments that really has me worried in the post-Brexit vote era is that the word "elites" has very quickly become a highly toxic epithet. A narrative has been developed that pits the "elites" who favored remaining in the EU against popular opinion.

It's a narrative that's also being spun here in the United States -- about how the "elites" got it all wrong about things like the popularity of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, and how the "elites" are responsible for everything that's gone wrong in the country.

In a representative democracy like ours, there is a division of labor that arises, just like it does in any other field of the economy. A few people are supposed to specialize in the work of things like government and public policy since the rest of us have neither the time nor the inclination to follow it day-to-day. And we should *want* a representative democracy, rather than a direct one. You might have seen that one of the most popular Google searches on the day of the Brexit elecction was "What is the EU?" Dear God.

In a world that becomes more sophisticated at every turn, we are all "elites" in whatever we do, if we're any good at it. Maybe that doesn't count for much if you're "elite" at being a fry cook at a fast-food restaurant. But the perpetually-rising complexity of everything else in our world means that some people around here are "elites" at the field of actuarial calculations for life insurance, and some people around here are the corn-genomics elites, and others are the elites of wind generation and transmission.

Nobody is ashamed to be the "elites" in those fields, and we're all better off for them being that way.

We should similarly *want* some people to be our political and public-policy elites. That shouldn't become a term of derision. Now, that doesn't justify them losing touch with the general sense of the population. I worry a lot when I hear people on the East Coast forget that there is even such a thing as the Central Time Zone, and sometimes they do. And I don't necessarily want us to become like France, where the highest-performing schoolchildren are tracked to become the bureaucrats of tomorrow. I want many of our academic elites to become our private-sector elites. But we should also desire that some of our smartest people become political elites, who specialize in getting policies right so that our country succeeds into the future.

Sure, I think there's a place for citizen-legislators, too. It's highly desirable for some people to enter our government with blank slates and backgrounds in non-government things. But we shouldn't look at a know-nothing Congress as a desirable thing.

And when the "elites" come back to us and say that a certain approach is desirable, it's not enough to reject that proposal just because it came from the "elites". Populism itself is radioactive. "The people" are often appallingly wrong.

The world isn't going to become less complex, It only grows more so by the day. And while we need fresh blood, fresh thinking, and fresh perspectives to constantly migrate their way into the "elite", it's petulant, short-sighted, and stupid to pit "the elites" against "the people".

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