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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Please point me to the TRUST bureau?

"...corrosive to both global politics and economics." Buttonwood's Notebook blog in The Economist. (Excellent article links European political happenings with the erosion of trust led by Donald Trump.)

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Although Donald Trump is calling for a wasteful creation of a department in the Federal Government called VISION, as another way of creating fear among immigrants, the fact is, what we really need is a TRUST bureau. We need this because nothing is making sense anymore. In our nation of immigrants that never needed a VISION bureau to keep track of our comings and goings with Orweillian scrutiny there's now a demonstrated need to find a place where truth is absolute. Indeed, our VISION sees Donald Trump as the leader for the reason such a place is necessary. TRUST- The Real United States Truth bureau.

Unfortunately, the issue of eroding trust is having the same effect on modern society as the Visigoths had on ancient Rome.  

Truth skeptics are becoming as infectious as the plague. Moreover, the synergistic impact is taking down all of our institutions and undermining enlightened thought.

An article in The Economist 
Buttonwood's Notebook blog, describes an example:

Economics and democracyThe hounding of Owen Jones

The latest indication of a disturbing trend to quash debate and erode trust. And trust is vital for a society and economy to function properly.

IN THE big scheme of things, the retreat of a Guardian columnist from social media is not a huge event—it will be drowned out by the latest antics of Donald Trump, the extraordinary diplomatic dispute between the Netherlands and Turkey, the triggering of article 50 by the United Kingdom and Scotland’s push for a second independence referendum.

Actually, though, I think that it is possible to tie all these events together as evidence of a much wider trend; one that is corrosive to both global politics and economics. Let us start with the specifics. Owen Jones (pictured) is a left-wing writer; initially a great enthusiast for Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Labour leader, he has become disillusioned. Those who previously agreed with his columns have denounced him on Facebook and Twitter. As he wrote in one final post (complete with language that may offend some)

On a daily basis I have angry strangers yelling at me, on the one hand, that I’m responsible for the destruction of the Labour Party, and on the other, I’m a right-wing sellout careerist who’s allied to Tony Blair and possibly in the pay of the Israeli government (and that I’m a Blairite cunt who needs to go fuck myself, and so on and so forth).

What unites both of these groups is an almost chronic inability to accept political disagreement in good faith. Nope: there has to be some sinister ulterior motive. Their belief is so righteous and pure than the only possible reason for someone disagreeing with it is malice or greed. That I’m a careerist, obsessed with my own profile, driven by selling books or making money, that the Guardian have brainwashed me, that I was never really left-wing, and so on and so forth

Added with the usual far-right extremists sending ever more creative descriptions of how they’re going to torture and murder me, I’m no longer convinced social media is as useful a tool for political debate and discussion as it once was.

Some may urge him to get a thicker skin or may see this as an example of the left’s chronic tendency to attack itself (see Monty Python on the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea). Mr Jones is not the first and will not be the last to be driven off social media. Many women have suffered horribly, for starters.

But one particular aspect of his lament struck me—that the commenters refused to believe that his motives are genuine. (Buttonwood says that he blogged about this issue -almost six years ago!- and the trend has got worse over time.) In the Brexit debate, even the Institute for Fiscal Studies (generally seen as the gold standard for independent analysis) was attacked because it had benefited from some funding from the European Union; the first Scottish independence referendum was incredibly bad-tempered with nationalists accusing the BBC of bias in asking awkward questions; and of course, Mr Trump has spent much of the last two years attacking the motives of anyone who opposes him, including denouncing the media as “enemies of the people”.

Rancorous debate has occurred for centuries. But as Tim Harford wrote in the Financial Times this weekend, a big problem is that facts are no longer accepted as evidence. This makes economic debate all the harder, as Sean Spicer, Mr Trump’s secretary, showed on March 10th, saying that jobs data were phony under Obama but true under the new president. In other words, he implied the people who produced the official statistics were doctoring the numbers. The right of the Congressional Budget Office to assess the new health-care plan has also been challenged. If society continues down that route, rational debate becomes impossible.

But there is an even bigger problem. If we think the motives of others are suspect, then we can have no trust. And trust is the glue that ties international relations, and the global economy, together. It is what makes international supply chains, money transfers, trade treaties, and lots of other things work. Economists have shown conclusively that societies where trust is low perform poorly (read Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s book, for example).

A world where nationalists take power is a world where disputes flare easily, and governments are reluctant to back down because this makes them look weak. Indeed, they may relish confrontation as burnishing their populist credentials. This is where the latest dispute between Turkey and the Netherlands fits in—it is in the interests of the Dutch prime minister to be tough on Turkey and in the interests of the Turkish president to be tough on the Netherlands. There was a point at which Turkey was seen as a candidate for EU membership; it was one of the most-favoured emerging markets for international investors. But, now it is being driven further and further from the West, and is adding another area of instability to the Middle East. This is bad for everyone.

All this may seem far removed from the unfortunate Mr Jones. But, the underlying point is that the extremists drive out rational debate and drown out all other voices. In turn, they can “capture” the government and the government, once captured, only erodes trust further. This process, once started, is hard to stop. Mr Jones is a canary in a very dark coal mine.

(In other words, show me how to find the TRUST bureau?)

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