Here’s what my colleague Bryan Caplan learned in 2016. By his own admission, it really wasn’t a lot. A slice:
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.
The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney reports that Trump’s choice to be commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, who was a registered Democrat until nine days into the transition, has praised China’s central direction of its economy using five-year plans. Ross favors a U.S. “industrial policy” whereby government would “decide which industries are we going to really promote — the so-called industries of the future.” Ross’s confidence in government’s clairvoyance and planning dexterity might reflect the fact that, as Carney reports, he has done well by buying steel and textile companies that then profited from tariffs on steel imports and from textile import quotas.
4. Mr. Trump boasts of his successful efforts to persuade Toyota and other foreign-based automakers to produce more cars in America. Investments by these companies to honor their commitment to Mr. Trump will put upward pressure on America’s trade deficit. How do you square Mr. Trump’s desire for more such foreign investment in America with the administration’s often-stated goal reducing America’s trade deficit?
5. Americans spend about $130 billion a year on foreign travel and tourism. Does the Trump administration plan to impose any taxes on Americans who travel abroad in an effort to persuade them to “Buy American”?