The Nationalist Political Economy of DJT

One of the questions that is often asked is, “What is the difference between a political economist and an economist?” Great question! And the answer is, a political economist takes into consideration the power relationships inherent in politics that can skew pure economic relationships. A good follow-up question is then, “Can you provide an example?” As a card-carrying (or more accurately, a diploma-carrying) political economist, my natural go-to example is my thesis, but let’s assume, purely hypothetically, that the world isn’t captivated by my thesis. So what other example might there be?

My colleague Sundance at The Conservative Treehouse has been writing about real-world, non-academic international political economy for some time. And he has some theories that — gosh darn it! — make more sense than a most I’ve read from lofty academics. The example examined in this post refers to Sundance’s analysis of Tom Donahue’s U.S. Chamber of Commerce (CoC), which is far more committed to globalism than any form of U.S. nationalism that its name might suggest or that people unfamiliar with the ways of Donahue and the CoC might assume. Sundance has multiple theories, observations, and insights that — because they are based in complex reality rather than academic abstraction — have caught my attention.

The CoC is in the process of being “unmasked,” as it is forced by the nationalist policy agenda of DJT to reveal it’s true economic incentives. Specifically, the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) has put the globalist CoC into the position of supporting Mexico and Canada rather than the United States, which is strange for an organization called the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Part of the explanation underlying this expectation surprise is that there is an economic divide between globalist Wall Street and nationalist Main Street, with the CoC supporting the former and DJT that latter. Without DJT forcing this unmasking, the CoC might have continued appearing to support Main Street while in fact supporting Wall Street.

Other surprising realities are revealed once one recognized how Washington, DC actually works as opposed to how it is supposed to work. The political establishment, both Democrats and Republicans, are driven by essentially the same economic incentives, which means that they are more closely aligned with each other than the voters in America, outside the DC “beltway” may realize. Sundance explains that politicians are less “leaders” than they are “salespeople” who sell the policies desired by their funders, like the CoC. Moreover, these politicians don’t even write the laws they’re selling. Instead, the lobbyists write the laws and the politicians sell them, which is nice work if you can get it.

This is a very serious game however because, as Sundance points out, there are trillions of dollars at stake as the DC establishment has organized itself to support globalism while appearing to support the American people. Globalism creates concentrations of wealth in the billionaire class, which recycles a percentage of that wealth to fund and help elect pro-globalist politicians to keep the cycle going. While the globalists, the political establishment, and the mainstream media (MSM) who support them all do well, the economic losers in this system are the American people who have had their wealth extracted and their jobs shipped overseas. The consequences in terms of reduced standard of living, increased indebtedness, and diminished life prospects help propel DJT into the White House. This presidency is less than a year old, and its consequences are just beginning to be felt.


The Specter of DJT

I always wanted to fly in a private jet, and now was getting my first chance! I had been invited by a CEO of a major global corporation in Cupertino, California that is named after a fruit. I don’t want to go into more detail to protect the anonymity of my host, Jimmy the C, who we’ll call Tim.

The jet is very nice, a Gulfstream G650, with enough range to fly across the Pacific if you need to because really, who has time to stop to refuel? Today though we’re not going all the way to Japan or other exotic destinations. Today Timmy the C — I mean Tim — is letting me tag along on a trip to Georgia for a few days of discussion and meeting with other very important personages. More on that though later; back to the G650 — with the trans-Pacific range and modern all-glass cockpit. The cabin is well-appointed with big, soft, beautiful leather chairs the color of buttercream. One matter though — and it’s a small matter — is that the feeling during flight is more, uh, cozy than I expected. After all, it’s a small, private jet — not one of those big commercial jobs.

I don’t mention any criticism at all to Tim, who is a tall, page guy with short gray hair. Instead I tell him I’m having the time of my life and his plane is wonderful. He looks up from his computer on which he’s doubtless doing something important. “You think this is nice! I was on the plane of a Middle East oil prince, now that was nice. Had his own bed to sleep, full staff. Not that was nice.” Ah yes, not matter how high one gets, there are always rungs higher, and the Middle East prince has a nicer plane than the Silicon Valley CEO — point noted.

Tim wasn’t his usual self though, telling jokes and reciting passages of Marx. I could tell something was bothering him, and that something was a somebody who was bothering a lot of the global big-money types, Donald J. Trump, who’ll we’ll just call DJT so not to as, you know, recognize him as a… person. Timmy the C was concerned because his company had made considerable profits over that past couple of years with Obama in office, and the very thought of DJT presaged a shock to the global economic system too dramatic to contemplate. Why just last month DJT proposed boycotting Tim’s products because… of some stuff that happened that I can’t get into because of some nondisclosure agreement I signed that something, uh, legal. Doesn’t because DJT has not only Tim bugged, but everybody at the meeting we’re going to.

Tim’s G650 lands at a small private aviation airfield, McKinnon St. Simmons Island. I wonder briefly who St. Simmons is, but a car is waiting to take us to the hotel. We get right off the plane, collect our luggage off the back, and I get directly into the back of the car with Tim. No pulling one’s baggage out of the overhead compartment, no waiting to deplane, no walking through the terminal, and no getting a rent-a-car. I have to depress the desire to admit to myself that I could get used to this, but that’s part of the globalist seduction: in the winner-take-all economy, it pays to be a winner.

We head off to the hotel, the Cloister, where the World Forum is being given by some DC swamp think tank that describes itself as “conservative,” but everybody there has gotten by very comfortably during the Obama years, so in this correspondent’s opinion, some of their conservative bona fides are… more than a little suspect.

The Cloister is one of those hotels that has more personality from the best of the hotel chains, and it advertises itself as such. Things don’t get started until early tomorrow morning with a session entitled, “Assassination, Imprisonment, or Exile: The challenge of striking back at Putin’s empire.” Wow! I’m not making that up! If that doesn’t make you want to get up first thing in the morning, then what does?

However, contemplating assassination at 730 in the morning seems to be the last thing on Tim’s mind at the moment. Instead he’s registering for the conference in the Colonial Lounge, which is like the Grand Hall in the Harry Potter movies — beautiful white stucco architecture, high ceilings, chandeliers, and beautiful wood furniture — 3 points for Gryffindor! Tim’s chatting up his fellow VIPs from industry, politics — mostly from the Republican shadow government — and the media. They all seem to know each other — and what’s so amazing is that DJT has them all very, very upset.

They couch it in the most polite and sensitive of terms using the language and promise of globalism — but the look in their eyes says more that the gravy train that allows them to fly private to Georgia, stay at the Cloister, and contemplate whacking Russians over breakfast might be ending. Who could contemplate such horror?

Of course, we had just flown over 3000 miles of American that have been overtaxed, had their jobs exported through globalization, and has record consumer debt as well as endemic obesity, so perhaps if we accept the premise that government should serve the citizens, then perhaps there might be some room for improvement through the nationalism of DJT?

TIm find a few colleagues who want to talk, and I find myself in the River Bar with its rough hewn timber ceiling and drinks that cost who knows how much? Tim and the other VIPs are talking about DJT in the most awful terms, that he’s a racist, a sexist, and a misogynist — whatever. I order a champagne and shrimp cocktail safe in the knowledge that the global economy and the American people will be paying as the globalist masters of the universe complain that it’s hard to get good help and plot to remain on top of the heap and flying private for a few more even if DJT does get elected.

When they arrive, the shrimp is cold and the champagne is perfect in its dryness. Why after a few more of these, I think I’ll be in the proper frame of mind to decide if Russia’s crimes merit assassination, imprisonment, or exile.


Feynman on Nature

Physicist Richard Feynman (MIT ’39) went on to do great things at Princeton and beyond, but here I want to focus on what Feynman’s work can reveal about nature, reality, and God. If conservatism properly understood concerns an acknowledgement and deep understanding of the complexity associated with nature, reality and God, the Feynman’s thoughts and comments on them are relevant. This post will feature three quotes from Feynman supported by three videos.

First, with regards to science, which takes place in three steps: “(1) Guess it, (2) Compute the consequence of the guess, (3) Compare to nature, experiment, observation. If it disagrees with experiment, then it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.” The notion of “consequence” falls out this observation in the form of experiment. For complex systems, like complex social systems, then the concept of experiment can get confounded because all relevant variables can’t be accounted for. In fact, some experiments can’t even be repeated. Nevertheless, thinking seriously about consequences if fundamental to the scientific process. This is often confounded with “scientism,” taking on the coloring of science to make one’s argument appear more legitimate and solid without the hard work and harsh discipline of performing rigorous experiments.

Second, “The game I play is a very interesting one, imagination in a tight straitjacket, which is this, that it has to agree with the known laws of physics.” It has been my professional experience that most of the time senior decision makers craft policy, they are not considering and integrating all the best information and knowledge available, what Feynman calls, “the known laws of physics.” Instead decision combine a toxic combination of selective facts, historical ignorance, and wishful thinking to create policies that are almost certain to fail. When I was a policy analyst, I was told to “stop admiring the problem! What can you do productively over the next 24 to 48 hours?” Does this really make sense if the larger policy setting is destined to fail?

Third, with regards to the Challenger shuttle disaster, “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” To be completely honest, in today’s democracy-driven political environment, almost no attention is given to the complex reality necessary to design and execute effective policy. Instead, most of the effort is put into building the coalition necessary to pass and fund a policy — the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars as well as Obamacare come immediately to mind, but examples are legion. The problem is, persuasive and linguistically adapt politicians are expert as the public relations, but effective public policy requires a deeper understanding. When poorly designed policies are implemented, negative consequences obtain because, as Feynman says, “Nature cannot be fooled.”


The Big Complexity

I was recently talking with a colleague of mine about writing a book on conservatism because I think the time is right to revisit some long-standing ideas and concepts and shared with him the following quote:

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. – Frank Lloyd Wright

He said I should write a thesis instead of a book. He’s a smart guy so I always listen to what he has to say, but I think in this case he’s wrong because the quote gets at a cluster of insights that are both nuanced and fundamental.

First, God, Nature, and reality are all things that are complex, inimical to the human experience, yet external to the human experience, which establishes the basis for the next observations.

Second, the complexity of this triptych among God, Nature, and reality, which I want to call The Big Complexity, puts it beyond the reach of human cognition to understand completely. Some understanding is possible through hard work, bur complete understanding is impossible.

Third, the way we humans choose to interact with The Big Complexity is fundamental to our politics. That is, conservatives try to understand The Great Complexity, which liberals (and there are lots of other labels one could use here) believe narratives or stories told to them about it. Needless to say, this interpretive intermediation, which is to say hermeneutics,  creates the opportunity for all manner of political entrepreneurship shenanigans.

Teasing out the consequences of these insights is a considerable task, but I think they help to make sense of our seemingly nonsensical politics.

First, the implied primacy of The Big Complexity (TBC, that is, reality) helps explain why conservatives think liberals are dim but liberals think conservatives are evil. Everyone is put in the position of not being able to understand TBC, and nobody recognizes that more than a conservative, so liberals are viewed with some compassion because everyone is somewhere on their walk with TBC, which is commonly called religion. Liberals, in contrast, construct narratives — in a process called philosophy — that are advertised as capturing and complaining TBC, and when this is shown not to be the case, the authors of these narratives become defensive and angry.

One current example of a philosophy is democracy, which Tocqueville points out takes over people’s minds to the extent that they don’t realize there is an alternative, like TBC. From the complexity perspective, democracy is just a decision-making device that’s almost completely orthogonal to God, Nature, and reality. People who have devoted their careers to understanding democracy will not appreciate the primacy of TBC.

Since the time of Tocqueville, the potency of the media and the narratives they transmit and portray has increased tremendously — from radio to TV, movies, and the internet — and has put many politicians in power and made many media personalities fabulously famous and wealthy. They too have little reason to support TBC. However, they would do well to appreciate that reality is that which continues to persist when you stop believing in it.

21st Century Conservatism

I increasingly believe that true conservatism is essentially an acknowledgement of reality, which actually entails numerous implications. Looking as the arc of philosophical history, it has moved in three phases: (1) the religious phase; (2) the scientific phase; and (3) the complexity phase. The verge between religion and scientific has a long and rich history, which essentially defines modernity starting with Machiavelli (it can be argued) and them moving forward from there. Marxism and socialism have made pretenses to science, though in my opinion they’ve achieved only scientism — that is, the use of science-esque language to gain credibility.

The problem is that reality is complex, which philosophically i ground my arguments in Spinoza, Hegel, and Tocqueville. But the point is, with intelligence and study, the causality and consequences of social systems can be figured out pretty well. Moreover, modern, high-performance computing can be used as a cognitive prosthetic to better understand these consequences.

Returning to scientism, traditional science in terms of physics et al. is somewhat limited in terms of its causal complexity, especially insofar as the outcomes are predictable, which was part of the appeal for Marxist scientific pretensions. The problem is that real-world social systems are more complex than can be addressed by traditional physics style science. The causal chains and the temporal scales are just too long — which is to say complex — which introduces the messiness of statistics and heuristics.

Nevertheless, workable assumptions and conclusions can be made that allow for a reasonably accurate analysis of consequences and outcomes, which has traditionally been the role of religion. After all, Jesus himself said that a tree is known by its fruits (Matt 7:15-20, Luke 6:43-45), which states that conclusions can usefully be drawn regarding the outcome of social processes.

Gordon Fee, in his How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth uses philosophical techniques to examine the Bible. Fee makes a distinction between philosophy and religion, essentially arguing that philosophy concerns the creation of simple models while religion aspires to a cognitive and social framework that is more encompassing.

More operationally, which is to say less philosophically, I’ve spent lots of time thinking about the workability of proposed policies, which is what conservatives do. Contemplating consequences is the heart and soul of conservatism. if you’re going to commit time, money, and lives to a policy project, it just makes sense that one should think carefully about the likely success of the policy.

Here’s where complexity starts to come into play. All policies have both winners and losers, and its tough to tell who they might be before a policy is implemented. Moreover, the implementors of a policy might be incentivized to portray a policy differently than the way it is likely to work out. Performing an honest policy analysis in such circumstances might actually provoke a reaction from those selling the policy.

The most politically significant example of this is socialism.  Hayek did a nice study of its likely consequences, which provoked a highly emotional response from Fabian socialist Herman Finer, which was little more than affect and accusation. My professor Charlie tried to camouflage socialism as democracy with the argument that instead of having a committee or Soviet make decisions, instead have the people vote on important issues. This seemed problematic to me because the potency of centralized modern media would just move the decision-making from committee to committees once-removed through voting. As you might imagine, this resulted again in affect and accusation.

To conclude, modern technology, in the form of high-powered computation, can help us better understand the causality and consequences of complex social systems. However, that same technology in the form of radio, movies, TV, and social media, can so shape and distort  people’s understanding of the world that traditional, “realistic” notions of cause and effect no longer obtain. This cognitive distortion has limits however because of reality, which does not go away even when people stop believing in it.

MIT (0) Hanging with SEALs

Based on some work I did at DARPA, I was invited to work as a quantitative analyst at the Special Operations Command in Kabul. It was a long way from home, and there wasn’t much to do beside work, lift weights, eat, and sleep. The schedule was pretty intense as we worked seven days a week, 10-hours days with half-days supposedly on Friday and Sunday. As we used to say on Friday, “Only two more working days ’til Monday.”

Put people in a stressful position though and they’ll find ways to unwind. I would try going to sleep around midnight after a long and stressful day, and my roommate Ryan would show up for whatever reason totally wired. “Hey, let’s go to the DFAC and get midrats!” Midnight rations, or “midrats,” at the Dining Facility, of “DFAC”, is for people who have to work the night shift and usually consists of nothing but chicken fingers, pizza, fries, etc. I would be exhausted, but Ryan would usually be able to talk me into it. If you going to go all the way to Afghanistan, why not experience all it has to offer?

The best nights were the ones when a group of NAVY SEALs were sitting around. If there was some guy we knew, we’d sit down and try our best to get them telling stories, because crazy stuff always happened to them. One night, they were talking about a firefight they got into but they weren’t even sure with whom they were exchanging fire. “We couldn’t figure out if it was Chechens, smugglers, Taliban, locals or what. It was weird, but at least it broke up the day.”

A regular Army guy overheard our conversation and couldn’t help but be a little starstruck. He incredulously asked, “Are you guys SEALs?” One of them replied, “Yeah, but it’s a job like any other.” Then he surprised me by saying, “You want to know what’s really impressive? This guy got his PhD from MIT.” The Army guy asked, just as incredulously, “You went to MIT?”

I couldn’t have been more surprised because: (1) I had no idea how this SEAL knew I had gone to MIT, and (2) I didn’t get my PhD from MIT, and I had explained that to my colleagues multiple times, but still the belief persisted because with degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, and international relations, my background was such that I should have graduated from MIT, but I didn’t. These essays explain my experiences in graduate school to help provide insight into how the academy and politics work and how they might not work the way most people think. Specifically, I examine how the reputation and promise of MIT differ from what I actually experienced.

MIT (10) Why is Complexity Controversial?

Graduate students tend to talk about famous professors, and few are as famous as Nobel Prize Winners. This story is about Herb Simon, who got his PhD from the University of Chicago in decision sciences, a combination of social science, computer science, and experimental psychology, which explains why he won his Nobel in economics. For the awards ceremony, Simon learned Swedish to give his acceptance speech, which for me is just showing off. I saw him just once, sitting next to my PhD adviser on a panel at the American Political Sciences Association (APSA).

This story was told to me about Simon long after he had died. One day, Simon was visiting a university, and afterwards some graduate student was tasked with driving him to the airport. They’re driving along, the conversation was waning, the student was trying to think of topics to discuss, so he asked Simon about his Nobel. Somewhat surprisingly, Simon was angry about it. Specifically, he was mad because the award felt to him like a lifetime achievement award, and it felt that way because his ideas had not permeated or been inculcated by the political or policy professions. It is worth considering why this is so. That is, why is it that fundamental and correct insights into the complexities of social systems might be rejected?

A couple of theories present themselves. First, Simon puts forward the theory of bounded rationality, which states that people make decisions based on few and certain data, and when they are stressed, they make decisions on even fewer and more certain data. The problem with bounded rationality is that is places limits on ambitious political entrepreneurs. That is, Simon’s theory states that there are limits to how much information any person can process, which places limits on hierarchies, hierarchical organizations, and decision-making. It also forces decision making, and thus power, to be distributed, which does not sit well with the politically ambitious who seek ever greater amounts of power.

Second, bounded rationality posits an external “reality” about which the human mind cannot know everything and that actually places limits on human action. Moreover, the complexity of this external reality creates “resistance” to policies so they don’t achieve their intended results. The expression, “the devil is in the details” captures this external reality, but God is in this reality and these details too. The goal then should be to understand as much about this external reality to policies work out more predictably and better policy outcomes can be achieved.

However, that’s not the way it works in big-time professional politics. Instead, ever more personnel, time, and money is spent trying to achieve policy goals that need not necessarily be impossible but probably are. Simon observed that important policy questions are always controversial, and there is an inherent clash here between those who study the problem so that it encompasses multiple positions and those who advocate for a particular position, which the former being more cognitive and scientific but the latter being more emotional and accessible. Controversy tends to emphasize emotion, and the potency of the modern media has perfected the art of stoking emotion to a high-art — especially in a democracy with voting — so while advanced computational techniques are available to better understand complexity and policy, the incentives for doing so are not significant.


MIT (9) Computation as a Policy Lens

Here I want to talk about something that is completely obvious to me but seems to not be obvious to everybody else. When I studied computational theory in computer science school, there was some question as to why we were doing so, and the reason given was that we needed to understand the bounds of the possible so we understood as engineers what classes of solutions were impossible and didn’t waste time attempting them. Although it’s been a while since I studied it, Turing-style computational theory is based on combinations of simple if-then-else propositional logic but it quickly is revealed that you can’t tell if a program will stop, which is called the Halting Problem, or what the shortest path is through even a medium complex set of stops, what is called the Traveling Salesman Problem.

When studying politics and policy at MIT, it seemed to me that the complex social systems we studied were far more complex, less structured, and less specified than computer programs, and yet policy makers and planners made all kinds of heroic assumptions that invariably came not to pass. This was especially true for radical theories and policies, and by that I don’t mean to treat socialist, communist, or social justice-oriented theories pejoratively; I mean that making large and significant changes to any system tends to generate unexpected results. Engineers therefore make only small system changes and checkpoint the system so they can always return to earlier states if something goes wrong. Policy makers cast aside such caution and always endeavor to make the biggest and most radical changes, and when policy objective are not achieved — which is almost always the case — they ensure there’s somebody to blame, like the people who gave them the data on which the policy is based. As they say, there are no policy failures, only intelligence failures.

One of the key qualities of human cognition is that it is bounded in measurable and predictable ways. As the Nobel Prize Winning economist Herbert Simon said, “People will not do what they cannot do,” and they cannot track large numbers of variables in a complex system — either technical or social — and make accurate predictions of how the complex system will behave in the future. High-performance computers generally and models and simulations (M&S) specifically are better at doing that. Finding ways to combine boundedly rational human cognition and computer-based M&S to improve policy is an ongoing area of research.

Ultimately, the accurate prediction of consequences is at the foundation of morality. As Jesus said, a tree is known by its fruits (Matthew 7:15-20 and Luke 6:43-45). As social systems become more complex, accurately judging their behavior and modifying them effectively and predictably will become increasingly important. The new field of computational social science has begun to apply computer-based techniques in the academy, but their application in applied policy areas has been comparatively slow.

MIT (8) Tocqueville

Juliette and I ended up taking Tocqueville together at Harvard, which was the most wonderfully indulgent class ever. Imagine an entire class of reading just Tocqueville — Democracy in America, Souvenirs, Ancien Regime. It was all terribly fun if you’re into graduate school: taking the T to Harvard Square, walking through Harvard Yard, and then spending few hours talking about Tocqueville.

Spending so much time discussing a single author however is, to a certain extent, indulgent, so it is fair to consider what makes Tocqueville worth the effort. I became aware of the philosopher Alexis Charles Henri Clerel de Tocqueville though Bill Moyers’ PBS series “A World of Ideas,” and many of the intellectual mentioned him — I specifically remember Tom Wolfe — so Tocqueville seemed worth studying because he touched on something so fundamental that he remained relevant today. My own personal interest was methodological: that is, how did Tocqueville work, and what was it that allowed him to make such incisive observations and comments?

First, Tocqueville employed literary techniques to study social processes, specifically he wanted to compare and contrast America’s successful, “conservative” revolution with France’s unsuccessful and radical one. Tocqueville did this by traveling around America, talking with people, taking notes on what he saw and heard, and then interpreting them through his considerable intellect and education into insightful prose. In the 1960s and 1970s, this application of literary fiction techniques to analyze non-fiction topics took was dubbed “New Journalism.” This technique stands in contrast to more systematic and logical forms of philosophy that, while there may provide a certain level of analytic utility, they are always too simple and simplistic as compared to the complexity of the social systems that they’re analyzing.

Tocqueville’s methodology merits extended study due to the prescience and accuracy of the analysis. It’s been a while since I read Tocqueville, but two stand out. First, Tocqueville pointed out that America was a country on the trajectory of ever-increasing equality. He didn’t say ever-increasing equality was right or wrong; he simply noted it as a fact and attempted to tease out its consequences. Second, Tocqueville predicted that the US and Russia were destined to tangle geopolitically as the former contended against nature (and God) and the latter against humanity. With predictions like that, the method behind Tocqueville’s predictions should surely be studied, appreciated, and if possible, learned. Third, Tocqueville said controversially — though somewhat accurately — that democracy was antithetical to excellence.

Since then, the politics of complexity has become a topic of interest, because reality is complex. However, the politics of complexity is controversial because achieving success in politics depends on making complex topics simple and easy to understand. If this is done well, then it helps the young to work better and be better in society. However, this process of simplification and information transmittal opens the doors for manipulation, misinformation, and propaganda. The media age in which we live with photographs, magazines, radio, television, and movies distorts the public mind and the decision-making processes of individuals. The potency of these media-based narrative techniques provides a natural and ongoing temptation for those who seek to influence the public for their own private gain. The narrative-based methodology of Tocqueville, properly understood, might potentially provide a necessary palliative for the 21st century’s confusing information cacophony.

MIT (7) Juliet

One of the greatest aspects of studying at MIT was being able to interact and study with the other students, who were all very smart. Juliet was a PhD student from Poland who was on a full scholarship and studied with Professor Alpha. She had the opportunity to study at the University of Chicago or MIT, and she chose the latter because she could also take classes at Harvard. Being a master’s student not on scholarship, I was impressed by this. Being from Poland, she was well-versed in the Soviet Union experience and so was an anti-communist; I remember that she was a supporter of Lech Walesa and his Solidarity movement. I too was an anti-communist, but mostly from a systems engineering workability perspective, not personal experience. Juliet was so happy to be in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave after her early Polish communist experiences, and I was happy for her being in America.

Juliet was intense and wouldn’t let go of an argument. She was not alone in exhibiting this characteristic, but while intensity and tenacity were admired in your standard leftist, pro-socialist, those same characteristics were seen as problems for those who held anti-communist views. I met Juliet at a student get-together during the fall semester where she talked my ear off for a long while about some vague philosophical topic  that seemed important at the time.

It was now at the beginning of my second semester at MIT, the spring semester, and we students were going through a process called, “shopping for classes,” in which we visited the first day of a bunch of classes, kept the ones we liked, and dropped the ones we didn’t. I was visiting a class of this well-regarded, supposedly a genius, but hyper pretentious professor who, if memory serves, was teaching a class on European trade unions, which of course attracted Juliet because she knew a lot about the topic. Before arriving at MIT, I had been watching reruns of Bill Moyers’ World of Ideas and was struck by how many people mentioned Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. So I offered a comment based on Tocqueville and pronounced it the American way, “Toke-vil”, so this pretentious professor took the opportunity to correct my pronunciation, “Toke-veeeel”. I had seen enough and there was no way I was going to take this class with this guy.

After class Juliet caught up to me and asked me if I was going to take the class, and I said no. She asked me if I was interested in Tocqueville, and I said yes, but why do you ask? Juliet said there was a professor at Harvard who was giving an entire class on just Tocqueville and was I interested? I figured after with my imbroglio with Professor Charlie, there was no way they would ever let me be a PhD student, so I might as well take one class at Harvard before getting thrown out, so I said “Sure!” and we made arrangements to take Tocqueville together at Harvard.