FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trump’s Creatures

The Donald Trump phenomenon is indeed the creature of the Republican establishment, but there’s more to it than that.

For decades the Republican leadership (committed to corporate privilege and costly empire) encouraged a base of jingoists, protectionists, nativists, and other “politically incorrect” types, whom it then largely took for granted. The leadership wanted their votes, but not their opinions. It never expected those folks to one day embrace a presidential candidate who said aloud whatever they were thinking. So it underestimated Trump and now is in big trouble.

But the Republican elite is not the only Victor Frankenstein in this story. There’s another, related creator of the Trump creature: government.

Americans have been assured for ages that the government in Washington could competently manage the economy, their retirement benefits, medical care, the culture (through immigration control), and foreign affairs. But with each passing year the government’s foolishness across the board has become blindingly clear. The national debt soars; the annual budget deficit is enormous; Social Security and Medicare have huge unfunded liabilities, recessions strike periodically; taxes are onerous; economic growth is anemic; and wars go on forever. But privileges for the well-connected keep flowing. The politicians’ response consists of little more than bailouts for the rich and symbolic gestures for the rest.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 6.05.40 PM-1

Trump capitalizes on all this and blames the ruling elite for its impotence. He often alludes to what has been called democratic sclerosis, complaining that politicians are “all talk, no action.” (We should be so lucky). In contrast, he would act decisively. When he describes his prowess as a deal-maker, he seems to be promising that he will fix things single-handedly. Lately he talks about cutting deals with Democrats in Congress, but that has not been the theme of his campaign. America’s problem, he says, is stupid leaders who don’t know how to negotiate. He will be a smart leader — and America will be great again.

But Trump is wrong about the cause of democratic sclerosis and therefore about the solution. Sclerosis results not from weak leadership but from a government with the power to engineer society. The more government tries to do, the more it bogs down in legislative sludge and gridlock. After years of frustration, people unschooled in political economy become vulnerable to a strong man who promises to “get things done.”

In his classic book The Road to SerfdomF. A. Hayek discussed this particular danger of the social-engineer state. Although Hayek was warning of the consequences for individual liberty of replacing the competitive market process with central economic planning, his analysis applies to our situation as well. Hayek wrote:

“The inability of democratic assemblies to carry out what seems to be a clear mandate of the people will inevitably cause dissatisfaction with democratic institutions. Parliaments come to be regarded as ineffective ‘talking shops,’ unable or incompetent to carry out the tasks for which they have been chosen. The conviction grows that if efficient planning is to be done, the direction must be ‘taken out of politics’ and placed in the hands of experts — permanent officials or independent autonomous bodies.”

With Trump, we don’t hear calls for autonomous bodies of experts. Instead, Trump presents himself as the expert — the master of the deal — who will not let the talking shops stand in the way of our “winning again.”

Importantly, Hayek added that “the fault is neither with the individual representatives nor with parliamentary institutions as such but with the contradictions inherent in the task with which they are charged” (emphasis added). He was being too kind to the politicians, but nevertheless he made a good point. No other leaders could do better because what they try to do cannot be done competently in the political arena, that is, outside the realm of voluntary exchange and social cooperation, particularly in the marketplace — unencumbered by privilege, regulation, and taxation — where decentralized competition and market feedback through profit and loss reveal inevitable errors and reward correction.

So Trump is right: the politicians can’t be relied on to manage our lives or society. But he’s also wrong: society should not be turned over to a Great Man — not him or anyone else.

We shouldn’t aspire to be a great nation. We should aspire to be fully free persons.

More articles by:

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail