Donald Trump is not a conservative
TRUMP IS GIVING US IS FREE ENTERPRISE — WITHOUT THE FREEDOM. — SOUPCOFF
Given the volumes that have been written about Donald Trump, I’m sure the observation I’m about to make has been noted before. I won’t be the first to point out that in his deeds as president, Trump acts, ironically, more like a progressive than a capitalist. I am surely far from the only one to recognize Trump’s tendency to favour heavyhanded government interventions that create inequality and restriction ( and in many cases, pay little heed to private ownership). And as far as I’m concerned, Trump is an anti-capitalist — which is a strange, but probably not entirely original, thing to say.
Still, after reading the recent Forbes interview with Trump, I’m amazed by how often and clearly Trump illustrates — if not proves — the above, counterintuitive points, which makes them worth a fresh look. Everyone who reads the profile can see that this is a man who thinks nothing of using the police power of the government on private businesses to achieve his desired ends, and who seems completely oblivious to the virtues of capitalist equality.
Many of us expect Trump to make a mess of things. I just hope we don’t blame the wrong ideology when he does.
Here is one of my favourite examples of Trump using a tried and true progressive tactic: he boasts in the Forbes interview about a new economic development plan that will soon “severely” penalize companies that position their offices and factories outside of the United States. Sure, his goal with this plan is to keep jobs in America (which is presumably how one makes it great again), rather than achieving social justice, but the move is a classic progressive one: using government’s substantial might to punish private companies that don’t do what those in political power want them to do. You don’t find such scenarios in laissez- faire capitalist play books, except in the “always avoid” section.
That’s because the beauty of laissez- faire capitalism is that it treats everyone the same, regardless of who they are or what country they come from. Steven Greenhut, who recently wrote a column in the Orange County Register about how conservatives are adopting liberal Democrats’ hostility to private industry, quoted the late writer Sam Francis (via columnist David Brooks). Capitalist equality, Francis complained, “refuses to distinguish between one consumer’s dollar and another.”
Francis saw that as a major flaw, as, it would seem, does Donald Trump, who never met a free trade deal he didn’t want to dismantle. But laissez- faire capitalists see it as the whole point of free markets.
As Greenhut writes, “Nothing destroys racism, classism, sexism and every other ‘ ism’ better than a system that’s open to all comers.… For most businesses, the only color they see is green.” You could say that this kind of capitalism is the great equalizer because neither government nor the law chooses society’s winners or losers. That Donald Trump is a big champion of “eminent domain,” which lets government grab privately owned land from individual homeowners and give it to big companies, demonstrates just how far from valuing this sort of individual freedom the president is.
C o mbi n e that wi t h Trump’s fondness for erecting border walls and selectively limiting immigration, and it hardly seems a stretch to label him an “anti-capitalist.” He doesn’t believe in a system in which trade and industry are controlled by private owners. He believes in a system in which trade and industry are controlled and engineered by Donald Trump — which may not exactly be socialism, but is probably closer to it than laissez- faire capitalism. The first thing socialists assume is that central planning is superior to organic growth and/or the invisible hand of the market; there’s a certain amount of hubris inherent in the system, which assumes that the world — or at least society — can be molded according to idealistic humans’ will. Isn’t this reminiscent of Trump’s hubris, which assumes that America can be molded according to Donald Trump’s populist will? When asked by Forbes how he felt to now be answering to 330 million people, he responded, “It doesn’t matter because I’m going to do the right thing.” Forget unpredictability and chaos; Trump believes he’s got the whole thing under control.
What the Trump interview shows is that calling the man a right- wing capitalist pig is inaccurate — at least as far as the second adjective goes — and that when we feel the weight of Trump’s bad choices, we ought to be careful not to blame the disaster on capitalism, because that’s not the economic and political system that the president f avours. What Trump is giving us is free enterprise — without the freedom. And that makes all the difference.
People may expect Donald Trump to make a mess of things —columnist Marni Soupcoff just hopes they don’t blame the wrong ideology when he does.