Don­ald Trump is not a con­ser­va­tive


National Post (Latest Edition) - - ISSUES & IDEAS -

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.

Marni Soupcoff


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.