‘Trumpism’ is on the (global) rise

Fareed Zakaria, writing in the Washington Post, says that “President Trump’s speech Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 11.48.51here at the World Economic Forum  … [in the week 20-24 January 20202] … went over relatively well. That’s partly because Davos is a conclave of business executives, and they like Trump’s pro-business message. But mostly, the president’s reception was a testament to the fact that he and what he represents are no longer unusual or exceptional. Look around the world and you will see: Trump and Trumpism have become normalized.

The world, he says, is “deglobalizing.” He explains that “Global trade, which rose almost uninterruptedly since the 1970s, has stagnated, while capital flows have fallen. Net migration flows from poor countries to rich ones have also dropped. In 2018, net migration to the United States hit its lowest point in a decade … [and, he adds] … The shift in approach can best be seen in the case of India. In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Davos to decry the fact that “many countries are becoming inward focused and globalization is shrinking.” Since then, his government has increased tariffs on hundreds of items and taken steps to shield India’s farmers, shopkeepers, digital companies and many others from the dangers of international competition. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative recently called out India for having the highest tariffs of any major economy in the world.

And, he says, “This phase of deglobalization is being steered from the top. The world’s leading nations are, as always, the agenda setters. The example of China, which has shielded some of its markets and still grown rapidly, has made a deep impression on much of the world. Probably deeper still is the example of the planet’s greatest champion of liberty and openness, the United States, which now has a president who calls for managed trade, more limited immigration and protectionist measures. At Davos, Trump invited every nation to follow his example. More and more are complying.”

This is ground that I and others have been covering for some time: the idea that people ~ ordinary, working and middle-class people ~ are tired of the sort of globalization that the Roosevelt and Truman administrations in America designed and implemented at the end of World War II and in the immediate post-war period. The essentially liberal, global, “new world order,” based on the historically sound notion that prosperous, (relatively) free trading nations are less likely to go to war than are poorer, more isolated ones, has worked marvellously well for billions of people … but at the apparent expense of a few million others, mainly in North-West Europe and America. We watched, in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s as some heavy industries ~ steel production, auto-making and shipbuilding, for example ~ shifted from America and North-West Europe to Asia, especially, first, to Japan and then, quickly, to South Korea. Next, we watched as Asia rushed ahead in technology production ~ but not in technology creativity, that remained a solidly Anglo-American domain ~ and we saw our neighbours and ourselves driving Asian cars and watching Asian made TVs and listening to our music on Asian made tape players and solid-state devices. ‘Why,’ the people of the North American and Norther-West European rust belts asked ‘can we not make the steel and build the cars?’ Why can we not assemble the printed circuit boards?‘ There were a lot of answers, one of them was that Chinese and Philippines and Japanese and South Korean men and women were willing to work harder, and sometimes smarter, for less. But, now, in the 2020s, even the hardest working Asians are losing their jobs to even cheaper (over a life-span) and more efficient robots.

duterteNow, even the Asians are looking for their own Trumps … and they are finding the, too. President Trump tapped into a deep vein of fear that the implicit promise that if we worked harder then our children and grandchildren would have better and better lives has been abandoned by the political elites ~ by the Laurentian Elites in Canada. That dream seemed to fade, here in North America and in Western Europe, in the 1970s and ’80s. Now it is fading in Asia, too. And the people are turning to leaders who offer simple answers to complex questions.

Fareed Zakaria is partially correct. Much of the world, led by America, China, Europe and India,  is trying to “deglobalize,” because many people hope that they can, somehow, be nationally or regionally self-sufficient. But the genius of Adam Snith was his insight that specialization ~ tinsmiths and cobblers selling pots and shoes to farmers rather than each person trying to do everything for himself ~ was that he explained how we could all have more for our efforts. That was something that no one, else …

… not Karl Marx, not Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, and certainly not Donald Trump, has been able to offer the world. In fact, globalization is just a natural extension of Smith’s local specialization argument. It achieves the common-sense utilitarian goal of producing the greatest good for the greatest number. When the great numbers of the ordinary people in America, Europe, China and India see their ‘good‘ being diminished by socialism and/or protectionism they will, almost certainly, move to “throw the rascals out,” politically, at least.

Trumpism is on the rise, and that rise is, indeed, on a global scale. I do not expect it to end quickly. As I have said before, I (confidently) expect President Trump to be re-elected in 2020 and I expect another, albeit much more polished and accomplished, Trumpian to succeed him in 2024. I expect that the pace of globalization will slow, somewhat, for a few decades, but it will pick up again, for two reasons:

  • First, it has, undeniably, lifted more people out of abject poverty than anything else 220px-Adam_Smith_The_Muir_portraitthat has ever been done in all of human history. It is, equally undeniably, a global “good thing,” even ~ perhaps especially ~ for America; and
  • Second, it is the logical extension of Adam Smith’s good, common-sense idea about specialization. It just makes good, utilitarian sense.




4 thoughts on “‘Trumpism’ is on the (global) rise

  1. Did any of the economic philosophers forsee the coming of robotics and account for AI development?

    1. None, that I have read. But some, F.A. Hayak, especially, foresaw the need for some sort of guaranteed income when too much labour was unemployable for any reason.

  2. But where does guaranteed income come from? Unemployed people don’t pay taxes, nor do they buy much in the way of goods. I think a major factor for robotically made goods is that supply will quickly outpace demand as consumers lose purchasing power. Plants that become to automated may face higher taxes or boycotts by remaining consumers in efforts to maintain some employment.

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