I read this morning that 370 economists signed a public letter to Donald Trump, saying in essence: “Dear Trump, your economic policy proposals are fantastical and irresponsible.”
Nice try – and no doubt true. (But why not go for 500 economists, or 5000 economists? The potential signees are surely available.) Unfortunately the letter, albeit accurate and well-intentioned, is irrelevant and perhaps even harmful.
For Trumpism isn’t based on rational argumentation. It’s based on a two-fold approach to revealed truth: that establishment ideas are pernicious and false, and correspondingly that any statement opposing establishment ideas has merit. What happens when the government issues a positive government jobs report? Trump declares it to be “phony” – and his followers consider the matter closed. So another establishment letter, especially when signed by a large group of establishment professionals, is just more anti-fuel for Trump’s estranged and anti-establishment True Believers.
Like other mass movements ranging from Boshevism to McCarthyism to the Tea Party, Trumpism is fundamentally parasitic – the target it despises is equally the source of its anger and energy. However, not all mass movements target an establishment holding the bulk of practical expertise. That can make it difficult to implement policy once you obtain power, perhaps explaining why many starved in Bolshevism’s 1917 Russia, why Tea Party activists can do little more than obstruct others’ actions, and why Trump would face an irony if he managed to win this election. To get anything done, a Trump administration would have to rely on the establishment expertise that Trumpism dismisses – for that expertise is outside the movement itself. To implement policy it would have to become part of the establishment, or resort to obstruction and regard others’ failures as successes, as the Tea Party movement has done.