Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trump, Brilliance, Capitalism

Don't Dismiss Trump's Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity. We should assume they are darkly brilliant, says Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal in Time.

Both Trump and Stephens, who begins his piece in Time with ridiculous assertions about the integrity of his employer, the Wall Street Journal, which in reality has become just another right-wing Murdoch noise machine, should be seen for the morons they are. You've got to be pretty stupid not to see that Trump is stupid, or not to see how Murdoch has turned the Journal into a joke.

I'm tired of claims that Trump is brilliant. He's not merely pretending to be a buffoon, he actually is one, unlike many other leading Republicans, who, although certainly not rocket scientists, are also not the idiots they are currently pretending to be in their agonized efforts to argue that the President is making sense about something, and/or not really saying what the idiotic things he obviously is saying. Kellyanne Conway is perhaps the most strikingly obvious example, in the way that she has said utterly different things about Trump before and after he hired her.

Many of the scientists and engineers who are improving solar and wind power and developing other green sources of energy, and many of the entrepreneurs getting them up and running, actually are brilliant. Trump, and his boss Putin, embody the stupid approach to energy policy: double down on petrochemicals. Artists, teachers, philosophers often are downright brilliant, and in the US we are pearls currently cast before the swine Trump.

Trump, along with the AIDS Medication Douchebag Martin Shkreli, embodies pure capitalism, and demonstrates that it requires crudity and insensitivity rather than intelligence. You remember the infuriatingly stupid grin on Shkreli's face as he confronted intense scrutiny by the media and by legislators after he obtained the manufacturing license for the AIDS medication Daraprim and immediately raised its price from $13.50 to $750 per dosage? Of course you remember. That sort of grin, in that sort of situation, is the sort of thing which sears itself into the memory. He was grinning because he knew that he had followed the rules of capitalism perfectly.

What he didn't know -- has he learned it in the meantime? -- is that becoming the most despised jerk in the US was going to have an effect on his life, no matter how closely he followed those rules.

Capitalism teaches that the person with the greatest amount of wealth has achieved the greatest amount of success. That's all that capitalism teaches about success: buy low, sell high, done. Most capitalists realize, sometimes consciously, often not, that there are many other factors in success and failure than the size of one's stack. When a person's ideas of success and failure are really, actually, exclusively about the bottom line, which is actually only rarely the case, the result is horrible and repulsive, like Shkreli, and like the current President of the United States.

Unfortunately, the realization that capitalism has some big problems is often not conscious. In the United States more than in some other places, the unwillingness to treat capitalism as something which can and should be examined critically, is very widespread. Capitalism is often talked about as if it were as inevitable as gravity, and as impossible to wish away, and that nothing better will ever be able to replace it.

It seems to me that the 2007-2008 financial crisis led more people to criticize capitalism as a whole than had done so previously. Maybe Trump will wake up still more people about it.

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