This Could Be Our 1989

I think many of my readers are in the same boat I’m in: we are still sorting out the implications of last Tuesday’s election. My style is generally not to shoot from the hip but to think about things before I start to write. When I have adopted the “ready–fire–aim” style of writing, I have usually found myself going back and asking, “What was I thinking?” And the answer is that I wasn’t doing enough thinking.

So this weekend I’m going to hold my fire and instead share with you an essay from Jeffrey Tucker of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). You may wish to think of this as my Outside the Box offering for the week, and on Wednesday I’ll send my regular letter – after I have done a little more head scratching.

Tucker’s essay suggests that the presidential election is nothing less than a major paradigm shift. Let me give you a couple especially insightful paragraphs:

All these details of the Trump platform are still important, but strike me as less relevant to what we can expect going forward. The more I look at it, the less it seems to me that the election results are less about what Trump believes and more about what he represents: a fundamental shattering of an old paradigm. And I'm finding the widespread commentary that this represents some kind of triumph of racism, misogyny, etc. etc., to be superficial and even preposterous. And you know this if you visit with any regular voter.

What lies in ruins here is not common decency and morality – much less the character of a whole people and nation – but rather an anachronistic, arrogant, entitled, smug, conceited ruling elite and ruling paradigm. You can see this in the clues that show that the vote was not so much for a particular vision of one man, but against a prevailing model of managing the world.

I found myself nodding in agreement that much of what he says. If this were my essay, there would be a few omissions and additions, but I think he has the essential direction correct. There is big change brewing, and it is up to us to determine what that change will be. When I read (somewhat bemusedly) that the halls of power in Europe are in an uproar over our election, I think that they should be. Not because Trump is now president but because elites everywhere – the people who “know” how the world should be run and expect the “little people” to stay in line – are an endangered species. Thankfully. This gets back to the heart of what I’ve been writing about: the Protected versus the Unprotected.

It is up to the leadership of countries and communities to make sure that everyone is protected – equally – and to do so without burdening future generations with the task of paying for the solutions they come up with. The world is transforming around us. The old institutions are not up to the task of managing a world awash in massive and ever faster technological and social changes that are not leaving us enough time to adjust. We went from a world where 50% of us worked on family farms to where less than 2% do today, but that took 8-10 generations. What are we going to do when the multiple millions who make their living in the transportation industry, whether in trucking or as taxi drivers, see their jobs evaporate in just half a generation? This same employment paradigm shift is going to happen in dozens of industries, and seemingly all at once. At least that’s what it will feel like to the workers who are bounced from their jobs.

To my friends around the world who shudder at the thought of a Trump presidency, let me offer a simple bit of advice: get a grip. Understand the system we have. We elected a president, not a king. US presidential candidates have made campaign pledges for 200 years, on both the winning and losing sides. And their supporters and opponents have misinterpreted those pledges and overestimated what the incoming president could really do. Presidents are actually quite limited in their range of powers.