Misogyny, racism and narcissism. So many words have been devoted to evaluating the implications for America and beyond of these undesirable aspects of the next US leader that it is pointless to add more. Instead, on the morning after the 2016 Presidential election I want to think about the implications for the hopes of those many Americans seduced by Donald Trump’s rhetoric. In particular, the few areas of policy outlined by Trump hold out little real long term hope for these people. In a previous blog I drew attention to the fact that rapidly growing wealth inequality is concentrating the control of investment potential in the hands of very few wealthy individuals and organisations. With a desperate need to democratise this potential it is difficult to see how a billionaire property developer will be keen on such a move.
This has a number of implications for two key areas which Paul Mason identified in his book Postcapitalism; climate change and the march of technology which is leading to zero-price products. As Mason cogently argues, both of these present an existential threat to the current economic system and what is needed is an urgent and radical plan for managing the transition to a new model. Trump’s position on climate change presents a danger on two fronts. Firstly he believes that climate change is an establishment hoax and intends to rip up current agreements. Secondly the autocratic nature of large investment potential means that urgent and significant resources may be denied to crucial areas of the green economy. As one simple example, consider the Middle East Sovereign Wealth Funds which are managed by members of the ruling elites with a direct interest in oil exports. Closer to home, Trump was photographed during the campaign with a placard saying Trump Digs Coal, implying the reopening of mines irrespective of whether that is for the collective good. Maybe the people of hurricane devastated New Orleans did not vote for Trump but a Mid-West turned into a barren dust bowl will do nothing for his supporters from that area.
The policy statements of Trump, including building walls along the border is regressive 20th Century politics played out on a 21st century stage. Trump has had nothing to say regarding the digital world. He can huff and puff all he likes about Trade Agreements but digital technology is transnational and the data mined from the internet is global in nature. Fail to recognize this means failing to tackle the major source of wealth distribution in the 21st century and it is doubtful whether he really understands the nature of the threat.
Finally, in these areas I have outlined it must be noted that the British Government is presenting policies equally as bad. The encouragement of fracking and the withdrawal of green funding for projects are two examples. Likewise the focus of the Governments Brexit trade push is on food, ridiculed in the Tea, Biscuits and Jam headline. While laudable, they are hardly getting to grips with the drivers of a 21st century transnational high-tech economy on which depends a prosperous future.
I completely understand the fact that Trump was a big rock hurled at the establishment by a disillusioned and fearful electorate. But the worry is that the rock will eventually rebound off the structure of contemporary economic and environmental reality. Trump’s steampunk politico-economic solutions may actually work for 4 years, but delaying the inevitable radical changes will only make the problem worse in the long term. Both the onset of climate change and the march of digital technology will not be delayed. But worryingly, the UK Government has no better plan for us.