Trumping the Economist

Will American common voters heed the warnings of the ultimate elitist magazine?

It's been suggested that The Economist magazine is the last remaining remnant of England's global influence even though it's now owned by Italians.  It's read by people of power and education all over the world, or at least, by people who'd like to think of themselves as being in that class, like your humble correspondents at Scragged.  Its arch sense of humor and stylistic tics have a way of making themselves felt from time to time even in the pages of this very publication.

However, a notable sign of hubris is believing your own press, and the Economist increasingly falls prey to this problem.  Not an election goes by but what the editors of the Economist, pontificating from their posh digs in St. James, London, presume to tell the American people who to vote for and why.

The "why" is quite interesting.  The Economist markets itself as being "aggressively centrist," and in a way that's true: it is relatively conservative economically and deeply liberal socially, somewhat similar to American institutions like the Wall Street Journal and large chunks of the GOP leadership.

When social issues seem more important than economic ones, it tends to support Democrats; when it's the other way around, Republicans, though they've sprung for the Democrat the last three elections straight regardless of well-demonstrated Democratic economic illiteracy.  Apparently the Economist considers homosexual unions more urgent and pressing than jobs for people of all genders and orientation.

Still, while it's not unreasonable for a global publication to have an opinion on the Leader of the Free World, there are limits.  We may perhaps be mistaken, but we cannot recall an occasion where this august journal sullied itself by wading in to an American political party presidential primary fight with such a derisory front cover article as it did this week.

This is striking, because in most ways aside from his personal style, Donald Trump represents what the Economist claims to stand for.  The Donald is all about capitalism red in tooth and claw, an economy where any American can achieve success by hard work tempered with a bit of luck, and a country where the powerful sharks in giant banks periodically get their comeuppance.  Trump's companies, while not exactly small businesses, are tiny compared to Citicorp, JPMorgan and Bank of America, but he's run rings round them on a regular basis.  He's even had nice things to say about universal health care, one manifestation of pure socialism that the Economist has adored for decades.

So it's worthwhile seeing why exactly the Economist finds Trump so appalling.  True to form, they aren't shy:

On one domestic issue, to be fair, he has staked out a clear, bold position. Alas, it is an odious one. He wants to build a wall on the Mexican border and somehow make Mexico pay for it. He would deport all 11m immigrants currently thought to be in America illegally...

His approach to foreign affairs is equally crude. He would crush Islamic State and send American troops to “take the oil”. He would “Make America great again”, both militarily and economically, by being a better negotiator than all the “dummies” who represent the country today...

Pay attention to the paranoia of his worldview. “[E]very single country that does business with us” is ripping America off, he says. “The money [China] took out of the United States is the greatest theft in the history of our country.” He is referring to the fact that Americans sometimes buy Chinese products. He blames currency manipulation by Beijing, and would slap tariffs on many imported goods.

It's no surprise that the magazine, like virtually every other elite organization the world around, betrays its "global citizen" internationalist open-borders worldview by expecting our country to willingly open its arms to all comers.  But should they really characterize opposition to being overrun as "odious"?  Is the Economist, arch-voice of tradition, truly intending to abandon the principles of Westphalian sovereignty that have prevailed for nearly five hundred years, by which each independent nation has an almost absolute right to conduct its own internal affairs however it sees fit?

The writers at the Economist are among the world's best-informed people not directly involved in government intelligence agencies.  It's absurd to imagine that they aren't perfectly well aware of the depravity of the Islamic State - they've reported on it in their own magazine.  It's also utterly impossible for them to be unaware of the billions of petrodollars going to subsidize violent Islamic barbarians.

Why on earth would they complain that Trump's approach to ISIS is "crude"?  That's the kind of approach you need to take with that sort of monster.  Would the Economist prefer for John Kerry to sit down and negotiate with ISIS over just how many homosexuals can be flung off of buildings and women sold into sex slavery?

A fundamental approach to stopping evil is to hamper its funding.  It's bad enough that ISIS fighters squire around in captured American equipment, but that ship has sailed.  Surely we can prevent them from adding to the half billion dollars they've already stolen?  Taking control of Muslim oil fields is just the tip of the iceberg, really, considering that Islamic charities all over the world are infamous for funding terrorism instead of good deeds.

The question of China's currency manipulation is a little more complex.  It seems to be generally considered that China was in the habit of manipulating their currency, but in recent years the Economist has thought the yuan's value is more or less where it ought to be, and the Wall Street Journal mostly agreed.

However, they're missing Mr. Trump's point.  Yes, China may not be blatantly stealing from us today, but they got where they have by currency manipulation on a scale never before attempted, at the expense of American jobs.  When the burglar has left your house and gone home, does he cease to be a thief?

You can argue that, in the long run, the world is better off with China as a participating member of the world economy, so this American sacrifice was worthwhile.  We tend toward this view ourselves, but that is no argument for why we should permit other countries to hoodwink us in other ways.  We all know China's labor, environmental and justice practices are a tiny fraction of our own, making business there vastly cheaper even if everything else were equal.

One way of addressing this problem would be to reduce our own burden of law, which we strongly advocate, as does the Economist.  So does Mr. Trump but they don't give him points for that.

Another, more interesting, way would be for us to do a better job at trade negotiations.  Mr. Trump has made powerful points about our national negotiating incompetence which echo stories related in the pages of Scragged.

Yet the Economist crudely, and falsely, characterizes Mr. Trump's plan as merely tariffs - which, even if that were true, would be applauded by America's Founding Fathers.  They devoutly believed that high tariffs were essential to the growth of American industry, and while it's impossible to prove a counterfactual, it's a fact that American industry thrived while protected by tariffs and has suffered in the modern era of free trade.

Speaking of the Founding Fathers brings us back around to thoughts of the American character, of which Donald Trump is perhaps the greatest living exemplar.  Mr. Trump is brash, bold, fearless, implacably self-confident, immune to discouragement, incredibly hard-working, immensely proud of his accomplishments and not shy of saying so, possessed of a boundless imagination, and most of all, fiercely independent.

Yes, the Economist no doubt raised a chuckle from its readership with its garish cover depicting a Trump-emblazoned helicopter lowering a gigantic Trumply toupee down onto the White House.  That will make little difference because so few Economist readers would ever consider voting for Donald Trump; most of those which might are on the staff of Scragged.

Instead - well, we can't help but yet again be reminded of when the Manchester (UK) Guardian attempted to interfere in Bush's re-election by telling Americans how horrible George W. Bush was, and instead helped him to win by a larger margin than otherwise.

Perhaps the Economist should consider the limitations on their influence and shut up?  That would take a level of un-elite-ly self-awareness unprecedented in recent history - which is exactly why it's becoming more likely by the day that Donald Trump will indeed make it into the Oval Office.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

One of the problems with Trump's bombastic style is that it alienates everyone who is accustomed to sophisticated dialogue, no matter the political or economic affiliation, and drives them all away. I'm not saying he should stop, since the matters that need to be fixed are much more important than him making friends, but he should expect to suffer this reaction everywhere he goes. Chest pounding and name calling destroys any hope of friendship in the academic world.

September 9, 2015 8:23 AM

Then, the hell with the academic establishment! Statistically speaking, 0% of the American public are actually a part of the economic, academic, political, or media establishment. Zero. Yet, the influence they wield is so far out of proportion to their numbers that we are utterly mired in absurdity, stupidity, and suicide. Trump is where he is because he cares nothing for these people, because they have demonstrated for decades on end that they are utterly unconcerned with the affairs of real Americans, And said Americans will take whatever they can get, even if it means nothing more than blackening the eyes of some of these fools, cowards, and traitors

September 9, 2015 10:40 AM
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