Donald Trump is popular. His defiance of political convention is widely admired. His unscripted, politically incorrect, flaws-and-all humanity is trusted (despite his words). And his willingness to take risks is seen by many as what’s needed in the face of an overwhelming appetite for fundamental, systemic change.
Of course, that’s not the only reason Trump is popular. Many support him just because they hate Hillary Clinton, or just because he’s the GOP candidate. Some support him because they believe he shares their prejudices. The point is, a lot of people support Donald Trump.
But probably not enough to win the presidency.
Hillary has the lead in people under 65 – and the younger they are, the more likely they are to support her. She has runaway leads among minority groups, and strong leads among educated whites (the more educated, the stronger her support). Trump has most Republicans, of course, but apart from that he’s relying on less-educated, older white people for his core support. Sixty percent of non-college educated whites support him. They are his base, and there’s probably not enough of them to win an election.
Trump does well among those left behind by automation, technology, globalisation and by our new, global, high-tech, 21st Century information society. He does well among those who find it difficult to compete in the modern labour market because of education, or location, or family situation, or even aptitude. Yet he doesn’t do well among those who are immersed in this world, but who also find it difficult to compete (or even to stay afloat). In other words, Trump doesn’t do well among the young.
Bernie Sanders – the other ‘surprise’ political challenger of the campaign – had no problem attracting the young. He even had a majority of young women supporting him over America’s first female presidential nominee! He did this because he offered a hopeful, inclusive, positive vision of deep, fundamental change, and because he focused on the political issues that young people care about – systemic economic unfairness, inequality and the environment. Turned off by Trump’s divisiveness and lack of focus on inequality, 85% of them intend to vote for Hillary. If Donald Trump wants to be more popular with young people, he could do worse than study why Bernie Sanders had their support.
After all, if Donald Trump could attract a significant portion of change-hungry young people away from Hillary, he would win the presidency.
At first glance, it should be easy. Like Trump supporters, Bernie supporters also find the current economic and political order untenable. They also want deep, radical, fundamental change in economic policy and in politics. Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump attract passion and support from those who see their own lives, and the lives of their loved ones, becoming more difficult and economically stressed. And supporters of both Trump and Sanders feel that their candidate has been treated unfairly by a biased, comfortable, establishment, and out-of-touch mainstream media and politics. Trump and Sanders supporers share a lot.
But Trump’s divisiveness alienates young, inclusive Bernie supporters, and he offers them few economic policies to address their concerns about financial power, income inequality, and the environment. They have overwhelmingly turned to Hillary not just because many of them are loyal Democrats, but because Trump offers them nothing. That’s understandable, considering the seeming contradictions between traditional Republican and traditional Democrat positions, between market and government as solutions, between freedom and equality as values, and between rough-and-tumble capitalism and Bernie’s vision of Scandanavian-style socialism. But what if these contradictions could be resolved?
The three core policies of Equitable Capitalism offer Donald Trump a way to reconcile these seemingly irreconcilable values, structures and priorities. Consider:
- Helicopter money, the Chicago Plan, or some other version of ‘QE for People‘ would take at least some the vast power of money creation away from incompetent, self-interested, and often corrupt bankers and give it to the Federal Reserve, dramatically reducing financial instability, economic stagnation and federal debt while giving the real market an adaquate supply of the medium of exchange it so desperately needs to function. Milton Friedman, Irving Fisher, Ben Bernanke and other prominent free market thinkers have supported this policy direction in one form or another.
- The introduction of some version of a Basic Income (paid for through some combination of reduced welfare bureaucracy, taxback from higher earners, people’s QE, Fee & Dividend, increased economic growth and reduced social spending), would radically and positively alter the lives of most Americans. It would generate sustained market demand, remove existing disincentives to work and enterprise, practically eliminate poverty, and would get the government off the backs of the millions of Americans who depend on it. Experimental implementations are underway or planned in Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere. Prominent free market thinkers that have supported a Basic Income in one form or another include Tom Paine, Friedrich Hayek, Richard Nixon and many others. Support is especially strong among technological entrepreneurs, who understand where we’re heading better than most.
- Finally, you don’t have to accept climate change to know that oil, coal and other carbon are the dirty, expensive, Saudi Arabian-dependent energy souces of the past. The policy of carbon Fee & Dividend – a revenue-neutral carbon tax in which all of the proceeds are distributed equally to everybody – is not only fair (polluters pay more), but market friendly. By internalising the real costs of carbon into its price, Fee & Dividend powerfully motivates the market in favour of alternatives, while maintaining complete market freedom. Two thirds of people come out ahead, which could make Fee & Dividend a significant funding source for a Basic Income. This was originally a GOP idea, and supporters include Hank Paulsen, Bob Inglis, George Shultz and many others from the Right.
Together, the three core policies of Equitable capitalism offer a coherent, interconnected alternative to both anti-market, redistributive socialism on one hand, and ruthless, dog-eat-dog, free market capitalism on the other. Together these three policies vastly expand individual freedom and individual security. Each of these policies has a solid economic, philosophical and moral pedigree. Each of them is fair. Each of them vastly expands equality. Each of them has existing bipartisan political support from across the political spectrum. Each is evidence-based. Each is politically possible.
The three policies of Equitable Capitalism offer Donald Trump a way to appeal to Bernie Sanders’ young supporters without alienating much of his existing support. After all, what Bernie supporter could be against the reduction of the power of the bankers? Or the almost complete elimination of poverty? Or meaningful action on climate change? And what die-hard Republican could be against solutions to debt, inequality and climate change that support the free market instead of restricting it? What sales person, business executive or entrepreneur could be against policies that would vastly stimulate market demand – while protecting the environment? And what American could be against a vast real expansion of individual opportunity and freedom?
And who’s going to vote against more money in their pocket?
If, in the final months of the 2016 presidential election campaign, Donald Trump were to put the policies of Equitable Capitalism firmly on his agenda, and communicate those policies in the way that only he can do, he would radically alter the dynamics of the campaign overnight. Framed carefully, this new, radical, coherent pro-market and pro-social economic policy would draw in huge support from progressives, Bernie supporters, Jill Stein supporters and young progressives, while maintaining and even expanding support among the GOP and the conservative right. It wouldn’t get them all. But it would get enough. That’s how Trump could win the presidency,
But it is through the implementation of these three policies that Donald Trump (or any other political leader) could win history. One hundred years from now, – twenty five presidential elections into the future – ever-growing debt will be a thing of the past, artificially intelligent machines will do most jobs, and climate change and its effects will be obvious and apparent. If that future society is a happy, prosperous and peaceful one, then it will be because we have countered and resolved the problems of ever-increasing debt, income inequality, and atmospheric carbon without restricting and damaging the market that makes the abundance of our modern world possible.
We must resolve the current, destructive contradictions between freedom (including market freedom), and genuine equality and economic security for all, regardless of the circumstances of birth. Capitalism will have to be fair and sustainable if it is to survive. A stagnant economy of ever-rising debt is not financially sustainable. Ever-increasing income inequality and insecurity is not politically sustainable. And carbon emissions along our current path are not compatible with the long term survival of our organised, global civilisation. One way or another, dramatic change is coming.
Equitable Capitalism offers the only realistic, responsible, politically possible way for that to happen. It would not be easy. Minds – especially over confident, institutionalised minds – are difficult to change. An equitably capitalist political leader would need courage, self-belief, tenacity, excellent communication abilities and, above all, the willingness to take risks (a willingness absent among mainstream, institutionalised ‘leaders’). Like anything worth doing, it would be very, very, very difficult. But it’s probably the only chance the United States has to Make America Great Again.
We don’t have to slowly decend into some Mad Max nightmare of vast inequality, drought, abandoned cities and hundreds of millions of climate refugees roaming the globe to esape hunger. Instead we can essentially have a ‘Star Trek Economy’ in which all are secure in the basics of life, in which all are free to follow their dreams, and in which future environmental stability is assured. We can survive and thrive – but only if we radically change the way our current economic system works.
Whoever does that, whether it be Donald Trump or somebody else, will lay the economic groundwork for our far, far future, and will earn the enduring and indelible respect of history.