Donald Trump

Make America Free Again

We shouldn't aspire to be a great nation. We should aspire to be fully free persons.

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Darron Birgenheier/Flickr

The Donald Trump phenomenon is indeed the creature of the Republican establishment, but there's more to it than that.

For decades the Republican leadership (committed to corporate privilege and costly empire) encouraged a base of jingoists, protectionists, nativists, and other "politically incorrect" types, whom it then largely took for granted. The leadership wanted their votes, but not their opinions. It never expected those folks to one day embrace a presidential candidate who said aloud whatever they were thinking. So it underestimated Trump and now is in big trouble.

But the Republican elite is not the only Victor Frankenstein in this story. There's another, related creator of the Trump creature: government. 

Americans have been assured for ages that the government in Washington could competently manage the economy, their retirement benefits, medical care, the culture (through immigration control), and foreign affairs. But with each passing year the government's foolishness across the board has become blindingly clear. The national debt soars; the annual budget deficit is enormous; Social Security and Medicare have huge unfunded liabilities; recessions strike periodically; taxes are onerous; economic growth is anemic; and wars go on forever. But privileges for the well-connected keep flowing. The politicians' response consists of little more than bailouts for the rich and symbolic gestures for the rest.

Trump capitalizes on all this and blames the ruling elite for its impotence. He often alludes to what has been called democratic sclerosis, complaining that politicians are "all talk, no action." (We should be so lucky). In contrast, he would act decisively. When he describes his prowess as a deal-maker, he seems to be promising that he will fix things single-handedly. Lately he talks about cutting deals with Democrats in Congress, but that has not been the theme of his campaign. America's problem, he says, is stupid leaders who don't know how to negotiate. He will be a smart leader—and America will be great again.

But Trump is wrong about the cause of democratic sclerosis and therefore about the solution. Sclerosis results not from weak leadership but from a government with the power to engineer society. The more government tries to do, the more it bogs down in legislative sludge and gridlock. After years of frustration, people unschooled in political economy become vulnerable to a strong man who promises to "get things done."

In his classic book The Road to Serfdom, F. A. Hayek discussed this particular danger of the social-engineer state. Although Hayek was warning of the consequences for individual liberty of replacing the competitive market process with central economic planning, his analysis applies to our situation as well. Hayek wrote:

The inability of democratic assemblies to carry out what seems to be a clear mandate of the people will inevitably cause dissatisfaction with democratic institutions. Parliaments come to be regarded as ineffective 'talking shops,' unable or incompetent to carry out the tasks for which they have been chosen. The conviction grows that if efficient planning is to be done, the direction must be 'taken out of politics' and placed in the hands of experts—permanent officials or independent autonomous bodies.

With Trump, we don't hear calls for autonomous bodies of experts. Instead, Trump presents himself as the expert—the master of the deal—who will not let the talking shops stand in the way of our "winning again."

Importantly, Hayek added that "the fault is neither with the individual representatives nor with parliamentary institutions as such but with the contradictions inherent in the task with which they are charged" (emphasis added). He was being too kind to the politicians, but nevertheless he made a good point. No other leaders could do better because what they try to do cannot be done competently in the political arena, that is, outside the realm of voluntary exchange and social cooperation, particularly in the marketplace—unencumbered by privilege, regulation, and taxation—where decentralized competition and market feedback through profit and loss reveal inevitable errors and reward correction.

So Trump is right: the politicians can't be relied on to manage our lives or society. But he's also wrong: society should not be turned over to a Great Man—not him or anyone else. We shouldn't aspire to be a great nation. We should aspire to be fully free persons.

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  1. Awesome title and article. Trump’s mindless “make America great again” slogan is just that. A slogan. Without understanding WHAT made America great in the first place, how could one make her great “again”?

    From our founding, Liberty has been the #1 goal, imperfectly executed, but always the goal. So-called “leaders” (including Trump and 95% of Congress), neither understand nor respect the power of Liberty to create a “Great” nation.

    1. Agree. #makeamericafreeagain should be a Libertarian meme.

  2. The title looked promising and then I saw who the author was.

    I will now attempt to read the article.

    1. OK. What Sheldon misses is the great anti-liberty driver. The dollar is the world’s reserve currency.

      This means America HAS to bun a negative trade balance (to get those dollars out to the world) and the banks have to recycle those dollars to make it all balance. The banks HAVE to be in the drivers seat.

      When the pound was the reserve currency the Brits had the same problem. Financial services balance the outflow.

      If trade in goods was balanced by trade in goods we will get more liberty and better economics.

      There will of course be considerable pain for those invested in the prior system.

      We are at the bottom of the Kondratieff cycle where the fighting between the INs and the OUTs is the most vicious. In a general way Trump represents the OUTs. It would be nice if he stood for liberty. But that hasn’t been in the cards since 1945.

      1. However, reserve currency and central banking are all consequences of being unfree — of government control money, not the other way around.

        1. Were we better off when every bank made its own currency?

          Would we be better of if the money supply was a function of government instead of a private corporation?

          Now I get that a gold standard would help. Except when that gold asteroid is discovered. Making money independent of any given commodity might be better for the coming age. The problem as always is how do you keep it sufficiently scarce?

          Aside from the reserve currency status – which I think is solvable – these are difficult problems. Problems that did not confront the 1780s.

    2. Fracking has the potential to end the reserve status of the dollar. Every country (well most of them) can supply its own oil needs. No need for a petro-dollar. Trump’s disparaging mention of the Saudis is a good move. They have been a silent partner in creating the wreck we are now involved in. He is of course attacking them from a populist point of view (stop exporting Islam – don’t raise the price of oil), but he has to understand the economic drivers behind all that. The only way to keep them from raising the price of oil is to have alternate sources.

    3. I have this game where I read the title and subtitle and then try to guess whether it’s Sheldon. The title seemed promising, but then when I read the subtitle I said oh no, that sounds like some Sheldon horseshit. Clicked through and I was right, unfortunately.

      1. i get the sheldon skepticism but this post was a brief & accurate onepage synopsis of the hayekian critique of a centralized state. if you have think the road to serfdom is “some sheldon bullshit” youre almost certainly not a libertarian

        1. I just can’t take the guy seriously at this point. I didn’t even read the article.

          1. So you’re a closed-minded zzzhole, in other words. Good to know.

  3. Richman. Hummmmm.

    Fantastic title and sub-title. I am hesitant to read the article because I am afraid it will ruin my sunday morning.

    I much prefer a free America over a great one. Let’s just leave it at that and I will go make hollandaise sauce for my lovely wife.

    1. Read it. It’s a full throated defense of liberty without the Adam Lanza nonsense.

      1. Or Joooos!

        1. Get off it, Rufus. Nice jerry kurls, by the way.

      2. It’s not bad for Richman,but,he didn’t name the dems, Obama or mention the fact that Hillary and Sanders are just as dangerous to freedom.

        1. “…Hillary and Sanders are just as dangerous to freedom.”

          Arguably more so. If The Donald (or Ted Cruz, who appears to be the only other likely contestant) is elected, the dominant legacy media will be falling all over themselves to hold them to account for every action they take, be it good or bad.

          Either Her Royal Highness Hillary I or The Bern will largely get a pass from the media, and will be able to get away with all sorts of power grabs – just like Barack Obama has been doing.

          1. Hillary, sure, would get a free pass.

            But Bernie?? After the media treatment they’ve been dishing him, and after sinking all their lobbying money into Clinton, I think they’d turn hostile against Bernie. He’s a threat to the Democratic establishment (by which I mean Clinton & co), which the media is backing.

    2. Well if you have a free America is will also become a great America, at least from an economic stand point.

      Of course right now we seem to have neither so getting a free America or a great America would be an improvement.

    3. ”make sauce for my wife” being a euphemism for ”fap over mah gunzz.”

  4. It seems Richman left out the .dems,who created S.S,medicare,medicaid,the dept of education,Obama care and have been against free trade due to union support. And many dems seem to want to go full socialist,the most evil form of government known.He may have alluded to them,but,didn’t name them,or the Jews for a change.

    1. You know who else created something called SS?

      1. Does Sheldon have a picture of him on his wall?

      2. Chevrolet?

      3. Joseph Hanna and William Barbera?

    2. You know who else created something called SS?

    3. I kinda like how the comments section will be hostile towards every article that doesn’t perfectly balance its contempt for both parties equally.

    4. Wow, an essay about the state in general, and about the Republican Party in particular, doesn’t explicitly mention Democrats. Boo hoo, poor elephant, everyone picks on him!

    5. You and a few others around here seem overly sensitive to criticism of the Hebrews.
      Is this a gathering place for Americans for a New Jew Century, or whatever that neo-con cabal is called.

  5. Trump presents himself as the expert?the master of the deal?who will not let the talking shops stand in the way of our “winning again.”

    When caught lacking on a topic, he’s had the fallback of having a cabal of experts to inform his policy. I fully expect Trump, once elected, to open the borders because his blue ribbon panel has told him cheap labor will make America great again, to enact gun control legislation because his blue ribbon panel has told him disarming criminals will make America great again, to raise taxes across the board because his blue ribbon panel has told him that his central plans to make America great again require more capital… And so on like this.

    For better or for worse, he can flip on any campaign promise and shrug his shoulders like no other politician has flipped and shrugged before because he has experts. And he’s Donald Trump, with devoted legions trumpeting his every decision the likes of which Barack Obama could only dream.

    1. ‘God keep the Czar,as far away from us as possible’

    2. No doubt.

      Up here when Zoolander’s inexperience and general all-around vapidity was pointed out supporters countered with ‘but he’ll surround himself with the best people!’ But that supposes he’s capable or talented enough to find the *right* people.

      But what happens when you put an ideology or want to maintain a narrative (ie diversity!) before merit, competence, experience etc.?

      You get mediocrity and a race to the bottom I reckon.

  6. Dear God, Richman was written a good column. Kill me now.

    1. Half a column.When he goes after the D’s as the R’s partners in crime and treats Hillary and Sanders as the dangers to freedom they are I will give him his due.

      1. I’m hoping for a Hillary or Sanders win in November. Better a Democrat is president when the next financial crisis hits, when the shit-storm begins. There’s a slim possibility the Republican party can be rebuilt into a more libertarian entity if Trump or Cruz lose to Clinton or Sanders. If a Republican is president during another intense crisis and fails (which he will) then the only option is a progressive.

        1. Who are cares,all three are horrible.Sheldon also left out the fact that dems controlled congress form the early 60’s till 1996 ,with a brief R senate in the 1980’s..

          1. Indeed!! I for one totally agree that Sheldon should have listed each and every single thing that each party has ever done wrong throughout our entire history. If you neglect to mention ANY of the crimes of any party, that’s PRACTICALLY SUPPORTING THEM!!!!

            And YOU, Mr. Smith, did not mention ONCE the Democratic support for costly foreign wars!! What are you, some sort of closet liberal afraid to challenge the Democrats or something?? STOP FAILING TO MENTION ALL THE BAD THINGS THE PARTIES ARE DOING, you one-sided hack!!

        2. You’re assuming that a Democrat would EVER get the blame for a financial crisis, regardless of whether or not they were in office.

          As long as republicans walk the face of the earth, the media will find a way to blame all of society’s ills on them, and most people will simply buy it.

          The economy could plunge into a depression under president Clinton/Sanders and we could all be standing in bread lines, but the narrative would be that republicans/the rich/corporations are the problem, and the only solution is even more socialism.

          The only way to undo the narrative is with a successful republican president who actually makes a demonstrable improvement in the state of the economy and government. But as long as progressives get elected, no failure will ever be tied to them. Ever.

    2. I was surprised, but a good thing is a good thing. Always count blessings.

    3. And I even think it’s three in a row that hasn’t blamed Da Joos for anything.

      1. Ha-vah, nah-gila ha-va, na-gila, hah-va-hey !

  7. The mob rule of democracy controlled by public opinion manufacturers in the establishment prevents any real movement towards a free society. The people in power enjoy their power too much and will ride this bitch into the ground before acknowledging the horror show they’ve created. The 1st and 2nd amendment are our last hope, and they’re both under threat.

    1. And Trump hates the 1st,Hillary both and Bernie hats one and is changing to hate the other.

  8. OT: More evidence KDW writes for the wrong publication.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/…..ad-capital

    1. KDW appears to be actually two authors- a very bright one and a drooling idiot. They seem to divide up their work nearly in half. Until you read the article, you can’t tell which one was set at the keyboard that day.

      Cooke is far and away the best person at NRO today. French is everything that is wrong with the modern Republican Party, a true Niedermeyer.

      1. You got any links to any of his drooling idiot articles? I usually find KDW to be pretty good.

        NRO is a very mixed bag.

      2. French makes me punch my keyboard hoping it’s his face.

    2. As do Charles C.W. Cooke and Katherine Timpf.

      Although KDW is a pretty hardcore social conservative, unlike the other two.

    3. No good jobs because of lack of workers?

      Industrial production has been going through the same process as agriculture. Labor is not much needed. And it is not a new thing. The decline has been going on since the 40s or before.

      The writer – as noted – is an idiot.

  9. Instead of “strengthening” USA, Americans should focus on “integrating” with rest of the world;
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.u…..96638.html

    1. The rest of the world should integrate with us. Unless you think decentralization is the future. Which I do.

    2. Ah. An article praising a communist at Huffpo? I’m shocked.

    3. Or Mehdi Hasan should go fuck himself vigorously. How about that you fascist fuck?

  10. For decades the Republican leadership (committed to corporate privilege and costly empire) encouraged a base of jingoists, protectionists, nativists, and other “politically incorrect” types

    There is a glaring omission in this list: libertarians.

    1. Since when did they ever encourage libertarians as a base?

      1. reagan used to pay us lipservice. for a while i think that was the agenda – brand R’s as small goverment supporters when the party elite are more likely country club cronyists.

        now that time is over. four years ago paul supporters were physically attacked and forcefully ejected from primary events across the country. the lipservice is over.

  11. Central committee lets you be free of worrying decisions.

  12. The proper function of government is to defend individual negative liberty with the retaliatory use of force. This is based on the premise that all actions are allowed except those involving the initiatory use of force, threats of force or fraud. There is only one human right, to not have force initiated against you. The current problems exist because government is allowed to initiate force. Remove that authority and all will be well. I propose a 28th amendment, “No person may initiate the use of force, threats of force or fraud against any other person’s self or property.”

    1. The Supreme Court will turn that into its opposite.

    2. Very commendable, but Ayn Rand wrote almost identical text in 1947; ten years later, she added a specific amendment something like “And Congress shall make no laws restricting the freedom of production and trade.” At this stage, when we’re scrabbling for true reporting of the 3% of the vote the LP actually gets (which is reported as 1% or less), a lean clear platform will deliver the message in the NAP as well as can be managed. Every vote the LP gets changes ten times as much legislation as a vote cast for a looter party. Be proud!

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  15. Damn good article! What caught my jaundiced eye was the Nixon Moral Majority sign in the entourage… If that doesn’t turn out to be the kiss of death in the actual for-marbles election, nothing will.

  16. The funny thing about Trump supporter’s is that the minute you ask them how Trump will actually “Make America Great Again,” they freeze up and then try to dodge the question.

  17. I’m probably the only one here who cares but here goes:
    When Moses was recording The Laws, he inserted a warning about making a king and becoming a great [but less free] nation.
    When the Prophet & Judge Samuel was approached by Israeli leaders about getting a king so Israel could become a great nation and take its place among the other nations, Samuel reiterated that warning.
    The basic reason Israel’s leaders wanted a king was, Samuel was getting old and his sons weren’t fit to judge Israel.
    We have a similar situation today in that the Church is failing in its job of moral leadership.
    The Hebrew people were anxiously looking for the coming king of Israel to throw off the yoke of Rome and make them a great people again. The Hebrew leaders especially rejected Jesus; how could an itinerant rabbi from Galilee make Israel a great nation?
    The end time prophesies refer to “Babylon the Great, Mother of Whores.” Note that whoredom is often used in the Bible as seeking after false gods. The merchants [crony capitalists] who had become rich whoring with Babylon wept bitterly at the destruction. Does any political candidate give glory to God? He won’ t get elected that way! The way to election is by acting as godlike as possible.
    Bottom line: the judgement of God is against Great Nationhood.

  18. Great piece. Good work, Sheldon.

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  20. What a hit piece. I find it amusing that this author feels then need to bash Republicans when it is well know that the Democrats have done more to increase the power of the federal Government and pass laws that are beneficial to large business and hurt small and medium business.

    Maybe Sheldon has missed how this has centralized power in this country the same way as the Robber Barons of the past did. A meshing of Corporations and the Government.

    No longer to people get to live in the manner they choose. We are moving away from the many “little laboratories of democracy” we used to has to a one size fits all.

    The coastal Urbanites want us to live like they do, and frankly it really has not worked out so well for them and we are not interested.

    I do like the byline but the rest of the article is pretty poor…..

  21. RE: Make America Free Again

    No socialist in their right (forgive the pun) mind would want that.
    Freedom means independence from the ruling elitist turds enslaving us.
    Who would want that?

  22. All right, whoever you are, what have you done with the Sheldon that we knew and loathed?

    Actually, I don’t care what you’ve done with him – just keep sending articles in under his name, and I’ll help you cover up his disappearance.

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  24. Yeah, who wants a great nation when we have this crap.

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