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"Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world" - Henry Kissinger

and yet...

"Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences" – Robert Louis Stevenson

Martin Wolf on 'How the west might soon be lost'

In response to an FT article by Martin Wolf on 27th September 2016, entitled ‘How the west might soon be lost’

“Under a President Trump, democracy would lose credibility as a model for a civilised political life…The fact that Mr Trump can be a credible contender for the presidency is astounding. In business, he is a serial defaulter and litigator turned reality TV star. He is a peddler of falsehoods and conspiracy theories. He utters racist calumnies. He attacks the independence of the judiciary. He refuses to reveal his taxes. He has no experience of political office, and incoherent policies. He glories in ignorance. He even hints at a federal default. He undermines confidence in the US-created trade order, by threatening to tear up past agreements. He undermines confidence in US democracy by claiming the election will be rigged. He supports torture and the deliberate killing of the families of alleged terrorists. He admires the former KGB agent who runs Russia” – Martin Wolf

I agree with many of the items on your ‘crime’ sheet Mr Wolf, indeed the fact that the US has a braggadocio running for office is not great news for a great nation…the great nation that threw a bunch of corrupt cronies out on their fat backsides 240 years ago in the name of liberty, self-determination and an aversion to parasites…definitely deserves something better than what’s on offer here. On the other hand, they also deserve something far better than Hillary Clinton – the afterthought in this article, who also has a list of ‘crimes’ as long, and as egregious as Mr Trump’s…though sadly these do not seem of interest to the FT, perhaps because they might suck energy and oxygen away from the Trump rants.

The thing that you still don’t seem to get Mr Wolf, indeed none of your colleagues do, is that Donald Trump is a symptom of a disease, he is not the disease itself. His rise is a backlash against a corruption that has been eating away at western liberal democracy, from the inside, for decades: Cronyism - government by the elites, for the elites - administered through a corrupt financial system, a bought and paid for Congress, and a judicial system that has one set of rules for the poor and another for the rich.

Donald Trump is not the perfect ‘symptom’, he is not the perfect backlash, not by a long shot - but here’s the thing Mr Wolf – you don’t get to choose. You are never likely to cheer for anyone that threatens the reign of the status quo, no matter how polite and respectable they may be. But calling it the end of democracy? No. It is an expression of democracy Mr Wolf – it’s just that you don’t like it.


My comments attracted a number of ‘sparky’ comments from fellow readers:

Reader M: Though no admirer, I still can't see Trump and his life as anything but the embodiment of the essential spirit and character of the American experience. He is, to me, "as American as apple pie" and representative of what made America wealthy, envied and powerful. American genius is founded on hard work and hustling. And not necessarily in that order.


Reader S: Point well made then taken too far. If Donald Trump is a symptom not the cause of the disease then we need to treat the symptoms first. If he's an expression of democracy then it is the ugly, unwelcome side of democracy. Democracy needs to throw up worthy leaders to tackle your complaints - Trump isn't one


Reader A: Mr Wolf does not call Trumps electoral success undemocratic but indeed deplores it and right he is.  Why should any democratic decision necessarily always be a good thing? It is our right, even more, our duty to fight - with democratic means - any events and evolutions we deem dangerous.  I assume you are still also enthusiastic about the 1934 referendum in Germany where 88.1% of the population promoted Hitler to Führer und Reichskanzleras this was another fine 'expression of democracy'? BTW, the Nazi's also got in with the promise to eradicate the international financial elites.

My reply: "I assume you are still also enthusiastic about the 1934 referendum in Germany". I'm afraid you're having a conversation with your own projections here. Fortunately for me, I'm not.


Reader J: Hitler was also an expression of democracy. Maybe Trump is a symptom of a legitimate backlash against the perceived self-interest of the elites. Still a symptom isn't a remedy. A Trump presidency would cost more to the angry people who would elect him than the status quo (HRC). But worse still, inasmuch as he would disrupt the status quo, unlike Sanders,  it would be by accelerating the very trend that created the conditions for his election namely the hijacking of the US political system by corporate interests. His fiscal plan is the Bush tax cut on steroids. He wants to abolish inheritance tax altogether. His intention to dismantle regulation is a godsend for companies, and mostly the biggest polluters. Sanders would have provided the type of disruption that would have slowed or reversed that trend whereas Trump, masquerading as a champion of the lower and middle classes against the elites, will further entrench the latter's privileges, including his own.

My reply: You are right - the popularity of Bernie Sanders is another symptom of this backlash. I believe he would have made it to the ballot had not the primary process been rigged by the DNC, and personally I would prefer him over Clinton eight days a week.


Reader U: I think Wolfe well understands the problems in America that led to Trump being seen as a viable candidate, but frankly they are not important. The important issue is whether to elect a flawed candidate in Hillary Clinton, or a totally compromised candidate in Donald Trump. Trump, by his stated policies, would not help poor Americans of any race, would despoil the environment, would throw more cash at the rich, and would damage alliances. I fail to see how Trump will help corruption or a corrupt judicial system; he is far more likely to make them worse.

My reply: You may be right. But even if you are, I am still waiting to hear Mr Wolf's ideas for the reform of the system that has led us here. Where are his ideas for campaign finance reform, term limits, legal consequences for crooks in the banking system...turkeys don't vote for Xmas and corrupt elites do not reform themselves. Trump, or someone like him, was inevitable. I can bemoan the man until I'm blue in the face, I can wish for a 'just man' to step up, as I do, but ultimately attacking Trump without addressing the disease that made him inevitable is blind. The press are not blind - they are complicit.


Reader T: My last reply was disappeared for some reason. Possibly a rude word or two. Mark I like your Posts; so do a lot of people. But they really are very same. You lambast people - often very bright and decent ones like MW; you repeatedly use the phrase "what you don't get" and the word "cronies"...

And nothing positive or productive from you - ever. And that is not a charge that can be levelled at MW (who I criticise often). But you offer so little else. No explanation outside your rants about Democracy and symptoms- and certainly no sign you have any understanding of the chaos that your nihilistic outrage will cause. "If it doesnt work, let's smash it up". Really? Is that the best someone as bright as you can come up with: its almost like you look forward to the chaos.

Well Mark- be careful what you wish for. If you want to sit at the sides and criticise fine. But stop being so damnn pleased with yourself, and for heavens sake at least be polite to people like MW who at least seem to care about the future rather than just delighting in the outrage and saying "I told you so".

My reply: Thanks for such a direct challenge.

My posts are often the same, because the mindset I am challenging has not altered. The mainstream media has been attacking the symptom called 'Trump' for the past year, and for the past year I have been saying that this is missing the point - it is.

It is not true to say that I do not offer solutions - I have repeatedly spoken about the need for, for example:

1. A fundamental review of the monetary system, including debt restructuring

2. Regulation of the banking system through a new Glass Steagall

3. Reform of the way in which the government raises debt through the primary dealer banks

4. Closure of the revolving doors between Wall Street, the Eccles Building, and the regulators

5. Transformation of the system of campaign finance and term limits in Congress

6. The 'return' of the judicial system to the banks in order to attack moral hazard at source

There is much more if you read my posts over the past two years, though of course there is no reason why you should.

The single biggest reason why these measures are not on the agenda, and are not even discussed seriously in the press, is because they threaten the power of the status quo - the elites - the oligarchy - the cronies - there are many suitable words.

Mr Wolf is fully aware, I believe, that he sits in rooms at Davos and at Bilderberg with people who profit from the corrupt system we suffer from, but displays absolutely no intention or action to do anything about it. He never writes about it, and if he did, I suspect he would not find himself on the invitees list - that's how it works. So...blinkered...or complicit. Either way, the problems continue, the mis-targeting of symptoms continues...and I continue to repeat myself. So be it.

I am not wishing for calamity - I am warning of it. The longer this goes on, the longer the imbalances will build, the bigger the backlash will become, and the greater chance there will be of war - I want that no more than you do. Believe that or not, it's true.

As regards being 'so damned pleased with myself', I am in fact, as my LA mates might say 'pi$$ed' - smug? No. Angry? Yes.

On the sidelines? No. I do what I can do to raise the alarm. Maybe I could do more to promote solutions, and I will give that more thought - but I will not stop criticising powerful thought leaders whom I believe, consciously or unconsciously, are supporting the 'forces' behind the problem, whilst offering the same old solutions that have caused them in the first place.

Anyway, thank you TF - I appreciate a direct challenge.

Reader T's 2nd response: Well put, unsurprisingly, and thank you. If I am honest, I am scared; genuinely scared. I agree with much of what you say about how we have got here; most in fact. I also agree about the roots of many of the problems- albeit I am more UK centric than you. It's just that the thought of the Petrol that is Trump being poured on the embers that are smouldering truly scares me. Were I to continue in this vein I would tell you that I love my Life. I have a good one, through luck and help mostly.....and.....I Would go through hell to protect it from anyone who wishes to harm it....whether they have " right" on their side, of are just a disgusting and narcissistic pig who wants to be President and smash the status quo. Obama had been disappointing, but give me a decent man as President of the USA any day of the week...and Trump has never been decent. Thank you again.

My 2nd reply: I appreciate your honesty TF. Apart from the fact that it makes a difference personally, ‘honesty’ is almost completely lacking from our culture of political economy. ‘Politics’ has become the art of BS rather than the formation of policy. So ‘speaking out’ is the antidote to corruption, and we will not go forward healthily from here without it. It matters little how ‘clever’ we are – our problems breed in the dark.


Larry Summers on 'The middle class and secular stagnation'

The art of clueless whining