Martin Wolf on Trump and the fate of ‘The West’. A comment by Old Socialist

Headline: How the west might soon be lost

Sub-headline: Under a President Trump, democracy would lose credibility as a model for a civilised political life


Mr. Wolf’s intervention is too little too late! Awash in the misplaced self-congratulation of the Neo-Liberal sage, in panic mode, or something close to it. Perhaps a foreshortened description of America’s political history might help, my political bias will be readily apparent. The political fact of the Republicans continuing resort to political irrationalism, and don’t forget the contribution of the New Democrats, Republicans in all but name.

The post World War II history of The Republicans, who have been engaging in, and or, flirting with political necromancy since their ‘Generation of Treason’ sloganeering of the post-war period . The  McCarthy/Nixon/McCarren/Mundt political alliance used this as a political war cry against The New Deal. Then came Goldwater of the infamous: ‘radicalism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice.’ ( The rallying cry of the Tea Party avant la lettre?)  Quickly followed by the Dixiecrat migration of ’64 and ’65, after the passage of both the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.  The election of Nixon and his ‘Southern Strategy’, followed by States Rights advocate Ronald Reagan. Then came Bush I and his Willy Horton race baiting , and then Neo-Reaganite Bill Clinton whose ‘Welfare Reform’ , ‘Financial Reform’ and ‘Crime Bill’ were monuments to Republican political/moral paranoia, and cemented the fact that the New Democrats were betrayers of the New Deal, in the name of scheming ambition.The New Democrats as the not so sub rosa allies of the Republicans. Not to forget, Bush II and his unalloyed economic incompetence, wedded to an irrepressible war mongering and the once discarded idea and practice of ‘Nation Building’, in sum ‘Nation Destroying’ !   The Republican political nihilism inaugurated by McConnell/Boehner and McConnell/Ryan as a ‘political strategy’ adapted in the face of the losses of 2008 and 2012. Add to this the  rise of the Tea Party anti-government radicals, that helped set the political stage for Trump, in fact he looks like the natural inheritor of this long Republican Tradition. And most especially the Nihilism adopted from 2008 to the political present, except to those who are willfully, self-servingly myopic. Not to speak of the utter failure of the Neo-Liberal dispensation, and the inability of ‘Western Capitalism’ i.e. Europe and America, to recover something like prosperity. Trump rides the tide of that ignominious failure!

Here are some quotations from Mr. Wolf that demonstrate his political orthodoxy:

America’s allies support the US largely because they trust it. That trust is based on its perceived commitment to predictable, values-based behaviour.

America was once the hegemon, but that status has been eroded by the rise of China, India, Iran and others. Not to speak of Russia led by Putin, as political actor on the world stage: the cause of an intensification of The New Cold War exacerbated by Clinton’s unslakable bellicosity, fueled by her Neo-Conservative and R2P allies.
Then comes this glowing testimonial to the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. Mr. Wolf hasn’t been reading The Financial Times, he has missed this scathing editorial of May 30,2016. In another political context this ‘editorial’ would have charged the IMF with deviationism from the Neo-Liberal catechism. And the reader wonders where is the ‘prosperity’ he celebrates?

Headline: A misplaced mea culpa for neoliberalism

Sub-headline:The International Monetary Fund should stick to its knitting and tackle the decline in productivity


As an all-purpose insult, “neoliberalism” has lost any meaning it might once have had. Whether it is a supposed sin of commission, such as privatisation; one of omission, such as allowing a bankrupt company to close; or just an outcome with some losers, neoliberalism has become the catch-all criticism of unthinking radicals who lack the skills of empirical argument.

The greatest insult of all, however, is that to our intelligence when august international institutions hitch their wagon to these noisy criticisms. This sorry spectacle befell the International Monetary Fund last week when it published an article in its flagship magazine questioning its own neoliberal tendencies and concluding that “instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality, in turn jeopardising durable expansion”.

A vital feature of the US-led global order has been the role of multilateral institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation. In binding itself by the rules of an open economic system, the US has encouraged others to do the same. The result has been extraordinary growth in prosperity: between 1950 and 2015, average global real output per head rose sixfold. Mr Trump does not understand this system. The results of repudiation could be calamitous for all.

Mr. Wolf has missed the Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan Wars, not to speak of a world surrounded by US military bases, as examples that should be factored into a consideration about the erosion of the ‘faith’ in US ‘wisdom and competence’. An attempt to soften the effect of four wars rather than just the one?  Also not factored into this self-serving equation is the Drone War, that executes the innocent and the guilty as a central exercise of executive fiat.

The Iraq war has damaged trust in US wisdom and competence. But the global financial crisis has been even more destructive. Many have long suspected US motives. But they thought it knew how to manage a capitalist system. The crisis devastated that confidence.

The next quotation is not a complete surprise coming from a defender of Neo-Liberalism, yet the ‘why’ of Trump, and the Party Line, here at The Financial Times, of ‘The Rebellion Against The Elites’ is about the destruction of the ‘Middle Class’. That is the watershed of that Neo-Liberalism, and its misplaced faith in the Market, as the only valid form of knowledge, as argued by Hayek and his vocal coterie. Mr. Wolf’s ‘growth in prosperity’ is about the flourishing of the 1%, not about the myth of ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’!

The result has been extraordinary growth in prosperity: between 1950 and 2015, average global real output per head rose sixfold.

And what Financial Times essay would be complete without the obligatory appearance of ‘straw man’ Vladimir Putin, the political monster for all seasons?

Mr Putin and other actual or would-be despots would cheer.

Mr. Wolf’s intent is clear. He is an advocate of the position of the political rationalism of Hillary Clinton, as opposed the the utterly irrational Mr. Trump! In the lesser of two evils argument the notion of virtue is discarded as irrelevant.

Old Socialist



About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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