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Excerpt: "I think there has always been a huge gap between what theories of capitalism say it is and how capitalism operates out in the world."

Naomi Klein photographed in Toronto for the Observer New Review. (photo: Christopher Wahl/the Observer)
Naomi Klein photographed in Toronto for the Observer New Review. (photo: Christopher Wahl/the Observer)

Naomi Klein: The Trump Phenomenon Is Part of the Dangerous Idea That Billionaires Can Solve Our Problems

By Ana Marie Cox, The New York Times

18 June 17


our book “No Is Not Enough” frames Donald Trump’s impunity as a type of branding. How does that help explain him?

He’s a culmination of many dangerous trends in the culture, especially the triumph of the idea that a successful corporation is first and foremost selling an idea of itself and a sense of belonging and identity to its customers. In the late ’80s, you saw brands start to sell the idea, the sense of belonging, first. That primacy of the brand does a lot to explain Trump, and how he has developed this intimate relationship with his base, why they expect so little of him and why he gets away with what he gets away with, because the rules of branding are really simple: Be true to your brand. The problem with Donald Trump is that he went and designed a brand that is entirely amoral.

Is he actually true to his brand?

His brand is wealth and power, which is why he’s driven so mad by things like “President Bannon” and people disputing his wealth. Because if that’s the case — if he’s not as rich and powerful as he claims he is — that really does damage his brand. It is a tremendous weakness of Trump’s that he believes his own P.R. And it’s a central part of his brand that he is the guy who gets the deal, and it has been ever since his real first brand extension, “The Art of the Deal” — a book not written by him.

One criticism I had of your dissection of his brand was that you talk about him as if he’s a triumph of capitalism, even though he’s not — he inherited his wealth.

I would argue that that’s the kind of capitalism we have now. I think there has always been a huge gap between what theories of capitalism say it is and how capitalism operates out in the world.

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+7 # gdsharpe 2017-06-18 10:40
"The Trump Phenomenon Is Part of the Dangerous Idea That Billionaires Can Solve Our Problems"
And I thought we had dodged that bullet with Romney.
+5 # lfeuille 2017-06-18 16:42
The thing is that multi-millions aren't that great either and once Bernie was out we were stuck with Billion vs. multi-millionai re. There was no good choice.
+6 # MainStreetMentor 2017-06-19 05:51
Roosevelt had access to wealth, as did John F. Kennedy. It isn’t wealth and capitalism as entities to and of themselves, but how they are manipulated and applied. The malignancy here isn’t necessarily capitalism, but greed which is incubated therein. Greed can be grown within any economic theory by persons of low caliber who are obsessively compelled to exercise their penchant for possessions and position.
+22 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-06-18 10:40
Klein is right. This is a long tradition in US culture. It is the deification of wealth. One of the founding fathers put it rather clearly. John Jay said, "that those who own the country ought to govern it. "

Of course, we socialist and communists know that the wealthy don't own the country. They steal the wealth created by the labor of the working class. They steal the natural resources by killing the people on whose land the natural resources exist (i.e., native americans) or they pass laws that give the resources to them.

Reagan was out most recent exponent of the idea that the wealthy ought to govern the nation. This was the core principle of supply side economics. Reagan thought that everything should be given to the supply side or corporations since the knew best how to use or manage everything.

Trump is the direct result of Reagan. His wealth was not inherited. It was given to him by local governents in the form of subsidies and tax abatements.
+5 # lfeuille 2017-06-18 16:44
But he got his start from his father who just gave him a million or so to play with before his death. Without that he would not have been in the position to qualify for the subsidies and tax breaks.
+15 # futhark 2017-06-18 10:53
If Donald Trump is all that benevolent, why doesn't he release his tax returns so we can have an accurate record of his generous contributions to charitable organizations?
+11 # economagic 2017-06-18 11:27
"I think there has always been a huge gap between what theories of capitalism say it is and how capitalism operates out in the world."

That's certainly true of the theories of capitalism put forth by the capitalists! Marx at least recognized the importance of power relations, and the sweeping powers granted by "capital" in the sense of money by his time (mid- to late 19th century), and later writers have added a good deal of nuance.

But the big bomb is Philip Smith and Manfred Max-Neef's "Economics Unmasked," the thesis of which is that the purpose of the academic discipline we call "Economics" (originally political economy) was never to put forth a scientific theory of how the industrial market economy works. They make a good case that its purpose was to offer cover for the rising power and wealth of the factory owners and the professional classes that supported them (accountants, lawyers, academics and others) as simply the workings of laws of nature similar to Newton's Laws of Motion, as the wealth and power of the ruling class of that time (17th and 18th centuries) was covered by the Divine Right of Kings. Marjorie Kelly recognized the connection in "The Divine Right of Capital" (2001).
+16 # vilstef 2017-06-18 13:03
I'm going to make some obvious observations, but perhaps not that obvious because so many people who supported Trump seem to miss what is being said on many levels.

Government and charity do things which Capitalism and Corporations are not designed to do. Government and charity are not there to turn a profit. They have budgets and will be constrained on how much can be done, but turning a profit is not something on their horizon.

For profit educational institutions and for profit prisons, just to give two instances, are driven by the profit motive and are not about doing anything for their clients. Profit means the executives in charge are going to butter their bread first, and any benefit from their 'expertise' is taken out of the whole budget and not being used in the service of their clients. There can be a measure of good done by capitalistic means, but things like education and prisons are not served well by these means.

Government should do what it does best, even if it could do better, and the libertarian idea of there is no nobility but profit should not be applied to Government works at all. Subcontracting to 3rd parties can also have negative effects.
+2 # lfeuille 2017-06-18 16:53
Right about how government should work, but it doesn't work that way when it is bought by rich capitalists. And charity is controlled mostly by very rich capitalists and corporations who insist on getting something back for themselves in most cases.
+16 # vilstef 2017-06-18 13:05
(Continued from my previous comment-I came within two character of the full amount allowed and got an error message that my comment was too long.)

We do not live in a perfect world, but throwing money at people who are not going to do a job or whose 'services' will have a deleterious effect on outcome is not a solution. This means Betsy DeVos and people of her ilk. Ignorance got us into the situation we are in, more ignorance will not get us out!
+2 # Brice 2017-06-21 05:27
I doubt Trump even understands what he is doing. All the descriptions of him show him to be lazy, entitled and always letting other people come to him with ideas based on his image as some kind of business genius. I don't think he is, and maybe that is the reason he hides his tax returns. Whatever the reason he hides his tax returns is, he should not have gotten away with it.

That Trump got away with playing the American people with a lie, several lies says one of two things to me. Either the whole system is rigged of we have a real problem with American people being totally clueless and manipulatable.

Someone needs to come up with a fool proof plan for voting and verification. There have got to be logicians and mathematicians out there who can create a safe and secure system of voting.

And we have to get the money out. Public elections, and mandatory monthly public debates the year before the election.
+1 # elkingo 2017-06-22 02:46
Don't forget the 50's classic The Organization Man by William H. Whyte, who depicts "belongingness" as one of the 3 corporate mentality "truths". Trump's brand (Klein is right) is only a fanatic extension of that. And inheritance is perfectly consistent with capitalism, the principal evil of the world.

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