Pinker on Trump

A couple of weeks ago I made the point that President Trump appeared to be going the wrong way on the Iran deal as he has on many other issues. Readers of Doing Business on the Earth have probably become accustomed to my opinion with respect to President Trump but I know that some think my opposition is essentially partisan in the sense that Trump was elected on the Republican ticket and I traditionally support candidates and policies from the Democratic Party.

While it is true that I disagree with many Republican positions, my opposition to trump and concerns about his presidency go deeper than that but rather than to give my view again, I will share that of Steven Pinker a Canadian who teaches at Harvard University’s School of Psychology.

Pinker recently published Enlightenment Now, a wonderful book in which he makes the case that the ideals of the enlightenment have propelled the world to its present state and that on virtually ever measure of human progress humanity is doing better than ever before. His point is not that we do not have problems to fix, but when looked at with a historical perspective we are healthier, safer, smarter, and happier than we have ever been before.

Pinker sees Trump as attacking the very principles of the enlightenment and specifically points out how his policies, actions and tweets go directly against ideals including:

  • Health – by reducing access to medical care
  • Wealth – by being hostile to international trade and indifferent to technology and education
  • Equality – by demonizing immigrant groups and trading partners and ignoring the technological cause of increasing economic inequality
  • The Environment – by announcing the withdrawal from the Paris accords and attacking the EPA
  • Safety – by being contemptuous of federal regulations that have made life in the U.S. safer
  • Peace – by publicly admiring Valdmir Putin , vilify international trade and threatening to defy international agreements
  • Democracy – by running a campaign that seemingly endorsed violence, criticizing the independent judicial system and praising autocrats in Russia, Turkey, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Egypt
  • Knowledge – by lying again and again and challenging experts not on the facts but by using public discourse as a partisan weapon
  • Existential Threats – by potentially bringing us closer to nuclear war

Interestingly enough Pinker debunks the idea that Trump was elected by the lower middle classes who have not seen as much benefit from Globalization. Citing an article in the Washington Post, Pinker insitist that lower incole voters went for Ms Clinton 52-42%.

Pinker makes the point that Trump was elected by a narrow group of mostly aging white men and that over time, his support will diminish as younger , more liberal people and millennials come to dominate the polls. He instists that people do not actually become more conservative as they get older.

Pinker also has faith that the constitutional mechanisms put in place during the enlightenment will limit the damage a President can do and theatUnited States will go back to the path of steady improvement that it and the rest of the world have been on over the last 250 years.