Monday, December 26, 2016

Assessing democracy in the aftermath of Trump's victory, Part VII: The mythology of the Rand-ian superhero

Continuing with the concept of "valence," remember that we also supposedly want candidates, regardless of their policy positions, to be competent.  As I said in Part IV when I introduced the concept, I am skeptical of its application to legislative elections, but we are talking about a presidential election.  We need a competent executive.

This is where things get interesting from the political science perspective.  In math jargon, the valence "dimension" is supposed to be "orthogonal" to the liberal-conservative "dimension."  Huh?  Basically, that means one thing's supposed ta' gots nothin' to do with ta' other.  And yet, there is a fascinating tendency among right-leaning political types to act as though CEOS and other business leaders are omni-competent, Ayn Rand-ian superheroes, who can solve any problem.

Trump's administration will be a sort of test of this proposition, between himself and his cabinet picks.  We actually have no prior data on the matter.  Every past president has had either prior political or military experience.  So, we have no empirical basis to predict what happens in an administration where nobody at the top has any governmental experience.

We do have a record of inexperienced candidates running for Congress!  I referenced them way back in Part II!  (See, this is all going to connect...)  They all claim they will go to Congress and bust up the joint.  The vast, vast, vast majority lose.  The few who win?  They get to Congress and find that as first term-ers, they can't do jack fucking shit.  They either don't stick around very long, or get institutionalized.  Most accomplish nothing anyway.  Not very promising for the outsiders.

Still, they aren't CEOs, so that doesn't give us any information on the Rand-ian superhero theory.  This is a test.

The problem, of course, is that even if the Rand-ian superhero theory held up, Trump is still mostly a moron.  If you are bothering to read this pretentious, little blog, you probably know that the real sources of his income are not his deal-making skills, but investing his multi-million dollar inheritance from the 70s, combined with licensing his name to slap on other peoples' buildings and self-promotion through things like his TV shows.  The best analogy I can make is that he is to business as Hulk Hogan is to martial arts: great at bragging about how great he is at it (sorry if my references are out of date).  He has turned that bragging skill into real money, in a turn of perfect circularity, and his association with professional wrestling makes the analogy perhaps too on-the-nose, but there it is.  People pay him money because he is great at bragging about how rich he is.  That was the Trump University scam too.  Great work if you can get it...

Then there's actual, serious policy.  A few weeks ago, Thomas Schelling died.  He was the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Strategy of Conflict, which is among my favorite books ever written.  You are not an educated person until you have read it.  Nobody should be allowed into the Oval Office without having read it.  Nobody should be allowed anywhere near the nuclear football without having read it.  (PS: the nuclear football isn't what you think it is).  The book explains the nature of nuclear deterrence.

The single most vital task a president must perform is to manage the most dangerous arsenal in the history of the world.  The president is charged with the task of managing an array of weapons that can literally destroy all of humanity, and I hate when people misuse the word, "literally."  Nuclear weapons are a deterrent.  Use them recklessly as a first-strike weapon and the best case scenario is that you destabilize the global political and economic structure.  Worst case scenario is the end of everything.

Donald Trump is too fucking stupid to understand this.



Thomas Schelling died of a lethal dose of irony on December 13, 2016.

And we aren't even close to done in this series.

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