Conservatives and neo-liberals must not get into bed with fascism

It should go without saying that most of Donald Trump’s campaign promises and the executive orders of his first week in office are illiberal, unconstitutional, and repugnant. Restricting entry for immigrants, refugees, and US residents based on nationality is probably illegal as well as clearly immoral, not to mention pointless and arbitrary. The Wall™ is, of course, a phenomenal waste of money and resources that may be impossible. It is also pointless. Even mooting the idea of bringing back ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ should be beyond the pale.

Nevertheless, for conservatives and free marketeers in the US and globally, there seem to be some silver linings to the Trump administration. School choice will be a major part of education policy. There’s generic Republican red meat in the form of tax cuts and deregulation. The next Supreme Court pick will likely be an originalist. Expensive, quixotic, and counter-productive foreign interventions may be as dead as the rest of Hillary Clinton’s career. And, from a British perspective, Trump may represent an opportunity for a post-Brexit trade deal.

As such, Congressional Republicans and market friendly governments should look to work with the Trump Whitehouse, and we should be cautiously optimistic for the libertarian-lite elements of the new administration.

To put it mildly, this response to President Trump is myopic, naïve, cowardly, a betrayal of principle and an abdication of responsibility. Being able to repeal Obamacare is not a fair price for a commander in chief that installs white nationalists in the National Security Council. The possibility of a (probably unfavourable and mercantilist-tinged) trade deal is not a good reason to tacitly accept the erosion of the international liberal order.

Trump’s economic agenda is, overwhelmingly, defined by economic nationalism and populism, not economic liberalism and fiscal conservatism. Any proposed tax cuts are unfunded and combined with a possible spending splurge will increase the deficit by $10 trillion. From both a neo-classical and a Keynesian perspective, this is madness. Mooted deregulation focuses on the wrong areas (targeting environmental regulations rather than, say, occupational licensing and zoning laws). Central bank independence is under threat. Self-destructive trade wars are on the cards, and the leader of the Chinese Communist Party has to explain the benefits of free trade to the purported leader of the free world.

The likely results of Trumponomics will be institutionalised rent-seeking and a capricious cronyist policy of picking winners based on the President’s whims. Multi-national companies are investing in preparations for the fall-out from possible Twitter attacks by Trump. Uncompetitive companies and sectors will be protected, subsidised, and given preferential treatment in a hare-brained attempt to reduce the current account deficit and achieve ‘national self-sufficiency’, which is neither possible nor desirable.

There is an existing term for economically illiterate, authoritarian, and ethno-nationalist governments that trample over the rule of law and value instinct and strength over rationality and co-operation. The opportunity to extend Charter Schools should not blind us to this reality.