Joe Stiglitz knows who Donald Trump is. He's no Master Builder. To the contrary, he's a Malevolent Wrecking Ball. He wants to destroy more than American Health Care and the Paris Climate Accord. He seeks to destroy the legacy of the Enlightenment:
For millennia before the middle of the 18th century, standards of living stagnated. It was the Enlightenment, with its embrace of reasoned discourse and scientific inquiry, that underpinned the enormous increases in standards of living in the subsequent two and a half centuries.
With the Enlightenment also came a commitment to discover and address our prejudices. As the idea of human equality – and its corollary, basic individual rights for all – quickly spread, societies began struggling to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and, eventually, other aspects of human identity, including disability and sexual orientation.
Trump seeks to reverse all of that. His rejection of science, in particular climate science, threatens technological progress. And his bigotry toward women, Hispanics, and Muslims (except those, like the rulers of Gulf oil sheikhdoms, from whom he and his family can profit), threatens the functioning of American society and its economy, by undermining people’s trust that the system is fair to all.
As a populist, Trump has exploited the justifiable economic discontent that has become so widespread in recent years, as many Americans have become downwardly mobile amid soaring inequality. But his true objective – to enrich himself and other gilded rent-seekers at the expense of those who supported him – is revealed by his tax and health-care plans.
Europe -- led by Angela Merkel -- understands this. Her conclusion that Europe and Germany can no longer rely on the United States is absolutely accurate. She reached that conclusion after the G7 Conference. Trump's rejection of the Paris Accord underscored her conclusion. Stiglitz writes that countries, states, provinces and cities have to reject everything that Trump stands for:
The rest of the world cannot let a rogue US destroy the planet. Nor can it let a rogue US take advantage of it with unenlightened – indeed anti-Enlightenment – “America first” policies. If Trump wants to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement, the rest of the world should impose a carbon-adjustment tax on US exports that do not comply with global standards.
The good news is that the majority of Americans are not with Trump. Most Americans still believe in Enlightenment values, accept the reality of global warming and are willing to take action. But, as far as Trump is concerned, it should already be clear that reasoned debate will not work. It is time for action.
Trump is hopeless. He's Un-Enlighented. We must not be.
Image: Patricia Saxton