Rethinking America

Trump: The Most Disruptive Global Start-Up Ever

Trump aims for the total destruction of the established order, including all alliance partnerships the United States ever entered into.

Credit: Joseph Sohm Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • Silicon Valley companies pride themselves on their disruptive capabilities. These days however these firms take a distant second place to a start-up entrepreneur called Donald Trump.
  • Trump aims for the total destruction of the established order, including all alliance partnerships the US ever entered into.
  • Trump has converted the US government into a one-man alliance shredding machine.
  • World history is changing because Donald Trump has removed his nation from the role of a rational, if sufficiently self-interested anchor of the global system.
  • Donald Trump is a master at exploiting the credulousness – indeed, goodheartedness – of the American people at large.

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs pride themselves on their disruptive capabilities. These days, however, these firms take a distant second place to a start-up politician called Donald Trump.

His field of operation is an unexpected one, but truly global in scope – the world order and the media market worldwide. Within just a year and a half, Trump has managed in spectacular fashion to penetrate that global market extremely deeply. He certainly single-handedly holds the biggest imaginable share of the global attention market.

But unlike many Silicon Valley start-ups that artfully pride themselves of “disruption” (in the sense of Schumpeter’s “creative destruction”), and do so mainly to secure the next round of funding or a higher valuation, Trump is truly disruptive.

In fact, Trump’s disruption goes much further than what the term usually implies. Trump aims outright for the total destruction of the established order, including all alliance partnerships the United States ever entered into.

The problem with his approach is that it is entirely nihilistic. He is building nothing in the place of what he tears down.

Self-aggrandizement

He obsesses just about one thing: Boundless self-aggrandizement. As it happens, this is also where his personal commercial instincts enter into the global equation.

As destructive as Trump’s brand of politics is at home and abroad, nobody should ever forget that Trump, in contrast to many start-ups, actually has a well-tested revenue-generating business model attached to it.

It is called the Trump Organization. Its core business is an astounding one, licensing. For a long time now, Trump’s fortune has been almost exclusively based on this line of business, not on “being a builder,” as he often likes to assert.

Soft on China

This also explains Trump’s softness toward China – yes, softness. Of course, Trump hurls big, seemingly offensive words toward China, but that’s mostly for show. His inner guiding principle is straightforward: China has the world’s biggest market. Hence, licensing incomes there are going to be the highest. That means spectacular wealth for his clan – i.e., Donald and the Trumplings – for eons to come.

Of course, the Chinese government has it under its very firm control to whom licenses are awarded in China. Most Western businessmen never get such a license. Their problem is that they definitely want something from China, but – other than their product – don’t really have something to offer to China’s rulers.

That equation is fundamental in the case of Donald Trump. He doesn’t really have a “product” per se (if anything, it’s him). But he can give China’s CCP things the party has always wanted.

How about “Asia for Asians” (read: controlled by the Chinese)? Donald Trump has delivered that on the fly, as a throw-in during his press conference following the summit with Kim Jong Un, when he declared an end to U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

The great appeaser

His utterances about removing U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula and also from Japan, because it all costs so much, is a stunning one-sided concession that makes Neville Chamberlain, the world’s previous chief appeaser, look like a tiger.

Here is a businessman who, in furtherance of his private commercial interests, has managed to make the mighty United States his personal policy fiefdom. Even Mao would have had great respect for pulling off such a daring act.

No wonder that Trump, on a strictly personal level, does significantly better than any and all Westerners have done throughout the ages when dealing with China’s emperors. In the past, by Chinese birthright, so to speak, all foreigners were supposed to pay (commercial and financial) tribute for the mere privilege of having access to the throne.

Trump changes that formula by actually having the Chinese reward him with a tribute payment, in the form of commercial licenses to Ivanka for her jewelry line and the like.

The sad fact is that Donald Trump is getting away with all that at home. He understands deep down that the United States at heart is a profoundly insular nation. And he knows that he can ride herd on the vast amount of economic insecurity that holds a large share of Americans in its iron grip for much of their life.

While he is, in effect, selling out the strategic position of the United States, he is pretending that the savings from the overseas operations will accrue to the population at large.

But if that were true, why is Trump so single-mindedly focused on expanding the defense budget, while at the same time shredding every conceivable social benefit and primarily cutting taxes for the rich?

Something doesn’t add up

Something clearly doesn’t add up. But the American people, not least due to their limited contacts with nations beyond their shores, are also an incredibly credulous bunch. When their leader says something that, on the surface, makes them feel proud and good, then they tend to believe it, little or no questions asked.

Donald Trump is a master at exploiting this credulousness – indeed, goodheartedness – of the American people at large.

His own masters in China couldn’t be happier about him. Just consider his latest act – the supposedly massively successful Singapore summit that is going to change world history, as he has acclaimed.

It is indeed changing world history, but not by virtue of the presumed denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Rather, world history is changing because Donald Trump has removed his nation from the role of a rational, if sufficiently self-interested anchor of the global system. He has converted the U.S. government into a one-man alliance shredding machine.

A significant share of the American people does not even notice. They have grown up in the virtual reality world of ceaseless advertising. In politics, this has brought a culture where the mere announcement of an act is seen as virtually akin to its realization. The in-between space of drilling through hard boards and fiendishly complex issues simply is not theirs (and it certainly isn’t Trump’s).

The American president and his voters are firmly united in their common bond that in other circumstances is described as ADD (attention deficit disorder). This has conditioned them to live on the fumes of hopeful announcements.

That they should know differently and, worse, that they stand to be disappointed yet again, as they have been so many times before during their lives, should dawn on them starkly, given all that past experience. But who can blame them for finding such reality-based thinking too hard to tolerate?

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

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