Joseph Stiglitz writes: Donald Trump has thrown a hand grenade into the global economic architecture that was so painstakingly constructed in the years after the end of the second world war. The attempted destruction of this rules-based system of global governance – now manifested in Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement – is just the latest aspect of the US president’s assault on our basic system of values and institutions.
The world is only slowly coming fully to terms with the malevolence of the Trump administration’s agenda. He and his cronies have attacked the US press – a vital institution for preserving Americans’ freedoms, rights and democracy – as an “enemy of the people”. They have attempted to undermine the foundations of our knowledge and beliefs – our epistemology – by labelling as “fake” anything that challenges their aims and arguments, even rejecting science itself. Trump’s sham justifications for spurning the Paris climate agreement is only the most recent evidence of this.
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. [Continue reading…]