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Editor’s Note: This essay is adapted from the new book “The Drift: Stopping America’s Slippage Toward Socialism“by Kevin Hassett.
“Kevin, I want you to pick the lowest number,” President Trump told me.
It was in 2016 and I was then president of the Council of Economic Advisers. I had just told the President that Americans could expect a big increase in average wages if Congress passes its tax cut plan.
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In fact, I projected that after the anemic, unpaid growth of the Obama years, the President’s free market policies would bring Americans their first big pay rise in years. I gave him a range of dollars that our policies would generate in average wages for Americans, the lower being $ 4,000 per year and the higher being double.
I expected Trump, given the way he was portrayed on TV, to take my more and double that. Instead, he told me to go with the lowest number, arguing that he wanted to under-promise and outperform.
And we did. As a result of Trump’s tax cuts and regulatory relief, average real wages rose by more than $ 6,000 a year just before the start of the pandemic. Women and minorities have seen some of the biggest pay increases in history.
This anecdote succinctly sums up my time at the White House. Across policy areas, President Trump has pursued sane free market policies, and those policies have brought prosperity that the Obama administration told us would be impossible given the “new normal.” .
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Policies have been so successful in helping ordinary Americans that income inequality has fallen sharply. And he genuinely cared about his successes and the people around him. Two of my staff fell ill during my time in the White House, each having received a personal note from President Trump wishing them a speedy recovery.
Which creates a mystery. A president who cared for the poor and who was himself generous in spirit spent his time in the White House being assaulted by large sections of society as if he was the Antichrist.
To understand why this happened, and to ensure that it never happens again, we need to understand “the drift”, the powerful forces that inevitably push our society towards socialism. Trump fought against the Drift, and the Drift fought back.
Conservatives believed that the 20th century had settled the debate between market capitalism and socialism. “Ideas have consequences,” we said.
The free market had prevailed at home with Reagan and the Soviet Union had collapsed. And yet, despite a century of failure, socialism is making a comeback.
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A 2019 poll showed that 7 in 10 Millennials said they would vote for a socialist candidate. Much like the demonization of Trump, it may seem like a mystery, the result of an infamous plot by a conspiratorial secret socialist society. But it’s not. Indeed, the circumstances of today were seen with perfect clarity nearly a century ago by one of America’s greatest conservative minds. This is important, because socialism can only be defeated if it is understood.
A refugee scholar from Vienna, Joseph Schumpeter was an admirer of capitalism who believed that capitalism was doomed to be defeated by socialism. This economist predicted a century ago an exorable drift to the left based on five factors which, in honor of Schumpeter’s famous and brilliant horsemanship, I will call the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The first rider is the unwavering hostility of intellectuals towards capitalism. A modern society produces a Schumpeter class called “the intellectual spectator”. These people are not practitioners like brain surgeons or Space X engineers. They are talkers and professional thinkers whom the ancient Greeks called “sophists.” Think of Michael Moore, Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann. These intellectuals, whose livelihoods are not directly tied to entrepreneurship or business, have a lover’s blind belief that their infatuation alone represents something noble in their beloved ideas. Intellectuals control “respectability” and respectable people love socialism.
The second horseman is the university, which produces more graduate intellectuals than there are good university positions. Think about all the extremely well educated people you know who make less money than the manager of a Starbucks. These people are repelled by manual labor and unable to do professional work such as accounting and dentistry. So they blame capitalism for their fate and become gypsy scholars, writers and “activists”. And this is Bernie Sanders. Why shouldn’t they like him? He looks like the professor they had wanted to be, running on a platform in tune with the utopian socialist ideals of today’s university.
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The Third Horseman is the weakening of religion. This process begins under capitalism, with its pragmatic and worldly thinking based on the spirit of calculation and ingenuity, leaving little room for the sacred. Capitalism does not outright kill religion. It encumbers it with responsibilities, entertainment and distractions. Who has time to pray when we can watch Netflix?
Yet this stifling of religion leaves a void in the human psyche, a need for purpose and meaning once fulfilled by religion. Millions of people have a thirst for transcendence that socialism can harness. Like a religion, Marxism and its children (like Critical Race Theory) claim to explain everything, with its own concept of good versus evil, a plan of salvation which, writes Schumpeter, promises “paradise on this side of the world. grave “.
The Fourth Horseman is the break-up of the nuclear family. Former Vice President Dan Quayle has been pilloried for questioning the wisdom of leftist culture glorifying fatherless homes. The Black Lives Matter website posted (until it was noted in the media and removed): “We are disrupting the nuclear family structure requirement prescribed by the West …”. Without a family or church to depend on, it’s natural for people to turn to the state.
The Fifth Horseman is society against itself. As capitalism has made America richer, it has created wealth so people can live very well with professional salaries in corporate jobs and returns on capital investments. This has the effect of cutting capitalists off from the practice and culture of entrepreneurship, as more and more people get rich without taking risks in new ventures.
In the wake of these five socialist horsemen of the Apocalypse, the left has captured our universities, our media and our businesses, while an increasingly atomized society loses faith in free markets and God loses ground in the face of Marx.
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But as they used their control over campuses and major news outlets and media to silence defenders of capitalism, they lost control of an area Schumpeter never imagined.
President Trump has created such a heckle because he has shown the way. Social media gives conservatives the opportunity to break the controlled discussion of the left to boldly challenge socialist policies, whether they are those of radical school boards or the Biden administration.
Conservatives might want a world where a president can pursue Trump’s policies without being distracted by Trump’s tweets. But without the tweets, which broke the state’s socialist monopoly on information, capitalism would already be lost.
President Trump may be canceled from social media at this time, but it will only be a minor setback for capitalism if a thousand voices, especially yours, rise to continue the battle against socialism.
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Advocates of free markets, the role of religion and the need for strong families can remain civil, but use the megaphone of social media to be aggressive, loud, confrontational, and determined to highlight the failure of socialism and what it is. it costs every American.
If we remain unwavering, we can rock the establishment, from Harvard Yard to Coca-Cola Plaza in Atlanta, to CBS studios and boardrooms.
There is still time to take America back. But the time to be heard is now. They can’t all cancel us.