‘Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.’
— Marcus Aurelius
Nothing new. Same old, same old.
China warned that its corporate debt levels were too high.
Sotto voce, investors might have heard that Chinese debt is in danger of blowing sky high, as companies continue to borrow in order to finance overseas acquisitions.
But it didn’t seem to faze them. Not yesterday. The Dow was up 41 points anyway.
Caesar in the flesh
Meanwhile, President Obama visited Cuba, perhaps in hope of being remembered by historians for more than just Obamacare.
And the presidential primaries continued to be a source of amazement and entertainment.
It is not often that we get to use the word ‘apoplectic’. But this seems to be an occasion for it.
Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times in London, is practically melting down at the prospect of a Trump win:
‘The U.S. is the greatest republic since Rome, the bastion of democracy, the guarantor of the liberal global order. It would be a global disaster if Mr. Trump were to become president. Even if he fails, he has rendered the unthinkable sayable.
Mr. Trump is a promoter of paranoid fantasies, a xenophobe, and an ignoramus. His business consists of the erection of ugly monuments to his own vanity. He has no experience of political office.’
An American ‘Caesarism’ has now become flesh.
Quoting leading neoconservative Robert Kagan, Wolf writes that Trump is the ‘GOP’s Frankenstein monster’.
If you have any doubt about the kind of monster Trump may be, just Google ‘Trump Hitler’. You’ll find 2,700,000 results, including a number of videos.
Some complain that comparisons to Hitler are unfair, suggesting a comparison with FDR might be more appropriate instead.
Others complain about ‘Hitler’ being compared to Donald Trump…
Meanwhile, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren labelled Trump as an insecure loser who reminds her of Hitler.
And, south of the border, the Mexican president…along with two of his predecessors…have all found similarities between Hitler and the Republican frontrunner.
The road to tyranny
Is Trump really like Hitler?
Trump has no moustache. He doesn’t speak German. He tells New Yorkers he has the strongest Jewish ties of all the candidates. His daughter, Ivanka, is married to an orthodox Jew and has converted to the faith.
What kind of Hitler is this?
No, to understand Donald J Trump, you have to go further back…to a ‘time before pants’.
‘If there were anybody who would have been unsurprised by the sudden rise of the Donald,’ writes colleague Van Bryan in Classical Wisdom Weekly, ‘it would have been Plato’.
Plato believed that democracy would be a fleeting and unhappy phase of human government. It was the ‘worst’ kind of government, he said…partly because it led inevitably to tyranny.
In Plato’s rendering of political cycles, the best form of government is the Aristocracy — with superior, high-minded, selfless, and capable people in the driver’s seat.
Think Jefferson or Adams.
This typically gives way to a degenerate form of government — timocracy — in which the leaders were still public spirited but less competent.
Then, the rich and powerful (the cronies) take advantage of weak government by asserting their own authority. Plato called this form of government an oligarchy.
Suddenly, or gradually, the little people get tired of being exploited. They take control of things in a democracy.
The plagues of every city
Plato seems to have little respect for — and little confidence in — democratic government.
The number of ‘drones’ (we would call them ‘zombies’), hoping to get something for nothing, multiplies. As Plato wrote of the ‘drones’:
‘[They] are the plagues of every city in which they are generated, being what phlegm and bile are to the body. And the good physician and lawgiver of the State ought, like the wise bee-master, to keep them (drones) at a distance and prevent, if possible, their ever coming in.’
Freedom creates rather more drones in a democratic state than it does in an oligarchical one… And in the democracy, they are certainly more intensified.
Public discipline disintegrates. Chaos and disorder increases. Budget imbalances arise. Markets become volatile. Pointless wars proliferate. Finally, the ‘drones’ accept a dictator who promises to restore order (‘Make America Great Again’).
To which Donald Trump replies: ‘Hey, they love me in Athens…’
For Markets and Money, Australia