Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A surprising find from the past

I am clearing out a lot of old research materials and papers that are now digitized. In that process, I came across an article from the Spring 1994 edition of American Scholar, Bourgeois Virtue by Donald McCloskey (now Dierdre McCloskey). McCloskey has written a series of books about the Bourgeois Virtue value system and how it underpins the success of the western world.

What caught my eye was this brief passage from 23 years ago. Of course we see his name everyday now, but he was no shrinking violet even back then.
Donald Trump offends. But for all the envy he has provoked, he is not a thief. He didn't get his millions from aristocratic cattle raids, acclaimed in bardic glory. He made, as he put it in his first book, deals. The deals were voluntary. He didn't use a .38 or a broadsword to get people to agree. He bought the Commodore Hotel low and sold it high because Penn Central, Hyatt Hotels, and the New York City Board of Estimate—and behind them the voters and hotel guests—put the old place at a low value and the new place, trumped up, at a high value. Trump earned a suitably fat profit for seeing that a hotel in a low-value use could be moved into a high-value use. An omniscient central planner would have ordered the same move. Mar-ket capitalism should be defended as the most altruistic of systems, each capitalist working, working, working to help a customer, for pay. Trump does good by doing well.
He was offensive back then, to the great and the good, because he was a real estate developer. McCloskey is pointing out that in that role, he was virtuous - providing people more of what they wanted, even if the elite might wrinkle their noses.

I have wondered, since his election, just how much the revulsion of the Acela Cabal is due to any policy position of Trump, how much is due to the fact that he pitches his deal to ordinary Americans rather than the self-avowed elite, and how much is just longstanding social stigma given that he was a businessman and a developer at that.

Funny to see this passage though given the changed times.

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