The Russian Conspiracy

It has been about a year since Trump got elected President of the United States. A lot of people were shocked by this decision of the american voter. Personally, I was not shocked, I expected it. But not because I wanted him to win. In fact I have been a very vocal critic of the Donald. Trump is far from being a libertarian. He is a consequent authoritarian, with a dangerously impulsive, and immature personality. It is a real problem to have someone like him in charge of the biggest army in the world.

And yet, despite my dislike for him, I constantly find myself in the awkward position of having to defend the man. There are very good reasons to criticize Trump, but a lot of the attacks on him are simply ludicrous.

The most bizarre idea is that Trump is somehow working for the Kremlin. Ever since he defeated Hilary Clinton, The media has been full of allegations that Putin and Trump are something like a team, and that the Russians actively, and successfully interfered in the election. Allegation reach from Putin blackmailing Trump with sensitive material, to the Russians hacking files from the Clinton campaign, and manipulating the voters with fake news. The evidence for all of this? Pretty much zippo.

The complete lack of evidence, however, does not seem to bother our journalist elites in the slightest. They have been busily reporting on this “scandal” pretty much non stop for the full year since the election. The level of misinformation reported is quite extraordinary. The only comparable example that I can think of in my lifetime, was the quite obvious lie that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Back then too, journalists seemed to have been more than keen to uncritically spread the lies being put out by the government.

In the Russian affair, just like with the WMD propaganda, the logic clearly is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Meaning, just because there is no proof that the Russians interfered in the election, does not mean it did not happen. Simply repeating these allegations often enough will eventually convince enough people that there must be at least something to them. And this tactic is working very well. Through the constant propaganda, few seem to be bothered by the lack of evidence anymore.

What are the allegations? Very early on we were told that Putin had sensitive material about Trump, with which he could blackmail him. Apparently, the Russians had filmed the Donald, having sex with prostitutes in Moscow. At least in this case, the absence of any evidence appeared to have bothered enough people, so that it never gained any traction. It also never made much sense. How exactly do you blackmail a character like Trump with such material? Who would care about him having sex with prostitutes? It is unlikely that even his wife would.

And so eventually, the deep state settled for concentrating on allegations, that the Russians were spreading fake news, with the help of the Trump campaign.

Let us not be naïve. Of course the Kremlin cares about who is in the White House. It would be odd if they did not. And it was an open secret that Putin favored Trump over Hilary. Trump openly, not secretly, campaigned on the promise to make the US get along better with Russia.

It is beyond me, why getting along with Russia, is such a terrible idea. Sure, Putin is a psychopathic gangster, who rules Russia autocratically. I would not want to live under his rule. At the same time, however, I do not think that regime change in Russia should be part of a western foreign policy. Whenever the west tries to better regimes, they tend to make things worse. So this is simply impractical. Ultimately, only the Russians can overthrow Putin.

But maybe, or probably, Putin’s autocratic rule is not really the reason why the west cannot get along with Russia. Russia is needed as a big enemy, to justify lots of government agencies. After all, conflict is the health of the state. That means the state does not really have an interest solving all conflicts.

This becomes obvious when we look at the hypocrisy of western foreign policy. The US is friends with far worse regimes than Putin’s. Right now, Washington is helping their dear ally Saudi Arabia to commit an outright genocide in Yemen. Our governments have de facto alliances with some of the worst political groups on the planet. These are groups, like Al Qaeda, who have committed acts of Terrorism, like 911. But we hear astoundingly little about these things. Instead, we are told that what we should be worried about is that the Russians, a country with the GDP of Italy, talked to the voters in the US during the election campaign.

And that is really what the allegations come down to. Russia is accused of using the open political debate in the US, to propagate their own political agenda. May I just ask the obvious question, so what?

Russia is not the only country that is doing this. Many countries have an interest in who is in the White House. Saudi Arabia for example regularly runs advertisement in the US, and talks to politicians, without anyone protesting. And every presidential candidate is always keen to demonstrate how well they get along with AIPAC.

The idea that there could be such a thing as an unbiased political debate is nonsense. The whole thing is even more bizarre, if we consider that most commentators of the issue would describe themselves as advocates of democracy. Isn’t the whole idea of democracy that the people are sovereign, that the voters are capable of making up their own minds? Surely, if the Russian bots are placing their comments in social media, the average Joe can see through that, or can’t he?

If you don’t believe that he can, then shouldn’t we question democracy altogether? In my personal view, absolutely, let’s do that. I am not a democrat at all, I am a libertarian anarchist. So let us question the legitimate role of the government, by all means. But let’s do it in an honest debate, not hypocritically.

The attitude currently spread in the media seems to be, it is democracy if the deep state’s agenda wins. If on the other hand, the voters vote against the establishment, than that is apparently not democracy. We saw the same argument after the Brexit vote. There too, the assumption was immediately that it was a defeat of democracy. Why, because, apparently, the people had been manipulated by evil forces to vote for the wrong policy.

The truth of the matter, however, is that we do not need to bring in the Russians to explain the election defeat of Hilary Clinton. She was very much capable of achieving that all by herself. If you are running as one of the worst candidates in the history of presidential candidates, you should expect to lose. The only real surprise is that she lost by such a small margin. But that can be explained by the fact that she too was running against one of the worst candidates ever, Donald Trump.

The only time the Russians seem to be accused of really having done something illegal is the hack of the DNC emails in July of last year. Hacking into a computer system is certainly a crime. But once again, the problem with that story is that there is zero evidence that the Russians did it. In fact, all the evidence points to the contrary.

Wikileaks has long claimed that the leak came from an insider. From the meta data of the download, we know that the data could not have been downloaded over the internet. The data was simply downloaded too quickly for that. That is to say the internet connection of the server was not quick enough to allow for such a quick download. It very much looks like the data was downloaded onto a hard drive. That however suggests that it was an insider who leaked the files to Wikileaks.

But let us forget the illegality of a possible hack for a moment. What is the allegation concerning the election here? It seems to be that someone informed the voters about the truth of Hilary Clinton. And the truth, as revealed in the leak, is that she is an evil, conniving cow, who stole the democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders. Does anyone want to argue that it is damaging democracy if the voters know the truth about a presidential candidate? In other words, if Russia did this, they did nothing more than to tell the voters the truth. How evil is that?

Quite evil from the perspective of the deep state in the US. As with every election, they were running a quite sophisticated misinformation campaign themselves. And they do not like competition, especially not if the competition is telling the truth. But having run similar campaigns too many times in the past, it appears the voters finally had enough of it. That, in principle, is a good thing. The only problem was that the only alternative was Donald Trump, of all people.

This charade of blaming the defeat of Hilary all on Russia, just because for once, the deep state did not get what it wanted, is a obvious attempt to win back control. And unfortunately, it is working. Being the clueless moron that he is, Trump is right back on track of the deep state agenda. Thanks to these misinformation campaigns, he appears to now be dancing to the tune of the establishment. I have said it before, and I say it again, it is a tragedy that all that precious anti-establishment energy was wasted on the worst possible candidate, Donald Trump. The problem is the establishment in the US, not the Russians.

The US President is not a CEO

It has been a few weeks since Donald Trump moved into the White House. So far, his administration appears to be a little bit chaotic, to say the least. During his campaign he ran on a populist platform. That means he did not make a lot of concrete policy promises. Instead, he suggested that he was on the side of whoever he was talking to, without going into too many specifics. Whenever he did announce concrete policies, he made sure that these did not repulse any significant groups of voters. That is why he was very vocal about building a wall to Mexico. Mexicans could not vote, and many of the real voters did not like Mexicans.

At the heart of his campaign however was the message that America is currently run by terrible deal makers, who are selling out the country. He on the other hand would be able to negotiate deals that put America first. Through his experience as a business man, America would be great again. All of that, he suggested, could be achieve without any hardship for Americans. Instead, foreigners could be forced to pay back what they owed to the country. Of course this is nonsense, as I have pointed out in a previous article.

Personally, I don’t think his business record is nearly as good as he wants his audience to believe. But even if he was a great business man, it looks like he is currently in the process of finding out that a President is not a CEO. A CEO of a company has the power to do whatever it takes to restructure the business. He is in charge. The US President however, in reality, has very little power. I would not go quite as far as to say that it is irrelevant who is in the White House. There are a few areas where the President can make important decisions. This is particularly true for foreign policy. But by and large, the state is run by what Americans increasing refer to as the deep state.

In order to make major reforms, the President needs to bring a lot of people on his side. There is Congress, the Senate, courts, the intelligence community, the media and a huge amount of lobby groups. Trump, in his press conferences, seems to be surprised, and annoyed, that all these interest groups are not automatically following his lead. How dare they. More than that, he seems to be surprised that most of these groups are not even interested in playing fair. They will do whatever it takes to protect their interests. Currently, it appears that the deep state has several plots at work to get rid of, or at lest tame, Trump as quickly as possible.

None of that should have been a surprise for the Donald. This is just politics 101. Within the system, if he wants to get any significant reforms done, he will have little choice but to be nice to these groups and give them what they want. That on the other hand means that he cannot really reform the US state, as these people will not cooperate with him on a serious reform project.

Trump has tried to use executive orders to bypass these special interests. But that is not going to work. One of the first orders he gave was to fulfil his campaign promise of stopping people from certain muslim countries to enter the US. While he did manage to severely damage the reputation of the US, and in the process strengthen ISIS (yes, that is something the President can do), a court very quickly put an end to his endeavour. This, for a change, happened to be a victory for liberalism.

Normally however, the deep state is not supportive of liberty. He is about to find out that he cannot significantly lower taxes without cutting spending. And he cannot increase spending without increasing taxes. Reducing state expenditure does not seem to be on his agenda anyway. But should he try to cut anything to at least get some room for reform, he will experience even bigger headwinds than so far. And so he can forget about any of his economic reform plans.

No, you cannot rule against the deep state. If he wants to survive for 4 years, he will have to be play ball. That is the art of diplomacy, an art that Trump is only just in the process of discovering it exists. Obama also banned people from Iraq for 6 month. The difference is that Obama was a master in diplomacy and very willing to cooperate with the system. And so, despite his abysmally bad track record when it comes to many issues, including wars and human rights, many people are under the impression that he was a great President. No one seems to care about his travel ban. That is how politics works.

The deep state cannot be defeated from within. It controls the system and has all the jokers. Real change needs to start outside the system. This is true for any political reform movement, but is particularly true for achieving more liberty.

On the positive side of this, people are wrong to compare Trump to political figures like Hitler. Not that I think he would not make a good dictator. He certainly seems to have the fitting personality trades for that. But as we are seeing, Trump is illiterate about politics. People like Hitler, Erdogan or Chavez etc, all came into power on the back of political movements that build up outside the system. These movements followed more than a mere opposition to the status quo. They had very explicit ideologies with clear political goals.

Hitler wrote ‘Mein Kampf’ in 1925, years before he actually got into power. He wrote it when he was already part of a growing nationalist movement. When the Nazis finally did take power, they could rely on a huge network of sympathisers within the system. They even had paramilitary groups that were listening to their commands. That is how they solved the problem of the opposition.

Trump on the other hand has very little friends within the system. That is because his decision to run for President appears to have been more a spontaneous impulse rather than a long planned ideological take over. In fact, Trump seems to lack any clear ideological vision, other than thinking he is a great deal maker. But as we are seeing, that talent, even if he did have it, is not an important skill when it comes to politics.

His fellowship is equally chaotic. The only thing that unites them is the opposition to the status quo and maybe the dislike of Mexicans and Muslims. Other than that, they are divided and ready to be defeated. Such a loose connection simply is not enough to beat the well oiled machine of the deep state. The latter will either force Trump to comply with its demands, or it will make sure that his Presidency ends soon.

As a libertarian, all of this leaves me between the lines. On the one hand I can totally understand Donald Trump’s complaining about the deep state. Yes, a lying, corrupt bunch of hypocrites is exactly what he is up against. Currently, there seem to be several ongoing plots against his Presidency. And of course these nasty interest groups are also what libertarians ultimately have to defeat in order to create a liberal society.

On the other hand however, whenever Trump does make an actual alternative policy proposal, further state increases is all he seems to offer. From immigration controls, to import taxes, to an increase in state spending, this is all going to make things even worse rather than better. And so it seems inconceivable that liberty loving people could actively support Trump, for if he ever where to succeed to defeat the deep state, he would most likely replace it with something even worse. This is how most revolutions have ended. So we are probably lucky that he is such an amateur.

There is no need for libertarians to pick sides. People often feel compelled to do so, whenever there is a conflict. But when both sides are wrong, the best thing is to point that out. It is the job of libertarians to reveal the wrong solutions both sides have to offer. In addition to that, we need to point out how structurally incompetent the state is when it comes to solving problems. Most of the problems Leviathan tries to solve would not exist if it wasn’t for him in the first place. There will never be a real solution to the challenges we face, as long as we continue using the state as the tool to solve the problems. So boo Trump, and boo deep state.

Trump Is Good News For The Establishment

A lot of commentators see Trump’s election as a victory against the establishment. I question that. Trump in my view is not very anti-establishment. This is just a mask he has put on to fool his supporters. But certainly a lot of the people who voted for him believe that they have just given the establishment the middle finger. This is very short term thinking in my view.

First of all, Trump is an opportunist. He does not seem to have any clear political ideals or agenda. Being in office, he will have to listen to a lot of advisers, which will likely be the same advisers that Clinton would have had. That means that in many ways, we are likely going to see more of the same. I believe it was Khrushchev who said that the first thing you realise when you get into power is that the bureaucracy won’t listen to you. That is not less true for the US than it was for the Soviet Union.

Secondly, to the degree that Trump has real power and can make his own decision, I expect this to be a huge failure. He seems like a very immature personality. I would diagnose him to have a severe form of narcissistic personality disorder. Working in media, I have to deal with these kind of people a lot. They are unpredictable and often act irrationally. The best hope is that they can counter balance their personality deficits with intelligence. But from what I hear Trump say, he is not that intelligent either. He is merely street smart.

Finally, as often with badly organised, impulsive revolutions, at the end of the day the counter revolution wins. We just saw this in Egypt. In the Arab spring, the people won a victory against the establishment there. But then the establishment went out and had a plan to let chaos rule for a while until enough people will beg them to return. And that is exactly what happened. After some nasty time in the country, the establishment was back in even stronger form with Al Sisi.

I expect this to happen hear too. Trump has no chance of becoming a good President. That would be true even if he were smart and decent. The US is at the dawn of a new financial crisis. There is nothing the President can do about this. And the crisis will now unfold even quicker, as markets hate uncertainty. That means there is a lot of misery ahead. We can be certain that Trump and the politics he stands for will be blamed for all of this. Unfortunately, some libertarians were dumb enough to cheer for him. That means, despite his illiberalism, he is now loosely associated with libertarianism and free markets. As a consequence, the anti free market forces will have an easy game blaming the crisis and his policies on neoliberalism.

I expect that after a few years of Trump, the establishment will be back. They will say that “this is what happens if you abandon us”. The people will beg them to come back. As a result, they will be stronger than before, as they will have a new legitimacy. The Trump victory is not a good day for liberty.