Shortcuts & Delusions: The Art Of The Schlemiel
Milton Friedman once said, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” The same irony is apparent when government gets involved in cross-border commerce: nothing is so restrictive as a free trade agreement.
Add to this Donald Trump’s negotiating tactic of making outrageous demands and then conceding them to make it seem as though he’s meeting his opponent halfway, and you have a recipe for stalled free trade negotiations. Perhaps it never occurred to Trump that the person he’s negotiating with might counter with equally ridiculous demands, or just leave the bargaining table altogether (And am I the only one who, when looking at the picture above, is reminded of Lennie from Of Mice and Men? Can’t you picture Trump, following the photo shoot, petting the dove and then crushing it to death with retard strength? Has there been any indication that Trump does not share Lennie’s lack of intelligence, temperament and self-control?).
Richard A. Epstein writes:
In the NAFTA negotiations, Trump is making two mindless deal-breaking demands. First, he wants to incorporate a “sunset clause” which would “automatically” call for an end to the deal after five years unless all three signatories signed on for its extension. Putting in place a guillotine is madness. Investment and trade relationships need long-term time horizons to allow businesses to avoid having to write off their front-end costs immediately…
Next, Trump wants all trucks and cars imported from Mexico or Canada to contain a minimum of 50-percent American-made parts. First of all, that provision would create a huge administrative burden. Second, it would impose real losses on American automakers. It also invites retaliation by both Canada and Mexico. So, it’s clearly a lose/lose proposition that would make the United States an international laughing stock.
There is yet another dire consequence to Trump’s overreaching. It has inspired Canada (but, as of yet, not Mexico) to make outlandish stipulations of its own. The Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has put forward a list of 10 NAFTA demands, some of which make perfectly good sense like her opposition to “Buy American” rules. But she makes a grievous mistake in suggesting that NAFTA is the appropriate forum to thrash out the issues dealing with labor, gender, indigenous people, and environmental rights…
Similarly, Freeland’s broad demand that no nation be allowed to weaken its environmental protection rules to attract foreign investment locks everyone into inefficient local laws—like Obama’s Clean Power Plan—that should be revised wholly without regard to NAFTA. Canada has a legitimate beef when it protests pollution emissions that cross over its borders. But those issues should be addressed as independent grievances outside of NAFTA. It makes no sense to let one nation determine the wetlands policy of its neighbor. The same logic applies to the rights of indigenous peoples and gender issues generally. The effort to find agreement here only creates additional opportunities to subvert free trade. Yet now that Trump has made his own unreasonable demands, the Canadian non-cooperative strategy looks like a reasonable form of retaliation. If the United States and Canada don’t back off, we could end up with a terrible result that is in nobody’s interest.
Call me crazy, but it makes no sense for consumers to expect to have their interests protected by egomaniacal politicians who don’t know the price of a cup of coffee, let alone how to make one.
Trump, his Administration’s past, present and potential fiascoes, and his supporters more and more resemble the old Jewish joke that goes:
A schlemiel, a schlimazel, and a nudnick sit down for a bowl of soup. The schlimazel asks the schlemiel to get him a bowl of soup. The schlemiel assures him that nothing will go wrong as it may have in the past. The schlimazel lets him go. But right about when he is going to give the schlimazel the soup, he trips up and spills the soup on the schlimazel’s lap. As the schlimazel screams out, the nudnick asks him what kind of soup was spilled on his lap.
The immediate effect of watching this gag portrayed on stage would be to laugh at the slapstick, but that misses what is actually humorous about the joke: it’s not situational, but existential. It’s the amusing version of The Scorpion and the Frog. It doesn’t matter what the schlemiel trips on; ineptitude is ingrained in his character. It’s in the schlimazel’s nature to create his own humiliation. The nudnick can not help but be distracted by a related but unimportant issue. In this case, Trump’s base are both the schlimazel and the nudnick.
This analogy/allusion/allegory alliteration isn’t constrained only to Trump and his defenders. Rather, it’s emblematic of partisan politics as a whole. It’s in the natures of politicians and their supporters to play out the above joke/fable every two, four, and six years, no matter if the pendulum swings to the left or right.
And that’s the way it is, as far as you know.
Image: Time Magazine