Different people have different reasons for opposing President Trump, and those who see no reason to oppose him are most likely idiots. Within hours of Trump's inaugural address, George Will had declared it the worst such address ever delivered by an American President. I would have thought H. L. Mencken's essay on "Gamalielese," inspired by President Harding's 1921 inaugural, would have settled that category for all time, but Will's judgment reflected more on Trump's content than on its form. The columnist is contemptuous toward Trump's description of closed American factories as "tombstones;" contemptuous, presumably, of the thought that they are or should be mourned. Trump's presumed mournful tone betrays him as a "faux conservative" who believes that "existing jobs should be protected by policies that reduce the economic dynamism that threatens those jobs." Certain Republicans, like Will and David Brooks, are fond of the word "dynamism," probably because it makes a good euphemism for "creative destruction," a phrase many still find oxymoronic. For free market absolutists, "creative destruction" is synonymous with progress itself, since progress most often takes place, as they see it, through competition likely if not certain to result in the destruction of jobs, if not entire businesses.
Will praises creative destruction, or competitive dynamism, in the retail as well as the manufacturing sector. As a Washington Post writer his employer in recent years has been Jeff Bezos, the Amazon.com mogul whom Will elevates to the pantheon of "constructively disruptive retailers" alongside Sears, Roebuck, Montgomery Ward and Sam "Walmart" Walton. Approvingly, he quotes a MarketWatch reporter who predicts that Amazon will "destroy more American jobs than China ever did," and he challenges Trump, as well as protectionists right and left, to explain why American workers need protection from China, but not from Amazon. It's a trick question, since Will sees no need for protection in either case. "Domestic protection of Madge [a theoretical diner owner driven out of business by Applebee's] and millions of others unsettled by the constant churning of a dynamic domestic economy would mean slow economic growth," he warns, adding the threat of increasingly intrusive regulation of consumption. "Protection from imports also means this," he adds further.
For Will, a dynamic economy is an indisputable good, but if all it means is constant uncertainty and the perpetual tumult of creative destruction, for whom is it good and how? The obvious answer to the "for whom?" question is the consumer, that abstract being whose right to the lowest prices he can get is no more to be questioned than where he gets the purchasing power to make demands when his job is always in jeopardy. Will seems assured that someone will have the money. He trots out the old fables about buggy makers and buggy whip makers, noting how Henry Ford and his peers destroyed all kinds of jobs, "the holders of which moved on, and usually up." For a conservative, Will has an oddly progressive notion of economic history. Because workers in buggy-related industries found work elsewhere, he presumes that people unemployed by creative destruction will always find work, or that enough will to sustain the consumer economy. If someone had predicted mass impoverishment thanks to the advent of the automobile, they would have been wrong. From this, Will infers that arguments for protection or against creative destruction are always wrong, that there will always be new opportunities when the old ones are destroyed, though whether there will be enough opportunity to make up the losses really doesn't matter to the columnist. In Will's economy you have to expect to move on. Your job security cannot compromise the dynamism of the economy. It is your duty to adapt or ... not. It won't do any good to protest that this dynamism is ungoverned by democracy, that the market was made for man and not man for the market, and that the market is rightly accountable to man, because to Will its ungovernable, unaccountable spontaneity is its defining virtue. No vested interest, no person's job, is more important than that. While admitting that there are times when vested interests, however humble, do stand wrongly in the way of progress, one should be careful not to define "progress" in the dynamic terms of higher profits for some, and lower prices for those who can still afford anything, that market cultists like Will prefer. We should all want a dynamic society, but we should all also insist that creativity not be as destructive as Will thinks necessary. Will himself recently lost a payday when Fox News dropped him as a talking head, but as a celebrity writer with a continuing gig in print I'm sure he'll adapt easily enough. He may take it for granted that everyone else can adapt, but he may yet learn that there are different, perhaps more creative ways of adapting to a destructive economy.