I was asked to produce an analysis of the election results. But, instead of providing that one person with my thoughts, I figured I shouldn’t exclude anyone from my deep, detailed, assessment of this seemingly traumatic event in American politics.
First off, I’d like to mention that I was off of Facebook for close to three weeks, to avoid any distractions up until the election, thinking I could come back after it all blew over. Yikes, was I wrong. I came back for a day, saw the nonsense (although many of my friends were speaking truths), and have decided to extend the hiatus indefinitely.
Second off, I’d also like to preface this with a quote from Leslie Knope’s fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Kolphner: “People are unpredictable and democracy is insane.”
The sun rises and the sun sets, only to rise again
I like to find the silver lining in all this stuff, because in the end, it’s all smoke. All of this reminds me of the small book of the Bible titled Ecclesiastes. I would do a little explicating of the book, but Solomon is a better writer, seeing as he’s so wise and all. So here is how the book opens up:
Everything Is Meaningless
1 The words of the Teacher, [a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:
2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.
You don’t have to be religious to understand and appreciate the truth that spews from this passage. For those downtrodden by the election results, I feel you. However, had it gone the other way, I would have felt those folks as well. The reason is simple: I just have a soft-spot (that varies in magnitude) for the losers in any kind of competition of sorts. But in the end, this is all smoke and extremely temporary.
Win-Lose vs. Win-Win
In politics is where we actually see zero-sum outcomes, meaning, where one
side wins and the other loses. However, in markets, where voluntary exchange happens, we see the opposite; everyone wins, at least a little bit. I like to highlight this point because most of life can be seen as a non-zero sum game. We find happiness in faith, community, family, and our vocations. All of these facets of life are non-zero-sum.
A relationship with God, or faith in something grand like an intelligent designer, is undoubtedly mutually beneficial. You win because you find meaning and God wins because…well God always wins. Whenever you make a friend or become part of a community, it becomes mutually beneficial as well. You’re happy because you have company or someone to talk to, and the other person wins as well. The community gets a little larger and sees benefit from the increased scale. Similar to how friends and community work, family also sees mutually gained benefit. Even in your vocation, meaning hobbies, jobs, careers, etc., all see positive gains (at the very least no losses) on both sides of the equation.
If you’d like to argue against this, go for it, but I am letting you know that you’re wrong right off the bat. This is not saying that we are always happy in these situations. Sometimes we regret the decisions we make, but because these are, for the most part, voluntary, we generally see the transactions within these facets being a positive for everyone involved.
This tangent on zero-sum stuff is only to point out that we should focus on the important and semi-eternal— our relationships with people and our calling in this world. This is the area where everyone wins.
Presidential elections are not.
Stop thinking we can plan stuff out effectively
Additionally, this leads me to throw a shout-out to markets and libertarianism as a whole. This election is evidence that planning and coordinating human transactions, no matter how “rigorous” the statistics are (looking at you, Ph.D. pollsters!), is ultimately a feckless task. Not only did we not get the outcome correct, but we were blindsided by it. (Both sides might I add!) How do you think we can even begin to plan and coordinate an “economy” which dwarfs this very election?
So, for those that are worried that this outcome will change EVERYTHING or set back any kind of “progress” society has accomplished, I have some good news:
What’s more, “progress” like anything else in the world, has come with tradeoffs. In some areas, perhaps in the realm of “social justice” we have seen some improvements, but that depends on who you ask. We’ve seen government intervene to help one group of people but usually at the expense of another group of people. Why? Because politics is a zero-sum game.
Progress is most obvious in markets. Through mutually beneficial exchanges. Through capitalism. Where people have the incentive to produce value to as many people as possible in search for a profit. Profit, which can then be used to further benefit the important facets of life mentioned above. This process continues into perpetuity, progressing families, communities, and vocations in all different and unpredictable directions.
This election is also testament to the fact that academia is out of touch with reality in many areas. Reality sucker-punched academia with this election which, to me, diminishes some of my own insecurities of being immersed in academia and strengthens my convictions of being a part of a community of “fringe economists.”
The myth of the man in charge
This now brings me to the next point in which, why are we putting so much faith in this ONE position? Presidents have only been used as demarcations of time to help speak about history in a more relatable fashion. I’m not saying presidents aren’t important, but they have very little impact on our day to day lives. Our communities, families, and vocations have the largest impact on our lives and WE have much more control over this than the president has on us.
If you’re worried about your kids and your livelihood, you should. But we can’t turn toward the president for answers, we must look at ourselves. Seeing as most of our life is filled with voluntary transactions amongst people, we have the power to choose how we live our lives. If you don’t want your child to be a(n) “insert negative character attribute here”, then set forth a good example! Be the meaningful and positive influence in your child, family, community, and job. We cannot blame the president for society’s shortcomings, whatever those may be. We must blame ourselves.
If you don’t buy any of this and feel like the federal government has too much influence on our lives, then start by not giving credence to the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of our government with hashtags and flimsy social media posts of dissent.
Ironically, state and local governments have more impact on our daily lives, yet people can barely name their Governor, much less their Senators and Representatives.
On a positive note, I see President Trump delegating much more to the states. Folks in Oregon are very different from the folks in Florida, and the style of governance should reflect that. The federal government has continued to increase in size, stifling innovation, distorting markets, and encroaching on freedoms unnecessarily. Hillary would have continued this status quo.
Trump didn’t have to try hard to win. He resonated with a large amount of people that rightly wanted to go against the status-quo. They are sick and tired of the same old jibber-jabber of politicians. I will conjecture that he will face the same bureaucratic process that has politicians jibber-jabbering throughout their careers and have to do much of the same, but because he was such a sore-thumb in this election, many gravitated toward him.
Hillary, on the other hand, is a clear result of the failed system. The behind the door deals, the hypocrisy, the cronyism, the creating of problems only to expand the reach of the state—are all that we see from Hillary. Hillary support was not genuine, but merely a protest vote against Trump (looking at you, Bernie bros!). Trump support was a protest against the status quo of government. (Although, it is pretty status quo if we look at history, but this isn’t a history lesson).
On a negative note, I see President Trump being economically backward in regards to trade and immigration. History shows he’s on the mark from a “nationalistic” perspective, but from my area of interest, economics trumps everything and he’s plain wrong.
But who knows? I imagine not even Trump knows of what’s to come.
What I DO know is that everything will be alright—if you want it to be. Because not only is this a barely noticeable sliver in the grand scheme of all things that matter, but because in the words of my tenth grade English teacher Mrs. Miramonti, “Every day is what YOU make it.”