Donald Trump Creates Mix of Economic Nationalism and Liberalism



Opponents and allies criticize Trump’s form of impromptu governing.

Donald Trump reversed the logic of traditional politics when he decided to run for the White House. He ran the 2016 presidential campaign shouting that American interests should come first, and that immigrants and free trade agreements would not matter in his government.

On the contrary, Trump’s protectionist speeches contradicted some historically liberal aspects of the Republican Party and anticipated the difficulty of categorizing Trump as someone who followed any doctrine other than his own.

In the White House, the president has put economic nationalism and interventionist measures into practice, which has moved him away from classical liberalism. However, according to experts, Trump’s administration does not completely reject a philosophy that emerged in Europe and the United States in the 19th century.

“There is the American liberalism, which advocates for a bigger and more active government, and the European classical liberalism, which advocates for more personal and economic freedom. I can see elements of both in Trump,” says political analyst Michael Barone of the American Enterprise Institute.*

Two of Trump’s main pushes — the now failed wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, and the trade war with China — are concrete examples of efforts that go far beyond what liberals believe.

But Trump’s first congressional victory — the approval of tax reform in 2017 — flirts with the liberal values of tax reduction.

“Trump’s measures in trade and immigration policy are in tension with the classical liberalism, but I do not see nationalism as opposed to liberalism,” says Barone.*

The assessment is endorsed by Paula Tufro of the Atlantic Council, who believes that it is possible for a nationalist to advocate for free trade and a free market, although this is not the case with Trump.

“In American history, there are presidents who have chosen to act unilaterally, but what is different now is the willingness to end multilateral mechanisms,” Tufro said.*

Trump has already spoken out against NAFTA, the free trade agreement signed by the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Paris climate agreement.

Despite following the logic of tax cuts, Trump’s tax reform favored the richest in order to create jobs and investments in the United States.

“The idea was not only to reduce taxes but to make it easier for companies to repatriate profits,” says Monica de Bolle of the Peterson Institute. “For a multinational company, liberalism means to allow investments in the most attractive places. The American tax policy has tried to reverse the logic so companies would reinvest in the country. This is interventionism.”*

But it is not as if Trump relies on methods or doctrines to exercise power. One of the main criticisms from his opponents and allies is his way of impromptu governing.

“He sees an opportunity and makes a decision on a case-by-case basis,” says Tufro.

*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, the source of this quoted remark could not be independently verified.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply