April 17, 2017Marketplace

The Case for Trump Being a Marxist, Mark Blythe

Brown Political Science Professor and IE Brown Academic Director Mark Blythe is a master at explaining real-world trends in provocative terms. Recently this talent was on display when he called Trump a Marxist in an interview with NPR Marketplace’s David Brancaccio. That’s right. Professor Blythe called President Trump - a man with a penchant for sitting on gilded chairs and one of the richest US Presidents ever - a Marxist.

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According to Blythe, Trump channels the Marxist theory of capitalist collective action that calls for state intervention to counter the negative societal effects that result from herd-like capitalist behavior. Applied to today, this theory works as follows: one firm pursues an action - in this case, moving jobs abroad - that individually makes sense but triggers a competitive dynamic where every other firm does the same. The result: individual companies do well but the nation takes a hit as large segments of the population lose their jobs. According to Blythe, “collectively what's individually rational becomes collectively disastrous.”

Blythe argues that Trump’s call for the state to impose border taxes reflects this Marxist perspective. These additional taxes by the US government are designed to stem the destabilization of America’s middle class by capitalism’s flight abroad. Blythe attributes Trump’s popularity to his populist, “Marxist,” approach. As Blythe states in the interview, “What we're seeing here is a reaction against the system that many people genuinely think isn't working.”

In a related in-depth interview by MintPress, Blythe makes it clear that he does not really think Trump is a Marxist. “Now, does that mean that Donald Trump is a Marxist? Absolutely not. But are they both getting at that endogenous weakness in capitalist power structures? They are. In that sense, Donald Trump’s a Marxist.”

To listen to the NPR interview, go here.

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