This Could Be Our 1989

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Condensed from a piece by Jeffrey Tucker

Originally published by the Foundation for Economic Education.

Link is here:


. . . Trump triumphed over every bit of conventional and establishment wisdom on the whole of planet earth. . .  It’s the greatest smashing of . . . every existing establishment left, right, and center – I can imagine happening in real time.

And perhaps this is just the beginning.. .

A Paradigm Ends

. . . Here’s the problem in brief. As a result, there is an increasing disconnect between our lives and the regime under which we live.

Such a situation is not sustainable for the long term. Government is powerful, but not powerful enough to bend reality to its wishes.

The only analogy that really comes to mind is the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite states. The evidence of the end became obvious in 1989. . .  No one expected this to happen either. It was like an uncontrollable wave. . .

The Black Swan

That is precisely how this strikes me right now – a black swan that is huge, fast, and ominous to the point that it causes mass intellectual and psychological meltdown. . .

Trump’s politics and his views . . .  are illiberal in uncountable ways. But in other ways, there is a great deal of good here too. It’s a wheat and chaff problem. On the plus side, what happened represents a serious blow to a technocratic, Progressivist, and managerial regime that could only perpetuate the status quo. On the downside, what stands to replace it is not the embodiment of the ideals of either the Scottish Enlightenment or a digital-age libertarianism. . .

The . . . election results are less about what Trump believes and more about what he represents: a fundamental shattering of an old paradigm. . .  What lies in ruins here is not common decency and morality . . . but rather an anachronistic, arrogant, entitled, smug, conceited ruling elite and ruling paradigm. . .  (T)he vote was not so much for a particular vision of one man, but against a prevailing model of managing the world.

Our Uncertain World

. . . (A) Hayekian lens . . . asks us to be humble in the face of an unknowable future and the uncertainty of a world that constantly resists planning and top-down rule. . .

What we’ve learned from populist revolutions past is that . . . it is not enough to hate the status quo and overturn an existing ruling class.

We need to be clear on what it is that we love, what kind of society we want to live in, what kind of people we want to be, how we regard our fellow human beings, and what kind of ethical core should be at the center of our lives.

Here the liberal tradition has the answer. We need peace. We need opportunity for all, leading to a shared prosperity. We can depend on the spontaneous order to build the kind of world we desire. We can’t plan it from the top. It must be ordered from below, through the lives, choices, behaviours, and decisions of millions and billions of people who are pursuing happiness above all else.

Speak Out with Courage

In other words, this is not the time to . . . join the chorus of people who are cursing the darkness around us or wishing that what is already done had occurred in a different way. This is the time for Leonard Read’s candle to be lit and passed around . . .

Maybe this is the opportunity we’ve waited for for so long. It hasn’t taken the form we expected, or even wanted. So it goes in life. . .  We’ve been granted a glorious opportunity. The world is seeking out a new answer.

We are living in times that Thomas Kuhn would call “pre-paradigmatic.” The old is going away, or already gone. What the future holds depends on the ideas that prevail in the great intellectual struggles of public life. I hope we all do what we can to shed light and wisdom on the present and for the future.

As Hayek said, this task will consume the whole of our lives going forward.


There is big change brewing, and it is up to us to determine what that change will be. Visible elites everywhere – the people who “know” how the world should be run and expect the “little people” to stay in line – are an endangered species.

It is up to our leadership, local, national, and global, to make sure that everyone is protected – equally – and to do so without adding to the already burgeoning debt for future generations. Our old institutions are not up to the task of managing a world awash in massive and ever faster technological and social changes that are not leaving us enough time to adjust.

We elected a president, not a king. . . Presidents are actually quite limited in their range of powers. We have a system of checks and balances. The simple fact is that no matter what Trump would like to do, 90% of the things he proposes have to be approved by Congress.

The choices we made in the past make the future we face uncertain and difficult. I know that many Republican leaders are pondering one of my favorite Churchill quotes:

“The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.”

Dealing with the deficit, the debt, taxes, healthcare, ISIS, and a whole host of problems in a world that is transforming around us is no less difficult today than it was before we had an election. There will be no miracles to suddenly dissolve the problems looming before us. We are often left only with choices that are limited and unpleasant.

This country is divided on the way forward, but I think it is safe to say that a majority of our citizens want real change. The Trump administration has to effect change that a majority will find favor with. Otherwise there will then be a new administration.

Categories: General, Political

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1 reply

  1. “There will be no miracles to suddenly dissolve the problems looming before us. We are often left only with choices that are limited and unpleasant.”

    Very well said, Curtis. So much remains to be seen. The euphoria over defeating Hillary and temporarily stopping the momentum of the Left may be giving rise to unrealistic expectations. Obama has decimated the military, saddled us with crippling debt and regulations, created a nation of dependency and entitlement, and fueled terrible divisiveness. Undoing these things is going to create great pain, as Obama knew fully well, and the low-information crowd has a tendency to blame those who are fixing the problems rather than those who created them. Democrats will be lying in wait to pounce on any misstep or painful adjustment.


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