Capitalism happens, and capitalism can carry a great deal of dead weight

Kevin D. Williamson thinks he sees some upside in The bright side of 2016:

We should not be glib about the likely choice American voters will face in the 2016 presidential election: The Democrats are offering a corrupt, lifelong machine politician who just narrowly avoided indictment with the help of a remarkably solicitous FBI; short of a rebellion in Cleveland, the Republicans are set to offer one of that Democratic crook’s friends and financial patrons, a semiliterate aspiring strongman whose greatest contribution to public life has been a stint as a game-show host. We are being given a choice between gonorrhea and syphilis.

If there is a silver lining in that ugly cumulonimbus mess, it is this: The country probably will muddle through, just as it usually does. Things will go on very much as they have in the past, and the things that are dramatically different will be things that we are not thinking about very much right now. And that will provide us with an opportunity to learn something important: Yes, it matters who the president is, but not as much as we think. It matters what the character of our government is and who we entrust to run it, but not as much as we think. Jackass A or Jackass B will do his or her worst, to be sure, and the damage will be both real and painful, but America will go on, because America doesn’t actually need these jackasses as much as Americans think.

Of course it would be better to have good, responsible, honest, nimble, transparent, effective government, to protect property, defend the borders, enforce contracts, frustrate our enemies, and keep the peace. But we’ve gotten by for at least 40 years without having that on any kind of a consistent basis. Perversely, some of the most important work in our economy is being done, and has been for years, in some of our worst-governed states: California and New York, notably. There are great things going on in Texas, too, which is better-governed than California but which nonetheless suffers from corrupt and ineffective public institutions. Thanks in no small part to our most hated industry — the money-shuffling industry — investors still shunt great shimmering streams of fresh capital into innovative and imaginative firms and enterprises, from fracking to social media. Capitalism happens, and capitalism can carry a great deal of dead weight, including the Clinton and Trump families.

Those enterprises produce elites of their own, too, but elites of a different kind. Does anybody really expect the next boss at Tesla or SpaceX to be one of Elon Musk’s children? That Silicon Valley venture capitalists will hunt down obscure Zuckerbergs the way Democrats cherish the Kennedy sang réal? Not likely.

The America outside of politics is doing pretty well. Americans continue to make the best and most interesting stuff in the world, and it isn’t only start-up founders and financiers who make a good living out of that. There are some real social and economic pressures that need to be dealt with: Things are going much better at the 18th percentile than they are at the 50th percentile, and that produces stresses that have unhealthy, antisocial effects, one of which is a two-party political system that coughed up two hairballs like Clinton and Trump.

Our politics consists of a more and more vicious fight over the leadership of institutions that have less and less real importance to our security and our prosperity with each passing day. If there’s an upside to 2016, it’s that it should shine a bright light on how little use our aristocrats and mandarins really are, and how little need we have of them.

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