Let’s be optimistic about President Trump

Today Donald Trump becomes President. Two months on from his election, some British politicos and pundits still seem to be in a state of mourning. It’s time to snap out of it.

From Britain’s perspective, there is a lot to look forward to from the new administration. Unlike his predecessor, President Trump wants to sign a free trade agreement with Britain post-Brexit. He won’t be backing the EU at our expense. That has to be good news.

Those worrying about his attitude to Putin have remarkably short memories. It was President Obama who promised a Russian reset, scrapped plans for a missile defence shield in Eastern Europe, and ignored his own red lines in Ukraine and Syria. If the new president is soft on the Kremlin, it will hardly be a shift from the status quo.

Beyond what President Trump means for us, we should watch his plans to shake up the political establishment with interest. By spending so little on his campaign – half what Clinton spent on hers – he has already shown up Washington’s vast network of fundraisers and lobbyists. He’s lost no time in calling out the price gouging of the defence contractor cartel. And his cabinet picks aren’t afraid to challenge official groupthink – notably on education.

Beating vested interests is a tall order, though. Outsiders have won political office on occasion ever since the Roman Republic. But most have failed to deliver the change they promised. Instead of overthrowing the ruling class they opposed, they ended up entrenching it.

It’s not enough just to change the people at the top. Defeating oligarchy requires abolishing the system that keeps it in place. As my new book argues, that system is almost always based on redistribution, rather than free exchange.

Very often, the danger from insurgency isn’t being radically different from what came before. It’s being the same. So let’s wish President Trump well – and hope he succeeds.