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Greta Thunberg, Donald Trump, and the Future of Capitalism

Some lament the Trump administration’s animosity toward young people and scientists who speak common sense about a massive threat that we should confront through global cooperation. But Trump and his cabal appear to understand something that their liberal detractors do not: Their politics is the only authentic defense of contemporary capitalism.

ATHENS – Steven Mnuchin, US President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, outraged liberal commentators at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos with a snide remark directed at teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. Responding to Thunberg’s call for an immediate exit from fossil fuel investments, Mnuchin said that she should go to college “to study economics” before “she can come back and explain that to us.” Two days earlier, Trump had referred to climate scientists as “the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.”

The Trump administration’s attitude to climate change, and those campaigning for drastic measures to contain it, is ugly, nasty, and wrong. But behind the crassness and toxicity of Trump, Mnuchin, et al. is cold logic and brutal honesty: Their politics is the only authentic defense of contemporary capitalism. And, judging by Mnuchin’s patronizing advice to Thunberg, they understand that mainstream economics, unlike climate science, is their friend.

I, too, could not contain myself after Mnuchin’s Davos remark. “Mnuchin, sadly, makes sense,” I tweeted. “If Greta were to study mainstream economics, she would spend several semesters studying models of markets in which neither a climate disaster nor an economic crisis is possible. Time to transform both economic policy and economics!”