I was thinking this morning, at the end of the mudslinging contest that this US presidential election has been, that if I carefully wiped off all the mud from each candidate, and set aside any personal dislike of mine for either of them, one thing would be revealed.
And it’s that Hillary Clinton is someone who has spent her entire life in the US public sector, and Donald Trump has spent his entire life in the US private sector. She works in government, and he works in industry. She lives off taxes, and he pays taxes.
It reminded me that in my own life, I started out in the UK public sector, and moved to the private sector. For about 15 years, as a student, postgraduate, and research assistance, I was almost completely state-funded. I was getting government grants from a variety of sources. And I enjoyed the easygoing university life a lot.
And then one day, shortly after Margaret Thatcher got elected, the money ran out. But the computing skills I’d picked up at university were in very strong demand, and I soon found myself working as a freelance software engineer, and making far more money than I knew what to do with. For the next 20 years I worked for a whole bunch of different companies (including IBM). And all of them were making and selling things like cathode ray VDUs, printers, keyboards, and all sorts of other stuff. The work was far more intense (sometimes we worked through the night to get stuff working) than it ever was in university. And the companies were transient. They’d do well for a few years, and then go broke, in what was a fast-moving and highly competitive environment. But it always paid very well.
I think now that there are two cultures – two mindsets – associated with the public and private sectors. The private sector is always dynamic, competitive, and productive. It’s always making and selling some product. And it’s always rather insecure. The public sector is placid, uncompetitive, and unproductive. It doesn’t make and sell things. It’s also relatively secure: jobs in government are pretty much jobs for life.
But the public sector is ultimately wholly dependent on taxes from the private sector. The public sector doesn’t create wealth: it redistributes wealth. The public sector takes wealth from the private sector, and spreads it around. In Britain, it spreads it around to the sick (via the NHS), the poor (via social security), and the elderly (via state pensions), and schoolkids (via schools), and the armed forces and the police and the judiciary, and finally of course the government itself.
And the government makes laws. It makes rules and regulations governing the private sector – e.g. Health and Safety regulations -.
Clearly the government-controlled public sector does a lot of good. We need laws, and police, and armies, and hospitals, and schools. But as government keeps on raising taxes, and multiplying rules and regulations, it must impose greater and greater burdens on the wealth-creating private industrial sector – and start throttling it. And when that happens, it becomes harder for governments to collect taxes, and harder to for it to keep paying for police, armies, hospitals, schools, and so on.
And as far as I can see, across the whole of the Western world, this is now what’s happening. Government taxation and rules and regulations are stifling private sector industries, driving them abroad or into bankruptcy.
But the people who work in the public sector seldom seem to be able to see this. They usually believe that they have a right to the taxes they receive, and they always want more. California’s Proposition 56, which is being voted on today, is just a piece of blatant theft from California’s smokers, with nothing given back in return. And not only do they feel entitled to other people’s money, but they usually have a profound contempt for industry of any sort (what else is environmentalism but a war on industry of every kind?). And since they can make laws, they feel entitled to boss everyone around, in every imaginable way. And they feel that they are morally superior to everyone else. And because they are engaged in redistributing wealth, they are usually of a strongly egalitarian disposition.
None of these attitudes are shared in the private industrial sector. There isn’t the same vast sense of entitlement, nor the contempt for industry, nor the egalitarianism, nor the thirst for regulation of every aspect of life.
And these two opposing mentalities are almost personified in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And their mutual hostility is one that is inherent in the public and private sectors in which they’ve both lived and worked all their lives. One wants more government, the other less government. One wants higher taxes, the other lower taxes. One wants more regulation, the other less regulation. One wants less industry, the other more. One wants more equality, the other less (although Hillary herself is, in the Orwellian sense, rather more equal than others). One wants less competition, the other more. One’s a globalist, the other a nationalist. And so on.
The Trumps of the world, the people who make and sell things, are the people who create wealth. And if there’s no wealth, there’s nothing that can be redistributed by governments. And if there’s no wealth, there’s no government either.
Wealth-creators like Trump are far more important than wealth-redistributors like Clinton, who are wholly dependent on the Trumps of the world creating the wealth they want to redistribute.
Watching a few exit polls. Trump 74.5% Clinton 22.9% in rural Kentucky was the first one I saw. Trump projected to win Kentucky and Indiana. Current electoral college total: Trump 19 Clinton 3. There seems to be a large turnout everywhere with long lines at polling stations. Too early still.