Trump is not really the cause of what's going on.

Trump is just the US symptom of a global phenomenon that I call "the right-wing death cult".

It includes Boris Johnson in the UK. And Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. And a bunch of other politicians or political leaders too.

The hallmark of the right-wing death cult is that they believe that "the market is wiser, more beneficent and more virtuous than humans".

That's difficult to unpack. But here's where it starts. With Adam Smith noting that you didn't need the butcher and baker to be "good". You only needed them to be self-interested and looking to make a profit, for the "invisible hand" of market forces to guide them towards doing the right thing and providing for the needs of society.

Since then, this has been elevated into a fetish for claiming that the market is always a better (for both practical and moral dimensions of "better") decision maker than humans.

Over time various justifications are cooked up to promote this belief.

Adherents to the cult will tell you that humans in government are inevitably corrupt or corrupted. And if given control of public money, they will steal it or spend it unwisely.

Or they'll tell you that hierarchical control at the scale of governments is inevitably inefficient compared to the horizontal organization of private enterprise. (Despite many private corporations being larger, richer and having more layers of hierarchy than government initiatives).

Or they'll say that there are perverse incentives which prevent bad news flowing up the hierarchy in government. (As opposed to the "pure" incentives that support a multi-billion pound advertising and marketing industry to tell us feel-good fictions about products we don't actually need)

Or that the lack of prices as signals means that information can't flow inside non-profit oriented organizations. (Despite Toyota demonstrating with its kanban system that of course, substitute token systems can do the job just as well)

And that central planning can't "solve the calculation problem". As though it were at all, in any way meaningful to be able to assert or test whether a market has actually come up with the "right solution" to whatever calculation was allegedly being done.

You've undoubtedly heard all these before. And probably dozens of others.

They are drummed into you every day as "the great truths that economists have revealed to us"

(And yeah, you might find it interesting to ask what experiments were done, or comparisons were properly analysed, and how strong the evidence really is that demonstrates these "truths")

But what they really are is arguments constructed to support the credo of the right-wing death cult.

They disparage human values and human reason and human decision making in order to assert that the market is ALWAYS better at making decisions than people are.

Humans must put their reason aside. Put their knowledge and expertise aside. Put their natural empathy for others aside. And accept the wise invisible hand of the market telling them how to live their lives. Because it knows better.

Adam Smith's interesting insight has been exaggerated into a cargo cult religion of "let the market tell us what to do". It's deeply "anti-humanist" and anti-human [1]

At first, back in the dawn of the neoliberal age, this resurgent cult was largely fed by rich people who wanted lower taxes and less regulation. (Remember Reagan's "government is the problem") It was aimed at dismantling the Keynesian consensus among world political leaders and breaking trade unions.

However, over time, the cult has doubled down to become more religiously fundamentalist and more extreme.

When it turned out that the invisible hand was really bad at protecting the environment and the natural commons (because markets can't actually see externalities), and that human intelligence was better able to notice and call for action to protect endangered species and habitats, the cult had to go into action to discredit the ecologists and scientists who were monitoring and warning of this.

Every kind of human expertise had to be denigrated. Climate scientists, atmospheric modellers, geologists, biologists etc. were corrupt. Or liars. Or had a "political agenda". Or got their statistics wrong.

They were none of these things. But they were challenging the great god of the invisible hand. They were questioning its omniscience and beneficence. And that was blasphemy. Like any other religious fundamentalists, the right-wing death cult declared jihad.

The war between the god of the market and human intelligence escalated.

Governance as a whole is the enemy. And if you want to discredit the idea that human intelligence in the form of wise government, tempered by democratic legitimacy, is a good way to make decisions, one great way to do that is to ensure that you manage to get real idiots, totally lacking wisdom, deeply unsuited to the challenges and responsibilities of leadership, and who make lousy decisions, into power.

And so adherents to the cult, very smart people in their own right, like Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon and Dominic Cummings etc. threw their considerable abilities and resources and the cutting edge products of human intelligence - data modelling and analysis, AI, applied psychology - into gaming the democratic system to elevate stupid people to high office.

Stupid people who have no virtues in themselves (except the ability to connect to the electorate's darker instincts) but who dimly understand that they are there because of, and in debt to, the death cult of the market. [2]

Now, with the rise of COVID, this long term war of the market against the human is coming to a head. With a deadly pandemic everything is more immediate and stark. Death is amongst us. The new champions of human expertise and reason and compassion are the doctors and nurses and the epidemiologists focused on saving human lives.

Again humans have had the temerity to pitch their "learning" and "expertise" against the wisdom of the omniscient, omnibenevolent invisible hand.

And again, the good little religious fanatics of the right-wing death cult are out, in armed militias, seeking death to the infidels and glorious martyrdom for themselves. In Brazil they are already violently attacking nurses. I don't know if that's come to the US or UK yet. But it probably will to some extent.

But let's remember. The average Trump supporter out on the street complaining about Anthony Fauci and the "communists" who have shut the hair salon, doesn't have this explicitly in their head. They don't necessarily think they are doing it for Adam Smith's invisible hand. Like most religious fanatics they are working with a garbled copy of a copy of a copy of an idea, which has percolated from Smith to Hayek to the Mont Pelerin society to a dozen libertarian think-tanks, to right-wing talk-radio hosts to Tea Party propagandists to ranters on YouTube. The story gets twisted and exaggerated and details and subtleties get lost.

Nevertheless, the fanatics of the right-wing death cult on the streets today in 2020, passionately in love with Donald Trump and denouncing public healthcare officials as "communists" ARE the end result of that lineage : a cargo cult that holds that "the market is smarter than humans" which, for 200 years, rich people have poured huge resources into promoting.

In fact it's the word "communist" that makes this so blatantly obvious. This claim, that any interference in or overriding of the market's total control of how we should live our lives, is "communism" is the calling card of the right-wing death cult.

[1] In fact there's a fascinating branch of modern post-humanist philosophy, often going under the banner of (a right-wing version of) "accelerationism" that more or less celebrates the idea that humans will be replaced by artificial intelligence in the future, and then claims that artificial intelligence and "capitalism" are basically the same principle. Nick Land is very explicit on this)

[2] The anti-globalism of people like Trump, Bolsonaro or the Brexiteers in the UK has always been largely a smoke-screen. While declaring war on particular trade deals in the name of protecting workers, behind the scenes they are taking advice from the most extreme free-market economists who propose newer deals with fewer constraints.