Why Trump won’t be able to stop America’s decline

While Trump’s efforts to make America great again are admirable, and will probably lead to short-term results, the reasons for America’s decline are more systematic and cannot be affected by a single president.

America suffers from the problems that Michael Porter describes in his book The Competitive Advantage of Nations. In it, Porter characterizes the rise and fall of nations’s competitiveness in four stages.

  1. Factor-driven
  2. Investment-driven
  3. Innovation-driven
  4. Wealth-driven

America reached the Wealth-driven stage a while ago. In that stage, the large companies and financial institutions and wealthy individuals seek to protect and consolidate their wealth, rather than grow it. The People seek to gain a share from existing wealth rather than create more.

Thus, the influences on government shift towards protectionism and entitlements, rather than competition and innovation. Government can only appease this growing pressure by stifling competition and preserving existing power structures.

In practice, laws and regulations shift towards preserving the positions of existing industries and companies, and towards internal wealth distribution.

As people and institutions with wealth seek to influence government, corruption will also grow. Meanwhile, polarization will increase, both as a result of the increasing corruption, and because the increasing will to have a share of this wealth. Thus, right and left will stand in opposition in trying to gain share of the existing wealth, but they will stand together in preserving it rather than creating new wealth.

Any opposition against existing structures will be met by fierce resistance from both sides. In other words, there is no alternative to decline.

This is why Trump is met with such resistance from all angles. It also explains the increasingly polarized climate in USA.

Finally, it is also why Trump will only be able to make a dent, at best. The systematic nature of how wealth accumulates and then tries to consolidate itself is not something any individual president can influence. The Trump phenomenon is simply a knee-jerk reaction of the dying American values, taking its final breath before accepting its final decline into decadence.

(I’m sure there is a practical solution that could revive. I just don’t know what. Also, I still haven’t finished Porter’s book. Perhaps the answer lies in the final chapters.)

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