Incentives Matter for Politicians Too
In a Facebook comment on my recent post on Peter Thiel and Donald Trump’s foreign policy views, my friend Stephen M. Jones wrote (I quote with his permission):
Tyler Cowen had an important post linking this article about Trump and Putin. It appears the Ukraine decision/NATO pronouncement is not driven by a non-interventionist Foreign Policy stance but by linkages between Trump and Putin such that they often have mutual interests.
He then provided this link.
I recommend reading the whole article that’s linked, but the gist is that Donald Trump and some of his advisors are financially connected to Vladimir Putin or to people close to Putin.
These allegations do sound troubling.
But there’s another way to look at them.
When I have posted on Facebook about some of the non-interventionist statements Trump has made, friends who share my non-interventionist views caution that Trump will say anything and that you cannot take his statements as indicators of what he would do if President. Co-blogger Scott Sumner made a similar point in his comment on my post. I share this concern. As I have said in many conversations with friends, Trump is a wild card.
But incentives matter, even for politicians. One of my biggest concerns is that Hillary Clinton as President would purposely or accidentally get the United States into a war with Putin. The New York Times editors, in their Sunday editorial “Trumpworld vs. Clintonworld,” pointed out just how interventionist Clinton is. (They liked it; I don’t.) When both countries have thousands of nuclear weapons, that is scary.
So if even some of the allegations about close financial connections between Trump and Putin and Putin’s allies are true, that would mean that Trump would have much to lose personally from making war on Putin or, as one of Trump’s competitors, John Kasich, put it, “punch the Russians in the nose.”
What if you see a potential war that you don’t want the United States to get in? You might love it if the U.S. president avoided getting into the war on principle. But it’s a surer thing to depend on a U.S. president not getting into a war because his own financial interests would be badly hurt.