A fight with the Fed one week. A trade war with China the next.
And now, it’s a war with the Democrats.
Donald J Trump knows how to keep the cameras rolling.
‘President Donald Trump staged a confrontation Tuesday with the two top congressional Democrats before television cameras in the Oval Office as the dispute over funding for his border wall turned publicly acrimonious.
‘The drama may raise the chances of a partial government shutdown when funding for some agencies runs out after Dec. 21. The televised back-and-forth between the leaders will likely figure prominently as politicians seek to assign blame for any disruptions that result.’
The sturm and drang keeps the groundlings entertained. If you want to draw a crowd, pick a fight. The Donald picks fights and draws crowds. And he plays his role well. He is a ‘big man.’ Confident beyond reason. A winner. The cock of the walk.
But behind the scenes, the situation is more complicated.
Russian leader, Vladimir Putin had it figured out long ago. ‘It works like this,’ he told reporters (here, we paraphrase and elaborate). ‘A president comes into office. Some guys in suits come to visit. They tell him what he can and can’t do. No, he can’t cut military spending. No, he can’t cut entitlements. Yes, he must keep the debt bubble expanding.’
After that, it’s all showbiz. But what makes showbiz so interesting and entertaining? Doesn’t it tell us something about real life?
Big Daddy, the jealous husband, the power-mad dictator, the corrupt businessman, the scheming step-mother, the flirt, and the saint — all the stock characters have their real-life counterparts. You find them in bars and malls…in churches and in prisons.
But humans are never fully reliable. They often flub their lines and go off-script. Or they play their parts so faithfully, they bring about — in real time — the catastrophes that were only intended to be entertainment.
Like a peacock
Yesterday, we were wondering how it works. Specifically, we were thinking about sex. Not like a teenager sitting in a dark room with his computer screen, but like an adult, trying to dope out what makes men so foolish, vain, and murderous.
That is, we were trying to understand why people so easily resort to win-lose deals…and why staged spats in the White House still capture viewers’ attention — as if they were real!
Win-win deals don’t make the headlines. But in the Diary, we have shown why they are better for everyone. They are more efficient. They produce honest information about what people want and what they are willing to give up to get it. They increase wealth and limit claptrap.
People don’t always get what they want or what they expect, but at least they get what they deserve…which is about the best we can do in life.
The reason win-lose deals persist, we concluded yesterday, has to do with man’s lust for sex. After his survival was fairly assured — after he had learned to herd cattle and plant wheat — man turned his attentions to sex.
Then, much of what he did, even if he didn’t realize it, was done for one, single-minded purpose — to make himself more attractive to the opposite sex.
Like the peacock, he spread his colourful feathers to draw attention to himself. Like the antelope, he locked horns with other males to find out which was stronger and braver. And like a medieval scholar, he retreated to his workshop, trying to turn base metal into gold.
But there were two possible avenues of approach: Self-improvement…or destruction.
Either he made his rivals worse off — by stealing from them, deceiving them, or killing them, thus leaving himself in a superior position.
Or he made himself better — by smiling, lifting weights, dieting, studying ancient Greek, or winning a Nobel Prize in medicine.
Love thy neighbour
In the Old Testament, God favours the first approach. He tells his chosen people to go and kill their competitors, take their land, and burn their cities. ‘Don’t even leave their pets alive,’ He says to His people.
But in the New Testament, God shifts to the second approach. ‘It doesn’t matter who you are,’ He seemed to say. ‘You’ll get no special favours from me.’ Instead of killing, man had to ‘love his neighbour’ and be a better person.
Win-win deals — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — were a great success. They brought civilization, growth, and progress.
But win-lose deals are deeply rooted in the human dirt. Why? Sex.
We are bred to mate. But with whom?
Therein hang a million tales. Stories of treachery and violence. Fights for love and glory. Cases of do or die. Stories with happy endings. And stories of monumental success…or abject failure.
Genghis Khan, for example, is said to have had his female captives paraded before him. He selected a different one every night.
We can imagine that the young women recoiled at the thought of being used for the pleasure of the Mongol chief. But maybe not.
Females face a different biological calculation. They can only bear a few children. In theory, it pays for them to be choosy…and to be chosen. So they would want to be chosen by the Genghis of the day — the richest, most powerful, strongest male in the group.
How many of them lowered their eyes coquettishly as they passed the Great Khan? How many of them straightened their backs and swelled their chests?
Being selected helped guarantee that their children were winners, too — partly because they had a winner’s genes…and partly because their father might protect them as children and help them along in life later on.
And apparently, it worked in practice. Genghis sired so many children that one out of every eight males now living in the lands he conquered have him as an ancestor.
Genghis, wasn’t he one of the biggest win-losers of all time…and one of sex’s greatest winners?