🔒 WORLDVIEW: Understand Trump’s New America, read Peter Thiel’s Zero to One.

By Alec Hogg

LONDON – The most thoughtful observers suggest that learning to listen is the biggest lesson Americans can take from the shock result of its Presidential election.

Quite how much this is needed is encapsulated in a New York Times headline that caught my eye. “With Trump’s Election, a Bonanza for Washington Lobbyists” the major US newspaper proclaimed yesterday, adding a string of quotations from influential K Street lobbyists who enthusiastically project that their happy days are returning.
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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, left, and First Lady-elect Melania Trump. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, left, and First Lady-elect Melania Trump. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

Lobbyists are salivating at prospects now that Republicans control all three centres of power. So they see a flood of business-friendly legislation in prospect. They also opine as a Washington outsider, the new President “is going to need some people to help guide him through the swamp.”

This excitement stems from ignorance. And arrogance.

They have completely missed how the election of Donald Trump is actually their worst nightmare. Whatever else they may think of him, Trump has deep experience in business. He is hardly likely to start listening to what Corporate America’s guns-for-hire will be advising him what to do.

You also have to wonder if the 30 000-strong industry has absorbed anything from the biggest US election shock since 1948 when Harry Truman beat virtually every prediction to record a famous victory over Thomas Dewey.

Trump’s message, both ahead of and since his election, is one of introducing disruptive change.

That represents everything the big business establishment – and its lobbyists – fear most.

Corporate Goliaths prosper when their advantage of size can be wielded to a playing field where the rules favour them.  These behemoths crave certainty. They pay Washington’s expensive lobbyists to ensure policy is only refined at the margin, delivering small improvements that are substantive when you have scale.

It beggars belief that even Wall Street banks are apparently enthusiastic about the change in the White House. There is still nothing that Middle America hates more than big banks. And Trump knows where his mandate arose.

Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley investor who co-founded PayPal. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo
Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley investor who co-founded PayPal. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo

The most obvious indication of just how wrong Washington lobbyists are reading the election result is in the people Trump has around him. One of the highest profile of whom is Elon Musk’s former partner at Paypal, Peter Thiel. The Silicon Valley billionaire is on Trump’s “transitional team” and has even been mooted as its possible chairman, although those who know him say Thiel wouldn’t consider such an admin-heavy assignment.

He is a champion of disruption and, like Trump, a critic of those who foot the bulk of  Washington lobbyists’ fees. Also like Trump, Thiel has no love for the lobbyist’s closest ally, the establishment media. Witness the way he footed the legal bill in wrestler Hulk Hogan’s war against Gawker which eventually killed the once massive internet website.

How Thiel thinks is detailed in his revolutionary bestseller Zero to One, a handbook for disruptive change in business. Those who believe Trump was all election talk but will now slip into Washington’s decrepit ways, would be better advised to open their eyes and ears.

Their eyes, by reading Thiel’s book. Their ears, through listening to the message an angry US electorate has just sent. He may well screw up. But it will be through trying something different. Not by perpetuating the status quo.

Never under-estimate the intelligence of ordinary folk once they have access to information. And that is what they now possess in abundance in this Internet Age where all information is as close as the nearest broadband connection.

What we now need is something else. There is an oversupply of information, but a scarcity of wisdom. Honest, balanced interpretation of our complex world is what humanity now needs to strive towards. And that requires the most rare ingredient of all – an open mind.