Virginia Tech international affairs expert: there may be ‘unexpected benefits’ to Trump’s presidency
January 17, 2017
An expert in international economic affairs says he sees unanticipated outcomes to President-elect Donald Trump’s election.
“My hope and confidence in the system is that we will see unexpected benefits from this,” said David Bieri, an associate professor of urban affairs in Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies. “I don’t think that what people fear right now — tearing up trade agreements, or governing the world by Twitter, or governing the world by provocation — is the right way to go about things, but I can see a lot of very important byproducts that I think are already healthy.”
Bieri cites a few examples in Trump’s policy stances so far, such as his announced deal with United Technologies, Carrier's corporate parent, to keep a manufacturing plant from moving to Mexico.
“In doing so, it raised for public debate this issue,” Bieri said. “We live in a reality of multinational corporations, and so the question is, ‘How do we regulate them? How do we regulate them effectively? How do we regulate them in the people’s best interest?’ And whether one-sided intervention by the president is necessarily the best thing to do isn’t for me to comment on, but Trump is having his finger — because he is who he is — on the right issues. And as such, he challenges us to discuss these issues.”
Bieri also noted Trump’s promise to build a wall separating the United States from Mexico and force the border country to pay for it.
“Because of this provocative stance on building the wall in Mexico, people started talking about NAFTA again,” Bieri said. “I think his provocations, which he himself might not see as such, have very desirable outcomes for a democracy because instead of moralizing, we the people will have to give good intellectual arguments for why an alternative for what he’s proposing helps.”
Bieri believes such intellectual arguments mean teachers and professors like himself must step up to the plate, though.
“We need to teach our students how the system works because if we’re talking about reform, that can only come from a deep understanding of the plumbing,” he said.
Trump’s pick of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA is another example Bieri sees as a potential silver lining of what many see as an environmental mistake.
“Democracy is all about good institutional design. Design is not permanent. If you care for democracy, you need to reform institutions. America’s big advantage and disadvantage at the same time has been that it has not had a war on its shores for a very long time. If you look at any other western country, they’ve had to redesign their institutions out of necessity. How does America reform itself from within? By either scraping the blueprints and starting fresh or by incrementally bolting on stuff.
“Yeah, it could be the end of the EPA. But maybe if you look into its institutional history, they have some pretty serious design flaws. And so maybe, in the presence of global climate change, we may need a different democratic instrument that is not the EPA.”
“So I view Trump as an opportunity for accelerated institutional rethinking,” Bieri said.
Bieri’s main research interests are at the intersection of public finance, monetary theory, and economic geography and thought. He holds a joint appointment in the Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience and in the School of Public and International Affairs. He has held various senior positions at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. Prior to his work in central banking, he worked in investment banking in London and Zurich.
View Bieri’s full bio.
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