The cult of the businessman

Junk bonds get a bad rap: If those Reagan-era investors had held onto their Michael Milken portfolios, they’d have ended up doing pretty well, provided they had the wherewithal to ride out the volatility that inescapably is associated with high-risk/high-yield debt. (Trump’s junk-bond buyers, alas, did not make out so well.) But the instruments issued by the United States Treasury are not — not just yet — junk bonds.

Trump has been successful in politics, and as a game-show host, because he is the opposite of boring. But in government, boring is good. It is an especially excellent quality in chief executives. Regular political order, peaceful succession of governments, open and stable courts applying the law in a predictable fashion, steady economic conditions, boring bourgeois society: These are the building blocks of which happy nations are made.

Henry Ford probably understood that, which probably was a large part (but not the only part) of his anti-interventionism and his suspicion of international business interests. Bill Gates seems to understand that too, which is why his philanthropic work concentrates so heavily on unsexy endeavors such as vaccinations, agricultural development, and malaria eradication. (The managerial progressive mind is in evidence in his tragic enthusiasm for what is euphemistically called “family planning.”) Ross Perot is a cracked and a low-grade megalomaniac (Texas gazillionaires are a distinct type; cf. T. Boone Pickens), but even his eccentric enthusiasms were rooted in old-fashioned notions such as thrift.

Donald Trump? He’s a guy standing in front of the roulette table promising: “You can’t lose.”