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1/08/2017 10:07 am  #1

The Art of the Deal

An Ethicist Reads The Art of the Deal

Donald Trump succumbs to the age-old temptation to see capitalism not as an economic system but a morality play.

Published in 1987, The Art of the Deal is a fairly recent addition to a long line of books by business titans that double as memoir and modus operandi. From Ben Franklin’s Autobiography to John D. Rockefeller’s Random Reminiscences to Jack Welch’s Straight from the Gut, these books aim, by battle scar and bromide, effrontery and object lesson, to present “the very definition of the American success story.”

That, at least, is how the dust jacket of the The Art of the Deal recommends its author, Donald Trump. Trump was just 41 when the book was published, but he had already enjoyed a decade as a real-estate wunderkind whose big mouth and brash deal-making saw his reputation waver between Elon Musk and Martin Shkreli. Trump was still a few years from fully embracing the anti-hero persona that has commandeered this election cycle—in a 1985 profile for 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace incredulously notes that he presents himself as full of “Boy Scout principles”—but the young tycoon had already suffered enough unpleasant encounters with the Fourth Estate that one imagines he was eager to take his case directly to the public.

The Art of the Deal tells the story of Donald Trump largely by way of the deals he has brokered, they being his “art form,” and he, it seems, being the artist. Such a generous self-conception might explain an occupational aversion to critics. They are typically “phonies and hypocrites,” Trump says, and he assures readers that he doesn’t pay attention to them, a tendency which would be consistent with his habit of not paying attention to anyone. Anticipating his recent claim to chiefly consult himself on matters of foreign policy because “I have a very good brain,” Trump provides a list of groups whose advice he proudly scorns. They include:

Academics: “My father could run circles around most academics.”
The Academically Inclined: “It didn’t take me long to realize that there was nothing particularly awesome or exceptional about my classmates.”
Quants: “I don’t hire a lot of number-crunchers.”
Analysts: “I don’t trust fancy marketing surveys.”
Committees:  “Committees are what insecure people create in order to put off making hard decisions.”
Consultants: “I like consultants even less than I like committees.”
Public-Relations Experts: “That’s like hiring outside consultants.”
Lawyers: “I don’t like lawyers.”
Stockbrokers: “It’s ridiculous, when you think about it.”
What’s left? Your gut, of course. “Listen to your gut,” Trump intones, “no matter how good something sounds on paper.”

If you’re a few dozen deep on the waitlist at the local library for The Art of the Deal and don’t have $11.95 to shell out for the Kindle edition, I can save you some trouble: The answer to all of your deal-making questions lies in your gut.

But, you might say, what if I don’t have the brains in my gut to be a deal-maker?

Good question, but The Donald is way ahead of you. “More than anything else, I think deal-making is an ability you’re born with,” he tells his readers in a revelation many of them might have longed for before they plonked down $11.95. “It’s in the genes,” he continues. “It’s not about being brilliant. It does take a certain intelligence, but mostly it’s about the instincts.”

So, just to review, it’s not just the genes of your gut that count, but the instincts of your genes, though they alone won’t make you a deal-maker: “[M]ost people who do have the instincts will never recognize that they do, because they don’t have the courage or the good fortune to discover their potential.”

In other words, you need vision in your genes and guts in your instincts, otherwise, your gut may be spineless and where would that leave you?

Not a deal-maker.

* * *

If not with Trump’s 24-carat bravado, many people have a propensity to talk about capitalism in terms less befitting a complex economic system than a sequel to Rambo. Rather than an elaborate phenomenon characterized by collective action, analytical diligence, and bouts of serendipity, commercial success is presented as a stirring tribute to self-reliance, individual will, and superhuman feats of strength overcoming the dark forces of smug complacency and conventional thinking.


Now, of course, Donald Trump has set his sights on a new type of deal entirely, one whose possibility becomes more preposterous by the day, and by the day less implausible. For almost nine months now, the national negotiation for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has been underway, and it bears the signal traits of so many of Trump’s commercial endeavors: It is long on instincts, short on details, and subject to a remarkable amount of turmoil.

Whether he can seal this deal remains to be seen, but watching his efforts, I am reminded of a passing remark from The Art of the Deal that captures, by entendre, the essence of his catechism and the secret of his success. Noting that it might seem “a little ridiculous” that newspapers liked to cover ceremonies at construction sites where well-dressed men fumbled over wet concrete, Trump was philosophical. “As long as they want to shoot,” he wrote, “I’ll shovel.”

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 

1/08/2017 10:43 am  #2

Re: The Art of the Deal

How morally he screwed people to accept pennies on the dollar in his Bankruptcy filings ?? 

Right ! 

Meanwhile he uses he same to pay no taxes for years ! 


"Do not confuse motion and progress, A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress"

1/08/2017 4:21 pm  #3

Re: The Art of the Deal

Trump is a morally decrepit individual.


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