Smart people are calling presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Drumpf, an aspiring fascist. His tendency to authoritarian government is a learned trait, if stories of his father are true. The things that make him a terrible candidate for political leadership are also traits that the business world often respect and admire. A plastic morality is ideal when the only measure of success is profit. A CEO is often only indistinguishable from a fascist dictator by the fortunate reality that getting fired from a company does not immediately mean being killed, and any torture that occurs will be psychological, not directly physical. A CEO is rewarded for treating workers like disposable cogs, called tough by the business community. A CEO is rewarded for driving down expenses even if it means workers don’t earn a living wage, or parts are imported from slave-labor facilities in miserable places of the planet.
We criticize Trump for his sexism, his rudeness, his inhumanity to man. We do not see it as a critique of the place he learned it. Inside the halls of business power, all of these traits are common and often celebrated in powerful men. People inside the company will celebrate Trump’s leadership, when the very style of leadership he utilizes is a fascist dictator state, where one man’s word rules everything, demands everything. And, more importantly, in the world of business, this kind of fascist dictator leadership is celebrated and common. Trump learned his authoritarianism from his community.
We have all been workers before at companies. We know what it is like to have to give lip-service to leadership, keep our face smiling, and be careful what we say about the things going on at the workplace. The best companies I worked for where places where the CEO was a benevolent one, quick to think about ethics and the weight of power. The very best company I worked for had a female CEO, at a very advanced age, who was as kind as a grandmother even as we knew there was no messing around with her resources or her commands. Even in the very best circumstances, and she was the very best of people to work for, a wonderful human in every way, it was clear that the employee was not the powerful one; there is no democracy in business. The owners of resources are the commanders of them, and the top of the heap in life.
In living memory, business leaders have not made good presidents. Bush II, the first president with an MBA, by any measure of a presidency, was not an effective leader of the country. Actor turned politician Ronald Reagan remains a contentious figure, but seems to be responsible for one of the greatest lies in modern economics, that cripples the powerless to this day, the idea of Trickle-Down Economics.
We talk about the problem of Trump, but we have a society that is trained to glorify authoritarians. Anyone who is a “true believer” at work, so to speak, is ripe to become the one who votes for fascism.
The unions are gone, mostly. Even the ones that remain are undermined and destroyed, and are notorious for corruption. The world of business authoritarianism is seeping into the cracks and crevices of society. It will come again, if we do not change the culture of business, even if Trump loses.
Everyone in America, nearly, must work in a company, and be a company person. How do we change the culture of leadership in companies to stop rewarding fascist dictators?
It’s a hard question, with no good answers. In the mean time, I’m looking for another benevolent dictatorship, looking around the companies I visit for signs the employee smiles aren’t genuine, and the presence of the boss isn’t simultaneous with fear.
Though I believe we will end up in a dictatorship eventually, if the system of Capitalism is not reformed towards social justice, the number of decent people who are good authoritarian figures to their employees – even the ones they don’t personally like – gives me some hope that there will be good ones as often as there are bad ones. People have lived under dictatorships for thousands of years, and most of the people were happy with it, just like most of us like our jobs.