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Nicholas Wap­shott is a British author, jour­nalist, and content con­sultant, spe­cial­izing in pol­itics and eco­nomics. He has written several biogra­phies, including “Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Eco­nomics” in 2011 and “Ronald Reagan and Mar­garet Thatcher: A Political Mar­riage” in 2007. A graduate of the Uni­versity of York, he has jour­nal­istic and edi­torial expe­rience both in England and the United States, including with The Times (London), The Observer, and The Daily Beast. He is an editor at Newsweek and a pol­itics and eco­nomics columnist for Thomson Reuters. On Sunday, he gave a lecture on John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek for the Ludwig von Mises Center for Con­structive Alter­na­tives seminar.

What are your thoughts on Pres­ident-elect Donald Trump’s eco­nomic policy?

The Repub­licans’ very strict ide­o­logical checklist of things that if you are to be Repub­lican can­didate you would have to agree with has all been blown out the window — their basic tenets like free trade, which Hayek would enjoy, and also fiscal spending on the infra­structure, which is pure Keynes. Trump is talking about a trillion dollars spent on bridges and roads and tunnels. That’s a real switch; it’s going to be very inter­esting to see how the Repub­lican majority in the House and Senate manage to cope with someone who’s been over­whelm­ingly elected by the people to run a sort of renegade, mav­erick outfit which doesn’t fit the ide­o­logical norms. It’s a Keynes-Hayek soap opera.

Can you talk a little about your book about Reagan and Thatcher? What can leaders today learn from their lead­ership?

I joined the London Times the same year Mar­garet Thatcher was elected the leader of the Con­ser­v­ative Party. I was fas­ci­nated to see what she was doing to the Con­ser­v­ative Party, which was very dif­ferent from anyone else, and the same was true with Reagan. They both read books, they read Hayek, they read con­ser­v­ative masters, and they intended to introduce theory into the Repub­lican Party and the Con­ser­v­ative Party, when, in fact, both of those parties were highly prag­matic parties, which, until then, had been rather skep­tical of theory alto­gether.

When Thatcher and Reagan first met, they fin­ished each other’s sen­tences, and that close bond lasted for the next dozen years when they then both came to be the leaders of their coun­tries. Mrs. Thatcher offered a very useful role to Ronald Reagan. People, rather like they will be with Donald Trump, were rather skep­tical whether this B-movie actor was really a serious player. And she put them in their place. She said, “This is the leader of the free world, and you will treat him seri­ously, because he’s a serious man.” This affection for each other was hugely important in the eight years of Reagan’s pres­i­dency. Inter­esting, too, Reagan was much older than his gov­ernment, rather like Trump, and there was a dis­tance between him and the others. He used Thatcher as sort of a sounding board. He relied upon her. They were very, very devoted.

How do the British view Trump?

They con­sider him a sort of TV idiot. They debated in the House of Commons not allowing him into the country. He’s someone they are not inter­ested in having rep­resent the free world. The Brits are not alone; I think Euro­peans in general are very anxious about it. And the things that he says about the North Atlantic Treaty Orga­ni­zation turn out to be true — if he starts inter­fering with treaties that have pre­served peace in Europe since 1945 — there will be great problems between the heads of state and Trump.

What eco­nomic prin­ciples do Hayek and von Mises have to offer that you think are most rel­evant today?

I think that von Mises’ book on socialism gets to a real truth about the problems of inter­vening in a free market. Although I know more about Hayek than von Mises, I find Hayek’s eco­nomics less than con­vincing. I think a lot of it is wishful thinking; a lot of it is theory for its own sake. He tended to focus and dig down, when actually a broader under­standing of the way eco­nomics works would have helped more. People like Milton Friedman felt exactly the same about Hayek. His eco­nomics can some­times be a bit inad­e­quate; it doesn’t describe what’s gen­uinely hap­pening.

As a jour­nalist, what do you think about the American media’s treatment of the whole election cycle?

Trump was a cre­ation of the cable news industry. I think that they were so happy with the vast audience that he brought and so enjoyed seeing the embar­rassment of the other Repub­lican nom­inees that they didn’t ask him the dirty ques­tions early enough. They didn’t do due dili­gence. This was someone who wanted to be the pres­ident of the United States, and I think he deserved more attention than just people shrugging their shoulders and laughing when he said some­thing which struck people as out of the ordinary. The print is dif­ferent; I think the print has done a much better job at trying to get some due dili­gence, just putting some elec­tricity through it and also digging up his past. As for Mrs. Clinton, I think it’s almost the opposite of that. The Clintons have pro­vided a fan­tastic exercise in the fact that, as I think Warren Buffet said, if a policeman follows you for 500 miles in a car, you’ll get a ticket. The fact is that there have been 30 years worth of explo­ration of some­thing criminal in the lives of the Clintons, and there’s yet to be a criminal charge. I don’t say that Mrs. Clinton’s emails shouldn’t have been explored, but, my goodness, were they boring. There’s very little new news.

How has your expe­rience as a biog­rapher shaped the way you write your columns?

As someone who’s inter­ested in political and eco­nomic theory, I learned very early on that if you could per­sonify an argument, then you were three quarters of the way to explaining it. I don’t think anyone would be very inter­ested to read a book about how Reagan and Thatcher’s eco­nomic and other political the­ories were similar. But if you write a joint biog­raphy and introduce them in flesh and blood and get them talking about these issues, then you can hope that the people will stay with you and take an interest. And that’s cer­tainly true of Keynes and Hayek. The joy of Keynes and Hayek was that, not only were they opposed to each other, but they met and fell out with each other and then became good friends with each other.