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Professor Propaganda

by Kevin D. Williamson

Peter Navarro is positioned to give the president a lot of bad advice

In the collected works of Peter Navarro, there is a peculiar paradox: Some of the dullest prose imaginable challenges the sharp edge of Hanlon’s razor, the aphorism that advises us: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Professor Navarro of the University of California at Irvine has hanging on the wall of an office or a den somewhere a doctorate in economics from Harvard; barring some Forrest Gump–level chain of coincidence, it does not seem likely that anything as innocent as stupidity explains his literary output, which consists of a few how-to-make-money-in-the-stock-market books (an actual title: “If It’s Raining in Brazil, Buy Starbucks”) from earlier in his career and a half dozen or so low-minded books about China with such talk-radio-ready names as “Death by China” and “The Coming China Wars,” two books that contain 80 exclamation points between them, as well as several pamphlets summarizing the main points of his books.

He is President Donald Trump’s house China intellectual, the only one of his close advisers who is a credentialed academic economist, albeit one whose area of specialty is utility companies, not international trade. (Our most famous scholar of trade economics, Paul Krugman, apparently was not available for service in the Trump administration. Pity.) Navarro has been named head of the newly created National Trade Council, a position in which he is well positioned to do a great deal of damage to the Trump administration, to the United States and its economic interests, and, possibly, to the world. That’s quite a step up for a man who was teaching undergraduate econ to business students until a few months ago.

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