SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, Donald Trump has been in office for almost six months, and we’re still waiting for a sign of moderation. The president remains short-tempered and egomaniacal. He fires off new tirades almost daily on Twitter. Are you getting used to this constant stream of fire?
Klein: His tweets don’t shock me anymore, but the fact that the people around him are still not preventing him from writing vile things is pretty stunning. A big part of the reason I wrote the book is because I’m worried about what might happen with Trump during a major military escalation or a major financial crisis.
SPIEGEL: Do you consider a president who is unmanageable and doesn’t listen to his advisers to be a security risk?
Klein: Of course, he is. But I also don’t buy the analysis that his advisers want him to stop the distractions and focus on policy. Many issues, as defined by the Republican Congress and Senate, are in opposition to a lot of what Trump ran on last year. Having the cover of the Trump dramas, intrigues and tweets works for his party in a strange way.
SPIEGEL: He says climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Is this part of that strategy?
Klein: The Republicans have said equally stupid things about climate change. Rex Tillerson as the Secretary of State, after being Exxon Mobil CEO and working there for 41 years, is actually the most radical thing Trump has done. I find it shocking that Tillerson is treated as the most intellectual cabinet member. The climate debate poses a dilemma for the Republicans. If climate change is true, then everything else that they are doing would have to be abandoned — we’d need to do what Germany did, with massive public investment in research and development, in renewables and transforming our energy grid. But “management,” “regulation,” “taxation,” “investment” are all swear words to the Republican Party.
SPIEGEL: What is the consequence of that? Will we have to tackle climate change without the United States now?
Klein: Not without the U.S., but without Washington. We’re seeing some increased ambition from other governments since Trump announced his plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but also, more importantly, from inside the U.S. at the subnational level. Mayors are now promising to run their cities on 100-percent renewable energy, in the case of Pittsburgh, by 2035. This is wonderfully ambitious. Obviously, it would be better to have a federal carbon tax helping with the transition. But it would be false to say there is no help coming from the United States on climate change without looking at what’s happening in New York state, Washington state, California, and others.
Naomi Klein, 47, is considered a pioneer of the anti-globalization movement. In her new book, “No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need,” which has just been published in German, she describes Donald Trump’s entry into the White House as the triumph of private economic interests over the common good. She argues that Trump’s government is steering the country into a new crisis through its strategy of privatization, deregulization and tax cuts. Klein lives with her family in Toronto.
SPIEGEL: You argue that the problems of globalization should be solved through more nationalization. Isn’t that a bit simplistic?
Klein: It makes sense to keep more of the resources within public control, especially in the field of energy. This has happened in Germany in hundreds of cities and towns. As part of the transition to renewables, there has been a remunicipalization of energy, so that communities are not hemorrhaging the profits from energy production. The same is true after three decades of rail privatization in the United Kingdom. In a lot of cases, the answer is not state ownership but more of a public ownership on the commons model — community ownership, different ownership structures and more decentralization. Neoliberalism is in crisis. It has been in crisis since 2008, since the financial crisis.
SPIEGEL: Why aren’t there any alternative ideas to replace neoliberalism?
Klein: The neoliberal project was never just about privatization, deregulation, low taxes and cuts to social spending to offset those low taxes. It centered around the belief that there is no alternative. The left has been far too timid when it comes to proposing a different vision. But we now have a generation of young people who were never subjected to the kind of propaganda that my generation was subjected to. Their entire adult life has been spent after the financial crisis, their coming of age politically was capitalism in crisis and its defenders running for the hills.
SPIEGEL: Some of those young people you describe demonstrated against the G-20summit in Hamburg. Are they right to protest?
Klein: Those meetings have never done much about climate change or most other issues, and I don’t think that this G-20 will be much different. But they are spaces where the Trump administration can be confronted. We’ve had Emmanuel Macaron positioning himself from a marketing perspective, as anti-Trump. Of course, there is a difference between being willing to put out a meme to “Make the Planet Great Again” and being willing to back that up with policy. But it’s a moment for courage, and when governments get together like during the G-20 summit they should boost each other’s courage, to put some substance behind what up till now has largely been posturing.