“Fuck You” Money and Freedom of Speech


The Year 2016 was the Year of the Secret Trump Voter (“STV”)— millions of STVs voted for Donald J. Trump in the privacy of their voting booths and handed him the American Presidency.

We now know from post-election interviews that up until that moment, the STVs either: (1) kept their real opinions about Trump to themselves; or (2) told their loved ones that they were voting for Secretary Clinton or Senator Sanders.

Why did they keep silent? Because they feared the social and economic consequences of saying what they were actually thinking. The potential cost of social ostracization and lost employment opportunities outweighed the benefits of speaking freely.

Now in contrast to the STVs, Donald Trump himself has absolutely no qualms about speaking his mind. But why?

Well, aside from his mercurial personality, Trump has what’s colloquially referred to as “Fuck You” Money (“FYM”).

FYM — A Definition

Photo credit: Olga Delawrence

Trump is a billionaire with plenty of assets and passive income. “Passive income” is income you’ll always receive without having to perform any actual work — like rental and dividend income. In other words, no one can take away Trump’s livelihood.

This is why Trump (in response to being insulted by the comedian Rosie O’Donnell) felt he could get away with rants like this:

A person without FYM (e.g., a middle class employee) would never have spoken like this for fear of being sued. But as someone with FYM (and an army of lawyers), Trump had no fear of the economic consequences of saying what he was actually thinking.

Another example of FYM is former Toronto mayor Rob Ford. The late Mayor Ford was the son of a co-founder of Deco Labels, a Canadian label company with an estimated $100 million in annual sales. He was a co-owner of Deco with his siblings. Consequently, nobody could really take away his livelihood. And with FYM, he routinely spoke his mind with often hilarious results:

Trump’s appeal to a broad swath of the middle class is that “he tells it like it is”; i.e., he makes statements that many agree with privately but don’t state publicly for fear of the economic consequences. For example, when polled, 79% of Americans want to secure the U.S. — Mexican border. But in today’s America, that in itself appears to be a controversial statement, at least if you’re in California.

So in many respects, Trump’s supporters in the economic middle are living their lives vicariously through him. In their eyes, although they may be afraid to publicly call out illegal immigration, excessive identity politics, or radical Islamic terrorism, Trump isn’t. He is their voice.

Is true free speech only for the wealthy?

Photo credit: Niu Niu

It’s often been said that, “freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences”. And that is correct — if someone takes umbrage at what you say, they have a right to respond, be it through public shaming, withdrawal of employment opportunities or an economic boycott.

However, this raises an interesting question: are the poor and middle classes constrained from speaking their mind due to their lack of wealth? Is true free speech only the preserve of the wealthy?

I’m not implying that everyone who has wealth or seeks it should be an aspiring vulgarian. The point I’m trying to make is this:

Just as a free marketplace of goods & services has more potential to create material wealth than an economy controlled by the State, a free marketplace of ideas has more potential to create real solutions to social problems than an ideological marketplace controlled by excessive political correctness.

So it’s bad enough that the poor and middle classes are unable to fully participate in the economic marketplace for lack of disposable income. Is it also true that they cannot participate in the marketplace of ideas for fear of the impact on their livelihoods?

Let’s Hear from You

Photo credit: RawPixel.com

What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Think I’m off the rails? I’d love to hear from you!