When Donald Trump spoke at the UN in September, the audience laughed at him. It was an unprecedented insult to an American president. But I have an uneasy suspicion that Trump may have the last laugh. The 45th US president could yet go down as a leader who changed the course of history and embodied the spirit of an age. Historic figures do not have to be good people, or even particularly intelligent. Trump is a habitual liar, whose administration has set up detention camps for children. Rex Tillerson, his former secretary of state, is reputed to have called the president a “moron”. But none of that need stop Trump from being what the philosopher Georg Hegel called a “world-historical figure”. The quintessential world-historical figure of Hegel’s era was Napoleon, whom the German thinker described as the “world spirit on horseback”. Oddly, the best definition I have read of what Hegel meant by that term, came from the current president of France. Emmanuel Macron told Der Spiegel that...

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