Buying Greenland

August 16, 2019

The last time the United States purchased real estate from the Danish government was a $ 25 million deal to buy the Virgin Islands. Although we made the purchase for strategic reasons – to shore up our southern flank from potential military threats – the deal turned out to be a sound economic decision. Today the Virgin Island is a US Caribbean playground for tourists with hotels, condos, bars and restaurants, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Cruise ships regularly dock in St. Thomas and let the passengers buy cut rate jewelry and other trinkets. All in all a great real estate deal.

Now President Trump is floating the idea of buying Greenland from the Danes. Although he may not know much about this territory of Denmark given his limited knowledge of the world, Greenland is almost entirely covered in snow and ice. There is just a narrow strip of green on Greenland along the coast where the 56,000 residents of the huge island live; so not much chance of building a hotel or casino much less attracting tourists to the frozen tundra. Of course with global warming the snow and ice may eventually recede to reveal deposits of oil, gas, precious metals and who knows what else. Maybe the President is thinking ahead about the natural resources deep underground of Greenland, but I suspect this is just another real estate scheme designed to shift attention away from all his legal, economic and political problems.

Moreover, the Danes are not going to sell Greenland, especially to the Donald, who they know is an unreliable businessman, a failed real estate mogul, and a leader whose governing values are antithetical to the political culture of Denmark . If the Danes even had a moment of weakness regarding putting up Greenland for sale,  the price tag would be in the hundreds of billions as the governmental officials in Denmark know they control a potential natural resource bonanza. I am also certain that most Americans would agree the United States could use that money for much more important programs such as health care for all, cleaning up our water supply, building much needed infrastructure, and closing the gap between the ultra rich and the ultra poor.

This latest Trump gambit regarding purchasing Greenland is just another stream of consciousness idea that comes from too little sleep, too much Diet Coke, and a real estate mindset no matter how goofy. You can almost envision President Trump coming into the Oval Office and telling his aides and lawyers, “Hey, let’s buy Greenland.” Because the culture in the White House is so dependent on satisfying the boss, I suspect that the aides and lawyers rushed out to see if such a deal could be made.  No one would have the gumption to tell the President that the idea was simply bonkers, thereby jeopardizing their employment.

This purchase of Greenland is certain to be a two or three day story that will fade away, but it is reflective how our President thinks and works, if it is accurate to use the words “thinks” and “works.”