Dan Drezner w/ a timely observation
on Americans and trade: with our voices we've trended sharply protectionist for a loooooong time...
even before the last recession, Americans did not have warm and fuzzy feelings about trade....Throughout the late 1990s, majorities of Americans repeatedly affirmed their belief in two things: that the costs from more imports always outweighed the benefits of more imports; and that the costs from more imports exceeded the benefits from more exports. Go back to the early 1950s--when the U.S. was running a massive trade surplus--and a plurality of Americans still supported import restrictions over import expansion.
but with our wallets, the only vote that matters, we hop at free trade like flies to excrement.
Consumer lender E-loan conducted an interesting experiment this spring--it gave customers a choice between having their loan paperwork processed in ten days overseas or twelve days in the United States. In the first three months of the experiment, more than 85 percent of customers chose the overseas option. This corresponds with the May AP poll showing that while a majority of Americans think that offshoring is bad for the economy, a plurality of Americans do not bother checking the label to see if a product is made in this country.
Funny how market behavior reflects attitudes. The same people who complain about free trade won't put their money where their mouth is, either they're uninformed or their yelling is no more than the routine comfortable human complaint of "why is the world not giving me oral".
I remember in various instances speaking to people who are stauchly convinced that the US needs to engage in more protectionism, only to find that almost nothing they themselves have is made in the US. Key to the disconnect is this:
would you pay more
for a product simply because it was domestically made?
A lot of people say no. It's the rational thing to do -- don't pay more for a product than you have to. Yet for some reason this tendency is slammed as cruelty when someone else does it.
The debate on trade is actually misdirected. The market doesn't pause for anyone, shifts do affect lives, there's no getting around it. Question is not whether or not to keep it going, but how. Personally I think the current status quo of shooting out both sides of our mouths -- simultaneously subsidizing foreign companies & slapping tariffs on imports, for example -- is unsustainable. Bush isn't going to acknowledge this because it doesn't play well in the polls, and Kerry's plan is more designed to look like he's doing something than it is actually doing something.
In general, this is what should be done, IMO:
-cut corporate subsidies and agriculture handouts, in the long run working to end ALL forms of Corporate Socialism. Even the "progressives" should be throwing in on the farm subsidies, since they're responsible for keeping many in poorer countries in poverty....that is, if they actually care about the poor and not just painting fiscal conservatives as puppy-kicking bastards & helping the Dems lose even more seats in congress.
-reform corporation rules, and in exchange acknowledge the absurdity of corporate taxation. The tradeoff should be portrayed from an accountability/transparency angle.
-long-term: full-scale education reform. A big part of what exacerbates the shifting pains is our total lack of discipline on this, you can't get ahead in an information-based economy if you're functioning off of outdated skills. Barring a complete relenquishing of federal involvement -- which is ideally what I'd like to happen -- the next best thing would be to repeal the retarded No Child Left Behind and start over, and if the teachers unions an' buerecrats bark then f*ck 'em. While they're at it, how about a grass roots campaign promoting basic economics courses as required? Couldn't hurt...
Update: Matt Yglesias has a rather snarky comment
in his response to the article:
Dan Drezner says Americans are hypocritical mercantilists....In polls, Americans espouse mercantilist, anti-trade views. In behavior, however, Americans prefer to buy cheap goods rather than American-made ones. But is this hypocrisy? It looks like a rather simple collective action problem. No one wants to be the sucker buying the expensive "made in the USA" socks, but many favor legislative changes that would force everyone to buy the expensive socks, thus saving American jobs....I suppose to the libertarian mind all this business of "I'll do x if and only if I can force everyone to do x" sounds rather dodgy and immoral, but fortunately enough we live in the real world, where people understand the vital role coercion has to play in building a better tomorrow.
Que? What checks this coercion such that it doesn't screw the pooch even further?
is why it's considered immoral. Attempts to achieve higher goals through force tend towards being notoriously unpredictable & hard to reverse if they don't work, so us loony libertarians question the point. For it, instead of being written off as spoiled brats in tinfoil hats, a simple realization that the existence of conflicting views is productive and the lifeblood of democratic politics would suffice.
(the above response was cross-posted to his comments section. We'll see if he catches it.)
In random reading of lefty blogs, I find an alarming problem that parallels w/ the issues I have with some right-wing bloggers. With conservatives, it's a tendency to act as unabashed echo chamber, which dimishes the value of the blogging format: isn't the idea to enhance and stimulate debate? However, w/ liberals it's a tendency towards snap dismissal on vague or light grounds: I've constantly seen swipes at Libertarians and other stripes of fiscal right-winger that amount to "deal w/ the real world" or "apologist for rich folks", completely ignoring that it's quite possible for someone to clearly see the real world for what it is and disagree. As for the other dismissal excuse, there is currently a strain of arguement on libertarian politics that utilizes class tension in the favor
of poor people, an anti-government Progressivism so to speak, so if those types are shills for Daddy Warbucks they must've missed that memo from the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy office.
Ironically, this was said not long after he rightfully denounced the use of the "politician x = hitler" meme, which isn't much different -- "so'n'so is just crazy" works similarly. Matt, fellow liberals, if you think we're wrong, explain why, that's all we ask. We can argue till the cows come home, that's all good. Mere writing off of opposing viewpoints doesn't accomplish ANYONE'S goals, not yours, not ours, and definitely not the general american public.