Originally posted on May 3, 2019.
John Burtka, executive director of The American Conservative writes:
Teddy Roosevelt once quipped, “Thank God I’m not a free-trader.” I agree. What was once considered a prudential question between free trade and protection depending on circumstance and national interest has now ossified into an ideology. Any attempt to direct the economy, or the country for that matter, towards specific ends is written off as socialism, full stop.
This was the subtext of a piece written by Don Devine at TAC that attempted to refute the core tenants of economic nationalism defended by our editor-at-large, Dan McCarthy. Devine’s thesis: “Who is the genius that will devise a plan…?” Since any industrial strategy, especially in light of advances in technology, would need to be complex, it’s better, he argues, to let the market sort it out instead of bureaucrats in Washington. If we try to shift our economy from services back to manufacturing, we may end up with something that “make[s] the original New Deal or War on Poverty or even Green New Deal look like child’s play.”
My response to this is simple. We need to stop pretending that libertarianism, which he credits for all the “effective actions” taken by the Trump administration, is neutral. A libertarian approach to trade embodies a specific industrial strategy and worldview, and it’s the wrong strategy and worldview for America today. Furthermore, it’s no less of an attempt at social engineering than the economic nationalism he deplores.
The libertarian strategy is clear. The goal of all its policies is the creation of an unfettered global market. The means for achieving this end is the free movement of labor and capital driven primarily by the interests of multinational corporations. The result of this strategy will be the weakening and eventual collapse of the nation-state and the demise of local and traditional institutions. The chief beneficiaries will be massive, socially progressive, unaccountable non-state actors like Google and Amazon, who will rule the world without the consent of the governed. I’m sorry, but “voting with your dollar” counts for neither citizenship nor economic freedom once corporate monopolies establish global hegemony.
When this magazine was founded in 2002, one of its explicit purposes was to “question the benefits and point to the pitfalls of the global free trade economy.” Why would we do this? Because “we believe conservatism to be the most natural political tendency, rooted in man’s taste for the familiar, for family, for faith in God.” And these deep conservative commitments, with the institutions that make them possible, can and do suffer when the market is allowed to permeate every facet of human life.
Read more here.