Comprehending the full range of anti-trade absurdity in Harold Meyerson’s preposterous column in today’s Washington Post would probably be impossible. It would definitely require a point-by-point analysis to grasp the scope, but it’s not worth that much effort. Instead, this key excerpt explains the problem.
These domestic policy proposals all have merit; the question is whether they’re remotely sufficient to the challenge of a globalized economy. In fact, there are nations with advanced economies that trade even more than we do and have still managed, chiefly through domestic policies, to retain high levels of economic equality and vitality: the nations of northern Europe. Trade constitutes a higher percentage of Scandinavian nations’ gross domestic product than it does ours, with little of the downward-leveling and, accordingly, anti-trade backlash that we experience. Their secret is a series of job-training and placement policies, a bigger and better-paying public sector than ours, and the fact that their leading trade partners are other high-wage European nations.
The cost of creating this economic security while remaining globally competitive isn’t cheap. In the March issue of the American Prospect (which I edit), my colleague Robert Kuttner calculates that these nations devote roughly 15 percent more of their GDP to governmental outlays than the United States does. That pencils out to roughly $2 trillion a year that we’d have to shift to the public sector to build an economy in which globalization wouldn’t be viewed as so dire a threat. Neither Rubin, a true believer in balanced budgets, nor anybody functioning in the real world of American politics is calling for anything this far-reaching to reshape the U.S. economy.
There is a complete mish-mash of concepts here. Free trade must somehow be fair to be deemed acceptable. My Meyerson uses the term decent capitalism to explain his idea of what trade should be. He’s entitled to that idea, but he seeks to impose his idea of decent onto everyone. This is classic central planning, which is not capitalism. People can choose “decent” in their trade, but Mr. Meyerson is merely proposing socialism.
Specifically, we should push another $2 trillion per year into the public sector to promote capitalism? That makes no sense. It would be better if Mr. Meyerson admitted that he hates capitalism becomes some people don’t win equally. That would be honest. Instead we get babbling about how we should increase public spending to redistribute into equality. We should buy off the disgruntled so they’ll abandon some of their antagonism. Please. Grow up.