Hat tip: Instapundit.
In recent weeks the economy has been in the headlines and in the sights of politicians seeking the presidency. Particularly on the Democratic side, the candidates have sought to paint a picture of a doom-and-gloom economy and a convenient culprit: the trade policies of the Bush administration.There was once a time when Democrats supported free trade. No doubt it was a time when they, like most Americans, were confident of their place in the world. Like the vanishing manufacturing jobs of which they care so much, the free trade Democrat is as rare as a hen with teeth.
Although Sen. John McCain has largely stuck to his free-trade principles, even when it might have been politically expedient to appeal to voters’ worst instincts, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have entered into a seemingly escalating war of words over the alleged damage done by trade liberalization. As news about the economy worsened and crucial primary contests in industrial states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania approached, the rhetoric reached a nadir.
As voters consider the mix of policy offerings by the candidates, a look at their records on trade during their time in Congress and their statements during the campaign can give some early guidance as to the direction of the next administration’s trade policy. Although trade votes are a necessarily imperfect yardstick with which to measure future policy—packaged as they often are with other, sometimes contradictory, legislation—they seem to be consistent with the campaign pledges of the candidates.
Voters could expect a President Mc-Cain to promote freer trade and cuts in market-distorting subsidies, and a President Clinton or a President Obama to view free trade between voluntary actors as something to be restrained, loaded with conditions, or counterbalanced by an expansion of the welfare state.
It is by these means, my dear Scipio,-for you said that you and
Laelius were wont to express surprise on this point, -that my old age sits lightly on me, and is not only not oppressive but even delightful. But if I am wrong in thinking the human soul immortal, I am glad to be wrong; nor will I allow the mistake which gives me so much pleasure to be wrested from me as long as I live. But if when dead, as some insignificant philosophers think, I am to be without sensation, I am not afraid of dead philosophers deriding my errors. Again, if we are not to be immortal, it is nevertheless what a man must wish-to have his life end at its proper time. For nature puts a limit to living as to everything else. Now, old age is as it were the playing out of the drama, the full fatigue of which we should shun, especially when we also feel that we have had more than enough of it.
This is all I had to say on old age. I pray that you may arrive at it, that you may put my words to a practical test.
At the same time, though, Bad Samaritans is not ultimately convincing, particularly when it comes to the solutions it proffers. In part, that’s because Chang’s definition of what matters in an economy is strangely narrow, focused almost entirely on some Platonic notion of the “nation” rather than on the people who actually live in it. There are few businessmen, few workers, and almost no consumers in Bad Samaritans: Individuals appear mainly as factors in a nation’s productive enterprises. Now, in one respect, this is not surprising: Macroeconomists write about macroeconomies, and the nation-state remains, even in the age of globalization, a fundamental economic unit. But Chang’s resolutely statist vision of the world necessarily leads him to underestimate the costs and overrate the benefits of protectionism.Meanwhile, some of us should take a cue from the estimable Russ Nelson. There's a reason America's the freest country on earth.