Wednesday, February 20, 2019

OK, So Bernie and Donald are Both Corporatists...

One thing that the failure of gentlemanly conservatism has taught me is that there are only about five people in America that believe in the classical liberal position, that is,
the... regime of property rights, free enterprise, free trade, individual rights, and a worldview based on well-ordered liberty emphasizing cooperation within and between nations.
I guess that Kevin Williamson would be one of the five.

But then, what do you say, if you are an elected politician, to the average sorts of people that believe that the job of the government is to protect them?

Do you say to the people of Rust Belt America, well, chum, everything goes in cycles, and so your lifetime jobs in big manufacturing corporations were never going to last forever. And so, chum, you'd better suck it in, take your losses, and move on?

You don't, because the role of a politician, whether an elected politician of the 21st century or an absolute monarch of the 18th century, is to protect your people. Otherwise you are just a tax-sucking parasite.

So, it makes complete sense that both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are singing the same song, though admittedly to different tunes. Even if that scandalizes Kevin Williamson, who hates both the lyrics and the tunes. If you are running for elective office you are not going to get elected on the platform of promising to enhance "the well-ordered liberty emphasizing cooperation within and between nations."

What "Trump and Sanders — and, to a considerable degree, figures such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez" — believe in Kevin calls corporatism,
the subordination of private business interests to the “national interest,” something formally short of the Marxist-Leninist model of outright appropriation of the means of production but functionally similar to it.
Well, they would think that, because they are running to be president of the government of the United States -- the head of the apparatus of force and coercion in this land -- and thus naturally promise to protect its citizens from the Winds of Change using the means at hand.

Now it is my belief that 97 percent of the ways in which governments promise to protect their citizens are pure horse-pucky. But put yourself in the position of the politician running for election. You just aren't going to get elected by telling everyone to cool it, believe in the Great Enrichment, and wait for the next round of prosperity to roll in.

No, the internal logic of politics requires the candidates to promise a quasi-military campaign to lead the nation forward to peace and prosperity. That is why the Democrats are all climbing on board the Green New Deal. It promises a quasi-military campaign to save the US from the just-around-the-corner calamity of climate change. That is why Donald Trump ran on the platform of Make America Great Again. The Democrats' slogan promises to save us from an existential peril; Trump's slogan evokes the image of a quasi-military campaign to restore America to its former glories.

I would go so far as to say that if you are a politician and are not running on a platform to reenergize the nation and lead it forward to the Promised Land, you really don't understand elective politics.

Now, if you are a politician with half a brain you know that all the horse-pucky about glorious victories is rubbish. What matters is "regime of property rights, free enterprise, free trade, individual rights, and a worldview based on well-ordered liberty emphasizing cooperation within and between nations."

But how are you going to explain that, e.g., to the followers of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who literally know nothing? What if the redoubtable AOC herself literally knows nothing? Is the agenda of Bernie and Warren and AOC better than Trump's? Do they really understand the facts of life, or do they believe the horse-pucky?

What we know about Trump is that, in the event, he has negotiated trade deals that don't seem to be outright protectionism, but do seem to renegotiate things a bit in our national interest. And by lowering tax rates -- especially on  corporations -- and throwing out a bunch of regulations the president seems to have kicked the economy into high gear, which some may say amounts to governing with "worldview based on well-ordered liberty emphasizing cooperation within and between nations."

In other words, Trump ran as an unapologetic nationalist and protectionist, but seems to have government almost as a classical liberal. Who predicted that?

On the other hand it may well be that his policies, which have raised wage rates in the US, and his browbeating of the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low, and his failure to rein in spending, may unleash a bout of inflation which will inevitably lead to higher interest rates and a recession. Right now it is about ten years since the trough of the last recession, which is about the record for an uninterrupted economic expansion.

So it may be that the Democrats, despite their Medicare For All and free college for all and Green New Deal will govern like President Trump and, despite the rhetoric, encourage "well-ordered liberty."

But my money says that the Democrats really believe their rhetoric. Or at least they had better, because their party base has been carefully taught to believe all the horse-pucky about glorious administrative government programs and Green New Deals, whereas nobody in America's education system is teaching MAGA hat-wearers how to be more effective activists for racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Just saying.

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