THE MARKET AND ITS ENEMIES
by Virginia Postrel • Jan 29, 2004 at 12:56 am
Although I wrote a book on the subject, I never cease to be amazed at how predictably certain political views lead to others. If, say, you're a pro-growth free-market economist who is creepily nostalgic for the good old days of Jim Crow, you will inevitably abandon your free market ideas in favor of economic nationalism and protectionist trade policy, using half-baked arguments that amount to "but they're foreigners." And, just as predictably, you will be embraced--at least temporarily--by supposed liberals, who will happily ignore your less savory views in exchange for the cover of a conservative ally in favor of protectionism. Even Pat Buchanan had a brief honeymoon with the left when he started bashing corporations and international trade.
Open markets and open societies go together. Both depend on finding ways to trust and interact with strangers in mutually beneficial ways. That exchange disrupts not just settled economic relationships but settled social and ethnic definitions as well. I'm all in favor of low taxes, but they do not, by themselves, a free economy make--no matter what an erstwhile supply sider may think.
My thanks to Eugene Volokh for doing the research I should have done when Craig Roberts and Charles Schumer's piece first ran. (My one quibble: I don't think even an unreconstructed southerner would include American blacks among "international looking" people. But he might include most of the Volokh Conspiracy, including those born in the USA.) Anyone who has spent 15 minutes talking with Roberts, or who saw him on C-Span sitting with Schumer and declaring that "the United States will be a Third World country in 20 years," can tell he thinks society has gone to hell and dark-hued people have a lot to do with that decline. (Women, too. Or at least I always got that feeling when I talked to him.) He is not a man who hides his views. And unlike Pat Buchanan, he doesn't even have a sunny persona.
The interesting questions: What does Senator Schumer think? And why isn't he paying a political price for this alliance?
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