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Power Politics vs. American Prosperity

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Reposted from the Huffington Post


Power Politics vs. American Prosperity

I had one of those “A-ha!” moments recently.

I was engaged in an email dialogue with a moderately prominent individual active in America’s international trade relations. He’s a former high-ranking public official, important enough to matter but not a household name. You might recognize him if you follow trade politics closely. Democrat, left-of-center, but nothing radical.

Anyhow, what I realized, in the course of this discussion, was that we were, in fact, arguing at cross purposes.

I viewed the American economy as a thing whose purpose is to provide income and a living standard to Americans.

He viewed it as a thing whose purpose was to provide a platform for projecting power in the world.

I mean, he didn’t say it quite so explicitly, but that was the bottom line of every train of argument we pursued. It was the only interpretation of his words under which they made any sense.

I can’t give you any more details because of my need to respect confidentiality. But I think his attitude explains a lot about how we are governed, because I think this is how America’s ruling elite really thinks.

I believe our ruling elite isn’t merely greedy for money. I believe they’re also greedy for something far worse. I believe they’re also greedy for world power beyond any extent to which this either serves American national security — or, for that matter, makes them richer.

I believe they privately view this country as their horse, upon which they ride in a global jousting tournament with rival elites. And they only really care about America, and the strength of its economy, insofar as it gives them a better horse to ride on.

The rest of the time, they’re mainly thinking about how to keep the horse obedient, hard at work, cheaply fed, and docile. That’s their goal as they pull the strings of both parties.

Why? Because power itself is a direct emotional stimulant, a tonic for the ego. So our foreign relations, including our trade relations, don’t need to have any direct connection to economics.

So our economic policy isn’t about economics.

Everyone has an ego, and the pleasures of the ego are just as real as the pleasures of driving a nice car, eating well, or living in an expensive house. So, once you’ve got plenty of money, why would money be more important than power?

It wouldn’t.

Poor naïve old Karl Marx had no idea. He thought everything elites do is about money, albeit often money dressed up as something else. “Men’s material life determines their consciousness,” he used to say.

Wrong. People’s emotions determine their consciousness, and they only care about money because of the emotional satisfactions it accords. So power politics can easily wind up in the driver’s seat of economic policy.

All obvious enough, once baldly stated. But this isn’t the standard assumption of our political discourse. The standard assumption is that economic policy, including trade policy, is about economics.

Nobody openly says, “We need economic policy X because it will enable us to throw our weight around, regardless of the economic consequences.” But that’s how our policymakers often think.

This disconnect explains why so much of our economic policy makes no sense. It’s not even trying to make sense as economic policy.

Instead, our rulers have been running this country’s trade relations with the rest of the world with the sophistication of a high-school clique in a lunchroom contest with rival cliques.

The new Trans-Pacific partnership, for example? This has less economic logic to it than the euro. It’s all about showing China that we have more friends in that part of the world than they do.

The whole thing was actually dreamed up by the government of Singapore, which is culturally mostly Chinese but still feels the need to remind Beijing it’s not their lapdog.

Think serious governments with trillions in GDP and nuclear weapons don’t engage in childish contests over prestige and ego? Think again.

Of course, all the cool kids in the lunchroom have a shared identity as cool kids, and these rival cliques can get together in a flash when something unites them against the uncool. That’s why they throw a party for themselves at Davos every year.

The uncool? That’s you and me, friend: the populists, the mass citizenry, ordinary folk and the politicians — they still exist, here and there — who serve our interests.

We the Peasants.

We, in the elite’s eyes, are the boring nobodies, the unsophisticated rubes watching television and eating corn dogs in places like Indiana where no member of the elite would dream of living.

They’d never admit it, but they positively enjoy our inferiority. They enjoy the sense of their own superiority that our own pathetic unhipness gives them.

They pretend to wrinkle their noses in disgust, but they actually find our existence reassuring. Because you can’t be superior without being superior to somebody.

What the elite likes even more is the feeling of dominating us, the feeling of cracking the whip and digging their spurs into the side of the horse. I suspect they even enjoy a bit of pushback, as overcoming it makes them feel more powerful.

I also think they enjoy seeing a bit of pain. I think it’s an unstated thrill for them to know that Detroit is in ruins because they decreed that it should be. It’s like tossing the vodka glasses into the fireplace when you’re finished with them.

Usually this thrill is deeply sublimated in technocratic blather about “shifting comparative advantage in industry” and “creative destruction being the basis of economic growth,” but the underlying feeling is the same: the joy of watching the world be dominated by you and your friends.

Some readers probably think I’m nuts for saying all this. Surely serious economic decisions made on computer spreadsheets in shiny glass skyscrapers can’t be about something so base? Isn’t power something clean and technocratic, not some weird Freudian morass? Isn’t this all just too subjective?

Well, no. I don’t think power is cool and rational. I don’t think economics is. And I’m not the first economist to realize this. Not to deflate my own bubble here, but every idea in this article is stolen straight from Thorstein Veblen.

He’s the once-famous American economist (1857-1929) mainly remembered today for his book The Theory of the Leisure Class.

What’s more incredible is that he was once elected president of the American Economic Association. If you’re not an economist, that latter fact probably doesn’t mean much to you. But it should. Because it means that economists once understood how base — and uneconomic! — are the impulses that drive economic reality.

Lost in their mathematical ice castles, they mostly don’t anymore. It’s economics as if people were robots.

Anyhow, this all suggests to an interpretation of what may be going on with Romney and Obama right now.

Romney, I increasingly suspect, represents a section of the establishment that is finally starting to fear that the hollowing out of the American economy, and our craven economic surrender to China, may have gone too far for the good of America’s ruling elite.

So they’re willing to cut the peasants — you and me — some slack, because they need to. That’s why Romney may well genuinely mean what he says about cracking down on China’s abusive trade relations with the United States. Which would go a long way towards solving the trade mess that has put a damper on everything we’ve tried to do to revive our economy.

In some sense, this is obviously good news. Our rulers have realized they can’t starve the horse they’re riding on. One might wish for better motivations, but at least they’ve gotten the point.

They’ve had a good run starving their obedient horse for profit, but the grown-ups among them know they can’t take this too far, or they risk ending up riding a dead horse. Or — less likely but still possible — electing a genuinely populist government that would take a chunk of their money away and give it to the plebes.

My guess is that if Romney is elected, the strings will be pulled to create an economic recovery in fairly short order. Strings like choking imports to force our trade back into balance, which would redirect hundreds of billions dollars a year of demand back into our own economy, ending the leakage that has sabotaged Obama’s Keynesian “pump priming” so far.

Then, when recovery comes (as it eventually would have anyway), Romney can pose as the new Ronald Reagan, coast to a second term, and leave Obama as discredited as Jimmy Carter. A whole new myth cycle of Democratic recession and Republican recovery will be created, and the Republican party will have bought itself another 20-year lease on life.

I don’t traffic in conspiracy theory, but it’s not beyond imagination that this same establishment helped Obama into power in 2008 precisely in order to discredit economic liberalism by handing an unready candidate a situation of which nobody could have made good. A poisoned chalice for an unready prince.

Tricky, huh? Well, don’t forget that these guys are good.

After all, they rule the world. We don’t.

27 Responses to “Power Politics vs. American Prosperity”

  1. Dan says:

    This article is encouraging.The upper class elites of our country will embrace a degree of protectionism in order to maintain their own power.

  2. Bob Calco says:

    This is precisely the issue. If one views the economy but also the very republican form of government our Constitution seeks to perfect as an engine for world domination, you will likely find it quite unsatisfactory to your ends.

    But if you view it, as you say, to provide political independence and economic self-sustainability for the country’s citizens, it’s a thing of beauty.

    Free trade never was about trade, least of all freedom. It’s about building a world system controlled by a few. The only thing those on the ostensible internationalist right disagree about with those on the ostensible internationalist left is whether the system they are both creating is to be a contractual system, or a command-and-control system.

    Protection is something both of them hate, for the same reason a pack of hyenas hate a strong lion protecting its pride. Because they’re plans for a free lunch are thwarted.

    But the instinct of protection, particularly of one’s citizens, is as ancient as the family unit, and was the very subject of Adam Smith’s famous Invisible Hand passage — which the elites have managed to pervert in modern textbooks into a kind of “Gordon Gecko Greed Is Good” mantra by gutting the reference of most of it’s text, wherein it argues for (and not against) the preference of domestic over foreign production.

    This was the culmination of the previous 300 pages of analysis of the various uses of capital — in which he concludes that, given the same unit of economic resource, by far the *most efficient* use of that capital *for the purpose of creating national wealth* was domestic production for domestic consumption.

    These people all know what’s good for the pride. Which is why they want the lion defender (in our case, the Constitution) dead.

  3. Bob Calco says:


    Oy, in my reply I made a typo:

    “Because they’re plans for a free lunch are thwarted.”

    should read:

    “Because their plans for…”

    Please fix for me if you can, and any others you find. (and delete this one) :)

    - Bob

  4. Jim Schollaert says:

    Think of our free trade policy as a 3-legged stool. In this post, Ian is focusing on one of the 3 legs: our foreign policy or national security policy bureaucracy. The other two are: the irresponsible greed of our corporate and financial elites; and the ideological blinders of our academic economists. In my humble opinion, coming from a career in the foreign policy bureacracy, it is an important leg but the least decisive of the 3.

    • Tom T. says:

      Jim, you may be right, and I think you are, that this is the least powerful of the 3 legged stool. The fact remains that the people Ian describes are the management that has been put in place by the Obama administration which contributes to the management’s group think that is captured for the benefit of the elites. It is the same type of management group that Obama hired in his economic team that perpetually resides at the capital of the seat of power. Neither political party has the courage or will to challenge the elite class as they derive too much benefit from them. It is difficult to change course when this is the case or change thinking enough to have a policy that does not cater to the elites and their puppets in Congress and the learned economist class that derives their living by catering to the elites (Ian being a noted exception). Agency capture is real because corruption is allowed by the ruling elite who sell policy and its enforcement as a side business or retirement occupation.

      We continue to have the political discourse based on soundbites that illicit emotional responses and simple concepts, not on actual policy failings and successes for this or that class. It is the same reason we have most newspapers written on a 6th grade level. The plebes are so easily persuaded into these emotional traps posed by the ruling elite to control the masses. It secures the ruling class’s place as the rulers while convincing a majority of the electorate that one party’s policies are a better choice than the rival party’s policies who are really one and the same class as the 1% buy off both parties.

      I will go further than Ian and say that the “Captains of Industry”, who are paying off their political sock puppets, will gain the knowledge of this change in advance. It will secure their ability to adapt to the new policies with respect to their business rivals. This, of course, is the type of insider trading in policy decisions that our political elite are both guilty of selling and just as guilty of its incipient corruption in our system. The “robber barons” of today will keep their elitist position and their place “in the money” by using their resources to buy the decision makers of our political elite or their jump on their competitors when policies change.
      Comparative advantage is a factor of the present economy but as Ian describes, it takes a backseat to policy. That policy is one that protects certain “Captains of Industry” because our political elite is busy selling policy to the highest bidder whilst it damages our model of capitalism and makes a mockery out of creative destruction. The largest and least costly comparative advantage comes from friends on the hill.

      This underlies the fallacy of “creative destruction” which should destruct the wealth of the current robber barons who have been so traitorous to the national interests of the economy as a whole. Change so far has been manipulated for their interests over the national interests of the people and the economy in our democracy so this shouldn’t come much as a surprise. The mercantile policy in the national sense embodied in the Walmart model will be preserved instead of being challenged as they put forth their best arguments against this change to buy time to change their supply lines. There is currently such a large gap in the bargaining power of domestic suppliers vs. the retailers because of our trade policies have undermined that bargaining power to the detriment of the overall economy. As Bruce Bishop states, the comparative advantage of communist labor combined with a sovereign state willing to put their resources in undermining any profitable manufacturing in the United States has decimated the supplier’s bargaining position and their piece of the economic pie.
      Under a more fair world, those who ran to the lowest cost countries at the expense of the U.S. economy should bear the costs of change, and the suppliers will. Their bosses in the retail markets will not. This will continue to keep the beneficiaries of bad national policy in the driver’s seat just as they have captured as much wealth as almost half of the population.

      I for one would be happy if Romney got elected and chose this course of action but the underlying problem of political corruption that ensures the ruling elite their place as rulers will not be addressed and the creative destruction so necessary in the economy to prevent its capture by the ruling elite will likely not be addressed. Romney even has as part of his platform doing away with the estate tax which will ensure generational transfer of wealth more easily and solidify the elite ruling class. The incentives in the economy will continue to be manipulated based on emotional responses manufactured by politicians, not the judgment on available policy responses to the economy. The Obama administration has not effectively countered this threat to our democracy because they have been so caught up in the trap of the principals over the principles. The financial system’s bail out with little or no accountability shows how ridiculous the republican theme of accountability is as well as the democrat’s theme of looking out for the interests of the majority of the population in policy. When the beneficiaries of policy continue to feed at the trough of policy makers and the K Street economy, creative destruction will only be applied to those not paying off politicians for either their policy changes or lack of change. It is the worst scenario our founding fathers could have imagined.
      To be sure, the policy change on net will be beneficial to the nation (something the Obama administration has been unwilling or unable to change) but the accountability so necessary in an economy will be lacking. This is the dilemma of a political process that is captured by just two parties. The accountability and its creative destruction will be lacking just as the accountability of the financial system was lacking. The worst traitors of the economy will not be held accountable in the worst possible scenario for them, just inconvenienced. It is still the recipe of failure for the government of a democracy no matter which party is in power.

      Tom T.

  5. William Ryan says:

    Thank You Mr. Ian Fletcher for your most astonishing views. I personally think that you are probably 95% correct in your views and assumptions because you have the best view,knowledge and experience of most to really “see” what is happening to us.Your political view of the elite feeding the horse is absolutely correct with all the political positioning and posturing that is being done in Washington and your theory not only explains it ,it hits the nail directly on the head and drives it home.I can only wish that more people would read and wake up to your views on these important economic matters because them feeding the horse as you say and playing the blame game is a very likely scenario to happen on Fox News as this extremely important election unfolds.

  6. Frank Shannon says:

    It isn’t often we get an economist, particularly Ian Fletcher, to discuss anything other than data, facts and economic theory.

    Here Ian speculates about character, motives and emotions. He postulates that Romney is serious about his promise to rebalance trade and revive our economy. Help may be finally on the way.
    Regardless the motives, I hope Ian is right. He usually is.

  7. Arthur Taylor says:

    Good article but I don’t believe Romney will do such. Romney believes emphatically in free markets and he seems to hold them in higher esteem than his religion (I’m a Mormon also). I don’t believe we’ll see any change in our fundamentalist economic philosophy for the next four years. I do believe that in this time a man will arise from the hinterlands to lead us out of this. We don’t know who he is yet, but his name will be neither Obama or Romney.

    So let it be written, so let it be done…

  8. Joe Brooks says:

    “I viewed the American economy as a thing whose purpose is to provide income and a living standard to Americans.”

    So did the Founders, Washington implemented Hamilton’s thoughts that evolved into the American System. Promoting the General Welfare, I believe it was called. Nothing abour “common good”.

    “He viewed it as a thing whose purpose was to provide a platform for projecting power in the world.”

    So did the original US, but not in the way we are now.

    “In a passage from his book, The Harmony of Interests, Carey wrote concerning the difference between the American System and British System of economics:
    Two systems are before the world;… One looks to increasing the necessity of commerce; the other to increasing the power to maintain it. One looks to underworking the Hindoo, and sinking the rest of the world to his level; the other to raising the standard of man throughout the world to our level. One looks to pauperism, ignorance, depopulation, and barbarism; the other to increasing wealth, comfort, intelligence, combination of action, and civilization. One looks towards universal war; the other towards universal peace. One is the English system; the other we may be proud to call the American system, for it is the only one ever devised the tendency of which was that of elevating while equalizing the condition of man throughout the world.[17]”

    “After all, they rule the world. We don’t.”

    • Tom T. says:

      I don’t think the leaders of wealth generation are following the historical American economic system you describe, Joe.

      We have turned into the British model that was spoken against. One must look only to the top example of the U.S.’s now largest corporation–Apple— and their Foxconn exploitation. The British model you suggest show is now the corporate model of the U.S. with fewer and fewer laws to make them more like the historical American model. The pursuit of wealth only with no restraints or eye on the externalities allows corporations to maximize profits at the expense of all the virtues of the historical model you brought forth. Our government is supposed to be looking out for the common welfare but they are more and more corporate shills masquerading as American success and virtue because wealth controls the ability of the voice to be heard by others.

      Tom T.

  9. Frank Shannon says:


    I too believe in free markets and wish we had some. Aren’t we really fighting for free and fair trade?

    It is a shame we have no free markets in international trade. When one or the other trading nation manipulates or subsidizes, there no longer is free trade.

    We should trade only with nations who open their markets to us as we open our markets to them. This leads to balanced trade and destroys mercantilism.

    Mercantilism and free market capitalism cannot co-exist. One must destroy the other. Currently, state-sponsored mercantilism is killing free maket capitalism and open markets.

  10. Bruce Bishop says:

    Ian Fletcher says: “I believe our ruling elite isn’t merely greedy for money. I believe they’re also greedy for something far worse. I believe they’re also greedy for world power beyond any extent to which this either serves American national security — or, for that matter, makes them richer.”

    One of Thomas Sowell’s favorite quotes comes from T.S. Eliot:

    “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm–but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

    Sowell’s book, “The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy,” explains how decades of failed social policies are a direct result of the elites’ (The Anointed) desperate need to feel important. He explains how this motivation has caused them to ignore facts and logic while initiating one disastrous policy after another.

    Finally, as George Orwell said, “Liberals are power-worshipers without power.”

    True conservatives tend to take their chances in the free market where hard work, long hours and risk-taking can result in repeated failures or tremendous success. Liberals tend to flock in professions like journalism, academia and politics, where they can “change the world,” without working very many hours and without getting their hands dirty.

    Conservatives place a high value on people who can make things happen. Liberals place a high value on people who have academic “credentials.”

    Conservatives celebrate guys like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg, because they had a vision for how to serve their fellow humans. Not one of them set out to become a billionaire.

    Liberals would dismiss them because they all dropped out of college.

    • Joe Brooks says:

      “Conservatives place a high value on people who can make things happen. Liberals place a high value on people who have academic “credentials.””

      Hey Bruce, how do you explain the free trading “Conservatives” almost total reliance on quoting Smith, Ricardo, von Hayek, von Mises, Sowell, CATO “scholars” [CATO actually call themselves scholars, repeatedly], ivy league academics, etc., for justification of their Psycho-Babble/Voodoo economics?

      The Democrats do not seem to quote absurd economic theories so much, most of them just conform to “free trade” policy.

    • Tom T. says:

      Generalizations about conservatives or democrats are part of the problem. Sowell’s major pieces end up being in the end, justifications of this ideological separation of choice a) democrats or b) republicans.

      The problem is that both cater to the elites more competently than they serve the public interest. Right now, republicans more so than democrats. It will probably change as hubris usually belongs to the victor.

      Let us take a few of your examples of logical association. Facepage’s Mark Zuckerberg has its value because it is able to sell advertising. Yes, the product is nice for many people because it is seen as free services of human connection but in the end, Zuckerberg’s value comes by selling those connections to advertisers.

      Steve Jobs was a great visionary and his vision brings value to Apple. The fact remains that his company made millions if not billions off of Chinese labor abuses, not just that vision.

      Bill Gates made his money by building a user friendly version of computer software. I remember the days when standards or technology was not so seemless that one had to have separate programs for word processing, data management, and a proficiency of plugging it into the other underlying programs. Bill Gates made his money off of the standardization of software technology so one would not have to do all of these things, just buy the operating system—one that changed almost every two or three years that required buying the new version. Microsoft did run afoul of the European anti trust laws when they tried to extract too much value at the expense of everyone who wanted to be plugged into the common operating systems. The practices of this anti trust activity was leading to Microsoft’s control of internet surfing (remember the conflicts with the other search engines and Microsoft’s concessions that brought to life the existence of Google?)

      Google, one not mentioned, was an innovation in automatic connections to relevant web sites—and the eventual resulting advertising that the value brought to the company.

      Dell streamlined technological developments in hardware which brought it value but did so with the huge help of off shore labor as our trade deficit was beginning to grow.

      In all of these instances, the selling of their value and many of their profits, came from the value of either advertising or standardization. Each of these stories has intertwined the problems we discuss here about trade…… that their value comes from those who have undermined the U.S. economy and strategic interests because of their products being produced outside of the U.S. or their major clients, the advertisers, doing the same.

      I give credit to every one of the above innovators but to celebrate them in place of managing our trade policy has been part of the problem in the economy. The bean counters of these companies only played by the rules they were given. It isn’t the companies who are necessarily at fault, but the policies that allowed them to make profits as China captured the value the manufacturing of those companies or many of their advertisers.

      Warren Buffet, on the other hand, has been dissed by many conservatives because he has spoken against the interest of the monied elite as has George Soros. The moneyed elite buying off Congress can sure make them look bad in the eyes of many “conservatives” because they are not following the moneyed elite’s interests. Thomas Sowell is a master of this.

      Tom T.

      • Tom T. says:

        Just to add to this conservative vs. liberal mythological construct, one could argue that Thomas Sowell would not even have the opportunity to make the elaborate grain of truth arguments had the founding fathers remained “conservative”.

        Many of our founding fathers were mix of conservative and liberal political theology. They were all very liberal in creating a country that did not follow the conservative monarchist view of government but left the vestiges of conservatism embodied in the Constitution for the South with their 3/5ths compromise of counting slaves in representation of the world’s newest liberal government experiment. Of course the slaves themselves were never allowed that political power, just their masters at the time.

        Thomas Sowell would likely be nothing more than an illiterate intelligent slave had this conservatism been allowed to stand.

        Come to think of it, so would Jesus under the Roman empire.

        Tom T.

        • Bruce Bishop says:


          Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves, was a Republican. He was also a conservative.

          It was the Democrats, George Wallace, Lester Maddox and Bull Connor, who fought against integration. Of course, since the history books used in our schools were written by and selected by leftists, they have managed to airbrush out the embarrasing facts and reassign the racism to those of us on the right.

          The “progressives” on the left have created a perfect, self-licking ice cream cone: “They claim they are concerned about the poor, the minorities and the less fortunate. All we have to do is give them all of the power and all of the money and they will see to it that everyone is treated fairly.” This appeal is hard to resist – except that it is a lie. What they want is power and money. They don’t really give a rat’s rear end about the poor, the minorities, or the less fortunate. They only care about themselves and what they want.

          It was the “progressives” who drove manufacturing out of this country. Obama, who is currently the chief “progressive,” has to pretend that he is concerned about the jobs — he needs the votes. If he is re-elected, the jobs will continue to flow out of this country and this country will continue to sink until it becomes a wretched socialist quagmire.

          • Tom T. says:

            My biggest point, Bruce was that conservatism and liberalism are being used to hide the disservice our elected officials and their leadership are really engaging in— the selling of our democracy to the highest bidder. These politicians are not conservatives nor are they liberals. They are humans who are surrounded by the power money can buy so that it wins no matter what.

            Ian may have written a very good article on base motivations and strategies, of which economic thinking is attuned, but they are strategic moves of the third level of self interest.

            I described this to my lawyer one time. The game of power is played on different levels. It is like a 3 or 4 level game of chess where each higher level affects the game on the lower level but the rules of each level are seemingly set for those players.

            If you look at Marx and his writings, he was doing the same. He looked at life from his prism and wrote what he thought was the answer to man’s problems. Of course his ideas may have been closer to Jesus’s dictate of treating every person as you would treat yourself, and it is nice, it just isn’t human nature. None of the party leadership in communist China follow this precept that is the basis of its ideological sales job to the masses. It is playing on the 4th or 5th level.

            When you make these broad generalizations about people or parties, and it is only natural that you do, they play into the biases that you have on whatever level you happen to be playing on or viewing life on. I would say that the generalizations are nothing more than tools used by those who have set themselves in a more or less permanent position by playing these games.

            When I speak to a “progressive” or a “liberal” or a conservative” I always try to find out, if I can, why they think they are in the group they are in. Many of the times it is because they have some experience, which is personally valid, that gives them this loyalty. The next game level is one that plays these loyalties.

            I could be called a progressive or a liberal or a democrat at any time and the reason for such could be right. It is because I don’t allow myself to be played by the games of any of them to be so manipulated as to be used as support for something the players support but I don’t.

            This is why I think that generalizations about conservatives, republicans, liberals and democrats are terms that are used to manipulate people. They allow politicians to get away with playing people for their own self interests.

            The tag “republican” means nothing less than the approval of all of the actions of the politicians who are running that party. The same with “democrat”. I refuse to be herded into such manipulable terms or the baggage they have.

            It is why I object to the use of these generalizations and terms. It just puts those who do in a manipulable position.

            Despite all of this, I am really glad that you have the fortitude to see the folly of the current conservative bent on “free trade” which is nothing more than the biggest gift to the oligarchs of the world.

            Tom T.

      • Bruce Bishop says:


        I agree that there is very little difference between Democrats and Republicans. The Republican party is supposed to represent the convervatives, but it doesn’t. The Democrats tend to stick together, while many of the Republicans are weak and wishy-washy, RINOs or simply opportunists who don’t stand for much of anything.

        Do you agree or disagree that conservatives tend to look for opportunities in the free market while liberals tend to flock in the media, academia and politics?

        As far as who is guilty of taking the low road to China, I would say they had no choice. My Dell laptop was made in China. If it was made here, it would have cost three times as much and I would have bought some other brand that was manufactured in China. Of course, Dell would be out of business if they had insisted on domestic manufacturing. I don’t think any U.S. firm could have cranked up the 2400 people it took to ramp up the new iPhone. Foxconn has over a million employees and can apparently absorb that kind of a project within a few days. They also have experienced engineers and managers, not to mention the facilities and equipment. It would take a U.S. firm months just to round up the people.

        As to your last line — “Thomas Sowell is a master of this.” Could you please tell me what you mean.


  11. Frank Shannon says:

    Hey Joe,

    In a recent post, you said, “Hey Bruce, how do you explain the free trading “Conservatives” almost total reliance on quoting Smith, Ricardo, von Hayek, von Mises, Sowell, CATO “scholars” [CATO actually call themselves scholars, repeatedly], ivy league academics, etc., for justification of their Psycho-Babble/Voodoo economics?”

    Careful how you brand us conservatives. The resources you cite here are the part of the lexicon of libertarians. I agree that libertarains are out of the mainstream of political thought but those of us slightly right of center are not. There is a divide in the Repubilcan party over Reagan-style policies and the laissez faire policies of the likes of Von Mises and CATO. Trade policy is at the heart of this split.

    Help us heal this divide and the clarity of the debate. Let’s be a little more precise in our words and labels. It IS those of us slightly left and right of center that will eventually solve this.

    • Joe Brooks says:

      Hello Frank, I was referring to the false “conservative” candidates and talking heads. There is nothing conservative, historically in the US regarding free trade. That dogma is a recent construct, free trade was the province of leftists. Real Conservatives followed the American School right up until the 1980s. If you look you can find pretty much the entire concept of free trade as advanced today comes from the sources I mentioned. Of course there are many others, Friedman, Rothbard, Rand, Marx, Sivermaster, Harry Dexter White, endless really.

      Here you go, also you can check out Paul Ryan’s and Clarence Thomas’ forced reading list for their aides:

      “In 1974 Hayek shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics with Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal for his “pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and [his] penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena.”[3] He also received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 from president George H. W. Bush[4]”

    • Joe Brooks says:

      Frank, I certainly am not intending to insult real conservatives, they are few and far between.

      5 years ago I was very involved in the Tea Party, locally. We had Henry Carey’s books, The Report on Manufactures, etc. and were very anti free trade and wanted to restore the true Conservative’s American System. That all flew out of the window as professional politicians became involved.

      The American System was no longer to be discussed and The Road to Serfdom [which is literally the plan to peasantry] had become the benchmark. I left nearly 4 years ago.

      They are still running around town having meetings and promoting disastrous policies.

      • Bruce Bishop says:


        I would suggest that, if you were pushing trade issues at your local Tea Party “five years ago,” you were way ahead of the curve, and two years ahead of the Tea Party movement, which began in 2009.

        Our local Tea Party has been focused on the federal budget deficit and the $16 trillion national debt. The candidates we support are those who promise to stop the growth of government and to reduce the deficit. Most Americans can understand the debt and the growth of government. Very few voters understand the trade issues, and to hit them with that now would only serve to confuse them.

        I am waging my own campaign to educate the folks in my area about the trade issues. A few of the Tea Party members have started to take notice of my efforts, but it will be a while before the time is right to suggest trade as an issue for the Tea Party to get involved with.


        • Joe Brooks says:

          Sorry you missed the real Tea Party Bruce, we were at the beginning in late 2007 and we did call it a Tea Party, which I thought was a little over the top. The Tea Party as you know it did not exist until outside forces overran the people like me.

          The Tea Party I was involved is gone and has been gone since late 2008. Professional politicians moved into the meetings and took over.

          The last Tea Party event I attended was in Sept 2009, it was completely over run by CATO, von Mises, von Hayek and “free trade” propaganda.

          Absolutely nothing like the first big event that the people who started it had in Sept, 2008. As everyone pretty much operated independently, there were copies of the Constitution, cds of the 5000 Year Leap, printouts of the Report on Manufactures and a synopsis of the American School of Economics. Hundreds of people came. We ran out of our materials.

          Since we were booted out the “Tea Party” in my area has shrunk to maybe 30 guys who follow mostly Libertarian ideals.

          Bruce, I think the few people we reached caught on to the trade issues at the event 4 years ago, and that is why we were put out of business.

  12. Frank Shannon says:

    Joe and Bruce,

    Hooray for both of you in trying to harness the angst of the tea party activists in your areas. Some of us are doing likewise in our area. I know there are others doing likewise. This is fertile ground for trade reform.

    We have found that the folks at the local level in these groups agree with us. However, the national leaders of the movement – not so much. Sound familiar?

    • Joe Brooks says:

      Hey Frank

      Unfortunately in my hometown the few trade realists were essentially ignored after the first year. I gave up in 2009 and moved on, as did nearly all of the original group. As I mentioned to Bruce, the Tea Party in my locality is all but non existent, due to their intolerance of common sense.

      In the local elections they get 2 or 3% of the vote.

      So I am doing what I can on several fronts, the Occupy people provided an opportunity to pass out cds as well. Definitely had some success there. However, they seem to have gone the way of the original tea party, too.


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