Ignoring the problem

March 29, 2016

I’ve posted a lot here about how Trump’s popularity is only a symptom, not the real problem, but here’s another good link along those lines: Listen to the Victims of the Free Market.

Any government policy creates winners and losers; that is simply unavoidable. That’s why I am always leery of articles about policy that consist of saying “This person has been helped” or “This person has been hurt.” Even the Soviet economy worked well — for the commissars. But you cannot run a nation of 300 million people by competitive anecdote.

Market liberalism is no exception to this problem. The dynamic forces of creative destruction make many people better off, especially the descendants who will inherit the collective fruits of generations of American ingenuity. It also makes some people indisputably and permanently worse off, as previously stable and profitable careers are made obsolete. Those people are not going to accept that they’ll just have to lean into the strike zone and take one for the team, no matter how logically elegant your arguments.

That said, the arguments for market liberalism are bound to sound a lot less convincing when they invariably issue from the folks who aren’t expected to take one for the team — who are, in fact, being made better off, thanks to skills that are prized by the global market and thanks to trade, automation and immigration that have put more goods and services within their reach.

It’s not so easy to remedy that problem, since academic economists and policy analysts are among the knowledge workers who have benefited greatly from liberalization. On the other hand, those people could stop being so tone deaf in the way that they talk about these things, and so blithely sure that what is good for them is, always and everywhere, good for everyone else.

The whole thing is well worth reading.

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