Monday, October 8, 2012

The Great Betrayal 1

I started Pat Buchanan's The Great Betrayal: How American Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy.

Buchanan begins his book with a story about a lady who worked at a Fruit of the Loom plant and helped to support her family with the money that she earned from that job, but then the plant closed down.  Buchanan then went on to cite statistics about the decline in real family income, the increase in the share of wealth that is held by the top 1 per cent of families, the drop in the percentage of Americans who work in manufacturing, and the increase in the number of people who work at Wal-Mart.  This all is in a chapter entitled "The Two Americas", which would later become a phrase that Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards used when talking about poverty.  And Buchanan wrote about the top 1 percent a little over a decade before the Occupy Movement, which often refers to the top 1 percent.

Buchanan confessed that he used to be a free-trader, even when Democrats (such as John F. Kennedy) were the ones peddling it, but some in his family confronted him about his position because they saw the devastation that free trade was wrecking on communities----as companies had to close down due to their inability to compete.  Now, as Buchanan looks back on the free trade policies of the 1950's-1960's, he questions their rationale.  The Eisenhower Administration, for example, heralded free trade as a way to gain allies in the Cold War against Communism, but Buchanan does not think that free trade was even necessary to get countries as allies: after all, many of these countries were already afraid of Communism, and so they were already with us!

In terms of the historical narrative that Buchanan tells, much of it overlaps with what I read in Edward Gresser's pro-free trade book, Freedom from Want.  Buchanan, like Gresser, talks about how Woodrow Wilson sought to reduce the tariff yet still wanted an active government, which required revenue, and so Wilson supported an income tax.  Buchanan also notes that Republicans for years tended to be the protectionist party, whereas Democrats leaned more towards free trade, a point that Gresser emphasizes in his attempt to portray free trade as a liberal virtue.  Buchanan, however, sees nothing virtuous about it, for not only does free trade undermine American companies, but it also challenges American sovereignty, which was why a number of Republicans in the late 1940's opposed the ITO, a body that decades later was resurrected as the WTO.

One difference between Buchanan and Gresser is that Buchanan calls Thomas Jefferson a protectionist, whereas Gresser quoted a statement by Jefferson that supported freer trade.  I'll see how Buchanan portrays Jefferson later in the book, but I wouldn't be surprised if Jefferson believed in trade yet did protectionist things.  Jefferson had strong ideological beliefs, yet he could be pragmatic.  As President, he gave a green light to the Louisiana Purchase, for example, even though he initially thought that he needed to jump through hoops for that to take place.

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