At a time of great concern over individual economic vitality and our nation’s economic health we hear arguments for protectionist policies. Protectionism is basically a retreat from global markets and a ramping up of rhetoric like “Buy American”. This is too simple and too emotional of a response to what amounts to far greater economic problems. In short, the “Buy American” answer lacks any serious imagination and logical thought. I was very disappointed recently to see this type of language in our trillion dollar spending/stimulus plan. If this is what we are to pin our hopes, dreams, and aspirations on, we would all do well to stop imagining now.
Certain provisions in this recent 72 hour spend-a-thon demand that various infrastructure projects be built entirely of American made resources like steel and iron. Well, I don’t know if you too have noticed, but, we don’t produce much of that anymore for a reason. So how much will we overpay to repair our infrastructure? What’s the right price to pay for components and resources that were previously deemed less viable by our own free market system? So our precious and sparing tax dollars will buy less “stimulus” because the needs of a few will trump the many. That’s no American ideal I’m familiar with.
You see, the greatest benefit of free market capitalism is the unbiased and seemingly sound decision making of its participants. When governments see fit to leave well enough alone and when governments avoid over-regulation, the price of a good or service is relative to the cost of said goods and services. The more regulation, the more tax, and the more convoluted the price points become. Eventually the price of goods and services become indiscernible or worse yet, simply not viable to manufacture, produce, or offer at home.
So how then do so many of our brightest political and economic minds and policy makers come to the conclusion that protectionist policies are what we need now? I can come up with just a few possible reasons.
- 1. They have come so far from a notion of personal responsibility and accountability that they do not even realize its likely success as a way out of our most difficult problems, or,
- 2. They are beholden to the interest groups and/or unions that enabled them to take their offices and policy making platforms, or,
- 3. They don’t agree but they lack the political power and consequently the leadership required to persuade the opposition to the contrary.
All three of these possibilities seem particularly disturbing to me. In the case of the first, we have simply accepted that our predicaments must be someone else’s fault and of someone or something else’s volition. In essence, one is claiming they didn’t do it and they can’t present us with a clear plan on how to fix it so they hunker down and look outwards for a solution that will only come from within. It seems a far cry from the great thinking and ingenuity of our forefathers.
In the case of the second possible reason for our emotional ride towards protectionism, one needs only to review the enormous campaign and political party contributions to explain the positions of so many of our elected officials. These contributions don’t come without implicit strings attached. Nothing of the monetary sort comes for free in this country. The overwhelming amount of money that follows our congressmen and congresswomen continue to erode one of the pillars of the most successful government ever bestowed upon the Earth.
Finally, our third group of individuals may lay claim to the most despicable reason for our drive towards protectionism. In my humble opinion, these men and women are making a conscience choice not to succeed by their failure to stand up and take a stand. The United States has never before in history failed to meet its responsibilities at home and abroad. Well, one reason we have not failed before is due to the overwhelming amount of leaders our nation’s ideals and moral fabric have produced. That is what is most upsetting to me; our social systems are failing to create the American spirit necessary to perpetuate our greatness. And therein lies the problem, and worse yet, it creates a vicious cycle leading us right back to a nation of excuse makers.
So how bad is protectionism? As long as it is used as an excuse for our greed and as long as it masks our own acceptance of what we got ourselves into, it certainly won’t take us away from our problems. Worse yet, these ideas of protectionism were tried before at a time of tremendous suffering in the United States. During the height of the Great Depression we adopted several policies of the sort that are thought to have actually lengthened our financial hardships. In fact, after all of the New Deal measures were put in place by FDR, not one can be attributed with getting us out of our depression. It was only another brand of suffering that lifted us from the depths of our financial turmoil, WWII.
The minute our dire economic consequences were framed by our nation’s leaders and further propagated by a media full of sensationalists, all we heard was a plethora of excuses as to why we are in the mess to begin with. There will be plenty of time for these later. The excuses merely served as distractions to what we all know the problem to be anyway. Spend less and begin taking the personal responsibility for a nation addicted to credit and financial speculation. To derive these answers one need only look within what made us great in the first place. Our diversity of population with its penchant for assimilation along with our government’s ability to keep a hands off approach to our free spirits and lofty ambitions will surely right our ship.
You see, it’s precisely our unique background of diversity which has us poised for success on the international stage. We should revel at the chance to share our greatest export to the economies of the world, our unbridled and limitless enthusiasm and ingenuity. Simply put, we must be out there, because of who we are. There is no greater combination of talent and imagination worthy of bringing the world’s economies together and allowing them to work for all. Globalism if how we can best affect what happens to us and that in itself is taking personal responsibility for we the people of the United States of America.