The Economist Gets It Wrong

This is almost becoming an evergreen post title.  Once upon a time, The Economist was a serious magazine (it describes itself as a newspaper, by the way), to be taken seriously.  It was not at all unusual to open an issue and see letters to the editor from senior sitting cabinet ministers of serious countries.

Not, as Inspector Clouseau would say, any more.  I let my subscription lapse quite a few years ago, and nowadays I mostly read it on the throne in the gents’, here at the office.  I forget just when they went to being a shill for the usual drearily predictable far-left wing causes.  I’ve commented on the style manual apparently in effect at the place, under which every article on no matter what topic has to be tied somehow back into How Awful Global Climate Change is and why it would be real swell if we all just blew up the entire world economy on the off-chance that we might influence the “average global temperature” by two degree . . . 125 years from now.  Or something.

This year they’ve gone all-in to elect Her Herness.  Every week’s edition is full of how horrible it would be if Donald Trump is elected because he says such Mean Things and he’s so tacky and “thuggish” and so on and so forth.

If The Economist has done any extensive reporting on Her signing off on 20% of U.S. uranium production to the Russians, at a time when Her husband was being paid several hundred thousand dollars to give a twenty-minute speech to a Russian bank in Moscow (I mean, for God’s sake, even The New York Times reported on it, it was so egregious), I’ve not seen it.

If they’ve seriously analyzed the detailed report of the FBI director, in which he very meticulously went down each and every element of multiple federal felonies, showing that She checks every single box . . . and then recommended no prosecution, the week after Her husband and the U.S. Attorney General just happened to have a lengthy pow-wow in a private jet (of course! “global climate change” is only a problem when one of the unwashed masses wants to let off a little carbon), it’s got by me.

If they’ve mentioned the time gaps in Her e-mails that she (falsely) represented as being Her complete work-related e-mails — gaps when She was documented as being overseas, and there are days when there’s not one single stinkin’ e-mail in the pile she produced (fancy that: the U.S. Secretary of State is overseas on official business, and not one solitary work-related e-mail is sent to Her or by Her for multiple days, when over Her tenure She averaged 21 per day) . . . I haven’t seen a word of it in their pages.

Just another example: At the same time that Her department is squeezing the government of Sweden on its joyfully doing business with countries which are among the strongest, most active sponsors of world-wide terrorism — including specifically Iran — Her husband sets up a fund-raising arm in Sweden that collects a cool $26 million, and Bill Himself pockets $750,000 from Ericsson, which had been selling communications equipment to Iran for use in that country’s security services.  Almost immediately after Bill pockets his three-quarters of a million dollars for a few minutes’ speech, the U.S. State Department backs off Ericsson, allowing it to “police” itself.

Look:  The Economist is perfectly entitled to pick a side and to toss away its 170-plus years’ reputation for the sake of the ideology of the moment.  I’d wager I’m not the only person who has watched what they’ve made of themselves over the past 20 years, and has decided their subscription just wasn’t worth it (it isn’t cheap and never has been).  They can do without me, and seem to be doing fine.

But I do get fatigued by their relentless propaganda.

The cover story of the July 30, 2016, edition is “The New Political Divide,” in which, in the editorial leader (for those unfamiliar with the magazine’s layout, they lead off each week with a series of editorials, the lead of which is the cover story; then there are the letters and news blurbs; then comes a longer article on specifically the cover story) for which we are informed:  “The conventions [Republican and Democrat] highlighted a new political faultline; not between left and right, but between open and closed.”  By “open” they mean specifically open borders and free trade.  They identify Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as being the hucksters for “closed” and  Her as at best “equivocating.”

I don’t necessarily disagree with the proposition that, all else being equal, the free movement of people and goods across what are, after all, only man-made lines is a Good Thing.  I don’t even disagree with this statement:  “The multilateral system of institutions, rules and alliances, led by America, has under-pinned global prosperity for seven decades.”

Where The Economist goes off the rails is in the bait-and-switch of its analysis.  The key word here is “global,” but not in the sense that they wish us to take it — that is, “world-wide”.  Yes, the post-World War II prosperity has become world-wide, and even over just my own adult life has accelerated beyond any measure that could reasonably have been hoped for it at my birth.  It’s just amazing.  But:  The mood that has fueled the rise of Donald Trump is not an antipathy for “open” but a resentment that the benefits of “open” have become, over recent years, anything but “global,” at least not in the sense of “commonly shared by everyone”.

You see, there is a wide perception — and one backed by reality, unfortunately — that the population has become separated into two groups.  One the one side are those groups who bear the chief burdens of “open,” and on the other those who enjoy the bulk of the advantages.  The floods of illegal immigrants from Mexico and points south, and who are supposed now to receive work permits, driver’s licenses, welfare benefits, public housing rights, and so forth, are not competing for jobs, housing, and economic stability with those who most strenuously advocate their continued tide.  It’s pretty safe to say that not a single staffer at MSNBC is going to lose out on a job or promotion to an illegal immigrant.  Nor will a single government functionary.  Nor will a professor at a college.  Or a lawyer.  Or a doctor.  Or an accountant.  Or . . . well, you get the picture.  But the guy who drives a truck delivering auto parts to dealers around Little Rock, for example?  His livelihood is at stake when someone able (because living with three generations of four separate families, all wedged into a three-bedroom house) and willing to work for 40% less than he’s been making now has a work permit and doesn’t have to fear deportation when he gets his commercial driver’s license.

By like token, it doesn’t take much persuading to convince our out-of-work former factory worker that the rules by which China is allowed to play “international trade” are so stacked that he’s just plain screwed, now and for all time.  The guy who used to work making machine components has watched his company shut down the factory because of over-regulation, higher taxes, increased labor costs (only a small portion of which our hypothetical worker can trace into his own pocket, by the way), or whatever, and then move production overseas.  Company’s now doing fine; our Worker, not so much.

And then, of course, he sees the wealthy and prominent scofflaws doing as they damn well please, while his kid gets ground up in the juvenile justice system over a playground fight.  He sees Her getting caught red-handed compromising our national security, and likewise getting away with it.  He hears stories of enormous banks pushing loans to people they know can’t afford them, and then when the borrowers go belly-up, the banks thoroughly gun-deck the foreclosure process . . . and nothing seems ever to happen to them.  They remain as big as ever, and he hears the sums of money — tax money, his tax money — shoveled out to them to keep them afloat.  He hears a presidential candidate dismiss his concerns as “clinging to his guns and religion.”  He hears his home, his family, the world he grew up in and would like to pass down, to some degree at least, to his own children dismissed as “fly-over country”.  He is told that he is a bigot if he dares to question the wisdom of the Elites.  He is — at least if he is white — constantly accused of something called “white privilege” and for the life of him he can’t understand what’s “privileged” about having gone to work at age 16 and paid for every damned thing he owns out of his own pocket.  He notices that the people pasting these labels on him seem to be doing conspicuously better than he and his family are.

Precisely how reasonable is it not to expect a population so treated to embrace someone who promises to Change It All?

What The Economist seems to forget is that once upon a time most of a country was pretty easy to convince of the benefits of free trade.  In 1906 the Liberals in Britain blew up the Unionist Party in a general election.  The Unionists had pinned their flag to protectionism.  The Liberals wrapped them in the issue and rode to a landslide victory.  People can understand the benefits of free trade . . . when those benefits can be shown to benefit themselves in ways they can see.  It’s when “free trade” is used as a cover for the Insiders to get fat while the rest of the joint goes without that people turn away from it.  It’s the perception — and especially when that perception increasingly tracks reality — that the world is rigged against them that will turn people against that system, time after time.

I suggest it’s not just generic “inequality” that has got Americans up in arms this year.  America has never really done envy very well.  For decades the socialists would complain about how they just couldn’t get much traction here, setting class against class.  In America, they found, even the poor were determined one day not to be poor, were pretty OK with a system that would let them one day not be poor any more, and in fact even become well-off, and expected one day not to be poor. And they expected their children would not remain forever poor, forever shut out from opportunity to better themselves.  But what Americans can’t stand is a scam, a fraud, a rigged game of heads-She-wins-tails-you’re-a-bigot-and-lose-your-job-to-someone-whose-very-presence-here-is-a-crime.

But then again, no one at The Economist is going to lose his job to some government-backed factory in China, or to some guy who gave the finger to the country’s immigration laws and now has a work permit and lives in public housing.  No child of a staffer there is going to be rejected by a college because X% of the class entering places are now reserved for children of a certain color, or from special places, or whose parents speak very specific languages, or who engage in peculiar — very peculiar — behavior.  They know how to work the system and its rules; their children will do just fine.  Our truck driver from Arkansas?  His 17-year-old daughter is trying to navigate a house of mirrors and he can’t help her and he knows it.  You really want to piss a man off?  Set his child up to lose out and then keep him from pitching in to help.  And then rub salt in the wound by lecturing him on how contemptible he is while you’re doing it.

Yes, there’s a political divide out there, but it’s got bugger all to do with the one The Economist preaches to us.

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