Centrism: Anti-Populist And Wingnutty (The I’m-Naming-Names Edition)


Mostly centrism is used be elite opinionmakers to denote sensible, set off against real or (more often) imagined “extreme” positions which are of course wrong because anything “extreme” has to be wrong. Except, perhaps, invading countries for no good reason.

Heh indeedy. Centrism is a clusterfuck of pseudowonkery (presented as a product of deep collective mentation), sneers, douchebaggery, windbaggery; a hacktastic consensus. As such, it’s hard to analyze but it still can, I believe, be objectively fixed on the ideological spectrum. Consider that centrism is:

Politically dead set against social democracy, which it considers unacceptably ‘extreme’. Now this is of course halfway to a legitimate sort of centrism; but since it’s not dead set against hard authoritarianism/protofascism (in other words, Bush’s utopia; something that is worthy of serious discussion) the objective center has failed to strike right as it had struck left — objectively, ‘centrists’, then, aren’t of the true center: they are right-wing.

On economics, centrism is neoliberal — which is to say, anti-populist. Some centrists are for Free Trade because “everyone” else is. But others know good and well Stiglitz’s rule that such schemes’ social costs can only be mitigated by a Scandinavian model of public services; and yet, these same centrists actively participate in preventing a Scandinavian model to be set up here yet still actively support Free Trade, so much so that it’s the central dogma of their weltanshauung. What’s hilarious is that many of these centrists are marketed (with many believing the marketing) as some sort of leftwingers when actually they have far more in common with the late Milton Friedman than they have with the late John Kenneth Galbraith. Incidentally — yet gloriously — it is precisely this group (and one other) of miserable fuckers who were repudiated by the last election.

On foriegn policy, centrism is liberalhawkish/neoconservative (the other group conclusively repudiated by the election) — or at least it was until recently; now it is ‘realist’, which is to say that it may now be slightly less radical. But it is perhaps better to put centrist foriegn policy as such: it’s against anything the filthy hippies are for. Again the centrists aren’t so centrist: for them, the hard rightwing position, overtly imperialist and symbolised in Richard Perle’s gleefully extended middle finger at International Law, is eminently respectable and, indeed, is the course usually followed.

And last but not least, centrists, in chattering matters, prefer ‘civility’ to decency every fucking time.

Anyway, I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know. Still, the point that centrism-is-actually-pro-wingnuttery bears repeating. But then if you’ve read this far, you’ve done so only for the parenthetical reference. Well, okay then. But first lemme say that several centrists don’t follow the all the above points; some are centrist about one thing, something else about another. Still, the tendency to be a centrist frequently coincides with the tendency to follow all the above ‘rules’; or, put another way, a centrist is often a ‘sensible liberal’ is often a neoliberal is often a liberal hawk is often a ‘third way’ maven is often a pseudoliberal is often cupping his ears respectfully and attentively to the most batshit-wingnut position when not actually making the batshit-wingnut argument himself.

The following pundits and pundettes have been or still are ‘centrists’:

Anne Applebaum
David Broder (no link necessary)
Richard Cohen
Mickey Kaus
Joe Klein
Peter Beinart
Kenneth Baer
Zbigniew Brzezinski
Jonathan Chait
Brad DeLong
Kevin Drum
Franklin Foer
Tom Fucking Friedman
Joshua Green
David Ignatius
Michael Kinsley
Mark A. Kleiman
Ezra Klein (no linky; in his Pandagon days, however, he was against whatever the smelly hippies were for; has since made amends)
Nicholas Kristof
Sebastian Mallaby
Matthew Miller
Thomas Olyphant
Cokie Roberts
Jack Shafer
Jacob Weisberg
Matthew Yglesias
Fareed Zakaria

So there ya are, a list of past or current wingnut-enablers! Now I go back on hiatus, floating away on a gay-marriage magic rainbow, fiddling with my Swiss Army Abortion Kit and remembering to activate FAGG0TR0N, Thadly No!’s thiny new threadbot.


Comments: 55


I think you’re being too generous to joe klein and cokie roberts. I doubt them cunts even fool themselves with fake labels anymore.


Oh goody, I like lists.

I almost prefer authentic wingnuttery to the screeds of two-faced sensible liberals. Goddamn neocon enablers.


thanks for remembering the mustache of understanding. My own personal bete noir.


One of the books tucked somwhere in the pile under my bed that I swear I’m going to read before the school years is over is A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey. In a move that will probably be puzzling to many American minds, the book centers on Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Augusto Pinochet. They are all in certain specific ways quite liberal.

Sigh…….it’d be nice to have a somewhat less truncated political spectrum over here. I just ain’t gonna hold my breath on that one.


In a way, Tom Friedman is the perfect ‘centrist’, endorsing wingnuttery on all fronts. Meanwhile, so far as I know DeLong, in many ways one of the most egregious on economic matters, is the only one on the list who did *not* ever fall for the Iraq War. I wish I coudl say the same for Drum, Yglesias, Klein, but I can’t.


So much I have to figure out what’s what. The whole econ 101 thang I need to study up on. But the whole centrist=wingnut=warhawk – THAT I get. America has an itchy trigger finger. We have been outspending the world on our military for over 50 years. We have raised four generations now that believe that the good, righteous american application of military force can solve any problem, and make any threat go away. Never mind that the world has changed radically in the meantime. It’s an ugly, thugish, nationalist-gangster mindset that otherwise perfectly reasonable people hold.

Let’s start to learn. We cannot hold other nations to some arbitrary standard of behavior because John Wayne taught us we’re the good guys. Other nations have the right of self-determination, and we have to live with them. Live with them in peace or in conflict. What’s the obviously stupid approach? I give you Iraq. Never a chance of a good outcome. Let’s start trying to impact the national discourse – war is a really bad solution to a problem that, if you really think about it, isn’t really a problem after all. Just requires living with our neighbors…



Mikey, read that link to Johann Hari re: neoliberalism. It will go a long ways at explaining the economic differenciations.

The marriage of neoliberal economics with hard authoritarianism is best exemplified in the Friedman (Milton) endorsed regime of Pinochet, as Jillian mentioned. You know about Pinochet.


Anyway, now I really have to go. If that dickwad troll Grampaw comes in to defend economic fucktardery, I trust one of you will say the right things in response.


I see kind of a continuum there, meaning if I had to go with Yglesias, Drum and Ezra on some policy, I very much would like it more than basically anyone else on the list. I mean there are some odious commodes on that listo.


Mikey, I’d say the big sticking point between a rapproachment between leftie types and the sorts of centrists/liberals/neoliberals on discussion here is those guys’ endless, slavish fellating of Teh Free Marketzzz. They take it to the point where they show animus toward unions, minimum wages, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (I’ll never forgive Bill Clinton for that one), environmental regulation, and so on. Remember who pushed NAFTA through, over the objections of enviro groups AND labor groups? Yeah, it was uberliberal Clinton. And anybody who argued against NAFTA got tarred with the “racist, protectionist, isolationist” brush.

Libs like these get sold on wars like Iraq because such wars are (in their weird theories, at least) a great way of pushing currency based market economies into areas that don’t have them, or don’t have them as fully developed as the libs would like. Somehow, “market economy” and “democracy” are completely identical in their addled brains, and both of them are always, completely, no matter what absolutely preferable to any other possible option. This was one of the justifications used in the early days of the Vietnam war, too – just think how much better off the Vietnamese would be if they only had color TV sets and nylon toothbrushes like us!

Of course, they tend to get indignant if you suggest this is the path their thoughts take, and will speak in hushed, reverent tones about the Sacred Virtues of Democracy, and accuse you of having spit in the eye of Lady Liberty herself for having questioned this virtue. But that’s because they have a hard time separating out economic ideals from political ideals in their thinking, so you can’t criticize one without criticizing the other in their minds.

There’s more to it than that, of course, but that’s sort of the gist of it. Lefties obviously are (to varying degrees) uncomfortable with the ramifications of free markets, and seek to put limits on them. In this respect, we’re often seen as worse enemies than icky, nasty conservaties even. *Shrug* I don’t think I’m really that big a terrorist, just because I think health care shouldn’t be provided only to those who can afford it, but what do I know?


There’s more to it than that, of course, but that’s sort of the gist of it.

Yeah, see, that’s my problem. And it really is my problem, because I’m under-educated. But my bullshit detecter is buzzing loudly. Not around anything you said – I’m sure that’s all true. But intuitively I have to believe that there MUST be some kind of real upside to NAFTA. I mean, they had to sell it, right? Ok, maybe it was another energy bill, and had nothing to offer mankind, but I don’t know, and my gut says that everybody that’s yelling at me that free trade is evil might – JUST might – have some kind of an axe to grind. The shame is mine, ’cause I just don’t know, but I’m feeling kind of sold down the river here. I’m going to do some limited research and see what the other side of the argument looks like…



There’s more to it than that, of course, but that’s sort of the gist of it. Lefties obviously are (to varying degrees) uncomfortable with the ramifications of free markets, and seek to put limits on them. In this respect, we’re often seen as worse enemies than icky, nasty conservaties even.

America’s in a pretty funny position sitting on all that defence spending and trying to get every other country to lower their barriers. Like they’re gonna outsource their engine of economic subsidy to China or something.


That is one fucking awesome cat.


There IS an upside to NAFTA.

The question is – for whom?

Free trade questions are incredibly, incredibly prickly and subtle, because there are benefits to be gained by bringing employment opportunities to countries that don’t have many, and there are benefits for Americans in being able to buy stuff for cheap.

But there are downsides to it as well, and it becomes a question of whether you think the benefits are substanitive, real, and longlasting enough to counterweigh the costs in the situation. In liberal economics, the starting point in such questions is always set up in such a way that the answer is invariably “yes” – anything that eases the operation of markets is always inherently good, no matter what. Okay, to be fair, if you got to the point where you were talking about, say, sex trafficking in minors being used to ease the operation of markets, you’d probably get free marketers putting the kibosh on things – but not out of any logical stance derived from their principles, only out of a feeling of “ick”.

The main thing that makes working out the intricacies of free market fairness so difficult is the vast, vast, vast, unimaginably vast difference in living standards between us and the countries who are the beneficiaries of our free market largesse. The reason employers are so willing to move jobs to other countries is almost completely because of how much less they’ll have to pay employees in those countries. The only way to address that sort of issue seriously is to address the fundamental inequalities in the global economic situation – and that is something that precious few Americans are willing to do, for reasons that are pretty obvious.

I’m not saying I have all the answers here, or even a lot of the answers. But I do think that if we don’t start taking a fresh look at some of the questions – a look from a new perspective – we’re going to keep perpetuating the same stupid mistakes we always make. Iraq’s not going to be our last repeat of Vietnam at this rate.



NAFTA was really good for one thing: it got Mexico to abandon the bizarre denial-isolationism of much of the 20th C. I’m no neoliberal – pretty all of the outcomes of NAFTA for American and Mexican workers have been bad ones, in the end, after the boom-bust of the maquiladoras in NAFTA’s immediate aftermath.

However, NAFTA was absolutely part of a larger opening of Mexico’s society that allowed the PRI to finally get booted from power and, current stolen election aside, a healthier political discourse to emerge.

It could also be argued (as I did as a stupid undergrad) that while the components of NAFTA are pretty egregious, the spirit of NAFTA is a good one, and in the event of leftists actually gaining the executive in all three countries of North America, could be re-negotiated to be a force for good. But, well, that’s kind of silly, so I won’t do it now.


I’m going to do some limited research and see what the other side of the argument looks like…

I would simply say that opponents of “free trade” aren’t necessarily opposed to any and all trade (and let me just note that I’m speaking for myself here). Rather, it’s that the current free trade forces have no interest in trade pacts that mutually benefit people in both countries.

Instead, these “free market/free trade” forces are really only interested in anything that allows large corporations to act completely unfettered. They don’t give a damn about anything an honest economist would call a free market. They’ll happily support monopolistic behavior, deceptive accounting practices**, etc.

And the drive toward corporate dominance is inextricably tied to American foreign policy. In particular, I’m thinking of the U.S.-backed coup in Guatemala in the 1950s on behalf of the United Fruit Company. The Guatemalan government that was overthrown intended to purchase lands back from UFC and distribute them to peasants, which would have led to more competition and freer markets. There are numerous other examples, but I’m too lazy to look them up now.

These days, we’re as likely to sign a free trade pack to achieve these ends as instigate a coup.

**And why the HELL is Barney Frank talking about rolling back Sarbanes-Oxley.


The problem isn’t exactly ideological one, but rather the refusal of the “centrists” to see that everyone has an ideology. They figure because they disagree with the right (in a polite and refrained manner) and they disagree with “the left” (and blame anyone who doesn’t think their ideology is swell as a bunch of dangerous dirty hippies bent on defeating America) then that somehow validates their position.

In my country, I would consider myself a fairly centrist type person. (Although I think that Bush has pushed me a fair bit leftward). However, I don’t consider myself to be magically right at everything by virtue of being a centrist. Of course, cross the 49th Parallel and I’m a dirty terrorist enabling hippie because I think that the war is idiocy personified and that the people who cheered it on need to be responsible for their actions. But regardless of where you stand on the ideological spectrum (which is harder to measure than the pundits would let you believe), it doesn’t make you right all the time (or even wrong all the time).

What worries me most about America’s future is not the wingnuts exactly. It is the almost unconscious effort by the powers that be in Washington to continue to listen to the people who have been so bloody wrong about the past six years and continue to ignore the people who were right.


One of my longstanding fascinations has been the “Law of Unintended Consequences”. It’s korea, vietnam, somalia and iraq all sewn up in a neat bundle. Plan A goes south, and everybody looks at everybody else and says “what now?” The weird thing is, why do they keep being surprised by this outcome? Sheesh! War, legislation, politics. Get a clue. You can’t control the outcome. Once you understand that, you can begin to plan. Hasn’t happened yet…



My fascination with the Law of Unintended Consequences has been that everybody* seems to think that they are the exception to that rule. You start a war, there are bound to be unintended consequences. And with those lovely bloodless words come families and lives destroyed, mass graves and countless atrocities.

That’s why you only fight a war if it is absolutely necessary. Because, as Sherman put it perfectly: War is hell, you cannot refine it, it’s glories all moonshine. But the new guys come into power and think that they’re stewardship will be different somehow.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere, I think.

*by everybody I mean everyone who comes into power.


“Anyway, now I really have to go. If that dickwad troll Grampaw comes in to defend economic fucktardery, I trust one of you will say the right things in response.”

Aw, you miss me, that’s so cute.

Yep, I’m still in favor of the unencumbered exchange of goods and services between nations. And I see you’re still opposed to it, and you still don’t have any ideas about how nations should exchange goods and services, apart from a vague sense that some nations ought to have protectionist policies, and other nations oughtn’t, and it’s just as plain as day which are which, so there’s no need for any means of enforcing who gets to do what, because everyone will just naturally agree on some unstated set of moral principles and then do what is right.

The problem with having no trade policy to call your own, Retardo, is not that it disqualifies you from criticizing other trade policies, but that it means you, and by extension, those who share your views, are not prepared to accept any part of the responsibility of actually governing the exchange of goods and services between nations.

Bitch all you want, Retardo, just don’t expect anyone to put your team in charge of trade until you’ve got an actual plan, or even the basis of a plan.

Oh, and incidentally, if you really want to believe the midterm elections “repudiated” free trade, then there’s nothing anyone can do to stop you, but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the introduction of, say, a Disband NAFTA bill.


How could you guys forget my favorite game show host?



I don’t think a lack of a disband NAFTA bill passing means much. It only passed the first time with a lot of money passing around and many arms twisted by the Clinton folk.

I don’t really want to disband NAFTA anyway, I’d like to see it tied to labor and environmental agreements, and I’d love to hear the “free trade” folk explain why that’s wrong.


Oh, and I don’t think Matthew Yglesias deserves to be lumped into centrist land. He gives voice to many thoughts that are going to keep him out of major media outlets until he shuts up and enters good centrist land.

This list is more like, “For one reason or another I gave Iraq arguments a chance at some point” and for some it was absolutely golden means fallacy stupidiy, and for some it was seeing ANSWER come out and deciding they hated them more than Bush, some of them didn’t want to be sitting around eating crow like the doomcryers from Gulf War I.


Centrism…Hmm… Pro-corporate and pro-war?
Seems like conservatism without the racism and xenophobia


Be nice to Kristof – he’s fine talking about international politics, just don’t get him talking about domestic stuff.


Oh, and incidentally, if you really want to believe the midterm elections “repudiated� free trade, then there’s nothing anyone can do to stop you, but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the introduction of, say, a Disband NAFTA bill.

Not here, maybe. Mexico, on the other hand… “Renegotiating” NAFTA was a large part of AMLO’s platform, which is likely why FeCal’s corporate backers pulled out all the stops in their not-free not-fair elections this summer.


Seems like conservatism without the racism and xenophobia

Ironically, this is what the rest of the world refers to as “liberalism,” as in classical liberalism, or in the US, libertarianism. It does tend to get confusing… Confusionism? Isn’t that a Chinese thing?


So what about those mealy mouthed centerists on the list who continually and repeatedly call for the impeachment, conviction, and sentencing for war crimes of top Bush Administration officials?

Or is this just a list of folks you disagree with?


“What everybody else said.” Kudos to Jillian; NAFTA was neither the bogeyman claimed by its opponents, nor the panacea by its supporters. It greatly expanded trade between the US and Mexico, and sure as shit produced a huge imbalance, advantage Mexico. In my own field of expertise, agriculture, the US got the advantage–or would have, had NAFTA been implemented on schedule; elimination of tariffs and quotas on a number of exports to Mexico has been delayed for several years, in some cases because they’re culturally sensitive, in others (poultry) because the US companies have operations in Mexico and could care less. Mikey is also correct in that many NAFTA opponents are not ideologues but are defending their own turf. There is one Congressional election hanging in the balance which was heavily impacted by NAFTA and other trade agreements, and if Robin Hayes goes down in North Carolina, it will be one of those rare instances where a vote for freer trade was a lawmaker’s undoing. Hayes was the deciding vote in reestablishing Presidential Trade Promotion Authority, commonly known as Fast Track; his district’s textile industry has been gutted. Some might have argued that was inevitable, but it was gutted fast; US domestic cotton consumption has fallen by more than half since 2001, and hasn’t yet found a bottom. They’re selling it all back to us from China and India.


So what about those mealy mouthed centerists on the list who continually and repeatedly call for the impeachment, conviction, and sentencing for war crimes of top Bush Administration officials?

That isn’t a leftist position, dude. It is a law-and-order position. You know, accountability? Responsibility? These used to be conservative buzzwords.

Or, as is often said by the right during debates on immigration or Clinton’s perjury trial- “What part of illegal don’t you understand?”


Am I the only one reminded of the scene in Good Will Hunting in the bar where the cheesy egotistic history guy goes off spouting page 264 of whatever text?


What bothers me about NAFTA is that on the surface it seems to be a fair agreement- unilateral trade between nations- that would hopefully (to my mind) strengthen Mexicos economy. In fact, after being there, I would personally take a cut in my own standard of living in order to raise theirs. What ended up happening, though, was that many manufacturing jobs went to Mexico, (no surprise) and the companies that did take advantage will continue to take advantage ad nauseum. I suppose that is also no surprise, that the people who they pay have not seen, and probably will never, see a raise in their quality of life. Has anyone read of the raising of the minimum wage? That does not exist there- but in companies, has there been any profit sharing? I have not seen that. This became a way for corporate American companies to exploit. And the environmental degradation- Good God- it is so bad there. At the risk of sounding histrionic- along the Rio Grande there are babies born without brains because of the pollution poured into the river- which would be illegal here.


But intuitively I have to believe that there MUST be some kind of real upside to NAFTA. I mean, they had to sell it, right?

Mikey, another factor in the successful selling of NAFTA is that it was fortunate in its enemies. Ross Perot ran around with his @ss on fire honking “Giant Sucking Sound!” in his gawdawful uncouth Okie accent, and Pat Buchanan warned about the “brown flood” that would overwhelm our Lebensraum if NAFTA were made law, and some of the more prominent Greenies warned that NAFTA would kill all the dolphins and the last of the spotted owls’ Oregonian rainforests, too. Even the leftists who thought Clinton was too slippery by half concerning the less salubrious possibilities behind NAFTA found it distasteful to be associated with people like Perot and Buchanan.


MobiusKlein said,
November 29, 2006 at 8:17

Or is this just a list of folks you disagree with?

This is a list of people who oppose restricting imports to protect domestic business, particularly in the agricultural sector. I won’t call them “free traders” because Yglesias, for one, has written well on how many agreements made in the name of free trade have really been about imposing intellectual property policy on developing countries than opening up the exchange of goods and services. Retardo is conflating anti-protectionism with support for the Iraq war and a general Lieberman-esque disloyalty to the party.


What’s with the no linky for Ezra Klein?

Ezra’s Greatest Centrist Hits were lost when Pandagon lost their archives a few years ago. But hell, he was on the “let’s put a dictatorial strongman back in charge” idea way before Chait brought it up the other day. It was way back when Allawi was accused of personally executing several supposed insurgents, and Ezra mulled over the possibility that maybe an ass-kicking sumbitch like that, unafraid to get his hands bloody, was what those anarchic people needed, at least for a little while. He used to feel a responsibility to shoulder the white man’s burden, no matter how many times people tried to suggest that perhaps meddling Westerners from think tanks and campuses dreaming up insane schemes for how other people should live were the actual problem itself, and not any sort of solution. The one-two punch of reading Pollack’s The Gathering Storm plus the specter of dirty unserious hippies was what convinced him to support the invasion to begin with. And on and on.

Like Retardo said, he’s changed since then, but I don’t think I’ll ever trust his instincts no matter what. I’m just waiting for his inner Beinart to come out again at some point.


Ezra is what drove me away from Pandagon, as Jesse posted less and less. All of the putatively left bloggers mentioned here are mealy-mouthed and one by one I stopped reading them all. Drum was frist (has anyone appeared more fence-sitting than Drum? He probably can’t take a strong stand on his laundry soap.) and DeLong was next. BDL seems to love neoliberal economics so much that he’d see our country lose all of its decent paying jobs and call it good. Environmental and labor concerns seem utterly foreign to him. Yglesias I only read once, and it was enough to tell me what he was all about. I pegged him a careerist pundit wannabe. Both Klein and Yglesias seem to be trying to make some amends, but for me it’s just too late. Too many people died for their silly “centrism”. The “centrists” in print (however influential they might be) are of no concern to me, as I wouldn’t give a nickel to read even one.


I guess in my ignorance, I’ve thought centrists were more pragmatically inclined liberals, but I guess I should adjust that to make them to be reactionary neo-liberals/(non neo-)conservatives.


Speaking of wingnut enablers, how about Godwin’s Law?

… by allowing the [Nazi] issue to be defined by the unique suffering of the Jews, we ignore the Holocaust’s more universal hallmark: the banal ordinariness of the citizens who perpetrated it. The relevance of Third Reich Germany to today’s America is not that Bush equals Hitler or that the United States government is a death machine. It’s that it provides a rather spectacular example of the insidious process by which decent people come to regard the unthinkable as not only thinkable but doable, justifiable. Of the way freethinkers and speakers become compliant and self-censoring. Of the mechanism by which moral or humanistic categories are converted into bureaucratic ones. And finally, of the willingness with which we hand control over to the state and convince ourselves that we are the masters of our destiny.


I wanted to comment on some of the thoughts upthread – first, Shana’s comment on NAFTA points out to me that the idea of trade deregulation between nations would only really raise the standard of living and benefit the many rather than the few *if and when* the countries also standardized domestic regulation (in other words, if Mexico raised its standards of environmental regulation to match the US). This is, in a nutshell, the difference between agreements like NAFTA and true trade deregulation successes like the EU.

I also wanted to contest what someone upthread said about these people, that they are conservatives without the xenophobia. Some of you may not remember but some of these people have advocated pretty drastic genocidal policies in the Middle East (Friedman Friedman Friedman) and I would rather say that many of them (but not all – e.g., I definitely would NOT include DeLong here and I have been reading him for years) are quite comfortable with what is in fact a neocolonial attitude towards third world countries and towards resource-rich regions like the Middle East. Basically, wage war and subjugate people in order to have unfettered access to those resources (but politely refrain from dwelling on this subjugation, or paint it as a sort of positive thing, as the French did with their mission civilatrice). This is what Britain did in its colonial heyday although it was able to exploit military advantages and we can’t really do that (the advantages are fewer, unless we do something really awful, and we can’t rely on the distance to hide war crimes like they did).

I don’t mind some thoughtful conservative people who want to increase trade and lower trade barriers but will at least have a conversation about some of the human cost and how it can be avoided rather than exacerbated. A good example would be Collounsbury of the Aqoul site who calls the current American conservatives “Bolshevik Rightists” but would also sneer at knee-jerk anti-trade attitudes of “the left” – yet if a “leftist” like me avoids the buzz words and the emotionalism you can get into the details of this stuff. For example, he recently did a post on Aqoul referring to the need in the UAE to raise labor standards – and he is a right winger – because he knows that it is in the long term a good thing for trade in the region.

Which brings me to my final point: The problem I have with economic neoliberals is that their main (only) focus seems to be on near-future growth and they don’t think in the long term (if they did, many of the policies they find attractive would become markedly less so). I don’t think economics as a science is going to do much to make the world a better place until people take a longer-term view to the wisdom of spending here and not spending here and saving some money on deregulation now that will cause birth defects or whatever for generations to come.



Ahhh, that’s an adorable little straw man — did you build it yourself?

See, there is no such thing as free and unfettered trade, as your own comments admit. The only question is whose ebenefit is the trade managed for? In theory it should be for everyone, but in the real world, that isn;t going to be possible. So if trade is going to be managed, big bad unserious lefties think it should be managed for the benefit of workers. In other words, trade agreeements should not be set up which country alows its workers to be screwed the most as the basis of competition.

Such trade gareements, of course, will not come in one size fits all trappings, because the world is a complex place, so they don’t come ready made with sound bites and cheap slogans, like you have. But their essence is simple: make sure labor is rewarded before capital.



Don’t bother. I spent quite a while responding to Grampaw’s querulosities–pointed him right to some economic platforms and protocols. He couldn’t be bothered to follow the links. He’ll waste as much time as you’re willing to give him.


What bothers me about NAFTA is that on the surface it seems to be a fair agreement- unilateral trade between nations- that would hopefully (to my mind) strengthen Mexicos economy. In fact, after being there, I would personally take a cut in my own standard of living in order to raise theirs.

And this is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room that nobody’s willing to mention.

Oh, and since we’ve already gone over the similarities in content between the free-marketers and the war profiteers, it’s worth it to take a minute to point out their formal similarities…..

Bitch all you want, Retardo, just don’t expect anyone to put your team in charge of trade until you’ve got an actual plan, or even the basis of a plan.

See, if you point out that some other people have shit the bed, it now becomes your responsibility to somehow unshit the bed.

Sound familiar?


Jillian, grampaw and Dubya would both tell you that THEIR shit don’t stink. Therefore, they will add with great pride, if there is a stink in the bedroomal area, it must be a plot by Teh Libruls!!!1!

You know, like a jam-faced four-year-old blaming the mess in the kitchen on “the bad bear”. I still can’t decide which is scarier: That a putative adult nominally in charge of our great nation might think that we’d believe him when he blames all his crimes on invisible pixeys and flying monkeys from the political opposition? Or the increasing strong possibility that the C-Plus Augustus actually believes all the carnage and chaos done by his minions at his orders is somehow Not His Fault?


Thank you for your astuteness, Jillian. You put a spotlight on what my blathery over-emotional self was trying to emote. I don’t feel it is possible for us to continue with our level of consumption without the exploitation of foreign labor markets that are locked into a poverty cycle. The ethical approach, I feel, (again with the feelings) is that we need to truly understand what real poverty looks like, and realize that it does not include the unaffordability of cable TV, or just simply a TV. It means barely having enough to eat. I know this makes me sound like some sort of hyper-hippy, but that is reality, as I have personally had to uncomfortably realize. When we lose, and we will willingly or unwillingly, I think, this comfortable cushion of pseudo-stability that Wal-Mart will always be open- I personally will feel the better for it.


Here is what I am trying to say- learn to do with less, and more will go around. (I tire myself out sometimes-)



Doesn’t it bother you that while you righteously cite your links to “economic platforms and protocols” other than free trade, you still can’t provide a nice succinct summary of any of them?

My international trade idea is that nations should exchange goods and services without encumberance (and that includes encumberencance imposed by the wealthy upon the poor, which encumberance, as I have stated time and again, is part of what I believe to be the problem with the IMF and, to a lesser extent, the WTO).

What is your international trade idea?


Apologies for the typo. At the end of the day, everyone without editor privileges sucks.


Brad DeLong, at least, acknowledges the need for a strong public services. But I get the impression that he just wants to prevent angry people from voting for anti-free-trade candidates, not that he actually gives a shit about the people who lose their jobs.



No, granpaw, this:

My international trade idea is that nations should exchange goods and services without encumberance (and that includes encumberencance imposed by the wealthy upon the poor….)

Is your pie-in-the-sky, just-wishing-can-make-it-so bullshit whose resemblance to an idea is purely accidental. Trade is NEVER free and unencumbered, else prices would be up across the board for anything and everything. Free and unencumbered trade means you an charge whatever the market will bear, as opposed to keep prices down in terms of manufacturing. Especially when you can’t just run to another producer to get the raw good cheaper. Oil cartels, diamond cartels, (potentially) sugar cartels or cocoa cartels, can freeze a feisty client out of the game entirely, close off whole markets. Retaliation in the form of economic pressure (free and unfettered, right? not free and militarily enforced) would spiral right out of control. (You won’t let us sell our cocoa there? Fine, you can’t sell you cars/iPods/RAZRs here.)

In order to get to free and unencumbered (I notice you don’t say anything about fair) trade, you have to be prepared to accept whatever terms/conditions/demands the producing country demands, if you as the consuming country want it bad enough.

Go back as far as you want, to barter based economies, and you will find that there were rules for trade. Rules that forbade the excesses that could damage or cripple the economy. They exist for a reason, if you don’t quite get why that is.


Is your pie-in-the-sky, just-wishing-can-make-it-so bullshit whose resemblance to an idea is purely accidental.

Now, now. Don’t say that. He’s smarter than us; after all, he reads The Economist… which even Brad Delong thinks is increasingly sucky. But then it hires Randroid/Libertarian nutjobs like Jane Galt, so of course grampaw finds it amenable.

Whoever upthread said that neoliberalism is basically libertarianism is exactly right. Hari’s link says as much. I’ve thought it for years — and it’s why people like DeLong have so many good things to say about that Pinochet-loving goon Uncle Miltie. Which, by the way, did anyone catch Dr. DeLong’s hilarious “distinction” between liberal authoritarianism and authoritarian liberalism? Bwahaha. All just to spear Hayek and spare Friedman when both were two peas in a pod, not so much caring about ‘freedom” as free markets, the both of them prefering the Chinese/Singaporean/Chilean model of governance to, say, a genuinely free social democracy like Sweden — cane me, death squad me, hang me for smoking dope so long as I get the freedom to run sweatshops and enjoy lower tax rates.


Oh, and the irony of the fact that the debate over the Corn Laws is where The Economist got its start just gives us so many yummy levels of irony that I hardly know where to start!

Gee, grampaw, be careful with the way you throw around that ill-defined term “encumberance”, or people might start thinking you sound a lot like a certain well known free market advocate….

Doubtless, if the price of all commodities falls — and this is the necessary consequence of free trade — I can buy far more for a franc than before. And the worker’s france is as good as any other man’s. Therefore, free trade will be very advantageous to the worker. There is only little difficulty in this, namely, that the worker, before he exchanges his franc for other commodities, has first exchanged his labor with the capitalist. If in this exchange he always received the said franc for the same labor and the price of all other commodities fell, he would always be the gainer by such a bargain. The difficult point does not lie in proving that, if the price of all commodities falls, I will get more commodities for the same money….
When less expense is required to set in motion the machine which produces commodities, the things necessary for the maintenance of this machine, called a worker, will also cost less. If all commodities are cheaper, labor, which is a commodity too, will also fall in price, and, as we shall see later, this commodity, labor, will fall far lower in proportion than the other commodities. If the worker still pins his faith to the arguments of the economists, he will find that the franc has melted away in his pocket, and that he has only 5 sous left.

Is this perhaps what you were referring to by the importance of trade “avoiding incumberances imposed by the wealthy upon the poor”? Because if so, all I can say is Welcome, Comrade! And the next council meeting’s at my place, six o’clock this Saturday. Be sure to bring a covered dish.


Dagnabit, I miss my preview button, too…..there really were links there.

On Corn Laws, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_Laws

On Marx the free marketeer (discussing the repeal of the Corn Laws, no less!) , see http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/01/09ft.htm#marx

Maybe I can’t do html to save my life, but i can sing all the verses of “Solidarity, Forever!”. And bake a mean rosemary focaccia. So there.


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