July 27, 2016

All Hail Shlaes!

If I believed in coercion, Amity Shlaes's "The Forgotten Man" [Review Corner] is one of the first books I'd force on the American electorate.

And they'd thank me, dammit! It's entertaining and interesting. But its main function is to contradict the nonsense everyone is taught in school about how FDR "fixed": the Great Depression.

Shlaes reprises the riff in the WSJ Ed Page today to make it relevant for the 2016 election.

Sumner, a classical liberal, believed that strong commerce helped the poor better than the best government benefit. "If you do anything for the Forgotten Man, you must secure him his earnings and savings, that is, you legislate for the security of capital and for its free employment," Sumner wrote.

"Jobbery," as Sumner called it, also wounded the forgotten man. In the 1870s and 1880s, the era of Tweed and Tammany, municipal and county governments joined private contractors to build public structures. Sumner skewered such projects: "They are carried out, not because they are needed in themselves, but because they will serve the turn of some private interest." He added that "the biggest job of all is a protective tariff," which generates forgotten men and forgotten costs to consumers.

Shlaes does not take sides in the election but rather suggests a point for clarification:
Here's an opening question for the first Trump-Clinton debate: "Who is the forgotten man?"

Great stuff.

Economics and Markets Posted by John Kranz at July 27, 2016 4:48 PM

There are elections, and then there is governing. Hillary is flirting with protectionism too. I maintain that tariffs are not in our future, no matter what. And neither is a withdrawal from the world stage, diplomatically or militarily. Merely, a reassertion that "American Lives Matter Too" and we're not sacrificing on the altruistic altar like we have for decades now, mostly since NAFTA. (Not the problem, I realize, but the turning point.)

Leviathan is the problem. Which is the better weapon to attack it - the populist with protectionist bombast (and a cadre of excellent cabinet members), or the life-long "public servant" who asks to be thrown in that thar briar patch to make "everything better and everyone equal?"

Posted by: johngalt at July 28, 2016 11:30 AM

To be fair I should have led with, "Amity's right. Trump is wrong." But...

Posted by: johngalt at July 28, 2016 11:33 AM

Penn Jillette had a great riff, Sec. Clinton's supporters dismiss differences by saying "oh she has to say that to get elected." Penn asks "what makes you so sure she's not lying to you?"

And yet, I am going to weasel out like her naïve sycophants.

Free trade's only home today is in the LP. I might even succumb -- it's early. But in the binary choice, I have to say that Trump campaigned on it and his followers would be devastated if he reneged. Clinton is promising hope and X chromosomes and cuter puppies -- few will keep score on trade. Both would likely fight new trade deals, but only one might re-open Nafta.

I have been particularly concerned because trade is solidly in the aegis of the executive branch. A President Trump, lacking legislative chops and allies, would need some quick wins. And he'll have a pen and phone.

Posted by: jk at July 28, 2016 2:56 PM

Come on JK, Vote for Gary Johnson with me! I concede he is unlikely to win a single electoral college vote. But a showing in the double digits might wake a few people up! Especially since Colorado is looking very much like NOT a swing state these days.

Posted by: dagny at July 28, 2016 4:35 PM


Posted by: johngalt at July 28, 2016 5:55 PM

@dagny, I'm considering it. To be clear, my issue is not his probability of victory. I think the existence of the LP is a bad idea and I do not wish to "feed the bears."

I want liberty lovers to push the other parties in a better direction. Perhaps that is hopeless. There is also some chatter that he might win Utah. I might move there.

Posted by: jk at July 29, 2016 10:27 AM

@jg: race to the bottom.

Posted by: jk at July 29, 2016 11:35 AM | What do you think? [7]