An Odd Alliance against Free Trade Left and Right Fear Treaty Will Weaken Control on Economic Choices

Article excerpt

It has become a cliche among political analysts that the old ideological categories don't mean much in the post-Cold War world. With right and left in disarray, we supposedly have entered a post-ideological age in which pragmatism will dominate, giving us rule by a vital center with no guiding principles.

The post-ideological age is a myth, however.

The current ideological flux has, in fact, exposed deeper divisions than the ones to which we have long been accustomed. Rather than a post-ideological age, we are now in a radically ideological age, in which ideas are taken to their roots, to their fundamentals, in which the categories are broader and deeper and the divisions more sharply defined than the old left and right.

We saw one such division - a stark, old-fashioned one - in the crime bill debate. Over the past several months, others have cropped up, creating odd alliances:

- A coalition of anti-growth liberals and blood-and-soil conservatives to stop the Walt Disney Co. from building an American history theme park in northern Virginia (the free-market objection that the park is getting state subsidies isn't part of the main debate).

- An alliance of environmentalists and farmers to block development by using water policy to favor the status quo in California.

- And, most important, a coalition of environmentalists, left-wing activists and conservative nationalists to defeat the new world trade treaty.

Those examples capture an increasingly common pattern. On issue after issue, partisans of stasis are appealing to state power to block the dynamic processes of markets and individual choice. And, in more and more instances, they are allied across traditional ideological categories.

To credit them with spanning a broad spectrum of opinion - with representing some sort of consensus - is to fall into a trap. In a radically ideological age, they are the friendliest of fellow travelers.

A few days before the crime bill vote, Ralph Nader issued a press release titled, "Broadest Range of American Political Spectrum Ever to Jointly Petition a President Call for GATT Vote Postponement" The title is not merely ungrammatical. It is a lie.

It disregards the profound agreement among those on Nader's list: "Jerry Brown and Pat Buchanan; Tom Hayden and Lyn Nofzinger; Richard Viguerie and Kurt Vonnegut; Ralph Nader and Paul Weyrich; the editor of the right-wing American Spectator and the editor and publisher of The Progressive. …