Magazine article Reason

Protectionism in Politics and Prose

Magazine article Reason

Protectionism in Politics and Prose

Article excerpt

AS LOU DOBBS could tell you, these are pretty good times to be a protectionist. The CNN host and U.S. News & World Report columnist is enjoying a burst of attention for his outspoken and repeated attacks on, as he put it in a typical U.S. News piece in March, the "laissez-faire doctrine of free trade [that] has liberated successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, from responsibility for their trade decisions." Chief among the effects of freer trade, charge Dobbs and many others, is the "offshoring" of good-paying American jobs to less developed countries such as India and China.

Such an argument plays particularly well in an election season marked by trade deficits, uneven job growth, and increased fear of foreigners, especially ones willing to work low-wage jobs in the U.S. (Dobbs laments that "Bush advocates a guest worker program for illegal aliens, while Kerry just wants to provide amnesty to many of them.") Like Dobbs, calls for tariffs, taxes on businesses that employ workers in other countries, and other restrictive measures are getting more play than they have in years.

Yet as Brink Lindsey underscores in "10 Truths About Trade," the Dobbses of the world are wrong (page 24). "The overall trend is toward more and better jobs for American workers," writes Lindsey, author of Against the Dead Hand: The Uncertain Struggle for Global Capitalism. Not only has the job market kept pace with massive increases in the labor supply, it has done so by creating more managerial and specialized professional jobs. …

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