John Steele Gordon on Protectionism/Free Trade

Great article on how the Republicans long the party of protectionism and tariffs became the party of free trade and the Democrats long the party of free trade have been flirting this election cycle (all 3 of their major candidates) with more populist even protectionist/neo-mercantilist rhetoric.

The discussion of unions (esp. in the manufacturing sector) is very revealing.

Here at home, the resultant pinch has been felt most keenly by organized labor—the one major part of the American economy that did not benefit in the long run from the restructuring of the 70’s and 80’s, and that has suffered a severe diminution in membership. If, in 1953, 35 percent of American workers belonged to unions, today only 12 percent do, and that figure would be much lower were it not for the public sector, the one area of the economy that has seen a dramatic growth in union jobs. Nor is there any reason to think that the downward trend will change, especially given the pressures of globalization.

It is no surprise, then, that organized labor, once a bastion of free-trade advocacy, has become no less adamantly anti–free trade in recent decades. And although labor is a much less potent force in the American economy than it was in the immediate postwar years, it remains a major player in Democratic-party politics—able to provide massive numbers of “volunteers” to operate phone banks and supply other boots-on-the-ground aid to political candidates. In the meantime, the Democrats themselves, no longer the clear majority party in the country, have become increasingly more dependent on the political power of organized labor.

Published in: on January 27, 2008 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

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