Morality, the Left, and Free Trade
As the Democrats meet in Boston this week and continue to decry the loss of American jobs overseas it's important to remember that this national debate about"protecting" American workers has an important moral dimension that the Democrats are ignoring. However that same moral argument may eventually swing left-wing voters to support free trade. As Joseph Stiglitz reminds us in this essay, we have to remember that trade benefits both American consumers AND the poorer farmers and workers in the developing world who walk much closer to the edge of real poverty than American agro-business or labor unions.
He writes that:"Now that rich countries no longer need to worry about losing the developing world to Communism, they have an opportunity to redefine the global economic order according to the same principles on which they built successful national economies: fair competition and social justice."
The way to achieve social justice (a term that makes most libertarians and conservatives cringe) is through free trade. It's a wonderful synethsis of the moral language of the left with the economic common sense of liberatarians.
If American liberals really believe in helping out the less fortunate through government programs, is it possible to swing some of them to our side on this issue?
I think it's certainly possible if our side adopts a more forceful moral component to our arguments. A constant source of amazement to me is why libertarians always seem hesitant to use morality when they argue for less government. Since when did the government become the source of morality? In particular recent discussions about gay marriage fit this pattern. It is, in my view, immoral for the government to regulate marriage between anybody, same sex or not. That's the business of individuals, communities and churches, not politicians.
It's high time we fight to recapture the mantle of morality from the left and right. It's neither moral nor just to give entitlements to the rich or regulate human relationships, and we shouldn't be afraid to say so.