Sunday, April 11, 2004

I guess it was some kind of masochistic inclination that led me to read Charles Krauthammer's latest offering in the Washington Post (aside from Charlie's drivel, there are actually quite a lot of article worth reading in the Post today, including Series of U.S. Fumbles Blamed for Turmoil in Postwar Iraq, What About Iran?, and Bush Gave No Sign of Worry in August 2001). If you're familiar with Sour Kraut's column, you know why I use the word "masochistic": he's intellectually dishonest, petty, and uses his background as a psychologist to argue that anyone who disagrees with the Bush Administration as mentally ill (an ethics violation, as helpfully explained at buzzflash).

In any event, I am glad that I read Krauthammer's column today, because I think I have just put my finger on the right wing's fallacy of choice: no matter what you do, you are not allowed to change your mind.
Sour Kraut writes, "When Hubert Humphrey said this almost 40 years ago, concern about the wretched of the earth was the almost exclusive preserve of American liberalism...." launching into a discussion of liberal (read "Democrat-led" because in the world of the contemporary American conservative, all democrats are liberals and all republicans are conservatives) plans to help the poor: foreign aid, the Marshall Plan (which I think is misrepresented here), the United Nations, etc.

We now know that the secret to curing hunger and poverty is capitalism and free trade. We have seen that demonstrated irrefutably in East Asia, which has experienced the greatest alleviation of poverty in history. In half a century, places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea have gone from subsistence living to First World status. And now free markets and free trade are lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty in India and China.

And what has been the Democratic reaction to the prospect of fulfilling Humphrey's (and their party's) great dream? Fear and loathing. Democrats today thunder against the scourge of "outsourcing" -- American firms giving (what would otherwise be American) jobs to Indians and Chinese and other menacing foreigners.

The anti-outsourcing vogue is part of a larger assault on free trade, which until recently -- meaning the Clinton administration -- Democrats had supported. Remember Al Gore's televised debate with Ross Perot, in which Gore demolished Perot's anti-free-trade arguments? Which makes the recent Democratic assault on free trade so jarring, never more so than when John Edwards and John Kerry competed with each other before Super Tuesday to see who was against more trade agreements with more Third World countries.

I never agreed with NAFTA: in fact, it was the major factor in my decision not to vote for a second Clinton term, because I knew that American blue-collar jobs would be shipped off to Mexico. As an aside, it's interesting to note that as soon as Mexican living standards rose, the corporations that shipped Joe Beercan's job to Juarez are now shipping Jose Cerveza's job off to China, where wages and environmental standards are even lower, pissing off the Mexican government.

I am no naif: politicians will do or say whatever they have to to get elected. I have no faith that John Kerry or John Edwards are going to be the scourge of outsourcing. However, I do believe it is possible for a thoughtful person to change their mind. if something doesn't work, or damages your country, there is no point in "clapping harder" as some have put it.

Krauthammer, and those in his camp, seem to believe that once you've taken a stand, that's it. There can be no turning back. By this logic, George Wallace should have never renounced segregation. BP, Amoco, and Sunoco shouldn't be putting any of their R&D budget into hydrogen technology, solar, or alternative fuels, because just a few years ago they were denying global warming. Lead should never have been removed from gasoline, for that matter. I could go on, but the list would go on forever.

As a matter of fact, this administration takes this line of thought a step further. First, it undertakes legislation and allocates funds based on distorted or blatantly dishonest fundamentals (the war in Iraq, Medicare, No Child Left Behind), ramming through party-line votes. When the actual costs or facts on the ground are revealed, they accuse former supporters of flip-flopping. "You supported it then," they argue. "To change your mind, even if we lied to you to get our way, is flip-floppery of the flippiest variety!"

In essence then, the answer to hemoraging jobs is not to question whether this free trade thing is really working out for Americans. Rather, you should clap harder. Changing your mind is a symptom of creeping liberalism, in much the same way that rigidity of thought and devotion to dogma indicate a lack of creativity and an inability to think for oneself.

In today's era of right-wing echo chambers and dittoheads, this is an apt description of the right-wing.