Trotting Out The “Grownup” Argument

There are only two types of people that think playing the “grownup” card will win an argument.

  1. Parents scolding their rebellious and irresponsible children. This is a legitimate use.
  2. Pundit blowhards. Not so much.

I’d say that this latest piece by The Wall Street Journal, “The New Liberal Taboo“, falls squarely into the latter category. Apparently the “grownups” at the WSJ have a problem with the fact that it’s not kosher in Democratic circles to support free trade with a nation with the worst anti-unionist human rights record on the planet.

What a spectacle. It is now respectable for Democrats to assert, even to welcome, military defeat. But if a Presidential campaign functionary so much as hints at support for free trade, he’s banished to policy exile. […] That’s the meaning of Sunday’s sacking of strategist Mark Penn from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

[…]

The grownups in both campaigns realize that free trade is good for the country, yet they must take a vow of public silence.

As recently as the 1990s, Bill Clinton’s support for free trade was seen as a sign of his economic centrism and that he understood global competitive realities. In the 2008 campaign, free trade has become the primary Democratic taboo.

What the WSJ is conveniently forgetting is that Colombia isn’t some peace-loving backwater looking for a break. They are, in fact, a ruthless regime actively opposed to unions and who turn a blind eye when union organizers are murdered for their efforts:

Despite a reduction in killings, Colombia remains the world’s deadliest country for union activists. More than 700 unionized workers have been killed in Colombia since 2001, the government said. Colombia accounted for half of all such killings globally in 2006, according to the International Trade Union Confederation. Uribe has said just 26 union members were killed in all of 2007, but 11 were killed in the past month alone.

“It is certainly down from 2002, which was a nightmare year,” said Isacson. “What has not improved is punishment when it happens. The impunity rate of these killings is 98 or 99 percent.

So WSJ: Do you have a legitimate argument why we should support “free trade” with Colombia? Make it. Tell us why eliminating tariffs with Colombia will help the average American/Colombian citizen. Tell us why we, as a nation, should reward the wonton murder of unionist by siding with the government against them.

I personally doubt you’ll be able to come up with anything but nebulous arguments in your favor and that your real interest in seeing this deal go through is the moneyed elites but, who knows, I might be wrong. Maybe the WSJ really does care about the common people and not just the 10% crowd, maybe I’m wrong.

What you have here is typical. It’s the “grownup” position to support a war that’s rapidly draining our military might, taxing our valiant service members beyond any sane limit, and depleting our national coffers. It’s the “grownup” position to eliminate trade barriers with a nation rife with, and likely complacent in, union murders. Let’s not even get into the current mortgage meltdown but, needless to say, you can guess which side of that argument was “grown up”.

Save the ad hominem attacks for the playground; don’t insult our intelligence with pompous proclamations of superiority.

If there’s one benefit talk like this has it’s this: it’s pretty damned good at mobilizing people to stand up for their own interests.

Don’t be surprised to see America elect some non-elites in November. You know…comedians and social activists and National Guardsmen and college professors and public school teachers and restaurant owners. They’re on the ballot, and chances are a bunch of them are going to be in our next Congress.

We’ve seen the confidence game people like the editors and opinionists at the WSJ have been peddling for the last generation in all its glory these last eight years. It hasn’t been pretty, but maybe it’s been enough to shake people out of the false notion that these “grownups” give a damn about us, our national future, or our families.

(edited by DrGail)

One Response to “Trotting Out The “Grownup” Argument”

  1. Mark says:

    There are some major problems with those statistics suggesting murderers of trade unionists are free of punishment, as I pointed out yesterday here:
    http://publiusendures.blogspot.com/2008/04/more-fun-with-bad-statistics.html

    Moreover (and this is a purely libertarian argument- neocons hate since it undermines their entire raison d’etre), free trade has been shown to be the best way of spreading freedom of any in history. There is an increasing amount of evidence to show that free trade leads to increased freedom of speech, a more vibrant civil society, and more stable politics. A decent primer on this can be found here:
    http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2008/04/coyne_on_export.html

    It’s frankly common-sense, when you think about it. The more widespread the contacts a country has with a liberal democracy, the more that country will be able to observe the benefits of real freedoms. If, however, you limit trade (and therefore contacts) with that country, or if your contacts are primarily associated with violence and political instability (ie, you invade them militarily), then people in the other country will have no basis upon which to form an opinion of liberal democracy. Similarly, if contacts with another country are limited to contacts associated with violence and instability, then liberal democracy will not appear to be such a wonderful thing.

    Just one good example of this can be found in Mexico. While I am not arguing that Mexico is perfect or is even a particularly liberal country, the fact is that it has become much more liberalized in the 15 or so years of NAFTA than it ever had been previously. Prior to NAFTA, it’s worth mentioning, Mexico had single-party rule for something like 80 years (not sure about the exact number). Not long after NAFTA, though, you suddenly had reformers getting elected. Now, the biggest threat to freedom in Mexico (as, btw, is the case in Colombia) is our idiotic War on (some) Drugs.

    Another example, despite its ongoing human rights abuses, is China. While those abuses continue to be unconscionable, there is absolutely no denying that the country has become more politically open in the years since detente and trade reopened with them. That progress has been ongoing, albeit slow. But I don’t think there’s any argument that the country is more liberal by orders of magnitude than it was under Chairman Mao.

    Finally, I would point out that the least liberal countries in the world remain countries with which we have had no trade relations. Think Cuba, for example, which has gotten no better in almost 50 years of trade embargos on our part. To be sure, it has trade relations with European countries, but those relations are somewhat limited due to Cuba’s distant proximity from Europe. Were we to end our embargo of Cuba, in all likelihood that country would begin to liberalize politically quite quickly.

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