Buchanan’s many, many errors

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Buchanan has quite a talent for fitting numerous errors into a single column. His latest mercantilist screed shows just how little Buchanan understands about both economics and the basic political tenets of classical liberalism.

Let’s just go through his article and point out some of the more awful statements, shall we? My comments in brackets:

“Great nations do not have trade partners.” [No, Pat, "great" nations may not, but free nations do. People who care about liberty care about freedom, not greatness. Great men are rarely good men, just as great nations are rarely free nations. The Spanish Empire was no doubt "great." But it sure wasn't free.]

“Tariffs on foreign goods are preferable to taxes on U.S. producers.”

[Tariffs are taxes on producers. They're a tax on every entrepreneur who has to buy fourth-rate American goods at a higher price for his business instead of the vastly superior foreign goods. Pat thinks that all manufactured goods are only purchased by consumers. It never occurs to him that producers buy things like vans and TVs and ovens and DVD players as part of their business ventures.

Tariffs are just a tax on small-business people and all entrpreneurs. Pat thinks it fine for the government to tell people how to run their businesses.]

“Manufacturing, not finance, is the muscle of the nation.”

[This is a variation on what Pat usually says. He usually talks about how the service industry in general is useless to the economy. But on what is this based anyway? Economists used to talk about how only agriculture could be the foundation of a viable economy. That was pure nonsense, as is the theory that manufacturing is the only foundation of a sound economy.

And what's with this "muscle of the nation" stuff? Why are conservatives (and especially Buchanan) so obsessed with words like "muscle" and "emasculate" and "impotence"?]

The rest of the article is just a re-tread of Buchanan’s old tirades against Japan. Remember when everyone thought that Japan was going to crush our economy by dumping subsidized steel across our borders? Buchanan attributed Japan’s economic success in the 80′s and early 90′s to economic nationalism. Then Japan went into a prolonged recession for a decade. Now Buchanan is saying the same things about China.

Pat apparently believes that is is a bad thing that, thanks to China, Americans can buy cheap clothing, auto parts, cellular phones, etc., etc.

True, real wages are declining, but it never occurs to Buchanan that inflation, labor unions, massive regulation, and a police state might be putting a damper on the economy.

Remember, Pat cheered on Nixon when he slapped wage and price controls on the economy, and he is still apparently fundamentally incapable of understanding sound economics.

Pat’s basic assumption is that the purpose of government is to increase the power and prestige of the nation-state. Liberty is only a secondary, practical consideration. When it comes to economics and foreign policy, Buchanan has never opposed the increase of government power on grounds of property rights, liberty, or anything else we would attribute to libertarianism and classical liberalism.

Private property is okay if it makes the US a “great nation” but property rights are disposable if they don’t accomplish that end.

Buchanan’s primary problem with the Iraq war has been that it has been damaging to the power and prestige of the state. He doesn’t oppose it on grounds of justice, or natural rights, or any other concept associated with classical liberalism. He has always been a realist on the matter, and realism dictates that all foreign policy should accomplish the end of increasing the power, security, and prestige of the state.

He believes that economic policy should accomplish the same end.

10:03 pm on November 11, 2008