Markets Instead of War

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A nice piece in The New York Times today accusing Bush, despite his constant evocation of “freedom”, of not really believing in freedom. In The Market Shall Set You Free Robert Wright argues that moves toward free markets are bringing slow, but still exciting, progress towards freedom which the neocons downplay: “You won’t hear much about such progress from neoconservatives, who prefer to stress how desperately the global fight for freedom needs American power behind it (and who last week raved about an inaugural speech that vowed to furnish this power). And, to be sure, neoconservatives can rightly point to lots of oppression and brutality in China and elsewhere – as can liberal human-rights activists. But anyone who talks as if Chinese freedom hasn’t grown since China went capitalist is evincing a hazy historical memory and, however obliquely, is abetting war. Right-wing hawks thrive on depicting tyranny as a force of nature, when in fact nature is working toward its demise.”

The way that Wright opposes economic war as well as literal war gladdens this libertarian heart, (with the caveat that he is clearly naive about the relationship between the WTO and free trade):

The president said last week that military force isn’t the principal lever he would use to punish tyrants. But that mainly leaves economic levers, like sanctions and exclusion from the World Trade Organization. Given that involvement in the larger capitalist world is time-release poison for tyranny, impeding this involvement is an odd way to aid history’s march toward freedom. Four decades of economic isolation have transformed Fidel Castro from a young, fiery dictator into an old, fiery dictator.

Economic exclusion is especially perverse in cases where inclusion could work as a carrot. Suppose, for example, that a malignant authoritarian regime was developing nuclear weapons and you might stop it by offering membership in the W.T.O. It’s a twofer – you draw tyrants into a web of commerce that will ultimately spell their doom, and they pay for the privilege by disarming. What president could resist that?

Correct! President Bush is sitting on the sidelines scowling as the European Union tries to strike that very bargain with Iran.

He goes on to praise Clinton and is from the same New America Foundation as Michael Lind who has recently been featured on LRC. Well, if this is some kind of Democratic leftism, then call me a Democrat leftist!

11:49 am on January 28, 2005