all the commentary on Patrick J. Buchananís new book (The
Death of the West, NY: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), has
anyone discussed his silly economic fallacies and highly interventionist
policy agenda? This is the conservative book of the year, the
core thesis of which (the West needs higher rates of population
increase to keep up with the Third World) impacts very strongly
on economic issues.
does Buchanan propose?
Wage: Buchanan says (p. 232) he favors amending the Civil
Rights Act "to allow employers to pay higher wages to parents
than to single people.... This should apply to single dads and
moms.... Employers should be given tax incentives to pay higher
wages to parents."
Does he really
believe that employees want to pay higher salaries to people with
children but are currently not doing so for fear of lawsuits?
If anything, the pressure runs in the opposite direction, married
people suing because single people are paid more.
Does he not
understand that wages and salaries are determined by the supply
and demand for an individualís contribution to the productivity
of the firm? Can he not grasp that employing federal law to raise
the price of parent-labor would reduce, not increase, its marketability,
and thus create incentives not to be married and have children?
Taxation: Buchanan says (p. 233) that "the burden of
corporate taxation should be shifted off family businesses and
farms onto the larger corporations. As Ronald Reagan used to say,
corporations donít pay taxes, people do. Corporations only collect
taxes. Let the Fortune 500 do the collecting."
is demanding that if a corporation is really successful at marketing
its product and running a tight ship, and then becomes a Fortune
500 company, the government should only then start demanding that
it function as a proxy for the IRS!
his quip as a case against taxing all corporations.
His point was to say that corporations in the abstract arenít
doing the paying. They are being forced to collect from individuals,
and its comes out of workersí wages and salaries. Buchananís suggestion
will only lower the incomes of people who work for the best companies.
Buchanan says (p. 233): "If new revenue is needed to pay
for these family tax cuts, it can be obtained through taxes on
consumption and duties on imports."
an idea! Prevent the Death of the West through higher prices on
in the Workforce: Buchanan says (p. 33): "As menís jobs
in manufacturing, mining, farming and fishing are no longer needed,
or are shipped overseas, the skills and talents of women are now
more desirable. Businesses, large and small, offer packages of
pay and benefits to lure talented women out of the home and keep
them out of the maternity ward."
Here we go
again demonizing business, and with the weirdest theory ever:
the conspirators behind economic development are really out to
smash the employability of the male sex in favor of the female
sex. It takes a heated imagination to dream up this stuff.
reason moms went to work was inflation and taxes, which caused
the real standard of living of the American family to decline.
The first year when both mom and dad were more likely to be working,
rather than not, was 1985, and the biggest growth in this trend
occurred at the same time real family income took its biggest
postwar hit. To resist that impulse (and many do) requires a high
income or deep convictions. In any case, it is going to take far
more than a few taxes credits to restore the belief that one income
is enough to provide for the family. Making government more intrusive
won't help; intrusive government is the problem.
In any case,
does he not know that the rap against high tech is that unfairly
employs too many guys, that its work isnít really designed for
women? Does he believe that women on farms sit around and coddle
the youngíns while Dad does all the work? Not so in any farm Iíve
ever seen. Of course business is pleased to employ anyone who
will assist in its desire to serve the consuming public. But women,
like men, all face a choice. Is it really so hard to imagine that
people can make choices consistent with their own best interest?
of Riches: Buchanan says (p. 34): "The richer a nation
becomes, the fewer its children, and the sooner it begins to die";
and (p. 37): "When the income tax rate for the wealthiest
was above 90 percent in the 1950s, America, by every moral and
social indicator, was a better country"; and (p. 47), today
"young people are not concerned about their souls; they're
worried about the Nasdaq."
environmentalists, then, Buchanan has decided that poverty has
a wonderful upside. Thatís one way to save bad economic ideas:
claim they are supposed to depress the standard of living!
But there are a few problems with Buchananís theory that poverty
makes people pious and pregnant. Poverty-stricken places like
Bosnia-Herzegovina, among many other Hell holes, have lower birth
rates than the US. And as even Buchanan has to admit, the first
time US births fell below replacement level was during the Great
Depression. Finally, for the record: I know many people who want
to save their stock portfolios and their souls.
Mentality: Buchanan says (p. 229): "The transnational
corporation is a natural antagonist of tradition. With its adaptability
and amorality, it has no roots; it can operate in any system.
With efficiency its ruling principle, it has no loyalty to workers
and no allegiance to any nation. With share price and stock options
its reasons for being, it will sacrifice everything and everyone
on the altar of profit. The global capitalist and the true conservative
are Cain and Abel."
Or one might
point out that multinational corporations increase competition
and quality, expand access to new technology, reduce the price
of goods for consumers and producers, create hundreds of millions
of new paying jobs, lift the developing world out of poverty,
permit the developed world to specialize in what it does best,
foster peace among nations, promote financial stability, undermine
the power of dictators, break up entrenched producer cartels,
expand economic opportunity, undermine the welfare state, crush
the menace of union power, and spread prosperity and liberty to
the entire human race.
Or is it
better to sacrifice everything and everyone on the altar of losses?
Dogs: Buchanan says (p. 33): "The Global Economy works
hand in hand with the New Economy, transferring manufacturing
jobs from high-wage Western nations to the low-wage, newly industrializing
nations of Asia and Latin America."
the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent and falling, and this in
a recession. This is below what the Keynesians used to call full
employment. The number of people working in manufacturing has
indeed fallen, which reflects a sectoral shift due to economic
development: witness the steady rise in household income since
the mid-1990s. Thus, the Latin American, Asia, and Westerns nations
are growing wealthier together by cooperating through trade and
trade works! Why must Buchanan see conflict where there is none?
Is it really necessary to point out that getting rid of high tech
and global trade at this point would reduce the standard of living
rather dramatically? How the heck does Buchanan expect the massive
population increases he hopes for to be sustained absent economic
Is Heresy: Buchanan says (p. 37): "Many conservatives
have succumbed to the heresy of Economism, a mirror-Marxism that
holds that man is an economic animal, that free trade and free
markets are the path to peace, prosperity, and happiness...."
free trade and free markets are the path to peace and prosperity.
Thereís a word for people who deny it: socialists. As for happiness,
Thomas Jefferson was right that freedom allows only for its pursuit.
Trends: Buchanan says (p. 127): "People identify less
and less with the nation-state, more and more with kith and kin."
This is supposed
to be bad news. To stop this horrible trend, Buchanan offers no
proposals to curb big government and plenty to expand it (like
instituting a National History Bee administered by Historian-in-Chief
George W. Bush).
I know Buchananís
book is about more than economics. Buchanan is right (p. 55) that
John Lennon shouldnít have said, 36 years ago, "Weíre more
popular than Jesus." Heís right that "American Beauty"
was an awful movie (p. 84). He is right that Confederate symbols
are not racist, that the left is engaged in cultural jihad, that
high Third World immigration has been invasive.
he suggests as a replacement is another central plan, one that
would promote impoverishment. But he has put zero thought in the
core issue: if you want a huge population increase, you have to
come up with some system of economics to sustain it. The capitalist
process of economic progress is the only system that does so.
As even Buchanan notes in passing (p. 13), the welfare state brings
hasnít made his peace with the market economy, but his book is
not highly unusual in this regard. Economic fallacy is everywhere.
I shudder to think of the errors unleashed on the world simply
because people havenít taken a weekend off to read a basic text
like Murray N. Rothbardís Power