a question for anti-statists
How can anti-statists reconcile themselves with protectionism?
This has become a kind of stumbling block for me. I have slowly become more and more disillusioned with protectionism as policy because it seems that it would: A) enlarge or empower the state through regulatory measures and/or B) be subject to the worst sort of regulatory capture. Not only certain industries but certain players within certain industries would inevitably benefit the most from these protections. This strikes me as anathema to many of the purported anti-statist beliefs held by many protectionists.
(I realize that this is what a lot of free trade advocates have been telling me, but I guess I’m just slow, or perhaps my concern for our working class motivated me, though the more I think about it the more I see that the axe that is protectionist policy is hardly the sort of tool needed to protect our workers. Increasing state power and the power of a few “protected” industries or industry players is hardly the way to approach our labor problems.)
Subsidization of industry by the state is similarly distressing, and it seems downright unethical to enter into free trade agreements like NAFTA and then subsidize our own, say, corn farmers. Free trade requires an even playing field, and maybe that’s one of the problems with its implementation. I’m still baffled as to how we go about implementing it globally without lots of cheating on everyone’s part.
So, I guess this is all to say that while I still find many of the moral concerns many protectionists argue to be very poignant, I find the results to be very similar to many well-intentioned liberal policies. Big government actions always seem to backfire, especially when they seek to intervene somehow within the economy. Big government actions seem to lead directly to big businesses gaining more control and making capitalism work a whole lot less for the little guy.
(I still believe there is a place for safety nets, investments in infrastructure and education, etc. in government, though I think that this should take place as much as possible at the local level. I view government as a necessity and one that can be well-run if we really want it to be, but I fear the bigger it gets the more cumbersome its navigation will become.)
And while I am warming to free trade as philosophy, I still fail to see a practical road map for its global implementation. I mean, how does free trade even begin to touch the lives of those in the most corrupt nations of the world? How does it do anything save exacerbate the problems there? Or am I wrong? Maybe trade is not the culprit – perhaps aid is at the root of many of these problems. Aid is its own form of subsidy, after all – often propping up the powerful at the expense of the disenfranchised.
Sorry, this is a rambling sort of post. Look what three day weekends have done to me. This is all very complicated stuff and as I am wont to do, I use this blog to think aloud, like some mad pamphleteer. The more I know the less I know. And so it goes.
Next up: neoconservatism as the new realism? (I use “next” very loosely here…)