Monday, June 7, 2004
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When protectionists flunk reading comprehension
Hey, I'm moving up in the world -- my New York Times review of Jagdish Bhagwati's In Defense of Globalization is the topic of an Alan Tonelson essay at the leading protectionist web site, americaneconomicalert.org.
We here at danieldrezner.com would have more confidence that globalization opponents know what’s best for typical Americans – and their counterparts around the world – if they even occasionally displayed the dimmest understanding of basic economics. But dreaming up self-serving, wildly off-base caricatures is so much easier than studying and learning.
Tonelson must not have have actually read the rest of the review, which was sufficiently critical of whether Professor Bhagwati actually rose to that challenge to prompt an response from Bhagwati.
Actually, what I was saying that there was a need for an economist to use the language of the average Joe. That requires two things -- a good economist and a good writer. The passages Tonelson cites are the background I provided (as any competent reviewer should) about Bhagwati's bona fides as a good economist. If Alan had read just a teensy bit further down that paragraph, he would have seen that I also said: "Born in India, educated in Britain and now an American citizen, he can claim to understand all points of view. He has won multiple prizes for excellence in economic writing." (emphasis added)
Yeah, nesting in the heart of America’s political establishment (Washington, DC) as "a Research Fellow at the U.S. Business & Industry Educational Foundation" displays a much greater common touch.
Sigh. Again, if Tonelson had actually bothered to read the review, he would have noticed that the paragraph before the one he quoted contained the following: "Public opinion polls repeatedly show Americans to be wary about globalization. The problem is not that economists are starting to doubt their own arguments -- the problem is that the rest of society neither understands nor believes them. Between statistical evidence showing that trade is good for the economy and tangible anecdotes of sweatshops and job losses, most citizens trust the anecdotes."
Oh, and about the Americans facing "weakened job security"? Funny thing about that assertion. As Brink Lindsey pointed out a few months ago, the aggregate number of jobs destroyed in the U.S. economy fell by 9.6% between 2001 and 2002 (from 35.4 million to 32 million).
Tonelson gets a C- in wit and an F in reading comprehension.
[So let's see -- Bhagwati didn't like your review, and the protectionists didn't like your review. Does anyone like your review?--ed. Chester thought it had many fine points.]
You took the kind way out, Dan, saying he messed up in the reading. I suggest, rather something more ominous; Tonelson knew damned well what you were saying and took the only path he could in his attempt to justify his own myopic position; outright distortion of yours.
Not all that uncommon among the left anymore, I'm afraid...
I'm surprised you let go his "tenure protected ivory tower" (as it pertains to yourself) without comment.
Also, get that typo on "protectionist" in 1st para.posted by: P O'Neill on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
“The problem is not that economists are starting to doubt their own arguments -- the problem is that the rest of society neither understands nor believes them.”
Dan Drezner is nowhere near as cynical as he should be. The consensus majority of economists are pro-free trade. John Kenneth Galbraith during the Kennedy administration was a major economic figure. Today, the mainstream Democrats discreetly laugh at him. Only a Ralph Nader takes Galbraith seriously. The world has past him by. But this is what Drezner overlooks: the unofficial academic community rule is that one never has to lie---but they must keep their mouths shut to protect Democrats! One must never do anything which might help the Republican Party. Democrats won two major victories in Louisiana because of the anti-trade nonsense. There is no doubt in my mind but that many Democrat economists privately ridicule John Kerry’s “Benedict Arnold CEOs” rhetoric. These same folks, though, are very cautious about publicly disagreeing with a Democrat candidate.posted by: David Thomson on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
What America really needs is not an economist, but a politician who can make the case for trade and economic liberalism using folksy language that can be embraced by the "average Joe". Somebody like, um, Ronald Reagan. Of course, such a politican also needs the cajones to publicly support free trade as well. Bush has been much better of late, after an admitedly dismal start.posted by: P.B. Almeida on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
With a shrinking middle class, a growing number of American's living in relative poverty and countless others without health insurance, exactly what part of the American economy is growing? Arguments positing the salutary effects of trade liberalization, though emperically rigours, negelect fundamental assumption of social and political arrangments. For example, excessive executive renumeration and, more specifically, the level of debt burden the average family can assume. Far too often a fallacy of composition is committed when one speaks of the US economy. The US economy, institutional investment and financial services organization, is not the American people.posted by: "W" stands for Women on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
Your response, while thoughtful and commenting on your perceived notions of the American economy, immediately lost any of its provocation as you signed it with "'W' stands for Women."posted by: Athena on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
A few moments ago I listened to a John Kerry for President TV spot. At the end, he emphasized once again that his campaign is trying to create jobs in the United States---and not send them out of the country. Mainstream Democrat privately economists laugh as such bovine excrement. How many, though, will come out publicly and say so? Is anyone willing to hold their breath until this happens?posted by: David Thomson on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
I am all for globalization and don't mind outsourcing. However, I am wary when people say our economy is doing great. Are people getting confused between people living well (in debt) and people actually succeeding financially? Yes, right now it looks like most people are doing just fine--great actually. However, individual, corporate, and state and government debt are at an all-time high. Gauging how well Americans are doing right now is difficult when everyone is still in denial about the coming consequences of their debt.posted by: Patrick on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
I, too after a long day slaying dragons and protecting the hearth from dangers near and far, large and small am greeted by my dog. A waging tail, a sloppy kiss and an acknowledgement of my greatness and achievement.
Then I turn the corner of the walkway and see that the dog has eaten half his poop that he just dumped in the yard.
I think I'll get a cat.
SMGposted by: SteveMG on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
Ordinary people can generally do some basic arithmetic, and have a rudimentary grasp of grammar, and even sitcom logic. But they don't get economics. This opens the door for the ridiculous demagoguery of both major parties, and the disconnect, evident to those with rudimentary understanding of economics, between the economists loyal to a party and the public arguments of that party.
Why is that?
Maybe, just maybe, the general equilibrium model that is the touchstone of economists does not sufficiently explicate capitalism.
Free markets are moral and practical, but the average voter will not get that from economists....
posted by: Cliff Styles on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
What America really needs is not an economist, but a politician who can make the case for trade and economic liberalism using folksy language that can be embraced by the "average Joe". Somebody like, um, Ronald Reagan. Of course, such a politican also needs the cajones to publicly support free trade as well. Bush has been much better of late, after an admitedly dismal start.
Well, we had one after Reagan and before Bush. Say what you will about Clinton, but he was a free trader, and he could sell it. He could sell most things.posted by: David Nieporent on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
Responding to Bhagwati, you point out that you liked his book. Responding to Tonelson, you point out that your review was critical.
Trying to have it both ways, I see :)
But this is a good thing. Reading over all of the intellectual scuffles you linked to (especially your courteous response to DeLong), I notice you often try to minimize your differences with your critics. I applaud you: seeking common ground is admirable.posted by: Nate on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
There is a need for someone to step into the breach and defend globalization using the language of the average Joe
For the record, Dan? You do a terrible job of it.
So far the message I get from you to the average offshored worker is: sure, you're broke, you're in debt, and can't find a job, or afford reeducation or attain loans to finance it, your expenses are going up, your benefits will expire soon. But don't worry, because after the millions of lost decent paying jobs, there's a few thousand low paying jobs, and another few hundred decent paying jobs that are nowhere near your skillset.
I'm sorry, I get a bit cynical here because I look around me and I still see very capable individuals who have no place in the legendary economic recovery you and the GOP insists is here; and no sign of what to do about it.
No one, especially not in the administration or ruling party, and especially not you, has provided the "average Joe" or even the above-average Joe with a single piece of advice. Just empty numbers that pretty much add up to "trust me, things are good."
Between statistical evidence showing that trade is good for the economy and tangible anecdotes of sweatshops and job losses, most citizens trust the anecdotes
That's because we *are* anecdotes, and not statistics.
Besides, I've already criticized the flaws in the statistics you've submitted, which have never been addressed. Clearly it doesn't matter, economically, if we replace 100 $50K jobs with 200 $20K jobs. But none of the statistics supplied by pro-offshorers ever reach this level of meaningful depth. It is enough to jump on a BLS report that has "job numbers" in the positive, and declare success. Or to discover that wages among those *still employed* have gone up a bit, despite the fact that so much of those sectors have seen large job loss. It's a victory, even though the income, and more importantly) *net* income, per capita, isn't growing.
I'd really like to ask you flat out, Dan, and get an answer -- isn't it really *net* income that helps the economy? Why don't you address it? Or are expenses simply not rising markedly where you are, and you therefore can place all your arguments in a world where expenses are constant?posted by: Keith Tyler on 06.07.04 at 12:08 PM [permalink]
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