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A Notable Inconsistency

In my latest column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I riff on the inconsistency of those – left and right – who presume that individuals cannot be trusted to make private decisions but can be trusted to make political decisions. A slice:

Conservative populists are no better. Suspicious of book learning and disdainful of abstract thought and analysis, these populists have great faith that “leaders” who speak the language of the masses are selfless servants of the masses.

Yet, the masses almost never recognize that much of what their populist leaders do is to override the choices made by each individual in the mass.

An example is President Trump’s tariffs. Chinese producers don’t force their offerings on Walmart. Walmart voluntarily buys goods from the Chinese. It then offers these goods for sale to its American customers because these Americans eagerly buy these Chinese-made goods.

If I — a college professor — were to approach a Walmart shopper and, pointing at the Chinese-made goods in his shopping cart, call him dumb and narrow-minded for spending his money as he does, I would rightly be accused of elitist arrogance. But, when a politician such as Donald Trump does effectively the same thing, that shopper — along with hordes of other folks — somehow hears that politician’s words as praise for his intelligence and as an acknowledgment of his dignity.

And, while I would — again rightly — be imprisoned for thievery were I to steal from this shopper those Chinese-made goods, when populist politicians do effectively the same thing, they are praised by Fox News pundits, and by the shopper himself, as being singularly in touch with ordinary Americans.