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Note the Irony

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


Gerard Baker packs much insight into his column “Populism Is Behind the British Conservative Party’s Downfall” (Oct. 25). Unfortunately, though, he ends by uncritically repeating the myth that working-class voters in America “have been left behind” – a myth thoroughly debunked by economist Michael Strain’s data-rich 2020 book, The American Dream Is Not Dead (But Populism Could Kill It). As summarized by Strain,

The common experience over the past several decades has been that jobs are readily available for those who want them, and for quality of life to improve. The populist argument that typical workers have been at a standstill for decades – victims of an elite that has “rigged the system” against them to help itself, or of immigrants – is incorrect.*

Unjust interventions that enrich concentrated interests at the greater expense of the general public of course exist. But the dynamism and relative freedom of America’s market economy – at least until the covid era – have managed nevertheless to steadily improve ordinary Americans’ economic fortunes. Denying this reality only further incites working-class Americans to support tariffs and other interventions that, quite unlike demonized open markets, will indeed leave these Americans behind.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

* Michael R. Strain, The American Dream Is Not Dead (But Populism Could Kill It) (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2020). The quotation above is on page 105.

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