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Resisting the Woke Doesn’t Require Rejecting Free Markets

Here’s a letter to the editor of The Federalist:


If the arguments against woke progressivism offered by Rachel Bovard and other members of today’s “New Right” are to be taken seriously by serious people, Ms. Bovard & Co. should stop repeating myths about economic matters – and in particular about free trade – that, while convenient for natcon propaganda, are demonstrably false.

One such myth repeated by Ms. Bovard in her essay “The 1980s Called. They Want Their Foreign Policy Back And Republicans To Finally Wake Up” (October 12) is that America has suffered “deindustrialization.” Perhaps worrisome if true, but this assertion is blazingly backwards: Industrial production in America is today at an all time high, while America’s industrial capacity hit its all-time high just before covid and is now almost fully recovered to that record level.

Another myth repeated by Ms. Bovard is that of the “China shock,” which is the alleged unprecedented economic “shock” to the American heartland from U.S. trade with China since the latter country gained Permanent Normal Trade Relations status with America in 1999. And indeed the size of America’s alleged total job losses to Chinese imports over the 13 years of the so-called “China Shock” (1999 through 2011) sounds big at 2.4 million – which is an average of 15,385 lost jobs each month. But this number of monthly job losses is a mere one percent of the total number of jobs now destroyed each month in the U.S. by the ordinary employment churn of our dynamic economy. Singling out increased U.S. trade with China as a uniquely disruptive economic force is a politically and ideologically convenient attention-grabber, but it’s also deeply misleading.

I share Ms. Bovard’s disgust with woke progressivism. But in seeking to counter this noxious infestation, she and other ‘New Rightists’ are unnecessarily and dangerously – and ignorantly – renouncing the core case for free markets and globalization without which a free and prosperous society cannot long survive.

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