The chapter on industrial policy and its failures is particularly strong and could stand on its own as a review of the literature around this au courant fad that has gained purchase on the left and right. Gregg reviews Japan’s history with industrial policy; oft-touted as a success, this simply was not the case, which Tokyo even acknowledged in 2002, simply stating that “The Japanese model [of industrial policy] was not the source of Japanese competitiveness but of our failure.” He then goes on to critique the recent Chinese experience with industrial policy—which, improbably, is treated with an almost mythical reverence by people like Senator Marco Rubio who should know better—before concluding with a review of various American attempts to undertake economic planning and the difficulties inherent in implementing technocratic policies through democratic political means.
A contradictory and less sophisticated view is that free markets have been allowed to run amok in America for a half century, with (fictional) financial deregulation or spurious claims about particular industries held up as evidence. In this telling, the economy has become unmoored from the nation-state, and the libertarians secretly running Washington can be confounded by anodyne statements like “we are a nation with an economy, not an economy with a nation.”
Of course, neither of these views is correct. While calls for a protectionist, economically interventionist government are as old as the country, Gregg points out that they were never a majority view, much less representative of an actually executed plan. Clay’s American System, for instance, was realized only in “a watered-down compromise . . . and the implementation was anything but noble.” Rather, the internal improvements funded by Congress provided a platform for patronage and pork, and tariffs aggravated tensions between different regions.
The prime minister’s plan also involves deregulation. For example, Truss would accelerate the completion of infrastructure projects by reducing the scope of environmental impact assessments. She would also reduce the tax on property transactions, creating a more fluid housing market and increasing economic efficiency and labor mobility.
Their argument falls apart under scrutiny. The version of Hutt they present is like the version of Buchanan that MacLean presents in her book Democracy in Chains: an unrecognizable caricature.
Trophy hunting isn’t perfect, but it is providing the revenue that helps make conservation possible. Until credible alternatives to generate significant resources for African wildlife conservation materialize, it would be foolish to take away this source of revenue.
Vaccine discrimination is socially divisive and is anti-science.
For all its virtues, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington has never been considered a realistic film. Critics complain that Frank Capra’s movie is at once too corny and too cynical: one brave senator singlehandedly defending the public good against the thoroughly corrupt political and journalistic establishments. But we’ve been seeing a version of that plot for two years now, thanks to Senator Rand Paul’s lonely battle against Anthony Fauci, the Centers for Disease Control, and the mainstream press.
Like the politicians meekly following orders in the film, most of Washington has bowed to the CDC’s Covid edicts, but Paul has never tired of challenging the agency’s futile policies and dubious science. Like the movie’s media baron Jim Taylor, Fauci’s cheerleaders in the press and on social-media platforms have shamelessly pushed the party line—and worked hard to squelch opposing views, though they prefer to use “fact-checkers” rather than the street thugs whom Taylor hired to silence a rival newspaper. Journalists have smeared Paul, and censors have removed some of his scientifically accurate heresies from YouTube, but no one can stop him from regularly berating Fauci at the televised hearings of the Senate health committee.
Paul isn’t as folksy or likable as Jeff Smith (Jimmy Stewart), and his tousled hair isn’t quite as disheveled as during Smith’s epic filibuster, but he, too, likes to deliver lectures on democracy and liberty. Unlike Smith, he hasn’t read the Declaration of Independence to his jaded colleagues—at least, not yet—but he did invoke Friedrich Hayek’s The Fatal Conceit at a hearing early in the pandemic, when he was pleading with Fauci to stop locking down Americans in their homes.
“The fatal conceit is the concept that central planning, with decision-making concentrated in a few hands, can never fully grasp the millions of complex individual interactions occurring simultaneously in the marketplace,” Paul told Fauci. “Only decentralized power and decision-making based on millions of individualized situations can arrive at what risks and behaviors each individual should choose. That’s what America was founded on, not a herd with a couple of people in Washington telling us what to do and we like sheep blindly follow.”
Paul sounded this theme throughout the pandemic, denouncing Fauci as a “petty tyrant” and “dictator in chief” who needlessly stoked fear to create a “nanny state” and “corral our freedom.” In the spring of 2020, when Fauci referred to the lockdowns as merely “inconvenient,” Paul lambasted him for ignoring the vast economic and social damage, and presciently warned, “Our reaction to the virus may turn out to be worse than the virus itself.”
The journal Science saluted his retirement with a long interview mixing adulation (“You’ve never been much motivated by money”) with softball questions (“Is some of the vitriol toward you about being a flip-flopper with your pandemic advice a result of having to make public health decisions in public in real time?”). The only awkward moment came when the interviewer brought up Paul’s interrogations (“Why does that guy piss you off so much?”) and suggested ever so gently that Fauci should have admitted to Paul that his agency had indeed funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab.
“You’re absolutely right,” Fauci said. “If I had to do it over again, I would have done it a little differently.” But, as usual, he knew it wasn’t his fault. The problem, he explained, was that Paul’s belligerence had so stunned him that he’d lashed out instead of remaining calm. “I just should have dropped back off and said, this guy’s a jerk.”
Fortunately, Paul aims to be even more of a jerk in the future. If Republicans regain a majority in the Senate this election, Paul stands to become chairman of the health committee, and he has promised to subpoena Fauci’s records and bring Fauci out of retirement to answer more questions. It won’t be easy holding the public health bureaucracy accountable for the unprecedented damage it has wrought, but thanks to Rand Paul, this movie isn’t over yet.