Modern distributist thought is currently being rebranded as “localism.” While this cleverly avoids the original term’s association with redistribution, it also has the benefit of flagging its economic errors. At the heart of distributist thought is the idea that life was better when centers of production were closer to the home and enterprises were smaller. However, the dream of turning the whole world, or even just the West, back to the life of medieval farmers (or post-WWII suburban America) must clash with the reality that everyday people would have to give up a lot. A lot of wealth, to start. A lot of health, too. Perhaps that’s fine. There is more to this world than wealth and health. But we must ask: how many people could the global economy feed if society was organized in this way? The answer is certainly not 7.9 billion. There is a reason our ancestors chose to forgo small family business production—they saw that the extension of the market and division of labor gave better lives to their children. Like it or not, big corporations like Walmart are to thank for reducing food insecurity amongst low and middle-income households. Appreciating the aesthetic and healthy options of a local farmer’s market or choosing a simple lifestyle for our families shouldn’t preclude us from acknowledging the unique blessings of global markets.
This is a “modern American industrial and innovation strategy,” [National Security Advisor] Mr. [Jake] Sullivan coos. He didn’t dare say “industrial policy” without required trigger warnings, after synfuels, Solyndra and Lordstown Motors. But he isn’t fooling anyone. All that’s missing from his “new Washington consensus” is Soviet-style Five Year Plans. Give him time. Government control of industry never works. It distorts price signals by either fixing wages or messing with prices via tariffs or environmental edicts.
I suppose what I find most distasteful is the “government knows all” attitude. These technocrats are control freaks trying to micromanage chips and electric vehicles and energy and gas stoves. Like this summer’s “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” it’s the rise of the expert class, though its members are neither expert nor classy.
I wouldn’t trust these folks to run a lemonade stand. They would organize middle schoolers via collective bargaining, freeze prices, institute $25-an-hour “fair” wages, cap sugar levels, place tariffs on “flavored drinks” from other neighborhoods and then tax parents to subsidize the inevitable losses.
The PR blitz pushing Bidenomics will soon become deafening. Elections need issues, after all. There is no mention of Bidenflation and falling real wages. Ms. [Rana] Foroohar states that “paradigm shifts begin with narrative shifts.” That’s precisely why voters are being sold a tall tale bashing free trade and free markets. Back in the real world, I’d trust markets over the first 2,000 people in the White House telephone directory.
The point here, however, is not merely antitrust’s failings, but also our own in the imparting of history. Until more Americans know what happened in periods such as the Gilded Age, they can’t protect themselves from those who abuse history to advance poor policy. And these days, the danger of such abuse is — no other adjective will do — big.
David Henderson likes the movie Living. (DBx: FYI, so do I.)
The problem with flattening the curve isn’t the idea, it is the absolute lack of data as to which policy intervention(s) actually do ‘flatten it’ (beyond voluntary behavioral change) & the unintended consequences of those measures. Nearly no effort to gather these data. even now