This just in from today’s Wall Street Journal: “Pain From Free Trade Spurs Second Thoughts.” Can you believe it? A “downer” story on globalization from the mother church of free-market capitalism. Who knew it was so bad? Actually, many millions of working Americans knew and have known for many years. They were regarded as mindless “protectionists.” WSJ gave them the back of its hand.
Think of today’s lengthy, revelatory story as a massive “correction.” It led the newspaper’s front page and recounted the heavy doubts accumulating among establishment free-traders about what they have wrought. The actual destruction from globalization is worse than anything they had imagined and it’s going to get far worse.
The Journal is playing catch-up, to put it kindly. This is the bad news that newspaper was never willing to face frankly and publish. Now that it has, however, the impact will be truly significant–mainly by opening the way for other newspapers (think New York Times and Washington Post) whose editors and reporters have been similarly afraid to tell the whole truth about free-trade dogma’s destructive impact on American prosperity. I look forward to many more confessional “corrections” from our leading media.
The WSJ reporters featured Princeton economist Alan Blinder as their influential truth-teller, now bravely breaking the news. Blinder was Federal Reserve vice chair and economic advisor to Bill Clinton, who participated directly in the facile promotion of unregulated, lopsided free trade with Mexico, China and other developing economies. Blinder was one of the credentialed “experts” cited to assure everyone that free trade is a blessing for all, pay no attention to those whining workers who lost their jobs.
So now he wants to warn us? I regard him as a “running dog” looking for a little absolution, after the fact.
I also have a bone to pick with David Wessel and Bob Davis, the two WSJ reporters who wrong the piece. Wessel and Davis have been preeminent cheerleaders for establishment line for many years, though I always suspected they knew better. We had an unpleasant encounter ten years ago, when my own book on the global economy was published – One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism. Davis and Wessel made a very public point of disparaging my analysis and predictions. Wrong, wrong, wrong, they said on a public affairs TV show where we both appeared. The thrust of my book’s argument is what these two reported today as news.
I sent them an e-mail this morning congratulating their breakthrough in understanding things. “Time for an apology?” I asked. “Not holding my breath.”