Neoliberalism Isn’t Popular
It’s Monday, and like Sunday I’m on a plane again watching cable news, because evidently I still hate myself. I’m not sure what media market this plane’s network is actually in, but they are running political ads on this plane. As a San Francisco resident who rarely watches TV, these are not really something I am used to. Evidently the two candidates are currently in a war of words over China, because the Presidential campaign ads are all focused on who will be “tougher” on China. As an aside, Mr. Romney’s oft-repeated pledge to “brand China a currency manipulator on Day 1” sounds like the opposite of tough to me – it’s not even a promise to act, just to complain.
However, the larger contest to be seen as “tougher” on China somewhat sickens me. I know that it is just an act, analogous to Obama’s 2008 pledge to renegotiate NAFTA. While one of Obama’s advisers gave away the game on that one by disclosing to Canada that this was just a pretense, it was more or less obvious all along that a conventional market liberal wasn’t going to risk messing with one of the signature achievements of free trade. It’s also obvious that ruthless capitalist Mitt Romney is not going to go about endangering the mutually enriching US-China trade. So anyone who pays even the slightest bit of attention knows this is just both sides tilting at windmills for the benefit of Ohio autoworkers.
However, it’s just goofy to see both candidates so cravenly refuse to embrace the policies they know are best for the country. Sure, China may be manipulating their currency in order to maintain their competitiveness in export markets. But the Fed manipulates our currency for all sorts of reasons, and I suspect neither Mr. Romney nor President Obama would complain about doing so to boost our exports. Surely we should grant our international peers the basic respect to not attempt to interfere in their internal affairs.
The United States seems to perennially have this blind spot with respect to China. As a private citizen, I have huge problems with their authoritarianism and policy on Tibet – but the US government’s continued meddling in those issues shows arrogance. We’d find it breathtakingly inappropriate if China did the same, and I don’t understand why Americans find it so hard to understand another’s perspective. Sure, China is wrong – but most of us have friends or family with which we disagree without disrespecting them. Like it or not, China is a peer to the US in international affairs and the American attitude towards China has not kept pace.