Can We Cut the Crap on “Unconstrained Globalized Capitalism”?

July 18, 2021

I get why the Right likes to make it seem that the huge upward redistribution of the last four decades was just the result of the market working its magic, but why do so many liberals feel the need to play along? We got yet another example of this bizarre behavior in a column by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, which tells us:

“But the far-right surge [e.g., Donald Trump] also worked in tandem with the pandemic’s challenges to bring to a close the era of austerity and unconstrained globalized capitalism. The way opened for a new wave of government activism.”

The idea that global capitalism in the last four decades has been in any sense “unconstrained” is frankly so laughable that no serious newspaper or magazine should ever print anything making such an absurd claim. In this period, the importance of government-granted patent and copyright monopolies has exploded. They may redistribute more than $1 trillion annually from the rest of us to those in a position to benefit from these monopolies. That comes to almost $8,000 a year for every family in the country. It is close to half of all pre-tax corporate profits. It’s hard to believe that anyone who has been alive and awake over this period could have missed the importance of this massive government intervention in the economy.

Similarly, the push for free trade has been very one-sided. While our trade negotiators worked hard to eliminate barriers to trade in manufactured goods, thereby pushing down the wages of workers in the manufacturing sector and workers without college degrees more generally, they did almost nothing to eliminate the protectionist barriers that allow our doctors and dentists to earn roughly twice as much as their counterparts in other wealthy countries. This transfers roughly $100 billion annually, or $700 per family, from the rest of us to doctors earning an average of $300k a year and dentists earning an average of more than $200k. 

I totally understand why the beneficiaries of this upward redistribution would want to pretend it is just the natural working of the market, but why the hell would people who claim to be opposed to it, like Dionne, go along with this farce? And perhaps even worse, why do media outlets with pretenses of being serious print it?


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