Ross Douthat has one of the stupidest, least informed (or most dishonest) essays on the economy that I've seen in The New York Times . . . ever. He does little more than toady for an equally dishonest though better-sounding (emphasis on "sounding") Jim Manzi in National Affairs.
Briefly, they offer a toned-down but otherwise very familiar conservative economic diet so that the US can maintain its economic primacy in the world — something they seem worried about in much the way that men fret over the size of their penises.
Here, my response:
A complete account of the flaws and misrepresentations in Ross Douthat's essay and Jim Manzi's in National Affairs would require more space than Douthat's essay takes in the first place.
Here are a few of the glaring problems:
1. Both Manzi and Douthat, particularly Manzi, treat American economic leadership as some kind of national security issue. They both come off as narrow-minded jingoists, or as men worried about their penises. We can be sure that the American companies relocating production and off-shoring labor to Asia are less concerned about American economic leadership than they are about lining their own pockets — in its sheer extremes, a decidely American ethos that the crimes of Wall Street and the health industry prove amply.
2. Manzi is absurdly sloppy in his use of language. He, and Douthat copying him, talk of "America's global output" compared to Europe, China, India. In dollars or tonnage or what? Is this the Europe including the eastern countries of the former Soviet bloc? Is the vaunted US output including the fantastically wasteful military production? (The US has effectively remained on a constant war footing for 30 years and has effectively been at war continuously for 60.) Does US output include the fools' wealth of the housing bubble and the ponzi schemes of Wall Street? Nothing in Manzi's or Douthat's essay provides any answer.
3. Most glaring: Standard of Living. Douthat and Manzi both make passing reference to the American standard of living and then let it drop — for obvious reason: the US standard of living is a disgrace for a country as productive as Douthat and Manzi claim. All of the major western European nations, with the likely exception of Britain (which of the European nations has most closely tried to copy the American Standard), have a higher standard of living than the US. The Scandinavian countries, with the most 'socialistic' economies have the highest standards and the greatest levels of satisfaction among their populations.
4. Our "politics are polarized"? Hardly. The vast majority of Democrats have bent over double to copy the Republicans. It is the right-wing Republicans, who now constitute the entire Republican party in Congress, that have sought at every turn to torpedo political and economic consensus.
5. Obama Democrats returning to "European-style social democracy"? Does Douthat read the news — at all. There is little if any Obama or Democratic move to reregulate Wall Street or to regulate the health industry beyond a few token measures that will likely be easily evaded. Obama offers environmental measures as "suggestions". The FDA may get some regulatory teeth back, but only after 3 decades of disaster, thanks to Reagan and Clinton. "Micromanaging industry"? How? Where? Can Douthat offer even one example beyond, perhaps, the banning of denial of health insurance coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions? There is simply no basis in fact for Douthat's or Manzi's assertions. They offer nothing more than Friedman/Greenspan style conservative economics.
6. Partnerships "between Big Business and Big Government"? What partnership? We the People bailed out Wall Street after vague threats by overpaid executives? We bailed out the auto manufacturers only after it became clear they really would fail, taking with them tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of jobs. Republicans fought the aid to Detroit tooth and nail. Our health insurance and Wall Street "partners" continue to fight any change that might threaten their grossly over-sized bonuses. Again Douthat shows a childish ignorance of or a willful (very Republican) indifference to fact.
Last, "We're all in this together"?! You've got to be kidding. If the past two years prove anything at all, it is that we are *not* all in this together. The wealthiest 1% to 5% of Americans (or fewer) and their paid representatives in Congress have immunized themselves against the conditions of the vast majority. In this respect, the US is doing quite well at keeping pace with China.