Economic Populism

Ever since the mid-term elections, there’s been an air of “is it real?” surrounding the Democratic Party’s victory. Fallout from the 2000 election and the continuing fiasco over ballot machines — paper or electronic, m’aam? — are reasons for doubt, but reality is here. Winning was the easy part. It’s what to do next that will define the race for 2008 and whether the U.S. and the Democratic Party can go in a new direction. A new path, in terms of economic policy, might be towards what’s being labeled “economic populism.”

When you combine foreign policy with economics, it’s hard to to tell if you’re left of center or right of center. Fighting for greater labor rights in the U.S? (left of center). But what about the labor rights in other countries? You might be anti-NAFTA in America, but consider the poor who are going to get abused further by the economic systems in their own countries? Against globalization? (left of center). But what about the positive effects of offshoring or outsourcing in other countries? Are you prepared to tell the Indian IT sector that they don’t deserve to strive for the same things we have in the States?

When you live overseas, you understand the omnipresence of the constant comparisons to the United States of All things American.  And what it’s really like in India is that people want the things you have.  They want the things their neighbors have.  It’s the constant search for the next big thing, for getting ahead, just like the drivers here.  If you can inch your car in front of the other guy, you have the right of way and can gleefully leave him in the dust or let him blare his horn at you while you create your own version of a lane.

The Economist claims that recent studies of (gasp!) poor people show that they’d rather see economic growth rather than more equal distribution.  Is that bullshit?  It is here.  The fact is that some people have so much wealth.  What can they possibly do with it? If I have to read another article about how the rich now compare themselves to the super-rich, as if it’s only Monopoly that we’re playing, I’ll throw up.

Why not more equal distribution?  Dealing with teh fall-out from slowed growth might, in the long-term, be an easier solution than dealing with the extreme have-nots who at some point will have nothing to lose.

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