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On Avoiding Kneejerk Politics

On Avoiding Kneejerk Politics


On March 3, 2018

Over the last few days, I’ve become really frustrated with liberals all over the internet about a couple of issues that boil down to “if fascists attack something, we will defend it.” We first saw this with Georgia Republicans taking away Delta’s tax breaks over the airline ending its discount with NRA members. Why would we get upset over this? Corporate tax breaks are tremendously evil. Corporations should be paying much higher taxes. Georgia will be better off if Delta pays higher taxes. The only way it won’t be is if Delta moves–which is also tremendously evil, the kind of capital mobility that led me to write a book decrying this for all the terrible things it causes. The NRA is evil and so are Georgia Republicans, but just because they take away another evil in response doesn’t make the evil less evil. Stop defending corporate tax breaks!

The tariff situation is complicated. In Out of Sight, I call for international labor standards instead of traditional protectionism. But the nation does have a reason and a need to promote manufacturing. I will try to have a longer post about Trump’s tariffs this week, but I think we can say in effect it will be bumbling, stupid, and a complete clown show. That said, the current system of free trade also has a lot of downsides to workers around the world, including in the United States. That depends on the industry and the worker. But again, it’s complicated. We have a need to employ steel workers and a need to employ farmers. It’s of course fine to say that these tariffs are dumb, but that we do need to consider tariffs. What bothers me is that a lot of liberals are engaging in kneejerk defenses of free trade just because Trump opposes it, at least in this case. I noticed this as soon as Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. All of a sudden the TPP switched from something that for most left-liberals, if not neoliberals, was deeply problematic to something that needed to be defended on the grounds of globalism in the wake of the fascist entering the Oval Office. I’m not sure that is the most sophisticated and nuanced take on trade we could have.

And while this has been more muted, there have even been people worried about Trump’s attacks on Jeff Sessions. How can the president attack the Attorney General this way! It’s Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a stone-cold neo-Confederate who wants to repeal the last century of progress. He deserves everything Trump could possibly do to him. Just pass the popcorn on this one. For God’s sake, don’t defend a man who would make Nathan Bedford Forrest proud!

People, our positions should not be defined by knee-jerk reactions to fascists. We should develop actual positions of principle and act upon them. If corporate tax breaks are bad, then we shouldn’t bemoan them for being taken away. That doesn’t mean we should cheer on Georgia Republicans or the NRA. We aren’t children. We don’t have to have a stake in every fight. But don’t be so blinded that your political positions on a given issue are simply based around what Donald Trump or the NRA opposes.