Devon, PA. Some FPR readers may have seen my two-part essay The Empire of Addiction, originally published in First Principles in March and May of 2009, but excerpted on this site.  In Part I, I argued against the neo-liberal globalist utopians (otherwise known as most economists and technocrats) that free trade was good neither in principle nor in effect.  To the contrary, in principle it constitutes a surrender of human reason in an area of activity for which it is exquisitely suited (i.e. politics and oeconomics, household management): classical liberal economics is not the consummation of rational thought but a fideistic flight in which we are borne up on illusory eagles’ wings.  In effect, free trade necessitates the creation of a huge state super-structure: continuous military intervention abroad and corporate welfare and the welfare state at home.  But this arrangement cannot normalize itself, cannot set itself up as the permanent order for which it mistakenly takes itself.  Rather, such complex military and financial forms keep the external forms of the nation in place while it eviscerates its once productive internal organs.

In Part II, I argued that the ideology of continuous growth derived from our failure to distinguish between property and wealth–a clearer way of expressing Aristotle’s well known distinction between the natural and unnatural forms of the art of property acquisition.  Identifying wealth (money in its pure abstraction) with property (the concrete instruments necessary to human subsistence) leads to the validation of perpetual acquisition and growth disruptive of the self-sustainability (autarchy) of households, and consequently of the society to which those households are naturally ordered.  The result of the regime described in Part I and the way of life condemned in Part II has been a society largely built on and fed by usury, and which, therefore, has substituted military might, ill-begotten currency, and easy credit for making the things our country needs to sustain itself.

I proposed, in other words, that supposedly conservative “free market” principles and liberal bureaucratic “managed society” were two halves of one unnatural system; they derived from the normalization of usury and the failure of economic policy and actual practice to recognize that all true wealth comes in the concrete form of property rather than in the abstraction of ingenious financial instruments; and, further, that

the big stick of the Bush Administration followed by the soft looks of the Obama administration are doing their best not to save American prosperity.  They seek only to delay our nation’s hard confrontation with the fact that we make almost nothing, spend many times more than we can afford, and have, as a whole, no vision of how a truly flourishing domestic economy should be formed.  The warfare of the Bush administration came in tandem with the massive expansion of the role and size of the federal government; its encouragement of easy credit in housing came as just one “welfare” scheme whose debt-creation perpetuated the need for military adventures abroad.  To an equal degree, the acceleration of government enlargement under Obama appears like a promissory note: as it increases our dependence on foreign manufactures and foreign capital to keep prices low and our society in some strained sense “solvent,” it sets the stage for wars to protect “American interests” in the decades to come.

One concern I had with this paragraph was its apparently hyperbolic claim as a “fact” that “we make almost nothing.”  Everyday experience would confirm this, since our consumer goods clearly are almost all imported, but was I not underestimating American production of durable goods and high technology?  I certainly would be open to the argument, given that, in absolute numbers, we remain the world’s largest manufacturer.  But Patrick J. Buchanan , in “Dismantling America,” provides the sort of concrete clarity on this matter that I did not:

Things that we once made in America — indeed, we made everything — we now buy from abroad with money that we borrow from abroad.

Over this Lost Decade, 5.8 million manufacturing jobs, one of every three we had in Y2K, disappeared. That unprecedented job loss was partly made up by adding 1.9 million government workers.

The last decade was the first in history where government employed more workers than manufacturing, a stunning development to those of us who remember an America where nearly one-third of the U.S. labor force was producing almost all of our goods and much of the world’s, as well.

Not to worry, we hear, the foreign products we buy are toys and low-tech goods. We keep the high-tech jobs here in the U.S.A.

Sorry. U.S. trade surpluses in advanced technology products ended in Bush’s first term. The last three years we have run annual trade deficits in ATP of nearly $70 billion with China alone.

As always, his full column is worth the reader’s attention.  But I draw your eyes to it here merely to fill in some more precise details regarding our woefully liquid empire: like a ‘seventies swinger we have passed out drunk in the bubbling hot tub of our financial markets, continue to slur our desire for another shot of Crown Royal (note to reader: interpret cleverly), and ignore that making things, growing things, doing things with our hands and close to the ground is not simply an Arcadian vision to which the only correct response is, “Wouldn’t that be nice?”  Rather, such are the conditions not of a primitive economy but of a sound economy.  I join in the call for small agriculture, small business, and widely distributed property not merely because I find it pretty, and not only because it is good for the soul and trains it for moral seriousness and affords it the conditions for the good life.  I join that call, because economics is not a concatenation of mathematical abstraction and pure potency: it is a concrete reality that tells us a household, a community, and a nation can only sustain themselves in a limited number of ways.  We have abandoned those sustainable ways in favor of the bubbling flow of numeric manipulation.

So long as the federal government continues to monopolize the power of treaties and tariffs, it should deploy them for the purposes of protecting vital American industries.  It should do so with an eye to encouraging the proliferation of small, geographically dispersed firms, favoring none.  Wise, if limited, tariffs, strictly enforced competition law (e.g. anti-trust law), and re-devolution to the States the power to enforce regulations regarding corporations within their borders: here are three decisive starts to a restoration of American society.  The State at any and every level should regulate financial dealings so they conform to nature, allowing the kinds of investment proper to shared ownership and concrete financial partnerships, but prohibiting the irresponsible manipulations that have allowed finance to become an industry unto itself, wherein financial stakeholders remain radically removed from the productive enterprises on which their abstract profits are “vaguely” based.

Individually, we should prioritize the acquisition and sustaining of productive property as the real foundation of our own security–its illiquid character may make it impossible to move or transfer, but that is the point.  We should discourage — listen to me, discourage — our children from studying finance and entering into geographically dislocated careers of number manipulation, and encourage them to start or join enterprises productive of the concrete instruments sustaining of human life.  To the extent we do otherwise, we are unloving parents and failed human beings.

To lighten such dour admonitions, even at the risk of undermining their already dubious authority for the reader, let me conclude by sharing a picture of the American Flag my daughter and I made on a snowy day a few weeks ago.  The work was absorbing; it was more satisfying than the composition of this essay; I could sense even in this most trivial of industries the all-absorbing makings of happiness ever present in the uniquely human activity of work.  Man, as John Paul II says, is the subject of work: work is for him, and his dignity is expressed in it.  The joy of cutting up construction paper with my daughter confirmed that; I look forward to the more serious and productive work the summer months will make possible.

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James Matthew Wilson is Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Augustinian Traditions at Villanova University. An award-winning scholar of philosophical-theology and literature, he has authored dozens of essays, articles, and reviews on subjects ranging from art, ethics, and politics, to meter and poetic form, from the importance of local culture to the nature of truth, goodness, and beauty. Wilson is also a poet and critic of contemporary poetry, whose work appears regularly in such magazines and journals as First Things, Modern Age, The New Criterion, Dappled Things, Measure, The Weekly Standard, Front Porch Republic, The Raintown Review, and The American Conservative. He has published five books, including most recently, a collection of poems, Some Permanent Things and a monograph, The Catholic Imagination in Modern American Poetry (both Wiseblood Books, 2014). Raised in the Great Lakes State, baptised in the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas, seasoned by summers on Lake Wawasee (Indiana), and educated under the Golden Dome, Wilson is scion of a family of Hoosiers dating back to the early nineteenth century, and an offspring of Southside Chicago Poles whose tavern kept the city wet through the Depression (and prohibition) years.  He now lives under the same sentence of reluctant exile as many another native son of the Midwest, but has dug himself in for good on the margins of the Main Line in Pennsylvania with his beautiful wife, dangerous daughter, and saintly sons. For information on Wilson's scholarship and a selection of his published work, click here. See books written and recommended by James Matthew Wilson.

39 COMMENTS

  1. “Wise, if limited, tariffs, strictly enforced competition law (e.g. anti-trust law), and re-devolution to the States the power to enforce regulations regarding corporations within their borders: here are three decisive starts to a restoration of American society.”

    Have you examined the unintended consequence that anti-trust law may have had in encouraging big business? In other words, what has that type of law done, unintentionally, by artifically inceasing business costs to meet the anti-trust administrative burden, thereby killing smaller marginal competitors? Mega-corps and consolidation all came about because larger economies of scale were needed to deal with anti-trust and other types of federal regulations. You call for more state level regs, but won’t that push corps to consolidate to meet those administrative burdens?

    Also, what is valid “competition”? Currently, the dominant models of “competition” come from the neo-classical economists, whose ideas and notion of anthropology are the basis of much of what is criticized here as “free-trade.” Thus, while you may call for “competition” to be enforced, unless and until the Front Porchers and distributists have a coherent theory of prices, interest rates, and human action generally to build up a theory of competition, other more substantial theories of “competition” will fill the void. As such, under the proposed regime, the lamentation that mega-corps just keep getting bigger and more powerful will remain.

    As for tariffs, they purport to help the country by raising prices of a particular good, but what they end up doing is helping the well connected at the expense of the middle class and the poor. I see no merit in penalizing both a human being in China who is exchanging goods with a human being in America. To paraphrase Jimmy Buffet, there’s nothing like shaking the hand of the mango man as he greets you at the border. Now that is a market in a place that I think Front Porchers can identify with.

  2. Casey, if you can show me that pre-1980 enforcement of anti-trust law was somehow less conducive to small business than the post-1980 failure to enforce those laws, I’d like to see it.

    Your anthropology shines through in the closing paragraph: an individual in the U.S. and an individual in China — why should they be penalized? It seems pretty evident that nearly everyone is penalized under those conditions where only large corporate firms can subsist and do so by keeping labor effectively liquid and chasing low wages. As the essays to which I refer contend, the aspirations to economies of comparative advantage and economic interdependence create conditions that lead to continuous, minor wars and, in our actual experience at least, leads to the gutting of domestic industry and production.

    To risk a non sequitur: that individual in China for whom you are so sollicitious owns your debt and you and I will be working for him soon enough, unless we can conceive of ends to the economy and our market that are not configured exclusively according to securing the lowest retail price for isolated individuals.

  3. “if you can show me that pre-1980 enforcement of anti-trust law was somehow less conducive to small business than the post-1980 failure to enforce those laws, I’d like to see it.”

    Sure, check out the conglomeration wave of the 1960s. Smaller businesses got creamed by anti-trust regulation, driving the diversifaction wave. As for “competition” what is it? The neo-classical micro-economists will still maintain the answer. What’s the alternative?

    “Your anthropology shines through in the closing paragraph: an individual in the U.S. and an individual in China.”

    Wrong. I never use the term individual. I say human being.

    “that individual in China for whom you are so sollicitious owns your debt and you and I will be working for him soon enough”

    No, the Chinese government through its central bank owns the US government’s debt (yes I understand there are human beings in that government too).

    Fred in Bejing has sailed to NYC to sell me some exotic chinese mangos.

    Or to really get into place and family, take Jose in El Paso, TX, who has crossed the Rio Grande to Jaurez to cut Fernando’s estately lawn for a fee, afterward they attend a quincinera beginning at the El Paso Cathedral at St. Patrick’s, and go to a Chopies a Mexican restaurant a family business run out of a house in Las Cruces, NM that imports tortillas & tomatos from Chiauahua, Mex and chiles from Hatch, NM to make fine enchiladas. This is free-trade, not some NAFTA GATT induced nightmare. And when you have either NAFTA GATT or tariffs and ideologically based border restrictions, you cut out the human flourishing I just described. Your plan might help northern Anglo-America (might not), but what does it do to the community that is artificially divided at the Rio Grande? What do tariffs do to that place and community? Can we call it the “restoration of American society” for that American place?

  4. As for tariffs, they purport to help the country by raising prices of a particular good, but what they end up doing is helping the well connected at the expense of the middle class and the poor. I see no merit in penalizing both a human being in China who is exchanging goods with a human being in America. To paraphrase Jimmy Buffet, there’s nothing like shaking the hand of the mango man as he greets you at the border. Now that is a market in a place that I think Front Porchers can identify with.

    I didn’t think Front Porchers would identify with placeless places. This Front Porcher has no truck with someone whose political economy is premised on “a human being in America” and “a human being in China.” You are vastly mistaken; they are an American and a Chinese respectively, nation and tribe are inextricably bound up with place. I think you ended up on the Front Porch by mistake – the cosmopolitan salon is that way.

  5. “You are vastly mistaken; they are an American and a Chinese respectively, nation and tribe are inextricably bound up with place.”

    I agree, and I get down to an even lower, more front porch level of granularity with the Rio Grande example above. It still doesn’t follow that they should be penalized by their governments for being from such fine places.

    Is the Front Porch a place of welcoming, that intermediate place in the community where gentlemen make agreements with the Irish or Chinese immigrant on a handshake, or something more akin to a Non-Partisan Anti-Chinese League?

    Forgive the even greater cosmopolitanism, but I have an Irish great aunt who lives in the New Dorp neighborhood of Staten Island. She’s lived there for over 50 years, complete with an actual front porch. Recently, my uncle (her nephew) complained to her about all the Russians who’ve recently moved into the neighborhood. She wisely responded, “it’s their turn.”

  6. This was a provocative read – requires some mulling over but I am inclined to agree with much of what you have said certainly in principle.

    Tariffs I admit seem problematic and I wonder if a better way to deal with this issue is to enforce a standard whereby workers in different nations are all receiving relatively equitable wages and benefits. Talk of global trade is absurd when a worker in the US makes many times the wage of their counterpart in China. Our current situation is the inevitable result of such inequity in wages. It seems to me that the Fairtrade movement is worthwhile in that it seeks to address these imbalances.

    Re: anti trust – I think part of the issue with anti trust is the tendency to perceive it as a horizontal issue when nowadays it is a vertical issue. Example – Standard Oil was a horizontal trust which was “busted” (although I note that the resulting companies of the breakup of Standard oil – Exxon and Mobil have now been permitted to rejoin). But now we have oil companies that have vertical monopolies – they drill the oil, refine it, and then sell it to us through gas stations they own. This eliminates competition as effectively as the old horizontal monopoly.

    I do think this again points us towards the ongoing discussion about distributism and the recent Red Tory discussion (although I am hoping to hear more about those events). We will continue to debate and disagree about things like tariffs and anti trust enforcement and any number of details about managing the economy until we begin to understand that capital/profit is valuable only in so far as it promotes human flourishing.

  7. On the dot, Wilson. Your paragraph starting with “So long as …”
    is a perfectly concise short recipe for restoration.

    There are a handful of people in Washington who seem to understand
    this point. Marcy Kaptur and Maria Cantwell come to mind. Is there
    any way to boost their morale, raise their Mojo?

  8. On the dot, Wilson. Your paragraph starting with “So long as …”
    is a perfectly concise short recipe for restoration.

    There are a handful of people in Washington who seem to understand
    this point. Marcy Kaptur and Maria Cantwell come to mind. Is there
    any way to boost their morale, raise their Mojo?

  9. “Anti-trust regulations only affect the trusts. They place no burden at all on small businesses.”

    However John it does seem the case that the progressive era reforms, such as “trust-busting”, were responsible for a large impulse towards oligarchgy in quite a few industries; if Kevin Carson, Kolko, Stromberg et al are to be trusted.

  10. W, I agree that regulation in general works toward the advantage of big companies, since dealing with regulations is a large part of a small business, but a small part of a large business. But the anti-trust regulations do not fall under that rule.

  11. According to those I mentioned they do. They show how before trust busting the trusts were actually suffering and there was quite a lot of competition in the key industries but after these measures many of these industries became pretty much cartelised.

  12. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and have a question. Have you guys considered the desirability of corporations as a business entity at least to the extent that they operate across state borders? A corporation is of course only a legal fiction allowed to do business by virtue of our laws. Aside from exposure to personal liability which can be remedied by law, corporations are useful to production only to consolodate money and water down risk for large ventures. While an arguement can be made that there are some areas where there is a need for corporations such as the auto industry, no such arguement can be made for corporate farming or franchise corporations as in the food service industry. Since corporations are less accountable to community and since profits are its sole motivation, isn’t it reasonable to assume that the first step toward revitalizing local community would be to limit the nature and extent of corporate business.

  13. “Everyday experience would confirm this, since our consumer goods clearly are almost all imported…”

    “In any event, with imports of consumer goods and services accounting for only 8 percent or so of total consumption expenditures, the inflation effect is likely to be small.” — http://www.stlouisfed.org/publications/re/articles/?id=1760

    So, yes, if you live in an ideological world that leads you into hyperbole as excessive as that practiced by market idolators, everyday experience will confirm this! Otherwise, if you can actually look around your own house and read product labels, it’s pretty obvious it’s nonsense.

  14. Gene Callahan, that seemed a startling figure until I looked into it. You are right that Mr. Wilson chose the wrong words when he said “consumer goods.” He should have just said “goods” and then he would have been right; his overall point is, I think, correct.

    Here is the federal data for U. S. exports and imports from 2000-2008 (in millions of dollars).

    I’ll just list out 2000 and 2008 so we can see the change.

    2000 Imports:
    Goods: 1,226,684
    Services: 223,748
    Total: 1,450,432

    2000 Exports:
    Goods: 771,994
    Services: 298,603
    Total: 1,070,597

    2000 Trade Balance:
    -379,835

    2008 Imports:
    Goods: 2,117,245
    Services: 405,287
    Total: 2,522,532

    2008 Exports:
    Goods: 1,276,994
    Services: 549,602
    Total: 1,826,596

    2008 Trade Balance:
    -695,937

    So in 2008, we were importing over $2 trillion worth of foreign goods and $405 billion in services. While we exported many goods and services as well, we’re still at a deficit of almost $700 billion (!) worth of goods and services that could be provided by the ~10-20% un/underemployed of Americans rather than imported. I bet the deficit is even worse in the manufacturing industries hit hardest by free trade.

    The larger point about how a healthy economy shouldn’t be skewed to produce “products” increasingly abstract and removed from concrete life (and especially those of a usurious nature) remains true, though I hope these statistics address your suspicion that contra Mr. Wilson the U. S. really isn’t importing a lot of goods. I assure you, we are, and the shape of our imports, trade deficit, and the changing contours of the economy is not a net good thing for reasons addressed above.

    Casey Khan:

    s the Front Porch a place of welcoming, that intermediate place in the community where gentlemen make agreements with the Irish or Chinese immigrant on a handshake, or something more akin to a Non-Partisan Anti-Chinese League?

    If they are immigrants who are actual neighbors, then there’s no problem.

    If you only had one job to give, would you give it to your worthy, unemployed son or to a worthy stranger on the other side of the planet? I’d give it to a son; in fact, I’d be obligated to. Also, I don’t feel bad about giving a wife or a neighbor gifts but not strangers on the other side of the planet I don’t know. The reason is, I think, because human beings are finite and were meant to have relational limits and obligations in keeping with our finite natures. No community can flourish without at least some recognition of this truth, however welcoming we are (and ought to be) to strangers visiting our porches.

    But there is a world of difference between even what you might be imagining as “cosmopolitan” relationships within a “community” or a border territory and what actually goes on in our global economy.

    The question for each of us is: does it make me a member of the Non-Partisan Anti-Woman League if I forsake all others for my wife?

  15. Albert, those are very fine figures you’ve posted there, but they have nothing to do with whether or not the US “no longer makes anything.” Granted, we import more than we export, but that wasn’t the question at hand. Even if Mr. Wilson said “goods” instead of “consumer goods,” the statement “our goods clearly are almost all imported…” would still be wildly inaccurate — comparing exports to imports is utterly irrelevant to judging this claim — you have to compare imports to total GDP. And imports of 2.5 trillion are still just a fraction of US GDP of 14.2 trillion — so clearly anyone who says “are goods are almost all imported” is living in an ideological fantasy rather than in reality.

  16. That may be so, Mr. Callahan, but that is not what my essay contends. It contends very plainly to the literate, no matter what fantasies they dwell in, that a) I was concerned over the possible hyperbole of a past statement; b) that everyday experience does indeed make it seem as if our consumer goods were mostly imported; and that c) Buchanan’s numbers indicate that comforting ourselves with accounts of American production of high-tech and durable goods, for which we may safely and readily abandon the production of plastic toys, etc., would be itself a delusion. We are losing manufacturing in nearly every category of measurement even as we plainly remain an immensely productive — superlatively so — manufacturing country in absolute terms.

  17. You wrote: ‘“we make almost nothing.” Everyday experience would confirm this, since our consumer goods clearly are almost all imported…’

    So, by writing “our consumer goods are almost all imported,” did you mean something other than that our consumer goods are almost all imported? Because if that’s what you meant, it’s wrong. And if that’s not what you meant, why did you write that? (Perhaps I am just not “literate” enough to recognize that this was an elaborate trope of some sort.)

    And I know you did not claim “our goods are almost all imported” — that’s what Albert claimed you ought to have said, so in the above post I was showing him that that claim does not hold true either.

  18. Right, our everyday experience of shopping in stores, etc. would confirm the claim that our consumer goods are almost all imported. But that experience is not necessarily correct and may, in fact, be contradicted by data derived from other sources — as you suggest. It may also be confirmed by data derived from other sources — as Buchanan argues.

    It would be the strange man whose everyday experience consisted of rubbing his temples while standing in Walmart, repeating over and over again, “Despite this row of shoes, that column of discount stereos, and the home-assembly bookshelf before which I bow in reverence, statistics show that the U.S. makes all kinds of things.”

  19. Kasey, since I let myself get drawn into discussion with Mr. Callahan, let me note that I didn’t mean to snub your own arguments. I just felt they confirmed much of what I argued and I didn’t have time to offer a proper riposte to the rest.

  20. Concerning exports, do you know what our largest single exported product is? Soybeans. Corn is up there too. Then we have airplanes, but much of that work is outsourced and re-imported. This is all do say, “the numbers be damned; take an inventory of items around you to see how many, if any, are made by your neighbors.”

    It is characteristic of undeveloped economies that they ship raw materials, and advanced ones that they ship high value added products. We are a bit of both, but becoming more and more like the former rather than the later. Perhaps we should replace the term “banana republic” with “soybean republic.”

  21. “Right, our everyday experience of shopping in stores, etc. would confirm the claim that our consumer goods are almost all imported. But that experience is not necessarily correct…”

    So, what you actually meant was not “cofirm,” but “mislead us into thinking.”

    In any case, that is certainly not what *my* everyday experience would suggest, and, in response to John Médaille query, my answer would be, “Quite a lot of them” — where I live in Brooklyn, my neighborhood is chock full of business making the things I buy right in back of the storefront, or selling largely local products from the shop. When I look around my apartment, *most* things were made in the US and *many* within 40 blocks of my home!

  22. Wow, Gene. In your apartment “*most* things were made in the US and *many* within 40 blocks of my home!” Your shoes and your shirts and your computer and your tables and chairs and your phone were made in America? “Most things” would certainly include at least some of those items. Or do you just have a rather peculiar constellation of items in your apartment? But be that as it may I doubt that many readers can make that statement. I certainly can’t. As I look around my office, my desk is made in America, because I commissioned it from the carpenter. Most of my books are printed here. The paper clips are made in America. Aside from that, not much else.

  23. “Wow, Gene. In your apartment “*most* things were made in the US…”

    John incredulity and his subsequent list are good examples of how ideology leads us to see whatever confirms it. John focuses specifically on the things least like to have been made in the US when he looks around his home. Now, in my apartment, the two categories of goods with the most members are books and food items — and, indeed, when I check, the vast majority of items from each group was produced in the US. When I quickly surveyed my bathroom, 8 out of the first 10 items I checked were made in the US — and the other two were made in Canada, our large colony to the north.

  24. Gene, I think you are certainly right to include food, since so much of it is manufactured rather than grown. Okay, that covers the kitchen and the bathroom and the library. Anything in between?

    One thing is clear, no matter how much we manufacture: with what we make, we don’t earn enough to buy what we don’t make. We are living on credit. That cannot continue, and what cannot continue will not continue. It’s just a matter of timing.

  25. “Kasey, since I let myself get drawn into discussion with Mr. Callahan, let me note that I didn’t mean to snub your own arguments. I just felt they confirmed much of what I argued and I didn’t have time to offer a proper riposte to the rest.”

    No problem. Also, is “competition” an ideology of its own as well?

    Also, with the non-partisan Anti-Chinese League comment, I was responding to the quote by Steve K, “I think you ended up on the Front Porch by mistake – the cosmopolitan salon is that way.” As for the cosmopolitan salon, isn’t that what this whole internet based placeless forum is, a cosmo salon?

    And to the new book by James, congratulations.

  26. “since our consumer goods clearly are almost all imported”

    It is very interesting that Wilson has still never admitted that this statement was simply plain, flat-out, indisputably false.

    Ideology is a harsh mistress.

  27. Gene, I think we’ve already covered the fact that your books and food may be produced domestically, if not exactly locally. What else did you have in mind? Do you own a 757?

  28. John, I think I already covered the fact that, by actual hard statistics, rather than the “impression” you get by wool gathering over what you can think of that’s not imported, 92% OF AMERICAN’S CONSUMPTION GOODS ARE NOT IMPORTED!!! Now, I have the link above, and you can go check this out. This is conclusive, unless you care to try doing a better statistical study, which we both know you are not about to do. Argument over, you and Wilson are wrong. 92% OF AMERICAN’S CONSUMPTION GOODS ARE NOT IMPORTED!!!

    And yes, John, I AM shouting with those caps, because it’s just incredible that, after providing hard statistics showing you are dead, flat-out wrong, you simply go on as if my only evidence had been looking around my own apartment!

    So, John, just in case you missed the point here: 92% OF AMERICAN’S CONSUMPTION GOODS ARE NOT IMPORTED!!!

  29. Callahan: this essay’s occasion was simply to quote Buchanan in support of previous claims about which I had had some doubts, i.e. the general impression that everyone has who does not live in your apartment is that most of our goods are imported. How correct this impression was was precisely the question held open, but possibly answered by Buchanan.

    You appear to provide information to the contrary, but when I follow the link you reproduce, I get an essay on bird flu. That may be a sign from God for you, pal.

    Please, Callahan, it is not that I do not take arguments seriously — and I would welcome news that America is not decimating its manufacturing base (only, it would seem, the manufacturing located in the towns I have known best, e.g. Celina, OH; South Bend, IN; Lansing, MI). If you can correct your link, I would appreciate it.

    But it never occurred to me that you required affirmation to your every comment. You could hardly expect as much given your propensity to abuse and degrade Voegelin’s concept of ideology. Further, it never occurred to me that anyone — besides yourself — took anything you said seriously. If I am mistaken and, contrary to all appearances, yours is a voice requiring answer in an intelligent debate, well, that would call into question my empirical judgment far more than any possible misapprehensions regarding the relative productivity of American manufacturing.

  30. “You appear to provide information to the contrary, but when I follow the link you reproduce, I get an essay on bird flu.”

    Amazing!! Are you aware you can SEACH INSIDE A WEB PAGE?! See, it’s this amazing new thing where computers allow searching. And if you searched for the text I quoted, YOU WOULD FIND IT RIGHT ON THAT WEB PAGE!

    “and I would welcome news that America is not decimating its manufacturing base”

    I never made any claim about “America’s manufacturing base.” I said your claim that America doesn’t make any (or even makes very few) consumption goods was ludicrous. Which it is.

    “Further, it never occurred to me that anyone — besides yourself — took anything you said seriously. If I am mistaken… that would call into question my empirical judgment far more than any possible misapprehensions regarding the relative productivity of American manufacturing.”

    Well, you said it yourself. In fact, I am invited to speak at conferences, to write books, to publish in peer-reviewed journals, etc. etc. all the time. Check, for instance, the program of this year’s Collingwood conference. Or this year’s British Political Science Association. Or last year’s Eastern Economic Association meeting. Or… Well, the list of publications and conference presentations on my CV is a few pages long, so you probably don’t want me to go on. So, yes, indeed, your empirical judgment turns out to be terrible. Thanks for noting that for us.

  31. Gene, The GDP includes gov’t (no we don’t import that, yet), health care, your sewer services, water, schools, etc. So yes, your children probably go to their local school, and you don’t send them to cheaper schools in Shanghai. The problem with people addicted to statistics is that they may not understand what they mean. Comparing the GDP to imports to get 92% local production is simply a meaningless number. But the worse problem with the number-addled is that they refuse to believe the evidence of their own eyes, or even of their own checkbook. Tell me what you buy locally. I’ll concede from the first that your police and fire services are not outsourced.

    Are you really telling Eastern Economics Association that we make 92% of the stuff we consume? Hmmm. Are you going to be at the History of Economics Convention next month? See you there.

  32. Do you have a link to the conference web site, John? I’m teaching H of T next semester, and might like to attend.

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