A Very Costly “Victory”

President-elect Donald J. Trump, joined by some formerly free-market Republicans, is engaged in an exercise of self-congratulations for successfully stopping Carrier Corporation from moving some of its production facilities to Mexico. The claim is made that this “saved 1,000 American jobs” that were in danger of being “outsourced.” Sean Hannity, who resides in an evidence free zone, calls this a victory for American workers. It is anything but.


Inevitably it will turn out that taxpayers will pay for this alleged victory by paying higher taxes to subsidize keeping the 1,000 workers in Indiana. Which also means that capital is being misallocated to satisfy Mr. Trump’s political objectives, thus harming economic efficiency. Which in turn means the diminishment of long-run employment opportunities for more productive and remunerative employment.


That this stunt will likely be seen as an economic “victory” is a testament to economic ignorance. Congratulations, Mr. Trump.


Media Matters

Journalists, whose favorite subject is…journalists, are now fretting about the threat that Donald J. Trump poses to democracy in general and journalists in particular. Jelani Cobb, in a recent New Yorker article titled “Protecting Journalism from Donald Trump”, quotes Christiane Amanpour holding forth on the subject. Specifically, Ms. Amnanpour delivered a post-election address to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in which she said “I never in a million years thought I would be up here onstage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists a home”.


Ms. Amanpour really ought to relax. The biggest threat faced by American journalists is a well-deserved skepticism about their credibility.


Let’s stipulate that Mr. Trump is no friend of the 1st amendment, to put it mildly. He has shown a willingness to silence dissenters; he has suggested weakening 1st amendment protections, and has indicated a willingness to toss flag burners in jail. This, despite the fact that in the 1989 case Texas v. Johnson, the Supreme Court ruled that such activity is symbolic speech. As such it is Constitutionally protected by the 1st amendment. Justice Scalia, whom Trump claims to admire, voted in the majority in that case.


But the threat that Trump poses to free speech, while real, is manageable. It is manageable because of checks and balances, and because a majority of the Court has been willing to defend the 1st amendment.  To the extent that the Court remains “conservative” it will vigorously defend the 1st amendment. But only if it remains conservative. The irony of this appears lost on those fretting journalists.


After all, it is progressives who are demanding the overturn of the “Citizens United” case in which the Court upheld 1st amendment rights by a 5 – 4 majority. Let’s not forget that it was just a few short years ago that the entirety of the Senate Democratic caucus proposed to alter the 1st amendment to enable legislative bodies to regulate political speech. And it was progressives in the House who protected the IRS and Lois Lerner when the evidence surfaced that showed the IRS was targeting the political activities of conservatives. And it is on the nation’s campuses that “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” are the preferred method of silencing opponents and enforcing a rigid code of conformity.


There is a very real danger to liberty in the United States. It comes (mostly) from the book-burners of the left. It stems from a deterioration of the culture, an infantilization of politics, and an increasingly credulous and compliant population. The deterioration of the culture, increasingly powerful government, ascendant tribalism and a corresponding weakening of traditional institutions has done great damage to civil society. From there it is a short walk to the embrace of a strongman. Like one who thinks it’s just swell to use the power of the Presidency to “save American jobs” in Indiana. After all, Mussolini got the trains running on time.


It is no accident that the President-elect’s preferred mode of communication is Twitter. A 140 character limit is perfectly consonant with the bumper sticker sloganeering that defines modern political discourse, including the quality of journalism we have come to expect from our friends in the 4th estate.


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