The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed column by
Andy Stern yesterday. For those who don't know, the WSJ informs us: "Mr.
Stern was president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
and is now a senior fellow at Columbia University's Richman Center."
The title of the column: "China's Superior Economic Model". It's simultaneously horrible and fascinating. It is a paean to central planning, an idea that keeps rising from the grave, even after Hayek and his followers drove stake after stake into its heart. For True Believers, it's a dream that they never woke up from. Sample:
The conservative-preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only model—so successful in the 20th century—is being thrown onto the trash heap of history in the 21st century. In an era when countries need to become economic teams, Team USA's results—a jobless decade, 30 years of flat median wages, a trade deficit, a shrinking middle class and phenomenal gains in wealth but only for the top 1%—are pathetic.Of course, Stern and his ilk were never fans of the free-market back in the 20th century. It's only now that they're admitting that it was "so successful".
It should be noted: Andy Stern is in the mainstream of "progressive" thought, and (what's more) a true Friend of Barack: his union devoted a pile of money to get Obama elected, and, back in 2009, it was revealed that Stern visited Obama 22 times between Inauguration and July 31, more than any other visitor. It's fair to ask: how much of this Stern nonsense does Obama buy?
Stern's column is worth refuting, but it's also worth examining how it came to be, and how it fits in with "progressive" thought.
If you read Stern's column, you'll want to check out the reactions.
Here's Geraghty, from his Morning Jolt e-mail (to which you should
Stern's column, by the way, was the result of a trip organized by the China-United States Exchange Foundation and the Center for American Progress. So a big lefty organization is organizing trips for lefty movers and shakers to go to China and find themselves raving about how well Beijing is running things and how we have to adopt their methods.Stern doesn't actually say "I have seen the future, and it works," but he's in the sad tradition of dupes who did.
(If you follow some of these links, you'll note I'm not alone at drawing that parallel.)
Pethokoukis judges that Stern has written "one of the worst WSJ
op-eds ever." He makes the Steffens point, but also seven quick
refutations. Here's one:
Last time, I checked, the U.S. is 6-10 times as wealthy as China on a per capita GDP basis. On a purchasing power parity basis, China sits between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania.
Kaminsky says that Stern's column reminds him of something more
recent than Lincoln Steffens: the hullabaloo about another Oriental
Menace that was going to eat America's lunch back in the 80's, Japan:
As someone who was studying economics in college in the mid-1980s, I endured countless comments about how American corporations' narrow focus on "next quarter's earnings" (as if that were true) was congenitally inferior to the longer-term view supposedly taken by Japanese companies.As it turned out, except for Alex Trebek, we're not all working for the Japanese. But Stern's primary goal isn't to claim that about the Chinese: now, as then, the purpose is to scare people into taking more and more economic decision-making power out the hands of private individuals, and putting it into the always-willing hands of politicians and government bureaucrats.
At the CEI's OpenMarket.Org blog, Matt
Patterson (after making his Steffens reference)
isn't the least bit happy:
Mr. Stern and his allies in the labor movement have for decades done everything they can to crush the freedom and profitability of private enterprise, enriching themselves as they plunge the economy into enervation. Yet Stern the gall to tell us that freedom has failed American workers? The Journal should be ashamed for publishing such vile communist propaganda.I disagree with that last bit: the WSJ is on the side of the angels here, giving Stern's column an audience well-prepared to tear it, deservedly, to shreds. Had it appeared in the Daily Worker, it might have only drawn cheers from the pinkos. Know your enemy, Matt.
Goldberg is very good at tying the Stern column to (guess what?) the
long and ongoing tradition of
Fascism. Among his observations:
Stern sees the Chinese government’s allegedly keen ability to “plan” its way to prosperity as the new model for America. It is an argument of profound asininity. China had five-year plans before it started getting rich. Under the old five-year plans, China killed tens of millions of its own people and remained mired in poverty. What made China rich wasn’t planning, it was the decision to switch to markets (albeit corrupt ones). The planners were merely in charge of distributing the wealth that markets created.Being in charge of wealth-distribution is a tempting job. Methinks Stern is polishing his resume.