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The Nationalist Delusion

Whatever his faults, I love President Donald Trump. He’s forced conservative and libertarian intellectuals to rethink their long-held assumptions, something mere reasoning [1] could not accomplish.

Take Tucker Carlson [2], who was ahead of the curve, as he often is:

If you’re a kind of conventional conservative, like I have been for most of my life, you’ve been—I’m 49, so I grew up in the Reagan era and I was trained to believe that the singular threat to our liberty was government. That’s what Reagan said. He was probably right at the time. And it takes a while, if you’ve grown up believing that, to readjust to the new reality, which is now the singular threat to your freedoms, to your freedom of association, certainly to your freedom of speech, to your ability to think, is technology. It’s the big tech companies. It’s Google primarily, but it’s also Facebook and Twitter and the rest. Simple question: who knows more about you, Google or the Social Security Administration? There’s no contest.

A more scholarly nationalist critique of libertarian-conservative assumptions was presented by Modern Age editor Daniel McCarthy [3]:


I consider libertarianism to be every bit as much a suicidal ideology as left-liberalism. In some ways it is even more so, as libertarians are more oblivious than left-liberals to the consequences for themselves of hewing to their ideology. It seems to me that a healthy polity needs a middle class, and a country that is going to remain economically viable for as long as possible needs to have a commanding advantage in high-end manufacturing and producing goods that the rest of the world wants to buy. We still have some of these advantages right now, but we’re forsaking them. Our country went from being underdeveloped at its founding to being a techno-industrial powerhouse in the 19th and 20th centuries while employing a great many economic policies that libertarians don’t like.

McCarthy’s problem today is that “Libertarians take for granted the conditions of the 20th Century and don’t imagine anything could ever really change.” The 80-year-old New Deal is assumed to be the only challenge they’re worried about: “If we just cut taxes and de-regulate hair-braiding, the market will take care of the rest.” Rather, the market actually depends upon a civilization, a way of life, one that can survive even bankruptcy “but it can’t survive the global transformation that’s coming if we do nothing.” He argues that “the timeline for political crisis is shorter than the timeline for economic crisis.” Amid that crisis, “there will be a hard left or hard right political turn,” where the “urban administrative overclass will continue to grow in power and wealth, the urban and suburban lower class will become increasingly servile (or else restive), and the old middle class and heartland will be economically sidelined and in many places depopulated.”

In an earlier piece, McCarthy specified [4] the nationalist indicators for the crisis: Americans “increasingly working as contractors rather than salaried employees, with fewer benefits and less security,” their “industrial” jobs vanishing, with no family wages, no lifelong work, no retirement guarantees, no prospects for children and grandchildren, and “economic growth concentrated in cities and college towns, leaving everyplace else to wither.” He argued that the American economy has changed in ways that now require “a new choice about the kind of country we are.” The nationalist choice is “the program that follows through on the themes of Trump’s 2016 campaign with greater clarity and focus than the administration itself has so far done.”

This economic nationalism “is less about ‘economic’ than it is about ‘nationalism’—that is, it takes account of the different needs of different walks of life and regions of the country.” To prevent such a crisis, the goal should be to balance “farmers, urban capital and labor” with the “post-industrial classes” by strengthening “the productive economy against the largely fictional economy of administrators and clerks.” This balance requires building the manufacturing sector against the service one, especially against the challenge from China, which “will determine the strategic and economic environment in which we live” unless we change.

Libertarians respond to the crisis, according to McCarthy, by saying that “no nationalist program for strengthening manufacturing for the sake of the middle class is workable because the social philosophers Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises demonstrated that all economic interventions by government involve insufficient knowledge of consumer preferences and specific market circumstances.” But technology has changed so radically, McCarthy rejoins, that it has undermined classic assumptions about the market. This follows a similar argument that’s been made by thinkers from Thomas Malthus to J.S. Mill to J.M. Keynes to Thomas Friedman today.

So what is the libertarian response to this nationalist challenge? From Adam Smith to F.A. Hayek, it has been that increasingly complex technology actually makes the market even more necessary to sort out and adjust to the new complicating forces in a way the lumbering centralized bureaucratic and politicalized nation-state alternatives cannot. The nationalist program to “balance” the whole economy is the epitome of failed industrial planning. Its preference for a “productive” manufacturing sector that alone can generate a self-sufficient middle-class society as opposed to a “fictional” service sector basically rests on the single datum that U.S. manufacturing employment has declined drastically, from 35 percent of jobs in 1910 to merely 10 percent today.

In fact, as early as 1840 [5], service jobs (and output) were already dominant over industrial employment, while both trailed agriculture. Services today constitute an overwhelming 80 percent of U.S. employment; they represent about 70 percent measured by the economic value of its output, or, most critically, by national economic value-added. Moreover, contrary to the nationalist charge, U.S. manufacturing today is very competitive as measured by the value of its products. China does have higher manufacturing total value-added [6] at $3.25 trillion to America’s $2.1 trillion, or $2 trillion for China and $1.8 trillion for the U.S. measured by output, so the difference is actually quite small. And the U.S. is much richer per capita than China, which has forced the latter to spread its wealth among three times as many people who are much poorer and more restive. Worldwide, China has about 20 percent of manufacturing value and the U.S. 18 percent, with the EU at 16 percent, Japan 10 percent, and South Korea 4 percent. That gives the four two thirds of world industrial output.

The other three must thus be the targets for U.S. nationalists “driving bargains” to advantage U.S. manufacturing. But both economies have much larger service sectors than manufacturing sectors. Even China has had a majority service sector since 2015 [7], a response to undeveloped countries taking manufacturing trade from them. Contrary to the critics’ claims, a services-dominated U.S. economy is hardly unable to find opportunities for foreign trade. In fact, some recent data showed that U.S. manufacturing exports [8] amount to $1.4 trillion, actually a bit higher than China’s at $1.3 trillion. If the U.S. shut the door on foreign manufacturing, who would buy those manufacturing exports, second only to the EU? The U.S. is also first [9] in service sector exports, at 14 percent of world exports (and 7 percent of imports). What country would not swap declining manufacturing for the U.S. giving up services? Is that the nationalist “balance” plan?

It is simply impossible to substantially move away from a service-sector economy in modern times without some global catastrophe. The nationalist emphasis on manufacturing actually serves more of a political than an economic function, as indicated by its demeaning the service sector as “preparing food for” and “tending the children of” the elites. Actually, U.S. service-sector value added [10] is usually divided into a financial sub-sector with a value of $4 trillion, government with $2.4 trillion, professional/business with $2.3 trillion, education/health with $1.6 trillion, wholesale with $1.1 trillion, retail with $1.1 trillion, information with $.9 trillion, construction with $.9 trillion, and arts/food with $.7 trillion. The disparaging caricature refers to the smallest part of the service sector. The largest “financial” sub-subcategory is real estate, which normally does not even require higher education. Why shouldn’t the working class find decent and non-degrading livings in any of these service sectors?

The fundamental moral [3] charge [11] that nationalists make against libertarian-conservatism is that it is insensitive to the plight of the left behind industrial and rural working class. Well-off libertarians may indeed show insensitivity to those affected by illegal immigrants (although many libertarians have supported merit-based upper-middle-class immigration competition for years). But the real problem for the working class is that state welfare saps its initiative [12] to get jobs. Once on unemployment insurance, and then Medicaid, food stamps, disability, and welfare, the value of the benefits can exceed that of a minimum wage. Libertarians like Milton Friedman have suggested a negative income tax or the earned income tax credit pioneered by Ronald Reagan (although there are practical considerations [13]) as a means to restore the pride of having a job even at low wages—which is the real plight of those left behind.

The fundamental libertarian disagreement with the nationalists is their insistence that Hayek’s and Mises’ works on the complexity problem are not “the relevant texts for understanding any of this.” Contra this not being a knowledge problem, where is the genius who will devise a plan to make a sector with 10 percent employment balance one with 80 percent? Admittedly, a tariff approach is less complex than managing an economy or welfare system (50 levels of bureaucracy and more from top to bottom) but it is complicated too. Even with very high tariffs, how will U.S. manufacturing grow that much? And to what percentage are we aiming? Back to 35 percent? A tariff by itself will not stop more manufacturing jobs from being transferred to robots, so how do we prevent that? And then what happens when we are using foot power while the rest of the world is automated? The critics blame libertarians for pining for the 1950s, but the nationalist solution seems to look back to 1910. 

Any comprehensive reorienting of the economy from service to manufacturing would make the original New Deal or War on Poverty or even Green New Deal look like child’s play. Nationalists have already expressed fear of Federal Reserve power, more over its evil intent than its lack of knowledge, but the latter is the real danger. As economic columnist Robert Samuelson [14] reported in the middle of the Great Recession, the Fed and Treasury were changing the rules every day and had no idea what they were doing. This was conceded even by Alan Greenspan [15] about much of his own tenure.

The objectionable bailouts and bank rescues, of course, were done by the same presidents, Treasury bureaucracy, and Congress that nationalists need to rely upon for their own solutions. Nationalists have criticized the influence of Big Pharma’s lobbyists—but just wait until they begin their program. The Washington bureaucracy, pretending knowledge, will run circles around them, just as it’s done with social conservatives, economic conservatives, and even the far left. A nationalist government will have no more idea how to control the bureaucracy than other administrations have. Rather than big business obtaining everything it wants from government, they tend to be pushed around by GS-12s who can send them to jail or ruin their companies any day they want.

Contra Carlson and the rest, the major threat to freedom is still from big government, including to the institutions that nationalists deplore. Google [16] and Facebook [17] are intrusive but have probably plateaued and cannot send anyone to jail. And where would they be without the state? Social media have special liability privileges [18]. Governments fund the universities’ law, education, and culture colleges (even the Ivies were mostly state supported at the outset), and mandatory attendance laws produced today’s semi-monopolistic elementary and secondary education. The high arts, too, are mostly supported by government, as they move the popular standards below them. Media are mostly private but the legacies were likewise granted oligarchical access to the federal radio wave spectrum at the crucial beginning.

The critics raise valid concerns about the fate of many in rural areas who were once dependent on manufacturing. But they don’t face what to me is the basic reality that we throw simple things like centralized bureaucracy, “scientific” administration, and goodwill at highly complex social problems. To Hayek, that was the fundamental progressive error, and I see nothing different in the nationalist critique. Yes, they are correct that the political crisis will come before the debt one; indeed it is now. We libertarians are alarmed too. But the issue is what to do about it. Yes, the weak will suffer in any crisis, but how can nationalism keep the smart from taking advantage when its very program relies on them? How can we have nationalism without force and centralization when the country is at best divided 50/50?

More fundamentally, how do “we” build a “self-reliant middle class,” the major task set by the nationalist critics? Almost by definition, this cannot be done by government. Only free, pluralist, local institutions can work from the bottom to counter the nation-state monolith at the top. And only those same private institutions can produce an independent middle class rather than one manipulated by national elites. Many critics find the long-term conservative-libertarian goals of freedom, decentralization, and privatization to be unlikely and insufficient. Yes, even a decentralized heartland will still be outwitted by elites. But some redress is better than giving those same elites new power over the working class’s livelihoods.

Timothy Carney is on the right path [19] here with his recent data demonstrating what is needed to build a middle class: doubling down on Alexis de Tocqueville and Robert Putnam that voluntary group membership and especially church participation is the precondition for social engagement. Did “we” build America as a “techno-industrial powerhouse”? Or did those groups provide the material from which it could grow with very few laws to help other than against coercion?

As libertarian Russ Roberts reminds us [20], it was Adam Smith who wrote, “The chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being loved,” which comes from free social interaction with other human beings, which Roberts even connects to how the minimum wage keeps the less skilled from forming such important attachments at work.

Means and facts are as important as ends. It is not simple caring; the question is how. Indeed, much of President Trump’s most effective actions have been libertarian, eliminating burdensome regulations and cutting taxes. Even his tariff policy has arguably corrected past over-regulatory custom excises. Of course, the market won’t save us, but neither will a grandiose centralized state plan, nationalistic or not. The most important lesson libertarians should learn from the nationalist critique is that we have to do much more to strengthen the free private institutions that formed not only our markets but our civilization.

Donald Devine is senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies. He is the author of America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition, and Constitution [21] and Reagan’s Terrible Swift Sword: Reforming and Controlling the Federal Bureaucracy [22]. He served as President Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. He can be followed on Twitter @donalddevineco1.

39 Comments (Open | Close)

39 Comments To "The Nationalist Delusion"

#1 Comment By Joshua Xanadu On April 8, 2019 @ 10:11 pm

Just like the post WWII foreign policy consensus outlived its usefulness, especially in the blundering triumphalism following the Cold War’s end, we should try to adjust conservative goals to address changing economic realities. Libertarians are wedded to their ideology created from Hayek through Ayn Rand to Friedman, believing it as a repost of faith rather than admit that the only constant to any system is the ability of human nature to warp it for greed, manipulation, and favoritism. The idea that we need to adjust our solutions to confront changing problems (and new rent-seekers) is common sense.

#2 Comment By Archrevenant On April 8, 2019 @ 10:45 pm

Libertarian brain death is the biggest threat to your freedom and way of life.

#3 Comment By polistra On April 9, 2019 @ 3:55 am

“Free private institutions” = Bezos. You paved the path for totalitarian monopolies with your deregulation and ZERO TAX ZERO TAX ZERO TAX nonsense. Now Bezos is rewarding your loyalty by censoring you.

Not very smart, are you?

#4 Comment By Kessler On April 9, 2019 @ 4:55 am

1. While the author mentions Rust Belt in his arguments, I don’t think he acknowledges, that massive, predictable and perhaps preventable destruction of working class jobs there was result of Libertarian economic policies.

2. There is a rhetoric switcheroo happening, where author claims nationalists wish to change the ratio of manufacturing to service jobs as a goal in itself. No, nationalists wish to give the best chance to succeed in the economy for as many citizens as possible. If it could be done by service economy, none would object.

3. The argument, that prosperity can be restored by building up social fabric with independent institutions is certainly a good one. That would be very effective – if it could be done. So, where is this massive, national growth of private institutions happening? And where are the guarantees, that these private institutions wouldn’t be smashed by government and activists, for bigotry or hate speech or something?

4. The argument that welfare prevents people from finding jobs is certainly valid. It’s also a pure fantasy to think, welfare would be cut. The government is constrained by political reality, that majority of the population wants welfare. So, trying to bring manufacturing back to USA, so that corporations would be incentivized in investing in human capital could be the next best thing available (or maybe not, the issue certainly needs discussion and debate).

5. The problem with corporations is that they will use their political power to lobby government to grant them privileges and monopolies. It’s like there is a drug dealer (corporations) and junkie (government) – and you say, that entire fault lies with junkie for taking drugs and completely ignore drug dealer. After all, if all junkies are persuaded to stop using, drug dealer problem would solve itself.

6. And on government, what of post WWII reordering of the world by USA? Marshall’s plan, economic and military agreements, that established global conditions for turning USA into economic powerhouse. Sure, part of the reason was that rest of the world was bombed and USA was sole largest industrial nation standing, but I think government did much to provide perfect conditions for economy to boom.

#5 Comment By LarsX On April 9, 2019 @ 7:37 am

Oh, Mr. Devine, government is not going to be a problem: it has already been captured by our rapine capitalists. It is now their handmaiden.

#6 Comment By Rob G On April 9, 2019 @ 7:46 am

Today’s capitalism isn’t your daddy’s or granddaddy’s. Big tech and big government are increasingly joined at the hip. See Zuboff’s Age of Surveillance Capitalism.

The state may have money and guns, but big business has your smart phone, your car, your computer, your TV and everything else you do online. Coercion doesn’t live by the threat of jail alone.

#7 Comment By Liam On April 9, 2019 @ 7:58 am

The delusion is that latter-day libertarians don’t recognize that American libertarianism is in the state of rigor mortis.

#8 Comment By William R On April 9, 2019 @ 9:01 am

The economy has been hollowed out because the dollar is the reserve currency of the world. Its status as the reserve currency increases the demand for dollars. All other things being equal, the price of U.S. goods is now more expensive to foreigners compared to other goods, which reduces demand for our higher priced exports. So our producers are not playing on a level field. There is a solution. Make Gold the international reserve currency.

#9 Comment By Liam On April 9, 2019 @ 9:22 am

May God spare us from tender mercies of the gold bugs. Another delusion.

#10 Comment By Oleg Gark On April 9, 2019 @ 9:38 am

The enemy of Nationalism is Globalism. Basically stated, Nationalists want the government to enact policies that put Americans first.

The enemy of Libertarianism is our own democratically elected government. Libertarians are agnostic on the whole Nationalism vs. Globalism debate, they just want to be free of government constraints on making money wherever and however opportunities are found.

It seems to me that Nationalism is far more appealing to voters than is Libertarianism. The answer to the perennial question “What’s in it for me?”, is very direct with Nationalism and doesn’t require the extended period of education (brainwashing) that Libertarianism does to create true believers.

#11 Comment By M_Young On April 9, 2019 @ 9:58 am

Google might not be able to send anyone to jail. Then again, in the mid to late Soviet Period, dissidents weren’t sent to jail either. They were just denied a livelihood, sort of like Paula Deen or Roseanne Barr.

#12 Comment By Bring Back Grover Cleveland On April 9, 2019 @ 10:48 am

Re the term libertarian:

Mr. Devine is quite right to state:

“It was Adam Smith who wrote, “The chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being loved.”

Indeed – this statement is intrinsic to understanding Adam Smith. He builds on this thought wonderfully in his “Theory of Moral Sentiments.”

The heart of Adam Smith’s idea is that individuals and the societies that are made up of them thrive when they are free to act and engage in commerce and co-operate with each other. But the only way this can work is when we realize we have natural moral sentiments toward one another and act that way.

Described as such Smith’s classical liberalism is worlds apart from an Ayn Rand’s hyper- individualistic and destructive objectivism.

It also sets him far apart from the me-first crony-capitalists who pay lip service to markets whilst co-opting the power of the state to their advantage.

Adam Smith would not have not liked Ayn Rand. Nor would have Hayek or Mises supported the nut-baggery of anarcho-capitalism or some of the other half considered strains of libertarianism that are circulating today.

Fantastically unfair to lump their ideas under this umbrella.

Its best to drop the term libertarian and instead have the debate around “classical liberalism” and whether the original ideas of Smith still have answers for us today.

#13 Comment By Jack On April 9, 2019 @ 11:13 am

Alas for Mr. Devine, the era of zombie Reaganism is over.

#14 Comment By Kent On April 9, 2019 @ 11:35 am

I could not get through this entire article simply because of the ignorance and half-truths portrayed within.

I agree with the author that manufacturing is not the be all, end all of economic development. The reason Americans associate manufacturing with the middle class is because a good portion of the population could lead a decent middle-class lifestyle in the 1950’s – 1990’s with little more than a high-school education and a willingness to work hard.

However, manufacturing has a couple of characteristics that allowed that to happen. First of all, it is an area where productivity improvements are fairly easy to create. Secondly, because you aggregate a large number of workers in one spot, the factory, you create the opportunity for labor unions and collective bargaining. Put the two together and you get increased worker income due to collective bargaining based upon increased productivity, leading to a middle class.

The service sector has neither of those characteristics. So you get the creation of an enormous number of low-paying, low-skill, low-productivity jobs that will never lead to a thriving middle class, though you do get a few well-paid doctors and lawyers too. The author is either ignorant of this consideration, or more likely, simply doesn’t care because it is not a function of his definition of “liberty”.

And where libertarian economic ideology just falls over backward is it doesn’t fundamentally understand that wealth leads to wealth. Meaning that a well-paid consumer can purchase more, which means producers can produce more, creating greater investment, profits and overall standard of living.

Finally I have worked for a few large, private monopolistic companies (think telecom and utilities). They are in no way more efficient or effective than working for a government agency. People are people. If you give them the wrong incentives, you’ll get the wrong results.

#15 Comment By PG On April 9, 2019 @ 11:41 am

How much federal government is too much? How much is too little? How much globalized free trade is too much? How much is too little? How much state and local government is too much? How much is too little? These are very tough questions to answer. Most people think Amazon is the largest employer and thus everyone clamors to get them to come to their district. But they’re only half right. It’s the largest “private” employer. The largest employer in the history of mankind is the US federal government. The great benefits, salaries, stability. They’ve got it all. The problem is, it’s really concentrated into the DC area. Time to push some of those great benefits, salaries, buying power, etc. to other parts of the country. Let’s start there. I would think Republicans and Democrats could agree to that. Don’t cut, don’t add, just move the darn thing so that others can benefit, and hopefully along the way, help influence all those G12’s to directly help people at a local and state level…

#16 Comment By Deacon Blue On April 9, 2019 @ 12:39 pm

First, check your assumptions, one being that we actually have real and free “markets.”

Easy Predictions: the stock “markets” will continue to rise. The gold and silver “markets” will not … regardless of how much fiat “money” is created.

We certainly don’t practice genuine “capitalism” either. We have crony capitalism.

#17 Comment By McCormick47 On April 9, 2019 @ 12:45 pm

Keep repeating the same stale garbage and maybe somebody will believe it.

#18 Comment By Tono Bungay On April 9, 2019 @ 12:50 pm

The thing I love about libertarian ideology is that it does its best to insist that ethical rules apply everywhere, to people, to corporations, to governments, in other words, that no one in whatever station is exempt from the normal rules that govern human behavior. The thing I really don’t like about it is that it is perfectly indifferent to the dissolution of peoples and cultures.

#19 Comment By Deacon Blue On April 9, 2019 @ 1:42 pm

Liam prays, “May God spare us from tender mercies of the gold bugs. Another delusion.”

When did believers in history’s money, of “real” money, become “bugs?” And why this change of thinking in the last decade or so?

Can believers in the infinite creation of fiat computer digits also be pejoratively described as insects who need to be squashed? If not, why not?

In my opinion, anyone who thinks “money” grows on trees – or can be printed as needed forever and ever with no consequences – should at the least be challenged.

#20 Comment By CLW On April 9, 2019 @ 2:15 pm

Want people to take you seriously? Don’t open your thought piece with, “Whatever his faults, I love President Donald Trump.”

#21 Comment By Ken Zaretzke On April 9, 2019 @ 3:39 pm

This is washed-up 1980s economics. John Gray, who was initially a Hayek fan and wrote a monograph about him, later realized Hayek was wrong. He’s definitely someone to read on Hayek. On free trade and industrial policy, Ian Fletcher’s *Free Trade Doesn’t Work* is essential reading. Trump’s trade policies are the most successful part of his administration.

#22 Comment By Kouros On April 9, 2019 @ 3:59 pm

Many interesting and cogent points in the postings. I would like to add my little bit in this quilt:

1. How would the US manufacturing sector look like if we take away what is being produced (and exported) by MIC?

2. The FIRE (Financial, Insurance and Real Estate) sector is a dead weight on any economy and in the US it looks like Sisyphus’ or Atlas’ bolder (have your pick) crushing everyone. How “productive” is a financial sector that is nothing else but an exhaled gambling parlor? What is the value provided by real estate sector that deserves such high extractive rates? And the services provided by this sector are also being exported to the larger world, yuppie!

#23 Comment By Johann On April 9, 2019 @ 5:18 pm

I was for many years a pretty much straight Austrian school economics believer defined pretty much by Mises and Hayek.

But the last few decades seem to point more and more to the validity of the Ordoliberalism school, which is to use government to ensure the free market is really truly free from non-competitive forces. Still, one has to wonder whether even that role of government could become another example of good intentions becoming a road to serfdom.

#24 Comment By Mark B. On April 9, 2019 @ 6:16 pm

@ polistra

Keep commenting please. You have a fan.

#25 Comment By Adriana On April 9, 2019 @ 8:23 pm

Abandoning economic nationalism would be a good idea, if and only if, every other nation did the same.

No one believed in the folly of unilateral disarmament when it came to nuclear weapons. So why is the author advocating unilateral disarmament in the economic front. Wake up, we are surrounded by countries who are looking for THEIR best interest, not ours, and if we are foolish enough to disarm, they will take us to the cleaners, because it is in THEIR interest to do so.

And citing authorities like Hayek or Friedman is useful ONLY if you can point to results. The reason why Friedrich List was accepted by a lot of countries looking to industrialize was not that they found his arguments by themselves compelling but because the advice “Do this and your country will get rich” came true. After all, it was this advice, not free market theories that turned GErmany from an agricultural backwater into an industrial powerhouse that two world wars could not destroy. Success is its own best argument.

#26 Comment By Adriana On April 9, 2019 @ 8:26 pm

@DEacon blue

Gold, like all money, has its value only in the willingness of people to take it in exchange for real goods – that is goods for which there is an use even if they are not traded. It is convenient, it has certain desirable qualities, but it has no intrinsic value.

Begin by accepting this and then theorize

#27 Comment By cka2nd On April 10, 2019 @ 12:16 am

kessler says: “4. The argument that welfare prevents people from finding jobs is certainly valid. It’s also a pure fantasy to think, welfare would be cut. The government is constrained by political reality, that majority of the population wants welfare. So, trying to bring manufacturing back to USA, so that corporations would be incentivized in investing in human capital could be the next best thing available (or maybe not, the issue certainly needs discussion and debate).”

Cutting welfare for POOR people, for the OTHER, is incredibly popular and has been done often, most famously by Bill Clinton, but the federal “Welfare” program also never kept up with inflation after the late 60’s (ditto the value of food stamps). Federal and many state student financial aid programs were also stripped from prisoners – “Why should THEY get financial aid when my son can’t?” – never mind that the money for education helped lower recidivism rates and was therefore a net economic positive.

Programs that officially benefit everyone, such as Social Security and Medicare, are popular, while Medicaid, limited to the poor, is a perennial political football, as we saw with the Medicaid expansion under the ACA. The federal minimum wage and local and state living wage laws are generally popular with the populace because they reward work, but as the elites loathe them, the federal minimum wage has not kept up with inflation (if it had, I think I recently read that it’s current value would be over $30 an hour) and the bourgeoisie generally fight increasing it and any living wage bills and referenda tooth and nail.

#28 Comment By Daniel P. Donnelly On April 10, 2019 @ 6:07 am

Rob G said: “Today’s capitalism isn’t your daddy’s or granddaddy’s. Big tech and big government are increasingly joined at the hip.”

And with big tech controlling and censoring the “public square”, that “joining at the hip” is looking a lot like Mussolini’s definition of Fascism as “Corporatism”.

#29 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 10, 2019 @ 6:41 am

I am a firm believer in a solid stable measure for currency. And abandoning the gold standard in my view was a mistake and it remains the case today for the obvious reason of its tangible value to what is a desired commodity.

It makes perfect sense to have money linked to a single relatively stable marker, i.e. gold.

Intrinsic and extrinsic value of gold



Libertarian thought has a lot of problems no small hurdle the Constitution along with no less the hurdle of how they have no mechanisms with addressing someone choosing to use their economic power as a means of avoiding or dismissing unfairness. The premise that all people act accordingly on “good will” is a nice sentiment, but as history indicates, even recent history it simply fails. Which is why Mr. Smith made no bones about government as the facilitator of sorts, when market forces failed to hold those acting in bad faith accountable. The libertarian mind is more akin to what represents a real problem in our economy — the trend toward, what I call, corporate mechantilism. That corporations are marrying and in many cases outsizing government in the decisions regarding national policy.

That is why the Constitution is a such a huge hurdle. It’s not government that libertarians really object to. It’s the issue of accountability. They desire a free roaming forum in which freedom will ultimately be determined by those with most bang for their buck.

Mr. Smith’s core principle that of fair play, honest deals will be determined by the money holders as the 2007-2008 financial incident revealed. Bailout business entities who engaged in wrong doing and foreclose on businesses and banks left in their wake. A process that allowed properties confiscated to reowned by the same or the government which itself has become increasingly influenced or maybe outright owned itself by the corporate class.

No one talking about nationalism can ignore the debt, deficit spending, trade imbalances, immigration policy that undermines US citizens our current gymnastics of evaluating GDP or “real GDP” and the pressure for economic and government global centralization.

#30 Comment By Rob G On April 10, 2019 @ 7:53 am

~~We certainly don’t practice genuine “capitalism” either. We have crony capitalism.~~

Cronyism is the natural product of capitalism’s obsession with “bigness,” and it’s been there practically since the beginning.

#31 Comment By Deacon Blue On April 10, 2019 @ 8:17 am

Adriana –
Regarding gold has no “intrinsic” value …

Well, does green paper with pictures of dead presidents have “intrinsic value?”

Gold and silver were THE money for thousands of years because whatever qualities they do have (“intrinsic” or not) were deemed far superior to the qualities possessed by other possible units of exchange.

In the last 15 or so years, gold suddenly became a “pet rock” because the Powers that Be wanted to promote fiat paper money. To do that, they needed to denigrate gold.

Today the elite make fun of gold and silver “bugs.” But our grandfathers and great grandfathers placed value on gold and silver as money. So did J.P. Morgan and all the Founding Fathers. Their views weren’t considered crazy. So what changed … and why?

I happen to think it’s crazy that everyone now believes “money” is a piece of paper (actually just computer digits) that can be produced in infinite quantities – at least if you are the U.S. government. Not if you are Zimbabwe or Venezuela, or 1920s Germany.

IMO Everything America’s policy makers and power class do is intended to protect the printing press that gives our system this “magic printing press.”

This is an idea more people need to theorize on IMO. No “printing press” – No “world’s reserve currency” – No America or “status quo” as we know it.

I also think in 500 years gold and silver will STIL be considered “money” by a large percentage of people in the world. That is, you will not see a $5 bill with Ben Franklin’s picture on it in the year 2519. If you do, it will be worth about 1/1,000,000 millionth of a penny (which, within a period of 130 years, became useless as ‘money” due to inflation. Or can you tell me one thing you can buy for a penny? The nickel is about the same.

#32 Comment By JohnT On April 10, 2019 @ 9:18 am

“Whatever his faults, I love President Donald Trump”.
Replace the person referenced in this line with the name of any sociopathic demogage in recorded history and I believe you’ll get the gist of the writer’s values.
“Take Tucker Carlson, who was ahead of the curve, as he often is:”
Replace the name in this line with Richard Nixon and I believe you’ll see how much the writer loves him some professional victim…and how thoroughly he conflates being a victim with self destruction.

#33 Comment By JoS. S. Laughon On April 10, 2019 @ 10:19 am

Good TAC for publishing this. Self described nationalists are very good at describing what they are against with very little explanation of what their policy would affirmatively look like. There’s virtually no discussion of how manufacturing as a part of GDP has been on a consistent trend of decline since 1945 regardless of trade levels. In reality it’s an attempt to regain a 40 year period that was largely unique as every other developed country was blown to pieces.

#34 Comment By JonF On April 10, 2019 @ 11:06 am

Nothing descends to us from Heaven stamped with God’s seal of value. Gold and silver have value only because we impute value to them. Gold especially is rather worthless in and of itself. All money is fiat money, and a review of history will show that the world was far from economic nirvana when money tended to be metallic. Just as there’s no total road to geometry, there’s none to prosperity either. The currency is just a medium of exchange. It no mirror matters 8n any serious way than whether I were writing this long hand, typing on a typewriter or using digital media: the meaning stays the same. Ditto. With currency.

#35 Comment By Peace, love and liberty On April 10, 2019 @ 12:29 pm

JoS.S.Laughon reinforces the valid point in Dr. Devine’s piece that others commenting here choose to ignore. It isn’t the freedom of Americans to trade that is causing manufacturing jobs to decline, rather it is increases in productivity. Nationalist may wish their children and grandchildren could still grow up to work on farms, in steel mills, textile factories, and coal mines, but I give thanks that the such jobs have moved overseas or been replaced because of technology and other tools.

Wages are also seven-fold higher as a result of the productivity gains that come from free trade and free markets. And, thanks to free markets, we can carry on these online discussions, rather than spending all our time in manual labor working to put food on our plates for dinner tonight.

#36 Comment By Corwin On April 10, 2019 @ 3:16 pm

Gold had value as a monetary standard because it could not be readily counterfeited. For several hundred years in Europe, it was the densest metal available, and any attempt to flood the economy with counterfeit coins could easily be determined just by measuring their weight. Since the 19th century, several metals have been discovered with higher densities, making counterfeit coins a realistic possibility.

So the questions if you want to go back on the gold standard: 1. if you want gold as a currency to pay for goods, how do you stop counterfeit gold from entering the market, and 2. if you don’t want it to be currency and are just willing to base it off what we have in Fort Knox, how is that any different from just using fiat currency?

Also, given the total amount of gold we have, versus our total overall wealth, how high would an ounce of gold run, would that make anyone with even a few ounces of gold a millionaire compared to other people who don’t have any, and if it were that high, wouldn’t a lot of businesses transition to gold mining or research other gold extraction techniques to the detriment of other badly needed businesses and research?

#37 Comment By Archrevenant On April 10, 2019 @ 7:35 pm

After the revolution, every last Libertarian will be deported to Juárez Mexico, so that they can experience the absolute freedom of anarcho-capitalism.

You will enjoy the freedom to compete with other force providers such as the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas. Most likely you will end up hanging from an overpass, but that is the fate of those who can’t compete, isn’t it?

#38 Comment By Josep On April 11, 2019 @ 9:24 pm

Once other countries stop using the US dollar as a reserve currency and switch to a more sensible system, I’ll gladly say “good riddance”.

That is, you will not see a $5 bill with Ben Franklin’s picture on it in the year 2519. If you do, it will be worth about 1/1,000,000 millionth of a penny (which, within a period of 130 years, became useless as ‘money” due to inflation. Or can you tell me one thing you can buy for a penny? The nickel is about the same.

What makes this worse is the way the US Mint (or whoever else is in charge of issuing denominations) refuses to admit that the US dollar is quickly losing its value (i.e. exposing a flaw in the US dollar as reserve currency, if not fiat money in general).

* The one-dollar coin (designed to last 30 years) still sees scant support nationwide, and instead we’re stuck with a banknote that lasts 18 to 22 months.
* The penny costs 1.6 cents to mint and the nickel costs eight. The former is no longer accepted by vending machines or pay phones. One cent in 1951 would fetch ten in 2019, so hypothetically speaking, the dime should be the smallest coin in circulation today, which brings me to the next problem…
* For some stupid reason, the US Mint has discontinued issuance of the half-dollar as a circulating coin. Such a coin, if it survived Y2k, would bridge the gap between the quarter and the dollar.

Countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand were not afraid to admit fault, eliminating lower-denomination coins and introducing higher-denomination ones amidst rising inflation. To be fair, those countries have populations less than a tenth of America’s, but still…

#39 Comment By Karl K On April 13, 2019 @ 2:37 pm

tl:dr This author continues to make mistake that most who still cling to the conservative moniker make, a fixation on economics while hiding from the racial and social environment of 2019 politics. Race is continuing to be the primary defining attribute of stratification in American politics, shown for example, by a convergence of far left and far right on Jewish influence in Middle East policy and a preference for non-intervention by both far left and right. Class issues are secondary as economic policies and outcomes are impacted by affirmative action, taxes, and educational opportunity and these hit races unequally. Nationalism is a euphemism for race in today’s political landscape and if conservatives wish to have any remaining political influence, they will recognize the demands of their traditional ethnic cohorts, or suffer the current balkanization as seen in the democratic party.