History Good And Bad:
Steve Bannon Attacked By Doug Irwin
R. E. Prindle
Hot stuff in the WSJ today (7/20/17). Douglas A. Irwin contributed a piece he titled Steve Bannon’s Bad History. Doug is apparently a big deal from Dartmouth with several learned tomes dealing with free trade to his credit.
Through no fault of his own his fame had escaped me till now. We have a clever double entendre in his title. It can be interpreted as Steve has a malodorous past or, as the article makes clear, a weak grasp of history. From the title I thought the former but fortunately I sought further enlightenment in the body of the piece and learned differently. Is that called research?
Doug is critical of Steve’s ‘faulty’ thinking concerning the tariff issue. His highlight blurb blazons, ‘Immigration and rapid industrialization – not tariffs – made the nineteenth century economy great.’ I take exception to the blurb.
While it may be arguable, the modern economic nineteenth century didn’t begin until after the Civil War. And the economy wasn’t that great in the remaining thirty-five years of the century that included the near collapse of society in the crash of 1873, and that was worldwide, and the equally horrendous crash of 1893. Between the two of them they consumed at least ten of the thirty-five years.
However, even with 1873 and 1893 the industrial base expanded enormously. Time were tough but not for everybody.
Immigration and rapid industrialization can also be written as cheap unskilled labor and amazing scientific and technological discoveries. The century or latter part of it was built on steel rails and high powered locomotives and starvation slave wages paid for unskilled labor.
I’ve been working on the railroad,
Sleeping on the ground,
Eating saltine crackers
Ten cents a pound.
Causes for great pride and no pride at all. History is uneven.
The tariff that restricted European competition, the rest of the world was of no account at the time, facilitated rapid growth as it provided the sufficient profits to develop industries. Believe it or not the US prided itself on its high wage structure, immigrants and underpaid unskilled labor aside. Somebody had to buy all that wonderful stuff. Short life light bulbs weren’t all that cheap.
Doug may think tariffs didn’t help but, perhaps he should tell that to the current Chinese. They don’t bother with tariffs they just forbid foreign competition as they build up their industries often with pirated technology. As Doug ought to know the Chinese are famous for hacking computers and stealing trade secrets.
I know it is politically incorrect to point out these obvious facts but, what the hell, the truth is the truth. But, no defense.
Steve’s history may not be all that good but it may equal Doug’s.