American Leadership in Pacific at Stake If Trump Cancels Trade Pact

Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Park Geun-hye of South Korea walk in the garden of the Blue House in Seoul, April 25, 2014
Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Park Geun-hye of South Korea walk in the garden of the Blue House in Seoul, April 25, 2014 (White House/Pete Souza)

One of the first victims of Donald Trump’s election victory in the United States could be the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a comprehensive trade agreement that the outgoing president, Barack Obama, had hoped to enact in the waning days of his administration.

Many Republicans in the Senate, and quite a few Democrats, support free trade in principle and understand the strategic value of the pact.

But they may balk at ratifying the treaty now that Trump, who campaigned explicitly on an anti-trade platform, is two months away from the presidency. Read more “American Leadership in Pacific at Stake If Trump Cancels Trade Pact”

Open or Closed? The Question That Divides Us

London England
The sun rises over London, England (Uncoated)

The Economist reports about the same phenomenon I — per Andrew Sullivan — have been calling Europe’s “blue-red culture war”. They argue that the divide in Europe and North America is between people who want to pull the drawbridge up and those who want to throw it down.

From Warsaw to Washington, the political divide that matters is less and less between left and right and more and more between open and closed. Debates between tax-cutting conservatives and free-spending social democrats have not gone away. But issues that cross traditional party lines have grown more potent. Welcome immigrants or keep them out? Open up to foreign trade or protect domestic industries? Embrace cultural change or resist it?

In Poland, for example, the nominally conservative Law and Justice party is actually less laissez-faire than the centrist Civic Platform.

Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands are economic nationalists as well.

Donald Trump is transforming America’s Republican Party in a similar way. His appeal is that he promises to shelter workers from foreign trade and defend entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security from budget-cutting conservatives in Washington. Read more “Open or Closed? The Question That Divides Us”

Don’t Push Ordinary People Over the Edge

Visitors at the de Young museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, California, October 16, 2005 (Thomas Hawk)

Regular readers of this site will be familiar with what Andrew Sullivan has called the West’s ; I agree that the political conflict in Europe and North America is now between “blue” cosmopolitans and internationalists, who tend to be liberal, well-educated and mobile, and “red” nationalists and nativists, who are often socially conservative, less educated and stuck in one place.

I’m decidedly “blue” and so Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last month and the rise of Donald Trump in the United States hasn’t filled me with hope.

Long term, I know the “reds” are fighting yesterday’s battles — and I suspect they know it too. But in the short term, red victories can do a lot of damage.

What’s to be done? Read more “Don’t Push Ordinary People Over the Edge”

The World Is Much Better Off Than It Feels

The sun sets over the San Francisco Bay in California, September 29, 2015
The sun sets over the San Francisco Bay in California, September 29, 2015 (Thomas Hawk)

There will be few who will miss 2016; perhaps fewer still that will miss 2017. Americans despair their electoral choices (choosing cancer or a heart attack, to some). Brits have quit the European Union. Turkey, post-coup, is also mid-purge. Islamic State’s lone wolves butcher and bomb. Even the pope is using the “w” word to describe the state of planetary affairs.

Yet if we step back, draw our heads out of the bleeding and leading trenches of 24/7 news and glance upon the supposedly pock-marked battlefield of our world, we see not vast burned out cities or massed firestorms sweeping upon us. The picture is much better than they say.

Here’s why. Read more “The World Is Much Better Off Than It Feels”

Obama Gets Economic Challenge Right, Regulations Wrong

Barack Obama Shinzō Abe
American president Barack Obama and Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe at the White House in Washington DC, April 28, 2015 (White House/Pete Souza)

Reading Bloomberg Businessweek‘s interview with Barack Obama, I get the sense the president understands the big economic and social challenges of our time but still underestimates the impact of regulation on businesses. Read more “Obama Gets Economic Challenge Right, Regulations Wrong”

Brexit or Not, the World Curves Toward Union

Leaders of the G20 discuss the war in Syria at a summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, September 9, 2013
Leaders of the G20 discuss the war in Syria at a summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, September 9, 2013 (Bundesregierung)

Brexit has been a fascinating, uniquely British ride: from David Cameron offering the vote in exchange for reelection in 2015 to the rise of the maddeningly irrational United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the whole process has been full of half-truths, fearmongering, cultural smears and, most horrifyingly, assassination.

For the people of Britain, Brexit matters: it will change bank accounts just as much as the power of the British passport. For geopolitical libertarians worldwide, it is a rare chance to roll back the growth of an supranational state. But no one thinks the exit of Britain will end the EU and so the change of relationship may well not matter much when all sums are calculated.

Yet from the broader scheme of things, they matter even less than often stated. Despite the backlash against them, the world is curving more towards organizations like the EU, as the rational response to humanity’s needs will force many of us to live underneath them. Read more “Brexit or Not, the World Curves Toward Union”

More Welfare Won’t Mend Europe’s Blue-Red Divide

Swedish parliament Stockholm
Parliament House in Stockholm, Sweden (iStock/Roland Lundgren)

Simon Reich, a Rutgers University Newark professor, writes at The Conversation about the “blue-red” divide that is now defining European politics.

For the uninitiated: I am borrowing the term from Andrew Sullivan, who argued in 2014 that there is a “blue Europe” — internationalist, metrosexual, multicultural, secular — and a “red” Europe” — noninterventionist, more traditional, more comfortable in a homogenous society, more sympathetic to faith — and the two are at odds over everything from the European Union and trade to changing gender roles and immigration.

Reich sees a similar division.

“On the one hand are the cosmopolitans,” he writes. “They favor economic globalization, multiculturalism and integration, and a world with diminished borders.”

“Red Europe” he calls “the populists. They favor local rule, managed trade and a greater regulation of those flows — of money and of people.” They reject much of what cosmopolitanism stands for.

These differences transcend the left-right divide. There are cosmopolitans on the liberal right and protectionists on the far left. Read more “More Welfare Won’t Mend Europe’s Blue-Red Divide”

The Dangers of (Insert Your Country’s Name) First Policies

The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, New York, November 5, 2013
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, New York, November 5, 2013 (Kostas Kokkinos)

They go by different names: Britain First, Party for Freedom, America First. They range from right-wing nationalists to left-wing communists. And as far as it is possible to nail down proper policy from him, America’s leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump, seems to be one of them.

Years ago I wrote a two-part series positing what might happen if the United States suddenly withdrew its power from the world. The results were hardly pretty: regional powers that were used to either being protected or checked by American power rearmed and went to war to establish new geopolitical balances. Poverty skyrocketed as resources were dumped into vast new militaries while the threat of nuclear war grew as countries that once lived under the American nuclear umbrella felt the need to arm themselves with atomic bombs.

Now the idea of refortifying borders is gaining traction in virtually every developed democracy. Now, as then, it’s still a terrible idea.

Here’s why. Read more “The Dangers of (Insert Your Country’s Name) First Policies”

Democrats Resist Weakening Decades-Old Social Model

Democrats in the United States are deluding themselves and their voters if they vow to resist changes in the economy over which politicians have little control.

From their doubts about a transpacific trade pact to fights against flexible labor relations, Democrats are showing themselves to be uncomfortable with many of the tenets of globalization that have redefined the world economy since the 1980s. Read more “Democrats Resist Weakening Decades-Old Social Model”

Why Liberals Should Rejoice in David Cameron’s Reelection

Nick Clegg David Cameron
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom deliver a news conference at 10 Downing Street, London, December 21, 2010 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

Liberals who worry that Prime Minister David Cameron’s reelection on Thursday marks the demise of an internationalist Britain in favor of “Little England” fail to appreciate just how much the Conservative Party leader has done for liberalism.

Nick Clegg, Cameron’s former deputy, was understandably bitter when he stepped down as Liberal Democrat leader on Friday. Having lost all but eight seats in Parliament, the traditional third party in British politics was replaced by the Scottish nationalists who won 56 seats.

“Years of remorseless economic and social hardship following the crash in 2008 and the grinding insecurities of globalization have led for people to reach to new certainties,” Clegg said. “The politics of identity, of nationalism, of us versus them is now on the rise.”

He could have said the same about any Western democracy. The conclusion he drew from this, however, was wrong.

Liberalism, here, as well as across Europe, is not faring well against the politics of fear.

His left-leaning brand of liberalism, no. But former Liberal Democrat voters in England didn’t switch to the United Kingdom Independence Party which represents those politics of fear. They voted for Cameron’s Conservatives instead because he advances a type of liberalism that works.

Clegg isn’t alone in underestimating Cameron’s liberalism. Read more “Why Liberals Should Rejoice in David Cameron’s Reelection”