Columnist George Will recently mocked a so-called conservative, noting that “no federal official ... has an agenda of government enlargement as ambitious and comprehensive” as Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.
Hawley’s ideas on trade policy prompted the rebuke by Will, who observed that his proposals are an invitation to progressives to share the fun of making government bigger than ever. Liberal Democrats are supposed to want government to control more of our lives. Republicans like Hawley are not.
Our economy’s current supply chain difficulties gave Hawley the opportunity to propose, through an Oct. 29 column in The New York Times, a fundamental restructuring of American trade policy.
“The global trading system powered the astonishing enlargement of post-1945 U.S. prosperity,” Will wrote. “Hawley, however, believes the system is a failure because supply problems have accompanied the pandemic.”
Hawley thinks the federal government should decide which products are critical for national security and for the protection of our industrial base, and it should then mandate that more than 50% of the value of these products be made in America.
Many might like this “bring back jobs” idea of requiring American-made products. But Will does not, and he is correct: “Imagine the ocean of crony capitalism that would surround decisions about what is critical and essential, and what implicates national security, and what counts as the industrial base.”
Will further wins the argument by envisioning what is certain to happen: “Vastly expanded legions of bureaucrats, from the departments of defense, commerce and elsewhere, will make the many thousands of distinctions that Hawley, a selective critic of government’s competence, wants Washington to make.”
Hawley also has embarked on another crusade, this one to protect American manliness. He notes that men are working less, marrying less, fathering fewer children and dealing with higher rates of anxiety and depression.
He believes that men have been victims of free trade, a policy that he says has left domestic manufacturing all but dead. He says the government should rebuild the American economy so that more men can thrive.
Seriously? The same government that today is unable to control inflation or gasoline prices?
As Will noted, for more than 70 years manufacturing consistently has been responsible for between 11% and 14% of the country’s economic output. It is true that manufacturing employment as a percentage of total employment has declined, but that’s because productivity continues to increase — which is good for those workers.
If Hawley wants to improve conditions for men, he should encourage more of them to treat child-bearing women respectfully. Instead we have rising numbers of unwed mothers, single-parent homes and boys growing up without a male role model. He should encourage more men to make sure their sons — America’s future men — get an education that will lead them toward a decent job.
None of this is the government’s job. It’s called personal responsibility.
Hawley is using a temporary economic problem to score points with people who think there is no hope for the country. These doomsayers ignore two centuries of American history, which makes clear that a free people have the unrivaled ability to recover from economic setbacks, pandemics and any other interruption.
Hawley is wrong on so many counts that he sounds just like those progressives who think the government should manage the American economy. George Will was absolutely correct to call him out on this shameful pandering.
— Jack Ryan, Enterprise-Journal