Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Left against Obama?

Just as libertarian conservatives are starting to look positively at Barack Obama's presidential campaign, the left is getting edgy that he is not really 'one of them'.

Naomi Klein in The Nation has weighed in, wondering whether Obama is appointing to his economic team acolytes of the late Milton Friedman and the 'Chicago School' of free market economics.

The key to this seems to be the appointment of Jason Furman, an economist from the University of Chicago, as part of a team that apprently support free trade and NAFTA:

Furman, a leading disciple of Rubin, was chosen to head the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, the think tank Rubin helped found to argue for reforming, rather than abandoning, the free-trade agenda. Add to that Goolsbee's February meeting with Canadian consulate officials, who left with the distinct impression that they had been instructed not to take Obama's anti-NAFTA campaigning seriously, and there is every reason for concern about a replay of 1993.
The U.S. is not a country that appears to me to be in the grip of a free trade agenda. The weak $US means that American economic assets are very attractive to foreign investors, and the US needs foreign capital to deal with its trade and budget deficits, which are now about $340 trillion. Yet everything from ports to railways to The Chrysler Building to Budweiser beer is being declared off limits to foreigners for either 'national security' reasons or because it is an 'American icon'.

Acceptance of freer trade may not be a bad antidote to knee-jerk economic nationalism. I think it would be great, for instance, to let some foreign airlines like Singapore and Emirates fly the New York-Los Angeles route on a trial basis, as U.S. airline passengers now have an absurdly low level of expectations about the flying experience based on their local carriers, for fares that are not cheap by, say, Australian standards.

Klein argues that evidence exists that free market economics is in decline because 100 U. Chicago academics signed a petition against opening a Milton Friedman Institute in 2006. Frankly I wouldn't find his to be proof of anything. On any university campus anywhere in the world, you can get 100 academics to sign anything. If they resigned their position in protest, that would be more interesting.

At any rate, I doubt if Baack Obama's economic policies will be designed for the aging Marxist grey beards of the anorak left. As Obama makes the inevitable tilt to the centre that happens from the base-building primaries to the general election, I suspect more disappointment awaits the Nation-reading left.


The Whited Sepulchre said...

unh....has anyone seen a copy of this petition that 100 academics supposedly signed?

Terry Flew said...

Not me. You'd probably also have to check their status e.g. if you are a PhD student who is doing sessional teaching, does that count? And don't get me started on the 'Adjunct Professors'.