What’s Wrong With Abundance?
During a recent conference on Mexico’s drug war at the New America Foundation, Alberto Islas, founding partner of Risk Evaluation, talked about how, in order to obtain American sneakers and other products, he had to have a friend smuggle them in after going to the United States. That changed with NAFTA.
Thanks to free trade and the opening of markets throughout the world, we have access to information and goods from all over the world. Multiculturalism, which the Left often opines about, has actually been accomplished through the remarkable availability of such things as sushi in Virginia and McDonald’s in India.
Why this is regarded as bad is beyond me, but it is. Clay Jenkinson, the Oxford-educated host of the public radio show Thomas Jefferson Hour, is a good representation of this paradox. In the latest episode “If We Did Those Things,” Jenkinson ridiculed the American indifference to global affairs (which I can certainly sympathize with), while then taking on the wide abundance of goods and its subsequent consumer culture, which he saw as “toxic.” He entertained the idea set forth by Michael Pollan of having a “benevolent Stalin figure” set forth a lifestyle for us - water fasting for weeks and giving up cable. It was very strange.
I see nothing wrong with a system of robust capitalism in which even the poorest of Americans are living by means that the third world would envy. Heather MacDonald noted in City Journal that “the city’s officially classified ‘poor’ teenagers can be regularly observed sporting the latest designer sneakers.” Those sneakers come from growing economies like China’s, which aren’t stuck in mercantilist slavery to American corporations as Jenkinson would suggest but are actually growing towards full-on competition with the American economy.
There is certainly nothing wrong with a capitalist system in which Japanese anime is a billion dollar market in the United States, an unthinkable proposition during the anti-Japanese fever of World War II. Free trade is a good thing, and it makes Americans more aware of the rest of the world, not less. Without free trade, we would not have the easy access to the fruits of foreign economies which we take for granted. For a scholar of Thomas Jefferson, Jenkinson’s hostility toward free trade seems counter to the truths the third President held: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.