After decades of reading the French press, one notices a characteristic that obviously distinguishes it from ours: its proud economic nationalism. Whether on the left or right, newspapers and magazines celebrate every time Airbus makes a sale, especially if it sells to a customer who had previously bought Boeing airliners. French reporters rejoice — in the prose equivalent of a Church Lady dance.
To an American, particularly to an American conservative, this is a little strange, because Airbus has long since ceased to be an identifiably French company. It’s incorporated in Holland, and the German government has no qualms about using Berlin’s veto power over the firm’s strategic direction. And yet in France, Airbus, which still maintains most of its production in Toulouse, is seen as a national champion. The French sometimes make a modest effort to hide this nationalistic fervor behind a thin screen of EU nationalism.
Orwell said, “A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige.” The French demonstrate this perfectly. In the imagination of the Gallic media, every time Airbus sells a batch of airliners, it’s a great victory for the nation and a defeat for “Les Etatsunisiens,” as some of them now refer to us.
Where is our own nationalist spirit? Why do we not care whether American firms win international competitions?
In the Unites States, by contrast, almost no one on the right or the left would ever take pride in Boeing’s achievements. For example, few people outside the aviation industry seem to care that Boeing, after a monumental struggle, is building a breakthrough airplane, the 787, which over time will change the nature of the airline industry.
On the other hand, many conservatives and not a few liberals take the termination of the Ex-Im Bank as almost a holy mission, though the bank supports Boeing’s overseas sales. The bank is an egregious example of corporate welfare and certainly deserves to disappear, but the fact that hardly anyone on the right has stood up for Boeing as an American national champion says more about the nature of 21st-century American conservatives than it does about Boeing or about the bank.
Where is our own nationalist spirit? Why do we not care whether American firms win international competitions? If (as the stereotype has it) leftists are too politically correct to take their own side in an argument, why are conservatives too pure to cheer for American industry?
Modern American multinational corporations may not be loveable, and few of them do much to earn the support of American patriots, but they are ours. The mass of their employees are our fellow citizens. Just as we are supposed to prefer our families to strangers, we should, out of common decency, prefer our fellow Americans to outsiders.
This might be the secret to Trump’s appeal. If an ideological drive against “corporate welfare” is more important to conservatives than supporting American business against foreign competition, why should Americans look to conservatives for leadership ? If conservatives or libertarian conservatives act as though they don’t care whether American firms win, then Americans will turn to people who do at least claim to care.
Sure, we all know that big business, and sometimes small business as well, is not a reliable friend of free markets. Resisting businesses’ drive to build cartels and regulate their competition out of existence is and should be part of what makes an American conservative an American conservative. At some point, though, conservatives should consider moderating their free-market purity and stand up for our nation, our people, and, yes, even for our corporations.
America – f**k, yeah!!!
— Taylor Dinerman is the author of Subway Lists and Other Writings from the iPhone Era.