The Corner

Economy & Business

WFB, KDW, NR, Etc.

You may have missed it, but the week just passed was Made in America Week, according to the White House. (Maybe it should have been Health-Care Reform Week?) I had a post about this, recalling a previous Made in America campaign. It took place in 1985, and it starred such celebrities as Bob Hope and O.J. Simpson. (Simpson was in the news last week, as it happens.)

Bob Hope was a prominent conservative Republican. And he was saying, “Buy American.” How could you argue with that? Anything else would be unpatriotic, and maybe even globalist (although we did not have that epithet at the time).

And yet, WFB and National Review were arguing with it, and explaining the benefits of free trade and a globally integrated economy. This was interesting to me. And, after a time, I embraced it.

I was a “foreign-policy conservative” — i.e., a hawk — and a “social conservative” before I was an “economic conservative.” (Let’s not get into the use and abuse of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” just now.) The economic domino was the last one to fall for me, but fall it did.

A million times, with WFB sitting next to me, I said, “Bill and NR did not teach me what to think, but they helped teach me how to think, and I am grateful.” In 1985, I needed my thought guided on this Made in America stuff. And this magazine did it for me.

It is still doing it, in the form of Kevin D. Williamson’s excellent piece today: here. It is guiding young people and it is guiding me (because who doesn’t need reminding?).

We are in a nationalist-populist time, especially on the Right, although the Left has its Bernie phenomenon. There are probably not many votes in what Kevin is arguing, or explaining.

The words “populist” and “popular” are related. Also, Kevin has an expression: “pop conservatism.”

Let me talk about music for a second. In classical-music circles, there are always people wishing that this music were more popular. I always say, to their annoyance, “There’s a reason they call it ‘pop music,’ you know: It’s popular. Classical music will never be popular. That’s not the point of it. Nonetheless, a healthy minority will always love it, and want it, and need it.”

The Williamsonian view may not be popular — but Kevin is not running for office, asking for our votes, trying to ingratiate himself. He is simply saying what he believes to be true. How about political leaders? What do they do?

This brings me to my peeve about TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There are pols who flat-out oppose it, or America’s membership in it: Donald Trump, for example. I have no doubt that his opposition to TPP is sincere (although I also doubt that he understands TPP). But what about those politicians who know it’s in America’s interest but oppose it anyway, because they are unwilling to argue for it, especially when they know that popular outlets have convinced people that TPP is a foreign plot to screw Uncle Sam?

There is an old and beloved expression, “to speak truth to power.” But there is also such a thing as speaking truth to people — which too few leaders are willing to do. In other words, they aren’t really leaders; they are more like followers — loud ones.

One could go on (of course), but I will close by saying that I am grateful for KDW, and for NR generally.

P.S. I have just read, and reviewed, Harvey Sachs’s new biography of Toscanini. When the maestro first came to America, he was asked, “What do you think of American orchestras?” He answered, “What’s an American orchestra?” The orchestras he saw were filled with people from all over.

In his piece, KDW describes American products that are filled with components from all over.

Anyway, this might could be, as we say in some parts, the basis of another essay …

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