Reich in retreat


Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, former Harvard Kennedy School lecturer, and now professor at Brandeis University, outlines, on today's New York Times op—ed page, the liberal fallback position on what one might call "The Wal—Mart Question."

The more pragmatic among those who worship government as the protector of the Little Man are now admitting that Wal—Mart draws 100 million customers a week because it provides value for the money. They still don't like its "low" ($9.68 an hour is not minimum wage) wages, competitive pressure on small stores, and propensity to import from China. But Reich goes so far as to acknowledge that as a consumer he is drawn to the lowest price available. Acknowledging the reality of self—interest—seeking as normal is progress for liberals.

But Reich is still uncomfortable with people actually having to compete, and wants "the government" to insulate them from competitive pressures. For example, he wants "the government" to provide "wage insurance." As if this doesn't mean taking money from you and me (and him) to give to people who cannot keep their jobs — if I understand the concept of "wage insurance."

Reich is becoming a Duct Tape Democrat — using ad hoc palliative social and economic programs to try to insulate people from the very competition which enriches society as a whole. There is a very good reason why pleas for such cushioning come from the likes of Reich. Usually those who decry the inhumanity of capitalism are those most protected from competition — by tenure, inherited wealth, social position, stardom, and other qualities unavailable to the rest of us.

Hat tip: Real Clear Politics

Thomas Lifson  2 28 05