World Should Watch John Edwards Warily
ANGELES --- International economies are so intertwined these days that
people far way from an election or campaign event will watch the
developments as if the action were in their own backyard.
Indonesia is only halfway through the opportunity and ordeal of its first
presidential election by popular vote (a runoff between the top two
vote-getters will occur in September), but much of the world is buzzing over
whether the predicted winner -- a former general -- will prove a good thing
for struggling Indonesia.
Philippines has just reelected (by a hair) incumbent President Gloria
Arroyo. Will this fine but seemingly ephemeral lady finally prove equal to
the daunting task of reducing the country's endemic corruption and
reigniting its economy?
just offered the world a smooth-as-silk power handover from one famously
entrenched prime minister to another (the incumbent's chosen successor),
with so far reassuring results. Singapore expects the world to feel at least
as confident when a new prime minister (son of founding Prime Minister Lee
Kuan Yew) takes the helm sometime this year. Giant India has a new
government and a new prime minister, who is repeatedly described,
reassuringly, as an economic technocrat.
political governance is crucial to economic success, despite the often
ritualistic obeisance to the alleged overall magic of the free market.
Markets are almost never entirely free, nor should they necessarily be so.
Economic problems sometimes require astute intervention by government or
central banks; superior governance often requires overriding
well-established political constituencies only out to protect their own
why many outside observers all over the informed world hope that Japanese
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will survive this weekend's Upper House
elections, so that at some point the blistering sore of Japanese
protectionism can someday be addressed by a strong government with an
adequate popular mandate. The last thing Japan needs is yet another shackled
prime minister revolving through the circular door. And, looking at America,
worries about an upsurge in protectionism also explain the widespread hope
that Sen. John Kerry's selection of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is no
portent of a turn-back-the-clock Democratic platform that would propose to
undo the economic globalization policies of former two-term Democratic
President Bill Clinton.
Kerry and Edwards records are sensible on the issue of global trade and
similar enough to raise the hope that campaign rhetoric this fall will not
be translated into protectionist policy in a putative Kerry-Edwards
administration. But the Democrats need to raise so much money to counter the
incumbent Bush administration cash-machine that somewhere along the campaign
trail promises will have to be made that may have to be kept. Edwards is
already on record as having opposed the North America Free Trade Agreement,
a sterling example of positive globalization at work.
Edwards carefully. With his populist flair, the millionaire one-term senator
and former plaintiff trial lawyer will easily be able to exploit the
anti-globalization, outsourcing anger that simmers just beneath the surface
of American life. The Bush administration will have no effective counter to
Edwards because it's in the back pocket of the U.S. corporate world, for one
thing, and, for another, the Edwards argument is primarily demagogic hash.
ethically correct and pragmatically effective answer to job loss via
outsourcing is the retraining of workers at capable existing institutions,
such as America's community colleges. America can put its head in the sand
if it wants to; but the smarter course is to get with the globalization
program and make American workers smarter and better than ever.
Fortunately or otherwise, the main campaign issue this time around is likely
to be lost troops in Iraq, not lost jobs in America. Still, the selection of
Edwards is a development that every foreign nation that depends on
relatively open trade relations with the United States needs to watch --
very warily indeed.