National Review And The Autarky Malarkey

Let’s get this right out in the open: Donald Trump was the only potential Republican candidate for President who had even the slightest chance of beating Hillary Clinton and her Big Blue Media Machine. Without The Donald, the Republicans would have cheerfully kept on being the Washington Generals of American politics, the “loyal opposition” to a one-party State in which the interests of politicians, media elites, and the impossibly wealthy are all aligned to the mutual satisfaction of everybody with a net worth over ten million dollars and/or a severe distaste for traditional Western values. You might not want to believe this; like my brother Bark, you might continue to hold a flickering belief in a “traditional conservative platform” or in Chamberlain-esque appeasers like Marco Rubio. But it is true. The Republican party is effectively derelict, weakly supported for the moment by local gerrymandering and facing execution at the hands of seemingly unstoppable demographic change.

If you need a reminder of why modern conservatism is DOA, however, Kevin Williamson at the National Review will be happy to provide you just that, with the additional bonus of a head-in-hands-worthy lesson in how to become smitten by one’s own kindergarten-level logical fallacies.


The article is titled “‘Made in America.’ So What?” and as usual we’ll excerpt the relevant passages here. It begins with the usual generic swipe at the idea of “Made In USA” by pointing out the global nature of today’s supply chains. This is both logically and morally lazy at best. Yes, as Williamson points out, an “American” guitar may well have wood from a foreign country, minor components from China, or wiring from Mexico — but that in no way undermines the fact that the majority of the value added in, say, a Gibson Les Paul happens right here in the United States. When you drive by the Honda plant in Marysville, which stretches across the visible horizon and which has effectively raised many thousands of Ohioans out of poverty, it should be plain to even the most willfully moronic observer that the plant is real and the jobs it provides are real. Were the plant in Japan, or China, it would be equally real and the jobs it would provide would be equally real. They just wouldn’t be here.

This common-sense reality is Williamson’s next target:

One of the great enduring stupidities of modern economic life is the belief that buying American is somehow beneficial to the United States as a whole. A related daft notion, very popular among our progressive friends horrified at the chauvinism of “Buy American” campaigns, is that buying local helps your local community and economy. This stuff has been studied and studied and studied, and the short version is that buy-American/buy-local efforts amount to approximately squat. It makes sense if you think about it: You can buy a bag of green beans from your local farmers’ cooperative and feel good about yourself, but that farmer is going to use the money to pay his bills, probably to a faraway financial company that holds his mortgage, a carmaker overseas, or a tractor-financing company abroad. He might buy his diesel from a local retailer, but that diesel very likely comes from crude oil drilled in some faraway place (from Canada to the Middle East) and refined in another faraway place. The components that went into those green beans — seeds, fertilizer, farming equipment — probably weren’t locally made. Money likes to move around.

The paragraph about farming contains the “seeds” of its own destruction, if you like. Williamson’s imaginary farmer pays all sorts of bills to distant entities, true. However, if he is a competent farmer, he is retaining enough of his revenue to pay his own bills. If you buy those beans from a farmer in China, then that farmer is going to be able to pay his bills and his mortgage. If everybody buys beans from the American farmer, then the American farmer has a job. If everybody buys beans from the Chinese farmer, then the Chinese farmer has a job. Period, point blank. This is not difficult to understand.

Mr. Williamson would have you believe that it doesn’t matter if that American farmer has a job because “money likes to move around”. But he fails to consider the fact that the farmer also has a choice about where he spends his money. If everybody buys beans from the American farmer, and all the American farmers buy farm equipment from the American farm-equipment manufacturer, then the money may be “moving around” but it is not moving too far. Again, this is apparent to anybody who gives any thought to it whatsoever. No amount of economics textbooks can make the Honda plant in Marysville disappear, nor can they paper over the fact that a guitar made in China creates jobs in China while a guitar made in America creates jobs in America.

To be fair, however, most economics textbooks do not make that argument. Instead, they make a claim that lowered prices from overseas production confer more of a benefit than local jobs making local products. In the economists-textbook scenario, if everybody in a mill town loses their jobs but the price of socks drops by fifty cents, then that’s a good thing because the fifty-cent benefit for an entire nation outweighs the five thousand jobs lost in Pennsylvania. It’s possible that the economists are right about this.

The only problem is that, as I’ve shown before on this blog, overseas production no longer does much to lower consumer prices. The additional profits are being funneled straight to the so-called one-percent through “FIRE” entities. The most stereotypical example of this: A factory in the USA employs a thousand people. Somebody does a leveraged buyout on that factory’s parent company. The factory is closed. The work is sent to China. The additional profit is used to pay the debt service incurred during the leveraged buyout. Every single penny of value “created” in that transaction goes straight to the investor class. This business model, by the way, was how ol’ Mittens got rich enough to afford his turn as the Washington Generals of American politics, via his employer Bain Capital.

Insofar as Mr. Williamson was hired to argue on behalf of the investor class, you can see how he would consider offshoring and leveraging to be economically sound and morally defensible. That does not mean that ordinary Americans should share those sentiments. Killing thousands of jobs to add $100 million to a venture capitalist’s net worth might balance the books in an economic textbook but in the real world it’s a recipe for disaster.

Perhaps that explains why Williamson takes a highly illogical next step in trying to argue for the outsourcing and elimination of American jobs:

There is a word for making a national economy policy out of “buy local” or “buy national,” and that word is “autarky.” Autarky is what happens when a country tries to produce everything it uses and use everything it produces. There are a few countries organized around something like that principle, and they are desperately poor: North Korea is the leading example, though a little bit of autarkical policy helped to reduce Venezuela from one of the wealthiest countries in the Western Hemisphere to one of the poorest, a country so far up that infamous creek that it cannot even manage to produce toilet paper in sufficient quantities. Autarky and socialism tend to go hand-in-hand, for reasons that are pretty obvious: Both are attempts to put economic exchange and production under political discipline. The results of each are predictable and similar: misery.

This ism, of course, the old reductio ad absurdum argument: “Any attempt to bring jobs back to American soil is EXACTLY LIKE NORTH KOREA! Or maybe it’s like VENEZUELA, WHERE THEY STARVE!” It’s embarrassing for all parties involved that the National Review even permits Williamson to make this argument on its website. Nobody — not Trump, not Gibson’s management, not the nuttiest of Oathkeeper dudes, not even your humble author — is in any way suggesting that the United States adopt an autarkical policy of any sort. This sort of argument is typically restricted to teenagers on the Internet or the editors of left-wing websites, who solemnly assured us that a ban on partial-birth abortions would instantly bring the world of The Handmaid’s Tale into being or that the passage of concealed-carry laws would turn the streets of America into the Wild West. Conservatives are supposed to be the grown-ups in a discussion, not the hysterical children.

Again, however, Williamson knows his point is weak, because he uses North Korea and Venezuela as examples rather than, say, Japan or China. Both Japan and China place significant restrictions on what they will permit into the country. Some of these barriers are legal, some are societal, some are cultural, but all of them are far more effective than the weak tariffs we have on goods entering the United States. The Chinese, in particular, have proven to be far smarter than our conservative brain trust here in America. Instead of offering up airy theories about the movement of money or the freedom of commerce, they’ve focused on creating jobs, ramping up manufacturing capacity, and taking vicious advantage of every potential trade imbalance out there. That’s how China went from a “sleeping giant” to the country that created, and can likely enforce, the infamous “nine-dash line”. That’s why the United States military has to seriously worry about the idea that China has backdoored military equipment.

Mr. Williamson may not like it, but manufacturing is power. Employment is power. A fully-utilized workforce is a powerful national tool in every possible sense of the world. This may not always be the case, of course. It’s impossible to know what will happen when most of the labor in first world countries is completely automated. In the short term, however, jobs are critical to a nation’s standing in the global community.

I doubt that the crowd at the National Review cares very much for the idea of a fully-employed proletariat. As is often said, politics tends to form a circle at the ends. Neither the socialist left nor the self-righteous right much care for the idea of a middle class that owns houses and jetskis and has freedom to do whatever it wants. Both are complicit in what even the non-paranoid among us can increasingly see as a scheme to replace the native citizenry of Western democracies with low-wage, low-education, politically naive immigrants. And it explains why Mr. Williamson is unwilling to lay the blame for North Korea and Venezuela’s failures where it belongs: on single-party aristocracies that rely on a powerless, permanently confused underclass to maintain power. It would hit just a bit too close to home, you see.

Regardless of the position of the National Review and its editors, here at Riverside Green we will continue to advocate for American manufacturing in all its forms, from shoes to watches to hi-fi equipment. (And trucks, although my Silverado is unfortunately a “3” VIN vehicle.) Local manufacturing makes a difference. Local purchases make a difference. Put your hand out to your neighbor and help him up. Not with a condescending handout, but with patronage for his goods and services. If we all did that, then we wouldn’t need help from the Republicans or the Democrats. Bad for Kevin Williamson, but good for America.

100 Replies to “National Review And The Autarky Malarkey”

  1. James

    The cultural difference between Europe and America is that America never had a feudal period–although the antebellum South tried, with plantations importing slaves to be their serfs.

    Now some Americans are trying again. A car, with an internal combustion engine, is the tool of a free man; but no feudal lord would allow his serfs to travel freely without notifying him. The reason public transportation is popular is that it restricts where people can go, and when.

    Reply
  2. mas

    About your truck, they usually come with a piece of paper that among other things, states that X% of the car’s components came from country Y. How much of the parts of a Silverado are made in USA?
    (Just curious. Not trying to argue for or against anything)

    Reply
    • Paul

      The Silverado and Tahoo and GMC equivalents, whether assembled in America or Mexico, have close to 50% of their material made not in NA. Best to do in trucks if you want to support American is Ford F-150 with high American content (close to 70%), while big Toyota truck does well too.

      Reply
  3. MrGreenMan

    There’s a speech by Calvin Coolidge – it is listed on YouTube as the first presidential film with sound – which shows why the anti-KKK, civil rights hero was indeed the greatest president of the 20th century.

    He understood that the government should be subordinated to the right of an American working man to earn a wage to pay his bills. He recast the Congress demanding money to that of the working life of days and years of a certain number of real, working wage earners, and he understood that the chief meaning of freedom is for the American wage earner to enjoy the fruits of his own labor…not to save fifty cents at Wal-Mart while using his bridge card to pretend he has dignity by not having to put the food stamps out on the counter.

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  4. Ronnie Schreiber

    The problem with protectionism is that it can hamper innovation by Americans. To begin with, competition is a good thing. It improves products. More to the point, putting up barriers to trade makes it hard for American innovators to buy the best materials in the world for their products and hard to sell the finished goods overseas.

    If you buy vinyl windows from a local company in Ohio, there’s a good chance the big machines that are used to cut and weld the frames come from Germany. That German equipment is used to employ Ohioans.

    Jack, you know how hard I’ve worked at sourcing as much of the Harmonicaster in the US as I can, but I’m completely dependant on a German company because they’re the only ones in the world who make steel reeds. The ABS filament I used to print my parts comes from China. I tried two American brands and the Chinese stuff is better. They make tons more of it than the American extruders, they’re better at it.

    The potentiometers for the volume and tone controls come from Taiwan. The capacitors are made wherever whomever currently owns the “orange drop” brand makes them. You buy quality goods where you can get them.

    I bought my 3D printer from the Czech Republic because it’s not just the best printer for the money, it’s one of the best printers you can get period.

    Import restrictions would make it more expensive to make a product that I’m pretty sure has some export potential. I don’t have to sell many Harmonicasters in Germany and China to balance that trade.

    For those interested, http://www.harmonicaster.com – the IndieGoGo campaign will go live in a matter of days if you’re interested in supporting the idea and getting one.

    I think it was Gad Saad who said that a major problem of today’s economy is that the creation of wealth has been divorced from general prosperity. It used to be that in order to get wealthy you had to create some prosperity around you by building factories and hiring people. Now, so much of the financial world is involved in leveraging things that great fortunes can be made without really making your neighbors more prosperous.

    Reply
  5. michael

    Perhaps this comment is better placed on TTAC.

    But, your 3 VIN Silverado makes a greater contribution to America’s economy than your Accord does.

    Chevy probably nets $15,000 on the Silverado, which goes to paying all the overhead that is primarily concentrated in SE Michigan. Engineers, Designers, Shareholders, Managers, etc.

    The Accord probably nets Ohio $1,000 to $2,000? 12 hours of labor at $55/hr fully loaded ~$660. Plus local utilities and taxes.

    Reply
    • Daniel J

      I’d like to see some real hard numbers and statistics on this. Are you sure Honda didn’t employer American designers and engineers for the Accord? Are all Ford shareholders American? What about Americans holding shares in Honda?

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        Most of the Accord was engineered in Marysville. The I4 was done overseas but I believe the J-series was engineered in the USA

        Reply
      • jz78817

        IIRC most of the US-centric models (US Accord, Pilot, Ridgeline, etc) are design led by Marysville and Torrance. They’ll use “off the shelf” stuff from the home office where necessary.

        Reply
        • michael

          Hard numbers? I’d love to see some hard numbers, but you wont find them in any SEC filing, or anywhere else I know of. If you know where we could find hard numbers, please tell. The best you can do is find estimates. I based the hourly amounts on an hourly wage estimate I’ve seen in a couple places, including Autoline, that put the Honda hourly wage at $53 and change fully loaded (vacation/healthcare/etc). the hours of work at 10-12 from CAR – mary worth, which is a little stale, but if you’ve got better estimates, let me know.

          Don’t get hung up on just the engineering. I’m talking contribution margin here: Revenue minus variable costs. That is, what’s left over to pay everything else. And don’t get caught up in just the engineering for the specific model, when so many parts can be shared.

          Part of my argument is a big assumption that competition has forced the automakers into a similar production situation. The cost of say a Mustang, given certain features, is approx. the same as a similarly configured Accord, or Camry, or whatever, and that approx. 70% of the car is sourced from tier1 suppliers. You could go deep down the rabbit hole trying to figure out who benefits from the supplier angle.

          So let’s keep it simple, if you buy from Ford or GM, and to a lesser extent Chrysler, more financial benefit goes to US workers/family/suppliers/shareholders/ad_execs/whatever. than if you buy a Texas-made Tundra / Ohio-made Accord / South Carolina BMW

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          • Daniel J

            Michael, you can’t keep it simple. That’s exactly my point. Stating who benefits financially is meaningless. It’s your opinion, not a statement of fact, as to who benefits more. Honestly, no one really knows from model to model or company to company.

          • michael

            Daniel:

            Stating that it’s too complicated to know is a cop-out.

            A Simple 10,000 foot accounting view tells us that when US companies make money people who live in the US benefit.

            When you buy a foreign car and send thousands of dollars to a foreign firm, foreigners benefit.

            You do not need a perfect accounting of funds to know that.

            Look up Contribution Margin and think it through.

  6. Paul

    Absolutely brilliant piece, and so well written.

    I think Trump has confused both the left and the right. I listen to MS-NBC, and hear in amazement the same arguments you are making. They say Trump is stopping Mexican labor to come to California to pick fruits, and that hurts all of us because we pay more. All the time ignoring the fact, perhaps if pay is sufficient for labor here, more people may pick fruits. I have seen the same play out in construction. When I bought a home in Atlanta in early 1990s, people who did the framing and siding and roofing were Americans. Now, its all Mexicans or south Americans, because, pay.

    The right wingers are confused too, because as you state to them cheap labor means rich get richer, which is what right should stand for. Or outsource, even a great expensive Truck like yours. It is completely immoral of GM not just outsource a Sonic or Cruze, but a truck that costs easily close to 50k. Nothing but greed for as you state investor class. There comes a time that lack of jobs here mean no one can afford those expensive trucks or 700 dollar iphones.

    Yet Trump is also confusing. When I see him go at Sessions, nothing makes sense. The one man that stood by him, and his immigration policies, when no one else did. The core of what Trump is (or maybe should be). Yet Trump is attacking him daily.

    So much of what you state about companies merging and then outsourcing I have experienced first hand and continue to do (I am one of the lucky that for whatever reason has been witness to all these immoralities, yet continue to benefit from it). Ironic. Great Piece Jack, I hope you get a drink and relax after this. Brilliant.

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  7. Sseigmund

    I always find it fascinating to visit San Diego, CA, one my favorite American cities and look over the river at Tijuana. On one side of the river a shining gem of wealth, prosperity and military might, and on the other a polluted, poor, crime ridden shithole. It doesn’t seem that 23 years of NAFTA has done much to bring the average Mexican to parity with the average American, but it’s hard to ignore what NAFTA has done to a lot of US manufacturing towns. Maybe the idea was always to bring America down to the level of Mexico?

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  8. James

    Rule 0 is “Always Build Capital.” I remember that the Orange Tree Imports store, in Madison, WI, had a “buy local!” sign on their door. So, what sort of capital are you building by shopping at a local import store?

    Well, you’re encouraging the development of import stores, which is good for you if you like to buy your imported goods from a local, brick-and-mortar store. I mean that if it’s the store you value, then, yes, buy local. But, if there’s a particular imported product you want, then you might build more capital by buying it over the Internet.

    You have to support what you care about; you vote with your dollars.

    Reply
    • jz78817

      Rule 0 is “Always Build Capital.”

      that doesn’t mean something to everyone. It’s like “always be closing!” It’s meaningless to someone snaking out your main sewer drain, or fixing your car, or mowing your lawn (y’know, since you can’t be bothered to do it yourself.)

      you lot suffer under the illusion that everyone always has every possible option equally available all of the time. Yeah, they don’t.

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      • James

        Capital comes in many forms–money is just one of them. Don’t let your wage-slave mindset blind you to this!

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      • Ronnie Schreiber

        “Always be closing!” is true whether you’re doing comedy, selling real estate, or snaking out a drain. It’s just another way of saying to stay focused on the goal.

        The guy mowing your lawn has to get customers too.

        They say that prostitution is the oldest profession but she had to sell something.

        As for building capital by buying 1.7x4mm screws direct from China in quantity vs sourcing the same imported parts from a local vendor, there is a value to having the screws today vs waiting who knows how long it’s going to take Chinese vendors and logistics to get it here. If buying imported materials locally lets me complete assembly and sell the product, generating revenue, that too builds capital.

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        • carrya1911

          I have friends with small ventures trying to make real products. It’s extremely difficult to get everything they need manufactured here in the US even though they are trying. I don’t think anyone faults you for using the parts you need that can be delivered when you need them. Especially when you are building a new thing that hasn’t existed before.

          A lot of our manufacturing infrastructure has been hollowed out for a very long time. It’s going to take time to rebuild it…but if there are people looking to purchase from that infrastructure it will actually get built. Jack’s Shinola example is a good take on that.

          We don’t have to go full protectionist. We just need to reshuffle the cars on the table a little and shit will happen, and fast.

          Reply
          • Ronnie Schreiber

            I try to buy most of my actual hardware, screws and nuts, from a local vendor, Motor City Fasteners but even then it’s impossible to know country of origin until you get the box and even then it’s not alway obvious.

            The Federal Trade Commission’s rules on an unqualified “Made in the USA” statement are such that anything beyond small parts like screws has to be sourced in the U.S. In many cases that’s almost impossible.

            In my own case, the Chinese screws don’t really matter. The German harmonica components I’m using are more than 30% of my material costs.

  9. jz78817

    Let’s get this right out in the open: Donald Trump was the only potential Republican candidate for President who had even the slightest chance of beating Hillary Clinton and her Big Blue Media Machine.

    the only one out of the group who ran in 2016? Absolutely true.

    Without The Donald, the Republicans would have cheerfully kept on being the Washington Generals of American politics, the “loyal opposition” to a one-party State in which the interests of politicians, media elites, and the impossibly wealthy are all aligned to the mutual satisfaction of everybody with a net worth over ten million dollars and/or a severe distaste for traditional Western values.

    this part is utter rubbish. the Republicans regained control of both houses in 2010 and still have it. the majority of state governors are Republican. Boehner and McConnell stated multiple times that their entire platform was to obstruct anything Obama might want to do. Then McConnell- snake he is- conveniently forgot about all that when he started whining how Democrats were being “obstructionist” towards Trump.

    And to try to paint the GOP as the “loyal opposition” to the impossibly wealthy is… I don’t know, I hope I just misunderstood your point.

    Insofar as Mr. Williamson was hired to argue on behalf of the investor class, you can see how he would consider offshoring and leveraging to be economically sound and morally defensible. That does not mean that ordinary Americans should share those sentiments.

    well, unfortunately they do. Too many of us still fervently believe we’re all just “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” The Republican party has ensured the wealthy have been able to convince the middle class that the poor are the cause of all of their problems.

    when I was in my late teens/early 20s, I went through an arch-conservative phase. Listened to Limbaugh every day, read the American Spectator and the Washington Times. Thought I knew everything I needed to know. then I started meeting more people from all walks of life, and realizing people I’d known since grade school were still struggling to get by through no fault of their own. That made me grow up and realize that no, not everyone can be in charge of their own destiny.

    then I started seeing the behavior of utter shitbags like Robert Murray )http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/murray-energy-seeks-gag-order-against-john-oliver/article/2627605) for what it is. Here is a multi-billionaire who owns a ton of this country’s coal production, yet he can’t handle a comedian making fun of him.

    these people are fucking each and every one of us up the ass, and we’re happily letting them tell us someone else is doing it and that we asked for it in the first place.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      The wealthiest people in America overwhelmingly lean Democrat. The fact that your orthodontist votes the GOP ticket isn’t terribly relevant to that fact.

      Reply
      • jz78817

        I don’t have an orthodontist.

        and George Soros (the right’s bogeyman) isn’t the only wealthy person in the country.

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        • One Leg at a Time

          No one cares if you have an orthodontist.

          The point stands that the wealthiest counties in the country voted overwhelmingly Democrat in the last several elections. (an example at WSJ – the map allows one to cross median income with election results from 2012: graphics.wsj.com/americamapped/ – just paste into the browser of choice)

          It is also fairly easy to see where the wealthiest individuals spend their money to influence elections with a tiny amount of Google-fu. Soros is only exceptional in that his influence and political leanings are quite public.

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      • Mopar4wd

        I don’t think so Jack I have had several jobs where I deal with exceptionally wealthy clientele. Even here in Blue CT the top .05% lean slightly Right it’s about a 60 -40 split but close. When you add in the whole 1% it leans even more right.

        Now the new tech billionaires and media billionaires lean Left but that’s a recent and somewhat small phenomenon.

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        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          Do they lean financially right, or do they lean morally right?

          Are you telling me that more than half of your wealthy clients are against abortion on demand, or that more than half of them don’t want transgender “educational” materials in schools?

          The one-party state is all about that (Bill) Clintonian combination of elite-friendly financial policies and social liberalism.

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          • jz78817

            You’re going to sit there and tell me a government being run by people like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Scott Pruitt, Jeff Sessions, etc. is a “one-party state which is socially liberal” because Bill Clinton?

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            Well, how many socially conservative policies do you see being put into place? Is anybody successfully blurring that (entirely imaginary) line between Church and State? Can gays marry? Can people have abortion on demand? Are we importing millions of people from other countries? Is there any aspect of traditional conservative doctrine whatsoever that is being put into place anywhere, OTHER THAN financial policies that favor the one percent at the expense of everybody else?

          • -Nate-Nate

            Yes, he did .

            regan wasn’t any sort of true Conservative, he was a corporate shill who did damage we’re still reeling from .

            “You’re going to sit there and tell me a government being run by people like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Scott Pruitt, Jeff Sessions, etc. is a “one-party state which is socially liberal” because Bill Clinton?”

            -Nate

          • Mopar4wd

            I would say economically right yes and a good portion of clients that own local business (car dealers large contractors job shop owners) etc tend to lean morally and financially right.
            And to your direct question most even the wall street types were pro life.

  10. John C.

    Great Piece. I don’t think it is too much to ask for people to think carefully before spending money on an overseas product. It is true that some countries do certain things very well and so deserve to earn some exports. What is also true is what Jack describes about the benefits of outsourcing going only to the moneychangers.

    Does anybody really think there is any benefit to the consumer from Buick producing the American market Envision in China or any benefit from a Honda Fit having never seen Japan, only Mexico? Where are the bargain prices the economists insist are so automatic?

    Reply
    • Ronnie Schreiber

      The current Fit is MIJ. Honda needed to free up space in Mexico for the crossover version of that platform, the CR-V.

      Reply
  11. phr3dly

    The implication that, absent Trump, Republicans would be also-rans is laughable. Local and stage governments are lousy with Republicans. Both houses of the legislative branch are Republican.

    The rest of this post is equally error ridden. There’s more wrong here than in a Kellyanne Conway press conference, and it’s just as scattershot. Suffice to say that protectionism, like the minimum wage, benefits a few people very visibly while harming a great many much less visibly.

    I will hand it to Trump: he effectively formed a new party with a new platform using an odd mixture of traditional democrat voters and traditional republican voters. It’s not clear if this was a calculated move or an accident. I suspect it’s a bit of both, aided by short attention spans and lack of intellectual rigor.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      “Suffice to say that protectionism, like the minimum wage, benefits a few people very visibly while harming a great many much less visibly.”

      If you say so. Guess that explains why all the jobs are coming over from protectionist India and China.

      Reply
      • Kevin Jaeger

        We can see why a genuinely conservative candidate has no chance in modern times. In an age of widespread economic and financial illiteracy there are simply no supporters of free enterprise.

        It’s all a competition to choose who gets to be the cronies in a game of crony capitalism.

        Reply
        • carrya1911

          The last genuinely conservative candidate to even run was Reagan. And he was assailed as a dunce and an economic illiterate. It was H. W. Bush who coined the term “voodoo economics.” Reagan was as hated by the Republican establishment of his time as Trump is today. (He was also accused of being a nazi, and everybody who was smart and sophisticated was just certain he would start nuclear war against the undefeatable USSR)

          The Republican electoral victories in congress and at the local and state levels had much to do with resentment for the Obama agenda generally. Most of America has no interest in men using the bathroom with their daughters because they claim to be transgendered. They certainly don’t want the federal government imposing it by fiat from above.

          And what did the Senate just do on Obamacare? After having voted to repeal it loudly when there was no chance of a president who would sign the repeal into law, they get a president who promised to sign a repeal into law and suddenly half a dozen of the loud Republican senators went softer than Bob Dole’s dick.

          When Obama was still in office various Republican senators spent more time barking at Ted Cruz for threatening to fillibuster debt limit increases than they spent yelling at Obama for…well..anything. Ted Cruz is pretty close to my idea of a real conservative. I even voted for him in the primaries. Virginia saw Republican figures actively campaign for Terry Macauliffe to be governor over real conservative Ken Cuccinelli…because their power wouldn’t be threatened if Terry the Mac was in office. But Ken…well, he’d upset their apple cart.

          A “real conservative” doesn’t have a prayer because a real conservative would be an existential threat to an entrenched power structure that will say and do anything to protect its own interests. And that power structure has become so untethered from the realities the rest of us live with that Donald Fucking Trump of all people is closer to a real conservative than most figures of national prominence in the Republican party. And he’s certainly more effective than most of them, too.

          “Free trade!” is great. It also does not exist. We cannot have truly free trade with countries that deliberately manipulate their currency, invest massive state resources into broad scale industrial espionage to the point of essentially requiring anyone who wishes to do business in their market to hand up every last bit of valuable intellectual property to a domestic “partner”, or who are willing to settle worker’s disputes with tanks and machineguns. All of which China has done, is doing, and will do again.

          To ignore those realities in blind support of “free trade!” is not conservative. Anymore than supporting unrestricted “immigration” from anyone who has a notion to show up inside the borders. Or ignoring the military and asymmetric acts of powers hostile to our interests because there has yet been no formal declaration of war from them.

          Reply
          • jz78817

            “Real Conservatives” don’t exist. they’ve all turned into a bunch of reactionary regressivists who desperately cling to the notion that this country was perfect in the 1950s because they think Leave it to Beaver is a documentary.

        • Daniel J

          I’ve never been sold that the the GOP was “pro free Enterprise”. That would be the libertarian party moreso than the Republicans. Many Republicans are pro big corporations, which want less free Enterprise and more corporate protection.

          Reply
          • -Nate-Nate

            There you go using facts and logic again .

            Conservatism isn’t a bad thing, just the few who use it as a front to steal from you .

            -Nate

  12. Hogie roll

    Republicucks are the next group to get BTFO. The trump train will systematically target them for replacement in their reelections.

    Reply
  13. MrFixit1599

    I freely admit, I know nothing about all of this. What I do know is If you want a job, move to the Kenosha/Racine area in Wisconsin. Amazon just built a gigantic distribution hub there, U-line has built 2 gigantic buildings for distribution and manufacturing I assume, and according to the news today, Foxconn, an Apple supplier, will be building a factory in that area. That sounds a lot like jobs being created here in the good ole USA.

    Reply
    • jz78817

      Yeah, read up on what it’s like working in an Amazon warehouse. Borderline sweatshop. Bringing those back here seems like a dandy idea.

      Reply
        • -Nate-Nate

          _THIS_ .

          Digging up broken sewer lines in rural new Hampshire in January is one of my worse jobs…..

          So few ever here have actually had seriously bad jobs .

          -Nate

          Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        I once had a job working in an un-air conditioned warehouse, moving cases of wrestling gear from one part of the warehouse to another, stacking them by hand. I was tired at the end of the day but I was happy to have the job.

        I’ve trenched sprinkler systems with a shovel. Actually one time the ground was such dry, hard clay that the pipe puller wouldn’t work and we had to get out the pickaxes, breaking up the hard clay first before we could dig it out.

        A job is a job. My dad was a veterinarian and in college I worked as an animal caretaker in the human genetics dept’s “mouse house”. I’ve scraped a lot of shit, literally. There’s nothing undignifying about any job as long as you agree to the wages and they pay you on time.

        Reply
        • carrya1911

          I worked a number of shit scraping jobs (again, literally) to put myself through enough schooling that I could get a better job. It wasn’t fun, but I did it. It was its own form of education.

          Part of the problem is people expecting a “good job” (meaning one that I like and that is comfortable) to drop in their lap on day one. That ain’t how shit works unless you are the scion of wealth and privilege. For the rest of us it’s going to be a fight to make your way in the world. There will be dirt. And there will be blood. Probably a few tears, too.

          Reply
  14. James

    I think the big issue with protectionism isn’t who makes the widgets, but whether the widgets he makes are any good. Without competition, companies get away with selling crap at high prices. Protectionism allows companies to avoid competition; and monopolies tend not to be good for consumers. Consider Bark’s example of an auto dealer that charges competitive (i.e., low!) prices where there’s competition–to customers who come in through the Internet–and inflated prices where there isn’t. Part of the reason the dealer gets away with the latter is that auto dealerships are franchises, local monopolies within the brand, granted by the automaker.

    I would say that the Honda factories in Ohio are valuable primarily because they’re used to make good cars. A 1980s Honda, made in Japan, was good for Americans because it was better than the UAW-made “Big Three” crap they’d otherwise be forced to buy. A Honda made today, in Ohio, is good for Americans because it’s better than what GM is trying to sell–which also means it keeps GM honest, by preventing them from selling something even worse. The thing itself is good.

    Note that national boundaries aren’t special to this analysis–competition can be foreign or domestic, the key part is that what’s being made, the thing itself, has to be good. I suppose that if you have to buy a crappy car, it might as well be made in your community; and having to overpay for crap made in other countries is probably the worst possible outcome. (Hence the repeated, oft-successful attempts, throughout history, to break foreign monopolies…)

    Reply
  15. David

    National Review? Let me quote Bill Kristol of the similar Weekly Standard “Among conservatives there’s been too much pseudo-populism, almost too much concern and attention for, quote, ‘the people’…After all, we conservatives are on the side of the lords and barons…We are pulling up the drawbridge against the peasants.” But don’t for one second think I’m on the side of Bernie Sanders and Hillary. Both sides are but 2 sides of the same coin, and that coin is controlled by the sovereign state “City of London Corporation” which contains the Bank of England etc and controls the Federal Reserve Bank. This is the source of the NWO. They like wars (much gov’t borrowing from their non-existing Reserves) and are trying to brainwash us into warring with Russian. Trump has in fact created a third party, and the Republicans can jump on board or remain Dem enablers. End the Uniparty and NWO takeover. Wake up to the media brainwashing. The enemy is the bankers who have financed every war since the French Revolution. Read about the Kalergi Plan to understand immigration.

    Reply
  16. Orenwolf

    Silly.

    Of course buying locally produced goods supports local labour. It also puts a larger portion of your spending dollar into the local economy.

    It *may not* be good for your country as a whole because it is also likely an inefficient way to *spend* that money, but for the vast majority of us not making million dollar or larger decisions daily, it doesn’t move *that* needle appreciably.

    All money flows from consumers to producers, with almost every producer also being a consumer until you hit natural resources or primary creative talent. That’s economics 101 and the referenced article author is right to be called out by Jack for their suggestion that this somehow negates local spending. Sure, as a money exercise, where it all ends up in the end matters at some level of investment far larger than any of us need worry about, but it passes through locals first who literally *make a living* first, or keep their businesses going concerns, *which is the point*.

    Great article, Jack.

    Reply
  17. Skein

    While I may not always agree with you… you definitely weren’t lying when you said you stuck it to both sides. That takes a definite amount of intestinal fortitude (especially in these times) and I respect it.

    Reply
  18. Disinterested-Observer

    About the only benefit of globalism that has been reaped by the 99% is the off-shoring of massive amounts of pollution that used to be generated here.

    Reply
  19. CanuckGreg

    What about “made in America” where it’s only happening because taxpayers are subsidizing the shit out of it?

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/foxconn-wisconsin-plant-2020-1.4223784

    “Electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion US factory in Wisconsin that’s expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history, U.S. President Donald Trump says…

    …But the decision to build the plant in Wisconsin also stemmed from $3 billion in state economic incentives over 15 years if Foxconn invests $10 billion in the state and ultimately adds 13,000 jobs. The incentives would only be awarded if Foxconn creates the jobs and pays an average salary of nearly $54,000.”

    $3B / 13K jobs / 15 years is $15K/year/job. That’s a lot of taxpayer cheddar.

    Jack – what are your thoughts?

    Reply
    • Disinterested-Observer

      Those incentives are usually mostly tax breaks, although sometimes they are actual expenses like spending on roads or utilities. In the case of the former I think it’s misleading to say $x/per job because they would have been paying the property taxes or corporate taxes at all if they didn’t build there.

      Reply
      • CanuckGreg

        Tax breaks are an expenditure by another name. The tax revenue foregone means gov’t programs can’t be funded, or they’ll have to raise taxes elsewhere, or they’ll have to borrow the money. Irrespective, it’s safe to say the state of Wisconsin is throwing a metric shitload of money at Foxconn.

        In Canada, our auto manufacturing sector wouldn’t have disappeared ages ago if our provincial and federal gov’ts didn’t continually fork over the grease.

        The economist in me despises the whole idea of corporate welfare to create jobs, but the realist in me knows that many (most?) of these manufacturing workers would otherwise be suckling 100% on the gov’t teat.

        Reply
        • Ronnie Schreiber

          You can’t treat tax breaks for a new factory as “tax revenue foregone”. There’d be no revenue generated if the factory wasn’t built so it’s not like the state is losing anything.

          Why do so many people think that the state has some kind of legal and moral claim on others’ wealth? A related question is why do so many people call a decrease in the rate of increased gov’t spending a “cut”?

          Reply
          • jz78817

            the point is if you want to have a functioning society, some stuff actually does need to be administered by the government and paid for via taxes. A lot of that stuff benefits you and me whether we want to admit it. Sorry you can’t pick and choose what your taxes pay for so that it only benefits you, but neither can I.

          • CanuckGreg

            That new factory and its workers will require state provided services that would normally be funded out of the taxes on that facility.

            I’m with you on your last sentence. Up here in Soviet Canuckistan, the media constantly decries the “horrible and cruel cuts” to our taxpayer funded medical system. Said cuts are actually a slight decrease in the rate of increase from the previous year.

          • Mopar4wd

            You can tax the land. Some of these deals exclude even that from being taxable. So the gov may have been getting 50k in tax on the land. With factory it would be 350k. Most was just potential but 50k is actual lost revenue.

  20. DeadWeight

    Jack nor anyone else opining of these matters will ever even remotely brush the core, root cancer eating at and ripping apart the class formerly known as “middle” until they immerse themselves in and gain a comprehensive understanding of fractional reserve banking/lending/fiat creation throughout human history, and at least from the 1950s (some plausibly argue 1930s) onward, the role of the petrodollar as the reserve currency, and the efforts (by new, strengthening nation-states such as China and nation-state unions such as the EU) and new technologies and techniques (e.g. deep hydraulic fracking , e.g. rapid automation, e.g. nation-states’ race to financialize economies in large part to support incestuous, malignant circle between their political structures and industrial/military/technology/banking complexes – a malignant circle pro toed by and benefiting both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S., as they continue their “fixed,” oligopolistic collusion by the way – a core reason why so many people outside major cities disproportionately rejected both major political parties and voted for Trump, even though he’s not a Republican and phenomenally unsuited for the job and responsibilities of being and effective POTUS).

    Reply
    • jz78817

      I don’t get why so many people have problems with the idea of “fiat currency.” Or the gold standard people. It’s not like gold has some inherent value. We like it because it’s rare and pretty, but outside of some industrial applications e.g. electronics (where its resistance to corrosion is desired) gold just isn’t that useful. it’s too soft to be a structural metal, its low reactivity makes it useless for stuff like batteries or catalysts, and so on. Its biggest use is jewelry, followed by investments.

      Gold is only worth what people think it is, just like “fiat” currency.

      Reply
      • Newton

        Sir Isaac Newton created the gold standard. He is smarter than you or me. The main problem with fiat currency is it is printed out of thin air and then loaned to us and we pay interest to the cabal. The cabal (Khasarian Mafia) then uses this money to destroy our middle class to create a one world gov’t as Orwell described. This tyrannical gov’t (mostly in place already) uses endless wars to create more gov’t debt.

        Reply
        • jz78817

          you didn’t answer my question.

          what makes gold valuable? Something more than an appeal to authority would be nice.

          Reply
          • Will

            Like you said, its rarity, weight and ability to make precious things out of it are key to its initial value. People place great value on things that have “weight” behind them. Plus you know gold when you see it, and can identify its worth, unlike paper money, it can’t be printed. Yes I know gold can be faked (now), but when it was the standard, it was impossible.

            Anything is valuable, but you need something that is standard for wealth. Remember it used to be cattle/goats and land that was considered a sign of wealth. Gold, like rolex’s, can easily be sold and at its current value, no need to take 30% off if you need to get rid of it quickly.

          • Cdotson

            Gold is valuable because the alien outlaws created our species from terrestrial source material but coded in an innate drive to extract shiny metas from the earth. They did this so when we had completed the task (or they used up the spoils of the previously mined worlds) they can swoop in and take it all. Or come back claiming to be gods or heavenly hosts not of this world and inspire us to give them our shiny metals while redoubling our efforts to extract more.

            Maybe. But you did ask what makes gold valuable and that is probably as coherent an answer as any other when you truly boil them all down.

          • jz78817

            “Remember it used to be cattle/goats and land that was considered a sign of wealth.”

            yes, but those things have inherent value. I can live on land. I can build stuff on land. I can dig up land and grow stuff to eat on it. I can milk cows and goats. I can eat cows and goats.

            I can’t eat gold. I can’t make anything of use out of it. its only notable characteristics is it’s rare and shiny. All I can do is trade it for something, and it’s only worth in that situation is what someone’s willing to give me for it.

            Just like paper money.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            Here’s the thing about gold, though: it’s limited by real, physical constraints. It’s tangible. You can hold it yourself. You can perform physical transactions with it. It cannot be taken from you by an accounting error, a bank debit, a court judgment, a cyber-hacker. Even if you look at it as having no more intrinsic value than a dollar in your bank account, you have to admit that it is superior for the above reasons.

          • jz78817

            Here’s the thing about gold, though: it’s limited by real, physical constraints. It’s tangible. You can hold it yourself. You can perform physical transactions with it. It cannot be taken from you by an accounting error, a bank debit, a court judgment, a cyber-hacker.

            same can be said for any random rock I pick up off of the ground.

            you have to admit that it is superior for the above reasons.

            No, I really don’t. We only think it’s valuable because of its relative rarity and some idiotic and archaic superstitions.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            I agree with your fundamental premise, which is basically that any currency whatsoever is based on a consensual illusion. If something has intrinsic value, it’s a commodity, not a currency. Silver, palladium, and platinum all have nontrivial industrial uses so they kind of blur the line a bit. Human industry needs a pretty large amount of silver, even after most photo processing went by the wayside.

            So let’s take that premise for granted. If anything can be a currency, does gold have any significant advantages over a rock or a number in a computer? Of course it does. Rocks are not rare. Gold is rare. Gold can be tested, evaluated, separated, processed, minted, recycled.

            I own coins in a variety of metals, and I can tell you up front that a gold coin is special. It speaks to some pretty basic human emotions. It transcends trust and social contracts and FICO and FDIC. Yeah, that’s monkey thinking but we’re all monkeys.

          • David

            I still say you’re not smarter than Isaac Newton. Sometimes you have to buck up and look in the mirror, pal. otherwise, you’re just a (possibly paid) shill for the banking cabal.

          • jz78817

            do you have anything other than an appeal to authority (to a guy who died almost 300 years ago) and ad hominem attacks (which aren’t even remotely true?)

            because, in case you weren’t aware, things are a bit different now than they were 300 years ago when Isaac Newton was alive. So no, while I’m not arrogant enough to believe I’m smarter than Newton, I’m also smart enough to know I’m working on an entirely different set of inputs than he was.

            and could you at least stick to one name?

          • jz78817

            “I own coins in a variety of metals, and I can tell you up front that a gold coin is special. It speaks to some pretty basic human emotions. It transcends trust and social contracts and FICO and FDIC. Yeah, that’s monkey thinking but we’re all monkeys.”

            fair enough. I submit that in days of old, gold’s special status came primarily from its non-reactivity. It doesn’t tarnish. it doesn’t “patina.” it doesn’t rust. it stays bright pretty much forever. but again, other than being pretty (and staying pretty) it doesn’t do much of use. As you say, metals like platinum, rhodium, and palladium are both rare and incredibly useful. Palladium and rhodium are even rarer than gold. but they’re not as pretty, so they’re only “worth” 3/4 of what gold (a relatively useless metal) is.

        • David

          I had to use Newton’s 2nd law of motion just this a.m. Seems to still work 300 years later. the mathematics of monetary supply/demand, inflation, etc. still apply today as well. Nothing in the mathematics has changed. Many posters have presented cogent arguments on the side of the gold standard. all you do is defend fiat currency by saying what’s the big deal with gold. you have not presented anything in defense of fiat currency. I also offer Bitcoin as an alternative. i don’t care if you want to use cigarettes or women’s nylons. the supply just has to be limited so the oligarchy can’t game the system. you hate deflation but don’t seem to care about inflation.

          you are either a cabal banker shill or you are Paul Neidermeyer. Jack, that guy is truly a loser. Look at his kid the meth head. Father of the year.

          Reply
          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            I think Jim is neither — he is someone who has a deep skepticism baked into his bones. Which is okay. Without people like that, the very first human tribe would have all died an hour after they got to a poisoned water source.

          • jz78817

            “Nothing in the mathematics has changed.”

            But technology and human knowledge has changed massively since Newton’s day. Aluminum wasn’t even known when he was alive, and wasn’t isolated into its metallic form until he’d been dead for 100 years. Aluminum is so reactive it’s never found naturally in metallic form, and after it was discovered was considered even more precious than gold:

            “A great lover of showing off, [Napoleon] arranged a banquet once at which the members of the royal family and the most honored guests were given the privilege of eating with aluminum forks and spoons. The ordinary guests had to use ordinary (for the Emperor’s banquets, of course) gold and silver utensils.”

            https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00741130

            now we make beer cans out of aluminum and toss them into the trash.

            “he is someone who has a deep skepticism baked into his bones.”

            I just inherently distrust anyone who thinks they have a simple answer to a complex question.

      • hank chinaski

        Great post, Jack.

        The standard arguments against fiat are that it erodes existing wealth and at the same time enables an overly large government the ability to fund unnecessary wars, keep standing armies (for global defacto empires) and to subsidize demographically unsustainable entitlements. Additionally, the ‘FIRE’ economy doesn’t exist without fiat, the arbitrary creation of monopoly money for large banks to lend to us and each other under massive leverage, to their gain.

        The cure? If the bankers want to keep their heads, perhaps a return of the old-school ‘jubilee’ every generation. Personally, I’d get a bigger laugh out of a ‘Project Mayhem’ style destruction of the financial institutions and a reset to zero.

        As an aside, why on God’s green earth is McCain still voting? The man has *literally* had a frontal lobotomy.

        Here’s a puzzle: if/when Trump has his entire agenda cockblocked or is forced out through deep-state shenanigans, who comes next? It certainly won’t be Yeb. Historically this is when the real ‘literally Hitlers’ start to show up.

        Reply
        • Newton

          you are correct. chart inflation adjusted monetary value vs. leaving the gold standard in ’33 and especially since Nixon took us off pegging value of dollar to gold. Even getting your wife to work has not made up for it. Bitcoin has no inherent value, but it is better than fiat currency because it has a finite limit in number of bitcoins. Gold is finite because there is only so much of it. fiat currency is infinite. the people who print it out of thin air have more buying power because by the time it gets to us the dilution has decreased it’s value (see inflation). i say off with the heads of the world bankers. of course the last president who signed an executive order for the Treasury to issue currency (as written in the constitution) had his head blown off by the deep state. Johnson waited in the wings. They won’t get away with assasination this time but perhaps Pence is their compliant puppet in waiting.

          Reply
          • jz78817

            ” but it is better than fiat currency because it has a finite limit in number of bitcoins.”

            that makes it deflationary, which encourages hoarding.

            “i say off with the heads of the world bankers.”

            careful there, you’ll cut yourself on all that edge. You don’t need to go back to the gold standard or nonsense like cryptocurrencies, you just need regulations on the banks and the investment sectors to prevent them from doing stupid shit.

          • hank chinaski

            The Donald actually had reinstating Glass-Steagall (or its like) as part of his election platform, something highly unlikely with all the Goldman Guys he’s surrounded himself with. Recall that the keystones of financial regulation were dismantled by WJC, with Chuckie Schumer and Chris Dodd cheerleading, financial industry whores, both.

            ‘Hoarding’ aka ‘saving’, aka the alternative of ‘investing’ or gambling in the Wall St. casino’s bubbles. Cyclical deflation is not a bad thing. Barbaric relic it may be, but a standard, any standard, is necessary to keep the bankers and government honest, and yes, heavy regulation. Banking should be ‘boring’.

  21. carrya1911

    ” This sort of argument is typically restricted to teenagers on the Internet or the editors of left-wing websites”

    …which is pretty much a description of many of NR’s contributors. Victor Davis Hanson is worth reading. Most of the rest have the same problem that the rest of the media elites have. Discussing the difference between them is like discussing the difference between night and later that night.

    Reply
  22. Will

    I think everyone here needs to read “Road to Serfdom” by Hayak. He makes all these points and then some. He also explains why socialism and social justice is dangerous far better than any other economist I’ve read, and this was in 1944.

    Reply
  23. ChompKing

    There is no Left and Right…Only pro-gov and anti-gov. Pro-gov terrorist parasites hate their middle class slaves cuz they have no respect for their taxslave retards. The middle class are just mangy mutts to kick around.

    You should post this at TTAC…See what the retarded parasitic brats there have to say to a thinking man. It’s always good for a laugh.

    Reply
  24. TAFKADG

    Wait… wait… hol’ up.

    This can’t be the same Kevin Williamson from the NR who wrote this;

    “Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down. The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die.”

    I, for one, am shocked… SHOCKED…. that he’d pen a screed bemoaning attempts to bring our jorbs back to America.

    Read the full neocon cucked-out shill piece here: https://www.nationalreview.com/nrd/articles/432569/father-f-hrer

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      He truly is what Marie Antoinette was made out to be.

      Also… Thank you for the shout out on VP!

      Reply
  25. TAFKADG

    You’re quite welcome.

    Some one mentioned this on another thread, but Steve Sailer and now Vox Day…. all you need is a mention at Le Chateau for the trifecta.

    Reply

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