Progressives engage in globalization debate

The Democratic Leadership Council — home to progressive Democrats — last week announced a new Global Economy Project, whose mission is —

. . . to develop progressive national policies designed to help preserve America’s role as the global economic leader in the 2010s, and to help workers and families manage the stresses and take advantage of the opportunities created by the rapidly evolving global economy.

Now, I’m somewhat skeptical of Progressives’ history in the U.S. of using government institutions managed by the intellectual elite as their means-to-the-ends of a better, fairer society. (See just one of Fred Smith’s many writings on this topic.) However, I’m a bit encouraged by the DLC’s new project that seems to challenge the reigning Democrats’ anti-trade, anti-globalization, and protectionist rhetoric and actions. Any challenge to that, I think, is a good thing.

For classical liberals there’s much to object to in the DLC’s five “core principles” of its Global Economy Project. The broad outline of where to look for solutions to problems undoubtedly envisions an expansion of government programs and services.

What is encouraging, however, are statements about the issues to be addressed — why, they even support “open markets” as necessary for global growth. That’s where the Progressives are much more progressive than their colleagues who blame increased trade and foreign competition for job losses. Here’s what the DLC has to say about that:

The government cannot prevent layoffs and transitions in careers that come as a result of evolutions in the economy. Trade, technology, domestic competition, recessions, and mismanaged firms, are all causes for layoffs and unemployment in the United States.

And the DLC also takes on the labor unions’ and environmental groups’ concerted push to overload trade agreements with U.S.-style labor and environmental mandates:

High labor and environmental standards are not economic disadvantages for the United States. Raising labor and environmental standards abroad are important policy goals. Trade policy can and should contribute to them, but does not need to be the sole vehicle.

As I said, the DLC’s principles are not ones that classical liberals can support. But if they can help frame the issues to counter the prevalent Dobbsian isolationist view of trade, that would indeed be progressive.