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Jewish World Review /May 6, 1998 / 10 Iyar, 5758

Don Feder

Don Feder Conservative chasm: pragmatism vs. worship of marketplace

THERE IS A GROWING CHASM on the right. On one side are utopians who worship the unfettered marketplace --- who think capitalism can do no harm and government can do no good. On the other are those who, while conceding the efficacy of the free market and the dangers of economic intervention, think conservatism should remain a philosophy based on reality rather than dogma.

Microsoft Corp. and its owner, Bill Gates, are a case in point. In the wake of attacks by the Justice Department, the likes of Jack Kemp and The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot have rushed to Gates' defense, charging that Washington is hell-bent on punishing success.

Robert Bork, former federal appeals court judge and the best Supreme Court justice we never had, dissents. The judge, who represents a Microsoft competitor, is calling for strong antitrust action to halt the company's "predatory practices."

Bob Bork a knee-jerk trust-buster? Hardly. In fact, he wrote the book ( The Anti-Trust Paradox ) that became a bible for Reagan-era deregulators.

Bork isn't opposed to monopolies per se, as long as they provide benefits for consumers. But Microsoft, with its 90-percent share of the world market for PC operating systems, isn't exactly the Magic Kingdom.

Bork notes that the software giant "imposes conditions on those with whom it deals that exclude rivals without any apparent justification on the grounds of efficiency." Daniel Oliver, Reagan's chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, concurs.

Euphoria on the right isn't limited to antitrust. The libertarian Cato Institute has released a study purporting to show that our staggering trade deficit is no cause for concern. Rumor has it that this will soon be followed by studies conclusively proving that down is up and black is white.

Pat Buchanan is less sanguine in The Great Betrayal: How American Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy. His book is getting rant reviews in conservative periodicals dedicated to serving said deities.

Buchanan notes that the United States has run trade deficits for 26 straight years (in 1996, $191 billion, larger than the budget deficit). In 1965, 31 percent of our work force had manufacturing jobs; only 17 percent do today.

Now, one-fifth of our steel, one-third of our autos, half our machine tools, and two-thirds of our textiles and clothes are made abroad.

Not to worry, say conservatives in a Cato-tonic state: America is evolving into a high-tech/service economy. But, increasingly, companies like Microsoft are sending their programming work to India and elsewhere in the Third World, where it can be done much cheaper.

Cliches are no substitute for thoughtful analysis. As more and more jobs are shipped overseas, nagging questions remain.

What happens when we no longer have much to sell abroad to pay for imports? What happens when we go to war with F-18s whose wing assemblies are manufactured in China? Deindustrialization has consequences.

Then there is the most persistent fallacy on the right (beloved of the open-border boyos) that immigration is a godsend for America.

An article in the April 20 Insight magazine challenges this soothing illusion. It focuses on the Washington suburb of Baileys Crossroads, Va. Once a thriving, middle-class community, native Americans are now an endangered species (4,000 have moved out since 1990).

In their wake, says Insight, newcomers have brought "increasing taxes, disrupted schools, deteriorating neighborhoods, gang fights and declining property values."

One resident, quoted in the piece, complains of immigrants packed into apartments and new arrivals "relieving themselves in public." About 1,400 Hispanic and Asian kids belong to gangs with names like the "Asian Thugs" and "Small Town Locos."

Blind adherence to the marketplace is the ideology of the right. Just as liberals worship equality, anti-government conservatives believe that only blessings can come from unrestrained capitalism -- what they call the free movement of goods and people.

Like the left, facts will not dissuade them. They are immune to logic when it conflicts with their cherished beliefs.

Real conservatives are increasingly fighting a two-front war -- against the egalitarian, anti-family left on one side and the anti-nationalist, marketplace-euphoric right on the other.


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©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.