It feels like a lifetime since Grexit. The conversation we had was one about shared fiscal destiny and how comparative advantage wasn’t resulting in a great situation for those in many countries within the European Union. We also talked about how Germany benefited massively from this relationship and was trying to enforce it to stay how it was.
I am not writing about the European Union. The same conversation does apply to the United States, however. They apply to intrastate trade, interstate trade, and international trade.
Free trade is great for the economy as a whole. It drives down prices. It makes for better products.
Along with free trade often comes freedom of movement. In the case of international trade, that isn’t the case normally (the EU is an exception.)
The expectation is that as you lose your competitive advantage or comparative advantage as a country, state, or city you would shift into other industries.
However, this is capitalism. The country, state, or city doesn’t own the industry and must find a way to bring the industry to it.
What happens if the effort to bring in those industries fails?
People must abandon where they live if they want to continue living to the same standard.
This can be seen with people moving out of rural areas to cities. This can be seen with some states having a large portion of their population migrate elsewhere. In the European Union, this can be seen with whole countries having large portions of their population move elsewhere.
As the whole of the world begins to compete, if you aren’t number 1 in many things, you might as well not even compete.
This is compounded even further by automation. People’s needs can be met with fewer resources. That means fewer jobs.
This is why Trump speaking directly to people who have had their children move elsewhere (I am one of those children who moved) and sees limited opportunity for themselves is good politics. These people are directly hurt by society as a whole moving forward without them.
As long as we revere GDP growth and economic progress above all else, we will have this problem. Competing on equal terms works very well when you are going to win.
What about when you are going to lose? What about if you know you have already lost?
That’s the economically motivated Trump voter. The people who know that they have lost. They might not understand the details, but they can see it around them.
Are you excited about the opportunity to learn a new trade for half the wage you used to be paid? The Trump voters aren’t.
Are you looking forward to moving to a new city where you know no one and life is nothing like you want it to be? The Trump voters aren’t.
Even worse, this is only half the problem. Immigration also compounds this for many people even further. This was another topic evidence says Trump won many voters on.
Are you excited about the idea of losing everything you know culturally to further free trade and make the countries or cities who are coming out ahead richer? The Trump voters aren’t.
It’s because we have zero compassion for those people and make zero effort to help them or even acknowledge their situation that we have Donald Trump as president.
We only have ourselves to blame.