The America-First Fallacy
The concept is nonsensical, of course. America’s wealth and power are derived from interaction with the rest of the world. And often that interaction is clearly in America’s favor.
In Latin America for example.
With covert CIA support, American corporations have exploited Latin America’s natural resources, leaving financial misery and political oppression in their wake.
Now, it seems many Americans want to wall off the wretchedness that America helped create, denying the victims of America’s predatory policies the sanctuary they seek in America.
America’s corporate giants exploit poverty-ridden societies not just in Latin America but around the world. And while there have been painful side-effects, there have been benefits for everyday Americans as well.
The use of sweatshop labor in foreign countries, for example, has meant severe job losses but it has kept consumer prices relatively low and rewarded investors large and small.
The same people who complain bitterly about jobs leaving America insist on the lowest possible prices for their groceries, clothes and other purchases. And I don’t see them refusing the money their pension plans and other investments derive from the corporations responsible for America’s job losses.
Another way in which America benefits from international interaction is through the global financial system. I don’t pretend to understand how the system works but I can see that funds from around the world pour into American financial markets.
And the dollar’s designation as the world’s “reserve currency” provides significant advantages.
Before America became a global player, Americans led simpler lives, relying on the earth for food and on local craftsmen for clothes, utensils and so on. We may look back on those days with nostalgia but I doubt many of today’s Americans would want to live like the characters in “Little House on the Prairie.”
Most ominous of all is Trump’s promise of an “America-first” approach. Does it include imposition of America’s will through the use of its military might? Would America embark on a mission of conquest like Alexander the Great?
Or is the plan one of withdrawal from global interaction, closing off America from the rest of the world through walls and trade barriers?
Throughout history, other great powers that engaged in either type of behavior have inevitably invited disaster.
The way I see it, America’s answer to the income inequality and unemployment created by globalization must come from tax policies, targeted retraining initiatives and other government action to level the economic playing field at home, not from bullying the rest of the world.
I would also hope America would use its power to ensure that global trade helps to eradicate poverty in developing countries, creating a better world for us all.