I am reding with great interest Delaware Chief Justice Leo Strine's new article Made for this Moment: The Enduring Relevance of Adolf Berle's Belief in a Global New Deal (May 17, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3223450:
Abstract: At a time when the insecurity of working people in the United States and Europe is being exploited by nativist forces, the concept of a global New Deal is more relevant than ever. But, instead of a global New Deal, the predominant force in international trade in recent decades has been spreading pre-New Deal, laissez-faire approaches to markets, without extending with equal vigor the regulations essential to providing ordinary people economic security. Adolf Berle recognized that if the economy did not work for all, the worst impulses in humanity could be exploited by demagogues and authoritarians, having seen this first hand in the 1930s. Berle believed in international trade and economic dynamism. But he understood that growth in each produces instability, the potential for lost jobs, and human insecurity that governments, preferably working in concert, have the duty and capacity to address. That is why he advocated for a global New Deal that would extend the key elements necessary to a fair economy to cover the full scope of the transnational economy.
This article identifies support in Berle’s writing for addressing economic inequality and insecurity and ensuring that the advances for working people accomplished by the New Deal and social democracy in the OECD nations are preserved and extended to working people in developing nations. Because Berle was both a believer in facts and an optimist, one senses that he would now be arguing for a muscular and bold international agenda to increase the security of working people in the developed world while simultaneously strengthening trade and opportunities for people in the developing world.
Berle’s writings indicate that working people would be central to his focus, and signal his support for stronger minimum wages appropriate to the conditions of different tiers of the world economy, guarantees for workers to bargain for higher wages, and protections against child labor, unfair hours, and unsafe working conditions. Berle also advocated for other policies that have current relevance, such as investments in infrastructure, evolving technology, environmental protection, and education to create employment opportunities, improve quality of life, and make the United States more competitive. Berle’s work also indicates that he would view the U.S. as well positioned to pay for needed action by asking the wealthy winners to pay their fair share and by enacting Pigouvian taxes that would also reduce the risks of financial speculation and carbon use. This article outlines key components that could form the basis for Berlean transnational understandings to create more economic security for working people and thus continue globalizing trade while addressing the legitimate concerns of workers in the OECD nations.
As usual, Leo writes with verve and zest. I love this line, for example:
Davos Democrats and Brussels Social Democrats—“Davos Democrats” for short—talk a high-minded game after getting off chartered flights to conferences populated by the wealthy. Berle would not be surprised that they would lose working class support, having failed to address the growing economic insecurity and inequality in the American and EU economies.
Leo argues that:
Because Berle was a realist, a believer in facts, and an optimist, one senses that he would now be arguing for a muscular and bold international agenda to increase the security of working people in the developed world while simultaneously strengthening trade and opportunities for people in the developing world.
Unlike Leo, however, I don't think Berle's agenda suits the needs of the moment. Today's populists are convinced that large corporations and crony capitalism are undermining America’s exceptionalism and America’s national identity through globalization, while simultaneously impoverishing working class and while enriching financial and technology oligarchs. Berle simply doesn't speak to their concerns. Berle's embrace of globalism anticipated the views of modern American elites, who have become increasingly global, rejecting nationalism and patriotism, and refusing to be tied to places or people. Berle's agenda is designed for people who are from nowhere rather than those of us who are from somewhere. We value family, authority, and nationality.
I thus found it rather striking that Leo's article is focused almost exclusively on economic issues. Patriotism, traditional moral and religious values, and community matter to today's right of center populists--maybe more than economics.
It's the same problem that most left of center intellectuals have with explaining Trump. They think that it's all about economics and that if Trump voters get a job and a raise they'll all go back to being docile voters for the progressive elites.