06 May 2013

A conservative American Catholic takes Pope Francis seriously on free trade

Surprising, no? Well, perhaps not so surprising when the conservative American Catholic I am here referring to is named Patrick Buchanan:
"This is called slave labor," said Pope Francis.

The Holy Father was referring to the $40 a month paid to apparel workers at that eight-story garment factory in Bangladesh that collapsed on top of them, killing more than 400.

"Not paying a just wage ... focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at personal profit. That goes against God!"

The pope is describing the dark side of globalism.

Why is Bangladesh, after China, the second-largest producer of apparel in the world? Why are there 4,000 garment factories in that impoverished country which, a few decades ago, had almost none?

Because the Asian subcontinent is where Western brands — from Disney to Gap to Benetton — can produce cheapest. They can do so because women and children will work for $1.50 a day crammed into factories that are rickety firetraps, where health and safety regulations are nonexistent.

This is what capitalism, devoid of a conscience, will produce.
Please do read the entire article; it is a brilliant demonstration of a conservatism that actually seeks to conserve things of real value: people and communities and traditions. And it is a conservatism which, unlike so many other conservatisms in the United States, is clear-eyed about the threats capitalism and ‘free trade’, freed from any consideration of situated ethics, pose to all three of the above. Speaking as a left-winger, I believe we could stand to have more Pat Buchanans in this country.

EDIT: The death-toll in the Dhaka factory has risen to 580, with no indication of it being a final figure. A terrible tragedy, but a preventable one: we needn’t continue running in this ridiculous race to the bottom.


  1. Great post. I looked up Pat Buchanan's piece on Townhall.com. The comments section was pretty wild, with some people calling Pat a Nazi, cuz, you know he is a socialist, man!

    Others were more or less the same stuff about how unions and the government created the trade problem for the U.S. It is always interesting to see Buchanan ruffle the feathers of libertarians and neoliberal conservatives.

    The best, though, are the Ron Paul devotees who oppose free trade and worry about the North American Union and the NWO when Hayek himself once argued that a truly global free market would also need a world government, which is perhaps correct.

  2. Hi John! Many thanks!

    Poor Pat seems to get it from every which-way these days. Speaking as a Jew by ethnicity if not by religious affiliation, some of the opprobrium is certainly understandable; but reading him closely, what he really advocates for at the end of the day is economic patriotism, and a vision of human community which is completely wasted on the vulgar libertarians who make up so much of the modern American right.

    I do agree with you that the fans of Ron Paul really are something else. It's really funny how far many of them will go to ignore his stated opinions in order to project on him their own views - in that sense, though, perhaps Ron Paul is a lot like Obama in 2008.