Saturday, March 01, 2008

Austan Goolsbee

Has been fingered – maybe – as the Obama emissary sent to cool down the Canadians over Obama’s ‘cowboy diplomacy’ anti-NAFTA rhetoric.

Two conclusions seem possible – a) Obama (and Clinton) are playing us dumb rubes in Ohio for suckers by promising to eliminate the evil of doing business outside our borders, though they know better and have no intention of following through. b) They are stupid enough to mean what they say*, and a trade war with the resulting poisoning of international relations and impoverishment is on the way.

The inescapable corollary to b) is that Austan Goolsbee is being played for a sucker. He’s clearly a smart guy, but sometimes the promise of power and position does things to one’s judgment.

As an economist, he has to know better. Even one trained at Yale and MIT. Regardless of whether he tried or didn’t try to smooth the ruffled Canadian feathers, what’s he doing with a campaign as economically illiterate as this?

* In some respects, this is entirely consistent with the Democratic Party’s approach to the world – promising to hold ‘no precondition’ talks with America’s enemies, while attempting to use allies such as Canada as a scapegoat.

Update (02 March 2008): Pejman Yousefzadeh has a contrary view on Prof. Goolsbee –

“Goolsbee comes out of this entire matter smelling like a rose. And rightfully so. At the very least, he tried to make it clear to the Canadians that NAFTA would remain a going concern despite Obama's rhetoric on the campaign trail.”
Granted, but Obama hasn’t exactly backed him up on this. The essential dilemma remains – Goolsbee tried to act the adult, but he’s been hung out to dry by the campaign.

What now? Resign? Continue on in hopes of preventing even worse excesses of economic stupidity?

Not perhaps as easy a call as one might wish.