“Rational for Workers to Prefer a Seller’s Market in Labor”

If we adopt policies to maintain what I call a “robustly redundant labor market,” workers will have no reason to fear harm from free-trade and immigration. The policies that allow robustly redundant labor markets are described in my Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism.

(p. C2) Unwilling to admit that the center-left has been largely captured by the managerial elite, many pundits and academics on the left insist that mindless bigotry, rather than class interests, explains the attraction of many working-class voters to populist parties that promise to restrict trade and immigration. But it is just as rational for workers to prefer a seller’s market in labor as it is for employers to prefer a buyer’s market in labor. Blue-collar workers who have abandoned center-left parties for populist movements bring with them the historic suspicion of large-scale immigration that was typical of organized labor for generations.

And as MIT economist David Autor and his colleagues have shown, voters in the U.S. regions hit hardest by Chinese import competition were the most likely to favor Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders in 2016. Strict environmental regulations, which impose few costs on the urban elites, can threaten the livelihoods and lifestyles of workers in the exurban heartlands, like the French yellow vest protesters who rebelled against a tax on diesel fuel intended to mitigate climate change.

For the full commentary, see:

Michael Lind. “Saving Democracy From the Managerial Elite.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, January 11, 2020): C1-C2.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 10, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

Lind’s commentary is related to his book:

Lind, Michael. The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite. New York: Portfolio, 2020.

The latest version of the paper co-authored by Autor, and mentioned above, is:

Autor, David H., David Dorn, Gordon H. Hanson, and Kaveh Majlesi. “Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure.” Working Paper, Oct. 2019.

My book, mentioned way above, is:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

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