The National Review has been searching the souls of everyone but the conservative intellectual elite, of which they are a flagship, and finding all others wanting. But over at the Washington Examiner, Paul Bedard is taking a different tack. Admittedly, even the NR is coming round to the conclusion that Trump may very well be inevitable, and they perhaps rightly state that this means conservative ideology’s hold on the GOP will be weakened and may even be ousted from the party they helped renovate and renew through the turbulent 60’s and the scandal-plagued 70’s.

Paul Bedard, on the other hand, is shining a steady light on immigration, and it’s possibly enormous effect on working wages in America. By featuring and linking to Ed Rubenstein’s paper on immigration and wages in America over the last few decades, Bedard seems to be suggesting – quite reasonably – that Trump supporters are not angry racists emerging from their rural hideouts, or working class neighborhoods. If Rubenstein’s interpretation of the data in his paper, The Negative Impact of Immigration on American Workers, is right, then legal and illegal immigration have been a boon for employers and a curse for workers.

But Rubenstein – writing for NPG which stands for negative population growth – goes much further than criticizing the downward pressure on working wages and the rising profits that large-scale immigration produces. He attacks population growth itself. GDP growth rates only matter for those at the top – so goes his thesis – but GDP per capita is the only relevant figure. That seemingly trite statement then gets kicked into a whole new ballpark with the following corollary:

If rapid population and market growth was the cure all for stagnating markets, then Africa, Latin America, and most of Asia should be the home of the richest countries in the world. While demographically challenged Japan should be mired in poverty.

As Rubenstein maps out a statistical basis for xenophobia – there is no more closed society than Japan save perhaps Bhutan and North Korea – he suggests the time for an open, welcoming America is long gone, given the imbalances between labor and other factors of production like capital and land and natural resources. It’s an ecologically-friendly perspective in the longer term, but plays well to a bluer collar audience in the shorter term.

There is a problem with this thesis – many if you are a classic free-trade economic conservative. Japan – the model of an aging, wealthy, and socially inward looking society – is desperately dependent upon exports to countries like America. Japan needs free trade. But largely rejects the free movement of human capital. And rather than killing the USA in trade, they prefer quite logically to invest enormous sums in producing a significant share of their products in the markets where they sell them. Like America. Of course, they still keep the profits.

Yes, Japan and even China may respond positively to some added pressure, but a full-on trade war hurts all. And Rubenstein risks inspiring the next Senator Smoot and Representative Hawley – who unleashed punitive tariffs on America’s trading partners in the summer of 1930, and arguably helped make the Great Depression great.

Rubenstein has put his finger on an issue that is generating a lot of anger, especially among Trump supporters. And it has to be acknowledged in all it’s specificity by the conservative intellectual elite themselves. At places like NR, and the Washington Examiner. Precisely in order to avoid the tragedy of a series of trade wars. You folks aren’t quite as heroic as you may think you are. Search your own souls just a little. It would help. Especially if Trump is as malleable as Jimmy Carter thinks he is.

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