The problems Americans associate with what we call (for lack of a better term) globalization would not have seemed like problems at all to political leaders of the past. For centuries, kings and emperors made vast investments of blood and treasure to establish trade routes and keep them open. But in the contemporary United States, politicians complain that the world brings all of its best produce to the United States, laying treasures at the feet of Americans at prices that are just too damned . . . low, because Americans must be protected from desirable goods offered at affordable prices. Donald Trump is one of the few world leaders ever to complain that the Germans are not militaristic enough. Joe Biden will come into office facing some real problems, but they will be problems that would have been the envy of most of the world leaders who have ever lived.
Biden presents himself as the anti-Trump, but in many important ways the two men are more alike than different. (Please spare me the myth of Joe Biden’s decency — he is as fundamentally dishonest a man as our political caste has produced.) Much has been made of Trump’s supposed nationalism — our so-called nationalists have a much stronger commitment to the word than to the idea — but it is only a variation on Barack Obama’s wan attempts to repackage Teddy Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” as “economic patriotism.” Calling to mind Bill Clinton’s “butchers of Beijing” talk, Biden has promised to operate from the hawkish side of Trump when it comes to China. He does not talk exactly like Trump, but he has quite similar ideas when it comes to trade and globalization.