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A worthwhile ‘workers party’

James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute explores what it would mean for the Republican Party to focus on American workers.

The notion of the Republican Party — or any party, really — being a “workers party” is conceptually confusing. That word, “worker.” Let’s think about it. Sure, I am a worker. I care a lot about my job. But “worker” is not my only important identity. I am also an investor. I care about the performance of companies whose stocks are in my retirement portfolio — or, rather, in the index funds in my retirement portfolio. I am also a parent, so I care deeply about the future America in which my children will live and work. I want the American economy to be a vibrant one that (a) creates economic opportunity for future workers, (b) keeps America militarily strong, and (c) provides a compelling political and economic model to the rest of the world. Also, I am one of the nearly 8 billion humans who live on this planet. I care about its environment, both for me today and my children tomorrow. Human living on Earth is a pretty important identity. It’s easy to see how policies, such as environmental regulations, trying to help one identity could conflict with another.

Oh, and what workers does a workers party care about, exactly? Just “blue-collar” workers? They’re important. But that label doesn’t describe what most of us do today or are likely to do in the future. And which blue-collar workers, exactly? A tariff on, say, steel might theoretically help workers at a steel producer, at least in the short run, but what about workers at companies that make stuff out of steel?

Also this: Does an emphasis on “workers” mean suggesting to workers that they should be shielded from the disruption of innovation and trade rather than be prepared to prosper in a dynamic economy where churn — the ebb and flow of jobs, businesses, and industries — is the healthy norm?

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...