Advancing a Free Society

Employment Policy: A Critical Link Between Domestic and Foreign Policy

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The conventional analysis treats domestic and foreign issues as though they fall into separate silos, such that we tend to speak of the one without regard to the other. For most short-term purposes that separation simplifies the overall analysis without introducing unnecessary levels of distortion. But in terms of the long-term understanding of the overall American position their connections must be brought out.

Thus in connection with the current quota of world-wide instability, Libya and Syria rank high on the list. The Obama Administration has taken the position that it will let others lead the military intervention in Libya, and it looks as though this gamble may well pay off as the rebels seem to have overcome their short-term tribal differences to forge a more unified front. In Syria, however, no military intervention is contemplated, and the emphasis now is on economic sanctions, which could easily do much harm to the Syrian people for whose welfare Assad has yet to show the slightest regard.

Many people may take the view that both these decisions represent a prudent use of American resources. But even if that view is right in the short run, the long term implications are far more serious. It seems clear that the current domestic downturn is putting enormous pressures on the administration to trim a military budget, which while large in some senses does not give the United States the flexibility to intervene with force in two or more regions of the world. The policy with respect to Assad may well be less forceful than it should be precisely because of our long-term eroding position.

The question then is how to deal with these budget cuts. And it is here that the questions of government employment can intersect negatively with our foreign policy positions. As Diana Furchgott-Roth has recently written, the Obama administration talks about job stimulation when the issue is taxation, but about affirmative action when it addresses government hiring practices. Right now there are in the works a range of bureaucratic requirements that have nothing to do with getting more bang for the government buck, but with equalizing opportunities on lines of race and sex, which can only reduce the total number of gainful labor that the government can hire for any fixed budgetary amount.

(photo credit: waltarrrr)