His address to Congress was utterly cringe-worthy, but by far the worst moment for me was when the Democrats sat on their hands during his passage against protectionism. Though they politely gave him standing ovations for the merest platitudes, they showed their true economic colours at that point.
The rhetoric is ridiculous. "The future" will be the product of our interactions and unpredictable circumstance. It will no more "work" for us, than it will sit like a pile of bricks waiting for "us" to "build" it. But he is right that protectionism protects no-one. Indeed it damages everyone.
Every economic transaction happens (if not forced or distorted by the state or other monopoly or cartel) because both parties believe they benefit. Both parties to each such transaction will not always be right. Often one of them will be wrong and will regret it. Indeed, as the current unpleasantness proves, they may sometimes both be wrong. But - on average - they are better judges of their own affairs than any regulator or other potentate. If the history of the 20th Century teaches us anything other than the usual lesson that mankind in the collective is murderously vile, it is that the sum total of those individual judgements tends to greater economic success than state direction of trade - whether inside or across state borders.
My flesh creeps that the Democrats know so little economic history that they are prepared to buy short term popularity by making not merely empty, but deadly, protectionist gestures. Their pork barrel politics and pandering to economic illiteracy will cause poverty, hunger and death around the world. But they are going to do it anyway. By their silence yesterday, they removed any lingering doubt of that.
Mrs P. dryly observed that the Americans will not believe Gordon Brown was serious. They will assume, she said, that Britain doesn't want protectionism because it has nothing left to protect. She might be right, but that doesn't make the Prime Minister - on this rare occasion - less so.