Non-Americans in American Policy

Next door at First Things, James Rogers asks, “Does the welfare of non-Americans count in the creation of U.S. economic policy? Secondly, to what extent, if at all, should it count?” Or, more fully: “Responding to the impact of globalization on U.S. workers by increasing tariffs and/or trade barriers involves making tradeoffs between the lives of Americans and the lives of workers overseas. We can’t pretend otherwise. How should Christians respond to this tradeoff?”

He gives an exceedingly wise answer.

Christianity has an inherently cosmopolitan thrust: “While Christian cosmopolitanism breathes a different spirit and unfolds along a different trajectory than the cosmopolitanism of today’s global elite, there is an inescapably cosmopolitan dimension to Christian identity (Phil. 3.20, Eph. 2.19, Col. 3.11, Rev. 7.9, 5.9, etc.). Further, common ownership of the earth and the universal destination of goods (which normally are distributively actualized through private property, not contrary to it), means that Christians, and Christian policymakers, cannot but hold some version of Christian cosmopolitanism.

At the same time, “God permits, even requires, humans to have preferential commitments to sets of people smaller than humanity in general.” That means “it’s entirely appropriate to identify and support policy interventions that aim to benefit fellow Americans.” At the same time, “that cannot be the only dimension of policy evaluation for Christians; Christians do not have the luxury of ignoring the impact of those policies on peoples overseas (peoples who include a fair number of fellow Christians).”

There are policy options that benefit Americans without harming non-Americans. “Freer trade means bigger pies,” and that implies that “rather than reimposing losses on other nations by tariffs and trade barriers, nations might consider win-win policies such as directing national gains to assist workers in markets disproportionately burdened by freer trade.

He ends with this: “America ‘first’ cannot mean American ‘only,’ at least not for Christians. Christian Americans cannot help but ask the question, just how steep a tradeoff between American lives and foreign lives, and at what point do we cross the line from appropriate preference to inappropriate neglect?

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