Gov. Nikki Haley made the bold decision to order the flags flying over the S.C. Statehouse lowered to half-mast last Tues. Sept. 11, 2012. It was an interesting decision, not because it takes any real amount of effort to issue such an order, especially on the anniversary of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but rather because Haley’s order was legally unnecessary.

According to the U.S. Flag Code, all state and local flags flying next to an American flag are to fly at half-mast if the Stars and Stripes has been ordered to fly at half-mast, something President Barack Obama had already ordered that they do. So South Carolina’s Statehouse flags would have been flying half-mast whether Haley issued a proclamation or not.

Naturally, Gov. Haley was not alone in her brave show of remembrance to those killed in 2001. Many other governors issued similar orders. Like Haley, they likely bet that their constituents would not mind an empty gesture that was designed to show that the governors were “caring” and “patriotic” more than anything. (This assumes that most people know anything about the Flag Code — and judging from the number of people who wear the flag as a shirt, that could be a rather small number.)

What sets Haley apart is that she may have been the only governor to issue her order from Japan, where she arrived three days early for yet another trade show in order to drum up business and jobs for the Palmetto State. That is right. She did not even let Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell have a shot at making the grand and symbolic gesture that provides the veneer of giving a damn.

Now, it is easy to take potshots at a governor who is part of a group of politicians who loudly proclaim, “Government does not create jobs,” while going on overseas junkets to “drum up business” for their state. It might even be easy to take a potshot at a governor who went on said junket three days before the conference began — and on the taxpayer’s dime. (First Gentleman Haley paid his own way, this time.)

Did I mention that she arrived three days early? I probably should not mention that, not that it is really the important thing to take away from all of this — even though it is what will likely be the focus in stories and opinion pieces about the governor’s Japanese trip.

What is truly disturbing is that the governor is doing this song-and-dance routine in front of foreign audiences. Haley does not seem to be as interested in creating small business growth in the Palmetto State as she is in bringing in multinational corporations who will leverage our state’s right to work laws, along with economic incentives and tax breaks, to essentially force South Carolinians to send their money overseas and pick up the tax burden at home.

This is the Republican agenda, apparently. We make things in America, but we send the profits overseas.

There is no doubt that government has a role to play in the economic well-being of its people. To argue any other position is to fall victim to the lunatic philosophy of the libertarians, who somehow believe government is not a productive partner in the economy. (I mean, we can all just print our own money and it will be all good, right?)What we should be concerned with is not that government has a role in our economies, but what that role should be and where our focus should be — whether it’s locally, at the state level, or at the federal level.

The dual attacks of mechanization and free-trade agreements have gutted America’s workforce. The few manufacturing jobs left pay wages disconnected from GDP or worker productivity, while service jobs pay even less. To suggest examining what could be done to bring wages into line with these figures is to commit an absolute heresy among the free marketers from both parties (and make no mistake, they exist in both major parties).

Instead, we pin our hopes on the very companies that took American jobs overseas, which in turn gave businesses and government an excuse to allow wages to stagnate until such time that the companies and governments could make the grand gesture of bringing these jobs back to the U.S.

These empty gestures, like ordering flags already destined to fly at half-mast, are not serving the people. They only serve the self-aggrandizement of the political and business class who have let this country slip from a first-world power to a third-world power in a single generation.