The case for President Trump’s tariffs 23

This post is intended to be read along with the post immediately below, The case for free trade.

“Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!” – President Trump

According to Forbes:

While the exact amount of tariffs has not been confirmed, the President has indicated that he favors tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on imported aluminum. Similarly, the specifically affected countries were not called out, but it’s likely the President might exempt some of our closest trading partners.

The imposition of tariffs would, according to the President, level the playing field between the United States and countries like China.

Now we quote Seton Motley, president of Less Government, a DC-based organization “dedicated to reducing the power of government and protecting the First Amendment from governmental assault”. (And so also, it would seem, a libertarian.) He is a leading authority on technology and telecom policy, and a policy adviser to The Heartland Institute.

He makes a case for President Trump’s tariffs not because he is for protection in principle – he says he is not – but because other countries practice it to the detriment of the United States.

He writes at Townhall:

President Donald Trump wants to fix the nightmare mess that is DC’s crony globalist fake “free trade” – and conservatives all across the nation are up in arms.

A lot of really great conservative thinkers are very, very angry with Trump’s tariff threat.

(Please note: They at this point remain threats – not tariffs. Read“The Art of the Deal. Very often you threaten, but never enact – the threat is enough to better the deal.)

And as much as I like and respect so very many of these conservative thinkers – they are all very, very wrong.

A lot of what you get from them is a lot of talking points … “Tariffs are taxes!” “Protectionism is bad!” “Free trade is good!”

The very obvious secret is I agree with all of these points.

The other very obvious secret is none of them apply to what DC pretends is “free trade”. 

Globalist big business robber barons have spent the last half-century-plus lobbying DC for more and more one-sided, America-last trade deals in which America removes all of our government impediments – tariffs, domestic subsidies, import caps, etc. – to our world’s-largest now-$18-trillion-per-year economy. This thereby allows the unfettered flow of goods and services from all round the world.

We have done absolutely nothing about the very many government impediments – tariffs, domestic subsidies, import caps, etc. – that just about every other nation imposes upon us, severely limiting the flow of our goods and services into their relatively paltry markets.

This has been one long, ongoing trade war declared and engaged in by every nation on the planet – except the U.S., and one incessantly long run of titanically stupid trade policy. …

These terrible deals have been a key component in our nation’s loss of millions and millions of jobs. And the loss of who should be key allies in the fight for less government domestically.

Rather than fight for less government domestically – thereby making it more tenable to remain in the States – the globalist big business robber barons flipped the script.

They got DC to emplace ever more America-last trade deals – and then moved their businesses to the countries from which they had just negotiated unfettered access to our economy, costing us millions of gigs and escaping all of our stupid domestic government – and all of the government impediments the other countries emplace upon U.S. exports.

Now their new host nations’ continued protectionism benefits them. Heck, their new host nations often subsidize their companies.

Meanwhile, America’s small businesses – which can’t move overseas – have to stay here and get pummeled by ever-expanding domestic government and the relocated-globalist-big-business-robber-baron subsidized-and-protectionism-protected goods and services – being brought in unfettered to compete against them.

These small domestic businesses very often cannot endure the relentless pummelings – and succumb and go under. Thereby costing us millions of additional gigs. …

All of this has for decades been DC’s definition of “free trade”.  It has absolutely nothing to do with actual free trade, free markets, or freedom of any sort.

And this is what conservatives all across the country are in the midst of defending.

Ok: You don’t like Trump’s proposed tariffs – I get it.

But at least Trump knows there is a HUGE problem that needs to be addressed (and has known it for decades).

So until someone amongst the many contesting conservatives acknowledges there actually is a HUGE problem – I’ll be siding with the guy who knows there is, and is looking to address it.

We invite the opinions of our readers on whether President Trump is justified in imposing – or at least threatening to impose – tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Posted under China, Economics, Trade, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Tagged with , ,

This post has 23 comments.

  • This seems quite astonishing to me if it’s all true. So the rest of the world has been quietly waging a trade war against the gullible anglo-sphere for who knows how long? We were believers in free trade and the rest of the world took advantage of us because of it, or should I say our own wealthy elite PLUS the rest of the world took advantage of us perhaps?

    Now Pres. Trump is beginning the fight back in our interests and our own MSM attacks him either because the MSM is utterly stupid or because it is controlled by dark selfish forces that know exactly what they are doing. Our contributor Tom often talks about the “dark state” and this sounds as if the beast is beginning to be revealed to us in its lair in all its hideousness.

    Am I understanding this correctly? Are there experts in the field of tariffs who can confirm this beyond doubt that the imbalance exists?

    • liz

      Yes, it is astonishing, because of course no one – media or politicians – ever talk about it. But it shouldn’t be surprising, when you consider the con game the U.N., for instance, has been playing on us in the “gullible anglosphere” (good description!) for decades.

    • Elon Musk says that US cars imported into China have a 25% tariff on them, while Chinese cars imported into the US have a 2.5% tariff on them. Or did.

      • Cogito

        So who suffers by this arrangement – the Chinese consumers or the American?

  • Cogito
  • Cogito
    • Why do you ascribe the good news about jobs to NAFTA?

      NAFTA existed throughout Obama’s years of low employment.

      Trump’s new tax rates and deregulation of business are the causes.

      • Cogito

        Just so. NAFTA is a substrate which underlies economic activity between Canada and the US. Low taxes and deregulation will allow these benefits to flourish, but tariffs are just another tax.

        It amazes me that three economic theories recur throughout history despite being demonstrably false – minimum wage laws, wage and price controls, and tariffs. That libertarians/conservatives can support these sophistical elixirs – despite the arguments of Adam Smith, Bastiat, and Milton Friedman
        leaves me staggering. Remember The Pencil?


  • Zerothruster

    In my humble opinion, what cinches this is the strategic materials argument. There are probably other materials that this would apply to. Any suggestions? Start with Uranium, I guess.

    • Don L

      Nice to read you again! Can we indian-give (that’ll get me in PC trouble) on the 20% Putin got? After all, one of the 7 conditions of contract requires legality – Hillary was involved = guilty!

  • Economically, protectionism does more harm than good. There are more losers than winners when we are denied the ability to trade within a larger realm.

    There is another dimension to the story, however. We have a strategic concern in maintaining an infrastructure that can be redeployed in the case of war. Going into WWII we were an industrial powerhouse. Industry was redirected for the war effort. We need to maintain certain industry, including steel and aluminum, in order to maintain the ability to be self-sufficient militarily.

    This may mean we pay slightly more, all things being equal, for domestically produced goods … but so be it.

    The classical liberal critique, cited in the other post, was written in the 19th century when the world was either civilized or optimism viewed such aspirations as universal. Nazism, Soviet totalitarianism, and Imperial Japanese barbarity were unimagined. We should know better now. It is prudent to maintain domestic capacities to be militarily self-sufficient. Europe should do the same.

    • I was just commenting on the companion article that I thought defence was a big gap in the thinking behind unlimited free trade. It’s all very well having free trade with your friends, but when you start selling raw materials and armaments to your enemies, don’t be surprised when you find your citizens being slaughtered by them in the not too distant future. Then again, perhaps the elites don’t care – the origin of the phrase “the dark state” perhaps.

  • Cogito

    All sorts of interesting comments, but no one has answered my question.
    How does one reconcile Trump’s first contention that America has less unemployment, higher stock markets etc., with his second contention that NAFTA is destroying America?
    These contentions cannot both be true.

    • liz

      I’d say Don’s answer pretty well covered it – tax reform and de-regulation.

    • Don L

      Yes, it can all be true.

      Whereas unemployment, the DOW Average values and NAFTA are economic items, they are in fact separate issues. What is it you don’t grasp?

      If you remove politically-driven regulations and strangulating taxes off the neck of business they grow and expand – hiring people; most of these businesses are not listed on an exchange! lower unemployment because of the 180 degree change from socialist/domestic enemy Obama. TRUE

      Market values? The FED has been creating money out of thin air for nearly a decade. More than $7 trillion? Who knows? They cannot be audited and they don’t tell. But all that new money makes it into the environment through banks, government and those close to government – they invest and drive values up. This is not wealth but merely the increase in the paper value. The underlying businesses have not improved or introduced new products. It is more dollars chasing limited supply – drives prices up. Not of Trump’s doing but he will get applause and/or boos. I’m afraid Obama’s bubble will burst on his watch. TRUE

      NAFTA, again, is not free trade! It is 900 pages, of 2000 pages, of tariffs imposed on USA products, Similar to dealing with China, we virtually must buy their products/materials and they won’t let us sell in their countries. NAFTA IS an ideological income redistribution agreement not a trade deal!!! As Ross Perot said upon NAFTA’s passage: “I can hear the sucking sound of jobs heading south [to Mexico]”. The jobs left and the plants closed … Trump was elected because Hillary and the Dems failed to care about that. NAFTA bad TRUE

      I provided a reading list as a comment on this TAC post – and there is a reading list provided in the left margin above: The Atheist Conservative’s (Starter) Reading List

  • liz

    I’m no expert, but what Trump is saying makes sense to me. The system has been so corrupted that the term “free trade” can’t be applied to it anymore.
    We need to impose tariffs to counteract the tariffs, etc, that other countries are already imposing on us. No surprise the lack of tariffs benefits the globalists.
    This idea that “tariffs are bad”, therefore by imposing them Trump is “against free trade” is as simplistic as the idea that “immigration is good”, therefore an “open border” is good, and Trump is bad for wanting to restrict it.

  • Don L

    Addendum: (re-post from prior):

    The Quick & Complete Econ History covering the founding to Obama and why Trump is the game! These are worth every penny. You will not be Lulled, Gulled & Dulled ever again. It IS what IS NOT taught.

    “Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Arch Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution–and What It Means for Americans Today” by Thomas J. Dilorenzo

    “The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War” by Thomas J. Dilorenzo

    “Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe” by Thomas J. Dilorenzo

    “The Myth of the Robber Barons: A New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America” by Burton W. Folsom and Forrest McDonald

    “The Roosevelt Myth: 50th Anniversary Edition” by John T. Flynn

    “New Deal or Raw Deal?: How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America” by Burton W. Folsom Jr

    “Intellectuals and Society” by Thomas Sowell

    “Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse” by Thomas E. Woods

    “Uncle Sam Can’t Count: A History of Failed Government Investments, from Beaver Pelts to Green Energy” by Burton W. Folsom Jr. and Anita Folsom

  • Cogito

    I have a question or the tariff enthusiasts.

    With NAFTA and other trade agreements in place, Mr. Trump proudly proclaims that unemployment is at all time lows, the stock
    market is at all time highs, consumer confidence is soaring, and
    productivity is increasing.

    Please explain how free trade is destroying America.

    • Don L

      Had it not been for NAFTA, and other bad deals, America would be 1000 times more prosperous. Held back by socialist terms of redistributing America’s wealth to losers and criminal nations. It is free trade in name only. Fake name. Calling a thing in a can homemade doesn’t make it taste like it!

      Unemployment improved because of tax reform and de-regulation which blocked free trade.

      • Cogito

        Yes I agree, it is badly named.
        A true free trade arrangement means no state involvement whatsoever. Free trade means that individuals are free to trade whatever, whenever, to whomever.

  • Don L

    Ludwig von Mises was concerned about the profession of economics and admonished that economics is not an ideology. Does the study of economics, as distinguished from mainstream government central planning masquerading as economics, prove that violating property rights has a detrimental freedom/prosperity limiting effect on the economy and citizenry? Yes.

    Does the cost of executing the Constitutional duty of protecting those property rights have a cost? Yes. Is not this cost to be paid by the citizens, by some means, and does not this too have a detrimental freedom/prosperity limiting effect on the economy and citizenry? Yes!

    Trump is implementing the tariff under a specific law having to do with national defense. Only once before has this law been applied (as I understand); as virtually every other tariff imposition has been ‘mercantilistic/crony capitalistic’. There is no free trade when they can sell their goods to us but we can’t sell our goods to them.

    For all intents and purposes, we have been under economic attack for many decades. NAFTA is 2000 pages with 900 being tariffs imposed on the USA. Like all things left, names typically are opposite of function. NAFTA and all other ‘free trade’ agreements are redistribution of American wealth vehicles: free to everyone but US. If the smelter numbers are correct, America doesn’t have a metals industry. Apparently, last year the metals business had a profitable year … after layoffs, plant closures, eliminating R&D, et cetera. And, I agree that if you can’t do your own metals, like energy independence, you don’t have a country.

    Again, in a world without enemies (many created by American adventurism – F’n Teddy Roosevelt) tariffs are bad and a violation of property rights. Even worse when they are imposed for ideological/political irrationality/criminality. That our metal industry is in shambles as a result of hostile economic manipulations and incompetent leadership as opposed to industry errors or malfeasance – it must be protected and the cost is direct and constitutionally appropriate. No other subsidies: even-field competing smelter-to-smelter we win. And, as Donald has said about starting a trade war, “We are already in one”.

    The ‘BUT’ is that Trump has revealed a propensity to misuse eminent domain … consideration of property rights has probably never crossed his mind as he continues to show monetarist central planning leanings.

    Of course, all of this comes back to centralized fractional reserve banking which allows countries to manipulate and weaponize currencies in order to affect imports/exports – trade. Return to sound money and these things disappear! End The FED!!!