The case for free trade 8

President Trump is speaking of imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum to boost domestic production.

To explain the case for free trade, we quote from a speech delivered at the (libertarian) Mises Institute a few days ago by Thomas J. DiLorenzo.

It is not an exaggeration to say that trade is the keystone of modern civilization. For as Murray Rothbard wrote:

The market economy is one vast latticework throughout the world, in which each individual, each region, each country, produces what he or it is best at, most relatively efficient in, and exchanges that product for the goods and services of others. Without the division of labor and the trade based upon that division, the entire world would starve. Coerced restraints on trade – such as protectionism – cripple, hobble, and destroy trade, the source of life and prosperity.

Human beings cannot truly be free unless there is a high degree of economic freedom – the freedom to collaborate and coordinate plans with other people from literally all around the world. That is the point of Leonard Read’s famous article, “I Pencil,” which describes how to produce an item as mundane as an ordinary pencil requires the cooperation and collaboration of thousands of people from all around the world, all of whom possess very specific knowledge … that allows them to assist in the production and marketing of pencils. The same is true, of course, for virtually everything else that is produced.

Without economic freedom – the freedom to earn a living for oneself and one’s family – people are destined to become mere wards of the state. Thus, every attempt by the state to interfere with trade is an attempt to deny us our freedom, to impoverish us, and to turn us into modern-day serfs.

[Ludwig von] Mises believed that trade or exchange is “the fundamental social relation” which “weaves the bond which unites men into society”. Man “serves in order to be served” in any trade relationship in the free market. …

Trade involves the exchange of property titles. Restrictions on free trade are therefore an attack on private property itself and not “merely” a matter of “trade policy”. This is why such great classical liberals as Frederic Bastiat spent many years of their lives defending free trade. Bastiat … understood that once one acquiesced in protectionism, then no one’s property will be safe from myriad other governmental acts of theft. To Bastiat, protectionism and communism were essentially the same philosophy.

It has long been recognized by classical liberals that free trade was the most important means of diminishing the likelihood of war. …

[I]t is not democracy that is a safeguard against war but, as the British (classical) Liberals were to recognize, it is free trade. To Richard Cobden and John Bright, the leaders of the British Manchester School, free trade – both domestically and internationally – was a necessary prerequisite for the preservation of peace. …

As Frederic Bastiat often said, if goods can’t cross borders, armies will. This is a quintessentially American philosophy in that it was the position assumed by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, among others. A foreign policy based on commerce,” wrote Paine in Common Sense, would secure for America “the peace and friendship” of the Continent and allow her to “shake hands with the world – and trade in any market.” Paine – the philosopher of the American Revolution – believed that free trade would “temper the human mind”, and help people to “know and understand each other”,  and have a “civilizing effect” on everyone involved in it. Trade was seen as “a pacific system, operating to unite mankind be rendering nations, as well as individuals, useful to each other. . . . “War can never be in the interest of a trading nation.”

George Washington obviously agreed. “Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest,” he stated in his September 19, 1796 Farewell Address. Our commercial policy “should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; deversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing . . .”

The period of world history from the middle of the fifteenth to the middle of the eighteenth centuries was an era of growth in world trade and invention and of institutions suited to trade. Technological innovations in shipping, such as the three-masted sail, brought the merchants of Europe to the far reaches of America and Asia. This vast expansion of trade greatly facilitated the worldwide division of labor, greater specialization, and the benefits of comparative advantage.

But whenever human freedom advances, as it did with the growth of trade, state power is threatened. So states did all they could then, as now, to restrict trade. It is the system of trade restrictions and other governmental interferences with the free market, known as mercantilism, that Adam Smith railed against in The Wealth of Nations. … [He] was defending trade on moral as well as economic grounds by enunciating his doctrine of how free trade was part of the system of “natural justice”.  One of the ways he did this was to defend smugglers and the act of smuggling as a means of evading mercantilist restrictions on trade. The smuggler, explained Smith, was engaged in “productive labor” that served his fellow man (i.e., consumers) …

For the same reason, black markets are defensible.

Despite powerful arguments in favor of free trade offered by [Dr. Francois] Quesnay, [Adam] Smith, David Ricardo, and others, England (and other countries of Europe) suffered from protectionist trade policies for the first half of the nineteenth century. But this situation was turned around due to the heroic and brilliant efforts of what came to be known as the “Manchester School,” led by two British businessmen, John Bright and Richard Cobden. Thanks to Bright and Cobden Great Britain achieved complete free trade by 1850.

The British public was plundered by the mercantilist “corn laws” which placed strict import quotas on the importation of food. The laws benefited political supporters of the government who were engaged in farming at the expense of much higher food prices, which was especially harmful to the poor. Bright and Cobden formed the Anti-Corn Law League in 1839 and turned it into a well-oiled political machine with mass support, distributing literally millions of leaflets, holding conferences and gatherings all around the country, delivering hundreds of speeches, and publishing their own newspaper, The League. …

From his home in Mugron, France, Frederic Bastiat single handedly created a free-trade movement in his own country that eventually spread throughout Europe. Bastiat was a gentleman farmer who had inherited the family estate. He was a voracious reader, and spent many years educating himself in classical liberalism and in just about any other field that he could attain information about. After some twenty years of intense intellectual preparation, articles and books began to pour out of Bastiat (in the 1840s). His book, Economic Sophisms, is to this day arguably the best defense of free trade ever published. His second book, Economic Harmonies, quickly followed, while Bastiat published magazine and newspapers all over France. His work was so popular and influential that it was immediately translated into English, Spanish, Italian, and German.

Due to Bastiat’s enormous influence, free-trade associations, modeled after one he had created in France and similar to the one created by his friend, Richard Cobden, in England, began to sprout in Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Prussia, and Germany.

To Bastiat, collectivism in all its forms was immoral as well as economically destructive.

Collectivism constituted “legal plunder,” and to argue against the (natural) right to private property would be similar to arguing that theft and slavery were “moral”. The protection of private property is the only legitimate function of government, Bastiat wrote, which is why trade restrictions – and all other mercantilist schemes – should be condemned. Free trade “is a question of right, of justice, of public order, of property. Because privilege, under whatever form it is manifested, implies the denial or the scorn of property rights.” And “the right to property, once weakened in one form, would soon be attacked in a thousand different forms.”

There is no clearer example of how trade restrictions are the enemy of freedom than the American Revolution. In the seventeenth century all European states practiced the policy of mercantilism. England imposed a series of Trade and Navigation Acts on its colonies in America and elsewhere, which embodied three principles: 1) All trade between England and her colonies must be conducted by English (or English-built) vessels owned and manned by English subjects; 2) All European imports into the colonies must “first be laid on the shores of England” before being sent to the colonies so that extra tariffs could be placed on them; and 3) Certain products from the colonies must be exported to England and England only.

In addition, the colonists were prohibited from trading with Asia because of the East India Company’s state-chartered monopoly. There were import duties placed on all colonial imports into England.

After the Seven Years War (known in America as the French-Indian War), England’s massive land holdings (Canada, India, North America to the Mississippi, most of the West Indies) became very expensive to administer and police. Consequently, the Trade and Navigation Acts were made even more oppressive, which imposed severe hardships on the American colonists and helped lead to revolution.

After the American Revolution trade restrictions nearly caused the New England states — which suffered disproportionately from the restrictions — to secede from the Union. In 1807 Thomas Jefferson was president and England was once again at war with France. England declared that it would “secure her seamen wherever found”,  which included U.S. ships. After a British warship captured the USS Chesapeake off Hampton Roads, Virginia, Jefferson imposed a trade embargo that made all international commerce illegal. After Jefferson left office his successor, James Madison, imposed an “Enforcement Act” which allowed war-on-drugs style seizure of goods suspected to be destined for export.

This radicalized the New England secessionists, who had been plotting to secede ever since Jefferson was elected, issued a public declaration reminding the nation that “the U.S. Constitution was a Treaty of Alliance and Confederation” and that the central government was no more than an association of the states. Consequently, “whenever its [i.e., the Constitution’s] provisions were violated, or its original principles departed from by a majority of the states or their people, it is no longer an effective instrument, but that any state is at liberty by the spirit of that contract to withdraw itself from the union.”

The Massachusetts legislature formally condemned the embargo, demanded its repeal by Congress, and declared that it was “not legally binding”. In other words, the Massachusetts legislature “nullified” the law. Madison was forced to end the embargo in March of 1809. …

John Taylor, a noted Anti-Federalist, was a lifelong critic of mercantilism and laid out his criticisms in his 1822 book, Tyranny Unmasked. Like Bastiat, Taylor saw protectionism as an assault on private property that was diametrically opposed to the freedom the American revolutionaries had fought and died for. The tyranny that Taylor sought to “unmask” was the collection of fables and lies that had been devised by mercantilists to promote their system of plunder. If one looks at England’s mercantilist policies, Taylor wrote, “No equal mode of enriching the party of government, and impoverishing the party of people, has ever been discovered.” …

Many of Taylor’s arguments were adopted and expanded upon by the great South Carolinian statesman John C. Calhoun during the struggle over the 1828 “Tariff of Abomination”,  which a South Carolina political convention voted to nullify. The confrontation between South Carolina, which was very heavily import dependent, as was most of the South, and the federal government over the Tariff of Abominations almost led to the state’s secession some thirty years prior to the War for Southern Independence. The federal government backed down and reduced the tariff rate in 1833.

The Northern manufacturers who wanted to impose British-style mercantilism on the U.S. did not give up, however; they formed the American Whig party, which advocated three mercantilist schemes: protectionism, corporate welfare for themselves, and a central bank to pay for it all. From 1832 until 1861 the Whigs, led by Henry Clay and, later, by Abraham Lincoln, fought mightily in the political arena to bring seventeenth-century mercantilism to America.

The Whig party died in 1852, but the Whigs simply began calling themselves Republicans.

We have often praised the Republican Party for its opposition to slavery, but we do not praise it for this:

The tariff was the centerpiece of the Republican party platform of 1860, as it had been when the same collection of Northern economic interests called itself “Whigs” for the previous thirty years.

By 1857 the level of tariffs had been reduced to the lowest level since 1815, according to Frank Taussig in his classic Tariff History of the United States. But when the Republicans controlled the White House and the Southern Democrats left the Congress the Republicans did what, as former Whigs, they had been itching to do for decades: go on a protectionist frenzy. In his First Inaugural Address Lincoln stated that he had no intention to disturb slavery in the Southern states and, even if he did, there would be no constitutional basis for doing so. But when it came to the tariff, he promised a military invasion if tariff revenues were not collected. …

By 1862 the average tariff rate had crept up to 47.06 percent, the highest level ever, even higher than the 1828 Tariff of Abominations. These high rates lasted for decades after the war.

[B]y 1860 England itself had moved to complete free trade; France sharply reduced her tariff rates in that very year; and Bastiat’s free-trade movement was spreading throughout Europe. Only the Northern United States was clinging steadfastly to seventeenth-century mercantilism.

After the war the Northern manufacturing interests who financed and controlled the Republican party (i.e., the old Whigs) were firmly in control and they “ushered in a long period of high tariffs. With the tariff of 1897, protection reached an average level of 57 percent.” This political plunder continued for about fifty years after the war, at which time international competition forced tariff rates down moderately. By 1913 the average tariff rate in the U.S. had declined to 29 percent.

But the same clique of Northern manufacturers was begging for “protection” and persisted until they got it when Herbert Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1929, which increased the average tariff rate on over 800 items back up to 59.1 percent. The Smoot-Hawley tariff spawned an international trade war that resulted in about a 50 percent reduction in total exports from the United States between 1929 and 1932. Poverty and misery was the inevitable result. Even worse, the government responded to these problems of its own creation with a massive increase in government intervention, which only produced even more poverty and misery and deprived Americans of more and more of their freedoms.

The case for President Trump’s tariffs follows immediately in the next post. …

In defense of classical liberalism 7

A Harvard University reader of this website, who goes by the pseudonym of Adam Smythe, sent us by email this well-informed reply to the Yoram Hazony article we posted yesterday. He explores the issues with admirable intellectual rigor:

The article is interesting, though rather confused – mainly because the categories that he is trying to describe are themselves confused. In turn, I found much of his article confusing, and my response will, doubtless, further confuse the issues in question. So confused at first was I by his article that I did not know whether I wholeheartedly agreed or abjectly opposed it.

First things first: von Mises strongly believed (too much, I would say) in the right of self-determination. The comment  he made about world government mentioned in the article was predicated upon all countries first adopting his brand of liberalism. He argued that the size of a state was an irrelevancy, and that if all states happily adopted liberalism, then a world government in line with the liberal program would be favorable.

That von Mises opposed hugely bureaucratic institutions, of the kind lauded by “globalists”, is even more clear. It is true that German and Austrian 19th century liberalism did generally argue for the widespread adoption of governmental bureaucracies full of well-educated administrators; one might conclude from this that Mises, an outspoken “liberal” himself, would be in favor of a world bureaucratic government. Nothing could be further from the truth — he wrote extensively against bureaucracies in, among other things, his scathing book Bureaucracy, and was the originator of the entire intellectual opposition to the idea of “educated” planning with his essay Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth. In this respect he was opposed to his “liberal” colleagues.

The “liberal” infatuation with bureaucracies further confounds the author’s thesis that liberalism is fundamentally rationalist. Most liberals liked these bureaucracies because they could be empirically minded, and pragmatic, whereas laws originating from legislative bodies could not. Von Mises, however, generally opposed this position.

To argue that von Mises was in favor of big government, on the basis of the single comment mentioned by the author, and to further conclude that this is the backbone for the case for widespread “liberalizing” military intervention in contemporary American politics, is absurd. In particular, a man in favor of international government in general or forcible interventions by liberal states into the affairs of non-liberal ones, would not write as von Mises did in Man, State and Economy:

Liberalism knows no conquests, no annexations; just as it is indifferent towards the state itself, so the problem of the size of the state is unimportant to it. It forces no one against his will into the structure of the state. Whoever wants to emigrate is not held back. When a part of the people of the state wants to drop out of the union, liberalism does not hinder it from doing so. Colonies that want to become independent need only do so. The nation as an organic entity can be neither increased nor reduced by changes in states; the world as a whole can neither win nor lose from them.

In fact, I would say von Mises went too far in opposition to world government — he believed strongly (I believe too strongly) in the right of self-determination. Also from Man, State, and Economy):

The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars.

As for Hayek: it is true that Hayek broadly favored multinational trade federations, and a European trade federation in particular. He enunciated the conditions for such trade federations in an early essay from the 30’s.  Most of Hayek’s followers despised and despise the EU itself, however. (I cannot find Hayek’s point of view on the EU.) But Hayek outspokenly did not identify himself as a conservative. The AEI has an interesting piece on this:

In both cases, any discussion of world government was predicated upon the government being, in the first place, little more than a nightwatchman state. So it is wrong to read into them the kind  of technocratic “globalist” view so reviled by Trumpist or Bannonist conservatives.

The author is right insofar as he claims that von Mises and Hayek believed that liberalism and human liberty were universally good, and that all states ought to adopt liberal policies. He is wrong to suggest that these ideas lead to the conclusion that liberal states ought to forcibly liberalize illiberal ones. (Ayn Rand, however, did say that liberal states had the right — though not the obligation — to liberate illiberal states. But, she wrote, there were, in fact, no presently existing states – America included – that were “liberal” enough to have earned this right .)

The position that liberal states like America ought to forcibly liberalize illiberal states is quintessentially “neoconservative” — a philosophy which certianly borrowed some things from the liberal tradition, but, in this respect, not only parts company from its classical liberal forebears, but lies in opposition to them. In today’s world, for instance, most right-wing individuals who identify as “classical liberal” as opposed to “conservative” – Rand and Ron Paul, for example – do so in order to make it clear that they favor an isolationist foreign policy, in opposition to conservatives on this very issue.

If we are to conclude, as the author does, that America’s intervention into Iraq and Afghanistan are failures (even if we simultaneously acknowledge that postwar liberalizing of Japan, Germany, Eastern Europe, and Korea are successes), and we therefore conclude that the internationalist position on American hegemony is wrong, then we simply ought to conclude that internationalism has not worked, not that liberal ideals are wrong in general. 

You see, Mr. Hazony goes  further: not only is American military intervention as a general practice wrong, he says, but the very idea that the “virtues” of classical liberalism  — private property, free markets, and individualism — are universal, is wrong, too. This is chucking the baby out with the bathwater. The reason Iraq and Afghanistan failed is because they failed in the end to liberalize Iraq and Afghanistan, not because liberalization as an end is bad. 

The fact that some societies do not easily adopt liberal policies does not mean that liberal policies are not the right ones always to strive for. For what are the alternatives? Dictatorship, oppression, and serfdom. The problem with an interventionist foreign policy might be that, in an effort to liberalize certain nations under the rule of a dictator, say, we create a power vacuum that is filled by something even worse (think about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the toppling of Mubarak). For instance, I am the first to acknowledge that Pinochet was a superior leader of Chile to Allende, despite the fact that the latter was “liberally” elected. This is because I measure a government, always, on the scale of how liberal it is. And despite the despotic nature of Pinochet, society was governed far more liberally under him than under his deposed predecessor.

I do not at all take the (almost) relativist stance, which is advanced in the article, that we shouldn’t hold classical liberal ideals as universal. We absolutely should, even if we are pragmatic about when to urge (or force) other societies to adopt them. Our consideration should be the effectiveness of such policies, not whether the ends of liberalism are the right ones for that particular society. The answer to that question, I think, is always, “Yes. They are.” 

Now, in general, as far as I can tell, the author is somewhat bizarrely categorizing present-day ideological associations as follows (I’ve tried to offer a respective juxtaposition of each of the views):

Conservatism — Empiricism — Religion — Nationalism — International Pragmatism

(Classical) Liberalism — Rationalism — Secularism — Globalism — Interventionism.

Not just one, but every single one of these categories is disputable.

The least debatable is the association between classical liberalism and secularism versus conservatism and religion, which I think has been true historically. But there are plenty of religious classical liberals, and plenty (led by Jillian Becker) of atheist conservatives! 

However, assuming that classical liberalism is less empirical and more rationalist as a rule is wrong. True: Ayn Rand, von Mises, and, to a lesser extent, Hayek, were fairly “philosophical”, “a priori”, or “rationalist” in their reasoning. Milton Friedman, however, was not; he and the “Chicago School” considered themselves to be (and indeed were) very empirical. Meanwhile, many “pragmatic” liberals — Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner, for instance, founded the liberal tradition (continued by Hayek) about societal evolution in metaphor with Darwin’s theory of species evolution. This is clearly not a viewpoint that considers values to be unchanging without reference to observed facts. I am also fairly sure that there is significant overlap between American “pragmatists” and American classical liberals of the nineteenth century. “Pragmatists” eschewed general principles on principle. Today, this is something far more associated with the political left than the political right — many on the right think of the left as deeply unprincipled, whereas they are guardians of the classical virtues; the left thinks of the right as doctrinaire, whereas it thinks of itself as pragmatic. 

Indeed, the left thinks (and to a certain extent they are right in this) that the universal “values” upheld by many on the right, stem from the right’s greater religiosity. But then for Hazony to suggest that religion is something founded more on empirical than a priori “rationalist” principles is bizarre. Indeed, religion should be eschewed on both rationalist and empirical grounds — God is an intrinsically incoherent concept, for which there has never been any shred of real-world evidence. And whereas I have seen many a fallacious rationalist justification for God, I have never seen an “empirical” one from any of the “serious” religious propagandists.

To suggest that liberalism, in its “rationalist” adherence to principle, neglects noneconomic forces, is curiously myopic. Hayek considers these institutions at great length – including family, religion, and moral precepts –  particularly in his later writings (see The Fatal Conceit, for example). And finally to suggest that somehow liberalism is associated with globalism and military interventionism, whereas conservatism is (or should be?) associated with nationalism and international pragmatism is, as I’ve described above, rather odd.

A libertarian’s case for Donald Trump 6

Ilana Mercer is a “paleolibertarian” writer with whom we often closely agree. In an article at Townhall – where most of the conservative and Republican writers tirelessly abuse the Republican candidate for the presidency! – she praises the speech Donald Trump made in Mexico two days ago, and the speech he made later the same day in Arizona on the important subject of immigration:

Following Donald J. Trump’s sublime immigration address, critics — essentially all Big, Crooked Media — charged that Trump’s Arizona speech represented a sharp departure from the tone he took earlier that day, with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. A reversal, if you will.

Nonsense. With President Nieto, Donald Trump was at once patriotic, forceful and diplomatic.

In close to two decades of analyzing American politics, I’ve yet to hear an American leader address his Mexican counterpart as forcefully as Mr. Trump addressed President Nieto. Trump came across as a man-of-the world, to whom interfacing with foreign dignitaries was second nature.

It’s always been the case that Americans in power collude with Mexicans in power to bully and manipulate a powerless American People into accepting the unacceptable: The imperative to welcome torrents of unskilled illegal aliens, at an incalculable cost to the safety of America’s communities, the solvency of its public institutions, and the sustainability of the environment.

Strolling through the ancient Mayan and Toltec ruins with President Vincente Fox in 2006, George W. Bush was not talking up American interests. He was plotting amnesty with an unholy trinity comprised of John McCain, Ted Kennedy and Arlen Specter. Sly [Vincente] Fox was the silent partner.

What a pleasant surprise it was for this long-time political observer to witness a Mexican president, clearly cowed by The Donald, make no mention of America’s bogus obligation to take in Mexico’s tired, poor, huddled masses yearning for U.S. welfare.

If President Nieto harbored the urge to make manipulative appeals to American “permanent values”, so as to lighten his political load, there was no evidence of it. It’s fair to infer that on that occasion, a show of unparalleled strength and patriotism — Mr. Trump’s — extinguished the bad habit. …

Naturally, the network nits failed to notice just how reverential and conciliatory Nieto was. He expressed hope that differences would be bridged and that the ideas of freedom and prosperity would form that bridge. Indeed, a surprisingly respectful President Nieto voiced his wish to work constructively with the next president of the United States. There would be challenges to meet and opportunities to realize, but these would be met by the two nations as friends, neighbors and strategic partners.

And lo — again, it swooshed by CNN dimwits — Nieto even stipulated his willingness to review policies that had not worked and allay attendant misunderstandings. Here was an indication Mexico was no longer negotiating from the old manipulative position of strength, facilitated by America’s traitor class. For Nieto now faced a different kind of American leader, one who declared he was looking out for the forgotten American masses.

For the first time in a long time we heard how important the U.S. was to Mexico … and not only as a willing taker of those hungry, huddled, Mexican masses. While Nieto spoke openly about keeping the hemisphere competitive, he was willing to improve trade agreements to benefit workers of both countries. When President Nieto did cop to some disagreement with the Republican candidate, he nevertheless emphasized a willingness to find common ground.

As for the sui generis Trump: He went straight to the nub of the matter. He loves the United States very much and wants to ensure its people are well-protected. Yet poignantly did Trump acknowledge President Nieto’s fellow-feeling toward his people. The Republican standing for president then merged the aspirations of both leaders, by emphasizing their shared quest to keep “the hemisphere” prosperous, safe and free.

At the same time, Trump was uncompromising about NAFTA. He called for reciprocal trade and denied that the trade deal (really “a mercantilist, centrally planned, maze of regulations”) had benefited Americans at all.

What Mercer here put in brackets is the vitally important criticism of NAFTA that has long needed to be made.

As if to herald his immigration speech later that day, Trump then enumerated five shared goals. They are (not in the order presented):

  1. End illegal immigration, not just between Mexico and the U.S., but from Central and South America. It adversely impacts both Mexico and the U.S. For those embarking on the dangerous odyssey, it’s a humanitarian disaster.
  2. Dismantle the drug cartels, jointly, and end their free movement across the Southern border.
  3. Improve NAFTA to reflect today’s realities, while keeping “our hemisphere” competitive and prosperous, with the aim of improving pay standards and working conditions within.
  4. Keep manufacturing capabilities in “our hemisphere”. Libertarians will disagree with Trump on this matter, but … prosperity in one’s own country makes the individual less likely to relocate in search of better economic prospects.

Ultimately, as long as the U.S. remains a relatively high-wage area, with a generous, tax-funded welfare system — it will experience migratory pressure from low-wage Mexico. … Migratory pressure flows from low-wage to high-wage regions; from the Third World to the First World. Alas, migratory equilibrium will be reached once First World becomes Third World.

This Trump seeks to forestall with his most important stipulation:

5. “Having a secure border is a sovereign right. The right of either country to build a physical barrier or wall” to stem the tide of illegal migration, weapons and drugs is incontestable and must be recognized.     

Number 4 is a point of real contention. As she notes, libertarians will not agree with it. We do not agree with it. We are strongly for free trade; Trump is for protectionism. Mercer herself is for free trade. Her argument here seems to be that whatever makes the country more prosperous is good for the individual, and Trump’s protectionist proposals might do that. As the good of the individual is a chief concern of libertarians (and of us libertarian conservatives), it’s a good argument, but it depends on that “might”. The arguments for free trade deny that “might”. But certainly the rule-of-law nation-state is the best protector of the individual’s liberty, so nationalism – or call it patriotism – is perfectly consistent with libertarianism.

Mercer explains fully why she welcomes the arrival of a non-libertarian candidate for the presidency on the political battlefield in her book The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed, of which this is (most of) the Amazon blurb: 

Donald J. Trump is smashing an enmeshed political spoils system to bits: the media complex, the political and party complex, the conservative poseur complex. You name it; Trump is tossing and goring it. The well-oiled elements that sustain and make the American political system cohere are suddenly in Brownian motion, oscillating like never before. An entrenched punditocracy, a self-anointed, meritless intelligentsia, oleaginous politicians, slick media, big money: these political players have built the den of iniquity that Trump is destroying. Against these forces is Trump, acting as a political Samson that threatens to bring the den of iniquity crashing down on its patrons. It is this achievement that the author of The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed cheers. By [his] drastically diminishing The Machine’s moving parts, the author hopes Trump might just help loosen the chains that bind the individual to central government, national and transnational. In the age of unconstitutional government — Democratic and Republican — this Trumpian process of creative destruction can only increase the freedom quotient. We inhabit what broadcaster Mark Levin has termed a post-constitutional America, explains Ilana Mercer. The libertarian ideal — where the chains that tether us to an increasingly tyrannical national government are loosened and power is devolved once again to the smaller units of society — is a long way away. In this post-constitutional jungle, the law of the jungle prevails. In this legislative jungle, the options are few: Do Americans get a benevolent authoritarian to undo the legacies of Barack Obama, George W. Bush and those who went before? Or, does the ill-defined entity called The People continue to submit to Demopublican diktats, past and present? The author of “The Trump Revolution” contends that in the age of unconstitutional government, the best liberty lovers can look to is “action and counteraction, force and counterforce in the service of liberty”. Until such time when the individual is king again, and a decentralized constitution that guarantees regional and individual autonomy has been restored — the process of creative destruction begun by Mr. Trump is likely the best Americans can hope for. A close reading of The Trump Revolution will reveal that matters of process are being underscored. Thus the endorsement over the pages of The Trump Revolution is not necessarily for the policies of Trump, but for The Process of Trump, the outcome of which might see a single individual weaken the chains that bind each one of us to an oppressive, centralized authority and to the system that serves and sustains it.

And this is a quotation from its pages:

The D.C. Comitatus [is] now writhing like a fire-breathing mythical monster in the throes of death.

May Trump deliver the coup de grâce!

Political parties: disintegration and realignment 22

Political parties in the Western world are undergoing dramatic and permanent change.

In America, Donald Trump has changed the Republican Party. It will not go back to being what it was before he became its most popular candidate for the presidency.

The Democratic Party was always a racist cabal, and now it’s a criminal racket under the dictatorship of the Clintons. They have been “nudged” towards the wilder shores of Leftism by the surprising popularity of the  “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders, who stood against Hillary Clinton for the presidential candidacy – but was not allowed to win, of course.

The Libertarian Party’s support is growing. There is even talk of it replacing the Republican Party. In any case, the Libertarians want the two-party system to fade away and new parties – chiefly their own – to enter the competition for power with a fair chance of winning.

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee for the presidential elections, says: “I think 30 million people here are up for grabs that are probably Libertarian; it’s that they just don’t know it.”

In Europe, new parties are emerging and old ones re-emerging in new forms and with new policies, in response to the governing elites’ disastrous immigration policies, by which millions of Muslims have poured into the continent from the Third World, bringing their customs of violence and misogyny with them.

In Britain, the established political parties are showing signs of disintegration and possible re-alignment.

Our British contributing associate, Chauncey Tinker*, writes:

Jeremy Corbyn, the present unpopular leader of the Labour Party, will cling on to power until he feels a suitable loony leftie has appeared who can replace him. Corbyn is not having a great time being the leader but he cares about the loony left’s future in politics and he is not going to hand power back to the centrist Blairite arm of the party in a hurry. He repeatedly says he has the mandate of the “party membership”, and he actually really seems to feel duty bound not to disappoint them. I do think winning general elections is not the biggest priority in his mind, its much more about representing the real loony left. 

The former leader, Ed Miliband, made a disastrous decision to open the membership to anyone with £3 to spare, so changing the party membership, allowing the proper lefties to take over (and there are suggestions that some mischievous Tories also pitched in) and I don’t think they can easily undo this, without splitting the party in two. They are still joining at an astonishing rate apparently, even though the membership fee has been increased to £25 to try and stop this. But it looks as if it will ensure a majority vote for Corbyn.  

Could the party split in two? There has been quite a lot of speculation about it. The Blairite / loony left ideological split has been going on since Tony Blair arrived on the scene.  However I can’t help feeling that the Blairites have just lost faith in their own cause. Corbyn’s chief rival for the leadership, Owen Smith, seems in many respects to be not really that far away from Corbyn; but – so far at least –  without the tendency to seem like a supporter of Islam. And I have yet to hear him suggest that the government should print money and give wads of it to poor people. As such he maybe doesn’t deserve to be thought of as a loony leftie, just a normal leftie. There’s a short clip of him talking in the Telegraph (see here). He would certainly win the votes of the “always voted Labour, always will” types, and might even stand a chance in a general election – although apparently he has hinted in favour of a second referendum on Brexit, which might well be a vote loser considering at least 52% voted to leave the European Union.   

If they did split Labour it would be a huge breath of fresh air for UK politics, and give the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) a chance to get a foot in the door with more MPs. I think UKIP’s chances right now would be good if it were not for the fact they are also in disarray. Nigel Farage has resigned the leadership, and I don’t find the frontrunner Steven Woolfe impressive. But maybe he will improve.  

Overall its just deeply uninspiring on all fronts, and the new Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May,  looks almost unshakeable with this rabble of an opposition.

It seems possible that she could even reunite the Conservative Party after the deep divisions within it over Brexit. But for how long?

* Chauncey Tinker was a computer programmer for many years.  He writes: “I had always had a keen interest in current affairs but around 2012 my interest turned to real alarm.  I began to read about the Islamic religion and became increasingly troubled by what I learned, especially in view of the ever increasing presence of Islam in the West.  By 2013 I was beginning to realize just how much the mainstream media is dominated by a certain warped and narrow way of thinking (far away from my own fairly libertarian views), how freedom of speech was being eroded and stifled by “political correctness”.  More alarmingly still I also began to notice how governments were beginning to pass laws that could actually criminalize views that dissented from theirs. Determined to challenge this trend, I left my computing career and began to study current affairs full time. I began my blog late in 2015.”

The friendly match: conservatives v. libertarians 5

We conservatives have much in common with libertarians. We share a number of important principles and values with them: individual freedom, small government, low taxes, and a free market economy.

The chief political argument we have with libertarians is over foreign affairs and the use of military force.

It is a very good idea for conservatives and libertarians to meet and talk.

But we were disappointed when we read this from Townhall, by Daniel Davis:

Conservatives and libertarians put their love-hate relationship on display today, as a panel of five gathered at the Cato Institute to discuss the issues in Charles Cooke’s new book, The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s Future.  The mood was jovial and upbeat, yet sophisticated and thick with well-reasoned argument. It was an encouraging showcase of big-tent conservatism, and a sign of the future debates that will dominate the GOP.

The panelists included Charles Cooke (National Review), Ilya Shapiro (Cato Institute), Katherine Mangu-Ward (Reason), Ben Domenech (The Federalist), and Trevor Burrus (Cato Institute). The panel spanned the conservative-libertarian spectrum.

Charles Cooke began the event by describing what he means by a “conservatarian”. He said there are really two kinds of conservatarians: (1) A conservative who rejects the big-government, “compassionate” conservatism of the Bush administration, and (2) a conservative who generally embraces the GOP’s party platform, minus the social issues (like same-sex marriage, or marijuana). The GOP’s ranks have swelled with both of these types of conservatives in recent years, particularly in protest to the Obama administration’s overreaches, but also due to a more socially liberal youth population. Cooke said this is not necessarily a new development (same-sex marriage notwithstanding), but is actually a reversion to Republican values from the 1980s and 90s. He said the Bush years were something of an “aberration” in the conservative movement, and that “the center of gravity has moved back” toward the values of Reagan and Gingrich.

Katherine Mangu-Ward described the conservative-libertarian relationship — which developed most fully in the post-WWII era of “fusionism” — as an often “abusive” one. She expressed the libertarian frustration that conservatives seem eager to band with libertarians when Democrats are in power, but when Republicans regain power, they are almost as quick to throw off the libertarians. Mangu-Ward acknowledged the real philosophical divisions between conservatives and libertarians, but stressed that the two can, and must, work together on a host of public policy issues.

Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow at Cato, called himself a “big tent” conservative and a “classical liberal”. Shapiro is a libertarian legal scholar who supports same-sex marriage, but said that “it takes all kinds” in a party like the GOP. He highlighted two criticisms that Charles Cooke makes in his book, one of libertarians and one of conservatives. First, libertarians are often naively eager to strip down important institutions that give order and meaning to society, and they overestimate the ability of logic to satisfy particular needs. But second, conservatives tend to place too much faith in the inherent authority of history and society’s institutions. Ilya strongly backed both of these critiques and maintained that the conservative-libertarian fusion tends to correct the excesses found on both sides.

Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, offered two problems that plague the conservatarian movement. First, the post-WWII “fusionist” movement failed to shore up federalism. Instead, states systematically lost their power to the federal government as “successful” state policies became nationalized. States began to depend on federal grants, largely derived from taxpayers in other states — and this amounted to a simple socialistic form of wealth redistribution. Second, he said that “social liberalism” no longer means what it used to mean. It once meant true tolerance and a negative view of liberty. [What? – ed.] Now, it often denotes positive liberty where true personal “freedom” requires wealth redistribution and personal affirmation. [What again? – ed.] He derided the toxic culture of political correctness, which silences dissent and punishes the dissenters by forcing their conformity. [Agreed – ed.]

Cooke responded by heartily affirming Domenech’s call to focus on restoring federalism, which allows states to act as the founders intended: as laboratories of democracy. Mangu-Ward cautioned that conservatives are rarely full-blooded federalists and that “fair-weather federalism” would likely win the day. Cooke responded that this is largely inevitable, as perfect adherence to federalism is not always practical.

One interesting question came when Trever Burrus, a scholar at Cato, asked why libertarians consider themselves to even be on the right, rather than the left. Mangu-Ward responded that the “power of inertia” is very real, and that fusionist-era conservatism created the political context for libertarians to remain on the right. She also said that libertarians simply agree with conservatives on far more topics than with liberals, though there is a small bit of room for certain libertarians in the Democratic Party.

What a weird question Trever Burrus asked! The Left is collectivist – wanting the very opposite of individual liberty. If libertarians do not stand for individual liberty, what do they stand for? If they are not freedom-lovers to the bone, what are they?

Perhaps the biggest gulf between the panelists could be felt on the issue of immigration. Cooke, a conservative more than a libertarian, noted that it is very difficult to have a big welfare state while having a large, free-moving labor population — namely, the illegal immigrants. He said the U.S. needs stricter immigration policy, not simply out of practical need but also out of a concern for cultural continuity. He noted the uniqueness of the American identity — for instance, the fact that foreigners can truly become “American” after living here and adopting American values. This, he said, is simply impossible in other countries where national identity is primarily ethnic and cultural. He said that America’s immigration policy should be informed, at least in part, by a commitment to maintain this unique identity, and that a libertarian open-border policy would jeopardize that identity. He said we must ensure that this “fragile cultural setup is here for our kids”.

We can see the sense of that argument.

The panel event at Cato was an inspiring show of political unity in the midst of frequent philosophical disagreement. Thankfully, the conservative-libertarian alliance looks stronger than ever. Conservatives can expect it to dominate Republican politics in the decades to come.

Perhaps the report covers too little, or is not accurate. However that may be, we found very little of interest in it.

We do think conservatism should be libertarian (and in our dreams atheist). But how can those who call themselves Libertarian be the allies of Conservatives in a time war?

And this is a time of war.

We want to hear from Libertarians how they propose to stop the jihad, defend us from Iranian nuclear attack, stem the flood of racist hatred released by Obama and the Democrats, restore the universities to forums where ideas are promoted and criticized and debated freely, big government is shrunk, taxes are lowered, the economy is released from government regulation, and the law is enforced.