Free trade puts America first

David Harsanyi of the Federalist explains why free trade benefits Americans more than any notion of “fair trade” ever would.

These days, the label “globalist” is a pejorative meant to insinuate that a person is more concerned about international corporations than about his fellow American citizens.

Now, admittedly, I support nearly unlimited trade, no matter what other nations do. It’s mostly because I love America. “Hey, those Chinese communists are killing us with high tariffs … maybe we should do the same thing to our own citizens!” sounds like a counterproductive idea wrapped in a false choice. Harming hundreds of millions of consumers to try and save a handful of unproductive jobs, no matter how good it feels, doesn’t put America first.

Donald Trump, a man who campaigned on protectionist rhetoric (he was not alone) says he can finagle better trade agreements for the United States. Honestly, if he’s using the threat of tariffs as a cudgel to attain those deals, I don’t really care if Justin Trudeau’s feelings are hurt. I’m fine with the “We’re America, B-tch” Doctrine as long as it’s actually good for America.

Judging from his rhetoric, though, it seems the president believes protectionism is preferable to deals that lower barriers all around. His public position — which is one of his only enduring positions — is that jobs and industries can be saved using tariffs. …

… “Fair trade,” once used predominately by progressives, is a neologism without meaning. It allows a person to oppose complex agreements for a litany of reasons. “Fair” is elastic and ambiguous, which is why it’s so popular with adolescents.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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