With distressing frequency, politicians, political operatives, and pundits spew out falsehoods about trade. Never in the history of the United States – not during the presidency of Jefferson, of Cleveland, of Reagan, of Obama, or of you-name-the-holder-of-such-power – has Uncle Sam been committed to anything close to a policy of “unfettered” free international trade. All the worse for Americans, of course, but the historical reality cannot be changed by the incessant repetition of falsehoods to the contrary.
Politically powerful producer groups in the United States have always been able to rely upon the combination of the failure of political ‘markets’ (akin to the failure of private markets) with widespread ignorance both of the most elementary economics and of basic facts of reality in order to get from Uncle Sam grants of unjust, monopoly privileges. I do not doubt that there are many Trumpkins out and about who believe that they and their children have been, or stand to be, victimized by free trade – but they are simply ignorant of economics and of reality.