They now arrive in my e-mailbox on average, oh, three times weekly. Each of these messages levels at me the same fundamental accusation, to wit: My many criticisms of Trump’s trade and immigration policies make me [Don Boudreaux] intellectually and ethically inconsistent because I don’t seem to have been as hostile to Obama.
I have said very few positive things about Obama and many negative things about him – at this blog and in other places. Just search “Obama” in Cafe Hayek’s search box (to the right) and see for yourself. I believe that Obama was an awful president, despite a small handful of positive things that he did while president.
Nevertheless, I admit that my criticisms of Trump are hotter than were my criticisms of any of Trump’s Oval Office predecessors. I offer two reasons to explain this extra heat.
First, unlike any of his predecessors during my lifetime, Trump makes protectionism a centerpiece of his presidency. Because international trade is one of my research specialties – and also because trade is, as it has been now for decades, of special interest to me both as a matter of economic analyses and of economic policy – Trump’s obsession with restricting Americans’ access to the full array of goods and services available on global markets pushes ‘buttons’ in me that are pushed by few other abuses of government power.
Second, many people who I thought knew better – or I believed should know better – have gullibly swallowed Trump’s moronic claims about trade and his justifications for obstructing fellow-Americans’ freedom to trade.
By the nature of the matter I cannot prove that what I’m about to write is true, but I’m quite confident that it’s true – namely, that if Hillary Clinton were today president and were saying and doing about trade the exact same things that Trump is saying and doing about trade, many of the people who are now cheering Trump’s trade policy and hailing him as a genius conquering hero on the trade front would be spitting vitriol and venom at Pres. H. Clinton. Many of the people who today contort their brains and play fast and loose with their integrity in order to justify Trump’s asinine, unethical, harmful, and cronyist trade interventions would, had H. Clinton won the 2016 election, today be quoting Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan – and perhaps even me – on the virtues of free trade in their attempts to discredit Clinton’s protectionism.
And so I believe that the inconsistent one in this matter isn’t me. I have changed my economic, ethical, and policy views not one bit since November 2016 or January 2017. I have always supported complete, unconditional, unilateral free trade. I have always supported greatly liberalized immigration – so liberalized that you can, without much inaccuracy, call it a policy of ‘open borders.’ I have spoken out, and written, against protectionism regardless of who is in office or who attempts to justify it. I have opposed economic and cultural nationalism for as long as I can remember.
I have always opposed government restrictions on individual freedom of choice and action regardless of the party, sex, age, religion, eye color, or shoe size of those in office.
The truly inconsistent people are those who believe themselves to have discovered the merits of protectionism only since Trump has gotten political power.