Here’s a letter to yet another correspondent who says that he once was “for free trade” but that “economic realism” showed him the “good sense” of protectionism:
Mr. Cal Schneider
Not every slogan that sounds good promotes sound public policy. You’re enamored with what you describe as “President Trump’s patriotic determination to put the interest of Americans first … in trade.”
In fact, apart from the handful of American producers who get monopoly power behind Trump’s tariff walls, Trump’s trade policies put the interests of Americans last. When Trump raises U.S. tariffs in an attempt to persuade other governments to lower their tariffs, he puts the interests of foreign consumers ahead of those of American consumers. He holds American consumers hostage and promises their release only on the condition that foreign governments stop holding their consumers hostage. And when foreign governments respond by taking more of their own consumers hostage – that is, by imposing more tariffs – Trump ‘retaliates’ by taking more American consumers hostage with yet higher U.S. tariffs.
Anyone who falls for the canard that this insanity puts “America first” is delusional.
The fact that Trump is unaware that his trade policies put Americans last – that his tariffs hold Americans hostage as a means of freeing from economic captivity non-Americans – is irrelevant. The ignorance of the hostage taker neither changes the reality of his actions nor excuses them.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030