Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:
Walter Russell Mead ends his curiously upbeat assessment of President Trump’s new trade deal with Canada and Mexico with this advice: “Future presidents in both parties will likewise need to understand populist perceptions and craft trade agreements that address them” (“Trump’s Instincts Triumph on Trade,” Oct. 2).
Perhaps. But wouldn’t it be far better for future presidents in both parties – who, after all, are said to be “leaders” – to try to undermine populist perceptions so that trade agreements would not have to address them?
On trade, populist perceptions are completely distorted. Up appears to be down; in appears to be out; good appears to be bad; benefits appear to be costs. It’s therefore unsurprising that to the extent that populist perceptions affect trade policy, this policy not only enriches the few at the greater expense of the many, it also fuels cronyism and undermines the rule of law.
Rather than call on future presidents to further their political careers by opportunistically taking populist perceptions as given, Mr. Mead should challenge future presidents to rise above the muck of daily politics by trying to explain to the American people the great blessings of free trade and the grave dangers of protectionism. Any such president would be that rarest of creatures – namely, a politician who truly is a courageous leader rather than a cowardly follower.
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