Modernity began when humanity “removed reality-making from the authoritarian control of priests and princes” and outsourced it to no one in particular. It was given over to “a decentralized, globe-spanning community of critical testers who hunt for each other’s errors.” This is why today’s foremost enemy of modernity is populism, which cannot abide the idea that majorities are not self-validating, and neither are intense minorities (e.g., the “Elvis lives” cohort). Validation comes from the “critical testers” who are the bane of populists’ existence because the testers are, by dint of training and effort, superior to the crowd, “no matter how many” are in it.
Yet, the full effects of tariffs are worse than that. They amount to government intervention in the market to favor some forms of economic activity over others. Thus, the new steel plant has to be viewed alongside the increased costs to industries that use steel as an input. Some of those businesses may close. Some people gain jobs, others lose them, but the jobs that are created are the wrong jobs – jobs that exist purely because of the government’s industrial policy masquerading as trade policy.
Limiting temperatures to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels, as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urges, is economically and practically impossible—as [Nobel-laureate] Mr. [William] Nordhaus’s work shows. The IPCC report significantly underestimates the costs of getting to zero emissions. Fossil fuels provide cheap, efficient power, whereas green energy remains mostly uncompetitive. Switching to more expensive, less efficient technology slows development. In poor nations that means fewer people lifted out of poverty. In rich ones it means the most vulnerable are hit by higher energy bills.