“Buy American,” like protectionism generally, can protect some blue-collar jobs — but at a steep price: A Peterson Institute for International Economics study concludes that it costs taxpayers $250,000 annually for each job saved in a protected industry. And lots of white-collar jobs are created for lawyers seeking waivers from the rules. And for accountants tabulating U.S. content in this and that, when, say, an auto component might cross international borders (U.S., Canadian, Mexican) five times before it is ready for installation in a vehicle.
In the usual braying-and-pouting choreography of the State of the Union evening, members of the president’s party leap ecstatically when he praises himself, and members of the other party respond sullenly, by not responding. This year, however, something unusual happened when President Biden vowed to “require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in America.” A bipartisan ovation greeted his promise to reduce the purchasing power of tax dollars spent on infrastructure projects by raising the cost of materials.
This will mean more borrowing, not fewer projects. Federal spending is not constrained by a mere shortage of revenue. So, Biden was promising to increase the deficit. And this policy, which elicited red-and-blue bonhomie in the State of the Union audience, also will give other nations an excuse to retaliate (often doing what they want to do anyway) by penalizing U.S. exporters of manufactured goods.
Washington lobbyists for both will prosper. Remember Solyndra, the Obama administration’s industrial policy pratfall? Before its bankruptcy, this renewable energy company gorged itself on $535 million in federal funds. And spent almost $1.8 million on lobbyists.
Progressives lament what they call America’s “market fundamentalism.” Sensible people say: Would that this were real. Populists will note that Buy American is popular. It is that, and it also is proof that polarization can be ameliorated by the bipartisan appeal of a bad idea.
None of this would have been possible outside of a liberal free market society. Creations like Peanuts are an essential part of human flourishing. As a great Western philosopher once said, “Man does not live by bread alone.” Our material needs are essential, of course. But humanity needs more to live a full life. We need the imagination of Snoopy. We need the romance of Sally in pursuit of her beloved “Babboo,” Linus. We need the joys of success and the lessons of defeat on the baseball field with Charlie Brown.
For humanity to flourish, we must be free to explore our full selves. Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gave us that every day for 50 years, and it would never have happened without the free market.
Similarly, FTC employees in confidential government surveys have twice awarded Ms. Khan low marks for “honesty and integrity.” She continues to override staff recommendations and double down on losing legal strategies that earn her one courtroom rebuke after another, most recently with a judge tossing out her antitrust suit against Meta…. In my discussions with current and recent FTC officials, they describe Ms. Khan as a Machiavellian who muddies transparent processes and trashes precedent by announcing surprise policy reversals.
Sen. Chuck Schumer argues in favor of a regulation explicitly allowing retirement-fund managers to include environmental, social and governance objectives as investment criteria, maintaining that ESG factors “minimize risk and maximize their clients’ returns” (“Republicans Ought to Be All for ESG,” op-ed, March 1). Oh, please. ESG criteria, among which are disinvestment from industries purportedly contributing to the climate “crisis,” charitable donations to community (leftist) groups, and identity-group representation on corporate boards, are necessarily political. They allow fund managers to substitute their political preferences in place of the fiduciary interests of plan participants under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that the insertion of nonpecuniary investment criteria imposes a substantial penalty over time in terms of realized returns. This isn’t surprising: The criteria impose artificial constraints on investment choices. Far from being a way to “let the market work,” ESG in reality is the most recent version of the timeless game of “Other People’s Money.”
Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
Long Beach, Wash.
Of the dozen young conservative voters Reason interviewed at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a significant majority voiced waning support for free market values, instead favoring regulation, protectionism, and cultural war zeal to battle abortion, “wokeness” in schools, “cancel culture,” and globalism.
Shunning the free market in favor of protectionist policies and government regulation is increasingly popular on the left and the right. “At a time of polarization, you might expect the right to react by doubling down on support for free markets and private property,” wrote Stephanie Slade in Reason‘s October 2022 issue. “Instead, concurrent with democratic socialism’s ascendance, many prominent conservatives have taken a leftward turn of their own.”
With the current culture war continuing to heat up, a commitment to free market economic policy seems to be losing its allure for many young conservatives. When protectionism can be levied to achieve culture war ends, it seems all the more attractive.
While several others on that call were also trying to aid the understanding of the data, the message was clear – the Government was about to lock down again, based on the wrong information.
I couldn’t help but think that the public won’t forgive you when they find out they are being fed a narrative of fear based on untruths.
But nothing changed. By Saturday night, the Downing Street press conference went ahead. “Unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day,” said the PM. The second lockdown was announced that evening.
I’ve had many sleepless nights during the pandemic as I’ve wrestled with how to get an evidence-based approach to the Government.
But by the morning, I realised the advisers weren’t listening. A fixed ideology had rooted itself at the heart of Downing Street. The data was there to support the policy – it didn’t matter if it was incorrect, so long as it supported the lockdown.
In the name of suppressing ‘disinformation’ the American government violated the free speech rights of America’s citizens. Scientist bureaucrats used this power to create an illusion of concensus in covid science that did not exist.