≡ Menu

Some Links

The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal reflects on the ominous verdict against Trump. Here’s the Editorial Board’s conclusion:

The conviction sets a precedent of using legal cases, no matter how sketchy, to try to knock out political opponents, including former Presidents. Mr. Trump has already vowed to return the favor. If Democrats felt like cheering Thursday when the guilty verdict was read, they should think again. Mr. Bragg might have opened a new destabilizing era of American politics, and no one can say how it will end.

Jacob Sullum argues that “Trump’s conviction suggests jurors bought the prosecution’s dubious ‘election fraud’ narrative.”

National Review‘s Jeffrey Blehar is, I fear, correct in this prediction:

Donald Trump has now been convicted of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records pursuant to an extremely dubious legal theory, and will be sentenced on July 11, a mere four days before the Republican National Convention begins in Milwaukee. And if you think you know what happens next, you are wildly overconfident. Perhaps Joe Biden and Democrats will be hit with an electoral backlash as voters turn away in disgust at what was — regardless of one’s opinion of Trump — an appallingly politicized prosecution in every single respect. Or perhaps suburban women will be reminded why they have always loathed Donald Trump (e.g., he is a horrible human being who cheated on his wife with a porn star and then sought to cover it up), and Trump will once again narrowly lose. Down either road lies madness, but madness is once again the only option on offer for Americans in November.

Either way, we will now discover what unsightly horrors are preparing to scuttle out of a Pandora’s box that, once opened, can never be shut again. And Republicans head into 2024 with the possibility of fumbling a presidential election that would have been easily won by nearly anyone not named Donald Trump.

Arnold Kling makes the case that Jews should “get past their Christophobia.”

My intrepid Mercatus Center colleague, Veronique de Rugy, wonders why politicians of all stripes aren’t more worried than they seem to be. A slice:

For instance, the CBO highlights that if the labor force grows annually by just 0.1 fewer percentage points than originally projected—even if the unemployment rate stays the same—slower economic growth will lead to a deficit $142 billion larger than baseline projections between 2025 and 2034. A similarly small slowdown in the productivity rate would lead to an added deficit of $304 billion over that period.

Back in 2020, the prevalent theory among those who claimed we shouldn’t worry about debt was that interest rates were remarkably low and would stay low forever. As if. These guys have since learned what many of us have known for years: that interest rates can and will go up when the situation gets bad enough. So, what happens if rates continue to rise above and beyond those CBO used in its projections? Even a minuscule 0.1-point rise above the baseline would produce an additional $324 billion on the deficit over the 2025-2034 period.

Among the latest contributions to the Cato Institute’s important Defending Globalization project is Jeb Hensarling’s “The Conservative Case for Globalization.” Three slices:

Many self‐​styled conservative talking heads and members of Congress are calling for industrial policy, forms of wage and price controls, and new federal agencies to police free speech. Such positions have historically been anathema to the conservative movement and should remain so. Along with these issues, there is likely no other issue more timely or relevant to the question of just who is—and what is—a conservative than the issue of globalized free trade.

To settle the question of who may legitimately claim the title of “conservative” today, a quick reminder of the movement’s origins and evolution and their relation to trade is helpful. Although admittedly there is no universally held definition of conservatism, there have been broadly recognized and accepted core principles, as well a proud historical lineage. The English parliamentarian and philosopher Edmund Burke is generally recognized as the father of conservatism. Burke, throughout his career, advocated for freer trade. He understood that trade is not a zero‐​sum game between countries. In supporting reduced trade barriers between Britain and Ireland, Burke argued, “The prosperity which arises from an enlarged and liberal system improves all of its objects; and the participation of trade with flourishing Countries is much better than a monopoly of want and penury.”


Free marketers largely reject the interventionist critique but do acknowledge the potential need for security‐​related protectionism and industrial policy. Adam Smith explained in The Wealth of Nations that one of the “two cases in which it will generally be advantageous to lay some burden upon foreign for the encouragement of domestic industry” is “when some particular sort of industry is necessary for the defence of the country.“ Smith noted that Great Britain’s military, for example, needed to maintain “the number of its sailors and shipping” and therefore supported measures to promote the domestic shipping industry at the expense of domestic consumers or other countries. Two centuries later, Milton and Rose Friedman noted that while “the argument that a thriving domestic steel industry, for example, is needed for defense … is more often a rationalization for particular tariffs than a valid reason for them, it cannot be denied that on occasion it might justify the maintenance of otherwise uneconomical productive facilities.“ To this day, stalwart defenders of open trade and free markets permit a “national security” exception to those policies.

However, these same scholars are quick to limit the national security exception. After granting the “defence” basis for Britain’s Navigation Acts, for example, Smith explained that it arose during a time of “violent animosity” between Britain and Holland—not merely in expectation of such hostilities—and was specifically needed to reduce “the naval power of Holland, the only naval power which could endanger the security of England.” He added that it would “very seldom” be “reasonable” to pursue such protectionism (“to tax the industry of the great body of the people” so as not “to depend upon our neighbors for the supply”).

The Friedmans were more direct (and skeptical): “To go beyond this statement of possibility and establish in a specific case that a tariff or other trade restriction is justified in order to promote national security, it would be necessary to compare the cost of achieving the specific security objective in alternative ways and establish at least a prima facie case that a tariff is the least costly way. Such cost comparisons are seldom made in practice.“ Contemporary economists and free marketers have reiterated such concerns: “Given the negative impact of tariffs on wealth, when they are proposed, even under the national defense justification, they should be carefully examined to see if there is a true national defense issue or if domestic firms are merely justifying tariffs for protection from competition.“


Today, most blue‐​collar workers work in services, not manufacturing, and their greatest concern is not the loss of their job due to foreign competition, it is the loss of buying power from a paycheck that has shrunk in the face of historic inflation. I doubt many so‐​called elites shop at Walmart, but many working people certainly do. If a customer buys a Zebco fishing rod there it has been produced in China, and if they pick up a pair of Cowboy Cut Wrangler jeans, they’ll likely have come from Bangladesh. Although Walmart doesn’t like to advertise the fact, it remains the nation’s largest importer, with its shelves stocked with tons of foreign‐​produced goods that help working families make ends meet. Tariffs wouldn’t bring back manufacturing jobs that produce fishing rods or blue jeans; they’d only make those products more expensive.

Closely related to the working‐​class harm argument is the loss of manufacturing jobs argument that others refer to as a “hollowing out” of the industrial heartland. Indeed, manufacturing employment as a percentage of the workforce has decreased dramatically over the past several decades. But contrary to popular belief, those jobs have not been lost to hamburger‐​flipping jobs but instead to transportation, warehousing, construction, health care, tech, communications, finance, and other service‐​oriented parts of our economy—industries that benefit from open trade and whose jobs pay far more than those in low‐​skill manufacturing. America’s comparative advantages in these industries is one of the reasons why we are the world’s number‐​one exporter of services and continuously run a services trade surplus.

The dominant factor in the loss of domestic manufacturing jobs is not foreign competition but instead productivity. For example, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute, it took 10.1 hours to produce a ton of steel in 1980; today it takes only 1.5 hours. There may be fewer manufacturing workers today, but because of productivity gains, they are better compensated. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the median income of the remaining US blue‐​collar manufacturing jobs has increased 50 percent in real inflation‐​adjusted terms between 1960 and 2019.

The reality is that tariffs harm most manufacturing jobs. Relatively open trade is vital for manufacturing and our defense industrial base. As the Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome and Alfredo Carrillo Obregon document, around half of all goods imported are in fact intermediate goods, raw materials, and capital equipment used for domestic manufacturing. For example, many pipeline manufacturing companies import specialty casing that is necessary for oil and gas pipelines. Taxing these imports hurts workers at these companies or, if the higher costs are passed on, their energy‐​producing customers. How ironic for any conservative to call for an “all of the above” energy policy (one that supports the development and deployment of every form of energy) yet support making hydrocarbons more difficult and expensive to produce.

We could strengthen domestic manufacturing, the defense industrial base, and our energy sector by unilaterally eliminating tariffs on intermediate inputs, raw materials, and capital equipment. Doing that would truly put America first.