Is the "Free Market" Tea Party Anti-Trade?


At the reacent 9/12 Tea Party rally in Washington, D.C., documented by here, I asked dozens of protesters if they supported free trade and if they believed, to employ the loaded language of protectionism, that too many American jobs were being being "shipped overseas." Not one person I spoke with, in a crowd of people offering paeans to the free market, would offer an even qualified defense of free trade, instead worrying that American industry was being "shipped to China and India." Now the dispiriting anecdotal evidence of 9/12 is backed up an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll:

While 65 percent of union members say free trade has hurt the U.S., so do 61 percent of Tea Party sympathizers. Democratic pollster Peter Hart and his Republican counterpart Bill McInturff, who conduct the NBC/WSJ poll, say the greatest shift against free trade has come among relatively affluent Americans, or those earning more than $75,000 a year.

In 2009, spoke with Columbia University professor Jagdish Bhagwati (who was name-checked on The Simpsons this week, incidentally) about Obama, free trade, and globalization.

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  1. I guess this is the Sarah Palin wing of the Tea Party: nativist and church worshippping.

  2. Sadly, the mercantilist view of trade - that exports are good but imports are bad - is prevalent throughout most of the world.

    I suspect that even a poll taken among college graduates would show more than 50% opposed to free trade.

    1. That's the point. This is not a knock on Tea Partiers. They're no worse than, and even slightly better than (although maybe not reaching statistical significance0 the avg. respondent.

      People here need to remember the proper yardstick for trends & politics: comparison not to the ideal in your head, but to the avg.

      1. It is a knock on them if you had held out any hope that they are actually for free markets.

      2. Of course it is a knock about a movement thats pretends to support small government and free markets

        1. Do they have to support every single thing about small gov't & free markets, or is it "pretending" if they deviate in the area of int'l trade -- and deviate only to the same degree as the avg. popul'n?

          1. Do they have to support every single thing about small gov't & free markets, or is it "pretending" if they deviate in the area of int'l trade -- and deviate only to the same degree as the avg. popul'n?

            From my perspective, it has nothing to do with ideological purity, but a complete lack of understanding of economics. Simply regurgitating the phrase "free markets" doesn't mean one understands what the hell that means. And from the history of the Republican/conservative movement, it only means "lower taxes".

            The Republican usurpation of the term "free markets" has done enormous damage to the concept, because the average person associates Republican administrations as "free market" periods and all problems during such times as being due to "the free market". Any Leftist will tell you that the recent financial crisis was directly to the "unregulated, free market" that the Bush administration reigned over. Total BS, but said enough times and the average fool accepts it.

    2. As a recent college graduate, I unfortunately agree with this.

      For some reason I couldn't convince them that Michigan could solve all of its problems by closing its borders to trade, though. Odd.

  3. If there's an anti-immigration streak in the Tea Party (which evidence suggests there is) then by definition, yes, they're anti-trade.

  4. Stupid populism.

  5. and this is why Lou Dobbs is speaking at the VA tax party convention.

    1. Dobbs is a moron.

      1. I agree. But a lot of people - a lot of tea party people - buy his schtick.

  6. When we're dealing with a group where everybody has either seen their job go overseas or knows someone who has done so, they're going to say "that ain't right!" if not "something ought to be done!"

    This is not terribly surprising.

  7. Is the "Free Market" Tea Party Anti-Trade?

    Almost certainly.

    We can only hope that they keep dancing only with the one that brung them: smaller government.

  8. So the Tea Party's laser beam focus is fiscal conservatism, primarily less government intervention in the marketplace... except for when it comes to buying or selling?

    Got it, makes perfect sense.

    1. Think of it as their policy tendency regarding business conducted entirely within the USA -- which a lot of it is.

      1. That's comforting.

  9. Huge tarrifs. That's the ticket.

    1. Brilliant, recession solved! All we need to do is lock down the borders and stop trading with those damn foreigners who steal our jobs. After all, it's worked so well for North Korea.

    2. I think this is one of those questions that will get a different answer depending on how it's asked. My hunch is that if you'd asked the question, "Do you support tariffs on imports?", you'd see a totally different result than "Are too many American jobs being shipped overseas?"


    What gets lost in the forest for the trees, is that trade (or trade with China) is really such a small part of GDP.
    The reference is a little old, but I believe the trade deficit with China is still in the realm of 2-4%.
    If one assumes that we blocked all trade from China (and did not replace it with trade from Korea, Vietnam, and Indonesia) and we got that 2-4%...well, whether that would directly translate to 2-4% real income growth is tenuous, and even if it what? Sure, I can buy more pizza and beer, but I'm not gonna buy a Florida condo based on that. Or a new car. Or be able to retire early...

    1. You probably don't want a Florida condo anyways. Florida sucks and home insurance premiums are a bitch.

  11. Yet more evidence that libertarians should remain skeptical of the TPers... and also more evidence that libertarians will remain a limited minority in politics.

    1. I believe someone said it before...

      doom... Dooom....DOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!

    2. Re: MWG,

      [...]and also more evidence that libertarians will remain a limited minority in politics.

      Only because Americans are still too enamored of fascism.

      1. You are correct.

      2. But Americans are less enamored of fascism than just about everyone else around the world, so why single out Americans in the comment?

        1. Probably because OM, regardless of his name, is an American... that and we're talking about the Tea Partiers.

          If Moynihan was writing about social democracy in western Europe, then I could see your point.

  12. stupid poll question. since when has there been free trade. more likely the headline could read "Is the Free Market Tea Party Anti-Existing f'up US Trade Policy?
    Let's see, blanket our industries with all kinds of f'up regulations and taxes, and then ask the average jerk on the street if he thinks jobs going overseas is a result of free trade?

  13. Senator Bernie Sanders (socialist) Vermont, Tea Party fave?

    Stop Outsourcing Now!

    Bernie is leading a campaign to stop outsourcing American jobs to low-wage countries overseas. "We've got to tell corporate America that if they want us to buy the products they produce, they've got to start manufacturing those products here in the United States," Bernie told a Capitol Hill press conference on Tuesday. On MSNBC, Bernie reminded Ed Schultz that "during the Bush years, alone, we lost 30 percent of our manufacturing jobs." The number of U.S. factory workers plunged from 17 million to about 12 million, fewer than at any time since before World War II.

    1. On MSNBC, Bernie reminded Ed Schultz that "during the Bush years, alone, we lost 30 percent of our manufacturing jobs." The number of U.S. factory workers plunged from 17 million to about 12 million, fewer than at any time since before World War II.

      And yet manufacturing output and revenue grew higher and higher the whole time.

      The effect of automation on manufacturing jobs is an order of magnitude greater than the effect of outsourcing on manufacturing jobs.

      If you want more US manufacturing jobs, you'll have to smash the machines. And if you want people in Vermont making T-shirts, I suspect you'll have to import them from Latin America.

  14. Fear and despise immigrants? Check.

    Hate free trade? Check.

    Rally to theocons like flies to shit? Check.

    Get a big boner over a huge military for the empire? Check.

    And so on.

    Yet apologists here will still slobber over themselves to tell us how important these cretins are for "libertarianism". This disgusting self-debasement reminds me most of when 60s liberals fell over themselves to embrace the New Left, since it had the balls to challenge the war, and Nixon, and so forth.

    Where is our Tom Wolfe? Not on the Reason staff, apparently.

    1. If you want a mass movement to help inch society fractionally towards liberty, the tea parties are the only game in town. It's sad but it's the reality.

      You going to go with the Fawning Obamanoids? The Condescending Class? The Victimarians? The Don't Take My Handouts Away Club?

      1. Oh yeah, they'll promote "liberty".

        Jesus H. Delusional Christ.

    2. OK, smarty pants, then who is important for libertarianism? And who should '60s liberals have embraced?

      1. 1st question: I don't know, perhaps no one right now. Is that some excuse to delude ourselves on the issue.

        2nd question: Ask George McGovern.

    3. Okay, we get it, you jack off to your own jaded views. Boring and ineffectual, but all too typical.

  15. If you find this news dispiriting, Moynihan, you are the most naive fucker who ever called himself a libertarian.

  16. I love to ask people who think America's problem is outsourcing if their state's economic problems are that too many jobs are in another state. If they answer no, they are almost certainly just being nativist.

    But the best is this: "America will collapse because we import more than we export." Really? If imports destroy your economy what would happen to an "exporting" America when all its places for import imploded?

    1. People who worry about trade deficits are idiots. I have a trade deficit with the grocery store, restaurants, the local menswear store, electronics stores, and so on. All of those trade deficits make me better off, not worse off. Keynesian dimwits think that the rules of economics are completely reversed when we go from micro to macro level. It makes no sense.

  17. I think it funny that people suggest no businessman would ever "Go Galt."

    I have news for you - in the real world, when legislation and taxes become too oppressive, businessmen don't take their money and go home to Galt's Gulch; they go to China.

  18. While 65 percent of union members say free trade has hurt the U.S., so do 61 percent of Tea Party sympathizers.

    Just to show you how pervasive economic ignorance is in America...

    ... and mostly everywhere else.

    ASk Californians if "free trade" with Texas has hurt the economy of California. Under the same protectionist arguments, there should be no economic difference between "shipping jobs overseas," and shipping them to Texas, or Oklahoma.

    1. Considering how TX is doing in the recession vs. how CA is doing, you may actually find some Californians supporting that hypothesis 😉

      1. If only we could build a border fence across I-10 west of El Paso to keep all those illegal Californians from takin' our jerbs...

    2. "Buy Local" is very big in California.

  19. As with most articles reporting poll results, they completely hide the actual questions. Here they are...

    From what you know, do you think that free trade agreements between the United States and other countries help to create more jobs in the U.S., or do you think they cost the U.S jobs?

    In general, do you think that free trade agreements between the United States and foreign countries have helped the United States, have hurt the United States, or have not made much of a difference either way?

    This is about free trade agreements, not about free trade.

    This distinction, and the thought that the agreement is what is important, utterly exemplifies the bankruptcy of economic understanding among pollsters and journalists.

    1. If it was an essay question, here is how I would answer:

      Free trade agreements cost the US jobs and hurt the US relative to free trade without agreements. Furthermore, the fact that legislators and administrators must bicker and horsetrade in order to get agreements signed is nothing but harmful to the US, filling those agreements with restrictions and holding the agreements hostage to petty rent seeking.

      The US would be far better off if there were no free trade agreements because the government had no power to restrict trade in the first place.

      That said, free trade agreements leave the US better off than what you, stupid pollster, think the alternative is.

  20. Not at all surprising. Down here in Houston near the Johnson Space Center, there is a large Tea Party movement, but they're very much against Obama's supposed plan to stop funding NASA. Pathetic.

  21. Hey, I would rather American jobs not go overseas. It doesn't mean I want the United States to enact protectionist policies.

    1. I've got to challenge that they are "American" jobs to begin with. If they can be done by anyone, then they are just "jobs".

      If we want these jobs to migrate back to the US so they can be done by Americans, then we need to do that job better, faster, and CHEAPER than the other guys. There's no other way it's going to happen.

    2. I would very much rather "American" jobs go overseas if it means Americans can do higher valued jobs.

      And that is not because I am biased toward Americans. It's because that's the best path to wealth both for Americans and for non-Americans.

      1. This. Even if I hate China's politics, I sure don't feel bad for the millions of Chinese no longer living in poverty or depending on subsistence farming to survive.

  22. This is about free trade agreements, not about free trade.

    Jesus H. This.

    As always when the teacrackaz are involved, Moynihan, you lie. It's sad how well it goes over, but...oh well.


  23. I think trying to read the Tea Party is getting to be like the uncertainty principle--the more we try to get a read on any one tea leaf, the less we understand everything else about it.

    It's a populist movement made up of disaffected swing voters that sprang into existence during a down economy...

    Chances are that most people aren't high on free trade right now--what does the Tea Party have to do with that?

    If Obama manages to strike a free trade deal with South Korea, it'll probably be the first thing I think he's done right, but it wouldn't be enough to change my opinion of him. My guess is that how anybody feels about free trade isn't about to change the opinion of many people in the Tea Party either.

    But why does it matter what the Tea Party thinks about free trade anyway?

    1. If it was JUST free trade, perhaps not much. But it goes beyond that, over and over. And it matters--here--because delusional Reasonoids continue to invest themselves in this shitty proposition.

      1. Awww, but you've got the answers, right? Vote Libertarian?

  24. I haven't heard any coherent strategy from the Tea Party on free trade a.k.a. global labor arbitrage yet. The TP has to stay quiet on free trade just long enough to string along the Chamber of Commerce GOP. Then they have two years to exploit the unemployment situation, foreclosure-gate or the next crisis to turn against the surviving zombie banks and revive Glass Steigel. For now, the anti-NAFTA, close-the-Fed, arrest Bernake narrative exists within the paleo-con/conspiracist wing. While overtly protectionist legislation may not survive committee, Chinese industry can be easily de-stabilized asymetrically (Obama having White House dinner with the Dalai Lama for example, or siding with China's neighbors in maritime disputes or translating 1900's anarchist tracts for the Chinese audience to incite labor unrest, etc.); Chinese supply chains can be made unreliable with political uncertainty and social unrest. The more belligerent Beijing gets, the more difficult it is for legislators to justify free trade. The US cannot make multinational companies willingly step away from global labor arbitrage but we can create chaotic conditions were capital will flee to safety and re-industrialize in America: collapse of exchange rates, non-confidence in off-shore banking and sovereign debt default. This may buy us a few years of recovery but if we don't get our own Social Security/Medicare/Pension situation in order, global capital will divest again to Brazil, India, Indonesia or wherever.

  25. I am a Tea Party leader and I am with Hans Hoppe on this. Free trade means I sell to whom I wish, where I wish and I can buy from whom I wish where I wish. Free trade does not require BS like NAFTA. That is really just a big list of handouts and favors. NAFTA is a Mercantilist agreement, not a Free Trade agreement.

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