Economic Nationalism

Conservative Economic Nationalism Is Not as Popular as People Think

Even supporters of Donald Trump think foreign trade and free markets are good for America.


This article originally appeared at Public Discourse

If there's one thing the "post-liberal" conservatives can agree on, it's that 2016 should have been a wake-up call for the Republican Party. According to the new conventional wisdom within the conservative movement, Donald Trump's shocking electoral victory four years ago represented a blue-collar economic revolt against GOP elites, who had lost touch with their base. Rural and small-town Americans, disillusioned with the globally integrated modern economy, were desperate for a hand up. Trump alone noticed, and they rewarded him with their energetic support.

These basic assumptions undergird a push by many conservative commentators—and a concomitant pivot by a number of Republican officials—to reimagine the GOP as the party of workers, comfortable with much more direct government intervention into the economy than ever before. As Florida Sen. Marco Rubio put it in a 2019 speech, "Our challenge is an economic order that is bad for America." As columnist David Brooks wrote last year, "over the long term, some version of Working-Class Republicanism will redefine the G.O.P."

The post-liberals take great satisfaction in labeling the libertarian economic agenda of open trade, low taxes, and deregulation with sneering epithets like "zombie Reaganism" and "market fundamentalism." They are persuaded that voters overwhelmingly share their disdain for the free market economic regime. The empirical evidence for that belief, though, has always been thinner than they appreciate. To the extent that the Trump coalition was unified and energized by anything, survey data suggest that it was cultural issues, not economic ones.

A New Nationalism Emerges

In an August 2020 essay for The New York Times, Brooks explored three possible paths forward for Republicans. Notably, he insisted that each option begins with the Trumpian presumptions that "the free market is not working well" and "economic libertarianism is not the answer." He's not alone. Both money and attention have been lining up behind a new conservative nationalist element in the last few years. In July 2019, a multi-day conference convened in Washington, D.C., to hash out a better conservative economic program. As I reported at the time:

Practically speaking, the nationalist agenda is largely focused on the need for a federal "industrial policy." For Breitbart's John Carney, that means tariffs, and lots of them. Americans need to be willing to pay higher prices to protect the jobs of their fellow citizens, according to [activist David] Brog. For American Affairs founder Julius Krein, "protectionism is not sufficient. . . . It's not radical enough." The Manhattan Institute's Oren Cass laid out a plan involving research and development subsidies, infrastructure investments, preferential tax rates for favored firms, punitive taxes on companies that move jobs overseas, "trade enforcement" to make other countries play according to our rules, and more. "We should have a National Institutes of Manufacturing just as we have a National Institutes of Health," he said.

It's true, of course, that President Trump was a free trader's nightmare, surrounding himself with radical protectionists and slapping import levies on goods not just from China but from many of our closest allies, often with devastating effects. He also embraced a sort of economic strongmanism in which a president may dictate business decisions to private companies and use the full arsenal of federal powers to compel their submission—you know, for the common good. All of this is pretty far from the libertarian economic ideal.

At the same time, the Trump years saw one of the largest tax cuts in American history, alongside some noteworthy efforts to roll back the federal regulatory burden—two archetypally Reaganite policy moves. More to the point, these years also saw mixed support—at best—for top-down management of the economy.

Broad Support for Free Enterprise

The new economic nationalists posit that, to remain competitive, the Republican Party must learn from 2016 and jettison its crippling commitment to economic libertarianism. Yet public polling suggests that America is still a country of people who broadly support free enterprise. In the fall of 2019, Gallup found that just 28 percent of Americans (and just 7 percent of GOPers) think there is too little government regulation of business and industry. But a desire for greater oversight of market actors—stronger fetters, if you will—is at the core of the nationalist alternative that people like Cass are articulating.

Pollsters also found support for foreign trade increasing over the course of the Trump presidency. According to Pew Research Center, the proportion of Americans who thought free trade agreements have been a good thing for the country jumped from 45 percent in 2016 to 65 percent in 2019. According to Gallup, 58 percent of Americans said in February 2016 that free trade represented an opportunity for increased economic growth, compared to 34 percent who saw it as a threat to the American economy. Three years later, 74 percent said it was an opportunity (a 16-percentage-point increase), compared to 21 percent who saw it as a threat (a 13-percentage-point decline).

These numbers all predate the COVID-19 crisis. Amid a once-in-a-century event, it should come as no surprise that support for emergency spending would be sky-high across the board—and so it is. Still, recent data reinforce the supposition that something other than broad disapproval of limited government and free market capitalism animates today's Republican coalition. A January survey commissioned by the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) found that only 35 percent of 2020 Trump voters thought the United States should reduce trade with foreign countries. Meanwhile, 93 percent agreed that "government doesn't create wealth; people and businesses do." Again, these figures are among self-identifying Trump supporters. Ask yourself: Does this sound like a cohort mobilized primarily by disgust with "zombie Reaganism"?

While the evidence is mostly anecdotal at this point, it has even been posited—including in the left-wing Mother Jones—that the Democratic Party's socialist turn explains the unexpected gains for Trump in places like South Florida last year. Where there are sizable pockets of immigrants from countries with less than rosy experiences of state-controlled economic systems, people may have shifted toward Trump out of a last-ditch desire for relatively more economic freedom.

Cultural Anxieties Are the Real Driver

There was always good reason to suspect that cultural anxieties, far more than economic anxieties, were driving support for Trump. His success was indeed evidence of a backlash. But voters, rather than retaliating against supposedly stale GOP talking points on NAFTA, likely were acting on something more primal: a strong feeling that people like them are under attack from powerful cultural institutions in America. Under such conditions, it is tempting to conclude that extreme medicine is warranted.

This sense of being besieged is epitomized by two issue categories that every journalist and congressional staffer knows garner disproportionate, and disproportionately passionate, attention from the public: the perceived dual threats of runaway political correctness and legal assaults on religious liberty.

Immediately following the 2016 election, Reason's Robby Soave drew attention to the former phenomenon. "Ever since Donald Trump became a serious threat to win the GOP presidential primaries," he wrote, "I have warned that a lot of people, both on campus and off it, were furious about political-correctness-run-amok—so furious that they would give power to any man who stood in opposition to it." Soave acknowledged the phrase is difficult to define but argued that "the segment of the electorate who flocked to Trump because he positioned himself as 'an icon of irreverent resistance to political correctness' think it means this: smug, entitled, elitist, privileged leftists jumping down the throats of ordinary folks who aren't up-to-date on the latest requirements of progressive society."

On the religious liberty front, I too speak from experience. After four years of writing about the Obama administration's efforts to make evangelical Christian colleges pay for their employees' birth control, state and city governments' efforts to forbid wedding vendors from opting out of same-sex marriage celebrations, and the ACLU's efforts to force Catholic hospitals to provide elective abortions and gender transition services, I had no trouble understanding why conservative voters might feel radicalized, even if I reacted with equal horror to the man they appointed to do something about it.

Last month's EPPC poll bears this theory out. While a mere 2 percent of Trump voters thought the federal government was too small, 89 percent said "Christianity is under attack in America today"; 90 percent said "Americans are losing faith in the ideas that make our country great"; and 92 percent said "the mainstream media today is just a part of the Democratic Party." Only 20 percent agreed that "white people have an advantage in today's America because of their skin color," while a staggering 87 percent were worried that "discrimination against whites will increase a lot in the next few years."

Here, not on economic questions, is the overwhelming consensus. Many Republicans—and even some non-Republicans—feel that people who look like them and believe what they do have been unjustly branded as enemies by Hollywood, academia, the mainstream media, and the tech sector. More than a few of them are prepared to strike back in any way they can.

A quick aside: It's clear that most Trump supporters are highly skeptical of immigration. The EPPC poll found, for instance, that 86 percent support building a wall on America's southern border, 89 percent support a federal requirement that employers verify their workers are here legally, and 65 percent think the United States should reduce the number of people it allows to come here from abroad. What's less clear is the extent to which these views are rooted in cultural concerns (e.g., a fear that white Americans are being replaced by ethnic minorities) or economic ones (e.g., a fear that an influx of workers are driving down wages). Although I suspect the latter concerns are often used as cover for the former, the data are not particularly clear on this point.

Against Grievance Politics

History books are full of reasons to be exceedingly nervous when identity-based grievance politics finds a foothold in your country. This is no less true when it happens on the right, among "regular folks," than when it happens on the left, among "historically disadvantaged groups." It's also just as true when, as is virtually always the case, there's some validity to the underlying grievance.

I think many conservative elites know that cultural resentment has the potential to take the Republican Party in an ugly direction. That's why so many of them cling to the alternative explanation: It wasn't racism or misogyny that was motivating Trump voters! It was righteous anger that their government hasn't done more to protect them from the ravages of globalization!

Cass and the other new conservative nationalists are trying to offer a constructive policy agenda that reflects this alternative story. But in doing so, they're building on a foundation of sand. The data just don't support the idea that most Republicans reject free markets or free trade. And the further the GOP moves in a big-government, economically interventionist direction, the more it risks losing fusionists like me.

If the 2016 election was a wake-up call, it was for the left, not the right—a warning to the Democratic Party that dabblings in socialism and critical theory are suited to college dorm rooms, not the national political stage. We saw in 2016 that pushing past the electoral center of gravity will provoke a backlash you probably won't much like.

Now that I think of it, that might be a lesson both sides need to hear.

NEXT: DoorDash Customer Fees Go Up Thanks To Dumb Regulations

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  1. Free enterprise, as long as you do it the way government says.

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  2. So, the US should have traded with Germany until 1942?

    1. Americans who understand and appreciate free trade voted for a leader who wasn’t beholden to extra-special interests and wouldn’t hold them back… thus asking for a hand up.

      It’s a pig-ignorant reinterpretation of history and conservatism to arrive at a narrative. A narrative that, in the last sentence to couple of paragraphs, Slade admits could be more broadly explored and delivered.

      1. “He’s not hurting the right people.” – Actual Trump voter.

        It was always about culture war grievances. Most people who voted for trump can’t spell “economics”, let alone make decisions based on it.

        Did you bother to read the article?

        ‘Last month’s EPPC poll bears this theory out. While a mere 2 percent of Trump voters thought the federal government was too small, 89 percent said “Christianity is under attack in America today”; 90 percent said “Americans are losing faith in the ideas that make our country great”; and 92 percent said “the mainstream media today is just a part of the Democratic Party.” Only 20 percent agreed that “white people have an advantage in today’s America because of their skin color,” while a staggering 87 percent were worried that “discrimination against whites will increase a lot in the next few years.”‘

        1. That day — “90 percent said Americans are losing faith in the ideas that make (actually define) our country great (The U.S. Constitution)” took on a perception as being a “culture war grievance”…

          And THAT is the problem here in the USA; Full-On Democracy Nazi’s have polluted the VERY definition of the USA and pretending it was a Nazi (def; National Socialist) Country instead of the USA.

        2. “Most people who voted for trump can’t spell “economics”, let alone make decisions based on it”

          It’s snooty invective like this against the “base canaille” that demonstrates why the plebs don’t trust the left.

          1. He only respects people who fake valor.

          2. Invective is only the symptom

        3. Eggs actly. Everyone missed this. Culture is more important to people than anything. It’s more necessary for some people’s comfort than all the money in the world.

          Until they bitch and whine for two years and then get over it.

          I say let conservatives have their freakouts, and then promptly ignore everything they care about, since it won’t matter in a few months once we get used to the idea of treating different types of people with humanity, or at the very most when the older, scareder generation dies off, as they always do.

          1. when the older, scareder generation dies off”

            I don’t think that there’s a “scareder” generation than the people who wail and pule about microaggressions, triggers, being othered, safe spaces, and misgendered personal pronouns.
            You know, your lot Tony.

            1. Tony is a good example of why we can’t have people like him in our country.

        4. Christianity IS under attack.
          Americans (real ones) ARE losing faith in the ideas that make our country great.
          The mainstream media IS just a part of the Democrat party.
          White people DON’T have an advantage in today’s America, because of their skin color.
          And discrimination against whites WILL increase a lot in the next few years.
          These are self evident truths. You use them as if one must be crazy to think them, when you, and your ilk, are the crazy ones.

          1. “Christianity IS under attack.”

            Methinks you doth protest too much on this one.

            If it really IS under attack, it’s like a flea attacking a cat.

            1. More like a leftist parasite consuming it from the inside.

              And that parasite was spread by the ticks and fleas of the left.

    2. Did the author say that?

      The actions of Germany in 1939 were quite a bit different than those of China today. Regardless, if cutting trade with China was so necessary and popular, then why go through the back-channels of executive order to do it?

      1. The actions of Germany in 1939 were quite a bit different than those of China today

        You’re right. Germany didn’t start putting people in concentration camps for another couple of years.

        1. They didn’t invade Poland until September.
          China still has another five months to keep building that invasion force sitting across the Taiwan strait before we’re allowed to say anything.

          1. If you don’t want to trade with China because of diplomatic reasons, then make that argument. Trump’s argument for tariffs was almost entirely in regards to US trade deficits, ie trying to bring back American manufacturing.

            By the way, he couldn’t make either argument. Which is why he had to go it alone through executive action on trade, with the exception of the USMCA. It turns out from this poll that even his base wasn’t duped for long on the benefits of free trade. The V-shaped response from 2016-2019 Republicans in the Pew link is pretty telling.

            1. “The US, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union last week ramped up pressure on China over the alleged Xinjiang abuses, imposing a coordinated set of sanctions on current and former Chinese officials. The action came weeks after the US government, and the Canadian and Dutch parliaments said China’s treatment of the Uighurs amounted to genocide”

              Even Chou Bai-den isn’t as big of a CCP shill as you and Reason are.
              They must have pictures of you and Charles Koch touching kids or something.

            2. Trump’s argument for tariffs was almost entirely in regards to US trade deficits

              Standard lie of ignorance.

              The primary thing he discussed, if you actually read his speeches and didn’t just pay attention to 5 second clips, was China’s theft of IP and market manipulation.

              Things you seem okay with even though you claim to be a free market person.

      2. China largely owns the democrats.

  3. that might be a lesson both sides need to hear.

    Weird, because you spent the entire article lecturing against just one side. Especially weird considering the magazine spent the last 4 years railing against that side such that it isn’t currently in power.

    1. Especially weird considering the magazine spent the last 4 years railing against that side such that it isn’t currently in power.

      Do you honestly believe that Reason had much of anything to do with the 2020 election outcome?

      1. If they would have been a real news organization they could have. There were PLENTY of ignored stories that had huge implications. But instead of reporting on any of them, they simply kept parroting the MSM lines. As one voice in an ocean of voices, they had very little effect as it was.

        1. They aren’t a news organization. Their publication is almost entirely opinion pieces.

          If they had the powers that you seem to think they have to influence elections, Gary Johnson and Jo Jorgensen might have had a better go at it as they had very positive coverage by Reason.

          1. Oh for fuck’s sake, your disingenuousness is grating.

            What the fuck is the point of publishing an opinion magazine and having a think tank if not to influence the national conversation.

            You gaslighters make me ill.

            1. I’m certainly not saying that Reason doesn’t want to influence the national conversation. I’m saying that they aren’t very effective at it. Back to your original quote (emphasis mine):

              Especially weird considering the magazine spent the last 4 years railing against that side such that it isn’t currently in power.

              Even if you believe that Reason has been railing entirely on one side, my argument is with the latter part of your statement. It’s disingenuous to believe that Reason has any substantial influence on the American electorate.

      2. I don’t think the CACLLs here think Reason has that much influence. They are just butt hurt that Reason didn’t shill for Trump.

        1. What is a CACLL?

          1. The White Knight
            October.22.2020 at 3:18 pm

            It means conservative and conservative-leaning libertarian, and I coined it.
            Is there a law in Canada that ordinary people aren’t allowed to coin acronyms. Here in the godamn USA we have freedom of speech.

            1. Coining your own acronym, hoping that people will adopt it, and give you that dopamine hit that you’ll never get, any other way? Wow, White Knight is sad.

        2. A pile of bullshit with a rose stuck in the top is not a garden regardless of who you vote for.

      3. Do you honestly believe that Reason had much of anything to do with the 2020 election outcome?

        Do you honestly believe this article addresses both sides equally?

        1. The topic is economic nationalism and the affect on the electorate. Only one side really seems to fit the bill here.

          Now if they wanted to expand to overall government involvement in central planning of economies, then sure… both sides deserve a lot of criticism with even more going to the Dems.

          1. The topic is economic nationalism and the affect on the electorate. Only one side really seems to fit the bill here.

            Right, “Build Back Better” is the campaign that won in 2020.

            Seriously, keep arguing. You aren’t dissuading anyone with your defense of yours (and Reason’s) own whataboutism.

            1. My whataboutism? You brought up Biden.

              That Biden seems to be for keeping all of the tariffs that your side promoted is a lot more telling about your position than mine.

              1. It isn’t. Trump’s tariffs were a tool to negotiate freer trade. Biden sees them as part of a permanent government managed trade plan.

                Not the same thing.

      4. 70% of voters didn’t know about many of the items SV and News organizations hid from them, just as the Hunter Biden laptop story. Likewise 5-10% said they would have changed their votes if they had known.

        1. And 0.007% of voters read Reason and would have changed their votes if they had known.

          1. I like how you are fine and dandy with ignoring corrupt media as long as just enough people don’t read something. Weirdly fine and dandy about it.

  4. Fuck Fuck the guy wearing the Habs jersey in the picture. Although I’m sure there are some backwards hillbillies in rural Quebec or other shithole parts of Canada who support Trump.

    Mother’s lament and his sister/wife is an example.

    1. Lol.

      1. Let me guess. You’re one of those lame canadians who doesn’t like hockey?

        1. could be a Loafs fan, hoser. take off.

          1. No Go Habs!

  5. free Trade yes but where is there free trade that is fair? most the rest of the world has barriers to American products. the same barriers Trump was trying to get removed to have real free trade.

    1. Trade barriers hurt the country which erects the barriers. If they have barriers, its just worse for them.

      1. This is so simplified as to not be a real argument.

        Currently the estimated costs of theft from China is greater than the accumulated tariffs against the importation of their products. That theft raises US manufacturing costs and lowers Chinese manufacturing costs.

        Your simplified world would say that this is okay because the consumer gets things cheaper. But you are forgetting the costs of investment and improvement.

        In the situation above a country without recourse would simply spend more on security than they would product improvement, so research and development are a negative externality of allowance of market theft.

        I really wish some of you would get past Econ 101 when arguing global trade. It’s a tad bit more complicated.

      2. Trade barriers prevent us from producing more product to export. Internal policies on immigration, wages, subsidization, welfare, taxes (private and corporate), and human rights affect production costs.

        If we can not find a market to export to, our industry dies or diminishes with lack of demand. If the cost of our domestic product can’t compete with the cost of the import, than our industry dies.

        It simply is not true that trade barriers only harm the country that has them.

    2. Nothing is fair. If we insist on waiting for things to be fair, we will always be waiting.

  6. “According to Pew Research Center, the proportion of Americans who thought free trade agreements have been a good thing for the country jumped from 45 percent in 2016 to 65 percent in 2019.”

    I would like to know the breakdown of that between Democrats and Republicans. because Democrats have historically been the ant-free trade party, but when Trump started supporting protectionism suddenly Democrats started loving free trade. Now that Trump is gone the party establishment is trying to pivot back to protectionism, and given how quickly the rank and file swung away from it as a knee-jerk reaction to Trump, they might swing back just as quick

    1. From the Pew link:

      For the first time since the 2016 campaign, more Republicans say free trade agreements have been a good thing for the United States than say they have been a bad thing. Today, 59% of Republicans and Republican leaners say free trade agreements have been a good thing for the country; 29% say they have been a bad thing. The current balance of opinion within the GOP is similar to views in the spring of 2015, when 56% said trade agreements were a good thing and 34% said they were a bad thing.

      Nearly three-quarters of Democrats and Democratic leaners (73%) now say free trade agreements are good for the country, up from 67% last spring. Democratic views of free trade agreements have long been more positive than negative, but they are now more positive than at any point since the question was first asked in 2009.

      Not perfectly clear that they are comparing over the same time periods, it seems like 3% increase for Republicans from 2015-2019, 6% increase for Democrats from 2018 (“last spring”?) to 2019.

      1. I guess I should have scrolled down to the charts.

        Clearly a general trend on the Dem side towards more positive view of free trade agreements, perhaps accelerating in 2016. Republicans on the other hand flipped in 2016 and have been correcting back toward the trends of gaining positive views from 2011-2015.

      2. free trade agreements have been a good thing for the United States than say they have been a bad thing.

        Most Americans would also like a new car, very few buy them in a given year.

        Now have a real survey about free trade in presence of other costs such as costs of theft from China on American industry.

        1. And effects of minimum wage laws, human rights, and environmental impact regulations.

  7. The problem with relying on public opinion polls for facts and figures is that so many people have ignorant opinions. Give people the facts on dihydrogen monoxide and many of them will agree that it’s a dangerous chemical that should be heavily regulated by the government. Ask these people their opinions on economic policy, then ask them a few basic questions about our economy and you’re going to find out real quick they have no idea what the hell they’re talking about.

    1. This poll asks simplified questions on free trade without asking about associated costs of anti-free market actions by China.

  8. “If the 2016 election was a wake-up call, it was for the left, not the right—a warning to the Democratic Party that dabblings in socialism and critical theory are suited to college dorm rooms, not the national political stage.”


    1. Yeah, still waiting for that lesson to be digested.

      1. Ya think?

    2. 2020 erased that message. And pretty certain no one got it in 2016 before it was erased.

  9. “Pollsters also found support for foreign trade increasing over the course of the Trump presidency.”

    Two points:

    1) When you want to see what Americans think, don’t look at what they say so much as what they do.

    Poll 100 Americans standing in the check out line at Walmart, and an overwhelming majority may say that they’re opposed to free trade with China for everything from human rights to the way such trade impacts American workers.

    Look in their shopping carts, and you may find that 100 out of 100 have Chinese manufactured goods in their shopping carts.

    Talk is cheap–it doesn’t cost anything to say you’re against trade with China. When American consumers are forced to take the cost of such policies into consideration like they do when they’re shopping, their actual behavior shows much more support for trade with China than Gallup could detect with a poll. If plenty of Americans care more about their own well being and the financial well being of their families than they do about the people of Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the rust belt, that may be embarrassing to them personally, but if that’s the what they really think, then that’s what they really think. Maybe caring more about yourself and the people you love than people you’ve never met shouldn’t be so embarrassing. Maybe that shouldn’t be socially unacceptable.

    2) Free trade is economic nationalism because free trade is in the best interests of the United States.

    George Meany was the head of the AFL-CIO for decades, and he hated communism because he saw it as a lock out against American workers. The communists claimed they were all about representing the workers, but then why were they blocking the products the workers in his union made from being sold in their countries? In addition to everything else that’s bad about communism, it’s also a trade barrier.

    I’m all in favor of the arguments about how trade means better things for American consumers and our standard of living than whatever the downsides are other American workers who are displaced by trade, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that the more trade barriers come down overseas, the better it is for American workers who work in export industries. Even before Germany had the advantage of the Euro weighing down their currency, their factory workers were among the highest paid in the world–because they were among the most productive in the world. There isn’t anything about foreign trade barriers that’s good for German factory workers, and there isn’t anything good about them for highly paid and highly valued American workers either.

    1. 2) Free trade is economic nationalism because free trade is in the best interests of the United States.

      As is often the case with Reason “Borders are just imaginary lines” Magazine, her article is a mess of conflation. Starting off with “comfortable with much more direct government intervention into the economy than ever before”. The idea that anything Trump did was as invasive and pervasive within or across borders as anything having to do with Rupert Stadtler is laughable.

    2. Look in their shopping carts, and you may find that 100 out of 100 have Chinese manufactured goods in their shopping carts

      They could have made a choice even twenty years ago, but finding American manufactured goods in certain classes is essentially impossible nowadays.
      And in the rare instances where they are assembled in the US, most of the components come from elsewhere.

      1. That’s one possibility.

        Another is that all of them don’t know the stuff they’re buying is made in China, but then I might argue that the reason they don’t know is because they don’t care.

        1. Don’t or can’t. When you can’t effectively oppose trillion-dollar budgets, every burger flipper getting $15/hr., and free healthcare, the choice between a $5 hammer and a $2 hammer becomes relatively unimportant.

          And this is just within the ‘open’ side of the ‘free/fair trade barrier’. When the closed side effectively covers up the slavery and genocide that goes into making their $2 hammer (or, e.g., ‘canceling’ businesses that refuse to participate in the slavery and genocide) it’s reasonably arguable that the consumer can’t knowingly engage in free/fair trade.

          And this still ignores ignores intra- and international fiscal policies that can render the relative microeconomics moot or even invert the microeconomic reasoning.

          1. You need better hammers.

          2. If there were any reason to get behind trade barriers, sanctions, etc it would be because of genocide and slavery. If there are specific goods that can be traced to Uyghur slave labor then we should certainly have the discussion about how best to address that.

            Something tells me that a very small number of products on the Trump tariff list were produced by Uyghur or any other slave labor.

    3. I’d also point out that 3) Trump and his supporters were never against free trade per se, but against a perceived imbalance in free trade between the US and her trading partners. I would think that as that perceived imbalance lessened (eg, when Trump got us a great new trade deal, some would even say the best), then public opinion on free trade in general would become more favorable.

      1. Pretty much this.

    4. You really don’t know how Americans would behave if they actually had access.

      I spent a month trying to go through local channels and small businesses. I’ve tried finding American suppliers for my hobbies. I work to go through local business and American products first before resorting to wal mart (first because they employ locally) and then Amazon as an absolute last resort.

      That involves a lot of work and time. If wal mart did shelve American goods, those same people in line would be buying American goods. If they were the ones making those American goods, they’d be even happier as it means more money in their pockets to buy them.

      A service economy will never compete with a producing one. We rely on producers to seek out services. The people being serviced must be able to afford the service in order for services to exist. If people can’t afford services or the serviced population shrinks, the service economy contracts, too.

      Welfare is a bandaid hiding that problem as we are subsidizing bad economic trends to minimize the overall effect. Producers and Retailers need consumers. So we must have the population consuming. And if they can’t afford to consume, we flood the market with stimulus and welfare.

      1. If wal mart did shelve American goods, those same people in line would be buying American goods.

        That’s debatable. My observation is that most people treat commodity goods from Walmart like commodities. They are essentially interchangeable and thus people shop based mostly on price. It’s the reason that Walmart and Amazon have as much success as they do in the first place, again because they offer low prices. American manufacturers simply can’t compete on price when it comes to commodity goods.

        1. Yeah, the very fact that Amazon and Walmart so dominate the retail market tells you that price is the most important factor for most people. Convenience is probably next. Amazon and Walmart have done everything they can to have the lowest prices possible because that’s what people will go for. If people went for American made goods for a higher price, then that’s what those companies would be doing.

          1. And how they shop is a better indication of what they think than what they say. Your girlfriend may really mean it when she says she’ll never cheat on you, but if she does cheat on you, that’s probably a better indication of where she is on that issue than what she says.

            No doubt, people would do things differently if there were no associated costs, but when they take the true costs into consideration, they’re telling us what they think in real terms in the real world rather than the world of make believe, where there are no trade offs, and doing the “right” thing doesn’t cost us anyone a dime.

            We’re about to learn this lesson on the Green New Deal, too. There are a whole lot more people out there who say they support things like the Green New Deal than there are people who are willing paying a premium for renewable energy. No doubt, there are people who will pay a premium for solar panels and an electric car, but there are also a whole lot of people who say they want the Green New Deal–but choose not to pay a premium to live that way now.

            Politicians would do well to look at how consumers are acting rather than what they say or how they vote. If your girlfriend is sleeping with your friends, your enemies, your brother, and whoever happens to sit on the barstool next to her, that’s a much better indication of whether she’ll be faithful than what she says.

        2. And why can’t we afford American made goods? How is it we can go round and round on trade but no one ever talks about why goods made in America are so expensive?

    5. Perceptive readers will notice how God’s Own Comstockist attracts Ku-klux Ken, Mother Slammer, other looter fascisti cross dressers. Missing but unmissed so far is the FaecesJesus (no big loss). Nary a loser knows the meaning of free trade as the alternative eliminated by the Red Republican/People’s Party lobby for Communist Manifesto Plank 2. But Justin Smith Morrill understood this precisely in 1894, and fought to preserve unfree protectionism, fight communism, and ignore the revenue tariff that made America Great before Andy Jackson’s election. The current evaded issue is men with guns to force pagan girls into the involuntary servitude of coerced reproduction. The evaded Amendment is the 19th.

      1. Do you think your phrasing is clever or witty? It’s not. You’re just an annoying abortion fetishist, and a bitter , dull minded atheist.

      2. And I’m pretty sure this is you……

        Took me less than ten seconds to find it, and another five to identify your signature phrasing. You’re a weirdo. Just like I figured.

  10. Isn’t left wing economic nationalism super popular?

    1. That’s different, because the CCP actually cares.

    2. Left wing economic nationalism doesn’t exist. The left only has sensible policy based on reason and experience from the toppest of top men. So says the party, so says Reason.

      1. “Left wing economic nationalism doesn’t exist”

        It does, but only for different nations. American left wing economic nationalism doesn’t exist.

  11. Free trade is a myth and libertarians know it. We are dealing with totalitarian governments (including increasingly our own) who have no problem jacking with their currency valuation or adding tariffs or dumping commodities on us. It’s only going to get worse.

    1. Libertarians are concerned with the rights of individuals. Regardless of the bad actions of foreign governments, the point is that Americans ought to be allowed to freely trade, even with an authoritarian foreign government. Now perhaps you disagree with that. But don’t imagine that libertarians all think that removing trade barriers means that the world magically becomes free. No, it just means that Americans are more free in how they can trade.


    More than 450 vessels are waiting to transit the canal and could take at least ten days to normalize.


    “I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” Walensky said, appearing to hold back tears.

    “We do not have the luxury of inaction. For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge.”

    1. Fourth? When was the third?

      1. First wave: March-April
        Second wave: June-August (mostly only impacted southern states largely spared in the first wave)
        Third wave: November-January
        Fourth wave: April? – ??? (mostly only impacting northern states)


    Vaccine passports are a good idea. Among other things, it will single out the still large contingent of people who refuse vaccines, who will be foreclosed from doing a lot of things their peers can do. That should help break the resistance down.

    1. or lead to counterfeit vaccine passports

      1. Especially when the underlying currency effectively counterfeits itself relatively undetectably and consequence-free more than 99% of the time.

    2. First I would think forcing vaccine passports in this country would violate HIPPA, secondly I think it’s an almost Orwellian form of control.

      1. Herd immunity is not likely to happen with Covid. What we will have is a large number of people with enough immunity to protect them from severe disease. Then we can go back to our activities.

        1. Herd immunity is not likely to happen with Covid. What we will have is a large number of people with enough immunity to protect them from severe disease.

          So what you’re (or they’re) saying is the herd will be effectively immune but we won’t ever achieve herd immunity. Makes sense if you selectively use the terms ‘herd immunity’ and ‘eradication’ interchangeably.

      2. The democrats see Orwell’s work as a how to guide. As opposed to cautionary tales

    3. The vaccines are near perfect, so there is no need to protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. The unvaccinated should be encouraged to get sick over the summer, when hospitals traditionally have capacity. The worst possible thing would be to sequester the unvaccinated until they trigger a wave in the winter when hospitals are normally at capacity.

  15. Marxism isn’t as popular as you think, Reason. Reason should stop preemptively surrendering to Marxism and totalitarianism and stop being a willing propaganda tool.

    1. Interestingly, even Karl Marx believed in free trade. Not because he believed in freedom, but because he believed in uniting a global proletariat and saw trade as a means to that end.

      But what you define as Marxism, I assume you mean the planned economies of places like the former USSR. These economies used central planning to manage trade, more similar to that of economic nationalists today. Tariffs are nothing if not for central planning of economic activity.

      1. But what you define as Marxism, I assume you mean the planned economies of places like the former USSR.

        When you define Marxism in a way that doesn’t contradict his definition in the slightest and then proceed to surmise your own definition based on his supposed unstated intentions, you might be fighting a straw man.

        1. I stated my assumption. If Ben meant something else then we can have that discussion.

          I notice that you didn’t address my point that tariffs are yet another form of central economic planning, which isn’t the definition of Marxism, but certainly the result of it’s implementation in every example I can think of.

          1. So you created a straw man that you can’t best and now you need my help slaying it?

            1. Yeah that’s it. You win.

      2. Lev could distinguish between revenue and protective tariffs. The Civil War was fought over precisely that distinction.

      3. Tariffs are not central planning. They are interfaces from one country to another.

        Markets are the internal trading systems of a country. Macro economic Trade is the external system between nations. Governments and diplomats mediate that interface.

        You might not like it, but to do away with it would require a centralized global government over global trade. Forgive me if I find that kind of centralization more onerous than tariffs.

        1. Essentially, you are demanding an interstate commerce act over the whole globe. And what government, per chance, should enforce that?

          Perhaps Davos men would like that honor.

  16. Misconception abounds!
    Free trade means market-based transactions and pricing. It requires the existence of a market, which in turn requires a common set of rules and laws, especially those that recognize and support property rights.
    If those prerequisites are not met, there is not a market and market principles do not apply. That confusion pretty much dominates public debate about free trade and globalism. There is no such thing as free trade with China if they do not recognize property rights.

    1. you hit it out of the park..Reason editors don’t understand free trade.

    2. China recognizes property rights. The Chinese state and rural collectives have a bunch of property rights.

  17. Oh so much wrong with this article.

    1. Brooks is not a conservative. he is a NYT neocon who thinks America exists to spend blood and treasure for foreign interests. In an earlier age he would most likely have been a Troytskyite.
    2. Trump did tap into how elites have run things for themselves. Deficit spending to enrich the well connected demanded a Fed which printed money…but inflation needed to be kept under control hence the need to offshore it to China. The downside was the destruction of the US industrial base.
    3. Free trade..sure let’s all go to the gold standard and not let China peg to our currency. What that’s not free trade?
    4. 60’s legacy “fairness” laws. Ok let’s be frank..discrimination wasn’t the sole intent of the laws but outcomes the politicians/elites wanted. Govt can’t discriminate or pass laws forcing people/firms to. Ok we all agree with that but that is not dividing the was the “equal results” for some and not for others that drive anger.
    5. Elite enrichment/Rigged System: Look at how academia enriched itself on “student loans” but the kids graduated with useless degrees and massive debt (mostly kids of parents who supported Trump). Look at Big Tech and Wall Street and Media leaders..they hate American ethnics.
    6. Cultural Marxism. the rise of the European immigrants who had a propensity for socialism /marxism, and an almost viseral hate towards other Americans of European background “old world grudges” constantly attacks the folks who supported Trump. Salt of the earth, hard working Catholics and Protestants..Irish, Italian, German, English, French, Greek, and so on.

    The GOP isn’t run by country club Bush types anymore who sold the folks above out…folks with vowels in their last names are running the show now..

    1. You forgot to get to your rational examination of economic policy after your rant about the wrong sorts of people being allowed in.

      Do I get to declare who is the wrong sorts of people? Pretty please? I have some culling to do.

      1. You do already in almost every thread you’ve ever commented in here. You’re not called psycho by the rest of us for nothing.

      2. Tony, the reason you’re not culling anyone is that you’re too weak and stupid to do it yourself. You need someone else to do it for you.

  18. What the election proved is that Americans prefer looter Dems to girl-bullying, Sharia Law, Comstockist religious fanatics like Stephanie. Irish voters repealed Amendment 8, and even papist Argentina finally realized that National Socialist race-suicide laws are a sure bet for losing every election—like no-borders anarchism. Just now communist Mozambique learned that religious fanatic jihadists are way worse than communism—the way Polish Jews learned the same thing about Christian National Socialism as of 1942. Not all German harridans agree with that conclusion. Gudrun Himmler defended her daddy’s altruistic motives with all the zeal of a faith-based Trumpista sticking up for judge Coney in a War on (fertile) Women. But voters, some of them, believe in individual rights.

    1. Where does Comstock and the Corn Laws fit in again?

      1. To learn more about Hank, follow the link…..

  19. Seems like one giant Strawman. Trump is in favor of COMPLETELY Free trade. On all sides. But having one-sided “free” trade as policy is ridiculous. The “if we play by the rules, they will too” logic never works.

  20. Here’s a wild thought: Perhaps if the United States could get heavier into automated AI production of goods and services, then U.S.-produced goods could have the price advantage that goods from Red China presently has.

    Hell, if those automated AI-made goods could be sent and sold via 3-D printing distribution centers, then we wouldn’t have to factor fuel costs into the price of the finished product. With all this, we wouldn’t need Red China and slave- made goods anymore and, indeed, the United States could be the manufacturing power-house of the world that we once were.

    Of course, to have the capital to invest in automated AI production and 3-D printing distribution, it would be helpful to not have a government that spends Trillions of Taxdollars at a single pop.

  21. wrong worldview here. earth has been an endless war planet from inception and the warring nation state problem WILL NEVER BE SOLVED, a deduction leading to the realization that all nation states must be self-contained in case the high probability of war destroys trade routes, partners, etc. Do you really think the international jews moving all our manufacturing capabilities over to National Socialist China was a good idea, given that the jews are now pressing us to go to war with them? (repeat of the war on Germany in WWI/WWII), I mean where the f do you think wal mart is going to get all its junk to sell us if we start fighting the chinese (again)? There is no logic, science or REASON, ON THIS SITE. must be run by jews and castholics

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