Reason Podcast

Surviving the Death of the West: Podcast

Trump disrupts the status quo on trade, diplomacy, North Korea, and pot.


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Browse any newsstand or bookstore this week and you're likely to see illustrations like the ones to the right. "Trump Tries to Destroy the West," went the headline on today's New York Times op-ed page. The president's contentious performance at this weekend's G7 meeting, and his impetuous approach to the forthcoming North Korea talks in Singapore, has left the western world's political class noticeably rattled.

Some of this turmoil, particularly on global trade, is pointing in an unpromising direction, argue Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, me, and special guest Zach Weissmueller on today's editor-roundtable edition of the Reason Podcast. But maybe Trump can break up some diplomatic logjams in Asia, and his preliminary willingness to back a marijuana federalism bill is definitely a big freaking deal. Listen up.

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

Audio production by Ian Keyser and Mark McDaniel.

Relevant links from the show:

"Trump Wants Russia Back in the G7," by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

"Flake: 'This Is Not Grown-Up Leadership.' Trump: Flake's a 'Flake,'" by Matt Welch

"The Republicans Abandon Free Trade," by Veronique de Rugy

"Trump: Trade War With Canada Justified Because Brits Burned the White House in 1814," by Eric Boehm

"As Canada, Mexico, and the E.U. Respond to Trump's Tariffs, Actions Speak Louder Than Words," by Nikhil Sridhar

"Have Republicans Turned Against Trade? We Asked Them," by Zach Weissmueller, Justin Monticello, and Joshua Swain

"Trump Endorses Marijuana Federalism Bill," by Christian Britschgi

"Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren Introduce Bill Largely Abolishing Federal Ban on Marijuana in States That have Legalized it Under Their Own Laws," by Ilya Somin

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Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Wow, Matt, they still have newsstands and bookstores in your bubble?

    Maybe you spend a lot of time at the airport?

  2. I think we should always look at the cultural trends that lead to these things, rather then the results.

    I won’t say either way if Trump is the death of all mankind, but look for the cultural trends that led to him rather than he himself.

    Been reading Suicide of the West lately, and it seems to do a good job describing a lot of these trends.

    1. Tytler, among many others, have noted for (at least) hundreds of years that democracy naturally progresses into authoritarianism and only now are a lot of people wringing their hands over the inevitable result of their preferred policies.

      Go figure.

      We’ve already passed the tipping point, but the worst of it has yet to come. Just look at the every day attitudes of most people and it becomes clear that government is now primarily an instrument to wield against others.

      We had a good run, and remember that reform is always possible but it relies on the people themselves as the foundation.

      1. Mencken had it spot on ? Democracy is the belief that the people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

        1. I’m not so sure I’d agree there, since ultimately the group(s) that ‘gets it good and hard’ is almost invariably the minority that didn’t vote for it.

          1. Venezuelans beg to differ…

      2. That democracy leads to tyranny has been known for 2400 years. Aristotle wrote a book about it

        1. He did, although that is actually the reason why we are not and never have been a democracy. Democrats, apparently, did not get the memo or they’re fully aware of this and choose to pursue it regardless.

          It’s one reason why the Senate is fucked. Their entire reason for existing has been removed.

    2. Does Suicide of the West mention podcasts?

  3. If the UK, France, and Canada are the future of “the West” with their speech codes and bureaucratic intrastate models then maybe “the West” isn’t worth preserving to begin with.

    1. All part of a plan to replace their native populations, something else I don’t care to preserve.

    2. “then maybe “the West” isn’t worth preserving to begin with”

      The West is about dynamism, change, growth and innovation. It’s not something to be preserved. Like pickles or something.

      1. If innovation is “We’ll ail you for saying stuff”, then let it die.

        1. Fuck auto correct. “We’ll JAIL you for saying stuff”

          If that is innovation, then it should die.

    3. We’re trying to preserve the Old West.

  4. The thing is, Trump is right about tariffs. Other countries put them on our products, almost always much steeper than the ones we have.

    You can disagree with Trump’s way of getting them lowered, but he does have a point. You can’t be for free trade if the other side isn’t as well. It has to go both ways.

    Same with military alliances like NATO. We pay most of the cost of defense with the others mostly free loading.

    You can say him being a dick doesn’t make things better, but while they loved Obama and his apology tour, they didn’t actually give us anything in return for him crawling on his knees

    1. You can’t be for free trade if the other side isn’t as well. It has to go both ways.


      1. Because that isn’t free trade. Foreign subsidies and protectionism warp the market.

        1. One might also note that this isn’t ‘free trade’ since ‘free trade’ is a unicorn being ridden by a leprechaun through the enchanted forest. It’s about as accurate.

      2. Unilateral free trade is charity.

        Charity ain’t business.

        Bilateral and multilateral free trade are free trade.

        It’s why I didn’t panic about the NAFTA nonsense. It isn’t free trade. Freer than it was…but not free and Canada clearly had little interest in correcting that.

    2. Maybe this is why actual “free trade” shouldn’t require hundreds of pages of legal documents. “Managed trade” is cronyism

      1. I don’t even want to think about how far away from that dream. Longshoreman Unions alone make that almost impossible.

        1. If it’s impossible then what’s the complaint? And why is either position more wrong than the other, since it’s impossible?

          People need to stop hiding behind the guise of “free trade”. It’s like when the bank bailouts happened and people said that was “capitalism”.

          1. Your link to people calling bank bailouts “capitalism” is broken.

            1. How many times do I have to make you look stupid, Hugh? Say loud and say it proud- you don’t support free trade, just maintaining the status quo of managed trade

            2. 2012 wasn’t that long ago. OWS was pretty convinced that the bank bail outs represent the worst ideals of the capitalist system, thus the need to watch this mother burn.

    3. Here we go again.

      It does not have to be both ways. Just replace the word “tarriffs” with “taxes” and it all becomes clear. That other countries penalize their citizens is no reason for us to do so. We can adopt free trade by simply ignoring what other countries are doing. And we should.

      I do wish Trump good luck with getting tarriffs lowered everywhere, potentially quixotic as his quest may be. I wish he wasn’t doing it, I think there is a potentially a disastrous downside, and I think meddling in other country’s tax policy is a bad precedent, but since we’re stuck with him trying it, lets hope it goddamn works.

  5. It should be said, too, that when Trump seems to commit to free trade, he gets burned for it.

    “We acknowledge that free, fair and mutually beneficial trade and investment, while creating reciprocal benefits, are key engines for growth and job creation. We recommit to the conclusions on trade of the Hamburg G20 Summit, in particular, we underline the crucial role of a rules-based international trading system and continue to fight protectionism. We note the importance of bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements being open, transparent, inclusive and WTO-consistent, and commit to working to ensure they complement the multilateral trade agreements. We commit to modernize the WTO to make it more fair as soon as possible. We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies.”

    —-G7 Communique…..ommunique/

    Trump signed onto that after a lot of hemming and hawing–seeming to back away from his protectionism. Trump seems to have stuck his neck out in endorsing that part of the communique, only to get screwed by Trudeau for it.

    Give him no credit for the pro-free trade things he does, and you’re discouraging him from doing those things. If Trump signed off on the biggest expansion of free trade ever, at this point, I’m not sure Reason staff would notice.

    1. What pro free-trade things has he done that deserve credit?

      1. Do you see the communique there?

        Do you see what it says?

        Did you hear that he reluctantly agreed to it–before Trudeau foolishly pulled the rug out from under him ahead of his negotiations with North Korea?

        Trump signed onto that verbiage, and had apparently made some progress with Trudeau on the pending NAFTA renegotiation, especially on cars.

        Look at that verbiage.

        Democrats can and will use that verbiage to argue that Trump isn’t really as anti-free trade as he says. They’ll accuse him of selling out for signing onto that agreement.

        Do you not see what the communique says, or do you not want to see what it says? It’s right there in front of you in plain English. Trump originally signed off on that.

        1. So he signed a piece of paper expressing vague ideals with no legal authority? That doesn’t merit a whole hand, but I guess can spare one finger to salute that with.

          1. Are you going by threats that haven’t yet materialized?

            At least this is something he’s actually done–he stuck his neck out. He’s supposed to be the anti-free trade savior of the rust belt, and here is, signing off on free trade in the communique and ironing out a deal with Canada on NAFTA.

            Besides, I wasn’t claiming that he’s been a big pro-free trade president. Those are just voices in your head.

            I said if he suddenly turned into one, Reason wouldn’t even notice.

            Trump sticks his neck out to sign a communique to be in harmony with out trade partners, and all you and the staff at Reason see is his tweets?

            Do you have any idea how silly it looks to ignore a G-7 communique because you’re obsessing over his tweets?

            1. Are you going by threats that haven’t yet materialized?

              I was actually going by the steel and aluminum tariffs that went into effect last week.

              Besides, I wasn’t claiming that he’s been a big pro-free trade president. Those are just voices in your head.

              So when you said “Give him no credit for the pro-free trade things he does, and you’re discouraging him from doing those things.” You weren’t referring to anything creditworthy that he has actually done. You were only speaking hypothetically? That one is my fault for confusing your reality with mine.

              Do you have any idea how silly it looks to ignore a G-7 communique because you’re obsessing over his tweets?

              I don’t recall mentioning anything about anybody’s tweets, but I’m sure whoever you’re arguing with there is feeling quite burned.

              1. “Give him no credit for the pro-free trade things he does, and you’re discouraging him from doing those things.” You weren’t referring to anything creditworthy that he has actually done.”

                You seem to be ignoring the communique regarding free trade that he agreed to sign onto. It’s astounding, especially considering that I quoted it, put a link there with it, and everything!

                Do you imagine it would have been nothing if he’d refused to sign onto it because of the language about free trade?

                Do you imagine it would have been nothing if he’d only signed onto it after they’d agreed to strip it of any language regarding free trade?

                If the answer is that you wouldn’t have thought those two things were nothing, then the fact that he was willing to sign off on it with the free trade language included isn’t nothing either.

                In the meantime, if he can’t even get credit for signing onto a communique that endorses free trade, . . . how does disparaging him for being anti-free trade–even after he signs onto a communique that endorses free trade–encourage him to do more free trade things in the future?

                “Give him no credit for the pro-free trade things he does, and you’re discouraging him from doing those things”

                Is that really so hard to understand? Seems more likely to me that you don’t want to understand.

                1. P.S. Judging by his comments, Trudeau didn’t think Trump’s actions on free trade amounted to nothing. Seems to indicate that Trump is getting the upper hand on the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation, and Trudeau is bracing the Canadian people for change–and trying to blame it all on Trump.

                2. You clearly live in a plethora of alternate realities to which I have no access, so I’ll ignore the counterfactuals.

                  Here in universe B, Trump signed a piece of paper with no obligations and no legal enforcement mechanisms. I guess it looks like a serious thing to people who don’t understand the difference between words and actions, but it’s hard for me to distinguish between him signing that paper and him doing nothing.

                  1. You live in a world where simple things are hard for you to understand–if you don’t like them.

        2. Trump openly said he wants zero tariffs and subsidies in the G7, *reciprocally*.

          1. And the only way you can make that happen is to remind them that we can bring them back until all sides agree.

            If two men have guns pointed at each other, one guy unilaterally disarming himself is usually a very bad idea.

      2. Maybe you’d take the communique more seriously if Trump had tweeted it?!

        1. The communique is nothing more than generalized gibberish unmoored to the actual practice of its constituent members.

          The French, the Germans, the Italians, and the Canadians continue to subsidize many of their industries and individual businesses while they simultaneously continue to impose tariffs.

          If they were really serious about committing to free trade, they could have, after all, long ago terminated all subsidies and all tariffs as being antithetical to both free trade and free enterprise.

          1. And that’s why his tweets should be taken seriously instead?

            Are you really following this conversation?

            1. Yes, I am following the conversation, part of which is the communique.

              The thrust of my post is that we should not be deluding ourselves with the fanciful notion that the other G-7 countries are practicing what they are preaching in the communique.

              Balanced, fair, but hard-nosed media coverage should emphasize that the other G-7 countries continue to subsidize their industries and individual businesses and that they continue to impose tariffs.

              My post did not address or concern Trump’s tweets.

              1. “My post did not address or concern Trump’s tweets.”

                You responded to a comment making fun of the fact that someone seems to be taking tweets more seriously than a multilateral, compromise, G-7 communique.

                “Maybe you’d take the communique more seriously if Trump had tweeted it?!”

                That’s what I wrote. My comment was about Trump tweets, and you responded with something that didn’t concern Trump’s tweets.

                So, no, you’re not really following the conversation at all, right?

                1. Ken, the conversation in question begins with your 5:23 post, right?

                  You highlighted a portion of the communique, right?

                  My post addressed the free trade bona fides of the British, French, German, and Canadian signatories.

                  FWIW, I largely concur with your observations. In fact, I bet you don’t like the narrative being spun by the CNN, MSNBC, NYT et al talking heads, implicit in which is that Trump is anti-free trade and the other G-7 nations are bastions of free trade.

      3. What free-trade credit do our “allies” have?

        1. The suggestion that an agreement to keep tariffs low isn’t really pro-free trade because it isn’t perfectly free trade is fascinating to someone, I’m sure.

          Barriers to trade are generally lower than they would be without NAFTA and GATT.

          Anyone who believes otherwise is a fool.

  6. fuck whatever thinks it’s “the West” … I’m enjoying the destruction.

  7. And the fact you’re comparing pot legalization and a potentially nuclear armed adversary of the U.S., and weighing these two things against each other, doesn’t seem to set off any ‘maybe I’m stupid as fuck’ alarms in your heads?



    here’s the story, Hugh …

    1. “Ultimately that’s what you want, you want tariff free, no barriers, and you want no subsides because you have some countries subsidizing industries and that’s not fair,” Trump said. “So you go tariff free, you go barrier free, you go subsidy free, that’s the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance.”

      According to reports, the other leaders were taken aback by the suggestions and not sure how serious Trump was about it. The president alluded to the surprise during the press conference.

      “People were … I guess they gotta go back to drawing board and check it out,” Trump said.

      Fact is, Trump uses tariffs and subsidy like every other nation does: As a weapon and a leverage point to try and control foreign policy. This makes that pretty clear to me, and the other nations being ‘taken aback’ by it is because they don’t know what their jobs would be if it were so.

      1. I enjoyed hearing “we’ll quit tariffs if you quit tariffs” out loud. They can find new jobs.

      2. and the other nations being ‘taken aback’ by it is because they don’t know what their jobs would be if it were so.

        So you don’t think it has anything to do with their exasperation at a buffoonish jackass once again spewing bullshit he clearly doesn’t believe in order to grab headlines and disrupt the negotiations?

        1. I doubt it, since it seems they’re entirely fine with the current leader of Canada. Do you think the entire world just happens to use tariffs on accident?

          1. So your contention then is that they heard what Trump said, took it very seriously because he’s a very serious man, and then contemplated the horror of the very real possibility that they would all be out of jobs by the end of the week because Trump was definitely going to follow through.

            1. If they take Trudeau seriously, then they don’t know what a serious man is.

            2. They are scared of what Trump might do; and they should be. They have been able to push around fools like Obama and Trudeau for far too long.

              Getting tough on the UN and NATO is hopefully next.

    2. Huh, apparently Trump was a free trader all along. I guess that’s what I get for taking seriously one of the two things has has been consistent about for the past three years.

      1. funny. go with the instinct.

      2. “We can’t have an example where we’re paying, the United States is paying, 270% ? just can’t have it ? and when they send things into us you don’t have that,” Trump said at the press conference.

        Does he understand how tariffs work?

      3. Trump has been saying these deals are UNFAIR to the US.

        This is how they have been.

      4. Yes, tough for you to wrap your head around, isn’t it? People who prefer free trade using tariffs. People who prefer open borders using immigration restrictions. Etc. Meditate on it.

  9. “The West is the best.” — Jim Morrison

  10. I think most of the world will give the United States a well-earned mulligan with respect to Trump, partly because we are likely to regain our senses before much lasting damage is done and partly because it is in the interest of other nations to remain optimistic about America’s role as a world leader.

    1. Lots of folks here would have agreed with that same sentiment in 2015.

    2. It’s nice to see someone like you at least admit that there hasn’t been much of any damage done.

      Mostly it’s just media hype.

      I remember when the left used to tell us that we should never let a crisis go to waste.

      Nowadays, the left seems to assume that anybody who thinks the world isn’t in crisis (in every way) is a traitor to all that’s good and holy.

    3. Ah yes. We’ll get a responsible person like a Clinton or Bush back in control. Then everyone will love us again as they negotiate against the best interests of the U.S.

    4. “I think most of the world will give the United States a well-earned mulligan with respect to Trump, partly because we are likely to regain our senses before much lasting damage is done and partly because it is in the interest of other nations to remain optimistic about America’s role as a world leader.”

      We’ll give your mom a mulligan on aborting you:
      1) DeVos
      2) Gorsuch
      3) Ajit Pai, end net price fixing
      4) Major reduction in the growth of regulations
      5) Dow +30%
      6) Unemployment at 3.8%
      7) The US Manufacturing Index soared to a 33 year high
      8) Got repeal of the national medical insurance mandate.
      9) Withdrawal from Paris climate agreement.
      10) Not sure about the tax reform; any “reform” that leaves me subisdizing Musk’s customers is not what I hoped for. Let Musk run a company for once.
      11) In the waning days of 2017, the Trump administration pulled its support for the $13 billion Hudson Tunnel project.
      12) More than 16,000 jobs have been cut from the federal leviathan
      13) MIGHT have a deal to de-nuke NK.
      And finally:
      14) Still making lefties steppin and fetchin like their pants is on fire and their asses are catchin’
      To repeat, I did not vote for the guy; he’s a blow-hard and a loose cannon, but by accident or design, he’s don’t better than any POTUS I can remember

      1. Being an embarrassing vulgar cow is not a fucking accomplishment.

        One day perhaps you rightwing morons will appreciate that. Or not, who cares.

        1. “Being an embarrassing vulgar cow is not a fucking accomplishment.”
          Can’t read? Awwww.

          “One day perhaps you rightwing morons will appreciate that. Or not, who cares.”
          Perhaps one day lefty imbeciles will be able to see what he’s managed regardless of whether they like him or not, but that’s extremely doubtful. Fucking lefty imbeciles only worship principals, not principles.

          1. What has he accomplished again except rubber stamp some Heritage Foundation judges (so strong and decisive) and ruin the lives of millions of humans for no reason other than he’s a racist fuckstain?

            1. Tony|6.11.18 @ 7:19PM|#
              “What has he accomplished again…”

              Still can’t read? And here you used to brag about your doctorate.

              1. The economy is not his doing. But I do look forward to you blaming him when a recession hits.

                1. Tony|6.11.18 @ 7:26PM|#
                  “The economy is not his doing.”

                  Krugman disagrees:
                  “It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover?” Krugman said in his post. “If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.”

                  Now I agree that all of that is not Trump’s direct work, but he was predicted, by others also, to have a pernicious effect on the economy, and instead, the economy (you know, where people actually vote with their dollars) is doing just fine.
                  So flap your jaws; I’ll take that great big bonus in my portfolio, thanks.

        2. Sevo is neither rightwing nor a moron.

          He can, however, be brusque, curt, and terse.

      2. 15) Doing an awesome job of not being HRC

        I (reluctantly) voted for him; he’s doing far far better than my expectations, which were that he’d do maybe one thing right, but otherwise be a non stop fuck up.

        1. I didn’t vote for him, but I have to agree: he has done a lot better than I was expecting.

          And I shudder at the thought of an HRC presidency.

    5. I think most of the world will give the United States a well-earned mulligan with respect to Trump

      You must love the rest of the world: you’re cut from the same mold.

      As a former European, if European governments like US policies, we are doing something wrong.

      it is in the interest of other nations to remain optimistic about America’s role as a world leader.

      How about other nations start fixing their own problems instead of depending on the US to keep bailing them out?

  11. BTW, the guy looking at the Time cover is of the wrong skin color, and it’s a year and a half out of date.

  12. Populists both right and left united to sabotage TPP for reasons they can’t articulate. If nothing else we’ll get to see a nominally communist power run things for awhile and we’ll get to compare and contrast.

  13. One is tempted to think this is what real Hope and Change(tm) looks like.

  14. Are you for fucking serious???

    If anything Trump is trying to SAVE the Western World. He’s certainly on the brash end of the spectrum, but he’s trying to do more to save the USA from turning into a dystopian socialist hell hole than anybody else. And let’s be honest, on the immigration thing… America will no longer be America if we cram in another 100 million immigrants from places that won’t assimilate, that don’t give a shit about our traditions, that don’t care about freedom, etc which is where projections have things going over the next several decades. Most countries in Europe will be majority non white by just beyond the middle of this century if current trends continue too.

    Trump may be fighting a losing battle since we’ve already been sold out so hard for decades, but he’s at least trying to salvage something that might vaguely resemble the real America that once existed.

    1. Trump is fighting a losing battle because bigotry and backwardness have been demonstrated to be poor bets in America over all but the shorter terms.

      Nurture your right-wing authoritarian dreams while you can, clinger.

      1. LOL

        How is it bigoted or backwards to recognize the statistical fact that NO immigrant group at all shows support for smaller government versus bigger? Or for 2nd amendment rights? That none of them really care about true unbridled free speech? So on and so forth.

        It’s simply a statement of fact proggie. YOU may be in favor of destroying everything that American has traditionally stood for, but over 150 million Americans at least are very much opposed to all of it, and 10s of millions more are opposed to at least some of those things. True liberals still appreciate things like free speech and other civil liberties. I wouldn’t have a problem with immigration if immigrants didn’t pose so many obvious real world problems… But they do.

        The concept of America always being this multicultural melting pot is largely a concept invented in the 1960s, it was really a nation founded on white nationalism if we’re being honest… It was a white country explicitly and on purpose, it was never intended for anybody else, and for some reason no non white groups have ever actually embraced the great things that made America unique after we stopped trying to be an explicitly white country.

      2. But let’s just say we were always meant to be multi-culti for the sake of argument. So maybe that’s the way America is supposed to go, to become a white minority country like South Africa or something. It won’t turn out well for anybody if that happens IMO… But fine let us roll with it.

        Why in the hell should Europeans become minorities in their own TRUE homelands (that they didn’t steal from brown people) where their ancestors have lived for tens of thousands of years? Sweden won’t be Sweden when it’s 35% ethnic Swedes there. Swedish culture will be destroyed, gone forever, never to return. I would wager Swedes will even be treated badly in their own homeland since non whites seem to show little guilt in being racist against whites when it suits them. Like in South Africa for instance.

        I think every group of people deserves a homeland, but progressive politicians can’t stand to allow Europeans to have any for some reason. That’s what really gets my goat. Fighting for Western Civilization is a worthwhile goal. Even the screwed up socialist countries in Europe deserve to continue to exist and be able to self determine their future. If America were going to hell but Europe was going to still exist I could deal with that… But watching the entirety of the greatest broad civilization in history committing suicide is just a little much to stomach. The world WILL NOT be a better place when China is the sole hegemon on earth because Europe and the USA destroyed themselves.

      3. Trump is fighting a losingwinning battle because bigotry and backwardness have been demonstrated to be poor bets in America over all but the shorter terms.

        We managed to defeat progressives and socialists once, and we’ll do so during this relapse as well.

        Nurture your right-wing authoritarian dreams while you can, clinger.

        Take your own advice.

        1. I hope you’re right! Some days I think things are going well, others I’m not so sure. In many ways I think the sheer insanity of the left in recent years is like the last cries of a dying animal… I sure hope it is. The future could be sooo amazing if we just returned to a slightly sane trajectory.

  15. Trump tries to destroy the Western political class; they erroneously mistake that for “destroying the West”.

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