Trump’s trade out­look proves he’s a pro­tec­tion­ist

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - BALANCED VIEWS - Ge­orge F. Will

that is both true and not ob­vi­ous. Bri­tish jour­nal­ist Matt Ri­d­ley calls Ri­cardo’s in­sight “a thor­oughly coun­ter­in­tu­itive idea” that “takes Adam Smith’s di­vi­sion of la­bor one step fur­ther.” It ex­plains why free trade ben­e­fits every coun­try.

Seven years after Ri­cardo’s book ap­peared, Thomas Babing­ton Ma­caulay wrote, “Free trade, one of the great­est bless­ings which a gov­ern­ment can con­fer on a peo­ple, is in al­most every coun­try un­pop­u­lar.” It cer­tainly is with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which bris­tles with chest-thump­ing anti-cos­mopoli­tans who are too flinty to be bam­boo­zled by for­eign­ers like Ri­cardo and oth­ers who deny that trade is a ze­ro­sum game.

After the pres­i­dent trum­peted that the Dow sur­pass­ing the 22,000 mark was ev­i­dence of Amer­ica’s resur­gent great­ness, The Wall Street Jour­nal rather im­per­ti­nently noted this: Boe­ing, whose shares have gained 50 per­cent this year and which ac­counted for 563 of the more than 2,000 points the Dow had gained this year en route to 22,000, makes about 60 per­cent of its sales over­seas.

But those Democrats who think gov­ern­ment should fine-tune ev­ery­thing are nat­u­ral pro­tec­tion­ists and prob­a­bly think Trump is too faint­hearted be­cause he is not pro­tect­ing Amer­i­cans from com­pe­ti­tion from Amer­i­cans. This ne­glect might be chang­ing, thanks to West Vir­ginia’s Gov. Jim Jus­tice. Elected as a Demo­crat nine months ago, Jus­tice, a bil­lion­aire from the coal in­dus­try, an­nounced at a Don­ald Trump rally that he had dis­cov­ered that he is a Repub­li­can. Al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously, he asked for a $4.5 bil­lion sub­sidy for the coal in­dus­try: Tax­pay­ers ev­ery­where should pay Eastern util­i­ties $15 for every ton of Cen­tral or North­ern Ap­palachian coal they burn. Jus­tice said this is nec­es­sary for “na­tional se­cu­rity,” the hith­erto ne­glected me­nace be­ing this:

Com­pe­ti­tion from more pro­duc­tive Amer­i­can mines is en­dan­ger­ing Amer­ica by threat­en­ing the “sur­viv­abil­ity” of Amer­ica’s Eastern coal­fields, po­ten­tially putting Amer­ica “at risk beyond be­lief.” Sup­pose, Jus­tice says, ter­ror­ists dis­rupted the Eastern power grid and there were no abun­dant sup­plies of Eastern coal? So, chan­nel­ing Ge­orge Or­well, Jus­tice says the sub­sidy is not a sub­sidy, it is a “home­land se­cu­rity in­cen­tive.” Trump surely will make a sim­i­lar claim when he pro­poses to tax Amer­i­cans who jeop­ar­dize Amer­ica’s se­cu­rity by buy­ing Amer­i­can re­frig­er­a­tors made with steel im­ports that de­light Amer­ica’s circling en­e­mies by putting do­mes­tic steel mills “at risk.” Any­one who can­not make a sim­i­lar ar­gu­ment against im­ports of Greek yo­gurt — “food se­cu­rity equals na­tional se­cu­rity” — is a novice pro­tec­tion­ist.

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