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Why Trump Is Routing The Free Traders


By Hunter Wallace

Pat Buchanan finds new ways every week to illustrate how the most important and consequential elections of our lifetimes were the 1992 and 1996 elections:

“In Tuesday’s indictment of free trade as virtual economic treason, The Donald has really set the cat down among the pigeons.

For, in denouncing NAFTA, the WTO, MFN for China and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, all backed by Bush I and II, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Trump is all but calling his own party leaders dunderheads and losers.

And he seems to be winning the argument.

As he calls for the repudiation of “globalism” and a return to “Americanism,” a Republican Congress renders itself mute on whether it will even vote on the TPP this year. …

Free trade ideology is not America-made. It is an alien faith, a cargo cult, smuggled in from the old continent, the work of men Edmund Burke “sophisters, economists, and calculators.”

David Ricardo, James and John Stuart Mill, Richard Cobden, all chatterers and scribblers, none of whom ever built a great nation, declared free trade to be the new New Testament, the salvation of mankind.

These men in whose souls the old faith was dying seized on a utopian belief that world government and free trade would be the salvation of mankind. The Economist magazine was founded to preach the heresy.

Before the modern era, Americans never bought into it. But now, our elites have. And, undeniably, there are beneficiaries to free trade.

There are first the owners, operators and shareholders of companies who, to be rid of high-wage American labor, moved production to China or Mexico or where the costs are lower and regulations near nonexistent.

Transnational companies, their K Street lobbyists, and media that survive on their advertising dollars, are the biggest boosters of free trade, as they are the biggest beneficiaries.

Consumers, too, at least initially, see more products down at the mall, selling at lower prices. Cheap consumer goods are the bribes free traders proffer to patriots to sell out their country and countrymen to capitalists who have no country.

But we are not simply consumers. We are Americans. We are fellow citizens. We are neighbors. We have duties to one another.

When a factory shuts down and a town begins to die, workers are laid off. The local tax base shrinks, education and social services are cut. Folks go on unemployment and food stamps. We all pay for that.

Wives go to work and kids come home from school to empty houses, and families break up, and move away. Social disintegration follows.

“Creative destruction” is the antiseptic term free traders use to describe what they have done and are doing to the America we grew up in. …”

Read the whole article.

Imagine where we would be today if Pat Buchanan had won in 1992 or 1996 and George H.W. Bush’s “New World Order” had been strangled in its cradle. There wouldn’t have been twenty years of open borders and mass immigration. The relatively small population of illegal aliens that were here would have been deported.

There wouldn’t have been NAFTA or the WTO or MFN trade status for China. Without the neo-liberal Bill Clinton as president, it is highly unlikely that Phil Gramm and the Republican congress would have succeeded in deregulating Wall Street. There would have been a few normal recessions, but nothing like the Crash of 2008.

There wouldn’t have been twenty years of useless wars in the Middle East to spread democracy, which cost the lives of thousands of our troops and trillions of dollars, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of foreigners who have died overseas and all the Islamic fanaticism that stirred up in Iraq.

President Buchanan’s Supreme Court picks would have changed the course of the culture wars. Instead of arguing about desegregating women’s restrooms or transgender troops, we would be living in a much more normal country.

Some liberals get it:

“Draw a rough semicircle around the Great Lakes, starting in the west and moving southeast, from Duluth to Chicago to Detroit to Buffalo. Sixty years ago, this was the throbbing heart of American capitalism, by far the biggest complex of industrial production in the world. Now it’s a beat-down zone of economic hardship or all-out calamity.

Among the biggest culprits is free trade.

The downsides of free trade — which has caused American factories and jobs to be shipped off to other, cheaper places — has been a continual theme in the populist presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Sanders hit this theme again in a recent op-ed, arguing that America should reject free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and pursue a more balanced “fair trade.” …”

But the more fundamental thing to note is that rich nations almost universally got rich behind stiff tariffs and other anti-trade measures. That was true of the United States in the 19th century, and it was true of Japan and South Korea in the 20th century. The reason for such trade policies was perfectly obvious at the time. As Sven Beckert details in Empire of Cotton, before the Industrial Revolution, the vast majority of cotton growing and textile manufacturing happened in India and China. But as Britain hit on the first instance of spectacular productivity growth, they flooded the Asian markets with very cheap textiles — and enforced their access to those markets with military force.

The result was merciless deindustrialization of India and China, as their entire manufacturing base (largely hand-operated spinners and looms) was cored out by British imports, and tens of millions of Indians lost their main source of income. This in turn badly worsened numerous famines.

In short, the first big instance of worldwide free trade is a huge part of the reason why the non-European parts of the world are poor in the first place.”

Contrast that with the response of #TruConservatives:

“This week, Donald Trump likened international trade agreements to the rape of the motherland. Also, in his anti-market speech, the presumptive Republican argued that “politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas.” Tons of people cheered him. Worse, people who know better said nothing.

It takes too much time and space to constantly point out all the lies Trump perpetuates about trade. But it’s worth mentioning that “globalization” is now one of those catchall insults which, like “neocon” or “elitist,” has lost any practical meaning. It’s far more likely you’ll see a Republican twisting himself into intellectual knots defending the party’s nominee than defending free trade. No one wants to be a globalist. …”

Rich Lowry has chimed in with his own hot take:

“Donald Trump is an optimist. He believes there is nothing wrong with America that autarky can’t fix.

Trump’s economic speech this week was a high-octane assault on the American free-trade regime that has been a matter of a bipartisan consensus for decades and a bulwark of the post-World War II international order — not to mention an article of GOP economic orthodoxy. …

The truth is, if the metric is employment, U.S. manufacturing was sliding before anyone thought of the North American Free Trade Agreement or the WTO. As the indispensable Scott Lincicome of the Cato Institute points out, manufacturing began to decline as a share of the U.S. workforce in the 1940s, and the absolute number of manufacturing workers has been dropping since 1979.

The main cause is technology-driven productivity gains that make it possible to do more with fewer workers. The American manufacturing sector is more productive than ever. If Trump really wants to relieve the glory days of the old American factory, he’ll have to make America less technologically proficient again.”

The free-traders have a story they like to tell themselves where all the post-industrial devastation you see in the Rust Belt was due to “robots” or “technology-driven productivity gains.” We’re making all this stuff right here in America! We’re just doing it with robots! It has nothing to do with, say, all the cheap imported steel or all the gargantuan container ships coming across the Pacific from East Asia or decades of massive, record trade deficits. It is much easier to blame it all on robots and productivity gains than to dive into the details of each specific hollowed out industry.

Note: The Christian Science Monitor has a 5 part series on free-trade. Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Part 5 hasn’t been published yet.