Saying that trade has losers suggests that stopping trade would eliminate such losses. Wrong.
For one thing, contrary to the administration's promise, unilaterally raising tariffs hasn't resulted in reduced foreign tariffs and better access to foreign markets for U.S. exporters. Instead, foreign tariffs have gone up, and threats of retaliation continue. That explains some of the drop in exports to China. But that’s not all that is at play here.
For China to crack down on its supposed violators of IP, import US law as its own, permit US courts to enforce it, and acquiesce to every other point demanded by the US, even if these impossibilities were possible, would end in making its economy less free, less productive, and more dangerous for free enterprise.
Do you desire the well-being of all peoples in the world? Free trade is a wonderful way to see this realized. Tariffs only end in spreading misery, a classic case of man’s inhumanity to man. The sooner the U.S. administration realizes this, the better off everyone will be.
The political and economic outlook undergirding the market order is often called individualism because of the central role of human volition in its unfolding. At the same time, this individualism creates a beautiful community of enterprise, one far more reliable, effective, and life-affirming that the false communities that politics assembles for us.
Here’s the thing about international trade. When it is interrupted, even if only in a limited way, it affects everything — not immediately, but over time. Costs of production rise. Consumer prices rise. Trade routes are lost. Supply chains are disrupted. Retaliation is inevitable because governments are in control, and this causes more negative effects.
One of the most common faulty premises that infects discussions of economic policy is the premise that a country is like a private for-profit company, only larger. Nearly everything that the United States President says about trade makes sense if you understand him to believe that the United States economy is a gargantuan for-profit firm.
International trade is millions of mutually beneficial, voluntary transactions between firms and consumers that happen to lie across international borders. But that’s not how politicians or many in the general public conceptualize it.
Governments should treat each others’ economic policies as given, if only because almost all government interventions artificially help some producers and hurt others. Because every government is forever grasping for excuses to protect politically powerful domestic producers from foreign competition, each government can find such excuses in even the most mundane actions of foreign governments.
Opponents of free trade wish to prevent you and your fellow human beings from rendering to, and receiving from, each other the greatest possible amount of mutual assistance at improving your lives.
"It is not so much economic as political and philosophical: history must drive toward centralized power under great men and their intellectual advisors. Economic forces must be restricted to the bounds of the nation-state, because those bounds are the limits of the jurisdiction of the powers that be. Trade outside the borders, in this case, represents a kind of treason against state power." ~ Jeffrey Tucker
It is incredibly reckless to double taxes on imports from a particular country with the stroke of a pen. As robust and well-capitalized as the US is today, such actions foment more conflict, feed resentment, fuel nationalism, and take unnecessary risks with the economic well being of people the world over.
Should the political order reflect a vision of society as a free association of individuals engaging in free exchange for mutual and general benefit and creating a complex society thereby? Or should it come from one that sees membership of a collective entity as primary and allows trade among insiders but puts barriers in the way of trade with outsiders?
Rent-seeking is a problem that those on the left should have to answer for whenever they propose extensive new regulations. But as President Trump's recent steel tariffs show, the problem knows no political ideology, and is an inevitable occurrence at the friction point between personal connections and power. The only way out, it would seem, would be to greatly reduce the very power to regulate.