For the first two hundred years of US history, our government worked to protect domestic manufacturing using tariffs. In the late 20th Century, Washington decided to knock down trade barriers for the express purpose of annihilating American industry. They cleverly labeled it Free Trade.
Free Trade implies that it will give the best workers the chance to succeed on an even playing field. But it does the exact opposite.
Americans are the best workers in the world. But Americans have an ugly habit of expecting a living wage so that we can buy luxury items like washing machines and medicine. Rather than negotiating with American workers and our pesky unions, multi-nationals moved their factories elsewhere as soon as the trade barriers were removed.
Another inconvenient thing about American laborers is that we insist on being paid in US dollars. Our government is surprisingly competent when it comes to maintaining a strong, stable currency. Whether the leaders in Mexico City, New Delhi, and Beijing are bad with monetary policy or shameless currency manipulators hardly matters. What matters is: companies moved their factories to countries with weaker currencies so that they can pay their employees in Pesos, Rupees, and Yuan.
Free Trade implies that the free movement of goods will make the entire world economy more efficient. But it does the exact opposite.
Free Trade does lead to lower prices at stores. But cheaper isn’t always more efficient.
A truly efficient economic system would involve moving goods as short a distance as possible from factory to sales floor, as opposed to wasting fossil fuels shipping items across the entire Pacific Ocean.
But now almost everything we buy is shipped from a factory far away. Companies have eagerly moved production from counties with strict environmental laws to countries that have few or none.
This is the saddest thing about Free Trade. We are trashing far-flung regions of the earth just so globalists can make a few extra million and we can save a few bucks on our Amazon order.
There are regions of China that are virtually uninhabitable wastelands where the few plants have to be pollinated by humans because of all the pollution. We eagerly buy another pair of $35 leather shoes without thinking about the rivers in India that have been poisoned into oblivion by tanneries.
We have an inefficient, exploitive, wasteful, rapacious economic system and the globalists who profit from it call it Free Trade.
Meanwhile, a few minor tariffs are added in and the same globalists call it a TRADE WAR! Come on, CNBC analysts: I know you want your stocks to stop going down, but how dumb do you think we are?
I am not actively defending the new tariffs. They are little more than a tiny tweak to the current globalist system. They are better than nothing, but not by much. Calling these tariffs a “Trade War” is as laughable as calling sales tax “Thermonuclear Holocaust at the Berlin Mall.”
Aggressive tariffs would have worked miracles in 1993. Now they are like Band-Aids on a gaping wound.
Globalization has failed us. What we need now is to close our borders to all international trade.
Closing the border will be a bigger win for the environment than the Green New Deal and the greatest achievement for organized labor since the 40-hour work week.
Plus, an end to trade will give our consumerist society a chance to do a reckoning. If we really need something, we will build a factory and make it ourselves. As for everything else, we will discover we are better off without it. I predict we will have 80% less plastic junk and 0% less happiness.
Free Trade vs. Trade War? Who cares. Made in the USA: that’s the real answer.