Tariffs, Trade, and Patriotism

President Trump’s recent decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum in response to what he (and most Americans) view as the routinely unfair trade practices of China and other foreign powers has upset more than a few Beltway apple carts.

It has also triggered a lot of heated criticism from the Right—much of it amusing, some of it more thoughtful, but most of it simply wrong-headed.

For constitutionalists, this fascinating policy kerfuffle represents a rare, not-to-be-missed opportunity to review a few forgotten fun-facts about our Founders’ “original intent” on the matters of trade and taxes.

So let us examine the criticisms of NeverTrump conservatives of the president’s pro-tariff trade policies, consider what our Founders had to say about trade and in particular the policy of a protective tariff, examine where Free Traders really get their ideas about global political economy, and finally explore what “free trade” correctly conceived looks like from a truly constitutionalist perspective.

First, let’s hear the critics.

In Which the “True Conservative” Laments
Mark Levin is an honest, pro-free-trade, libertarian-leaning, one-time NeverTrumper whom many conservatives rightly admire for his animated articulation of oft-forgotten constitutional principles.

He was, until now, slowly warming to the president, on account of Trump’s mostly-conservative policy successes and the unsettling deep state sabotage that has at least partly disrupted his young presidency, and aims to end it.

But in response to this tariff policy announcement—yet another fulfilled Trump campaign promise, as it happens—“The Great One” got a bit unhinged, going so far as angrily accusing President Trump of imposing an “unpatriotic tax” on all Americans.

In this Levin merely trades his “constitutionalist” mantle of truth for his libertarian robes of righteousness. As I’ll explain shortly, both can’t be worn at the same time, at least not on this semantically sublime issue of tariffs and trade.

Speaking of “semantically sublime,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) used the occasion to grandstand on the issue, saying “If you own a steel mill, today was great for you. If you consume steel—and every American family bought something at the store tonight with metals in it—today’s a bad day for you.”

As if that analysis wasn’t reactionary enough, he went still further. “This is leftist economic policy and we’ve tried it a whole bunch of times over the last two centuries and every time, American families have suffered,” he asserted.

The only NeverTrumper who has ever said anything measurably dumber is Kevin Williamson, who famously opined that declining Rust Belt communities weren’t in any way victims of foreign interference in our economy permitted by a corrupted national politics, but instead deserved on their own moral merits “to die.” Trump’s talk about tariffs and other measures to help these communities are not sincere, he argues, but are just demagogic attempts to soothe and sedate ignorant people in the heartland.

Have any of these leading lights of Conservatism, Inc., these self-appointed guardians of GOP ideological and constitutional purity, ever bothered to study what our Founders really believed about trade? Or even what the first Republican president actually advocated about tariffs, and why?

Sadly, it seems not, because if they had, they’d realize to their embarrassment that Trump has more in common intellectually with those towering historical figures than they ever will.

The Founding Fathers Were “Leftists”
To Sasse’s not-so-subtle assertion that the tariff is a failed leftist policy tried repeatedly over the last couple centuries, resulting always and only in misery for American families, a few dispositive quotes are in order.

Sasse was certainly on to something, and in fact, may have inadvertently uncovered one of the most hidden-in-plain-sight Left-wing conspiracies of all time!

First, we’ll start with that famous Marxist agitator, George Washington:

A free people… should promote such manufactures as would render them independent on others for essentials. I shall give every encouragement in my power to the manufactures of my country.

And then there’s the crypto-Nazi, Alexander Hamilton:

Let the thirteen states be bound together in a strict and indissoluble union, concur in erecting one great American system superior to all transatlantic force or influence.

And the Trotskyite community organizer, Thomas Jefferson:

The prohibiting duties we lay on all articles of foreign manufacture which prudence requires us to establish at home, with the patriotic determination of every good citizen to use no foreign articles which can be made within ourselves, without regard to difference of price, secures us against a relapse into foreign dependency.

And that subversive anarchist who penned the Constitution itself, James Madison:

In its (Congress’) first act, a national revenue must be obtained; but the system must be such a one, that while it secures the object of revenue, it shall not be oppressive to our constituents. Happy it is for us that such a system is in our power; for I apprehend that both these object may be obtained from an impost on articles imported into the United States.

Next up, that Stalinist Henry Clay:

Poverty befalls any nation that neglects and abandons the care of its own industry, leaving it exposed to the action of foreign powers… There is a remedy, and that consists in adopting a genuine American system accomplished by the establishment of a tariff…. The cause is the cause of the country, and it must and it will prevail.

And the Bolshevik Daniel Webster:

My object is, and has been, with the protective policy, the true policy of the United States, that the labor of the country is properly provided for. I am looking not for a law such as will benefit capitaliststhey can take care of themselvesbut for a law that shall induce capitalists to invest their capital in such a manner as to occupy and employ American labor.

And then, finally, the tax-and-spend Bernie Sanders socialist, Abraham Lincoln:

The tariff is the cheaper system. By the direct-tax system the land must be literally covered with assessors and collectors going forth like swarms of Egyptian locusts. By the tariff system the whole revenue is paid by the consumers of foreign goods. By this system, the man who contents himself to live on the products of his own country pays no tax at all.

In other words, the tariff was the original “flat tax,” with an opt-out for anyone who wished instead to “Buy American” or invest in American labor! Who knew?

Wherever these “conservative” and “constitutionalist” NeverTrumpers got their ideas about global free trade (and open immigration, for that matter), it clearly wasn’t from our Founders or from the celebrated statesmen who arose during the first 150 years or so of American history.

Conservatism, Inc.’s Very Foreign Policy Principles
The thing is, we do know where they get their ideas about trade and taxes. They get them from the libertarian and European neo-liberal philosophical traditions, among whose most articulate advocates today are those from the Austrian school, notable for their principled defense of free trade not merely as an economic policy, but as a political doctrine.

The Austrian economists are, in fact, worthy of admiration and respect, mainly for their intellectual rigor. For them, the philosophical battle is between statism and freedom. Their “methodological individualism” is unique and thoughtful in its approach to economic theory that contrasts favorably with the “macroeconomic” approaches of most statist schemers, such as Keynes, at least for anyone who thinks freedom is a good idea.

Whereas leftists and statists prefer a command-and-control global system (so-called “fair trade”), the Austrians argue philosophically for a global system based on contractual or “free market” principles (i.e., “free trade”).

But—and this is the critical point—they both pine for a global system.

There is no place for national self-determination or republican self-rule, much less even the concept of the nation-state itself in the cosmology of either’s globalist doctrines. They merely disagree on the particulars of implementing their respective global systems.

And this is the false dichotomy into which Conservatism, Inc., has fallen, mainly out of bad intellectual habit and lack of curiosity. Global capitalism versus global socialism is not the only option. And this is the paradigm from which Trumpian conservatism is seeking to escape.

Only leftists speak of “arcs of history” or “inevitable” future realities, a point to bear in mind next time a NeverTrumper tells you we can’t “retreat” to “Fortress America” or put the global economy genie back in the bottle lest we be “left behind” in the “global economy of the future” and so forth.

Certainly, the current international trading regime is a real thing today and it is something with which we must contend wisely. But it is important to remember that political systems are all empty abstractions only made real—or undone—by deliberate policy implemented intentionally over time. The only thing that is inevitable is the march of time, and we make more or less of that time by the degree to which we consciously shape our future by choice instead of by accident.

What delicious irony, then, that the very same Austrians, with their insights properly divided between their philosophical contributions, on the one hand, and their economic contributions, on the other, are the key to our escape from these false choices—and to contemplate the brilliance of the American system as conceived by our Founders!

A Tale of Two Mises
In his seminal treatise, Human Action, Ludwig von Mises, Austrian economist extraordinaire, makes an important distinction between philosophy (the “science of ends”) and economics (the “science of means”). The latter, he maintains, never has anything to say critical about the former, other than whether, given some goal and resources on hand to achieve it, it is feasible according to stated time constraints, or must be reconsidered or rejected.

But free traders violate this rule all the time, conflating the goal with the means to achieve it, so that any other goal than “free trade” itself is seen as “not economic.” All pure nonsense to anyone who really gets what Mises is really saying. If your goal is national economic independence, as ours at least used to be, global “free trade” is the last policy an economist would advise; but a “free trader” would tell you that you’re just not thinking economically to seek national independence in the first place.

So, setting aside the usual sophisms that make free trade both the means and the end itself, the adult question here for those who seek national independence is this: through which economic policies can we intentionally become independent and self-sufficient (dare I say “great”?) again? Or are we no longer free to do so, and if not, why not?

Behold none other than Ludwig von Mises, during a rare moment when he was speaking strictly as a free-market economist and not a globalist philosopher:

The average standard of living is in [the United States] higher than in any other country of the world, not because the American statesmen and politicians are superior to the foreign statesmen and politicians, but because the per-head quota of capital invested is in America higher than in other countries . . . Capital is more plentiful in America than in other countries because up to now the institutions and laws of the United States put fewer obstacles in the way of big-scale capital accumulation than did those foreign countries.

That’s from his famous 1952 talk, “Capital Supply and American Prosperity,” which Mises delivered before the University Club of Milwaukee. He doesn’t attribute this observation to any particular founding policy, but his conclusion is even more Trumpian (never mind Lincolnian, Jeffersonian, and Washingtonian):

No party platform is to be considered as satisfactory that does not contain the following point: as the prosperity of the nation and the height of wage rates depend on a continual increase in the capital invested in its plants, mines and farms, it is one of the foremost tasks of good government to remove all obstacles that hinder the accumulation and investment of new capital.

Our Founders’ genius was to use tariffs, not in the way of the mercantilists (i.e., to pick winners and losers in various industries) , but rather for national revenue as the least-oppressive alternative to the confiscatory income tax, which they consciously rejected; and to define the boundaries of our system, for the purpose of increasing the power and riches of our nation (in the old Adam Smith sense). They didn’t just “not hinder” capital investment; they actively promoted it.

Tariffs had the effect of encouraging continual accrual of new capital in our domestic labor, and this, not “free trade” either as an ideology or a policy, is how and why we became a wealthy nation. Indeed it is no surprise that during the present era of free trade we have reversed our fortunes, and become the largest debtor nation in history, shipping most of our capital supply and industrial infrastructure overseas in exchange for cheap goods, as Jefferson feared.

All of this leads to an important insight: There is a difference between “free trade” as a loose confederation of nations sharing labor and capital freely, and genuine union of the serious sort our Constitutional republic is intended to ensure. We tried the former with the Confederacy. It failed. So far, the latter has succeeded for nearly 300 years. There’s a reason for that.

Now let’s discuss how critical and interconnected political union is to economic union. The path for any country wishing to have “free trade” with us has always been clear since 1789, in the form of the Constitution itself.

Free Trade vs. True Political and Economic Union
Inasmuch as “free trade” is really just division of labor between members of a system masquerading as some new doctrine, and not “trade” between separate systems in a purely economic sense at all, any argument for “free trade” between the United States and another country is, according to our founding perspective, really just an argument for statehood. That is, free trade is and must be in accord with a positive and mutually beneficial argument for political and economic union.

For the states already in the union, the Austrian economic criteria for such proposition would be the degree to which the proposed new state would contribute or attract greater capital investment relative to the combined per-head quota of capital investment of the whole society after the merger.

If that math doesn’t justify it, or political union of this kind, with the responsibilities it entails between the other states in the Union and another country, is not desirable for any other reason under the sun (language, fundamental cultural differences, or the practical impossibility of defending it), neither, then, is economic union an appealing option.

Put another way, “free trade,” like “free love,” seeks to have the benefits of physical union with none of the responsibilities of cultural or political marriage, and that is the formula for cultural and systemic disaster. We have seen it wreak havoc on our dying industries and their declining communities.

The combination of falling wages resulting from the law of equilibrium performing its inexorable leveling function, and an income tax regime made necessary because tariffs were eliminated in the interest of global division of labor is the truly “unpatriotic tax” levied on all Americans by ideological free trade, Mr. Levin.

You can’t be a libertarian free trader and a constitutionalist at the same time on this issue, unless you adopt our Founders’ understanding of the need both to regulate trade and to encourage national unity and self-sufficiency as critical to the wellbeing of the country and the freedom of our citizens.

Subverting national borders is truly a “leftist” utopian policy that never works, at least not for any national good, no matter how often it’s tried—all due respect to Senator Sasse.

Religious pursuit of free trade as an abstraction against the interests of American industry is what has starved our Rust Belt communities of life-breathing capital supply, precipitating systemic cultural failure and widespread individual despair remedied only by hiring a U-Haul, Mr. Williamson.

Unless we are willing to bring in other countries as new states into our Union (and no one is making a practical argument for doing that), the idea of an assumed “free trade” between us and them is absurd.Any other relationship than shared statehood and nationhood is just trade of surplus production. It is, therefore, subject to the dictates of prudence.

It has ever been thus in the real world that even clear-thinking classical liberals like von Mises once upon a time inhabited. That it is no longer so is a testament to how far Conservatism, Inc., has drifted from the moorings of constitutional first principles.

“Free trade” as it has come to be understood today is a globalist ideology and is *not* conservative (in the sense of “conserving” the American way of life), but radical in that it is a departure from it. Nor is it an economic doctrine but a political one. In the crudest terms: It is to political union what free love is to marriage.

Free trade the economic phenomenon is just “division of labor’ by another name, and no free market supporter opposes it. Understanding the context is vital. You can’t have a division of labor between members of disparate systems; that is ”trade” in the economic sense, and negotiated between nations based on surplus.

The idea we can’t be independent and self-sustaining is not an economic idea, but a philosophic one, one that is entirely at odds with the system the Constitution was designed to guarantee.

About Bob Calco

Bob Calco is a verified Deplorable who lives in Tampa, Florida, with his wife, two sons, and four cats. A successful software architect by trade, and an inveterate polyglot and world traveler at heart, he studied political philosophy until it was clear that to pay bills he needed a marketable skill. His passion on issues related to trade and economics go back to his formative college days, when he learned to distrust, and independently verify, literally everything he was taught.

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66 responses to “Tariffs, Trade, and Patriotism”

  1. This is a persuasive case that the Trump view is more in line with the views of the founders than the Sasse view. However, it’s not at all a persuasive case that Sasse is wrong (or, as the article says, “dumb”). The principle of comparative advantage was first articulated in 1817, so it naturally would have been unfamiliar to the founding generation in the late 1700s.

    The argument that tariffs are okay because they are just a very efficient form of taxation would be persuasive if we had them in LIEU of other taxes, rather than IN ADDITION to them. So the free-traders are correct that we are talking about a net tax hike here. It’s a tax on domestic consumers of metal (including American industries) to benefit domestic producers of metal. There may in fact be a good argument for that carrying enough social benefits to offset the economic costs, but I don’t see that argument here. My own view is that the social benefits of keeping some domestic industries going may indeed offset the economic costs, but to implement that policy in a beneficial way (i.e. to run a useful cost/benefit analysis), we need to *recognize* those costs. Doing so doesn’t mean we are bound to enact a free-trade agenda. But it may mean there are other things we have to do (like much deeper cuts to other taxes Americans have to pay) to make a protectionist agenda work for us.

    The article presents the following claim in a conclusory fashion, and while the conclusion may in fact be true, it is far from self-evident: “it is no surprise that during the present era of free trade we have reversed our fortunes, and become the largest debtor nation in history, shipping most of our capital supply and industrial infrastructure overseas in exchange for cheap goods.” This tries to draw a causal connection between free trade and our immense national debt. The more intuitively obvious explanation for our immense national debt is our costly entitlement programs. These programs have gotten more and more costly because we keep adding new entitlements as well as new beneficiaries. None of these things are the result of trade policy. You can spend yourself into debt with entitlements no matter what trade policy you have.

    • I agree regarding entitlement spending, but the point I didn’t have space to make about how switching from tariffs to income taxes fundamentally changed our relationship as a society with debt and deficit spending has to do with how the scale of our ambitions was expanded tenfold and more once the natural constraints of revenue from foreign trade of consumption gave way to the infinite gimmicks and slights-of-hand that an income tax paid indirectly as it is today made possible. Another point is that the tariff as our founders envisioned it was ad valorem and aimed at promoting domestic industry generally, not specific industries per se. In this regard, I am not a fan of “targeted tariffs” or with jiggering them to be preferential to this or that specific industry over others, though there is nothing inherently unconstitutional about such tariffs. In general I need to write a book to make the full case properly! Thanks for the feedback, deeply appreciate it.

  2. The author diminishes his credibility when he refers to Mark Levin as “NeverTrumper”, a term that is coming to mean someone who does not deify Donald Trump. I am pretty sure the record bears out the fact that during the primary for the nomination Mark Levin had Donald Trump as a guest on at least two occasions and gave him very sympathetic treatment, much to the consternation of a large element of his audience who disliked Donald Trump for accusing Ted Cruz father of helping to assassinate JFK. Levin and Rush Limbaugh both gave Trump almost total passes on the lies he spread to win the nomination. Levin appraised Trump positively, but did criticize him when did non-conservative things, like endorsing ethanol mandates in Iowa. Since the election Levin has been almost 100% in support of Trump. He disagrees on tariffs. So what. So did Trump’s own National Economic advisor and most of his party. Even Trump disagreed with Trump 3 days after his initial announcement, when Trump excluded Canada and Mexico from the tariffs, with Canada being the main source of the evil “transshipment” that was supposed to be fixed by these tariffs. There is plenty of basis for agreeing with the tariffs and also for disagreeing with new. Neither position qualifies one for the moronic adjective – “NeverTrumper”.

    • Levin was quite outspoken about being categorically against Trump before he won the nomination. For the most part I respect Levin’s point of view, I just think he’s entirely misguided regarding “Free Trade.” Heart in the right place, but head elsewhere on this issue. To call Trump’s tariffs “un-American” diminishes Levin’s credibility, IMHO, precisely with respect to his claim to be an “originalist”… All the same I do enjoy listening to him.

      And by the way, NeverTrump is a badge many neo-conservatives who loathe him wear proudly. Nobody I know “deifies” Trump.

      • Levin was neutral and gave Trump very positive support. Levin suppressed his preference for Ted Cruz because Trump was effectively clearing the stage of Bush and other less desirable. Levin never opposed Trump.
        There are many solid conservatives with very well articulated and well supported arguments against tariffs. I believe Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell would be in that category.
        The use of the phrase NeverTrumpers is now becoming a crutch for those who can’t argue well. It means nothing. It could apply to half of Trump’s cabinet, since many have taken positions opposite of Trump. There are some who may apply the term to themselves. Like maybe Kevin Williamson. But no intelligent person applies the term to Mark Levin.

      • So I’m happy to cut Levin slack on the issue of whether he was “NeverTrump” — calling tariff’s “un-American” is my only actual beef with him.

      • He was never NeverTrump. Get it out of your head.

        You are free to disagree with him on tariffs. I think you provided some good support for the argument. I actually believe the tariffs will never be fully understood by the citizens because, like Obamacare, there will be very much fine print governing them and bureaucrats making decisions about how to implement them, so that we will not know exactly what they are beyond all the rhetoric that preceded their implementation.

      • I understand that you “deify” Mark Levin, so out of respect for your religious beliefs I shall call him “NeverTrump” no more. ;-)

        But he is definitely “NeverTariff” and that is far more problematic to my considered view of his otherwise learned opinions.

      • You are persistent in you ur ignorance. I never accused you of the insane crime of being a NeverLeviner.
        Just know your method of communication pisses off everyone except you and your Cult. Now prepare for the service tomorrow with your copy of Art of the Insult.

      • Look, I like Levin. Your obsession with the term “NeverTrump” implies a sensitivity that I don’t quite understand. I understand why some people hate Trump and would never vote for him. I have such friends. Why you would have such a freak-out over the term, I leave to the discipline of psychology, which isn’t relevant in this context.

        I was respectful of Levin, though I think he’s off the rails declaring tariffs “un-American” – a position that I believe belies his claim to being a pure “originalist.” Clearly he thinks our founders were wrong about the tariff, and my only point about that was that if the founders are any indicator of what it means to be American, then tariffs do not deserve to be called “un-American.”

        Every place else you went with your critique of me was just silly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. I think this conversation would actually have been quite fun over some beer. :)

      • My comments about the moronic use of the term NeverTrumper have to do with the foolishness of using insults to describe your allies. Mark Levin is on our side. But it is typical of the AlwaysTrumpers to require 100% fealty to their God. Donald Trump. For the final time, Mark Levin repeatedly endorsed Trump for President. Your persistence in attaching this stupid description to him exemplifies why Trump has so many enemies in his own party. Even Obama was not that stupid.

      • You responding to that idiot as if he were honest, or thoughtful, or anything but a troll is really quite humorous. You must be incredibly bored.

      • Appreciate how you interact with your readers. Would be interesting if the NROers would do some informal type back and forths as well. I suspect they fear you though.

      • You must live in an alternate universe to imagine that ad valorem tariffs ever approached the complexity of US income tax law, on which ObamaCare’s even greater byzantine complexity rested.

      • And more to my point average citizens needn’t bother themselves with the complexity of trade law under a tariff revenue system, unless they happen to be customs agents. I’ll take that over having to hire expensive CPAs just to file my W2 any day. The income tax is a thousand times more burdensome to the citizenry.

      • Show where tariffs have helped the US and try to given an example within the last 200 years.

      • Fair enough.

        I think our economy has expanded greatly in recent years with the open trade. The world is a far different place now than it was in the late 1800s with air travel and instant communications and just in time manufacturing. Not to say there is not a place for tariffs. I believe the US has had tariffs continuously, so its not like Donald Trump resurrected them from the dead. I believe there are sugar tariffs and large truck tariffs and agricultural tariffs. Probably thousand already in place. Do sugar tariffs benefit America or do they just encourage a lazy US industry? I don’t know. But I can guess.
        Rather than tariffs I wish the US would focus more on something Trump has started, and that is reducing the cost burden of the federal, state and local governments on business. All the regulation and mandates put cost into the products which many other countries don’t have. Our government is in many ways responsible for putting China at a competitive advantage by virtue of boondoggles like Obamacare, tort law, the ADA, sexual harassment law and much more. Our government uses dumb regulations to score points with voters and these regulations cripple our business in global markets. We should sunset all this crap and not renew anything that is not essential. In my opinion that would be better than tariffs.

      • Well, Teddy Roosevelt’s administration was so flush with cash because of the tariff revenue system he had to do crazy stuff like build international highways and trains to justify the largess. It’s been a long time since we could enjoy that kind of national revenue surplus with the income tax and free trade as the dominant paradigm since Wilson, not to mention the other Roosevelt who shall remain nameless.

      • you must live in an alternative universe to advocate punitive tariffs on top of high income taxes. Show me the quotes from the Founders (Madison, Jefferson, Washington) advocating high tariffs and also universal income taxes, which is what you and Donald Trump are now advocating.

      • In your reckless use of the term, you apparently “deify” Trump since you use it as a weapon against long time conservatives who simply disagree with a particular Trump policy. It is this tendency of Trump supporters, learned from Trump who recklessly labeled every Republican opponent with an insult nickname, like Lyin’ Ted, that is preventing Trump from expanding his base. When you use insults are arguments, you don’t win many to your cause.

      • Your use of the term “deify” with respect to folks who support Trump is reckless and in fact the same kind of insult you claim loses arguments.

        Trump’s use of nicknames has nothing whatever to do with your spurious argument that folks who support his policies are mindless religious zealots.

      • I didn’t use the term deify to describe Trump supporters.

        I clearly used the term deify to used Trump supporters who label all who disagree on any Trump plan as “NeverTrumpers”. Those people deserve derision.

      • Improperly or idiotically used the term. Why do you insist on doubling down on your obvious ignorance?

      • The fact that you are illiterate does not constitute improper use. In fact, my use was spot on.

      • So you don’t understand the meaning of God? Any words? Spot on?!! LMFAO. Let me repeat, since you are so clearly, fantastically stupid. Approval of a name calling doesn’t, on any planet, equate to “deifying”. So you only used the word properly if you don’t understand it’s meaning. Truly an imbecile. Public school teacher?

      • “In your reckless use of the term, you apparently “deify” Trump since you
        use it as a weapon against long time conservatives who simply disagree
        with a particular Trump policy”

        That is some serious DERP. Using a term as a negative weapon equals deifying someone? OUCH that kind of stupidity actually hurts the brain! Public school teacher?

      • You are too stupid to converse with. You are a NeverThinker. There, try that on for size.

      • More derp. I understand. It is all that can be expected from a 75 IQ.

      • It’s how an intelligent person speaks to those who make arguments by insult. You idiot.

      • You are not an intelligent person and you know it. Why else would you simply cut and paste the thoughts of others? Because you lack the ability to think on your own and can only repeat other’s thoughts. Truly pathetic. I apologize for engaging you as if you were not clearly well below average in intelligence and knowledge. So probably not even 75. Truly pitiful.

      • You don’t have the ability to even know the difference. The “non-intelligent ones” use the term NeverTrump to describe a person who used his nationally syndicated show as a platform to endorse Trump night after night after night. The idiots who refer to Mark Levin as a NeverTrumper are not only idiots, they are also moral degenerates.

      • See, more DERP. I have never referred to Mark Levin as anything. Sad

      • The author did and that is the basis of this entire conversation.

      • And then some retard came along and claimed that calling someone a never-trumper was “deifying” Trump. I simply had to respond to such an imbecilic comment. Who said something so abjectly stupid, as if they didn’t understand the meaning of the words which they used because they were simply a copy and paste? Oh, yeah, you are the imbecile who doesn’t understand the meaning of the words which you use.

      • Yes, Jackass, I claimed the author was deifying him by labeling Levin, who endorsed Trump for months, a NeverTrumper. You are carrying your illiteracy to amazing levels. It is impressive.

      • So you don’t understand the meaning of the word “deify”? As I pointed out earlier, approval of calling someone a name is about a million degrees from declaring them a God. Which is what you said and I correctly called “idiocy”. Why don’t you claim that calling Levin a never trumper makes someone a teaspoon, it makes as much sense.

      • Ah, so you admit that you are an imbecile who equated deifying with name calling. Could you be more stupid? If someone agrees with me calling you stupid you will think that they have deified me?! You should probably go see a doctor, you have apparently suffered some sort of brain injury.

      • Pretending that you are honest enough to admit the abject nuclear hyperbole of “deifying” isn’t smart, I give you that. Only a complete idiot would bet on you being either honest or even mildly literate, of which I, obviously, have done neither.

      • The fact that you are unable to process words is not my problem. Sorry you have this defect.

      • As long as we can all agree the neverTrumpers are for the most part execrable, panty-waisted, beta males, who really gives a crap whether either Levin or kentramsay qualify?

  3. Hey, Mr. Calco, wondering if, like me you’d be interested in paying for the welfare state with a border-adjusted value added tax? Repeal the payroll and income taxes that are currently used, further helping our competiveness.

    • Sounds interesting. I am all for consumption taxes and against confiscatory income taxes. Got any links?

  4. “Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) used the occasion to grandstand…”

    When does he not when it comes to Trump? The man is such an empty suit, who not surprising looks a little like Gomer Pyle.

    • Sasse is just ignorant. He believes he’s fighting the good conservative fight. But he has no idea what he’s talking about.

  5. Mr Calco only neglected to quote Justin Morrill , whose tariff of 1860 did more to ignite the Civil War than the Kansas-Nebraska Act . When the Va. delegation met with Lincoln in an effort to avoid war, Lincoln refused any compromise similar to the deal struck in 1832 which ended the Nullification Crisis, saying “what about my tariff ? ” Was it worth it ?
    The point is that the current debate has little to do with the fact that the Whig -Republican Party supported high tariffs 160 years ago. We all know there is historical precedent in the US for tariffs. We also know this is not 1860.
    The issue is to what extent the current limited tariff has any real impact on the loss of mfg. jobs. If Trump is using this as part of a broader strategy to reverse the effects of NAFTA and to send a message to China, it may well be beneficial. By itself, it probably did little other than to give Mr. Cohen a high-minded excuse to resign and please certain voters in Pa.

    • Slavery was by no means the only cause of the Civil War. States’ rights and the Tariff were also major dividing lines. The South chose incorrectly on all three – pro slavery, anti-Tariff and pro a version of States’ rights that is reminiscent of California’s current flouting of federal authority.

      Of the three, the states’ rights issue is the most constitutionally nuanced. There is a fine line there that is easy to step over, both ways. Slavery is plainly as barbaric as abortion and as economically exploitative as the communist slave labor of Chinese manufactures; the Tariff is clearly Constitutional and the only way to ensure an economic border as clear as the political one implied by the maps of nations. The South wanted slave labor, cheap goods from England (could care less about manufactures, mostly a Northern concern), and the ability to fart in the general direction of any federal law they didn’t like. They took as extreme a view of the states’ rights as California (ironically) is today, only from the complete opposite extreme. But not really – illegal immigrants are also a kind of slave labor…

      • Historically wrong and attitudinally repugnant. The Civil War was solely about slavery. Lincoln, a professed abolitionist got elected and the southern slave regimes succeeded one by one in rapid succession. Dress it up all you want, it was slavery. Your infantile barbs about abortion and Chinese slave labor are fatuous, You are better wringing for an under-educated readership because people schooled in the subject matter can’t take you seriously. Right wing fringe dwellers posting as amateur historians are predictably improvisational with the truth.

    • I advocate the ad valorem tariff revenue system as an alternative to the income tax, even a flat income tax. The issue is encouraging domestic capital accumulation. The Chinese Communists figured out how to use this very weapon against us, seeing our idiotic belief in low tariffs and willingness to maintain them even in the face of their flagrant violations of free trade on their part, and so they gave our manufactures huge incentives in recent decades to fire Americans and employ their slave labor instead. And so it happened that a regime that was doomed to go the way of the Soviet Union has a new President for life. Now that they see we have a president who grasps this bit of Sun-Tzu, however, suddenly Little Rocket man wants to talk disarmament. Go figure.

      • From your keyboard to Mark Levin’s ears I pray. It would well be worth my paying more for better goods to cripple China.

  6. This is far more interesting than the usual tripe on this issue, as it clears away underbrush to permit beginning a genuine discussion. It is amusing to contemplate the Leftist fans of the cartoon-character Hamilton of Broadway facing his notorious championing of tariffs like their evil Nemesis Trump. But there is a need to dig further into the real issues — would be helpful for the author to discuss Adam Smith, e.g., as well as Sowell and Williams, as another commenter noted.
    A telling statement by the author is that “In other words, the tariff was the original ‘flat tax,’ with an opt-out for anyone who wished instead to “Buy American” or invest in American labor.” Nominally that may be so, but economically there is more to it. As the author would doubtless acknowledge, where goods subject to tariff and US goods are substitutes or near-substitutes, while the U.S. goods are not taxed by the tariff, the prices of US-made substitutes will rise to match the cost of the tariff embedded in the price of the foreign substitute, with the result that no one who wants the good in question can “opt out” of paying the economic cost of the “flat tax” tariff, though of course they are nominally not paying the tariff itself. The question then from an economic and policy perspective is whether and why that is a cost that all US citizens who want or need the good should have to pay through higher prices for everything that has a non-US substitute. But higher prices there will be.

    • Prices won’t be effected in the long run by switching to completely domestic production. The majority of a product’s cost is its input labor—automation & AI have already shrunk the cost of labor in most manufactured goods to the point of irrelevancy. Two examples:

      (i) The cost of completely replacing “cheap laborers” in the agriculture industry with machinery works out to only ~$9 per year for the average American consumer.


      (ii) The cost of production difference between the USA & China is negligible. Consider that Apple saved just $20 on labor when it moved its iPad factories to China/Taiwan (whereas the retail cost of these products easily approaches $1,000 per unit). We’re talking about >2% savings generally speaking—savings that would be negated by technological innovation within a decade, had the factories remained in the USA.

  7. Look at free trade from a broader perspective. As you note, there has been a planned integration of the world into a global world government and the US has been a major player in developing the plans for it. The plan requires diminishing the economic status of the US to fit within their defined “Community.” and that means reducing the standard of living of every American.

    “Free trade” was a bait and switch technique used to great effectiveness by globalists because the trade was not free. The US government provided incentives for US companies to move operations overseas while accepting other countries right to exclude US produced products. They combined this with high US corporate tax rates and onerous regulations to discourage production in the US.
    Then they finance this on the back of the American taxpayer. In 1960 the average American household was nearly debt free except for their mortgage. Today almost every American is heavily in debt. To get people in debt required massive policy initiatives. Among those changes, credit had to be made easily available (credit cards) and tax deductible. The social fabric, which defined debt as bad, also had to eroded. The Supreme Court proved very useful in that regard.

    Everything was going according to their plan until Trump, who has exposed it by refuting its every lie. None of what they have done to Americans was natural. It was engineered by people with a grand design to rule the world on our backs. If you doubt this, and you should, consider what the left has knowingly done to the Black family to grow the dependent class when they implemented the Cloward Piven strategy. They knew the havoc it would produce and went ahead. Today they honor Piven for designing the destruction.

      • Thanks again, I always get a good laugh when an ignorant troll fool like you gives me such a positive review.

  8. Mr. Calco, No one is likely these days to say anything positive about slavery in the antebellum South, but the fact is that Irish immigrants were exploited as well , and “free” to starve to death in squalid living conditions in the North that were often worse than those of many southern slaves, who were after all, considered highly valued property at that time.
    If the Southern States had controlled Congress in 1859 and passed a “living wage” law, together with a corporate income tax over the objection of the Republicans, then elected a free trade Democrat as President without getting – or needing- any electoral college votes from a single northern industrial state, who would have been demanding the right to secession?
    One could imagine several forms of taxation that could have impacted both the exporting and manufacturing sectors more equitably in 1860, but the purely sectional Republican Party formed in 1854,was in no mood for compromise. In many ways, but most clearly by enacting a 50% tariff in 1860 (with the experience of a similar tariff in the1830s), the Republicans had “chosen” to settle the taxation issue in a manner that would likely lead to disunion. Lincoln made it clear in his First Inaugural that ,” I have no purpose,directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of Slavery in the States where it exists”, but that ” The power confided to me will be used …to collect the duties and imposts, but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion…” Can it be any more plain ? Va.’s decision to secede was only made in response to Lincoln decision to call up troops to enforce the tariff – just as he promised.
    More to the point of your article, today’s free traders who profit from global trade agreements and cheap immigrant labor that undermine the mfg. sector and wages are not the old Southern Democrats, but if they were alive today, they would perceive the irony of the current conflict.

  9. This is an excellent piece…I’d love to see more, however, on how one might transition from a highly complex, interdependent, global economy – albeit one that has essentially locked in trade preferences for external trading partners – back to a more nationally-oriented economy, without wreaking havoc in the process. It seems that you can tinker around the edges without huge risk, but once you start getting really serious, the risk of all out trade war grows dramatically. In theory, the arguments for self-sufficiency are, like many Trump initiatives, just common sense, but aren’t the horses already completely out of the barn – especially given that there’s no consensus to evolve away from the globalist policies of the last 50 yrs? Isn’t it too late?

  10. I’ve had to put Mark Levin in time out for a while. May or may not let him out anytime soon. If ever. Which is a shame as he is so brilliant otherwise.

    • Levin gives me a splitting headache. Bilious rubbish spewed out at full volume. Red meat for the savages who call themselves “conservatives”.

  11. This poor author is economically illiterate and must have fished around for weeks for quotes by notable that suited his argument. It has been definitively known side Adam Smith and David Riccardo that free trade will make every notion wealthier. Each nation will lose in some areas where the other has advantage and make it up where we have advantage. America is really prosperous due to our abundant natural resources and agricultural bounty. We want to think its our superior system, but the fact is we devote less energy into acquiring food, wood, energy, etc than any other because we sit atop a wealth of each. When it come to making things, all of Europe and Asia are better than us. And if you check REAL standard of living statistics we are NOT the best, and in terms of quality of living, we are not even top 10. This is due largely to our toxic society and miserable cities. When Mercer – a nice American company – rate the most livable cities in the world we have 1 in the top20, none in the top 10. America is all about quanitiy; civilized countries seek quality.

    • https://amgreatness.com/2017/08/12/tariffs-trade-nevertrump-nightmare/

      Read those, then let’s talk. I have studied these issues quite carefully and simply don’t agree with the globalist philosophical perspective. Please understand also the important “nuance” that when we are talking about economic activity *between systems* we are not talking about ‘free trade’ but merely trade. This is why a truly “Free Trade” system necessitates the destruction of existing *systems* as such, to establish global division of labor. You can’t have trade between nations and division of labor between them at the same time – it’s economic nonsense, and political jabberwocky.

      • Smith, which I have read many times, did not disfavor free trade, he simply said do not favor other types of trade ahead of domestic trade. He stated principles that made sense in the 18thC.   Today, investment is made for production – not for any specific trade type.  Early America Fathers knew little about economics in general.  The “American System” was intended to allow infrastructure development and growth of industries like textiles.  It took time for American manufacturers to perfect the technologies they had stolen from England. In general, free trade is unquestionably more efficient. There are times when other objectives override.  And America has drifted in and out of protectionism a dozen times – usually accusing another nations of “cheating” when in fact none really occurred.  Witness John Connally and the 1971 tariffs and Hoover and the post 1929 debacle he caused with his defend America policy.  Essentially, Americans are mediocre designers and craftsmen.  Always have been. Today, we all want Europenan cars, faction, watches, spirits, appliances, wine, shoes, luggage & accessories, jewelry; and asian electronics, house wares.   But remember, America fed off the bottom of the European gene pool for 300 years.  we just think we’re special.  Our only innovation is fast food, over-processed foods,  and drive ins.  We have a highly protected defense industry – inc. Boeing, and  telecom can’t be imported.  The largest subsidy provider on the planet – by an unfathomable margin – is the US Department of Defense.  Many companies  thrive for no other reason. Outside of Silicon Valley, America is a follower, and tariffs won’t help. Once the world retaliates – and it will – we are screwed.

        From: Disqus
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        Sent: Monday, March 12, 2018 11:27 AM
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        #yiv3657409305 #yiv3657409305 a:hover, #yiv3657409305 a:hover span {color:#1188d2!important;}#yiv3657409305 .yiv3657409305button-cta:hover {color:#ffffff!important;background-color:#1188d2!important;}#yiv3657409305 .yiv3657409305button-cta:hover span {color:#ffffff!important;}#yiv3657409305 #yiv3657409305 #yiv3657409305 #yiv3657409305outlook a {padding:0;}#yiv3657409305 body {width:100% !important;}#yiv3657409305 .yiv3657409305ReadMsgBody {width:100%;}#yiv3657409305 .yiv3657409305ExternalClass {width:100%;display:block;}#yiv3657409305 @media screen and ( _filtered_a ){#yiv3657409305 html {}#yiv3657409305 .yiv3657409305content {width:100%;}#yiv3657409305 table {border-collapse:collapse;}#yiv3657409305 h2.yiv3657409305headline {font-weight:700;font-size:20px!important;margin-bottom:5px;}#yiv3657409305 .yiv3657409305button-cta {display:block!important;padding:0!important;}#yiv3657409305 div.yiv3657409305header {padding-top:20px;}#yiv3657409305 div.yiv3657409305footer {padding-bottom:20px;}}#yiv3657409305 #yiv3657409305 p.yiv3657409305mod-tools a:hover {color:white!important;background:#8c989f!important;}#yiv3657409305 @media screen and ( _filtered_a ){#yiv3657409305 td.yiv3657409305avatar, #yiv3657409305 td.yiv3657409305spacer {width:38px!important;}#yiv3657409305 td.yiv3657409305avatar img, #yiv3657409305 td.yiv3657409305spacer img {width:28px!important;}}”https://amgreatness.com/2017/08/12/tariffs-trade-nevertrump-nightmare/https://amgreatness.com/2017/08/20/adam-smith-closet-bannonite/Read those, then let’s talk. I have studied these issues quite carefully and simply don’t agree with the globalist philosophical perspective. Please understand also the important “nuance” that when we are talking about economic activity *between systems* we are not talking about ‘free trade’ but merely trade. This is why a truly “Free Trade” system necessitates the destruction of existing *systems* as such, to establish global division of labor. You can’t have trade between nations and division of labor between them at the same time – it’s economic nonsense, and political jabberwocky.” | |
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        Bob Calco
        https://amgreatness.com/201…Read those, then let’s talk. I have studied these is sues quite carefully and simply don’t agree with the globalist philosophical perspective. Please understand also the important “nuance” that when we are talking about economic activity *between systems* we are not talking about ‘free trade’ but merely trade. This is why a truly “Free Trade” system necessitates the destruction of existing *systems* as such, to establish global division of labor. You can’t have trade between nations and division of labor between them at the same time – it’s economic nonsense, and political jabberwocky. 11:27 a.m., Monday March 12 | Other comments by Bob Calco |   |
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  12. Trump is slowly reducing America to a third world country. I guess when you are led by a caveman nothing much good is going to happen. The rest of the world already views us as a Neanderthal nation led by a savage. Sounds about right.