So it’s Trump and Clinton – an ideological blank slate offering trade wars and closed borders, and a corrupt collectivist with a Messiah complex. Two varieties of cronyists offering two different flavours of socialism: national socialism or international socialism1, xenophobic protectionism or identity policitics and class hatred.
Berzelius Windrip versus the Wicked Witch of the North-East.
Not much of a choice.
Today is Trump’s day. The Day of Drumpf. He’s earned it. His country has earned it. His supporters have given it to him, just as he will give it everyone – good and hard – if he becomes Leader of What Was Once the Free World. Says Victor David Hanson,
His supporters want a reckoning with a system that has not so much failed as infuriated them. What drives their loyalty to Trump — if not the person, at least the idea of Trump — is a sort of nihilism. As a close friend put it to me this week, “I don’t care whether Trump wins or not, I just want him to f— things up as long as he can.”
[For these people] Trump is their megaphone, not their solution. The Trump supporters have seen plenty of politicians with important agendas, but few with the zeal to push them through; at this late date, they would apparently prefer zeal without agendas to agendas without zeal.
Not entirely without an agenda. The promise to build walls, start trade wars (or worse) and order manufacturing back to the fatherland2 are clear enough signs that if Trump hasn’t learned from reading about Mussolini it’s only because he doesn’t actually read. Not even enough to discover how the trade wars of the 1930s became the real wars of the 1940s—beggar-thy-neighbour policies that quickly became hate-thy-neighbour and then bomb-thy-neighbour.
Free trade on the other hand encourages true friendships. And despite what the xenophobes think about the low wages they allege are due to freer trade, it’s actually free trade that’s making all their wages go further—by connecting them peacefully with the wider world. Philosopher Stephen Hicks explains:
Earlier today I put on my made-in-Argentina jacket and my new made-in-India shoes and got into my made-in-Japan truck. I stopped for gas at a British Petroleum station and chatted with its franchise owner, a guy from Mexico. To help pay for it all, I taught my first class of the day — on a French philosopher, using a text translated into English by a Polish-American and printed in Canada — to a group of students, one-third of whom are from foreign countries.
Then it was mid-morning and I needed a coffee break. Italian roast with Arabica beans from Rwanda, thank you very much.
When economists talk of the benefits of trade they speak of division of labor and comparative advantage. Long ago Adam Smith used the example of a pin factory to show that dividing a complex task into parts is much more efficient than doing everything oneself. David Ricardo used the example of Portuguese wine and English cloth. Because of climate and differences in their workforces’ skills, both nations would be better off if Portugal specialized in making wine and England specialized in making cloth and they then traded wine for cloth.
Contrast this contemporary example — the guy who made a sandwich for himself from scratch — after spending $1,500 and six months’ effort. My sandwich at lunch will cost me $5 and a five-minute wait.
Trade enables us to be more efficient, and the more extensive our trading networks the more people’s talents we can each enjoy, and the more people we can reach with our own talents.
Those economic consequences of trade are important.
But they’re possibly not even the biggest consequence of the free trade the xenophobes would ban.
Think of all the things that set people at each other’s throats — religious and political zealotry, tribalism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and the pig-headedness that humans are capable of for any number of reasons.
In other words, all the stuff you’ve already seen promised this American election season.
Those committed to the ethic of trade are committed to evaluating others in terms of their productive ability — not their skin color or political party. They are committed to respecting others as self-responsible agents — not to seeing them as the weaker sex or idolaters. They are committed to offering their personal best to the world and seeking the best that others have to offer — not to stubbornly ignoring or downplaying the achievements of individuals from other cultures.
Trade is not a cure-all. But it does motivate civilised behavior, and it gives us all an incentive to overlook or unlearn any irrational prejudices we may have.
You begin to see why the supporters of tRump are so violently against it.
* * * *
- “Donald Trump crushed it in the Indiana GOP primary last night, winning more than 50 percent of the vote and causing Ted Cruz to drop out… That led to a surge tonight in searches for ‘Libertarian Party,’ as this chart from Google Trends showing searches for ‘Libertarian Party’ over the last 24 hour period:
Google Searches for "Libertarian Party" Surge After Ted Cruz Drops Out – HIT & RUN BLOG
- “Ironically, in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the elimination of tariffs was a populist issue. A little more than a century later, the polls have reversed completely… So while the populist movement of the early 20th Century demanded the removal of tariffs, the populist movement of today wants to bring them back. But Trump is not talking about replacing income taxes with tariffs. He simply wants to add tariffs to the existing tax structure ..). This will only compound our problems and make our economy far less competitive. It will not bring back our jobs; it will only increase the tax burden on the American economy, destroying even more jobs…
“Our trade deficits do not result from bad deals but bad laws. Put simply, the amount of taxation and regulation that have been layered on our business owners and their employees have made it impossible for American firms to compete with foreign rivals. Contrary to the currently popular talking points, low wages are not the only means to establish successful trade balances. America became the dominant exporter in the world in the 19th and 20th centuries while our currency was strengthening, we were paying the highest wages, and our workers enjoyed the world’s highest living standards.
“Germany is doing so today. Strong economies compete with quality, innovation, efficiency, and flexibility. Those capacities have been stifled by government policies that have nothing to do with trade agreements and have everything to do with domestic policies. We need to repeal those laws. Trade deficits are not the problem. They are the consequence of the problem. The problem is big government, financed largely by the income tax, which has made America uncompetitive…
“To make America great again, we need to recreate the free-market environment that made her great in the first place.”
Make America Great Again – Peter Schiff, PETER SCHIFF SHOW
- “It might be argued that Trump at least represents what Ayn Rand would have called "the American sense of life," which Hillary Clinton and the left despise and hate. Perhaps. But he has hitched that pro-American spirit to an ANTI-American policy agenda, foreign and domestic. He does not stand for constitutionally limited government, free markets, private property, or individual rights. He is trying to wed "Americanism" to populist statism, and call it "conservatism." That's bad enough on the level of political philosophy, and it would be disastrous on the policy level. But on the more-important level of personal character, Trump would bring into the Oval Office a gutter mentality and behavior, power-hungry narcissism, crude anti-intellectualism, and a mindless personality cult. Yes, America has elected and endured presidents who exhibited one or more of these various ugly traits; however, I cannot recall any single president who embodied them all.
“Meanwhile, a vote for Hillary Clinton would be a vote for a pathological liar and crook, and a statist proponent of unlimited government power. And it would be a moral ratification of her despicable betrayal of four brave dead American patriots in Benghazi. That is intolerable.
“Because of these considerations (and barring any last-minute, utterly unexpected, radical changes of circumstances in an already insane year), should the electoral alternatives sink to a choice between Trump or Clinton, I shall not vote for either.
“I care too much for America's founders, for those who fought and bled and died for this special nation, to dishonor their memory and legacy with such a vote. If our nation has come to this, I believe the November 2016 election will be remembered as America's Jonestown -- and I for one shall refuse to participate in moral self-poisoning and political mass suicide.”
Bidinotto on Trump & Hillary, & America – Robert Bidinotto, NOT PC
- “In a beautiful historical irony, an authoritarian has just done something in less than 40 weeks that the libertarians have failed to do in 40 years - take down the old partisan paradigm of a huge swathe of the American electorate, who now can’t vote, or won’t vote, for the party they have always identified with. And it’s happening on both “ends” of the political spectrum - as anti-Trumpers and Bernie supporters feel that their political identity is no longer reflected by either of the two big political circus tents of elephants and donkeys.”
The GOP Goes Full Authoritarian: Now the Real Libertarian Moment Can Begin – Robin Koerner, HUFFINGTON POST
- “Trump has no loyalty to the Republican establishment or to the conservative movement. The apparent greatest attraction for his supporters is that he drives crazy those who worship Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And if the Republican establishment implodes with the Obamism it did not stop, well, so goes collateral damage — and in the process, woe to us all. Trump is for a brief season our long-haired Samson, and the two pillars of the temple he is yanking down are the Republicans to his right and the Democrats to his left — and it will all land on top of us, the Philistines beneath.:
Donald Trump, Postmodern Nihilist – Victor Davis Hanson, NRO
- “The alt-right originated by looking at the left’s caricature of the right as racists and pro-white tribalists and saying, in effect: sure, we’ll be that. …
“The alt-right isn’t part of the intellectual traditions of the American right, nor is it an alternative to anything. It’s just the same old white-sheet set, repackaged with red ‘Make America Great Again’ golf caps. They’re serving as ignorant tools of the left, and they should be exposed as such.”
“White Sheets and Red Golf Caps” – Robert Tracinski, THE FEDERALIST
- “This is not politics as usual. Donald Trump is not a ‘pragmatist.’ This is a qualitatively different phenomenon from anything we've seen so far in American politics. This is an extinction level event for our republic…. This is a man who has praised Putin and the Chinese massacre on Tianamen Square, who said that Gorbachev didn't have a firm enough hand…”
An “Extinction Level Event” – Paul Blair
- Funny how people who live under socialism are among the few these days who appreciate capitalism.
Vietnam, ruled by communists for 40 years, is now the No. 1 fan of capitalism on the planet - QUARTZ