Should Trump Impose Tariffs on China and Mexico?

English: (left) and meeting shortly after the ...
Willis C. Hawley (left) and Reed Smoot in April 1929, shortly before the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act passed the House of Representatives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

guest op-ed by Robert W. McGee

Should Donald Trump impose a 35% tariff on the importation of goods from China and Mexico as he proposes to do once inaugurated? The short answer, for two reasons, is NO.

Reason number one has to do with utilitarian ethics. Nearly all studies conducted by unbiased economists have found that trade restrictions are negative-sum games: There are more losers than winners, or the total losses exceed the total gains. For every job saved, two or three jobs are destroyed, depending on the study and the underlying assumptions.

Trump proposes imposing a tariff of 35% on imports from China and Mexico. The first question to be asked is, “who ultimately pays these tariffs?” The answer is, American consumers.

But that’s not the end of the story. Even people who don’t purchase those Chinese and Mexican products are worse off as a result of the tariff. A 35% tariff on the importation of foreign goods allows American producers to raise their prices. If they raise their prices by anything less than 35%, they will gain market share. American consumers who purchase American products will have to pay these higher prices. Tariffs are a form of corporate welfare because they benefit domestic producers. They are also a tax imposed on American consumers. American producers who pressure the government to impose tariffs on foreign producers are engaged in what economists call rent-seeking — feathering their own nests at the expense of the general public.

And beyond utilitarian calculations, let’s talk about rights. President Trump should not impose a 35% tariff on the importation of Chinese or Mexican products because it violates the property and contract rights of both buyers (American consumers) and sellers (Chinese and Mexican producers).

Consumers should be free to trade what they have (cash) for what they want (goods) without government interference. If a 35% tariff is imposed, it is likely that many Chinese and Mexican products will be shut out of the U.S. market. Their prices will become prohibitively high. American consumers will no longer even have the option of purchasing these products because they will never even cross the border. If they are able to cross the border, American consumers will have to pay more to obtain them.

The only trade policy that does not violate property rights is a policy of unilateral free trade. That means no tariffs, no quotas, no punishment for selling at a price that is deemed unacceptable by some bureaucrat in Washington, no protectionist schemes like domestic content laws, and no other restrictions on trade. If consenting adults and the corporations that represent them can trade what they have for what they want without government interference, no one’s rights are violated. In all other cases, rights are violated, which is unacceptable.

Robert W. McGee has earned 13 doctorates from universities in the United States and 4 European countries. He is a professor at Fayetteville State University and a best-selling novelist. Information about his novels can be found at http://robertwmcgee.com. More than 400 of his scholarly papers may be found at http://ssrn.com/author=2139.

Pearl Harbor: Should Abe Apologize?

The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japa...
The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941. USS Arizona sunk at Pearl Harbor. The ship is resting on the harbor bottom. The supporting structure of the forward tripod mast has collapsed after the forward magazine exploded. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On May 27, Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, site of history’s first atomic attack on August 6, 1945. The Japanese government did not ask Obama for an apology, nor did he offer one.

On December 27, Shinzo Abe will become the first Japanese prime minister to visit Pearl Harbor, site of the Japanese attack on the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941. The US government hasn’t asked Abe for an apology, nor is he expected to offer one.

Some Japanese citizens — especially those who survived, or lost loved ones in, Hiroshima — believe an American apology is warranted.

Some American citizens — especially those who survived, or lost loved ones at, Pearl Harbor — believe a Japanese apology is warranted.

Both groups are wrong. Few people are left to apologize to and none to offer an apology. The senior politicians and military figures of World War II, those who planned and ordered both attacks, are dead.

Shinzo Abe was born nearly 13 years after Pearl Harbor, Barack Obama just two days shy of 16 years after Hiroshima. Neither had anything to do with Pearl Harbor, with Hiroshima, or with the war the two countries waged against each other in between those terrible days.

Of the two, Abe has a better argument for declining to apologize: Multiple Japanese governments have publicly apologized for, and in some cases paid reparations for, Japan’s aggression back them.

On the 70th anniversary of VJ Day (the day World War II in the Pacific formally ended), Abe himself expressed regret for the Japan’s aggression, but correctly  spoke against continuing such gestures and letting “our children, grandchildren and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologise.”

Beyond a certain point, apologies not only cease to be needed but become mere rituals rather than genuine expressions of contrition.

In America, the subject of “reparations for slavery” occasionally becomes a matter of interest. When it does, many quite correctly point out that there’s nobody to pay such reparations, nor anyone to pay them to. Every American who was ever a slave owner, or a slave, is dead.

That’s not entirely the case with respect to World War II, but it’s nearly so. Now is the perfect time to stop endlessly demanding apologies from each other for past wars and instead join with each other in dedication to the prevention of the next war.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Censorship: Tech Firms Should Abandon the EU to Its Madness

Ban Censorship (RGBStock)

The European Union has a censorship addiction, and a desire to inflict the costs of indulging that addiction on the world’s top tech companies.

Vera Jourova, the EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, complains that Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft respond too slowly to demands that they delete posts deemed “hate speech” from their platforms.

In May, those companies “voluntarily” affirmed a code of conduct committing themselves to 24-hour turnaround on doing Jourova’s dirty work for her. Six months later, she claims the companies are too slow and that the EU may be “forced” to enact laws to punish them for not shutting people up as quickly as she wants them shut up.

All this follows other similar EU nonsense, including an absurd demand that search engines acknowledge a “right to be forgotten,” under which individuals could demand the removal of unflattering or inconvenient (but accurate) information from public view. The industry knuckled under to that in the EU, which quickly came back demanding they implement it worldwide.

Agreeing to the “code of conduct” was far from the tech industry’s first mistake. As Kipling wrote, “once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane.” By legitimizing a litany of claimed powers to conscript them as censors, the firms virtually guaranteed that Jourova and her gang would keep coming back with more, and more bizarre, demands.

The EU needs technology more than the world’s tech firms need the EU. At some point, the EU’s constant attempts to shift the costs of (and the public oppobrium aimed at) its ever-increasing police statism onto those firms will make doing business in the EU too expensive to be bothered with.

The world needs more of the “Wild West” atmosphere that censors in the EU and elsewhere attribute to it. A country with decent Internet infrastructure to constitutionally commit itself to non-interference with network traffic and content of all kinds would have a great pitch: “Domicile in our territory. Low taxes, no censorship. Countries that don’t like the traffic can bear the financial and political costs of blocking it.”

If the EU is unwilling to join civilized society and protect, rather than suppress, free speech, it should at least be forced to bear the full costs of its backward authoritarianism until it straightens up.

The tech industry should tell Vera  Jourova to pound sand, and make it stick.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

  • “Censorship: Tech Firms Should Abandon the EU to Its Madness,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Platte County, Wyoming Record Times [print only], 12/07/16