All posts by Joel Schlosberg

Everyone Should Be Upset With Biden (And Trump) On Trade

A 1990s Heineken ad on the exchange of Baywatch for the Dutch beer: “now that’s international trade.” Americans likewise gain from selling Harleys to overseas fans like those photographed by Ian Gratton in Sutton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire, England and buying such British exports as The Benny Hill Show and Mr. Bean. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

“Europe Is Upset With Biden On Trade” proclaimed the Wall Street Journal on January 30, noting that the continent’s “trade troubles with the Trump administration” continue under a successor who “has kept trade barriers in place.”

Readers who turned to page 8 learned that such woes aren’t simply the result of inaction, inertia or insufficiency, but that “in matters of international economics, Biden shared some of Trump’s worldview.” Sometimes, an opened door to trade was paired with a newly closed window, such as replacing “the tariffs Trump slapped on European steel and aluminum” with “more modest fees that nonetheless cost European metal exporters hundreds of millions of dollars last year.” Senator Joe Manchin proposed strings on a tax credit to discourage using car parts from countries unless they were “free-trade partners,” unaware this would disqualify imports from Europe as well as his intended target, China.

The party of Jefferson has reversed its founder’s call in the First Inaugural Address for “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” Meanwhile, Ron Paul’s 2007 book A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce, and Honest Friendship goes unread in a Trump-dominated GOP.

Even radical third-party presidential candidate Cornel West, denouncing the nation-state’s “monopoly on violence” and the ideology of nationalism as “an impediment, an obstacle that doesn’t allow us to see how nation-states are connected” in an interview with The Internationalist, ignores its role in preventing mutually beneficial deals, the opposite of what he denounces as “predatory capitalism, obsession with profit, squeezing out of nature, workers and anything you can touch in order to generate some kind of commercial and market value.”

It’s not like a free-market platform in 2024 is as quixotic as, say, the Prohibition Party’s in 1936. Trump-era trade wars have taken a bite out of the bottom lines of iconic American brands from Ford and Harley-Davidson to Apple (as well as newspapers printed on pulp from Canada).

A twenty-first century during which Hillary Clinton will only vouch for a “hemispheric common market, with open trade” behind closed doors could learn from the populists of the nineteenth. The movement against England’s regressive Corn Laws in the early 1800s, as historian Allen Guelzo observes, “saw in protectionism one of the chief props of an agricultural aristocracy.” West calling “a war of all against all” economy “market-driven” obscures how today’s aristocratic incumbents fear market competition. The Emma Goldman lauded by West for having “championed the struggle for freedom and justice” did so in camaraderie with the followers of Henry George, whose 1886 volume Protection Or Free Trade was one long argument for the latter.

A renewal of such popular pressure, including among those who can only vote in the USA with their dollars, can help make sure that politicians will think twice about assuming that trade walls are a winning strategy.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Everyone should be upset with Biden (and Trump) on trade” by Joel Schlosberg, The Lebanon, Indiana Reporter, February 6, 2024
  2. “Biden, Trump trade walls a losing strategy” by Joel Schlosberg, Rocky Mount, North Carolina Telegram, February 9, 2024
  3. “Everyone should be upset with Biden and Trump on trade” by Joel Schlosberg, The  Elizabethton, Tennessee Star, February 9, 2024

Where Do You Want to Take a Free Mouse Today?

Doo Lee illustrating the contention of a 1998 unsigned New York Times editorial that “when a work enters the public domain it means the public can afford to use it freely, to give it new currency.” Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

As 2024 begins, Mickey Mouse no longer remains under the full legal control of the Walt Disney Company. Meanwhile, their archenemy vies with an ex-President, who has pictured himself as a slacker cartoon frog, for the Republican nomination.

Ron DeSantis’s thin cloak of anti-corporate rhetoric covers a conventional GOP suit. Donald Trump is known more from hosting network TV than for inspiring dank web memes. But while this year beggars belief from the viewpoint of this year, it would have been unimaginable a quarter-century ago.

The House of Representatives passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act on October 7, 1998, forestalling the copyright expirations of Mickey cartoons that would have started in 2004.  Less than two months since the introductions of Rotten Tomatoes and Google, Florida Representative Bill McCollum argued that copyright effectively “promotes the creation of educational materials, widens the dissemination of information and provides countless hours of entertainment.” It hadn’t become apparent how networked creation and dissemination would mushroom past guaranteed returns on investment; a week later, FanFiction.Net provided a venue for “countless hours of entertainment” from amateur writers.

Meanwhile, New York Representative Jerry Nadler cautioned that “government should intervene in the free market when there is a real public policy purpose only … when the free market is not working right” to question, not lengthy copyrights, but the partial exemption of restaurants from music licensing fees, despite them being government-granted monopolies in the first place and their retroactive extension a handout to owners of existing works.

Archivists and activists were heeded even less than restaurateurs, but the next month, A Bug’s Life anticipated their potential power. “You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up. Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one. And if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life!”

By 2011, the web-linked hive mind derailed the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act bills from following the Sonny Bono Act into enactment. Despite consolidation in the tech and media industries, nobody was truly in control, for better or worse.

Pepe the Frog creator Matt Furie told Esquire in 2016 of his doubts that “copyright laws have caught up to the wild west of the Internet” on which many “people can post Mickey Mouse on a blog and they’re not going to get a cease and desist from Disney.” Despite opposing the connotations that had tainted his amphibian since debuting on MySpace in 2005, “even if I did try to stop it, it’s like whack-a-mole” (itself a Mattel trademark colloquially decontextualized from the specific arcade game it originally denoted).

SOPA and PIPA couldn’t have driven crowds to early-2010s Disney turkeys like John Carter and The Lone Ranger. A decade later, Disney+’s financial losses — and its studio’s chances to revive its magic in the marketplace of ideas — don’t have much do with losing exclusives on one-reelers made during the Coolidge administration.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Schlosberg: Where do you want to take a free mouse today?” by Joel Schlosberg, Dover, Delaware State News, January 4, 2024
  2. “Where Do You Want to Take a Free Mouse Today?” by Joel Schlosberg, CounterPunch, January 5, 2024
  3. “Where do you want to take a free mouse today?” by Joel Schlosberg, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman [Wasilla, Alaska], January 5, 2024

Time for Leviathan Reduction Action

Mr. T pitied the fools in Reagan’s White House, but the building could still use general inspection from court jesters. Public domain.

Despite taking socialists to task for being leery of the president (Joe Biden) who boasted that he “beat the socialist,” Justin Vassallo may as well be wearing a red suit for the message he’s bringing reds.

After all, according to Vassallo’s “The Left’s Foolish Attack on Bidenomics” (Compact Magazine, December 5), socialists need not bother with nostalgia for Michael Harrington’s The Other America inspiring JFK and LBJ to launch the War on Poverty six decades ago, when they wield considerable influence on the federal economic policy of 2024.

Not only are their reservations about endorsing Joe Biden’s economic policies enough of a threat to his re-election to be worth warning against, but even measures seemingly “a ‘gift’ to capital in the form of various subsidies” have the potential to be “activated through public policy within the framework of market society” through what leftist historian Martin J. Sklar called a “socialist investment component.”

Vassallo finds it “ironic” that “the most militant leftist critiques of industrial policy echo the libertarian right’s complaint that it is but another iteration of ‘crony capitalism’.” Ironically, it was Sklar who helped fellow radical scholars realize that progressive interventions “were always limited to those that would allow corporate capitalism to function more efficiently,” as noted in the editorial comments by Blanche Wiesen Cook, Alice Kessler Harris and Ronald Radosh in their 1973 survey Past Imperfect: Alternative Essays in American History. Sklar was also included in A New History of Leviathan: Essays on the Rise of the American Corporate State, coedited by Radosh with free-market libertarian Murray N. Rothbard.

Rothbard and Radosh’s joint introduction notes that their respective goals of “removing the privileges of the large corporations and returning to laissez-faire” and “a decentralized socialist economy” showed the “major political and philosophical differences between the editors.” Yet they shared an “awareness that the nature of liberalism has been distorted to mask large corporate control over American politics is essential for interpreting our past development, and for understanding how the Leviathan Corporate State operates today.”

Vassallo gets it exactly backward: It was Sklar and comrades like Radosh who helped make libertarians less automatically in favor of big business, and leftists wary of assuming that state support is friendly to labor bargaining power and consumer safety. The “peculiar dissociation from the ideas and strategies that animated Bernie Sanders and European left populists” is, if anything, a sign of how much the current left has forgotten of what the New Left learned.

While deriding “Econ 101 certainties that haven’t determined actually existing capitalism since the Industrial Revolution, if they ever did,” Vassallo is arrogant enough to prescribe “what the American economy should be producing more of — and conversely, what it could use less of.” (A proposed “new synthesis” of John Maynard Keynes and Alexander Hamilton had already long been the norm in American political economy when Hamilton was a trivia question in a Got Milk? ad.) Such compulsory counsel is the equivalent of getting coal for Christmas, plus a bill for the coal.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Time for Leviathan Reduction Action” by Joel Schlosberg, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman [Wasilla, Alaska], December 14, 2023
  2. “Time for Leviathan Reduction Action” by Joel Schlosberg, OpEdNews, December 15, 2023
  3. “Time for Leviathan Reduction Action” by Joel Schlosberg, The News [Kingstree, South Carolina], January 3, 2024