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

Politicians Versus Your “End Of Life Options”

The suicide of Cleopatra; Roman soldiers discover Cleopatra Wellcome V0041569

For the second year in a row, Florida’s  state legislature has an “end of life options” — or “medical aid in dying” — bill before it.

SB 1642 / HB 561 would “allow” terminally ill patients, diagnosed as having less than six months to live, to “request” (and doctors to prescribe) medication to end their lives “peacefully” instead of waiting for the prognosis to run its course.

Although this partial and minimal accommodation of patients’ rights should pass with a veto-proof majority faster than the TV cameras pan to Taylor Swift when Travis Kelce scores a touchdown, it’s probably deader than its beneficiaries will be in, say, six months.

Since it’s unlikely to pass, and since nothing I write is likely to change that, I’d like to turn to a simpler question:

Why do we tolerate politicians claiming that our lives belong to them and that whether, when, and how those lives end should be their decision rather than ours?

Nature (and human nature) preclude, at least for the moment, the choice to live forever. Illness, accident, and crime cut lives short every day despite the perfectly normal desire to continue living.

But the desire to NOT continue living, for whatever reason, brings up a choice that rightfully belongs to all mentally competent adults. Entirely. Completely. Without exception.

I might not agree that you’re making a good choice, but it’s your choice to make. Not mine. Not the legislature’s. Not your doctor’s. Not even your loved ones’. Yours and yours alone.

Attempting to forbid that choice is evil in all cases, and especially evil when the victims of that prohibition are going to die shortly, know they are going to die shortly, and are likely in considerable pain and unable to do the things that make further life enjoyable while they await the inevitable.

While the Florida bill represents what one might call “a good start,” it’s flawed because it builds on the faulty and morally abhorrent idea that you are property, owned by the state, rather than a free individual who’s responsible for your own life and entitled to decide whether or not that life continues.

Instead of asking politicians to “allow” us to “request” limited control over such matters, we should ask ourselves why we “allow” those politicians to exercise such control over us in the first place.

And we should take back that control and that choice instead of begging for exceptions.

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.


Election 2024: It’s Not The Economy, Stupid

In the run-up to 1992’s presidential election, chief strategist James Carville relentlessly hammered on a simple message for Bill Clinton’s Democratic campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Social issues and foreign policy, Carville theorized, were mere distractions. Voters would prioritize their pocketbook prospects over such things when choosing between Clinton and incumbent president George H.W. Bush, so Clinton should focus on those prospects.

It worked, and operatives from both “major” parties took the lesson to heart.

More than three decades later, Donald Trump and his proxies are hitting hard with talk about how great the economy was four years ago and how terrible it is now.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden and his proxies are advertising various economic indicators as evidence that his policies have “worked” to revive an economy terribly damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic (while not so casually mentioning that the damage started on Donald Trump’s watch, while the recovery began on Biden’s).

Back in 1992, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh questioned the Clinton strategy on a near-daily basis.

He pointed to polls showing that most Americans thought the overall economy was terrible, while also describing their personal economic situations as pretty good.

Well, guess what:

According to a late January poll by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs, only 35% of American adults rate the national economy as “good,” while 65% call it “poor.”

But according to the Harris Poll /Axios “Vibes Survey,” 63% of Americans say their own financial situations are “good” or “very good.”

As in 1992, the 2024 incumbent lags his challenger and, where the economy is concerned, does so on a similar set of poll responses.

I’m not interested in convincing you that “Bidenomics” has “worked” (it hasn’t).

Nor am I interested in convincing you that Trump’s first term was some kind of economic golden age (it wasn’t).

In fact, both presidents have done terrible damage to the general economy and to your personal well-being, pledged to continue doing such damage if returned to office, and worked hard to expand presidential power to do such damage. Their policies made the economic impact of the pandemic far worse, and the recovery much slower and weaker, than it should have been — and   WOULD have been if they’d stepped out of your way instead of locking you down and throwing “stimulus” checks at you.

If you’re seeking a reason to support either of them, look elsewhere — it’s not the economy, stupid.

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.