The Fair Trade Fraud by James Bovard

February 17, 2018

Of all people, left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore hit upon one of the main reasons a blusterous reality TV star won the 2016 presidential election, and it did not involve Russian political intrigue:

Well maybe it’s because he’s said (correctly) that the Clintons’ support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states. When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and Trump walked away with a big victory that should have gone to the governor next-door, John Kasich.

I don’t agree with Moore’s perception of free trade. But in the world of electoral politics, perception is reality. The perception, now shared many Republicans, is that free trade agreements are hurting the United States. Nobody in the 2016 election thundered that sentiment louder than candidate Donald Trump.

Now President Trump is starting to act on his protectionist impulses, as he recently imposed “safeguard tariffs on imported large residential washing machines and imported solar cells and modules.”

President Trump’s actions do not “defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses” as he claims. He pits American against American.

To understand this fully, I highly recommend James Bovard’s 1991 book The Fair Trade Fraud: How Congress Pillages the Consumer and Decimates American Competitiveness.

Bovard’s book explains that free trade is just as much a moral issue as it is an empirical one. Trade affects the most basic proposition: how we live our lives. “Since practically no one can make all the things he wears, eats, and uses, a person’s living standard and opportunity in life depends largely on his opportunities for trading the product of his labor with others. Pervasive trade barriers effectively force people to use inferior building blocks for their life,” Bovard wrote.

The Fair Trade Fraud spells out in painstaking detail how protectionism punctures the building blocks of our lives. Examples of various studies cited provide the following estimates:

-Trade barriers cost an average family $1,200 a year, and erode 32% of the purchasing power of a family just living above poverty.
-The poor lose 8.8% of their income because of textile and apparel protection.
-US dairy protectionism makes consumer costs $800 higher per American family.
-Protectionism for the steel industry cost steel users $10 for every $1 of subsidy steel importers received from their governments (protection like this being the true cause of the hardships Moore cites).
-Sugar protection costing consumers a combined $3 billion per year.
-“Voluntary” auto export restraints from the 1980s raised the average price of a new car by $1,650.

None of these figures are of any concern to protectionists. They only care about one thing.


Here are some examples Bovard cites of protectionism’s track record on jobs-Jobs-JOBS:

-A Federal Reserve study cites a job is lost for every job saved in by textile protection.
-Between 1981 and the publication of The Fair Trade Fraud, sugar quotas destroyed 9,000 jobs in food manufacturing. Another 3,000 jobs were lost when a Chicago candy factory, citing the cost of US sugar, relocated to Canada. Another 7,000 refinery jobs were lost because of the cutback in sugar imports. The quotas were to assist 11,000 sugar farmers.
-Steel protection cost 13 jobs in steel-using industries for every steelworker’s saved job.
-The price increase in automobiles occurring in response to import quotas resulted in 1 million fewer sold cars, thus 50,000 fewer jobs.
-Peanut quotas forced a Maryland food processor to lay off 20% of its workforce.
-Duties on softwood lumber imports were estimated to cost 16,600 jobs in construction in order to save 5,000 lumber jobs.
-The Semiconductor Arrangement cost an estimated 11,000 jobs in chip-using companies.

When government makes the cost of doing business more expensive, there are ripple effects. There’s no reason to believe Trump’s latest actions will defy the laws of economics.

The Fair Trade Fraud is an older book, therefore specific laws/rules/policies cited may be out of date. But the mindset that created these examples is clearly still with us. It’s not the most exciting read, but a must-read if you want to understand the immorality and economic harm done in the name of “fair” trade.


SOTU 2018

January 31, 2018

Cato scholars chime in on Trump’s BS, inaccuracies, and (yes) occasional moments of legitimate accomplishment.

A Note From Your Exasperated Blogger

August 17, 2017

Dear Readers,

If anyone is a loyal reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed a dearth of content on this page. The events of the past several months serve as a good explanation for this.

I recently seen a post from a Facebook friend suggesting anyone who is sick of politics right now and doesn’t fight back is guilty of “privilege in action.” The suggestion here is that politics is a binary choice: “us” vs “them”, and if you’re not with “us” you’re the enemy. Zero tolerance.

This “choice” is being defined by the activist alt-right and the activist progressive left. This “choice” as defined by these two sides leaves no room for independent thought, no room for nuance, no room for peaceful engagement, no room for polite disagreement, no room for peace. Us vs them. Zero tolerance.

Per certain members the alt-right, if you have a different nationality, you are “damaging” the United States.

Per certain members of the progressive left, anyone who votes the wrong way is a “Nazi”.

The activists pushing these narratives are driving people away. It’s why I have become more and more disengaged from politics. I’m not a member of the activist alt-right. I’m not a member of the activist progressive left. There is no room for someone like myself in this fight.

I denounce the violence and vehicular homicide that we’ve seen from the activist alt-right.

I denounce the violence and attempted political assassination that we’ve seen from the activist progressive left.

My disengagement isn’t about privilege. It’s about not letting the vile, disgusting, reprehensible, and evil elements of these two sides define my morality.

This is not a farewell post. I’ll blog when I feel the urge. But it might be awhile.

‘Til we meet again.


Your Humble Correspondent

Baltimore Cops Caught Planting Drugs

July 20, 2017

Unintended (But Predictable) Consequences of Minimum Wage Hikes

July 15, 2017

From Cato:

No doubt some of the law’s supporters were well-intentioned; they also predicted the law would help low-wage workers.

But intentions aside, compelling new research suggests Seattle’s minimum-wage law harmed poor workers significantly. A University of Washington study released Monday indicates that the move from an $11-per-hour minimum wage to a $13-per-hour minimum wage in Seattle was associated with a more-than-9% cut in low-wage workers’ hours.

This is a loss of 3.5 million hours worked per quarter, and translates into a $125 average decline in low-wage employees’ earnings per month. Other estimates in the paper suggest that the minimum wage is associated with 5,000 jobs lost in Seattle.

The NRA’s Support For Your Right To Bear Arms (Sometimes)

July 11, 2017

This is the group that claims to be the only thing preventing the government from obliterating the Second Amendment, yet they’re noticeably quiet about the people doing the most violence to the Second Amendment — the armed, badge-wearing government employees we call law enforcement officers. For all the NRA’s dire warnings about government gun confiscation, the real, tangible threat to gun-owning Americans today comes not from gun-grabbing bureaucrats but from door-bashing law enforcement officers who think they’re at war — who are too often trained to view the people they serve not as citizens with rights but as potential threats. Here, the NRA just doesn’t want to get involved.

More here.

People Will Die!

June 28, 2017

Make America Great By Resurrecting Failed Policies

June 17, 2017

While not the complete reversal it’s made about to be, President Trump changes the terms of former President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba.

The move doesn’t help Cubans. From Matt Welch’s article:

As Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a supporter of Obama’s approach, told Reason in Havana 18 months ago, “These aren’t sanctions on Cubans, these are sanctions on Americans….It’s not a concession to allow your own population to travel. That’s an expression of freedom.”

To support this crackdown on Americans, Trump claimed that “The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade do not help the Cuban people—they only enrich the Cuban regime.” But that claim does not survive contact with reality. American tourists give money directly to Cuban Airbnb operators, street musicians, private restaurant owners, and artists, many of whom now own their own property. Sure, those entrepreneurial Cubans have to cough up various tributes to the state, but there is no doubt that their own personal lot has improved. As Flake told us, “You have about 25 percent of Cubans who work fully in the private sector….The big change [since 2001, when he started visiting there] is the number of Cubans being able to not have to rely on government and therefore can hold their government more accountable.”

Trump attempts a “tear down this wall” moment with this quote: “We will not lift sanctions on the Cuban regime until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled.”

Insert your own joke here.

Trump Vs. Immigrants

June 9, 2017

I find the political intrigue with Donald Trump, Russia, and James Comey tiresome. I’m more concerned when this administration carries out policies that hurt people. From Brian Doherty at Reason:

Trump’s immigration enforcement authorities are reopening cases of “hundreds of illegal immigrants who…had been given a reprieve from deportation,” Reuters says, under Obama-era policies designed to focus only on those undocumented immigrants who had committed other serious crimes.

Reuters reports that 1,329 immigration cases have been reopened, relying on data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). For comparison, “The Obama administration filed 430 similar motions during the same period in 2016.”

One of the “criminals” the authorities are targeting include “a woman who had her case reopened because immigration officials discovered her criminal history from back home in El Salvador. She had been arrested for selling pumpkin seeds on the street without the proper license.”

More here.

Trump’s “Threat” To Democracy: A Contrarian Take

May 13, 2017

Dan Rather posted that Donald Trump is attempting to “destroy or disable much of the government.” Retired admiral William McRaven said Trump’s hostility to the press “may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.” Headlines from the New York Times and NPR both ask if Donald Trump is a threat to democracy. The Washington Post editorial board unequivocally declares he is a “unique threat.” As does this writer. And this writer. And so on.

All of these individuals seem to have a religious devotion to democracy, and any “attack” on their god is heresy.

I daresay Donald Trump’s presidency is not a threat to democracy; his presidency is a natural by-product OF democracy.

American democracy is voting for people who want to use the levers of power to make other people do things they don’t want to do. Sometimes those levers are used with benevolence. Often its use is corrupt and malevolent. Should it be a surprise that when we hand over the power to act with corruption and malevolence (which we do as we increase the scope of human interaction subject to the dictates of democracy), democracy attracts corrupt and malevolent people? Who then act with corruption and malevolence? And so on.

Donald Trump is a threat to liberty. As was Barack Obama. As was George W. Bush. And so on.

These men have one thing in common: they came to power thanks to America’s democracy.

You reap what you sow.