FreeCons blast President Biden for continuing Trump tariff policies
One of three specific commitments contained in the Freedom Conservatism Statement of Principles is to address an issue voters properly place near the top of their priority list: reducing the cost of living.
Even before reckless fiscal and monetary policies pursued during the COVID pandemic produced steep price increases for food, fuel, and other necessities, Americans were struggling with the cost of such services as health care and higher education.
FreeCons believe the solution is to expand supply — through deregulation, innovation, and other pro-growth measures — while ending the subsidies, mandates, and monetary policies with which politicians attempt to manipulate demand.
“We commit to reducing the cost of living through competitive markets, greater individual choice, and free trade with free people,” says our statement, “while upholding the rule of law, freedom of contract, and freedom of association.”
Today we spotlight FreeCons who focus on one key element of our strategy: easing government constraints on trade and commerce.
Imports aid production
Donald Boudreaux is a senior fellow with the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University. He’s also a FreeCon signatory.
In a Wall Street Journal column co-written with former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, Boudreaux criticized the Biden administration for retaining trade restrictions first instigated by the Trump administration.
While National Conservative claim that tariffs and other barriers to imports stimulate production and create jobs in America, “protectionism shrinks rather than expands production,” Boudreaux and Gramm write. “It does so most directly by obstructing U.S.-based producers’ access to inputs.”
They point to Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which at most saved only a few metal-production jobs: 1,000 in steel and 1,300 in aluminum.
“But for each American worker employed to produce steel or aluminum, 36 were employed in the production of goods that use steel or aluminum as inputs,” they write, citing evidence that the tariffs destroyed about 75,000 manufacturing jobs. Similarly, Trump’s tariffs on washing machines created a measly 1,800 jobs at an annual cost of $815,000 each.
Justifying Biden’s continuation of Trump’s trade policies, one official claimed that tariffs benefit “the powerful at the expense of the rest.” That’s backward, Boudreaux and Gramm conclude. “Protectionism, by its nature, is a gift to the powerful paid for by the rest of us.”
Harvest best ideas
A visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Frank Lavin formerly served as undersecretary for international trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce and was lead trade negotiator for both China and India. As ambassador to Singapore, Lavin also helped negotiate its free-trade agreement with the U.S.
In the private sector, he served in senior finance and management positions in Hong Kong and Singapore with Edelman, Bank of America, and Citibank.
“Nations that want to move ahead engage in trade,” he wrote. “Trade allows these countries to harvest the best ideas, products and technology from around the world, and they allow the rest of the world to receive the benefits of that nation’s ideas and products as well. And all nations benefit from competition, which broadens choice, decreases the cost of manufacturing, and works against inflation.”
Recognizing the policy can produce short-run political costs even as it promotes economic wellbeing and the national interest in the long run, Lavin offered several practical strategies for advancing free trade in the current moment.
For example, leaders can focus on expanding trade with non-authoritarian states. “It is in all parties’ interest, including the U.S., for economies to reduce their trade dependency on China. Making it as easy as possible for these economies to collaborate would be a useful political step as well as an economic boost.”
Jenna Robinson, president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, penned a column explaining her decision to sign the Freedom Conservatism statement. The center works on higher education reform, which will require the skillful application of such FreeCon principles as competition, fiscal responsibility, and freedom of conscience and expression. “We envision a future where purposeful knowledge counts more than credentials, where public investment in higher education provides value to students and society, and where liberal learning is once again tailored to the cultivation of free and flourishing minds.”
On a recent episode of the Chris Spangle Show, Young Voices contributor Parker McCumber discussed his American Thinker essay about the FreeCon project. “Conservatives everywhere should unite under the Statement of Principles,” he said, “as it provides a well rounded philosophical grounding for the movement on pertinent contemporary issues” and will help “ensure that America's best days are still in front of her.” You can listen to the show here.
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