January 28, 2018


Ode to a Washing Machine : Trump's tariffs on solar panels are bad for the U.S. economy and the environment. Let us not forget: So are his tariffs on the hero of the laundry room. (Megan McArdle, January 26, 2018, Bloomberg)

Politics aside, let me state clearly: Raising the cost of solar panels will have an adverse impact on the jobs of solar panel installers, and mean more power generated from dirtier, limited resources. These tariffs are economically distortionary and bad for Americans, and they should be lifted.

But the impact on American consumers of higher washing machine prices is immensely greater than the impact of higher solar panel prices. By the end of 2016, there were something north of 1.3 million solar panel installations, total, in the U.S. By contrast, around 10 million washing machines are sold every year. LG has already told retailers that it will be raising prices as a result of the tariffs, which means that the next time consumers go to buy a new washer, their options will be less attractive than those they would have enjoyed in the absence of the tariffs.

When protectionism is not about protecting America at all (George F. Will, January 26, 2018, Washington Post)

Fomenting spurious anxieties about national security is the first refuge of rent-seeking scoundrels who tart up their protectionism as patriotism when they inveigle government into lining their pockets with money extracted from their fellow citizens. Sugar producers are ludicrously protected in the name of "food security." Most U.S. steel imports come from four important allies: Canada, South Korea, Mexico and Brazil. The coming steel tariffs/taxes will mean that defense dollars will buy fewer ships, tanks and armored vehicles, just as the trillion infrastructure dollars the administration talks about will buy fewer bridges and other steel-using projects. As Henry George said, with protectionism a nation does to itself in peacetime what an enemy tries to do to it in war.

Will the Liberals Take the Lead on Trade? : The populist Right turns its back on free enterprise. (Kevin D. Williamson, January 25, 2018, National Review)

[T]he Left's hostility to capitalism comes in colors other than red, from labor unions (some of them staunchly anti-Communist) seeking to put industrial production under political discipline to the progressive tendency to regard the pursuit of profit as inherently distasteful, especially when it is used to provide services such as education and infrastructure development, which they see as the moral property of the state. That leads to some strange outcomes, such as the American Left's obsession with privately operated prisons, as though the abuses at lockups such as Rikers Island were somehow less horrifying for having been conducted by government employees. The Left's opposition to doing things like helping poor black kids from Washington attend better schools is similarly rooted in revulsion to free-market alternatives to political duchies.

There also is a tradition, small but persistent, of anti-capitalism on the right, one that is bound up in primitive attitudes about shadowy "elites" -- very much back in fashion -- associated with big business, especially bankers, and especially especially Jewish bankers. From Henry Ford to Charles Lindbergh to Pat Buchanan to the so-called alt-right, right-wing anti-capitalism has been very closely associated with a belief that Jews exercise an occult and outsized influence on American affairs. Right-wing anti-capitalism is rooted in hostility toward foreigners and in a bias against economic interactions with them, which are believed to be necessarily impoverishing. (Left-wing anti-capitalism is not immune to this, but has a more developed ideological basis.) The anti-Semitism associated with right-wing anti-capitalism is a reflection of the fact that in the Western mind the Jew is simply a native foreigner, in Christendom but not of it. Like the anti-Semitism that almost invariably accompanies it, anti-capitalism is a superstition, a religious conviction that is absolutely impervious to argument and evidence. It has, at its extremes, effects that are indistinguishable from those of mental illness.

Opposition to free trade has long been at the center of populist and right-wing anti-capitalism, partly because it has long been associated in the right-wing mind with projects for one-world government. Here the Left and the Right exhibit similarities in their political imaginations...

Posted by at January 28, 2018 7:18 AM