The Argument Against Absolute Free Trade

Free trade has undeniably improved the material condition of humans.  Lower barriers to trade, along with improved technological efficiency and global supply chains, fuel a robust international economy, and have accounted for untold economic growth since the end of the Second World War.

Coupled with widespread globalization and a frosty cosmopolitanism, however, free trade has reduced those humans to faceless economic inputs, cogs in a massive, borderless machine.  In such a system, are increased efficiency and cheaper knick-knacks worth the toll on national unity and spiritual growth?

The 21st century will be one in which nations will struggle increasingly with this question.  If the concept of the “nation-state” is to endure, societies that wish to maintain their traditional identities will have to pursue a measure of economic nationalism to preserve their borders, languages, and cultures.

Free trade—or at least trade with very low-level tariffs—offers the fastest route to growth for many nations, but for those that wish to maintain their industrial—and moral—cores, a degree of protectionism is prudent and necessary.  High protective tariffs, focused on key industries like steel, and targeted skillfully toward unfair trading partners, protect a nation’s working men, ensuring a stable social order, and safeguarding a country’s vital national security interests.

Targeted Protectionism Benefits American Workers

Since the disastrous Smooth-Hawley Tariff of 1930 (and the resulting retaliatory tariffs that contracted the global economy further in the dark days of the Depression), both major political parties in the United States have eschewed protective tariffs.  A cornerstone of Republican economic policy dating back to Lincoln (and to Henry Clay of the Whigs before him), tariffs lost political and economic cache to the free-trade advocates of Bretton Woods.  That order fueled a major post-war economic expansion in the United States and ...

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