These policies would lead to an economic disaster. I know this because not that long ago a champion of free trade, economist Stephen Moore, argued that Trump’s protectionism undermines the idea that “Americans and workers all over the world” should “have access to the best-quality products at the lowest possible prices.” This, he points out, is all about comparative advantage, a theory taught to us by (the suspiciously foreign-sounding) David Ricardo.
Similarly, let’s dispense with the notion that Trump merely wants to end illegal immigration. His protectionist rhetoric goes far beyond that, blaming an influx of people, not only the illegal kind, for our economic troubles. But as Moore once pointed out, in 1980s and ’90s we saw nearly 20 million new legal immigrants enter the country —“one of the largest waves of newcomers in our nation’s history”— yet the United States created “nearly 40 million new jobs, the unemployment rate plunged by half, and the middle class saw living standards rise by almost one-third (between 1983 and 2005).”
Let’s also dispense with the idea that more trade regulation will alleviate crony capitalism and elite control, as Trump contends. The more regulations and restrictions you impose on the economy, the more rent-seeking you have. Trump wants to create more of this, not less.
Yet if you propose that American kids shouldn’t be saddled with low-paying, menial, unproductive jobs brought back from Vietnam, you’re a globalist now. We’ve lost 6 million manufacturing jobs over the past 12 years, and those loses are often meted out in human suffering. But, as if it needs to be repeated, U.S. manufacturing is producing far more with far less through efficiency and modernization. That’s not going to change because of political anger.