On this episode of Critics Corner, Tax Foundation senior economist Erica York joins Oren Cass for a conversation about tariffs: who bears the cost, who benefits, and much more. Further Read more…
The inside story of the trade negotiation that changed the world
Reclaiming control of U.S. trade policy
Levy a tariff on all imports that rises until trade is balanced
Make American goods more attractive to foreigners than American assets
Balance trade by requiring importers to purchase credits from exporters.
On this episode of Policy in Brief, Oren Cass is joined by American Compass policy director Chris Griswold to discuss how U.S. trade fell so far out of balance—and some ideas for how to rebalance it.
“Bad competitiveness” results in weakening demand, which either reduces global production or requires surging debt to maintain demand and production at its existing level. Perhaps that rings a bell, because it is the world we live in.
In his essay, Oren Cass correctly argues that a well-functioning capitalist system requires a “bounded market” within a nation-state that imposes interdependence on labor, capital, and consumers. Frictionless capital mobility across borders, in contrast, decouples the interests of investors from their country and their workers.
Oren Cass is right to note that modern economists largely misunderstand Adam Smith. But the misunderstanding runs deeper and traces even further back than editorializing in 20th-century textbooks. For more than two centuries, scholars have ignored the relationship between Smith’s political philosophy and economic analysis.
Oren Cass takes on the entrenched belief held by the U.S. economics profession that countries should always pursue a policy of free trade. He argues that Smith and Ricardo have been misunderstood for generations because their key assumptions around capital mobility were omitted as the arguments were passed down.
Economic theorists treat globalization as the free market’s natural end state. But trade practitioners know that the opposite is true—that efforts at stitching together the world’s economies are among the messiest sausage-making exercises in policymaking.
The debate over free trade versus protectionism has been around for hundreds of years, with a level of political prominence that has varied over time. After a relatively quiet period in the post-war era, the modern debate over trade and globalization’s rules and institutions has grown quite contentious.
The first part of Mr. Cass’s argument is that the entire economics profession has either misread or misinterpreted a sentence in Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and that it has built the case for free trade from that alleged misreading or misrepresentation. This is simply and fundamentally not true.
Adapted from remarks delivered by Senator Marco Rubio on the 20th anniversary of China’s ascension to the WTO.
Regulatory skeptics make a fundamental mistake in assuming that the United States can freely choose between greater state intervention in digital markets and a continued laissez-faire approach.
Unilaterally disarming from trade conflict on behalf of open markets, and then making empty demands, is not a plan.
Although neoliberal globalists are often said to be opposed to industrial policy and strategic trade, that is not necessarily true. Neoliberals of the kind who have dominated U.S. policy under the two Bushes, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are not orthodox anti-government libertarians. They support a particular kind of industrial policy, whose emblem is not the American eagle but the Japanese goose.
A Response to Michael Lind
Professor Dan Drezner is again illustrating how we ended up with a misbegotten consensus on globalization built upon inadequate assumptions and shallow analysis. A couple of weeks ago, we encountered him badly mischaracterizing a study about the supposed value of trade liberalization. Breezing past that issue, he is back now with a more outlandish claim, that: “a world in which ‘trade were balanced, domestic industry robust, and productivity rising’ is a world that not only does not exist, but very likely cannot exist” (emphasis in original).