The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is playing host this year to prominent Republicans speaking about their party’s future. Senator Tom Cotton used his recent turn to disavow the longstanding alliance on America’s right-of-centre between conservatives and libertarians. “Whereas libertarian ideas have helpfully influenced domestic tax and regulatory policy,” he said, “these ideas often falter in a world of borders. There’s no natural level of people, goods, or money moving across borders; it’s a policy choice that must be made by the people and their representatives.”
Despite the priority that the Republican party has traditionally given to the free flow of capital, elevating it almost to a core principle, a wide range of conservatives are now making the case that China should be the exception. Cotton is one such intellectual bellwether. His speech was a sign of how far the economic consensus has shifted against globalisation. Investors should anticipate major policy responses, he made clear, in financial markets.