July 6, 2017

Trump on Trade

I am not in the habit of reacting to every asinine tweet made by our dumb-ass president, but I feel compelled to do so now. As President Trump left on Air Force One yesterday to meet with foreign leaders and confirm their worst fears about his ignorance and stupidity,  our Tweeter-in-Chief wrote the following:


Once again, Trump demonstrates that he knows nothing of trade, politics, or economics. Why should we expect our trading partners to “help” us, the most powerful and richest country on earth? It is not their job—and perhaps, not even in their interest—“to make America great.”

Trump has a naïve mercantilist view of trade—he likely doesn’t even know the word “mercantilism,” of course—and appears to believe that trade between nations is a zero-sum game. The U.S. can “win” only by making our trading partners lose. He wants a favorable balance of trade with every nation on earth. The president simply does not understand that trade can benefit everyone. This is fortuitous because our trading partners want to benefit their own countries as much as we do ours.

The world has changed. Instant communications, computers, automation, and ubiquitous international supply chains have created the world in which we live today. Those changes have also created new problems, complex problems that challenge a President of the United States. Unfortunately, the present office holder is a person of limited imagination. He cannot see new solutions to new problems; he can only imagine a “better” world as the world used to be. Moreover, just as he is a narcissist on a personal level—he seems genuinely to care only about himself—he is a kind of nationalist narcissist. Trump cares, at some level, about the U.S., but really has no empathy for the rest of the world unless it enhances his commercial empire’s bottom line.

Trade agreements are necessarily less than perfect, as interests other than purely economic ones invariably have to be taken into account. But free trade—or something very much like it—have made the world richer. Let us hope that Donald Trump doesn’t screw that up.

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