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Milton Friedman debates President Trump on trade

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Many of us thought it was empty rhetoric or that an advisor who had read an economics textbook would talk him out of it. But yesterday President Trump announced he’ll keep his campaign promise to start a trade war by slapping tariffs of 25 percent on foreign-made steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

On Twitter, the president followed up with the bafflingly, unhistorical comment that,

When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!

In response, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse responded that trade wars are never won:

Kooky 18th century protectionism will jack up prices on American families — and will prompt retaliation from other countries. Make no mistake: If the President goes through with this, it will kill American jobs — that’s what every trade war ultimately does. So much losing.

The best response from Trump’s misguided view of trade comes from Milton Friedman, one of the greatest economists in American history. Let’s hear from both sides on this issue:

If judged on substance, it’s obvious Friedman wins this debate. But in the long run Trump and other anti-free market politicians are likely to continue to convince the public to support their terrible, anti-trade policies. When it comes to economics, Americans have a tendency to reject policies that make our country more prosperous in favor of ignorant demagoguery that gives the appearance of punishing foreign nations.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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