Acton Institute Powerblog

Both parties promoting protectionist, crony trade policies

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While the Democratic and Republican parties disagree on just about every other issue, there is one area where they seem to have common ground.  That is the issue of trade and, unfortunately, neither of the two major political party’s platform takes a liberal position on the issue.  Director of Research at the Acton Institute, Samuel Gregg, recently highlighted in an article for The Stream how the two parties have taken positions against free trade and how ultimately this will hurt the American economy.  Gregg starts his article by explaining how the alternative to free trade is protectionism which will lead directly to cronyism:

Protectionism also encourages unhealthy relationships between politicians and businesses. The latter have an incentive to lobby for favors rather than improve their performance in the marketplace. And politicians expect something in return for passing legislation that favors particular industries and businesses. In this sense, protectionism feeds a major problem already harming American politics and the economy: crony capitalism.

Gregg goes on to explain both party’s platform on the issue of trade, starting with how the growing skeptic ism of free trade in America has infiltrated the Republican platform.  This is really not surprising when considering how closely Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric aligns with the ideas of protectionism.  Gregg says:

Yet Americans’ growing skepticism about free trade, upon which Mr. Trump has capitalized, has infected the Republican platform. It calls, for instance, for more toughly negotiated agreements to advance “the interests of U.S. workers,” greater transparency, and an end to unfair practices by other nations (China being named as a primary culprit) such as currency manipulation and subsidizing businesses. The platform also states that an American president must be ready to “to implement countervailing duties if other countries refuse to cooperate.”

Later, Gregg begins explaining how the Democratic Party views free trade and while both parties have objections to free trade the Democrats is based more on the negatives of free trade rather than skepticism of the positives.

More ink, however, is split by the Democratic Party underscoring what are regarded as free trade’s negatives. These range from viewing free trade as “a race to the bottom,” to claiming that it has had detrimental effects on “workers’ rights, labor standards, the environment and public health.”

Gregg concludes the article by asking the question, “Are we all Neo-Mercantilists now?” and then stating that “In a populist age, however, free trade was always going to be a casualty.”

You can read Gregg’s full article on The Stream here.

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Kyle Hanby

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