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On the other hand...

Former Senator Fritz Hollings has a very interesting argument that bailing out the auto companies might be defended as part of a return to a sane policy of industrial protectionism.

Protectionism? Yeah, it's an interesting piece:

Of course, the economists for the global financial institutions and the big multinational corporations know this, but because their loyalties are more to their institutions and less to our nation, they continue their calls for ever more "free trade" and for continuing U.S. trade and current account deficits.

The irony is that economists learn in their very first class in school that it was a trade war which brought us our initial freedom as a country, and that semi-protectionism later helped build the United States. England started a "trade war" with the Colonies by adopting the Navigation Act of 1651 that required all trade be carried in British vessels. Manufacturing was forbidden in the Colonies, even the printing of the Bible, and then the Townsend Acts drafted by Adam Smith placed heavy import duties on a wide range of items. All of this precipitated the Boston Tea Party that started the Revolution.

While we obtained our freedom in 1776, it wasn't until 1787 that we empowered Congress, in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, to regulate commerce, both domestic and foreign. President George Washington's first message to the first Congress in 1789 warned that, "A free people should promote manufactories to render them independent of essential, particularly military, supplies." Thereafter, the United States was financed and built for 100 years with semi-protectionism, and we didn't even pass the income tax until 1913. At the advent of the Transcontinental Railroad, it was suggested that the needed steel be obtained from England - but President Abraham Lincoln strongly objected and required the steel to be produced in the United States. And Edmund Morris, in his remarkable book "Theodore Rex" about President Teddy Roosevelt, has TR exclaiming at the time the United States won the trade war with England, "Thank God I am not a free trader."

Under the new phenomenon called "globalization", the so-called "comparative advantage" which underpinned the early centuries is no longer God-given or determined by the weather, as was the case, two centuries ago, with David Ricardo's English woolens and Portuguese wine. Now commercial success is largely created, or not, by government policies, and the United States government refuses to compete for such success, even though, as The Economist magazine reported recently, "Business these days is all about competing with everyone from everywhere for everything."

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