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I used to be a believer in Free Trade. No matter what, I thought the trade policy of America should be that there are no limits whatsoever to trade. If the other side had all sorts of restrictions, it did not matter, because it was always better for Americans on the whole to have total free trade. Why did I believe this? Because learned people said it was so, and that was good enough for me.
However, as I have aged, I have grown more an more uncomfortable with the idea that one side trading free and the other side putting up restrictions is always best for the most Americans. It is counterintuitive, to say the least. For instance, how can it be better for me as an American, that American farmers cannot sell their goods in the EU so that EU farmers are protected? How does that help Americans as a whole, exactly, when American farmers have to compete on an uneven playing field? Less competitive EU farmers get the benefits of higher prices, while American farmers have to run even leaner. How does that help the average American?
From a security standpoint, the US armed forces are buying electronics from one of our two rivals. I cannot imagine that the Chinese government is using this to spy on us somehow, but setting that aside, if we went to war with China, where will get the parts? It makes no sense to outsource a strategic industry to another nation. At least to me. I am sure it makes 100 percent sense to the Free Traders. All Free Trade, no matter what, all the time. Nothing is zero-sum, everything is win-win, even when the other partner is a geopolitical rival. Germany should not worry if it is dependent on Russia for its power, because that is the best way to get power, and if the whole Germany power industry goes down, well, that is just free trade to Russia. No worries.
So, I no longer believe in Free Trade at all times. If you are a free trader, I’d love to have my mind changed.