URLs du Jour

2018-01-28

■ In Proverbs 16:19 the Proverbialist speaks with relevance to current news items:

19 Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
    than to share plunder with the proud.

If, in a psychological word association test, a shrink said "plunder", I would likely reply "Bastiat". Here he identifies "two issues … that have always endangered the public peace" in the United States:

What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of a plunderer.

Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property.

It is a most remarkable fact that this double legal crime — a sorrowful inheritance from the Old World — should be the only issue which can, and perhaps will, lead to the ruin of the Union. It is indeed impossible to imagine, at the very heart of a society, a more astounding fact than this: The law has come to be an instrument of injustice. And if this fact brings terrible consequences to the United States — where the proper purpose of the law has been perverted only in the instances of slavery and tariffs — what must be the consequences in Europe, where the perversion of the law is a principle; a system?

That was from The Law, first published in 1850. We managed to get rid of slavery a few years after, but… more on tariffs below.


■ First up is George F. Will, speaking truthfully from his WaPo perch: When protectionism is not about protecting America at all.

Fomenting spurious anxieties about national security is the first refuge of rent-seeking scoundrels who tart up their protectionism as patriotism when they inveigle government into lining their pockets with money extracted from their fellow citizens. Sugar producers are ludicrously protected in the name of "food security." Most U.S. steel imports come from four important allies: Canada, South Korea, Mexico and Brazil. The coming steel tariffs/taxes will mean that defense dollars will buy fewer ships, tanks and armored vehicles, just as the trillion infrastructure dollars the administration talks about will buy fewer bridges and other steel-using projects. As Henry George said, with protectionism a nation does to itself in peacetime what an enemy tries to do to it in war.

He is writing, of course, in response to the Trump Administration's initial salvo in its upcoming prosperity-destroying trade war: hefty tariffs on washing machines and solar panels made by them insidious furriners.


■ Trump's move has pleased a lot of anti-trade conservatives. (Who, ironically, share a lot of ideological space with the anti-trade Progressives, like Bernie Sanders.) Kevin D. Williamson wonders: Will the Liberals Take the Lead on Trade?

There’s an opportunity here for Democrats, and one that isn’t limited to the specific question of trade. With the Republican party dominated by Trump-style populism and its harrumphing, nickel-and-dime, zero-sum approach to practically every public question, there is an opening for a party with an interest in reestablishing responsible American in global economic and diplomatic affairs, and to leave the Republicans grousing about whether the Belgians are two-tenths of a point short of their NATO funding commitments. “Leader of the Free World” is a heck of a job title. Maybe Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel wants it. Narendra Modi surely does. Xi Jinping isn’t so hot on the “free” part, but he is happy to step into the vacuum left by the willful absenting of American leadership. What does Donald Trump want? To save Americans from excellent washing machines offered at reasonable prices.

Good luck on that. At least for my lefty Facebook friends, their criticism seems to be centered on the solar panel tariffs, which they view with horror, because… well, they're solar panels, Progressive religious icons. Washing machines, not so much.


■ But as far as Proverbial plunder goes, Mark J. Parry sums it up in one small graph in our Tweet du Jour:

If you owned Whirlpool stock, congratulations, you're "sharing plunder with the proud".