A Libertarian’s View of the WI 43rd Assembly Race: Protectionism

No American ever became popular defending Chinese manufacturing. But purchases of less-expensive foreign goods free comsumers and communities to invest and spend on higher-end American products. That’s why I’m opposed to Rep. Jorgensen’s proposal to limit Wisconsin communities’ purchases of infrastructure goods produced in China (or anywhere else).

Protectionism is the wrong direction for the 43rd, or anywhere else.

I’m sensitive that people are legitimately worried about their jobs, and that those who have lost jobs are scarcely optimistic about free trade. It’s still a good policy.

Forcing communities to buy American, at higher prices, limits their ability to purchase other American goods or services.

(China is unpopular, and there are two reasons that she should be. Her government oppresses political dissenters, and so is a threat to her own people’s safe, free expression. That same government also bullies its immediate neighbors, and threatens their freedom of navigation in the South China Sea with wildly excessive territorial claims.)

But that’s not a policy of Chinese businesspeople, and we’ve no reason to respond to the Chinese government’s actions with policies that limit purchases by American cities, businesses, or consumers.

Rep. Wynn wrote in reply to Jorgensen’s proposal that, after all, it may be a violation of existing trade treaties.

Perhaps, but that’s not half of why the proposal’s a mistaken one. It’s a mistaken one – a bad idea that will make prices and costs higher – as a fundamental misunderstanding of the benefits of free trade. Really, it’s a misunderstanding of the benefits of free exchange with anyone, whether here or abroad.

One sees that almost everyone – Pres. Obama, Gov. Romney, U.S. Senate & House candidates, Wisconsin legislative candidates, one and all, etc. – wants to show a strong hand against Chinese manufacturing.

What’s American, By the Way? When someone buys an iPhone, she buys something ‘Designed in Cupertino, but Assembled in China.’ Is that American or Chinese? Apple’s an American company that rose to the top of the tech world by developing mutually productive relationships with foreign manufacturers.

No one forced those arrangements on them – Apple and FoxConn, for example, freely chose to transact business.

What’s Infrastructure? Roads, bridges, etc., one hears. Sure enough, that’s true. But is that infrastructure any more important to America than the computers, phones, or cars that are often assembled abroad? They’re critical to our success and prosperity, too: we’re richer and more productive and happier for them.

Infrastructure sounds important, but so are all those other goods Americans enjoy.

A Little Candor About Trade and Outsourcing. What most candidates at the federal, state, or local level won’t say, but libertarians will:

Trade policy’s reached all the way to the WI 43rd Assembly race. No matter how pressing the topic for voters, an approach that limits purchases from abroad is short-sighted and expensive for Americans.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments