Monday, November 20, 2017

Trump right on trade. Reciprocity is the only sustainable path to free trade

Economic theory tells us that America as a whole would benefit by abolishing all restrictions on imports.  Everything tradeable would then be available in America at the word's lowest prices.  To do so, however, would be politically impossible. So the only way forward is bargaining -- offering another nation a reduction in American tariffs if that other nation also cuts their tariffs on imports from America.  That is "reciprocity".  It is politically saleable because it should led to a reduction in some American jobs being balanced by an increase in other American jobs

In order to understand the need for reciprocity, one need not look any further than Professor Boudreaux’s own book, “Globalization,” a $61 requirement for his ECON 309 Students at George Mason University.

Professor Boudreaux writes unequivocally on page 123, “By far the most important modern institution for promoting freer international trade is the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)…” Why?

As Professor Boudreaux explains in his book, GATT was based on reciprocity and he outlines all of its advantages: “Under GATT, countries mutually agree to lower their tariffs and to grant most-favored trading status to each member of the GATT agreement. From each government’s perspective, the immediate gain—the gain that is most politically beneficial—is that each government can assure its citizens that, in exchange for lowering tariffs at home, that government has extracted promises from foreign governments to lower their tariffs… Because each government’s tariff reductions are bound together in a single agreement, no government has to worry that it will lower tariffs without other governments lowering their tariffs simultaneously and in accordance with the terms of the agreement.”

As the book continues, so Boudreaux must agree, lower tariffs have only encouraged more global trade, arguing the result has been freer trade. It was GATT which propelled U.S. tariff rates on imports to fall from an average of 30 percent at the end of World War II to about 5 percent today and drove down tariff rates all around the world between developed nations, too. GATT facilitated the tariff reductions that the affirmative world so desires, proving that the tariff reduction could not be done unilaterally, but only through reciprocal trade agreements.

Professor Boudreaux ends the argument succinctly on page 124, writing “No other such sustained decrease in tariff rates is found in U.S. history,” and “Most informed observers credit GATT for this success.”

Singapore has pursued reciprocal trade agreements

In contrast, I expect a lot will be made tonight over Singapore’s long-held, unilateral near-zero percent tariff.  For a number of reasons, this island nation’s experience negates all three of the affirmative’s burdens — UNILATERAL being more desirable than reciprocal, the real-world SHOULD test, and the reciprocal agreements being UNNECESSARY test.

It is instructive that as Singapore entered GATT with their near-zero tariff rate in 1973, their Finance Minister Hon Sui Sen argued vociferously for developed countries like the U.S. to lower their tariffs, noting that Singapore had already unilaterally lowered theirs.  Hon also urged special and differential treatment for developing economies whereby developed countries lower their tariffs first in order to help the lesser developed economies to grow.

But, since Singapore’s tariffs were already low, Hon demanded no such non-reciprocal protection for Singapore. From Singapore’s perspective, then, it was seeking reciprocal trade tariff reductions from the developed economies.

To disprove the affirmative, one need only find a single reciprocal trade agreement being necessary in a post-unilateral tariff reduction environment. Here, with Singapore, we have several to look at. Thirty years later, Singapore has succeeded in getting reciprocal trade deals permanently eliminating all tariffs with the U.S. and Australia, and others where there is still more work to be done in removing barriers, as with China and India.

Coupled with the sustained dramatic decline in tariffs globally under reciprocity achieved in GATT, it would be foolish to move away from the only proven model for success, which is reciprocity.

At this point, I’d like to augment this SHOULD slash REALITY argument to the export subsidy statement in the affirmative. For the past seventy or so years, conservatives and libertarians have argued for ending agricultural subsidies and have failed. The reason they have failed is as clear as the red political sea throughout the farm belt and rural communities on the electoral map. These farm state Republicans like farm subsidies for political purposes, if for no other ones. Exhibit A of the dangers of opposing these subsidies is Representative Tim Huelskamp, a member of Congress from Kansas. Huelskamp tested whether voting against farm subsidies was politically viable in the heartland last Congress, and now he is known as former Representative Tim Huelskamp.

This proves that voting against farm subsidies is a political non-starter for scores of Republican members of Congress. Heck, we can’t even fully get rid of ethanol subsidies because the road to the presidency runs through Iowa.

More HERE 


Reporting the Rand Paul attack: Was it lawn clippings, or journalistic fertilizer?

If a Democratic senator was attacked by a conservative neighbor with relatively fanatical ideas and online sharing habits about politics, the New York Times reporting would look very different from its Rand Paul assault coverage. Frankly, the incident provides a case study on mainstream press bias.

On Friday, Nov. 3, Sen. Paul had just stepped off his riding mower at his Bowling Green, Ky., residence. Rene Boucher, whose home sits on an adjoining lot, suddenly tackled the senator from his blind side with enough force to break several ribs and cause a pleural effusion, which is a buildup of fluid around the lungs.

Boucher admitted to going onto the senator’s property and tackling him, according to his arrest warrant.

The Washington Post reported on Nov. 5 a former city commissioner’s description of Boucher as a socialist. His Facebook page, now blocked from public view, “included links to articles and memes critical of President Trump and a news article about a Montana Republican congressional candidate who attacked a reporter the day before winning his seat.”

These are details that Times reporters Nicholas Fandos, Noah Weiland, and Jonathan Martin apparently deemed unfit to print in their Nov. 6 article, “Is Landscaping Drama at the Root of Rand Paul’s Assault?" While the article notes that Paul and his neighbor were known to have “divergent political views,” the clear focus is on the narrative that the incident stems from the libertarian senator’s allegedly libertine approach to yard maintenance.

“Mr. Paul, 54, has long stood out in the well-to-do gated neighborhood south of Bowling Green, Ky.,” they write, adding: “The senator grows pumpkins on his property, composts, and has shown little interest for neighborhood regulations. ... Competing explanations of the origins of the drama cited stray yard clippings, newly planted saplings and unraked leaves.”

But this theory is increasingly looking like so much detritus. Maybe a better description is "fake news." For one thing, the Times article cites only a single named source for the supposition that the men had an ongoing landscaping feud: Jim Skaggs, a neighbor who also developed the subdivision. Skaggs said the men “just couldn’t get along,” that the incident “had very little to do with Democratic or Republican politics” and that they had “different [opinions] about what property rights mean.”

“Asked about long-leveled allegations that Mr. Paul had disregarded neighborhood regulations,” the article reads, “Mr. Skaggs, who is also a former leader of the county Republican Party, said the senator ‘certainly believes in stronger property rights than exist in America.’”

But here's the thing: Skaggs has subsequently told the Louisville Courier Journal that he didn’t witness the assault and has heard of “other theories” for the attack. And no fewer than seven neighbors have told the Washington Examiner that press reports about a landscaping dispute are rubbish. The Paul family keeps a nice yard and are great neighbors, they say.

There was ample reason to be skeptical of Skaggs’s vague and non-specific story from the start. Indeed, the only specific “problem” he’s cited concerns a disagreement from 17 years ago between the senator and the homeowners' association concerning association control over home design plans back when the Pauls built their house.

In any case, imagine that a Democratic senator was assaulted in his yard by a Republican whose social media activities evinced a strong dislike for Hilary Clinton. I suspect the Times reporters would be working harder to check for a political motivation. The reporting surely wouldn’t be so flip.

New York Times reporters’ tweets on the issue are also worth a look. For example, Jason Horowitz, whom Sen. Paul and his wife Kelly invited into their home in connection with a 2013 story Horowitz wrote for Vogue, tweeted a snippet of a transcript of his interview wherein Kelly and her husband discuss how they use fish emulsion (a common fertilizer sold at Home Depot) to grow pumpkins. Apparently this is proof to Horowitz that the criminal assault isn’t political. “I called this one,” he proclaims. “I’m guessing pumpkin vine, squirrels or sequoia as motive”.

Again, you wouldn’t see such fun and frivolity from Times’ reporters if a liberal Congressman was attacked by a Republican. It’s unprofessional. Perhaps a better description is liberal compost.



‘My sons love hunting, I don’t’: Trump reprieves elephants

Some who’ve criticized Trump might have done a double take when they read one of his tweets Friday morning. The message effectively put the brakes on a new administration policy that would allow American hunters to bring pieces of recently slaughtered African elephants back to the United States:

But Trump’s opposition to big-game hunting isn’t new.

Just ask Cher. In 2012, an outraged Queen of Comebacks tweeted a story with a picture of Donald Trump Jr., a belt of ammunition around his hips, posing with slain animals: an elephant, a leopard and a water buffalo, among others.

Cher’s point was clear from the Gothamist headline: “Photos: Donald Trump’s Sons Awesome At Killing Elephants And Other Wildlife.”

But the elder Trump took to Twitter to set the record straight:

"Old story, one of which I publicly disapproved. My sons love hunting, I don’t"

The younger Trump, on the other hand, has consistently defended his hunting from occasionally profane critics, saying he’s not going to let fear of the “PETA crazies” stop him from posting hunting pictures.

So maybe Cher wasn’t totally surprised by the Trump family’s divide on the moral quandary of taking the life of a large and possibly endangered mammal for sport.

The president’s tweet led to the quick — and likely fleeting — redrawing of a few battle lines. It was also part of a quick-moving flurry of activity regarding African elephants this week.

As The Washington Post wrote, on Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to end a 2014 ban on big-game trophy hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Its justification was that killing elephants and bringing pieces of their corpses back to the United States to grace hunters’ dens would help the species. Coincidentally, helping the species is the only way that hunters can legally bring elephant “trophies” back to the United States.

The ruling, and its justification, angered environmentalists and elephant lovers.

In a tweet, Fox News host Laura Ingraham expressed her dismay, writing, “I don’t understand how this move by @realDonaldTrump Admin will not INCREASE the gruesome poaching of elephants. Stay tuned.”

It was unclear if Trump had heard the words of elephant lovers or his fellow Republicans, but he thumbed out the tweet saying the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision was on hold.

His tweet had environmentalists thanking the president.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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