03/13/2018

If Tariffs Create U.S. Jobs, Why Not Introduce Taxes On All Imports?

Andrew Moran

When President Donald Trump announced his latest tariffs on steel and aluminum, Republicans, conservative activists, and free market organizations were quick to denounce the move, arguing (rightfully so) that it will backfire and hurt Americans more than the exporting countries.

The president and many of his supporters espouse the 18th century mercantilist dogma that the 25 percent levy on steel will bring back American jobs and resuscitate an industry of yesteryear. Even though production and automation have harmed the domestic sector far more than imports have, they still think American steel will return to its dominance of the 1950s.

Well, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it’s true. Tariffs on steel will ramp up employment from just over 100,000 to nearly 700,000 (the height in the 1960s).

Then why not add new taxes, restrictions, and quotas on other imports?

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In Search Of History

4,000 Years Of Price Control

Tablets, said to be 200 years older than the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi ... show that the ancient kingdom of Eshnunna had wage control and price control. The news ought not to have come as a surprise. For the code of Hammurabi itself (unearthed in 1902), which was promulgated earlier than 2000 B.C., fixed prices, wages, interest rates, and fees. This makes price control at least about 4,000 years old. ...

 

Ironically, it is those who now wish to return to this ancient totalitarian device who are fondest of calling themselves “progressives.” They are also fond of saying that those who believe in economic liberty “are living in the nineteenth century.” These controlists have yet to learn that they themselves are still living, as the discoveries in Babylonia attest, in the nineteenth century—B.C.!

-- Henry Hazlitt,

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