Monday, July 16, 2018

Free Trade, Putin, and Other Takes on the Geopolitical Scene

Some of the right criticizes President Trump for the tariffs in favor of what has been termed, "free trade."  If you are a true conservative, you support free trade, and if you don't, this marks you as not quite a conservative.  I'm sure I haven't arrived at a conclusion on this, but I have some thoughts.

Free trade, as I see it, is an ideal for which everyone should strive -- a level playing field.  Eliminate all tariffs.  Products from any country go to any and every other country with complete freedom.  The seller sets his price and the consumer decides -- if it could all be so simple.  It isn't, of course.

So that trade will be free, I want to reject our tariffs on imports.  I think about them as a tax on the consumer.  I think about the new tariffs on our exports to other countries in a trade war.  While one particular commodity, like steel, profits, others, like soybeans, suffer.  Steel people are happy and soybean people are unhappy.  The government picks winners and losers.

When I hear or read the free trade arguments, they seem to leave out certain key factors.  This is a big, complicated subject in a world that isn't really free.  If you are going to be working across borders with other nations, you face a lot of inequities or potential ones.  Each country has different sets of regulations and standards of living.  It isn't free if two sides are competing with different rules on them that give an advantage to one side.

You read of trade imbalances.  I couldn't judge on my own what the imbalance is.  You read of trade deficits of varying degrees with many different nations, sometimes a mention of something up to or over 500 billion dollars.  A country won't accept our cars, and yet we accept theirs.  This isn't free trade.

It doesn't sound free or right for the government to pick winners and losers.  However, if trade is to be free, freedom must be enforced.  Sometimes punitive measures must be taken.  That might mean slapping a tariff on a commodity that will target a country in the most harmful way to send a message that we want freedom.  Its restrictions are taking away from our freedom and we won't have it.

Instead of buying as much of that commodity from our country, the other nation may try to buy it from other countries.  The people in our country producing that commodity suffer.  We read cries of "free trade," "this isn't free trade."  So what should be done?  The tariffs on the commodity are removed to please those producing the commodity.  Meanwhile, trade isn't free.  The competing country isn't accepting some of our products still.  Should nothing be done about that?  Are trade wars necessary to have free trade?  Is a trade war a moral war?

If a country with whom we trade hacks and steals our technology in corporate espionage, should we do nothing to punish that country?  Is freedom something like the wild, wild West?  In time of war, we need steel.  If none of our steel companies can compete with foreign countries to make steel for whatever reason, should we allow steel to die in the country?  When it comes time to make steel weapons in a time of war, might this harm our national security?  Another country would do well to put our steel manufacturing out of business in anticipation of future war.

There is more.  A trade partner pollutes more.  The partner is not bound by the same minimum wage or child labor policies.  It's employees labor 80 hour work weeks instead of 40.  It's women don't get the same pay during a pregnancy.  The partner is not likewise required to pay for medical to its workers.  It outlaws unions, so groups in that partner's country cannot negotiate through a union for higher pay like is required in the United States.  Is everyone free?

Free trade sounds great.  I like it.  I want it.  The imposition of tariffs without other considerations sounds like a bad thing to do.  However, there are many more considerations, and if those aren't included in the discussion, the free trade arguments don't work.  They are arguing in a fictional, even fantasy world, a kind of blissful utopia, not the real world where trade today actually exists.


How many foreign elections has the United States government interfered with?  In the last few weeks, I heard 81.  That might be low.  Up until the 2016 election, I never heard so much hatred from the left on Russia.  President Obama mocked Romney in the 2012 election for ranking the Russians as an important adversary to the United States.  When the Russians were "hacking" our election, he did nothing about it.  He did not see it as important enough.  The United States worked hard to see the opponent of Benjamin Netanyahu elected.  No one cared in the media.  Everyone knew it.

Why was the American media not outraged in 2012 when a hot mic caught President Obama telling Russian President Dmitri Medvedev he would have more flexibility to negotiate on issues like missile defense after the election?  The Russians annexed Crimea under President Obama.  Why wasn't he required to do something about that?  Are the Chinese doing more against the United States than the Russians, and if so, why are we not hearing about that from the media?  Why did the hacking of the RNC not appear in the Russian indictment?  Why isn't the media and the left not upset with Germany's energy deal with Russia?  If Putin is clever for charming Trump, why isn't Trump clever for charming Putin?  

We know from insider election accounts, that as soon as Hillary Clinton lost her election, her campaign started choosing how to spin it, and the Russian collusion became the best choice.  No one was hearing about it until after the election.  During the campaign, Hillary mocked the idea of the election being rigged.  We know that the primary was rigged against Bernie Sanders, and we would not have known that if it weren't for what's now called "Russian hacking."  Questions for a debate were passed on to Hillary Clinton in advance.

Everyone knows that the primary agent in the investigation of classified Clinton emails on the one hand and Russian collusion on the other was Peter Strzok.  He was biased.  With the bias, Clinton was exonerated and Trump was investigated.  Based on the bias, a phony dossier produced by a foreign agent was used by United States intelligence to spy on its own citizens and in particular the political campaign of the other party.  If everyone wasn't so sure that Hillary Clinton was going to win, more would have been done, and since she lost, more has been done.

I would just be getting started at this point at mentioning everything that could be mentioned.

The Russian story still reads like a political maneuver to hold down the popularity of Trump, to keep his polling lower to frighten support.  It seems like it's working to me.  It's a kind of cold, civil war in the United States.  It's a culture war that relates to the intolerance of the left.  A leftist axis exists between media, Hollywood, state education, and multiple special interests that revolves around an anti-God mainly cultural agenda.  It is very influential and the nation is at a tipping point.

You can see the bias just by making historical comparisons.  FDR sat down with Stalin.  That was fine for the leftist axis.  The axis dispensed all of Eastern Europe to the Soviets and gave the nuclear secrets to them.  John F. Kennedy pulled the rug on freedom fighters at the Bay of Pigs, started a secret war in Vietnam, and then had assassinated the leader of South Vietnam.  Ted Kennedy killed a woman at Chappaquiddick.  On the other hand, the United States didn't join World War 2 until after Pearl Harbor.  The invasion of France or the Battle of Britain didn't force FDR to get involved.  That didn't mean he supported Hitler any more than the Russian take-over of Crimea means the United States supports Putin.  The left was against the invasion of Iraq even though Hussein gassed his own people and threw political enemies into shredders.  Something closer to present events, the media lie-o-meter disbelieves Putin's denial of Russian meddling, yet believes that Putin does not deny the existence of compromising material against Trump.  With Putin being the brutal murderer he is, why does beloved Europe stand for a Russian World Cup propaganda coup for Putin?  Again, someone could go on and on with this.

One of the storylines of the left is that Trump's admiration for Putin is his impulse for like authoritarian rule.  In other words, Trump would like to rule like Putin does.  The reality on the ground is false.  Trump supports the shrinking of government as seen in his anti-regulatory policies.  They choose the worst possible narrative to tell the story of Trump.  My read of Trump is that he wishes to end the type of hyper intervention of the previous few decades to focus on America.  Trump picks judges, who support limitation on the federal government.  That belies this media story, that is the true Putin-like propaganda.  The left is where authoritarianism rests today.  They want to end free speech and they control the American universities in politburo fashion.  Only their ideas can be taught.  If you attempt to bring anything anti-left in the university system, you are threatened with firing.  If you are a student, there is a chilling effect on any opposing opinion you take.  This has the consequence of forcing everyone into a one party line, just like the Communist party.

So what about Russian meddling?  Did they meddle?  Of course, they meddled.  However, it does matter how you define meddling.  This is not exceptional meddling.  This is exaggerated meddling for political effect.  Trump denies meddling as a push-back.  Of course, they meddled.  Many nations meddle.  We eavesdropped on the phone conversations of other European nations.  We meddle.  This is what foreign intelligence tries to do.  It seems that Republicans, to cow-tow to the media, part of the leftist axis, must now trot out to agree to Russian meddling.  They become useful idiots to the leftist axis.  It is required political speech to say the Russians meddled.  They did meddle, but this isn't anything unique as is necessary to continue the narrative to distract from Trump's victory in 2016.

If there wasn't such a sinister spin put on everything leading up to the Trump-Putin summit, it would seem like an attempt by an American president to do his best to get along with an adversary.  The values of the United States differ with more than half of the nations of the world.  The United States has very often not intervened in horrific situations, because it can't and shouldn't be expected to police the world.  The left, including the media, rattles its sabers with Putin, but the inconsistency looks like its just discrediting Trump for completely different purposes.  It's political and the focus isn't even Russia, but American electoral politics, a leftist axis, and the culture war.

[I rarely to never listen to Rush, but sometimes I read him when he's posted at RCP and I think his take (here  and also here) of what happened in the Trump/Putin press conference was the same as mine.  I wasn't laughing though.  It's also worth it to see what a Russia expert from NYU, Stephen Cohen, says to Tucker Carlson about this here.]


Kent Brandenburg said...


I get comments from a particular anonymous person every time I write something like this, who has Trump Derangement Syndrome. He lacks historical perspective, like a lot of younger people. They would rather we get into a war with Russia, just to make Trump look bad, as long as, of course, they don't have to fight. They are also affected by the liberation theology that permeates evangelicalism right now.

Kent Brandenburg said...


same anonymous person, says I used Trump Derangement Syndrome after Trump used it. The other day after I used it was the first time I remember his using it. It was already a Wikipedia article before that, which says that Charles Krauthammer coined it in 2003 as Bush Derangement Syndrome, fitting of the late Krauthammer, a psychiatrist.

This is a unique derangement, Derangement Derangement syndrome, where someone is deranged about the use of derangement.

If you read my sentence in the comment, I said, like younger people, then said, they, referring to younger people today are affected by liberation theology, not all younger people, just younger people. Grammar is good and fun.