Friday, March 16, 2018

Vox Popoli: Mailvox: government and tariffs

Zaklog the Great poses a trivial objection:
So, Vox, what would you say to someone who hasn’t studied economics enough to seriously parse through these arguments, but has observed that, almost without exception, the government is a terrible way to get things done? There seem to be very few things the government is capable of doing effectively, and therefore, the idea that managing the economy is one of those very few seems doubtful.
  1. Tariffs are no more "managing the economy" than any other form of taxes are. Falsely equate the two demonstrates that you are engaging in dishonest rhetoric rather than honest dialectic. 
  2. Getting what done? Governments have historically done a better job of defending borders than any other form of organization, and are certainly a damned sight better at it than international corporations, which, by the way, are government-created entities. Tariffs are a form of border defense, in more ways than one.
  3. Tariffs are considerably less intrusive, and cause less economic disruption, than any of their three primary alternatives, income taxes, consumption taxes, and wealth taxes. If you believe that government is a terrible way to get things done, why would you rather have it interfere on a holistic and daily basis with the economic activity of every single domestic citizen rather than on a far less frequent basis with the cross-border shipments of a limited number of foreign corporations?
  4. Tariffs don't require effectiveness, and domestic governments have proven to be far more susceptible to control by the will of the people than international corporations.
  5. Even if one assumes government corruption and inefficiency, it is still preferable to convey legal advantage to manufacturing companies that employ large numbers of people in a tariff system than to financial companies that do not in a free trade system. (Courtesy of Jack Amok.)
Satisfied? Note that if you are not contemplating the question of tariffs in light of their various alternatives, you are not engaging in either honest inquiry or discourse. This is not a hypothetical debate about funding governments through the voluntary contributions of unicorn farts. It is the actual real-world U.S. economy that is under discussion here, not the Austro-libertarian Platonic ideal of a unicorn fart economy.