“Free” or even somewhat lightly regulated trade with low wage nations will always reduce employment and wages at home because it exposes higher-paid American workers to direct competition with low-wage labor. Moreover, we can’t fully protect foreign workers in trade agreements because we will never have nearly as much information about labor conditions in other countries as we do about our conditions.
Free trade exacerbates inequality worldwide and impoverishes farmers in countries with less industrialized agricultural sectors. And despite the self-aggrandizing claim by some of its proponents that it is a great force for world peace and improves labor conditions in poor countries, the evidence shows that it has exacerbated tensions between countries and increased inequality both within and between nations.
Now I know this is really hard for people with college or advanced degrees to grasp. For some reason, though, the working-class have no difficulties understanding this. Econ 101 teaches that free trade is invariably good. Aren’t we all free agents who make the best decisions for ourselves and when billions of these individual decisions are aggregated a wonderful utopia is created.
If you are making a good living, you enjoy your iPhone and your Scotch and your Braun coffeemaker. You may travel to Europe once or twice every few years and stay in nice hotels and eat in good restaurants. You might think to yourself what are these whiny malcontents beefing about. Everything looks just peachy from where I sit. Heck if those racist deplorables just knew what was best for them, we wouldn’t have any problems at all.
Well, that’s a load of crap. Workers are exploited worldwide. The EU is imploding. America is involved in perpetual war in the Middle East. That’s why so many American workers embraced an ignorant game-show host. This is what happens when you cut the knees out of labor.
If you believe in free trade, the burden is on you to provide counter-examples to the living hells that tariff-free environments created or strengthened – 1) the slave-owning south, 2) fascist Europe in the 1920s-40s and today, 3) the economic wastelands of the American Midwest, 4) Amazon’s soul-crushing warehouses, 5) the suicide epidemics in Asian factories, and many more.
If you can’t provide counter-examples but are certain that with a few tweaks these pathologies associated with free trade can be addressed, well what are those tweaks? Why are you sure that they will solve these problems? And, why are they better (more efficient, more effective) than tariffs?