There is a case to be made for tariffs -- but only with regard to countries whose continued growth threatens American security interests. Unfettered trade with China, for example, bolsters their anti-American national security policy. Trade with Mexico or Japan, however, benefits Americans as consumers. And those consumption savings are redirected toward businesses where American products are superior. If I save $500 by purchasing a Japanese DVD player, then that is $500 I may spend on an American car. The American DVD company may go out of business but if I am forced to keep the American DVD company in business, the American automobile company may shut down.
The simple truth of economics is that not every business -- not even every American business -- deserves to survive. Bolstering economically unviable American businesses misallocates resources and deprives deserving American companies of the resources they need to stay ahead.
But Buchanan and his ilk see economics in stark terms: buying American good, buying foreign bad. They ignore the fact that Americans do not have unlimited supplies of cash -- that if Americans are forced to buy poorly made, expensive American products, well-made American products may suffer the consequences.
If the Republican Party embraces Buchanan-esque paleoconservative economics, it will precipitate prolonged recession. The Democratic Party will tout Keynesian economics as a response, necessitating higher taxes and massive government growth. The paleoconservative nightmare -- bigger government -- is the likely outcome of a paleoconservative economic program.
Republican candidates must shun the easy political points to be won by catering to the economically uninformed. To do anything else would be to pave the way for Democratic accession, followed by the revivification of the socialistic liberal economic program.