India has levied a 20 percent duty on soybeans to cut imports and protect her farmers. The United States has just filed charges with the World Trade Organization against China for "unfair support of its export industry -- including the award of cash grants, rebates and preferential loans to exporters."
Awfully late in the game, Bush seems to have awakened to an ancient reality. When the tough times come, nations protect their own interests first, free trade be damned.
"Country first," as the John McCain slogan ran.
Libertarians of the Milton Friedman school may be unforgiving of Bush. But what has their free-trade globalism given us, but $5 trillion in trade deficits since Bush 1 and a new dependency on foreigners for the necessities of our national life and the loans to pay for them?
Were all the Playstations and Priuses worth it?
By traditional free-trade theory, a nation should import what it does not produce from the nations that produce it most cheaply.
But in 1946, Japan produced almost no steel, no TVs and no cars. Instead of buying them from America, Tokyo subsidized its own steel, TV and auto industries for decades, and protected their market. Now, as Sony did to Philco and Dumont, Toyota, Honda and Nissan are taking down Ford, GM and Chrysler. Were the Japanese foolish to subsidize their industries and protect their market? Were we wise to let our TV industry be taken down, and watch our auto and steel industries driven to death's door?
To 1970, Boeing, Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas produced almost all of the world's jetliners. But rather than rely in perpetuity on Americans for passenger planes, Britain, France, Germany and Spain subsidized a socialist cartel, Airbus, that did not make a profit for 25 years and sold its planes for less than it cost to build them.
That trampled all over free-trade theory, but it did kill Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas and almost killed Boeing.
Were the Europeans foolish to create an aircraft industry and subsidize the destruction of Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas? Or were they wise to sacrifice today to capture the world's aircraft market of tomorrow?
Like Prohibition in Hoover's phrase, globalism is "an experiment, noble in purpose, that has failed."
As we have learned, at a cost of $10 trillion in wealth wiped out on Wall Street, the nations of the future are not the consumer nations that pile up debt as they live on imports, but the producer nations that save and sacrifice and make the things the world wants.
With the tax-and-trade policies of the Old Republican Party that made America first by putting Americans first, we can be that nation again.
As for President Bush, welcome to the Protectionists Club, sir.