Free Trade Agreements

We are for unilateral free trade.  We favor eliminating all US tariffs.  We are OK with helping other countries by reducing their taxes including tariffs but it isn’t really important to us.  Thus any free trade deal is a second best solution for us.

Iain Murray at NRO brings us an interesting issue of all the additional agreements that have cluttered up trade agreements.  Do read the whole thing for a good discussion of the trade-offs.  He says:

Trade deals are better than no trade deals, generally speaking. But bad trade deals can set dangerous precedents. That was why in the 1990s, the staunch free trader Fred Smith, founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (where this author works), opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) inclusion of side agreements that had nothing to do with trade. He worried that those provisions, mainly concerning labor and environmental standards, would set a precedent to elevate those goals above tariff reduction—the supposed point of trade deals.

Was he right? The conclusion of NAFTA’s renegotiation, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), suggests he was.

USMCA has 34 provisions, 13 annexes, and 13 side letters.  Iain is right that the expansion of such agreements is a problem.  Some times the problem is a bit of neocolonialism and other times it is the reverse.  We are against both but especially the latter because we live here.  It could be solved most easily with our suggestion of eliminating all US tariffs because.  The problem is that free trade is only high political priority for a few of us.  Many people oppose free trade.  Some folks support neocolonialism and others the reverse.

Free trade is a high priority for us just like Fred but we tend to support such agreements.  It is clear to us that we are not going to take our preferred step of eliminating all tariffs.  It is equally clear that agreements will need to be complex to garner sufficient support to be agreed to by the administration and supported by the Senate.  Rejecting such agreements because they are not ideal is eliminating the possibility of any agreement.  It is a binary choice to approve or reject USMCA.  We vote to support approval of USMCA despite its flaws.

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That Strange Tribe

Mark Sherman of the Associated Press was on the front page of the local paper with an unmarked opinion piece on the outcome of Brett on the Supreme Court.  As we and many others have noticed progressives like Mark approach conservatives like they have never met one.  Whatever the reason, Mark’s discussion seems very odd to a conservative because it is not how we think.

Sidebar: Deciding who is a “true” conservative is a difficult task.  Yes, we are aware of the no true Scotsman problem and that conservative are a small part of the big Republican tent.  We think the critical demarcation for conservatives is process.  To oversimplify, conservatives think about process while progressives think about outcomes.  End Sidebar.

We know it is a long quote but here are Mark’s first three paragraphs:

The moment conservatives have dreamed about for decades has arrived with Brett Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court. But with it comes the shadow of a bitter confirmation fight that is likely to hang over the court as it takes on divisive issues, especially those dealing with politics and women’s rights.

With Kavanaugh taking the place of the more moderate Anthony Kennedy, conservatives should have a working majority of five justices to restrict abortion rights, limit the use of race in college admissions and rein in federal regulators.

The newly constituted court also might broaden gun rights, further relax campaign finance laws and halt the expansion of the rights of LGBT people, who three years ago won the right to marry nationwide with Kennedy in the majority.

Mark has a whole list of outcomes that he is concerned about.  For most of the rest of the article he tries to convince the majority that to use the majority would erode the court’s legitimacy.  We read that part so you don’t need to.

Conservatives are happy because there appears to be an originalist Supreme Court majority.  That majority may lead to some outcomes that conservatives prefer as well as some they don’t.  It will be interesting to see if the progressives continue to vote as a block or will  try to influences outcomes by being part of the majority.  Legal scholarship is not our area but we expect less predictable patterns from the new court.  Perhaps when we have an unhappy outcome we can commiserate with a progressive like Mark.

Brett And Sue

We reading Sue Grafton’s V Is For Vengeance as the Brett nomination follies were going on.  Reading was much better than watching the follies.

Sidebar: Sue wrote 25 alphabet mysteries with her plucky but foolish PI Kinsey Millhone.  We are reading them in order.  V was written in 2011 but it was set in 1988.  One of the joys of the series is Sue is loves to find the right word and the obscure fact.  If you are going to read them you need to read them all because it is like a TV series with the same characters showing up here and there.  End Sidebar.

The confirmation is good for our Republic, excellent for the Republicans, and great for The Donald.  It is good for the country because the Democrat behavior has failed.  It is excellent for the GOP because if they lost this confrontation with the left there would be no reason for the GOP to continue to exist.  It is great for The Donald because those folks (not us) who worship him and his winning will be even more enthralled.

The commonality that got our attention is Sue’s attitude towards the right is a carbon copy of the one we see often and most recently in the Brett follies.  The left continues to control the media and loves to tell stories about folks on the right.  The problem is that they are not aware of what goes on with the right.  Sue wanders away from her attention to detail to do the same.  We will give you three examples and remind you that V is set in 1988.

The first is on page 240: “The club was largely given over to couples in their seventies and eighties, whose homes had appreciated in value while their retirement income had dwindled, subject to the whims of the economy.”  Well, real economic growth for 1983-88 was: 7.9%, 5.6%, 4.2%, 2.9%, 4.5%, 3.8%.  Comparable data for our 44th president was: 1.6%, 1.5%. 2.6%, 2.7%, 2.0%, 1.9%.  Yes, his best year in the last six was not as good as Reagan’s worst year in the last six.  Yes, we know that the president has a limited ability to influence the economy so we are mostly talking about memory.  How about the stock market that might determine retirement income?  The Dow Jones bottomed out below 2100 in June 1982 and was around 4400 when the story began in May 1988.  Yup, it had more than doubled in seven years although it was down from its 1987 high but these couples should be long term investors.  In short, times should be good for investing as well as home ownership.

The second is on the same page 240: “All four [two couples] were ardent Republicans, which meant any talk of politics was quickly addressed as they were all in agreement.”  Ardent Republicans that agree on everything.  It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now.  The GOP primary in 1988 was a contested one, albeit, not exceptionally contentious. During that era there were many disputes on the right.  One of the most notable was the Panama Canal treaty.

The third is on page 296 when Dante, the hero loanshark says: “The cost of living is up.  The market is down.”  Perhaps we just take this as a convenient lie to cover Dante’s evil nature.  In any case it is untrue.  The market was up as already noted.  We take the cost of living as meaning inflation.  There was some inflation in 1988 but it was way down.  During 1979-81 inflation was in double digits.  It was down to 4% in 1988.  It is a pretty weak case to say that inflation is way down but it is a big problem because it is still more than zero.

Sue is like most of the writers and editors.  The good news is she is writing fiction and might be just adopting a left wing attitude.  What it means is that bad stuff about right wingers and Republicans is too obvious to need research.  Good things about leftist have the same tendency.  Mid-terms can’t come too soon.

NAFTA 2.0

The WSJ (and everyone else) has reported that the US, Canada, and Mexico have reached a new agreement.  It has 34 provisions with 25 annexes or side letters so it is hard to summarize in a post but the WSJ hits the nail the nail on the head in its first paragraph when it says:

The U.S. and Canada reached a dramatic, last-minute deal late Sunday night on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement, lifting a cloud of uncertainty over the quarter-century-old continental commercial bloc.

No agreement is perfect but this does reduce uncertainty and is way better than the alternative.  Congress should support the agreement.  We hope that all the progressives that have been rightly taking The Donald to task for his tariffs will support this.

Never Trump Behavior In 2020

We didn’t get the Never Trump folks in 2016 and we are even more perplexed about what they will do in 2020.  We see 2020 as The Donald versus either Corey or Kamala.  The Donald is not the first choice for MWG but we prefer him to any alternative that we see.  We are close to certain that we won’t see HST or JFK from the Democrats.  As we learned ex-post from the Post, JFK would no longer pass the character test.

With a h/t to Instapundit here is part of a letter from one of Rod Dreher’s readers:

I can’t stand [The Donald]. I didn’t vote for him and for the moment don’t plan to in 2020. But where else to turn? What we have learned in the last two weeks is that the left will crush anyone who does not support The Agenda. [Emphasis added]

We don’t get it.  In November 2020 there will be another binary choice.  Didn’t you learn from 2016?  We think it will be The Donald versus Corey or Kamala with the latter as the most likely.  Is there anyone there close to passing a character test?  The writer seems to understand as the bold item indicates but then cannot draw the obvious conclusion that you can dislike, even despise The Donald and still vote for him because the alternative is worse.  The Donald is not a conservative and has poor character but he does some conservative things.  The other folks are the anthesis of conservative and will use their poor character to, as the writer says, enforce The Agenda.  The Never Trump cadre is going to have an interesting 2020.

Update: Here is a scurrilous attack on Brett by Kamala’s organization.  There is lots of nasty stuff on both sides but almost entirely the nasty stuff from what we might call serious folks comes from the left.  Thus, the Never Trump folks have decisions to make or unmake.

Social Media And The Nomination

The current nominee for the US Supreme Court has led to an epic battle.  The best the left can come up with is a very old and unsubstantiated case of bad behavior.  Of course, social media is awash with conflict.  Two that we saw on FaceBook were shared on the same site:

  1. The posting of the accuser’s personal information leading to more bad behavior toward the accuser and
  2. The expectation that the GOP senators that called for Al Franken’s removal will call for the current nominee’s removal.

The latter tries to imply hypocrisy on the part of the GOP.  Of course, it is exactly the opposite as the accusations against Al were numerous, recent, photographed, and not effectively denied.  Unless things change we hope the GOP senators will do the right thing.  We doubt many Democrats will.

The former is inexcusable.  It is also standard operating procedure amongst Progressives.  The lovely and talented Kamala Harris used her former office as Attorney General of California to try and do just that.  So, if this is the first time you have complained about outing folks that expressed a desire for privacy then you know what you are.  It is that word that begins with an “H” and progressive love call folks.

Literary Trade-offs

We are currently reading Thomas Keneally’s novel, Napoleon’s Last Island.  It is an engaging book and Tom has a wonderful turn of phrase  We haven’t finished it yet but we would encourage you to read it.

Napoleon’s exile on St. Helena has increased the population on the small island because of his entourage and those guarding him and that has increased the demand for various things.  That leads to a phrase is particularly apropos for today.  On p. 160 he says, “There is nothing like improved vegetable prices to make an Englishman into a true admirer of the French republican imperial system.”  It is thought provoking because, like today, the Englishman has not entirely abandoned his principles to make monetary or political progress.

We recognize that there are some folks who have completely abandoned there principles (or never had them) but most of the folks in our current contentious times have been willing bend their principles for what they perceived as political gain.  Thus the left ignored and ignores behavior of many (e.g., Bill, Hillary, Elizabeth) in much the same way the right ignores The Donald’s behavior.  Tom’s overt overstatement reminds us that the Englishman has not really become a true admirer but he has given up a little of what makes him English.  Supporting The Donald doesn’t make you an ogre (a pet name for Napoleon) but it could.