I have never liked the idea of free trade. The way I see it, that kind of policy frees employers to pack up and leave a country whenever their employees ask for better wages and benefits.
Let’s say an employer in Florida makes those little cotton balls that my wife, Sandra, uses to put Witch Hazel on her face. And let’s say the employees get $8 an hour. With free trade, the manufacturer can move the operation to some remote part of the Himalayan mountains where wages are two pints of yak milk and a can of ground corn per day. Then the manufacturer can ship the cotton balls back to Florida duty-free. The manufacturer makes obscene profits and his Florida workers are out of a job. How cool is that?
That’s not the only drawback to free trade.
Tariffs are useful tools in the implementation of government policies. Case in point: Let’s say a small island is having trouble financing road building and cannot accommodate a huge influx of cars. The island’s government can use tariffs to limit the number of cars being imported, and use the revenue from the tariffs to build more roads. When the roads are built, the tariffs can be relaxed, allowing more cars to come in.
The government could have even more of an impact on the island’s daily life by letting bicycles come in duty free. The islanders would then have an incentive to ride to work instead of driving. Imagine how healthy they would be!
And bicycles don’t pollute the air and clog the roads the way cars do.
By imposing tariffs, the government also provides an incentive for car companies to set up assembly plants on the island, creating hundreds of new jobs.
The government can go even father by banning importation of goods that compete with local products or goods that are deemed harmful in one way or another.
Why would any government want to give up such a useful way of managing a country?
The answer has to be that too often government representatives don’t do what’s good for the people they are supposed to represent but instead do the bidding of powerful interests who finance their campaigns or line their pockets in other ways.