What! A free-market economist who supports tariffs?

Michael Busler
3 min readMay 1, 2022

It appears that the disadvantages of free trade with some countries now outweigh the advantages.

Free market economists have always favored free trade. That means there are no quotas or tariffs imposed by any country on any product. The theoretical outcome is that all countries benefit by producing goods that are produced most efficiently and then trading for other products with countries that have a comparative advantage.

In other words, the US produces wheat extremely efficiently. Columbia produces coffee very efficiently. If the US produces just wheat and Columbia produces just coffee, the total output of the two countries would be greater than the total if each country made each product and did not trade.

If they trade fairly and freely to meet the country’s needs for the product they are not producing, both countries end up with more. Everyone wins.

There are some downsides. Free trade often results in a structural unemployment problem. That occurs when the newly created jobs are not filled by the unemployed because the skills don’t match. If the US stops producing coffee, coffee workers become unemployed. The expanding wheat industry needs workers. If the skills of the unemployed coffee workers don’t match the skills of the wheat growers, a structural unemployment problem is created.

If one country is starting to see its entrepreneurs investing in a new product that is currently being imported, the foreign competition is often able to take actions that make it nearly impossible for the new firm to exist. So new domestic industries suffer.

And lastly, each country relies on the other for the total supply of a product. With some products that could be a very serious problem, especially if a country cuts the supply of vital goods. That may mean Americans (in my example) won’t their coffee or it could be Americans don’t get medicines in the real world.

Over time, most economists wrote off the objections. They reasoned that training programs can reduce structural unemployment. Government assistance to new firms can increase the likelihood of their success. And if the selling country cuts off the supply to the purchasing country, their revenue would fall, perhaps significantly. In…

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Michael Busler

Dr. Busler is an economist and a public policy analyst. He is a Professor of Finance at Stockton University. His op-ed columns appear in Townhall, Newsmax.