All The Reasons Tariffs Are Dumb as Dirt

Trump has had a ton of dumb-as-dirt ideas. Tariffs on Chinese-made steel are far from the first idiotic idea he’s trundled out from his White House of Horrors. But it’s definitely up there in the pantheon of Provably Bad Ideas We Already Tried And Hated. Nobody except the steel industry is happy about the tariffs: here’s why.

1. Tariffs Hurt Everyone

No one escapes the pain of tariffs.

Everybody gets screwed by tariffs. That is, everybody BUT the steel industry, who’s pretty psyched about Trump’s protectionist impulses. Never mind the fact that increased cost of materials like steel and aluminum have a way of trickling out into the broader economy. If things cost more, those costs get passed down the chain. Building materials cost more, which means durable goods go up in price. Get ready to pay more for your stuff because Trump wants to protect a couple thousand steel workers, whose main value is having the sheen of True American Grit that Trump loves to fellate.

2. Tariffs Don’t Even Work

Tariffs will not help this hunky metallurgist.

In the long run, tariffs are not effective. They allow protected industries to avoid becoming or remaining competitive. Basically, because steel will be safe from the rigors of foreign competition, dudes can just sit on their asses all day and not bother getting any better at their job. What you gonna do, spend dramatically more for imported steel? Fat chance there, brother! And when the tariffs eventually fall away, the industry they were protecting collapses beneath the weight of their accrued ineptitude.

3. Everyone Agrees Tariffs are Harmful and Ineffective

Tariffs have been bad for ages.

It’s not like the jury is out on this. Everybody—and we mean everybody—thinks that they’re stupid. Anyone with a teaspoon of understanding about the economy will quickly realize that these policies are totally out of place in the modern economy. It takes only a morsel of intellectual power to imagine the negative consequences of this action. In fact, we’re so sure that tariffs don’t work that we’ve stopped using them entirely. They’re an economic tool better associated with Theodore Roosevelt than the Information Age. Although it’s hard to say that Trump cares about what those experts think: we have universal consensus about global warming as well, but Trump called that a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. But Trump believes himself the one wise man in a roomful of idiots, unafraid to do the right thing and conquer the world by sheer force of ignoring other folks’ opinions.

4. Tariffs Anger Allies

China will not be pleased with these tariffs, and they’re not alone.

Trump might not know this, but we’re actually supposed to GET ALONG with other countries. Nations can just do what’s in their best interest and give zero fucks about the outcome if they want to maintain decent diplomatic relations. But Trump, convinced that he’s got the secrets to the world hidden under his convenience-store haircut, doesn’t seem to realize that a day might come when he needs pals and he will have none. Tariffs make it harder for allies to trade with us, and if they can’t trade with us, why do they care if were friends at all? Great way to stick a finger in the eye of China, Trump’s irrational bogey-man of a foreign power. Not like we’ll want them on our side if hostilities erupt with North Korea or anything.

5. Tariffs Are Outdated for Global Economies

We have know how bad tariffs are for more than a century.


Free markets are effective because they dynamically assign value to resources based on customer demand and supply. That’s an incredibly useful tool, and it’s almost impossible to do manually. It’s one of the primary reasons that capitalism has been such a popular and enduring economic system, and one of the reasons other economic systems, like state-controlled communism, have failed to find as much success. Tariffs completely undercut that process by interjecting a back-assward protectionist desire into the free assignment of value and desire. By artificially interfering with steel prices, Trump is most likely damaging the economy in untold ways.

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Alex Fox


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