My Response to Donald Trump
By David Henderson
Many of my libertarian and conservative allies have attacked Donald Trump viciously. Some comment on his hair style, others comment on the self-promotion aspect of his speaking style. One young libertarian friend, whom I think quite highly of, I might add, said on Facebook, while listening to Trump’s recent speech at FreedomFest in Las Vegas, “My IQ is decreasing with every word.”
I won’t comment about hair, but I will comment briefly about his speaking style. I have seen a lot of people speak, and I pay attention to their style, figuring I can always learn something that will help me with my speeches. And, frankly, I think he’s a better speaker than many libertarian speakers, not, I hasten to add, in content, but in style. His frequent interruptions of a half-spelled-out thought to jump to another half-spelled-out thought are often rhetorically effective–and charming.
My view is that we should not talk at all about hair styles, talk a little about speaking styles, and, mainly, treat the man respectfully enough to deal with his arguments. I watched his whole 50-minute Las Vegas speech and Q&A. This will not be comprehensive, but I do want to hit some important points.
9:38: Trump: “The biggest boats I’ve ever seen, I just left Los Angeles, thousands of cars, millions of cars coming in [from Japan.] We get nothing. We get cars. They get . . . We want to send rice, we want to send corn. . . . The imbalance of these things. They send a car. We send corn.” [He says “corn” derisively.]
DRH: Yes, and? What’s wrong with trading corn for cars? He says later that they won’t even take our product. So which is it? We do send corn or we don’t send corn? This is about comparative advantage.
10:25: Trump: Talks about a manufacturer friend who, when he exports to China, pays a surtax (tariff) of 42% and then says “We [the U.S. government] don’t charge surtax.”
DRH: Actually, the U.S. government does charge tariffs. They tend to be lower than Chinese tariffs, but they are sometimes stiff. The tariff on light truck imports, for example, is 25%. And just as their tariffs hurt U.S. producers and Chinese consumers, U.S. tariffs hurt foreign producers and U.S. consumers.
Also, here’s what Simon Lester and K. William Watson wrote 2 years ago:
This decision [by the U.S. Commerce Department] found both subsidization and dumping in relation to Chinese imports [of wind towers] and imposed an antidumping tariff of between 44.99% and 70.63%, as well as countervailing duties of 21.86%-34.81%. The Commerce Department also established a separate antidumping duty of 51.40%-58.49% on Vietnamese wind tower manufacturers.
28:28: Trump: The only advantage I have [vis-a-vis the mainstream media]: millions of followers on Twitter and Facebook. It’s like owning the New York Times without the losses.
DRH: That is a great line. My tip to speakers and thinkers: learn from people who use great lines.
29:36: Trump: “You call up about your American Express card. Someone’s on the phone with a little bit of an accent. Where are you from? Oh, this is New Delhi. That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. [said sarcastically] Why can’t it be from . . . Arizona? From New York? From Las Vegas, Nevada? Why can’t it be in this country? You would think it’s impossible. How can it be from that far away and they save money? How could it be, right? They’re from India.
DRH: The answer is that it could be done here, but it would be much more expensive. And so if the people on the phone were in the United States, they wouldn’t be doing the work they’re doing. The prices paid to people in India are well below the prices that would be paid to U.S. workers, which is why U.S. workers wouldn’t find it attractive to work in those jobs and, instead, work in jobs where they produce more value. So the overall value of output is higher because the U.S. firms are finding people elsewhere who can do it for less and U.S. workers are finding jobs for more. Of course, what can mess this up is the minimum wage, but even if the minimum wage law were abolished, the chance that U.S. firms would be able to find workers competitive with Indian workers for those jobs is very low.
41:46: Trump: “I believe strongly in a very powerful military. Because if you have a really powerful military, you’ll never have to use it. Nobody’s going to mess with us.”
DRH: He misunderstands incentives. It’s not the issue of whether anyone messes with “us.” It’s that having a powerful military gives Congress, the President, and the Secretary of State a huge temptation: to use it. He needs to pay attention to what Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell. Albright said, “What’s the point of you saving this superb military for [sic], Colin, if we can’t use it?” (See Madeleine Albright, Madam Secretary: A Memoir, Miramax Books, 2003, p. 182.) And so she and Clinton did use it–to go to war in the Balkans.
47:55: Trump (talking about Hillary Clinton): “She’s not going to able to bring back trade.”
DRH: So much of his talk was against trade. It’s hard to know what he means. My guess is that with his next line “She’s not going to be able to bring back jobs,” that he means he wants more exports. But he did seem to be objecting to imports. Fewer imports, all other things equal, means less trade, not more.