Michael Lind: The Return of Geoeconomics

In the War Between the States, we had the free-market theorists and King Cotton and the North had the industrial infrastructure, far more railroads, the farms, the ships and a population advantage. James D.B. De Bow was right. Louis T. Wigfall was wrong.

The National Interest:

“FOR DECADES, the study of international security has been divorced from the study of international trade and investment, along with domestic economic development. In political science departments on university campuses, self-described realists debate defense and diplomacy with idealists of various kinds. In the economics department next door, there is no debate; the academic economists almost unanimously agree that free trade and investment benefit all sides. They instead postulate an ideal world where national borders would be insignificant and there would be free flows of goods, services, money and labor.

Even before Donald Trump became the first president in living memory to explicitly promote U.S. economic nationalism, the wall that divided the national-security realists and the free-market economists was crumbling—mainly because of the rise of China, which has benefited from a version of statist economics while challenging U.S. military hegemony in Asia. Slowly but inevitably, debates about national security and the global economy are merging into a single dispute about relative national power. This marks a revival of what Edward Luttwak has called “geo-economics.” …

Exhibit A is Great Britain: after having employed protectionist measures for centuries to build up and expand its manufacturing lead, Britain opportunistically became an evangelist for free trade in the mid-nineteenth century, hoping to open up fresh foreign markets for its exports. A century later, after 1945, the United States also switched from infant-industry protectionism and preached free trade with the zeal of a convert. How convenient. …”

This was all covered in Pat Buchanan’s book The Great Betrayal in the 1990s. See also Clyde Prestowitz’s The Betrayal of American Prosperity and Ha-Joon Chang’s Bad Samaritans and Kicking Away The Ladder. I’ve also reviewed Lou Dobbs book Exporting America and Lind’s own Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.

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4 Comments

  1. I pointed out to anyone who would listen at the time, that China PNTR was as much an investment treaty as a trade treaty. American money would be invested in building Chinese industry and infrastructure!

  2. If you want a real lol read try The Selling of Free Trade. The author has a good story about Swingline staplers Jewish owner and how he created a “union” and kept ethnic groups from working together. It’s every Jewish trope in one.

  3. “Free trade” never means the free movement of labor, unless it’s a one-way movement of cheaper labor into a higher-priced market. “Free” means costs to the society will be borne by the government, or the taxpayers, and not the businesses themselves. To not have industry and worker protections in a nation makes it open to economic ruin, except for those with enough money to make and profit off the investments. Everyone else loses pay, jobs, their previous standard of living, and so on. Protectionism means national economic security for the population of the nation. Having a manufacturing base can of course also provide for military requirements, further strengthening the internal economy. Protectionism is a win-win for the people and the state. Free trade only helps those that already have resources, at the expense of the many that don’t.

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