As I was commenting on some editorial the other day, I began to wonder where the TEA Party stands on the issue of foreign trade. The TEA Party has been extremely effective in driving the debate on debt and government spending. If the TEA Party ever aspires to become a real force in American politics in general, it has to have a position on every issue, especially one as important to the American economy as trade.
So I visited their web site to learn more. For starters, here’s how their banner reads:
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY * LIMITED GOVERNMENT * FREE MARKET
Hmmm. “Free Market.” What does that mean? Searching further on the site, here’s their explanation:
… we support a return to the free market principles on which this nation was founded and oppose government intervention into the operations of private business.
What exactly does this mean? It sounds like it’s focused more on intervention in the market by the federal government. But what about intervention by world government, which is exactly what the World Trade Organization does, stripping the U.S. of its right to set trade policy and manipulating international trade in favor of developing nations. When the TEA Party says “… free market principles on which this nation was founded …,” does it understand that our founding fathers relied heavily on tariffs to protect our fledgling economy and build it into an industrial powerhouse? Does it realize that “free market principles,” at least as they relate to “free trade,” didn’t even exist in the late 1700s when our nation was founded? It wasn’t until 1812 that economist Ricardo came up with his “principle of comparative advantage,” laying the foundation for free trade theory. And it wasn’t until 1947 that we were bamboozled by economists into giving it a try.
So I used their web site’s contact form to submit to them the following question:
I run a blog that’s dedicated to a new economic theory and its ramifications for trade policy. I’m interested in learning the TEA Party’s stance on U.S. trade policy. In its banner, the TEA Party champions “Free Markets.” Does that apply only to government interference in markets or more broadly to international trade in general? Does the TEA Party support America’s membership in and deference to the World Trade Organization, or does it support America’s right to set trade policy in its own best self-interest?
If the TEA Party supports U.S. membership in the WTO, then I’d like to understand how the TEA Party reconciles that stance with the fact that deficit spending is necessary to offset the negative consequences of a trade deficit? Also, does the TEA Party believe that it’s possible to balance the federal budget while enduring a continuing trade deficit?
Thanks. I look forward to your reply.
I hope I get a response. I suspect that the TEA Party hasn’t really given foreign trade much thought. If they did and if they came to realize that membership in the WTO is “government intervention” in the extreme, and that trade deficits only exacerbate deficit spending, I believe they could become a formidable force in the move to take back our right to manage trade in our own best self-interest.