Hoover, Smoot & Hawley
Multiplayer Game Theory
The Seven-Body Problem
Publisher’s Note: John Mauldin is recovering from a minor illness. He’ll be back next week. Meanwhile, with trade disputes still roiling markets, below is a still-timely letter he wrote last year. You should definitely read it again. —Ed D’Agostino
“A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” —William F. Buckley, Jr., 1955
I will never compare myself to Bill Buckley, as a writer or anything else. He was one-of-a-kind and a personal hero who I am disappointed to say I never met but who I read a lot. The response to my recent tariff comments gives me a small hint of how it must have felt to “stand athwart history” and launch the modern conservative movement.
Many of you support the tariffs. And I understand your reasons. I really do.
Free trade used to be a core belief of the conservative movement. Hayek, Friedman, Mises, Rothbard, and numerous other economists eloquently explained why. Several liberal economists agree. Conservative politicians spent the last few decades moving us in that direction, albeit imperfectly and with some big mistakes along the way. But few disagreed with the idea.
Let me be clear on this: I do not think the tariffs on China are going to cause a recession. But if we have a recession, that is precisely what the Democrats will say. Democrats will not run against the Fed, investor sentiment, markets, Italy, or anything else that actually causes the next recession. They will be running against Trump and everything will be his fault. It will be the Trump Trade War Recession. Whether or not it is true is immaterial.
That is neither here or there because a trade war with China introduces too many variables into an already difficult situation. Let’s look at what is actually happening on the ground.