Day: March 11, 2018

Trump's Tariffs Are All about Politics


I’ve noticed recently an interesting dichotomy of general presumptions being made by President Trump’s most fervent supporters.  It goes like this.  If you’re for Trump’s protective trade policy demanding tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, you’re a patriot who’s looking to protect American workers’ jobs.  If you’re against that policy, you’re a globalist cuck who doesn’t care about American workers.

It’s an incredibly unjust framing of the argument, because there are myriad legitimate doubts about the efficacy of Trump’s protectionist trade policy.  Inexhaustible amounts of evidence exist to suggest that such policies do little to spur economic growth, at best, and at worst, they are economically destructive.

First of all, the steel industry is thriving and has been growing in America.  We are the fourth largest steel-producing nation in the world, and the steel industry has seen substantial growth in recent years.  It simply happens to be doing that with fewer workers. 

That’s not the result of our nation being the victim of some predatory trade policy of foreign nations.  It’s the result of innovation and global competition, two inescapable realities in any free marketplace, neither of which is a bad thing.

But Trump continually touts that steel imports have created an “unfair” balance of trade, leading us to have deep trade deficits with certain countries.

Let’s pretend that the opposite of the dreaded trade deficit, a trade surplus, is some kind of economic Nirvana that we are desperate to achieve, as the argument seems to be. 

We’ve experienced that several times in the past.  Here’s an example of a time when we had a pretty large, sustained trade surplus: every single year of the Great Depression.

Any guesses as to how we achieved that?

There are several reasons for the Great Depression, but you’d be hard pressed to find economists who don’t give a lot of the credit for those awesome trade surpluses to the Smoot-Hawley tariff.

There is an open question as to whether the Smoot-Hawley tariff factored heavily into the stock market crash of 1929, but there is no question that the tariff attributed to the depth of the Great Depression and the severity of the trade war which followed.  As Burton Folsom, Jr. describes in New Deal or Raw Deal: How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America,* Smoot-Hawley “instituted the highest trade tariff in American history” and was a major contributor leading to the Depression:

Foreigners were understandably outraged.  In Switzerland, for example, the leading industry was watch (and clock) making, and the leading customer for these timepieces was the United States.  But the sharp increase in tariffs made Swiss watches less competitive than the inferior American brands.  What the United States may have gained in shutting out Switzerland was more than lost when Switzerland passed retaliatory tariffs and refused to import U.S. cars, typewriters, or radios.

He continues, saying that “the Smoot-Hawley tariff was a direct attack on our home economy.  When we pay more for American-made watches and wool blankets than foreign-made substitutes, we are able to buy fewer American made [sic] radios, cars, or telephones.”

Now, Trump’s steel tariff is not Smoot-Hawley, and I’m not suggesting it’s the same in scope.  That bill taxed 3,218 imported items.  And Trump is taxing steel and aluminum imports while enjoying executive flexibility to carve out exemptions for, say, Mexico and Canada that did not exist in 1930 (thanks to the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which broadened executive scope in trade). 

But history has been pretty clear about one thing: tariffs create negative consequences beyond the “saving American jobs and industry” that have been routinely pitched to justify them.

This brings us back to steel.

In the vein of Folsom’s argument that a tariff is an unrecognized “direct attack on our home economy,” famed economist Walter E. Williams noted in 2016 that we should “examine not only what is seen but what is unseen” when it comes to tariffs.

He argues that the 2002 George W. Bush tariff levied taxes on imported steel of 8 to 30% “in an effort to save jobs and protect the ailing steel industry.”

The domestic price of some items, such as “hot rolled steel,” rose by as much as 40%.  Yes, it benefited “1,700 or so” steelworkers.  But without question, “steel users” such as “the auto industry and its suppliers, heavy construction equipment manufacturers,” were “harmed” by the tariff.  “It is estimated,” Williams continues, “that the steel tariffs cost 4,500 job losses in no fewer than 16 states, with more than 19,000 lost in California, 16,000 in Texas, and about 10,000 each in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.”

“It would have been cheaper,” Williams says, “to tax ourselves and give those steelworkers a $100,000 annual check.”  It would have been less costly but “politically impossible.  Why?  Because the costs of protecting those steel jobs would have been apparent and thus repulsive to Americans.  Tariffs conceal such costs.”

So what’s different today?  China is “dumping” steel at $200 a ton when the going rate is $500 a ton because the Chinese are able to find fewer buyers in their flagging industrial production marketplace?  And it’s not just their flagging economy.  The expected slowing global demand for steel in 2018 was discussed in 2017, so what we have here is a global overabundance of product, which naturally yields a reduction in price.

How is such a thing anything but a boon to the American economy, where there are roughly 120,000 steelworkers but roughly six million workers who rely upon steel consumption for their industries’ health?  Isn’t the net benefit of such reduced production cost due to cheaper imports a much larger net benefit for all Americans than temporarily protecting some of those steelworkers’ jobs by demanding that all of those other companies purchase their steel at a higher price than a willing seller might offer?

As Mercatus Center senior research fellow Dan Griswold explains, “[t]hree-quarters of the steel used in the United States is within the construction industry, the automobile industry, the energy sector, you’ve got appliances …”

That’s a lot of potentially reduced cost to a lot of industries, and the benefit of cheaper steel could translate to a lot of economic growth and a lot of less expensive goods for American citizens.

This isn’t rocket science, and we shouldn’t kid ourselves to believe that Trump’s tariffs are about economics.  It’s politics. 

China has massive tariffs on imports, which has arguably led to its flagging economy.  Why we should follow that country’s lead is beyond me.

When you frame it as a political move, I understand why people say we should place a tariff on Chinese steel as retaliation for China’s heavily taxing our exported products.  But that’s essentially an economic sanction upon a political enemy, not something that will yield practical economic benefit to our country.  And it’s certainly not something that will “save American jobs” or be of net benefit to the American people as a whole, unless you consider our pressing of the Chinese government as something that will yield some sort of long-term benefit beyond the prospect of a trade war or, God forbid, actual war.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

*Folsom, Jr., Burton.  New Deal or Raw Deal: How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America.  New York, NY.  Threshold Editions, 2008, pp 31-32.

I’ve noticed recently an interesting dichotomy of general presumptions being made by President Trump’s most fervent supporters.  It goes like this.  If you’re for Trump’s protective trade policy demanding tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, you’re a patriot who’s looking to protect American workers’ jobs.  If you’re against that policy, you’re a globalist cuck who doesn’t care about American workers.

It’s an incredibly unjust framing of the argument, because there are myriad legitimate doubts about the efficacy of Trump’s protectionist trade policy.  Inexhaustible amounts of evidence exist to suggest that such policies do little to spur economic growth, at best, and at worst, they are economically destructive.

First of all, the steel industry is thriving and has been growing in America.  We are the fourth largest steel-producing nation in the world, and the steel industry has seen substantial growth in recent years.  It simply happens to be doing that with fewer workers. 

That’s not the result of our nation being the victim of some predatory trade policy of foreign nations.  It’s the result of innovation and global competition, two inescapable realities in any free marketplace, neither of which is a bad thing.

But Trump continually touts that steel imports have created an “unfair” balance of trade, leading us to have deep trade deficits with certain countries.

Let’s pretend that the opposite of the dreaded trade deficit, a trade surplus, is some kind of economic Nirvana that we are desperate to achieve, as the argument seems to be. 

We’ve experienced that several times in the past.  Here’s an example of a time when we had a pretty large, sustained trade surplus: every single year of the Great Depression.

Any guesses as to how we achieved that?

There are several reasons for the Great Depression, but you’d be hard pressed to find economists who don’t give a lot of the credit for those awesome trade surpluses to the Smoot-Hawley tariff.

There is an open question as to whether the Smoot-Hawley tariff factored heavily into the stock market crash of 1929, but there is no question that the tariff attributed to the depth of the Great Depression and the severity of the trade war which followed.  As Burton Folsom, Jr. describes in New Deal or Raw Deal: How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America,* Smoot-Hawley “instituted the highest trade tariff in American history” and was a major contributor leading to the Depression:

Foreigners were understandably outraged.  In Switzerland, for example, the leading industry was watch (and clock) making, and the leading customer for these timepieces was the United States.  But the sharp increase in tariffs made Swiss watches less competitive than the inferior American brands.  What the United States may have gained in shutting out Switzerland was more than lost when Switzerland passed retaliatory tariffs and refused to import U.S. cars, typewriters, or radios.

He continues, saying that “the Smoot-Hawley tariff was a direct attack on our home economy.  When we pay more for American-made watches and wool blankets than foreign-made substitutes, we are able to buy fewer American made [sic] radios, cars, or telephones.”

Now, Trump’s steel tariff is not Smoot-Hawley, and I’m not suggesting it’s the same in scope.  That bill taxed 3,218 imported items.  And Trump is taxing steel and aluminum imports while enjoying executive flexibility to carve out exemptions for, say, Mexico and Canada that did not exist in 1930 (thanks to the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which broadened executive scope in trade). 

But history has been pretty clear about one thing: tariffs create negative consequences beyond the “saving American jobs and industry” that have been routinely pitched to justify them.

This brings us back to steel.

In the vein of Folsom’s argument that a tariff is an unrecognized “direct attack on our home economy,” famed economist Walter E. Williams noted in 2016 that we should “examine not only what is seen but what is unseen” when it comes to tariffs.

He argues that the 2002 George W. Bush tariff levied taxes on imported steel of 8 to 30% “in an effort to save jobs and protect the ailing steel industry.”

The domestic price of some items, such as “hot rolled steel,” rose by as much as 40%.  Yes, it benefited “1,700 or so” steelworkers.  But without question, “steel users” such as “the auto industry and its suppliers, heavy construction equipment manufacturers,” were “harmed” by the tariff.  “It is estimated,” Williams continues, “that the steel tariffs cost 4,500 job losses in no fewer than 16 states, with more than 19,000 lost in California, 16,000 in Texas, and about 10,000 each in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.”

“It would have been cheaper,” Williams says, “to tax ourselves and give those steelworkers a $100,000 annual check.”  It would have been less costly but “politically impossible.  Why?  Because the costs of protecting those steel jobs would have been apparent and thus repulsive to Americans.  Tariffs conceal such costs.”

So what’s different today?  China is “dumping” steel at $200 a ton when the going rate is $500 a ton because the Chinese are able to find fewer buyers in their flagging industrial production marketplace?  And it’s not just their flagging economy.  The expected slowing global demand for steel in 2018 was discussed in 2017, so what we have here is a global overabundance of product, which naturally yields a reduction in price.

How is such a thing anything but a boon to the American economy, where there are roughly 120,000 steelworkers but roughly six million workers who rely upon steel consumption for their industries’ health?  Isn’t the net benefit of such reduced production cost due to cheaper imports a much larger net benefit for all Americans than temporarily protecting some of those steelworkers’ jobs by demanding that all of those other companies purchase their steel at a higher price than a willing seller might offer?

As Mercatus Center senior research fellow Dan Griswold explains, “[t]hree-quarters of the steel used in the United States is within the construction industry, the automobile industry, the energy sector, you’ve got appliances …”

That’s a lot of potentially reduced cost to a lot of industries, and the benefit of cheaper steel could translate to a lot of economic growth and a lot of less expensive goods for American citizens.

This isn’t rocket science, and we shouldn’t kid ourselves to believe that Trump’s tariffs are about economics.  It’s politics. 

China has massive tariffs on imports, which has arguably led to its flagging economy.  Why we should follow that country’s lead is beyond me.

When you frame it as a political move, I understand why people say we should place a tariff on Chinese steel as retaliation for China’s heavily taxing our exported products.  But that’s essentially an economic sanction upon a political enemy, not something that will yield practical economic benefit to our country.  And it’s certainly not something that will “save American jobs” or be of net benefit to the American people as a whole, unless you consider our pressing of the Chinese government as something that will yield some sort of long-term benefit beyond the prospect of a trade war or, God forbid, actual war.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

*Folsom, Jr., Burton.  New Deal or Raw Deal: How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America.  New York, NY.  Threshold Editions, 2008, pp 31-32.



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The Scientific Method: Right Unless It's Wrong


I’ve said it before: the popular view of scientific inquiry is a joke.  Not like a joke, but literally this one:

A man is walking down a street at night when he sees an old man at a street light, scouring the pavement for something.  He approaches the old man and says, “Sir, did you lose something?”  “Yeah, sonny,” the old man replies.  “I lost my car keys somewhere down the block, so I’m looking for them under this light.”  Confused, the man says, “But if you lost your keys down the street, why are you looking for them here?”  “Because,” the old man replies, “the light’s better over here!”  Zing!

There is a light, call it philosophical materialism, which, according to the purveyors of materialistic science, is not only a fruitful avenue of scientific inquiry, but the only avenue any real scientist can take.  (Even to suggest that we refocus our efforts on those dark spaces down the street is considered scientific heresy.)

But there is nothing within science requiring such absolutist thinking.  As quantum physicist Amit Goswami writes in The Self-Aware Universe, philosophical materialism (which he calls “scientific realism”) derives from “a hangover caused by an overly enthusiastic indulgence in a four-hundred-year-old revel called classical physics that was kicked off by Isaac Newton sometime around 1665.”  There is no scientific principle within the philosophy of science stating that inquiry must be wholly materialistic.  Instead, this is mere opinion, steadfastly adhered to because…well, because.

Don’t believe me?  Consider this long-revered, completely audacious and unprovable claim: science excludes metaphysics.  In the eighteenth century, David Hume argued that all genuine knowledge involves either mathematics or matters of fact and that metaphysics, which goes beyond these, is worthless.  (This, according to that paragon of objective truth, Wikipedia.)

Let’s take a closer look at the claim.

Premise:

1. Metaphysics: Not genuine knowledge.

2. Science: Is genuine knowledge.

3. The terms are thus mutually exclusive: science is not metaphysics, and metaphysics is not science.

Conclusion:

4. Using the principle of substitution in (3), we derive:  science is not (not science).  It isn’t what it isn’t, so it must be what it is.

As Plato said to Socrates, “Well, duh!”

While it is true that scientific inquiry starts with an investigation of the material world, philosophical materialism forces science into a dead-end street: all inquiry must adhere to materialistic strictures and cannot go beyond them.  Such a notion may seem perfectly adequate in describing why the sky is blue or how gravity influences an apple’s fall – but it seems wholly inadequate in answering more fundamental questions: why is there a universe rather than no universe?  Why is it ordered, when the Second Law of Thermodynamics decrees entropy to be nature’s overwhelming feature?  How does a cause-and-effect universe come about without a First Cause?  What makes the universe knowable?  And doesn’t Big Bang cosmology at least imply that the universe may have come about through the machinations of a Creator?  To reply to any of these questions with “science excludes metaphysics” seems inadequate at best and a dodge at worst.

Careful, shrieks the materialist.  We’re scientists, not theologians.  Creator?  As in You-Know-Who?  You can’t talk about YKW!

Why not?

Because that’s metaphysics!

And what’s bad about metaphysics?

But the question is not whether science excludes metaphysics.  The question is, must science exclude metaphysics?  Just why can’t you talk about YKW?

If we don’t remove all discussion of YKW from scientific inquiry, sooner or later, we’ll realize we can’t exclude YKW at all!

I refer the reader to Plato’s reply to Socrates above.

There’s one further observation to make about the old man: though he will never find his car keys, it is not for a lack of trying, and it’s most certainly not a matter of stupidity.  He shows every sign of rationality: he has established a search grid, has adopted a strategy, and operates with a substantial degree of rigor.  The problem is not with his intellect, but with a philosophical underpinning that prevents him from considering other investigative avenues.  Ironically, in this case, intelligence is irrelevant.  The smartest man in the world won’t find a solution.

A case in point: Enter Stephen Hawking.

In an intriguing interview presented by a news site from Australia and enthusiastically dittoed by Fox News, Hawking argues that “the boundary condition of the universe … is that it has no boundary.”  Time, he claims, did not begin with the Big Bang, it was just going in a different direction.

Mind you, this is the same Stephen Hawking, who, in a paper co-author by the brilliant Roger Penrose, established that, at the Big Bang, both space and time were created in the same instant. Time came into existence as a component of a four-piece continuum called space-time. Without space, there can be no time, and vice versa.

Hawking echoed such findings in his wildly popular A Brief History of Time (1988).  Space and time were created with the Big Bang.

But I suppose that word has always gnawed at him: created.

So what to do?  Simple: Hawking employs nuance.  You see, even though time came about due to the Big Bang, it was only time as we understand it.  Time as we don’t understand it, a term conceived by Hawking himself some three decades ago as “imaginary time,” is infinite, leaving a boundless (and conveniently YKW-free) universe.

What is imaginary time?  In simplest terms, imaginary time is real time that has undergone a Wick Rotation.  Its coordinates are all multiplied by the imaginary root i.  This, says Hawking, leaves a fully materialistic universe and obviates the need for YKW.  How exactly imaginary time accomplishes this feat of cosmic prestidigitation Hawking fails to say, and a quick survey of cosmologists is bound to garner nothing more than a collective shrug of the shoulders.  But never mind.  The illustrious Stephen Hawking decrees it so.  Hawking is a smart guy, and smart guys are never wrong, except when they are.

But here’s the point.  So long as materialists can adhere to the illusion that matter is the only thing that matters, any argument will suffice, no matter how obtuse, convoluted, odd, or incomprehensible.  Thus, imaginary time to the rescue!  Now all Professor Hawking has to do is be right.

And once again, we may avail ourselves of Plato’s response to Socrates.

Terry L. Mirll is an award-winning science fiction writer.  His novella Karat Cake won a Mariner Award from Bewildering Stories.  His short story “Astrafugia” took first place in science fiction from Writer’s Digest Magazine’s Ninth Annual Popular Fiction Awards.

Image: Instituteofbatteries via Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve said it before: the popular view of scientific inquiry is a joke.  Not like a joke, but literally this one:

A man is walking down a street at night when he sees an old man at a street light, scouring the pavement for something.  He approaches the old man and says, “Sir, did you lose something?”  “Yeah, sonny,” the old man replies.  “I lost my car keys somewhere down the block, so I’m looking for them under this light.”  Confused, the man says, “But if you lost your keys down the street, why are you looking for them here?”  “Because,” the old man replies, “the light’s better over here!”  Zing!

There is a light, call it philosophical materialism, which, according to the purveyors of materialistic science, is not only a fruitful avenue of scientific inquiry, but the only avenue any real scientist can take.  (Even to suggest that we refocus our efforts on those dark spaces down the street is considered scientific heresy.)

But there is nothing within science requiring such absolutist thinking.  As quantum physicist Amit Goswami writes in The Self-Aware Universe, philosophical materialism (which he calls “scientific realism”) derives from “a hangover caused by an overly enthusiastic indulgence in a four-hundred-year-old revel called classical physics that was kicked off by Isaac Newton sometime around 1665.”  There is no scientific principle within the philosophy of science stating that inquiry must be wholly materialistic.  Instead, this is mere opinion, steadfastly adhered to because…well, because.

Don’t believe me?  Consider this long-revered, completely audacious and unprovable claim: science excludes metaphysics.  In the eighteenth century, David Hume argued that all genuine knowledge involves either mathematics or matters of fact and that metaphysics, which goes beyond these, is worthless.  (This, according to that paragon of objective truth, Wikipedia.)

Let’s take a closer look at the claim.

Premise:

1. Metaphysics: Not genuine knowledge.

2. Science: Is genuine knowledge.

3. The terms are thus mutually exclusive: science is not metaphysics, and metaphysics is not science.

Conclusion:

4. Using the principle of substitution in (3), we derive:  science is not (not science).  It isn’t what it isn’t, so it must be what it is.

As Plato said to Socrates, “Well, duh!”

While it is true that scientific inquiry starts with an investigation of the material world, philosophical materialism forces science into a dead-end street: all inquiry must adhere to materialistic strictures and cannot go beyond them.  Such a notion may seem perfectly adequate in describing why the sky is blue or how gravity influences an apple’s fall – but it seems wholly inadequate in answering more fundamental questions: why is there a universe rather than no universe?  Why is it ordered, when the Second Law of Thermodynamics decrees entropy to be nature’s overwhelming feature?  How does a cause-and-effect universe come about without a First Cause?  What makes the universe knowable?  And doesn’t Big Bang cosmology at least imply that the universe may have come about through the machinations of a Creator?  To reply to any of these questions with “science excludes metaphysics” seems inadequate at best and a dodge at worst.

Careful, shrieks the materialist.  We’re scientists, not theologians.  Creator?  As in You-Know-Who?  You can’t talk about YKW!

Why not?

Because that’s metaphysics!

And what’s bad about metaphysics?

But the question is not whether science excludes metaphysics.  The question is, must science exclude metaphysics?  Just why can’t you talk about YKW?

If we don’t remove all discussion of YKW from scientific inquiry, sooner or later, we’ll realize we can’t exclude YKW at all!

I refer the reader to Plato’s reply to Socrates above.

There’s one further observation to make about the old man: though he will never find his car keys, it is not for a lack of trying, and it’s most certainly not a matter of stupidity.  He shows every sign of rationality: he has established a search grid, has adopted a strategy, and operates with a substantial degree of rigor.  The problem is not with his intellect, but with a philosophical underpinning that prevents him from considering other investigative avenues.  Ironically, in this case, intelligence is irrelevant.  The smartest man in the world won’t find a solution.

A case in point: Enter Stephen Hawking.

In an intriguing interview presented by a news site from Australia and enthusiastically dittoed by Fox News, Hawking argues that “the boundary condition of the universe … is that it has no boundary.”  Time, he claims, did not begin with the Big Bang, it was just going in a different direction.

Mind you, this is the same Stephen Hawking, who, in a paper co-author by the brilliant Roger Penrose, established that, at the Big Bang, both space and time were created in the same instant. Time came into existence as a component of a four-piece continuum called space-time. Without space, there can be no time, and vice versa.

Hawking echoed such findings in his wildly popular A Brief History of Time (1988).  Space and time were created with the Big Bang.

But I suppose that word has always gnawed at him: created.

So what to do?  Simple: Hawking employs nuance.  You see, even though time came about due to the Big Bang, it was only time as we understand it.  Time as we don’t understand it, a term conceived by Hawking himself some three decades ago as “imaginary time,” is infinite, leaving a boundless (and conveniently YKW-free) universe.

What is imaginary time?  In simplest terms, imaginary time is real time that has undergone a Wick Rotation.  Its coordinates are all multiplied by the imaginary root i.  This, says Hawking, leaves a fully materialistic universe and obviates the need for YKW.  How exactly imaginary time accomplishes this feat of cosmic prestidigitation Hawking fails to say, and a quick survey of cosmologists is bound to garner nothing more than a collective shrug of the shoulders.  But never mind.  The illustrious Stephen Hawking decrees it so.  Hawking is a smart guy, and smart guys are never wrong, except when they are.

But here’s the point.  So long as materialists can adhere to the illusion that matter is the only thing that matters, any argument will suffice, no matter how obtuse, convoluted, odd, or incomprehensible.  Thus, imaginary time to the rescue!  Now all Professor Hawking has to do is be right.

And once again, we may avail ourselves of Plato’s response to Socrates.

Terry L. Mirll is an award-winning science fiction writer.  His novella Karat Cake won a Mariner Award from Bewildering Stories.  His short story “Astrafugia” took first place in science fiction from Writer’s Digest Magazine’s Ninth Annual Popular Fiction Awards.

Image: Instituteofbatteries via Wikimedia Commons.



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'Believe All Women' at Your Peril


We’ve heard it all before: “start by believing.”  “Believe  survivors.”  At a recent panel discussion at the Ottawa City Hall, where my wife, Janice Fiamengo, was one of three featured participants, the subject of #MeToo and “Believe All Women” came up during the Q&A.  (See 1:35:34 to 1:38:27 of the embedded YouTube video below.)  An audience member claimed that it behooved us in most cases to give credence to women bringing forth their stories of sexual abuse.  The young woman was skeptical of the court process as a way of resolving issues of sexual violence in women’s favor and contended that we need “non-criminal” forms of restorative justice, some form of “healing or accountability.”

Janice and her co-panelists, authors Paul Nathanson and David Shackleton, quickly put paid to that notion.  Non-legal judgments via social media and public shaming could be as onerous and punitive as legal sentencing, turning men who had not been proven guilty into social lepers and bankrupts.  The legal system may be flawed, but, as Shackleton remarked, it is the best we have and is theoretically capable of improvement.

In fact, an argument against #MeToo and the concomitant pursuit of non-legal incrimination is often put forward by the subtler variety of feminists, such as Josephine Mathias in the National Post and Bari Weiss in the New York Times, but for a completely different reason.  They maintain that false allegations in the public sphere, such as the Duke Lacrosse and Rolling Stone moments, may discredit the “Believe All Women” movement; in the words of Weiss, such fictions “will tear down all accusers as false prophets.”  It is not the harm to innocent men that concerns Weiss, but the damage to female credibility.  The movement must be maintained.

Here I would indicate that, contrary to the young questioner who distrusted the cumbersome apparatus of the courts, which lead only to “re-victimization,” as well as Shackleton’s faith in a self-corrective justice system, court judgments in our SJW era tend to favor women – and when they don’t, the cry goes up for a quasi-legal system based on the “preponderance of evidence” rather than the “presumption of innocence” model – that is, on whatever narrative the judge or adjudicator tends to believe as more persuasive, evidence be damned.  After all, women who lie or collude are only victims too troubled to get their stories straight.

In any event, whether utterly oblivious of the need for reasonable assessment and sober judgment before taking action, as in the example of the young woman in the Q&A session, or arguing against public dissemination of false reports, as the more sophisticated feminists hold, the problem remains. A deep emotional commitment to a cause, scanting the imperative to seek evidence before judgment or refusing to recognize that abuse comes in many forms, including women who trivialize their complaints or are complicit in unsavory acts in order to further their careers, is, to put it bluntly, immoral.  What we are observing is an ideological compulsion that militates against reason and fairness.

A case in point: Andrea Dworkin, one of the stoutest pillars of radical feminist theory, claimed in her autobiographical writings that she had been abused and raped from the age of nine and continuing for decades.  As Dworkin assured us in her book Intercourse, “[v]iolation is a synonym for intercourse”; again, in Our Blood, that “[u]nder patriarchy, every woman’s son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman.”  It’s a bridge too far for most sensible people.  Even feminist former columnist for The Globe and Mail Leah McLaren dismisses her stories as “full of inconsistencies and logical gaps.”  No wonder Dworkin, who said, “There is always one problem for a woman: being believed,” is herself unbelievable.  Her voluminous deposition is a form of abusing her readers with mainly self-indulgent fables.

Of course, belief in such matters should depend on the search for credible evidence and the objective assessment of facts, but such an approach has been blithely discarded by another radical feminist and collaborator, Catherine MacKinnon.  In Feminism Unmodified, she wrote: “Our critique of the objective standpoint as male is a critique of science as a specifically male approach to knowledge.  With it, we reject male criteria for verification” (emphasis mine).  It follows that truth deriving from objective analysis is a male conspiracy meant to subjugate women.  Ergo, women must be believed regardless of evidence, the rule of law, and objective verification, since these are merely patriarchal strategies to enforce the masculine will.

The nonsense brachiates with every passing day, wherever we might look.  In a recent profile for Canada’s elite left-wing rag The Walrus, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs Chrystia Freeland declared: “I’m a woman.  I’m a wife.  I’m a mother.  One hundred years ago, I would’ve been beaten by my husband.  That’s what happened to pretty much all women.”  Judging from her photo, I suspect that Freeland is not 100 years old, but then, I suppose we must give her the benefit of the doubt.  She is a high-ranking government apparatchik who must know what she is talking about.

Naturally, feminists will point to statistics showing that men predominate in cases of domestic violence.  The category of domestic violence has been a boon for feminists, who argue that IPV (intimate partner violence) is almost entirely one-sided, with women the vast majority of victims.  But I know of many innocent men falsely accused by their partners, who have lost everything, including the right to visit their children, and of others who decide to plea-bargain rather than spend years in court.  Plea-bargaining obviously swells the number of ostensibly violent men, a welcome datum for the feminist thesis.  I have an acquaintance who, insisting on his integrity, refused the plea offer, resulting in a five-year ongoing trauma that has rendered him penniless and now, with a criminal record, effectively unemployable.  His life is ruined.

Additionally, many studies have argued that “gender symmetry” in instances of domestic violence actually exists and that “battered husband syndrome” is a fact of life.  Erin Pizzey, founder of the first women’s shelter in the U.K., discovered to her surprise that over 60%of the women admitted to the center were no less violence-prone than their male partners.  The issue is clearly vexed.

As David Horowitz writes in RealClear Politics, “In the hysterical atmosphere created by the #MeToo movement – a by-product of the Women’s March and the ‘movement’ that produced it – mere accusations become tantamount to guilt with chilling results, and ominous implications for a country built on due process, and the defense of individual rights.”  If, he continues, “elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.”  And the culture will suffer for it.

The “Believe All Women” meme is now rooted in our manifold hierarchies of oppression.  It will continue to do untold harm to both men and women unless we can return to the approximate sanity of the past, before the absurdly named “Twitter” feeds, the duplicitous and unaccountable intimacy of Facebook, and the Fake News Media came to substitute for investigative justice.

We’ve heard it all before: “start by believing.”  “Believe  survivors.”  At a recent panel discussion at the Ottawa City Hall, where my wife, Janice Fiamengo, was one of three featured participants, the subject of #MeToo and “Believe All Women” came up during the Q&A.  (See 1:35:34 to 1:38:27 of the embedded YouTube video below.)  An audience member claimed that it behooved us in most cases to give credence to women bringing forth their stories of sexual abuse.  The young woman was skeptical of the court process as a way of resolving issues of sexual violence in women’s favor and contended that we need “non-criminal” forms of restorative justice, some form of “healing or accountability.”

Janice and her co-panelists, authors Paul Nathanson and David Shackleton, quickly put paid to that notion.  Non-legal judgments via social media and public shaming could be as onerous and punitive as legal sentencing, turning men who had not been proven guilty into social lepers and bankrupts.  The legal system may be flawed, but, as Shackleton remarked, it is the best we have and is theoretically capable of improvement.

In fact, an argument against #MeToo and the concomitant pursuit of non-legal incrimination is often put forward by the subtler variety of feminists, such as Josephine Mathias in the National Post and Bari Weiss in the New York Times, but for a completely different reason.  They maintain that false allegations in the public sphere, such as the Duke Lacrosse and Rolling Stone moments, may discredit the “Believe All Women” movement; in the words of Weiss, such fictions “will tear down all accusers as false prophets.”  It is not the harm to innocent men that concerns Weiss, but the damage to female credibility.  The movement must be maintained.

Here I would indicate that, contrary to the young questioner who distrusted the cumbersome apparatus of the courts, which lead only to “re-victimization,” as well as Shackleton’s faith in a self-corrective justice system, court judgments in our SJW era tend to favor women – and when they don’t, the cry goes up for a quasi-legal system based on the “preponderance of evidence” rather than the “presumption of innocence” model – that is, on whatever narrative the judge or adjudicator tends to believe as more persuasive, evidence be damned.  After all, women who lie or collude are only victims too troubled to get their stories straight.

In any event, whether utterly oblivious of the need for reasonable assessment and sober judgment before taking action, as in the example of the young woman in the Q&A session, or arguing against public dissemination of false reports, as the more sophisticated feminists hold, the problem remains. A deep emotional commitment to a cause, scanting the imperative to seek evidence before judgment or refusing to recognize that abuse comes in many forms, including women who trivialize their complaints or are complicit in unsavory acts in order to further their careers, is, to put it bluntly, immoral.  What we are observing is an ideological compulsion that militates against reason and fairness.

A case in point: Andrea Dworkin, one of the stoutest pillars of radical feminist theory, claimed in her autobiographical writings that she had been abused and raped from the age of nine and continuing for decades.  As Dworkin assured us in her book Intercourse, “[v]iolation is a synonym for intercourse”; again, in Our Blood, that “[u]nder patriarchy, every woman’s son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman.”  It’s a bridge too far for most sensible people.  Even feminist former columnist for The Globe and Mail Leah McLaren dismisses her stories as “full of inconsistencies and logical gaps.”  No wonder Dworkin, who said, “There is always one problem for a woman: being believed,” is herself unbelievable.  Her voluminous deposition is a form of abusing her readers with mainly self-indulgent fables.

Of course, belief in such matters should depend on the search for credible evidence and the objective assessment of facts, but such an approach has been blithely discarded by another radical feminist and collaborator, Catherine MacKinnon.  In Feminism Unmodified, she wrote: “Our critique of the objective standpoint as male is a critique of science as a specifically male approach to knowledge.  With it, we reject male criteria for verification” (emphasis mine).  It follows that truth deriving from objective analysis is a male conspiracy meant to subjugate women.  Ergo, women must be believed regardless of evidence, the rule of law, and objective verification, since these are merely patriarchal strategies to enforce the masculine will.

The nonsense brachiates with every passing day, wherever we might look.  In a recent profile for Canada’s elite left-wing rag The Walrus, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs Chrystia Freeland declared: “I’m a woman.  I’m a wife.  I’m a mother.  One hundred years ago, I would’ve been beaten by my husband.  That’s what happened to pretty much all women.”  Judging from her photo, I suspect that Freeland is not 100 years old, but then, I suppose we must give her the benefit of the doubt.  She is a high-ranking government apparatchik who must know what she is talking about.

Naturally, feminists will point to statistics showing that men predominate in cases of domestic violence.  The category of domestic violence has been a boon for feminists, who argue that IPV (intimate partner violence) is almost entirely one-sided, with women the vast majority of victims.  But I know of many innocent men falsely accused by their partners, who have lost everything, including the right to visit their children, and of others who decide to plea-bargain rather than spend years in court.  Plea-bargaining obviously swells the number of ostensibly violent men, a welcome datum for the feminist thesis.  I have an acquaintance who, insisting on his integrity, refused the plea offer, resulting in a five-year ongoing trauma that has rendered him penniless and now, with a criminal record, effectively unemployable.  His life is ruined.

Additionally, many studies have argued that “gender symmetry” in instances of domestic violence actually exists and that “battered husband syndrome” is a fact of life.  Erin Pizzey, founder of the first women’s shelter in the U.K., discovered to her surprise that over 60%of the women admitted to the center were no less violence-prone than their male partners.  The issue is clearly vexed.

As David Horowitz writes in RealClear Politics, “In the hysterical atmosphere created by the #MeToo movement – a by-product of the Women’s March and the ‘movement’ that produced it – mere accusations become tantamount to guilt with chilling results, and ominous implications for a country built on due process, and the defense of individual rights.”  If, he continues, “elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.”  And the culture will suffer for it.

The “Believe All Women” meme is now rooted in our manifold hierarchies of oppression.  It will continue to do untold harm to both men and women unless we can return to the approximate sanity of the past, before the absurdly named “Twitter” feeds, the duplicitous and unaccountable intimacy of Facebook, and the Fake News Media came to substitute for investigative justice.



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On Trade, Trump Is Acting in the Best Interest of the USA


On Thursday, President Trump, surrounded by steel workers in the Oval Office, signed a memo imposing tariffs on steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) that are imported to the United States.

He carved out two exceptions to the tariffs:

  1. Canada and Mexico would be temporarily exempted from the tariffs, pending the outcome of the ongoing renegotiation of NAFTA.  The U.S. will likely insist that products imported tariff-free into the U.S. use steel produced within NAFTA.
  2. He directed USTR (U.S. trade representative) Robert C. Lighthizer to negotiate with those military allies that want to be excluded from the tariffs, but such exclusions would require trade reciprocity.  The Trump administration is expert at using economic leverage to produce negotiated outcomes that benefit the United States.

This announcement marks a victory for the trade deficit hawks in President Trump’s inner circle of economic advisers, including Wilbur Ross, Trump’s secretary of commerce, and University of California at Irvine economics professor Peter Navarro, who was recently elevated to the ranks of the president’s top-level advisers.

The economic recovery being produced by President Trump’s tax cuts and deregulation is at stake.  During the fourth quarter of 2017, real GDP grew at a 2.5% clip, which is good compared to growth rates during the Obama years, but it could have been much better.  Here are the contributions to growth during the fourth quarter:








Contributor to GDP

Resulting Growth

Consumption

2.6%

Fixed Investment

1.3%

Change in Inventories

-0.7%

Government Purchases

0.5%

Net Exports

-1.3%

Total

2.5%

The reduction of inventories by 0.7% is not of concern.  It simply means that business inventories declined by 0.7% of our GDP, probably because businesses were selling more than they had anticipated.  The concerning factor is the worsening net exports (i.e., trade balance), which reduced GDP growth by 1.3% of our GDP.  If not for the worsening trade balance, GDP growth would have been an outstanding 3.8% during the fourth quarter. 

Critics point out that the tariffs will raise the price of products fabricated with steel or aluminum.  But the existing low prices of iron and steel and aluminum are at the expense of American producers in those industries.  American consumers should not be favored at the expense of American wage-earners.

The reality is that the same countries that produced the most steel in the world produced the largest trade deficits in the United States (deficits shown as negative trade balances):

 





















Country

Steel Production millions of tonnes

U.S. Trade Balance millions of dollars

China

808.4

-316,273

Japan

104.8

-58,286

India

95.6

-19,455

United States

78.5

—–

Russia

70.8

*-10,016

South Korea

68.6

-18,977

Germany

42.1

-52,886

Turkey

33.2

*330

Brazil

31.3

6,322

Ukraine

24.2

*809

Italy

23.4

-27,061

Taiwan

21.8

-14,739

Mexico

18.8

-59,286

Iran

17.9

*75

France

14.4

-12,454

Spain

13.6

*-4,646

Canada

12.6

-13,765

Total

1629.6

-568,400

*goods only, does not include services

The biggest steel-producing country in the world in 2016 was China, which accounted for about half of the world’s steel production and more than half of the U.S. trade deficit.  Imposing tariffs on such products is a way to balance trade.

What of fears of a trade war?  Most of the above countries are already participating in a trade war with the United States, except that the United States has not been fighting back.  The governments of these countries have been manipulating the terms of trade to enhance their exports to the United States and keep out U.S. products.  As a result, we get debt, and they get the new factories and the R&D that needs to locate near factories.

The policy goal as we move forward with these tariffs should be to balance the U.S. overall global trading position.  The American working class has suffered tremendously as the result of imbalanced global competition.  The many vocal advocates of the “free trade” that has decimated the American working class are currently shouting that if Trump tries anything to level that playing field, it will be a disaster.  It is the “free trade” policy that has been a disaster.

It is time to give tariffs a try.  The Trump economic boom and America’s economic future are at stake.

The Richmans co-authored the 2014 book Balanced Trade, published by Lexington Books, and the 2008 book Trading Away Our Future, published by Ideal Taxes Association.

On Thursday, President Trump, surrounded by steel workers in the Oval Office, signed a memo imposing tariffs on steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) that are imported to the United States.

He carved out two exceptions to the tariffs:

  1. Canada and Mexico would be temporarily exempted from the tariffs, pending the outcome of the ongoing renegotiation of NAFTA.  The U.S. will likely insist that products imported tariff-free into the U.S. use steel produced within NAFTA.
  2. He directed USTR (U.S. trade representative) Robert C. Lighthizer to negotiate with those military allies that want to be excluded from the tariffs, but such exclusions would require trade reciprocity.  The Trump administration is expert at using economic leverage to produce negotiated outcomes that benefit the United States.

This announcement marks a victory for the trade deficit hawks in President Trump’s inner circle of economic advisers, including Wilbur Ross, Trump’s secretary of commerce, and University of California at Irvine economics professor Peter Navarro, who was recently elevated to the ranks of the president’s top-level advisers.

The economic recovery being produced by President Trump’s tax cuts and deregulation is at stake.  During the fourth quarter of 2017, real GDP grew at a 2.5% clip, which is good compared to growth rates during the Obama years, but it could have been much better.  Here are the contributions to growth during the fourth quarter:








Contributor to GDP

Resulting Growth

Consumption

2.6%

Fixed Investment

1.3%

Change in Inventories

-0.7%

Government Purchases

0.5%

Net Exports

-1.3%

Total

2.5%

The reduction of inventories by 0.7% is not of concern.  It simply means that business inventories declined by 0.7% of our GDP, probably because businesses were selling more than they had anticipated.  The concerning factor is the worsening net exports (i.e., trade balance), which reduced GDP growth by 1.3% of our GDP.  If not for the worsening trade balance, GDP growth would have been an outstanding 3.8% during the fourth quarter. 

Critics point out that the tariffs will raise the price of products fabricated with steel or aluminum.  But the existing low prices of iron and steel and aluminum are at the expense of American producers in those industries.  American consumers should not be favored at the expense of American wage-earners.

The reality is that the same countries that produced the most steel in the world produced the largest trade deficits in the United States (deficits shown as negative trade balances):

 





















Country

Steel Production millions of tonnes

U.S. Trade Balance millions of dollars

China

808.4

-316,273

Japan

104.8

-58,286

India

95.6

-19,455

United States

78.5

—–

Russia

70.8

*-10,016

South Korea

68.6

-18,977

Germany

42.1

-52,886

Turkey

33.2

*330

Brazil

31.3

6,322

Ukraine

24.2

*809

Italy

23.4

-27,061

Taiwan

21.8

-14,739

Mexico

18.8

-59,286

Iran

17.9

*75

France

14.4

-12,454

Spain

13.6

*-4,646

Canada

12.6

-13,765

Total

1629.6

-568,400

*goods only, does not include services

The biggest steel-producing country in the world in 2016 was China, which accounted for about half of the world’s steel production and more than half of the U.S. trade deficit.  Imposing tariffs on such products is a way to balance trade.

What of fears of a trade war?  Most of the above countries are already participating in a trade war with the United States, except that the United States has not been fighting back.  The governments of these countries have been manipulating the terms of trade to enhance their exports to the United States and keep out U.S. products.  As a result, we get debt, and they get the new factories and the R&D that needs to locate near factories.

The policy goal as we move forward with these tariffs should be to balance the U.S. overall global trading position.  The American working class has suffered tremendously as the result of imbalanced global competition.  The many vocal advocates of the “free trade” that has decimated the American working class are currently shouting that if Trump tries anything to level that playing field, it will be a disaster.  It is the “free trade” policy that has been a disaster.

It is time to give tariffs a try.  The Trump economic boom and America’s economic future are at stake.

The Richmans co-authored the 2014 book Balanced Trade, published by Lexington Books, and the 2008 book Trading Away Our Future, published by Ideal Taxes Association.



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