Even in recent crises, Republican presidents have gone back to the economic nationalism of their Grand Old Party. With the Brits coming for our gold and Japanese imports piling up, President Nixon in 1971 closed the gold window and imposed a 10 percent tariff on Japanese goods.Share
Ronald Reagan slapped a 50 percent tariff on Japanese motorcycles being dumped here to kill Harley-Davidson, then put quotas on Japanese auto imports, and on steel and machine tools. Reagan was a conservative of the heart. Though a free trader, he always put America first. What, then, does history teach?
The economic nationalism and protectionism of Hamilton, Madison, Jackson, and Henry Clay, and the Party of Lincoln, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, and Coolidge, of all four presidents on Mount Rushmore, made America the greatest and most self-sufficient republic in history.
And the free-trade, one-worldism of Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama enabled Communist China to shoulder us aside us and become the world's No. 1 manufacturing power.
Like Britain, after free-trade was adopted in the mid-19th century, when scribblers like David Ricardo, James Mill and John Stuart Mill, and evangelists like Richard Cobden dazzled political elites with their visions of the future, America has been in a long steady decline.
If we look more and more like the British Empire in its twilight years, it is because we were converted to the same free-trade faith that was dismissed as utopian folly by the men who made America.
Where in the history of great nations—Britain before 1850, the USA, Bismarck's Germany, postwar Japan and China today—has nationalism not been the determinant factor in economic policy? Speaker Ryan should read more history and less Ayn Rand. (Read more.)