Huffpost Business
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dave Johnson Headshot

Bring Back Protectionism

Posted: Updated:

America used to have a policy of protecting our wages against unfair competition from low-wage countries. We placed a tariff on imported goods made by workers who were paid substandard wages. We protected our national interest.

The idea was to encourage the companies that made those goods to pay better wages. This way their countries' economies would improve and their workers would be able to buy the things that we make. Thus, the policy of protectionism was a way to improve living standards for workers everywhere, growing our own economy and improving our standard of living in the process.

The money collected from the tariffs was used for our common good: for example, it was spent on improving our country's infrastructure and education system (including science, research and development) so we could retain and improve our competitive position, as well as retraining workers whose industries were affected by changes in trade patterns.

Protectionism was generally our country's policy until a few decades ago. That was back when our country was OUR country -- for We, the People -- and our economy was OUR economy. And it worked. Our living standard continually improved. Then we changed to a "free trade" policy, meaning our workers work pretty much for "free" and big corporations are "free" to do anything they want. Additionally, without the revenue from tariffs, we have to tax our manufacturers more heavily, which makes them even less competitive internationally.

Since then average wages have stagnated and our pensions and health insurance have been disappearing, as have our savings. The country's trade debt has been increasing alarmingly. And corporate control over all of us has become near-total. Corporations are able to get their way by intimidating employees with the fear of losing our jobs to outsourcing, and intimidate governments by threatening to move to lower wage countries.

So it is time to bring back protectionism. It worked.