Trump versus Clinton – a diabolical choice

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I am reminded of this Far Side cartoon every time I think of the Trump versus Clinton election circus we are doomed to endure for the next few months, followed by 4 years of whatever we get on the back-end of it.

On principle, I believe that voting for the Presidency should never have become, nor is it currently, a binary choice between lacklustre candidates put forward by two parties. I say this only to make the point that the Far Side cartoon, while humorous and somewhat appropriate, isn’t entirely accurate given that we can freely vote for other options or choose not to vote at all. Much of my actual lament today is that the office is as powerful as it currently is in the first place. If the executive office was relegated to its proper constitutional role, this would be far less consequential of an exercise.  It is the legislature, through reasoned and deliberative process, that was established with the preponderance of governmental powers and placed in the pre-eminent Article I of the U.S. Constitution. This was a wise decision by the founders, who intended to promote the durability of individual liberty through due process of deliberative and participatory government, as I indicate in another post. This legislative responsibility has been eroded greatly through various executive branch usurpations (i.e the vast proliferation of unaccountable executive agencies) as well as a judiciary that has strayed beyond its boundaries of interpreting law as devised in the Constitution and through laws promulgated through the legislature to a modern-day role in actively creating their own laws out of the judge’s’ own political and personal preferences.

All that being said, my ideological principles don’t matter much when the reality is that one of these individuals will become President of the United States, a fact that I can only find comic relief in the Monty Python scene in which the “Constitutionalist” peasant indicates to King Arthur, “well, I didn’t vote for you…”  I picture myself in the next four years as an increasing malcontent who mutters throughout the day, “well, I didn’t vote for you…” every time a poor decision is made or every time something else surfaces that demonstrates their unsavory characters. Actually, upon re-watching the entire scene, I think there is a good deal one could use out of the clip as a parody of modern American government.

And while I don’t agree with the enthusiasm in which the author takes in not ever voting, as I still believe that it is an important right to cherish, there is much in a recent commentary in which he quotes David Boaz posted on the Cafe Hayek blog  that I think is spot on. I quote the main points that I agree with below:

I’ve heard libertarians say, “We know how bad Hillary is, so the mysterious Trump is a better bet.”  But we do know much about Trump.  He’s been clear and consistent on a few issues: banning and deporting Mexicans, building a wall around America, banning Muslims, and taking a sledgehammer to the world’s most important trading relationship (between the United States and China).  He’s indifferent to federal spending and against entitlement reform.  He thinks he doesn’t need advisers or policies or principles.  He has no earthly idea what he thinks about taxes, abortion, minimum wages, debt, health care, or most other issues.  Most disturbingly, he shows disdain for Congress and the Constitution.

A few libertarians have said that war is the greatest threat to life and liberty, and Trump is less hawkish than Clinton and most of the other Republican candidates.  True, he has criticized the Iraq war and nation building and even read a speech proclaiming that “unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct.”  But he has also promised to “bomb the s– out of” ISIS and “take out their families.”  And his ignorance, anger, and impulsiveness about trade and immigration would surely make for rocky international relations.

 

 

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Presidential Politics and the Tendency Towards Mediocrity, Savagery, and Ultimately to Tyranny

A recent Wall Street Journal oped by Joseph Epstein asked the question on the minds of most Americans viewing this tragicomic circus going on that we call the Presidential race: “These five are the best that we can do?”

Readers of this blog and my close friends recognize that over the last few years I have turned Greek and Roman history and philosophy and finding the modern equivalents into an interest and hobby. In this vein, Epstein quotes the ancient Roman general and politician Sulla when he opens with, ““There are some systems which naturally take control out of the hands of good men. There are even some which necessarily put it in the hands of bad ones.”  So it seems with the American two-party system of primary selection  and election process of the leader of the free world. What was historically an expectation of leadership, experience, character, substance, and virtue holding preeminent roles in the winning of votes has devolved into a vulgar race to the bottom based on celebrity and style for the job. Anyone who cynically doubts my previous point about winning the office based on substance needs to go back and read George Washington’s musings and writings on the office of the Presidency as well as the Lincoln Douglas debates and compare and contrast these grand idealistic visions to Trump talking about the size of his genitals to recognize the depth of the abyss we have sunken into.

Epstein takes aim at our media culture as a primary culprit of this devolution. The main thesis of his oped is as follows:

The media and Internet are the major instruments of contemporary political degradation. The media were once more restrained, operating under a largely self-imposed control. During the Kennedy administration, journalists agreed not to photograph the president smoking or playing golf; as for his high jinks above stairs in the White House, that was never up for public discussion. In earlier years, no reporters brought up the lady friends of Franklin Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower, and focusing on FDR’s physical incapacity during wartime was unthinkable.

Things changed under the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. His position on the Vietnam War went contrary to that of most members of the media, who decided that opening the president to attack was not only feasible but honorable. The media’s adversarial role intensified under Richard Nixon. After Watergate, “investigative journalism” became one of the heroic professions. What investigative journalists chiefly investigated was malfeasance and above all scandal.

The advent of the Internet made this all the worse. The Internet is without an ethical standard. On it anyone can say anything—and usually does. Donald Trump has added to the demeaning quality of the proceedings by using the Internet—those endless insulting tweets—and attracting press and television with his steady stream of attacks on the personal lives of his opponents.

While I tend to agree that the media is a perfectly culpable standard bearer and complicit in vulgarity and sophomoric coverage and analysis, I believe that they are a mere reflection of the overall culture that we have become, which is a culture at large that is fueling the demand for “bread and circuses” to fill our appetites, as the Roman satirist Juvenal would quip. The media is simply following reader and viewer demand, rather than a media conspiracy to dumb down our preferences. We can’t let ourselves off of the hook and blame the media for our own vulgarity and mediocrity.

Furthermore, I don’t believe the American appetite for savagery is unique in the historic perspective. We can look to ancient Greece for the same lessons. In Plato’s Republic, much of the effort of his philosophical writing is towards defining the ideal city that is led by people of great virtue and character. When asked why such people of character so rarely choose to enter politics, Plato, using Socrates as the speaker,  offers up the poignant observation that, “Now, the members of this small group (people of great character and virtue – philosophers in a word) have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and at the same time they’ve also seen the madness of the majority and realized, in a word, that hardly anyone acts sanely in public affairs and that there is no ally with whom they might go to the aid of justice and survive, that instead they’d perish before they could profit either their city or their friends and be useless both to themselves and to others, just like a man who has fallen among wild animals and is neither willing to join them in doing injustice nor sufficiently strong to oppose the general savagery alone.”  The implication is clear that for time immemorial, people of great character stay away from political leadership out of fear of being torn to pieces by the wolves involved in it or perhaps worse, becoming a wolf themselves. Epstein uses Mitch Daniels as an example of a man of great character who stayed away from politics for the reason that Plato outlines above.

More chillingly, Plato uses his writings in Republic  to give voice to Socrates’ opinion that of all forms of government,  democracies are most prone to giving way to tyrants, as that form of government is most likely to succumb to the majority elevating a tyrant. The tyrant in turn promotes members of this class to bodyguards and sycophants who allow them to create and hold on to more powers that are subsequently used to confiscate and redistribute wealth back to the majority, further entrenching this majority party in power. In Socrates’ estimation, the careful balance of a democracy that gives way to tyranny is when those that would protect freedom cease to have virtue and give themselves over to excessive vice and hedonism. A class of people (Socrates derisively calls them idlers) gains power due to their forcefulness and loudness (seeing the parallels here to current politics?) who unite behind a leader willing to advocate their views. Socrates likens such a leader to a wolf who is willing to spill kindred blood and justify it as necessary to get power in order to address wrongs done historically. Thus, acts of evil and vulgarity have their excuses. The tyrant eventually suppresses dissent and any form opposition is not tolerated. Eventually the wolf likely even turns on those he purported to be helping originally on the path to power. Once the blood spills, it can’t be stopped.

While I am not jumping to a dramatic conclusion that current Presidential candidates are the personification of the tyrant wolf so described in the discourse above, I do think Plato’s Republic has some tremendously useful and relevant warnings for American society and the path to devolving into such tyrannies. I don’t believe that America has some preternatural destiny to keep our grand experiment in self-governance going perpetually absent the will and the requisite virtues of the people to keep it going. While our institutions are more durable than countries in Eastern Europe or Latin America, I don’t believe they are absolutely unassailable, especially if the majority of the population are not inclined to defend them. I do believe that if we continue to elevate political leaders that are of weak virtue and character that under the right conditions we could devolve into the dystopian tyranny that Plato describes. As Plato writes, the tyrant comes to power because in every society there are a subset of people that perpetuate evil and wish to do evil to others and wish to extract wealth and natural power from others through the force of government. In well-governed societies, these evil and mindless people become petty people of little repute, perhaps even criminals. They may become successful money-makers, but Plato is careful to point out that making money is not to be confused with virtue. In a place where there is no regard for virtue and poorly governed societies, tyrants are elevated to the leadership by force of will of the majority.

Astonishingly and with incredible prescience and similarity to today’s politics, in describing the nature of a would-be tyrant, Socrates explains that they are,  “those whose nature is filled with fears and erotic love of all kinds… isn’t this harvest of evils a measure of the difference between a tyrannical man who is badly governed on the inside – whom you judged to be most wretched just now, and one who doesn’t love a private life but is compelled by some chance to be a tyrant, who tries to rule others when he can’t even control himself. He’s just like an exhausted body without any self-control, which instead of living privately, is compelled to compete and fight with other bodies all its life…In truth, and whatever some people may think, a real tyrant is really a slave, compelled to engage in the worst kind of fawning, slavery, and pandering to the worst kind of people. He’s far from satisfying his desires in any way that is clear – if one happens to know that one must study his whole soul – that he’s in the greatest need of most things and truly poor. And if indeed his state is like that of the city he rules, then he’s full of fear, convulsions, and pains throughout his life… And we’ll also attribute to the man what we mentioned before, namely, that he is inevitably envious, untrustworthy, unjust, friendless impious, host and nurse to every kind of vice, and that his ruling makes him even more so. And because of all of these, he is extremely unfortunate and goes on to make those near him like himself.”

These are powerful words of warning to the citizens of democracy and predict our turning to savagery and mediocrity in our political leaders and why we lack in the truly gifted of great moral character.

The World Turned Upside Down

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These days, I tend to read the rolling ticker tape of depressing global news like a dispassionate automaton. Inputs come in and update the ledger in my mind, and information is then stored away as bland factual data in the back shelves for whatever future use I might find. The world has been in a funk for quite some time. Between the financial crisis, the constant economic travails of the European Union – is Greece going to stay in or are they out? – the resurgence of a revanchist Russia, a defeatist Iranian nuclear deal, and the idealistic dreams of the Arab Spring crashing into a million broken pieces and spawning the rise of ISIS and millions of migrants pouring out across the globe. I could go on, but the long list is not the point of this post. The point is, geopolitics has given us plenty of reason for gloom in the last few years. Our existing leaders seem helpless, prostrate, and often hapless before such events. And yet, despite all of this, recent events and revelations seem to have finally shaken me from my desensitized slumber. Untypically, I find myself with emotions of angst and awe while learning about two world events this week: the Iranian release of American hostages and the bombshell revelation by a UK judge that based upon all of the evidence he had at his disposal, he believes it highly likely that President Putin ordered the murder of a former FSB officer residing in London.

When I first heard the news that five longtime American hostages were being released, I was elated and began to think, despite my long-held severe skepticism, that perhaps the Iranian nuclear deal might be causing a welcoming thaw in relations between America and Iran and that it just might begin to amend their insidious behaviors of the past. Alas, as the details of the hostage release started coming out, joy soon turned to anger at how the Obama administration with John Kerry as its clawless cat’s paw once again displayed shocking feats of feckless foreign policy. In return for obtaining five innocent victims of Iran’s churlish behavior, the U.S. agreed to drop charges against seven Iranians that were accused of flouting sanctions related to the Iranian nuclear program. In addition, Iran is to receive from America $1.7B in an out of court settlement related to a 1970s weapons sale worth $400M in which the Shah of Iran apparently wired the money to America for a weapons transaction but in which the theocratic revolution of Iran disrupted the actual delivery of the weapons. The $1.7B settlement is intended to be principal plus foregone interest on cash. I guess we should be thankful that this administration isn’t actually sending weapons, but the real question is what kind of moral hazards for the future have we set up with such a pusillanimous approach to Iran?

As much as we must celebrate the positive and join in the elation that five innocent people are going home to be reunited with their loved ones, we must also cringe at the pyrrhic price that has been paid. Economists use the term “moral hazard” for something in which short-term expediency and gains creates an incentive to perform dangerous acts in the future.  Hostage taking is what the Iranians do. It is the foundational act of their theocratic regime (for more on this topic, I highly recommend reading Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah).  Thus, we have shown Iran that America will reward them for hostage taking in the future, so we should expect much more of these events to occur. Jumping back to the $1.7B,  the casual observer might be mistaken into thinking that this seems like appropriate justice. Iran paid for something that we never delivered. In addition,  the Obama administration has indicated that the timing of this is coincidental and not connected to the negotiated release of hostages. The counter argument is that one can’t add up the sum of money that could presumably be awarded out of justified lawsuits Americans have or could have pursued against Iran over the past thirty years as a result of highly justified complaints from the 60 Americans held for over 400 days at the outset of the regime, the Americans that have been held hostage in recent times plus those that are still being held (Robert Levinson and Siamak Namazi were not released in the swap), plus Americans that have been harmed or killed due to proxy terrorism funded by Iran, including the 1983 Beirut bombings and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombings. In essence, we have ceded billions of taxpayer dollars in a suit that could easily have been justifiably been dismissed or withheld in light of all other lawsuits or atrocities that Iran has never paid up on. The real challenge is negotiating with a pariah state. How exactly does one negotiate with a nation that funds terrorism abroad, takes hostages as a regular course of action, and which advocates for the annihilation of Israel? The answer is simple: one can’t, unless of course one is willing to make terrible foreign policy decisions that ensure that those same acts will continue to pay off for Iran going forward. Echoing Prime Minister Netanyahu, if Iran wants to be treated as a normal nation, then first make it act as one.

Another event that drew up less of a well of anger and more of awe and wonder was the recent revelation that President Putin most likely ordered the murder of a Russian living abroad in London. The 1950s-esque cloak and dagger saga has been years in the making, as the Litvinenko murder occurred back in 2006. What is new is news emanating from an inquiry in the UK by a British judge in which a decade long gathering and review of evidence makes the connection between the murder and the top of the Russian oligopolistic kleptocracy led by Putin irrefutable. Add this act to the growing list of the growing Russian government menace that spreads its poison both internally and externally: the apartment bombing in Chechnya that brought Putin to power that was later connected to FSB agents as the individuals who actually planted the bombs, the murder of journalists who investigated the Chechnyan bombings, the blatant murder in broad daylight of opposition politicians such as Boris Nemtsov, and the invasion of Ukraine, the critical aid being lent to prop up Bashar Assad in Syria. The depressing fact here is that America’s weakness and retreat from the global space has facilitated Russia’s rise and Cold War II. One can hope that this revelation wakes up Western powers to just who they are dealing with in Putin.

Finally and to add insult to injury, I read this morning a report that the American baseball National League is discussing in earnest a decision to implement the Designated Hitter as early as 2017. I guess the flip side of this is I will no longer have to bemoan my beloved Houston Astros recent move to the American League since both leagues will mirror one another. Still, I will go to my grave believing that baseball should be played on grass, in the open skies of daylight, and the pitcher should hit. The world has indeed been turned upside down this week.

As I wrote this, one bit of optimism peeped in when Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 100 Days, 100 Nights came on my radio. It lifted the spirits after recounting these depressing global events. Give it a listen.

 

Give me your huddled masses, but…

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Fleeing Terror, Finding Refuge – National Geographic

I believe in general that America needs a more open form of immigration laws that allow for more immigrants, spanning from refugees seeking asylum and low-skilled workers through employment visa programs that allow more cross-border commerce and freedom of movement as well as more economic based paths to lawful work and citizenship granted through programs such as the H1B visa. This presents an opportunity to both tackle economic as well as moral benefits. As it relates to refugees, finding ways to alleviate suffering and finding ways to grant asylum is the moral obligation of a free and prosperous society, and if those of us on the right side of the ideological spectrum want to claim our nation is founded upon Judeo-Christian values, then we should be able to put our money where our mouths are and facilitate goodwill, charity, and the safety of persecuted populations in any form as they seek asylum on our shores.

That being said, in the face of the Paris attacks, where it is known that at least one attacker used Syrian refugee status to slip into France, it is in fact appropriate to pause and urge restraint while we collectively create sound and comprehensive strategies that allow us to vet and prioritize refugees while starting to deal with the root problems that create the mess in the first place. After all, one of the chief raison d’etre of government should be to protect and ensure the safety of its citizens. This should be one of its chief aims. The recent swath of governors rushing to close off their states may be a bit hasty and rash in my opinion, but it reflects the genuine and well-founded concerns of U.S. citizens. I believe that American citizens at large and those in the middle ranging from center-left to center-right can serve as the basis of a persuadable coalition to support refugees in this time of global crisis. However, the moralizing hectoring of President Obama to take on refugees that is completely decoupled from sound strategies to ensure America’s safety or to address the actual root of the problem and chaos in the Middle East will naturally leave much of the nation’s citizenry skeptical that this same President will implement sound strategies to vet incoming refugees and keep American citizens safe. With Obama’s moralizing, I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite novels,  Augustus by John Williams, in which one of Augustus’s key advisors, Gaius Maecenas, admonishes one of his friends that, “It seems to me that the moralist is the most useless and contemptible of creatures. He is useless in that he would expend his energies upon making judgments rather than upon gaining knowledge, for the reason that judgment is easy and knowledge is difficult. He is contemptible in that his judgments reflect a vision of himself which in his ignorance and pride he would impose upon the world. I implore you, do not become a moralist; you will destroy your art and your mind.”

A more responsible strategy would in fact be to couple refugee resettlement plans with clarity in how we are going to join and lead a global coalition of the willing to eradicate (not contain) ISIS, promote the reform of Islam at large, and promote the peace and stability of Syria and Iraq. Plans to deal with refugees and support of refugee areas in countries closer to Iraq and Syria such as Jordan and Turkey should also be part of this strategy. We should also be willing to prioritize refugee status for communities that suffer the most at the hands of ISIS and the Assad regime, including Yazidis, Christians, moderate Sunnis that have fought on the side of moderate forces, and secularists. The ability to vet inbound refugees with whatever means we have at our disposal, admittedly a difficult task, coupled with enhanced intelligence capabilities with monitoring of metadata that Obama has done much to gut, should also be part of the mix.

So by all means, bring in the huddled masses. Accepting the battered refugee is an action that lives up to America’s finest ideals and follows a precedent of accepting refugees during the Bosnian conflict and the Iraq War, not to mention European refugees that came in large numbers during both World Wars. In times where America was at our worst were times of not accepting enough of those in need, such as Jews fleeing the depravations of the Holocaust and broad European pogroms perpetrated on them in the early 20th century. I would also argue refugees do much to add to the unique fabric and narrative of American diversity and the American story. Grateful refugees and their descendants make some of the finest citizens this country has ever known. However, given the safety imperative is the highest responsibility of any government, let’s craft the refugee plan alongside comprehensive strategy that includes in the long-run eliminating the source of the cancer itself rather than simply addressing its symptoms as well as a plan for vetting incoming refugees and ways to prioritize them. Once that plan is laid out to the American people, then fears can be allayed and the support of the majority of American citizens will follow.

 

Jaw-jawing: John Kerry on Syria

From The Economist Espresso: Jaw-jawing: John Kerry on Syria

http://econ.st/1KBfUEv

This should be interesting. What seems to be lacking in Syria is any strategy. Even if we could pick apart or alternatively defend an isolationist strategy, we seem to be trapped in one of arbitrarily and weakly supporting a handful of rebels, but not enough to have a material impact. Thus, ours is a policy best summed up as hopeless pusillanimity. Meantime, thousands are being slaughtered, ISIS continues to grow, millions are being displaced, and now the Russians are reenacting a modern-day Cold War. We won’t long be able to pretend that this calamity will stay within the confines of the Syrian borders.

Why I support the Trans Pacific Partnership (and free trade and globalization in general)

The brief talking points in the attached link serves as a pretty close approximation to how I feel about the benefits of this particular deal. While the text is not entirely known to the public and while the agreement may not be a perfect quid-pro-quo between signatories on lowering trade barriers, I will adopt an adage from a previous boss that I think applies of, “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

http://centerforglobalbusinessandgovernment.cmail2.com/t/ViewEmail/y/81E895973C4286FB/CE7158040C363B87A10BC276F201ED4B#fv

The authors note three reasons for supporting the TPP, of which I quote below:

“Reason #1: The economic gains to the 12 countries today. Although no one has read and processed the entire text of this freshly inked agreement, over the years sufficient information about its broad structure has emerged to permit analysis that shows TPP would generate non-trivial economic gains. A prominent study recently estimated that by 2025 the TPP would increase annual worldwide real income by about $223 billion and annual worldwide exports by about $300 billion. These estimates are conservative insofar as they do not model any acceleration in countries’ underlying economic growth rates from TPP.

Reason #2: The economic gains to even more countries tomorrow. By design, the TPP process has allowed new countries to enter into the negotiating framework. The hope of many is that in the future, additional countries will accede to the TPP—which would generate even larger economic gains for all involved. The two most notably absent countries from the TPP table have been India and China. Each of these countries has, to date, undertaken very little liberalization with the TPP dozen. Thus could the future economic gains be quite substantial.

Reason #3: The economic and other opportunity costs of failing. Not ratifying TTP would incur substantial opportunity costs—both now and in the future—well beyond the foregone $223 billion per year. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a similarly ambitious agreement between the Untied States and the European Union, would likely fail as the EU loses interest in an unreliable partner. The World Trade Organization, which hopes that a ratified TPP would boost its energy, would almost surely see the death of its 14-year-old, already-on-life-support Doha Development Round. And beyond matters of just economics, world leaders might resign themselves to thinking that global challenges with less-certain, longer-term, more-contentious benefits than TPP—say, climate change—are simply insurmountable.”

As a general guiding principle, I am in support of open trade given that the alternative of protectionism places government in the role of arbitrarily choosing winners and losers, which necessarily promotes a governmental power that I believe should be trimmed. Many small and large business owners would support the fact that true commerce and the ability for their business to flourish is enhanced when there is respect no national boundaries for their scope of commerce. Hence, erecting trade barriers to protect the few will necessarily involve the government enacting and enforcing powers that are detrimental to the majority for the benefit of a minority special interest group (think of a U.S. sugar producer that benefits from trade barriers erected against Brazilian sugar producers. He may benefit from the intrusiveness of the government, but the rest of us as consumers pay higher sugar prices as a result.)

Aside from the philosophical debate on the role and scope of government, I support free trade at large due to its actual benefits to the economy. To break it down simply, it benefits us largely as producers and businesses and almost entirely as consumers. I say “largely” to resist the urge to be a simplistic Panglossian supporter and to echo a point made by the authors of my linked article that not every single producer or employee will benefit from free trade. Much like the authors, I would indicate that a more appropriate palliative to this is to focus on employment assistance and training rather than shooting off the foot to save the toe that is protectionism.

The benefits of free trade are largely beneficial due to the economic concept of comparative advantage, which if you put in the perspective of a nation-state means that our respective nations’ possess different inherent advantages in producing goods. For example, it is intuitive that the U.S. holds a comparative advantage in the production of high-tech technology goods, corn, and higher education services compared to most other countries. Thus, the comparative advantage construct is a relative rather than an absolute one. Just because America may produce the best sugar in the world (an absolute advantage) it does not follow that America holds a comparative advantage in the production of sugar and it may mean that America should not produce sugar at all. This may result from the fact that another country can produce it far more cheaply due to labor advantages, or that America fails to attract enough investment in sugar due to all other opportunities. To use a simple analogy, just because Lebron James might be the best house painter in the world, it does not follow that Lebron should in fact waste his time painting his home when he could easily pay someone else to do so and spend his time where it is more valuable – on the basketball court. Thus, comparative advantages are closely related to opportunity costs – the cost of foregone opportunities due to diverting resources to some other use.

I recognize that this can get a bit esoteric, so perhaps a thought experiment will help elucidate the point I am attempting to make here. Using my hometown and current residence of Lubbock, Texas – imagine that Lubbock had to rely exclusively within a walled off city to buy all of our needs. This means only buying our means of transportation, technology, food, and furthermore only being able to produce and sell to our fellows in our community. The end result of all of this is that we would be awash in cotton but unable to produce or purchase a modern car, sushi, an iPad, or a whole host of other items that we have grown accustomed to enjoying as if they were second nature. These same concepts and benefits extend on a much broader scale when we talk about interstate and international trade.

For those interested in exploring this topic further, I highly recommend reading The Choice by economist Russ Roberts. He presents the choices between free trade and protectionism in a remarkably lucid and easy to understand way in the form of a page-turning novel. http://www.amazon.com/The-Choice-Fable-Protection-Edition/dp/0131433547

I echo a lot of Robert’s points from The Choice in an essay named “Free Men, Free Trade” that I contributed to a book called Reinventing the Right that further expands on my points from above. http://www.amazon.com/Reinventing-Right-Conservative-Voices-Millennium/dp/1439267359