Like the Little Girl With the Curl: How Can Pat Buchanan Be So Good On Foreign Policy, and Yet So Bad on Free Trade?

Pat Buchanan is like the little girl with the curl; when she was good, she was awfully good; when she was bad, she was horrid.

Here he is on foreign policy: This is no less than magnificent. The essay is surely up to the standards of Ron Paul, Murray Rothbard and all other hard-core libertarians who consistently utilize our theory, even in this realm, unlike some beltway “libertarians.”

But in sharp and stark contrast, Buchanan’s views on international trade are bloody awful. He is a protectionist through and through. He never saw a tariff he didn’t like (I exaggerate, but only slightly). Even Milton Friedman and Adam Smith, quasi libertarians at best, can see through this economic illiteracy of Buchanan’s. Friedman, happily, has called for a US unilateral declaration of free trade with all other nations, whether or not they reciprocate. This is the only position consistent with libertarianism. I strive mightily each semester, sometimes even successfully, to inculcate my freshman students with enough economic knowledge to see through the fallacies of protectionism. Mr. Buchanan simply has no knowledge of the doctrine of comparative advantage, specialization and the division of labor.

How can Buchanan be so insightful in one area of human action, foreign policy, and yet so dreadful on another, international trade? Inquiring minds want to know. This may be one of the greatest mysteries of the modern era of political economic commentary.


1:01 pm on December 13, 2017