Are Steel Tariffs Necessary for National Defense? No!

Here are three essays, some of these authors really should have known better, that attempt to justify Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel based on national defense considerations. If we do not have an active domestic steel industry we will lose the next war, is their contention.

Lawrence Solomon: The real reason for Trump’s steel tariffs? He’s preparing for war

There are several things wrong with this analysis. One, the next war, if it goes nuclear, will be over in about 5 minutes. We won’t need any new steel for it. We already have quite enough, thank you, even more than necessary. How many times do we really have to blow up the entire world? Two, if Trump would stop his bellicosity (the U.S. in now fighting wars in some half dozen different countries, none of which have come within a million miles of attacking us, or even seriously threatening us), the next war would become less likely. He ran for president on almost on a Ron Paulian peace policy; why oh why does he have to keep his promises on protectionism, but not anti-imperialism? Three, ditto for pulling all US troops back home; this country has some 800 military bases in roughly 130 countries. All of them serve as potential trip wires and hostages for involving us in a major war with a leading nuclear power. Four, let us posit, arguendo, that none of the above is correct. We are now in effect back a century or two in terms of technology. Then, perhaps, yes, we might well need steel manufacturing to protect ourselves. But we hardly need an economically unjustified tariff to attain that goal. Instead, the government in its largesse could subsidize this industry. Not to make steel; oh, no, that would not be needed until and unless war was imminent. Rather, it would be to serve as a fail-safe capacity to produce this good when required. All that would be needed would be a large empty steel mill, sufficient raw materials as inputs, and a very small crew to keep the place well-oiled. I do not advocate any such government initiative. I mention it only to indicate that a tariff is hardly required for national defense even under these heroic assumptions.


3:37 pm on March 9, 2018