Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Two Things

Thing One -- Peter Beinart, at The Atlantic, on sanctions versus Iran:

Far from promoting liberal democracy, sanctions tend to make the countries subject to them more authoritarian and repressive. ... The reason is that sanctions shift the balance of power in a society in the regime’s favor. As sanctions make resources harder to find, authoritarian regimes hoard them. They make the population more dependent on their largesse, and withhold resources from those who might threaten their rule.

Thing Two -- A. Barton Hinkle, at Reason:

Sanctions such as these will hurt Iran, the administration and others argue, by depriving it not just of oil revenue, but of consumer goods and opportunities for employment. ... But that is the precise opposite of what Trump says about the United States. When it comes to America, the president claims limiting imports will help the country.

Or, as the sub-headline on Hinkle's piece reads, "Tariffs and import restrictions are the equivalent of putting sanctions on your own country."

My own arguments against tariffs have mostly been economic, to the effect that tariffs are not taxes on foreign exporters to benefit American workers, they're taxes on American consumers to benefit politically connected industries.

But as Beinart points out, state authority itself is an additional beneficiary of sanctions -- including self-sanctions in the form of tariffs. The more the tariffs break the legs of ordinary Americans, the more obedient and grateful those ordinary Americans are likely to be when the same state that broke their legs shifts blame to everyone but itself ... and offers them a crutch.

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