A devotion to free trade seems to be common among “conservatives.” But free trade, according to Louis T. March and Brent Nelson, is a bad idea. “We should defend our markets,” they write, “as we should defend our borders.” The term is really a euphemism for letting the Fortune 500 decide what the rules of trade will be—at the expense of American workers. In the authors’ view, NAFTA and other schemes so beloved of Beltway ideologues have two main results for blue-collar Americans, as companies relocate in Mexico or are flooded with cheap labor; belt-tightening and layoffs. According to Ravi Batra’s book The Myth of Free Trade, “Ford Motors today produces roughly the same number of cars and trucks as in 1975 with only about half the number of employees.” Citing an article by Chronicles contributor Alfred Eckes in Foreign Affairs (Fall 1992), March and Nelson point out one result of abandoning traditional tariff policies. Due to tariff cuts, says Eckes, “average American wages in 1991 were 20 percent below 1972 levels,” a drop accompanied by huge layoffs. Sadly, it was only after this fiasco that Republicans threw in the towel on “free trade,” renouncing the protectionism of their forebears. Today, generosity to our rivals is the dogma of many “conservatives,” even as America rots from within.


[The Great Betrayal: The Elite’s War on Middle America, by Louis T. March and Brent Nelson (Raleigh: Representative Government Press), 138 pp., $5.95]