The United States should regulate trade.
Debate Rounds (3)
There are three rounds. The first is for acceptance. The second is for arguments. The third is for rebuttals.
I have made the voting open to members with a minimum Elo of 2500. I also ask voters explain their decision. That should keep randoms from voting and ensure a fair assessment.
I'll get right into my arguments.
1. Free trade is bad for the economy because it allows trade deficits.
Free trade allows the US to import more than it exports. To make up the difference, the US is forced to sell its assets and assume debt. Because the US allows trade deficits, foreign countries own over $30 trillion in US assets.  And as a result, the US net international investment position is -$5.445 trillion.  The US then has to pay interest on this debt, which is calculated as part of the federal deficit.
The US debt to foreign countries, as well as the federal deficit, is bad for the economy. The Economic Strategy Institute estimated in 2001 that the trade deficit was shaving at least one percent per year off our economic growth.  Economist William Bahr estimates that our trade deficit since 1991 has made our economy 13% smaller than it otherwise would be.  Other economists have estimated that trade deficits have stunted GDP growth by up to 20%.  Trade deficits also hurt the economy by destroying jobs. For example, economists have shown that trade deficits with China cost the US 2.8 million jobs between 2001 and 2008.  And the situation only gets worse. Eventually, the US will exhaust its ability to sell assets and assume debt. The US will then be forced to pay foreign countries back, and it'll have to pay them back by working for free.
Instead of a free trade policy, which allows these harmful trade deficits, the US should regulate imports and exports so that the value of imports is roughly equal to the value of exports.
2. Free trade poses an existential threat to human survival because it encourages carbon emissions.
97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing climate warming.  Climate change has already hurt agriculture, human health, ecosystems, water supplies, and many people's livelihoods.  If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, we'll soon reach a tipping point, after which runaway climate change will make the planet inhabitable to humans.  Climate change thus poses an existential threat to human survival.
Free trade is incompatible with reducing emissions, slowing climate warming, and saving our planet. Under a free trade regime, prices are set solely by supply and demand, so social costs like climate change and environmental damage aren't reflected in the good's price. Economists call these unaccounted social costs "externalities." Free trade is driven by prices, so if prices are wrong due to externalities, free trade will produce bad outcomes.
For example, wasted energy from transportation costs... Free trade encourages goods to be made in one place and used very far away. The transportation costs are not only a waste of energy but they also increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, speeding up climate change. Free trade prices simply don't account for carbon emissions (especially the high quantity of emissions from transporting goods across international borders). Nor do free trade prices account for radioactive waste from nuclear power or pollution from pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals. In fact, free trade not only permits environmental damage but encourages it, as a way to grab a cost advantage. Given the existential threat to human survival posed by climate warming, free trade poses a threat to human survival.
To create prices that account for externalities, the US should tax and subsidize imports and exports to "internalize" social costs that escape the prices set by supply and demand. A small, uniform tariff for all countries would encourage local production, thereby avoiding an enormous amount of wasted energy in transportation. Personally, I think the US needs to get serious about climate change and start taxing all imports produced in harmful ways, to discourage greenhouse gas emissions and encourage clean production facilities and renewable energy sources. These regulations are necessary not only to set accurate prices that reflect externalities but also to slow climate warming.
3. Free trade unfairly redistributes wealth by making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
The Stolper-Samuelson theorem says that people who draw most of their income from returns on capital gain from free trade, while people who get most of their income from labor are hurt by free trade.  Even though the majority of people in the US are workers, the US has more capital per person, and fewer workers per dollar capital, than the rest of the world.  So according to the Stolper-Samuelson theorem, the majority of people in the US get poorer as a result of free trade while the rich (those with the most capital) get richer.
The Stolper-Samuelson theorem has proven correct. Income inequality in the US has grown sharply since the 1970s, when the US started implementing free trade policies.  US Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that wages for workers tracked productivity increases until the 1970s, after which wages have increased more slowly than productivity.  Some BLS figures about the wage gap have shown increases in wages at 8% while productivity has increased 80% since 1973.  These figures suggest that free trade has lowered the wages of US workers because of global competition with developing nations. At bottom, free trade redistributes wealth so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As a policy matter, not only is this degree of income inequality unfair and unjust, but it's also against American values such as equal opportunity.
In the US, free trade has led to massive financial debt, income inequality, and poverty. Other countries also offer cautionary tales. In protectionist Latin America, per capita income in the 60s and 70s was growing at 3.1% per year, but after the continent embraced free trade in the 80s, per capita income dropped to 1.7%.  All the empirical evidence favors protectionist trade practices as an economic matter.
But there's another (more important) reason to restrict trade: free trade promotes carbon emissions, waste of energy, and environmental damage. Given the threat to human survival posed by climate warming, and as a result of potential runaway climate change, the US should impose taxes on imports to encourage local production, discourage wasted energy from transportation, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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