Tariffs Are Bad, Mkay?

Matt Steinglass breaks with some of his fellow liberals:

There are few areas where I agree with the CATO Institute crowd, but this is definitely one of them: long-term tariffs on manufactured goods are really, really stupid. Germany and Japan are still competitive shipbuilders and the US isn’t, and that’s in large measure because of the 1920 Jones Act, which bars foreign ships from US internal waterways and has created a protected market for US shipbuilders that has gradually destroyed their ability to build anything the rest of the world wants. And Germany and Japan are still competitive automakers, while the question of whether the US remains one is very much up in the air, apparently for some of the same reasons.

Agricultural tariffs are equally damaging. They distort markets – making products like high fructose corn syrup economically feasible – but they also limit agricultural exports from developing countries. And agriculture tends to be a major source of GDP in under industrialized nations. You want more global poverty? Keep your ag tariffs and subsidies.