A lot of libertarian and libertarian-minded people I know ended up voting for Republican George W. Bush last November on the theory that the Libertarian Party is going nowhere (true) and that their best hope for advancing their cause is therefore within the Republian Party (a dubious proposition at best). But the Bush administration’s actions this week illustrate the problems with that sort of strategy.
CNN reports that the Bush administration is about to do something that even the liberal Clinton administration wouldn’t — cave in to the steel industry’s protectionist demands. The bottom line is that foreign companies can often produce steel more cheaply than domestic firms, and over the last 30 years there have been a number of technological revolutions within the steel industry that have led to the emergence of very small but extremely efficient new firms that have wrecked the fortunes of the older, but often large and relatively inefficient steel firms.
The Bush administration is planning to proceed with an anti-dumping case against foreign steel manufacturers — essentially accusing them of selling steel too cheaply within the United States. National Public Radio also reported on June 6 that the Bush administration wants international negotiations aimed at lowering steel production worldwide, claiming that steel’s current low price is a result of world overproduction.
So when it comes to energy, people in California have to let market forces work and the United States needs to take measures to expand energy supply, but in order to gain a little political advantage with steel worker unions and companies, Bush is willing to offer large steel producers the entire slate of protectionist measures that he and Dick Cheney say won’t work to solve California’s energy crisis.
And yet conservatives will keep scratching their heads wondering why liberals and leftists think all their talk about free markets is simply special pleading for their own interests.