I wrote today for Politico on responding to the economic dimension of the era of Great Power competition that is now clearly upon us:
The new, more threatening era underlines the urgency of what should have already been priorities. We need a much bigger defense budget; we need an all-of-the-above energy policy that takes full advantage of our Saudi Arabia-like bounty of fossil fuels; and we need to use public policy to ensure we are meeting national needs not necessarily fulfilled by the free market alone.
Much of the latter involves the economic competition with a mercantilist China that doesn’t play by our rules and has the ultimate goal of accumulating economic and strategic advantages to eclipse us on the world stage.
This isn’t an indictment of international trade as such — even unfair practices by most countries aren’t of high consequence. However irksome Canada’s timber policies may be, Ottawa is not going to leverage them to eventually wage war on the United States. Nor does every jot and tittle of our trade relationship with China matter. At the end of the day, it matters little how many U.S. soybeans China imports, an obsession of President Donald Trump during his trade battles with Beijing.
No, our focus should be on maintaining a first-class military, winning the high-tech race with China, and reducing our vulnerabilities in the event of a war that disrupts supply chains and our access to key strategic materials and goods.
A robust market economy is a foundational national strength of the United States, but it is not sufficient to achieving these goals and, in some cases, militates against them. It will be painful for some free-market-oriented Republicans to admit this, yet public policy has to be flexible enough to take account of circumstances — principles have to be tempered by prudence.
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