America has never been as capitalistic or as free trade as it has often been portrayed. From Andrew N. Smith at mises.org:
Rhetoric has recently trumped reality. It has become a misconceived bit of common “knowledge” that the United States of America is a bastion of free trade. Little could be further from the truth. The “freest” nation on earth, as we are taught to believe, imposes a staggering number of tariffs, import and export bans, sanctions and embargoes. Yet somehow “free trade” is blamed for the financial ills of the unemployed in the formerly industrial Midwest. Instead of taking a serious look at our existing trade policies, and maybe reducing some of the regulations, President Trump promised Midwesterners that their inefficient factor jobs that have been outsourced to the “right to work” south and overseas will be brought back by imposing new import taxes on specific companies. It is a naïve and ignorant notion that singling out countries and taxing the goods they import into the US will somehow help the unemployed while having absolutely no effect on the country’s general productivity and standard of living. Besides, we’ve already been doing that for far too long.
The US imposes tariffs on over 12,000 different goods and services. No that is not a typo — over 12,000. Some of these tariffs are so significantly prohibitive that they are effectively outright bans. Sugar, for example, is one product that Americans get gouged on, paying an average of $277 million more per year than they should. That is $277 million per year that would otherwise be used to consume other goods, invested in growing businesses, creating jobs, and raising real wages. This is nothing new. The original tariff was imposed as a “temporary” protection for US sugar farmers, that was more than 80 years ago. It has protected US sugar farmers, but has also decreased the productivity of the sugar farmers’ land. The laws of absolute and comparative advantage would dictate that the land on which sugar cane and sugar beets are grown and harvested should be used to produce goods in which these particular regions can more (cost and time) efficiently produce.
To continue reading: America Is Hardly a Bastion of Free Trade