Free Traders

A friend in the comodities biz handed me this article by John Mauldin. He does a nice job of pointing out divergence in Bush administration words and policy:

“President Bush gave one of his most eloquent speeches in London this week. He talked about our heritage of John Locke and Adam Smith. ‘We believe in open societies ordered by moral conviction.’ They ‘turn their hearts and labor to building better lives….. By extending the reach of free trade, we foster prosperity and the habits of liberty.'”

Followed by:

“And then, almost on the same day, we had the sorry spectacle of the administration slapping tariffs on Chinese made bras. We go from “fostering prosperity and the habits of liberty” to nit-picking over who is making our ladies support garments.”

Mauldin couches his observations within a hypothetical letter to his friend Karl Rove.

I must say that when this “underwear” story broke, I initially thought it would either quickly be swept away by more weighty, newsworthy tidbits (think M. Jackson), or that it was part of a more cunning master plan to throw a monkey wrench into the looming possibility of runaway global price inflation. And I was bemused for a couple of days listening to an officemate launch into his screaming bra & panties tirade with clients; “I can’t believe Bush is going to trash the whole Farm Bill over white cotton panties!!!!”

But now this tariff business has gotten me a bit more concerned. My worry is not about a Bush second term, I think that is in the cards despite Lex’s belief in a Hillary in ’04 ticket. I am concerned that more protectionist talk could accomplish what the September 11 attacks failed to do, and that is clip the global recovery and put us all into a depression.