Donald Trump has promised to “Make America Great Again” by putting “America First.”
Though he was speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), it must be said that he is no small-government conservative. In fact, his speech made clear that he represents the worst tendencies of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats to limit our freedoms in the name of supposedly serving the greater good.
Trump is an economic protectionist and interventionist who wants to promote what he perceives are “our values” by building a wall to keep out immigrants, charging tariffs on imports, badgering U.S. companies to stay here, and making pipelines with only American steel. But all of that will only make everything cost more while reducing employment. He talks about bringing back manufacturing jobs, but they peaked as a percentage of the workforce in 1943 and are never coming back for a very good reason. Thanks to technological innovation, manufacturing output has doubled since the 1980s but with one-third fewer workers. Shutting down free trade or playing “CEO in chief” isn’t going to change that.
At the heart of Trump’s confusion is his belief that putting America First means keeping the world at a distance.
But you can be a citizen of America and a citizen of the world. In fact, if you believe in political, economic, and cultural freedom, you must always hold such dual citizenship. There’s no more basic freedom than the right to live where you want and buy what you want. That’s not anti-America. That is America.
In different ways over the years, Republicans and Democrats have tried to control where we can live, who we can marry, what we can eat, drink, and smoke, and so much more. Trump represents not a release from such thinking but a shotgun marriage of that worst impulse in each party.
“Where liberty dwells, there is my country,” Ben Franklin is said to have written. In putting America First, Donald Trump will succeed only in leaving even more of us truly homeless.
Written by Nick Gillespie. Produced and edited by Meredith Bragg and Joshua Swain.