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How Anti-Trade Nativism Wrecked the

Ancient Greeks
Cleon was an Athenian demagogue, a shrewd operator known
for violence and for getting things done.

A fourth-century B.C. depiction of Demos (the people of Athens) being crowned by Democracy.
Photo: Getty Images/DeAgostini
Barry Strauss
May 22, 2016 4:54 p.m. ET
Today’s presidential candidates are playing recklessly with free trade, alliances and immigration.
They are pushing the misguided notion that high trade barriers will restore jobs and prosperity to the
middle class, and scorning old alliances and new immigrants. These protectionist and nativist ideas
aren’t new; they’re as old as the Greeks. Athens tried them but it created international disorder and
the opposite of the desired result.
While nationalism will always be fodder for politicians, today’s leaders need to understand the
consequences. Athens learned the hard way. Here are the lessons:
The story begins about 2,500 years ago with an alliance between Athens and the Greek city-states of
the Aegean. Historians usually call it an empire, but it was more like a cross between the European
Union and the Warsaw Pact. It was meant to protect Greece against Persia and it succeeded so well
that it left some allies complaining it had turned into a protection racket in which they were bullied
into playing along but got nothing in return. Athens didn’t allow allied exits and backed up its
position with force.
At first, things worked smoothly. Athens slowly turned the alliance into a common market in which
Athenian coins, weights and measures became the norm, a kind of ancient euro. Athens’s free-trade
zone fostered prosperity, democracy and the soaring confidence that built the Parthenon and fired
the Golden Age of Greece.
Athens also had a magnetic appeal to immigrants. They came from far and wide and represented
rich and poor. Immigrants competed with natives for jobs but not for political power since they
were rarely allowed to become citizens.
Then came the backlash. Three disturbing developments took place.
Nativism. Athens’s old landed elite disliked democracy and despised the immigrants. So, when
extreme conservatives seized power in a coup d’état after Athens lost the Peloponnesian War (431-
404 B.C.), they evicted immigrants from the city limits and targeted the wealthiest for murder and
property confiscation.
Fortunately, the coup-makers didn’t stay in power long. An armed uprising, funded and manned
partly by immigrants and slaves, defeated the usurpers and restored democracy to Athens. But the
coup shows that even the most open society is vulnerable to nativist and anti-immigrant sentiment.
Demagoguery. In Athens, for the first time in history, demagogues emerged. They were popular
leaders of unrestrained vulgarity and crassness. They shouted, used abusive language, and instead of
keeping their hands modestly tucked inside their cloaks, they raised their garments and introduced
hand gestures into oratory. Although wealthy and well educated, they spoke in populist accents and
criticized the establishment.
The biggest demagogue was the Athenian general Cleon, described by fellow general and historian
Thucydides as “the most violent man in Athens.” Maybe, but Cleon was also a shrewd operator with
a reputation for getting things done. He attacked elites, especially intellectuals, and the crowds
cheered. Although some of his initiatives fell flat—including the plan to execute everyone in
Mytilene whether or not they had taken part in a rebellion against Athens—he remained popular and
successful overall until he fell in battle with the Spartans (in Athens even demagogues died with
their boots on).
Endless conflict. Athenian foreign policy should have built an international order that shared
prosperity and encouraged allies to stay loyal. Instead, it chose Athens First.
Like Brussels in today’s EU, Athens became a supercapital. But it made the mistake of trampling on
local rights. Athens mandated, for example, that major court cases be heard there rather than in the
allies’ home city-states such as Lesbos, Naxos or Miletus. Athenians also threw their weight around
abroad and bought up property that was supposed to be for locals only.
Allied elites burned with anger that makes today’s Brexit fever in the U.K.—in favor of Britain
leaving the EU—look like a sniffle. Therefore many of those allies threw in their lot with Athens’s
rival, Sparta, even though Sparta was an economic backwater.
Athens had given people an impossible choice: prosperity or freedom. In the end, all they got was
the more than quarter-century-long Peloponnesian War, the ancient Greek equivalent of our world
wars. The long struggle weakened all of Greece but especially Athens, which by 404 B.C. lost its
alliances, its ships and its prosperity.
Fast forward to today’s world. As in the past, Americans face a choice. We can erect trade barriers
and build walls—and stoke bad will among nations. Or we can continue on the road to peace and
prosperity by maximizing free trade in goods, ideas and people (vetted for national security) while
offering a plan to bring back prosperity for those in need without re-erecting trade barriers.
Our leaders need to make the case for the second path, clearly and fearlessly. In short, we need
smart, tough and responsible leadership. Otherwise, make way for Cleon—demagogues, nativists
and protectionists who risk stoking a new conflict. That could make the Peloponnesian War look
tame by comparison.
Mr. Strauss is a professor of history and classics at Cornell University.

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LAWRENCE KARCH 5ptssubscriberFeatured

1 minute ago
Drumpf would get along famously with Cleon since the Donald is on such good terms with Putin et
al. After all, Drumpf is one-third Know-Nothing, one-third Smoot-Hawley, one third John Birch,
and 100% autocratic. We need not mention being a fabulist.
So yeah, if we could channel Thucydides, he'd probably agree that Drumpf and Cleon are birds of a
feather or joined at the hip or whatever is the idiom used in ancient Greece for double trouble.
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Kurt John 5ptssubscriberFeatured

16 minutes ago
Here is a conservative position on immigration:

America is the only country in the world where sovereignty is not determined by the soil you stand
but by the convictions of your heart. An American Immigrant who wants to stay in our country, who
wants citizenship in our country, and who wants to contribute to our country is already an
American. There are currently 6 billion people in this world and if all 6 billion want to be
Americans then I say we make them all American.

But, we also know that not everyone in this world wants to be American. We know there are people
who want the benefits of our country and not the responsibilities of our country. We know there are
people who want to cause harm to our country. And because of this, we must carefully offer full
citizenship, no longer allow dual citizenship, to a limited number to maintain a responsible
citizenship. We have a responsibility to ourselves and the world to make this the shining example
for the world.
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Kenneth Gimbel 5ptssubscriberFeatured

27 minutes ago
On the other hand, homosexuality was a popular pastime. The eternal question, was it to be war or
peace, guns or butter?
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hank grabois 5ptsuserFeatured

10 minutes ago
@Kenneth Gimbel

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VALENTIN TIRMAN 5ptssubscriberFeatured
35 minutes ago
Interesting article – comments, even more interesting.
Living in “one-level-abstraction-land” is what we’re doing. Problems with the middle class? Easy,
get rid of that pesky competition and immigrants - pull up the gangplanks.
There are two big factors in being competitive: (1) comparative advantage – not growing bananas in
Alaska, and (2) business climate – or ease of doing business. We strike out on #2 – the government
costs business $2 Trillion per year in regulatory and nuisance costs, plus tort lawyers cost business
another Trillion in lawsuits. This is not chump change that can be solved with a big wall on the
border with Mexico.
Capitalism is the latest four-letter word with voters courtesy of academicians and the liberals. So
we hammer business with taxes, regulations, fines and lawsuits. Think this might be a reason our
middle class has been exported to Mexico and China?
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Richard Tauchar 5ptsuserFeatured

28 minutes ago

As for your (1) comparative advantage... Why is California's Central Valley importing labor from
Mexico while diverting 80% of California's available water supply, when the crops could be grown
directly in Mexico instead with local labor? Wouldn't that be an example of comparative

Answer: the US stands to gain from controlling the food supply, and US business makes a bundle.

I agree with you that (2) is a problem, but I disagree that it's the primary reason why jobs have been
exported. The primary reason is labor cost. The US middle class should not be expected to
compete with people living in nations with a much lower cost of living (and standard of living).
The US should put the interests of its citizens first.

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KEITH W BROWN 5ptssubscriberFeatured

7 hours ago
So I guess this author would agree that we should just let red china keep hosing us on trade...
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Patrick Meegan 5ptssubscriberFeatured
11 hours ago
The article points to the collapse of Athenian power (its defeat in the Peloponnesian War) and then
shows how the conservatives took and abused power afterwards. This reverses cause-and-effect.
Had Athens won the war, we can imagine quite different results.
Perhaps the answer is to win the war.
Nativism and protectionism did not defeat Athens; Sparta and its allies did.
Nativism and protectionism did not weaken Greece against outsiders; disunity allowed Phillip II
and his son Alexander to rout the Greeks.
Nativism and protectionism did not defeat the Hellenistic Kingdom; civil wars took place and Rome
came in to "mediate" the peace.
I am not in favor of either nativism or protectionism, but this attempt at finding parallels between
Classical Greece and present-day America is weak. It begins with a conclusion and then assembles
disparate and out-of-sequence facts to support it.
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ELLEN SCHNEIDER 5ptssubscriberFeatured

1 hour ago
@Patrick Meegan To win the wars is absolutely key. That usually requires the best, most advanced
weaponry -- and more of it than the enemy has. That usually requires a robust economy.
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David Mcmahon 5ptssubscriberFeatured

11 hours ago
So now we have to go back 2000 years to find anti-Trump material. That really takes the cake.

Trump is not anti-Trade. He is for FAIR trade. He wants to negotiate better deals and his tariff is not
a real proposal its a negotiating position.

And lets stop the garbage that building a wall stokes bad will among nations. Why are the so-called
ELITES in our society so suicidal? Here is the deal - tens of millions of our neighbor to the south
have just walked in trying to get jobs and live here. And yes, some are drug dealers and rapists. We
have a fundamental right as a nation to protect our borders and only allow immigration that WE
permit into our country.
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Beverly Neville 5ptssubscriberFeatured
12 hours ago
History teaches whatever lessons you want. Ask the Native American Indians about how well open
borders and "free trade" works out.

The founders established tariffs, and until around 1860, tariffs provided 80-95% of federal revenue.
The key was a common market among the states, not with foreign nations.

Free trade is a misnomer, anyway, outside of theoretical economics. Fair trade is a better term that
allows specialization and exchange between countries that have similar baselines of labor,
environmental, and safety standards--and protection against currency manipulation.
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David Mcmahon 5ptssubscriberFeatured

11 hours ago
@Beverly Neville "Ask the Native American Indians about how well open borders and "free trade"
works out."

Exactly. From their perspective, they should have implemented "protectionist" policies in 1492.

That should be a REAL lesson to the fools that run European governments today, as well as our
own. In the new world, migration was gradual but unceasing and over the intervening centuries we
know what happened. The EuroFools could be using this to learn that simply letting in millions
from a different culture in will result in you losing your culture. The EuroFools are so stupid that
they are doing it on fast forward and letting them right into the heart of Europe. It would have been
if the Native Americans had let 1 million Englishmen settle right in the middle of the continent
through to California. At least in the case of the new world they had to work their way in.
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Tommy Butler 5ptssubscriberFeatured

12 hours ago
Free markets make free men.
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KRISTINA NORRIS 5ptssubscriberFeatured

12 hours ago
A rather Alice threw the looking glass analysis. Democracy in Athens was limited to 10% to 20% of
the population.

Even then the passions and emotions have always been able to make a democracy mad from time to
time. Always unstable by nature. Which is why our Framers borrowed far more heavily from the
Roman Republic. Made our system slow in that it would tend toward deliberation and rational

I have no idea how free trade and immigration would have stopped the Spartan military machine.
Nor the Romans after them.

Despite having all the necessary technology for an industrial revolution, the ancients went for
militarism and slavery. Trade except for grain shipments to bread and circus cities, was limited to
elite luxury goods. Draining the specie from the Empire for pepper at one point.

The Roman Republic peace built on 'defensive' expansion worked very well. It fell when the citizen
farmers with the manly virtues, were squeezed out. In major part due to trade.
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Joseph Lorenzo 5ptssubscriberFeatured

13 hours ago
A liberal professor of history and classics is lecturing us about "free" trade? So who is against free
trade? If you knew economics anywhere near as much as you know about ancient Greece you
would know that what we have today is not free trade. It's negotiated trade agreements. Nothing
free about that. The U.S. is a wealthy country and everyone wants to fully trade (sell goods to) with
us. They just don't want to fully trade (buy goods from) with us.

So when their national airlines need new planes they mostly buy planes from Airbus and or Boeing.
No problem, you see no other companies except these two make large long distance airliners. On
the other hand we buy lots of cars from Germany, Japan and Korea but we don't sell many to
them. India ignores our patent laws and just copies our medicines and sells them internally and
exports them to other countries. Real free trade. While Canada and other countries negotiate lower
prices for drugs under patent thru tacit threat.
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James Petkas 5ptssubscriberFeatured

13 hours ago
It's interesting that all of the anti-trade people on these pages are also anti-"Big Government".
Trade restrictions are the ultimate in "Big Government". Big Government picks winners and losers
by determining which jobs are official government authorized "Important Jobs" and then forces all
other Americans to support them through artificially higher prices for the output of these Big
Government authorized Important Jobs.

Trade restrictions are nothing but Big Government wealth redistribution programs that take hard
earned wealth from some Americans and redistributes it to others. Trade Restrictions make all the
welfare programs that writers on these pages love to hate look small by comparison.
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David Mcmahon 5ptssubscriberFeatured

11 hours ago
@James Petkas

Peddling the waaah waaah lines of that baby with a beard Mark Levin.

Trump is not in favor of ANTI-TRADE. He simply wants better trade deals. He doesn't even want
to impose the tariffs, its a NEGOTIATION LEVER. But that is lost on you and the baby who needs
a big bib Levin. Go to your sandbox and play and cry about Ted Cruz losing.
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James Petkas 5ptssubscriberFeatured

5 hours ago
@David Mcmahon @James Petkas Classy as always I see.
Who said anything about Trump? I didn't. And I have never listened to Mark Levin. But if he
believes that people who decry "Big Government" while screaming to be protected from big bad
competition by it are hypocrites then I agree with him.

Pull your head out of your (T)rump.

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william payne 5ptssubscriberFeatured

13 hours ago
As much as I revere western civilization,90% of Greek inhabitants were enslaved.75% of Roman
subjects suffered the same fate.By todays standards they were an "evil empire."
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Michael Baldridge 5ptssubscriberFeatured

13 hours ago
Perhaps the professor of history and classics might want to get with the times. There's a difference
between legal and ILLEGAL immigration. No candidate that I'm aware of is calling for no
immigration. I've heard Trump call for supporting LEGAL immigration while not rewarding illegal
immigration, as Hillary wants to do. I've also heard Trump complain that the administration is doing
a poor job of screening out potential terrorists from the middle east, hence San Bernardino. His
TEMPORARY BAN on Muslims from those countries wasn't anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim, it was
so our lame administration can get it's act together and protect US citizens before being worried
about the inconvenience of foreigners. I also hear a call for FAIR trade, not ending FREE trade. It
seems as if you're indoctrinating students, not educating them, if you can't even tell the clear
differences here.
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James B Shaffer 5ptssubscriberFeatured

13 hours ago
A vote for the lessor of two evils is still a vote for evil. Vote Libertarian.
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David Mcmahon 5ptssubscriberFeatured

11 hours ago
@James B Shaffer

A vote for Libertarian is a vote for Hillary Clinton's Supreme Court, forever ending the dreams of
constitutional conservatives.

Vote for realism, which means Trump with a Republican congress that can work with to reverse the
course of the nation and lay the groundwork for a more conservative candidate when Trump leaves

I will not waste my vote.

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Brooks Lide 5ptssubscriberFeatured

13 hours ago
If the choice is between Cleon or Medusa, I'll stick with Cleon.
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Geoff Aronson 5ptssubscriberFeatured

14 hours ago
Whereas it is certainly true that few educated people today know ancient Greek history, this is piece
simply shoehorns a tiny portion of that history to fit the professor's thesis as he hopes most reader
do not know differently. No mention of Alcibiades, the general that changed sides more times than
Slick Willy forced himself on women. Nothing of the policies of Sparta and the Greek states on
Sicily and dozens of other factors.

One can reach back to ancient Greece (or Babylon or Egypt or Persia or Rome of some Chinese
dynasties to prove the exact points or the diametric opposite. This is not history, it is just a
hypothesis in search of a fact and a failure at that.
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JOHN CORKERY 5ptssubscriberFeatured

14 hours ago
Mr. Strauss, you discuss Athens and the Peloponnesian War and fail to mention Pericles who was
the Athenian leader who got them into conflict with Sparta and much of the Greek world in the first
place. Pericles, the democrat, aristocrat, populist, supporter of the arts, talented orator convinced the
Athenians that war with Sparta was a good thing. Pericles died of typhoid two years into the war in
429 BC and only then did Cleon come into prominence. By 422 BC he was dead in battle. We
have only two real sources for information on Cleon and those are Thucydides and Aristophanes
neither of whom liked the man but perhaps Cleon's hatred for the aristocrats could have come from
finding himself in a war that they had started and which Athens couldn't win.
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Jeffrey Sonheim 5ptssubscriberFeatured

14 hours ago
It is always interesting to read about Thucydides here, with loose correspondences justifying liberal
mores. However, leaving out inconvenient facts from the book is disheartening.

From this article, one would see Trump as Cleon, and impugn to him ideas such as "No more trade",
or "Keep immigrants out" that failed in ancient Greece, so must fail today. Except that Mr Trump
does not espouse these ideas! He has seen the terrorism in Europe and asked that we figure out who
from the ME is coming before the episodes of Paris and Brussels are repeated here. Were Persians
allowed willy-nilly in Greece? No! Trump wants to better trade agreements, not ban them. This
forte of his perhaps ought to be given a shot, considering BHO's economic history.
As far as the Fall of Greece, perhaps the Plague had a part in this; and as well the disaster of the
Sicilian expedition... ?
Our Constitution's genius is dealing with faction so that power is permanently spread out. Greece
never got this.
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ELLEN SCHNEIDER 5ptssubscriberFeatured

59 minutes ago
@Jeffrey Sonheim " Except that Mr Trump does not espouse these ideas! He has seen the
terrorism in Europe and asked that we figure out who from the ME is coming before the episodes of
Paris and Brussels are repeated here. "

At this stage it is difficult to wonder whether the professor truly is unaware of these facts, or merely
is another victim of the lack of diversity of political thought on campus to such a degree that his
thinking on these subjects has become nothing more than rote repetition.
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MATT MORGAN 5ptssubscriberFeatured
15 hours ago
I'm no Trump enthusiast, but as I read I was drawn more to the example of Democrats. Whereas
Trump is a single instance and something of an aberration among typical Republican office seekers,
the parallels to Democrats are more consistent and entrenched over a long period of time.

The concession that must be made in the analogy is that 'nativism' for Democrats takes the
grotesque form of an affirmative anti-nativism so strikingly extreme that it serves the same or even
more effective demagogical role for modern consumption.
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CharlieB Brown 5ptssubscriberFeatured

15 hours ago
Congratulations Professor! That's got to be the dopiest article I've ever read in the WSJ.
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marc garrett 5ptssubscriberFeatured

15 hours ago
@CharlieB Brown Mr Brown, unless you are a Trump ideologue, devoid of any circumspection or
sense of historical perspective, I cannot understand how you can critique Professor Strauss's
genuinely instructive essay as dopey. The consequences of anti-immigration policies, isolationism,
trade restrictions, and hegemony are just as dangerous today as they were circa 400 BC, perhaps
more so today. Cicero reminds us of the importance of learning from history, "To be ignorant of
what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child."
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JOHN CORKERY 5ptssubscriberFeatured

14 hours ago
@marc garrett @CharlieB Brown It might make more sense if Mr. Strauss had mentioned Pericles
along with how the Athenians started a war they couldn't win with Sparta and much of the Greek
world rather than just dropping Cleon into the midst of the article and implying that he had
something to do with starting it. I admit that "dopey" isn't the right way I'd describe this article but
instead "misleading" in its attempt to draw a parallel between Mr. Trump and Gen. Cleon.
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JAMES REGAN 5ptssubscriberFeatured
5 hours ago
@marc garrett @CharlieB Brown did you read the article marc? I doubt it.
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hank grabois 5ptsuserFeatured

1 hour ago
@JAMES REGAN @marc garrett @CharlieB Brown

did you read the article marc? I doubt it.

Right back at ya! The Trumpites are SURE that the piece is a manifestation of
'Trump Derangement Syndrome'. Only problem is: Trump's name never comes up. In fact, if you've
been following politics for a long time like I have, then the nativism, economic protectionism, and
demagoguery decried first reminds us of Pat Buchanan circa 1992 (ie 23 or 24 years ago).

And in that same 1992 election, Ross Perot made a point of condemning NAFTA and free trade in

Certainly the PRINCIPLE is very old: Does protectionism work or does it backfire? That principle
doesn't depend on Mr Trump or any other personality of today's politics...
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ELLEN SCHNEIDER 5ptssubscriberFeatured

58 minutes ago
@marc garrett @CharlieB Brown I suggest you read "up" in the comments section to see multiple
explanations for Mr. Brown's position.
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David Mcmahon 5ptssubscriberFeatured

11 hours ago
@CharlieB Brown

Come on now - there have been dozens lately.

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Mark Stamp 5ptssubscriberFeatured

16 hours ago
So, if Trump is Cleon, I assume the author thinks that Hillary is the modern incarnation of Helen of
Troy. And, of course, Obama must be Socrates. Maybe Bush II could be Claudius and we can have
Bill Clinton play Caligula (I'm sure he'd enjoy that role), while Jeb is Nero. These ancient historical
analogies are so much fun!
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David Mcmahon 5ptssubscriberFeatured

11 hours ago
@Mark Stamp

If Helen of Troy had looked or sounded like Hillary Rodham Clinton, she would have sinked the
fleet with a single glance and cackle miles before it reached shore.
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john booth booth 5ptssubscriberFeatured

4 hours ago
@Mark Stamp Ackk! And this from a near road kill cat who should be teaching at Cornell !
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hank grabois 5ptsuserFeatured

1 hour ago
@Mark Stamp
So, if Trump is Cleon,[...]
It is you, and NOT Professor Strauss who makes that equation. Trump isn't mentioned in the piece.
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David Weisz 5ptssubscriberFeatured

16 hours ago
See, native Americans should have welcomed mass immigration from Europe; Rome from the
Huns, Goths, Visigoths; Russians from the Mongol Hordes; Hungarians, Austrians, Poles, Greeks,
Serbians, et al from the Ottomans...
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Octavio Lima 5ptssubscriberFeatured

16 hours ago
An excellent history lesson that many should learn. There are also more recent ones as well. In the
early 19th century Napoleon implemented a protectionist war economy, which even caused the
banishment of books from the most prominent French economist of the time, Jean-Baptiste Say. The
end result was not favorable to Napoleon. Even more recently the economic histories of Chile when
compared to Argentina and Brazil, the latter two practicers of protectionism, also stands in contrast,
particularly Brazil which had an enormous phase of development when they finally opened up the
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ALAN SEWELL 5ptssubscriberFeatured

11 hours ago
@Octavio Lima fyi, the British also imposed a protectionist war economy, and they prevailed. Of
course, they had a dominant navy to enforce their protectionist policies on the high seas. And they
had as allies the Russians, and General Winter, which left about 500,000 of Napoleon's men frozen
in the snow on the Retreat from Moscow.
So, perhaps there was a bit more than "protectionism" involved in Napoleon's demise.
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David Mcmahon 5ptssubscriberFeatured

11 hours ago
@ALAN SEWELL @Octavio Lima
I think that its far to easy to make simple observations. Your example points out that things are not
so simple as success or failure based on a single policy, and its got to be clear that there is a major
downside to free trade without the free part going both ways. The United States has clearly suffered
many job losses, and fantasies of "job training" and college are not going to solve these problems.
Remember 50% of the population has an IQ below 100 so are not suitable to become engineers,
MBAs and doctors, and even if they could there would never be enough jobs for everyone. The
problem with the absolute free traders is they fail to even acknowledge that there is a problem, and
a very big one in our society as a result of what has gone on. Since 2000 some 55,000 factories in
the USA have closed.

In my view after studying the issue, I don't believe Trump wants to implement something drastic
like Smoot-Hawley. He is simply putting out a negotiating lever.
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Octavio Lima 5ptssubscriberFeatured

1 hour ago
@David Mcmahon @ALAN SEWELL @Octavio Lima The phenomenon you cite Mr. McMahon is
a global one, not limited to the USA. There is already a lot of commentary and study being done
about how China will have a problem because they will be skipping the phases many countries
followed from an agrarian economy to a service based economy. The time they will spend in
manufacturing will be much shorter than any country so far. Also it is not only trade that is eroding
manufacturing jobs but mostly productivity gains propelled by automation. You are correct that very
little attention is being paid to this fact though and there were very few candidates who diagnosed
this problem correctly. Mr. Trump was not one of those. However I am not sure we can ask
government to do something about it, given their overall incompetence and human race's overall
inability to predict the future. There is currently ongoing an inflection point in history, much as
when the world transitioned to manufacturing.
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Octavio Lima 5ptssubscriberFeatured

1 hour ago
@ALAN SEWELL @Octavio Lima I do not think that is correct Mr. Sewell. One o the ways in
which Napoleon tried to defeat the British Empire was by denying it access to continental ports
from Portugal all the way to Russia. One of the ways in which he was defeated, besides General
Winter, was the Russians opened up their ports to the British. Also recall that in the time this was
happening the British had trade all over the world, as evidenced by the East India Company,
established in the 17th century.
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David Mcmahon 5ptssubscriberFeatured
11 hours ago
@Octavio Lima

True but a little simplistic because Chile adopted capitalism far sooner than Brazil and its debatable
Argentina has ever had it since their zenith at the turn of the 19th century. It was not just opening up
markets that helped Brazil but moving toward free market capitalism. Hopefully they will stay the
course through the current difficult times, but if the USA doesn't remain an example I am not
hopeful for the rest of the world.
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Octavio Lima 5ptssubscriberFeatured

1 hour ago
@David Mcmahon @Octavio Lima Not simplistic Mr. McMahon. You are correct about the long
arc of history of Chile when compared to its peers in South America. But recent history shows a
difference in approach in the 60s. During the military rule, Pinochet was not as averse to trade and
foreign capital as his counterparts in Argentina and Brazil and that made an enormous difference.
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ROBERT RAY 5ptssubscriberFeatured

16 hours ago
Athens had an open democracy. When the U.S. Constitution was written our founders' only
knowledge of an earlier democracies was from ancient Greece, especially Athens. That's why we
have a republic, with elected representatives, and a government designed so it can't do things in a
hurry. Our founders were all too aware of Athen's disasters, like the near Mytilene massacre (the
people voted to execute every male on the island, even though they were innocent bystanders, until
they were persuaded otherwise the next day) and the disastrous Syracuse expedition. Read Kagan's
history of the Peloponnesian War. Athen's final defeat was due in part to the crowd's angry demand
to kill the admirals responsible for an Athenian naval victory, because too many Athenians had died.
That did not encourage military leadership.
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Henry Newbold 5ptssubscriberFeatured

15 hours ago
Our Founders were acutely aware of the threat of pure and/or direct democracy in their fear of the
"tyranny of the majority". This is why our system is a representative republic with several Branches
sharing power.
BTW -- in Athens only free males of age who had completed military training while in their teen
years were eligible to vote :)
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Steven Chen 5ptssubscriberFeatured

17 hours ago
Interesting article

Cleon = Trump

> 50% American voters are not Athenians, so we won't repeat their mistake.
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ROBERT RAY 5ptssubscriberFeatured

16 hours ago
@Steven Chen Trump, Hillary and Sanders are all demagogues, promising the world at no cost to
the voters.
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Terence Favor 5ptssubscriberFeatured

17 hours ago
Most of our trading partners use a VAT, while we do not. A VAT encourages exports by making
exports exempt from the VAT. When Americans pay for imports those products do not include the
cost of the VAT.
Our policies add costs to our exports - like the compliance costs of regulations, health and
retirement benefits and income and payroll taxes. These taxes are included in the costs foreigners
must pay for American manufactured products.
When Americans demand that our regulatory, tariff and tax policies be changed to help encourage
domestic production opponents of progress immediately haul out the "nativist and protectionist"
slanders rather than offering constructive ideas.
Thank goodness that the familiar liberal tactic of calling everyone who disagrees with them a bigot
is no longer effective. Sensible people don't care what liberals think.
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Henry Newbold 5ptssubscriberFeatured

18 hours ago
I would like to remind Professor Strauss that in the world that existed in 500 B.C., any state that
was not "Athens [or fill in the blank polity] first" was doomed to be conquered in a hurry.

The Athenians did what they did in order to gain and sustain enough power to keep their city-state
viable. In 500 B.C. power was first, second, and last the only thing that kept any polity "free" from
domination by someone else.

Trying to use the politics of 500 B.C. to critique today's global economy is a fool's errand -- but
then, universities are chock full of foolish ivory tower types who have no idea how the real world
works :)
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ALAN SEWELL 5ptssubscriberFeatured

18 hours ago
These ancient historical analogies are becoming ever more obscure. Next thing you know, and
they'll be saying that tariffs caused Eve to eat the Forbidden Fruit.
Free Trade was sold on the concept that American companies would prosper AND "create millions
of high-paying jobs for American workers" by exporting high-value manufactured product to other

Instead we got unfavorable balances of trade and millions of American jobs LOST when our
companies high-tailed it out of here to produce their product at a Third World wage scale in order to
bring it into the USA to sell at an American price list, while allocating the profits of the transactions
to tax-shelters in Ireland and the Cayman Islands.

Free trade with countries like {Mexico, China, Japan, India, South Korea} harms the USA. the
millions of Americans who lost their livelihoods understand that perfectly well. If these trade deals
had helped us, they would not be despised. "You can't fool all of the people all of the time."
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Jeff Zaun 5ptssubscriberFeatured

18 hours ago
@ALAN SEWELL Free trade has created millions of jobs. One of the reasons the US turned into
an economic giant was because our constitution doubles as a free trade agreement. We created the
biggest free trade zone in the world.

Unfortunately, we may get to re-learn the lesson if Mr. Trump actually means what he says. But I
think he knows it's a stupid idea. Markets will collapse and companies will shed jobs even before
the tariffs are implemented, so maybe he'll back off.

Or maybe, like the wall, the deportation force and the ban on muslims he knows that the policies
(which he's already backing away from) could never be implemented. He also knows that you are
enough of a sucker to believe the fantasy he was selling.

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ALAN SEWELL 5ptssubscriberFeatured

16 hours ago
@Jeff Zaun @ALAN SEWELL Under our Constitution, we have a Congress, President, and
Supreme Court in common with ALL the states of the Union.
No state is permitted to scam the other states by issuing devalued shinplasters and wooden nickels.
No state is allowed to steal jobs from other states by paying its people $1.00 an hour. And when the
USA goes to war to PROTECT our people and businesses, every state pays the taxes and provides
the servicemen and women to do the fighting. We don't have half the states protecting the rest, who
feed from them as parasites.

So, if / when China, et. al. adopt the US$ as their currency, pay their fair share of taxes to our
government that defends their interests as well as ours, agree to be bound by our labor laws and our
court decisions, then free trade may possibly work on a fair basis.
Until then, it's "lights out" on bad deals that are used to suck jobs and wealth out of the USA instead
of adding value.

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JEANNE RODGERS 5ptssubscriberFeatured

15 hours ago
@Jeff Zaun @ALAN SEWELL I wish so many would not include "THE wall" in every discussion
of what Americans see as important issues. A wall to keep our border secure is not the same thing
as deporting millions of foreigners whether of untarnished character or criminals, not admitting
Muslims, etc. and other local problems like drivers' licenses for aliens who refuse to buy insurance
or who depend on states' already overstretched welfare policies. I have responded to several
telephone polls recently and not one asked about a wall (or any other more effective control) or any
other specific questions regarding immigrants. That tells me these polls do not come from any
Western universities or think tanks.There is little acknowledgement of property damage, especially
to isolated, large ranches people in Southern Arizona experience every day.

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Jeffrey Sonheim 5ptssubscriberFeatured

14 hours ago
Jobs leaving the United States are more a consequence of tax policy than anything else. If profits
are taxed at 25% over there and over 40% over here, who wouldn't want to move there? Once the
"level playing field" includes taxes, total and marginal, the corporate migration will reverse.
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ALAN SEWELL 5ptssubscriberFeatured

14 hours ago
@Jeffrey Sonheim @ALAN SEWELL How can that possibly be? Taxes are paid when an item is
SOLD and the REVENUE is booked.
Every American company (and many foreign-owned ones) wants to SELL in the USA. They just
don't want to PRODUCE here. The one and only reason they don't want to produce here is because
they can find cheaper labor beyond our borders.
Free trade, with a very few exceptions {trade with Canada and Western Europe} is about increasing
corporate profits by beating Americans out of their jobs, nothing more and nothing less.

The solution is to require these companies to be consistent. If they want to SELL their wares here,
then they should have to PRODUCE them here. But, if they really and truly want to leave the USA
by moving production overseas, then we should ban them from selling their wares in the USA.
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James Petkas 5ptssubscriberFeatured

12 hours ago
@ALAN SEWELL It's interesting that all of the anti-trade people on these pages are also anti-"Big
Government". Trade restrictions are the ultimate in "Big Government". Big Government picks
winners and losers by determining which jobs are official government authorized "Important Jobs"
and then forces all other Americans to support them through artificially higher prices for the output
of these Big Government authorized Important Jobs.

Trade restrictions are nothing but Big Government wealth redistribution programs that take hard
earned wealth from some Americans and redistributes it to others. Trade Restrictions make all the
welfare programs that writers on these pages love to hate look small by comparison.
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ALAN SEWELL 5ptssubscriberFeatured

12 hours ago
@James Petkas @ALAN SEWELL Isn't it also true that most of the anti-"Big Government" people
on these pages also favor a strong military capable of worldwide intervention in order to safeguard
American interests around the world? The military is another arm of "Big Government" --- albeit
one of the few arms of government that provides unequivocal value to the people.

The point here is that it is not "Big Government" that decides whether we restrict trade with some
countries and go to war with others. It is the President and Congress, elected by the people, who
decide these things.
If the people decide to elect Donald Trump for President, then it is likely that trade will be restricted
to some degree, if he is able to get a majority in Congress to agree with his agenda. Whether he's
elected or not, it won't be "Big Government" deciding anything. It will be the people expressing
their will at the ballot box that decides the questions of trade and other foreign policies.

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James Petkas 5ptssubscriberFeatured

5 hours ago
@ALAN SEWELL @James Petkas By that argument there is no such thing as "Big Government".
Yes, I understand how the republic works. That everything the Government does comes, by
definition, from "we the people". The complaints about it by folks (myself included) are that "we
the people" acting through "Big Government" are becoming ever more dictatorial about every
aspect of life. And my point is that to complain about it then seek it's protection from competition
is hypocritical.
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ALAN SEWELL 5ptssubscriberFeatured

2 hours ago
@James Petkas @ALAN SEWELL It may be a subtle distinction, but to me, "big government"
means big bureaucracy and federal courts that act without consulting the people. This means the
bureaucracy imposing bisexual bathrooms in the public schools and issuing pettifogging standards
for requiring the sharpness of pencils.
But setting foreign policy has always been seen as a necessary part of government, even small ones.
Setting the conditions of trade with foreign countries is a fundamental responsibility of
governments, big or small.
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XAVIER L SIMON 5ptssubscriberFeatured

18 hours ago
I am glad to see the Journal publishing commentaries and op-eds on trade. Maybe the lessons of the
past will reach Trump and have a salutory effect.
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Bryan Smith 5ptssubscriberFeatured

19 hours ago
"Free Trade" is not a sign that is found on the doors of Wh(o)re houses...
Surrogate trade in goods, is what is found when the factory is "off" the compound.
How is it that wheat milled in in one country is shipped out to another, milled, baked, and packaged
then sent back as "American" bread?
My backside is sore from "Free Trade"!
What I want instead is "Parity" trade. That is what trade is, on the playgrounds, farmers markets,
and bartered services.
It is not "Trade" when I don't have a job, but I am expected to buy a foreign made product at prices
that if I had a job, I could afford.
"Free Trade" is just one of those terms that has become doublespeak "Higher Profit Margins". There
really is no trade going on. Chinese students making .98 cents an hour making iphones that are then
sold to Americans for over $600.00 is not free, or even traded, but there is a word for it.
"Rape" is one term that comes to mind.
Another would be, "Confidence Game", or maybe even "Racketeering" by a Syndicate.
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Jeff Zaun 5ptssubscriberFeatured

18 hours ago
@Bryan Smith The author is pointing out that you're less likely to find work if you insist on
protectionism. Also, that the product you "could afford" if you had a job will cost more if you get
your way. Mr. Trump's idea of a great deal is when you pay more for foreign goods.

It's you, and Mr. Trump, who what to set up a racket. You're the one who wants to restrict who I
can buy from, who wants me to pay for your racket. Professor Strauss is calling you, and Mr.
Trump, out for supporting protectionist policies that have harmed us, and others, before. We've
seen this movie. See Smoot Hawley.