Letters: What Adam Smith would say about Trump’s tariffs

6 October 2018

9:00 AM

6 October 2018

9:00 AM

What would Smith say?

Sir: Adam Smith’s writings were so definitive that it is said one can find the kernel of every modern branch of economics within them. But Jesse Norman is surely wrong to imply Smith would see merit in Trump’s tariffs (‘Politics trumps trade’, 29 September). Not only did Smith, as Norman points out, regard import taxes as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘absurd’, but he also derided the ‘man of system [who] seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chessboard’. Smith knew humans behave in ways unpredictable to the government planner. Even if a free-trade strategy underlies the US administration’s protectionist tactics, he would have cautioned that things may well turn out differently from the President’s intentions. In any case, as the administration has justified some tariffs on national security grounds and heralded the rejuvenating effects of others on domestic industry, Norman’s interpretation looks overly charitable.
Ryan Bourne and Diego Zuluaga
Cato Institute, Washington DC

Conservative estimate

Sir: Your leading article (‘Left in charge’, 29 September) is a sad but accurate reflection of the current state of the Conservative party. Its instincts are to tax, spend and regulate. Those who believe in low taxes and a small state have effectively been disenfranchised under the Cameron and May leaderships, where being a party for business and the individual has been sacrificed in favour of becoming a watered-down version of the Labour party.

It would appear that the parliamentary party lacks either the conviction to care or the courage to act as it continues to allow those lacking in Conservative convictions to lead the Conservative party.
Richard Thoburn
London EC1

Men will rebel

Sir: Lionel Shriver’s concern about #MeToo is timely, welcome and apposite (‘Men should be angrier about #MeToo’, 29 September). The #MeToo movement has brilliantly leveraged the amplifying power of social media. Newspapers jump on to the sensationalist survival bandwagon, and reinforce the victimhood vibe. Their magazines are now almost predominantly female-focused. The Times is a prime example, where the columnists in the main magazine don’t appear to like men very much. One male writer, Robert Crampton, has a column titled ‘Beta Male’. Can you imagine what would happen if there were a column titled ‘Submissive Female’? Every day on ‘serious’ radio we are subjected to Woman’s Hour with no male equivalent. There appears to be no platform for rebuttal or discussion from a male perspective. Men are effectively being written out of the script. However, if the confected female/male conflict continues, I predict that eventually men will indeed rebel vehemently and the feministas will have reaped a whirlwind that perhaps they might have wished to avoid. Workplaces are already altering to the detriment of all.
David Watson
Waterlooville, Hants

Some objections

Sir: I felt personally implicated by Anne Applebaum as the one who ‘fools’ poor Brexiteers at my embassy’s ‘boozy evenings’, taking them for ‘useful idiots’ (‘The wrong right’, 22 September). She claims the Polish government is just as bad as the Hungarian government: that both consist of con men. I then bumped into her at a book launch and introduced myself in the hope of a civilised discussion. I don’t want to make a private encounter public, so allow me to jump to her conclusion that she has given up on us. She of course has every right to do so. However, actively trying to harm bilateral relations is unacceptable. I could go through all of her politically motivated assertions, but frankly I also have given up on her.

Let me remind you, however, that Applebaum is the wife of the ex-Polish foreign minister who was sidelined by the present government, and so she is anything but independent. As the representative of a 1,018-year-old European state and a government which has for the third consecutive time won a constitutional majority, I refuse to be judged by a self-appointed elitist who is angry because she is losing the argument about our common future and is frustrated that central European leaders have found an alternative.
Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky
Hungarian ambassador to London, SW1

Welby and God

Sir: A correction to Martin Vander Weyer’s glib assertion that Justin Welby was ‘an oil company executive before he found God’ (22 September). Justin Welby found God before he became an oil company executive; I know because he was already a Christian when I first met him at St Michael’s Church in the Rue D’Aguesseau in Paris, in 1978, at the start of his career at Elf Aquitaine. This seems a small thing, but it is quite important.
Christopher Tawney
Pewsey, Wilts

Just the tonic

Sir: The folk remedies against night cramps that Prue Leith says she has tried and found wanting do not include tonic water (Diary, 29 September). If she has never tried it, she should. In several years, it has never failed me; no doubt it is the quinine.
David Watkins

When bold meant bad

Sir: A footnote to Dot Wordworth’s observations on ‘bold’. In Ireland this means naughty. When I, born and bred in England, first heard it used by my landlady in Dublin of one of her children, I thought it meant impish or mischievous. It doesn’t; it means very badly behaved.
Richard Crampton
Ascott-under-Wychwood, Oxon

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments