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The Original MAGA: Tariffs, Trade, and the True Cost of Protectionism

In this episode of Liberty Curious, we go deep into the historical roots of ‘Making America Great Again’. Kate Wand sat down with Phillip W. Magness, Senior Research Faculty and F.A. Hayek Chair in Economics and Economic History at AIER, to discuss the true implications of tariffs and protectionism and how they have shaped America’s economic landscape.

From the earliest years of the American founding, promises of putting America first echoed through political chambers. These calls, though wrapped in patriotism, often harbored hidden implications of cronyism, favoritism, and a veiled tax that burdened everyday consumers. Despite the appealing rhetoric, tariffs and protectionist measures stand as barriers to economic freedom, prosperity, and genuine international cooperation.

As history warns, “When goods cease to cross borders, armies soon follow.” By tracing the history of tariffs, we see a repeating pattern: opportunistic rent-seeking, strained international relations, and a government that often interferes with natural economic exchanges. This meddling not only fosters less peace but also empowers the federal government at the expense of states and the very people it promises to protect. Enjoy all of our podcast at:

Phillip W. Magness at AIER.orgPhil Magness on X

Use these time stamps to navigate the content of the interview:

0:00 – Intro 1:03 – MAGA & Tariffs 3:46 – I, IPhone 6:00 – American Founding debates 8:09 – Trade Liberalization 10:20 – James Madison 14:14 – Special Interests 16:15 – Early Cronyism 19:00 – Alexander Hamilton 22:25 – Infant Industry 26:16 – Less choices, higher prices 29:13 – The eve of the Civil War 34:15 – Rent-seeking 38:07 – Tariff renaissance 40:05 – American System 50:13 – Income Tax 54:50 – The Rise of Government Expansion 58:02 – The Ring of Power

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