The Corner

Economics

Free Trade Isn’t Free

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the China Development Forum in Beijing, March 23, 2019. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Sometimes it costs your dignity:

Charles Rollet helpfully pointed out the origin of Tom Watson’s little slogan.

But it’s not just Tim Cook. Here’s Jamie Dimon today.

Add these to the pile where Charles Munger of Berkshire Hathaway responded to questions about the months-long disappearance of Chinese billionaire Jack Ma by saying that Ma had been “arrogant” to criticize the Chinese Community Party.

The idea that businesses can merely pursue “shareholder value” to the exclusion of other values is false. All these men now understand that their job includes defending the Chinese Communist Party from criticism. This doesn’t just affect their private statements; it will also affect their advice to U.S. policymakers.

Note that there is no elite omertà about criticizing Russia, with whom we do very little trade.

There is no such thing as free trade with communist nations. The remaining question is how much more this misadventure in doing good while getting rich is going to cost the rest of us.

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