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Down to the bitter end

Free Market Reflections with Steve Dittmer

I’ve talked to a lot of cattlemen across America in the last year. To a man, or woman, they are not comfortable with some of President Trump’s brash New York style. Of course, one has to remember how his business career forged him. He has dealt with wealthy, egotistical national and international property owners; tough labour unions who practically ran New York for decades and buried rivals in unknown plots; when he was in tight spots, bankers with hearts of stone; city and county regulators who relished the upper hand and deadlines that would cost millions if missed. Not an environment for developing milquetoasts.

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Stay at one of his properties, however, and you are treated like royalty.

Those ranchers and feeders are very happy with the long list of results Trump has produced, and in a very short time. Of course, his stated goal was to consider America’s people first. That resonated with many U.S. citizens, some 60 million or more, who were tired of a president going around the world on apology tours, claiming everything wrong with the world was our fault. Context is critical in politics.

By contrast, while the U.S. is enjoying a booming economy, less government regulation regarding the environment, energy, finance and other industries, the world economy has slowed. The EU has discovered that while trading across many nations in Europe creates wealth, governing across many nations is not so good. Trade is trade, government is a whole other thing, especially by distant bureaucrats.

So while we have been enjoying the fruits of Trump’s bluster, single-mindedness (surprisingly to some, keeping his campaign promises) and tough guy approach, other countries, especially our trading partners, have only seen the tough guy and the pressure tactics. Canadians, especially, have been startled at being treated as just another adversary in the lineup. The Canadian Consul in Denver, that promotes Canadian trade with several U.S. states, made it plain in a meeting that Canada expected to be treated like friends of longstanding, not lined up with other nations and made to defend and fight for that historical relationship we all recognized. Feelings were ruffled, that was plain.

Time, by contrast, is on Trump’s mind, and tactics. Once he gets NAFTA finished and something hammered out with the EU, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try to reform WTO or kick China out. We all know from the mCOOL fiasco alone, how glacially the WTO moves. Trump has no patience for that. His style is run government like you run a business. Get things done and move on to the next thing. His working pace has stunned Washington. His high-level meetings are to issue marching orders or to finish up a project. Endless meetings to report little progress is not his style. And when most politicians would be resting up, he’s off on Air Force One to go talk with a stadium overflowing with fans.

In short, he is not the type of person most of us know and he is not the type of politician most voters know. And it has become clear, as a voter, you are either with him or against him. If you support him, that means you are willing to overlook some bad habits and past indiscretions in exchange for saving your country. It’s not really more complicated than that. I think most of my Canadian friends would admit they were surprised and a bit sorry for us during the staggering shift to the left, big government and weak leadership during Obama’s years. Think of this as the flip side — just as shocking but in the opposite direction.

So will we have Canada in the re-done NAFTA by the time you read this? Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has kept a much cooler head during these tense times than some of her countrymen. She realizes what’s at stake and how much leverage she has as a much smaller economy against someone fully utilizing their advantage. The U.S. and Mexico did Canada a favour by dealing somewhat artfully with the five-year sunset tomfoolery. That left the dispute settlement process, already exempted for certain industry and the matter of dairy management and subsidies.

Frankly, if I were Freeland, I would put Canada’s dairy industry up against the U.S. dairy industry. I have never met a dairyman who could explain how the extremely complex U.S. system of marketing orders and price targets, etc., works. I met one association staffer once who knew it, but her explanation lost me in seconds. Neither country has a healthy dairy industry. Like most government systems, they make things worse for producers. Both countries would do well to find a way to transition over time to a free market system that rewards the producers who can survive.

Think of the tariffs as short-term tactics to speed up the process.


Comments

I read part of your article in the cattlemen. You wrote if you support Trump you are willing to overlook some bad habits and past indiscretions. Really!! The man is nothing more than white thrash with money, and no one is sure about his wealth. I am quite confident that a man with 14 rape charges, who think grabbing women by the Pussey is fine, is more than just one who has bad habits. Trump in time will be proven to be nothing but a con man and a moral degenerate who has defrauded the American people of millions in taxes. He is a disgrace to humanity, and makes USA the laughing stock of the world. We follow American politics purely for entertainment. Trump has exposed to the world the true level of racism and ignorance of the majority of the American people. I would prefer not to see your comments in one of my favourite magazines.

– Sherri Gates

Hey Steve

It appears that your cowboy hat is way too tight. You state in your opinion piece that Trump is running the government like a business. One must look at his track record, one of bankruptcies, fraud, tax avoidance, and this after being handed millions from his daddy. His only accomplishments seem to be Tariff wars and sex scandals. As to your statement that neither country has a healthy dairy industry, I don’t know what rock you’ve been living under, but Canada has had a profitable dairy industry since the implementation of production controls. The same cannot be said for any other open market agricultural production such as beef. Maybe you are just an idiot, and getting a bigger hat won’t help.

– Dean Flach

About the author

Contributor

Steve Dittmer is the CEO of Agribusiness Freedom Foundation, a non-profit group promoting free market principles throughout the food chain. He can be reached at [email protected]

Steve Dittmer's recent articles

Comments

  • The Dude

    Nice, reasonable well thought out article from someone “in the trenches”. As a Canadian, I too wish both countries would end their byzantine regulation on dairy products (and everything else) as well as the subsidies and corporate welfare, and implement true free trade. Because know that overall, that works best for everyone. Except bureaucrats and politicians, of course. As the author said, “government is a whole other thing “.

  • aynranddeathmask

    “True” free trade and “free” markets will never happen because they literally can’t. These are concepts based on the myth that society is made up of independent actors who can do as they please but this is obviously untrue. Everyone is networked with everyone else and engaged in complex processes, the impacts of which are impossible to predict at a local level. That is why the ‘freer’ the market, the riskier it is. Capital attracts capital (money chases money), it concentrates, monopolies form through network effects and price gouging ensues (why should Apple and Google take a 30% cut of all app store and music sales just because they enjoy operating system monopolies). That is why no successful economy has a free market. All wealthy countries — and I mean ALL of them — have ever only had mixed economies where governments regulate, redistribute and — yes — even pick winners (Remember when the government took over GM?) . I do like fiction, however, and Mr. Dittmer is a great writer of it.

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