Late last year, the United States imposed steep new tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber imports to the United States.
The new import taxes, a combination of what are called countervailing and anti-dumping duties, have contributed to a 66 percent increase in lumber prices in the past year, placing a heavy burden on U.S. home buyers, construction workers, and their families.
According to the National Association of Homebuilders, the price of an average new single-family home has increased more than $6,300 since the beginning of 2017 because of the increase in the cost of lumber.
Owners of U.S. lumber mills have welcomed the new tariffs and expect to add thousands of new jobs in the mills in 2018. Unfortunately, more than 10,000 other U.S. jobs will be lost, as higher prices depress the homebuilding industry.
Protectionism of lumber mills—or any government-favored economic interest—always comes at a cost to people outside the favored group. Government efforts to create a so-called “level playing field” for some Americans (which in practice means insulating them from the realities of the free market) inevitably tilts the domestic economy against the interests of other Americans.
Although trade policy often is portrayed by politicians as “us against them,” in reality, government interference in the market pits us against us. It is Americans who pay the U.S. government’s tariffs, and it is Americans whose jobs are put at risk when government protectionism slows economic growth.
Hopefully, President Donald Trump soon will realize that his goal of helping protect American jobs is best accomplished by embracing smaller government and free-market principles, not by intervening in the economy with job-stifling tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber.