For the most part, mainstream economic views in the United States (and most of the developed world, for that matter) can be traced to a long-established line of theory in the history of economic thought.
Adam Smith’s invisible hand. David Ricardo’s views on free trade and comparative advantage. Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of creative destruction. If you’re on the right, you look perhaps to 19th century marginalists or monetarists like Milton Friedman. If you’re on the left, perhaps you look more to John Maynard Keynes and other macroeconomic theories.
But Donald Trump’s view of economics and world trade seems to have its roots, intentionally or unintentionally, in a brand of economic theory that predates Smith and Ricardo — the mercantilist school, which essentially views world trade as a zero-sum exercise. The key to wealth is to maximize your exports, limit your imports and, for good measure, amass as much gold as possible. England’s loss was France’s gain.
Those kind of mercantilist theories are at the heart of Trump’s economic pitch to voters. It was on full display in his victory speech after Trump handily won the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary:
We’re going to beat China, Japan, beat Mexico at trade. We’re going to beat all of these countries that are taking so much of our money away from us on a daily basis. It’s not going to happen anymore.
It’s not been a great night for former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who is losing the New Hampshire primary to Vermont senator Bernie Sanders by a margin of more than 20%.
Though there’s reason to believe that Clinton will bounce back in the Nevada caucuses on February 20 and the South Carolina primary on February 27, there’s one low-hanging piece of fruit that she could pluck that might instantly boost her campaign’s chances. It’s a policy that could attract Sanders supporters, emphasize the historic nature of her candidacy to become the first female president of the United States and put the eventual Republican presidential nominee on the defensive, all at once.
It’s paid parental leave — and the United States is one of the few countries in the developed world that doesn’t guarantee it. The OECD average is 17 weeks of maternity leave, the United Kingdom offers 39 weeks, Mexico offers six weeks, and many European countries offer far more to both mothers and fathers (though not always paid at 100% of one’s income):