It has been puzzling to see many prominent economists decry the Trump administration’s tariffs as welfare-reducing protectionism, while approving of the Biden administration’s even more drastic steps to reshore, friend-shore and decouple from China.

In a March 2018 Chicago Booth poll of economists, 100% of respondents opposed new U.S. tariffs; but then a largely overlapping set of respondents were skeptical of global supply chains when asked in January 2022. Only two respondents (with me being one of them) disagreed that a reliance on foreign inputs had made U.S. industries vulnerable to disruptions.

One exception to this broader pattern is Dani Rodrik, who argued in a recent commentary that the ramifications of geopolitics are much more severe than renewed protectionism. He makes an important point; still, one must remember that protectionism was a major catalyst for today’s escalating geopolitical tensions.