In 1927, George and Ira Gershwin premiered an early version of a musical satire about trade wars called “Strike up the Band.” The musical centers around an American cheese maker who wants to corner the dairy market at home. He persuades the U.S. government to put a massive tariff on imported cheese. When Switzerland objects to the tariff, the two countries end up going to war — for real this time.
While the U.S. is unlikely to pitch battle over trade in 2018, talk of an oncoming trade war — most recently with China — has American markets plummeting and allies grumbling.
Wars must have winners and losers, and when we talk about the losers of trade wars, we often think about things like high prices for consumers, businesses going bust because they can’t sell their products abroad or import the things they need, etc. But, looking back through history, the geopolitical fallout from trade wars also suggests that there are few, if any, winners at all.