Since I haven’t heard much response, either positive or negative, to Christopher Wellman’s suggestion that we have multiple tariffs for multiple thefts, I will make the assumption that everyone accepts this would be a natural outcome of the original Leif Wenar proposal. In other words, I think we can all agree that we are likely to face a situation in which both American and Chinese goods (and probably the goods of several other important nations) are subjected to stiff tariffs in the international marketplace.
Is this something we are all comfortable with? I take Dr. Wenar’s point that this is a mechanism designed to further legal rather than political ends, and I can appreciate that the intention is to punish theft, and therefore to honor the sanctity of free trade. But it still seems to me that the net result, whatever the intention, is to create a politically charged environment in which everyone is slapping tariffs on everyone else, and the global economy grinds to a halt (or at least a serious slowdown).
Perhaps this is an acceptable price to pay to live in a world in which justice and fairness are our principal touchstones. Perhaps. But I have to admit, at the moment, I am unconvinced. And the main reason I am unconvinced is because this feels to me like we’re not punishing thieves, and we’re not even punishing those who traffic in stolen goods, but rather we’re punishing those who happen to live in countries whose economies happen to depend in part on buying and selling goods that may have been produced from stolen goods. And that feels to me a bit like asking your grandmother to pay war reparations to the Iraqi people because she happens to hold some shares in Halliburton. Why not just go after Dick Cheney?