A steelworker at a plant in Granite City, Illinois, May 2018.
Lawrence Bryant / Reuters

We live in a time of protectionist backlash. U.S. President Donald Trump has started a trade war with China, upended the North American Free Trade Agreement, imposed tariffs on the United States’ closest allies, withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and talked endlessly about building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. But the backlash against globalization goes far beyond Trump himself. In fact, his presidency is more a symptom of it than its cause. Even as they may decry Trump’s particular methods, many voters and politicians in both parties approve of his objectives.

By now, it is well known that this backlash followed a dramatic rise in inequality in the United States. Whether one looks at the percentage of income going to the highest earners (the top ten percent earn 47 percent of national income now, versus 34 percent in 1980), differences in income across educational groups (the premium that

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  • KENNETH F. SCHEVE is Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
  • MATTHEW J. SLAUGHTER is Paul Danos Dean and Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
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