Writes Peter Schwartz at TheHill on ‘America First:’ Rethinking the meaning of self-interest:

On his latest foreign trip to Asia, President Trump again invoked the idea of “America first.” As someone who is repelled by Trump and his presidency, I am a little reluctant to justify something he nominally upholds. But, actually, his support for it is all the more reason it needs to be clarified and defended — defended not only against those who criticize it, but against those, like Trump, who embrace it for the wrong reasons.

Schwartz succinctly identifies that “America First” means a policy of “taking action to defend the individual rights of Americans” and that to sacrifice those inalienable rights for “the nation” is a contradiction in terms.

A nation’s self-interest consists of the interests of its citizens. And there is one fundamental social value that is in everyone’s interest: individual freedom. The ultimate goal of American foreign policy — the end to which all alliances and confrontations are the means — is the preservation of Americans’ freedom against attacks from abroad. “America first” is a policy of taking action to defend the individual rights of Americans — the rights to their property, to their liberty, to their lives — when they are physically threatened.

Concomitantly, it is a policy of refusing to sacrifice those rights by elevating the needs of other nations above our own. 

Schwartz then shows that “Trump’s interpretation of ‘America first’ is shaped by the collectivist notion of economic nationalism”:

A foreign policy based on self-interest, therefore, embraces free trade, with everyone (leaving aside dealings with countries that pose military dangers to us) allowed to seek out the best products at the lowest prices — which is, incidentally, how the entire society prospers. This is radically different from Trump’s outlook. Trump cannot conceive of trade as being mutually beneficial. Instead, he argues that one party’s gain comes only at another’s loss. His ideal is the conniving wheeler-dealer, master of the “art of the deal,” who manages to put one over on his partner. His view of human interaction is that one must be either victimizer or victim, predator or prey. So he calls on the government to intervene and decide who is to be favored and who is to be sacrificed.

Read the rest:  ‘America First:’ Rethinking the meaning of self-interest