Get Ready for the Unintended Consequences of Trump’s Trade War

By threatening a tariff war with China, Donald Trump has essentially thrown a deck of cards into the air. We don’t know yet where each will land. While it appears that both the U.S. and China would suffer in a trade war, “the pattern of loss is going to be very difficult to predict,” says Jamie Murray, Bloomberg Economics’ chief European economist.

One of the most powerful laws in economics is the law of unintended consequences. As formulated by the American sociologist Robert Merton in a 1936 paper called “The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action,” it says that consequences “are occasioned by the interplay of forces and circumstances which are so complex and numerous that prediction of them is quite beyond our reach.”

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