Does the U.S. need an auto industry?

A great discussion taking place over at the New York Times.

Economist Mark Thoma says:

But there is another rationale for policies preserving certain kinds of production: protecting industries vital to national defense. If you are an island nation vulnerable to blockades or trade embargoes intended to prevent food and other goods from being imported, it may be in your interest to protect domestic agriculture, for example.

This is something I’ve thought for a long time. Globalization as a way of providing for all of humanity only works if everybody plays nice. Nation states or groups of nations can quickly find themselves on their own if relations break down. And if they’ve given away or forgotten how to do some things critical to their basic survival, they’re screwed.

But how far do we push this? I don’t generally support agricultural subsidies, but we sure better keep enough people on the farms to grow our own food.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for peace, love, and understanding. (Man, I love that song.) But we’ve got to be prepared for the worst, too.