The individual is the atom of humanity.That's a well-crafted way of saying it. RTWT. And it's a nearly universally violated maxim. The expanded version of this is:
There is no we. For any given situation...there is me, you, and him. Almost all discussions of social situations rely on glossing over the essential individual/atomic analysis in order to reach preferred conclusions. We is a shortening that means me, you, and harry.
There is another standard human moral intuition: Bullies are bad. Just because you don't like it, doesn't give you the moral right to stop me from doing it. I have to actively be hurting you before you stop me.
"We should do X (erect tariffs)" should be understood to mean: "Me, you, bob, and harry" should do X. Of course...me, you, bob, and Harry have NO moral authority to prevent Steve from trading with the Chinese. However, if we couch it in terms of "us" or "we" or "The USA", we can pretend that there is some sane justification for the 4 of us trying to prevent Steve from trading with the Chinese....or taking 10% of his $ if he does trade with the Chinese. I can recognize that Bob the Baker is better off if he can use force to prevent Steve (and me, you, and Harry) from trading with the baker in the next village. Heck, Bob's better off if he can use force to make the next village's baker's products more expensive. Without addressing how much worse (in total) all of us are from the choice...it's very clear that Bob doesn't have ANY moral right to do so.
The essential libertarian insight is that there is NO number of bakers (Bob, Betty, Bertha, Benny, and Blaine -- that makes a majority of our fictional population -- 5/9) that makes it moral for them to use force to prevent me from buying my bread one village over. Anyone claiming the right to prevent me from trading with Chin, the baker in China is fundamentally, and deeply opposed to the 2 core moral principles:
- The individual is the only reasonable unit of analysis
- Initiation of violence is unacceptable.