Singapore Port

2Q 2019 Market Commentary

In All-Star Superman, a twelve-issue comic book series, Superman encounters the Ultrasphinx, a god-like figure who has traveled forward in time from the 80th century B.C. The Ultrasphinx has been tricked into thinking that Lois Lane has stolen Atom-Hotep’s crown jewels, and therefore he captures Lane and puts her into a state of suspended animation. Lane’s fate rests on Superman’s ability to answer the Unanswerable Question: “What happens when the Unstoppable Force (Superman) meets the Immovable Object (the Ultrasphinx)?” Superman responds by saying, “They surrender.”

Now, Superman’s answer doesn’t make much sense from a physical sciences standpoint. According to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The Ultrasphinx’s question is better known as the unstoppable force paradox. Logically, an unstoppable force cannot exist simultaneously with an immovable object. An unstoppable force should, by definition, be able to move any object, and an immovable object, by definition, should be immovable regardless of the force applied. Hence, the paradox. Regardless, the Ultrasphinx accepts Superman’s answer (this is a comic book after all), and Lois Lane is saved.

When it comes to tariffs, President Trump has been a bit of an immovable object. Despite arguments to the contrary, and despite the negative economic consequences, the Trump administration has continued with round after round of tariffs, first on solar panels and washing machines, then on steel and aluminum, and lastly, more than once, on specific goods coming from China.

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