At first glance, Republican opposition to the Chips and Science Act, through which Congress approved more than $70bn in support for the American semiconductor industry and roughly $200bn for scientific research, appears a straightforward story — of course the GOP resisted “big government” and “picking winners and losers.”

But the criticism actually came from the opposite direction. Republicans showed an appetite for intervening in markets, confronting corporations, and unwinding globalisation. To appreciate how sharply America’s economic debate has swerved, one must dive into the legislative details — where platitudes about “strengthening America” and “helping working families” give way to trade-offs that force the application of abstract principles to decisions. With Chips, the main argument was over “guardrails.”

vThe bill would offer semiconductor manufacturers billions of dollars in grants to build new fabrication plants in the US. But those grants came with strings attached. Any company accepting federal money for an American project had to agree not to make any new high-tech capacity investments in China.

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