To me, one of the grand economic questions is just how much will the typical American pay to save another American’s job?

While it’s great to talk about “America First” business principles, economics has a funny way of creating unintended consequences. Hiring American and buying American are well-intentioned ideas. But what if American-made doesn’t offer the best value or top quality?

Prime example: Tariffs on Canadian lumber.

The Trump administration is slapping a 20 percent tariff on certain imported wood from Canada, the type of lumber typically used in new residential construction. The beef? Canadian lumber makers get an unfair cost advantage vs. U.S. competitors due to Canadian government subsidies. Not only do Canadians disagree about the alleged trade trickery, they are threatening their own brand of retaliation.

Yes, cheap foreign wood — fairly created, or not — costs certain American workers their jobs and U.S. manufacturers’ profits. Yet other stakeholders — U.S. lumber users and indirectly U.S. homebuyers — enjoy the lower-cost materials. Roughly one-third of homebuilding lumber is imported with 95 percent of that supply coming from Canada.

Wood is a major financial component of a house, roughly one-eighth of construction costs. And since Donald Trump’s election – a campaign highlighted by his tough talk on trade — lumber prices have soared.

One key price benchmark for homebuilding wood is up 22 percent this year, according to the National Association of Home Builders. That same commodity price had fallen 10 percent over the previous two years.

This year’s lumber jump translates to a $3,600 increase in typical construction costs for a new home, by the association’s math. And you know who will pay much of that cost: the homebuyer.

The association also estimates pricier wood due to tariffs will cost a net 8,200 U.S. jobs — from losses in homebuilding-related work to gains in domestic lumber products — as the resulting pricier homes trims new-home sales.

The administration has prepared a draft of an executive order to withdraw from the trade accord, Politico reported Wednesday, citing White House officials it didn't identify. The move is still under internal debate, according to the article. It was published just days after Trump levied a tariff on imports of softwood lumber from Canada, decrying unfair competition. Seen here, a construction worker takes a moment to look at the view while cutting and fitting lumber to the roof of a Strand Beach Drive beach house in Dana Point.  KEN STEINHARDT, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Political policy debates always contain hyperbole on either side. It’s probable the White House has overstated the extent of the Canadian cheating and its impact on U.S. interests. On the other hand, it’s no surprise homebuilders would paint the worst picture of the tariffs’ impact.

But there are rarely win-win events in economics. Trade wars, big or small, often hurt the consumer. One reason the globalization of business has grown as broadly and quickly as it has is that lower-cost providers, regardless of what side of the border they were on, often win huge chunks of business.

It’s not just lumber. The president has cited his displeasure with numerous trading partners that are major suppliers of everything from dairy to autos to steel to technology workers.

For lumber, it’s not just economic theory or political theater. Prices have risen, regardless of the merits of anyone’s debate. Builders will have to choose – lower profits or raising prices, which could scare off house hunters.

Who’ll win this argument in the court of public opinion?

On a case-by-case basis, protectionism can sound very patriotic. But in the long run, unless it’s your job saved, your pocketbook could very well suffer. Trade battles will, at best, only save a modest number of American jobs. Inflation caused by limits on imported goods will hit far more people.

It will be fascinating to see how much trade-related price pain is tolerable. Would you pay more for a house to save a lumber job?