Assistance Please!

by Don Boudreaux on May 30, 2006

in Agriculture, Trade

I will soon begin writing a book on globalization.

As a consequence, I wonder if Uncle Sam will consider me to be a worthy candidate for "trade-adjustment assistance" — that is, to pay me if I can demonstrate that I suffer from foreign competition.  After all, the world is full of superb, non-American writers on globalization, such as Johan Norberg and Martin Wolf.  The books these gentlemen have written, and will surely write in the future, might well reduce market demand for my book, causing me to earn less income than I would earn were I protected from the competition of these and other foreign writers.

Why shouldn’t I apply for such assistance?  If being subjected to foreign competition entitles blueberry and lychee-nut growers, catfish farmers, and several bushels of other American producers to taxpayer money, aren’t I also entitled to have my representatives on Capitol Hill pick Americans’ pockets on my behalf?

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drtaxsacto May 30, 2006 at 11:23 am

I think this calls for the kind of measures advocated in Atlas Shrugged – a Fair Competition act which would limit writers to only producing 10,000 copies of their book – now that would be a level playing field.

By the way good luck on the book – I will look forward to reading it – even if I am customer 10,001.

JA$ON May 30, 2006 at 11:40 am

I say you should apply for it and donate the money after the government hands you a check.

Brian Moore May 30, 2006 at 12:01 pm

I agree! Stop illegal overseas economics books dumping activities!

I hope no one outsources low quality blog commenting. I'd be in trouble. :)

Bret May 30, 2006 at 12:05 pm

Because if all the lychee nut growers disappeared we might starve, whereas if all the economists disappeared – well, that doesn't sound so bad, does it? I'm mean, I'd miss Boudreaux, Roberts, and even Prescott, but I'd gladly given them up if Krugman, Galbraith, or Samuelson would also not have existed.

But lychee nuts – can't live without those!

save_the_rustbelt May 30, 2006 at 2:36 pm

Are you trying to be funny, or are you just openly contemptuous of blue collar workers?

You should apply right after your house is foreclosed and you get the bankruptcy release.

Maybe you spend a sabattical out in the real world, could be good for you!

DJB May 30, 2006 at 3:00 pm

Look STRB I can do it too,

bla bla bla ignorant class warfare comment with no basis in fact bla bla bla.

Now, being that I am in the real world, where should I spend my sabbatical, maybe in your utopian paradise of protected trade and planned economy. Where is that again? North Korea?

Don Boudreaux May 30, 2006 at 3:15 pm

For the record, I point out that — although my initials are DJB — the DJB writing here is not me. Any comment I make will be under the name "Don Boudreaux."

Noah Yetter May 30, 2006 at 3:24 pm

Everyone with any sense realizes this already, but it bears repeating.

When cars were invented and went on to become common consumer goods, many makers of horse-drawn carriages and their accessories, stable proprietors, horse breeders, and city-street manure shovelers lost their jobs.

There is no difference between this, and the loss of jobs due to foreign competition. Therefore to argue that domestic industry needs protection from foreign competitors is to argue that archaic industry needs protection from advances in technology. It is so easy to see that the latter impoverishes us, why is it so difficult to see that the former does as well?

Brian Moore May 30, 2006 at 4:31 pm

Dear Mr. Rustbelt:

Are you trying to be funny, or are you just openly contemptuous of blue collar workers [who compete with the blue collar workers you feel should receive preference]?

You should apply right after your house is foreclosed and you get the bankruptcy release [because you can't compete with the protected industries].

Maybe you spend a sabattical out in the real world [where you may encounter the radical ideas of unintended consquences], could be good for you!


If trotting out aggrieved parties is the same thing as making a real argument, what do you have to say to the equally blue collar workers who are competitors to these protected industries? Or perhaps the blue collar workers who work in industries whose raw materials are more costly due to protectionism? Or to the blue collar workers who have to pay more for these protected goods?

If your argument can be summed up by "but some people are worse off because of this," then I can equally point out people who are worse off because of what you support. To start your argument, you have to prove that free trade is a net negative, not just a local one. If you can't prove that, then you have to show that free trade is immoral because, whatever its benefits, forcibly deprives your specific blue collar workers.

ipninja May 30, 2006 at 5:04 pm

Don, I think that you looked past one thing that blueberry, lychee-nut growers and catfish farmers have in common. These are commodity markets. Are you suggesting that economic analysis on globalization is a commodity?

Peter May 30, 2006 at 5:25 pm

While this posting is very funny in nature, it also makes for a very surprising fact. If the total of farm subsidiary in the US is totalling around 11,5million dollars it truly makes me sad to be living in a member of the EU. As you may well know those amounts in the US, are mere peanuts (no pun intended) compared to the subsidiaries in agriculture here.

Don Boudreaux May 30, 2006 at 5:28 pm


These sums are only for "trade-adjustment assistance" to agriculture in the U.S. By no means are they the full amount of U.S.-government subsidies and support for American farmers.

Morgan May 30, 2006 at 5:39 pm

Not entirely off-topic, but perhaps meriting the label anyway:

It seems to me that the not-completely-on-board-with-free-trade-rs' arguments come down to this: a large negative impact to person A is more important than a similarly large positive cumulative impact (to A, B, C… Z).

I suppose you could get to this point on the basis of marginal utility – though I doubt most not-on-boarders' do, or that they would accept maximization of the integral of total utility over time as an acceptable alternative to simple job preservation.

I'm interested in the "maximizing the integral" notion, however, and I'm wondering if anyone can point me to any theoretical or practical work in this area, or comment on the idea from their own knowledge/powers of analysis.

Ken May 30, 2006 at 8:01 pm

Could you explain to me again just how we're supposed to do interpersonal utility comparisons? That was sort of glossed over at UCLA after we went through Ken Arrow's work. While we're at it, Massachusetts probably should enact some tariffs on "imported" automobiles to help the people who lost jobs here when GM closed its assembly plants here in favor of other states.

Morgan May 31, 2006 at 8:10 am


So, in response to my question, that's a "no, not I", then?

Incidentally, interpersonal utility comparisons are made all the time. Search, for example, on "quality-adjusted life years".

matt May 31, 2006 at 9:41 am

to be sure of max sales, use the pen name "thomas friedman".

Brian Moore May 31, 2006 at 11:25 am

To Ken:

"Could you explain to me again just how we're supposed to do interpersonal utility comparisons?"

I completely agree. The only reason I was using that argument because it seemed to be the only one that made sense to the kind Mr. Rustbelt — measuring the "hurts" here and there.

If that argument itself isn't even consistent, then he doesn't really have much else.

car man June 5, 2008 at 11:26 pm

Good luck trying that at this time. although i think given the competition the gov should help

Healing the Body June 19, 2008 at 9:25 am

Regrettably, although governments are obtuse, they often anticipate the tricks of writers and thinkers. Your humor is appreciated, though it does lead one to imagine how governments can be conned by their own rules. Angel of the Garden.

Anonymous August 2, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Dr. Boudreaux:

You have already completed your book about globalization. If competition from foreign authors Johan Norberg, Martin Wolf, or other scribes have diminished sales of your book, feel free to visit this URL apply for trade adjustment assistance.

Jeff September 18, 2009 at 7:03 pm

You might have a case, if the US government gave a 35% tax break for publishing foreign authors but not domestic authors. Fortunately, this is not the case. Sadly, it is the case for many other workers in the US.

You still fail to grasp that the problem is government favoritism.

jenni06 September 30, 2009 at 12:19 pm

thank you

Anonymous October 16, 2009 at 9:09 am

I’m sorry, I’ve just read this particular post of yours. I’ve lately been busy reading blogs by foreigners. So, yes, and you should be compensated for that too.

Is there anyway we could trade Obama for Mugabe? I’d like to have an experienced socialist economy wrecker than a noob.

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