The Study America Act

by Don Boudreaux on May 23, 2007

in Politics, Trade

Here’s a letter that I sent today to Tom Davis, the politician who is currently elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the district I live in:

Dear Rep. Davis:

am employed by George Mason University.  My fellow faculty members and
I today were reminded by a University administrator of the requirements
of the "Fly America Act."  I confess that I’d never before heard of
this statute.  As explained by the GMU administrator, this Act
"requires Federal employees and their dependents, consultants,
contractors, grantees, and others performing United States Government
financed foreign air travel to travel by U.S. flag air carriers."
Because college professors often receive research grants from Uncle
Sam, it’s good that administrators at my school warned us not to commit
a federal offense unwittingly by using, say, NSF grant funds to pay for
air travel on the likes of Lufthansa or Taca.

I applaud your
brilliant scheme!  Even if it costs taxpayers more money, obviously
this Act helps to protect American carriers from the nefarious
competition of foreign airlines.

But why stop there?  I propose
a "Study America Act."  The Congressional wisdom and spirit behind the
Fly America Act, I submit, requires also that "Federal employees and
their dependents, consultants, contractors, grantees, and others
performing United States Government financed research to buy books,
journals, articles, magazines, data sets, and all other scholarly
materials produced only by U.S. scholars" (such as myself).

must hard-working, high-wage American researchers compete against
foreign researchers – a competition that undoubtedly jeopardizes our
nation’s defense?  Why, for example, should researchers at the Centers
for Disease Control use American tax dollars to pay for subscriptions
to the British medical journal The Lancet?  Doing so shrinks the market
for American medical research and thereby hurts America’s health-care
industry and, ultimately, America’s children.  Or why should federally
funded social-science researchers use tax dollars to buy books on
international trade written by foreigners when my own book on
globalization will soon be out?  My book, I assure you, is as good a
product as any rival tome penned by a foreign scholar.

I look forward to your consideration and response.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman and Professor
Department of Economics
George Mason University

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Acad Ronin May 23, 2007 at 8:07 pm

The danger with sarcasm is that I am not sure how many Congresspeople will see it as such. The result may be just such a ban on using US funds to buy subscriptions to foreign journals.

colson May 23, 2007 at 8:17 pm


I was just about to say the same thing! Unfortunately, I don't think he'll get the sarcasm. But Don's book should start selling pretty well when it hits the marketplace.

I'll start taking wagers that some [lefty, kruggie, do-gooder] will see this post a few weeks or months down the road and then post comments in this blog calling Don a hypocrite. Start placing your bets.

The Sci Phi Show May 23, 2007 at 8:24 pm

I was thinking the same thing. What are you going to do if he follows your logic and instead of realising the fly america act is a problem, seeks instead to make other things consistent with the original act.

David P. Graf May 23, 2007 at 8:35 pm

Mr. Boudreaux,

I'm glad that you've finally seen the light. Of course, I hope that you will realize the full implications of being "100% American" and dispense with promoting the teachings of foreigners like Hayek and Adam Smith.

The Albatross May 23, 2007 at 9:10 pm

A good point David, but I think we can make make an argument for "grandfathering" Smith under a provision that recognizes the prior union with great Britian. We should allow Hayek's work completed in this country, as he undoubtedly contained some "domestic" components including office rents, graduate students, electricity, paper, typwriters, etc.

There would be one very big upside to this: No Karl Marx!

M. Hodak May 23, 2007 at 9:46 pm


I see that everyone else had the same immediate response I did–this congressman is unlikely to recognize the sarcasm. Fortunately, the flow of money between me and the government is only one way, and I won't have to follow their silly rules. (Did I say fortunately? You know what I mean.)

pinus May 23, 2007 at 10:48 pm


I am afraid that politicians at the House of Representatives may actually think that you are serious… and that it is actually a good idea.

OK, I see now that I am not the first one to thinks the same.

Now what about the places which U.S. carriers do not operate? Take for example the poor New Yorkers. Instead of taking a direct flight to Prague, Czech Republic with Czech Airlines, they first have to fly to Atlanta to get on a flight with Delta – since this is the only connection to Prague operated by a U.S. airline.

Python May 23, 2007 at 11:04 pm

Sarcasm, like parables, are great because the people that understand will be edified, and those that don't become more confused.

I can never get enough sarcasm. It is a great human resource that needs to be tapped into more fully. In general, the Chinese don't use/understand sarcasm, and this reason above all others is why I am not afraid of the current trade situation.

ben May 23, 2007 at 11:10 pm

Don, this politician may end up citing you as an authority in support of his cause! If he does, find a good PR guy to get you on Larry King for a debate. I reckon the media would love a story like that.

Brad Hutchings May 24, 2007 at 12:18 am

What is that they say about not attributing to stupidity which can be more easily explained by malevolence? I'm sure this joker will get the sarcasm and not like it. Perhaps he'll write back saying that the law was needed because people like Prof. Boudreaux don't voluntarily think about using American flagged carriers. At least then, you have to give him points for honesty .

But seriously, if the same logic would complicate Prius worship, I'd vote for it.

skh.pcola May 24, 2007 at 2:08 am

That some delicious snark, Don. I agree with all of the above commenters: It will likely be wasted on politicos.

Adam May 24, 2007 at 7:26 am

What you should have done is suggest that elected officials be forbidden from using their tax-payer funded salaries to purchase foreign goods. No Mercedes, Gucci, or Sony for you! Then he might have gotten an inkling that something was amiss.

Matt C. May 24, 2007 at 8:48 am

Hopefully this doesn't apply to the President…or at least when he flies on Marine 1. Now they are made by a…wait for it…French company…GASP!

Jon May 24, 2007 at 10:04 am

@ Adam:

So you're saying that all politicians with money will be relegated to Lincoln, Cadilac, and Corvettes in the way of nice cars? Ew. LOL

Mr. Boudreaux,
Witty piece of commentary, I appreciate it greatly.

nunya May 24, 2007 at 10:25 am


While I'll agree that almost anything Congress does is idiotic….you're not far behind them on this one. You're rapidly approaching the title of most anti-American jackass on the face of the planet.

Is there ANYTHING that goes on in this nation that doesn't make you whine like a four year old? You don't like flying on an American-flag carrier…FINE. Pay the bill out of your own pocket, fly on AirIraq and kwitcherbitchin.

If you don't like the conditions that come with someone else's money (even if it's ill-gotten booty from the government) then don't take any. It's awfully simple. Frankly, I'm fed up with your "You Owe Me Whatever I Want" perspective. Grow a pair and deal.

Of course, the last time one of you ivory tower intellectuals had to actually …. *GASP* …. work for a dollar was waaaaaaay back in undergrad. Not everyone has (or should have) the luxury of supping at the public trough.

It's wonderful to have an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out. Don't bend over….yours will.

Jon May 24, 2007 at 1:25 pm


Stop being a jerk dude.

His point is well taken and eloquently made. You flagwaving "America OWNS You" People have alot to learn. Hell if you actually read the writings of the founding fathers, they would be appalled at what we've become (namely a bloated socialist Autocracy).

So pull your head out of your ass.

Thank you and enjoy another day brought to you by capitalism and globalization.

Trevor May 24, 2007 at 1:30 pm

What rich, dripping sarcasm. I love it. Let us know if you're taken seriously.

Jon, has anyone told you that you're an asshole? If not, allow me to be the first.

Jon May 24, 2007 at 2:50 pm


Oh no good sir, you're not the first, nor do I think you will be the last.

Forgive me but the way I see it, if people are allowed to think as they want and say make fun of them when people say illogical and dumb things. *shrugs*

Jon May 24, 2007 at 2:53 pm

whoah … yeah I think something got deleted, that is suppsed to read:

Forgive me but the way I see it, if people are allowed to think as they want and say what they say illogical and dumb things. *shrugs*

Jon May 24, 2007 at 3:06 pm

ARG! what the hell? *sigh* i should try and type responses in the midst of work …

If someone says something stupid I should be allowed to mock them for it.

That was the general gist of it.

anon May 24, 2007 at 11:14 pm

agree with the first comment and others…you may have made a huge mistake by suggesting this idea to Rep Davis! (who, btw, is a white-flag waving moron)

True_liberal May 25, 2007 at 9:42 am

(Golly, Jon, please tell us what you REALLY think!)

Fly American; Study American; Think American – It's pretty easy to see where we're going down THIS road. Is this what we pay our officials to do for (or to) us?

(Interesting anecdotal trivia: Thomas Edison was American-born, and advocated DC electrical power distribution. Nicolai Tesla was born in Belgrade, IIRC, but advocated AC power distribution. Edison finally admitted Tesla was right!)

Greg May 25, 2007 at 5:37 pm

My fear is that you'll give Cong. Davis and idea…

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