Cheap Shot

by Don Boudreaux on April 9, 2009

in Trade

A comment on this post by Eric Krangel at Silicon Alley Insider ends with this snide remark:

“Café Hayek: Where tenured US professors lobby ferociously against protecting US jobs.”

I don’t wish here, for the umpteenth time, to revisit the superficiality of the fact that Russ and I are tenured college professors.  If any of you readers wish to discount what we say at the Cafe — discount it because tenure is a term in our labor contracts — then, by all means, discount away.  Feel superior.  Feel smug.  Feel clever.  That’s your business.  And if you can muster no stronger argument against the case that we make here for free and open markets than that argument that screams “Oooohh my!  Don and Russ are tenured!  That means that they are oblivious and insensitive special-pleaders!  Let’s ignore them!”, then proceed.  Wallow away in your puddle of pointlessness, fantasizing that you’ve adequately addressed serious arguments with your ad hominem accusations.

Instead, I wish to point out that neither Russ nor I “lobby ferociously against protecting US jobs.”  Far from it.  Our argument — which is nothing more than a well-known part of the long-standing argument for free-trade generally — is that trade changes the pattern of domestic employment; it doesn’t destroy domestic jobs on net.

One may challenge the theoretical or empirical bases for our claim that greater openness to international trade replaces current jobs with newly created jobs; that’s a reasonable and important debate to have.  But to accuse those of us who argue for more open trade (or more open immigration, or greater openness to innovation) of doing so on the understanding that this greater openness ‘destroys’ domestic employment opportunities is utterly disingenuous.  Persons who level such accusations against those of us who make the case for free trade either do not understand what that case is or are more interested in scoring cheap debating points than in furthering a discussion that helps promote better economic policies.

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