People before Profits!

by Don Boudreaux on August 25, 2012

in Crony Capitalism, Environment, Politics, Trade

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Free markets are often criticized for encouraging the fanatical pursuit of profits at the expense of other worthwhile goals, such as a cleaner environment.  Such criticism, of course, springs from failure to understand the true nature of markets and of the institutions – most notably, property rights – in which markets are embedded.

But there is one institution that can fairly be accused of too often elevating the pursuit of profit into a dangerous obsession: government.  How else to describe the Obama administration’s imposition of, as you report, “provisional antidumping duties of between 31% and nearly 250% on solar panels containing Chinese-made solar cells” (“Solar Flare-Up: Back Tax Roils U.S. Firms,” Aug. 25)?  Uncle Sam is intentionally raising Americans’ costs of buying products that the government itself insists are good for the environment.  Government is doing so only to protect the profits of American solar-panel producers.

Consumers and the environment be damned!  What needs protecting above all, apparently, are the profits of Uncle Sam’s corporate cronies.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

An additional, and especially egregious, feature of this particular manifestation of cronyism is that the tariffs are imposed retroactively.  Note the reason given by the administration for why such retroactive imposition is okay:

A Commerce Department spokesman said media coverage of its investigation into dumping allegations should have served as warning to buyers that tariffs were possible.

If arrogance and heavy-handedness could be captured and distributed as electricity is now captured and distributed, the U.S. Commerce Department alone would supply enough power to light up the world for a millennium.

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