13 June 2013
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Dear Sen. Warren:
In your letter today to Michael Froman  – Pres. Obama’s nominee for U.S. Trade Representative – you criticize the administration for being opaque about the details of the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
It’s unclear from your letter if you’re concerned that the administration will do too little or too much to lower taxes and other burdens on Americans who buy goods and services from foreign producers. I certainly hope, though, that your demand for greater transparency is sparked by a wish to make trade freer, regardless of the existence or height of any tariffs and subsidies that other governments wreak on their economies.
Yet judging from your many pronouncements on economic matters, I fear that you’re more likely to support “managed” or “fair” or “strategic” trade rather than genuine free trade. If my fear is justified, I urge you to read the very letter that you sent to Mr. Froman and reflect on your explicit recognition there of the “benefit” of “an open marketplace of ideas.”
If, as you rightly insist, the marketplace of ideas is best left open and unrestrained, then, I suggest, so, too, is the marketplace of goods and services best left open and unrestrained. A government that cannot be trusted to suppress the flow and competition of ideas does not become trustworthy and wise when it turns its attentions to suppressing the flow and competition of goods and services. And because censorship and political suppression abroad in no way justify censorship and political suppression here at home, tariffs and other forms of economic suppression abroad in no way justify tariffs and other forms of economic suppression here at home.
If you truly understand and celebrate the benefits of an open marketplace of ideas, then you will also understand and celebrate the benefits of an open marketplace of goods and services. And you will, as a result, champion a policy of unilateral free trade.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
(I thank Andy Roth for the pointer to Sen. Warren’s letter.)