Yet Another Open Letter to Wilbur Ross

by Don Boudreaux on August 3, 2017

in Myths and Fallacies, Trade

Wilbur Ross, Secretary
United States Department of Commerce
Washington, DC

Sec. Ross:

In your August 1st Wall Street Journal op-ed (“Free-Trade is a Two-Way Street”) you bemoan foreigners’ efforts to make available greater supplies of goods, services, and inputs to us Americans.  And you insist that the U.S. government must obstruct our freedom to take advantage of these increased supplies.  I’ve some questions for you.

– Do you bemoan advances in technology that, by reducing demands for some existing products and for some existing uses of labor, “put American workers and businesses,” as you say, “at a disadvantage”?  If not, can you explain why Uncle Sam should restrict Americans’ freedom to buy imports that cause some particular job losses but not restrict our freedom to buy the fruits of technologies that cause some particular job losses?

– If American households choose, say, to perform more do-it-yourself home repairs, or choose to buy more used cars (and, hence, fewer new American-made cars), is the resulting loss of income and jobs suffered by some American carpenters, plumbers, and autoworkers an injustice that Uncle Sam should remedy by denying Americans the freedom to choose to do more do-it-yourself home repairs, and the freedom to choose to buy more used cars?

– If your answer to the previous question is “no” – that is, if you believe that American carpenters, plumbers, and autoworkers are not entitled, as a matter of right, to continue to receive whatever annual portion of American-households’ incomes is currently spent to purchase these producers’ services – why do you treat American producers as being entitled to that portion of American-households’ income that these households once spent on American-made outputs but now choose, for whatever reason, to spend on imports?  In other words, can you explain the economically relevant difference between Americans choosing to buy more used cars and Americans choosing to buy more foreign-made cars?

– What the hell business is it of yours, of the president’s, or of anyone else to sit in judgment of how I and other private citizens peacefully spend our own money?  What gives you the right to arrogantly restrict how other people conduct their economic affairs?  Who are you to tell me how I should and shouldn’t spend my money?

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


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