Just Cronyism

by Don Boudreaux on November 4, 2017

in Crony Capitalism, Myths and Fallacies, Prices, Trade

We in the 21st century fancy ourselves as being far too intelligent to fall for the superstitions that were commonly accepted as capital-T Truths during medieval times.  Alas, when it comes to economic matters this fancy is frequently fallacious.

Here’s one instance: Uncle Sam’s procedures for determining whether or not the prices of imports are “unfairly” low.  Import prices determined to be “unfairly” low give rise, of course, to government obstacles to consumers’ access to these low-priced imports.

These government procedures are byzantine – or, more accurate still, devilish.  These procedures are all ostensibly premised on the antediluvian myth that there exists an objectively correct price for each good or service, and that sellers who charge prices different from these ‘just prices’ are wrongdoers deserving to be punished.

No one with a scintilla of good sense and objectivity can encounter Uncle Sam’s and other modern governments’ attempts to define ‘correct’ prices for imports without concluding that modern government officials either really do believe in medieval hocus-pocus or that these officials shamelessly practice economic witchcraft in their attempts to hide from the general public the fact that their declarations of ‘unfairly low prices’ are nothing more than excuses to line the pockets of politically powerful producer groups at the expense of the general public.

My money is on the latter explanation.  It’s all cronyism and thievery that gets a pass from an economically uninformed public – a public that, like their medieval ancestors, are too easily duped into believing that there is such a thing as objectively correct prices, and that high officials not only are capable of deciphering what these ‘correct’ prices are, but also can be trusted to do so in the public interest.  It’s all-around appalling and shameful.

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