An Open Letter to Cafe Hayek Commenter Craig Walenta

by Don Boudreaux on November 11, 2017

in Myths and Fallacies, Trade

Mr. Walenta:

You read on my blog that I’ll soon defend, in a debate in New York City, the proposition that Americans would be best served by a policy of free trade regardless of whether or not other countries follow such a policy.  In the comments section of my blog you wrote in response that “If actually reciprocal I vote for that any day.  Without reciprocity, I’m just not interested.”

So you believe that as long as other governments keep their peoples poorer than those peoples would otherwise be, Uncle Sam should keep us Americans poorer than we’d otherwise be.  Given your logic, I assume that if your neighbor stubbornly engages in economically imprudent practices – say, spends his money frivolously, or buries all of his earnings in a hole in his backyard – that you, too, will engage in those same insane practices for as long as your neighbor persists in his insanity.  How foolish of you.

You apparently believe that governments that restrict imports or subsidize exports thereby enrich their citizens at the expense of countries that don’t engage in these practices.  But your belief is mistaken.  Governments that restrict imports or subsidize exports not only make their citizens poorer, they often also artificially enrich the citizens of other countries at the expense of their own people.  It therefore makes no sense whatsoever for Uncle Sam to condition his commitment to eliminate the restrictions that he imposes on Americans’ access to resources, goods, and services on other governments doing the same for their citizens.  It is insanity for Uncle Sam to continue to deny to us Americans the greater riches that we’d get from free trade simply because other governments deny to their citizens the greater riches that they, too, would get from free trade.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
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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