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A Variation on a Theme of Henry George

Here’s a letter to my frequent e-mail correspondent, and self-described “Trump man,” Nolan McKinney:

Mr. McKinney:

You continue to insist that Beijing’s taxes on the Chinese people justify Uncle Sam’s imposition of punitive taxes on Americans.  And I continue to be dumbfounded by your bizarre Trumpian ‘ethics.’

Let me ask you: Suppose that Beijing were to use resources extracted by taxation from the Chinese people to develop an invisible, destructive substance – a substance that Beijing then requires be smeared on all Chinese exports to America.  This substance causes, say, 25 percent of all goods that we Americans import from China to dissolve into nothingness the moment those goods reach our homes, offices, and factories.  How would you react to the discovery of this scheme by Beijing to destroy some portion of Americans’ property?  How do you think Donald Trump would respond to Beijing’s tactic of reducing Americans’ prosperity by wiping out some of the goods that we buy with our hard-earned incomes?  I’m confident that you, Trump, and every other protectionist would join the rest of us in rightly condemning such destructive vandalism by a government.

And yet when Uncle Sam does effectively the same thing with punitive taxes imposed on Americans who buy imports, you and other protectionists applaud!  What gives?  Why would it be unforgivable treachery for a government sitting in Beijing to destroy some of the value of the possessions of American households and some of the value of the inputs used by American producers, but applause-worthy good service when some of the value of Americans’ possessions is destroyed by a government sitting in Washington?

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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