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What’s the Difference?

Here’s a letter that I sent today to the New York Times, in response to this letter from two politicians.

To the Editor:

Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Jim McDermott want trade agreements that are “fair” (Letters, March 21) – by which they mean trade agreements that protect American workers from having to compete very hard against foreign workers.

I wonder if Messrs. Schumer and McDermott regard Xerox, IBM, Apple, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard to have been “unfair” traders.  By making copiers, personal computers, and desktop printers so incredibly inexpensive, these firms destroyed countless jobs for office-pool typists.  An American worker simply cannot compete with these machines.  Would we have been well served had government restricted our ability to purchase these machines?  If not, why suppose that we will be well served if government restricts our ability to purchase goods and services produced by workers whose wages are now lower than ours?

Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University