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Destroying Straw Men Does Not Strengthen Protectionism

Here’s a letter that I sent recently to the Wall Street Journal:

Attempting to defend protectionism, Clyde Prestowitz asserts that “The unilateral free trade the Journal propounds is only beneficial when there are no economies of scale, and markets are perfectly competitive” (Letters, Sept. 23).


Suppose that citizens of Seneca, SC (a small town), become stupidly obsessed with buying only goods and services made in Seneca.  Would this obsession make it wise for citizens of Clemson, SC (a neighboring small town), to thereby stop shopping in Seneca?  Real-world markets are never perfectly competitive, and being small, Seneca and Clemson each likely have several businesses with the potential to take greater advantage of economies of scale.  Yet Clemsonians would make themselves poorer if, in response to Senecaians’ misguided economic notions, they refuse to shop in Seneca.  The best course for Clemsonians always is unilateral free trade, even with economically imprudent neighbors.

Changing “Clemsonians” to “Americans” and “Senecaians” to “Chinese” does not change the essence of the matter.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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