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Use Spoons Rather than Shovels

Here’s a letter to a local DC radio station:

Program Director, WTOP Radio
Washington, DC

Dear Sir or Madam:

During today’s noon hour your anchor interviewed an “expert” who argued that free trade is fine when the economy is at or near full-employment, but that protectionism is justified when unemployment is unusually high.  The “expert” reasoned that protectionism creates jobs.


If this “expert’s” policy advice were sound, then why stop with protectionism?  During recessions government should (according to the logic of such reasoning) not only prevent American consumers from buying foreign-made products, but also prohibit American producers from using labor-saving technologies.  For example, by prohibiting the use of computers, printers, and calculators, firms would be prompted to hire lots more typists and slide-rule-handling engineers.  Or by outlawing the use of motor vehicles with more than two axles, shipping companies would hire many more drivers to carry goods to market in vastly expanded fleets of pick-up trucks.

Unless your “expert” agrees that protecting jobs from non-human competition (that is, technology) is good policy during recessions, he ought to rethink his notion that protecting jobs from human competition is good policy.

Donald J. Boudreaux