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An Alternative Tariff

Here’s a letter to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria:

On your October 30th show, former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner lamented that we Americans now “can have things made in India and China that are of the quality you could find in the U.S. at a significant lower cost.  And that is of course one of the problems for the American economy.”

I wish that you would have challenged Mr. Gerstner with the following question: “Lou, are you saying that we Americans would be better off if Indian and Chinese goods were shoddier and more dangerous?  Would our prosperity be enhanced if Uncle Sam deployed agents to every port in the U.S. with instructions to damage Indian and Chinese imports – say, by ripping holes in imported clothing, spraying salmonella on imported foods, and attaching small, tasty-looking, detachable parts to children’s toys?  And if you don’t think that such a policy of enforced import shoddiness would be good for America, why do you conclude that good quality imports are a ‘problem’ for America?”

Donald J. Boudreaux

(HT Tibor Machan)

It’s interesting that some critics of free trade point to the alleged shoddiness of imports as a reason for restricting consumers’ freedom to spend their money as they choose, while others point to the improving quality of imports as a problem for the U.S. economy.