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Like Listening to a ‘Physician’ Drone On About the Curative Properties of Blood-letting

Here’s a letter to the Washington Times:

Reviewing the Congressional tariff debate of 1909, the eminent Harvard economist Frank Taussig lamented that the unfamiliarity of members of Congress with facts, and with the tenets of even the most basic economics, is “disheartening” and “depressing.”*

Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-CA) harangue against free trade in your pages today suggests that little has changed in the past century (“Stop exporting American jobs“).  Asserting that U.S. manufacturing “began its decline even before the current downturn,” Mr. Hunter apparently confuses manufacturing employment with manufacturing output.  Manufacturing employment began declining in the 1970s; not so for manufacturing output.  In fact, new orders for U.S. manufactured durable goods reached an all-time high in December 2007, the month the recession began.  And today (June 2011), these orders are 20 percent higher than they were at their recession nadir in June 2008.

Ignorance of these (and other) facts couples with Mr. Hunter’s outrageous complaint that “The Chinese government is also the single largest holder of U.S. debt” to render Mr. Hunter’s essay a laughable screed.

Whatever are the demerits of foreign governments lending money to Uncle Sam, for a member of Congress – the very agency that is now issuing debt in historically unprecedented volumes – to complain that Beijing is buying much of that debt is the height of duplicity.  And for Mr. Hunter then to propose that the same Congress that is issuing this debt ‘solve’ the alleged problem by further restricting Americans’ freedom to trade is an obnoxious insult to our intelligence, our wallets, and our liberties.

Donald J. Boudreaux

* F.W. Taussig, “The Tariff Debate of 1909 and the New Tariff Act,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 24 (1) 1909, pp. 1-38.  The quotations appear on pages 7 and 10.