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Trouble-Maker on the Charles?

Here’s a letter sent a few days ago to the New York Times:

MIT President Susan Hockfield lists America’s “trade deficit in manufactured goods” as one of our “problems” (“Manufacturing a Recovery,” August 30).

I disagree that specializing in producing services such as neurosurgery, web design, and education – and then exchanging some of these for manufactured goods produced by people who specialize in producing such things as MP3 players, kitchen flatware, and snow domes and other trinkets – is a problem.  But if I’m mistaken and Dr. Hockfield is correct, I wonder if she’s aware of her role in worsening this problem.

Every non-American student who enrolls at MIT spends dollars purchasing, not American manufactured goods, but American-produced educational services.  In consequence, the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods rises with every non-American student enrolled at MIT.

If Dr. Hockfield truly worries about America’s trade deficit in manufactured goods, she should impose a moratorium on the admission of foreign students to MIT.

In addition, she can move to close MIT’s Sloan School of Management (whose graduates regularly export their services as business and professional advisors – thereby increasing America’s trade deficit in manufactured goods) and to close MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (whose graduates produce no manufactured goods and who also sell their services to foreigners and, hence, also intensify the “problem” of America’s trade deficit in manufactured goods).

If Dr. Hockfield is right, then a significant portion of America’s problems are being created right there on the Charles.

Donald J. Boudreaux