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Humpty Dumpty Unrestricted Trade

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

Corporate-welfare recipient Gordon Brinser isn’t content that his company’s parent corporation, SolarWorld, has so far raked in more than $100 million in government subsidies.  He also wants Uncle Sam to further shield his firm from competition by imposing punishing taxes on Americans who buy Chinese-made solar panels (Letters, April 7).

Mr. Brinser has some nerve to complain that subsidies paid by Beijing to his Chinese rivals are “unfair.”  Even worse, though, is his proposition that government-imposed restrictions on trade are not restrictions on trade if these restrictions are approved by the WTO.  Such an assertion is legalistic legerdemain at its worst.

No government or international agency can transform sewer water into potable water simply by declaring the former to be drinkable and delicious.  Likewise with restrictions on trade.  The tariffs demanded by Mr. Brinser would restrict Americans’ rights to trade with foreigners.  Period.  That the politicians who impose such restrictions – and that the cronies (such as Mr. Brinser) who benefit from them – can point to statutory language meant to excuse these restrictions in no way transforms these restrictions into something other than the predatory trade barriers that they are.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030