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In Truth, I’d be a Shrimp of a Quarterback

Here’s part of an e-mail that I received a couple of days ago from a native of my native state, Louisiana (original emphasis):

You [Boudreaux] are for free trade….  Do you ever have second thoughts to doubt your arrogance and certainty?  Do you understand that American shrimpers SIMPLY CANNOT compete against Chinese and Vietnamese shrimpers?

I don’t know what prompted this e-mail.  (Question, especially to my friends in south Louisiana: Has anything recently happened to the shrimp market?  I can’t find anything noteworthy in the news.  Please let me know if anything on this front is afoot.)

Anyway, perhaps I’ll write back to my correspondent and ask him if he thinks that government should impose a prohibitive tax on sales of the quarterbacking services of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, and all other current N.F.L. quarterbacks (and collegiate quarterbacks, too).  I SIMPLY CANNOT compete against these people as an N.F.L. quarterback.  And I would dearly love to be an N.F.L. quarterback!  The pay is excellent and the fame is, I’m sure, fabu.

That my quarterbacking skills would make for poor entertainment for football fans is, we must assume, irrelevant in light of my correspondent’s assumption that the merits of observed exchanges are to be judged by how well such exchanges benefit a chosen subset of suppliers rather than consumers.  Caring nothing about N.F.L. fans, I ask Congress to tax my quarterback competition into oblivion.

Or I could simply send my correspondent the following letter that I sent many years ago to the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

8 January 2005

Editor, New Orleans Times-Picayune

To the Editor:

Re “Panel Slaps Tariffs on Shrimp Imports” (News, Jan. 7).  If you peel away all procedural formalities, such as International Trade Commission hearings, and all the bluster of U.S. shrimpers accusing their foreign counterparts of nefarious doings, you reveal nothing but pure, hard-boiled roguery.  Some Americans (shrimpers) coaxed other Americans (politicians) to forcibly deprive yet other Americans (consumers) – the great majority of us – of the freedom to spend our money as we think best.

It’s shameful.

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